|Chicky Ortiz (chickybanana) wrote in nevermore_logs,|
@ 2021-11-01 17:52:00
|Entry tags:||chicky ortiz, hera|
|Papa Leo’s botánica was as familiar to Chicky as the dollar store and the discount pharmacy that jostled it on either side. Some of her earliest memories were of toddling along after her abuela on shopping errands down this strip: into the dollar store on the hunt for a bargain, then the pharmacy for prescriptions, and finally to the botánica for the real medicine.|
That last stop had always been Chicky’s favourite. The doorway had been covered by a click-clacking curtain of beads, and that alone would’ve been more than enough to captivate a preschooler Chicky (you could swoosh through the door and feel the beads whip around you, or wind yourself up in them till you became a bead mummy, or press your face into the strings and pretend you were caught in a booby trap, the possibilities were endless), but the inside of the store had been a treasure cave of vibrantly-coloured distractions as well.
A decade later, it was still basically the same: narrow aisles of shelves packed tight with a rainbow of candles and soaps, lotions and potions, each one emblazoned with bold images and words like Go Away Evil and Spirit of Good Luck and Jackpot Money. There were cases of tarot cards and spinning racks of brightly-coloured bead necklaces and saint medallions and chunky blue evil eye charms. And, of course, there were the statues. They filled up every last free space, angels and saints and orishas, ranging from small enough to close her hand around to huge things that had towered her preschooler self. They were nothing like the saint icons on Grandma Olga’s walls. Those were solemn and sedate-looking, muted in colour and pale in complexion. These ones were a festival of colour, bright and inviting and ready to bounce into action. As a little kid, Chicky had loved to roam through the aisles, trailing her hands over each and every one.
Alright, truth: she still did that, even now she was standing on the other side of the counter. There was just something real compelling about it, you know? Chicky had never been all that spiritual, not like Abuela or Papa Leo, and definitely not like Grandma Olga was, but lately she kind of wished she was. Having the lwa at your back, being a part of some bigger scheme? Must be pretty awesome.
(It must be said that lately may or may not have coincided with Chicky getting real into a series of YA novels about a bunch of teenage brujas righting spiritual wrongs in Brooklyn, not that that could possibly have had anything to do with it.)
So far, working at a botánica hadn’t eventuated the kind of mystical revelation Chicky may have secretly hoped for. It was alright, though. Papa Leo was a chill boss, he’d even let her start a Facebook and Insta for the store (well, his actual words had been “long as I don’t gotta have anything to do with it, go for your life”, but that was as good as a blessing), and since starting here she’d had at least a 100% reduction in boiling oil-related calamities compared to her last job at McDonald’s.
Today, though, she wasn’t feeling it, and rather than roaming the aisles in search of inspiration for the perfect Instagram shot, Chicky was slumped over the shop counter, arms splayed out, cheek pressing into the glass, eyes on the clock, watching the slow creep of the second hand with a resentful pout.
Until: the click-clack of the bead curtain, followed by a booming voice: “What’s the new song, Chiquitita?”
At the first, Chicky jerked herself upright violently enough to jam her knee against the desk. At the second, she relaxed, then forced a smile onto her face for the approaching man. “Heya Virgil, what up?”
Virgil was Papa Leo’s husband. He was a wide, dark-skinned dude who worked in legal aid and had the most legendary collection of ugly ties Chicky had ever seen, which in her mind made him one of the most interesting people she’d ever met. (The ugly ties, not the legal thing. Snore on that count.) The way he’d told it to her, when he’d started his first office job he had decided that if The Man was gonna force him to wear a tie to work then he was gonna make sure the motherfucker regretted it, and every day since he’d dressed in impeccably neat suits with the most eye-bleeding novelty neckties he could find. Today’s was a paisley abomination in pink and lime and magenta, though Chicky’s favourite was still the Noah’s Ark tie depicting pairs of animals pouring out of the boat, T-rexes and pterodactyls at the forefront.
“Same old, same old. Leo ‘round?”
Chicky cleared her throat and recited, “The houngan is currently doing an important reading and cannot be interrupted.”
Virgil glanced past the counter to the consultation room with its curtained doorway, hanging half-open and very clearly vacant. He smirked. “Smoke break?”
“Thanks, Chick.” Virgil began to turn, then paused, looking back over his shoulder. “Oh hey, how was Halloween? She-Ra slay it?”
Chicky pushed her grin wider. “Oh yeah, it was dope. Rosario was Mermista and Lyra was Entrapta, she made these mad tentacle pigtails, like actual moving ones? We met a tiny Glimmer and like, completely made her night. Those Squid Game kids wished they were us.”
Virgil nodded, sharing her grin. “Badass. Say hey to the family, ay?”
He disappeared out the back in search of his husband, and Chicky’s grin disappeared with him, sliding from her features as she flopped back down over the counter.
Halloween hadn’t been dope.
Halloween had sucked.
First Jasmine had bailed on Catra, cuz out of nowhere she’d decided She-Ra was lame, even though they’d been planning this together for two months. Then on Friday Lyra had said she was out because of some fight with Rosario a week ago, which was the first Chicky was even hearing about it, so suddenly it was down to just Chicky and Charo, which fine – well, not fine, really actually pretty sucky, but fine – until Rosario got home yesterday from the last-minute-totally-urgent-camping-trip she’d promised wouldn’t get in the way of spooks, and… “I’m sorry, Chicky. I know I promised, I’m just, I think I’m coming down with something. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”
Make it up to her? When? Next Halloween?!
It was bullshit, was what it was.
So Chicky had been She-Ra alone, without her Princess Alliance. She’d still gone out, but her heart hadn’t really been in it. The whole night had lost its magic.
Well, alright, not all of it, because she had met a tiny Glimmer who’d squealed in delight at being allowed to hold her sword, and the mom had taken a photo of them and thanked her and that had been a little bit magical. But she’d also run into Jasmine some other kids from school, a whole bunch of them dressed in green numbered tracksuits or pink jumpsuits with spray-painted mesh masks, and she didn’t even want to think about that, about Lauryn’s derisive smile and Maya hiding a laugh behind her hand and Jasmine refusing even to meet her eye…
It wouldn’t’ve been so bad if Charo and Lyra’d had her back. She could’ve kept on walking with her head held high, and Rosario would’ve said something cutting and Lyra would’ve said something funny and the Princess Alliance would have prevailed. But alone, she’d frozen up and just stood there wishing for the ground to swallow her, and it had completely, absolutely sucked.
I’ll make it up to you? Ugh. Ugh, that was all she had to say to that.