Welcome! For today's "Tuesday's Tale", I've posted another chapter of "Love Spells". If you're new to the story, you can find previous chapters here:
“It wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked,” Ellie explained to Miranda the following morning. The two friends had taken their coffee out onto the balcony and were relaxing in deck chairs. “It scared the wits out of me, I’ll admit, but --“
“But how could you have been so careless?” Miranda huffed out a breath. “What were you doing lighting candles so close to the curtains?”
Earlier, before Miranda arrived for their usual Sunday brunch, Ellie had dismantled her altar and put away all evidence of her spell-casting. Miranda would never approve. Rather than face another lecture about David Cameron’s unworthiness, Ellie preferred to keep her desires for love -- and her rituals -- to herself.
Stefan Blackwell shared her secret, but no one else.
Ellie smiled, liking the thought of sharing something so deeply personal with the man from the magic shop. Stefan intrigued her.
“What’s wrong with lighting a candle now and then?” Ellie closed her eyes. “It brings me a feeling of peace.”
“Like meditation, you mean?” Miranda sighed. “I swear, I don’t know where you’ve picked up all these crazy ideas. Next, you’ll be doing yoga and chanting like a Buddhist monk.” She made a point to give Ellie an exaggerated eyeroll.
“And what if I do?” For some odd reason, Miranda’s negative attitudes rubbed Ellie the wrong way. Usually she listened to Miranda; most of the time, she even allowed herself to be influenced by her worldly friend’s opinions. But not this time. “I’m expanding my consciousness,” she said, parroting words Stefan had used the previous day. She wasn’t sure what the words meant, but saying them gave her a feeling of power.
Miranda stretched out her long legs, then swung them over the side of her deck chair. Slowly, she rose. She peered down her nose at Ellie. “This doesn’t have anything to do with David, does it?”
“No, of course not. David’s gone, and I’m moving on.” Ellie suspected the lie was written all over her face, but she staunchly folded her arms across her chest and dared Miranda to challenge her.
“Good.” Although Miranda did not look convinced, she offered no further argument. “Now, the important thing,” she went on, “is to get out, meet people, and start socializing again. Once you find someone new --“
Ellie cut her off with an agitated wave of her hand. “No. Don’t even think of fixing me up. No blind dates, no ladies’ night out. I’m not ready. I need a little time.”
“It’s been weeks, already. The sooner, the better.”
Ellie shook her head. “Don’t rush me. It’s like I told you yesterday, Miranda. I want to get to know myself, to learn more about who I am, to figure out what I really want and need.”
“There’s something you’re not telling me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Wanting to cut the conversation short before it veered in unwanted directions, Ellie swung her legs over the chair and straightened. “Did you want more coffee? Another pastry?” She gestured toward the open doorway that led back into her apartment.
“No, nothing more for me.” Miranda glanced at her watch. “I suppose I should get home and leave you to your self-discovery. Call me when you find yourself, all right?”
For a moment, Ellie remained silent, a dozen different thoughts flitting through her head. Was Miranda joking? Teasing? Taunting? Or was she being serious...in her own way? Ellie couldn’t be sure, and she didn’t know how to respond.
“Well, I --“ she began, but a heavy knock sounded at the front door, so loud and insistent that Ellie and Miranda both heard it clearly from the balcony outside.
“Expecting someone?” Miranda asked.
Ellie’s heart pounded. “No, no one.” She thought at once of her ritual. If she opened the door, would David be standing on the other side? With Miranda following on her heels, she hurried to answer.
“Hi, Ellie. I thought I’d stop by to check on you. Everything all right this morning?” Stefan Blackwell leaned against the doorframe. Dressed in faded denims and a loose T-shirt, he still exuded confidence and masculine energy.
She felt a tug at her arm. Suddenly Miranda was dragging her toward the kitchen. “I’ll be right back, Stefan,” she called. Once out of the man’s sight, she jerked her arm away from her friend’s grasp. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“You have been keeping something from me! Who is he? Where did you meet him? Tell me everything!”
“Not now. And it’s not what you think. I’ll explain later, all right?” Ellie left Miranda in the middle of the kitchen and returned to the doorway. “Sorry about that, Stefan. Would you like to come in?”
“No, that’s all right. You’re busy.”
“Not really. You’re more than welcome to come in. I’ve got coffee. And pastries.”
“I don’t do coffee, and sweets aren’t exactly my thing, either.” He grinned. “But thanks, anyway.” He reached into a back pocket. “I brought you something, Ellie. This might be a good way for you to begin your spiritual journey.” He handed her a small box. “Tarot cards,” he said.
Ellie stared at the colorful box. She’d seen different decks of cards at Stefan’s shop. The pictures had caught her interest. He must have noticed.
“What do I do with them?”
“There are instructions with the deck, if you want to read them. But mostly, for now, just look at them. Lay them out. Touch them. Think about what you see. Think about what you feel.”
Ellie nodded. She glanced over her shoulder, wondering if Miranda were listening. When she turned back, Stefan had disappeared from view. She heard his footsteps retreating down the wooden stairway of the apartment building.
With a sigh, she closed the door.
Miranda practically ran from the kitchen. “All right, tell me! Everything. He’s gorgeous!”
“It’s not what you think,” Ellie said again. “He’s --“
“He’s...what?” Miranda prompted.
Ellie grinned. “Sort of like my guru, I guess. He knows a lot of things. Eastern philosophies. New Age ideas. Spiritual practices.”
“Oh, I see. So, that’s why you’ve suddenly developed such a keen interest in meditation.” She raked Ellie with a knowing gaze.
“He gave me these.” Ellie held out the deck of cards. “Do you have any idea how to use them?”
Miranda drew back. Her face paled. “Ellie, those are dangerous!”
“Dangerous? They’re nothing but colorful pasteboard.”
“They’re the devil’s picturebook. That’s what they’re called.” She reached out and took hold of Ellie’s shoulders. “That man may be handsome, but don’t trust him. He could very well be the devil himself.” She shuddered. “As for those cards, I’d suggest you burn them.”
Visions of Stefan surrounded by flames crept from Ellie’s memory.
Her knees went weak as she recalled the raging fire, the billowing smoke. Stefan had stepped into the inferno, yet he’d not been burned. Once he’d put out the flames, there’d been virtually no damage...just a bit of soot, a few ashes, and the charred remains of her love spell for David.
What mysterious powers did Stefan Blackwell possess?
Perhaps she should be frightened, but Ellie wanted only to learn more.
“I’d like to be alone now,” she said, and even as she spoke the words, she heard something new and different in her voice. She walked toward the door, opened it, and turned to Miranda. “I’ll call you later.”
“All right. But be careful, Ellie. Burn those cards! And don’t let that devil get too close.”
She closed the door behind Miranda and clasped the cards to her chest, feeling the steady, rhythmic beating of her heart.
Whoever Stefan Blackwell was -- friend, teacher, rescuer, or devil -- he had a powerful effect upon her.
He’s shared his power with me.
Ellie glanced down at the deck of cards she held. Holding her breath, she tore the wrapping from the box and opened it. She closed her eyes and pulled a single card from the deck.
Listen to your intuition. Trust what the inner voice tells you.
With trembling hands, she turned the card over.
The devil stared back.
- TO BE CONTINUED -