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“Everyone has their own place within the Major Arcana,” Rosemary heard as she felt herself reentering consciousness. Her limbs were outstretched; she flexed her hands and felt a soft comforter beneath her.
She looked towards the source of the voice. She met the eyes of Shudien who sat not far away.
“What?” Rosemary asked in confusion.
Shudien spread a bunch of cards out in front of both of them, all of which were brightly colored and decorated with images. Rosemary had never seen cards such as these, and sat up in interest.
Shudien said, “They are twenty-two of the most purposeful and symbolic cards of the tarot deck. There is one with which each of us especially identifies; one whose inherent characteristics we ourselves are always under the influence of, whose influence others fall under while in our presence.
“This is my place among the Major Arcana,” She extended a hand and touched one. It was a card which depicted a figure like Baphomet the winged satyr being, with two human-demons chained to his pedestal. It was labeled, 'THE DEVIL'.
Rosemary's eyes widened as she observed the card. “What does that mean?” she asked, quietly.
“It means I act on the drive of instinct. I do what ever I feel; I do with no regret. I'm shameless in my passions, and I encourage such behavior in those who come around me,” Shudien responded.
“What do you suppose my card is?” asked Rosemary in genuine curiosity.
Shudien picked up the stack, and flipped the deck face down. She pulled the top card from the stack and placed it in front of Rosemary.
“This is your card,” she said, “Don't look at it quite yet. But put it in your pocket.”
Rosemary carefully picked up the card, and slid it into her back pocket. She looked up as a signal of her agreement. Shudien smiled.
Rosemary stood in the doorway to the cafeteria, and absently stared down the hallway as her friend Shudien walked down it and towards a classroom.
“Why do you always hang out with that chick? She's such a freak,” said someone behind her, who startled her back into reality. She turned around, and saw that it was Carmen.
Carmen could be considered a friend of Rosemary's, though Rosemary had always considered her something of a bother. Carmen was a popular girl that Rosemary had known for a number of years, and was therefore in a sense popular by association. Rosemary liked the idea of such a position when she was younger, but with the progression of time, the shine of popularity eventually tarnished, and her position with Carmen became merely a thing of habit.
“What?” Rosemary said. She'd heard Carmen clearly, but she thought it'd be amusing to test the predictability of Carmen's self-conscious insults.
“She's so weird. Everyone thinks she's a freak. Why have you been hanging out with that chick so much?”
Vindictive and accusing. How dully stereotypical, thought Rosemary.
“Yep,” was Rosemary's response. She turned away, and started walking down the hallway.
“What?” said Carmen, confused by her response. “Everyone's going to start thinking your a freak, if you keep hanging out with that girl. Do you want to be called a freak, too?”
Rosemary continued to walk, acting as though Carmen had not spoken.
Carmen was flustered. “Hey. What's your deal?” she yelled out.
Rosemary turned around. “You know I already am a freak. It's why you won't leave me the hell alone,” she said, and continued walking down the hallway.
Carmen clenched her fists by her thighs and walked back into the cafeteria.
Rosemary found the classroom in which Shudien was eating lunch. She sat down by Shudien.
“I'm done with Carmen,” she said.
“She's in love with you,” said Shudien,quite bluntly.
“I know,” said Rosemary. They looked at each other knowingly.
“Don't feel sorry,” said Shudien.
“No,” said Rosemary, with a touch of sentiment in her voice.
They sat silently for a moment.
“Rumors. Here they come,” Rosemary smiled ironically. “Weak and ineffective vengeance. She's going to tell everybody that you and I are lovers. A convoluted way by which to ease her own subconscious feelings. So be it. Perhaps we are lovers after all, but we just don't know it yet.” Rosemary laughed.
“I know it,” said Shudien, mystically and playfully.
“Of course you do. You're a freak,” Rosemary joked, and smiled.
Predictable word didn't take long to spread. Sixth period, one of Carmen's extended brood approached Rosemary.
“Are you and that girl really like... going out?” She asked. Her face was curious, but her eyes were blank.
Rosemary stayed silent for a moment. “Yes,” she finally said, when she judged she'd made the girl wait long enough.
The girl's face scrunched up. “Ew. That's weird,” she said.
You gullible fool, Rosemary thought. “Yeah,” she said.
“What do you guys like... do?” the girl asked in whisper, with the same scrunched up expression still on her face.
“Oh, well, you know.... when we're both bored, and it's late at night, we play cards,” Rosemary said with subtle mock scandal in her voice.
The girl's face twisted a little more in confusion, and she turned away.
