A thin woman in a multi-colored, billowy maxi dress resembling a parachute, propped open the door with her barefoot and waved Samantha in. The candlelight flickered and cast the small woman’s large shadow against the paint-chipped wall. Samantha feared, with this horrendous weather, a gale could whip the petite lady straight out the open window into a frozen tundra never to be heard from again, leaving Samantha worse off than before.
Samantha pushed the worst-case scenario from her mind and gazed at a crookedly hung floor-to-ceiling tapestry of a lioness and three cubs cuddling in a field of sand and straw. Any other day, Samantha would have commented on the cuteness of the wall hanging, but not today. She wasn’t in the mood for pleasantries. She couldn’t find any street parking, forced herself to pay $20 to park in a lot, and trudged four blocks in the snow.
“Samantha,” she replied, nodded, and plastered a tight-lipped smile on her face. She stifled a cough.
Samantha removed her snow-covered boots and pulled up her sweaty wool socks. She sniffed the air for signs of her foot odor. The thick scent of patchouli quickly filled her nostrils and stung her eyes. That’s when she let loose a coughing fit. Samantha understood why the window remained open in the dead of winter—to quell the noxious incense.
Delilah took Samantha’s damp coat and hung it in a tiny closet in the only space that wasn’t packed with mounds of magazines. She shoved her shoulder into the closet door as a stack of the tabloids fell forward with a thud against the wood. Samantha imagined retrieving her coat would be nothing short of being buried alive by sensational news—literally.
“Sit, here, my dear.” Delilah adjusted her gray shawl over her shoulders and pointed to a low table.
Samantha sat on the scarlet cushion that had the same comfort level as a cardboard box. She scanned the pint-sized room, thinking for a moment she might be sitting in a miniature dollhouse. Her eyes stopped on a worn, brown trunk like the one her mother stored her scarves. She wondered if that’s where the woman kept incense, candles, oils, feathers, crystals, tarot cards, and various tools psychics use. Samantha couldn’t help but think this was all a bunch of hooey as a chill pricked the surface of her forearms like she was a voodoo doll being poked by a needle.
She took a deep breath. She told herself she was doing this for Dana. This was the second psychic she had seen within a few weeks. She needed a second opinion. Plus, this psychic came highly recommended. Samantha thinks she is hearing messages from Dana. She wants to be sure she isn’t going crazy. She presumed this experience would be like inserting a quarter in a Zoltan Machine and it spitting out a lame fortune, such as, “Your wish is granted.”
Delilah reached her stiff fingers toward Samantha. They reminded Samantha of brittle starfish arms and she tried not to recoil.
“Can I see your hands, my dear?”
Samantha met the woman’s gray eyes and surveyed the lines around them. Black curls with strands of silver cascaded over her forehead like spiders hanging from a ceiling. Samantha hesitated, but then decided this must be part of the process. She held her hands out, palms facing up as if she was accepting a host from a priest. Samantha cringed at the thought of church right now. She could be damned to hell for just being here.
Delilah took Samantha’s hands in hers and pulled them closer to her eyes, inspecting them. Samantha worried she’d detect a short lifeline. Delilah didn’t comment. The psychic’s eyes rested on Samantha’s bracelet.
“You never remove the bracelet, do you?”
Samantha’s eyes widened. She glanced at her wrist for a tan line or any sign of wear—nothing. Samantha shook her head. She had no idea how the psychic could have guessed that, unless she was in fact psychic.
“Your hands are freezing.” Delilah let Samantha’s hands go. The psychic’s bangle bracelets clanged against each other like wind chimes, except the sound was anything but pleasant.
“It is the middle of winter.” Samantha glanced toward the open window and rubbed her palms softly on the velvet tablecloth. She didn’t care much for the cold and it wasn’t particularly good for her condition.
“Cold hands warm heart, my dear. The window is open to release any negative energy.” Delilah smiled and clasped her hand over her amethyst necklace as if to protect it from an invisible, thieving spirit.
Delilah shuffled her cards. “Have you ever had a reading?”
Samantha frowned, thinking the psychic should know this.
“Yes.” Samantha tucked a strand of blonde hair behind one ear. She imagined this would be her last time seeing a psychic. This wasn’t exactly her scene. She’d rather be in bed receiving messages in dreams than from a sorcerer.
The woman shuffled the deck of tarot cards like a poker dealer, all while explaining what the reading would entail. Delilah instructed her to shuffle the cards for a few moments and think about what she intended the cards to reveal. Samantha spread the cards around the table in a mishmash mess before scooping them back up into a pile.
“You may need clarity on a past situation or direction for your future. You may be interested in learning more about success, love, money, or your true purpose in life. The cards can answer anything you desire. When you are done shuffling, pick thirty cards.”
Samantha thought about college, Dana, and that tragic night. Her mind shifted to her present situation and all the pain she pushed down somewhere deep inside her like stagnant water in the bottom of a forgotten wishing well. She placed the cards in front of her and counted out thirty. She remained quiet and hoped the woman stopped asking her questions.
