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Mystery Fiction

The birthday parties at our school range from normal fun to over the top ridiculous. With two daughters we have seen it all. Magic shows, gymnastics parties, paint your own pottery, iceskating in Central Park to trapeze school, a private tour of FAO Schwarz and a sleepover at The Plaza Hotel, for nine year olds! I have lived in NYC for 25 years and I have only walked past The Plaza. Not many people have birthday parties in their apartments because of space issues. We hosted a luau in our apartment for our then 13 year old’s birthday, but not since then have we been so brave. It is hard to keep up with the broadway show invites or the rock climbing parties. One year we did a bowling party, but it had to end early because of an impending snowstorm. 

Two years ago our older daughter was invited to a birthday brunch for her friend at a popular spot downtown. It gave us an excuse to be downtown for a few hours while we waited to pick her up. The invite mentioned brunch and tarot card reading. A little odd I thought, but it was something to entertain 12 and 13 year olds for an hour. The mother of the birthday girl emailed the parents letting us know that if we felt uncomfortable with the tarot card readings our daughters did not have to take a turn. She also mentioned the reader would not share any negative insights, only fun, positive ones. I laughed with my husband, “This is a woman who does tarot card readings at birthday parties on the weekends. I don’t think she is predicting anyone’s future”. I didn’t give it a second thought.

After our own brunch we found our way to the birthday party venue and waited outside for Elle. Through her many instagram posts over the past two hours we felt like we had attended the party with her. She came out smiling and full of stories on the ride home. We heard about the chocolate chip pancakes and the blueberry French toast. Elle informed us that she was the only girl at the party in a skirt and everyone had been in jeans like she had wanted to wear. Strike one against me for the day. To veer off topic from the attire I asked her about the tarot card reader. Elle said she was young and pretty. She asked each girl to pick five cards from a deck and then she would flip them over and place them in a special layout on the table. Then she would interpret the cards and tell you your future. My husband laughed and asked if she predicted everyone would be wearing jeans at the next birthday party. Elle did not think it was funny. She fully believed in this woman’s psychic abilities. 

“Her name was Chantal, which is French”, my daughter informed us, “and she could tell a lot from the cards I picked. She told me that I will continue to bake and cook as a hobby, but my career will be in fashion. She also said I will do well in school and travel a lot”.  

“That all sounds great” I said. “It sounds like it was a fun party. Did you thank the parents when you left?” 

“Chantal also said some stuff about Piper” Elle said.

“Oh, that is interesting since she wasn’t even there” I remarked with a smirk. 

“Well, she asked if I had a sister with the first initial P and I said yes. Is it ok that I said yes?”

“Sure” my husband said while beeping at the taxi in front of us.

“What else did she say about Piper?” I asked.

“Well, kind of a weird thing.”

“What kind of weird thing honey?”

“She told me that Piper will go missing someday.”

“Ok that is enough of the tarot card reader’s stories” my husband said annoyed and gave me a look. “What happened to keeping things fun and positive?”

“She obviously doesn’t know what she is talking about so let’s move on and definitely not mention it to Piper when we get home. She is too young to understand that this woman makes things up for a living.”

“But why would she make that up mom?”

“Maybe in the hopes that we would reach out to her and offer to pay her for a tarot card reading of our own. Who knows? It was an odd activity to have at a kid’s birthday party.”

Piper was with our babysitter playing Wii golf when we arrived home. Elle told her all about the chocolate chip pancakes at the birthday party and gave her the bath bomb party favor.

A week went by and Chantal was still on my mind. Why had she thought it was ok to make something like that up at a birthday party? It was unprofessional. I decided to email the birthday girl’s mother to let her know what Chantal had told Elle. Olivia’s mother apologized and said she had no idea that had happened. She told me she had been given Chantal’s name and contact information from a coworker who had recently hired her for entertainment at her sister’s bachelorette party. She gave me Chantal’s website in case I wanted to post a complaint. I didn’t, but I was curious. It turns out Chantal was an actress and had appeared in several commercials and as an extra in a mini series. She was pretty and young as Elle had mentioned, but nothing on her website offering tarot card readings. I closed my laptop and left it at that. Chantal did not cross my mind for months, until she emailed me.

Chantal apparently reached out to Olivia’s mother to ask for my name and email. I was taken aback when I opened my phone to see an email from chantal237 with the subject line, Tarot Card reading. I clicked on the message, “Dear Mrs. Stuart, I got your name and email from Olivia’s mother. I hope that is ok. I was hired by Olivia’s parents to read tarot cards at her birthday party last Fall. I am an aspiring actress and always trying to earn extra money. I had read tarot cards at parties before Olivia’s party, and if I am being honest, I always made the readings up as a sort of party trick. I did a twenty minute tutorial on YouTube that came free with the deck of tarot cards. Anyway, I do not know how or why I was able to see Elle’s sister in the cards that day. I apologize for saying anything to Elle. I didn’t know what to do with the information in front of me. I should have never shared that type of information with a child and I regret it. I still have no understanding of what happened that day. Everything seemed to be going as usual at the party until Elle sat down at my table. I can’t explain it, but I could see Elle’s sister clearly on the cards in front of me. That has never happened to me before. I am writing to apologize for any pain I may have caused your family. Sincerely, Cindy (aka Chantal) Swanson”. While I appreciated Cindy taking the time to email me I did not believe in anyone’s psychic abilities to predict the future. What she said could have easily come from a movie or out of a chapter in a thriller, or the local news. I closed my phone and did not think of Chantal again.

What a difference a year could make. Almost exactly twelve months after working birthday parties Cindy was gainfully employed and rehearsing for her first off broadway play. She could not be happier! Her life was finally starting to get on track. She had even just started dating someone. Her parents would be relieved she was gainfully employed and making it in the big city. Everything felt nice and routine, until it didn’t. One Friday night on the C train home Cindy noticed the man across from her holding up his newspaper and the headline on the bottom left corner caught her eye and her stomach dropped, “Local teen, Piper Stuart gone missing”.

January 07, 2022 16:33

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4 comments

Dragos Marcean
06:39 Jan 13, 2022

I enjoyed the modern part of it (Instagram stories, over the top parties) and also the interactions they had in the car. I felt like it was a bit rushed. It was obivous early on to me that her sister will go missing because of the nature of the prompt, so I feel like you could have spent more time on building the suspense, or fun characters interactions. (like in a Marvel movie for example, where you expect the bad guy to be defeated, but they make interesting the journey to that point). The ending felt somewhat unsatisfying since it did ...

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Kari Pedone
15:17 Jan 13, 2022

Thank you so much for your feedback. I really appreciate it! Kari

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Sana S.
00:51 Jan 12, 2022

Hi Kari! I'd say this is one of the most creative intakes I've seen on this prompt so far. How a tarot card reader at a birthday party could genuinely be telling the truth. It was a wonderfully written turn of events. Even how the ending leaves the readers up to decide on their understanding of the story is flawless. I'd say this deserves a win-if not, at lease a shortlist! Keep up the great writing! 😁

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Kari Pedone
13:32 Jan 12, 2022

Hi & thank you so much! I really appreciate your positive comments. It makes me want to write again for this week's prompt! Thank you again! Kari

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