The next day, Rosemary sought out Carmen before school. She managed to find her alone, in a locker bay.
Carmen turned towards Rosemary. “What do you want?” She demanded with sass that hardly masked nervousness.
Rosemary calmly approached Carmen. “You're a fool,” she said coolly.
“What?” Carmen demanded, with nervous anger in her voice.
“You could at least admit it. Then you'd perhaps look a little stronger, and a little better.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You're in love with me,” she said, quickly, but calmly.
“No I am not!” Carmen shouted.
“Oh really?” Rosemary responded.
“No! I'm not! That's weird!” Carmen frantically yelled. Defensively, she backed up against a locker.
“Then why...” Rosemary trailed off. With deliberate and calculated gentleness, she put a hand on Carmen's face, and kissed her full on the mouth. Carmen sunk into it, easily, with no resistance. Rosemary let it keep up for a moment, and then jerked back.
“See! You're a fool.” She looked down at Carmen, who became teary-eyed and held a slumped over, defeated stance. “Stop trying. I'll just torment you. And it really won't bother me much.”
She turned around and left Carmen slumped helplessly against her locker.
She walked through a hall and out the school's front doors. She began walking toward the lake next to the school, where she figured she'd find Shudien. She approached the mess of trees that grew before the riverbank. She peered through them, for they were a common hiding place for Shudien.
She bent through the overgrowth of foliage and began wandering through the mess of trees. She kept her eyes up, and eventually spotted Shudien perched in an arched tree that bent outward and into the water. She wore a flowing white dress that flapped against her legs in the morning breeze.
“Beautiful albino peacock, perched low within your tree,” Rosemary called out to Shudien. Shudien turned her head. Rosemary ran towards the tree and scampered up the trunk to sit at a place near Shudien. “You are like so many works of art,” she said to her.
Shudien shot her a sly and questioning glance.
“Are you wondering why I'm so excited?” Rosemary asked.
“Yes,” Shudien responded.
She recounted to Shudien her morning encounter with Carmen.
“Ah,” said Shudien, with a bemused expression on her face.
Nonchalantly, Rosemary stated, “You know, being friends with Carmen and her bunch, I've kissed many a boy, but never a girl, till this day.”
“That's not really very surprising,” Shudien said, fishing for the reason why Rosemary had said this.
Rosemary flashed her a cunning and oddly seductive smile. “I'm not really sure why not,” she said.
“Hey now. Don't get ahead of yourself,” Shudien said, somewhat mockingly, somewhat playfully.
Rosemary put a hand in a back pocket, over the tarot card Shudien had given her. “Why not? You know what I am. Sometimes I think you can even read my thoughts.” She smiled deviously and said, “And I know what you are.”
Shudien laughed, and jumped off the branch to the forest floor. Rosemary noted that she was bare footed.
“Where are your shoes?” she asked with faked concern.
“I know your concern is pretense,” she responded playfully. “Instead you think it's a beautifully strange habit of mine.”
“How do you know?” Rosemary asked.
“You're a novice to feeling,” Shudien responded, and scampered to a higher branch in a different tree. “You've always thought I'm beautiful. Yet only today have you consciously acknowledged it. You've left the influence of the chaos of The Tower who is Carmen, and have come under the influence of The Devil. Give welcome to sensual beauty.”
Rosemary hastily stood up on the branch and spread her arms in the direction of Shudien.
“I welcome it!” She said with feverish ecstasy.
“Wonderful!” Shudien said down to Rosemary. “But let your emotions ferment through the day. Trust me: the fruit will be ever sweeter.”
Rosemary crouched down on the branch. “Alright,” she said patiently. “And now?”
Shudien looked at her watch. “Class,” she said. “We'll meet here at dusk.”
They jumped down to the forest floor, and scampered through the undergrowth back to the road, and finally back into the school.
Rosemary hesitated outside of her first period class room, for Carmen shared her first period class. But upon entering, Carmen was no where to be seen. She sat down at her desk, and waited uncomfortably for Carmen to show up. She would have liked Carmen to have been early, so that Carmen's inevitable onslaught of insults could have been already given and done with before class started.
But lo and behold, the tardy bell rang, and Carmen had yet to arrive. And she did not arrive at all at any point in time during first period. Nor did she third period, the other class they had together.
Fourth period Rosemary shared with Shudien.
“Carmen didn't come to first or third period. I'm really quite surprised. She's not usually so easy to defeat,” she whispered to Shudien.
“She is the kind to have plans within plans, be they predictable plans.” Shudien whispered in reply.
