The Whisper

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Maria sat off in a corner of the dark room. Dust tickled her nose. She twirled the thick braid of fringe from the pale curtain’s edge in her fingers. She wasn’t sure why she had been brought to the Great House this morning, but it didn’t feel good to her. Maria worried; had she done something wrong? Was she breaking rules she didn’t know about and didn’t understand? She heaved a sigh and wriggled back farther onto the settee. If she could have blended into the worn velvet fabric, she would have been just fine as pie. That didn’t happen though. Maria felt extraordinarily conspicuous.

Shadows coalesced near here, forming themselves into a staggering Caravaggio-inspired angel. Dark wings. Tall brooding eyes with such a knowing twinkle in them. Maria closed her eyes. The magnitude of that being, so close in proximity, shook her very soul to the core. He was too much to take in. Maria took quick shallow breaths until she heard the odd pop noise that announced he had fully materialized and now prepared to speak to her.

Maria.”

She opened her eyes to find herself staring downwards, noticing every detail of his bare feet. A part of her smiled inside to notice glints of glitter on his toenails.

He reached out and with his finger pulled Maria’s face up, her gaze up to meet his. Under her chin burned where his finger pressed her flesh. Maria choked on whatever word her body and brain were attempting to force out. The angel smiled. “Shhhhhhh.” Now his fingertip seared her lips as he hushed her. “You need not speak here, beloved Maria.”

Tears grew in her eyes. A strange heat began to circulate through her limbs. Her bladder pressed urgently for a release. Maria drew in a shaky breath, closing her eyes for a moment to recalibrate, praying it was permissible, trying to control herself before she peed all over the angel’s immaculate sparkly feet.

She looked him in the eye, cautious as a mouse in front of a hawk. She couldn’t speak, so she nodded.

His smile intoxicated her; the glimmer of clown in his eye taunted her. “The Lady has spoken to you this morning?” He knew she had. The Lady had sent him here to impress upon Maria the need for obedience and secrecy once above ground again. Again, Maria nodded, her hands twisting knots of themselves in her lap.

Now brisk, the angel outlined the highlights of the conditions of her return, and of her limitations. He spoke for some time. Maria’s brain swirled, a cyclone lost at sea and now in some monster’s grasp.

After he finished, the angel leaned over, stroked her hair out of her eyes, caressed her cheek with his lips, then whispered some parting words in her ear.

As the angel vanished, Maria slid to the floor, wetting herself in the process. All her mind kept telling her was you won’t be the same, you won’t be the same, you won’t be the same.

It all changes here. It all changes now. Salty copper filled Maria’s mouth as she bit her tongue once her head bounced off the dull old carpet.

That was the last she knew.

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Breakfast

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The waitress made her way back to the table which Minerva and Martin shared. Minerva was always ravenous after a night of work. People didn’t realize how much energy it took to use psychic abilities and communicate with the dead. She placed her order for Belgian waffles, bacon, eggs, and a side of hash browns. When the waitress asked if she’d like a refill on her hot chocolate, she said yes. Martin smiled at her, and she narrowed her eyes at him as if to say, don’t go there. Her lips curled up in a smile. He has always been amazed at the amount of food the tiny woman consumed, and liked to tease her that she was going to wake up one morning with a giant butt.

Martin, as always, ordered a biscuit and a very rare steak. Minerva waited for the waitress to leave before pretend kicking him in the shin under the table.

“I just know that you were imagining me with a big ass again.”, she said.

He laughed and told her that he had. While they waited, she told him more about Steve’s situation.

“He truly misses his wife, Maria. I just don’t know if he’ll be able to go through with what it takes to bring her back.”

When she finished telling him about the conversation she’d had with her new client, Martin told her that he would be willing to bet that the man would ask to get his wife back. Over the years, Martin had seen enough people in mourning to know that there were some who just couldn’t bear to finish out their time on this earth without their partners. These were the ones who people liked to refer to as soul mates. It wasn’t that their lives weren’t complete without their mates, it was just that they formed such a deep bond that when one of them died, the piece of their partner that they took with them was too great for them to know true happiness without them.

