Parting the red curtains

Book of secrets

The night started out on such a lovely track.

He took her to a nice little seafood place that overlooked the ocean. Kelly enjoyed a glass of wine and found herself leaning across the table, hanging on his words.

Things were going at a nice clip. She learned he was an entertainment lawyer who loved traveling and hiking. He regaled her with stories of his adventures to foreign countries and the interesting things he had eaten. Live squid in Hong Kong that almost got stuck in his throat had her doubled over with laughter.

She even managed to talk a little about herself. Flattered when he pretended that her job at the bookstore wasn’t boring, Kelly found herself blushing often. He even listened as she talked about her masters work in history and antique works.

It was a near love connection. Or at least she was feeling more inclined to use the condoms in her purse her friends had helpfully supplied.

Then the man throw a serious block on the road to “Get Kelly Laid”.

“Oh, I don’t like to read.”

Kelly felt like her lady bits dried up when he said that. He didn’t like to read? She totally understood getting out and exploring, but to not enjoy reading sounded like the worst thing in the world to her.

There was no denying her interest waned considerably after that. It was silly to not like someone because they didn’t read, but it was hard to explain her love of books to someone with no desire to read either. They’d never get her wanting to spend hours absorbed in a story and that wouldn’t work.

In an effort to salvage things, and because he seemed like such a catch, Kelly tried to find out why he wasn’t much of a reader.

“Reading just takes up too much time. Who wants to read when you can just watch the movie based on the book anyway?”

There was no saving this. Kelly downed the rest of her wine.

Dinner wrapped up after that. He’d picked up on her flagging interest and stopped trying to draw her into conversation.

When the bill came, he asked if she wanted dessert and she politely declined. He asked if she wanted to split the bill and Kelly couldn’t figure out if she was indignant that he didn’t offer to pay. She put some cash down and decided it was probably for the best if they didn’t leave with any assumptions of sex because he paid.

They walked outside and Kelly prepared to give him directions to her house.

“I know the night is pretty much over, but I was wondering if you wanted to go to the carnival nearby?”

She was inclined to say no, but she hadn’t been to a carnival in years and something about going made her perk up.


They drove in silence until they reached the pier some twenty miles from where they’d eaten dinner. The flashing lights from the carnival games could be seen from the where they parked. Her excitement grew as they got out of the car and he bought their tickets.

She felt like a young girl albeit a one in a slutty dress.

Kelly found herself skipping to the first game she came to, which was the old milk bottle ring toss, and handing the attendant some dollars to play.

Most people didn’t know this about her, but Kelly had remarkably good aim. If she was more coordinated, she would’ve played basketball. As it was, she applied that skill to landing every single ring on a bottle and winning herself the biggest stuffed animal she could get.


“Hidden talented.”

He chuckled and beckoned her over to play the squirt gun horse race. It was one where you aimed the squirt gun at a bullseye and it helped propel your horse to the finish line.

Kelly and Jay played a couple rounds of that and ended in a tie.

They passed a cotton candy stand and she had to have some. She was still a little full from her dinner, but no way was she passing up that sugary floss. It melted in her mouth and on her fingers, leaving her a sticky and happy mess.

The night had quickly improved and Kelly was starting to rethink her reluctance. Jay was fun and cute, she’d be silly to let him go over books.

There was a gypsy towards the other end of the carnival. Five dollars for a reading hung on the outside of the tent. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to waste money on that woo woo.

“Go in,” Jay pushed with a laugh. “It’ll be fun.”

“Fine, but you have to go next.”

“Deal.” He handed her a fiver and then took her stuffed animal to hold.

Parting the red curtains, Kelly stepped into the dimly lit tent and on to carpeted floor. She got shiver as the curtain swished closed behind her.

“Come in, lovely.”

The woman was of an indeterminate age. She could be forty or she could be seventy. Her face was lined, but not overly so. It was too dim to tell without coming really close.

“Sit. Sit. Let me tell you some truths.”

She sat behind a red topped table with a crystal ball. She crooked a finger at Kelly who crossed to her quickly.

Kelly perched on the end of the folding chair and laid the bill down.

“Your hand.”

The woman reached out, hand palm up. Reluctantly, Kelly placed her hand on top of the woman’s. As soon as they touched, Kelly felt a jolt.

The woman met Kelly’s eyes. They were bottomless pools of black that sucked her in. There was no breaking the contact as a trance like feeling descended.

“What do you seek, Kelly?”

Kelly felt like she should be freaked out, but could not rouse the necessary will to act. The woman traced her palm, sending bolts of electricity up her arm with each stroke.

“I don’t know.”

“Wrong answer. What. Do. You. Seek?”

The answer popped into her head. “To get lost in a book.”

The smile that turned up the woman’s lips was almost cruel.

“Then you shall. Until you find what you’re looking for, lost in books you will be.”

Her voice seemed to echo in Kelly’s head. Over and over until the woman released her hand and broke the connection.

Kelly felt a little dizzy. What just happened?

“Send in your boy next.” The woman’s smile stretched wide. “I won’t have him too long.”

Stumbling out into the night air, Kelly felt unsteady. Jay caught her when she would have fallen.

“You okay?” He gazed down at her, obviously concerned.

Kelly tried to shake the weird feeling.

“Fine. Think it was just the incense. It always makes me woozy. Your turn.”

Jay watched her for a moment before he stepped into the tent. Kelly waited for him, feeling silly for being so shaken up by the woman. It was all smoke and parlor tricks. It wasn’t even possible to get lost in a book any more than she already did.

By the time Jay came out, Kelly had convinced herself it was all a bunch of nonsense. Jay looked pretty shaken up when he came out which made her believe the gypsy had gotten to him too.

“What did she say?”

He’d been staring off until she spoke and then looked at her as though he’d forgotten she was there.

“Some gobbledygook. Nothing that made any sense.”

Kelly nodded, understanding completely how unsettling the woman had been.

“Ready to go?”

Lifting her stuffed animal up, she smiled. “Definitely.”

They were both lost in thought on the way home. He pulled up to her address, walked her to the door, and kissed her on the cheek. Kelly felt a similar zing to the one she’d felt with the gypsy, but attributed it to static build up.

“I had a good time.” He smiled at her. “Hopefully we’ll see each other again soon.”

It had been a lovely night and Kelly found she was a little more receptive than she’d been earlier.

“Hopefully we will.” She met his smile with one of her own. “Good night, Jay.”

She waited until he was in his car before closing her door. Strangely, the gypsy’s words were echoing in her head still as she went up to her bedroom.


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