The sun streamed through the partially covered bedroom window and onto the face of Alaina Howell. She wrinkled her somewhat wide, flat nose in annoyance at the sudden warmth on her nearly round face and turned her back against the window. She snuggled deeper into the thick covers with violent mental resistance to facing another long day after just 4 hours of blissful unconsciousness. A few minutes later, she sighed as she could tenderly feel her conscious mind floating away like tendrils of smoke from the end of a cigarette. BEEEEP! BEEEP! BEEP! She groaned spitefully, cursing Apollo for not delaying his descent across the sky for a few minutes more. She thrashed half-heartedly in her small twin size bed; needing to relieve her frustrations, but afraid to risk falling out of bed. She whined: “I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to!” She cajoled: “Please, please, please. Mother Earth. Give good ole San Fran another earthquake”. She cursed: “Shit, damn, fuck”, as she eventually fell out of her bed, hitting the wooden panel floor with a thump. She hissed annoyingly, scrambling up quickly to keep any part of her coffee colored skin from touching the ice-cold floor. “Fuck, OWW!” she exploded as her bed hit the footboard for all her trouble. Meanwhile, the alarm which had paused a minute ago, resumed his blaring BEEEEEP! BEEEP! BEEP! She slumped, utterly defeated, against the bed and closed her eyes to regroup.

She jolted slightly, startled, as she felt the wet moisture of a large tongue against her forehead. She scrunched up her nose at the waft of hot air intermingled intimately with Pedigree dog food. She pulled her head forward and to the side to avoid another loving kiss and instead brought her hand up to lay lightly between two small, pointed ears of the red brown and white. Pitbull laying comfortably on the bed above her. “Hey, Penny. Who’s a good girl?” Alaina cooed and moved her hand back and forth, letting her nails dig into the fur gently, massaging. Penny, rolling her intelligent whiskey colored eyes, sighed and laid her head delicately atop her white paws.

            After a few minutes of content silence, the duo moved to begin their morning duties. Alaina shuffled her way to the connecting bathroom, grabbing the ratty purple robe she received as a Christmas present a few years ago, on the way. She undressed and began to shower quickly, knowing that she only had about 15 minutes before Penny demanded entrance for her turn. Meanwhile, Penny trotted out of the room and downstairs to begin breakfast, as she preferred to eat before getting washed. Walking up to the purple dog bowl, she filled her mouth up with some water and gurgled before swallowing. She did it once more. Satisfied that her teeth were clean enough, she moved to the cupboard to the left of the fridge and nudged it open with her stout pink nose. Grabbing the 10 pound bag of Pedigree with her teeth, she dragged it to the matching empty bowl beside her water bowl. Pulling the two sides apart with her teeth and paws, she opened the bag. Using her head, she pushed against the bag, tipping it over and pouring just the right amount for her breakfast. Finished, she pulled the bag upright with her paws and pushed it against the fridge. ‘I’ll put it back later’, she thought as her stomach grumbled at the potential delay. Dropping her head into the bowl, Penny munched steadily and neatly until the bowl was empty. She turned her head towards the water bowl without moving her body and drank deeply, washing the crumbs from her face simultaneously. “Peeennnny”, Alaina yelled from what sounded like the bathroom. “I’m done”. Penny burped in response and trotted back up the stairs to bathe. Entering the bathroom, she sighed resignedly. The bathroom was in a state: hair in the sink and in the bathtub, a toothbrush abandoned on the floor having fallen unnoticed, a dingy white towel laid on the floor before the toilet. Growling softly under her breath, Penny set about bringing the Class 10 natural disaster down to a more manageable Class 2.

            Finished and a little more satisfied, Penny moved to the bathroom where the faucet was still running lightly. Making use of the stool prepared for her particularly, she hopped into the bath. She moved under the waterfall and nearly purred in pleasure as the warm water cascaded through her silky red brown fur. “Penny, we’re going to be late,” Alaina warned sticking her untamed mop of kinky red-brown curls, similar to Penny’s own coloring and Alaina’s basis for her theory that Penny must truly be the soul of her deceased sister Penelope. Penny mentally scoffed, ‘Who forced me to take time to clean?’ Nonetheless, she hurried. With one last rinse, she hopped out of the tub onto the plush, purple towel spread out on the floor. Laying on her side, Penny moved back and forth elegantly to dry her fur. “Pennny….” Cuffing in annoyance, Penny finished and grabbed her towel. On her way out of the bathroom, she hung it on the rod installed three feet from the floor.

