Lena tingled with excitement as she placed her hands in his, feeling the coolness of his skin. His long spindly fingers closed around hers. This was the first time in 20 years she had touched a man other than her husband. She was even more excited that he was a tall, dark, and handsome young man.
“Ok now close your eyes.” His voice loomed out of the dim candle-lit space across the velvet swathed table.
Lena shut her eyes eagerly, trying not to giggle. She felt like a teenager again, disobeying the stifling restrictions of her conservative family. At the moment she forgot about her life as a boring and frumpy homemaker.
“Now breathe deeply and relax your whole body.”
Lena tried her best to relax, breathing in the incense-filled air and enjoying the strong floral smell. In the background a looped track of relaxing synth music hummed. It had been years since she had a psychic reading!
Completely unaware of his client’s bottled excitement, Levi Cleostrada concentrated on planning his reading. He used cold reading to cultivate hints in his client’s behaviour and dress to steer what seemed like a psychic reading.
Lena was a well-dressed middle-aged woman; her nails were done professionally with elaborate designs, she carried a designer bag (although Levi couldn’t tell if it was real or fake), indicating she was comfortable financially or liked to show she was on the surface. She had carefully fixed her hair in a neat bun, framing her face with curls and wore a little too much makeup, potentially showing she felt a little self-conscious. He had noted the gold cross she wore around her neck when she sat down, she probably had a very traditional marriage. He gently felt the engagement ring and wedding band, noting through touch that the setting was a good size. He could feel the band was a little too tight for her, so she must have gained weight over the course of her marriage, possibly indicating she’s had, children. He noted a few callouses on her hands and that her skin had a chemical dryness to it with cracks in her fingertips. She must spend a good part of her time cleaning.
She fit the profile of a classic homemaker. Which meant she would be concerned about her marriage. Levi decided to try and probe that angle.
“You’ve been married for a long time, and I sense you feel like things have felt different between you and your husband recently.” He probed.
He opened his eyes to watch her body language. With her eyes still closed she tensed a little.
“Yes, that’s quite right. He’s been… distant.” She sighed.
Levi noted a hit and began tailoring his psychological fishing down that route.
“I feel he’s been going through the usual routines of your relationship, but there seems to be little thought or meaning behind it. Perhaps like his mind is elsewhere. I sense he’s been away from home often, more than usual?” He probed again.
“Yes, he’s had a lot of work trips this year and he is working late at the office almost every day. Do you think he’s cheating on me?” She tensed even more until her gentle handhold had become an uncomfortable squeeze.
Levi tried to hide his discomfort. “I sense his eye has wandered, however, I’m unclear if this is a romantic wandering or a scholarly wandering. I feel an energy from him that indicates he feels trapped or stifled in the current situation. He may be falling victim to some pre-conceived notions about how his marriage should continue. It’s a common thing for couples to assume what their partners want and feel trapped by it.”
Here Levi tapped into the psychotherapy degree he was working through. It was common for men in traditional marriage structures to feel like all the financial pressure was on them, especially the pressure to uphold a certain standard of living.
Lena nodded, possibly tying some of her husband’s behaviour together with this new information.
“What should I do?”
“I would highly suggest marriage counselling, it’s not just for marriages that are in dire straights. It’s a safe space for couples to talk about tough things they can’t address at home. The therapist can also suggest how the two of you can communicate better with each other.”
She sighed heavily. “Sam is very stubborn about therapy. I don’t think he’ll go for it.”
“If you can’t get him to therapy it might be worth spending some alone time together to talk about your feelings. I know that can be hard at home because children or family members might overhear the conversation.” He offered.
Lena nodded again. “I think I might be able to convince Sam to do that.”
“Good. I see two paths here, and perhaps you can see them too. One path is a reconciled marriage, the other is a divided one. I do see your reconciled path bringing both of you far more happiness and longevity. Breathe in deeply, and open your eyes” he said, beginning to close the session.
Lena opened her eyes. “Thank you. You’ve brought me some peace of mind.”
She gave his hands a little squeeze. Levi thought it was odd but didn’t know what it could mean.
“Only too happy to help.” He smiled.
She fidgeted a little, eventually gathering up her purse and paying him $50 for her session. As she got up to leave, she paused.
“Oh um… do you do house calls?”
“Err… not usually…” He paused, caught off guard by the question. It was now he remembered the heavy tuition that had burned a hole in his bank account. “However, I wouldn’t mind if you needed a house call.”
“Oh good! Would I be able to see you two days from now? On Friday around 4pm?” She said cheerily.
