The Trade Grounds
Soft and dim morning rays penetrated the open window and lit the far corners of the simple room. Aimee stirred at the light and pulled her blanket over her head, grunting at the prospect of waking up this early in the morning. Daniel had been banging on her door just minutes earlier and calling her to wake up. She barked at him to shut up and let her sleep five minutes more. She didn’t like realizing that five minutes were nothing when one was dead and heavy with sleep. She uncovered her head and lay still on bed, waiting for her skin to absorb as much energy from the sun as possible before attempting to walk out of her room. A few minutes passed, and then she placed her feet on the cool bamboo floor. Her room was simple and square; she had a low bed on the corner next to the window, a closet just across her bed, and a desk at the foot of her bed. Her desk was cluttered with open books, loose pages full of her handwriting, and pens and pencils threatening to roll off the desk at any time notice. A portrait hung over her desk; it was the picture of her deceased mother, Sophie.
Sophie was a beautiful woman, or at least, that was how the portrait talked about her. Aimee looked up to her mother’s look when she was a child, wishing she was more like her. She only inherited one thing from her mother; her dark green, clever eyes. Her mother’s hair was darker than her own and her skin tanner. Aimee never got to know her mother better because Sophie died when Aimee was only a child. Joseph had only said it was the terminal disease what finally took her life after months of agonizing pain, but somehow, Aimee felt there was more to it. She was not brave enough to ask her father for fear that he was still mourning Sophie.
Until recent years, she realized that her eyes weren’t the only thing Aimee had inherited from her dear mother. Her cunning intelligence and creative imagination she honed for years was also an heirloom from her mother. When Aimee was younger, she would spend hours experimenting and creating new and useful stuff that her family could use or sell to get more money and not solely depend upon the Dust market to survive. Most of her creations never left her house threshold, instead, they were crazy decorations (and litter) lying around the house. Nobody told her as much though she suspected it.
She made her way to the restroom, down the hallway and showered quickly. During her shower, she was pondering about what was suitable to wear for a business trip to the Trade grounds; finally she decided to wear her usual denim trousers and a loose, long sleeve-buttoned shirt. “Good morning all,” she greeted from the doorway. The kitchen and the living room were a single room divided by a rice paper shade, the furniture of the living room was scanty and handmade by themselves. The kitchen appliances were bought second-hand from the Trade and Markets. They couldn’t afford a life of luxury with the increasingly growing and competing economy.
“It was about time,” Daniel shook his head in displeasure, “do you know what time it is?”
“Time for an early breakfast?” Aimee suggested and shrugged in front of her offended brother. Joseph chuckled behind them and handed a toast with some butter to Aimee. “Thanks dad. At least I know short-temperedness doesn’t run in the family. I was afraid it might be so because Daniel is so irritable most of the time. I conclude, and therefore hope, that he must be adopted.”
Daniel protested loudly and Aimee shouted back. Soon, the peaceful morning had become a battlefield of unnerving and childish arguments between Daniel and Aimee. Joseph sighed and diverted his gaze toward the Eastern horizon, where the sun was slowly making its ascent into the cloudless sky. He set his mug of coffee down on the table and walked over to the curtain-less window. Every year he had to visit the Southern Trades to sell his Dust, that lifestyle didn’t attract him anymore; however it did attract his children. He glanced at Daniel and Aimee; both of them were still attacking one another with ruthless words and comments. Time for some paternal action.
“Hey kids, stop getting at each other,” Joseph said, “We’re wasting daylight. Bickering at each other will not make our pending work go any faster or easier.” That was enough to settle his children down. Both of them were still glaring at each other, but at least they were quiet. “Now, Aimee, finish your breakfast; Daniel, get the Chaser ready.”
They did as told. Joseph smiled inwardly at their grunting as they performed the tasks imposed to them; they were acting like scolded children right now, just like when they were kids.
“I have not done a bad job, Sophie,” he whispered to the morning air, “it could be better, of course, if only you were here.” He remained in silence and the world followed him, he was immersed in a quiet aura of serenity. A loud chirp broke the silence, and a songbird’s song filled the atmosphere. The tune and melody was agreeable and delectable, as if the little bird had found a reason to sing happily this morning. It was a sign and Joseph knew it; he recorded and kept the melody of the songbird’s song deeply imprinted in his heart.
The waft of morning air was piercing cold, especially in higher altitudes as opposed to ground level. The bowsprit was cutting through the high clouds, leaving ragged shreds and remains as they navigated across the sky. Aimee was sitting in the nautilus’s platform, facing the deck. Every now and then she would have spasms of cold shivers because the air was hitting her square on her back. However, she wouldn’t have preferred it any other way because Daniel was watching Joseph navigating the Chaser and she didn’t want to be any close to him.
She hated when they fought, usually they would not speak to each other for some hours and then act as if nothing had happened. Aimee bit her lips and replayed the memory of Daniel ranting at her about irresponsibility and immatureness.Ultimately, nothing had happened as far as their morning schedule went; Daniel was just being exaggerated, as he always did with anything concerning Aimee. She puffed and climbed down the platform to stand on the right side of Joseph, because Daniel was already standing on the other side.