Simon opened the door part way and stuck his head through. “Your next appointment is here, two minutes early just like you said.”
Matthew nodded at his assistant. “Have them wait in the outer room.”
“Very well.” Simon closed the door.
Matthew looked down at his notes. Cristina. She would be mad if her name was spelled wrong. Indeed, she would almost certainly see Simon’s calendar. He should have warned Simon to make the correction earlier. What was she coming to him for?
Boyfriend. That’s right. Is he cheating on her. Matthew hadn’t even bothered to do a reading beyond getting that much information. In his experience, anyone who came to him wondering whether their partner was cheating already knew the answer. They came either looking for confirmation for their anger, or hoping that they were wrong. No one was wrong. You don’t pay a hundred dollars for a reading if you’re wrong.
Beyond the bit about her name and why she had come, there was nothing else written. No point in going further. He just had to make a show about “uncovering” her answer and collect his fee. It would be a simple visit.
Two minutes having passed, the door opened and a woman walked in. She was in her late 20s or early 30s and wore a frown.
Matthew stood and gestured to a chair across the table from him. “Welcome, Ms. …”
She cut him off before he could finish his greeting. “Cristina. Just a C. Not a Ch. Not a K.”
“Ah yes. I’m sorry about that. Simon means well, but he doesn’t always remember to ask for a spelling. My apologies for not catching it. What can I do for you today?”
His quick apology seemed to have caught her off guard and deflated her ire. She sighed and looked down at her hands on the table. “Well, I originally came here because I thought my boyfriend was cheating on me.”
Matthew frowned. “And now you don’t?”
“I still do. But I don’t really need to ask you because he left me this morning, said he found someone else.”
“Oh. Well, that is too bad. I’m sorry.”
“Thanks. Miserable bastard. Probably better this way. Still, I already had the appointment, so I thought maybe you could still help me.”
“Of course. You have another question?” Matthew forced himself to smile, all the while berating himself for his overconfidence. How hard would it have been to do a full reading, to see deeper into today? Instead, so sure of himself and of the shallowness of his clients, he stopped at infidelity. Now he was going to have to do some real seeing in front of another person. And he had no idea where it would go.
“Maybe. I don’t know. I just feel lost and aimless. I’m finally free of… him… of anything. And I don’t know what I want to do next. I thought maybe you could point me in a direction. Give me an idea of where I should go now, you know?”
“I don’t think I can help. It sounds like you need a friend. Or maybe a counselor. I can only provide answers to specific questions.”
“Fine. What should I do next? That’s a specific question.”
“That’s not really that specific.”
“Can you tell fortunes or not? Are you just a fraud?”
A flash of this woman angrily spreading word that he had not helped her scared Matthew a bit. It wouldn’t matter that he wasn’t a fraud if everyone believed he was. It would not look good.
“Fine. I just… I am not in the business of giving advice. I’m not a life coach. I can just share what I see. I’m not responsible for what you do with it. Understand?”
“Okay. Let me see.” He walked over to a shelf. On it were several popular divination tools. Decks of cards. Dice. Stones. Even a crystal ball. None of them worked, of course, but he understood that people expected them. And they did sometimes help focus the mind. He selected a deck of cards and brought them back to the table, placing them in front of her.
“Shuffle those while you concentrate on your question. When you feel like you have shuffled them enough, hand them back to me.”
Cristina did as she was told. Her hands fumbled a bit, but managed to shuffle them several times. Then she gave them back to Matthew.
As he began to lay out the cards in an appropriately complicated pattern, he focused his attention inward, looking for potential futures. Immediately, a scene appeared before him. His client was sitting amongst the white flames of a summoning circle. A demon stood outside. He was … old. And the two were bargaining. Fear crawled up his spine.
“So what does it say?”
He opened his eyes and looked her.
“The cards. What do they tell you?”
His gaze followed her gesture down to the cards. Not even an implausible lie occurred to him. There was danger all around and he wanted to be far from it.
“You should go,” he finally choked out.
“What? What is it?”
“Go. Now. There is no fee for your visit, but you must leave.”
Anger and confusion took turns on her face as she stood. “Fine. Thanks for nothing.”
After she stormed out of the room, he summoned Simon. “Cancel the rest of my day. Take the rest of it off yourself.” Before his assistant could ask any questions, Matthew left the room and climbed the stairs to his private apartment. He needed more information.