Sabrina wondered how she’d let her friend talk her into doing this. Her mother’s voice resounded in her memory, “It’s the work of the devil.” For once, Sabrina hadn’t paid any heed to those old Southern Baptist nigglings or let them bowl her over with guilt. She wasn’t 12 years old any more and wouldn’t let fear of going to Hell in a handbasket win out this time. She didn’t even know what a handbasket was, for fuck sake!
So there they were, and she still couldn’t believe they’ve driven to the city to visit a fortune teller. Maybe Cheryl had grown tired of Sabrina complaining about her husband and was too kind to say so. Maybe that’s why she had insisted she talk to a psychic about the situation.
The couple had been married less than a year when he started running around on her, and his drunken “lessons” he was compelled to teach her began shortly after that time period. He’d usually only hit her hard enough to stop her crying but not actually require a doctor, except only once when Sabrina had gone to the emergency room. He knocked out her tooth, so there was a lot of blood, and it wouldn’t stop coming. He didn’t know what to do except go to the hospital, but he knew enough to lie about how it happened. No way were those damn hospital people calling the law.
He thought Sabrina deserved what she got, and he’d have to pay the damn doctor bill anyway. She was sorta glad her ear was so swollen on that side that she couldn’t hear well out of it and simply turned away from his complaints for a few days. The missing tooth was only noticeable if she opened her mouth wide enough, and she didn’t have much to smile about it anyway.
She thought, for some reason, it would stop after that time. They were fresh out of high school when they got married, and she was a couple month’s pregnant or else she probably wouldn’t have agreed to go to the courthouse with him. Sabrina was a pretty girl and had lots of boys after her, but she’d been stupid enough to sleep with him. And got pregnant. Ironically, she’d had a miscarriage not much later.
Her mother said they weren’t evenly yoked and no way would Brother Higgins do a shotgun wedding at the church, but she insisted they go through with a civil ceremony. She said, “That’s just the way it is,” because of Sabrina’s sin. Girls didn’t do that back in her day — they were sent away to have the little bastards and came back empty-handed. She said Sabrina had brought shame upon their family, and she had to make things right. Otherwise, she’d never be able to show her face at Our Daily Redeemer again. Honestly, she’d be glad for a reprieve from the wailing women on the mourner’s bench but didn’t tell her mother as much. Sometimes she felt like she was falling over a cliff and plummeting to her death. Many times she wished that would really happen.
Sabrina didn’t think God would let her husband punish her or give her a mother and father who she was scared to tell she’d gotten into trouble. So she agreed to go see the fortune teller with Cheryl at her side — Our Daily Redeemer be damned. Nobody could tell her anything worse than what she already heard at home.
The conjure lady had a table outside the Tap Room at Jefferson Square and sat with her head bowed and long, thin fingers spread across a multi-patterned cloth. Loud music and gin-soaked laughter poured out of the bar’s doorway, so Sabrina and Cheryl sat close to hear over the din of the crowd. A multitude of people milling up and down the block masqueraded the young women from plain sight, as they were too young to be in the vicinity. All manner of seedy individuals lingered around the district, cruising up and down the boulevard looking for unsuspecting marks. The duo felt unsure of their decision to come.
They barely sat down before the palm reader took Sabrina’s hand and pulled her even closer, glaring into her eyes with a look of concerned compassion. The woman’s wrinkled face slid downward into a frown, and she asked softly, “Why you let him do you this way, girl?”
Sabrina jerked backward on the stool where she was perched and turned to look wide-eyed at her friend in disbelief. Cheryl returned her amazed stare, equally surprised at the immediate and accurate reading. Her friend’s jaw dropped so far that Sabrina reached underneath to close it and released a nervous giggle of her own. She turned back and stuttered, “Wha … what makes you say that?”
The fortune teller replied, “Anyone with any kinda insight can see your pain, little one. You wearin’ it as an ugly ol’ scar.” Tension hung between them like a moisture-laden cloud about to burst. Sabrina’s face burned crimson, and she retracted her hand from the woman’s rough grip.
She tilted her head, looking quizzically at Sabrina, and her mop of gray-streaked hair fell to one side. The older woman shrugged her shoulders, and held up both palms in supplication. When Sabrina sat dumbfounded and silent, the woman advised, “Your future is up to you. Don’t let no one decide your fate for ya.”
Both young women stood up hurriedly from their stools, and Sabrina fished through her purse for the sparse bills she had for payment. She glanced back at the women, who remained seated at the table twisting a silky blue scarf into knots. The conjurer grasped Sabrina’s arm when she reached out to pay, and pulled her in close to whisper a few final words. “You done with him, girl,” she said in a coarse tone, almost a warning.
Only when she got back to the car did Sabrina notice something hard in her pocket when she sat down inside. It was the dark-colored square of material from the fortune teller’s table, and Sabrina unwound its knots to find a small bottle inside with a note. Cryptic lettering read, “May your troubles fade like this liquid in boiling water meant for cooking. May your worries disappear with his breath.”
Sabrina mumbled unintelligible thanks to the conjurer. Cheryl responded, “You’re welcome,” mistaking the gratitude as meant for her. Sabrina shook herself out of a daze and said, “Yeah, thank God we came,” as a wry smile spread across her face, and she nodded her head in grateful acknowledgement.
This is a Studio 30+ writing prompt – cliff.