Written for I Bid My Heart to Follow, Cleveland, Ohio Conzine, 2013
“Edie, how did I let you talk me into this?”
Frigid New York at 6:30 p.m.. The sun had fled hours before, along with any patience Catherine once had.
I can’t believe I’m here.
Catherine stood outside a peeling and scratched red metal door in an area of town that had existed on the questionable side of urban decay for over a decade. A long day of running, witness cajoling, and a last minute harried rampage through research since the damn interns dropped the ball, left her aching and desperately tired. With no time to run home to change before Edie dragged her out of the building for their “appointment,” Catherine still wore her suit and court shoes. Necessitated by no free taxis, the standing subway ride and trek here had her feet ready to bust right out of her Bruno Magli’s. The only good thing at this point, she decided, was the cold, since her feet were too numb from the walk in the December weather to feel any pain. Edie had told her they were going to the “artistic” area of the Lower East Side. Edie was couching her terms again. Clearly the artists around here routinely needed blackjacks and mace.
“Girlfriend,” Edie said, ready to answer Catherine’s rhetorical question, “you took me to lunch at your fancy-schmansy restaurant.” She twirled her hand in illustration of just how lavish she thought it had been. “I gotta return the favor,” she stated, with a shake of her head and not a hint of irony. “If I don’t, it’s bad karma.” Edie had insisted Catherine needed this experience, despite all her protests to the contrary. Catherine didn’t believe in psychics of any sort, but that hadn’t stopped Edie from signing her up for this absurd Tarot card reading. The Black woman impatiently pressed the dingy white buzzer on the beaten up intercom, next to the name, “Kaplan.”
“You aren’t allergic to cats, right?” Edie asked quickly, as if she should have asked before.
Catherine laughed, her first since this mini-nightmare began, “No, I’m not allergic to cats. But really Edie,” Catherine argued back, “that was your goodbye lunch. No return karma needed.”
All Catherine wanted was home and warmth, and the possibility of Vincent with her. Even if she had to wrap up in a blanket against the wind, they could sit on the balcony and he could tell her how Eric and Ellie were faring Below. He could tell her about his days, read to her – he even had the right to remain silent – but he could be there; they could be together. It was something she wanted, and wanted fiercely, a wish that drew her every stray thought. It was almost maddening. Catherine missed him more than she had any other man, but maybe because he wasn’t like any other man. She was different in his presence too, more herself than she ever was with any other person. It had been too long since she had seen him, but even a day seemed too long.
“No goodbyes!” Edie yelled. “Don’t talk about that. I’m feelin’ bad enough as it is, leavin’ you all alone in that cesspool, with a boss who uses you like a ‘red-headed step-child,’ and no one there to do your work.” Edie moaned without looking into Catherine’s eyes. She pressed the button again and started dancing foot to foot, trying to stave off the chill of early winter that neither woman had quite gotten used to yet.
Edie had finally received the promotion she had put in for almost eleven months earlier. It was just one bump up, but a bump was a bump – more money, less hassle, significantly more pension. The only problem…Edie’s new office was far enough away that the chance of getting together, regardless of their good intentions, was a lot lower than either woman would have liked. In the last year, Catherine had become intimately familiar with people’s intentions. Before her attack, her social calendar was more complicated than any work calendar her father could devise. After, she could count her real friends on her two hands, including the ones that lived underground.
And now she was losing one.
They stood and stared too long at the gouged and graffiti-covered door. Finally, a voice answered them from the metal box on the wall.
“Cynthia, its Edie.” Edie yelled into the grate on the wall.
“Edie?” For a moment there was silence on the other end. “Oh wow, Edie! I completely forgot you were bringing your friend tonight. Come right on up.” A buzz and a click echoed from the latch and Edie yanked the door open . The freezing women stepped into a small grimy linoleum-tiled vestibule filled with mail in need of a home. The tiny entrance opened to a cramped staircase the women began to climb.
