A/N: Don't be scared off by the length of the chapters – reading is good for you! Enjoy (and don't forget to review)!


Cards Never Lie

We were all surprised when we found out my sister was pregnant. We had never expected it. Even though she was twenty-four and had been married for almost two years, she had said, time and time again, that she would not have children. She couldn't have children because her husband, Rick, was sterile. I never really liked Rick, partly because his name was too plain. I wondered, the first time I saw him, the ratio between how many people were named Rick, and how many people were named Malcolm. Apparently, Rick wasn't too high on the self-esteem, I think because of his name, so he had himself sterilized so he couldn't pass on his genes to any unexpecting, defenseless fetus and ruin it for life. I guess my sister found it heroic to rid the world of the ugly people, and married him four months after they met. Two years later, she came home crying.

We never cried in my family. Sure when I was a baby I was ballistic with the crying, but what baby isn't? After I learned how to ask for my food instead of wailing for it, my father told me that there would be no crying. I sniffed up a sob, wiped a fallen tear and agreed. Sure I cried a couple times after I fell off the big wheel, or got caught trying to skin the cat, but my sister was hysterical. So hysterical that the bitch woke me up that night.

Don't get me wrong, I liked my sister, I liked her a lot, but only because my father said I had to. Because she was my sister. I didn't like her on my own free will because she was my competition. I never liked competition; I screamed bloody murder when I got out in dodge ball. So knowing that my sister, Miss Valedictorian, Forensic scientist, never-did-a-thing-wrong-in-her-life had become competition, I started to despise her. Despise her because she was better than I was. When she came home at three in the morning on Wednesday, I knew that I had a chance to shine once again. I only had to prove myself to my mother now since my parents had divorced and my father would have accepted me as a paraplegic with no eyebrows. That window of opportunity had opened so wide that I could have walked through, but I wanted to earn my worth in the house.

She didn't stop crying all night. It started to irk me around four when she started to use every profanity ever invented to curse Rick for everything he was never worth. It was humorous the first couple times she spat out a long string of profanity, but after a while, it got old. My mother never liked profanity, especially in the house, but she let my sister have her words at her husband for as long as she wanted until I trudged down, clad in only my plaid boxers, rubbing my eyes that longer for sleep.

They were in the small kitchen, my sister was sitting at the table and my mother was leaning against the sink. She looked at me as I waddled into the kitchen. Rachelle instantly clamped her jaw shut as my mother walked over to me.

"What are you doing up?" my mother seemed to scold me. "You know you have school in the morning."

I knew damn well that I had school in the morning, I had been thinking about that for an hour and a half, but I wasn't about to tell my mother that. I had to respect her in fear that my father would keep his word and kick my ass up to my ears if I didn't. Sure, they got divorced, but I knew my father still loved her. "I couldn't sleep," I said, glaring at my sister instead. I had no pity for her. She was the one who willingly opened her legs to him, coming home and telling me how fantastic it was to know that she could have sex without fear of pregnancy or disease. I smiled inside – she finally got hers.

"Go back to bed, honey," my mother tried to coax, "we're going to get your permit after school tomorrow too. I want you to be able to think straight so you can drive me home, all right?"

If you hadn't guessed, that early morning was the day of my fifteen-and-a-half birthday and I was able to get my driver's permit that day so I could get my license the day I turned sixteen. Sure I had been driving my dad's Chevrolet since I was ten, but I was excited to be able to drive on actual paved streets. I know; I was getting in the big league. So, wanting nothing more than to be able to drive myself to school, I nodded my head and went back up to my room.

As soon as my head hit the pillow, my sister's bitching continued, full force. I groaned as I turned onto my stomach, burying my head in between the two pillows that adorned my bed. I heard my mother try to hush her daughter's voice, and after the third hiss, she finally calmed a bit. At that very moment, my eyes rolled back into my skull and I fell asleep.

