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Authors: Annetta Ribken,Baylee,Eden

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BOOK: Allegories of the Tarot
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She finished off that butternut on a stick in two bites
and said, “Hey, you just need somethin’ to take your mind off your troubles.
What about the Tilt O’ Whirl?” and followed up with a belch worthy of one of
them no-good delinquents who hung out at the pool hall and were currently
whooping it up at the beer tent.

“You sounded just like Beau Miller with that belch. And
your snack there is likely to make a reappearance if’n we go on a ride right
now.”

She nodded and looked a little green around the gills.
I knowed how she felt.
The stench of fried summer squash
mixing with cotton candy was making me feel a bit queasy my own self. “I think
you might be right. I know! How ‘bout we get our fortunes told?” She pointed to
a ratty tent set up yonder from the squash festivities with a hand-lettered
sign, which read, FORTUNES TOLD.

I sighed. “You know that ain’t for real. It’s your Aunt
Tilly in there and she’s knowed us since we was babies.”

“Nuh-uh.
Aunt Tilly’s back in
Stillwater.”

I looked at Becky Jo, whose eyes were full of tears.
“The crazy house?
Oh, sweet pea, why din’t
you tell me?”

She just shook her head. “You got enough goin’ on with
your own, Sally Mae. I don’t know who’s in there, but it ain’t Aunt Tilly. You
never know. Maybe you can find out something ‘bout your daddy.”

I grabbed Becky Jo’s hand and squeezed. I knowed Becky
Jo was scared stiff of ending up like her Aunt Tilly. The Sight was strong with
the McFees, bein’ related to the air elemental and all, but the bloodlines were
so muddled in some families those with a gift sometimes din’t run true,
especially if somebody along the line hooked up with the wrong elemental. Then
you had people like Aunt Tilly.
Or Beau Miller with his hard
head protecting nothing inside.
My family, the Riddleys, could trace
back the fire line direct quite a ways. The McFees warn’t so lucky.

I felt a little glimmer of hope. Maybe Becky Jo was
right and I could find out something about where my daddy was and why he took
off. “If’n it makes you
feel
better, we’ll go in,” I
said. “But you come with me, okay?”

She smiled. “I wouldn’t let you go alone.”

The best friend ever.

***

Inside the tent,
the stank
of
fried squash faded in favor of some fancy incense stuff. Smelled pretty good,
actually, especially compared to outside. I kept a hold of Becky Jo’s hand and
peered into the dimness. It looked a lot bigger on the inside.
Made me feel right dizzy.
A beaded curtain dangled in the
doorway to what seemed like another room, and while the candles on a low table
glowed, the darkness beyond the doorway was
pitch
black.

I couldn’t tell if it were Becky Jo’s hand sweating or
mine. “Maybe this warn’t such a good idea,” I muttered, trying to swallow past
the lump in my throat.

Becky Jo backed up a step and I was right willing to go
with her when a woman emerged through the darkness, pushing aside the beaded
curtain.

She warn’t nothin’ like I’d ever seen
before.
What I expected…well, I din’t really know what to expect. She
was lovely, with long dark hair shot with gray, a curvy figure, and pouty red
lips. All decked out in colorful fringed scarves, showing a flat belly and
tinkling bangles all up and down her arms like she was some kind of
fancy-schmancy belly dancer or something. Big hoop earrings I knew Mabelline
would kill for.

But it
were
her eyes what
caught me. Big, black as night, fringed with the thickest eyelashes I ever did
see.
Sue Ann would slit her throat for
those eyelashes.

“Hello, girls,” she purred. “What can I do for you?”

I exchanged a quick glance with Becky Jo. Sure warn’t
Aunt Tilly…but I din’t recognize this woman a’tall. I figured it’d probably be
a townie, but she din’t look like anyone I knowed, and I thought I knowed
everyone in this damned town.

I cleared my throat. “Well, ma’am, I’d like to get my
fortune told.
Like it says on the sign.”

The woman nodded and gestured toward a pile of pillows
settin’ next to the low table.
“Of course.
Have a
seat, ladies.” From the twist of her lips I gathered the last thing she thought
we
was
were “ladies”, but at this point I din’t care.
I felt a burning need to sit and hear what this here fortune teller had to say.

