Not If But When


karrie_icon.gif lydia_icon.gif

Scene Title Not If But When
Synopsis Readings at Ichihara Bookstore rarely leave people feeling settled…
Date April 22, 2011

Ichihara Bookstore

Nestled in the heart of the main street marketplace, the Ichihara Bookstore is an old and crooked structure pressed between two newer high-rise tenement buildings. The old glass windows and creaking wooden door on the shop's front give it a rustic and old-world feel. Catering to both antique books and newer prints, the narrow aisles and tall shelves are packed full of literature. A single shelf for periodicals lies near the front counter, while signage both out front by the register and in the back of the store indicates that tarot card reading is done on-site at request for ten dollars per reading.

Behind the old and weathered wooden counter that contains the register and a small stack of reserved books, a narrow wooden staircase leads upwards to a black wooden door with peeling paint, revealing red paint in narrow strips beneath, a rope crossing in front of that door hangs with a small sign that reads, "Private".

Outside, the world is dimmed by the ceiling of clouds, and the sun is desperately trying to peek through. Like a metaphor for life, where so much seems dark, oppressive and muted in colors only to be disrupted by a shock of color that warms the room.

It's an hour after opening when the door chimes, welcoming a new patron into the Ichihara Bookstore. A look from the counter will show the arrival as an unassuming woman with an easy smile and a head of bright red hair who quietly closes the door behind her. Dressed in loose fitting blue jeans and a plum colored tunic blouse, a brown corduroy jacket resting on her shoulders against the chill, she could almost and unremarkably pass for a college student seeking escape in the wonders of an unusual book store. Eyes of green pass over the the shelves immediately to her left, her head slowly turning to gaze upon the the wares set up for display in a slow circle of the room.

As she reaches the right side to where she stands, the red head's smile grows a measure. Amusement with her own awe at the finding of the store increases the warmth in her expression. She steps away from the entrance as though in afterthought, head tipping down to browse the books nearest to her without concern for what they might be. It's the action she's most interested in.

Silence— complete and total silence— overtakes the small space of Ichihara Bookstore. While business had diminished substantially before, the silence of the bookstore following the incident on Roosevelt Island left the place in want of customers, and, ultimately in want of noise. No clocks tick. No pages flip. And, in such silence, it would seem, even the walls have ears. For only the wall itself produces any sound.


The distinct sound emits from one of the bookshelves along the back wall of the store, and is followed by a loud, very irritated, "MROOOOOOOOW!!" Evidently Gabriel slept his way off the shelf and has opted to feign injury rather than skip along his merry way.

"MROOOOOOOOOOW!" his cries become louder, more irritated by the obvious attention he isn't receiving.

Should Karrie choose to check on the white cat with black eyebrows, she'll encounter little more than a big baby. Ordinarily adverse and monstrous to strangers' approach, she'll find him oddly docile, but then, those that know him quickly learn, the image truly is a false one.

It's a sound that quite easily pulls at Karrie's heartstrings, though her first instinct is to look for the shop's proprietor. When none is found, and the yowling continues, her expression cools. She pulls herself away from the books in search of the overdramatic cat, for dramatics or not every animal deserves to be pampered.

The red head drifts between shelves, eyes searching the floor for the source of the commotion. Chances are she realizes the cat's ploy once she locates Gabriel. Cats have a flare for making themselves known when they want something. She approaches slowly, with a small smile working its way through her expression. "Hey there, kid," she says quietly and to the cat, her tone calm and yet understanding. Before getting too close, the woman lowers herself to her knees and extends a hand for the animal's investigations.

"You're not hurt," Karrie continues, allowing some amusement into her voice. "What's your name, hm?"

Gabriel's tail twitches at Karrie's assessment of his non-injury. It's not pained or upset, just a twitch— almost like an emotional tinge of some deep-seated personal insult. The touch actually causes Gabriel to purr as he leans back, lounging against the floor, eyes closing in sheer ecstasy.


The one word reply doesn't come from the cat— it drifts from somewhere behind Karrie, confident and assured in its tone and cadence. Lydia's steps had been silent. The lithe woman ties a ribbon through her hair, combing each strand into a long ponytail. In many respects the red chiffon of her dresspassionate and free-flowingtell more about the wearer than she'd have a stranger know. The smell of lilacs begins to waft from the counter—flowers procured rather than grown.

Her weighty movements laden with elegance drive her back towards the counter, while the coolness of her back observes, "Gabriel likes you." Lips tightening into a somewhat tense smile, she busies herself with a teapot and fixing for tea upon her small counter space.

