Chapter Twenty-Nine

At 12:00 noon Thursday, Kimberly stood at her front door grinning broadly as she watched the long white limousine pull up in front of her house. The chauffeur got out of the driver’s door and walked slowly down its length in the steady rain under a black umbrella and opened the back door for his passenger. A sexy looking slender leg shot out first, hesitated, then another followed as Amanda Zwoyer made an overly dramatic exit from the exotic car. Kimberly was now bending over and laughing uncontrollably as she watched her friend swagger up the walkway under a large red umbrella, exaggerating the swing in her hips so much with each stride that she thought she might lose her balance on the three inch spike heels of her red shoes. She was wearing a short black leather skirt under a bright red leather jacket, her shoulder length raven black hair tied in a tight bun at the back of her head. Amanda was a thirty-nine year old devoted wife and mother of three teenagers, but she didn’t look it in this outfit. She looked ready to party, to celebrate, which was just what the two of them had planned to do.

At 10:00 a.m., two hours earlier, Kimberly had called her best friend to tell her that she had finally written the words ‘The End.’ Her first novel was complete. Still a lot of work to do with second and third drafts, edits, consistency checks, but the story itself had a beginning, a middle, and an ending. The hard part was done.

Amanda, announcing that she would not take no for an answer, told Kimberly that a proper celebration was now in order.

"I’ll pick you up at noon," she told her on the phone. "Dress up nice. We’re going to do this right!"

Amanda was the illustrator Kimberly’s professor’s friend, the agent, had hired for her first series of books while she was still in college. Her name had since appeared in every one of Kimberly’s books, right below her own on the title page, being credited for the illustrations in each. When Kimberly finished her college work and had decided to pursue the writing career, she had chosen to move to the Minneapolis area so that collaboration with her new illustrator, Amanda, would be easier. The two had become very close friends over the years.

Kimberly had felt guilty at first, explaining that her next book wasn’t going to have any pictures. She felt almost as though she were betraying her friend. But Amanda had smiled and replied with, "Someone’s going to need to design your cover, no?"

Now Kimberly stood in her doorway, just out of the rain’s reach, the first draft of her manuscript in her hands, waiting for Amanda to arrive so that she could be the first one to read it and come up with a cover design before sending it to the editors and her agent.

"Is that it?" Amanda asked as she reached the steps.

"This is it," Kimberly replied.

"Well I am anxious to read it," she said, "but that will be for a more sober time. Right now we have a date with the town. You ready? You look nice."

"So do you," Kimberly said. "Better than nice. You look absolutely hot! And the limo is too much! You shouldn’t have…"

"You only write your first novel once," Amanda interrupted. "I’m proud of you. You should be proud of you. Nothing is too much for the next R. L. Stine."

"You haven’t even read it yet," Kimberly said blushing. "It might be totally trash."

"Don’t even think it," Amanda said, shaking a long finger with bright red nail polish at her. "I have a feeling it is going to open up a whole new world for you. You might have to get used to this," she said, looking back at the limo and the chauffeur standing in the rain waiting for them.

"You think he would like to drive my beetle for me?" Kimberly said laughing. "I’ll never be a limo girl."

"Well tonight you will be," Amanda said. "You’ve earned it and we are going to have us a time. Put your book away. You’ve kept to yourself long enough. Today you’re mine."

The afternoon’s celebration consisted of a lunch at a very plush restaurant in Minnetonka overlooking a lake while sipping a couple of margaritas, followed by a three hour visit to a spa in Edina where they had a mud bath and received an herbal massage and rub down while sipping champagne. Kimberly had never experienced anything like it before, didn’t think she ever would again, but loved every minute of it.

After the spa experience, James drove Kimberly and Amanda to the Mall of America where Amanda had made an appointment at Glamour Shots. "For the back cover of your new book," Amanda told her. All in all, more pampering and attention in one afternoon than Kimberly had previously received in her whole life.

By 8:00 p.m. they were in downtown Minneapolis sipping on scotch at an Irish pub. Kimberly was not much of a drinker and was very glad they had a chauffeur to drive them home. At 9:30 they walked down the block to a magic show at the Orpheum Theatre where Kimberly assumed it was more than mere coincidence that the magician walked out into the audience and selected her to be his assistant for two of the illusions. She was a better illustrator than actress, Kimberly decided when Amanda tried to act surprised by the magician’s random audience participant selection. But again, despite the embarrassment, Kimberly was having a ball.

"So," Amanda said as they walked out of the old theatre towards the waiting limousine, "can I plan a celebration or can I plan a celebration?"

"It was absolutely the best time I’ve ever had in my life," Kimberly confessed. "I just hope my book is worthy of what you spent tonight."

"Well, let me think here," Kimberly said, stopping and looking thoughtfully towards the dark sky, holding her chin with her right hand, her finger gently tapping the side of her mouth. "Fifty-six books times three thousand dollars per book for the illustrations…oh who cares. Math was never my strong suit. Let’s just say you have already paid me back over the last six years several times over. Besides," she added, taking Kimberly’s arm and walking again towards the limo, "I have no doubt that your book is going to be a big hit. And that many more will follow."

James saw Amanda wave to him and he climbed into the limo to drive over and pick them up at the corner.

"Oh look," Amanda said as they approached the corner. "It’s one of those fortune tellers with the cards. What do you call them?"

"Tarot cards," Kimberly said.

