Two Months Later
Darling opened the door and wrapped me in a huge hug.
“Baby girl, I’m so glad you could come,” she said, putting her arm around me and ushering me into the foyer of her gorgeous house.
“Are you kidding?” I said, handing her a bouquet of purple roses and a robin’s egg blue Tiffany’s box with a thick gold bracelet. “I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”
Darling was throwing her own birthday party and she had spared no expense.
I’d never been to her Oakland Hills home and was duly impressed.
It perched on the hillside overlooking the Golden Gate bridge and looked like a small Italian villa.
“This view is amazing,” I said.
“Mmmhhhmm,” she said with a small smile. “Come on, I’ll introduce you to my best gal friends. We were all in the same sorority.”
That’s when I noticed the group of women in the large great room with windows facing the bay. I hung back.
I felt underdressed in my outfit. I’d thrown a navy silk blouse on above my worn leather pants and grabbed a pair of stiletto-heeled Jimmy Choo boots with studs. I’d thought the silk and heels would fancy it up enough but when I saw Darling’s friends and how they were dressed, I knew I was wrong.
They wore chic little Chanel shift dresses with kitten heels and pearls. They were gorgeous.
I knew before they opened their mouths that they were all intelligent, highly educated, classy and successful women.
I was a punk kid who had barely worked a real job a day in my life.
And I hadn’t even spoken a word to one of them yet. Why was I even there? Oh yeah, because I loved Darling. I squared my shoulders and smiled as I was introduced.
To my surprise, every single woman in that room greeted me warmly. Not one person gave me the once over.
Of course they would be. They were Darling’s friends.
During dinner I found myself seated next to a judge and we got into an animated conversation about legalizing marijuana. To my surprise, she was for it.
After a crew cleared our plates, Darling stood up.
“I have an announcement to make,” she said and turned toward the woman to her right. “As many of you know, Celeste has followed her dream and is now a world-famous psychic to the stars.”
The woman didn’t look like a psychic. I’d have expected her to have colorful gypsy clothes on or a head scarf or dangling earrings, but she had on a designer beige silk pants suit. Her black hair was thick and straight and her deep brown eyes crinkled up when she smiled.
“We love you Celeste!” someone said in a singsong voice.
I looked around. Everyone was smiling at the woman seated next to Darling.
“You should all know that Celeste reads for movie stars, presidents, tycoons and royalty from around the world. They all pay dearly for her readings, but as a special gift to me for my birthday, she has offered to read for each and every one of you here tonight.”
The woman on one side of me exclaimed softly. “Oh wow!”
The judge said, “How generous.”
All these super smart entrepreneurs were excited to have a psychic tell their fortune?
I shrugged. Okay. I wouldn’t judge.
“She’s going to go into the study and one-by-one, you can go in and speak to her while the rest of us have dessert,” Darling said. “Why don’t we just go in order that we are seated and go clockwise?”
I glanced around. That meant I’d be the fourth one to go in. Fine. It would give me time to eat the molten chocolate cake the server had just put in front of me.
“Also,” Darling said. “It works best if she can hold something of yours, preferably your keys, so grab those before you go in.”
I was deep in conversation with the woman beside me, when it was her turn to go. She excused herself and I turned to the woman who had just returned from the study and sat back down.
“How was it?” I asked.
She stared at me for a few seconds and then said, “It was kind of crazy. I’m not going to lie.”
“Huh,” I said. “Did she tell you the future or what?”
The woman paused and then shook her head. “Not exactly. It’s hard to explain. She saw things that I didn’t think anybody knew. She definitely has a gift.”
My stomach fluttered.
Would she see my past? My mouth grew suddenly dry.
“I’m nervous,” I admitted. “What kind of things did she say?”
“It was crazy. She knew all about my miscarriages and how tough it had been to get pregnant. Now, my own daughter has had a miscarriage and Celeste told me that my daughter is pregnant again! I didn’t even know yet, but I called my daughter from the study and it’s true! She’d just taken the test this afternoon! And Celeste said that and this time it’s going to work. She said I’m going to be a grandma to many children.”
She smiled and wiped away a tear. “She even said I’m going to be a great grandmother one day.”
“That’s wonderful,” I said and impulsively reached over to squeeze her hand.
“That was just one thing. She said so many things. I’m just trying to process it all.”
Around the table I heard other people saying similar things.
For some reason hearing all of that made me even more nervous. I thought about leaving the party but then it was my turn.
