Meanwhile, Cassie was taking a break from the carnival games to chat with Chloe.
"I saw that your family and Reese's walked over together," Chloe remarked as she nodded towards where Blaine and the children were playing a game while Reese and Simon watched. "I guess that means you're one big, happy family now?"
Cassie grimaced slightly before putting on a brave face. "Apparently so."
"How are you holding up?"
"Fine." When Chloe gave her a pointed look, Cassie added emphatically, "Really. I mean it. This isn't about me or me and Blaine or Blaine and Reese. It's about Blaine and his kids and I'm not going to let myself think anything otherwise."
"Good. I'm glad to hear it," Chloe said sincerely. As she squeezed Cassie's arm as a show of support, she caught a glimpse of Lucy across the yard. She smiled and waved her over.
"How did I miss you earlier?" Chloe asked once Lucy had joined them. "I saw your kids."
"I just got here. I had to work late, so I told the kids to come over without me. I just stopped by the house to change and came straight over."
"One of the benefits to having teenagers," Cassie remarked.
"One of the few benefits," Lucy corrected her with a wry smile. "You did see both Vince and Maura earlier, right?"
"Yes, they were playing games with some of the other neighborhood kids. It looked like they were having a good time," Chloe answered.
"Good," Lucy asked, breathing a sigh of relief.
Chloe picked up on her best friends' concern. "How has Vince been doing lately?"
"Oh, so much better," Lucy replied emphatically. She looked as if the weight of the world had been lifted off her shoulders. He's making a serious effort at school. He's seemed to have cut himself off from those bad news friends of his completely. He's really turning things around and I'm really proud of him."
"Oh, that's great!" Chloe seemed nearly as relieved and proud as Lucy. "I've always known he was a good kid at heart. Maybe he was just a little lost."
"He was . . ." Lucy said with a frown as she thought back to the way things were just a few months ago and her mind drifted even farther into the past. "I wonder if I should have done things differently for him."
"What could you have done differently?" Chloe asked. "You have always been an excellent mom."
"Well, thank you," Lucy replied, half-heartedly accepting the praise. But she couldn't stop her mind from going back, recalling her failed relationships, her struggles to balance career and single parenthood, desperately wishing for an easy answer, one thing that she could go back in change. She knew the one thing she could change if she could, but she wasn't sure it would have made any difference to Vince. "I don't know . . . sometimes I wonder if things would have been better if I hadn't gone it alone all of these years."
"I doubt it. Sometimes kids are just going to go their own way, regardless," Chloe said with a dismissive wave of her hand. She stared pointedly at Lucy. Being friends for so long, she could read Lucy like a book and it wasn't hard for her to read between the lines. "Are you sure it's not just you that is lonely?"
Lucy shrugged and said nothing.
"When is the last time you really dated?"
"Too long. Who has the time? Besides bringing someone new into my life now could only make things more complicated and more complications are the last thing I need in my life right now."
"I think you're wrong," Chloe persisted. "I think you want somebody."
Lucy just sighed impatiently. She did want somebody, but not just anybody.
"Even Lawrence is here with somebody," she said, nodding to Lawrence and Jolene as they walked and browsed the booths together.
"Oh, that's just the kids' nanny," Cassie said, immediately dismissive of the idea that they were together.
"They're looking a little cozy to me," Chloe muttered as she followed the couple's movements with her eyes.
"It's not that I'm opposed to the idea. I'm open to dating. I am," Lucy insisted. "But I'm not going to make it a priority to find a man. If it happens, it happens. If I'm fated to be alone, then so be it."
At the word "fated," Cassie's ears perked up. "Let me see your hand."
Lucy looked confused, but she held her hand out to Cassie.
Cassie took Lucy's hand and turned it palm up. She leaned in closely and examined the lines closely. She didn't look up or flinch when Lucy scoffed. Instead she remained focused, only murmuring an interested, "Hmmm."
"What?" Chloe asked eagerly as she leaned in to try to see what Cassie saw.
"You definitely are not fated to be alone," Cassie said releasing Lucy's hand. "I'd say you have another marriage or least a serious relationship ahead of you. But there's something more interesting than that. . ."
"What?" Chloe asked eagerly while Lucy tried very hard not to roll her eyes.
"I think you have a great love from the past that isn't finished yet."
Despite her skepticism, Lucy was taken aback. Her heart was racing, but she tried not to let her reaction show. "I don't really believe in fortune telling, but thanks all the same."
"Fortune telling?" Maura repeated, rushing up to the women, with Meghan, Judith, and Natalie following behind. "Are you telling fortunes, Mrs. Kitteridge?"
"I wasn't really-" Cassie replied, hesitantly.
"Oh, please. Do mine," Maura said, eagerly pressing her hand forward.
"Then mine, next," Meghan spoke up.