Catherine’s heels clicked on the metal-covered lips of the first few steps, but then she stopped. Looking up the stairs she didn’t want to even try to mount, Catherine queried without a hint of humor, “Edie, how can a psychic forget her appointments?”
Catherine wanted to be charitable. She wanted to enjoy these last few moments with her friend. The burnt oil smells and imbedded dirt of the hallway, the heavy briefcase filled with office work she carried home almost every night, the cold that caused her scar to ache, and the glacial pace of her…what? Love life? (Could she call what she had with Vincent anything close to that?) Those alone could suck away all her good humor, and now Edie, her only real friend at work, was leaving. The day, the week, the year, was conspiring to create an impatient and bitter woman.
Edie hit her half-heartedly with her purse. “Oh hush up, rich girl, and get up those stairs. I don’t care what you smell.” The women continued to climb, “After everything you been through these last few months at the D.A., including, if you don’t remember, being shot, being poisoned by that crazy Voodoo Perp, skipping out on that amazing job in Providence, and then those kids we were looking for ran away. Girl, you need some insight to where you’re going, some direction.” Edie clutched the wooden railing and dragged her tired body up the staircase. “I swear,” she puffed as they reached the third flight, “Cynthia just offers you some insight, and I know that pitiful thing you call a ‘love life,’ hasn’t been ‘sighted’ in quite…some…time.” She wheezed out, the steps overcoming her breath.
Four floors, eight flights and some sad huffing and puffing later, Catherine and Edie reached a metal apartment door down a half-lit hallway. I have to start running again, Catherine reproached herself, as she gulped air trying to slow her breathing and heart rate. She studied the door. It was almost as chipped as the one in front of the building with odd colors of paint layered – blue with old red underneath. Unlike the others in the hallway, however, this one was decorated with a cheery sun-and -moon ceramic sculpture hung by a purple ribbon just beneath the peephole.
This must be the place.
The door opened to a buxom woman with dyed-red, feathered hair. She was not unhandsome, but too strong-featured to be pretty. She was still on the day side of her prime, closer to afternoon than morning, perhaps in her early forties. Weighed down with jewelry and a good amount of make-up, she was dressed in a long, painted skirt and loose blouse that Catherine guessed might still be fashionable at head shops and post-hippy gatherings, but probably nowhere else.
The woman extended her hand to Catherine’s gloved one, “I’m so pleased to meet you. You must be Catherine. Edie told me you might come if she could convince you. I’m Cynthia Kaplan.” Her bottle-red hair swished at her shoulders as she bounced with her strong handshake.
“Well, I guess I underestimated Edie’s powers of persuasion, because here I am.” Catherine tried to joke, but it was too brittle. She needed to do better or else this was going to be unenjoyable for Edie. Catherine gave up on this little adventure being enjoyable for herself somewhere back at work.
Catherine tried again. “She speaks very highly of you.”
“Seriously Cyn, we need to come in, or are we going to do this in the hallway?” Edie piped up from behind Catherine. “Because I am freezing out here!” She pushed her way past the other women, through the tiny entrance hallway, clearly very at home. “Don’t you heat this place? Do you have a blanket or something I can wrap up in?”
The woman gestured Catherine in, and closed the door behind her while calling out to Edie, “Well, check the couch. I think there’s one there.”
Having conducted investigations for a few months now, Catherine was still struck at how individual the smell of an apartment was to the owner. Of course, she must have unconsciously realized it before, but maybe having her eyes bound those two times made her more aware of the input of her other senses. Each home was a habitat, the odors within a unique amalgam of the inhabitants. This habitat clearly included at least one four-pawed creature, judging by the not overpowering, but distinctive smell, along with someone who really liked curry. But, there was a freshness here too. Maybe, the psychic opened a window during the day despite the cold. There was little control of the heating in these old buildings, and Catherine had experienced the crushing heat of overzealous furnaces with blasts of cold from open windows. The raw, green smell could also have originated from the forest of houseplants taking up all the space near every window of the small apartment.
