Here’s a short except from the girls’ night solstice party in Summer of Fortune, just for members of my Readers Group!
[Maddie] had promised herself that while she was here she would try new things, so she would go tonight and she would have fun. After all, it was just dinner at Frankie’s.
She’d seen party recipes in women’s magazines so she knew Family Reunion Chicken Wings was the perfect thing to bring. Once the wings were roasting in the oven, she went into the bedroom and looked for something to wear, probably something a bit nicer than the jeans and sneakers she’d been wearing every day this summer.
Half an hour later, after trying on everything she owned, she finally settled on a gauzy black top, white capris and silver sandals. She felt positively glamorous.
Too glamorous to visit a friend?
Her knees went soft and she sank onto the edge of the bed. How could she possibly know? They would see through her right away and know that she didn’t belong. She might as well have “loser” tattooed on her forehead.
She took a deep breath. One. Blow. Two…blow. Just dinner at Frankie’s.
Someone tapped on the door. Maddie jumped to her feet, then laughed at herself when Louise called through the screen door, “You ready?” Help had arrived. Louise would know if this outfit was appropriate. Maddie stepped into the living room.
“You look great,” Louise said.
The hitch in Maddie’s shoulders relaxed and a smile spread across her face when she saw what Louise was wearing; a short, pleated striped skort—skirt and shorts combined—the likes of which Maddie hadn’t seen since her childhood, and a Grateful Dead tee. Obviously anything goes at Frankie’s party.
“I’m ready,” she said, and grabbed the casserole of wings.
When they walked into Frankie’s kitchen, Frankie sniffed the air. “That smells delicious. I love it when people bring food. I made veggies and dip.”
Frankie took the tray of wings and Louise’s brownies, and put a glass of sparkling water in Maddie’s hand.
Maddie sat back and listed to Frankie and Louise banter back and forth. She barely recognized herself, a woman with silver hoops in her ears and a cluster of bracelets on her wrist that tinkled like wind chimes when she moved. A woman taking charge of her life—because that was what they had decided the evening would honor, in the spirit of wise women’s solstice gatherings stretching back for thousands of years. Nothing too weird, they’d all agreed, just something to encourage their own awareness of their personal power. They would each ask for, or choose, a direction to follow for the next fertile quarter of the year.
And for Maddie it had to be fertile indeed. The next equinox fell before the opening of her show, the harvest, so to speak, of her summer’s bounty.
Frankie was playing high priestess tonight. Over her loose linen pants, she wore one of Stephanie’s robes, sapphire silk with a border of white Celtic symbols down the long front lapels. In honor of the evening, she had abandoned her customary single braid and wore her hair loose on her shoulders, adorned with a garland of lavender.
She spoke in a quiet voice as she shuffled the Tarot deck. “Traditionally, the summer solstice was a time of renewal. A time to release all sadness, pain and fear. A time to prepare to reap the abundance. A time to find a husband.”
“Bring it on,” Louise intoned.
Frankie closed her eyes, a smile on her lips, and continued to shuffle the deck. Maddie concentrated on Frankie’s hands, letting the soothing motion settle her nerves.
Placing the brightly patterned deck on the table in front of Maddie, Frankie said, “Think of a question, then cut the cards. Be careful though. The tarot knows the question in your heart.”
Maddie smiled and a shiver ran through her as she tried to look deep inside. There was really only one question on her mind. Will my show be a success?
Frankie took the deck from Maddie’s hands. “This is a basic, five-card spread. Simple, but very powerful.
“The central card represents the present.” Frankie flipped over the first card, a knight on a spirited horse, and placed it on the table. “The Knight of Wands.”
She squinted at Maddie. “Are you sure your question is about your work? The Knight of Wands can be an idea or an approach to life, but most often it’s about a man.”
“Like Jake,” Louise said.
Frankie continued. “The Knight of Wands is usually a confident generous person who makes a warm friend or lover. He’s fun loving but tends to be unpredictable.” She paused, considering the card. “Here he’s covered in armor from head to foot, trying hard to protect himself.”
“You can say that again,” Maddie murmured. Jake rarely let her see his fun-loving side. It was as if he was trying to protect himself. From her? But why?
“The second card represents past influences that still affect you.” Frankie turned over another card. “The Eight of Swords.”
She laid the card to the left of the knight. On it, eight swords were driven into the ground creating a loose fence around a blindfolded woman. “This woman could free herself from her prison if she dared. What binds her is not the swords but more likely her own fear of the past.
“The next card represents your immediate future. The Five of Cups.” A dismal figure in a black cloak looked down at three cups, their contents spilled on the ground.
Maddie’s eyes widened. “That looks bad.”
Frankie shook her head. “It’s not as bleak as it looks. The choice is yours. She still has two full cups, and then there’s the castle in the distance.”
“From whence my knight shall come?” Maddie asked with a faint smile.
Frankie shook her head. “I don’t think so. This reading seems to be all about your choices. More like, ‘to which you could go with the two full cups.’”
Maddie frowned. “I’m not sure what the castle represents or what’s in the cups.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll probably figure it out eventually. The fourth card is the impediment, that which prevents you from achieving your goal. For you,” she said as she turned the card, “it’s The Moon. That could also be about facing your fears. They keep surfacing, crawling out of the murky waters of your past like this crab on the card, crawling out of the water. You can push the fear back, but it will keep crawling back out.”
Maddie winced. She knew exactly what the crab represented.
Frankie placed a card on the table. “And the last card is the potential, the possible result. Here, the Ace of Wands.”
A chill went down Maddie’s spine. The picture on the card depicted a hand at the end of a strong disembodied arm holding a staff. It looked just like Jake’s hand when he’d handed her the four-foot long stick to beat off the bears that lurked in the forest.
That was when the idea of the cards as mere entertainment flew right out the window. The reading was about Jake all right. And those crabs crawling out of her past? She could definitely put a name to them too: Cindy.
“The staff, or club, is for you to use.” Frankie paused to consider the entire spread. “Taking it together with the other cards, I’d say it means you can use it to beat off the fears that keep you imprisoned in the past. If you so choose.”
“Heavy,” Louise said, startling them both into laughter.
“But optimistic,” Frankie added.
Maddie stared at the cards as if she could read their meaning in the pictures on each one. “So overall, it says I have a choice? The power to make changes in my life?”
Frankie nodded. “You always have the power.”
* * *
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