Love On The Cards
The maniacal traffic whirled madly about as the red bus elbowed its way to the curb. Amid the bustle and competition to board the bus, Tess felt her purse being knocked from her hand. Growling, she bent down to pick it up. “Bloody animals,” she swore under her breath. “I’d hate to see what would happen in a life-threatening situation.”
After retrieving her purse, Tess tried stepping onto the bus and was dismayed to see that standers occupied all the available space.
“Sorry, love. You’ll have to wait for the one behind,” the bus driver said. He was so fat he looked like he needed an apple in his mouth. His sausage-like fingers hovered over the button, getting ready to close the doors.
“Great! Just bloody great,” she said as the doors whooshed closed behind her. “Can this shitty day possibly get any worse?”
Without warning, a blinding flash lit the sky, followed instantly by a shattering crack of acoustical energy. Fat raindrops began to fall, plastering her freshly washed, auburn hair to her face. A cruel and merciless wind danced with her skirt, blowing it past her upper calves. Embarrassed, she desperately struggled to push it down.
“Oh, God, please no, not now, not today,” she cried aloud as she frantically scanned the street for a doorway to take cover.
How was she going to be impressive at her interview looking like a drowned rat? A light-bulb moment popped in her head: a coffee shop, find a coffee shop. Looking from left to right, all she could see were clothes shops and estate agent offices, none of which would be of any use to her. Then she spotted a notice board with Tea and Tarots £5 scrawled in large, white writing. Walking quickly towards it, she stopped outside the small shop. Through the half-open blinds she could just make out a woman who sat at a small circular table draped with a dark, red-wine coloured table cloth.
Should I go in? She questioned herself. No, she was being ridiculous. She should find a doorway to wait under until the next bus arrived. She did not believe in supernatural hocus-pocus stuff. She prided herself on being a logical person. She believed in what she could see. Which is why she had not been able to see through Amy. If she had, she would not be in the mess she currently found herself in: unemployed, single, and soon to be homeless if she did not get the job she was applying for.
The wind grew stronger and fiercer. Oh, God! What’s a bloody fiver? It’s better than being drenched and blown away I suppose, she reasoned with herself as she took tentative steps towards the door. A bell rang as she pushed the door open. The woman, who had been engaged with a spread of cards, looked up at her.
“Hi,” Tess said, slightly taken aback by the woman’s appearance. She didn’t look like the sinister-looking fortune teller that had scared her witless as a child when her mother went for a reading at the local fair ground. The woman sitting before her was not wearing a multi-coloured sash around her head, a billowing peasant blouse with puffy sleeves gathered at the wrist, and lots of miss-matched, clunky jewellery. Nor were there moles on her wrinkled face, with black hairs protruding out of them. Instead, there sat a young woman with compelling blue eyes and smooth olive skin stretched over high cheekbones.
“Hi, yourself,” the woman replied in a light, playful tone. Her lips parted in a dazzling display of straight, white teeth. “Come in and get out of that jacket. You’ll catch pneumonia,” she said.
Was that a predication? The last thing Tess needed was to be ill. Talk about being paranoid, she admonished herself as she loosened her arms from her jacket. The woman rose from the table and took the jacket from her. “I’ll put this in the back on the radiator. It should be nice and dry by the end of your reading.”
“Thank you,” Tess said, gratefully handing it over to her.
“Please take a seat,” the woman said, pointing towards the empty chair. “How’d you like your tea?”
“My tea? Oh, er, strong please. Just a drop of milk, no sugar. Thanks.”
“You’re a woman after my own heart,” she said, winking at Tess. “Nothing like a strong brew, as my Nan always said.”
Tess nodded in agreement with her.
“Settle yourself down. I won’t be a min. I’m Louise, by the way,” she said before disappearing behind a door a few yards away.
Alone, Tess took in her surroundings. The room was light and airy but very narrow. There wasn’t much room for more than the table she sat at and a glass cabinet filled with crystal balls, tarot cards, beads, candles and incense for sale. She ruffled her hair, shaking droplets of rain onto the tiled floor beneath her. At least my jacket has managed to keep my clothes dry, she thought with relief.
The door creaked open and Louise appeared carrying a white ceramic mug. She placed the tea in front of Tess, then lowered herself into her seat. She began to shuffle the tarot cards she had been using when Tess entered the shop.
“I don’t really believe in all this,” Tess said before she could stop herself. Picking up the mug she blew on the hot liquid before taking a sip. It warmed her immediately.