It was a cluttered apartment. Prints of the Buddha competed with fabric wall hangings, African fetishes, statues of saints, and a myriad of books and papers. Catherine used to see this type of clutter as a fault until she experienced Vincent’s chamber, and understood it for what it was – an explosion of an inner life. This type of clutter wasn’t dirty, but said to Catherine that this person wanted so much, wanted to be so much, she couldn’t choose. Even Cynthia’s necklace couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted to be – A purple jeweled cross hung behind and a silver metal lotus she recognized from Jenny’s Buddhist period, and a shining Star of David.
Edie grabbed a homemade crocheted blanket – purple, black, yellow, green and more – off the slightly worn gray tweed couch and wrapped herself within it, coat and all. “What?” She remarked. “I’m cold.” When neither woman commented Edie asked, “We going to get on with this or what?”
Cynthia just shook her head and smiled, “Hold on, my dear, I have to get a few things, and throw my dinner on the back burner.” She walked toward the postage-stamp kitchen, calling back to them, “Please sit down Cathy…at the table. Oh, and Edie, put her coat up, will you?”
Edie took Catherine’s coat and hung it in a small closet near the front door, and then showed her friend a dining room dominated by bookshelves. Centered in the room was a small, octagonal, dark wooden table, covered with a lace table cloth, and upon that, an open book and steaming mug of tea. Two antique, red brocade-covered chairs were companions to the table, one pulled away, as if left in haste.
Cynthia called from the kitchen with an offer of tea from an already-made pot, while Catherine hobbled on her now thawing and throbbing feet to a chair. Seated, she turned the book to discover what their would-be seer had been reading before they arrived.
Catherine, in the recent habit of reading poetry aloud, could not help but read part of the verse she found there:
“Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest
For he comes the human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand”
“You read beautifully,” Cynthia commented in a quiet voice, as she snuck in with a tray filled with mugs, steaming water and some towels. “Do you know ‘The Stolen Child,’ by Yeats?” She placed the tray on a low, long sideboard near the smaller table. With her skirt and blouse flouncing, the woman passed a mug to Edie, who happily accepted it. She placed another in front of Catherine.
“Every once in a while a book, or a passage, jumps out at me, lifts up, you know? I was getting ready to eat, and pulled out this little book on a whim. It just fell open to this page. Sometimes that happens. It usually has to do with my next reading.”
“Oh, my God, Cathy,” Edie spied over Catherine’s shoulder. “Those kids?”
“Edie, that’s not psychic,” Catherine answered, more anger than she wished escaping with the words. “You told your friend about them, and she found this for our benefit.” Catherine met the Cynthia’s gaze, but only found a subdued sadness there. Suddenly, she couldn’t understand how Edie was still cold, in the staggeringly hot and claustrophobic, green, cramped, and macraméd apartment.
Catherine wasn’t used to real anger yet. Growing up, black emotions had no place. They were discounted and discouraged, pacified quickly through words and offerings. When fury took hold, and she had no place to send it, Catherine was left groundless and shaking. She stood ready to leave.
“Are you kidding, Cathy?” Edie jumped up and whispered, although Cynthia surely heard, “I haven’t told anyone about the stuff we did to find those kids. Seriously! You know I could lose my new job,…and my old job,” Edie finished, squeezing Catherine’s arm, her eyes still begging for secrecy.
Now sitting across from Catherine, the buxom woman, sighed, and her large hazel eyes looked up at Edie. “I didn’t think this was a good idea.” She looked back at Catherine with more apology than anger. “You just don’t seem the type of person who is open to card readings. I’m sorry. I tried to warn Edie that unless you wanted this, it might not work.”
Catherine’s jaw tightened. It’s just a stupid Tarot card reading, so why are you so defensive, she asked herself. Her rational mind knew this for what it was – at best wishful thinking, at worst a scam that she could easily expose and evade. Still, she was still angry, and Vincent had taught her she reacted to fear first with anger.
So what are you truly afraid of? his voice asked in her head.