I felt a little disembodied as I walked toward the study. As I passed Darling, she reached out and grabbed my hand. She was in the middle of a conversation and didn’t say a word, just gave my hand a little squeeze and then let go.
I walked into the study and closed the door behind me as I’d seen the other women do.
Celeste was sitting on a couch and gestured to another couch across from her. She gave me a warm smile. “Please sit down.”
I did. I held out the keys and realized my hands were shaking. What the fuck?
“Don’t be nervous,” she said. “Do you have any questions before we start?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so. I don’t know. I’ve never done something like this before.”
“The first thing I want to tell you is that anyone who tells you that something will or won’t happen is a scam artist. Nobody has that power. Nobody can tell you with certainty what the future holds.”
I relaxed a little. But then she took a deep breath and said, “However, I am able to pick up on some things, not necessarily specific things, but general feelings and I’m almost always right. If I see something disturbing or feel something alarming, do you want to know?”
I froze. Did I? Then without hesitation I nodded. “Yes. Yes, I want to know.”
Celeste leaned forward and took my keys.
“Wait,” I said. “Can you see my past, too?”
She nodded. Then she leaned back and closed her eyes.
I watched her carefully. But she was still as stone. Her eyes didn’t even move behind her closed eyelids. It seemed as if she were barely breathing.
I was holding my own breath, waiting for her to do or say something.
After what felt like hours but was only a few minutes, she slowly opened her eyes and set my keys down on the table between us. Gently, she pushed the keys toward me.
Finally, she looked up and met my eyes.
I wasn’t surprised to see them well with sympathy. If she’d seen my past, she knew that it had been a shitshow.
“I’m so sorry you’ve had so much to deal with at your young age, Gia.”
I bit my lip.
Don’t fucking cry. Just because she’s nice to you doesn’t mean you can break the fuck down and cry.
“I feel like there is something I need to say to you about all that.”
I swallowed. My mouth was wicked of all moisture.
“You didn’t have a choice,” she said.
My shoulders slumped in relief. Until that very moment I hadn’t known that I needed to hear those words from someone, anyone. It was as if I’d been forgiven of my sins by the Pope. I felt a tear slide down my cheek and didn’t bother wiping it away.
“And there is something else,” she said.
The way she said it struck terror through me.
I froze, watching her. She closed her eyes and the fear spiked through me so strongly I nearly got up and ran out of the room.
Then her eyes snapped open.
“You have had more tragedy in your life already than most people see in a lifetime,” she said and gave me a sad smile. “And I so wish I could tell you that things will get better …”
She trailed off and looked down.
I scrunched up my face in confusion.
“Are you saying it’s going to get worse?” I said.
She looked up. “I’m so sorry.”
“What do you mean?” my voice sounded hoarse and unfamiliar.
“I have never seen so much tragedy in one person’s life.”
“What?” I said and scowled. “You’re fucking kidding, right?”
I was starting to get angry. I thought this was supposed to be fun and this woman was telling me that my shitty past was nothing compared to my shitty future?
“You better explain. You can’t leave me with just that,” I said.
She sighed. “It’s vague and hazy, remember I don’t see specifics very often, but I can tell you a little bit more.”
“Go for it,” I said.
“You are going to be tested. Over and over and over again. You will have unfathomable loss in your life.”
“Fucking brilliant,” I said. “Is there anything good at all that you see? Am I ever happy?”
She gave another sad smile.
“Later, in many years to come, I see you in a different country, a few different countries, with a man you are very much in love with.”
“Many years to come? You see me happy many years from now?”
“How long? How long am I happy?”
She shook her head. “I’m sorry. Only a matter of years. But they will be good years. The best kind of years that some people never have.”
“Why can’t it last?” I ask, more to myself than to her.
“Gia, you are different.”
“Yeah. Thanks for that.”
I jumped up and began to pace. Then I turned to her angrily.
“Tell me what you see? Tell me! Can I change anything you see? What can I do?”
She just shook her head sadly.
“When? When is it going to go to hell again?”
She stared at me for a long moment.
“When, goddamn it!” I was shouting now, not caring if everyone in the other room could hear me. “When is it going to turn to shit again?”
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
“Soon,” she said. “Very soon.”
Thank you for reading VENDETTA! I hope you loved getting to know Gia Santella! Find out what happens next in VIGILANTE …
When Gia’s race to find a missing student journalist uncovers gruesome secrets in her own neighborhood, she must risk it all to stop the bloodshed.