I dreamed that night that I failed my permit test. That, according to one of my best friends, was the easiest test he ever took, and I had failed it. I felt so embarrassed that I didn't want to go to school, but my mother made me anyway. Being a freshman in high school, I had many insecurities, so it was no wonder that everyone in the entire student body knew I had failed the test and took it upon themselves to remind me again of what a loser I was. I ran into the bathroom, the girl's bathroom of course, and cried. Then, my father came in, mad as hell, and kicked my ass so hard that my body was distorted in such a manner that my ass was, in fact, right on my ears. I didn't wake up in a cold sweat or anything, but it wasn't exactly a dream one likes to have.

The provocative, drowning sound of a monotonous beep awoke me in the middle of my ass kicking. In some twisted way, I was glad to hear the high pitched, off-key squeal of the old alarm clock in the morning, but then again, that meant it was time to get up and my body wasn't too fond of that one. Lazily, I pressed my fingers on the snooze button and rolled over on my side, groaning all the way.

I wasn't exactly your morning person. I got kicked off the football team after I had been late for every single morning practice. I thought it was absurd to ask for teenage boys to wake up at five thirty A.M. during their summer vacation, but I was the only one who had ever been late. I assured myself that I didn't like football anyway.

The droning chord of the alarm clock flooded my ears exactly ten minutes later, and I did the same thing I had the time before. I was just lucky that I set my alarm clock for 5:30, an hour before I actually had to get up, or else I would have started missing the bus as well. I hated taking the bus to school, mainly because the bus stop was a mile away and I was always in fear of getting jumped on the way there. I didn't exactly live in Mister Rogers' neighborhood, if you know what I mean. One day some guy asked me if I wanted to buy some crack. After I refused he threatened to beat me up, right at the bus stop! Thankfully, he was so high that he had a nosebleed and could barely walk, let alone kick my ass.

The other kids at the bus stop weren't exactly well off either. They wore the same pants every day and two of the girls were pregnant, probably by their cousin or something, and they didn't even go to the high school. I knew I was lucky to be with my mother who had a good job as a nurse down at the city's hospital and I actually knew my dad and he actually helped pay for me and my sister. I didn't look down upon the other kids, but when you catch them throwing things off their porch roof to other kids trying to catch them in their mouths, it's kind of hard to respect them.

"Malcolm!" My mother's voice hissed from downstairs. "Hurry up or you'll miss the bus!" She said that every day. I looked over at my alarm clock to see that I had time for one more moment in bliss and pressed the snooze. I awoke twenty minutes later to my mother screaming in my ear.

I jumped out of bed and went into the bathroom, my mother complaining the whole way. "I don't have time to drive you to school Malcolm, I have to be at work in ten minutes. Ten minutes! You better get your butt downstairs in thirty seconds so I can shove a piece of toast down your throat and drive you to the bus stop."

Oh, that's always fun. It embarrassed me when I had to get a ride to the bus stop. It made no sense to me, but I didn't say anything, mainly because I had toothpaste foaming at the mouth. I told myself that she was lucky I was brushing my teeth, but inside I knew I wouldn't have said anything. I spat out the minty-freshness into the sink and trudged back into my room where I threw on my clothes. I never worried about my hair because I liked to strut the disheveled look down the halls, so I went downstairs. Just like mother had promised, she had a piece of dry toast in her hand waiting for me. She was all dressed and demanded that I tied my shoes in the car. I didn't listen, still half-asleep and started to lace up my Converse shoes.

"Malcolm!" she said, pulling at my arm. "In the car, okay?"

"Okay," I muttered, walking outside onto the muddy sidewalk in my white socks. My mother groaned but said nothing to me as I sat down in the passenger's seat of the car. She started it up and then looked at me.

"Where's your book bag?"

I looked around the car for a good ten seconds. "Inside."

"Go get it, quick!" she demanded and I stumbled out of the car, still in my socks. I got to the door and found that it was locked. I groaned and returned to the car.

"Where's your book bag?" she asked.

"The door's locked."

