“We gotta leave…now! She knows about us-- she knows everything. If you wanna be with me…leave with me, now.”
“She will find us. You know exactly what she is capable of, Anise.”
“Then we leave, in the middle of the night…move somewhere far away from here. She will not be able to hex us if she cannot find us.”
“Fine. Tonight, we leave.”
“Not without my crystal…it’s been passed down for generations.”
The girl thinks she is clever, but there is none cleverer than I. I have foreseen this day, but still chose to marry the man I loved. Love cannot be explained, and often isn’t ours to keep forever.
I gathered the hair, the blood of her menses, and a jar. Placing the black salt, lemon and cayenne inside, I glanced around the room that glowed with candlelight, a tiny flicker of a flame letting me know a presence was near. Drawing a line of blood with a dagger across my palm, the pain and intention raising my vibration.
The altar that stood before me was covered in offerings to my Iwa, Papa Legba. Cigars, rum, long sashes of red and black. Candle wax dripped down the pewter tapers handed down from my grandmother. I lit the tallest red candle and began the chant that would call him to me.
“ I call a hex upon my betrayer and her family- “I take my blood and write her name on parchment, folding it three times and placing it inside the jar, “pain, death and misfortune will follow you like a shadow, chasing your kin. I call upon him…” I take the small skull covered in sigils from the top shelf and hold it to me. I held them in my mind for a while, watching them together. “Papa Legba…a giving and loyal Iwa,”
The candles around the room danced, and a rough wind stirred my tightly wound hair. A loud crash came from behind me, and the mirror passed down for centuries, fractured into thin, black lines. I watched the mirror as black smoke seeped from inside of it, permeating the air around it and causing me to take a cautious step back.
It was done.
I saw Death himself when I was just a child. His skin a deep dark black, and his face painted white. Crooked yellow teeth that protruded and a wide grin that terrified me, his laugh that squeezed my insides until I could no longer breath…the strong scent of cigars would follow.
When I told my mother that I had seen Death, she dismissed me with a wave of her hand, ‘such silly and imaginative things you say, my little Starseed, we are special women, do not worry.’
She would kiss me in the middle of my forehead each time, gently touching the crystal I always wore around my neck.
The following day, she began to cover all of our mirrors.
Her behavior puzzled me, but also interested me.
It didn’t help that the neighbors whispered about her odd behaviors, and the rumors soon began.
Her voice was more of an echo now. I can’t remember exactly the tone or inflection, but I do remember that she always made me happy. Laughter rang in my head…there was always laughter when I was with her.
I surveyed the run-down strip mall in front of me, with little choices for clothes shopping— compared to the other towns who had more than just one grocery store and two gas stations.
The small strip we had in Bakersfield, CA wasn’t anything like the strip in Vegas. The place my childhood best friend, Jane and I would spend hours dreaming about out loud together.
Jane went missing a little over two years ago. My brother, Logan, said he thinks she’s dead because she wasn’t found in the first forty-eight hours or whatever.
I think she just found an opportunity and didn’t look back.
Money was a hard thing to come by around here unless you wanted to work for corporate America. Rigorous routine wasn’t something I was exactly excited about getting into.
Jane and I were both adopted by our aunts, who we equally hated, and laughed maniacally about seeing their faces if we told them we became strippers in Vegas.
I was on the curvier side, filled out in all the right places, but always a little too big for the ‘hot guys’. Jane on the other hand, she had the perfect body for stripping, and I wouldn’t put it past her to actually do it.
I once worked at The Gap but was fired on the spot for telling a middle-aged woman that her nose job looked fake.
I was good at explaining my way out of situations, but not that time. Most people didn’t like hearing the truth, but a job would never keep me from telling it-- I couldn’t do fake.
I pulled into a parking spot near my favorite clothing store called, Wrecked.
I needed a new eyebrow ring before the seventy-five-dollar piercing closed up. I had absolutely no business spending that kind of money on piercing- but I was drunk and trying to impress a girl when I did it.
Unfortunately, the girl was gone in the morning, but the piercing remained.
Pausing at the glass door, I looked at my reflection- touching thighs, rounded hips and muscular calves, red hair that touched my waist, ample cleavage with a purple crystal nestled between. Brushing my hair back over my shoulder, I fingered the jewel and remembered my mother’s words, ‘As long as you wear this- Death will never touch you. He may visit you, but he will never be able to take you’.
“Hello? Are you going inside or are you just going to stare at your reflection all day?” the woman’s voice was full of attitude, hand on her slender hip.
“Maybe I am going to stare at my reflection all day…but please- by all means,” I stepped back, presenting my arms towards the door, “don’t let me ruin your day.”
Rolling her eyes, she whipped open the door, leaving me standing outside the shop with half a mind to turn around and leave.
“Awe, you look lost,”
I turned, surprised that I didn’t see the man approach me from the reflection in the glass.
“I’m not lost. Who the hell are you?” I shoved my hands into my pockets, waiting for the one-liner that was sure to leave his lips. Why else would a stranger approach a woman?
“Taj, nice to meet you…?” he stretched out his long hand to me, and I stared at his glittered-fake nails for a moment, confused. Taking it, we shook, and I backed up a bit so I could take in this tall man’s perfect, dark complexion. He wore a pair of futuristic looking sunglasses, that wrapped around his face, reflecting my face back at me. His head was covered with a deep purple hood that was attached to a soft looking long sleeved shirt.