“I can do that. I will see you Friday.”
“Yes! See you Friday. I’ll make tea!” She smiled and hurried out the door.
Levi felt odd about the whole situation, yet he tucked the $50 he just made into his very empty wallet and convinced himself it would be worth the extra money.
The rest of the week was rough, he had two projects due and a mystic bazaar on Tuesday. He pulled an all-nighter on Wednesday to finish a paper he needed to hand in for Thursday. With $500 from the bazaar in his pocket and a bad case of exhaustion, he was thinking about cancelling on Lena. Thursday night he tossed himself into bed right after dinner and fell asleep at once.
He was dumped into a swath of cold water in the dream world. He could feel his skin prickle as he struggled to breathe through the shocking cold. His head throbbed and tingled.
Then he was suddenly in front of a house. It was a large brownstone with white shutters and a brown wooden door. The door had a stained glass window with a tulip pattern. A black sedan pulled up as the sunset loomed behind large oak trees on the very large lawn. A short and stocky man got out of the sedan, dressed in a business suit. He fidgeted and paced near the car for a long time. Levi called out to him, but he was unaware of Levi’s presence. Eventually, the man ducked into the back seat and pulled out a long black shotgun. Levi felt a surge of panic, but he was just a ghost in this world. He watched the man enter the house and heard a woman’s voice call out.
“I’m home.” The man answered before walking into the doorway.
Levi ran across the yard and tried to get into the door. As he ran up the front steps to the house it melted away into nothing. He hovered in dark limbo before hearing a gasp and a horrified scream.
He lurched awake. He still had the clothes he wore that day on. The dream felt like it lasted maybe a half-hour, but he had been asleep for 12 hours. He had an awful feeling about Lena. He didn’t see her in his dream, however, he was oddly convinced it had to do with her. He was supposed to meet her at 4pm but he wanted to check in on her. He called her phone number.
He left her a text message instead: Are we still ok for 4pm? Hope you are doing well.
He tried to lay back down and calm himself, but anxiety burned in his chest and stomach. Should he just show up and physically check on her? He shook the idea off. He couldn’t just walk up to her house and check up on her because he had a weird dream. He closed his eyes.
He was dumped instantly into what seemed like another dream. Lena was standing in a well-decorated hallway outside a wood door that looked like it led to a home office. A man was standing in the doorway, balding and chubby.
“Why would I want to spend time with you? What do YOU have to talk about? All you do is clean! There is nothing that goes on inside that head of yours.” He said curtly and slammed the door in Lena’s face.
The slammed door dumped him back into consciousness. He was deeply saddened by how she was treated. He truly hoped this wasn’t real.
To his relief Lena texted him back: Yes, we are still on for 4pm. I can’t wait!
As his uber pulled up to Lena’s address he had a hard time repressing his horror. It was the large brownstone with white shutters from his dream. He thanked the driver and walked up the driveway, feeling surreal. As he approached the door with the tulip stained glass window he wondered if he was still asleep. He rang the doorbell.
Lena opened the door and greeted him with bubbly happiness that helped scrub some of his anxiety away and ground him in reality. She fussed about, placing his jacket and bag on a fancy wrought iron coat rack. He was feeling better until she led him through the hallway, and he spotted the wood door and the well-decorated hallway.
“Is everything ok? You seem, troubled.” Lena looked up at him, concerned.
“Oh, sorry it’s been quite a week. Just a bit tired.” He smiled and tried his best to erase his growing trepidation.
She fussed over tea and cookies, and they made small talk for a bit before beginning the reading session.
“Are you ready to begin?” He asked her, finally calming himself down enough to start the session.
“yes” She smiled eagerly and held her hands out.
He took them and closed his eyes, beginning his usual warm-up regiment.
The skin-to-skin connection seemed to make his abilities stronger. He could clearly see and feel countless encounters between Lena and Sam, Lena being doting, caring and kind while Same behaved surly, indifferent and sometimes annoyed at her constant presence. He felt Lena’s intense need to be like and loved and the willingness to go out of her way to achieve it. However, she felt she needed to be constantly present with someone, and it led to an element of clinginess.
He was dumped into one of her recent memories. He saw her thinking about piles of paper crammed into a tiny office, and then he was in the office right there with her. They hovered over the heavy oak desk, and he saw Lena pick up a certain group of papers and frantically sift through them. She made a small anguished cry that broke his heart and he felt her heart sink. She shuffled through more papers on the desk, and he could feel her slip deeper and deeper into depression. He saw what was on the papers briefly, but it wasn’t enough for him to piece together what these papers meant.
