Ace of Hearts

Marie sighed as she made her way back from school. Charlie had dumped her. Right in the middle of class, in front of all of her friends.

"Look, Marie, you just aren’t pretty enough. I got another offer yesterday, so…"

She had run from the classroom before he could finish his sentence, and the echoes of raucous laughter followed her down the hall. Tears began falling down her face, and she angrily swept them away with the sleeve of her favorite blue cotton sweater. She rushed into the bathroom and locked herself in a stall, sitting down on the cold dirty toilet seat, and crying, her forehead pressed against her lap until she had successfully soaked her jeans as well.

"Great. Now my jeans are wet too. What else could go wrong?"

Although she had a vague suspicion that her nightmares would come true during the rest of the school day, her classes had gone quite well for the rest of the day. Entering her empty home, she found a note taped to the door.

"I went to the Gypsy Fair. Come on up here and catch up with me, it'll be fun! Mom."

Marie groaned, imagining her mother dressed in her retro-hippy clothes and conversing with palm readers and psychics at some wacko festival. Reluctantly, she did as her mother told her, and walked up Main Street and turned the corner onto fifth where the fair was. Gypsy wanna-be's walked around, garnished in golden rings and silky clothes, and she quickly spotted her mother's almost-afro hairstyle poking out among the crowd. She ran to catch up with her, and saw that she was conversing with a card dealer of some kind.

"And so your lucky numbers are: 50, 38, and 32," the dealer concluded, reshuffling his cards and smiling as her mom handed over five dollars to the man. She turned as Marie tugged on her outlandishly colored sleeve, and smiled.

"Hi sweetheart. Want to have your furtone read? It's a lot of fun!"

She finished the sentence without allowing her a chance to answer, and handed the man another five. He smiled greedily and shuffled his cards, then laid out five, face down.

"Pick one. It will be the bringer of your fortune today,"
the man said in a fake accent. She pointed at the one off to the side, its edges bent and torn. He nodded and flipped it over.

"Ah, you are in luck. It is the ace of hearts, a very lucky romance card. You had a problem with a lover today, perhaps?"

She almost puked at the word lover, but nodded without comment. Her mother looked at her sideways, an amused look on her face.

"He chose another girl over you, but he will realize his mistake. But he will not have the time to act on it," the dealer concluded.

The man reshuffled his deck without another word and motioned for the next customer in line to come forward.

Marie looked at her mom and opened her mouth, pointing her finger down it in the classic "Gack" face imitation.

After two hours of trying to dance hippy-style with her mom, they returned home, and Marie was surprised to see a small package waiting on the doorstep with her name on it.

"What in the blazes…?" While her mom went inside to feed the dog, she tore open the package, and gasped at the rose nestled neatly inside the styrofome packaging. Attached to it was a small white note that said:

"I’m Sorry, Marie. I made a BIG mistake. My love is for you, and you only. Please accept my apology. Love, Charlie."

Marie leaned against the door, clutching the package to her petite stomach.

His love is only for me? Oh gods, the card dealer… if he was right…

Her thoughts trailed off as she ran inside and slammed the package onto the couch, and then picked up the phone. No dial tone. Her mother walked in and looked at her holding the phone with a panicked look on her face.

"Oh, they shut down the phone lines for the day. Why don’t you go use the payphone up the street?"

Marie slammed down the phone, grabbed some change from the table next to the couch, and raced out of the house without even glancing at her mother. Her feet had carried her up the street and before she knew it, she was jamming her change into the tiny slot. She pounded the number to Chuck's house in only to be reminded by the operator that she was still a penny short.

"A penny!? I don’t have a penny! Come on, I have to talk to him! Where can I get a penny?"

Marie looked around, and decided on going to a neighbor's house to call. She pounded on Mr. Wickson's home and ran past him as he opened the door.

"It's urgent, I have to make a phone call."

She called over her shoulder to him as he stood in the doorway, confused. She dialed the numbers quickly, and was rewarded by the click of the receiver picking up.

"Hello?" Chuck's father answered, his voice sounding weary and bone tired.

"Hi, is Chuck home? I really need to talk to him." She said, her voice wavering in her panicked state. She heard a soft moan and a sigh, and finally a female voice answered.

"This is Chuck's mom… I’m sorry… we just found out…" the voice broke into a cry, anguished sobs that touched Marie's heart and made fear arise within her.

"Chuck is…dead… he… a car accident..." the phone clicked as she hung up, and Marie slid to the floor of Mr. Wick son’s floor, resting her head in her hands, sobbing.

The card dealer… he was right... no wonder his face… when I picked out the ace of hearts… the rose… he sent the rose, but he never got a chance… fate stopped me from helping him. The penny… her thoughts went on forever, and she never noticed when Mr. Wickson brought her home, talking to her gently, or as her mother took her to a therapist to set up appointments.

It wasn't fair… the thought rung throughout her mind, and the experience would haunt her for the rest of her life.