The Wishing Garden

By Anna Snyder,2014-11-04 18:24
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From Publishers WeeklyHThere's magic in Yorke's second novel, magic in the prose, the details and the exquisite characterizations. Divorced advertising executive and Tarot-card reader Savannah Dawson takes her 15-year-old daughter, Emma, from their San Francisco home to Arizona so that they can spend time with Savannah's estranged mother, Maggie, and her father, Doug, who is dying of cancer. Then Savannah meets Jake, a secretive stranger who is building a special bench for her father's garden; at the same time, Emma meets Eli, the local bad boy who works for Jake. Although the relationships between these four characters form the basis for much of the drama in the story, the romantic elements remain secondary to the explorations of each individual's personality. Readers enter a Published by Bantam on 2000/08/01

    “Are you concentrating, Dad?” Savannah asked, because he had stopped swirling the cards. Hestarted again and thought about the only question he really wanted answered: How much more timewould he have with Maggie?

    Savannah took back the cards and laid them out. They looked all right to him. No Death card, noDevil.

    “Look at this, Dad. Your future is the Knight of Wands. I’ve always loved that card. It’sthe card of journeys. Advancement into the unknown without fear. It’s a card of risk.”

    Doug looked over at his wife. She turned suddenly and stared at him. “What’s there to risk ifyou’re already dying?”

    He leaned back. Maggie was absolutely right. What did he have to risk except those few thingsthat cancer could not devour and the bittersweet poetry of his soul?

    If he was already dying, then the least he could do was go about it flying through thin air. Hefound himself thinking everything depended on whether or not Maggie thought him capable ofpoetry. All of a sudden, he had a million ways to say he loved her, and he had to get them alldown on paper.

    Also by Christy Yorke



A Bantam Book/August 2000

All rights reserved.

    Illustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck?, known also as the Rider Tarot and the WaiteTarot, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright? 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck?is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

    Copyright ? 2000 by Christy Cohen

    Cover art copyright ? 2000 by Robert Hunt No part of this book may be reproduced or transmittedin any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or byany information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

    For information address: Bantam Books.

    eISBN: 978-0-307-76813-1

    Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Its trademark,consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S.Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540Broadway, New York, New York 10036.


Dear Reader:

    I’m thrilled to share The Wishing Garden with you. Its main character, Savannah Dawson, was

    inspired by my husband, Rob, who is nicknamed Mr. Positive. Like Savannah, Rob sees the good ineveryone and finds the bright side to every disaster. Obviously he drives me crazy, but mostlybecause I wish I could be more like him.

    While Rob breathed life into Savannah, my young children are the driving force behind all mynovels. I began writing stories about the power of wishes and love’s ability to transform usfor one reason: I wanted my daughter and son to believe in a world of possibilities.

    Like them, may you believe in magic. May you wish daily on stars.



    or Dean,who makes me laugh



    Other Books by This Author

    Title Page



     Chapter One: The Eight of Swords Warning

     Chapter Two: The Emperor War-Making Tendencies

     Chapter Three: Ace of Wands, Reversed False Start

     Chapter Four: The Moon Unknown Enemies

     Chapter Five: Knight of Wands Risk

     Chapter Six: Nine of Cups, Reversed False Freedom

     Chapter Seven: The Five of Wands Cruel Boys

     Chapter Eight: Four of Pentacles Yearning

     Chapter Nine: The Page of Wands Heart-Breaker

     Chapter Ten: The Devil Self-Destruction

     Chapter Eleven: The Knight of Cups Attraction

     Chapter Twelve: The Seven of Wands Courage

     Chapter Thirteen: The Five of Cups, Reversed Return of an Old Friend

     Chapter Fourteen: The Lovers Sacrifice of The Soul

     Chapter Fifteen: The Five of Swords, Reversed Misfortune of a Friend:

     Chapter Sixteen: The Hierophant Forgiveness

     Chapter Seventeen: The Star Hope

     Chapter Eighteen: Justice Just Reward About the Author


    When people first moved to San Francisco, they often cried through the whole month of June.They’d had no idea the rain would come in daily and sideways, that fog would accumulate to theconsistency of puréed potato soup. Old-timers, however, knew the secret to living happily inthe city. They didn’t ask for too much. No more than a few days of sunshine in autumn, adecent parking space, a fifteen-hundred-a-month studio apartment. They certainly didn’t askfor their hearts’ desires, unless they were masochists to begin with and wanted to be hurt.