She settled on one side of the table and me and Becky Jo
flopped to a seat on the pillows. The woman’s eyes never left my face, which I
found a bit disconcerting.
Like she was studying a bug on a
pin.
She reached out toward a covered object and moved it away. “Not the
crystal ball,” she said.
Squinting
her eyes, she
pulled out a deck of old, worn cards and placed it in the center of the table. “No,
for you it will be the cards.”

I shivered. Becky Jo sat all quiet-like, her hands
clasped in her lap. I wondered what she was picking up from all this.

“But first,” the woman continued, “there must be
payment.”

Oh, hellfire. I
hope Becky Jo din’t spend her last dime on that butternut.
“How much, ma’am?”

“Give me what you have in your pockets.
Both of you.
Because I can see you’re closely tied together.”

I warn’t too impressed by that, considering we’d come in
hand-in-hand.
She’s probably nothing but
a big faker.

She tsked. “I assure you, I’m the real deal.”

I pert near swallowed my tongue.

I turned to Becky Jo who looked white as a sheet. She
pulled out a dollar from her pocket without even looking at me. With trembling
fingers, I took it then dug for what I had in my own pocket.
Sixty-two cents.
Pitiful.

I handed it over and the woman snorted. “For this, you
get one card.”

I nodded. “I’m right grateful, ma’am.” And I was.
Mostly.

The money disappeared and her long, delicate fingers
wrapped around the cards. “I will shuffle, and you will cut. Then we’ll see
what fortune has to tell you. Think hard about your question.”

After her little demonstration about the faking thing, I
felt a bit nervous, to be honest. Becky Jo pulled on my pants leg and when I
looked at her, she shook her head ever so slightly.
But in
for a penny, in for a dollar and this weirdo already had my money.
Besides, it’s only a card.

I watched as Miss Fancy Pants Fortune Teller shuffled
the cards so fast all I saw was a blur. I thought about my daddy and where he
might be. That was my question. After what seemed like hours, she plunked them
in the middle of the table.

“Cut.”

The word seemed to hold so much weight it kind of hung
in the air. Becky Jo’s hand twisted on my pants leg, and I almost smacked her
one because it pinched. I reached out and separated the cards into two piles.

The woman’s gaze was as keen as a hunting knife. “Are
you sure?”

“Yup.”

She flipped over one card. Her face blanched.

I peered at the card but all I seen was a strange
looking figure riding in what seemed to be a donkey cart.

“What in tarnation is that?”

“You need to leave.
Now.”
I
coulda sworn I heard a clap of thunder and Becky Jo ‘bout jumped out of her
skin. The woman gathered up the cards and got to her feet. Her face
din’t look
so pretty anymore. As a matter of fact, she
seemed right pissed off.

“Go on.
Git.”

I scrambled to my own feet, feeling a bit of righteous
anger. “Hey, I paid you good money to answer my question.” Becky Jo hung on to
my arm for dear life, her fingers digging into my arm. Girl was about to get a
slap.

“You don’t want to mess with me, Sally Mae Riddley,” the
woman said, her face twisting. “You want to remember that. Now get out of my
tent.”

I opened my mouth to give this cheating bitch a piece of
my mind, when Becky Jo practically dragged me outside, panting like a huntin’
dog. She pulled me along until we
was
next to the beer
tent, me sputtering the whole way. I was so plumb mad I wanted to kick
something
hard,
and even seein’ Beau Miller puking up
his guts full of beer and summer squash just outside the tent din’t make me
feel better.

Well, maybe a little better.

“You just shush now, Sally Mae,” Becky Jo huffed. “You
was about to get yourself in a mess of trouble.”

“Girl, you want to just let go of me right now,” I
huffed back. “That faker took our money and I got nothin’ out of it but a pure
case of I’m Gonna Kick Your Ass. That’s stealin’ where I come from.”

I turned to stomp my way back to the ratty old tent and
then stopped, my breath catching in my throat.

The tent was gone.

***

Back in my room with Mama snoring like a truck driver
and Sue Ann out cattin’ around, Becky Jo and I curled up on my bed. I was still
fuming.

“That cheatin’ bitch.
If I ever
see her again, I’ma
kick
her ass good and proper.”

Becky Jo just shook her head. “I don’t think you want to
do that, Sally Mae.”

