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Authors: Gail Cleare

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BOOK: Destined
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And, I would be the
manager
. A step up for me. Best of all, it
appeared that I would have quite a bit of autonomy, which I have always found
necessary for the longevity of the arrangement. I am self-motivated, to say the
least. (Lexi would call it “bossy!”) 

Which reminded me. I wondered if Mr.
Paradis would call the previous employers I had listed and talk to her. She’d
better not say anything to ruin my chances. Stop it right now Emily, I said to
myself sternly. You are going to jinx it! I deliberately imagined a smooth road
ahead.

At the back of the showroom a door led
into a hallway at the rear of the building. Narrow stairs went up from here and
the closed door next to them was secured with a heavy bolt, probably the
entrance to the basement. A skinny door under the stairs revealed a tiny
bathroom with a slanted ceiling and pull-chain light fixture. Across the hall
was the entrance to a huge old-fashioned kitchen. There was also a back door
leading outside to a covered porch that opened onto a narrow alley behind the
building, occupied by a row of dumpsters and recycling bins. I thought I heard
a noise and wondered if someone else might be in the building after all, but
nobody appeared and my new employer led me back around to the front entrance
without further comment.

Mr. Paradis opened the door for me in
the manner of a host showing out an honored guest. “Knock here at ten,” he
said. “I will have a key made for you directly.”

We shook hands again.

“Thank you so much.” I was filled with
emotion. “I am really looking forward to it!”

“Looking
forward
is a very good thing!” he exclaimed
and waggled his shaggy eyebrows humorously.

Then he leaned closer for a moment and
said something odd.

“I knew I was right about you, my
dear, “ he murmured.

Our eyes locked and I had a moment of
déjà
vu
, with the feeling
that we had known each other for a long time and he was an old family friend or
relative. My vision blurred as I started to spin inside my head, then I took a
deep breath and shook myself back into the present. He was staring at me with
interest, as though he had somehow seen what had happened.

Mr. Paradis stepped back and waved his
right arm vigorously, exclaiming in a very loud voice that could easily have
been heard down the street.

“Farewell! Adieu! Until tomorrow!”

He closed the door and the latch
snapped.

I stared at the door feeling almost as
though I had imagined the whole interlude. Then I noticed a small man wearing a
white apron who stood with a broom in front of the Italian market across the
street. He was looking over at me curiously. We made eye contact and he nodded
his head very slightly in acknowledgment before returning to his task.

I couldn’t wait until Lexi heard I
already had a new job, and a promotion at that! My angry feelings came flooding
back, with a large dose of I-told-you-so satisfaction. Take that, you creep, I
thought.

I sailed off down the sidewalk into
the buzzing activity of the neighborhood with a fresh breeze blowing the hair
back from my face, uplifted by the possibilities of my exciting new future.

 

The Magician
CREATIVE POWER

Description: The
adept stands before a table where various magical tools are arranged. Money
(pentacles), the emotions (cups), communication
(swords), and creativity (wands) are all in this bag of tricks.

Meaning:
 
Mastery of creative power. The creation
of illusion to dazzle or manipulate others.

At
nine forty-five the next morning, I entered Sorrentino’s
Market. Strolling through the aisles, I found it was actually a small grocery
store with beautiful fruit and vegetables. There were a self-service coffee
area and a glass case filled with Italian sausages and exotic cheeses. A huge
pot of red sauce was simmering on the stove behind the deli counter. The man I
had seen the previous day was standing behind the cash register.

He had thinning silver hair and
perfect, shiny pink skin on his completely unlined face. He stood with a bit of
a hunch, but it was difficult to guess his age.

“Good morning,” I tried to sound
friendly. He nodded at me as he had the day before, and this time a little
smile glimmered. His eyes showed intense interest.

I poured myself a cup of coffee and
selected a lovely ripe pear. I rubbed it with a paper napkin and took a bite.
It was absolutely fabulous.

“Just this, for now,” I said, putting
my money on the counter.

He still did not speak and I thought
perhaps his English was not so good. He did seem to understand me, though. His
twinkling blue eyes spoke volumes.

He made change and passed it to me.

His lips opened.

“You came yesterday,” he observed.

His voice was low and had a slight
Italian accent.

“Yes.”

“Over there, ‘cross the street,” he
gestured.

“Yes,” I nodded.

He wiped his already-clean hands on
the clean towel that hung at his waist.

“You…are back,” he observed, and
squinted at me inquiringly.

“I am going to work there,” I
confided. “Mr. Paradis has decided to reopen his shop. I am going to manage it
for him,” I finished proudly, and waited for the
welcome-fellow-merchant-to-the-neighborhood that was undoubtedly to follow.

“Oh,” was all he said.

He stood in silence, his curiosity
apparently fulfilled. Or perhaps he had just run out of steam from all that
talking. I felt disappointed and a little annoyed.

