Chapter 3: Ace of Wands

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New life. Power of inspiration, a turning point. Starting over, forces set in motion. Putting ambition into action. Energy directed toward worthwhile projects. This could be the start of something big.

Driving through the Black Forest, sipping glasses of well-chilled Liebfraumilch and snacking through a prepared lunch, their coming across the garishly painted wagon of a Gypsy fortune-teller had seemed outrageously appropriate. The opportunity to have their futures predicted by a real Gypsy was framed by Frannie's rich girl perspective once they stopped - "How much is forty euros really?"

Beyond Mass at St. Benedicts and a handful of giggly Ouija board sessions, none of the girls really had spiritual experiences, but the well-preserved Madame Brittalia impressed Marlena deeply.

After Antoinette and Frannie picked and commented non-stop during each other's readings, Madame insisted everyone leave when Marlena's turn came, refusing to do anything more if they remained. After convincing her friends that, "Deeding over any fortunes I might be entitled to isn't in my cards" so they would leave, Marlena saw an immediate difference in the fortune teller's demeanor.

"You are a Believer," Madame Brittalia stated, motioning Marlena to the chair opposite her, then moving with economy in a small space that served as kitchen to pour two cups of inspirationally odiferous tea.

Although Marlena silently questioned 'believer' as accurate, she shuffled the deck two, three, four times through, glimpses of color and figures flitting past, the edges sliding easily against each other, the motion simple, reassuring, relaxing. Seven, eight, nine, ten times she shuffled, the smell of tea and close warmth of the room wrapping around and delivering her to that crouched, intense state of attention achieved an instant before a starting tone transformed her into churning motion during swim meets.

"We will not be disturbed," Madame assured her, exchanging a cup for the deck in Marlena's hand, cutting it into three parts and reassembling it without extra motion. She placed a work-hardened hand on Marlena's smooth and flawless one, the surge of psychic energy surprising even beyond her expectations, felt another's reassuring strength in this young woman, a feeling of largeness - 'Father.'

"I request something personal from you, Marlena, an item you feel strongly about, and we will begin. Also," she added with unblinking wisdom, "while you will no doubt question certain things you learn of today, listening with your heart will provide those deeper, more important messages you desire."

Marlena nodded in acceptance and started to twist off her black onyx with recessed gold wreath school ring, stopping as Madame waved aside her effort and pointed to an unopened fanny pack.

"The scarf of your father would be much stronger, my dear."

Awestruck, Marlena pulled out the coarse crimson bandana Edward Christie had earned running with the bulls in Pamplona just months before his and Mother's death, surrendering it silently. From that first unexplainable insight, the wagon's close spirituality began her new connection with the Universe.

She watched intently as the Gypsy laid out ten cards in a pattern very different from the row of five provided for her companions. Excited about the positive nature of a Chariot central card, she scanned and memorized the precise arrangement of colors, characters, and positions in the remaining figures.

Laid crosswise over the first card was a King of Pentacles, and flanking the initial Chariot driver's dynamic figure was a similar star in circle symbol Two of Pentacles and Page of Swords, above and below were the Nine of Wands and Four of Pentacles. To the right was a pillar of four cards, an Ace of Wands closest to Madame, then Two of Wands, Knight of Swords and Nine of Cups closest to her, the Two of Wands turned opposite the others. Several were reversed in relation to the Chariot, which she logically expected would have alternative meaning.

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