Jeanette had threatened to leave Melissa navigating back to her apartment on her own and had left the lot before Melissa could finish adjusting the mirrors and seat position. And yet, it was all of three intersections later that Melissa spied Jeanette’s car a tasteful distance behind hers as she made her way through streets that she had been carried through but never driven before.
Jeanette’s polite stalking almost drove Melissa to tears as she recognized her older sister was trying to give her the space to continue to grow and mature but was also trying to be ready to come to her rescue at a moment’s notice. That this was the transition to adulthood that their Aunt Helen had stolen from them and their mother simmered enough rage to keep Melissa focused on driving instead.
So, when the signal light at the upcoming intersection changed from green to yellow to red faster than she was expecting, she was still able to brake to a smooth stop. Which was good as she didn’t see the red-light camera on the signal pole until after it was too late to do anything different.
The red light was as long as the yellow light was short. As she waited, Jeanette’s car crept up behind her to stop at a noticeable distance that only made it more apparent that big sister was watching. As Melissa was not rushing to drive home, she could not help but giggle a bit at her sister’s obvious impatience as she watched the Jeanette’s hands alternate between white knuckle squeezes and palm pressure grips on the steering wheel in the rear-view mirror.
Eventually, Melissa made it to her apartment’s parking garage without any incidents or tickets, forcing Jeanette to search for a free visitor parking spot for the first time. Jeanette instead pulled behind Melissa to roll down her window and yell a terrifying and cheerful question.
“Why? What are you up to, this time?” Melissa tried to sound rude and threatening, but the anger and rage that had stalked her this morning was completely spent and she was simmering with joy and satisfaction.
“Your phone is shit and I can’t tolerate it any more. The phone is shit. The plan is shit. The upgrade path offered by your carrier is shit. And I am completely done worrying if the next text I send you is going to stress it into cooking itself once and for all. So, I’m going to get you something better, right now, since you’re not going to go anywhere for a while at least.”
“But my phone number… If you do all that, it will mean a new plan and a new number.” Melissa thought about her friends that only had her phone number but also how many online services used her phone number to authenticate her login. Replacing the number now would be terrible.
“You’ll keep the number. Trust me?” Jeanette remained leaned over the passenger seat to watch Melissa’s face.
Melissa was not able to keep her emotions as guarded as her sister could. She knew that though she had not said a single word, Jeanette was watching her face betray her thoughts. She was superficially concerned about losing the number, and deeply concerned about losing control over the one constant she has had in her life for the past several years, but she also realized that Jeanette’s question wasn’t just about the cell phone.
“Yes, I trust you. You have the code to get into the building? Text me… uh… Bang on the door when you’re back.”
Jeanette grinned broadly as she declared she would be back within the hour. She waited just long enough for Melissa to step back as she rolled up the window before making her way to the garage exit.
Melissa was glad for the sudden solitude. She had thoughts to record, a second breakfast to indulge in, and a delivery to stalk.
As she feared, her computer struggled to install the VPN software. Melissa was already used to only running one program at a time and only having two browser tabs open regardless of what website she was using. But the aged computer kept going so that she was able to log in to Liefert Enterprises corporate network and clock in a few minutes short of eight o’clock.
Checking her corporate email was one thing, actually responding to them was something else. There were email signatures that needed to be generated, mailing lists that needed to be confirmed, chat channels to needed to be joined. None of those requirements were going to be completed on the hardware that Melissa was struggling with at the moment.
After her cellphone dropped an incoming call for the third time in as many attempts to answer, Melissa sent a brief and bare email to Gladys explaining that she was in the process of replacing the phone immediately and that the new computer system would be arriving at her home sometime today.
Gladys’s immediate response was gratitude that Melissa was being proactive in updating her workspace and that she had not expected to even hear from her until sometime this afternoon. Gladys concluded the thankfully brief email with an instruction not to worry about any of the new-hire requirements until after Melissa had a computer that was able to complete the task.