And for a split second, as traffic glimpsed in between the passing of a windshield wiper over glass during a downpour, she saw her irrational fear clearly – that this woman would look at her cards and see all her secrets, see Vincent. He was the one thing, the one secret that made her work, and her new life, and New York weather, and rude and crazy people, and subway rides in court shoes – everything – bearable. If someone teased the secret from her heart…
But then her rational thoughts once again washed the worry away.
Catherine assumed her professional mask, letting it protect her from the absurd anxiety. At its worst, this was just a game, and Edie wanted this. “I’m the one who should be sorry. I know Edie was just trying to do something nice, even if this is a bit out of the ordinary for me.” She turned to Edie and took her hand. “Really, I’m sorry.” She squeezed apology her into her friend’s hand with her still gloved one.
“It’s okay, girlfriend,” Edie answered with genuine forgiveness quieting her usually boisterous voice. “I know you don’t walk on the ‘Dark Side’ much.”
Edie, you really have no idea.
Courage and good humor intact, Catherine sat down again. “All right,” she said, with a weak smile. “What do I do?”
The Tarot reader smiled back, “Right on,” she answered, picking up her mug of tea, then swiveling herself to the low buffet cabinet where she had placed her other things. She put her mug aside and picked up the tray that held a shallow ceramic bowl of flowered water and a white towel and placed them on the table. “This water has lavender and calendula in it. You can refresh your hands, so your energy more easily flows into the cards.”
“Really?” Catherine couldn’t help but be a little skeptical, despite her intention to be good.
“You caught me.” Cynthia looked slightly guilty, but then laughed. “Although lavender and calendula are supposed to cleanse the spirit as well as the body,” she whispered, “I just hate getting my cards dirty.”
Catherine put up her gloved hands for the psychic to inspect. “I wear gloves.”
“Yeah, you do,” the woman answered. Her eyes squinted, as she stared at Catherine’s hands. “Do you wear them often? You seem very comfortable in them.”
“Yes,” Catherine confessed. “Is that a problem?”
“You tell me, Cathy.” Cynthia countered. “Is there a problem between you and the world?”
In answer, Catherine, almost defiant, took off the contested gloves, gave them to Edie, then placed her hands in the shallow bowl. The water was still warm. After a few seconds, Cynthia offered her the white towel. It was slightly rough, but felt good…like the towels she used Below when Vincent helped her wash.
Does everything have to remind me of him?
Cynthia, got up, placed the tray back on the sideboard, and pulled the slightly sticking top drawer open. Four decks wrapped in decorated cloths nested in a purple-velvet lined drawer. She chose a middle deck, one wrapped in a yellow cotton cloth painted with stars and moons. Cynthia placed the package in front of them on the table, and unwrapped the cards. They were large, about the size of a hand, an indigo blue ground and a classic star pattern decorating the backs.
With a practiced cadence Cynthia began, “Cathy, take the cards in your hands.”
Catherine lifted the oversized cards off the yellow fabric and placed them in her left palm. They felt slick, almost new, like the cards she and her father would play gin rummy with on Sunday afternoons when she was twelve, only much larger and more numerous.
Cynthia went on, in her slow calming rhythm. “The Tarot is about finding the knowledge locked within you. The cards project and reflect your unconscious insights about your past, present and future. We are going to do a simple five card reading. You will see things that I can’t. The cards reveal the destiny already there. I’m just helping you understand it. Now start shuffling, and only when you feel right about it place the cards in front of me.”
Catherine began an overhand shuffle, lifting cards from the middle of the deck by the tips of her fingers bringing them to the front, letting them slip, falling one over the other.
“Is this right?”
“However feels right to you, as long as you don’t reveal the card faces,” Cynthia advised.
Catherine didn’t know how long this should go on. Edie stood next to the table, her anticipation tangible in the way she danced while watching the cards being shuffled. Catherine held out for as long as she thought Edie could take it, and then gently placed them face down on the table.
