Unlike her first meeting with Madam Weronika, this time Nori met the self-professed psychic at a local coffee shop. Neutral ground after their last session at Nori’s sister’s kitchen.
“Call me Roni,” she said, standing up to shake Nori’s hand.
Settling in with her cup, and bag of teenage mementos Weronika asked her to bring, Nori mused about how so many of her strange life events centered on coffee. Once again, she also considered giving up caffeine.
Dressed in more casual clothing, Roni looked like any other 30-something woman out for lunch with friends. Gone were her flowing skirts and headscarves, replaced by a pair of comfortable jeans and a soft pastel T-shirt. She noticed Nori’s scrutiny, and shrugged.
“The ‘Madam Weronika’ façade is not my default style,” she said. “I find that clients are more comfortable and more open to my messages when I take on an expected persona.”
“Why drop the act with me now?” Nori asked.
“It’s been a while since I have been so affected by a reading,” she said. “The drawings didn’t stop once I left you. The messages continued for days. I wanted you to believe that I was serious, and that all this wasn’t some sort of act.”
Roni’s cryptic reading about an exiled king named Andrew needing her help left Nori unsettled.
“At first I didn’t think I knew anyone named ‘Andrew’,” Nori said. “Then my sister, Paula, reminded me that my high school best friend’s dad’s full name was, ‘Andrew’. Only, I always just called him ‘Drew’.”
Roni nodded with a relieved smile.
“I know the messages I convey are sometimes confusing, and often makes sense only after the prediction comes to fruition,” she said, “but, I believe you have the key to unlock the significance of the drawings.”
“I have to admit, I don’t understand any of this psychic mumbo-jumbo,” Nori said. “No offense, but I’ve never even heard of ‘chartro,’ ‘carto’ ….”
“Chartomancy,” Roni said. “The art of divination using written words and images.”
“That’s a real thing?” Nori said. “I mean, everyone doodles on napkins or scrap paper. Does that mean all of those little scribbles are messages from the Great Beyond.”
“It might,” Roni laughed. “The images that came through during your reading, were so specific. A king in exile, a fiery death, a lost sister, and the most insistent – revenge. I just knew that it would all mean something to you. When it didn’t, I was at a loss over what to do. Then the images kept coming, even after I left you.”
“You got none of that from my sister?” Nori wanted to believe the messages were planted ideas, and not really coming from her long-dead friend Ashley. “She knew Drew too. She was the one who remembered his name.”
“No, Nori,” Roni said. “The messages were real, and not planted.”
Nori blanched at the use of the words she thought, but didn’t say aloud. Taking out a tote bag of high school memorabilia, she tried to change the subject.
“I brought a few things from my friendship with Ashley,” Nori said. “I don’t know if any of this will be helpful.”
She pulled out journals and photo albums, a ring charred by a fire, and a small music box.
Looking over the treasures, Roni picked up the ring.
“That was Ashley’s senior class ring,” Nori said. “The school passed them out to us the day before she died. Her mother gave it to me at the funeral. It was one of the few things that didn’t burn in the fire, but it turned black from the heat.”
Roni returned the ring to the pile, then opened the jewelry case. A tiny ballerina began her pirouette as “Für Elise” played. Sifting through the plastic trinkets, and costume pieces, Roni found what was calling to her.
Picking out a tarnished, brass skeleton key, Roni held it out to Nori. “Do you know what this opens?”
“I don’t know that it opens anything,” Nori said. “Ash had it as longs as I can remember. I thought it was just a cool, old key.”
“Can I hold on to this?” Roni asked. “It might help me get a clearer vision of what your message means.”
“The key to deciphering your messages, is literally a key?” Nori said. “Sure, but I want it back.”
Roni helped Nori repack the mementos into her tote.
“I promise to return the key, along with answers about what all these images mean,” Roni said as they parted outside the cafe.
Watching the other woman cross the street, Roni pulled out her cell phone and thumbed in a number.
“Hey,” she said when the call connected. “Yeah, I got it. I’ll hand it off to Drew tomorrow. Don’t worry about that idiot P.I. Drake, I can handle him too.”