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lease,” Juliette said.

“Let me hear you say it in French,” said Jimmie Sue.

Juliette blushed. “S’il vous plait.” Though that didn’t really convey the begging quality, she’d learned via her Mom, you could get from a long, drawn-out American please.

“As you know, I do not have my cards, so I can’t guarantee that the reading will be 100 percent accurate.”

Juliette felt her face go even hotter. It was clear that Jimmie Sue was not going to tell her mother about her role in the fire. If Juliette did certain things, sometimes specific, sometimes vague, sometimes small, somethings big things that Jimmie Sue wanted.

“But you said there were other methods.”

“There’s the palm, that’s what we can do today. There’s staring into fire, but I have to be in the mood for that, and right about now fire’s kinda not sitting so well. But the cards are the best. Did you order those new cards for me like I told you?”

Yes, Juliette had. She’d gone online, as Jimmie Sue had instructed, and ordered a deck exactly like the old one, which should be here in a few days. She’d even paid for the cards with her own money.

“All right,” Jimmie Sue said, gesturing. “Let me see that pretty young hand.”

Jimmie Sue was sitting in Juliette’s grandfather’s bed, Senior snoring beside her although the lights were on overhead and the television blared in the background. Juliette and her mother had cleared and scrubbed the whole room, changed the sheets and the mattress pad and the blankets too. Cora had cleaned the kitchen, too, and cooked Juliette’s grandpa his favorite meal. They had gotten the whole house in pretty good shape, with the exception of her uncle’s room, which Cora just shut the door on and said she would not deal with.

The alligator in the bathtub turned out to be some giant sort of pet lizard of Jamie’s. Cora had put on oven mitts and kind of swept it, with Juliette’s extremely reluctant help, into a box sprinkled with cat food. It was difficult to tell whether the lizard was dead or alive.

They’d taped up the box and put it out in the cement garden for Jamie to take care of if he should ever show up.

“Ah,” said Jimmie Sue, raising her eyebrows. “That’s interesting.”


“You have two lovers.”

Juliette felt her mouth open. She didn’t want to say anything, didn’t want to give the old lady any clues, but she didn’t want to make her mad either. Plus she felt a little confused about what the word lover really meant. She’d had sex exactly once, with Hugo, and she was a little confused whether it had even been proper sex. But Hugo was in her old world. And here she’d already met somebody new, the black American, though he wasn’t in any way her lover.

“One of them is far away,” said the fortune teller, running the edge of her purple-painted fingernail, curved at the tip like a bird’s claw, along the top line of Juliette’s palm. “And one of them is near by. Very near by.”

Juliette caught her breath.

“There’s trouble with both of them. Roadblocks. Difficulties.”

“Oh no,” said Juliette. “So I shouldn’t be with either of them?”

Jimmie Sue turned her hand and peered at the side of it, right under the pinkie. “You have an emotional destiny with both of them. There are many rewards, but I also see much heartache.”

This was not the kind of thing she needed to hear. She wanted direction, not more confusion.

“There is an older woman coming into your life,” said Jimmie Sue. “She’ll be important to you as a counselor.”

Juliette laughed and pulled back her hand. “That’s just because you want me to do what you say.”

“How do you know I’m talking about myself?”

“Well, aren’t you?”

“That’s not clear. You know it’s impossible to read for yourself. It could be your mother, or a teacher, or someone else. I’m just saying, it’s important to listen to this spirit guide.”

“I want to go back to Paris,” said Juliette. “Will I go back to Paris?”

Jimmie Sue beckoned for her hand again, and Juliette reluctantly turned it over.

“I don’t think I like the hand,” she said. “Will you read my cards, when they come?”

“I can’t do that right away,” said Jimmie Sue, while she continued to study Juliette’s hand. “I’m going to have to handle each one and chant over it, work with them for a little while to make sure they have the right energy, then I’m going to have to find exactly the right piece of silk to wrap them in, get a special kind of box to store them in. Could take a while.”

“I’ll help you,” said Juliette.

“Ah, my little disciple.” Jimmie Sue smiled, her teeth long and yellow and frightening, though her brown eyes were warm and merry, drawing Juliette in. “I can tell you right now, you won’t go back to Paris, not for a long time, though there will be forces drawing you there. But there will be stronger forces, forces you can’t anticipate, keeping you right here.”

Read Juliette’s side of the story.

Peek inside Juliette’s Secret Diary.

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