I looked at the calendar on the wall in the kitchen and groaned. It was only the first week of January. This had to be an all time record for me. I reluctantly picked up my cell and tapped through my contact list until I found her number. I bit back a curse or seven and gave in since there was no time like the present. Still moaning softly I pushed the send button and waited for the call to connect. Being honest was such a pain some mornings.
"Who the hell is this?" Celia obviously didn't have her contacts in when she picked up the phone. But it was a little after five in the morning and most folks didn't get up that early during the week days much less on a Saturday. And I well knew that Celia didn't get up before ten if she could help it on Saturday or Sunday.
"The twenty-ten loser." I admitted. Even sleep deprived I didn't have to wait long for her to put the connections together.
She began laughing and said, "Jilly! Oh My GOD. I was just telling Brad about our wager this year. He said he couldn't believe you would lose. I so am going to get to gloat." I heard a muffled groan and a thump. Then Brad's laughter joined Celia's. I waited. There were the usual bedroom noises I didn't want to overhear and then Celia came back and said, "Oh, this is so sweet. I will see you in about three hours."
Reluctantly I caved and let her go back to whatever it was I interrupted. Okay, I knew from the sounds pretty much what I'd more than likely interrupted but I'd pretend to be ignorant. Celia had been with Brad for over a year now and she deserved all the happiness she could find. He seemed good for her.
I pondered what I'd started with my call. Every year Celia and I placed a wager on who'd break their New Year's resolution first. For the past fifteen years I'd been the winner. What she didn't know was my resolution. We weren't required to tell the other one what our resolutions were, we just had a fair play agreement to confess when we lost. I wasn't one for insane resolutions so I usually won. This year I'd actually made two. The one I was supposedly losing and then the one she didn't know I'd made. Her manic laughter helped me feel better about my 'losing.' I really had given myself a challenge knowing the result but I'd thought I would last until at least February.
The initial resolution was to wake up every morning and go for a brisk two-mile walk. I'd figured it wasn't going to be that tough given I usually did a mile or so in the evening. This morning the temperature didn't crack thirty degrees and I wasn't going to get out of my bed to freeze. I could handle snow and even rain but this was day nine of the year and each morning had got more and more chilled. I refused to freeze. Florida sunshine was vastly overrated when the mercury never rose above thirty with a wind chill knocking it down to something like twenty. I wasn't even going to go to the rain factor. At least this far south there weren't snow flurries like the northern parts of the state. I was told Florida was the tropics this far down south. Couldn't tell by the readings on the mercury I'd been seeing.
I finished my morning rituals and wondered what was on Celia's bucket list. I shook my head and thought of my real resolution. Let Celia have the win and she got to pick our bucket list items. If I'd won she'd have to go walking with me every morning. Given I went out at five or six it was cruel for Celia. I didn't really have much of a bucket list and would have been challenged to come up with many more things that were outrageous or silly for us to do. Shaking my head, I mentally laughed, all of this because one of our movie nights in the middle of winter she'd brought in the movie, "The Bucket List." I never thought of a bucket list in my life until I'd seen the movie. Celia was far wilder than I was so it was going to be interesting.
Celia came over two hours later with espresso drinks and pricey pastries.
"I have another hour before I become yours." I took the coffee and sipped slowly.
She plopped the pink bakery box of goodies in the center of the table saying, "Ah, but Brad had to go to work and I knew you'd need to be fed well for today's little fun."
I pulled down some plates and grabbed forks from the drawer and joined her at the table where she automatically sat once she'd dropped the goodies off. The box had four slices of evil tasty offerings and I looked at her and said, "What, 'kill me with calories' is on your list?"
She laughed and pulled out a piece of paper with a few items scribbled in pen. I tugged it from her fingers and saw.
1. Sing in a Karaoke bar dressed for Halloween when it's not Halloween
2. Go camping in the snow
3. Visit Renaissance Fair in full costume
4. Swim in the ocean with the polar bear club
5. Go to a séance
"Okay, is this in order?" I wondered if she got to choose the costumes.
