“I can’t believe you’re dragging me to this, Kai,” Said Emily with a look of annoyance and frustration, as they followed the mysterious woman to the back of the building.
Kai was always up for a thrill or adventure and knew Emily would fuss about it, but she always tagged along eventually. So tonight wasn’t going to be any different. When they were both on their lunch breaks at work, they made plans via text to hang out this upcoming Friday Night. Emily has just got out of a relationship with the guy she had been dating since sophomore year of college, and Kai felt like she needed to get into something fun and exciting instead of streaming Gilmore Girls for the 3rd weekend in a row.
You seriously need to get up, put on something hot, and say fuck Charlie, Em! We’re only in our 20s for so long and you are busy crying over a dude who thinks BOD body spray is top-notch Cologne.
Kai knew the text was a little harsh, considering Emily has been devastated since Charlie invited her to spend the weekend at his parent’s beach house. She thought it was going to finally be the proposal she has been waiting on- spoiler alert, it wasn’t. Instead, it was an excuse to get her into his bed one more time before telling her, “I just think we need some space, that’s all I’m saying, Em,” as he grabbed the PS5 controller near the side of the bed she laid half-naked in.
“Uh, yeah, he’s a dick. And you don’t need him.”
“You’ve never liked Charlie, Kai. He isn’t all Bro and Booze as you think. There is a nice and soft side to him too you know, “ Emily tearfully said as she recounted the breakup to Kai that night over the phone.
“ Oh sure, I bet that soft side is right next to the side of him who thinks it’s cool to get trashed at frat parties and have you clean the drunken mess he made when he came home at who knows what o’clock in the morning.”
She could hear the breathing of Emily become heavier and didn’t want her to cry any harder over the loss of that jerk than she already has. Even though Kai herself didn’t believe in that bull fantasy that they lived happily ever after, she texted her before bed:
You deserve so much more and one day you’ll have your fairytale ending, Em. I love you.
So it’s been 3 weeks since that night she tearfully called Kai about the breakup and besides going to work, Emily hasn’t really left the house. Kai wanted to give Emily the space she needed to grieve the breakup. But, besides Emily, she really didn’t have any close friends in the city. Occasionally Kai would meet someone off of tinder, but she would only keep them long enough for one double date with Emily and Charlie before cutting him loose. It’s not like she had not liked any of them, she just didn’t want to risk falling too deep and ending up like her mom, used and taken advantage of.
As she put on the last-minute touches to her outfit, brushed her hair back into a tight ponytail, and sprayed herself with her perfume, she found herself excited to soon spend time with her very best friend. She did have plans for what would have been the 5th date with a guy named Tevin whom she met at Soul Cycle last month, but honestly, she was glad to use Emily as an excuse to cancel on him once again. They both vibed well, and the sex was amazing, it’s just that he already extended his stay way past her comfort level when it came to dating guys. He was quick to want to make plans to see her, called her daily, and even sent flowers “just because” to her office. If she was being honest, she totally was just as enamored with him, but she just couldn’t allow herself to get close to the idea of having a serious relationship. No one she knew could serve as a happily ever after fairytale in real life. Her mom’s currently on boyfriend number 6 this year alone and is constantly calling her for help once the relationship sours or the guy takes all her money… whichever comes first. She has been witnessing the devastation that Emily’s going through after her expectations for a marriage proposal were failed by Charlie. Love, or the idea of love, just wasn’t something she could truly believe in. It scared her if she was being honest with herself. She swiped open her phone to read Tevin’s text:
I hope you and your friend have a great night. Be safe, and call me if you’re not too tired when you get home. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here!
Kai read the text and simply replied, Ok, knowing she had no real intentions of calling Tevin later. Even though a part of her did want to see him, she just couldn’t trust the safety of letting her guard down.
As she pulled up to the brick building that housed the loft Emily lived in, she was about to call to say she was out front when she caught a glimpse of her friend waiting by the front entrance. Of course, Emily would be waiting outside at exactly 7:30 pm, she’s always been miss prompt and ready.
Emily gets into the car and immediately smiled as she heard Taylor Swift’s Red album blaring loudly. Both of them started singing the lyrics to “Treacherous” just as they used to when they would spend the night at each other’s houses in high school.
“Is that a smile I see, Em, on your face,” said Kai while holding her free hand up to Emily, pretending to be a microphone for her to sing into.
