Julia Mauer fell in love with her Reiki master in the Summer of 2010. It had started in the winter of that year, when she and her mother visited the Psychic Fair, which occurred on the second Saturday of every month, at the Healing Center in the middle of the town where she grew up. There was a literal menu of psychics to choose from that day, with pictures and phrases like “connections” and “other worlds,” but because Julia and her mom were late to arrive, they were faced with only two.
“You pick,” her mom said. “I’ll just watch.” This outing to the Psychic Fair was her idea.
Julia was squeezing her credit card in her hand. She felt it wobble. “Okay. Who do you recommend?” This, to the uninterested girl behind the counter.
“Anyone,” she said. “They’re all good.”
Julia looked back at the menu, the few spots still available, the kind faces that, despite their kindness, still looked sort of off.
“Wanda,” said the girl, suddenly reengaged and trying to close the sale. “She’s psychic and a Reiki master. She does both.”
Julia handed the girl her card, heard the swipe. “Does both what?” Julia asked, but the girl only smiled, and then came back the card, the little white paper and pen.
Wanda was tall and wide. In the tiny room, a tiny table with sweet incense burning, it felt like she took up most of it. She wore all black, had silver rings on what Julia remembers as every single finger. Hanging from her neck low near her breasts was a silver star.
Mrs. Mauer closed the door behind her. She pointed, asked, “Does that mean you worship the devil?”
Wanda smiled and looked at Julia. “Are you Julia?”
“My apologies,” she said. “I didn’t know there’d be two of you.”
“This is my mom,” Julia said. “I hope it’s okay she’s here.”
“Is it okay with you?” Wanda asked Julia, sitting behind the table. She pointed to the chair across from her.
Julia sat. “Yep.”
“Does it mean something else, maybe?” Mrs. Mauer said. “It’s not the star of David.”
“You’re right,” Wanda said. She exhaled, waved her hand in her face. “Boy, it’s hot in here.”
Wanda’s chair was across from Julia’s. They were face to face now, no table, knees almost touching. She said, “Tell me about you. Tell me things you like.”
Julia chose from things she could say out loud in front of her mother. She thought. “I like to draw,” she said. “I like to read, watch T.V. I like to work out and run.” Julia did not say, “I like to smoke tobacco and weed. I like to roll them myself, light them with a kitchen match. “ She did not say, “I like to be alone in my house with my dog. I like when the phone doesn’t ring.” She did not say, “I like to fuck my exes.”
Wanda closed her eyes and was silent. She opened them again. “I’m going to touch you now. I do this with my eyes closed.” She put her hands on the tops of Julia’s thighs.
Julia sucked in her breath, thought good thoughts.
Wanda opened her eyes again. They were bright blue, black eyeliner. “You have really, really good energy,” she said.
“Really?” said Julia. “I was afraid when you touched me, I’d blow you across the room.”
“I do this from my home, you know. We could go much deeper than we did today. I charge $50 for two hours. In my home,” said Wanda. She was escorting Julia and her mother to the door, the incense burned out into an ashy line.
“That’s cheap,” Julia said. “You can’t get anything for $50 for two hours anymore.”
“Call me,” Wanda said, pressed her big hand in Julia’s small, pale one, where she placed her card. “And let me hug you.”
Julia opened her arms, her body stiff. She felt much younger than she was. Before she knew it, her face was pressed against Wanda’s warm breasts, the cold silver of the star.
In the car, Julia’s mom said, “According to my iPhone, that star means she’s a witch.”
Julia put on her directional, waited for a break in the traffic. “She a three-for,” she said.
Wanda’s house was an old Colonial. It was so old, it had a small wooden sign on the front to say so. This sign looked official, mentioned the town’s historical society, mentioned 1869.
Julia was staring at the lacey curtains in the window, the potted pink flowers hanging from hooks on the posts of the porch. These posts need painting, Julia thought, scowled a little at the peels. I could do this for her, she thought.
Wanda opened the door. “You’re early,” she said. “I love a girl who’s early.”
Wanda led Julia to the back corner of her house. Their feet made the wide, pinewood floors squeak loud enough to attract two cats that appeared, Julia found, at the doorway to the bathroom.
Wanda led Julia to a room that was painted dark red, had a padded table in the center. More incense burned, the smell sweeter here, sweeter and heavier. It made Julia want a smoke. The drapes were drawn to block out the overcast skies, but the floor lamp, which looked antique—the velvet shade, it looked velvet, with tassels—but not as antique as the house, proved this room was clean, well-cared for. It was Wanda’s home office.
“Take off your shoes,” Wanda said. “I just need to grab the candles from the kitchen.”
Julia turned and caught Wanda’s smile. She smiled back, sat in a wooden chair near the floor lamp. It creaked. She brought a leg up slowly, letting her fingers mess with the laces of her shoes before really getting to work.
Julia thought about what Wanda would find today. If her energy would still be good, or if something fucked up from the week would have shit all over it. If her energy would not be as good now, and if Wanda would know why, could clear it up, help her through stuck moments like the ones she’s been having. She wondered if Wanda knew how to heal creative blocks. She would ask her, she decided, as she slipped one sneaker off her foot, but then she heard the crash, and then her mind went blank.
There was the crash, and then the cry. There was shuffling and a struggle, Julia heard, and then Wanda’s voice, although she could not make out the words. Julia put her sneaker on the floor, walked to the doorway wearing only one of them. She felt hot, from her stomach to her throat. She didn’t know if this was worry or embarrassment, this heat, or if it was from being stuck in a stranger’s house and not knowing what was going on.
“Julia?” Wanda called. “Walk to the front of the house. I’m in the kitchen, toward your left.”
Julia followed Wanda’s voice. She passed the bathroom, where the cats had been. At the front door, she turned into the dining room, which led to the kitchen, which led to Wanda on her back on the floor, her face as pale as Julia’s hands, her shirt bunched up around her, exposing just a little of her big, white belly.
Julia said, “You fell.”
“The phone’s on the wall behind you. Can you call 911?”
“You don’t want me to help you up?” Julia asked, noticed then the candles on their sides next to Wanda on the floor, the cats on her kitchen counters, taking it all in.
“No, honey. I think I may have broke something. It hurts real bad.”
Julia said exactly this to the 911 operator. Except she changed the last part, to “She’s in a lot of pain. Please come as fast as you can.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Wanda said to Julia after she hung up, her head on the floor, her body like a mountain ridge on linoleum. “What a terrible way to begin.”
Julia went to Wanda, got on her knees, which helped to hide her missing footwear. She placed her hand on Wanda’s and grabbed, lifted it to her own, much flatter stomach.
Wanda looked at Julia then, her fading red lipstick, her three rolls of flesh at her neck. She was beginning to sweat, her lips quivering. “You’re a good girl,” she said. “I know you don’t know that.”
Julia smiled. She said, “Please don’t betray my trust.”