Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Twenty One

Previous chapter: He Came Back.

Chapter Twenty One: Evening Matters.

Yet another day, and Attie came home early. She looked about and headed to the garden to water the flowers. As she did so, her twin came back. Isabel stifled a laugh when she saw her twin gardening. "I thought you weren't fond of flowers," she said.

"I'm not, but someone has to look after them, not leave them to rot like businesspeople do with their so-called unprofitable ideas," said Attie.

"What are you going to do once we're tired of the flower bushes?"

"Sell them to someone who cares," Attie replied. "Still better than leaving them to dry up and die."

"Let me do the rest of the flowers, Attie," said Isabel. "You should go make a vegetable omelette for dinner."

"Hmph, alright then," the younger Lion said. She turned around and went back inside to prepare the food. Francesca soon came back from work, and greeted Isabel with a little more enthusiasm than usual. The older Lion followed Francesca inside curiously, and they sat at the dinner table.

"What's the big news?" Isabel asked. "You said your parents have a surprise."

"One of my cousins is coming to the United States to study in a few months. Aunt Greta wants my mother to do the arrangements before this cousin sets off to university in upstate New York."

"Another cousin?" said Isabel. "What's she like?"

"I've no idea," said Francesca. "All I know is that she's a pastor's daughter from England, and her grandma's my Nona-oba's sister. Her name's Prudence, I'm not sure of her Japanese name."

Attie remarked, "Speaking of guests, I think I should bring one over. My boss told me I should make more contacts."

"How did your oba's sister get to England in the first place?" asked Isabel.

"She ran away from Japan as a young lady because she wanted to sell hats," Francesca replied. "I haven't actually met her, but my mother says this grand-aunt's hat trade really took off."

"Who's this new acquaintance of yours, Attie?" Isabel said to her twin.

"She's a bartender, Nathalie Lindsay," Attie said, as she put the chopped tomatoes in a bowl. "Do you mind if she comes over tomorrow evening?"

"Not at all, but I can't imagine what you'll want to talk about," said Isabel. "Add some pepper to the omelette, will you?"

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Twenty

Previous chapter: Storyteller, Storyteller.

Chapter Twenty: He Came Back.

Isabel shuffled back home from work. "Ah!" she muttered. "How tiresome things are nowadays. Bills, not knowing whether my application to be a tutor will be accepted. If I had been made of weak stuff..."

She chose not to finish that thought and plodded over to the mailbox. Before opening it, she stretched. Pop! Crick! Isabel really worked the kinks out of her bones as she twisted around. "Crackling and popping at twenty two? Really now?" thought Isabel. "Must have gotten it from my mother."
Isabel stretched.
She looked in the mailbox. Nothing except some forms for magazine subscriptions in there. "Cosmo, Vogue, PopTeen USA?" Isabel asked herself. "Must be from the magazine house Fran works in. Didn't think she had an affinity for fashion, not mainstream celeb fashion anyway. Then again, still waters run deep."

The elder Lion Twin went in after closing the mailbox. She grabbed a quick meal of a chicken sandwich and ate it quickly. She then went upstairs to have a shower. After the shower, Isabel felt much better, and went out to draw on the balcony.

She looked at the town in the golden sunset, admiring its shining glory. Then she began, sketching furiously on the canvas before refining the sketches into something with clear flowing lines.

In the meantime, Isabel's housemates returned from their work. Hera first, for she had finished her game session early and got tired before she could be interviewed. "I can always do a web interview later," thought Hera, as she went to listen to her phone's collection of music.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Nineteen

Previous chapter: It Was A Sunday.

Chapter Nineteen: Storyteller, Storyteller.

Attie rolled about in her bed, trying to sleep through the noise. It wasn't easy, as Vernon was very loud and had turned on the radio's pop station.

Attie hopped out of her bed when the noise got too loud for her liking, and came down to see the new young guest. "What do we have here?" she said sharply. "When did this turn into a nursery?"
The boy stared back at Attie. "Is something wrong with wanting to visit Hera?" he asked. "I'm not just a shrimp."

"I like your attitude, champ," said Attie. "You'll go a long way in life."

"Attie, do you really want a smart-mouth in the neighborhood?" Francesca said to her cousin. "First Ana, now him, really..."

"I don't mind that at all," replied Attie. "Nobody's going to make smart remarks about me."

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Eighteen

Previous chapter: Scary Saturday.

Chapter Eighteen: It Was A Sunday.

The first thing Hera usually did on Sundays, after breakfast, was to read some religious scriptures. "Three days after the execution, Christ rose again and appeared before the apostles," was among the things Hera wrote in her computer's notepad as part of her studies. She then flipped to the chapter on the creation of the world, looking in awe at the feats of the week.

After that, she tried to read about the fall of Gomorrah, and shivered in terror at the retribution. "Gee, you don't see miraculous retributions like these nowadays," thought Hera. "Not even speaking in tongues you haven't heard of!"

