“Come on, Miss Clara. Take three. Three cards and I can see your past, present and future.”
“Oh, ho ho, Calum! Didn’t your mama teach you not to trick old ladies like me?”
“Trick you, Miss Clara? Never. I just thought you might want to know about your future. You never know what might come up for you.”
The elderly woman laughed as his mother brushed out her wig nearby. Dressed in her best, Calum knew Clara was on her way to bingo tonight and wanted to look particularly nice for a gentleman she keeps bumping into there. The other hairdressers listened in on the handsome young boy who begged her to take three of his tarot cards. Calum did this often. He liked telling people the good things that will happen to them. The people in his neighborhood suffered a lot after Katrina, and even more by the toils of life. Calum felt good using his skills to bring smiles to people he cared about.
“What future? I’ve already lived my life, Cal,” Miss Clara smiled. “I’m just looking to buy time. Can your cards get me some of that?”
“Sadly no, Miss Clara, but my mama probably could.”
Calum heard the stern warning in his mother’s voice. The beautiful dark skinned woman looked over her shoulder at him as she ran a brush through the wig’s short black curls. Her brown hues looked over him. Marie Laveau stood slim and graceful at her age, with long black braids running down her back. Full lips painted red to match her nail polish, a lot of people asked how she maintained such youth even after being so old. Only Calum and the staff knew the truth. Marie Laveau was more than a humble beauty shop owner. Calum wasn’t just a college student with a liking for tarot cards either. Though, they kept that to themselves.
Calum knew the tone in her voice, and slowly retracted. “Sorry, Mama,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt to take three, Miss Clara.” He spread the cards out in his hands for her, their red and gold backs matching in decadent patterns. “Just for fun then?”
“You should do it, Clara,” another woman underneath a hair dryer said. “Calum predicted in those cards that I’d come into some money soon. And then the very next day, I received money Albert’s job owed him, you know, before he passed? $300, I got. They said it was a part of his pension they didn’t pay, or something. Anyways, it helped me pay off the rest of the funeral debts.”
“Calum’s predictions are never wrong, Miss Clara,” a hairdresser, Shantelle, next to her said. “Give it a go and see what the boy tells you.”
“Oh alright,” she said. “Just for fun, right?”
The woman took one from the middle, one from the left and another from the right. She then handed them back to Calum. He flipped them over on the vanity one by one. Examining the cards and pictures meant little, it was what he could see passed them. Calum pressed his hands over each card, exactly where Miss Clara’s fingers touched. He saw flashes of a small child singing along to a church choir, playing hopscotch with her friends, and having dinner at a small table in a cramped house. He then saw a young black woman nursing soldiers in a crowded hospital, blushing at their flirtations, and going to USO dances with other nurses. The same young woman was dancing on her wedding day with a smiling man in uniform, and then having a small girl clinging to her dress as they go through a school parking lot, growing older and the child changing four times in flashes (three girls and one boy). He touched the middle card: he saw Clara holding her first grandchild, crying over her husband’s casket at a funeral, and sitting on her porch, and drinking her green tea alone.
The third card peaked his interest. Touching it, he saw visions of an elderly gentleman in a red cardigan and burgundy cap. This man joined Clara and her tea on the porch until they both faded into nothingness. Calum opened his eyes. The card was The Lovers. Calum smiled broadly back at Clara.
“Looks like there’s a special someone for you in your future, Miss Clara,” Calum smiled at her. He took up his deck and began shuffling them absentmindedly in his hands.
She blushed and giggled, “Oh, don’t you go getting my hopes up now, Calum! I couldn’t take it if it didn’t come true.”
“Well why wouldn’t it?” he asked.
“Calum…” His mother returned with Miss Clara’s wig, “Put your cards away and go sweep the sun room. It’s gotten dusty.”
He saw the look in her eyes. The look that forbid, and warned him that he reached too far; the “Mom Look”, he called it. Calum muttered a ‘Yes, Mama’, stuffed his cards in his back pocket and bid Miss Clara a farewell and good luck.
The sun room led out into his mother’s garden. The place was in the sunlight almost all day, giving it a soft warm glow throughout the day. His mother left most of her gardening equipment here for the days she took care of her plants, but he also some a shelf of old books written in a strange language alongside jars of items he’d rather not guess at the bottom. Calum took up the nearby broom and began sweeping the dusty floors. He noticed faded chalk marks embedded in the wood, some fresh enough to make their shape still while others washed away days ago.
Calum’s mother told him his gifts started showing when he was only four-years-old, which wasn’t very odd for a voodoo child. She said whenever he threw a fit, lights flickered and the windows rattled. She sometimes heard voices coming out of his room on late nights; when she’d go to inspect, she’d find him completely alone and asleep. His mother asked him if he remembered any people being in his bedroom or being around him when he happened to be alone. He said he remembered a gentleman in a suit and tie who used to walk him from the bus stop every morning and afternoon. Carl Jefferson, Calum remembered. He’d said it wasn’t safe for little boys to walk by themselves, especially with all the trouble going around on the street. Something might happen to him.
