[Nadia has showered and changed. Her client this afternoon, Maryann, has been coming to consult Nadia for about three years. She made her first visit to Nadia a few months after her marriage. They have already exchanged pleasantries, and the card table has been returned to the center of the room. Nadia is about to begin Maryann’s reading.]

She smiled at Maryann. [Nadia has a few favorite clients. Maryann is one of them.] “Shall we begin, Maryann?”

“Okay,” Maryann replied. She began to shuffle the tarot cards.

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Nadia allowed Maryann to concentrate and to shuffle her thoughts into the cards. After a minute or two, she broke the silence and indicated that Maryann should create three piles of cards onto the table. After Maryann finished placing the cards in front of her, Nadia reached for the first pile on the left.

She laid the cards out in groups of three’s and four’s. Her brows furrowed as each new group of upturned cards made their appearance. After laying out all the cards from that first pile, she studied them closely. Unconsciously, she bit the side of her index finger. Maryann’s cards were, to put it mildly, surprising.

While Nadia puzzled over the cards, she became aware of Maryann fidgeting. She glanced up for a moment. Maryann was twirling a piece of hair around her fingers.

Nadia looked down at the cards again. She had no trouble interpreting them. The problem was, she couldn’t believe what she saw.

“You know, don’t you,” Maryann said.

Nadia didn’t look up when she answered. “Yes.”

She tapped her index finger on one of the small groups of cards. “Adultery, Maryann?” She couldn’t keep the surprise out of her voice.

“It’s not what you think,” Maryann said, trying to defend herself. “It’s complicated.”

Nothing more was said while Nadia spread the second pile of cards face-up next to those already on the table. The fine hairs on her arms tingled as she gained more insight from the new cards.

The room was quiet except for the hum of the heater as fresh warm air filled the room. Even though it was only the beginning of September, the day had grown cool, so Nadia reset the temperature gauge when Dominic left earlier. Maryann remained silent.

Nadia gazed intently at the fresh information revealed by the cards. “I see the Knight of Swords. He figures prominently in your reading.” She picked up the card and handed it to Maryann so she could look at it more closely. “See how he sits astride his white horse and charges forward? You can tell by just looking at him that he’s a strong-willed man and he’s on a mission. He’s rushed headlong into your life, hasn’t he?”

Taking back the card, she returned it to its original position on the table. “See how the Two of Cups card rests right next to the dashing Knight’s card?” she continued, pointing to the two cards. “That implies your complication is a recent development.”

“Yes,” Maryann replied. “That’s why I wanted to see you so urgently.”

Nadia continued to scan the cards. There were a few more surprises, some relating to Maryann’s husband, Brad. She had met Brad on a few occasions. He always attended Zizi’s fundraising party with Maryann, and these particular cards pertaining to him piqued her curiosity.

Maryann drew in a deep breath. She knew from past experience that Nadia always took her time analyzing the entire card layout as a whole; however, today the minutes seemed interminably long. She felt an overwhelming need to speak. “There’s so much I need to tell you.”

Nadia nodded to indicate she heard Maryann, but she didn’t answer. Instead, she reached for the third pile of cards and turned them face-up next to those already on the table. All the while, she stared at the Knight of Swords, willing him to tell her what she desired to know. Then a new and telling card appeared next to the Knight’s group of cards, it was the Ten of Cups, and right next to that one, the Temperance Card.

She cleared her throat and looked directly into Maryann’s eyes. “You really love this man!”

Pointing to the place where the most recent cards had fallen, she said, “If one of these cards had been the Nine of Cups, it would’ve been questionable, but the Ten of Cups–that means much, much more. And since the Temperance card has finally made its appearance, it seems you’ve been exhibiting a good deal of self-control.”

“Yes, he sets my soul on fire. I know that sounds corny, but,” she hesitated.

Nadia finished the sentence for her. “But both of you are teetering on the brink. You know where the relationship is leading and you don’t want to hurt Brad.”

Maryann nodded. “Yes, but I’m weakening.”

“I can see that,” Nadia said. “Shall we talk now?”

It was clear Maryann never expected to deal with this unforeseen turn of events. When she married Brad, she fully intended to spend the rest of her life happily married to him.

She rested her elbows on the edge of the table and laid her face into the palms of her hands. “What am I going to do?”

Nadia reached across the table and gently pulled Maryann’s hands away from her face. “Tell me about this man. Who is he?”

