Lisa’s cellphone began to ring just as she got comfortable under the covers. She was upset at herself and the Fortune card for not making sure it was on silent before her executive decision to take a nap. By the time the ringing sequence had ended, Lisa was wide awake but too spiteful to get out of the bed. When the phone began ringing immediately again, she got up with intention of silencing it.
Seeing Marla’s name on the screen confused Lisa. It’s Monday, after all. Today would have been spent working a full shift at the restaurant, not a half shift at the mall. Lisa swiped to answer it. “Hello? Marla?”
“Oh, Lisa! You’re okay! Are you okay? Have you talked to anyone from corporate since I last saw you?” Marla’s panic threatened to infect Lisa.
“I have orders to terminate your employment immediately and if I don’t by the end of tonight’s shift, I’m terminated too!”
“The hell?” Lisa sat at her dining table. “WHY?!”
“I don’t know! HR tried to insinuate that you and Bebe were working together to skim money from customers, but when I told them that we were sitting together away from Bebe when I caught her, they said that didn’t matter! And now that I have the actual papers, the official reason is that the position was made redundant. But that’s bullshit because we’re supposed to have three people per shift! I don’t get this at all!”
Now that she was no longer committed to the restaurant as her primary employment, she had applied to pick up more shifts at both the mall kiosk and the call center until she could find a third dependable job. Not having money would make her dependent on the maintainer of her inheritance trust for another year. Would make her completely dependent on Aunt Helen.
Lisa closed her eyes and accepted the shattering of another of her world’s pillars.
“Sign the papers, Marla.”
“WHAT! You better give me a damn good reason why!”
“Because I know what’s driving HR’s decision, and it is something you don’t want to get caught up in. I know you want to stick up for me, and I appreciate all you’ve done for me, especially when I wasn’t aware of it at the time. But I have to settle some things, and the fewer people in the way when those bricks crumble, the better. Sign the papers terminating me due to redundancy. At least I’ll be eligible for unemployment this way.”
“But, it’s not fair, Lisa! No one spent any favors to get you this job! Someone is obviously spending a favor to get you out of it!” Marla’s table thump sounded the same as a foot stomp. Lisa smiled to herself with the black humor that rose from hearing her favorite rebuttal phrase being honestly used.
“All the more reason you don’t want to be in the middle when that favor comes due. This is all coming from corporate, right? You’re just passing it on, and not on the paperwork as the originator, right? Double check for me, please.”
Lisa heard papers being slipped around. “I’m just your immediate supervisor on this. The redundancy is coming from corporate.”
“Okay. Then you’re in the clear with clean hands. Sign the papers. Pretend this phone call never happened. I’ll show up at my next scheduled shift and you’ll serve me then and all will be well.”
“BULLSHIT ALL WILL BE WELL! Why are you being targeted?”
As tired as Lisa was, she found a level space to speak from. “Listen, Marla. You did your best and all is well. There’s things I have to take care on my side, and I appreciate the head’s up. But now you keep your head down. It is as it is, and now it’s gone. I’ll see you one last time, for sure, okay?”
Marla took several deep breaths of her own. “Okay. I’m going to keep false hope in the jar and look for understanding to catch up. I’ll see you later.”
Lisa held the phone away from her face so her tears would not wet it. “Okay. Bye.”
Marla said her farewells and hung up on the conversation first.
Lisa placed the phone down next to the tarot cards. The kiosk job was found by accident but the call center job was arranged by Jean. And if it was arranged by Jean, then it was arranged by Aunt Helen. Lisa wondered what would be the excuse they’ll put on the paperwork to dismiss her.
She looked on the table. Her tarot decks were still arranged with the Strength card laying atop each deck. She moved the handwritten card to the bottom of its deck and sifted through the decorated deck to put the decorated Strength card in its proper place. The Chariot card was now face up.
The decorated deck’s rendition of that was was something like a red crib with a blue blanket lining the bottom of it. A shadowy baby imp stood on something like goat’s legs while holding one rail and looking out of the image at the viewer. Three winged, multicolored creatures descended from above to bestow gifts to the baby. The closest is shown about to drape a purple shawl over the baby. The next closest held a red sword in a heavy red scabbard at the ready for the baby. The last was preparing to lay green laurels on the baby’s horned head as a crown.