"For Pete's sake," my mother cursed, pulling the keys out of the ignition and handing them to me. I hated when she'd do that, the church swearing. I felt sorry for Pete, whoever he was because he seemed to get the brunt of all mother's problems. The 'son of a gun' cuss was quite classic around the house as well. For once, I just wanted to hear my mother say "fuck". She never did. I never wanted to be the one to make her bring out the heavy artillery, but I wanted to be there when it happened.

I got my book bag and returned to the car. Mother drove straight out of the driveway and I bent over in the seat to begin lacing my shoes. She pressed on the brake suddenly and my head slammed into the dashboard with a loud thud.

"Are you all right?" she asked, lacking that motherly tone I expected to hear. I rubbed my head where I felt a lump forming. "Put your seat belt on, Malcolm, you can tie your shoes at the bus stop."

Rubbing my head with one hand, I yanked the seat belt with the other. I'd be in the car for a whole minute before I'd have to get back out again, but I obeyed her words. She skidded to a stop at the bus stop and shoved me out. I tripped over my untied laces, but stayed on my feet. She peeled away down the street and I bent down to tie my shoes. Just as I did, the bus came. I dropped my shoulders as I stood up and I climbed into the bus. My stop was one of the last stops the bus made before it dropped the high school kids off, so it was always a fight to find a seat. Thankfully, my friend, Jon, took that bus and always saved me a seat.

At first, I didn't like Jon, partly because his name was Jon. It was too plain, just like Rick, but I soon learned that Jon and I had plenty of things in common and I looked passed his parents mistake and befriended him. Jon was a nice guy, a little rambunctious for me, but a nice guy nonetheless. He smiled to me as he made room for me to sit.

"You got toothpaste on your face," he said to me, touching his own face at the corner of his lip to indicate to me where the toothpaste was. I licked my finger and rubbed mercilessly for a good five seconds at the toothpaste. I stopped and Jon looked, "That's better."

I nodded my head and faced forward in the seat. There was never really much to talk about in the morning. I was always too tired. That day, however, I was extra tried. I cursed my sister and her husband as I ran my hands through my hair. "You getting your permit today?" Jon asked.

"Yeah," I answered in a scratchy voice. I cleared my throat and looked at him, "The test is easy, right?"

"Malcolm, if I can pass the test, you can pass the test, trust me." Jon gave me a reassuring grin, but I couldn't help but be nervous. Knowing me, that would be my first failed test in my life history just because Jon thought it was easy. Jon wasn't stupid, not in the least, but he had held a straight C average since fifth grade. In my family, that wasn't exactly something to brag about. Jon didn't seem to care, so I didn't care either.

The bus let us off at the high school. Jon and I were always the last ones out of the bus and that day was no exception. I placed my feet on the pavement of the parking lot and looked around. "Fuck," I muttered.

"What?" Jon asked, placing a pink plastic straw in his mouth to chew.

"My book bag's in my mom's car." I explained, placing my hands on my hips as I looked down to the ground. I was having exceptionally bad luck that day. I wondered if it was that bad juju Mercedes had been talking about in English.

"Do you need your book bag?" Jon asked.

"Yeah, it kind of has my books in it," my tone was thick and dripping with sarcastic juices, but I wondered if Jon even noticed. He's not exactly Captain Obvious in the morning, if you know what I mean.

"So go to the office and call your mom at work."

"She'll be pissed," I said, knowing inside that she wasn't going to gouge my eyeballs out with scissors or anything, but it wouldn't make her give me a raise in my allowance either.

"So don't call her," Jon shrugged as we walked up the few steps to the entrance.

"Then Garrison will be pissed." Mr. Garrison was my journalism teacher. Secretly, I wanted to be a journalist for a magazine or something, but I couldn't tell anyone. I couldn't tell Jon because he'd call me a sissy and I couldn't tell my mom because she'd start buying me notebooks to write in and books on how you can learn to "Become a Best-Selling Author in Forty Easy Steps". I liked keeping things to myself. It was always in my best interest – gotta look out for number one I always say.

