The Glass Half Full
Clairvoyants. It had always annoyed
me the way they played with the minds of their often desperate, maybe a little
mad, yet usually strangely optimistic victims. People often so drained of
rationality and so fuzzy of mind that their mood for the day would be set by
the number of magpies they saw on the way to work. That, coupled with the
random appearance of the colour that Mystic Martha from "Horoscopes r Us"
clearly stated would be lucky for them. This was all until I had my idea to
work their cunning to a greater good.
It was all for my daughter Helen,
you see. The past five years for her had been the kind that could only have
been foretold by at least a preceding month of single magpie sightings. It was
a horrible thing for a mother to watch. Regardless of the ridiculous signs and
colours the Martha's of this world were telling her to look out for; her world
was becoming increasingly tinged with grey. It seems such a common story these
days but Helen was having trouble conceiving a baby. Well, trouble is probably
not the best word after five painful rounds of IVF and a monthly and utterly
joyless, subscription to Clear Blue. Helen is infertile. There, I've said it.
No one else will and therein lays the problem. Helen hopes. And while she hopes
her world is just passing her by. My own baby, my 37-year-old biochemist baby,
I might add, just cannot move on and it's draining the life out of her. Being
her mother, of course I have to join the "happy hope crowd" with our glasses
charged and so metaphorically half full of "hope juice", declaring that a
million to one is still a chance. What I really wanted to do was set my little
girl free, bring her back, without collateral damage, and that's why my idea
was worth a try. It would be a secret I'd always have to keep, but that was a
cross I'd bear for my daughter's sanity.
So, my plan was hatched. I'd bought
my Helen, an increasingly needy believer in destiny, an hour with the
incredibly exotic sounding Maria Rosa Santana, International Medium and
Psychic. I say exotic sounding, yet to be truthful, our first conversation on
the phone a week ago lead me to believe that Mummy Santana may have got lucky
on a package holiday to the med in the mid 70s as Maria Rosa had almost
certainly developed her vocal persuasion in Essex or a county nearby. I have to
confess, a slight disappointment had risen in me that she didn't sound, well, a
bit more mysterious at least. Could my daughter refocus her life based on
advice from someone sounding like Lorraine Chase? On reflection I felt it might
make it seem even more convincing, less of a circus act as it where.
Now I imagine at this point you are
thinking, whoa there! Isn't a session with a psychic for a vulnerable soul just
going to make matters a whole lot worse? Isn't a psychic medium simply a go
faster stripe up from Mystic Martha? Aren't they hyper sensitively tuned to
hone in on their unassuming and hapless clients deepest fears and desires and
make them bigger? My response would thus be – therein lies the genius. There
was just the small matter of ensuring that my newest friend and confidante,
Maria, the self-proclaimed Oracle of truth, tunes in to the right, and let's be
honest here, utterly non-existent radio waves of psychic news feed. I was there
to be her celestial aerial.
I'd arranged to meet Maria at her
home, three days before Helen's reading. I'd engineered this by explaining that
my daughter, the recipient of this unusual but thoughtful gift, was a little
fragile and that I wanted to ensure there would be no possible upsets. I
detected gratitude at this suggestion, which I'd fully expected. An utter gift
of usable material, greatly reducing the need to look out for the pupil
dilation, twitches and ear touching when the correct letter of the alphabet was
reached or the human drama category of interest had been broached. How does
anyone fall for this kind of thing? How could I orchestrate such a thing for my
precious daughter? I focused on the smiling eyes, not just face, that I could
still remember despite not having seen them for years. Could I re-boot her
dreams? Should I even try to plant the seeds of some new dreams rather than
continuing to throw fuel on a futile fire? Was this even my business? I
filtered out these doubts, a plan was a plan and this was a mission born out of
love. Who could stand in judgement of that?
Maria's home fell equally short of
my somewhat stereotypical expectations. No chimes, no dream catchers, no
ominous black cat sat on the step ready to slink away auspiciously with a
cheeky feline wink as the palpably needy guests arrived. It was just a suburban
semi adorned by planters that almost definitely came from B&Q. There was
however, a gnome that bore a slightly quirky facial expression. The doorbell
sounded disappointedly bell like, rather than slowly playing out the five notes
from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. I mentally made a note to consider
setting up a marketing consultancy for Mystics. There are so many tricks that
can too easily be missed. My imaginary agency concept bloomed further as Maria
opened the door without any sign at all of a crystal beaded, jangly door
Maria in the flesh was less Lorraine
Chase, a bit more Dawn French but without the ear-to-ear charismatic smile and
comedic aura. She did however, exhibit all the empathetic, hand on arm, "cup of
tea love" characteristics that I was expecting. She shook my hand amicably.
"Hello Mrs Riley, good to meet you,
I hope I can allay your fears. My readings are just to help people; I never set
out to upset anybody."
I returned her pleasantries with
what I hoped was an expression of a trusting mother merely seeking reassurance.
We exchanged the inevitable weather observations and some stock phrases about
government cuts and the latest footballer scandal until the customary cups of
tea were securely planted in front of us. I cleared my throat and began to wade
through the long story of Helen's unfortunately bulletproof dreams of a
virtually impossible future. I explained how, like a snowball making its way
down a mountain of newly fallen soft snow, her dream had increased in size as
its trajectory continued to plummet in painfully slow motion towards its
inevitable final thud.
"So Maria, I need you to try and
guide my Helen back to life. I need her to redirect her hopes. I know it'll be
hard at first but this way, maybe only for a little while, rather than the
years that this could last for her."
I leaned forward and didn't try to
disguise the frustration in my eyes. Maria looked at me intently and her soft
expression changed to one of thinly disguised outrage.