Louise was unfazed by the statement Tess had made and carried on shuffling. “Have you ever had a reading?” she asked. Her eyes met Tess’s in a challenging way.
She cleared her throat. “Well, no,” she said uneasily, “but my mum believed in all this stuff.” She waved her hand around room. “The cost of her phone bill was alarming, Every Sunday without fail she’d call mystic Meg to find out what lay ahead for the week.” Tess fondly shook her head as the memory of her mother hit her. Tess had left Cumbria a year ago to live her dream in London with a new relationship and a new job which were both now a distant memory. If things didn’t improve drastically and soon, it looked like she’d be heading back to Cumbria with her tail between her legs.
With an amused smile, Louise pushed the cards across the table. “Let’s see where this takes us. Cut the deck any way you’d like.”
Tess did as she was asked and spilt the cards into three sections.
“These cards can’t make predictions. Neither do they offer false promises. They are only meant to guide you. You draw from them what makes sense for you.”
Tess nodded her head, afraid that saying anything would give her situation away, making for an easier reading.
“Ok, when you’re ready I want you to draw one card from each pile.”
Tess picked up each deck one after the other and randomly withdrew a card before reaching across the table and laying it in front of her new acquaintance.
Louise turned the first card face up. “The wheel of fortune refers to the fact that things tend to go in cycles. Even if you find your present circumstances difficult and challenging, there will soon come a time when this will ease off and you will be able to focus more on creating fun and frivolity,” she said cheekily raising an brow. “It’s quite a good card because it reminds us that there are always ups and downs in life. If we were to have only good times, we would become less appreciative of what we have.”
Great, Tess thought with enthusiasm. Maybe my bad cycle is coming to an end. She leaned forward, now anxious for the next card to be turned.
“The Five of Swords reversed,” Louise said, tapping on the card with the tip of her manicured finger nail. “This card reflects a conflict that has recently passed and serves as a sign to cut your losses and move on. You may have been disappointed in the past with love, but it is time to move forward now and forget about the past.”
Tess nodded. She really could not believe how spot-on the cards were. Her superficial ease was replaced with a tranquillity she couldn’t explain. She felt totally relaxed in her surroundings now. She could not help but notice how attractive Louise was. She discreetly checked out her wedding finger and was pleased to see it bare.
“Ah, the Lovers,” Louise continued, unaware of Tess’s intense gaze. “This card has many translations, as they all do. It is a card symbolising choices, but there is the interpretation of love as well. However, it may not be love in the traditional sense that we think. It could possibly be an instinctual connection with someone you meet.”
Tess could feel herself blushing.
Louise continued. “The last card seems to indicate that after all you’ve been through, you will find someone worthy of your love, but I do not have any predictions beyond your meeting this person. That choice remains yours.”
Their eyes met and an unspoken message passed between them. Tess felt a physical response that had lain dormant for months.
Suddenly she felt a panic rise within her. Breaking eye contact, she sprung out of her chair, nearly knocking the lukewarm tea off the table in the process. “Oh, shit! I need my jacket. I’m going to be late.” she said, looking frantically at her watch. She had only meant to be in there a few minutes, not a half hour.
“What time is your interview, um..?” Louise asked, fishing for her name.
“Tess. How did you know I had an interview?” she asked distractedly as she tried to control her damp hair in the reflection of the glass cabinet.
“Just a guess. Nothing to do with the cards. You just look dressed for an interview.” She laughed easily as she went to retrieve Tess’s jacket.
Tess peeked out through the blind and was relieved to see the rain had stopped and the sun had come out, pushing aside the dark, gloomy clouds. She believed in that moment this was very symbolic.
“Good luck, though I don’t think you’ll need it,” Louise said as Tess opened the shop door.
“Thanks…for everything,” Tess said, feeling regretful that she had to leave her.
One week later Tess was back at the tarot shop, more firmly bewitched than ever.
“I have had the most unbelievable week. I got the job I applied for. The next day a flat became available to rent and it was something I could actually afford.”
“That’s great. I’m so happy for you,” Louise said, genuinely pleased for her.
“Looks like the cards were right on two counts, but as for love….” Tess paused. “Hey! How come you didn’t seem shocked to see me again?” she asked slowly.
“I was expecting you.”
“You were?” Tess asked her in astonishment.
Louise nodded her head. She randomly took a card out of the deck of tarot cards and slowly turned it over to reveal – the card of lovers.
Copyright 2012 by Jade Winters.
All rights reserved. This short story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author. All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.