Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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by Reine Duell Bethany
                “Do you notice something about this whole scene, LaNeesha?” said Imani irritably.
                “Girl, I notice a lot of colorful signs and people in wizard clothes.” LaNeesha gazed about, enraptured. Across the vast convention center floor, crystal balls sparkled on tables beside packs of tarot cards and shiny-jacketed astrology books. Men and women, some in business suits, some in flowing gowns and robes, bent over customers’ palms, or lectured convention customers about vitamins, channeling, self-control over destiny, the Wiccan Red. Lush flowering potted plants added a flush of wild scent to the melee.
                “And what do you notice about all these wizard people?” demanded Imani, her lanky arms akimbo, her skin almost black in contrast to her daffodil-yellow shirt, her legs long in their black jeans and black sneakers.
                “Well . . . they either brainwashed or they onto something real,” insisted LaNeesha.
                “LaNeesha, they all white. Hel-lo. We got enough craziness of our own. We don’t need no white people craziness on top of it.” Imani strode toward the exit.
                LaNeesha ran to grab her sister’s arm.
                “Imani, come on! Look over there, that man ain’t so white. He look dark as Bobby or Max, anyway. He can read my palm.”
                “He not half as dark as Bobby,” frowned Imani.
                The object of their commentary was a gray-bearded man who stood beside a small blue-and-white booth. His eyes were closed. He rocked slightly back and forth, causing his long robes to sway. A large blue-and-white shawl covered his head. Curious, Imani approached with LaNeesha.
                “He Jewish?” murmured Imani.
                The man’s eyes stayed shut.
                “Uh . . . hello?” said Imani tentatively.
                No response.
                “Excuse me, mister, can you read my palm?” blurted LaNeesha, proffering a bill.
                The man’s eyes crinkled just enough for the two teenagers to realize he was peering at them. One robed arm stretched to take the money.
                “For five dollars, a lifeline reading,” he said in a deep, nasal voice.
                “Oh, but, I want you to tell me if—um—“ LaNeesha’s dark cheeks flushed.
                “He don’t have no crystal ball to tell you is Denby Carter going to ask you out!” barked Imani.
                “Imani!”protested LaNeesha.
                “Hey!”shouted Imani, yanking backward. The bearded man had seized her wrist. Her quick reflexes did nothing to prevent him settling his grip and turning her wrist so that her palm faced upward.
                “No, me!” cried LaNeesha.
                “Hold still,” muttered the man.
                Imani shrugged. “Okay, share the wisdom, baby. It all fake, anyway. I read how you people do it, practicing your intuition and how you see people give off signals they don’t think about, you know.”
                “Anna Jeffries is five times older than you,” said the man after a moment’s scrutiny.“She will live another half a time before she dies. I see her lifeline in your palm.”

                The sisters’ eyes widened.They looked at each other.
                “He right, Imani,” whispered LaNeesha. “He say Anna Jeffries, that be Grandma. You eighteen years old and she ninety.”
                Imani’s stunned eyes returned to the man’s impassive face. “You for real, aren’t you?”she demanded.
                A dimple hovered just above the man’s beard line. Dropping Imani’s wrist, he resumed his position by his table, eyes closed, swaying.
                “White, black, we all crazy,” stuttered LaNeesha.
                Imani said nothing. She turned away, wandering slowly among the booths toward the exit. LaNeesha mumbled to herself, “He must mean Grandma going to live till ninety-nine. And you going to live that long, too.”
                Imani laughed suddenly, happily. She started walking faster, until portly LaNeesha had to trot to keep up.
                “What is so funny?” she panted.
                “Freedom, LaNeesha.”
                “Freedom?”LaNeesha stopped. “You want to explain that before you run me half to death?”
                “We are naked, LaNeesha,” smiled Imani, halting.
                LaNeesha looked involuntarily at her own green blouse and long yellow skirt, then back at her sister’s glowing face.
                “Naked, girl. He know something about Grandma from somewhere, and I don’t mean no online news. I don’t think he know it from God. But that information is out there. All the truth is out there. All the facts. He have a way to hear it. So everything hidden can somehow be known.”
                LaNeesha looked suddenly anxious. Imani began walking again.
                “Anything there is to know about me, somebody somewhere know it.” Imani’s voice strengthened. “We think we can hide in the dark, but we are living in broad daylight. Well, then, I will walk in that light. I don’t need no horoscope, no predictions, no delvin’ into some hidden whatever. Life is here, life is now. And God will show me how to keep free from shame, LaNeesha—inside and out! Woo-hoo!” She seized a crystal ball from a table and flung it upward. She spun once and caught it almost at floor level. Gasps rippled all around them. The ball’s owner gestured angrily. Imani’s long basketball-playing fingers replaced the ball in its stand.
                “Freedom!”she cried, and pulled her sister through the rainbowed shadows, out of the building, into the strong light of day.

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