I had never pegged Marigold as being into unicorns on velvet under blacklight. But maybe this is what she thought people expected when they came to the wagon to have their fortune told.
Maybe I should dye my hair pink. Maybe I should buy velvet unicorn paintings. Maybe I should do acid.
Maybe I should stop making waffles.
That would not be what Seth expected.
There are some magazines and a few pens on a table to the right. I assume they’re for people to entertain themselves with if there is a line. Although wouldn’t the magazines be hard to read under the blacklight?
I think that maybe I should pick one up, take a pen, sit in the chair over by the unicorn painting. Draw some flaming waffles and a tipped over refrigerator with a wall clock stuffed inside it and also beetles marching everywhere, through the clock and over the waffles and into the fire, and they burn and burn and burn, and then a unicorn emerges from the burning beetle bodies, neighing defiance to the fire and the waffles and the clock, and a double rainbow emerges from the pile of smoking beetle bodies and the unicorn prances up it, her mane blowing in the wind, and the rainbow takes her all the way up to the bare fluorescent bulb hanging above the kitchen sink, and she touches it with her horn and it begins to pulse, white and red and black, and the beetle bodies glow wetly in the strobing light.
Maybe Marigold pumps acid fumes through the vents.
I stand in front of the door to the main room of the wagon, and I don’t know if I can open it.
I remember the diner. I remember the feel of the hamburger meat, red and raw under my fingers. I remember the hiss of a box of fries just put down into the grease, the waitstaff barking orders, the slippery feeling of my hands after taking the gloves off at the end of my shift. I remember Marigold training me, teaching me the flow of the kitchen. I remember her listening to me go on and on about Seth. I remember her sharing in my triumph when I finally got up the nerve to ask him out on a date and he said yes.
I think about my kitchen now, sharp with fluorescent light, silent except for the hum of the refrigerator. I think about the waffles, perfect in their regulated squares, syrup filling all their empty spaces.
I remember Marigold sobbing, breaking down. Saying that she could see the future. Telling me, with red-rimmed eyes, that I had to leave Seth. I remember her screams when I refused.
It takes me a few minutes. I stand there, my hand on my chest, and I try to take deep breaths and get my heartbeat under control. When I am as calm as I’m going to get, I push open the door and walk in.
“Sarah. You’re looking thin.”
She’s not surprised. But then she can see the future.
The brightly colored bottles on the table behind her, the books and rolls of parchment on the floor; these things remind me of the magic shop. Although here, the yellow wallpaper is lighter and relieved by blue.
Her wings make that sort of shimmery sound as they flap, the comforting background shimmernoise of so many late night shifts at the diner, and suddenly I want to hug her and cry into her shoulder and just listen to her wings.
She was the first fairy I’d ever seen.
She looks at me. Her eyes are not red-rimmed now.
“Come to have your fortune told?”
My legs feel shaky from the draining adrenaline. I am here, she has spoken to me, she has not screamed or cried or thrown me out. It’s okay. I am okay. I think.
I want to cry. I want to look at her with red-rimmed eyes and scream. I want to beg for forgiveness, tell her that she was right, that I should have listened to her.
But instead I am a statue, cool and smooth and hollow.
“Yes,” I say, and sit down.
We sit, silent, in the shimmernoise.
Finally I force myself to look up, but I can’t meet Marigold’s eyes. Her lips twist with scorn. I realize that it is not okay.
“Rocks fall, everyone dies. There, that’s your future. You can go now.”
I can feel blood swirling in my cheeks and I’m breathing fast. Am I shaking? I might be shaking. I don’t know. Everything is fast and my heart beats and beats and beats and I can feel the blood driving through my veins and I can’t look at her, I can’t talk, I can’t do anything except hope that she stops being mad at me.
I don’t like it when people are mad at me.
“I tried to tell you. Years ago. You wouldn’t listen. So now you come here to my wagon, wanting to know your future, when it’s too late. What, was he mean to you? Did he ask you to buy ingredients for his experiments and you did and now you’re wondering what you set in motion? Did you look into his eyes and see what was actually there for once, not your adolescent fantasy?”
If I agree with her she won’t be mad and she will stop yelling.
Also she does have some things somewhat right. He wasn’t mean, exactly. I probably did buy the wrong sort of beetles. And I think I’ve always seen what was there, in his eyes. Intelligence, loneliness. Hurt. Warmth and light, once. Before the shadow. And the other day. I know I saw the light again the other day.
I will admit that I am a little worried about the beetles.
“Oh good, you’ve come to your senses! Good for you! It’s too late to save anyone now though. Sorry. Like I said, rocks fall, everyone dies. You can go.”
The adrenalin comes back full force, and this time it goes from above my kidneys straight to my ovaries and my mouth opens and the words come out in a string of glowing fluorescent lights and too many days spent making waffles and watching the squares fill with the shadow.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you but I thought you were my friend and I thought you would understand and that you would be happy for me and you don’t know Seth. You never did. You never gave him a chance. You turned your back on him. You turned your back on me. And if you want me to leave, I will, but I am here right now listening to you and I need your help. Please. I want him back. I want my Seth back.”
She looks at me. For a long time. Long enough for the adrenalin to drain away and leave my legs shaky again.
I start counting the blue stripes on the wallpaper. I keep losing track and starting over. I am starting my sixth attempt when she sighs.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. The whole seeing the future thing was new and I didn’t understand it and I was scared. I panicked, and I didn’t really see you as a person. As my friend.”
When she says the word friend I realize how desperately I have missed her. I’ve spent years locked up in that house with only myself for company, my thoughts circling around and around, making deep grooved lines of shadow against the kitchen’s white light.
Friend. I say it to myself, tasting it, savoring it. Friend.
“So you’ll help me? You’ll tell me the future? I just…I need to know if he’s going to be okay, or if there’s anything I can do, anything I can change, to make it okay. Please.”
Please please please I just want the light to come back. I want the Seth I know is there. The one who touched me. The one who said my name. The one who joked about drinking napalm. Please.
“It’s already gone past that point. I don’t think there’s any changing things now.”
It doesn’t matter what she thinks. If she will just give me some information to go on, I’ll figure something out. I’ll change things. I will save Seth. I will.
She smiles, a small sad smile, and I think about her living for years with the idea that something bad was going to happen, something that could have been prevented if I had listened to her.
Maybe she was right. Something bad did happen. Seth went into the shadow. But I am here now, listening to her, and I will fix it. Whatever I messed up, whatever I did wrong, I will fix it. I will make it better.
“But there may be other things we can do, actually.”
“Have you ever heard of multiple universes?”
Her wings flap. The shimmernoise fills the room. I look at the transparent globe behind her, noticing for the first time that it reflects a door open to the outside, not the golden door and the blacklit room that I came in through.
“No,” I say. “No, I haven’t.”