ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
CAMERON HARVEY grew up in New York and has stood on all seven continents, but only had her palm read on three of them. Raised in New York, she lives in Southern California and is a graduate of Stanford University and UCLA Law School. The Evidence Room is her first novel and was released on June 2.
Find Cameron on Twitter.
“Salted caramel, please,” I told the woman in the pink apron behind the counter at the cupcake shop.
She beamed at me before reaching into the display case and tucking my purchase into a polka-dotted pink box. “Great choice,” she remarked, tapping away at the cash register. “I like how you said that with no hesitation.”
From the depths of my tote bag, a purple button-eyed juju that I bought in New Orleans seemed to be smirking up at me, a large pin protruding from its felt head. It was supposed to give me insight about where to get my next car, a transaction I had been pondering since my car had begun circling the drain seven months earlier.
“Yep,” I agreed. “That’s me. Hesitation-free.”
We all linger over decisions in life; some of us take waffling to a new level. And I was a world class waffler, decisive only when it came to no-brainers, like baked goods. I wasn’t one for spreadsheets and weighted lists and charts, all those concrete decision-making aids; oh no. I was into something a bit more unearthly. And the supernatural always was there to pick up the slack and cater to all of my ruminating needs.
My dalliance with the unknown began early, with the Magic 8 Ball, discovered at a friend’s sleepover in elementary school. No question was out of bounds. While friends were content to stop after asking about their latest crush, I wanted to know more. Would Dylan choose Kelly or Brenda? Was the Berlin Wall really coming down? I devoured the Choose Your Own Adventure books, secure in the knowledge that if I ended up in an alligator’s jaws or accidentally tumbled into another dimension, I could just start over at the beginning. Then in middle school, there was the Ouija board. I wasn’t interested in the tragic histories of the people haunting my house, but I did want their opinions. The possibility of summoning unknown demons seemed like a small price to pay for getting some advice about what after-school activity to join.
As an adult, I pocketed fortune cookies at group dinners and peered at tea leaves collected in the bottom of my cup. I visited psychics and tarot card readers at the English seaside and in dimly lit storefronts in suburban strip malls. Sometimes I asked questions; more often I just listened, captivated. It wasn’t so much what they said – all the incredible predictions that somehow never quite came to pass - but sitting there at the table, watching someone tenderly unwrap a deck of tarot cards – in that moment, in some fundamental way, I felt comforted.
More often than not, I was the one who wandered into these places. And then once, the supernatural came to me.
On an airplane.
There was nothing particularly mystical about the woman seated next to me on the flight, a business traveler with a laptop and folded trenchcoat. We started talking about the books we were reading; the abundance of oversized bags in the overhead bins, the boorish behavior of the permanently reclined gentleman in the row in front of us. She was an advisor, she told me, a consultant of sorts. Business? I asked. Academics? She shook her head. “It’s more spiritual than that. I’m a psychic.”
It was music to my ears. Unspoken questions began to gather in my mind, the familiar adrenaline rush that accompanied the snap of the fortune cookie, the moment before the hazy letters on the Magic 8 ball resolved into a message. There were so many things I could ask her. Was it rude to ask for a reading when she was off the clock, like peppering a doctor with medical questions at a cocktail party?
Before I could ask, she spoke. “Do you have a pen?” I did, but not paper, so I scribbled in the glossy margins of the in-flight magazine, next to a picture of a cat perched at the top of some carpeted stairs.
For the next forty minutes, she told me about what was waiting for me in the year ahead and I scribbled down every word. They weren’t as glamorous as some of the other readings I’d had: I was going to need to go to the dentist a lot; one of my dearest friends was going to have twins; an aunt was going to have a financial windfall. And my dream of becoming a published writer? That was going to come true as well. In that moment, given the state of my latest draft, it seemed the most improbable prediction of them all.
As we began our descent, she pressed a business card into my hand and folded my fingers around it. “The most important thing I can tell you is this,” she said. “Trust yourself.”
It was strange advice that wasn’t good for her bottom line, and maybe that’s why it hit home so much.
Almost ten months later, she was right. I had my book deal. And a very, very bad toothache.
I tore through drawers until I found it, the dog-eared in-flight magazine. I went down the list. I had just bought matching blankets for the new twins; my aunt had unexpectedly received an inheritance from an old friend. I was a writer with a large dental bill. Every single thing on there had come true.
I searched and searched, but I never did find that business card. And somehow, that seems like it’s for the best.
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