November 19, 2014

The scent of lavender was overpowering.

The scent of lavender was overpowering as we walked through the door. A bell jingled somewhere within the shop and swathes of brightly colored scarves hung everywhere, like some cheap imitation of genie’s lamp.

“Jesus,” I said, waving my hand in front of my nose as the scent hit me.

“It could be worse,” Jessica said, stepping in front of me. “It could be patchouli.”

“Be grateful for small miracles,” I muttered, casting a dirty look at the back of her head.

This was her dumb idea, anyway. It was a waste of money, if you asked me. Which was exactly what I had told her when she had asked me. Somehow, I was here anyway, surrounded by oddly scented scarves inside of a tiny storefront that we’d driven past dozens of times but never gone into. All because she thought it’d be ‘fun’ to see a psychic.

Psychics are not fun, I told her.

Psychics, I told her, are not real.

“Girls, come in,” called a voice from deeper within the shop. “Come forward.”

The woman spoke in the kind of affected, vaguely-European accent you’d expect from a from a fraud, managing to sound somehow watery and distant, even though she was clearly in the next room.

Jessica flipped around to face me again, eyes wide.

“She knows we’re here!” she stage-whispered.

I tried not to smirk.

“Of course she knows we’re here,” I said. “She heard the bell.”

“And she knows we’re girls!”

“She probably heard us talking,” I told her. “Not a real wild leap there.”

Jessica shook her head.
“She’s real,” she said. “I just feel it. She has to be.”

I chose not to say anything, mutely following her into the next room.

“How may I help you girls today?”

To my grand disappointment, the woman wasn’t wearing a turban. And I had been so hoping for it… But in terms of the rest of her outfit, she didn’t disappoint. Long, flowing purple skirt with bells at the hem, blousy peasant top. Lots of rings on her fingers. Bangles circled skinny wrists and a flowered scarf restrained a head full of wild curly hair.

Had these people never heard of the word ‘cliché’?

She sat at a white-cloth-covered table, patiently waiting for one of us to sit down.

Jessica plopped down in the old-fashioned dining room chair across from her.

“I think,” she said. “That I would like my palm read.”

“Of course, sweetheart,” the woman said obligingly, before casting a glance in my direction.

“Don’t mind me,” I said. “I’m just here for the show.”

“I see.”

I could’ve sworn she rolled her eyes at me before turning her attention back to Jessica. But I might’ve imagined it.

“Palm reading,” she said. “Will be tventy dollars. But we can deal with ze issue of money later.”

At least she wasn’t openly trying to swindle us. $20 had been posted on the sign outside. That was why I’d let myself be talked into this thing – it was only $20, I reasoned. And I’d spent much more money on much dumber stuff.

“Give me your hand,” she said.

Obligingly, Jess placed the requested hand palm up in the woman’s own.

I watched as she pretended to scrutinize the hand, drawing her fingers up and down several lines, before she began to speak.

“You have a nice long life line,” she said. “You are in school, yes?”

Jess nodded eagerly.

“I see much success in your future,” she continued. “You will find a job that involves travel. And you will journey to many different places before you find the man that you will marry.”

She took another passing glance at the palm before saying more.

“You will meet your future love on a sunny day in the spring,” she said.

I couldn’t restrain myself.

“Oh, come on!” I said.

Jess turned around to glare at me.

“Behave yourself,” she hissed.

“Really?” I asked. “You’re gonna pay this fraud $20 bucks to make crap up about stuff that will probably never happen? Really?”

Her mouth dropped open as she glared at me.
“Because I could do the exact same thing for you,” I said. “And I’ll do it cheaper.”

The argument was brewing like a storm cloud between us, but the ‘psychic’ broke the tension between us.

“You people,” she said.

The fake European accent was gone. This was pure Brooklyn.

“You people think you’re soooo smart, with your smartphones and your lives all planned out to the second,” she snapped. “Just because you’ve got your lives all planned out, doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen that way. But you don’t want to hear any different, do you?”

I stared at her.

“You want the truth?” she asked. “Do you?”

“I – I don’t know,” I told her, all the bravado gone out of me.

She looked at me hard, in a way that no one had ever quite looked at me before.

“The truth is,” she said. “That you will never quite measure up to your own expectations. You will be successful, but never as successful as you want to be and it will gnaw at you. And you will meet the man of your dreams, the man you’re supposed to love. But he won’t be good enough for you, either, so you’ll let him slip away. And you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”

I stood stock-still for a moment.

“Come on, Jess,” I said quietly, reaching for her hand. “We should go.”

“I think you’re right,” she said.

We were almost out of the shop when I heard the woman’s voice again, so quiet I almost couldn’t make out what she was saying.
“They don’t want the lie, and they don’t want the truth,” she said bitterly.

“Doesn’t matter what they want,” she said. “That doesn’t stop it from coming.”

First Line Writing Prompt Courtesy of:

http://shortstoryideas.herb.me.uk/firstlines.htm

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