“ Yeah, yeah, you already knew once you put on T-Swift’s best album, I was going to change my mood about getting out tonight. Thanks, Kai,” Emily said with a smile on her face.
As they continued to have a mini-concert session in the car, they debated where would be the best place to go eat. Ultimately, deciding to go to a new up-and-coming sushi bar in the midtown area.
“Everyone in the office has been raving about this place, Em, so I’m dying to check it out.”
As they walked into the colorful building with vibrant house music playing, they were greeted by a tall, hipster-looking host.
“It’s going to be a 45-minute to an hour wait, huns,” The host told them.
They had the host place their names and info on the waiting list and headed back outside. Emily was fine with going back to the car and waiting for their table to be ready, but Kai was excited to be out and wanted to do something fun. They were in a busy part of midtown that was filled with hookah places, bars, restaurants, and small little retail shops. There was a vinyl store that they once visited to get the latest Taylor Swift album. Kai knew she wanted Emily to break out of her rut and loosen up so she pointed in the direction of small little shops that lined the street.
“Ooh, that looks like it has our name all over it. Fun and exciting”
“What, the vinyl store,” asked Emily with a confused look on her face.
“Nope, the shop next to it! Willie’s Magical Emporium. It looks like something quirky and different and we need something new and fun to get into,” Kai said with the look on her face that Emily knew meant to be prepared to get into some trouble.
Emily protested and begged Kai to just have them go sit at a bar next to the restaurant, but she knew once that look was in her eyes, there was no changing Kai’s mind.
So Kai grabbed Emily’s hand and they walked across the street to the purple and black checkered-painted building. As they entered the Emporium, they were met by the smell of incense filling the air.
“Look at this,” Kai pointed and giggled at a mirror that made both of them look highly distorted. “ What does this remind you of, Em?” Kai said as she hummed a circus tune.
Emily cracked up laughing and immediately was reminded of the fall festival attractions they use to visit every year growing up in their hometown. Just as she was about to touch the little miniature clown figurines on the glass counter, a woman came out and startled both of them.
“Geez, you nearly gave us a heart attack,” Kai said with a chuckle.
The woman apologized and proceeded to introduce herself to the girls. Her name was Madam Marie, and she was the owner’s wife.
“Why don’t you lovely ladies join me for a reading?” the lady asked as she tapped her fingers on the glass counter.
“Oh, I’m sorry, but we have dinner reservations and we were just popping in real quick,” Emily rushed to say before Kai could agree to the madam’s request.
“Wait a minute Em, we still have 45 minutes until our table will be ready why don’t we try this. It’ll be just like when we were kids,” Kai begged her friend.
“How about we do a buy one get one free for you lovely young ladies, what do you say?” The Madam gestured to a room behind hanging beads that framed the doorway and asked them to follow her. Before Emily could protest and say no, Kai grabbed ahold of her hand and they proceeded to follow behind Madam Marie into the back room.
The room was dark and lit with neon string lights that draped the walls. There was a small round table that was placed centered in the room and it held a crystal ball that was glowing. Soft melodic music played in the background as the smoke from the incense appeared to dance in the air.
Emily, not wanting to have the lady hear her, texted Kai that this doesn’t seem like a good idea and that she was going to walk back to the restaurant and wait for their table.
As the glow of the text notification lit up Kai’s phone, The lady place her hands on the table and said, “ there’s no need to leave girls, for I can see you both are in need of the message and visions my crystal orb here will tell you.”
As Emily took a seat, Madam Marie reached out her hands, gesturing for the girls to grab ahold of them. The feel of her cold and clammy skin creeped out Kai, but she didn’t want to show any signs that she was afraid, otherwise, Emily would be fast to run out of the building. The night was just starting, and she wanted to help her best friend get over her heartbreak and have fun.
Kai has always been the braver and more adventurous of the two, ever since they were kids. She’s always felt in some sense of a way that it was her job to protect Emily, even if it was Kai’s own antics and choices that led the girls into wild situations. So here they are, in a strange fortune teller room and she’s now uncertain if this was a good idea. She got startled by the buzz of her phone vibrating. It was a text from Tevin, checking in with how her night was going. Emily caught a glimpse and smiled as she whispered to Kai, “wow, must be serious if we’re saving a guy’s name and phone number in your phone.”
Kai pretended that she didn’t hear her best friend and said in a fake enthusiastic manner, “Well, I’m sure we didn’t pay to just sit here, let’s get this show on the road.”
