The One That Ran Away

By: Hildred Billings

Chapter 1



Jess



Jess’s popularity as an astrologer meant she commandeered the biggest table by the teashop widow every Sunday night. At first, it was done on a lark. A future client saw her big book of astrology guides and birth charts and insisted that she buy Jess a drink in exchange for a reading. Later, another teashop patron witnessed Jess giving a reading and decided she was next in line. Two clients turned into three. Five became nine. By the end of that first month, Jess made a sizable side-income doing something that had only been a hobby.

Tourists and others who didn’t stop by the café more than once a month were always shocked to find the small crowd growing around Jess’s table. There were die-hard astrology fanatics and pure, scoffing skeptics who later admitted that it was “amusing, at best.” Jess wasn’t a big believer in astrology herself, but that was a really Libra thing of her to say.

“This explains so much,” said the woman sitting across from Jess. Her bubble tea remained largely untouched since the barista brought it to her half an hour ago. The client was too absorbed in the charts and cards Jess presented in the center of the table. “I haven’t been dating according to my sign!”

Her friend, a young woman with curly hair and a bored visage, rolled her eyes. That’s how it goes. Jess wrote something else down on the client’s personalized chart. For every person who comes in here with big-eyes and desperate for answers, there’s a friend or family member sighing in disbelief. As long as Jess was tipped in either drinks or hard cash, she didn’t give a shit what people thought of her readings.

“You really need to stop dating Tauruses,” Jess said with a sage nod. “Your last two boyfriends were Tauruses, and they are honestly one of the worst matches for you. I bet they both hated how coy and hard to get you played when they first asked you out, huh?”

The woman gasped into her frilly winter scarf. “No way! How did you know that?”

“As an Aries, your best romantic approach is indulging in the ‘chase.’ You think it’s sweet, whereas for Tauruses, they’d rather lasso you in right now than go chasing after you. Not the strongest way to start relationships.”

“You’re right. I love being pursued! Isn’t that half the fun in a new relationship?”

“Not to most Tauruses.”

“Wow…” The woman sat back in her seat. Her friend continued to play Animal Crossing on her phone. “This makes so much sense. You know, I’ve never really been into horoscopes and stuff, but everything you say about my sign and the men I’ve dated is so true. You got all that just from knowing my birthday?”

“It’s much more complex than knowing your sun sign,” Jess said, and not for the first time since this woman sat down with her tea. “There are natal charts, rising signs, the time of your birth…”

“But you know so much about Aries!”

Jess grinned. “My mother was an Aries. My best friend growing up was an Aries. Honestly, I love you guys. You’re so easy for me to get along with.”

“What sign are you? Maybe your type is my match come true!”

Jess had been getting to that. She fingered the pendant hanging around her neck and said, “Libra. Aries and Libra are a strong romantic match and complement each other well.” Aries was fire, and Libra was air – Jess liked to think of her fanning her friends’ fans. Aries were the ones with the outgoing personalities, a strong sense of doing what was right, and the brash wherewithal to do something about it. So easy to coax into doing my bidding. It didn’t sound creepy in her head. Then again, Libras were prone to manipulation…

For just causes, of course!

“Libras can offer you a bit more spontaneity that you crave. Tauruses tend to be more practical and down to Earth. If it’s adventure you want in a romance, then Libras aren’t a bad choice for matches. We’re also hella romantic.” Jess said that with a wink.

Her client giggled. “Wooow, if I were gay, I’d totally date you!”

Jess pretended she hadn’t heard that for the fifth time that day, yet still said, “I get that a lot.” No, really. She did. Straight women loved making sure she knew she was prime dating material until it came down to actually doing the deed. The queer ones acted like she didn’t exist. “You’re not limited to Libras, of course. Both Gemini and Leo are great options for you too. Honestly, anybody who has a more outgoing personality or at least doesn’t mind spontaneity can be a great match for you.”