Calum learned later in life Carl Jefferson died in an automobile accident in 1946. Since then, spirits tend to come to him when they want something. Usually contact. Calum is usually happy to oblige, yet there are times when he gets “bad ones”.
His foresight didn’t mature until he was ten, where he could control himself from seeing other people’s futures. Some were good, others were bad, and a few in the grey area. He could even direct what he wished to see: his future relationship with this person, what good things will happen to them or what bad things will happen to them. All Calum needed was a simple handshake or a gentle pat on the shoulder, and he saw whatever fortunes or misfortunes would come their way. The tarot cards honestly were for show, though his predictions normally matched up to their reading. He definitely loved palm reading, since it made a great flirting tool.
With his mother’s guidance, Calum also learned various voodoo rituals and spells. Since he was ten, he’d participated in every ritual his mother performed there in the back garden. Before then, he watched from his bedroom in complete admiration. He saw the women’s white dresses contrast with their dark skin; the men with their chest painted and shirtless. A roaring fire would sit in the middle, everyone dancing and chanting around it during the ritual. Usually an animal of some kind would be involved. Calum felt such a deep rooted connection during these times. His spirit lifted. He felt at one with the world around him, and he hoped that was good.
The sudden ringing of his phone cut through his train of thought. Calum stopped sweeping, and looked down at his phone. Him. Calum would never forget the number. A flood of memories came back to him: their first meeting in the salon,
their first date, their first kiss, all the laughter and smiles Ashton
gave him before the mysterious boy mysteriously disappeared. He felt his heart breaking all over again.
“What do you want?” he asked the moment he answered.
“Calum, is that any way to speak to an old friend?”
“Cut the shit, LaLaurie,” he knew Ashton hated his birth name, and he nearly hissed it to him, “What do you want? You know you’re not allowed to talk to me unless-”
“-Unless something pops up, I know. That’s the thing. Something has popped up and I need to get a hold of your mother.”
“You know where she is,” he said, “So why call me?”
“Oh, I just wanted to hear your pretty voice get all wound up at the sound of mine,” Ashton said. His tone lowered, and Calum felt a chill even through the phone. “You’ll be seeing me soon though. Count on it.”
Calum hung up without another word. He knew Ashton wouldn’t come during the day time, since Mama didn’t take “business” during salon hours. Calum regretted ever even talking to him that day in the salon. He fell for his golden mane of hair, his hazel-green eyes sparkling back at him and his charming laugh so easily. He hadn’t bothered to see through the pretense. Teenage Calum thought it was so romantic to have a relationship with an immortal. He thought they’d be together forever. Unfortunately, Ashton doesn’t do forevers.
Though, he would be a bit upset if he found Calum wasn’t home tonight. He sifted through his contact list until he found John’s name listed. The dark haired boy then wrote a quick message:
‘Any gigs lined up for tonight?”
He instantly received his answer: “Yeah, there’s a few parties happening if you want to take one up for me.’
‘Give me one then.’
‘Kay. Frat party at Tau Omega Alpha tonight. I’ll get you the details.’
Perfect. A frat party. Ashton hated frat parties, so he most likely wouldn’t turn up there. He always said he didn’t think being a DJ was a good choice for Calum, since he thought he could do so much more with the talents he currently possessed. Calum told him he needed to get out of the 19th century and step into the 21st for a change.
“Boy, what are you doing on that phone?” His mother came into the sun room, walking over to a cabinet of jars and vials. “I told you to sweep.”
“I did,” he gestured to the floor, “And He wanted me to tell you he’s coming by.”
She stopped mid-motion and faced him. “He?”
She scowled, “What the hell does that damn boy want this time?”
“He said something popped up and he needs to talk to you about it.”
She looked him over, “Are you gonna be here?”
“No,” he tried hiding his smirk. “I got a gig tonight. Fraternity party. I make good money on those, so I won’t be home until late.”
She paused, letting him read the rest of the text message before putting it in his pocket. “You know he’ll wait, right?”
Calum felt a surge of irritation inside him. He knew that. Deep inside he knew Ashton would probably wait around for him all night if he must. “Why does he do this, Mama? Why does he bug me every time he comes to town?”
“Because he’s a man, baby. He knows he can wind you up, and he does. Look how bent out of shape you are, and he hasn’t even shown up yet,” she said. “If you let him, he’ll do it to you all over again.”
“No he won’t,” Calum grunted.
“I don’t know. He charmed you up pretty good the last time he was here.”
“Don’t remind me.”
Calum couldn’t bear thinking about all the times he let himself slip and give in to Ashton. He would always say ‘never again’, but one Ashton caressed or spoke softly to him, he melted like butter.
“Ugh!” he threw the broom down on the floor in a loud smack. “I’m gonna go load my equipment into the car. I gotta get there early for set up.”
He left his mother with a small goodbye. Why did she let him keep his looks? Why didn’t she kill him the way she killed his father and sisters? Why couldn’t she have buried HIM in the ground too?!