    That was probably the reason Savannah Dawson had never made her living telling fortunes. No onetrusted her ability to turn out one good fortune after another. Not only was she cheap—twentydollars for half an hour and a ten-card tarot spread—she had never dealt the sorrow-filledThree of Swords. She promised anyone who walked through her door true love, yet only teenagers,the drunk, and the desperate took her up on it. They believed in little but destiny and grandpassion, and Savannah assured them of both.

    When the Devil came up, no one panicked. Savannah shrugged it off with a wave of ruby-redfingernails and told them they were going to lose something all right, but probably just thoseten extra pounds or a tradition of lonely Saturday nights. By the time they put their twentydollars in her tin, they were expecting greatness and no longer scared of a thing.

    Savannah made her living working at San Francisco’s Taylor Baines advertising agency. Sheheaded up a creative team that had linked milk consumption with true love, but when it came tofortunes, she wasn’t making things up. Take the case of the fifty-year-old spinster she’dtold to look north for true love. The woman had gotten out a lawn chair, turned her back to theineffective San Francisco sun, and refused to move. When the mailman she’d known forever camearound the corner, carrying mace to ward off dogs, she wondered why she hadn’t noticed beforethat his thinning hair turned gold in the sunlight. She started ordering from L. L. Bean, sohe’d have to spend a few extra minutes lugging snowshoes and parkas she’d never use to herdoor, and every time he accepted her offer of fresh-squeezed lemonade, she got a little sickthinking of all the wasted time.

    Even for a nonbeliever, like the gin-drinking man who only went to Savannah’s house on a dare,there was no denying that when Savannah turned over the possibility-filled World card, his hairstood on end. He told everyone the fortune-teller was crazy. His wife had left him, histeenagers smoked pot and didn’t listen to a word he said, and if some bejeweled psychic in avelvet-paneled room thought he was going to be happy, she was sadly mistaken. Still, the nextnight he didn’t fix the gin and tonic the second he walked in the door. He stepped out on theback porch for a minute and was stunned by what he’d been missing during cocktail hour—anastonishing primary-colored sunset, shades of reds and yellows he had forgotten even existed.The wind scratched up clippings from his neighbor’s freshly cut lawn, and his throat swelled.By the time he walked back in the house, he was a little bit taller, and that extra inch waspure hope.

    Savannah had that kind of effect on people, so when she read her own fortune and the Three ofSwords came up smack-dab in her own future, she could only sit back and stare at it.

    Ramona Wendall, her best friend and a two-hundred-pound palm reader for fancy San Franciscoparties, sat beside her on the leather couch in Savannah’s house. Between them, they’dpolished off a bottle and a half of Chianti, which hadn’t made either of them the slightestbit drunk. Earlier, Savannah had let her fifteen-year-old daughter, Emma, have half a glass,and now Emma slept like the dead behind the bedroom door she had recently taken to locking.

    “Lookie there,” Ramona said.

    “I was bound to draw it eventually.”

“Well, sure.”

    “It could mean anything,” Savannah went on.

    “Absolutely. Probably just a bad case of indigestion.”

    Savannah nodded, but she couldn’t steady her silver bracelets after she laid out the rest ofthe cards. Her crossing card was the Eight of Swords, the bearer of bad news, her final resultthe Nine of Pentacles, reversed, a card of storms. Her destiny was the Chariot, which alwaysmeant radical movement or change. One man had gotten it in his destiny and, the next morning,withdrew two hundred thousand dollars from his wife’s savings account and disappeared off theface of the earth. Ramona had gotten it the night before her husband, Stan, proposed, andshe’d driven four hundred miles before she turned around and decided to say yes. The Chariotmeant to run, but where to was up for debate.

