A Sister's Fortune
Obsidian hooves danced around a crystal ball in an artful flourish. The sphere glowed a bright cyan from within, casting powerful shimmering lights all around the indigo tent and on the Kau’s looming figure. Oversized gold hoop earrings dangled from pink ears fringed with mysterious insignia tattoos, and a violet headscarf wrapped around the Neopet’s broad, keen-eyed head kept the look together.
“Ooooohhhhh! Ooooohhhhh! I seeeeee... I seeeeee!” Both Kau and yellow Acara leaned in to examine the intensely pulsing crystal ball.
“I see a- I’m getting it- it shall come to me within a second!” The pink Kau dramatically closed her eyes and placed her wrist on her forehead in absolute stillness, as if she was about to faint. Then she turned her head slightly, cracked open one eye, and said in a casual whisper, “Say, are you lonely? In need of petpet companionship?”
“No, Madam Crystavara, I already have a petpet. I left my Faellie at my friend’s house today to play with her Magaral.”
“Oh,” she said, sounding disappointed. “How about family?”
The Kacheek laughed. “No, it’s a full Neohome with three brothers.”
“I could use some more Neopoints... my brothers, of course, don’t exactly have reservations about ‘borrowing’ my things.”
“Play the stock market?”
“Well, I have some two hundred shares in CHIA.”
“Ohhh!” The Kau turned again and closed her eyes, her voice trilling in a worrying cry. “The ball speaks! The ball knows all! I see... I see... fortune! Yes, lots of neopoints! You shall be rich soon, my dear! Oh, my dear!” Madam Crystavara tossed her head up exultingly, her fierce mane flowing wildly, raising her arms then bringing them down in a grand sweep that made her bracelets jingle like the echoes of bell-tolling spirits.
“When?” breathed the Acara in wonder.
“Check the stock ticker,” the pink Kau snapped.
The opening to the tent swished, and a dark emerald hoof brushed it aside. A head Madam Crystavara would rather not have seen until her current customer had paid poked its unwelcome self inside. The Kau shot the new visitor a look of annoyance and tilted her head emphatically to highlight the Acara she was with.
“Okay. Thanks, Madam Crystavara! You really are good at this!” The Acara paid the Kau and left, greeting the other Kau at the tent’s entrance with an “Oh, hello!”
“So, sis, what brings you here?” the pink Kau said, relighting the hidden wick behind the crystal ball that upgraded the crystal ball’s twinkling lights into leaping fires that painted shadows and lightning. “And did you really have to come on a business day?” The Neopet couldn’t help but keep the annoyance out of her voice. Business hadn’t been good these days, not since fortune cookies had become a household treat.
“Sorry, Crystal, it’s just that Mum’s birthday’s coming up, and we haven’t planned anything for it yet. And besides, it didn’t seem like your predictions were all that important anyway.”
Crystal unwrapped her gypsy’s bandana and shook out her crimson hair in relief, then bound it up again and glanced at her compact mirror. She pulled out a tube of dark red lipstick and reapplied it carefully. “Excuse me, but my predictions are important. Madam Crystavara is known for her genuine fortunes. I’ve been telling you for years that I really can see the future. Come to think of it, I can’t remember- does Mum like strawberry or vanilla better?”
Truth be told, Crystal wasn’t all that excited to visit her mother again, the mother that constantly extolled the virtues of her sister’s job as a waitress and forever lamenting Oh, Crystal, why couldn’t you have gotten a normal job like your sister Rosaline? Why’d you have to go and be a wild, flat-out broke gypsy? Then she’d argue that both gypsies and she were neither of those things, although the flat-out broke part was grudgingly true for her. Not that she’d ever admit that. And, that was not even considering her mum’s complaints about Crystal moving out in an act of rebellion or independence- depending on who you asked- compared to her doting daughter Rosaline who stayed behind at the Neohome.
“Neither. Her favorite’s chocolate. Do you think we should get her a chocolate cake like we did last year, or a chocolate Kau cream cake to mix things up a bit? Oh, and your fortunes are as real as the Deserted Fairground games are honest.”
“Ohhhh, girlie, you’ve always doubted my gift- because of your jealousy. You just wish you could be half as great a magician as me. And get the cream cake.” Crystal tossed her head back and flipped her hair to accentuate her mystical appearance.
“Please, save yourself from humiliation. I have better chances of winning the lottery than you do of having one of your predictions come true.”
“Care to make it interesting?” Crystal challenged, her eyes glowing with defiance.
“Of course. There’s no way I can lose this one. Ten thousand neopoints as to whether or not your next prediction comes true. And skip the theatrics.”
“Done.” The two Kaus shook hooves in agreement. The pink Kau turned away and closed her eyes for a moment to focus, then spoke. “I predict that you, dearie, will have the worst hair day of your life soon.”
“When?” Rosaline tested.
“A week from now, on the day of Mum‘s birthday. You will wake up, and it will be as if your hair simply exploded.”
“You’re on. This family’s never had a bad hair day. We are always immaculate. Well, most of us.” Rosaline winked. She glanced at her sister’s feral curls.
“This is how my hair always is,” Crystal protested.
“Yes, keep telling yourself that. So, one chocolate cream cake coming right up. You send out the invites to the neighbors and get the cake. I’ll get the decorations. Think you can handle that?”
“Yes,” Crystal answered emphatically, but the green Kau had already left the tent. It seemed as if the war with big sisters never ended, no matter if you were playing with Usukis or trying to avoid bankruptcy.
Oh, the horror.
A scream fought to leave her throat, but Rosaline wouldn’t have it. She was a proper adult, and proper adults acted, well, properly.
Her usually sleek and shiny hair now stuck out in all directions possible in the universe, and no matter how many times she marshaled her comb, it stayed. It seemed to have doubled in height, volume, and... stickiness. Her hair’s fury could also not be tamed by patting it down with shampoo, which made it frizz even more. The tangles refused to be parted from their links. Rosaline would have sworn it was like parting iron, and her scalp was tugged fiercely whenever she went at her hair again.
After staring at the mirror uncomprehendingly for quite some time, she decided that that the thing to do was cover it up. She rifled through the bathroom’s cabinets, but all hair ties she tried snapped, and all bows she attempted ballooned, and all clips she put on snapped like pretzels.
She couldn’t believe her eyes. Did Crystal actually have magic? Perhaps Rosaline was... wrong. She blinked. It seemed that her hair had gotten even more unruly after she had washed it.
It was hopeless. Then she took a quick glance around again and noticed a bandana stuffed in the far back of one of the drawers. Mercy.
She resignedly wrapped it around her hair and went out to greet the birthday party’s guests.
The neighborhood Albat puffed out its chest on the tree that bore a tire-swing and sung its lonely hoot through the night. The moon hung low, and the darkness was free to roam about. Curtains were closed and Neohome-lights were out, and eerie porch lights and streetlights were on.
“Shhh, Albert. Hup. Be a quiet little Albat and there’s more treats where that came from,” a voice said soothingly to the petpet. A handful of nuts arced through the air and he caught them with his beak. They were his favorite since he was a fledgling. He clacked his beak happily and turtled his head into his body.
“Good,” the voice whispered in affirmation. “Now, where did I leave that mixture I put in the shampoo... oh, here it is.” A large, bulky shape tiptoed over to the hedges and pulled out a generous container of diluted glue and a ladder that had been stashed haphazardly. Then she bent down to sit next to the glue container. “Crystal 1, Rosaline 0!” She pumped her hoof into the air.
She was Madam Crystavara, and her fortunes always came true. Even if she had to chip in sometimes to help the cosmos out.