"Nope. In fact we're doing number five today." She grinned wickedly. I went for the evil-looking cheese filled pastry topped with bright red strawberries and sighed. She was right, I needed some calories. I'd never dabbled in going to psychics or visiting mediums so I wasn't looking forward to that item, but a promise was a promise.
"I know just the place. I've already made an appointment. We'll head over there in about an hour." She grinned and picked out one of the almond crusted pieces from the box. The almond croissants were a weakness she well knew and I caved easily. She grinned slightly at my treat.
She laughed, "Brad and I had a side bet. Tonight he has to take me out to a four star restaurant and we'd actually order all four courses." She laughed. Brad was a well-paid lawyer and could afford it but hated going out fancy. Celia loved the luxury restaurants and fine dining 'experience' while Brad thought hot dogs and a beer were the best treats.
Laughing, I gave in and went and dressed for the séance. I didn't have a clue what one wore in the middle of the day to such an event and I was really trying to keep an open mind. Celia had shown up in a nicely tailored navy blue suit with a silk cream-colored shirt. I wasn't one for suits but with her blonde close cut hair and pixy features she looked cute in such an outfit. With my dark hair and features I'd look like a federal agent or worse.
I shuffled through my closet and decided given how chilly it still was outside that I'd go for something warm rather than office attire. I pulled out a sweater from the very back of my closet and sniffed -- not too cedar scented -- and pulled out some black jeans and boots. A few minutes later I was ready as I'd ever be for my first séance.
"Well, you certainly look warm enough." Celia was putting the plates and forks in the dishwasher and stuffed the two remaining pastries into my fridge with a grin. "For later when we get back."
She said she'd drive and soon I found myself staring at a neighborhood strip mall I'd never been to a few miles from my house. There were various stores lined along the same parking lot -- a dry cleaners, a dollar store, an acupuncture shop and a heavily barred liquor store on the corner facing the major cross street. Most of them had their names painted on their doors and a few had sales signs in the windows but for the most part it was unremarkable from the twenty or so other strip malls in a four or five mile radius.
We walked inside the door labeled Madame Serena: Psychic -- which was nestled in the corner of the mall the furthest storefront from the street traffic. The lobby was small and cozy. The windows had both mini blinds and curtains letting little light inside from the panes facing the parking area. The walls were painted a rich brown and the furniture was all heavy oak finish and throw pillows broke up the room with their bright peach and cream covers. There weren't any prices listed on the walls just some tasteful prints. A small brass hand bell was next to a discreet sign at the counter. It instructed us to ring if necessary. We looked at each other -- neither wanting to break the mood of silence nor disturb whoever was in the back behind the shut door.
"Your list, not mine," I whispered. I don't know why I felt compelled to whisper but nevertheless I did.
Just then the door jerked open and a small petite woman whirled into our lives.
"You must be Celia and Jillian! Welcome. Are you here for a reading or a communication with the beyond?" She came to Celia and took her hand with both of her pale hands. It wasn't quite a handshake but more like the way a favorite aunt would grasp and pull you to them.
"I'm Celia and this is Jilly. We are here for a séance please." Celia pulled her hand free from the woman and removed a check she discreetly palmed to the woman. It was quickly whisked into a pocket on the lady's large flowing black skirt.
"Let's go into the parlor room and get seated." Before she led us back she locked the front door and flipped a closed sign around saying, "This keeps us from being interrupted by casual strangers looking for a reading."
I felt like it locked me into whatever craziness Celia had gotten me into but kept my mouth shut. As the woman, Madame Serena I guessed, passed me she briefly touched my hand saying, "Oh, my, your uncle really misses you."
My heart raced and I grew warm and flush. Celia must have told her my uncle had just passed away. I glared daggers at Celia and she shook her head looking mystified. This promised to be more than just a dalliance in the sideshow of a county fair. We followed her back to her parlor and I shuddered not sure what I'd got myself involved in this time. 2010 was going to be an interesting year at best.