Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: Always a Bridesmaid, Part VI

Once again, the deadline monster has been stalking me. The darn thing's getting sneaky! Hence the delay in posting this week's installment of "Always a Bridesmaid." For parts one through five, check out the More Fiction section of my web site.

VI. To Sleep...

Tiffany shuffled the deck of cards, their edges soft and worn from decades of use. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. If she concentrated hard enough, the feel of them and the faint smell of lavender incense brought back wisps of memory. A shop with red beaded curtains, their clinking threaded with an old woman's belly laugh. The way the sound from outside would fade as soon as she stepped through and closed the worn wooden door. But try as she may, she couldn't remember the face of her mentor, or even her name.

"There will come a time," she remembered the husky voice, slightly accented, saying. "You will remember everything, but there are things beyond even my knowledge moving closer, and they will try to snare you in a trap. It is for both our protection that you will not remember clearly. Now sleep."

She had woken in her apartment, then, with nothing but this deck of Tarot cards in her hand, and the F.B.I. knocking at her door.

Tears tried to come to her eyes, and Tiffany shook her head. That was a different life, a different time, and although the familiar ache stretched from her diaphragm to her throat, she couldn't go back there, not yet. It had been more than the cards this time. It had been Lydia's words, "My cousin from Seattle is bringing wedding cookies."

"Seattle," she whispered.

"Never liked it much," a soft voice said, and Tiffany opened her eyes with a jerk. She hadn't heard anyone come into the shop, much less the kitchen, where she sat at the work table and shuffled the cards. Amber, Lydia's friend, stood on the other side of the table and watched Tiffany with one eyebrow raised.

"How did you get in?" asked Tiffany. She struggled to speak around the anxious lump in her throat. The door was locked! She'd placed magical wards around the room!

"The door was open." Amber looked around. "It feels safe in here. Not like with Lydia. And Trent doesn’t help."

"Idiot!" Tiffany heard the brownie's hissed insult and hoped Amber didn't. She guessed who had unlocked the door and engineered the disturbance.

"Sit down," she told Amber. "Do you know what these are?"

The girl looked at the cards. Her emerald green eyes sparkled as she flipped through the deck. "I haven't seen anything like this since I was a kid. My grandmother…" She wiped a tear off her cheek with the back of her wrist.

"She had Tarot cards?" asked Tiffany. She remembered her first impression of Amber, that she had the Blood, at least a few drops.

"She had many strange things." Amber pushed the deck back to Tiffany, who flipped the top card over and looked. The Moon: obfuscator of clarity and bringer of repressed memory.

"Why are you here?" Tiffany asked. "I've got work to do."

"Lydia said that she and Trent came to see you." Amber bit her lip.

"They did." Tiffany shuffled the cards again.

"She said that Trent told you to bug off."

"Pretty much."

The girl reached across the table and put her hand over Tiffany's. "Please don't. I… I don't care what it takes. Lydia needs to be happy, and I don't think that Trent is going to do it for her, even if he does survive their wedding night."

Tiffany nodded. "I feel the same way. Do you know who or what it is that matched them up?"

Amber shook her head. "It's something that she dreamed. I don't know who it could be, though."

"Me, neither, but I aim to find out." Tiffany shuffled again. "It's late, and I should be getting to work."

"Let me help?" asked Amber. "I don't have any formal training, but I feel like I should be here, assisting you."

Tiffany bit back the reply she wanted to make, which was, "Bugger off, newbie." If Amber felt drawn to be here, and she knew Lydia well, it could only help her. "Grab those candles on the counter," she said, "and follow me. We're going to cast a circle, and then you're going to watch over me in my trance while I do some spying."

"That's all I get to do? Watch?" Amber stuck her lower lip out in a pout.

"For now. But whatever you do, don't say my name." She grabbed a box of incense sticks from the drawer and led the way into the main room, where she had unfolded a circular rug on the middle of the floor. She placed candles at the cardinal points and lit them in a clockwise pattern, then sat in the middle. She placed the incense in a holder and lit it as well.

"Here we go," she said. "If something seems off, even though everything looks okay, blow out the candle between us."

Amber sat just outside the circle and watched her. "Like what?"

Tiffany smiled and echoed the words of her mentor, "You'll know. Trust the gift your grandmother gave you. Now focus on Lydia." She pulled a card from the deck – The Lovers. Perfect. With a few deep breaths, she focused on getting her brainwaves to move into alpha waves and into her trance.


Toby stretched out on the narrow bed and tried to block the events of the evening from his mind.

"I didn't talk with a fish," he told himself, and saying the silly words out loud made him feel better. He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, the rise and fall of his belly as he inhaled deeply and then let it go.

"Let it go," he thought. He would focus on the rest of his journey to his cousin Lydia's wedding in Georgia. Before he could plan his next move, exhaustion overtook him, and he surrendered to the darkness.

The first thing he became aware of in his dream was the smell of lavender…


Marisa Birns said...

Ooh... really good part 6!

Lots of lovely detail and intrigue.

And Toby sleeps a lavender-scented dream...

Sulci Collective said...

Fantastic creation of an unsettling atmosphere, racking up the tension.

"Don't say my name"... delicious

Good stuff

marc nash

Cathy Olliffe said...

The smell of lavender.. so evocative.. it lingers, like your story.

Eric J. Krause said...

Another very cool installment. Looking forward to the next.

Donna Carrick said...

Ah, it's always good to leave me with a scent of lavender. It's guaranteed to keep me coming back! Well done, Cecilia.