Christina looked at herself in the mirror, she was starting to look a bit gaunt. She would have to speak to her father about that. She applied a small bit of make up to smooth out her already pale skin, hiding the few blotches of red on her cheeks and nose. Her eyes looked slightly sunken and dark, she applied a little bit of brown make up to make them look slightly deeper. Her black hair was loose around her shoulders and the gown she wore was white and flowy. There was a knock on the door. “Are you decent?”
The door opened revealing a man in a suit, “How are you today sweetheart?”
“I’m ok. Though I worry I look a little thin.”
He studied her for a second then nodded, “We’ll up your calorie intake for a few days, see if that fixes it.” Christina nodded once.
“Are you ready for them?”
“Yes, I think so but I was thinking, maybe this could be the last one?”
Her fathers eyes narrowed, he opened his mouth, “I mean of the week. I’m feeling a bit run down.”
“I’ll consider it.”
Christina nodded again, that meant no. He closed the door over again and she sighed. Someday she’d have the backbone to stand up to him, to tell him no, that she was done, but today was not that day. She took a deep breath to try and still her trembling hands. She had managed to cover it well, but when he looked at her like that she couldn’t help but feel a bright spike of fear through her core. It had been a few months since he had last hit her, but that didn’t mean anything. He had gone a whole year without raising a hand to her once.
Christina picked up the silver cross on its delicate chain and put it on. She moved it so it slipped beneath the fabric of her dress, but it was a comfort, feeling it against her skin. It was one of the few things she had that belonged to her mother. When she wore it she could feel her mother watching down over her. Christina looked at herself again, she hated how pale she was. Once she was out of here she’d get a nice, healthy looking tan, maybe dye her hair something crazy like blue or red. It would be a few years before she would be able to escape yet, but she would get out. Already she had some money saved up, not much but it was a start. Mostly slipping bills from the wad of cash she was given at the end of a session. Her father never counted it, besides most of the money went on drink so he’d just chalk anything missing up to that.
There was a faint buzz and Christina stood from her chair. They were here. She’d give them a little time to get settled. Her father would be chatting with them, trying to glean any information he could. Not that she needed it much these days, she was good at reading people, though that was becoming less important in the last year or so.
The couple were younger than she had expected, and they looked at her with sad, almost pleading eyes. She shook their hands and smiled at them. “Hello, thank you for coming today. I will warn you that this may be an intense experience. I will try my best to make it as easy as possible for you, but talking to the other side is hard work for all involved. I may not find who you want specifically, they may not be ready or able to talk to you today, but I will do my best. Please, follow me.” Christina gestured to a pair of double doors behind them, they turned and waited for them to pass.
“I’ve a good feeling about today, I was just about to tell them about that young woman a few weeks back, how you were able to help her get in touch with her grandmother Samantha.” Christina nodded, “Yes, it was a difficult session, but we were all happy with how it went.” Christina pulled open both the doors at the same time, she knew the effect was dramatic as her dress billowed out slightly around her. Immediately the room was filled with the smell of incense. The room on the other side was large, but draping fabric and curtains gave it a smaller, more intimate feel. It was done in blacks, reds and golds, just barely straddling the line of good taste. Candles were already lit, providing enough illumination, though once the doors were closed again the room would take on a closer, gloomier feel.
Christina sat behind the round table, and gestured at the two seats across from her, her father smiled at them all, “I will leave you to it then.” He closed the doors over gently. Christina had already sorted through the information he had given her, they had lost a child, a boy whose name began with a H. She felt a faint flutter in her stomach, these were always the worst. She could feel the familiar guilt rising again and pushed it down.
“I would like us to hold hands in a circle now” Christina put her hands on to the table, the woman followed suit quickly, the man was a little slower.
“Thank you. Jessica, Brian, I want you to keep hold of my hands no matter what happens, ok? Even if it gets scary. If you let go it breaks the connection and makes it harder for me to guide the spirits. Without my guidance they can sometimes turn violent and it can be dangerous for all of us. Now, I want you both to breath deeply, in and out.”
