I am tending my orchids, these delicate beauties that produce a glorious but short-lived bloom once a year if I meet all their demands. I glance out the window at the Heliotrope that has withstood heat, drought, caterpillars, and brutal pruning but still keeps producing masses of purple, vanilla-scented blooms all summer.
There is a French song running through my head--an old Aznavour ballad of regret about carelessly playing out one's youth as if it were a magic wand only to realize too late that youth has vanished. The song will not leave me and I sense it is a foreshadowing. I check my watch. It is time to go to my office to meet the first client of the day.
* * *
I hear them talking in whispers punctuated by giggles as they sit in the reception area. They are two stylish young women, friends who have come to test my skills.
I smile. She smiles back. It is a careful grimace and I catch a glimpse of her soul. She is an orchid, a fussy spoiled orchid, and she expects my reading to amuse her.
She follows me in and seats herself at my table. "How long have you been giving readings?" She glances around at the candles, the cards, the crystal ball.
I shrug. "It seems like forever." I explain my usual procedure in preparation for the reading. She takes the cards in her hands and we bow our heads in a short prayer. When I open my eyes she has that cat-that-swallowed-the-canary smile on her lips/.
"Shuffle the cards," I say. "What would you like to know?"
She stops shuffling and cocks her head to one side. "My love life."
I take the deck and lay out the cards. I stare at the cards for some time, trying to see what she is concealing from me. The words fall out of my mouth. "How will the man you are with feel about your new attraction?"
Her mouth drops open. "Should I leave him?"
"If you feel you must. If you love him, then give it careful thought. Look into your soul and know yourself."
She does not like this response. I close my eyes and see a haggard old woman who has sipped the bitter dregs of life. She is alone. Her body is bloated with illness and anger. I open my eyes and wish I could hold this mirror up to her eyes. "Your youth and beauty are gifts. Use them wisely before they are gone. You will not find happiness with another until you solve the riddle of yourself."
Her mouth thins and her eyes are a cold blue.
"I see a tall man with dark hair and he is wearing a red and black plaid shirt. It's not a very flattering shirt. You kiss him on the cheek but no matter how much you both try, you can not talk to one another. Your words shimmer and waffle in the air like bubbles and then burst."
She rolls her eyes. "He has a shirt like that. He has terrible taste when it comes to clothes."
"You must learn to communicate from the heart and in order to do that you must know what is in your heart. You must grow a soul through meditation and prayer."
She bites her lip. "But what about the man I'm interested in?"
"He needs to grow a soul too, but that is not something you will be able to successfully do together."
"But I'm sure he loves me."
I shake my head. "The gift of youth and beauty is not a magic wand."