Maybe the thrill of rebellion—of defying everything my parents had taught me—was why I did it. Maybe it was that thrill mixed with the constant prodding of my best friend, Linda Schuler. She had done it numerous times, spending hours telling me about how fulfilling it is and how much meaning it had given her life.

Of course, I was only in seventh grade. I wasn’t really searching for purpose at that point; I had bigger concerns, like cleansing myself of the “good Catholic school girl” label that had haunted me since I left the comfort and safety of Saint Nicholas Elementary.

Hanging out with Linda was probably one of the best ways to do that. Her reputation as a tree-hugging hippie and the constant scent of incense that trailed her meant she was certainly not going to be thumping any Bibles any time soon.

I was, in all honesty, not as nervous as I should have been when I entered the small, run-down building in the heart of St. Paul. I knew I was in the right place when I saw the large pink neon lettering above the doorway. It read, quite obnoxiously, “Psychic.”

The interior of the small building definitely contrasted to the world outside. It was cold and uninviting out there; in here, however, it was warm and comfortable. The waiting area was filled with different kinds of chairs with eccentric fabrics, ranging from purple and orange diamonds to golden spirals. Before I had a chance to examine it further, I heard a familiar voice.

“Jen!”

I looked forward and saw the reason I was here. Linda looked much like she did in school; her long brown hair was untamed with a mind of its own, going in any direction it felt like. She was wearing an ugly green sweater and jeans that were probably a few sizes too small. She probably wasn’t going to win any “Best Dressed” awards in the near future, but her style is so distinctly “Linda” that it’s hard not find it at least somewhat charming. This didn’t stop me from frequently offering her a makeover, but she never “had the time.”

As she came closer to hug me, I smelled that familiar scent. I have always hated incense, but I wouldn’t actually tell Linda until much later.

“My mom is excited to meet you,” she said at once, taking my jacket and putting it in the small closet behind the reception desk.

Linda’s mother is well-known for her accurate psychic readings. Apparently she had been featured in two national newspapers, where she discussed how she found her abilities. Linda helped her mother by acting as her assistant and receptionist. Linda never discussed her father, and I never asked about him; years later, I would find out that it was because her father had abandoned Linda and her mother when Linda was only about three years old.

“She’s down the hall there, first door on the right,” Linda informed me, pointing to the only hallway and the only door in said hallway.

I took a deep breath and began to walk towards the door, staring at my shoes as I proceeded. Linda obviously noticed that I was becoming hesitant, because she took my hand and told me it would be fine.

It turns out that it was. Mrs. Schuler was delighted to see me. I now knew exactly where Linda got her fashion sense. Her mom was wearing a red sweater not unlike Linda’s, and her hair was also brown and long, waving in multiple directions. I took a mental note to introduce them both to a comb in the future.

The room was cozy and barren. When you think of a psychic’s room, you probably think of strange artifacts and crystal balls and eccentric decorations, but Mrs. Schuler’s room was not like this at all. The wall was white, the carpet was even whiter, and the only furniture in the room were two cheap wooden chairs across from each other and a card table.

“Are you underwhelmed?” Mrs. Schuler told me as her gray eyes fixed their gaze on my five-foot frame. Even when she was only being kind, Mrs. Schuler’s stare was intimidating; when she looked at you, her eyes were like daggers piercing into your soul.

“It’s not like it is in the movies,” I responded, holding out my hand to greet her.

Like Linda, Mrs. Schuler was very good at knowing what I was thinking. I’m not sure I would call it a psychic ability as much as I would just call them observant. I always jokingly refer to Linda as a “human lie detector,” because she will notice anything from shaky hands to a fixed gaze to a hint of discomfort in your voice.

“Marie Schuler,” she said with a crooked smile as she reached out her hand.

I jumped a little when we shook. Her cold hands caught me off guard.

“Nice to meet you,” I said. My voice cracked slightly, despite my attempts to come off as confident and brave.

“Miranda, right?” she said, sitting in one of the chairs and offering me the other.

I knew this was going to be awkward.

“Um… no. My name’s Jennifer. Jennifer Austad,” I replied in the least rude way possible.

She looked straight into my eyes again for a few seconds, oblivious to my discomfort.

“Right, right. Jennifer. So lovely to finally meet you.”

I didn’t say anything. I figured my shaking hands and downward staring spoke more than enough. I caught myself twirling my finger in my hair and ceased immediately.

“She’ll kill me for saying this, but Linda’s telling me you might feel a bit… apprehensive?”

“Well,” I began, my eyes fixed on the wall, “You can thank seven years of Catholic school for that.”

She smiled again. My nerves went into overdrive.

“Perfectly understandable. If you don’t want to be here…”

“No!” I cut her off. “Linda tells me it’s not that all that bad.”

Once again, she smiled. I really, really did not like it when she smiled. Unlike the Schuler family, I’m not much of a mind-reader. Mrs. Schuler could have been a kind old woman or a witch. Her smile, unlike yours or mine, is ambiguous—it’s meaningless.

“The reason my room isn’t like the ones in the movies, Jennifer, is because I want your mind to remain neutral. Close your eyes and relax.”

I closed my eyes, but I definitely wasn’t relaxing. My right leg shook violently whenever I bent it, so I kept it perfectly straight.

“Hold your arms out.”

As soon as I did, Mrs. Schuler rested her palms on top of my own.

“You’re special, Jennifer,” Marie remarked after a minute of disturbing silence.

Oh, lovely. Now I was special.

“Your grandfather loved you very much, didn’t he? He wants me to tell you that he is watching you.”

Now both legs were shaking. This was a fantastic way to ease my tension.

My grandfather passed away when I was nine years old. I was his only grandchild, and even when I was very young, I knew that when he saw me, it made his day. We were very close.

“Jennifer, when you feel upset or down, your grandfather wants you to know that you can always talk to him. He wants you to know that he will always listen.”

And then she stood up. I opened my eyes.

“Thank you for coming here today,” she said, reaching her arms out to me.

“Thank you, Mrs. Schuler,” I said in response.

“Mrs. Schuler? That’s so strange. Just call me ‘Marie.’”

It was my turn to be the observer. Marie was keeping something from me. Her eyes were no longer full of passion and emotion.

As I walked back to the front room to meet Linda, I pondered what Marie said about my grandfather.

It was interesting, of course, but I never really thought about it until three years later… a day I will, unfortunately, never be able to forget.

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