To celebrate the relief that had been steadily accumulating despite the sharp anxieties of the morning, Melissa went to the kitchen for her second breakfast of the day.
The early morning donuts at the car dealership had turned into mid-morning discomfort of feeling too full to eat and too empty to not eat something more. The cool of the morning led her to make a mug of thick hot chocolate to take her time indulging with while waiting for the changes of the day to arrive.
The forced pause gave her the space she needed to reflect on everything that happened after yesterday’s manager’s meeting. Or she would if not being caught up in trying to understand why Bob inserted her into the manager’s meeting in the first place. He didn’t have to include her, didn’t have to promote her, didn’t have to risk the exposure of confidential company secrets by having the embodiment of walking trash be served on by someone she wasn’t even worthy to know existed!
Her hands tightened on the still full mug and in return the mug’s still scalding heat reminded her that she was paying too much attention to destructive thoughts again. This wasn’t the time to be trying to play multi-dimensional chess with other people’s feelings and ambitions. This was the time to tally what items in her world were granting her stability and how that foothold would help her endure the increasing chaos around her.
And what better way to start than by confronting what the dream with the five spheres and the judges and the game board meant to her and how much of what happened at the car dealership was any way a reflection or result of that dream. And so, she picked up her notebook and began writing.
The mug was half-empty when a series of strong knocks at her front door surprised her into returning to the present. Quickly, she dropped the notebook on the table and went to the door not knowing if this was Jeannie returning from the great phone hunt or of it was the delivery of her new computer system. She threw open the door to be greeted by her older sister standing triumphantly while holding a shopping bag in front of her as if to batter down the door.
“Here! Your new phone is all set!”
Melissa moved out of the way as she opened the door fully while Jeanette took command of the living room. “Come in! And what do you mean, all set? Don’t I have to switch SIM cards?”
Jeanette put the bag on the coffee table as she spoke. “All set as in you can take that old incendiary device and launch it into the sun right now! The card wouldn’t be compatible anyway, so a new SIM had to be programmed.” As she sat down on the couch, she started unpacking the bag.
Melissa retrieved her old phone and saw some system notifications had accumulated without sound. Warnings of a new phone added to her account, of a duplicate SIM being created, and the impending deactivation of the old SIM within twenty-four hours of the notice were stacked in a sluggish series of dropdowns.
“Oh. So, same phone number and same account?”
“Same phone number and same account. Though some security measures have been activated because apparently I wasn’t the first person to try to gain improper access to your account in the recent months. Just the first person to have enough pull to succeed.”
Melissa looked sideways at her sister’s smug countenance. “You mean you pulled the Big Sister lever.”
“Damn right, I did. Fortunately, your account is so old that the systems maintaining it require hands-on access to update.”
“And perhaps it was also fortunate that you knew the system maintainers well enough to threaten them with your ire if they allowed anyone else to get into my account?”
Jeanette feigned being wounded by Melissa’s unsubtle tone. “Oh, my, do you think I would threaten anyone that placed you at risk?”
Melissa grinned. “No, I think you would just break them and be done with it.”
“Finally, you are starting to think like an adult. So! Here’s your new phone. An Android system that has nothing extra installed. You’re on your own about what social apps you want to bog this thing down with. You have at least two years of unchecked use, probably another year after before you’ll need to worry about the battery. You’ll have to transfer any contacts by hand, though. That grenade you have in your hands isn’t even capable of backing itself up much less transferring info to a new phone.”
Melissa realized that Jeanette was making two piles of boxes from the shopping bag. All the boxes in one pile had their tamper seals broken and where obviously empty, while the other pile was still intact and untouched. But between the piles, the new phone was nowhere to be seen.
“Um, did you forget something?”
“My new phone!”
“No! That’s in my purse. I just want to show off some things first before you get your new toy and forget about me.”