Maryann took a deep breath. “I bring our company’s bank deposit down to the bank everyday and he takes care of the account, so I see him every afternoon. Since I’ve been the office accountant for almost a year and a half, we’ve had a lot of time to get to know one another.”

Unconsciously, Nadia chewed on her bottom lip. She recalled the last time Maryann had visited her. It was autumn, a little over a year ago. The leaves on the trees had just completed their transformation from vibrant green to reds, golds and orange.” I remember your last reading, Maryann. The Knight of Swords was no more than a blip on the screen at that time, someone who came in and out of your life in a most inconsequential way.”

 

“Well, he’s a whole lot more consequential now,” Maryann moaned.

Nadia knew Maryann’s world was reeling out of control, but she needed to know more if she was going to be able to help her. “Is he married?”

“No, but I am!” She squeezed her eyes shut and massaged the right side of her forehead with her thumb and index finger. “And I don’t know what to do.”

There were still some major blanks that needed to be filled in. “First,” Nadia said, “tell me what this Knight’s name is and what he proposes.”

One lone tear slipped out the side of Maryann’s eye. She caught it with her finger before it reached her cheek. ”His name is Ken, and that’s just it…” Her voice rose several decibels as her composure collapsed. “He proposed to me. Can you believe that? He wants to marry me!”

Nadia raised her eyebrows and was about to speak, but Maryann sped ahead full throttle, like an out-of-control freight train desperate to unload its emotional baggage. “The only time Ken and I have seen each other outside of the bank was one day last week. It wasn’t exactly a date, you know, and it was only for a few hours. We took an afternoon off from work and strolled along the Schuykill River, just talking, you know, but we held hands like a couple of teenagers. We talked about a life together.”

While Maryann spoke, Nadia rested her elbows on the edge of the table, clasped her hands together and laid her chin on them. She continued to ponder the more subtle message in the cards.

“Can you believe we talked about marriage? It’s crazy…crazy. My world is spiraling out of control.”

Nadia simply said, “You must tell Brad.”

Horror sketched itself across Maryann’s face. She sprang up from the table, bolted across the room and leaned her head against the window. Through blurry eyes, she watched a sparrow walk daintily along the edge of the front lawn. “I can’t do that.”

Nadia remained seated and said, “Look at me, Maryann. You must listen to me, dear.”

Maryann turned and faced Nadia. She kept shaking her head from side to side while Nadia spoke.  “I repeat, Maryann, you simply must tell Brad and you must tell him tonight. I know it will be difficult, but you must do it.”

On the verge of hysteria, Maryann sputtered, “Difficult!? Nadia, you don’t know what you’re asking. It’s impossible. I can’t do it.” She looked down at her feet, realized she had been screaming and relented for a moment. “Do the cards say that?”

Nadia knew it was imperative to find the right words of guidance. “Maryann, how long have you been coming to see me? Three years? You know the cards don’t tell you what to do with your life. But,” she paused and raised her index finger in the air for an instant and she spoke the next four words slowly with particular emphasis on each, “they make you think. Once you acknowledge their wisdom, the smart thing to do is act upon them. In your case, consider the alternative. Things can only escalate further out of your control.”

“So, you are advising me, based upon what you’ve seen in the cards, to tell Brad.”

Nadia nodded. “It’s why you came to see me, yes? You knew the cards would reveal your secret, and you needed to talk to someone. Who better than me?”

Maryann walked back to the table and stood in front of Nadia. “You’re right, of course, but I dread hurting Brad. Look at my hands,” she said, lifting them up for Nadia to see. “I’m shaking just thinking about it.”

Nadia leaned back in her chair. “Maryann, think about this. You and Brad were very young when you married. You were both 20, yes? Young people grow into adults and they change. It’s inevitable. The only problem is sometimes people grow apart in the process. Talk to Brad. I don’t believe he would want to spend the rest of his life with someone who has fallen out of love with him, do you?”

“I suppose,” she whispered, with no enthusiasm.

“Trust me on this, Maryann. You must find the courage to speak.” Nadia stood, and Maryann followed her lead. Together they walked to the front door.

Fearing how the evening could turn out, Maryann hesitated at the door. “I wish the cards could tell me that I’ll live happily ever after.”

Nadia smiled. “No one lives happily ever after unless they are a character in a children’s book. Life is a series of ups and downs. There wouldn’t be a market for bumper-stickers that read ‘Stuff Happens’ if there wasn’t a profit in it.”