I peered at her face and said, “What are you talkin’
about? She stole our money.
For nothin’.
Say, you look
a mite peaked, Becky Jo.
Like you almost got hit by a bus.”

She pinched my arm. I didn’t punch her in the face
because what she said next stopped me in my tracks.

“Girl, for real?
The tent disappeared.
She knowed your
name! What more would it take to get through your thick skull?” She sighed. “There
is somethin’
right
 
strange
‘bout that woman, and I don’t
think you want to know any more than that.”

“Well, when you put it that way…” I tried to let go of
some of my anger, a difficult thing for a Fire Child, and tried to think things
over. I flopped down and stared at the ceiling. “She was strange. First thing
is she knowed I thought she was a faker. I don’t know how she guessed my name,
but I woulda told her if she asked.
Polite-like.”

Becky Jo snorted.


She
din’t get real scary ‘til
she flipped over my card.” I looked at my best friend. “Did you see it? Do you
know what it was?”

Becky Jo nodded like
she
din’t
really want to.
“Yeah.
I knowed it.
It
were
the Chariot.”

I thought about this. “What, like I’m goin’ somewhere?”

She shook her head. “No, Sally Mae. From what I know,
the Chariot means you’re in for a tussle.”

I sat up.
“A tussle?”

“Yup.
A
tussle.”
She played with the edge of my tattered blanket. “You’ll have a
heap to get over, but in the end you’ll be on the winning side on account you’re
ornery and stubborn.”

I groaned and let the ornery and stubborn thing pass for
the moment. “Like I don’t have enough on my plate as it is. Huh. Life is nothin’
but having a heap to get over, but why did she get so pissed off ‘bout it? And
what does it have to do with my daddy?
Because that was my
question.”

“I don’t know. All I know is she was one scary woman.”

“Not as scary as eating fried butternut on a stick.”

Becky Jo giggled.
“Hey, at least I din’t
spew like Beau.”

We busted up, and I plumb forgot about the Chariot.

But the Chariot never did forget about me.

***

A professional editor of over eighty novels, Annetta
Ribken has also been writing since a tender young age, when letters were
chiseled on stone tablets. A precocious student, Annetta earned her Ph.D in the
School of Hard Knocks, with honors, in the early Age of Disco. She lives and
works just outside of St. Louis with her evil feline overlord, a rescued
shelter cat named Athena.

Annetta has big plans to release the sequels to
Athena's Promise (Book One of the Aegean
Trilogy)
and
The Trailer Park Tiara
and the Goat Incident (a Sally Mae Riddley Adventure)
in 2014. She is not
too proud to bribe her muse with chocolate.

You can find out all about her at
about.me/annettaribken
including a
link to her fiction on Amazon and all other fine online book stores.

***

STRENGTH

A Promise in the Dark

By Rochelle Maya Callen

I couldn’t remember when I first dreamed of the boy. We
sat on the cliffs above Zorilah in silence, the wind whipping at us,
threatening to tear us apart. His black hair tickled my cheek as he leaned in
close whispering in my ear. At first, I couldn’t hear his words, but his breath
was a warm caress against my cheek so I never leaned away.

One night, his voice was as clear and real as the cold
nipping at my toes through my torn boots. He spoke of death, of ashes, of
blood, but his words never frightened me. They were a comfort, a promise in the
dark so I always snuggled down onto the wet concrete and stayed in dreams—
dreams
where Zorilah was free, beautiful, and ours.

I haven’t dreamed in a very long time.

I pulled my thin shirt over my nose, trying to block
out the smell of rot and human waste. I sighed loudly, but the whimpering down
the tunnel overpowered my exasperated sound. I closed my eyes and tried to
remember the angle of the boy’s jaw, the pale smoothness of his features, the
warmth he offered me every night. The memory slipped away from me and I clung
tightly, because it was all I had left. I couldn’t remember...anything. I
choked down a sob building in my chest. No more quiet comfort or dark promises.
Just cold, wet tunnels, hungry faces.
Just danger lurking in the shadows and gruff voices of the King’s
Hoarders roaming at night.
My palms tingled. So many desperate, weak souls
quivered in the tunnels. They needed strength.
My strength.
But I just rolled over and faced the mouth of the tunnel and the blackness
outside feeling like I had nothing left to give.

BOOK: Allegories of the Tarot
6.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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