Chapter 26: Judgment
While Fabricio buckled down and devoted his week to passing the midterm exams, Rosemary caught up on all the things she’d been putting off. She cleaned two weeks’ worth of envelopes out of her mailbox and plopped them on the table to deal with later. The apartment finally got a decent cleaning. Rosemary cooked dinner for the first time in what felt like ages. And meanwhile, of course, she daydreamed about Fabricio, burning her omelet in the process.
Tuesday morning before work, she went to her Tarot bag (rather guiltily, considering her lack of attention to it lately) and grabbed her daily dose of wisdom. The card was Judgment: a shining angel with a trumpet at his lips, calling down toward the gray, dismal figures on Earth. For some reason, the image stressed her out. Rosemary couldn’t put her finger on it, but Judgment felt heavy to her. Portentous. Although she didn’t like it, she set it up beside the others anyway.
It grated at her all day, so when she met up with Thyme for dinner at his apartment, Rosemary was feeling strange and unsettled. The sight of her brother in an apron, wine bottle in hand, with the stern expression on his face that meant ‘you will tell me everything,’ didn’t exactly help matters.
“Parsley’s worried about you. She was about to report a missing person,” he said, deftly opening the wine and pouring two generous glasses as he spoke. “This guy had better be worth it.”
“I think he is, Thyme. I really think he is.”
“Hm,” he grumbled. Then, “Cheers. Have a seat. I’ll just go grab the chicken.”
Rosemary was halfway into her chair when it struck her like a frying pan. “The… chicken?!”
“But aren’t you, like, vegan or something this month?”
Thyme returned, clicking his tongue against his teeth in brotherly exasperation. “Sister mine, you are way behind the times. Bruce and I talked about it, and figured out that my balance was way off. See, meat is fine—so long as it’s organic and free range—but gluten, man, that stuff is poison. So I made roasted chicken with a quinoa pilaf. Totally gluten free.”
“Okay, Thyme,” Rosemary said, unable to suppress a giggle. “I’m just grateful you’re serving me real food!” In a teasing tone, she added, “So, you and Bruce talk a lot, huh?”
“Of course. We’re dating.”
That almost made Rosemary choke on her wine. He patted her on the back until her coughing fit subsided.
“Excuse me, I must have heard that wrong. Did you just say Bruce is your boyfriend?!”
“That is usually how you refer to the guy you’re dating.”
Rosemary shook her head in amazement. “Wow. I never thought I would see the day.”
“Yeah, well, he is pretty great. And totally gorgeous. And good in bed. I’m getting used to the way he—”
“Okay, you can stop there. I get it.” She couldn’t help grinning, thinking about her undateable brother finally with a steady guy. Rosemary would never say it to him, but Thyme had needed this for a long time. Maybe Bruce really is the man for him, she thought, hopefully.
Thyme served them each a helping plate of chicken and pilaf, poured more wine, and then got right to business. “Right. I didn’t invite you over just so you could stuff your face. Time to spill.”
A bite of chicken only kept her busy for so long. With a fortifying gulp of wine, Rosemary began. “Well… we pretty much haven’t gotten out of bed for the last two weeks.”
He chuckled. “That’s my sister.”
Always an attentive listener, Thyme ate quietly while she muddled through her convoluted thoughts and feelings. When she admitted that they’d both said ‘I love you’ he raised his eyes, but made no comment. Rosemary was winding down just as Thyme poured the last of the wine into her glass.
“So… are you guys gonna get married or what?” he said, bluntly.
“Thyme! We haven’t even talked about that!” Then, realizing they kind of had, she added, “I mean, not concretely. Just in the abstract. Like, ‘wouldn’t it be fun if…’ kind of thing.”
“Um hm.” Thyme took a sip of his wine. “Yeah, people don’t do that if they don’t mean it. So you’re totally getting married.”
The idea had her head swimming. It was thrilling—not to mention what she’d always wanted, and been dreaming about for years. Yet also, the thought also terrified her. Like many children of free-wheeling parents, Rosemary was, in the depths of herself, a traditionalist. Marriage meant forever. Period. And that kind of commitment shouldn’t be made fast or lightly.
