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OLD ENGLISH TAROT: 9 of Cups

The Cotillion

All eyes stared at the handsome young man as he entered the doorway. There was something strange and mystical, almost ethereal about his presence. His tall, lean figure graced the door while his black hair shone in the light cast by the flickering candles on the chandelier. His piercing blue eyes under long lashes glanced around the ballroom. Even the musicians stopped as he crossed the room. 

Women smiled. The girls, the belles of the ball, dressed in colorful dresses, high hairdos and lace gloves, fanned themselves and giggled as he glided past them. They fluttered their eyelashes attempting to get his attention. Older men grinned with mischievous glints in their eyes, while the young men, dressed to the nines in high collars and tails, smirked and scowled. 

The beauties all gasped as the young man approached a seated young lady with her head lowered. He extended his hand, and the lady, gaping with eyes wide and cheeks afire, obliged. He led her to the dance floor; she stumbled on his arm. Ladies giggled as the conductor a-hemmed and the music resumed. 

The handsome stranger and the young lady began their dance while all other couples stood and watched. The young lady, plain and clumsy, spun and swirled like a princess on his arm. Her face glowed with her beaming smile, while her dull eyes sparkled with delight. She became the most beautiful lady in the room. 

When the piece ended, he thanked her, led her back to her seat and bowed. He then approached the young lady seated in a corner by the drapes. She was a chubby girl with the unfortunate body of a barrel. Her heel caught her dress as she stood, and ripped the hem. She stomped to the dance floor, clinging to his arm. 

The dance began and once again his grace and charm turned a bumbling wretch into the most gorgeous girl in the ballroom. Dance after dance, plain girl after plain girl, each uglier than the last, for a few shining moments became the most radiant beauty of the night. 

The natural beauties squirmed and smirked. It seemed when he danced he drained them of their beauty and, as long as the music played, their features contorted into ugliness. One old man, the grandfather of the first dancing partner, noticed this enchantment also befell the young men. The handsome grimaced and raged out of jealousy, while the plain gentlemen, delighted by the occurrence, shone with dignity and composure. While the music played, beauties and beasties learned how the other half lived. 

The clock struck midnight. Thunder boomed above the musical din and lightning flashed, casting the ballroom into an eerie blue light. 

The patrons gasped, all eyes fixed on the dance floor. The young man had vanished. Only a pile of glimmering pearly feathers remained in his place.

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UNIVERSAL WAITE TAROT: VIII Strength

Reflection

Jenny stared at the funhouse. Lightning flashed in the distance, yet the town fair was still in full swing. She counted her tickets, aware of her dad’s impatience to be home before the storm arrived.

“It’ll be a big one,” Dad said and allowed Jenny one last game. 

She chose the funhouse. 

Jenny took a deep breath and advanced toward the attendant, her tickets held out before her like a dangling paper snake. 

A shy, soft-spoken child, with plain brown hair, plain brown eyes, round glasses and a tiny pinched nose, Jenny looked like a frightened squirrel. At school, kids teased and bullied her for being a weakling, a bookworm, and a doormat. At home, she listened to her centenarian grandmother’s stories of the Mexican Revolution, Pancho Villa and growing up with the soldaderas, women, like her great-grandmother, who’d taken up arms. Jenny wished she were a soldadera. Now, at the funhouse entrance, was her moment to prove her bravery to herself, because the funhouse scared her to death. 

She entered and walked through the mirror maze with caution, gazing at her altered reflection. Here, tall and thin, there, squat and fat, or slanted, bent and squiggled. Jenny tried to laugh but seeing herself amplified and deformed frightened her. She reached the center of the maze, and a circle of mirrors multiplied her into all shapes and sizes. 

Jenny stood, eyes to the ground, daring herself to look at the plethora of Jennys surrounding her, when thunder clapped and the lights went out. It was but a moment, yet Jenny’s heart skipped in her chest, her stomach jumped and she shut her eyes. An instant later, the generator whirred, and the lights turned on again. Jenny counted to three and opened her eyes. 

She was still in the funhouse and surrounded by mirrors, but, instead of the multitude of Jennys, she gaped at an oncoming cavalry. Shots rumbled around her like the thunder outside until she didn’t know which was which. 

The men on horseback wore big sombreros and, by the neckerchiefs that masked their faces, Jenny knew they were bandidos out for blood and pillage. Screams soon mixed with the thunder and gunfire; someone shouted at Jenny in her grandmother’s Spanish and she turned in the direction. 

In the mirror beside her, stood a young woman in a long blue skirt, high-necked blouse, and her plain brown hair wrapped into a bun. She gazed at Jenny through her plain brown eyes and round glasses upon her tiny pinched nose. In her arms, the woman held a rifle, and slung across her torso, she wore a bandolier, replete with ammunition. The woman nodded at Jenny, who felt the weight and cold metal of the gun in her own hands. 

The woman fixed her eye on one bandido and fired. Jenny staggered back from the recoil; the rifle hot, yet safe in her arms. Jenny, together with the woman in the mirror, lifted the gun to her shoulder, fixed her sight on another bandido and shot. Again and again, they fired. One by one, the bandidos fell, and in doing so, their image in the mirrors disappeared until only the young soldadera and Jenny remained. 

The soldadera set her rifle down and Jenny felt her arms lighten. She pierced Jenny with her plain eyes, now full of fire, then smiled and winked. She disappeared and left Jenny looking at her own self in the mirror, surrounded only by plain, distorted Jennys. 

Jenny straightened herself and smiled, no longer the frightened squirrel.