Melissa playfully shoved Jeanette. “Okay, fine. Show me what?”
“Well, I know your tastes have changed and you’re not my kid to shop for, so I kinda got away with myself and bought extra cases and stuff for the phone so you can play around with the looks. Here is a mount for the car and here are alternative phone wallet cases. And remember when we were kids and phone charms were still a thing? Well, I couldn’t resist and…”
When we were kids, Melissa repeated to herself. When they were kids, when Mom and Dad were there, when they were free to laugh and be silly and have things that made them happy to have instead of having to hold a certain face in public so as to not embarrass Aunt Helen who was so graciously suffering their presence.
When they would go shopping and look at all the cartoon characters and the painted flower cases with matching watches and the ribbons and the chains and the little dangly whats-its that plugged into the headphone jack of your phone to keep the dust out and Mom would fuss about how cheap everything looked and Dad would remind her that childhood was only for so long and why couldn’t the girls have something small and silly that made them happy just to look at and Mom would sigh and say that Dad was more childish than they were and they would laugh together and…
“Hmm?” Melissa didn’t realize her face was wet until her sister’s hand softly wiped a tear away. “Oh. Sorry. I didn’t mean to bring the mood down.”
“You didn’t.” Jeanette looked back at the collection of phone charms spread out on the coffee table. “Maybe I went a little overboard getting these. I mean, we aren’t kids now.”
Melissa took a good look at the collection and saw some items that looked like they were crafted from her memory and some items that she would never have considered as a child but would have some meaning to her now as an adult. “Didn’t slow Dad down any.”
She regretted saying it when Jeanette immediately stiffened. The older sister turned her head away and raised her hand to her face as if to stifle a sneeze, but she knew it was to attempt to keep her tears from showing as well.
Realizing that Jeanette was suffering the same nostalgia attack, Melissa decided to make the wound large enough to tend to by picking up a small charm that was supposed to be a pair of cherries. “And he would start with this one and ask Mom if it looked like something she’s seen with him lately, and Mom would turn beet red and give him a hard look and I would ask why was she angry and you would ask if this was a grown-up joke that we weren’t supposed to know.”
Jeanette could not resist the memory lure. She turned red-eyed to see the charm and immediately blushed a deep red that brightened her eyes before bursting into barely controlled giggles.
“Do you know how long it took me to see the dirty image in these? It’s like looking at cartoon movies to see that one frame that skipped the censors!” Melissa idly tossed the cherries charm to Jeanette who had to suddenly fumble to catch it. “So if Dad, who was the most adult of all the adults we knew as kids, if Dad could have fun with them then, I think we can still have fun with them now, kids or not!”
Jeanette sighed and allowed her tears to silently agree. As she took a breath to have the last word on the matter, Melissa’s old phone jiggled intensely brief on the table as an incoming phone call pushed the old hardware into unrecoverable obsolescence.
They stared at the suddenly dead phone for a moment in surprise before a shrieking and trilling series of bright tones rumbled from Jeanette’s purse startling Melissa and sending Jeanette into a frenzy to retrieve the new phone before the sound volume increased further.
“Well then, so much for copying your contacts over. Your phone is dead, long live your phone!” She handed a neutral brown wallet case over to Melissa. The action stopped the shrieking, but the case continued to vibrate in Melissa’s hands as she struggled to open the unfamiliar tab.
“Hello? … Oh, yes, I am expecting the delivery today! There should be thirty-minute parking spots in the garage downstairs! No parking fee if you’re out in thirty minutes … Okay. … Okay! … See you soon!”
The phone interface was just different enough from her old phone that she was not sure if she had to tap the bouncing red icon, swipe the bouncing red icon, or just close the case to hang up. The caller hung up before she could decide what to try first.
Melissa turned to Jeanette excitedly. “So, that was the delivery guy for the new computer!” She paused, unable to hide her worry. “Um… Would you stay and help me set it up, Jeannie? If you have time, that is.”