With practiced and fluid movements the woman across from Catherine slowly revealed each card, then arranged them in an arrow pattern, one by one uncovered, ordered to create a whole. All the cards faced Cynthia, and almost all had a title beneath, although Catherine couldn’t see them easily from her perspective. What she could see – an angel, a child in the sun, swords, an enthroned man, a skeleton in armor.
Clearly, Edie was impressed. “Woo wheeeee,” she whistled from her place next to Catherine’s chair.
Cynthia glared, but said nothing. She turned back to the cards, scanned each, took them in, and then she closed her eyes, whether to tap into her prophetic, or narrative abilities, Catherine wouldn’t speculate for Edie’s sake.
Cynthia, with her eyes still closed and with the same calm tone one might use to explain complexity to a child, began describing what Edie saw, “Almost all major arcana, but from what Edie has told me about you, I can’t say I’m surprised.” Cynthia’s hazel eyes bore into her. “There is an aura about you, Cathy. You have a depth in you that is a secret all your own.”
“So, what do they mean?” Catherine asked the question to draw the conversation on, half hoping it would end the woman’s assumptions and half hoping…what…that someone would see that she was different, special?
“Every card has a significance and context… a time, a place, a designation.” Cynthia turned the lowest right card towards Edie and Catherine. Depicted was a man dressed in a white and red robe, a triple tiered crown on his head, holding up a two-fingered command for peace.
“This card represents where you come from Catherine. Your influences, in a nutshell. Your past.” She picked up the card to show them. “‘The Hierophant’ – the ‘father’ of the church, the beloved father, but the judging father. He forgives, brings peace, but at a cost, the price paid by all those outside the Hierophant’s philosophy, who don’t fit in his paradigm. His power, the power of the patriarchy, lies in glossing over wrongs, in hiding the crimes beneath the surface, the misogyny. He believes he is always right, and with enough faith, enough power, everyone will fall in line.”
She slowly placed the card on the antique table directly in front of Catherine, a deliberate motion, “This card represents others who try to choose for us,” she explained. “Without choice, there is no reason to live.”
Catherine could not help but see the men who came before in the crowned man’s gesture. Before there had been men, powerful men, who, out of love had assumed they knew better, her father, Steven, and Tom, although now, with hindsight, Tom seemed more selfish and vain than loving. Even after, Elliot believed he knew what she wanted, more out of hubris than anything else, she guessed. After, only Vincent, then Isaac, offered her the tools to make her own decisions, feel her own strength.
Vincent was not the man on this card, this crowned man with his all-knowing admonishments and concrete beliefs. Catherine guessed there were times Vincent felt as shaky and uncontrolled as she, like a child’s first adventure onto the ice, ready to fall with each inch dared. She could feel Vincent’s love, but he was desperate to give her choices, never to dictate, even to a fault. Some choices were already made, despite his Father’s warnings and misgivings. Weren’t they bound to one another?
Cynthia placed the card back into the pattern and took the next, turned it and held it up to Edie and Catherine. She smiled.
“ ‘The Lovers’ – The perfect love of animus and anima with providence guiding them. He possesses the tree of life, she the tree of knowledge. Without her he cannot understand the secrets of the universe, without him she cannot live. They complete each other.”
Edie interrupted then, hiking her blanket around her shoulders, “Cyn, why are you talking like it’s a dissertation. You don’t tell me all this stuff.”
Cynthia hesitated for the shortest beat, then answered, “Edie, you’re here all the time. We have the time to explore the cards, to tease them out. Catherine is only here this one time. I have to give her your money’s worth.” It was a diplomatic answer, and a wise one, Catherine thought. She was, against her New York skeptical core, beginning to like this lady. She smiled in spite of herself.
“This card…” Cynthia placed it where she had the other. “Is your expectation for yourself and your future. This is good. Some people I read expect terrible things. You don’t even have to see the cards, you can read it on their faces. But you know what you want, and it’s good. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve already met the person you are meant to be with.”
“Oh, no,” Edie interrupted. “Don’t go down that thunder road, Cynthia. Cathy doesn’t like to talk about that, although I’m pretty sure he’s got a fine Italian stallion name, and she enjoys his classic lit’, almost as much as you.” Edie winked.