They grew quiet when the food arrived. As with every busy night, Minerva demolished her food with a fervor which precluded conversation. Martin however, sat across from her, sipping his coffee and slowly savoring a large bite of his steak. When the waitress came back to clear the table, Martin asked for a container.

“You always eat like a bird hon.”, said the waitress. “I don’t know how the two of you look the way you do.”

As soon as the words had left her lips, the waitress apologized profusely. Minerva and Martin burst into laughter.

Martin said, “Please don’t be sorry. I find what you said to be both true and funny.”

She looked relieved as she cleared Minerva’s plate and went to get Martin’s container. When she had come back with it and taken their money, they resumed their conversation. Minerva told Martin that she would let him know how things went tomorrow night after work. Martin gave her a slow grin and told her that he’d be there waiting. Gathering their things, the two old friends made their way out the door. After Minerva got into her car, Martin made his way over to the bushes by his car where a feral cat and her kittens lived, and spat out the steak. He could hear them squabbling over it. Hurriedly, he reached into his pocket, took out the baggie of cat food he’d brought along, and poured it into the bushes before someone lost an eye. Then he went through the gap in the bushes into the park and handed the container, along with ten dollars to the woman who slept on one of the benches.  After his task was completed, he got into his car to drive home. The sky was just beginning to lighten as he closed the front door and turned the deadbolt.

 

Minerva

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I bet you are expecting the fortune teller, Minerva, to pack up her kit and set out immediately after her talk of bringing back the dead. You think she’s going to run off, that she needs to collect esoteric herbs and unguents, gather candles and crystals. In your mind, she needs to take a ritual bath, that she has to put on special ritual clothing. You’re already imagining her conjuring sacred space, casting a circle of power, invoking the elements and the gods. But, in this instance, you are simply wrong.

Minerva actually enjoyed her job as a psychic. There were regulars that she loved with all her heart. There were the giggly teens asking about the likelihood of boyfriends, sometimes husbands. There were those who came in dead-set on hearing what they wanted to hear that didn’t always leave happy when she told them otherwise. Minerva was comfortable dealing with people, comfortable helping where she could and letting go of the rest.

Minerva spent the rest of her day, which for most would be the night, speaking to clients, summoning the dead, speaking to the ethers, cajoling the incorrigible. It was three in the morning when she called it a day. Sometimes she worked later, but it had been a busy day, a busy week. She was tired. She cleaned up her space, putting her icons and tidbits away with care. She dusted. She swept. She counted out her register. She sealed the money up in the safe. Her son Devon would come in the light of day to do that. Minerva had worked in this office space for more than twenty years. She had been mugged three times. Only that first time had she had any money on her. She had learned her lesson. She made sure that nothing she carried worth anything was reachable during an attack. At night, like this, she never carried more than twenty dollars cash on her. The whole neighborhood knew this, as far as she knew. She locked everything up tight and went out the back door, into the gloaming light.

Her little car, an old beat-up 70s Volkswagen bug that her daughter had painted using can after can of spray paint until it was just right, huddled at the curb, afraid of being alone in the dark. She patted the flowery hood as she passed it. Her oldest had turned the car from a dingy yellow into a field of flowers two summers ago. Minerva was surprised at just how well the spray paint had held up on the old thing. The car door screeched as she opened it. The interior was comfortable and tonight it smelled of cigarette smoke. That was a comfort to Minerva. That smell told her her Ancestors were near, specifically her Great-Great-Grandmother, a woman she had never met in this lifetime, but with whom she now had a great relationship.

It took only a few minutes to drive to the diner. Parking itself was more complicated. It was all on the street parking. Minerva couldn’t parallel park to save her life unless there was room for five cars…and god forbid someone park too close in front and in back of her. Minerva had once been at the diner for more than seven hours waiting for other people to move their cars so she could finally get hers out. That’s just how she worked. Better safe than sorry.

