Three of Swords
Ace of Pentacles. Maria tapped dark painted nails on dark wood, staring at the card. The singular white hand extended out from a lush green field of lilies and rippling grass, holding up the five-pointed star.
She stared up at the shriveled little man in front of her. He had been antsy the entire time, throwing his cash at her with a violence she had only seen men direct at strippers. Twenty sweaty, shockingly slimy one-dollar bills had descended upon her, flapping like green moths. After she’d collected the money from her lap, she had spread out the deck across the table in a perfect arc. He’d been eager to pick up the nearest card, as all newbies are. Snatching at the first card was unwise; the cards had no time to work on you, to feel out what you were asking of them, and then what was the point of trying to read them at all? And yet, this was his fortune.
“It’s a sign of wealth. New business opportunities.”
The words were bitter in her mouth, and she tried to prevent her lips from twisting into a scowl. What cruel god had decided this little raisin deserved such a fruitful future when she was stuck reading tarot cards at the local incense shop?
He perked up, pushing his wire-frame glasses up a long nose. “How much money?”
Maria shrugged. “Probably a lot.”
Wrong. The Ace of Pentacles had a very specific stipulation; wealth could come your way, but it was a matter of what you did with it when the opportunity crawled into your hands. But how do you explain that to someone who will only hear what they want to?
The man left with a hesitant little goodbye. He left without so much as a backwards glance.
Maria went to reach for her phone, but there was another customer pushing past the strands of beads. They tinkled ever so gently, like tiny bells, and parted.
The girl walked in with the grace of a cat; if it hadn’t been for the curtains, Maria wouldn’t have heard her at all. Unlike the man before her, she shelled out her cash calmly, setting one crisp 20-dollar bill on the table.
Maria hardly got one customer a day, let alone two so close together. And this one… this one felt different. She could feel it as she reached out to gather the cards back to her chest. Maria shuffled the deck, feeling the weight of them in her hands. They were as heavy as fate.
“Have you had your cards read before?” Maria asked.
The girl shook her head, a slow toss of her dark hair. “First time.”
Maria bit her lip. “What’s your name?”
“Does it matter?” the girl smiled.
“No, I suppose not.” Maria sat back and sighed. “Do you have a question you’d like to ask?”
The girl gave a coy smile, as pointed as the wings of her eyeliner. “Ask them about love.”
“What about love?” Maria pressed. Already she could feel the shifting take place, a quiet contemplation, a sizing up of one another. The cards were curious, and so was Maria.
The girl inclined her head, gaze unwavering. “Just ask.”
What was carved into this girl’s skin just beneath the surface? What future was she carrying with her like an unspoken promise?
Maria fanned out the deck once again, more curious than she had ever been.
The girl ran a tanned hand over the cards, hovering an inch above the velvety-black backs of the deck. What was she thinking?
The girl’s hand stopped, frozen above a card at the end of the arc. She pulled it out between her forefinger and thumb, separating it from its peers with the precision of a surgeon.
“Why this one?”
The girl pushed a strand of hair behind her ears. “It felt warm.”
Three of Swords. A red heart that wept no blood, driven through by three silver blades, surrounded by ominous clouds.
The girl sighed, as if she had expected something unpleasant.
“Well that can’t be good,” she said.
“It could mean negativity towards the self.”
The girl smirked, amused.
Maria continued. “Did you recently go through a break up?”
The girl’s expression was both open and shuttered off, flickering with pain and hesitation, and in that split second, Maria knew she’d impale her heart on a spike for this girl.
She couldn’t help but laugh. After all this time, it was her the cards were reading.