Cynthia was kind enough not to follow Edie’s facetious words with questions or comment, on the flash of doubt Catherine knew flushed her face. “This card,” she continued, “in many ways is opposite of the Hierophant. This is about choice and listening to the divine voice that guides us.” She pointed to the man and the woman under the angel. “They must make the choice. Will they give up their former lives to be together? See how she looks to the angel, the sacred that binds them, to show her the way. The angel is cruel. It throws them out of the nest, the Eden of childhood, allowing them to experience all of life, the good and the bad. The angel knows that we must leave safety and ease. How can you have joy without sorrow? It gifts them the choices of the world, but not without guidance. You, Cathy, expect to have love, and to choose a life of your own, not one dictated to you. You must trust the divine voice inside you, the animus and anima and the divine in between. They will steer you to what you want if you listen.”
She took the card away. Catherine couldn’t decide if she was relieved or something else. Especially once she saw the next cards.
The silence lasted and lasted while the women studied this image. The air was already tense, turbulent for such a small cluttered space, and when Cynthia wouldn’t speak, Catherine couldn’t help but blurt out, “What?”
“This is what is unexpected, ‘The Eight of Swords.’ It signifies the hidden dangers, the ones from without and within, especially the ones you do not expect. Danger and enemies are all about you, but they are hidden. You walk blindfolded on uneven and slippery ground, and you must navigate with the dangers all around, but you can’t see what they are.” The older woman placed her hand on Catherine’s. “You will, though.” She looked directly in her eyes. “You’ll have to.”
Catherine locked gazes with the woman for a moment, but then looked down to the cross, star and lotus resting on her freckled skin, and then to the card again, not back at the woman’s eyes. After the last few months, the idea of more enemies wasn’t a welcome prophecy.
“Cathy, in order to survive, to navigate, you must slip your restraints, take off your blindfold and know what is surrounding you. There is a path forward, but you have to see it, and you will.”
Her words held a promise, but that augury seemed contradicted by the next card.
Edie put her hand on Catherine’s shoulder, then knelt at her side. Catherine could smell the lotion on her skin, hear the click of her jewelry. “It’s okay, really Cathy. It’s not what you think. This one came up the last time I was with Cynthia too, right before I got my promotion. I nearly knocked Cyn over along with this teeny table, but she calmed me down.”
“Edie’s right,” Cynthia said with an appeasing smile. “It isn’t as bad as it looks, usually.”
“Usually?” Catherine asked dubious and low-voiced, hating this, skepticism edging her off her seat. She was ready to leave this failure behind, almost overwhelmed with the need to go, but unable to take her eye off the card, hoping, but not believing Cynthia could say anything to dispel her dread.
Too much death – the unwelcome suitor, the certain hunter. They were already on too intimate terms.
Catherine had met death in the world, not just the clean version that had been contrived for her at her mother’s death. She knew how quickly a body of a woman could grow cold, when it was too cut and too broken to hold her life any longer, even if she was brave and resolute only hours before. She knew men screamed and shat before they died. Guilty or innocent, even killers themselves were not immune to the terror. She knew Death’s wake: shaking remorse, anger, and agony. And she knew the fear. It wrapped and choked her heart – the fear that Death could take the person that she loved in any of a thousand ways. That idea hit her at times with the force of a horse’s hooves pounding her life away.
“All things that live must die.” Cynthia stated the obvious. “That’s what we learn when leave the garden. The people we love will die. That is the price of truly living – loving and losing. Death is simply change and it comes for man, woman, and child. But see the rose standard he carries, the flag of life, and the dawn of hope in the distance? We must allow the death of our old selves, the death of other possible lives in order for the life we wish for to unfold. Creating new life isn’t without pain. The phoenix must burn before it is reborn.”
“Yup,” Edie stood, and nodded, irritation in her face and voice , “that’s the same line she used on me. Burning things and children dying? Seriously, Cyn, do you really need that card in your deck? You’re scaring the White girl.” She gestured to Cathy with her thumb.