"You should go see what she says," Amanda suggested, nudging her towards the old woman who was dressed just like a stereotypical gypsy out of a ‘B’ movie. "Maybe she can tell you when a man is going to come into your life. It shouldn’t be long now that you are on the road to success."

"You don’t believe that stuff, do you?" Kimberly asked with a giggle. "It’s all a scam, you know. They just take your money and tell you what they think you want to hear."

"Oh come on," Amanda pushed. "It’s my ten bucks. And who knows. Maybe she’ll tell you something about that guy you were telling me about that you met. You know, the paperboy," she laughed. "Maybe he’s the one."

The gypsy woman was seated behind a card table with an oversized deck of cards stacked face down on the table. A handwritten sign hung from the side of the table offering one’s future told for $10.00. There was an empty seat across from her in front of the folding table. Amanda literally pulled Kimberly to the table and dropped a ten dollar bill on it. Kimberly gave in but felt silly as she sat down in the chair.

"My friend here is single and successful and would like to know when she’s going to find herself a love life," Amanda said, stepping to the side of the table.

"A pretty girl like you has no man?" the woman said smiling. "I tell you it won’t be long without the cards. But the cards tell you when and how many children you have. Sit. Sit," she said even though Kimberly was already sitting. "I tell you your future."

The old woman shuffled the deck and then placed them in front of Kimberly.

"You cut the cards," she instructed.

Kimberly picked up half the deck and placed it next to the other half that remained. The old woman finished the cut. She then pulled the top cards off and made two rows of cards, three cards in each row and then put a seventh card directly in the middle.

"The first card is the key card," she said as she reached for the center card. "This one will tell us if there is love in your future."

She turned over the key card and revealed a helmeted skeleton holding a sword. The word ‘Death’ was elaborately printed below the skeleton. The gypsy woman quickly gathered all the cards together and restacked them.

"That is not right," she said a little flustered. "I shuffle again."

"No, that’s okay," Kimberly said, holding back a snicker as she began to stand. "I don’t really need my future told."

"No, no. I just not shuffle enough," she said. "Lady pay for your future, cards will tell."

Kimberly knew she just didn’t want to give the ten dollars back. She watched as the old gypsy woman reshuffled the cards. She noticed that the death card had never left the top of the deck with each shuffle. Then the old woman pretended to accidentally miss-shuffle, dropping three cards off the top onto the ground. She stooped over softly cursing her old fingers and replaced the cards back on top of the deck on the table. Both Amanda and Kimberly exchanged amused glances with each other as they both noticed that the gypsy woman had left the Death card on her lap, only half hidden by her colorful apron, the sword and helmet still visible peaking out from the edge. A magician, she certainly was not.

"Okay," said the gypsy woman. "Now you cut again. And this time I let you turn over the first card. They read your touch instead of my old hands. It work more true that way."

She put the cards in front of her and Kimberly sat back down again. She pulled off the top half placing it beside the bottom half. The gypsy put the bottom half on top and then dealt out the seven cards with one hand while keeping the other hand over her lap trying to hide the oversized card laying there.

"Okay. Turn over center card, the key card in your future."

Kimberly turned over the card.

It was the same card. The Death card.

The gypsy woman stood up quickly, her eyes looking wild and in shock. She held a card in hand, the one that had been sitting in her lap, and looked at it. It was a picture of a mother holding a baby.

"This cannot be," she said shakily as she gathered in all the cards. "I am done. I close now. Here is your money back. I am sorry." She dropped the cards in her apron pocket, the ten dollar bill back onto the table, and hurried off without looking back, leaving her table and chairs and a very stunned Kimberly still seated there.

James pulled up at the curb at that moment. Kimberly slowly stood, still trying to decide if her own eyes had deceived her. It had happened so fast. She had seen the Death card in the old woman’s lap, and then it was on the table, a different card in her lap. And the gypsy woman had been shaken, too. That much was obvious.

Amanda saw the concern in Kimberly’s face. She too had seen the Death card sitting in the fortune teller’s lap, but that was just more proof that this stuff was all a big scam.

"She probably had more than one of those cards in the deck," she said. "Come on, hon. Where do you want to go next?"

"Home, I think," she answered.

"Hey. Don’t you worry about that card baloney now. You know it’s all just a scam."

"Oh I know," Kimberly said. "But I’m getting tired. It’s almost midnight and I get up early to run. I’ve missed the last couple days," she explained, "because of the rain. And after that lunch we had today, I shouldn’t be skipping any more any too soon here. I’ve had a really wonderful evening. Thank you so much, Amanda," she added smiling at her friend, trying to forget about what she had just seen. It wasn’t as though she believed in that stuff. Not something to worry about, she assured herself.

"Me, too," Amanda said. "We’ll have to do it again when you publish your next book."

"We’ll make it a ritual after each one. Only next time, I buy," she said. And then added, "But we’ll skip the fortune teller next time."

"Deal," Amanda said with a laugh as they slid into the back of the limo. Then to the driver as he began to close the door, "Home, James."

"Very good, ma’am," he replied soberly.

"I always wanted to say that," Amanda said to Kimberly when the door was shut. The two friends laughed, the fortune teller all but forgotten, as they chatted giddily and nonstop about the rest of the fun day they had shared during the ride home.

* * * * *

Chapter Thirty


Front Desk

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As Fate Would Have It

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven