Excerpt from The Journal of Angela Ashby

The candles hissed and sputtered sending coils of smoke upward. As soon as I handed the card to Madame Vadoma, the wick burned steadily with barely a wisp of smoke. Spooky.
     Wanting to get this fortune over, I quickly picked cards from either end, and slowly worked my way back to the center. After handing over the requested ten cards, I sat back and stifled a smirk.
     Madame Vadoma held them, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. When she exhaled, she opened her eyes and rapidly laid the cards out in front of her. The candle flames grew as she put the cards on the table.
     The way she put the cards on the table was different than any game of solitaire I’d ever seen. Some were placed across the table, and others were in a column. One of the cards, the three of spades gave me an uneasy feeling, while the ten of hearts felt happy. Weird. I’d never thought about feelings with cards before.
     She held her palm over the cards, then looked straight into my eyes. “You have much upheaval in your life and you feel lonely.”
     My breath was sucked out of me. This no longer felt like some parlor trick. How did she know about my parents’ divorce and my being alone so much? The intensity of her stare felt like she was able to see straight through me and into my thoughts. Uncomfortable, I glanced down at the cards.
     In the middle of the layout the Ace of Spades drew me in. Smoke from the candles created a foggy layer and the image wavered and morphed into a winged hooded figure carrying a scythe through a graveyard. The angel of death. I blinked and ran a hand over my eyes. Once I lowered my hand, the card showed the black spade and letter ‘A’. Nothing else. Not even a gravestone.
     I didn’t imagine it. Or maybe it would be better if I had. I gazed back at Madame Vadoma.
     “You will gain power beyond your wildest imaginings and need to use it wisely.”
     Yeah, right. What twelve-year-old ever had power? We were back to the usual phony reading. I settled back into my chair to wait for the line about the dark stranger.
     Madame Vadoma narrowed her eyes. “Young lady, this is not trick done for amusement. I give you caution. You would be wise to pay heed.”

     Was she reading my mind?
     “You have struggles ahead as you learn to use your power. Temptation will beckon and you will want to use it for ill. You must resist. Down the path of ill-will lies destruction.”
     Weren’t these things supposed to be light, fluffy readings about finding love and fortune? Ill-will and destruction were not supposed to be part of the deal.
     Her amber eyes bore into mine. “You have choices to make about the power of your heart. Casual choice makes trouble. Be cautious with desires. The right choices will lead you to happiness and fulfillment.”
     A shiver ran through my body and goose pimples dotted my arms. The words sounded like the usual trickery. Besides, I could hear the same lecture from my mom. Make the wrong choices and you get in trouble. Make the right choices and you’ll be happy. Big deal.
     So why were the hairs standing on my arms?
     Madame Vadoma grabbed a thin leather book lying on the table beside her. She ran her hands over the cover and mumbled words I didn’t understand. Her claw-like hands grasped the book as she stared at me. Her gaze penetrated my soul and as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t look away.
     Her eyes widened at something behind me. With one hand she clutched the book closer to her body, then blew twice in rapid succession on the fingertips of her other hand. Tingles ran down my spine and I snapped my head around to look over my shoulder. Nothing was there. Creepy.
     She closed her eyes and the tensions drained from her arms and shoulders. Taking a deep breath, her lids fluttered open and she met my gaze. Madame Vadoma grunted and gave a nod, which sent her hoops swinging. “I give you this. It is for you to write what is in your heart.” She handed me the book. “Remember your heart has power. Use it wisely.” She stood. “Keep your heart pure, and you will do no harm.”
     Things were getting a little too freaky. Hugging the book to my chest, I shot out of my seat. “Um, thanks for the reading.”
     Backing up a few steps, I turned and bolted through the curtain.