“I don’t know… it’s only been two weeks. Right?”
“Why prolong the inevitable?”
“Because it’s not inevitable! It’s a choice, and I’m not sure I’m ready to make it yet.”
Thyme sighed. Crossing his arms, he leaned onto the table and speared her with his eyes. “Not ready to make that choice, or not ready to make it with him? Which one is it, sister mine?”
That question rolled around in her mind all the way home. Rosemary had thought she was ready for a lifelong commitment, but now that the possibility was actually within sight, she didn’t feel so sure. How would she know if he was The One? How would she know they were truly right for each other? Was she ready to take the leap of faith, of trust, that marriage required? All of that, and Judgment lurked ominously in the back of her head all night long.
When she got home from work the next day, Rosemary finally sat down to go through her mail. Mostly it was bills and credit card applications, but one envelope was different. On heavy cream-colored stationary was printed Columbia University. Rosemary didn’t realize she was holding her breath until it came out with a whoosh upon reading the letter. It was an acceptance to their Bachelor of Fine Arts program.
Of course, the first thing she wanted to do was tell Fabricio. Rosemary was halfway through a giddy text to him when she remembered he was in the middle of midterms, and anyway, this kind of news was better shared in person. They’re not gonna un-accept me. It can wait… but he’s going to be so excited!
Instead, she called Parsley.
“Oh, so I do still have a little sister!” Parsley exclaimed upon answering the phone.
“I know. I’m sorry. It was… kind of a wonderful couple of weeks, actually.”
“And you’re going to tell me all about it. Come down to the Triple Goddess tomorrow afternoon? I’ll be there late.”
“Sure. That sounds perfect.”
She got to the shop at 6 o’clock Thursday evening, realizing ruefully as she arrived that, once again, she’d forgotten to draw a new Tarot card. Woops. I’ll make up for it tomorrow, I guess. Parsley greeted her with a hug and a fresh pot of tea as they settled down to chat.
“So, this guy is really great, it sounds like,” Parsley said at the end of Rosemary’s story. “Do you feel like you’re in it for real? I mean, for the long term?”
“I want to be. I’ve been wanting that for ages. But I don’t know. It’s too soon to know that now. Isn’t it?”
Parsley shrugged. “I can’t tell you that. Only you can be the judge of your own feelings.”
“How will I know if this—if he—is truly right for me?”
“You’ll know,” Parsley said with a wise smile.
Rosemary fiddled with her teacup for a while, then finally went on, “And there’s other news. I got into Columbia University.”
“What? I didn’t know you were applying to colleges!”
“Fabricio encouraged me to do it. I want to be a real artist, Parsley. Maybe an art teacher, even. All this time I’ve been working at the daycare, just biding my time, but waiting for what? He helped me make the decision to go for it, to chase my passion and take the student loan and just believe that it will all work out.” Rosemary’s lips curved involuntarily into a smile. “That’s the kind of man he is. He lives his dream every day, and makes me want to do the same.”
Parsley nodded thoughtfully, sipping her tea. At last she said, “Columbia. That’s in New York City, right? You’d see Sage more. Maybe stay at her place.”
“Yeah, I thought of that. It would actually be really convenient.”
“But…” Parsley didn’t need to say the rest of her sentence. They both knew what she was thinking. Rosemary had been mulling over the same problem all that day. If she was in New York for three or four years, what would happen with Fabricio? With a firm gesture, Parsley took Rosemary’s hands in her own. “Listen,” she said, “No matter where you go in life, you’ll always be faced with choices. None of them are bad, and none are necessarily better than the rest; just choices. But whichever one you pick will define the next chapters of your life, and the associated choices that’ll come with. That’s what the theory of parallel universes is all about: the idea that no matter which we choose, somewhere, on another plane of existence, a different you made the choice you didn’t make. So you end up with infinite realities, different destinies.
“But here, in this universe, in our plane of existence, you’ll have to pick just one of those choices. And then, whatever the result, you’ll have to live with it. That’s just the way life works. So choose carefully.”