“Celeste,” I answered, enthralled by his high cheekbones and plump lips. Smiling, his charm clouding my judgement.
Dammit! Why did I give him my real name?
“I’m so very pleased you shared your name with me, Celeste. Did you know that there is a rare crystal called Celestite? Named from the Latin word coelestis, meaning heavenly or celestial. Here,” His voice was calming, melodic. He handed me a small green stone, “a green stone to match your eyes and your name.”
Before I even knew what was happening, he was being ushering me inside a door covered with silks, jewels and bells.
“What is this place? I’ve never seen this place here before- and I am always next d---” Taj holds up a hand to me.
A lava lamp sat behind his chair on a small, hexagon table. The floating lumps of red and pink swirled around one another, reminding me of fire. The space was small, and very dimly lit, and the one large window at the front was completely blacked out.
“Come, come. Sit and let us do a card spread for you, Spirit insists. Past, present and future,” he lead me to a round table and I sat, staring in awe at the different colored and textured crystals that lined the wall behind the table.
When he said the word future, it was as if he had already seen it, a small smirk playing on his lips.
I didn’t want to know anything about my future, not now, not ever.
“I’ve gotta go,” Turning to the door behind me, I heard him shuffle a deck of cards and …thunk. I turned to see his face smiling down over the fallen card.
“One card has simply jumped from this deck for you- did you hear it? Let us have a look. Sit,” He continued his shuffling and, thunk thunk, two more cards fell.
I didn’t know which was more shocking, the fact that I was scared or the fact that I had considered seeing a reader this morning. My fingers tingled, and I felt my chest grow tight. This was no coincidence; I could feel something prickle at the back of my neck, a whisper.
Do not fear….
I sat down, my curiosity overtaking any sense of dread I had left for today.
Picking up the deck ‘jumpers’, he spread the three cards out before me, and I gasped.
Our eyes met, and as he flipped over the final card, I noticed it was upside down.
The first card that dropped from the pile was DEATH. A goddess with a horned-skull face and a dark robe.
“Ah, do not fear, the death card can represent a great many things, such as transformation. Or… because this was the card pulled for the past…great suffering and tragedy,” His eyes caught mine, and I only nodded slightly- rarely speechless, but stared at the spread of mystery cards that lay in front of me: three little cards telling a full story about my life- without saying a word.
“Present- The Tower,” Dramatically, he covered his mouth with his hand, sitting back in the chair. His purple and blue shirt shimmered in the dim light as he moved.
“What? What is it?” I leaned forward on the table, eager to know everything about what he was seeing.
I knew a little about Tarot, but I didn’t remember in detail. That was kind of Jane’s thing.
I resisted the urge to slam my palm on the table to make him talk.
Calm down, bitch. This could be exactly what you’re looking for- answers.
“You have a lot to learn, child. This card can be a bitch, but if you do what you need to—great rewards will follow.”
I sit back and cross my arms over my chest, letting out a huff, “I’ve learned plenty already. I’ve had enough trauma to fill THREE people’s young adult lives.”
Continuing to study the cards, he spoke in his melodic tone again, “Do you know anyone who would wish you,” he leaned in close to me and with a whisper, “ill will?”
Memories of my parents fighting trilled inside my ears- each time they would fight, it would be her name etched into my brain when they were finished.
I shake my head no, mostly so he would continue with the reading.
He touched the face of the last card, upside down. It wasn’t until the he removed his sunglasses, that I realized his eyes were a dark blue. Fake eyelashes and a baby-blue eyeshadow gave his face an ethereal glow, making him appear magical, I stared.
“Future: Six of Swords, reversed,”
I don’t know why it was in that moment, Taj’s blue eyes or that stupid card in reverse- but I remembered. I remembered it all.
Stop teaching her to practice magic! You are only making it stronger…
“Unfinished business,” I said, staring into an invisible space beside where Taj sat.
He nodded, crooking an eyebrow over me, waiting. “Does this resonate with you? Who comes to mind?”
“No one really… but there were fights over infidelities and…over witchcraft.”
“Well, if anyone can help you with unfinished business, it’s my friend Moxie.” Taj ran his eyes over me, studying me. He stood, walking over to a tall black shelf, opening a wooden box.
“Here. Tell them Taj sent you, they will give you a nice room to stay in,” he said, handing me a silver, shimmering card that just said, Alvarez inc. and had an address on the back.
I turned the cheesy-looking business cards over in my hands, noticing my bare, chipped nails.
I looked up from the card, and Taj was gone, the beads hanging on the back wall moving with little clacks, marking his exit.
There are signs everywhere.
Another saying that Jane frequented, and I only laughed it off.
Never in my twenty-two years had any stroke of luck come knocking on my door, and this little card could be a sign. What was the worst that could happen? Perhaps this was the motivation I needed to get into my car and drive to my mother’s hometown.
I might even find Jane, the address is in Vegas.
I could wriggle my way out of any situation by adapting. I was a survivor…bad luck or not.
Quickly leaving the little shop behind, I plugged the address into the cracked screen of my Blackberry. The keys stuck as I typed, but I furiously checked to see how long the trip would be.
Four hours? That’s a few tanks of gas.
I needed to get to Aunt Nancy’s to see what was left of my parent’s life insurance policy.
Fuck it—I was going to New Orleans, but first—Vegas…to find Moxie.