He stood on the other side of the street as he watched Eden come into work, for the third time that week. He made sure he blended in and knew for certain that she wouldn’t notice him until he was ready for her to.
“Constanta?” Eden called out as she entered the little store that was known as one of the best palm reading places to most of the locals and some of the out-of-towners. The back room curtains opened and tall and lithe Constanta came out her layered dark skirt rustling.
“Eden, you are early as always.” Constanta walked over to Eden and gave her a big hug.
Standing next to each other Eden realized not for the first time how different they were from each other and not only in looks. Constanta’s tall frame reached 5’10” without heels. Her skin the color of toasted almonds, long straight raven black hair framed her diamond shaped face. Full lips and soft brown deep set eyes carried her look to not only seductive but also regal.
Eden on the other hand was as short as Constanta was tall, measuring 5’3” on a good day. Soft and rounded in the right places, curvy and voluptuous came to most people’s minds when looking at her. Her pale skin gave of an incandescent hue. Long dark copper red perfect corkscrew curls framed her delicate heart shaped face. Her large dark green eyes were her most startling feature, coupled with a perfectly proportioned mouth that naturally settled into a seductive pout.
Their personalities also didn’t match up. Constanta’s light cheerful attitude wasn’t just something she put on for show, she was genuinely happy. Self-confident in everything she did rather if it was reading tealeaves, or doing taxes. Money was nice to have and kept the business afloat but what she really loved about her job was the socialization, the bight faces and smiles that even her saddest of customers left with.
Eden on the other hand wasn’t comfortable in social situations though she was good at her job she hadn’t mastered small talk yet. Painfully shy she hid herself under her clothing and behind her hair. She was happy when people left happy but was sure that she could never take a stranger who was almost in tears and in a short time lighten their heart and have them leave with a bright smile.
Constanta’s motherly presence comforted not only the customers but also Eden her faithful and only employee. On slow days, like it was today, Constanta took her time to teach Eden the art of a good reading, rather if it was tealeaves, tarot cards, or palms. It wasn’t about being physic, it was all about being able to read people, to lead them with benign questions and make vague deductions, wrap it all up with a good show and you had a decent reading. The main point was to not harm. Everything was done in benevolence, neither Constanta nor Eden were con-artist and they were pretty honest, not hiding behind made up mumble jumble. It was all good fun for them and their customers and in a way that was what made people come back.
“You know I’m always early.” Eden smiled after stepping out of the hug.
“Such a hard worker you are dear.” Constanta kissed Eden’s forehead.
“It hardly seems like work most of the time. Has it been slow?”
“It has, but I have a feeling that it all will perk up soon.” Constanta gave Eden a sly smile.
“Oh I almost forgot I picked you up a little something.” Constanta’s brown eyes were twinkling as she walked behind the counter and lifted up a pretty boutique shopping bag.
“What is that?” Eden asked raising her right eyebrow.
“Think of it as a gift, or as a new uniform. You need to start looking the part, and baggy jeans and big shirts definitely are not the part.” Constanta handed Eden the shopping bag urging her with a nod of the head to open it. On the top was a beautiful wine red peasant skirt underneath was a light blue embroidered empire waist blouse.
“Constanta? This is too beautiful and way too expensive.”
“Like I said think of it as a new uniform, it’s slow so go ahead and change in the back room.” Eden didn’t know what to say or do and just stood there looking at the bag in her hand. “Go on now, try it on. It all should fit, and those clothes will look absolutely beautiful on you.”
“Thank you.” Eden said quietly before walking to the back room to change. Constanta guessed right on her size and the clothes fit perfectly. Eden stuffed her jeans and shirt into the bag before tucking it away in a dark corner of the room. The skirt was ankle length and Eden couldn’t help but twirl around, letting the fabric flow and billow around her. She kept twirling until she started to laugh and get dizzy.
“You okay in there!” She heard Constanta call out her voice rang clear as a bell.
“Yeah I’m perfect.” Eden called back, regaining her equilibrium. Eden pulled back the curtains and walked back into the main room of the store. Her face and neck flushed from spinning.
“Wow, look at you. Those were only clothes when I bought them but now on you they are works of art.” Constanta smiled widely.
“Oh, shut up.” Eden replied lightly but couldn’t keep from being pleased.
“Too bad I’m wearing tennis shoes, kind of ruins the look.” Eden said while sticking her right leg out a little to show her scuffed white tennis shoes.
“Kick them off, go barefoot. That will complete the look.”
“Of course, it will go perfect with this store, and I keep my floors clean so don’t worry about getting dirty feet.” Constanta laughed and it was like music.
“Oh what the heck.” Eden placed a hand on the counter to balance herself as she leaned down to take off her shoes.