Jeanette looked at Melissa, looked at the cluttered coffee table, looked at the forlorn dining room table with the struggling laptop, then looked back at Melissa who was trying not to look desperate and failing miserably because she has never been able to hide her feelings from her big sister.
“Of course, I will. We’ll sort through all your phone swag later! Let’s get your laptop stuff backed up! Um, you do have some online backup available, right?”
“Everything is saved online. I learned the hard way back in school that anything saved offline only is one accident away from never existing in the first place.” Melissa started taking the card decks and notes from the table while Jeanette turned the laptop towards her and started clicking and scrolling.
Melissa quietly noted that she had no reaction to Jeanette taking over her laptop and going through all of her personal files but she was still anxious about anyone else just knowing she had tarot cards, much less actually touching them. She wondered if Jeanette had made the same observation. It was hard to tell as Jeanette was loudly fussing about how little memory the poor laptop had and how much of a crime it was that the amount was still considered acceptable.
Just as the table was cleared, a new series of knocks reverberated through the door. Melissa immediately opened the door and stepped aside as the delivery driver wheeled in the loaded dolly. He asked if it was okay to leave the boxes in the living room even as he started to unload the dolly just inside the door. By the time he stood up to have Melissa sign receipt of delivery, Jeanette was already beside him to take the offered tablet from his hand and leave a folded something in its place.
“Yes, this will do perfectly. Be careful driving out!”
“Yes, Ma’am!” The driver closed the front door as he left before Melissa could confirm she had everything that she had ordered.
“What?” Jeanette didn’t notice Melissa’s exasperated tone as she reached for the locks.
“You don’t have to clean up after me, you know.”
Jeanette locked the front door before turning slowly to face Melissa. “I wasn’t. I just… I always tip the delivery drivers. I can see why you would say that, though. That wasn’t a bribe for him to keep quiet about what was delivered. I just… It’s habit, I guess.”
The two women stood on opposite sides of the pile of boxes. Melissa kept looking at the dining room table with concern while waiting for Jeanette to take over the situation. Jeanette waited patiently for Melissa to decide what to do.
Melissa decided to speak. “Are you waiting on me, Jeannie?”
“Yes. I don’t want to step on your toes again.”
Melissa stood in a quiet and settled pose that slightly unsettled her sister just long enough to decide that it wasn’t worth the trouble to brood any further. “Hey, Jeannie?”
“Will you help me unpack these and get the new computer assembled?”
“I certainly will!” Jeannie’s delight to help her little sister was punctuated by the sound of box tape giving way to their joy.
The physical process of unboxing the computer and assembling the new system on the dining table was completed in less than an hour. Getting Melissa acquainted with the latest and greatest personal computer operating system was a slow and frustrating process.
Jeannie offered to install helper programs that would make the new system easier to interact with by mimicking the appearance and responses of the operating system Melissa was still running on her obsolete laptop. Melissa declined the assistance, noting that refusing to adapt to the present was a good way to get lost in the past.
“Are you talking about computers or rigid ways of thinking?”
Melissa did not humor her sister’s obvious bait, but declared that she was going to take a break from learning the new operating system by learning her new phone instead.
Everything about the phone was up to date and as close to bleeding edge as Jeannie could get without cutting her thumb. Which was good for Melissa as she wouldn’t have to worry about obsolescence for several years. But also bad for Melissa as very little about the phone was immediately understandable to her.
Where was the power button and why was it asking for her to record her fingerprints. Why did placing the phone screen down on the table lock the phone without prompting? What if she just wanted to have the phone nearby without risking dropping something on the screen?
Where was the headphone jack and what did you mean that none of her saved cords were going to work with this phone and that’s why Jeannie had bought four extra cords? If there’s no headphone jack, where are all the phone charms going to go? Oh, that’s why Jeannie bought those types of cases, so the charms can hang there.