The students were forced to wait in the cafeteria before the first bell rang so it was a time to talk to your friends and get the answers to the last three problems in Algebra. Jon and I walked to 'our table', third row, fifth one down. Mercedes was already there and that was all. Just the three of us. We had all gone to the same school since pre-school. It was a private; catholic based school, grades pre- through eighth. It actually had been the four of us. Hollan was the part of our group who didn't get dropped to the public high school after eighth grade year. Her family actually had money to afford to send their kids to a private high school and still afford a four-year college. Hollan was the coolest girl I ever knew. She was such a tomboy, and when I was in elementary school, that was all I wanted.

We hadn't seen Hollan since the beginning of our eighth grade year, actually. It sucked when I found out the girl who wore neon green shorts under her skirts would be leaving me. I could be dramatic and say that a piece of me had been taken away, but really, I just missed her a lot. We never replaced her with someone else because it was fine just the three of us. Sure, we had other friends, but this was our clique. We had our tiffs and shit, but what friends don't? In the end, we stuck through it all.

"Morning boys," Mercedes greeted us, and I noticed that she had her Algebra book out. I grabbed a green chair and pulled it over to the table across from Mercedes, Jon grabbed a white one. As you can guess, the school colors were green and white. Our mascot was an eel. I don't know about you, but an eel doesn't exactly strike fear into my heart. At least the school board was making an attempt to be creative. Personally, I thought a drunken pirate would have been pretty cool. We could threaten to make the other schools "walk the plank", but Jon had told me a while back that it was way too corny. I thought that calling our school "electrifying" because of the eel was corny, but who's keeping score?

"Do you have last night's homework, Malcolm?" Mercedes asked me and I shook my head. She gasped. "I think this is the first time you've never done your homework."

"I did it, I just don't have my book. It's in my book bag, in my mom's car, in the hospital parking lot." I had grumbled, but I knew Mercedes heard me loud and clear.

"Aren't you going to call to get it?" she asked.

"I guess I don't really have a choice," I said as I stood up. I hated going to the office. I always felt intimidated. I would have used the payphone in the cafeteria, but it had been out of commission since the end of the Vietnam War. The bell rang just as I entered the office and the secretary looked up at me. I hated that woman.

"Yes?" she asked, already exasperated at my presence. I rolled my eyes.

"Can I use the phone? I need to call my mother." I asked, very politely, mind you.

"What for?" she asked. In all honestly, it wasn't any of her business. What if I had pissed my pants or something and needed to call my mom for a new pair of boxers? The secretary didn't need to know that.

"I left my book bag in her car." I answered.

"That sounds like a personal problem."

"Could I please use the phone?" I asked again and the bitch stood up and left! My jaw smacked the desk in shock. I saw the phone sitting right on the other side of the counter I was at and I saw so tempted to just walk around and use it myself, but I was afraid she'd storm out and start hitting my skull with the clipboard that held the absence list. I was ready to take the chance when . . .she appeared.

Picture-perfect and flawless as ever, Octavia Masterson appeared from the back room of one of the separate offices. She walked over to me with a perfect smile. "Can I help you?" she asked.

Octavia was a junior and I was a freshman. Jon told me I'd never have a chance with her, but damn, I couldn't just give up without a fight. She was the kind of girl guys would have wet dreams about. She was pretty, smart and above all else, she didn't think I was scum! I didn't think such a combination existed in human beings, but Octavia was the perfect example. I was speechless.

"Uh, yeah," I stuttered, shifting my weight back and forth. "Could I please use the phone?"

"Oh sure, hon, it's right here."

I thought I was going to melt. She called me hon. She smiled sweetly and moved so I could walk passed her in the tight space to the phone. I sat down in the seat and picked up the phone from its cradle.