“Wow we might get better tips if you keep bending over in that top.” Constanta gave a low whistle.
Eden shot straight up and crossed her arms over her chest which only helped emphasize it, and blushed deeply.
“I’m sorry dear.” Constanta wasn’t sorry at all, and found Eden’s shyness cute if not a bit tedious.
“No worries, I guess I had some kind of comment coming to me for hiding for so long.” Eden uncrossed her arms and relaxed a bit.
“Very true…” Constanta bent down to pick up Eden’s discarded shoes.
“Constanta I’ll take care of that.” Eden said quickly.
“Okay, just put them in the storage room. Oh and why you’re back there can you bring up the box marked art? We have some new pieces for consignment that we need to go through and place around here.” The shop since it opened had been a place to give local artist a start. Just another reason why it was so popular.
“Sure, no problem, besides I love it when we get new stuff.” Eden had a bounce in her step as she headed towards storage. Opening up new boxes always felt a bit like Christmas to her plus the added bonus of redecorating and figuring out where the new pieces should be placed gave her a very Zen like feeling. Eden tossed her shoes haphazardly against one corner and scanned the shelves looking for her prize. It took a few minutes and a ladder to find the box, careful to not trip over her own two feet she brought it down. She walked back to the front of the store carrying the box which was quite heavy and held back noticing that Constanta was with a customer. As quietly as she could Eden put the box down behind the counter and tried to look invisible.
“Oh Eden, great you are back. Can you do me a favor and give this gentleman a reading? I have to run an errand.”
“Constanta I don’t think I’m ready to do readings yet.” Eden whispered to her boss, slight fear showing in her eyes.
“Of course you are ready. Remember there is nothing to it.” Constanta felt a little guilty throwing Eden into this sink or swim situation, but she knew if she had any doubt about Eden’s ability she wouldn’t be doing this. Constanta lightly patted Eden’s arm encouragingly.
“Ryder, my assistant Eden is going to be doing your reading today. She is absolutely amazing and believe me you’ll get your money’s worth.” Constanta gave a wink and pushed the blushing Eden forward.
Ryder held out his hand to greet her and Eden finally took a good look at him. There was a lot to take in, him being a good foot taller than Eden. His shoulder length dark hair fell a bit in front of his face halfway covering up his clear blue, evenly set eyes. His skin a soft bronze, but it did look like he hadn’t been out in the sun for awhile. Even his black dress pants and a white oxford shirt (untucked) couldn’t hide the strong lean muscles underneath. Swallowing and trying to relearn to breathe through the panic of giving her first reading, Eden reached out her hand to shake his. However Ryder had other things in mind that didn’t include a handshake. He leaned down, his soft bowed lips just barely brushing the top of her hand.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Eden.” Ryder’s voice was deep with a hint of a rough edge to it, definitely a voice made for the bedroom. Eden heard Constanta chuckle lightly and she began to blush deeper.
“Well go ahead and take him back into the reading room. You two kids have fun now.” Constanta waved and Eden shot her a dirty look over her shoulder. She led Ryder to the back room. The room was lit with subtle lighting, in muted oranges and reds, highlighting the deep purple walls it gave the room a soft sunset look. A round table made from glossed cherry wood stood in the center of the room, with two Victorian style arm chairs on either side.
“Where’s the crystal ball?”
“It’s not like that really.” It wasn’t the first time that someone had asked that question, and probably wouldn’t be the last, but Eden wasn’t sure if Ryder was just teasing her or just making fun of the whole thing.
“Then what is it like?”
“I guess you could say it’s more like psychoanalyzing.” Eden shrugged, and motioned Ryder to take a seat as she took the chair opposite of him, letting her skirt settle around her.
“So like therapy?” Ryder took his seat and leaned forward his elbows resting on the table and his chin resting in the palm of his right hand. His blue eyes intensely staring at her. Eden felt like she should chose her words carefully around him, like what came out of her mouth next would help him make some kind of great judgment about her.
“A little, it’s a way to help you look at most of the angles of your life and what you want. Open up your mind to new paths that you perhaps didn’t even know existed, also it’s away for you to get stuff off your chest and close the necessary chapters of your life satisfactorily.”
“All that in only forty-five minutes?”
“Depending on how open you are.”
“A psychic shop that doesn’t believe in psychics?” A slow smile spread across Ryder’s face and he chuckled.
“We are not con-artist. We are very honest on how we do what we do.” Eden said tersely.
“I mean no insult.” Ryder sat up and held his hands out apologizing. “Though it does make me wonder about those love charms you sell up front.”