Melissa was worried about all the phone numbers in her old, dead phone that she wasn’t able to back up before it shuddered into oblivion, but to her delight, logging into her master account on the new phone prompted the device to download all of her contacts and notes. In the end, she only lost those text messages that had been saved to the phone and not to her account.
She thought about adding some of her favorite social media apps to the phone but admitted to herself that with all the excitement of the past two days, she would only lose herself in the immediate distractions they offered and would frustrate Jeannie while not getting any work done towards preparing to work from home.
The realization of why she was suddenly rushing to get the car and the new computer and the new cellphone slammed into Melissa’s awareness and before she realized her actions, she had dropped the new phone on the couch next to her and was covering her wet face with her hands as she tried to hide her shivering sobs from Jeannie.
When she allowed her hands to descend, a damp and cool cloth covered what they had revealed. “Don’t scrub, just wipe. You don’t have to tell me what led to this. I’m still going through the computer settings, so you don’t need to come back to the table just yet.” Melissa didn’t realize how close Jeannie was to her until the couch shifted as the elder sister stood up.
“I’m… I’m sorry! I shouldn’t be crying! I… You…” Melissa wiped her face and scrubbed at her nose. “You have other things to do than babysit me, Jeannie. I’ll finish this and…”
Melissa’s voice gave out and Jeannie spoke softly into the gap of silence.
“I’m not babysitting you, Melissa. I’m spending as much time with my sister as I can before the lockdowns start.” Jeannie’s suddenly tired voice demanded Melissa’s full and silent attention. “After today, I don’t know if I’ll be able to sit with you again for a while. And now that I know about what is happening at the building you work at, no, neither one of us will be visiting Mom this weekend. I can’t take that risk. So it’s good that you have a webcam for the computer, because videoconferencing apps will devour a phone’s battery, no matter how new it is.”
Melissa folded and rolled the lukewarm cloth in her hands, seeking a clean and damp corner to resume wiping at her face. Finding none, she just allowed her hands to continue the rolling motion to give herself the illusion of doing something other than having a panic attack.
The sound of Jeannie scrolling and clicking dominated the space between them for a few minutes.
“You knew. You knew what happened. Did you?”
“If the question, Melissa, is did I withhold information from you, the answer is no. If the question is did I know the specific action that prompted you to ask for a car, the answer is no. If the question is did I know about the coronavirus’s spread into the area and the hell that is about to come, the answer is yes. If the question is did I already take care of other personal matters so I can devote as much time as I can to being with you and Mom before… the answer is yes.”
Jeannie turned around to completely face Melissa. The movement prompted Melissa to look up at her sister. The sight of Jeannie’s silent tears nearly unmade her. Jeannie doesn’t cry. Jeannie, Meannie Jeannie, Jeannie the Paralegal, Jeannie who can use words to cut through a man faster than any sword does not cry! And yet…
Jeannie, tired and weary, tried to smile and grimaced instead. “Mom told me what the news agencies in Europe aren’t saying. We had been thinking of how to tell you that she has already isolated herself and that we won’t be going to her house this weekend. She was afraid you would not just be disappointed but hurt and offended.”
“She was afraid that you would feel abandoned.”
“Did I know what happened at Liefert Enterprises manager’s meeting yesterday? Not when we talked. But little by little, pieces of information have been placed in the wild. I’ve been collecting them, and I now know enough. It feels like knowing too much.”
“Melissa, cry. Scream if it will feel better. This is a good time to do that. Things are going to get very, very difficult and the sooner you learn how to deal with your feelings, the better. Besides, there will be other deliveries to your apartment later today and possibly tomorrow. I took stock of what you have and what you don’t and ordered some storage containers so you’ll be able to put aside the dry groceries to come neatly. I know that’s overstepping my bounds, but I’m still your elder sister and it’s still my responsibility to look out for you, and I am going to do so, dammit.”
“So now that I have monologued at you, I have a question that I need you to answer as clearly and as honestly as you can.”