“True. But I'm not quite sure what this plan could be. Finally, she may throw me a curve ball,” she whispered with slight excitement.
“But you know better than that,” Shudien teased.
“You're right,” Rosemary whispered, and smiled with mock defeat.
They awkwardly looked up towards the scowling teacher, and returned to their work.
RING RING RING!!
Fourth period ended, and Rosemary and Shudien got up from their desks. As they did every day, Shudien went to the classroom across the hall to eat her sack lunch, and Rosemary went to the cafeteria to buy her school lunch.
Rosemary came to the cafeteria entrance, and peered in with anticipation of Carmen's sudden appearance.
“Rosemary!” Carmen yelled angrily. “I know what's really happening here. And I think you should admit it!” she said awkwardly and with exaggerated anger.
Trying to use my own words against me, eh? Thought Rosemary.
Rosemary suddenly jumped into a defense position, and contorted her face to appear terrified. “Oh no, really?” She said with mock nervousness. “You know?” She put her hands on her head and squeezed at her hair.
“Y-yeah,” Carmen squealed. Her nervousness became increasingly apparent. “I know. I think you are actually the one who is in love with me! You.. you...” She paused.
The word you are looking for is “fool”, Rosemary thought, and smirked at Carmen.
“...fool!” Carmen spat out.
Rosemary stood up straight, and faked a look of apprehension. “Oh really?”
“Yeah. You're the one who kissed me!” Carmen yelled.
“Oh really?” Rosemary said with the most mockingly seductive voice she could make.
“You are so weird!” Carmen squealed as a few tears squirted out of her eyes. She turned around and hurried out of the cafeteria.
Rosemary sighed, and walked to the classroom Shudien would be in.
“Hello,” she said to Shudien.
“Hi,” Shudien replied.
“I feel kind of bad,” she confessed to Shudien.
“That's not necessary,” Shudien said sweetly. She reached into the bag by her side and pullet out her Tarot deck. She shuffled her cards a few times, and then pulled one from the top. She looked at it, and then placed it face-up in front of Rosemary. THE HANGED MAN, it read. The image on the card was of a man hanging from a gallows, not by the neck, but by his ankle.
Rosemary looked at the card disappointedly. “That looks unhappy,” she stated matter-of-factly.
“This card represents surrender and letting go.” Shudien smiled and said, “Which is always unhappy at first, but which most often leads to a much better state of being.”
Rosemary perked up a bit.
“Carmen is not a good friend. As you know,” Shudien reassured her.
“Very true,” Rosemary said. “Or a good girlfriend. She won't even admit she likes me,” she joked. They laughed a bit.
The rest of the day progressed as normal, except during seventh period, during which Carmen completely ignored Rosemary, much to Rosemary's relief. Once school ended, Rosemary headed off to the locker bay to pack her things, and then headed to the tree where she was to meet Shudien at dusk.
Rosemary sat on the same arched branch Shudien had perched upon 10 hours earlier. She gazed across the river and through the forest on the opposite shoreline. She intentionally came pre-dusk, so that she could watch the trees burn and simmer in the sun's last light.
Dusk arrived shortly. Rosemary heard a light rustling in the bushes behind her, and turned hastily.
“My albino peacock,” she called out. “Thou art as beautiful by the light of the morn as by the gently tucked blanket of dusk!”
Shudien ran towards the tree, and gracefully leaped upon the branch to seat herself next to Rosemary.
“And now, to taste your ripened fruit,” Shudien said excitedly.
Rosemary reached into her back pocket, and pulled out the Tarot card. She carefully turned it around, and her heart sank as she looked at it. On the card was an image of a young man in a flowery garment, holding a satchel of his possessions in one hand, and a flower in the other. Under him read, THE FOOL.
“So I'm a fool too, eh?” Rosemary said.
Shudien looked up at her, and took Rosemary's face in her palm. “You know not what it means to be a fool. The fool is one who is young and free, who seeks experience and is a lover of beauty. Fits you well, does it not?”
Rosemary's frown slowly transformed into an enthusiastic smile. “Indeed,” she said with understanding.
Rosemary placed her palm on Shudien's cheek. “I have seen Beauty for the first time today. Beauty is the name of my albino peacock, who calls out in my heart at the most crucial times. Sensual Beauty is her full name, and she plays in the Devil's luscious garden.”
Carefully she leaned over, and kissed Shudien gently on the lips. “You eat a lot of ripe fruit in the Devil's garden, don't you?” she teased. Shudien laughed tenderly, and leaned forward to kiss her. She reached out, and held Shudien against her chest. “What a delicious fruit it is.”