“They are handmade by a local artist. They are just called love charms in name nothing more. Buying one might make a wonderful gift for someone, but it will not make Liv Tyler show up at your doorstep to confess undying love.”
“Good, besides I much prefer it to be her sister who’d show up on my doorstep if those things worked.” Eden gave him a puzzled look before shaking her head to clear it.
“To let you know I’m not really as good as Constanta said. I’m best at tarot cards and okay at palm reading. Tealeaves on the other hand I haven’t got the hang of.” Eden said changing the subject to the reading at hand. Tarot cards gave her many avenues to build a story and pull out information. Palm reading was also easy in the way that people felt it a little more intimate and therefore tended to open up easier. Tealeaves on the other hand to Eden was like looking up at the clouds and making pictures as a child, she just couldn’t help but see bunnies and faces at the bottom of the cup.
“Here.” Ryder held his hand palm up across the table for her to take. Eden guessed she really shouldn’t have been surprised that he would pick the more intimate of the readings. Gingerly she took his hand tilting it up toward the light to get a better look at it. She could only describe his hand as elegant, long fingers with short clean nails. The back of his hand was soft and felt cool in her warm one. She studied his palm and fingers quickly then turned her eyes up to look at Ryder, he looked relaxed, content to let her touch his hand.
“So you’ve been playing the guitar for a long time now.” It was a statement and Eden half said it to end the silence that had settle onto them, and half to see what kind of reaction she’d get.
“And you are sure you’re not psychic?”
“I’m sure. The calluses on your fingertips give you away,” Eden ran her thumb over the tip of one finger, pressing down lightly. “From the way they feel you’ve been at it for awhile.”
“Since I was about 13. Started a small garage band and it just seemed to go from there.” He confirmed.
“How long have you been working with this new band?” Eden forced herself to look up again and made eye contact, staring at his palm and touching it here and there was all very well, but without the personal touch of making it an actual conversation people tended to feel like specimens (at least that’s what Constanta kept telling her).
“Just a few months.”
“Don’t worry, it’s slow for you right now, but opportunities will open up quickly, if you persist and are willing to make them for yourself.” As mystical as that sounded it was all quite simple. Eden knew enough about the independent music scene to know that there was always a new band a musician moved to, or enough people getting replaced in an old one to make it new. Plus the first few months were always slow, hard to get bookings unless it was at some dive bar that didn’t want to pay more than just penny’s.
“You are pretty good.”
“Just perceptive. Other then working with your band, what brings you joy?”
“Oh lots of things.” Ryder quickly moved his hand off and under hers, leaving him cupping her hand, palm face up, like the way she was holding his just moments earlier. Eden took in a quick sharp breath but stilled herself to not move away. He lightly ran a finger from his other hand down hers and to her fingertip.
“You ought not to be so nervous.” He said quietly, still lightly caressing her palm.
“I’m sure you’ve been told a few times that you can be a little unnerving.” Eden tried to move her hand away but Ryder held it just a little tighter.
“I don’t try to be. Let me give palm reading a try.” His grin seemed to calm her and Eden relaxed a little bit.
“I see a loving and devoted man in your life.” Ryder said in a low voice and uncomfortably Eden took back her hand and placed it in her lap.
“The only man in my life is my cat. Loving and devoted isn’t really the words I would use to describe him.” She shook her head.
“Gee I guess I’m not good at this, though it’s okay, mostly I was just going around about way to find out if you are single.”
“And why would you want to know that?”
“In case I get up the courage to ask you out for a drink, or a date.”
“Somehow I doubt you lack the courage for anything. However I don’t drink and don’t date customers, sorry.” Eden blushed brightly looking down at the table unable to meet his eyes, and unable to figure out the game he was playing. Her mind couldn’t wrap itself around the idea of him wanting to date her. She was sure someone like him could have his pick of beautiful girls, and she felt she was anything but. Skittish and plain was what she brought to the table and she knew that wasn’t something he or really anyone else would want. So she brushed his comment away explaining to herself that he was just teasing her.
“Ah I see. I also see I’ve made you feel uncomfortable and for that I am sorry that wasn’t my intent.” He looked down at his watch. “Well look at that time really does fly. I better get going my lunch break is practically over. Eden it really has been a pleasure.” He stood moving is chair back.
“Constanta is probably done with her errands, she will be handling the counter, you can pay there.” Eden was grateful that he had to leave and yet a small part of her wanted him to stay longer.
“Again thank you.” Ryder gave her a bow and pulled the curtains back, leaving her in the jumbled mess of her own head. Sighing Eden rested her forehead on the top of the table, resisting the urge to bang it a few times on the polished wood. Her first reading alone without Constanta’s help had left her exhausted and disconcerted.