What do we have here?
Madame Quinton fingered the cards beneath her hand as she watched the two women enter her booth. They were young, clearly of quality, and eager to absorb the sights surrounding them: colorful and exotic scarves, rugs, and lanterns turned the interior into a foreign oasis amidst a sea of ice and snow and humanity.
One of the ladies appeared apt to giggle, taking in the décor with the unfettered joy of a child with a bag of sweets. The other dark-haired woman appeared more reserved, skeptical.
Madame Quinton figuratively rubbed her hands together, then cleared her throat and deepened her voice. “I see a believer and a skeptic before me.”
The more boisterous of the two tugged on her friend’s arm, guiding her friend to the table, her eyes wide, then said, “My friend,” she nodded to the skeptic, “Miss Synclaire, would like a reading.”
Miss Synclaire didn’t scowl, but gazed unflinchingly at the madame, a challenge the madame was all too happy to accept. Madame Quinton dipped her head, pulled a quartz crystal from its salt bath, and proceeded to cleanse her deck. “Have a seat, Miss Synclaire.”
Miss Synclaire sat while her friend settled 2 pence upon the table, the posted fee inscribed on an elaborate sign at the entrance of the booth. “Thank you, Theo.”
Madame Quinton locked eyes with the lovely young woman before her, Miss Synclaire, while her hands shuffled the cards by rote. “You are not a believer, I take it?”
Miss Synclaire lifted her chin. “I believe in having control over my future.”
Madame Quinton smiled. “Aah, but the Tarot does not predict the future. These cards are but a tool. A way to focus your mind…to reveal the truth of what you already know.”
Miss Synclaire relaxed a touch, but only a touch. “I’ve read about people using the cards for prediction…”
“Aaah, some spreads do suggest what may happen should you remain on the path you trod, but we still make our own choices, yes? Our paths can change should we choose.”
Miss Synclaire nodded.
“Now, close your eyes and think of your question.”
Miss Synclaire hesitated, but closed her eyes. “Question?”
Madame waved her hand. “Every woman I know has some question or other on their mind. Questions of love, fortune, future… What is your most burning question? Ask yourself, fix it in your mind. When you have it, open your eyes.”
Miss Synclaire opened her eyes almost immediately, and Madame Quinton smiled once more. “Aah. A woman who knows what she wants. Excellent.”
The madame slid the deck towards Miss Synclaire. “Now, cut the deck, three times while thinking of your question. There is no wrong order. Listen to your womanly instinct.”
Miss Synclaire looked to the cards before her and began, her movements decisive. Confident.
This woman was not the usual debutante. Interesting.
When finished, Miss Synclaire slid the deck forward with a confident smile.
Madame Quinton dipped her head, taking another moment to observe the woman’s posture, her hands, her clothing. These things said as much as her cultured tone could ever reveal. The madame smiled. “I see a woman who is practical, confident, and of middling means. Not extravagantly wealthy, but resourceful. Your question would not be about love or fortune. No… You seek a question about…yourself.”
Miss Synclaire dipped her chin. “Impressive.”
Madame laid out three cards, face down, and as she did, said, “You. Your current path. Your potential.” Here, the madame paused, noting Miss Synclaire’s lingering look on the final card.”
Perhaps, there was the touch of the romantic in Miss Synclaire after all.
Madame flipped over the first card. “You.” Strength. “Hmmm…,” The friend nearly bounced in her slippers. “This card suggests you have great courage and conviction. Determination. You wouldn’t, perhaps, be somewhat outspoken for a lady of gentle breeding?”
The friend’s mouth dropped indicating that Madame Quinton’s assessment was astute.
Miss Synclaire squared her shoulders. “Any one of my acquaintances would certainly appreciate such a characterization. One might be easily convinced that you are telling me things I want to hear…”
Madame dipped her head. “Perhaps, but then the things we want to hear say very much about who we are, yes?”
Madame flipped the second card. “Your current path. The Emperor.” The friend, Theo, sucked in an audible gasp. “Reversed.” She’d obviously been to a reading once before. “Interesting…” The madame intentionally drug out each syllable of the word before continuing. “If you are not careful, your passionate convictions, though correct and strong and true, could lead to excessive control, domination.”
Miss Synclaire lifted her chin. Defiance all but oozing from her. “Remember, child, these paths are not set in stone. We make our own choices in life, yes? Domination can be a plus in our world.”
Miss Synclaire nodded. “I very much wish to be in control of my own future.”
Madame Quinton’s hand hovered over the last card. Miss Synclaire remained composed, while her friend nearly burst with anticipation.
Madame flipped the last card while saying. “Your potential.”
Miss Synclaire turned red, while her friend squealed with delight. “The lovers signal harmony, trust, optimism—”
Just then a tall, large figure dressed all in black, leaned inside. “Ladies, is everything all right?”
Miss Synclaire, for the first time, spun in her chair, emotion in her every movement, her hand clutched to her neck. The blush of her skin even more brilliant than before. And she said one and only one word, barely a whisper, but filled with so much meaning. “Chester—”
It seemed Miss Synclaire might be curious about love after all…
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