Catherine was momentarily shaken out of her unease, and stared open-mouthed at her friend.
“What?” Edie demanded. “It’s true. You’re really worrying my girl, Cyn.”
“Umm, Edie, Cynthia…”
“Oh please, Cath. She’s an Irish Jew from Washington Heights. Technically, she’s Blacker than me.”
Catherine laughed despite her unease, and that was who Edie was; this was Edie’s power. The sadness and frustrations of working at the D.A. couldn’t survive her quips, at least, not easily. Catherine was going to miss her humor, her fire. There were people in your life who helped you forget the fear, who gave you courage. She was one; Vincent was another. Vincent would hear the words, take the counsel. Catherine turned back to Cynthia, ashamed that a just a card could cause her so much anxiety.
Cynthia seemed to understand – She placed her hand once again on Catherine’s
“I know you’re afraid. You’ve been too close to Death yourself, but you still love, you still do good. Do you know how amazing that is? What a gift that is? You could have closed yourself off to the world. Millions of people in this city do it every day.
…because of Vincent. He taught me that life finds a way and there is hope, beyond anything I could imagine.
“Everyone who loves fears death,” Cynthia continued. “But if we cannot embrace death as a part of living, how can we give our heart? Every mother fears for the life of her child, but if she cannot accept the possibility of losing, she cannot allow new life to move through her into the world. The thing we must remember, because we all will die, is even though Death will take us, the good we do, all our mitzvot will live after us. Death cannot touch these.”
Cynthia took both Catherine’s hands in hers; her warm smooth hands seemed to try to impart the knowledge into Catherine’s body. “You will embrace Death. You will accept its possibility for love of another. I see it, and when you do, it will lose its power. You will walk through the dark night, but then…” she let go and took the last card from the spread.
The last card, “The Sun”
The picture was of a small child happily perched on the back of a pale horse, in a walled garden, with the sun looking on sagely.
Catherine smiled. “And what does this one mean?”
Cynthia allowed a small laugh to dispel the tension and precede her explanation. “Well, I’m glad you asked that.” She pointed to the child. “In the spread, this card is your farther future, and it’s a good one. ‘The Sun’ can be a long-awaited child, or it can be the beginning of a happy life after a long and dark night of the soul.”
“Here comes the sun, do, do, do, do…” Edie sang above her. Catherine felt her infectious glow and took it in. Edie was a sun unto herself.
“Death has been transformed.” The warmth conviction infused Cynthia’s words. “His horse carries the life his rose standard promised, one that has pleasures, simple, perfect: love, the laughter of children, the beauty of nature, ‘Heaven in a wild flower,’ all hidden within a secret garden, warmed by Hope. The Sun is your inner light, Cathy, one that cannot be extinguished. No matter where you go, you bring your light with you, warming all those around you, transforming sadness into life.”
A life, a secret place of hope, with children…there was only one place, only one person she could imagine sharing a life with, but where was the hope for that?
…all you can bring him is unhappiness. Father’s words, persistent in their blame, haunted her ever since he uttered them; as if she had a choice.
Could his words be true if loving Vincent felt like the truest thing within her?
The way to Vincent, to being in together in any sense of the word, appeared akin to a maze the size of Manhattan itself, and she was navigating blindfolded every turn, twist and groping step. It seemed so impossible…
Cynthia placed the last card back into the pattern and looked carefully a moment at the whole. She was quiet, placing her folded hands to her mouth, as if to hold back her words. For a moment they all were quiet, the only sound, a cat nibbling its food in the kitchen.
Cynthia placed her hands back on the table, and breathed out.
“You’ve left behind an unfulfilling existence, because of love, for love. You aren’t on an easy path. It is uncut, untested. You will have to be vigilant and patient, but I see your other half, and he is waiting to walk that road with you. I see happiness. Your higher self speaks the cards’ words, and reminds you that if you are certain of something, if you want something, fight for it, Cathy. It is the only way to own your life, to respect your truest voice within you. Today might be frightening, but the future holds hope.”
