A knock on the door interrupted the reiki session I was conducting with my sister Thalia via Skype. It felt hard to believe it worked the same through new technology, but she felt determined to have me work on her and swore it made her feel better. I logged off and promised to be in touch.
When I looked through the peephole of my front door, Mrs. Batchalder straightened up, raising her head until she appeared nearly five feet tall. I could not see her face, but I knew it was her by the white topknot hairstyle. I opened the door and Dugo raced in, brushing against my legs before retreating to his favorite ottoman. Mrs. Batchalder remained in the threshold, her frail figure at odds with the heavy door. “Come on in,” I ushered her inside and held out a hand to take her jacket. She slipped off the tailored fuschia blazer she was wearing, revealing a gauzy white blouse that billowed around her as she walked. “Can I get you a cup of tea? A bite to eat?”
“A glass of wine would be nice,” she replied as she scanned my penthouse. I couldn’t help but glance at the clock. Ten thirty in the morning. I mentally shrugged and went to the kitchen to grab a glass. Dionysus gave me a nice trio of reds as an apartment-warming gift, so I opened one. I poured her a large glass of wine and grabbed a tray of fruit and cheese I had in the fridge. “Mrs. Batchalder, are you okay with red wine? That is all that I have at the moment.”
“Call me Caroline, dear. And yes, I actually prefer red. The only downside is that it stains my teeth.”
I smiled. She took a seat on the end of the couch near the ottoman where Dugo reclined. The large furniture in the room seemed to dwarf her tiny frame. Caroline took a large swig of wine and swallowed. She sighed and sat back on the couch, her feet no longer touching the floor. She had rings on several fingers, and they clicked against the glass as she held it above her lap. “I have to admit that I was dying to get a look at this apartment,” she stated. “You know I saw the workmen come and go. For awhile, we wondered if a celebrity would move in. The floor was buzzing with gossip.” She took another gulp. “But then it was just you.” She seemed disappointed. “It is a lovely apartment, though.”
“Thank you,” I replied.
“Do you have a significant other who will be joining you?”
“Here? No. I’m single.”
“Pity. It just seems like such a large place for a young single woman. Maybe you’re thinking about finding a man. Most girls your age are.” She ignored my raised eyebrows and continued. “Will you have a roommate? Family? Where did you live before? Can I ask what you do for a living to afford this place?”
I had not expected to get the third degree. It seemed like she regarded this more as an interview than a neighborly chat. I did not want to get into all of the gory details of my father summoning me and the whole history behind our bizarre family. I tried to turn the questions back on her. “Do you have any family, Caroline?”
She cocked a thinly-drawn eyebrow and paused. “Just me and Dugo, I’m afraid. I’m a dull story. People my age generally are, but you…how old are you? Tell me what you do.”
I did not want to get into my age. I chose my mortal in her early 30s. Being thousands of years old, but still feeling like inhabiting a young body, does have its advantages. “I have a gallery that will open soon. I do a little work as a contractor for NASA as well as for a couple of private companies. I also love to do tarot readings and energy healing. I like to keep my options open.”
Usually, the astronomy piqued the interest of everyone. But Mrs. Batchalder seemed more interested in the readings. “Tarot? Oh, goodness.” I thought for a moment that she found it offensive. “Would you possibly do a reading for me?” The surprise must have registered on my face. “Oh, I know I might seem like an old ninny, but it is something I’ve always wanted to try.” She leaned forward over her glass as if she wanted to share a secret. “One of those things on my bucket list, so-to-speak. I just never felt comfortable going somewhere to have it done.” She shifted a bit. “You can’t be too careful about people,” she warned. “They take advantage.”
“I get it.” I reached for my favorite tarot. I felt the smooth cards under my fingertips as I handed her the deck. She placed her wine glass between her knees and took the cards from me. “I want you to focus on your life and any unanswered questions you have right now. Things that plague you and keep you awake at night. While you hold those issues in your mind, shuffle the deck until it feels ready.”
“Feels ready?” she asked.
“Yes. You’ll know when to stop.” Doubt filled her eyes and tightened her mouth into a little bow. “I know how it sounds. Just try to trust me.” Mrs. Batchalder closed her eyes and moved her fingers across the cards. After she shuffled, she passed them back to me. “This will be a past, present, future reading. Are you ready?”
“I think so.” The first card I turned over was the Seven of Wands. “The Seven of Wands represents confrontation in your past. There was no choice but to take on the situation and deal with it. Even though you were respected, there were those around you who wanted to take you down. You chose to fight rather than accept defeat. You engaged in your pursuits with passion.”
I watched as she nodded, her white bun bobbing with each movement. “Your ability to plan and strategize allowed you to succeed and did not require much in the way of compromise.” She did not speak or ask any questions. I paused for a moment, and she motioned toward the next card. The second card displayed the Devil. “The Devil indicates the shadow side. The part of us drawn by materialism, greed, pettiness. It can be a warning to not let yourself get out of control or release your most basic desires. The chains on the people indicate being a prisoner of one’s own choosing. They are able to get free, but do not do so. It’s a warning or a wakeup call.”
Caroline’s blue eyes widened as I finished. She grasped the wine glass between her bony fingers and took a long drink, holding it in her mouth for a moment before swallowing. At the rate she was going, she’d need another glass soon. “Shall I continue?” She did not answer, but waved her blue-veined hand at the table. When I turned over the last card, the card for her future, her face blanched. Her rings clinked against the glass as she drummed her fingers. Death. “Oh, don’t worry!” I exclaimed in a hurry, not wanting to frighten her. “Death doesn’t mean death. It signifies intense change.” Caroline still did not look relieved. “On the positive side, this card represents a chance to start over or to grow…”
“At my age?” she interrupted, her voice taking on an edge.
“Yes,” I replied softly. “You are never too old to change.” That is one truth I cling to. “If you accept change rather than fear it, you are open to new opportunities and discoveries. If you look at it in a negative light, it may indicate the unexpected or unknown and all of the anxieties that can come with that.”
She drained her glass and shook her head, muttering under her breath. “Well, I guess you’ve given me food for thought.” She inched forward, raising herself up. “Come, Dugo. I have a few things that need tending,” she said to me, almost as an afterthought. She plucked her jacket off the rack near the door.
I crossed the room to see her out. “Caroline, you seem upset. Can you stay for a minute and talk?”
“No. No. I’m fine. It’s rather unsettling, I suppose, to have a complete stranger telling you things that they have no business knowing, but I am fine. Like you said, I am a fighter. I’m not about to let a little card game derail me.” She turned to find her cat. Dugo remained asleep on the ottoman. “I suppose I should find myself more upset that my cat is choosing you over me.” She wiggled her jeweled fingers in Dugo’s direction. “Send him along his way later, please.” She stepped into the elevator. Her pale cheeks held small spots of red as she crossed her arms in front of her and the elevator slid closed.
I wonder what spooked her.
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