After having poured tea into two unmatched, semi-broken teacups, she clears her throat. "Gabriel doesn't easily take to strangers," herself having been an exception. "Present company excluded, evidently." There's a long lingering pause as she twists along her spot at the counter to catch Karrie's gaze. "Is there something I can help you with?"

Fingers gently trail along the base of the cat's ear and under his chin. There's a lightness to Karrie's touch, a lack of assumption that it's her presence alone calming the feline's inner beast. She knows of their personalities, the fickleness that could make an accidental wrong move a personal slight against the cat's proper upbringing. And so she doesn't go further than Gabriel will allow.

A gentle smile is interrupted by a voice behind, briefly startled with a quiet, "Oh!" Karrie turns, half rising from where she kneels upon the floor, her eyes looking beyond the books to the woman at the counter. As she watches Lydia, she more slowly rises completely, a more shy smile presented throughout her expression. "I'm sorry. I heard —Gabriel was it?" The red head takes a moment to look at the cat in question, as though the feline himself would be able to confirm his own name.

"I was out —walking, and I saw your shop." Karrie drifts toward the counter as she explains, her steps are a little slow and almost hesitant. But as she steps forward her eyes, childlike in wonder, take in the display and shelves filled with books to either side. "I —I wanted to come in. And look around. I'm sorry, I can go, if you'd prefer."

The tightness in Lydia's smile eases considerably at the explanation and offering. With a minute shake of her head, Lydia's lips curl upwards again, her hands slide down to her hips. "It wasn't an accusation," she soothes with a gentleness all her own emitted through an unusually even tone. "You're more than welcome to look," her hands spread slowly to display the shelves and shelves of books.

Slowly, carefully, Lydia eases onto a stool behind the counter while her hands comfortably find their place around her teacup. "I don't choose the solitude," hands rising, the cup lingers against her lips while the warm fluid pours between them. A few moments pass after she swallows. "And I do run a business. And, we are open. And so you're welcome." She motions towards the second cup of tea, "Join me?"

Relief washes over Karrie, her own expression easing as the shy smile becomes more genuine. "Thank you," she returns, sincerity deeply rooted in the two little words. Her smile warms a touch and she closes the distance to the counter more readily. "It's a beautiful place," the woman continues, her focus staying itself upon Lydia. "It's nice to see something —alive, when you look at what's around it." She's implying destruction left by the Dome, and a general sense of a city still rebuilding after all the hardships it's seen.

Green eyes lower to the second cup of tea and then lift again to Lydia. Once again there's a touch of shyness as Karrie stands before the counter, nearly adolescent in nature. Her hands lift toward the cup and eyes watch the proprietor for a touch longer in silent askance for permission. "Thank you," she says again as fingers curl around the tea cup, one hand moving with more surety than the other.

Curiously, Lydia's head cants left at the silent request, but after a moment she manages a tight nod. Her fingers tighten around her cup while her eyebrows raise around some unspoken question that she never utters— a question relegated irrelevant for this moment. "It's a beautiful store," she agrees while her dark eyes scan the numerous shelves containing equally beautiful tomes. "Some would call it a dying store, but I find," her tone quiets some, "loveliness in the old," her eyes turn to her own teacup, "the cracked," and then move towards the tarot deck wrapped in her favourite shawl— falling apart at the seems, "and the breaking. Perhaps there's something beautiful about being broken."

The tightness in her smile returns in a semi-awkward motion, allowing her to bring her cup back to her lips. The sip draws her eyes shut, a silent admiration of the liquid along her tongue. "You're most welcome." Her throat clears quietly, "I'm Lydia. And this is my store."

Listening carefully, there's still a wonderment quality to Karrie's gaze as it politely rests against Lydia. As though she's seeing the world again through the eyes of a child. She follows the other woman's gaze with a small smile, the first inkling of tooth showing through slightly parted lips. Amusement flits through her expression as her eyes touch the cracked porcelain of the teacup, and when her attention turns to the shawl wrapped tarot cards it's more respectful. The age, the state of being, she understands those.

The red head's eyes lift again, when Lydia introduces herself, and her smile warms once again. "I'm Karrie," she says, timidity in her voice. "It's —A lovely store. And I'm pleased. To meet you."

"Thank you. I am very fortunate to have it," Lydia issues Karrie a nod in thanks followed by a sip of her own tea. That same calming tone and cadence permeate her every motion. Finally, setting down the teacup, a single eyebrow arches curiously, particularly as she catches the other woman's glance towards the cards. Lips pressing together solidly, the gypsy-woman considers the last time she'd given a reading. It's been far too long. "Have you ever had a reading?"