"Dial nine before the number," Octavia told me in her flawless, angelic voice. I nodded like an idiot and pressed the number nine, then dialed the seven numbers to get my mother's ward in the hospital. It rang three times before someone picked up.

"Special Procedures Unit, Linda speaking."

"Could I please speak to Sandra Jury?" I asked politely. My mother had taken back her maiden name after the divorce, so it was always awkward for me to say that she was my mother because there was always some idiot who would point out the fact that we had different last names.

"Sure, hold on." The line went to that cheap jazz elevator music and I waited. Octavia sat down next to me in the other office chair and I looked over. She grinned lightly when she looked at me and went to typing on the computer. God, if I had known she was a morning office aid, I would have used the phone all year long. I had missed out.


"Mom?" I said, recognizing her voice.

"I'll bring your book bag at nine," she said softly. "Is that all right?"

"Sure," I said, "thanks."

"Yeah, bye sweetie."

"Bye." I hung up the phone and turned back around to see Octavia looking at me. I froze. Was there more toothpaste on my mouth? I cursed Crest under breath, knowing that if there were something there, I would have killed myself.

"You're a freshman, right?" Octavia asked as she pulled her hair into a messy bun. She placed the pencil behind her ear. She still looked beautiful.

"That's right."

She smiled, "You're in my lunch."

"Am I?" I questioned, but of course I knew she and I shared lunch. Since the first day of school I had watched her get her lunch and watched her throw away her trash and watch as she walked with her three friends to the bathroom and then how she walked out of the cafeteria once lunch was over. It was April and her schedule at lunch still hadn't changed and I knew it all by heart.

"Yeah," she said, biting the corner of her lip slightly. "Well, I'll see you around then, huh?"

"Yeah, I guess so," I said, standing up. I walked passed her slowly and opened the door to leave the office.

"Wait!" she called, and I froze. Oh yes, this was it. She wanted me, I knew she did. I turned around in a cocky sort of manner, just waiting for her to moan my name and suggest that we sneak into the janitor's closet to make out before first period. "I'll write you a pass."

My shoulders instantly slumped, but I didn't let her see my disappointment. She wrote the pass and tore it from the pad, then flipped it over, writing something on the back. My heart started to race, pounding against my ribcage. She smiled sweetly as she handed it to me and I left the office, bumping into someone before I was in the hallway.

I walked to my locker and set my coat on the one peg that was barely hanging on by a screw. It was a determined screw though, I had to give it credit for hanging on so long, but I knew it would give in eventually. Sure, it made it through the winter coat season, but I knew it wouldn't last. My locker was complete shit, in case you didn't get the picture. It was actually labeled shit because someone had actually carved that word on the front of it. I kind of felt bad, but I gave up pitying it months ago.

Walking to my homeroom and first period class, I was nervous to see what was written on the back of the pass. I knew I couldn't wait any longer, the anticipation and curiosity was eating at me like a tapeworm. I flipped it over and saw the one thing all guys at my school dreamed of. Seven numbers. Not only seven numbers, but also her name written in perfect cursive and the words "Call me. Eight."

Someone, pinch me. Shit like this doesn't happen to a pathetic, no name freshman who forgets his book bag in his mother's car even though he takes the bus to school. God, I took the bus to school. I shook my head in disgust, but then I'd look at the back of the pass and I'd see those seven perfectly etched numbers. I opened the door to my homeroom and felt everyone's eyes on me.

"Well, Mr. Dodge, how nice of you to join us." My teacher was such an asshole. I hated that woman almost as much as the secretary, but I hated this woman because she was too happy. I guess you just can't please me, but if you had this woman as your homeroom teacher, she'd piss you off too. She was just too damn perky for seven in the morning.

I quickly took my seat and asked Mercedes for a pen. She handed one to me and I scribbled down the seven digits on my forearm before I handed my pass to the teacher. She nodded her head, crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. Just for security, I looked at my arm again and saw that the numbers were still there.

"Who's that?" Mercedes asked me once the teacher set us loose to work on the assignment. I looked at my arm and nearly sighed dreamily. Don't worry, I held it in.

