#DayofSelfExpression May 27, 2017 – Crystal Ball

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#DayOfSelfExpression - Crystal Ball

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#DayofSelfExpression Journal Prompt

The crystal ball, also called an orbuculum has been a popular tool for scrying since the days of the druids. They came in many types and forms but most of them had a common purpose. Divination.

Journal Assignment for Teens and Adults:

If you were offered the opportunity to know the future, would you? Why or Why not?

If you were offered the opportunity to know the future, would you? Why or Why not? Click To Tweet

Journal Assignment for younger children:

A Crystal ball is used to see the future. Think about your future. What do you want to be when you grow up?

A Crystal ball is used to see the future. Think about your future. What do you want to be when you… Click To Tweet

Today on #DayofSelfExpression

Today’s feature is Crystal ball, a Short Story by Laura Widener.  Laura Widener is a wife, mother, and coffee addict living in rural Georgia. She holds degrees in social sciences and teaching, as well an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. Her previous work can be found in TWJ Magazine, Rathalla Review, Morpheus Tales, and others. Visit her at: http://incessantpen.wordpress.com

 #DayOfSelfExpression - Crystal Ball

Crystal Ball


Twenty-six years ago, a psychic told my mother that she would die precisely at 12:36 am on October 14, 2014. She believed it. When I was 12, she sat me down on our beige sofa. I cringed at her stern look, expecting a coming-of-age lecture about womanhood and bodies. Instead, my mom said, “Tanya, I’m going to die in six years.”

“Mom… what? How do you know that?” I asked.

“It’s hard to explain,” she started. “But a psychic told me. And I just feel it.”

I stared back at her in silence. Lines marked the skin on her forehead and I didn’t remember seeing them there before. At that moment, I stopped seeing her as the strong and fierce mother I’d once known. The woman who balanced her busy accountant job with caring for me and my younger brother Charlie, and attending all of our games, plays, and recitals while keeping our home like one from the pages of Good Housekeeping. Instead, I started to see her as a woman slowly losing hold of her sanity. Or maybe she had been losing it all along and I never noticed on my roller coaster of adolescence.

Mom never told me more about the encounter with the psychic. I imagined a woman with too much makeup plucking fifty bucks from my mom’s shaky hand, then speaking mom’s fortune through plumped fuchsia lips over a crystal ball from the Halloween prop store. Probably the same place she bought her makeup from. Maybe there was a fog machine too. I learned about these scams when I Googled psychic in the solace of my room. That’s where I spent most of my time over the years avoiding mom’s death talks.

She let it consume her. Define her. Our home was a mess. We hadn’t used the dinner table for family meals since I was fourteen. Instead, old boxes that once lived in a dusty corner of the garage now covered the surface. They contained old papers, trinkets, and other things symbolizing my mother’s life up until that point. The boxes made their way down the halls. My mom’s entire life spilled across the house. The sofas and chairs in the living room somehow remained clear. The four of us sat on different pieces of furniture, symbolizing the distance that came between us all.

Dad checked out of the marriage just three years after mom’s sit down with me, although I’m surprised he stayed as long as he did. He held my face in his hands with tears in his eyes and told me he was sorry. I couldn’t blame him, even when the silence in our home felt foreign and terrifying, like the monster under my bed that he was supposed to chase away. I longed for my parents’ arguments murmuring through the walls, and even Charlie yelling about his video games. The quiet was haunting. Only the ghost of our once happy family lived within the walls of home. Mom just kept working, and planning for the end of her life.

I texted Charlie every few weeks, but his conversation was minimal. He never mentioned mom. His replies consisted of few words to answer my pointed questions about his school and life. Although we weren’t overly affectionate siblings before, we’d certainly shared more words between us than this. Was this just normal texting protocol for a fifteen-year-old boy? I didn’t know. We didn’t have to text before, back when things were normal and we could exchange playful insults to one another’s faces. Or when he’d call me a lousy Halo teammate and throw grenades in my path to get my character blown to shreds. Maybe he thought I was crazy now for staying with mom. Maybe I was crazy.

When fall of 2014 came, I bit my lip as I packed and left home for the University of Georgia residence hall. It was two hours from home and a compromise for mom’s begging that I stay nearby. Going to community college and living at home was out of the question for my sanity. Since Charlie lived with dad, I was all mom had anymore. Dorm life was a change, but refreshing to spend most of my time around people who looked forward to living their life. Still, guilt panged me for leaving mom alone, so I stayed with her almost every weekend, even if all the driving plagued me with boredom and fatigue. A necessary measure for her sanity, I told myself.

When I came home for Labor Day, mom greeted me with a stack of paperwork.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“My life insurance policy. You’re the beneficiary now, by the way, since nobody else seems to give a damn. And there’s other account information there too. All the paperwork you’re going to need.”

I glanced down at the numbers on the paperwork. “Five million dollars?”

“That should be plenty to set you and your brother up. Get a good education. Buy a decent house. A nice casket for me.”

I sighed and stuffed the papers into my backpack.

Over Chinese takeout that night, she told me she was quitting her job. I bit back my accusations of insanity and told her I loved her before I left to go back to school.

My heart ached for my mom. For our family. For what could have been. Where would our lives have been if she’d never had that reading? Would my parents have had more children? Would we have been a happy family? I imagined us vacationing to a ski resort up north somewhere, laughing at one another as we took turns falling face first in the snow. The heat of our laughing faces would melt away the snowflakes until all that remained was red noses and infectious joy.

