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Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Wise Woman by Christina Cole

I only agreed to do it for one reason: I wouldn't be seeing Todd Bollinger that weekend. Or any other weekend, for that matter.

Sighing, I slipped the wrinkled crone's mask over my face, donned the matted gray wig, and turned to the mirror. Old crones were said to be wise women, but I didn't feel a bit smarter. Beneath the wig and mask, I was still young and foolish. Breaking up with Todd had been a huge mistake. Unfortunately, I hadn't realized it until too late.


***
"I don't know anything about telling fortunes!" I protested when Marianne first asked me to help with the Halloween fundraiser for her club. I'd planned to attend the event with Todd, but after our break-up, I'd forgotten about it. When a last-minute cancellation left the group with no fortune-teller, Marianne turned to me.

"You don't have to know anything! It's all for fun." She thrust an odd-looking deck of cards into my hands. "Lay a few cards out, look at the pictures, and make up stories. You'll do fine," she said with a smile.

Despite lingering doubts, I nodded. I had nothing better to do on Friday night.

After Marianne left, I sat cross-legged on the floor with the strange cards spread out around me. One quickly caught my eye. A single heart pierced by swords. Nobody had to tell me what that meant. Heartbreak, plain and simple. I knew the feeling all too well.


***
My nerves were jittery when I arrived on Friday evening, but big signs posted in the event room reminded visitors that all readings were "for entertainment purposes only." No one would take me seriously.

I've always loved Halloween, and I'd gone all out on my costume. Along with the crone's mask and gray wig, I wore a long multi-hued skirt that swirled around my ankles. My bright belt was fashioned from old silk scarves. The scarves and the skirt were treasures I'd found at a thrift shop. I'd purchased a knarled walking stick, too, and as I hobbled toward the table, I hunched over, cackling in an eerie voice that would make any witch proud.

If only we could know the future, I thought as I spread the cards for the first guest at my table. As Marianne suggested, I looked at the pictures and made up stories. To my surprise, the woman across from me nodded in agreement with all I said. Not that I believed a word of it, and probably she didn't either. It was all in fun. For entertainment purposes only.

As the night wore on, my card-reading seemed quite popular. I soon had a line at my table. I think they came as much to hear my cackling voice as to listen to any fortunes I might tell. I promised myself to thank Marianne later. Spending the evening entertaining people as "The Wise Woman" sure beat sitting home alone pining over my broken romance.

"Next, please," I shrilled, adding a high-pitched cackle as a young woman got up from the chair.

"She's good," the woman told the man behind her.

Smiling behind my wrinkled mask, I looked up to greet my next client -- then froze.

Across from me sat Todd Bollinger.

With my voice shaking and my hands shaking, too, I forced myself through my well-rehearsed spiel.

"Welcome, welcome. I'm an old wise woman who sees all and knows all. What can I tell you, sonny?" My cackle sounded a bit hollow, but Todd didn't seem to notice. He looked serious, almost somber. "Well? What do you want to know?" I almost shouted the words at him, anxious to get him away from my table before I came completely undone.

"I -- well, --"

"Spit it out!" I cackled again, furiously shuffling the cards.

"My girlfriend and I broke up last week."

With my heart pounding in my chest, I nodded and laid out several cards. I cackled again, pointing to one bearing the name of The Fool. "The two of you broke up over a foolish misunderstanding."

"Yes, that's right."

Another card showed a hooded figure gazing at several overturned cups.

"Now, you're regretting it, aren't you?"

"I've never regretted anything more." Todd sounded sincere.

"But you haven't bothered to call her. You haven't told her how you feel."

He hung his head. "No, I've been afraid to call. Until tonight. But she wasn't home." He looked around the room as though searching for someone. "I thought she might be here." Todd sighed. "She's probably already found someone new. I wish I could tell her how I feel. I love her. I want her back."

I couldn't stop myself. Before I even knew what I was doing, I literally flew over the top of the table and into Todd's arms. People stopped to stare as he tried to pull away from the crazy Wise Woman who couldn't stop cackling and shrieking for joy.

"Todd! It's me," I cried out, my voice still sounding like an old crone. Frantically I tugged at the mask. My wig went flying off. It landed on the floor where most of the cards had fallen, too.

"Jennifer?" Todd stared at me as though I were an apparition. No doubt I looked like one.

"Yes, Todd, it's me. I'm sorry we broke up! I love you, and I'll take you back."

The crowd burst into applause.

Together, we bent down to pick up my old gray wig and the cards that had spilled from the table.

"What does this one mean?" Todd smiled and held up The Lovers.

"I don't know," I said with a shrug. "But I don't need any cards to tell me what our future holds," I added. "We're going to be very happy."

Todd took hold of one hand, and with the other I grabbed my walking stick. As we headed toward the door, I let out one last, long, joyous cackle. For entertainment purposes only.

About the Author: Christina has written previously for confession and inspirational markets, and is now devoting herself to romance writing. She lives in the mid-west where she is currently working on a full-length historical romance. You can find her at http://www.christinacoleromance.com

2 comments:

Virginia C said...

Very nice Halloween treat! Happy Haunting!
gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Pat Cochran said...

Good story, but I think she has
helped herself to my cackling laugh
and costume. That's similar to my
"act" at the door as I give out the
Halloween treats each year. Oh,
well, I'll share!

Pat Cochran