Nothing in the image matched what Lisa has just experienced with Jean after leaving Aunt Helen’s house. Though Lisa mused that the image in the card could easily be Aunt Helen’s chosen successor preparing for their arrival. The idea of watching something even worse than Aunt Helen ascend to the family seat of power was both amusing and terrifying so Lisa quickly moved the Chariot cards to the bottom of the decks to get away from those thoughts.
“So much for taking a nap.” The vase reminded Lisa of everything she said to Jean today. Could she trust her? She felt paranoia start to creep up on her. Jean had accepted Lisa’s study of tarot cards far too quickly. But then again, Jean probably had done research into the topic herself if she also knew if the hobbies that Rebecca had not mentioned to Lisa.
Now that Aunt Helen was actively working against Lisa instead of just waiting for her to shoot herself in the foot, Lisa thought it would be best not to visit Rebecca until both after she had finished this cycle of the cards and when she was independent of Aunt Helen’s machinations.
Lisa looked at the deck to see the next card of the cycle, the Lovers card. The decorated deck looked peaceful enough. There was a tree with bright yellow foliage with floating eyeballs in it. There were two green figures with elongated snouts and multiple eyes holding appendages at the base of the free. There was yellow plants all around the tree as if that was this world’s green. And the background was filled with softly descending flutters of pink that reminded Lisa of cherry blossoms.
An all around nice card to look at, as long as you overlook the prism captured eyeball in the tree’s branches and all the other eyeballs turned to stare at the prison.
“Union, love, and relationships” were the deck’s keywords for this card. The list of meanings gave “Union without loss of self” as the catchphrase. Lisa had many memories of her parents doting on each other, taking comfort with each other, and being embarrassingly cute in public with each other. Memories that the family had told her were false memories and the result of trauma at her mother’s alleged abandonment and her father’s documented death. For years, Lisa had succeeded in burying those memories at the command of those adults who said that her parents’ marriage was never proper nor committed.
There was no holding them back now.
Her mother’s laughter when her father tickled Lisa until she was squealing and declaring that he had found his preciosa rata again. The way his face relaxed when they were watching TV together and she was running her hands in his hair. When little Lisa had broken a vase and he said that mistakes happen but then took the pieces and made art with them with her. The way her mother took the art and kissed her on the forehead and said it was the best art ever and she loved it.
When their mother would give Jeannie the task of cataloging new books to keep her out of trouble. When their father would make the chore of washing the dog into the chore of mopping the kitchen floor. When there was laughter. When there was space for mistakes. When they spent time in each other’s presence without speaking. When they were both present and within arm’s reach and tucking her in for bed and being there when the nightmares scared her and…
“Mama didn’t run away. She didn’t. Not from that. Not from Dad. Not from me and Jean. Not from us. And that’s why Dad wouldn’t sign the papers to divorce her without her present to explain and…”
Lisa stopped in mid sob. “The papers. The divorce papers!” Lisa’s sorrow became anger. “That bitch… has been trying to get us disowned since forever. And it’s always the same routine. She tries to get Dad or us to sign something giving shit to her, and…”
Lisa’s anger chilled as she sorted out the timelines of her life. “And it’s like she’s racing a deadline, and then suddenly instead of trying to kick us out, she’s keeping us tight… like a damn yo-yo or some bullshit… cycle.”
She stared at her tarot decks. “She has a reader on retainer. Is he going through the tarot cycle too? If so, then there would be certain times when he has more… something… than other times, and he would use that something to her advantage.”
She took the handwritten deck and spread it out. “But Rebecca has me going through the deck in reverse. I’m out of sync with Aunt Helen and whatever bullshit she’s trying. The job guy. He’s out of her flow now that he’s decided to give me another chance. And so is Jean. It is going to be obvious that she’s in a different flow than pure obedience to Aunt Helen.”
She rested her hands on the cards. “Rebecca knew all this. She knows a helluva lot more than she’s willing to tell me, or she’s able to tell me. Why did she take a chance on me by giving me the cards? Because she saw something I didn’t. She saw a chance to give me what I need to help myself. And she did it with a hope and understanding that I would be capable of taking that chance.”
“I think. I dunno. I’m guessing at her motives. But she doesn’t seem like the type to take advantage of people. But she did know that the tarot spirits would come to me. And I’m doing a lot of talking to myself.”