    “Let’s see,” Savannah said, trying to find the thread of hope in the cards, the way shefound it for everyone else. Even when a man came up with the Tower and the Five of Wands sideby side, she didn’t worry. The Tower might suggest ruin, and the Fives hard lessons to belearned, but often a good old-fashioned disaster was exactly what was needed to get a heartpumping right. Sometimes it took a hurricane to blow a woman out of a house she’d always hatedanyway, or getting fired in the morning for a man to find his dream job by nightfall.

    “So what does it say?” Ramona asked.

    “Bad news leading to sorrow.”

    “And then?” Ramona laughed and poured more wine. “Don’t tell me there’s no good part.Savannah Dawson, you’ve always got a good part.”

    Savannah looked at her best friend and smiled. “And when I don’t, I fake it.”

    It had been obvious, when she was growing up, that Savannah took after her father, Doug, a manwho could not find a fault in anyone—much to the disgust of his wife, Maggie. “The two of youhave no taste,” Maggie had always told them. “It’s absolutely essential to hate a fewpeople. Otherwise, how will you know when you fall in love?”

    But Savannah had not given in. All the girls on her block in Phoenix had considered her theirbest friend, because Savannah could do French braids and was absolutely certain they would allfind their hearts’ desires. At nine, when she had her first premonition—Dorsey Levins wouldmeet a soap opera star and end up in a beach house in Malibu—no one could get the girls out ofher house, they loved her so much.

    “Idiots,” Maggie Dawson had called them.

    On Savannah’s eighteenth birthday, her mother hadn’t let a single one of them into the house.“They only want you to promise them a happy life,” Maggie had said, “and believe me,they’ll sue when they don’t get it.” Then she leaned over Savannah’s double-chocolate cakeand blew out all eighteen candles.

    “That’s not fair,” Savannah said. “You stole my wish.”

    “I did you a favor. Unfair things happen every day. Just get used to it.”

    “Don’t tell me you didn’t wish when you were eighteen.”

    Her mother began slicing the cake that no one was going to eat. “I wished for a life of myown, and I didn’t get it.”

    Savannah stood up slowly. She had imagined herself anywhere but there thousands of times, butnow she thought she saw her shadow leaving. It picked up a suitcase and disappeared into deepfog. It would take another six months for her to actually pack that suitcase, but as far as shewas concerned, from that moment on she was gone.

    “I wish for true love,” she said. “I wish for good health and constant happiness and adaughter I can teach about wishes. I’m going to wish until I’m sore.”

    Later that night, Savannah walked into the garden her father had escaped to every day for aslong as she could remember. While he bent over his beloved flannel bush, she told him she had

decided what she was going to be when she grew up. “I’m going to be not her,” she declared.

    Now, Savannah fingered the sorrow card. “I don’t like the looks of this.”

    “Oh, honey,” Ramona said. “You’re taking this way too seriously. What’s a little sorrow,after all?”

    Savannah stared out the window at the smear of the Milky Way. May nights in the Bay area wereso saturated, stars got blurry, dew dripped from the tip of the crescent moon. On such nights,when most people cursed the dampness and scrubbed ineffectually at mold devouring theirwindowsills, Savannah looked for watery red stars, which Ramona had always insisted were a signof good fortune.

    She picked at a thread on her silk blouse. She hadn’t had any customers tonight, so she wasstill wearing her work clothes—white blouse, ankle-length taupe skirt, and a white beret.She’d bought the hat at Macy’s after her ad agency won a Clio for her jeans commercials.She’d bought a bowler after she was promoted to assistant creative director, and a marveloustricorn after receiving an Effie for most effective advertising—an award the other creativesloathed, but which she treasured. She loved hats, and she wasn’t afraid to wear them, becausea number of her colleagues wore dreadlocks, and her boss had been known to shave his head. Theonly people who got anywhere at Taylor Baines were the ones with style and a flair for thedramatic.