Edie unfurled the blanket from her shoulders with a flourish, and sang, “The sun will come out tomorrow…” as she tossed the color riot back onto the tweed couch.
“See Cathy,” Edie said as she gathered Catherine’s coat from the hall, “I knew it. You’re going to be ok, even if I’m not there to do all your work.” She dropped Catherine’s gloves into her outstretched hand.
Catherine hugged her friend, for all her good, and all her good intentions.
Edie spoke from within Catherine’s hug, “Thanks, Cyn.” The smiling woman let go and turned to embrace the seer. “I’ll call you next week. I’m gonna need a few pointers on this new gig, and some ‘higher self insight’ on a couple of the desk jockies I saw riding the terminals over there.” She smiled and winked.
Catherine had come to the strange farewell moment – the handshake or hug? Her instinct drew her before she consciously decided a friend of my friend is my friend, and she embraced the warm and soft woman. “Thank you, Cynthia.”
“You are always welcome, Cathy. Come back, anytime,” the older woman offered.
“I can say it has truly been an experience. You’ve given me some guidance and a lot to think about. Thank you again,” Catherine said with sincerity, but without adding any possibility of coming back. Catherine was too fond of the truths she could speak to promise anything she didn’t believe she would deliver.
Edie grabbed her purse, placed a small wad of money onto the table, and patted Catherine’s arm. “Time to go, girl. All this higher power, and paths and stuff has got me famished.”
“See you soon, Cynthia,” Edie called, as she opened the door and shooed Catherine through.
“Cathy,” she began as they walked towards the stairs. “I’m going to take you to this amazing donut place around the corner. Just about now, they put out these tiny sugar donuts and serve them with this sweet dessert wine. Talk about divine!”
“But, we haven’t eaten dinner yet,” Catherine protested.
“Honey, these are worth skippin’ dinner for, or, if you want, there’s this really good Falafel cart two blocks down from that. Do you know who showed me the donut place? Jason Kincade.”
“I know, clichéd, and, oh my, what a huge emotional train wreck, but he really knew his donuts…”
Cynthia could still hear Edie’s shining voice, barely taking breath, as the women left the building.
She closed her decorated door, stepped back into her closet-sized kitchen, put her dinner back on the stove, and glided into the dining room to gather mugs. She placed them on the tray that held the now cool wash water.
Love, anger, grief, need, fear, waiting, waiting, hope. They all flashed through her consciousness when she picked up the towel Catherine had used to dry her hands. The rough fabric burnt her thoughts almost immediately, and she dropped it back onto the tray. Sometimes the feelings, the images, still caught her without her armor on.
Edie’s friend didn’t believe in psychic abilities, didn’t believe a person who read the Tarot needed psychic powers, and she was right. You didn’t have to have the sight to interpret what was already there, but in Cynthia’s case the opposite was true. She could take the feelings, the images that appeared to her mind piece by piece, but only in the context of the cards. Without the cards, past, present and future assailed her.
Cynthia understood the need for a gloved existence better than Catherine knew.
The final card remained. It sat on top of the deck waiting for the seer’s curiosity to draw it out. This last card was for her only, a synopsis of the questioner, of their future influence, sometimes helpful, sometime frightening, but a guide for her prospective interactions with them. Cynthia doubted she would ever see the enigmatic woman again, but the card was still there, waiting to be read. She set the tray to the side and sat at the table with only the deck to guide her. She placed both hands on the rough open-work lace, palms down, and closed her outer eyes, allowing her deeper sight to unfold.
A newborn’s cry
And in the center of all of these, the impossible man, beautiful and terrible.
Secrets were always safe with Cynthia, especially ones as magnificent as the man from the dark- veined and secret garden where crystals grew like flowers.
Cynthia opened her outer eyes again, sighed, and took the top card from the deck. She nearly laughed aloud. She should have known.
Tamer of spirit
Bringer of Peace
Eternity within her power