"You'll never guess," I said, caressing the flesh that was the canvas for the seven numbers of Octavia Masterson's home phone number.

"Well, then tell me," Mercedes said, leaning forward in her chair. She was too curious for her own good.

"It's Octavia's phone number," I said in a hushed voice. Mercedes' eyes bulged as a huge smile gapped over her features.

"You shitting me?" she asked.

"I shit you not," I smirked. Mercedes knew about my huge ass crush on Octavia. It was more than a crush; it was a pure infatuation with that woman.

"How'd you get it?"

"I didn't even do anything. She wrote me a pass to get here and wrote her number on the back. It said to call her at eight."

"Are you going to?"

I paused. "I don't know, what if it's a joke?"

"It's not a joke." Mercedes assured me, her smile still holding strong. I wondered if it hurt her to smile so much. "You so have to call her and then you have to call me and tell me all about it." She clapped her hands together lightly. "I'm so happy for you."

I smiled meekly, looking at my arm. I asked Mercedes for a sheet of paper, and I wrote the number there, just in case I started to sweat or something and it washed off. I would have killed myself if that happened.

I had idolized my arm all day and knew that the moment of truth wouldn't be at eight o'clock that night, but at twelve thirty when we had lunch. Jon said that if it were a joke, she'd ignore me like she always did, never stealing glance. I put him and Mercedes on guard duty to see if she ever looked my way. She did a total of eight times. They were discrete, of course, but each time made me smile more.

"You know what would be fun?" Mercedes brought up, near the end of lunch. "We should all get Tarot card readings."

"What?" Jon asked, squinting his eyes. "Why would we do that?"

"Because it's fun."

I shook my head; "I'm going to get my permit after school."

"That's okay," Mercedes smiled, "we can go after that." I know, it was rather spontaneous, but that was Mercedes for you. She never really liked planning things. She was a spur-of-the-moment kind of girl.

Both Jon and I knew there was no weaseling out of this one, so we agreed. Sure I'd be wasting five dollars, but I figured my mother would be able to spare me couple bucks. She's generous like that. Mercedes always believed in that sort of thing, so it was more like humoring her than anything else.

My mother came to pick me up after school instead of forcing me to ride the bus home. She parked on the road a little ways away from the school so I had to walk through the grass to get to her. I didn't care. It was better than her waiting right at the door of the school. That'd just be embarrassing. I got into the car and buckled my seat belt.

"You never tied your shoes?" It was more like a statement than a question. I hadn't really noticed to be honest.

"I guess not," I shrugged. We immediately got onto the freeway and headed for the License Bureau where I'd be taking my test. I pulled out the booklet the school had offered to the students so we could be ready for the test right away. I had read that booklet at least eight times. I knew I was ready.

"What's on your arm?" My mother asked. I debated on what I wanted to tell her. If I said it was a girl's number, she might go all fluffy on me and say something along the lines of "Malcolm's got a girlfriend" in a sing-song sort of voice, or she might go all strict and say something along the lines of "you're too young to start dating." I decided to take a chance. Besides, a poster in my history class said, "The biggest risk is not taking one." What did I have to lose?

"Some girl's number," I said as nonchalant as possible. I saw my mother's mouth curl into a smile.

"Some girl, huh?" she asked. "Does this girl have a name?"

"Octavia." I answered.

"Is she in your grade?"

"No, she's a junior."

Conversation came to a crashing halt there. Mother didn't even say a word after that. I didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but I knew it wasn't to an extreme.

We got to the License Bureau at three thirty, and I was nervous. This would be the easy part of the test however – getting your picture taken for the permit and filling out your height and weight, all that jazz. I could easily handle that one. So we went inside and I grabbed a number. Sixty two. I didn't fret, they had been opened all day.