Cassie looked from the girls to Lucy and shrugged.
"Just remember, it's only for fun. Don't take it too seriously," Lucy told her daughter.
"Yes, it's just for fun," Cassie reiterated. Permission granted, Cassie took Maura's hand and examined it. "What do you want to know about?"
"Well," Maura said hesitantly, a blush creeping across her cheeks.
"She wants to know about her love life," Judith chipped in with a roll of her eyes and arms crossed firmly across her chest.
"We all do," Meghan added.
"Speak for yourself," Judith scoffed. Meghan and Maura ignored her, but Natalie grinned.
"Well, it looks like you have a very strong heart line," Cassie said, tracing her hand across Maura's palm as the girls leaned in for a closer look. "You love others freely and fall in love easily, but you also love deeply, with all your heart which can lead to heartbreak. You have a lot of love to give and you aren't afraid to express what you feel."
Maura beamed excitedly. "Can you tell who I'll get married to and how many kids we'll have?"
"Not who, palm reading isn't quite that specific," Cassie explained as she studied the lines. She was determined to choose her words carefully and keep her readings positive no matter what she saw. Girls like Maura especially, could be impressionable, and there was no need to make any drastic statements. This was just for light-hearted fun. "I see a significant relationship for you, fairly early on, while you're still young and I see, oh, lots of children in your future."
Maura's eyes grew large. "Lots, like how many?"
"It's hard to count exactly and the lines are rather faint. The lines might not indicate only biological children. Maybe you'll grow up to be a teacher and have lots of children in your life through your profession that will be as dear to you as if they were your own or maybe you'll be really involved with your kids' social activities or be like a mother figure to their friends."
Maura beamed, pleased with that answer, but before she could ask another question Meghan pushed her way in. "Okay, now me."
"Oh, I see you'll have a couple of really significant romantic relationships in your life. These relationships will also start in the early part of your life, but both will continue into later life. There will be some difficult times, but eventually everything will stabilize and turn out all right in the end."
"Now you, Judith," Maura insisted as she pressed her reluctant friend forward.
"Not surprisingly, your heart line indicates a very cool head when it comes to relationships," Cassie said as she studied Judith's palm. "You do not have a high interest in romance. You rarely get carried away with emotions and you prefer to let logic and common sense rule over your heart. You'll be very content though and have a lot of stability in your relationships."
"Okay, Natalie," Maura called back.
"If I had to do it, you do to," Judith whispered to her as they passed each other.
Natalie managed a nervous smile as she walked forward and offered her new stepmother her hand.
As Cassie leaned forward to look at Natalie's palm a wave of nausea washed over her. She couldn't focus on the hand in front of her, instead everything went dark and she felt like she was falling into a deep, dark pit. She dropped Natalie's hand and brought her own hand up to the bridge of her nose as she tried to settle the sinking feeling that came over her and tried to find the air to breathe. She heard her friends' voices calling her name and asking if she was alright, but they seemed so far away and at that moment and she didn't have the strength or the awareness to answer back. She could barely stand upright. All she wanted to do was curl up into a ball on the ground and cry. Suddenly bright light flashed before her eyes, orange and flickering. Searing heat engulfed her body and she wasn't sure she could bear the pain. Just as quickly as the experience had started, it ended. She gasped and the world returned before her eyes. She felt unusually aware of her surroundings, the sunlight beaming down on the park, the shadows of the trees above swaying gently with the slight breeze, the voices and movement of the other people around her. She looked straight ahead into Natalie's dark eyes, wide with shock and fear. Her friends stood close by her side. Maura with her arms around her shoulders.
"Cassie, are you alright? What happened? What did you see?"
"I-" she wanted to answer, but she didn't know how. But she had to say something, for Natalie's sake, if for no one else's. "I didn't see anything. I'm sorry. I must be coming down with something. I just suddenly felt faint."
"Let's find a quiet place for you to sit down. We'll get you some water," Chloe suggested, stepping forward to take her arm.
Cassie shook her head. "I think I'd rather go home and lay down."
"Are you sure? Maybe you should rest a little bit before you try to walk back to the house."
"I'll be alright now," Cassie insisted. She met Natalie's eyes again. "I'm just not feeling well. We'll try this again another time. When I'm feeling better, I can do a reading like I did for the other girls. It will be fine." She tried to muster a smile, but she felt like all of her efforts were failing. She was feeling too shaken herself to reassure anyone else at that moment. "Tell Blaine I went home, but I'll be fine."
Cassie walked away in a daze, leaving the others behind her in a stunned silence. It took all of the effort she could muster to hold herself together. Once she was alone at the edge of the park, her strong facade started to break and she let her emotions give way. She had been trying to ignore the unsettling feelings that had been nagging her for months, but now she couldn't deny them any longer. Something terrible was going to happen to someone and soon.