The tarot filled shawl is drawn from the counter carefully. "Readings help direct people when they're lost. Or just need guidance. Or perhaps when they look for more in their own lives. The cards, when read well, can be very accurate."

"Hm? Oh, no." The look on Karrie's face shifts a little toward embarrassment. "No, I've never had a reading before," she admits quietly, the smile on her face diminishing by a small fraction. Her eyes follow Lydia's movements, watching with a subdued interest as the shawl and cards are drawn upward. There's a hesitation, a subtle pause in which she considers, eyes flowing up from the tarot deck to its owner.

"I'm not certain I'm lost," the red head says. "Or that I fit any of those categories." She smiles once more, imploring in countenance, her eyes returning to Lydia. "But —If you'd like to do a reading of me? I —I have nothing to offer for your time, I apologize." Embarrassment again shows itself, marginally, and Karrie's tea cup is lowered toward the counter.

A serene smile is issued Karrie while Lydia, very carefully, removes the decks from the shawl home. She passes the deck over to the other woman, tilting her head somewhat in a rather thoughtful position. There's much consideration given her words, but when she does speak it's in a thoughtful even way with an equally even cadence and tone, "Please shuffle the deck and return it to me when you feel it's been thoroughly shuffled."

The deck is taken as Karrie's eyes fall to it in a look of cautious regard. There's an ounce of delay, an uncertainty as she manipulates the deck. The culprit seems to be a subtle weakness in one hand, and fingers finding small difficulty in responding to the motions she should know easily. But the pause is short lived, less than a moment of inaction passing between receiving the cards and beginning to shuffle. Nine times the cards are gingerly worked, manipulated with a care and respect for the woman's possession. After the final reordering, she lifts her eyes to Lydia and extends the cards to her.

Lydia accepts the deck again and carefully lays out five cards in a cross-style setup. It’s a quick and dirty reading, not as thorough as she’d like it to be, but then the five card layout has always proven effective. There’s a quiet fluidity in her movement, a softness to her smile as the broken helix cards are regarded one by one. “The first card is your present situation— that within your life that which is the focus of our reading.” She turns it over to see a lovely picture— of a blindfolded person in a white robe with two large swords extended into the air.

Curiously, her head cants to the side again, peeking at the woman across from her with all the weight within her. She releases a quiet hmmm, a quiet assessment of the card itself and what it means for this particular woman. “You’re at a stalemate,” she soothes in a wholly non-judgmental way. “You’re avoiding the truth and blocking your emotions. In your current situation you know what you feel but won’t permit the feelings. There’s something amiss in your life. You know what you want and what you have to do, but something prevents you from doing it. You’re having… a blockage.”

With fascination bordering on awe, Karrie watches the unfolding of the cards. Her teacup is gently moved aside, lest it spill and ruin the cards, and leans forward just a touch to gaze at the first picture revealed. When Lydia begins to speak again, her head comes up slightly, enough to look at the gypsy woman and meet that weighty gaze. There's something new within the red head's own gaze, a flicker or shadow that tells of her words hitting a little too close to a mark. But her expression melds in with curiosity. "A blockage?"

The question is met with a firm nod. "You are blocking yourself, Karrie. We all have our strengths, our satisfactions, and somehow you've cut yours off." Her lips press together as she reaches for the second card in the layout, "The second card is your past. It's your influences and where you've come from that currently have an effect." Finally truly flipping it over, she announces quietly, "The ten of cups." Once more her lips thin, considering the symbolism of the card in front of her. "Family, love… you found something and now it's stalemating you. What once was empowering has taken root as something preventing you from truly moving forward in your life."

Without response for the answer, the red headed woman returns her attention to the cards. Karrie's eyes watch with wonderment, her head giving a slow and steady nod as the next card is explained. This time there's no glance up, no look to give hint that she agrees or disagrees, even on a subconscious level. After a lengthy pause, she lifts her eyes to Lydia again, and that hesitant smile returns. But only for a moment and her observances of the reading resume.

The third card is regarded slowly, examined before being turned while Lydia considers the weight of each of the cards in turn. “This,” she declares, “Is the future card. It tells me where you’ll wind up if you continue on the path you’re on.” Slowly her painted red fingernails toy at the edge of the card. The devil painted on the other side draws the blonde fortune teller’s eyebrows upwards, seemingly unsettled by the image pointed there. “The future card, the devil, suggests you’re stuck. You’ll remain stuck unless you change your current situation. You have a choice, Karrie, you can continue as you are or change the path.”