"Forty nine." A woman behind the counter called. I blinked. That wasn't too bad, right? I mean, how long could it take? My mother and I sat down in a conjoined pair of plastic chairs and waited. And damn, did we wait. Fifteen minutes later, lucky number fifty was called. Between memorizing the punishment for getting caught in a stolen car and the thought of Octavia Masterson, I had fallen asleep. The next thing I felt was an earthquake as my mother shook me conscious again.

"It's our turn," she said, standing up.

"Did I fall asleep?" I asked, rising to my feet. My mother nodded. "Oh God, did I drool?" Mother only smiled. Frantically, I wiped my sleeve over my mouth and checked for any dampness on the fabric. All clear.

"Yes?" The woman, Karen, responded to our presence. It looked like she had been there all day. I bet her hair looked pretty in the morning, but all the hairspray had since been melted off onto her forehead and the curls of bottle blonde hair had become limp.

"We're here to get a permit," my mother spoke for me. The woman asked for you usual: birth certificate for the both of us, proof of insurance for the both of us, two IDs of my mother's. I wasn't surprised and of course, my mother always went prepared. She whipped everything out in a matter of seconds. So Karen, after looking it over thoroughly for about two seconds, took a sheet of paper for my information. She decided to fill it out herself.

"Age?" she asked.

"Uh, fifteen." I stuttered. I looked at my mom skeptically, but she just shrugged her shoulders as if to say just go with it.

"Your name." Karen continued.

"Malcolm Alexander Dodge," I said, and then Karen looked up at me. She had gotten the first three letters of my first name – I guess she was stumped. I spelled the rest of my name for her, very, very slowly.


I shifted slightly. I honestly didn't know. "Uh, 135?" I said, and Karen nodded, writing it down.


I paused. Did I know anything about myself? Who doesn't know their own height? I prayed that I wasn't the only one. "5'7?" I questioned again. Karen nodded. She looked up at me.

"Hair color: brown." Brown sounded so plain and blah. My hair was more of a light, bronzy sort of brown. I didn't think that'd apply for my license. "Eye color: brown."

"My eyes are blue." I corrected her quickly. She looked up at me and monotonously said:


And that's what she wrote down. I looked at my mom again, but she only shrugged. After filling that all out for me, Karen was generous enough to let me sign my own name. Oh, can I? She directed me over to the "photo area" which was nothing more than a plain plastic chair sitting in front of a board covered in black fabric propped up against the beige wall.

I didn't fret about my picture because I'd only have this license for six months, so I just sat there and didn't smile, didn't frown, just stared into the camera and the picture was taken. Ten minutes later, I had my shiny piece of laminated paper that said I could drive. She muttered some gibberish about only driving with parents/guardians for the first six months, yadda yadda. Can't say I was listening, but I knew my mother. She was responsible like that. We got back into the car and I knew I was ready for the test. We headed home.

"Uh, mom?" I said skeptically. "Isn't the building the other way?"

"Yes, but it closes at five." She said, and I looked down at the clock to see that it was five twenty two. Damn it. My shoulders slumped for what, the third time that day?

"Can we go tomorrow?" I asked.

"Sure," she nodded her head and I smiled.

"Hey mom," I began, "Mercedes and Jon and I are going up town to get a Tarot card reading. Could I borrow ten dollars?"

"Now, will I be getting this money back?"

I shook my head, "Probably not. But can I please?" I only asked for ten dollars because I knew we'd be getting something to eat as well. My mother grabbed her purse, still driving mind you, and pulled out her wallet. She swerved a couple times onto the shoulders, but she produced a crisp twenty-dollar bill and handed it to me.

"It's for something to eat too. I want change back."

"Thank you." I said, grabbing my wallet from my back pocket and shoving the twenty inside. I asked her to drop me off at Mercedes' house and she did just that. My mother liked Mercedes. She hinted to me, on several occasions, that she'd like it if I went out with Mercedes. Personally, that was just gross. That would be like dating Jon. Mercedes was my friend. My best friend . . .God, it'd be like dating your cousin – which is pretty damn gross too.