She logged on to the net and started browsing the web, while chatting to her parents about her life in Willow Creek. After that, she logged on to VaudeVille, and found that she wasn't banned, much to her relief. After checking her game character, Hera checked her email and noticed one instant message from Vernon.

He was already online, and his message was asking for permission to visit Hera. She read it, thinking of a good reply.

"You can come over this afternoon," Hera typed in reply to Vernon's question. "Just watch out for my housemates. There are Lions and one little dragon in there," she added, mentioning her address as an afterthought.

After sending the message, Hera went out to run on the treadmill in the hall and watch some news.

Francesca came downstairs and said in surprise, "I thought you still hate running."

"No mice, I hope."
"My mother went on about laziness spoiling my health. You know her spiel about doctor's kids having to set a good example in terms of health," Hera replied and stepped down from the treadmill. She looked aside, just behind Francesca. "Did I see a mouse?" asked Hera. "You know what I think of them."

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Seventeen

Previous chapter: Hera's Day Out.

Chapter Seventeen: Scary Saturday.

It was the day after Hera's visit to the park. Isabel was drawing out in the weekend sunshine, feeling good about life. She saw Francesca clear the weeds from the flowers down in the garden. The brunette wasn't feeling well as the neighbors were much too near for her liking.

Isabel stepped back from her drawing of a parent and child fishing, and smiled. She then headed downstairs to prepare a lunch of salad and mustard-coated fish steaks. Francesca scuttled indoors to hide from the neighbors.

"Fran, could you help me with the salad?" said Isabel as she fried the fish. The young woman crept over to the pile of vegetables and started tearing them apart. "Something's bothering you," said Isabel. Francesca muttered something in reply as she put the leaves in the microwave and warmed them. Isabel knew it was tough to get Francesca to talk, she would have to coax her over the food later.

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The lunch was soon ready, so Isabel set out two plates for food. As the elder Lion wasn't very hungry, she served herself some salad. Francesca picked a fillet of fish and a bit of the salad. They sat down to eat.

"I have a confession to make," Francesca began as she tucked into the fish steak.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Sixteen

Previous chapter: A Resolution of An Upsetting Week.

Chapter Sixteen: Hera's Day Out.

It was a Friday. Of course it had to be a Friday. Hera blinked as the sunlight peeped into her room. That meant one thing, a weekend! Hera got out of bed and strolled to the washroom to clean herself up. After she finished, she looked in the living room. There was a note on the table. It read:
Hera, we're working a bit late today. Do what you want. ~Isabel.
"I'd better not waste this chance," thought Hera. "I can sing to my heart's content today without getting scolded by Attie."
The blue-eyed woman then remembered the flowers! She would have to water them first. Hera hummed a tune by Vivaldi as she watered the bluebells, which turned into a recital of an old pop hit. "Let's twist again, like we did last summer. Yeaah, twist again, like we did last year," Hera sang, going completely out of tune. She put away the watering can and looked at the crossroads.

Hera strolled down the road, whistling the tune to Chubby Checker's Twist instead of singing it. She headed towards the large park in the middle of the housing estate.

Hera snarled for fun.
When Hera got there, there was a crowd of adults. She decided to play the violin as she walked towards the pirate playset. Heads turned towards her as she covered the Pink Panther theme. Hera then put away her violin as she finished and asked the lone little boy if he wanted a monster attack. The boy nodded, and Hera got into the role.

"Leviathan to starboard! Three o'clock! Man the guns!" the boy yelled. Hera snarled and hopped about as the boy pretended to be afraid. It went on until the boy got tired of playing. As Hera sat on a nearby bench, the boy joined her.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Fifteen

Previous chapter: An Upsetting Week.

Chapter Fifteen: A Resolution of An Upsetting Week.

Hera decided to conduct a war in one of the games she was assigned to at the computer club. It was a pantomime game that started in a burlesque house in an alternate America, and the players were vaudeville performers turned militia. Hera's character, Channah, was a chanteuse gunmaster. Much like Hera, the chanteuse had black hair, brown skin, and sky-blue eyes, while wearing fine blue clothes. Hera made Channah go to the central inn of VaudeVilla in order to seek out team mates.

After Hera posted her mission on the bulletin board, she screened the applicants. The applicants included two belly dancing sorceresses who could play castanets, a cancan dancer who was handy with a gun, three tap-dancers who knew fisticuffs, and one warrior who performed strongman tricks. Hera made small talk with the virtual performers, then led them on a short mission before her real big act began. The strongman decided to mock her as he had slightly better stats.

"Dumb nuts! Loser! There's no such thing as a black with blue eyes!" the strongman typed into the game, along with some other insults directed at Hera's ethnic background after she tried to reason with him. Hera bit her lip till it turned pale, then threw the player out of her group.