The psychic took the deck and separated them on the table into several smaller groups. She rubbed her hands together as if she were about to perform a magic trick. She flipped over a card. The psychic pursed her lips. The long silence ate at Samantha like moths feasting on cashmere in a dusty closet. Let’s not draw this out, she thought.
“This card reveals tremendous pain in your life both physical and emotional.”
Samantha cleared her throat and sucked in a sharp breath. Not a revelation to her. She wondered how many people Delilah said that to. Wouldn’t most people go see a psychic because they were in pain?
Delilah flipped over another card. “You’ve been through heartache more than once.”
She had been through multiple heartaches. Again, hadn’t everyone?
“Ah, this is a good card. You come through it. You find peace. You begin living your purpose.”
Samantha raised her eyebrows. Did the psychic need to balance the bad with the good to give her hope like a good doctor would when disclosing a gloomy prognosis? Samantha didn’t ever think she would find peace. To her, it remained unattainable. She didn’t believe in living for a purpose either. Life seemed a bit pointless. She didn’t always feel that way. Everything she thought life would be, shifted right after the accident.
Delilah turned over another card.
“You love cats. Dogs, not so much.”
Samantha cracked a smile. Very true. Most people were the opposite. Dogs usually won the popular vote.
“You’ve owned three cats. The first one…name starts with an L…you lost him. You worried about him. No more worries, my dear. He found a good home.”
Samantha gasped. “Loverboy. I always wondered about him.”
Delilah placed her hand over Samantha’s. “He lived a good life.”
“How did I lose him?”
“I’m sensing someone you know didn’t like him or you? Or both? This person let him out.”
Samantha furrowed her brow. She knew exactly who. What a bastard.
Delilah continued. “Someone wants to talk to you, but for some reason can’t. Name starts with a D.”
Samantha stared blankly ahead, not wanting to give away her shock. It hadn’t taken the woman long to sense her best friend Dana. Had the woman picked up on all of it? Samantha and Dana pinky promised on just about everything, including staying friends forever. A long time ago though—more than twenty years. A time when the biggest concerns were what to wear on a date and finding the time to study for a final exam. A time when the future held so many promises they could keep for each other.
“She’s saying you need to clean your room.”
Samantha smiled. Definitely something Dana would say.
“She’s very persistent talking in my ear. She says you saw a therapist because of her. She said she is glad she helped you because now you’re a superstar. She’s proud of you.”
Tears streamed down Samantha’s cheeks—so much for her poker face. This psychic was the real deal and dead on with her messages.
“There was a terrible accident. She is trapped. She can hear you when you visit. Is this making sense to you?”
Samantha inhaled deeply and let it out. “Yes.”
“She’s saying to go see Mike…No, wait…Mark…No, that’s not right…Mack. Yes, Mack. Do you know who she is talking about?”
Samantha steadied herself on the pillow. Now she knew why the psychic didn’t offer her a chair. She would have fallen right off it.
“Yes. It’s Mack.”
Delilah turned over the next card. Puzzled. “You’ve been keeping secrets.”
“Yes, Mack, what is it?”
Samantha turned to him and looked into his deep blue eyes. If she looked any longer, she would melt into them like the sun setting over the water. He pulled her close. Her whole body trembled from his touch. She forced herself to stand tall, so he wouldn’t see her falter.
“I’m so sorry. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
Tears sprung to her eyes. “I know.” Her voice cracked under the pressure of her words. “I know,” she repeated.
“I can make this right.”
“How?” She reached up to touch his face. He looked as if he hadn’t slept in days.
“You know how.” Mack fished a small box out of his pocket.
Samantha held her breath. Was Mack really doing this? Her heart beat fast and her stomach churned.
“I...” His words trailed off. He turned his head and body away from her.
“What is it, Mack?”
Something soft brushed against her bare legs. Socrates placed his paws on her thigh. “Ugh…Socrates…I was just getting to the good part.”
Samantha stopped typing. She didn’t think she had it in her to write this story inspired by Mack. Samantha pulled the cat up and stroked his fur.
Mack appeared more and more in her dreams. Intense and jolting, like the sting of a shot of whiskey. Always the same type of dream—Mack falling short of professing his love for her. It burned her heart and sent tingles down her spine.
Samantha knew enough about dreams to know that they brought messages she probably shouldn’t ignore, especially since the psychic advised her to go see Mack.
Now Socrates wasn’t even allowing her to finish her story. Maybe she was done writing—with everything that was going on in her life—she should probably move on from this, too.
Socrates meowed. Samantha coughed uncontrollably for a minute. Then caught her breath.
“I know, Socrates. I will go see Mack, but first I need to go to the doctor for my treatments.”
Samantha opened her desk drawer and pulled out her checkbook. She wrote out a check for the largest amount yet and stared at it, hoping it wouldn’t be her last. She closed her eyes. Writing the monthly anonymous donation never made her feel better. What she longed for more than anything was to return to happier days.
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