“OK, well, got to go to work now!” I
said, sidling toward the doorway.

He continued to stare at me.

“You tell him, good,” he said, raising
his hand and pointing toward the “Books & Etc.” shop.

“Good luck?” I asked.

“Good…to open again!” He folded his
hands together across his chest.

“Good to reopen the store?
 
I’ll tell him,” I smiled, sipping my
coffee as I went out the door. “I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear that the
neighbors approve!”

I waved cheerfully and left my
taciturn new friend as two Asian women entered the store, talking loudly to
each other in a language I did not understand. I crossed the street and made my
way to number 33. It still appeared dark and deserted.

We will change that soon enough, I
thought. My knock on the door echoed. Nothing happened, so I repeated it. This
time, the latch clacked and the door sprang open.

“Here she is!” my new employer
exclaimed, “Right on time! What did I tell you?”

“Good day to you both, then, Henry,”
said a second man, who was standing just inside. He stepped back and held the
door wide as I entered. Dark and tall, probably in his late twenties, he nodded
at me politely as I slipped past. I glimpsed a handsome face with a flashing
smile and then he was gone, out the door and down the street.

“Farewell, my friend!” called my
employer, with a wave at his visitor.

Mr. Paradis beckoned me inside and led
me into the sitting room, chattering about paperwork and tax forms. We sat down
and filled out various documents for the U.S. government. He seemed totally in
control of all these details, I was relieved to note. I saw his full business
name on one of the papers:
Henry Paradis Imports, Inc.
. Then he bundled everything into a
folder and sat back in his chair.

He took off his reading glasses and
fixed me with his eye. “Well, Emily, have you decided where you want to start?”

I was confounded. I had assumed I
would be told. I rallied quickly, however.

“Um, I thought, maybe, to dust and
vacuum, you know. Then I will know more about the, er, merchandise?”

“Very, very good. Excellent plan,” he
said and stood up, grabbing his pile of papers. “I’ll be off then.” He rapidly
headed across to the front hallway. “Getting myself out of the way,” he said, “Be
right up here if you want me! Don’t hesitate to call if you have a question.”
He pointed at the ceiling again, then he disappeared.

So much for interfering bosses, I
thought. That will obviously not be the problem here! I was back to doing the
cleaning again, but this time I was actually eager to get started. I felt a
burst of optimism.

I left my jacket and bag on the coat
rack in the corner and slowly entered the showroom. It looked dirty and
jumbled, and for a moment I was daunted by the mountain of work ahead of me.

Then I found a brass switch plate on
the wall and I slowly pushed the buttons, one at a time. Three beautiful art
deco chandeliers glowed, hanging from the faraway ceiling. They were gorgeous
works of art radiating golden suffused light, very elegant and flattering.

 
The jewel tones of the Oriental rugs looked warm and rich
now. A sense of adventure and discovery began to percolate through me.

Walking around the room looking for a
closet, I made my way through the obstacle course of crates and boxes to pull
back the heavy velvet curtains that covered the two big display windows.

A flood of bright natural light poured
into the room.

The sun shone from behind the rooftops
of the buildings across the street. This street, Crescent Street, was mostly
residential and it looked relatively upscale. In fact, a black BMW was parked
in front of our windows. Most of the buildings were red brick townhouses built
around a century ago, with elegant pillars and steps leading up to three stories
of prime living space.

Eventually I found a big pantry closet
in the kitchen. I stood inside it and rotated, awestruck. Here was every tool
or broom or brush or solution anyone could ever possibly need, plus about two
year’s worth of canned goods and dried foods. My new boss was quite a shopper.
A vacuum cleaner with a long hose attachment squatted in the corner.

Lugging my cleaning apparatus across
the hall, I set to work. Inspired to make a clean slate in the space where I
would spend the majority of my hours for who-knows-how-long, I cranked open the
casement windows and propped open the back door to let in some fresh air. By
the end of the day I was beginning to have a plan for the space. There was
still a ton of work to do, but being here was oddly soothing, peaceful. In
fact, it was actually fun.

Before I went home that night, I
burned a Native American smudge stick of dried sage that I found behind the
counter. The fragrant sacred smoke was supposed to purify the space as I moved
clockwise around the room, following the printed instructions. The vibrations
in the room felt cleansed and pure now, ready to accept whatever I chose to
create.

By the end of the week I had made
serious progress. Everything had been dusted and polished and I knew exactly
what was where. The glass cases were filled with wonders from around the globe.
There was truly a gold mine here.

Some of the merchandise was very
unusual, like a wonderful carving made from a tree stump that hung over the
front door. The trunk spread down from a peak like a triangular pointed
wizard’s hat, revealing a man’s sly bearded face beneath carved out of the
roots, which curled down and around in spiraled tendrils partly natural and
partly contrived. It was very lifelike.

BOOK: Destined
5.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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