Low in a cardboard box in the entryway, Yucca shoves himself into the corner of his cage. Before him, fine hands scatter chopped lettuce (a precious commodity, here) and fill a dim platter with water.
Stepping back from the turtle, Zara returns to her perch by the kitchen table. Crouching on a small chair, she flicks though her iPad, browsing American crime shows dubbed into Russian, K-Pop videos, infant beauty contests from South Korea.
She nibbles at wasabi crackers and tea.
“Chai popyom!” she calls out. Its time to drink tea. I extricate myself from my computer. Slowly.
“Look!” Zara smiles when I enter the kitchen. “Popugaichiki! Do you want them?”
I look over her shoulder at the small parrots in the picture. “Will they be noisy?”
“No, very quiet.” She assures me. “They sleep.”
“Maybe we should call Olya and ask what she wants?” I say.
Zara reaches for her phone and calls the owners here in Astana, as I scan the facebook advertisement. She acts quickly, gathering her coat and furred hat.
Later in the evening, she comes back carrying a wire cage, draped in our green blanket.
“Look!” She says. Two small blue budgies cock their heads and fluff their feathers, shaking nervously. They’re pale, like powder paint, with dark blue fletches around their white feathered necks.
“How much?” I ask. “How old?”
Zara shakes her head; she doesn’t know; she didn’t pay anything, as the owners were leaving the city.
“Let’s call them In and Yan!” She proposes.
“In and yan?”
In response, she makes the sign of a Yin-Yang. I shake my head, looking at the blue birds, and we scan the internet for words: Cornflower, Baby Blue, Royal Blue.
We name them Azure and Indigo. Zara writes it down on a napkin, her manicured nails. She tells me the budgerigars are a boy and a girl; the cage contains a box for nesting.
In a home musty around the edges, Zara shies away from anger, and warms like sunflowers to love. Olya and I fight; wide-eyed, Zara wants life to be in harmony.
Late in the evening, she keeps asking me for some green bottle, in Russian. Impatient, I turn away.
“I found it!” she calls. As she bends down again, I look into the hall. She’s spritzing each green tropical plant, the turtle’s box, the birds in their cage, all her gathered creatures, her face shining with delight.
“They’re kissing!” Zara calls as I prepare for bed. I bound out of my room. “Well, they were kissing each other.”
I nod. “These are called lovebirds in Turkish,” I say, checking it on my mobile. “Mahebbetkusi.”
We say goodnight as I walk back into my room.
“I tell you, I brought home love!” Zara tells me with a smile. “Ya govoryu, ya prinesla domoi lyubov.”