“This is stupid,” Cheryl said as she watched her friend Marci take her shoes off.
“It’s not stupid, it’s going to work, and I need you to get behind me on this,” Marci said. Her toes felt cold on the marble walkway. Cheryl smiled as Marci picked from between her toes the blue lint balls left by her socks. For Marci, everything needed to be perfect. Marci folded her socks and placed them in her right shoe.
Cheryl took a seat on the lip of the fountain next to her friend. “You do know this is all a big con, right?”
Marci smiled. “The magic gypsy woman said,” she started.
“The semi-homeless fake fortune teller,” Cheryl corrected. “Let’s call her what she is.”
“Fine,” Marci said. “The mystical, possibly homeless, potentially magical fortune teller said this is what I needed to do.”
Cheryl smiled. Even when they were kids, Marci had been an impossible optimist. Their homework wasn’t hard, it was a challenge; her bike hadn’t been stolen, it had been taken by someone who really needed it; and that guy hadn’t dumped her, he had given her a chance to date around. It was impossible not to hope for the best when you were with Marci. It was one of the many things Cheryl loved about her friend.
Cheryl kicked her sandals off and placed her feet on the cold marble next to Marci’s. Her toenails looked rugged next to Marci’s perfectly sculpted beautifully red nails.
“When we get back to the room,” Marci said. “I’ll give you a pedicure.”
“I’m good,” Cheryl said.
“Someday,” Marci said, pointing a finger at her friend, “you will let me touch your feet.”
“When I’m stiff and dead and they are no longer ticklish, they’re all yours,” Cheryl said holding her toes up in the air.
“I’ll call Guinness. You’ll be a shoe-in for the world record best-looking toes on a dead woman in history.”
“Okay,” Marci said. “Let’s do this.”
Cheryl looked at the groups of people wandering by: a mom and her daughter eating ice cream, two businessmen in suits on their way to somewhere important, a young woman walking a dog. A pit began to form in Cheryl’s stomach. “Are you sure we have to do this in the middle of the day?” she asked.
“Yes,” Marci said. “We have to do it in the light of day. That’s what the magic woman said.”
“She gave you options. Maybe you could do one of the other things?” Cheryl said watching a pair of cyclists go by.
“You clearly weren’t paying attention,” Marci said.
“Was too,” Cheryl replied.
“Oh. So, do you know where I can get a magic arrow?”
“No, why?” Cheryl asked with confusion.
“That was option number one,” Marci said. “Shoot a sparrow with a magic arrow while laying on your back.”
“Ugh,” Cheryl said. “And we are listening to this crazy woman?”
“Potentially magic mystical healer,” Marci said with a smile. “Yes. We are.”
“What was option two again?” Cheryl said.
“Send mail by a snail asking the President of Atlantis to pardon you,” Marci said. “Which is impossible because I don’t have the President of Atlantis’ address. Now if she had said the United States, then we’d be in business.”
“You don’t want to send that guy a letter anyway,” Cheryl said.
“You never know,” Marci smiled. “Maybe if I sent a selfie along with it. Who wouldn’t pardon this smile?”
Cheryl grinned. The shine in Marci’s blue eyes refused to be dimmed by circles of exhaustion beneath them. Cheryl wondered when the last time her friend had gotten a full night’s sleep. Even though they’d gone to bed together, last night Cheryl had found her asleep in the bathroom at two in the morning. The night before, Marci had been up almost every hour.
“I know you’re scared,” Marci said, patting Cheryl’s leg. “It’s going to be okay.”
“It’s not,” Cheryl said.
“You remember that time you had to give that speech,” Marci said.
“You mean the dreaded ‘Welcome to Parent’s Weekend’ speech,” Cheryl said.
“You were so scared,” Marci said. “You stayed up all night rehearsing.”
“On behalf of the University, I’d like to thank you for coming to Parent’s Weekend. We hope this weekend will give be a refreshing and fun experience with your son or daughter. And now it is my privilege to introduce Dean Hamates,” Cheryl said, remembering the speech.
“And you crushed it,” Marci said. “There was no reason to be scared. You were amazing.”
“I mispronounced the Dean’s name,” Cheryl said.
“No one noticed,” Marci said.
“The Dean noticed. She corrected me in front of everyone,” Cheryl said.
“No one liked her anyway,” Marci said. “The point is, you were scared, but you did it, and everything came out fine.”
“Your definition of fine and my definition of fine are two completely different things.”
“This is just like that,” Marci said. “I know you hate crowds of people staring at you, but we’re going to get in there, do it, and get out, and everything’s going to be fine. You don’t need to be scared.”
Cheryl looked down at their toes again. “That’s not what I’m scared of,” she whispered.
Marci put her arm around her friend and squeezed. “I know,” she said.
“I don’t know how I’m going to do this kind of stuff without you,” Cheryl said.
“You’ll be fine,” Marci said. “And, if that wasn’t a crazy homeless lady but a mystical gypsy woman with a magic cure, then you won’t have to.”
Cheryl laughed and looked her friend in the eyes. “I just realized that your head scarf matches your toes,” she said.
“A woman of my class has got to coordinate, baby,” Marci said throwing her head back with flare. “You ought to know that by now.”
“You are so beautiful,” Cheryl said.
“Right back at you,” Marci replied.
Cheryl sighed. “So what do we have to do?” she said.
“In the light of day, dance barefoot in the fountain while roaring like a lion on a mountain,” Marci said. She stood and held out her hand.
Cheryl stood and laced her fingers with her friend’s. “Let’s do this,” she said.
“Let’s be lions,” Marci said.
“Roar,” Cheryl said.
The two women stepped into the fountain together. Singing to each other, they began to splash and dance. With water flying, they roared with all their might—over and over until they could roar no more. And as she was soaked by water and her friend’s laughter, Cheryl silently hoped that this crazy cure would work and everything would actually turn out fine.