“Okay. I’m going to need some help with this. It’s one thing to be going up against Aunt Helen, but if she has a card reader like Rebecca on her side, then I need to catch up and quick.”
Lisa looked at the catchphrase for the Lovers card again. She gathered the cards together and held them with both hands. She closed her eyes to distract herself from how silly she looked. “Tarot, capital T, how do I make you a part of my life the way you are a part of Rebecca’s life? How do I achieve union with you without becoming one of your cards to be used by others?”
She sat still for several minutes, straining to hear a whisper, a movement, a blockage of sound, any triggering of any of her senses. It was only as she felt the deck slipping out of her hands that she opened her eyes again and placed the deck back on the table. The sweat on her hand had smudged the ink on the Lovers card, ruining Rebecca’s scrawled handwriting and staining her palm.
“Goddammit.” She sighed and almost put her face in her hand until she caught herself about to gesture with the ink-stained hand. “Aww…. fuck. I don’t know what to do. I need one of you judges, any judge, even the bitch that wears my face now that I know how to counter them! I need to talk this shit out! I don’t have the…”
Lisa stared at the cards. “The intuition.” She thought of how she had been experiencing the tarot cards even though she did not have the physical decks with her. “What I don’t have is the experience to recognize the intuition.”
“I don’t need a tarot class. I need a meditation class! Something to help me learn how to listen to myself without talking out loud like I have scrambled eggs for breakfast or some shit.”
Lisa went to the kitchen to both scrub the ink off of her palm and to get something to drink. Facing the reality that she will be completely unemployed by the end of the week, she took the time to think through her position. She mentally calculated how much cash she had left of Jean’s gift and realized she had a lot more than she originally thought now that she was being careful how to spend it. She had groceries for the month. Next month’s rent was already paid so she only had to worry about utilities.
She could not depend on the courier job coming back to her. It would annoy Aunt Helen too much and if the job giver really was indebted to her aunt, then she most likely had another way to control him now that this particular debt was paid.
As she dried both her hands and her glass, her memories returned to her parents’ behavior shortly before her mother’s disappearance. The tight looks. The short words. The arguments that always started anytime her mother had gone to visit her much older sister. The reconciliation to those arguments that ended with her parents holding each other and promising that they will “find a way, someday”.
Lisa was tired from the day, but the sun had barely set. The idea of the Moon card and the judge wearing her face trying to start any bullshit drove her back to full wakefulness. Lisa moved the cards to the side and opened her laptop. If she was going to be awake for a while, then this would be a good time to trawl for more information about tarot cards, how to use tarot cards, and what can be done with them beyond divination.
She pulled the Hermit card out of the decorated deck and placed it beside her laptop. She set a timer of two hours on her phone, started the timer, and placed the phone on top of the card. “You have two hours of my complete and undivided attention, Hermit. After which, I’m going to bed. Let’s see how much you can educate me in that time frame and how much of that understanding will stick with me after.”
Jean had said that one of Rebecca’s hobbies was of the occult. Following that hint, Lisa’s studies quickly turned from cartomancy to the use of tarot cards as symbols of archetypes and gateways of spirits. Lisa may not be able to do full ceremonial magic like it’s shown in the movies, but if the spirit of Death can lead her to the best burger she ever had in her life, then it’s time to find out what else has been made available to her.
A movement caught her eye. She looked to what should have been an empty space. The girl child figure of Death was seated on a chair that did not exist. She was holding her giant teddy bear tightly and was peeking around the bear at Lisa. “Shh! You don’t see me! You’re supposed to be studying!”
Lisa barely stifled a laugh. “Well, then, why am I seeing you?”
The girl child pointed to a light floating over the cellphone. “The Hermit’s lamp is lit. You can see all sorts of things by his light.”
“Okay. If I get too cold again…”
“Oh, you won’t. The Sun really likes you and you don’t need to be in my world, yet.”
Lisa heard the girl child’s last word and noted that if this had happened twenty-four hours ago, Lisa would still be panicking. “I guess this is how I find union with you guys. You enter my world, and I enter yours. Okay. I’m going to study now. It wouldn’t be fair if you made funny faces to distract me!”
So of course, the girl child made many funny faces immediately. Their laughter warmed Lisa from within as she felt a source of warmth settle behind her. The time for frivolity passed quickly, and Lisa resumed the study of the beginning of her new life.
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