Christina felt the faint thrill of electricity through her arms, she matched her breathing to theirs until they were all in sync. She could tell the man, Brian, didn’t believe in this, but she would change his mind. He wouldn’t be the first nonbeliever she had converted.
She felt her body stiffen and her mouth open, she couldn’t control it, she hated this part. “Mom? Dad? Where am I?” Christina pulled her mouth closed and with great effort spoke, “He’s with us, Hector. You may speak to him.”
“Honey, yes, it’s us, we’re here. I miss you so much. Are you safe there?” Christina tried not to wince as Jessica’s hand bore down tightly on hers. “It’s nice here.” She could feel her voice changing, shifting. Brian gasped when she spoke again, “You sound just like him.” He snatched his hand from hers, “This is monstrous, how are you doing this.” Christina hadn’t expected it, she felt her body shuddering, the stupid bastard, she should have caught it before it happened. Her body started convulsing, Jessica let out a small screech. Christina could feel her mouth opening, widening, it felt as though her jaw was breaking. Sounds began to emerge from her throat, thick, deep noises. Her eyes locked with Jessica’s, she had one thought, “I’m sorry.” Before she blacked out.
Christina came to a few seconds later, Jessica was crying heavily, Brian was pale, still clasping Jessica’s hand tightly. Christina coughed, her throat felt sore, rough. She glared at Brian, “I told you not to let go, we could have all been killed.”
He frowned at her, his cheeks started to go red, “I knew we shouldn’t have come here. C’mon we’re leaving.” He stood, but Jessica was still sobbing. He looked from Jessica, then back to Christina before sitting again. Christina sighed, “Look, I can try again if you want, but I think that’s enough for the both of you. I got some glimpses, he’s happy. He really is. When you let go of my hand it broke the connection to him. There are things, waiting for that kind of break so they can slip in.” Christina felt guilt rising again.
Christina lay in bed, still drained from earlier. Her father was pleased, they had left before the full allotted hour, but still paid the full price. Jessica insisted that they leave a tip too, which Christina had added to her savings. She hadn’t wanted the money, but Jessica had insisted. The guilt was still there, a deep heavy weight in her stomach. She should have prepared them better, warned them better. There was no helping them now though, what ever it was she had to shunt it to them. They would have long lives, marred with tragedy and pain. She tried to reassure herself, that there was nothing she could have done, that it wasn’t really her fault, but it stayed. She had no one to talk to about this, her father didn’t believe in it, hell she didn’t believe in it herself until she two years before, when her father had given her a collection of old, mystic books for her fourteenth birthday. His idea was that they would make her seem more authentic, he didn’t know how right he had been.
Her father knocked lightly and entered before she could respond, “They seemed a little shook up, I don’t know what you did, but they made an appointment for next week. There’s a few more this week, but we’re doing well. I was going to give you Friday off but Annabeth rang, I couldn’t say no to her, she’s been coming here for years now.”
Christina nodded her eyes felt heavy, she was barely able to stay awake. She knew there was no point in arguing with him.
“I’m going out for a bit, do you want anything back?”
“No, thank you.”
“Ok. I’m proud of you sweetheart.” He leaned over and gently kissed her on the cheek, then he stood and left the room. She could feel the warmth of his lips against her long after he had left. It had been a long time since he had shown her any real affection. He was faster with his fists than with kind words. He must have been pleased with how the couple from earlier reacted. Christina suspected they would be coming back to her for a long time, hoping for something they could never have, looking to her to make their lives better again. She turned over and buried her head into her pillow as the tears came. If they knew the truth they would never forgive her, how could they when she couldn’t even forgive herself.
She woke the next morning and got dressed. She was still drained but it was to be an easy day today. Only reading a few fortunes. Christina pushed the thoughts of the couple away. There was nothing that could be done for them, it had been done. All she could do now is remember and let it serve as a permanent reminder that she was playing with dangerous forces, ones that she could only barely control.