Melissa sat still on the couch and held the drying cloth with tight hands. She nodded in acquiescence.
Jeannie closed her eyes and turned her face slightly down and to the side. The gesture scared Melissa as if seemed like Jeannie did not want to ask the question and certainly did not want to hear any answer.
“Is tarot something I have to worry about while you’re isolated? Should I take the decks and put them in remote storage?”
Melissa didn’t realize she was giggling until she gave herself the hiccups. “No – hic – No! The decks are just paper and – hic – ink, that’s all. I’m not – hic – argh! I’m not going to have a mental break from ex – hic – cessive exposure to paper cuts! Damn these hiccups! hic Jeannie… I don’t know how to – hic – feel.”
Jeannie turned back to her sister and opened her eyes. Melissa watched her older sister attempt to portray herself as the strong pillar of reason and logic that she has always tried to cultivate, but the red puffiness attested to the woman’s struggle with fear. “Is that so. Well then, we sit as siblings again, because neither do I. I apologize for destroying the bright mood of the morning. You have no idea how long I have wanted to just be here with you, without being anything other than your sister, your friend, and the world itself is driving an insurmountable obstruction between us.”
Melissa giggled again without hiccups. “You know Jeannie, you can say that everything is going to shit. You don’t need to use up half a thesaurus to tell me how you feel. Since you’re an adult you can actually use the word ‘fuck’ to describe something. Since you’re older than me, you can use it more than once!”
Jeannie tried to look cross at Melissa, who had resumed giggling painfully. She lowered her head and sighed instead. “Well, fuck,” she said curtly before surrendering silently to terrified sorrow.
After a few moments, both sisters had worked through their panic. Melissa brought warm and damp cloths from the bathroom for them to wipe (without scrubbing) their faces with as Jeannie finished installing all the software that Melissa needed for work while Melissa gathered up all the boxes and packing material.
“There.” Jeannie stood from the table that was now nothing to do for dining and everything to do for computing. “Everything you had written down about Leifert Enterprises’s VPN has been installed and the only thing left to do is for you to log in and get back to work.”
As Jeannie stood to the side to permit Melissa to sit down, she stretched and deliberately ignored the loud requests for sustenance that came from her abdomen. Melissa barely refrained from poking the loud guest as younger siblings are wont to do.
“Thanks! It’s lunch time though, as you may have noticed, so I’ll worry about logging in to the VPN later. Right now, I’d rather you go get some lunch from the kitchen so I can steal it.”
“Oh! How rude!” Jeannie made a great show of lifting her nose into a snorkel as she took up Melissa’s offer. “I’m going to make the biggest of sandwiches and eat it in front of you and I’m not going to give you a single bite!”
A few minutes later, a plate with a large sandwich was shoved between Melissa and the keyboard. “Here, eat this because I said so!”
Melissa grabbed the plate to keep it from hitting random keys. “I was joking about stealing your lunch!”
“Yea, well, I wasn’t joking about not sharing my sandwich with you!” Jeannie pulled the second table chair to the side of the table and sat down with a sandwich noticeably bigger than hers though not by much. “So you better eat that because I’m going to eat this!”
“Fine.” Melissa’s retort carried no hostility across the table as both women made supposedly rude faces at each other before becoming preoccupied with their personal meal.
As crumbs filled the plate, they began to talk with each other and plan out how they were going to remain in touch should isolation orders be given. Melissa was concerned that the lack of human interaction would deprive her sister of access to unrepentant souls that she would need to dine on to preserve her status as an apex paralegal.
“Oh, there will always be ways to sup upon those undeserving of grace! But how are you going to fill the time? You’ll have fourteen days to yourself without another person to badger in person. Or is this when you begin your mysterious transformation into a full-fledged tarot reader?”