"But Mrs Riley, aside from the fact
that you are asking me to manufacture a reading", she coughed pointedly in a
way that convinced me she knew I was onto her methods, "Hope is the one thing
that keeps many of us going. You are asking me to take that away from her! From
your own daughter."
She shot me an incredulous look,
paused and glanced down at the asymmetric patterned rug.
"Well – even to TRY and take that
away from her. I'm not sure it's even possible. Hope is a hard thing to
extinguish in a spirited soul. Maybe I'd just shrink it making it an even more
painful experience for her."
We sat there in silence. She had a
point, but I'd come so far and yes, I was sure this would help. Of course it's
not ideal. What's ideal about infertility? All Maria needed to do was plant the
seed that my Helen's destiny was different, yet equally as fulfilling as the
only one she seemed to have any enthusiasm for. Maria continued her reprimand,
with now very pink cheeks.
"In any case Mrs Riley, it would be
utterly unethical. This could seriously damage my reputation. I would much
rather just do a genuine reading. We, as psychics are very well trained in
delivering what we read sympathetically. The spiritual world we communicate
with is very focused on positive and constructive guidance."
At this point, it was becoming
obvious that Maria was not seeing the benefit of my idea, nor was she going to
go anywhere close to admitting that the spiritual world was just a
money-spinning farce. How could she, I reasoned, I could be a red top
journalist or an undercover reporter for Rogue Traders, even. I was going to
have to change tack. I pictured Helen's face after one of the many IVF rounds
had failed and let tears fill my eyes. This wasn't an act, I just gave in to
the emotion to an extent I'd never normally allow myself, not even on my own
and certainly not in front of a stranger. I found it soothingly cathartic if
truth be told.
"Maria, please. Are you a mother? Do
you know what it's like to be a mother? Can't you see this is just for her? I'm
talking to you as a professional with a heart, someone who, as you say, is in
the business of improving lives."
I could see I had her attention; the
look of incredulous outrage had softened to one of empathetic pity so I pushed
"Look, I fully expect what you "read"
from Helen will take you down exactly the path we're talking about. All I ask
is that you help me help her to get back to the life loving, ambitious and
beautiful girl she once was. Set her free. Sow a seed of some new dreams for
her to cultivate. Please Maria."
My time was up. Maria stood, glanced
out of the window and advised me that her client for this afternoon had just
pulled up. But then, just when I thought I'd have to forego my non-refundable
deposit for this reading, Maria declared her hand.
"Okay Mrs Riley, I simply cannot lie
to your daughter, but I see what you are trying to do. I'm a little surprised
that as a mother yourself you want do this but it's your "gift" and while I can't
promise I can remove that ache in her, I can certainly encourage new dreams
that will suit Helen. This will be based on what the spirit world shows me. I
can't stress that enough."
I took both her hands in mine and
thanked her with all the strength I could muster. It was sincere but I was
drained. I hadn't anticipated such a battle and my nerves were raw.
As I approached the door, Maria
touched my shoulder gently, her face was utterly focused. "Mrs Riley, just
before you go, your other little granddaughter, she loves to dance, doesn't
I shrugged, and shot her a confused
but non-committal look. She didn't falter.
"Encourage her talents; there are
great things ahead for her."
I smiled to myself inwardly, knowing
at that point that I was right all along about psychics. Helen was
categorically an only child. I played along regardless. "Okay Maria, it's the
least I can do."
"Oh and Mrs Riley – keep going to
those Well Woman check-ups, won't you."
I smiled, barely resisting the urge
to put my finger on my nose in a comedy fashion and point at her with a wink.
"Goodbye Maria, and thanks again."
Helen was coming for dinner with her
father and me the evening after her reading with Maria. The day leading up to
seeing her was possibly the longest day I'd ever had. What if Maria crumbled
under conscience and told her what I'd done? What if she'd made things worse? I
couldn't think about it. This was the right thing to do and it was motivated by
The time had come. I heard the
familiar sound of Helen's car pulling up outside. Dare I look? Would I be able
to tell? Absolutely. One look at Helen and I was certain I'd done the right
thing. She was back. My little girl was practically skipping up the path. A
euphoric glow trickled through my body like a cup of deliciously sweet, warm
tea on a cold day.
"Mum! Quick, come and sit down."
Blimey, I thought to myself. Maria
must have pulled out the big guns today.
"What darling?" What on earth did
she predict? "Are you going to win the lottery?" I chuckled nervously like a
very bad soap actress.
At this point my husband,
fortunately and blissfully ignorant of my motherly meddling, got up with his
newspaper and attempted a hasty retreat.
"I'll leave you girls to it."
Helen leapt between him and the
"No Dad, you need to hear this too."
She sat, well perched nervously on
the edge of the sofa.
"Mum, I've got a confession to make.
I didn't go to the psychic today. I'm so sorry."
My heart stopped, and my brain felt
like an 80s computer approaching obsolescence, struggling to process the data
that was going in.
"I had an appointment and you know I
can't lie to you, but Mum at the same time, I couldn't tell you. You'll
understand in a minute I promise."
My heart began to sink. What now.
What had she bought into? What crackpot, mercenary moneymaking scheme had
reeled her in? We were back to square one.
"Mum, Dad. I was at the hospital
She took a breath and her eyes
darted from her father to me, torn between wanting to leave a theatrical pause
and wanting to reassure us she wasn't ill.
"Having my 12-week scan."
She handed me a tiny wallet with a
comic-style picture of a stork on the front. Floodgates opened throughout the
room, all of a similar magnitude but for so many diverse reasons.
She let out a scream. A scream that
to the untrained eye would have looked like an affectionate mimic of a camp
American fashion designer, but that I recognised as being total and utter,
unadulterated relief. Time stood still as I opened the wallet. There it was. My
"Look Mum. My baby's going to be a
She smiled proudly and without
"It's doing a pirouette."