Destiny is like a boulder. Bulky and hard to move. It’s easier to leave it alone than to try to change it. But that never kept anyone from trying. Trust me: I’m a professional.
Reading people is a talent. I’ve always been a good observer, but as with any natural ability, if you want to be any good, you’ve got work at it. When I talk to people, I size them up. I listen to what they say and, more important, to what they don’t. I notice what they wear, what brands they choose, how they style their hair. I watch their body language to see if it matches their words. The image they work so hard to show off tells me what they’re trying to hide.
I make guesses and let them lead me. It’s easier than it looks. Then again, most people aren’t paying that much attention when someone tells them what they want to hear.
“What do you think, Skye—?will it work out?” Sara leaned forward, ignoring the rest of what was going on in our school cafeteria. She chewed her lips. There were sticky pink clots of Sephora lip gloss on her teeth. Nerves. She was worried about what I would say. She’d have been better off worrying about why she wanted to stay with a guy who was a class-A jackass. However, she wasn’t paying me for love advice; she was paying for a psychic connection to the universe.
I shuffled the cards. They were worn and faded, more like fabric than paper. My official story was that my grandmother had passed down this deck of tarot cards to me on her deathbed because she believed I’d inherited her psychic ability. This was a complete lie. The only thing my grandma believed in was bourbon. However, no one trusts a psychic who works with brand-new cards. I ordered the deck from Amazon years ago. When it arrived, I soaked each card in a weak tea bath, then put them in the oven, set on low. It wasn’t exactly a Food Channel recipe, but it worked. I’d shuffled them over and over until the cards took on the look and feel of a deck that had been in the family for generations. I held the cards out to Sara.
“Cut these,” I said. “Make three piles and then stack them.” I pulled back as she reached for the deck, holding them just out of her reach. “It’s important that you focus on your question as you do this.” I fixed her with a stare as if this were a matter of life and death. Sara nodded solemnly. Her hands shook as she cut the deck and then passed it back to me. Part of my secret was making the other person touch the cards. It made them feel complicit in whatever happened next.
I dealt six of the cards into a Celtic Cross spread on the table between us. The cafeteria wasn’t the ideal place for a reading. It was hard to feel a connection to something otherworldly when the smell of greasy industrial sloppy joes and overboiled canned corn hung like a cloud in the air. On the other hand, there was no way I was inviting people back home with me. I’d take the overcrowded café and people’s judgment that I was a bit of a weirdo before letting my classmates see our salvaged-from-the-dumpster furniture. No thanks. I may be a fake psychic, but I’ve got some pride.
I tapped the table. “The first card represents you and your question. The one over it is what crosses you—?got it?” I waited for her to nod and then lightly touched each of the others with the tip of my finger. “This is the basis of your question, the past, what hangs over you, and the final card is the future.”
Sara took a deep breath. “Okay, my question is, what’s going to happen with Darren and me?”
I flipped over the first card. The queen of cups. This was going to be easy. That is, if I believed in any of this, which I don’t. What no one seemed to realize was I could read the tarot any way I wanted. There was no magic. What I had was my ability to memorize the meanings of the various cards, years of watching my mom, and an ability to spin a story. “This card represents you. This is associated with women who are creative and sensitive.”
Sara’s forehead wrinkled. “I’m not really creative. I mean, I want to be, but . . .”
“You’re in the band,” I pointed out.
Her shoulders slumped. “Only because my mom made me. She thinks it’ll look good on my college apps.”
“I suspect you have a creative side that you haven’t fully explored,” I offered. “Don’t think of it as just the arts. The queen represents creativity—?someone who sees things in a new way.” Her friend Kesha, who was practically seated in her lap, nodded. Her elaborate African braids bounced up and down.
“You’re totally the most creative person in cheer,” Kesha said.
“The squad always does ask me to do the posters,” Sara admitted.
I fought the urge to sigh. Sara needed to broaden her horizons beyond being a good cheerleader. “There you go,” I said, tapping the rest of the deck with confidence on the scarred and chipped table. “Now, the card crossing you is the six of swords. That often means a journey or a separation.”
Her eyes grew wide. “Like a breakup?”
Only if you’re smart enough to dump his ass.
I shrugged. “Maybe, but it could also be a journey of the mind.”
Kesha’s forehead wrinkled up like one of those shar-pei dogs. “What does that mean?”
“It means that either Sara or Darren is at a stage where their life could go in a different direction. That they’re changing. Evolving.”
“What if he changes so much that he doesn’t want me anymore?” Sara’s voice came out tiny and small. Kesha reached over and squeezed her hand. Sara’s lip quivered. “He’s going downstate for college in the fall. He says we’ll date long distance, but . . .” She was unable to put into words what she knew was coming.
I turned over another card. “This is the seven of cups. It means opportunities and possibilities.”
“Is that good?” Sara bit her lower lip.
“It’s always good to have options.” Like choosing a guy who doesn’t sit with his Neanderthal friends and hold up a sheet of paper with a number rating girls as they walk by in the cafeteria. “You have choices coming up. You could see who else is out there.” I saw her expression and switched my approach. She wasn’t interested in advice about who to date. “Or another option is figuring out what changes you could make to your relationship with Darren.”
“How can I do that?”
I turned another card. Death....