"Did you get it?" Mercedes asked as I followed her into the living room where Jon was already sitting. Sadly I shook my head.

"You failed it?" Jon began to laugh. "You're the first person I've ever met who failed the permit test. Man, that's embarrassing!"

"I didn't fail it!" I snapped. "The place was closed. I'm going tomorrow."

Mercedes nodded her head, "Speaking of, the Tarot card place closes at six so we better get our asses in gear." We set out for town right then. It wasn't a long walk up town, but it always made me a bit winded. Okay, so I'm not exactly in shape, but I hadn't played any sports all through the year and that was the first year I did nothing so I was a tad rusty.

I never really liked going up town. There was nothing much to see. A couple local pizza shops, a few drug stores, city hall, stuff like that. It wasn't exactly a city to brag about, but at least we were on the map.

We got to the Tarot Card place . . .I don't know what you'd call it and were greeted by a woman with a turban and a sheet wrapped tightly around her body, and nothing else, mind you. She smiled, almost seductively, and spoke in a sultry sort of voice, "Three?" was all she said, and I wondered if Jon was getting hard. I hate to say it, but the woman had big breasts, and for some reason, Jon fancied that. Personally, I liked breasts that were more under control, wouldn't want them to get in the way of anything. "He will see you now."

The three of us walked through a curtain and into a room that was draped in dark colored blankets. A man was sitting at a table in the center of the room, slowly shuffling a deck of cards. He had a turban on, much like the woman out front, and wore something that looked like a dashiki. I stifled a laugh.

"Come forth, young adventurers," the man said, and Mercedes stepped forward. She sat down at the table and the man shuffled the cards. He was doing it slowly, I guess letting the anticipation build up. I wasn't impressed. Maybe I'd be impressed when it was my turn, but I think I'd be impatient more than anything else. The man stopped, stared at Mercedes and flipped out the first card.


That was simple enough. Mercedes clapped lightly as the man smiled. He traced his fingers over the next card and slipped it forward.


Mercedes clapped again. No wonder she liked going to get her damn cards read, she always got something good. Mercedes also had a serious belief about the cards, so it was always good when she got results like that. But there was one more card to be flipped. Oh . . .the excitement . . .


She stood up, smiling widely. "I think I like this game," Jon said as he took a seat in front of the man. The man smiled to him and shuffled the cards. His eyes were closed the whole time, so I wondered if he was doing that for effect, to show that he wasn't cheated. Personally, I thought he was a fraud. I was waiting for the police to shut this place down just like the "laundry mat". Oh, that place was kinky.

The man pulled three cards for Jon: Wisdom, Courage, and Prosperity.

Whoo-hoo, go Jon. I figured I'd get more excited once my ass was in the fold-up chair, opposite the man in the dashiki. I did feel a little better once I was across from him, but not as excited as I should have been. The man shuffled the cards; eyes closed, and paused, just for effect. He pulled out the first card.


Everything was silent. I felt my heart stop for a split second as I read the words and looked at the destruction on the card. I heard Mercedes laugh nervously. "Don't worry about that one, pull the other two." The man nodded and did as told.


I closed my eyes momentarily. It's just a stupid game. Mercedes demanded that the deck be shuffled again, and the man did as told, shuffling the deck and leaving the two previously pulled cards out in front of me. He stopped, looking straight at me, and pulled the last card.


"Come on." Mercedes said, seeing my mouth gapped open slightly in shock. What the hell? I hadn't gotten one good card and both my friends got everything positive. That didn't mean anything, did it?

We rushed out of the blanket room and the woman looked at us. She smiled slightly. I suddenly despised that place. I felt like I had been doomed. I felt like someone had just put a curse on me and jinxed me. That wasn't possible though, I didn't believe in that stuff . . .but Mercedes did. What did that mean for me? As we left, the man came rushing out. What? Did he want an extra buck for the reshuffling? "The cards never lie," he called after me, "the cards never lie."