Getting it Right
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Copyright ©2013 Zenobia Renquist
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Janine tossed aside her e-reader, careful to aim for the couch cushions. She'd read the same page ten times already. A second after reading a sentence she forgot what it said. After staring at it for so long, she couldn't remember a single word.
She debated trying to watch a movie again but vetoed the idea since she didn't feel like standing in front of her vast DVD collection in a hopeless attempt to figure out what she wanted to watch. Nothing interested her, and it was all Caleb's fault.
If he hadn't given her that stupid prediction, she would be happily reading the next book by her favorite author. She'd been saving the book for the weekend. Her friends had claimed her Saturday with an impromptu going away party for a friend, who was moving across the country to be with her new husband.
Sunday was supposed to be Janine's day to read and veg and be lazy. A day all to herself where she didn't worry about anything except how Logan -- the bad boy of the last three books in her favorite series -- would redeem himself to become a hero worthy of getting the girl.
Janine should be hanging on every word and holding her breath at every hint of peril until the last page. Instead, Caleb's stupid prediction had her too anxious to read or do anything except sit on her couch and pick at her cuticles until they bled.
She dabbed the back of her thumb with a tissue before wrapping a bandage around the damage and moving to the next finger. "Stupid Caleb," she grumbled.
He'd pulled her aside at last night's party and said her dream man was coming. No, he'd said the man of her dreams and the man of her destiny were coming. Two different men headed her way and arriving on Sunday -- some time in the late afternoon, possibly early evening. Caleb hadn't been sure about details. He had been sure that it was up to her to choose.
Not only choose, but choose wisely, since one man would bring lasting happiness while the other would bring momentary gratification followed by heartache and betrayal.
No pressure. It was only her future in the balance. And since it had been Caleb telling her this, she couldn't discount it.
Caleb was a psychic. A real one. He even made money off it, though he hid behind an actress dressed up as a gypsy with a cheap crystal ball because his customers expected that. His psychic hotline phones stayed busy -- manned by Janine and a few dozen other women he'd hired to read from prepared statements he provided -- and he had appointments booked for six months out.
He tossed freebies Janine's way on the odd occasion because they'd been friends since the womb -- their mothers had been best friends since high school -- and he still owed her for introducing him to his husband. She wished his debt had been paid in a less cryptic way.
Happiness or heartache. How was she supposed to know which man would bring what? Would they arrive holding signs? Probably not. That would be too easy. As well, Caleb would have been able to see which man was best for her. She knew her long-time friend wouldn't want her hurt.
He'd been upset he couldn't tell which man would lead to which outcome, but his powers didn't work like that. He saw as far as important, life-altering choices. Once a choice was made, he could continue his prediction. So he would be able to tell her if she'd chosen the right man after her decision when it was too late to change her mind. He'd said the man she didn't choose would disappear from her life forever.
Yup. No pressure. Absolutely none.
Her phone chimed, indicating a text message. She leaned forward on the couch, retrieved her phone, and then grinned.
Stop calling me stupid.
It was from Caleb. She brought up the reply window. Stop eavesdropping.
All their lives Caleb had always known when Janine was thinking about him or talking about him. Not only her, but anyone. It was how he was able to prepare predictions for callers and his appointments hours in advance of the person contacting him. He started each day typing up his predictions, delivered them to the shop, and then spent the rest of the day creating the charm bracelets his shop sold.
How are you holding up?
Janine stuck her tongue out at her phone. You already know the answer to that.
I'll be fine. It's just my future, right?
A few minutes passed before Caleb replied back. I've been trying to see more.
Janine's eyes widened. She hit the speed dial for Caleb's number and yelled the second he picked up, "Stop that before you give yourself a migraine."
"No, I mean it, Caleb. Stop right now. You've given me enough. Leave it alone. You're going to put yourself out of commission and have to reschedule all your appointments. Stop it."
Any time Caleb strained to see beyond his capabilities he would pop a migraine that blocked his powers for a minimum of twenty-four hours. One time it had lasted for an entire week. Caleb had been devastated, thinking he'd lost his powers for good. They had cried together in relief when his powers returned. His paternal grandmother -- the one from whom he'd inherited his gift -- had smacked him on the back of the head and told him never to be so reckless again or he really might lose them for good.
Caleb sighed. "Okay."
"Yeah. I'll stop. But, Janine, I don't like this. I can see the two paths. I can see what's at the end of both paths. On one, you're really happy. Happier than I've ever seen you. On the other" -- he let out a hard sigh --"you're crying and hurt and eventually settling for some guy who annoys the crap out of you but you two stay together because being alone sucks."
She didn't know what to say.
"I can see them both but I can't see which man leads to what. I can't see the men either." He laughed without humor. "I can't even give you the tall, dark and handsome spiel because I can't tell you anything about how either man looks."
"Caleb, I love you. You've given me way more than enough. The rest is up to me."
"Right." He didn't sound convincing.
"Stop worrying about me and go focus on your own man. I want to see my godchild soon."
"Janine, did you forget where babies come from?"
They laughed, breaking the tension and helping her relax. "Yes, I know, but I also know that you've shown me a lot of wacky shit in this world. Shit I didn't know existed or could exist. I'm not totally convinced you and Roger can't have kids. So hop to it."
Caleb laughed louder. Roger's muffled voice carried over the phone. It sounded as though he'd asked a question. Caleb called to him, "Janine wants us to start making babies." He paused. "That's what I told her but she says do it anyway." He laughed again. "Janine, Roger says he's willing to devote as much time as possible to making your wish come true. Thanks a lot." Sarcasm coated his last statement.
She ignored it since she knew how much Caleb and Roger loved each other. She also knew they didn't need any prompting from her to stay in bed all day. "You're welcome. Bye, sweetie."
"Call me after Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong show up. I want to do another reading for you."
"Bye now. Roger says it's baby-making time."
Janine tapped the end call button. Her smile faded as the phone screen went blank. She wasn't sure she wanted Caleb to do another reading after she made her choice. She didn't want to know if she'd chosen wrong.
Some part of her knew she would. Without any clues on how to choose right, wouldn't Murphy's Law come into play? Anything that could go wrong would, and she would end up with a guy who would make her life miserable until he left or she left him, leading her to a loveless marriage to another man who would probably make her miserable until the day she died.
She sighed in resignation and frustration as she put her phone back on the coffee table. "Who said life was easy?"
Sitting back on the couch, she prepared to wait, knowing no entertainment would distract her until the men showed. For better or for worse, she --
"Holy shit!" Janine screamed and jumped onto her couch as a giant, dark purple something appeared out of thin air and crashed onto her coffee table, smashing it.
It groaned, sighed, and then sagged.
Janine stared at the thing, waiting for it to do something else. It didn't move except for the rise and fall of its body as it breathed.
Going slowly, and ready to bolt if the moment warranted it, she inched toward the thing. She couldn't begin to guess what it was. It had wings like a bat and a long, thin tail. Other features were hidden because it had wrapped itself in a cocoon created by its wings.
She reached for it, her fingers shaking. "Hello?" Her voice was barely a whisper. She swallowed and tried again. "Hello?"
Banging on her door sent her back onto the couch and half over it. She stared at the purple bat and then at the door. The noise didn't rouse it but almost gave her a heart attack.
She rushed to the door, slipped the chain in place, and then opened it. "Yes?"
The man on the other side said, "I'm Taylor, from the apartment below you. I heard something hit the floor and you screamed. Are you okay?"