The below should have come out on Wednesday – apologies!
More from the universe of my own creation 🙂
Gina raised her eyebrows at the stall holder when he named his price and he immediately raised his hands in defence.
“Miss, if I sell them to you for any less, I’ll be making a loss, I swear it. Costs for all of us have gone through the roof, ask anyone!”
Gina sighed, and resignedly drew the requested coins from her satchel. She dropped them in his outstretched hands, shaking her head at his ‘thank you’s. A few minutes later, her basket full of carrots and onions, she continued down the path and turned a corner. The sky was a twilight orange, with rapidly shifting clouds dappling the sunlight filtering between the rows of earthen brick buildings, some three floors high.
Casting a weary eye above as she turned a second time, she quickened her pace. She could smell the freshness in the wind – rain was not far behind. As far as she could see, all the oil lamps lighting these streets had already been lit, and most of the inhabitants were safely inside. She had been lucky the stallholder hadn’t yet packed up.
As the first drops started to spatter down, in a disarrayed frenzy rather than a steady drip-drip, she came to a flight of stairs leading to the upper level of one of the buildings, and dashed up it quickly. At least the balcony she came to, which she shared with two neighbours on either side, was covered.
Letting herself into her home, she heard the first rumbles of thunder overhead. The rains had begun a few days ago, but this looked to be the first storm of the season.
“Grandma, I’m home!” she called, as she deposited the basket on the round wooden table, which was the main focus of the room. She was pleased to see her grandmother had managed to start a small cooking fire in the bed of clay bricks designed for that purpose on one side of the room, as well as lit all the oil lamps. It was hit or miss these days as to whether she remembered to do so.
“Gina?” a wavering voice came through from the next room, where they slept.
“Yes, Grandma, it’s me.” Gina said, standing on her tiptoes to reach for a pot on a high shelf. She felt a pang as she remembered how her father used to lift her up to reach it when she was smaller.
Her grandmother came through and sat on a chair at the wooden table whilst Gina started taking the lids off several smaller pots on the ledge beneath the window. She deftly identified several spices and added them to the pot. Then, after taking off the shawl from her head and hanging it away from flames, she began to chop up the vegetables.
She worked in silence, both of them listening to the rain as it hammered against the wooden shutters. After a while, with the pot simmering on the cooking fire, the rain had slowed a little. Gina threw open one of the shutters, because the flute that ran through the thickness of the wall behind the fire wasn’t quite enough. A light, welcome wind entered, dispersing the smoke and cooling her face.
She then sat down next to her grandmother, handing her a cup of tea as they waited for their dinner. Faintly visible in the distance, lit by the moon and lamps that flared in its windows, was the outline of the palace.
“I worked there as a girl, you know, in the kitchens,” her grandmother said absently, between sips of tea. Gina smiled – she did know, but would not mind listening to the imminent reminiscing. Such talk came more and more frequently of late.
“Did you?” she said. “Tell me what it was like…”
And so her grandmother talked, of glimpses of veiled princesses and handsome lords, of chidings she received and of cakes she sneaked away, and of how she met Gina’s grandfather. The stories were not always chronological, and her grandmother jumped around a lot, but Gina had heard them so often she could piece them together.
“Dinner’s ready, I think,” she said at a suitable lull, and rose to serve it. The recipe for the simple stew was one of her grandmother’s – one she had learnt as a girl, in the kitchens of the grand palace on the hill.
Thanks for stopping by 🙂