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Tattoo artist Ema learns about her elderly neighbor's past...

Alaura Filbin
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Tiger's Eye

Ema entered her apartment building and approached the mailboxes, where she noticed her neighbor of three years, Drina Favell, checking her mail. Despite their rather large age difference, the two had become friends and Ema enjoyed spending time with her, though sometimes Drina’s Eastern European accent was hard to understand.

“Hi, Drina. How are you today?” Ema asked as she pulled her keys out and started to unlock her box.

Drina smiled. “I’m fine, chav, thank you. How are you?”

Ema had learned to accept ’chav’ as a term of endearment from Drina’s language, so she smiled and pulled out her mail. “I’m all right. Things have been kinda slow at work.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk.” Drina shook her head, causing her salt-and-peppered braid to sway behind her. “You need luck charm, va?”

“You think so?”

“Yes, you come upstairs and I make tea. I will try to find one,” Drina said. “Maybe tiger’s eye will help.”

The pair of them chatted as they rode the elevator up to the sixth floor. Drina was very much a mother hen, not that Ema minded, so she dropped her mail off in her apartment before she walked down the hall to 6E, where Drina’s door was left wide open.

The apartment was somewhat cluttered, though not unclean. Pictures of Drina and her husband Luca adorned the walls, showing their travels over the U.S. or with friends. A coffee table sat in the middle of the living room with a red silk sheet draped over it and jewelry-making supplies, a deck of playing cards, and a tea set lying on top of it. A piano was placed against one wall and beaded curtains hung over the doorways to the bedroom and kitchen. The couches were covered in mismatched pillows and blankets, and there was a small television set, probably from the eighties, with magazines and newspapers lying on top of it. A cat litter box rested under the windowsill, away from the rest of the furniture, but the cat was nowhere in sight.

Ema entered the seemingly empty apartment and called out, “Hey, Drina? Are you in here?”

Va, t’aves baxtalo! I come right out,” she said from the other room.

“Are you sure you don’t want any help?”

“No, no. Sit! Relax,” Drina said as she walked out with a pot of tea.

Ema sat down with a smile. “Okay, fine. But if you throw your back out, Luca-”

“Luca will do nothing but wait on me hand and foot,” Drina interrupted with a laugh. “I do not throw back out. It is only teapot, chav. So, tell me, how is work at tattoo shop?” She poured the tea into cups and grabbed a small wooden box from atop the piano before she finally sat down across from Ema.

“It’s fun when I can actually get customers, but there haven’t been as many people coming into the shop lately. It’s looking like I’ll be a bit tight on cash this month if I can’t get more customers.” Ema took a sip of her tea.

Drina nodded and opened the box. “I try to find tiger’s eye for you. I should have one in here.”

The pair continued to talk for a while before Ema heard someone walk through the door and ask, “Drina, you didn’t leave the door open all day, did you?”

The old woman rolled her eyes and looked up at the man. “No, I am not dinlo. I left open for Ema.”

“My fault, sorry. I forgot to close it. How are you, Luca?” Ema turned to face him with a smile.

“I’m old,” he said, taking off his shoes and switching to a pair of house slippers, just as Drina had done when she had entered the apartment. “But I’m fine. How about you, dear?”

“She needs tiger’s eye. Where is it?” Drina asked, standing from the table to move towards her husband.

He shrugged. “Maybe you already gave it away.”

Na, shesti, we have somewhere. Ema needs it.”

Ema cleared her throat. “It’s fine. I can just go down to the store tomorrow and buy one.”

The Favells owned a small consignment store that often had items ranging from furniture to jewelry to an out-of-date electronic device that had been for sale for at least as long as Ema had known them. Drina would even sell some jewelry she made for fun down in the store, and there were other trinkets for sale as well.

“No, no. You get for free,” Drina said.

Luca laughed and put his arm around Drina’s shoulders. “She’s right. You come down to our store and I’ll find one for you.”

“Are you sure? I’m more than willing to pay,” Ema said.

Drina shook her head. “No, this is gift.”

Ema got up to hug the elderly woman, nearly butchering the phrase as she attempted to thank Drina in her language, “Nais tuke.” When they pulled apart, Ema moved towards the door and said, “I probably should head back over to my place now, but I’ll come by the shop tomorrow.”

“Of course!” Luca said. “You come by and I’ll help you find something, I’m sure we have a- uh, what was it?”

“Tigers eye. Romado, your brain has holes,” Drina said, a teasing look in her eye.

He laughed. “My memory isn’t what it used to be. But if you come down, I’ll help you find a tiger’s eye.”

Ema nodded as she wandered out of the apartment and into the hall. “Definitely, thank you again.”

Dja devlesa!” Drina said before closing the door behind Ema.

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