Martin sat at their usual table. He knew she wouldn’t drink coffee at that hour. She’d never be able to sleep that day if she did. He had ordered her a hot chocolate, complete with a tower of whipped cream on top. She slid onto the bench across from him.

Tough night?”

She smiled at him, her old friend. “Same old, same old.” Shaking her head, she shrugged off her coat and shoved it into the space beside her. She gave him a look. “I found one for you.”

Are you sure he is a viable candidate?”

She wrapped her hands around her cup, seeking the warmth of the cup. She nodded. “He’ll be back tomorrow.” She looked into Martin’s deep golden eyes. “I’ll send him to you as soon as he agrees.”

Martin nodded. The waitress neared their table, saying she’d be there in just a sec. Martin smiled up at her, nodding to let her know he heard her.

Martin and Minerva, age-old friends, passed a pleasant meal, as they did every morning once she called it a day. Martin always sat at the same table, back in the corner, with a full view of the restaurant, well away from the door. He was always waiting for Minerva, no matter what time she closed up shop. She never asked what he did before their time together. She didn’t want to know.

Your Perfume Lingers

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It feels like it has been forever since she has been gone, and at the same time as though she will be walking right behind me through that bedroom door every night. Of all of the times of day, I think that the end of the evening is the worst. Just four short weeks ago, we were still crawling into bed at night and catching up with each other about how our day had gone. We shared so much…trials, triumphs, and everything in between.

In the blink of an eye, it was all gone. She had been coming home from work later than usual because of a stupid staff meeting that had gone over. Around a mile from the house, a drunk driver had been weaving her way home from the bar and crossed the double line. There was nowhere that Maria could have gone to get out of her path. So, the intoxicated woman had taken Maria away from me when she plowed into her head on. Little did I know that she had also taken out our unborn daughter. That must have been the thing that she had told me she had wanted to talk to me about that night.

For the thirty third night in a row, I crawled into our big bed alone. Even though it’s gross, I just haven’t been able to think about changing the sheets and blankets yet.

“Oh Maria”, said Steve, “your perfume lingers, it loiters on your soft pillows…and strawberry lip gloss…our favorite taste. I must have…”

Before he could complete his thought, Steve collapsed into mournful tears. This bed, this house, it was all too empty without her. He had gone to grief counseling, talked to his family and friends, tried to keep himself occupied, and forced himself to sit with his feelings. All to no avail. A few nights ago, he had done something which he felt ashamed of. Something he’d never done before, and something which no one would understand.

He had gone into the fortune teller’s shop down by the river one evening on his way home this evening. His mind so desperately wanted to believe that Maria still lived on beside him…somehow. That she was with him, that she knew how much he loved and missed her. So he had walked in, feeling both excited and nervous at the same time. When he entered into the darkened room and sat down at the table, the fortune teller had lit a few candles. At first, he had thought that it was all an act, but then she had started talking about things which no one but he and his wife could possibly know…including the pregnancy.

While it had made him feel a little better, it had also made him feel as though he were losing her all over again when he had to leave. As he was walking out of the door with his head held down, the fortune teller called out to him. When he turned, she was waving him back into the chair he’d just vacated.

“Would you like to see your wife again? Have her come home to you? It wouldn’t be exactly the same, but I could help your wife to come back to you. This is something that not many people know about, and few would believe. So, if you decide to do this, you could tell no one…and no one could know about it. You would either have to make sure that she was never seen or you’d have to leave town and go somewhere that no one knew the two of you.”

Steve sat there looking at the woman as though she were crazy. When he looked up into her eyes though, he could tell that this wasn’t a joke.

“What is involved? How much would it cost? What would it be like?”, he asked.

She explained to him that it was best that he didn’t know what was involved, and that she wouldn’t charge him anything for it.

“It’s against the code for me to charge any money for this. All I would need to know is where she is buried. I’d also need for you to promise me that you would follow the set of rules to the letter”, said the raven haired woman.

While he was letting this all sink in, she sat across from him studying his face and adjusting her long purple dress. Finally, he raised his head and told her that he would think it over that night and come back the following evening at the same time to let her know what his answer was.