Separating the fragments of my shattered life was a difficult necessity. At college, I was just Tanya the freshman who studied hard and avoided personal conversation. My mother’s preparation for death and broken family life wasn’t exactly easy to explain. Normalcy was all I wanted. Not pity, stigma, or whatever consequence would come of sharing the truth of my life.

It was particularly difficult to maintain that separation of my lives when my psychology class covered the five emotional stages of those faced with death or other traumatic experiences—and I analyzed mom’s behavior. The first stage was Denial, which I assumed had occurred not long after my mom’s psychic reading and thus before my birth. The second was Anger, and my vast memory bank of my mother’s unusual heightened temper confirmed she had gone through that stage. Bargaining was the third stage, and I wondered if the trunk loads of Goodwill donations had been an example of that. The fourth stage was Depression, and I knew without a doubt that mom’s sullen attitude and silence had depicted that. But the fifth stage was Acceptance, characterized by emotional stability, a calm and peaceful perspective that I knew mom had not achieved. I had reached that stage with my parents’ divorce, yet why hadn’t mom accepted anything? The divorce? Her impending death that she believed so fiercely?

The lecture and the questions it spurred stayed in the back of my mind. I didn’t visit home for the first two weekends in October. Instead, I consumed myself with studies, completing assignments weeks before the deadlines. After Monday classes on October 13th, I drove home to be with my mom.

When I stepped through the front door, I caught my breath. It was as if I walked in our home from my early childhood. The scattered, boxed life of my mother that had cluttered the house for years was gone. The cherry hardwood gleamed below my sneakers as I walked. My toes begged for the off-white Berber of the living room when all these years I thought it was brown. Lavender and vanilla floated to my nose from every direction. It had been a long time since I had felt anything so close to home.

“Mom?” I called out to empty walls.

When there was no answer, I walked down the hallway. As I passed the dining room, I noticed the table; its surface entirely empty except for three envelopes. Letters to her family. When I reached her bedroom, I heard her. Her body stretched across the yellow floral design of her bedspread, and she sobbed into her pillow.

“Oh, mom,” I said softly, feeling compelled to comfort her.

She sprang up to sit and tried to wipe away evidence of her tears. “I didn’t hear you come in,” she said in a trembling voice. “I wasn’t expecting you home during the week.”

“Well, I changed my plans,” I said. I kicked off my shoes and climbed into bed next to her. She managed a small smile that felt like gratitude as fresh tears rolled down her cheek. My hand found hers and held it. It was awkward, but I knew this is what she needed. She sobbed and whispered into my shoulder and into her pillow some more. My sleeve was wet with her sadness and I didn’t move to dry it. She seemed to move through the five stages all over again through a river of tears that had been dammed for too long.

Sometime in the night as we laid in the dark, we heard footsteps.

“Mom?” A voice spoke. The voice of my brother.

“Charlie?” she barely squeaked.

“Yeah, mom,” he said.

I felt my eyebrow arch when he climbed into bed behind me. My brother who despised hugs had entered eerily close proximity to both mother and sister. Surely he couldn’t have been possessed to do something so unusual on his own.

And with that thought, I felt another weight dip down on the mattress.

“Caroline,” my dad’s voice spoke my mom’s name into the darkness. “I’m here, too.”

The sound of his voice made my mom weep with helpless cries that seemed to burst from her heart instead of her lungs. I was grateful for the cover of darkness that hid the tears spilling across my own cheeks. As the minutes ticked on, we laid together in silence except for mom’s lessening gasps and sniffles beneath dad’s embrace. Charlie laid motionless behind me with his arm against my shoulder, as if placed there on purpose.

Through blurred vision, I found the red digits of the clock on the nightstand. The numbers 1:06 stared back at me. Her hand was still warm in mine as I held it. I drew my other hand to her face and stroked her cheek. Her warm breath kissed my skin as she exhaled, the pattern of her breathing more steady now than ever.


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One thought on “#DayofSelfExpression May 27, 2017 – Crystal Ball

  1. Ashlea

    May 28, 2017 at 2:47am

    If i was offered to know the future I wouldn’t want to. By knowing your future you can accidently do something causing it to change. There is a chain reaction in everything we do.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. elenasts

    May 28, 2017 at 12:53pm

    I have never been to a psychic before and as Ashlea says I wouldn`t like to know my future because that way you stop living and wait for something that might never happen anyway.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author


      June 2, 2017 at 2:08pm

      I agree! I never considered the implications of a fortune teller’s prophecy until I read the Crystal Ball. It’s rather frightening, but I can see the ease with which one might fall into this trap.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  3. Kaya

    May 31, 2017 at 6:30am

    Wow. That was an amazing journey reading this! Powerful story x

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author


      June 2, 2017 at 1:59pm

      Kaya, Crystal Ball was a good piece of work, wasn’t it? We are always looking to share other people’s work. If you or any of your associates want to submit anything please do! exploringexpression@gmail.com

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  4. Laura Widener

    June 4, 2017 at 12:57am

    I’m glad to see the story was thought-provoking! Some other things to consider: When we are preoccupied by our fears or other things, we may be missing out on relationships or other parts of our lives. The way that we confront and overcome challenges lies within ourselves.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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