Clutching one of Maryann’s hands between hers, she continued. “The cards show that you are very much in love with Ken, and he’s in love with you. And yes… it’s true, stuff happens, but your destiny lays solely in the palm of your hands, not in the cards. I want to make this very clear to you–this is a life decision–and you must decide whether you’re courageous enough to seize the moment.”

Before stepping out onto the porch, Maryann opened her purse to search for her wallet.

Nadia placed her hand over Maryann’s. She shook her head. “Not this time, dear. Money cannot pass between us while we’re poised on the precipice of your future.”

Maryann leaned toward Nadia and gave her a hug. “I’m scared to death,” she whispered into her ear.

“I know,” Nadia said, stepping back but continuing to hold Maryann’s shoulders. ”If it’s any consolation, the cards indicate your talk with Brad won’t be as horrible as you think. Please speak to him tonight.”

“Okay,” Maryann said, as she walked off the porch. She wished she could tuck Nadia into her pocket and take her home for moral support.

“Maryann?”

With one foot still on the last porch step, Maryann turned and looked back at the door.

Nadia said, “Do you mind coming back to see me again tomorrow? I need to know you’re okay.”

Maryann nodded. When she opened the car door, she looked back one last time.

Nadia’s forehead creased and she was wringing her hands as Maryann drove away.

Early the next morning, when Nadia picked up the telephone, she was relieved to hear Maryann’s voice. “I told him.”

“Are you okay, dear?”

“Yes, but I definitely must come by today.”

“I’m so happy to hear from you.” She paused, before she said, “I’m glad you told him, Maryann. Around 6:30 then?”

autumn-tree.jpg 

[Narrator – Nadia is expecting Maryann to arrive soon. Since it is an unusually balmy autumn day, she has decided to serve tea in the screened-in room, which is at the side of the house off the main room. During the summer, it’s too hot to sit out there for any length of time, however, Remington, her cat, loves this enclosure and uses it all year round. There is a cat door at the bottom of the larger ornate door and he passes through it several times a day. As a matter of fact, he often walks through the front room while a reading is taking place on his way to his personal sanctuary. 

black-cat.jpg

Seeing a black cat pass through the room sometimes disconcerts the person having a reading, but it’s just by chance that Remington happens to be black. It’s all Zizi’s doing.]

[This is what occurred on the day Nadia decided to go to the Humane Society to adopt a cat. Of course, Zizi wanted to be part of the excursion.]

 

photo of Zizi from

As Nadia drove to the animal shelter, she said to Zizi, “I’d like to get a white kitten and name her Lily.”

 Zizi was horrified. “You can’t get a white cat. Gypsies don’t have sweet little white cats roaming around their homes.”

“Zizi, I’m a gypsy, not a witch.

“Well, I know that,” Zizi said, rolling her eyes. “But think about this. When your clients see a black cat, it will add to your mystique. A white cat is,” she sighed dramatically, “just a white cat.”

They were still arguing the point as they walked to the building that housed the cats. After Nadia circled the room twice,  peering into each cage, she turned to Zizi. “How do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Look around you,” Nadia said, standing in the middle of the room with her arm extended pointing to the cages. “There’s not a single white kitten. How did you manage that?”

“It must be my gypsy blood, but look over here.”

Nadia walked to the cage Zizi indicated. There was a blue paper tag taped to the door of the cage that read domestic shorthair-10 months. She bent over to look inside. A sleek, silky black cat scampered from the back of the cage to the front and met her gaze.

Zizi came up behind Nadia and patted her head, much the same way you would pat a cat. “You’re going to get him, aren’t you?”

[Now you know how Nadia ended up with a black cat named Remington instead of a white cat named Lily.

As I mentioned earlier, Maryann is about to arrive. Nadia has returned to the porch with a pitcher of cream and a sugar bowl. Remington is dozing on one of the cushioned rattan chairs. Maryann has just parked her car at the curb in front of Nadia’s home.

Pleasantries between Nadia and Maryann have been exchanged and they are both sitting at the table with a cup of tea.]

After stirring a teaspoon of sugar into her tea, Maryann took a sip and leaned back in the seat. “When I arrived home, there was a message on the answering machine from Brad. He planned to grab a sandwich for dinner and stay at the office to catch up on some work that he had fallen behind on. I guess it was around 8:00 when he finally came home. By that time I was a total wreck, I had a headache, and I was beginning to weaken.”

“But, you didn’t.”

“No, I didn’t weaken. I couldn’t have, even if I wanted to, because Brad knew there was something wrong as soon as he took one look at me. My eyes were practically swollen shut from crying. He entered the living room and sat down across from me.”