“There is something troubling you deeply, something about a collection of paperwork you found?” He realized he was jumping in quicker than he normally did.
Lena at once tensed up.
“Yes… I… found some troubling things in my husband’s office.” She sat looking at him, stunned.
“You don’t have to tell me what you found, but it’s very disturbing to you. Is everything ok Lena?” He asked with burning concern for her safety.
“Ah, yes. Yes, it’s alright.”
He could feel she was lying. She was scared for her life.
“Please Lena if you’re in danger tell me and I’ll help any way I can. You won’t be a burden. I’m very concerned about you.” The words tumbled out of his mouth, his dreams were feeling more and more real.
Levi felt an intense wave of horror as he heard the door open behind him.
“Sam?” Lena peaked around Levi, trying to see down the hallway.
“I’m home.” A familiar voice called.
Levi jumped to his feet and began pulling Lena over to the back door.
“Lena, we have to leave now, I can’t really explain but I think your husband is about to kill you. I know it sounds crazy but please I can’t take the chance.” He said panicked.
She looked at him with renewed terror at his strange behaviour and resisted his pull. It was already too late, Levi could see Sam walking down the darkened hallway with a long black shotgun. Moments later a strangled gasp came from Lena as Sam raised the shotgun.
“You cheating bitch! I knew it!” He yelled.
Levi pulled them both to the floor. As the gun barked, leaving bullets peppered in the walls behind them. He and Lena dragged and scrambled with each other into the kitchen, and Lena clawed the back door open. They both ran out into the now pitch-black backyard. Lena sprinted to the left suddenly; Levi, unsure of where she was going continued straight and found himself falling into the shocking cold of a pool. Panic flooded his body as he at once gasped from the shock and inhaled the icy water. He struggled to resurface as the pool cover swirled around him like an abstract painting. Desperately fighting the urge to choke on the water in his lungs. He sunk enough to feel the bottom of the pool and pushed up as hard as he could. He broke the surface gasping and coughing, eventually vomiting up the pool water. He struggled out of the pool panicked, he was alone in the yard. Sam had gone after Lena.
Levi ran around the side of the house, stumbling in the pitch black until he found himself in the front yard. He heard a gunshot, and his heart sank. He ran out into the street, desperately trying to find where either of them had run off to. To his relief there was just Sam laying in the middle of the street, Lena was nowhere to be found. He watched Sam roll over and groan. Levi approached Sam cautiously, the shotgun was laying at his side. Sam gripped his foot and howled in agony. Sensing an opportunity, Levi ran up and kicked the shotgun out of his immediate grasp. Sam didn’t react. Sam had shot himself in the foot, probably running with his finger too close to the trigger.
“Help… me!” He whimpered.
Sirens blared in the distance, and to Levi’s relief, a police cruiser pulled onto the street.
Initially, there was some chaos as both Levi and Sam were handcuffed. Sam was packed into an ambulance, as police interrogated Levi about shooing Sam in the foot. However, things were cleared up after Lena came running out of the neighbour’s house, she had been hiding in. After making sure Lena was taken care of by her neighbour Levi wandered home, still in shock from his brush with death. He promised to call Lena in the morning to check in on how she was doing.
Levi returned to his apartment at the back of his psychic reading shop. Double-checking the doors were locked he sat on his bed and stared at the wall for half an hour.
“Have your new powers made you blind as a bat?” A voice loomed out of the dark shopfront.
Levi scrambled to his feet, but his only exit was blocked by a man even taller than him, stick thin with curly grey hair and a grey goatee. He wore a black suit and a black dress shirt.
“I’m sorry I know you’ve had a rough night, I didn’t mean to scare you, but you walked right past me in the shop. My name is Harold Bell and I run a team of paranormal investigators. Someone in the police department tipped me off to uh, an unusual police report.”
Harold sat down in a plastic hair Levi used as a dining room chair. Levi eyed the exit but wasn’t sure if this man was a threat.
“A woman claimed her psychic predicted her husband would kill her the very night he turned up for a reading at her house.” Harold probed.
Levi nodded; he recognized the same kind of cold read probing he used on his clients.
“Here’s my card. Tomorrow morning if you’re interested, come to the location on the back of that card. It’s a paying job. Not great pay, but steady pay.” Harold smiled.
Harold then got up and left, using a strange key to unlock the shop’s front door. Re-locking it as he left. Levi sat incredibly stunned. He turned the card over and copied the address into his phone before laying down. He wasn’t sure if he could sleep, however, he immediately fell into an exhausted and fitful sleep.