Lydia’s finger taps somewhat impatiently on the back of the fourth card, nearly anticipating what will be printed on the other side. As she turns it over, she explains, “The fourth card is the reason. It explains why the present is the way it is and how your life came to be on the path it’s currently on.” Death. The death card. With a curious furrowing of her eyebrows, she turns her head to the side to bring her tea to her lips once again. “I can’t explain it,” she admits after swallowing. “Normally when I see the death card in a layout I feel it’s some transition, but today… I have a sense of genuine loss. You couldn’t escape something and you’ve been running ever since, yet…” her eyes turn down to her tea, “You can’t leave it. No matter what you do, it finds you because the very essence of the unescapable revolves around who you are.” It’s all cryptic. And perhaps, thanks to her gypsy ways, a form of grifting, yet there’s a sincerity in Lydia’s face as she delivers the reading. Real or not, she appears to believe it.

Transfixed, Karrie watches the next two cards as they’re revealed. There’s a sense of expectation over the first, being stuck. It seems to be a common theme, though her brows knit, drawing together as she her eyes pick out the minute details of the devil. She might know the reasons behind her inability to move, may know what steps to take in order to move on and free herself from that which is holding her back. However she may also be just as confused as Lydia over what the cards reveal.

The fourth card stills the red head’s breathing for a handful of seconds. Likely it’s a possible reaction to anyone dealt a death card. A hand lifts toward the cards as Karrie’s composure trembles faintly, but remains lingering just above the painted image without touching it. “I— I should go,” she says in a near whisper. That she’s never had a reading before, the words of the gypsy woman seem to be striking home on something. “Thank you. Thank you for the tea. And the reading. I— I’m sorry, I can’t pay.”

With one card left, Lydia’s eyes actually widen with surprise and a sharp inhalation of breath. Otherwise, her demeanour stays as it always is. Even. Steadfast. Gentle. “You don’t need to leave. Nor did I expect payment.” Not this time. Karrie had said as much beforehand. It’s in Lydia’s nature to read more into what she finds than others and so she considers, “Something drew you in here today. I don’t know if you carry any kind of faith or consideration of the world around you, but I believe you were fated to come.”

And even as Karrie begins to draw away, Lydia turns the last card. The potential card. No explanation is given as to the card’s meaning but the card itself is the Seven of Pentacles, beckoning a single eyebrow to arch higher on the gypsy woman’s forehead. And then, perhaps through the knowledge of the card, or through some other carnie grifting, she asserts, “You need a job.” Her head stretches to the side in quiet consideration. “You can start Monday.” It’s not a question as she turns back towards the kettle to replenish her tea.

The look from Lydia may have as much mystical power as the cards she reads from. As Karrie starts to draw back, the expression from the gypsy actually stills her in place. She attains a level of self enough to not gape at the woman’s back, though wonderingly her eyes flick between the cards and their owner. There’s no denial that she needs a job, a paying job, as much as the red head loves volunteering it really doesn’t cover the bills. And there are a lot of bills.

Her head bows slightly, an archaic gesture of assent to the sudden employment. “Thank you,” Karrie says faintly. “That’s very gracious of you. I— Thank you.” A smile, warm and once more full of life, as though her sudden fearfulness had never befallen her, is presented to Lydia as her head lifts again.

With the tea in the glass refilled and left to steep Lydia offers Karrie a more serene smile, her own questions swimming through her thoughts, but she doesn’t ask them. That’s not her way. Instead she nods, “Human kindness still exists in this world in ways you can’t imagine. Don’t be deceived. You have more to yield, more to give, and more to offer than either of us can imagine.” And then quietly she asserts, “And I can imagine a lot.” She’d been shown mercy when she was little more than a runaway from a carnival— an ink-filled carnie with few skills beyond those which came so natural— those of human intuition.

“Five days a week until— “ her dark eyes sweep the space of the store, lingering momentarily on the cat himself, “— until such a time that we cannot open.” She’s not business-minded, nor has she ever been. Kindness and mercy prompt her to do what she can when she can. “Agreed?”

“Agreed,” Karrie answers, head bowing again. It’s a second or two before she moves forward again, hands lifting to lightly rest against the counter. Another moment passes in which she studies the cards laid out, whatever meaning the painted images have for Lydia, to Karrie they seem only drawings. It’s the words, the explanations each card given, translations offered by the gypsy that captivate her most.

The red head grasps her forgotten teacup, but she lifts it to sip at the lukewarm liquid inside anyway. She looks away from the cards to regard Lydia, briefly and silent, wondering what else the other woman saw in the cards. But those questions go unasked, and her attention returns to the deck. Her green eyes linger longest on the devil and death cards and somewhere deep inside Karrie wonders not if but when she’ll have to explain herself.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License