"Channah, what the hell?!" one sorceress typed. "That was one of the strongest warriors in our team!"

"I'm not going to stand for insulting remarks, not on my watch," Hera typed in reply. "That guy should keep his mouth zipped about races."

"You idiot! You're having a dance battle very soon and that guy could have helped us win."

"If you watch my conducting, you all should do fine," Hera replied. "Stop worrying."

Unfortunately, the other team members decided to snub Hera and ignore every single one of Channah's gestures later. They ended up losing the danceoff as the players were penalized for not working together. Finally, when the players were sent back to VaudeVilla, Hera blew up. She sent a barrage of messages criticizing all her team mates for their selfishness, then logged off in a sulk.

Hera took the late bus back home, still brooding about her failed game mission. She shoved the fare into the bus driver's hand when the bus stopped near her home, then hopped out. As Hera skulked to her house, she noticed the big black dustbin sitting by the sidewalk.

"Should I kick it? Nah."
Hera entertained the idea of kicking the common dustbin over, before dismissing it as a waste of her time. "I won't get banned, that's for sure," thought Hera. "Vaudeville Journey allows flaming as long as it's within the boundaries of the game. Insult the character, not the player, that's their motto. But to be on the safe side, I didn't criticize their race or looks."

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The next morning, Attie had the day off and was jogging on the treadmill upstairs. She wore a skimpy crop top and shorts, exposing her midriff and long legs. Francesca thought it was over the top to dress like that.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Fourteen

Previous chapter: Bad Omen.

Chapter Fourteen: An Upsetting Week.

Several things happened days after Isabel put up that angry picture. The first was Hera getting scared by rodents. She was searching for guides to write an Actionscript program when a fuzzy thing brushed by her foot. "Did Francesca leave one of her stuffed clockwork toys running again?" thought Hera, as she leaned down to check her foot. The fuzzy thing wasn't there.

Hera scanned the room with her shocking blue eyes, and spotted a little gray ball of fur. It squeaked and looked back with little black eyes, and something clicked in Hera's brain. She started screaming at the little gray blob of fur in the corner. The mouse squeaked in fright and scurried out of Hera's room. The blue-eyed woman screamed even harder, "MICE! HELP!"

Isabel rushed inside when she heard Hera's yelling, although she had to leave the flowers half-done. "It's mice," Hera said with a shudder when Isabel came in. "Heaven help me, or rather, you help me get rid of the mice."

"What makes you think mice are infesting the house?" Isabel asked. In reply, Hera got up and walked out of her room. Isabel followed her to the side of the house, just outside the kitchen. "Well?" said Isabel, a little impatiently. "If you're going to scream like a baby at every creepy crawly that comes by, mice, lizards, et cetra, what does that make you?"

Mice, we must get rid of them.
Hera pointed at the base of the house. "I think the mouse came from a hole there. I'm scared," she said. Isabel looked at where Hera was pointing. There was a hole, just big enough for a mouse's head.

The Lion remarked, "I'll get some mousetraps soon."

Hera replied, "Oh, thank you!" and hugged her friend in gratitude. Isabel patted her back and stood back.

"I'll buy those traps after work tomorrow," said Isabel.

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The next day, Isabel woke up late, just half an hour before work was supposed to begin. "Oh no! I'm late for the art con!" Isabel exclaimed when she saw her phone. She hurriedly dressed and rushed off to the museum, forgetting all about her breakfast. When she got there, the pavement was crowded with tables, and the supervisor was tapping her foot impatiently.

Freelancing's Beginning Pains

I signed up for several freelancing networks in the span of a week, mainly under the username of TheOriginalFive. I learnt several things:

1) Most freelancing gigs expect too much for too little.
-Seen those $1 per 500 words articles? According to what I've read, these kinds of gigs are the source of rubbish spam posts. You know the kind, shilling dubious medicines and nothing worth reading. They give me a headache when I'm trying to find a decent beginning job like proofreading a book.

2) It's tough to show that I'm not just another spambot writer as I come from an ESL country.
-Sure, if I don't mention where I'm from, you'd take me for a native speaker. For verification purposes, I have to be up front about where I'm from despite the stigma.

3) I might consider becoming a tutor instead.
- Then I'd have to brush up on my Mandarin so that I can reply to what I hear.

4) It takes time to build up confidence. Maybe too long considering point 2. I'll maintain this blog as proof I can write well despite being from an ESL country.

5) People don't seem to take someone who combines an enjoyment of casual things (on their social networks) with a desire for work seriously. It has to be one or the other for most employers.

6) I am leery of connecting a lot of my financial details. You never know what they might be used for.

7) Freelance networks that take ages to load, then nag about verifying cards instead of just Paypal; and shill you on getting a subscription are not the best idea. Even if you signed up for free!

I'm hoping for the best, but freelancing in my experience, has been a series of long periods of boredom.