Melissa threw a crumpled napkin at her sister. “Oh, hell no! It’s been much more than fourteen days since I was first introduced to tarot cards and I still haven’t memorized the order of the Majors much less any specific card! Rebecca isn’t going to have competition from me any time soon!”
Jeanne threw the twisted napkin back. “I said begin, not complete. And I bet you know more about tarot than you are giving yourself credit for. How many cards are in a deck?”
“Seventy-eight!” The napkin was compressed before being sent across the table again. “Usually! I thought you were scared of tarot. What are you up to?”
“Seeing if you’re deserving of grace, that’s what. And I’m not scared of tarot cards. I’m just interrogating you, that’s all. So! Next question! Which card is number eleven? Strength, the Hermit, or the World?” Jeannie wrapped the tight napkin ball with another napkin and attempted to bounce it off Melissa’s head.
Melissa caught it easily and answered quickly. “Trick question! It depends on the deck! Some decks have Strength as Major 11, some have Justice, and some decks have no fucks to give about traditional ordering systems. What are you, the arbiter of tarot? I think I have enough people trying to judge my life as it is, right now!”
Melissa threw the thick napkin ball back at Jeannie as she realized what words had just escaped from her mouth. Before she could change the subject, the napkin ball bounced off her nose as Jeannie demanded another answer.
“If you could only use one card to describe today, which card would it be?”
Melissa grabbed the napkin ball with intent to throw it with all of her force at Jeannie’s head, knowing that it would bounce harmlessly but Jeannie’s question seized all of her motion and brought the game to a stop.
Jeannie brightened to have found a question that forced her sister to focus. “So, it is said, that all of life’s experiences can be found in a tarot deck, and that those seventy-eight cards can be used to portray any circumstance. So, here’s another trick question with no true answer: What card describes your experiences today?”
Melissa put the napkin ball on her empty place. “You’re just asking me that because you’re psychoanalyzing me again.”
“Well, yes.” Jeannie’s honesty caught Melissa by surprise. “Yes, I am. Because I need to see… I will be honest; I need to know that you’ll be okay. I know I sound like I’m walking over the same racetrack again, but this is how I cope. By examining the topic until I know the fundamental building blocks of its nature. But you aren’t a hostile witness. You’re worse. You’re my sister. And I don’t need to know how tarot works. I need to know that you have enough presence of mind not to be worked over by tarot.”
Melissa picked up the napkin ball and started squeezing it. “Hmm. Well. There’s a lot of cards that could describe today. And that’s before we start to consider combinations. But one card? Huh. That’s hard. I mean, there’s the Chariot with all the car business. And the Page of Swords with all the emails and texts and such. And the Four of Wands since you’re helping me lay down a new foundation for a new stage of life. But those are all calling out individual actions, not the day as a whole.”
She held the napkin ball tight in her propped up fists. “Are you going to be comparing my answer with any websites? Or worse, with Rebecca?”
Jeannie laughed. “No. How you answer is more important than what you answer. Just don’t think so hard that you set off the smoke detector!”
Jeannie was too busy laughing at her own joke to notice the paper projectile hurtling at her forehead. When the napkin ball bounced off her face, she only laughed harder.
“Meannie!” Melissa’s laughter was as heartfelt as Jeannie’s but not as lasting. “Okay, then you’re going to get a personal answer and not a book answer, and I don’t think there’s a website anywhere that will have this answer, because it’s mine. If that makes sense.”
“From the moment I got up this morning, I just wanted to lie back down. The idea of a pandemic is just overwhelming. We just got Mom back, hell, we didn’t even know Mom was alive and now we’re looking at possibly losing her forever.”
“That whole mess at the dealership was entirely my fault. Jeremy did nothing wrong there. And being so angry at everyone, at everything, only drained me more. So when I got home, I felt empty and I just wanted everything to stop. But then you’re here. And you helped me find a reason to keep going another couple of minutes. And then you cry and tell me things that hurt to hear but I needed to hear. And then I cry and say things that hurt to say, but I needed to say them.”