Madam Marie smiled and asked, “Who’s up first ?” Just as Kai was about to raise her hands to volunteer to go first, Madam Marie reached out for Emily’s hand and said, “I believe the spirit realm is ready to deliver you a message.”
“Oh, no, how about Kai? She has her hand raised first,” Emily said nervously as she tried to pull her hand back. But the lady didn’t release and instead proceeded to hum along to the melodic music playing in the background while also rubbing her free hand over the glowing orb.
“You will one day soon experience true love, and find peace in the doors that were forcibly closed,” Madam Marie softly spoke to Emily.
Kai knew that line alone was going to convince Emily to sit and stay, and she was right. Emily sat closer to the table, now grabbing onto one of Madam Marie’s hands with both her hands, asking for her to tell her more. Kai was happy to see her friend was having a good time and as gullible as she may be, was finally thinking about the future instead of crying over Charlie and her past. The buzzing vibration of Kai’s phone grabbed her attention for a moment, it was her mom asking for her to call. She was having a great time and seeing Emily smile for the first time in weeks, she just silenced her phone, placed it on the table, and listened to the last parts of Emily’s reading.
“Now, you know the answers to the question you’ve been wanting, young lady. So now it’s your friend's turn,” She said as she gestured towards Kai. She reached out and grabbed ahold of one of Madam Marie’s hands and listened as she hummed along with the music in the background. She let out a small chuckle, all of this seemed so silly to her. Unlike Emily, Kai prided herself on being more rooted in reality and just thought of this as a source of light entertainment to help brighten her best friend’s mood. So she sat there, amused as Madam Marie started to spew out the generic messages for her reading. She was going along like a good sport with everything until the Madam said, “and why are you so scared of love?”
“Ha, scared…who, who says I’m scared?” Kai said and began to laugh. “None of this is real, so there’s nothing to be afraid of, ma’am!”
“The ball does not lie, fear will keep you broken and alone forever. You must face your fear.”
“As I said, I’m not scared of anything. Your ball must have me mixed up with my friend, Em. Cause that’s totally not me,” Kai said with an annoyed tone in her voice. She tried to look away from the lady and saw she had new text, a picture of her mom with an engagement ring on.”
Oh great, here we go again she sighed.
“As the ball does not lie, I can only convey the messages it gives and hope that you receive it. Your love awaits you but fear will continue to be a roadblock if you don’t-“
“That’s it, I’m done..let’s go Em! This is bullshit,” Kai said as she grabbed her things and proceeded to walk out of the building at a face pace. As she waited for Emily to join her, she began to talk to herself, upset over seeing the text from her mom and then being annoyed by the reading from Madam Marie. What does she mean afraid? Thought Kai angrily as she paced back and forth in front of the Emporium. A few seconds later, she was met by Emily with an unusual frown on her face.
“What was that back there? You insulted the Madam and you insulted me?”
“What do you mean I insulted you? Because I left, that was complete bull-“
“Kai, you said ‘I’m not Em’ as you proceeded to denounce her words as bs,” Emily interjected. She was hurt, and Kai was sad to know she caused it. She was just a ball of mixed emotions. Her mom once again is getting married and she is worried about dealing with that when it inevitably falls apart. Then feeling conflicted over wanting to pursue things with Tevin but scared because of the heartbreaks she witnessed from Emily and her mom. The Madam was right. She was scared of trusting in love and instead of just going along with the fun, she ended up causing pain. She was so hung up on fixing the hurt Charlie caused Emily, that she didn’t realize she was finally enjoying herself and she instead was causing her to now hurt.
“I’m sorry Em, “ she apologized as she began to explain to Em about her mom and finally tell her about Tevin.
“Well if you ask me, I think the reading was right. Fear is going to hold you back. Yes, I’m sad about my relationship ending. But I have hope now for the future. You should text him back. Don’t worry about me.”
Kai did just that. She took a picture with Emily and sent it to Tevin saying how much fun they were having and made plans for brunch tomorrow. As they walked toward the restaurant, Emily smiled and hooked her arm within Kai’s arm.
“Thanks for getting me out of the house. I needed this,” she said to her friend.
Kai smiled back, realizing it wasn’t just Emily that needed this night. As she saw the reply confirming her date for tomorrow with Tevin, she realized she too needed tonight so that she could learn to let go and be happy.