Nadia bent forward and patted Maryann’s arm. “I  know how difficult this had to be for you, Maryann.”

Remington picked this moment to stand, stretch his body and change positions. Once he was comfortably curled up in the chair again, Maryann continued.“Brad knew I had to tell him something terrible, because he said, ‘Is this one of those talks where you need me to remain silent so that you can make it to the end without starting to cry again?’ “

Nadia recalled one other time, about two years ago, when Maryann asked Brad not to interrupt until she finished. That evening, still in shock herself, Maryann had explained to Brad that she put their dog, Carter, to sleep that day. Even though Carter was old and sickly, it was unexpected. The cocker spaniel had already been pretty old when they adopted him from a friend of Brad’s who had to move cross country and couldn’t take the dog with him.

Kidney disease finally brought Carter down. The Vet advised Maryann the humane thing to do was to put him out of his misery. So, Maryann held him in her arms and spoke gently to him as he passed from one world into the next.

“Well, there I was last night… on the couch, with Brad sitting on the edge of his seat, staring and waiting for me to speak. Believe me, backing out wasn’t an option.”

Maryann squeezed her eyes shut tight reliving those terrible seconds of total silence. “Nadia, it was so scary, but once I plunged in, I couldn’t stop.”

Maryann opened her eyes again. “By the time I got through telling Brad the whole story, all of it, I was hysterical. I felt like such a horrible person.”

“What was Brad doing while you told him?” Nadia asked.

“That’s the incredible part,” Maryann answered. “You won’t believe it.”

“I might.” Nadia smiled, and pointed to Maryann’s cup of tea. “Drink some more tea. It’s cooled down a bit now.”

“I can’t believe it!” Maryann sat forward and reached for her teacup. “You’re not panting to know the rest?”

“Yes, I am,” Nadia said, returning her cup to the saucer, “but have you forgotten, I’m the person who reads your cards? And after all, you’re here on my patio, sipping tea, so I know you survived your ordeal. Now, take a deep breath. Then you can tell me the rest.  Even if it doesn’t seem like it, I am anxious to hear it.”

“When Brad saw how upset I was, he felt so sorry for me that he told me something he thought he’d never, ever tell me.” Maryann hesitated, took a deep breath and continued. “Nadia, he’s deeply in love with a girl named Sarah. She was his girlfriend before he met me. He said he realized shortly after we married that he still had strong feelings for her. Can you believe that?”

Nadia nodded. “I imagine Brad felt much the same way as you did; he didn’t want to hurt you.  And although it was one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to do, I hope you’re now convinced; it’s never a good idea to live a lie.

Maryann unconsciously ran her fingers through her hair. “Well, there we were, revealing our secret thoughts and feelings to each other, worrying that we might be ripping each other’s hearts out. And instead, after an hour or so, we both admitted feeling like a weight had been lifted from our shoulders.”

“Does Sarah know how Brad feels?” Nadia asked.

Maryann shifted in her seat a little to avoid a shaft of sunlight that had moved into her line of vision. “Brad’s not sure whether she knows. He and Sarah have bumped into each other a few times over the past three years in the supermarket, the book store, places like that. And each time they had pretty extended conversations. One time, they even stopped to chat in the book store’s cafe over cups of coffee.”

“Is she married?” Nadia asked.

“No,” Maryann said, “She never married. Brad thinks she may know intuitively that he is still in love with her.”

“Ah, that brings us to intuition. Maryann, you simply must begin to listen to the silent voices of your own intuition.  A lot of what you’ve just told me I saw in your card reading yesterday.”

“You mean you knew about Sarah?”

Nadia shook her head and laughed. “No, silly, I couldn’t see the exact details in your cards, but your subconscious already knew that there was something wrong with Brad. You sensed his unease. And somewhere deep in the recesses of your mind, you felt it involved a woman.”

“No, Nadia, that’s impossible! How could something I’m not aware of show up in the cards?”

Nadia leaned back in her chair. “Hmm. How can I explain this? For the past two years or so, every time you’ve had a reading, all of the cards relating to Brad were unhappy cards. Your intuition was working overtime, but you weren’t listening, or you misinterpreted the signs because of your own indiscretion. Whatever the reason, you may not have been paying attention, but your intuition was, and Brad’s cards kept showing up in little disturbing ways. The only difference this time was that your suspicions and fears revealed themselves very clearly in the cards. I knew Brad had something of great importance to get off his chest, and I hoped, after talking with you, he would take advantage of the opportunity to do so. “