“And as much as I still just want the world to fucking stop so I can catch my breath, I realize that I have more… perseverance, like I have a world of endurance within me than I thought I did. I’m afraid and I’m tired and I’m out of my comfort zone, but I can keep going. So, I’ve been going.”
“And because I’ve been keeping going, I’m now sitting in a position of strength. Because you helped me, I’m in a better position to watch what’s happening, to call for help, to be helpful to others, and to be secure as best as I can. And that’s the Four of Coins. Security. And that’s my day so far.”
Jeannie listened to Melissa’s explanation with a curious expression that only became more curiouser as the younger woman continued. When Melissa concluded her answer, both women sat in silence for a minute.
“Wow.” Jeannie stood and picked up her and Melissa’s plate. As she took the lunch plates to the kitchen, she found more words to say. “Just. Wow. That was… heartfelt! And detailed! And spoken from a place that wasn’t stitched together from an algorithm. And… wow.”
Melissa followed her and watched as Jeannie began to clean up. “Hey, leave that. You’re not here to clean up after me, you know. And did I say something wrong?”
Jeannie looked at her with a bright smile. “No. It’s a trick question, remember. No true answer, remember. Your answer tells me that you’ve been giving thought to a lot of things, not just tarot. It’s just that the tarot cards have been giving you a framework that you could hang your thoughts on as you sort things out.”
“I guess I should stop worrying about you and involvement with tarot decks. I’ll try. Well, some of those deliveries are going to be arriving soon. I’d like to stay and manage them as they come in as you take care of your job with Leifert Enterprises. Which reminds me, quit your call center job, assuming they haven’t already laid you off by now.”
As Jeannie began drying off the clean dishware, Melissa marveled at the speed in which her new phone logged into the call center’s work schedule app. A couple of weeks ago, she had put in a request for unpaid time off for this very week as she had hoped for a vacation now that she didn’t need the income. A couple of weeks minus a few days ago, that unpaid time off was approved.
Melissa stared at the app in surprise as she found not only was her previously approved unpaid time rescinded, but she was now scheduled for full shifts at the call center during the week and double shifts on weekends. She had already missed last night’s shift and was scheduled to being this night’s shift in a few hours.
There was no notification from the job that her schedule had been changed. There was one notification that a disciplinary point had been assigned.
Jeannie looked over Melissa’s shoulder and nodded. “All the call centers are doing this to their employees. As the Leifert Enterprises of the world hunker down, someone has to be available for customer service and the call centers are just bursting. If you want to be entertained, go ahead and put in your two-week notice. It’s a fifty-fifty split if they don’t just fire you on the spot, or reject your notice and insist that you remain until they don’t need you anymore. Not unlike how the restaurant handled people, if I recall.”
“Put that strength to work, Melissa. With what is to come, you don’t need to remain attached to that which will drain your inner endurance, mentally or physically. You may still be discovering what you are capable of, but when it is clear that you do not need to be burdened with something any longer, let it go.”
Melissa turned her head to look at Jeannie with an almost unreadable expression. “Yes, Your Honor.”
Jeannie stood somewhat perplexed as Melissa called the supervisor-on-duty’s phone number to relay her immediate resigning. As the voice coming from the phone began to be loud and intimidating, Melissa began to relax and laugh.
“After consideration of your requests, and review of the employee handbook that I never received, I have no other choice but to cease our working arrangement effective immediately.” Melissa stared at the phone screen for a few seconds during which the voice coming from the phone speaker became loud enough for Jeannie to hear from several feet away. It was clear that the person receiving Melissa’s resignation had other opinions about her decision.
“Ah. Got it!” Melissa swiped at the screen and the voice ceased. “Tap the red button to decline an incoming call. Swipe the red button down to hang up a call already in progress. See, I can learn new things.” That matter now concluded, the two sisters resumed the work of preparing the new computer for work and preparing for further work to come.
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