            Penny looked into the bedroom for Alaina. She didn’t see her, so she made her way downstairs. Alaina stood at the door, tapping her scuffed military boot covered foot on the carpet and glared at her watch before shifting her glaring gaze to the stairway, where she saw Penny. “Finally”, she huffed. “Let’s go,” and hastily pulled open the door, holding it. Penny strode towards the door with her head up and back stiff, offense slightly deepening the whiskey color of her eyes to a deeper brown. As she walked by Alaina, Penny paused and looked up at her. Narrowing her eyes, she suddenly nipped at Alaina’s skin where the boot ended, before her black leather skirt began. Not enough to draw blood, but enough to show Alaina who was actually in charge, since she seemed to have forgotten this morning.

            “Alright, I’m sorry. Jesus,” she pouted, still glaring slightly. “You know that Thursdays are our busiest days”. Penny arched one eyebrow, or what would be one, had she been human and continued to stare. Feeling that she sufficiently made her point, she walked out the door, expecting Alaina to follow.

            Penny and Alaina walked companionably in silence down Bedford Road as they did every morning. Penny lifted her head and inhaled and shivered; the sharp, metallic scent of menace and the sour, sweet scent of decay overwhelmed Penny’s sensitive nose. She resisted gagging. It looked like today would be different. Unaware, Alaina stopped in front of the glass door of a small, single story shop; nestled in between “Epic Life Designs” and “Good Vibrations”. In elegant, old English font, “Penny’s Fortunes” in white lettering graced the purple awning. As Alayna unlocked the door with the old skeleton key that she always got a kick out of using, Penny surreptitiously took in her surroundings. She peered to her right in the direction that they had just came. She saw the usually sightings of Mrs. Lee opening up her fruit and vegetable store; Jessica Miller walking her poodle; Billy Ray walking drunkenly home. She turned her head to the left and swept her gaze along equally familiar sightings of Mrs. Breitman walking little Jaime to school and Anita Brown opening up her bookstore, “Guilty Pleasures,” which was often mistaken for Laura and Jim’s sex shop next door. Nothing was amiss. For now.

            By now, Alaina had unlocked the door and left it open welcomingly for customers. Penny entered the brightly lit room filled with books, and charms and herbs and statues and candles. In the center, near the back stood a low sturdy oak table stained the same shade of purple as the awning. Sitting atop the table were 6 candles: purple, yellow and green on one side, black, white and silver on the other, framing the table. Each side also held a silver bowl filled with bay leaves, blessed thistle, bramble, juniper berries and mandrake root which Alaina had already lit. The slightly intoxicating scent floated around Penny’s head as she took her seat on the large purple pillow behind the table. She pulled the brass name plate sitting on the table closer to her. Sniffing annoyingly, she leaned forward to lick it clean, paying careful attention to each letter in “Penny: Fortune Teller”. She nudged the plate back into place with her nose. ‘Alaina, hurry with my brooch’. “Alright, I’m coming with it”, Alaina responded to the mental command. Penny leaned forward, licking her lips as Alaina clasped the purple brooch around her neck. Penny looked down at her priceless brooch, the tendrils of green smoke swirling slowly and mystically within mesmerized her. Someone cleared their throat. Penny startled slightly and raised her head to look at the newcomer.

            She took in the slender feminine body, covered in a tan trench coat. She took in the red pumps adorning delicate, small feet. She took in the fiery red hair and the moss green eyes, maintaining eye contact. ‘How can I help you’, the words were pushed into the young woman’s mind. She startled violently at the sound of the soft, lilting voice in her mind. ‘No need to be afraid,’ Penny soothed. ‘Have a seat, please’. Penny nodded towards the matching cushion on the floor across from her. ‘What do you need?’ she asked as the woman took a seat. “I – I”, the young woman’s breathy voice trembled as she visibly tried to pull herself together. “I need to know what will happen at 10pm tonight”.

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