    Some people were good at numbers; Savannah could make a vegetarian suddenly crave a steakdinner, and she had stopped apologizing for it. Some people just didn’t know what happinesswas until she pointed it out to them. To a stressed-out single mother, or a man who worked twojobs and never saw his kids, pleasure might seem like something they didn’t have time for ordeserve. Savannah’s job was to talk them out of misery, to prove that sometimes they had tobuy things simply for pleasure or go on a luxury vacation. They had to give themselves a break.

    In advertising, there were no repercussions or side effects, and no one who worked at TaylorBaines wanted to hear otherwise. Savannah’s coworkers bought funky clothes, smoked unfilteredcigarettes, and took trips to southeast Asia in duct-taped planes. They were generally youngand out of control; they bowled in the hallways and couldn’t believe they were getting paidfor making things up. In the last year, when her daughter had grown more silent and huffy, andeventually lived almost exclusively in her room, Savannah had sometimes hated coming home.

    But when she did, usually late, she turned on jazz music and cooked up fatty foods. She changedinto ankle-length, loose-fitting dresses in shades of topaz, crimson, and royal blue, and woresilver bracelets all up one arm. She opened her door to whoever had the guts to knock.

    “It’s probably just a sign of an off night or two,” Ramona said. “That card doesn’t meansquat.”

    Savannah fingered the Three of Swords, its heart in the clouds, stabbed by three swords. Itssorrow was obvious. She had never had to pretty it up, and now she didn’t know how.

    “Then again,” Savannah said, “it could be Harry. You think it’s Harry? You think he’sgoing to start in about Emma going to live with him again?”

    “So what if he does? You know how Emma feels about that pretty suburb of his. That girl wouldeither do some damage there or run away in two seconds flat. Harry can huff and puff all hewants. He knows Emma’s a city girl.”

    Savannah nodded, but what she was thinking was that Harry had selective memory. He rememberedthe times she had let Emma roll off the couch as an infant, or slip into the deep end of thepool for a split second before she yanked her back to the surface. He remembered those yearshe’d worked such long hours at the auto dealership; he’d turned himself into a rare, preciouscelebrity, the one Emma couldn’t help but love best.

    Savannah had met her ex-husband sixteen years earlier, in Phoenix. She had been nearing the endof her sophomore year in college and discovered the tarots. Every time she read her fortune,she came up with the same thing—a lack of sound judgment in her future, which she immediatelyshrugged off. She was more interested in German beer and grand passion than common sense. She

    was drawn to the creative fields, majoring first in drama, then in writing, and finally in finearts. “You’re breaking my heart,” her mother had told her. “You’re killing me.”

    Savannah had ignored her. She was doing exactly what she’d set out to do—prove her mother

     enjoy every second. Every field of study held a certain appeal, every man shecouldwrong. She

    dated was worthy of loving. Joy was no more elusive than sorrow; she didn’t see how her mothermissed it.

    Out of school, she read miraculous fortunes for her friends and the occasional daring customerwho came into the small grocery store where she worked as a checker. Then Harry Shaw came intoher line with the strangest assortment of items she’d ever seen. Brussels sprouts, buttermilk,canned red beets, Malt-O-Meal and amaretto coffee.

    “You don’t want to know,” he said, when he caught Savannah ogling his cart.

    “But I do. Whatever it is, it’s wonderful.”

    He came back after her shift and took her to his tiny apartment, where he never ate the samething twice. His refrigerator was stuffed with exotic mushrooms, smoked and whipped cheeses,and seven varieties of tofu. Fifty different boxes of cereal and a wall of plain, pickled andpuréed vegetables lined the pantry.

    “I don’t cook,” he said. “I sample. See, what I think is life’s too short to eat bolognaevery day. I mean, bologna’s good. I’ve got nothing against cured meats, but what if I diedtomorrow and hadn’t eaten egg salad? I mean, wouldn’t that be a shame?”

    Savannah fell in love on the spot. She closed the door to his pantry and kissed him until theair got thin. He tasted of exotic lime toothpaste. Three weeks later, over her mother’sobjections, they were married.

    “My God, he’s insane,” Maggie said. “What kind of person eats beets for dinner? I’mtelling you, Savannah, this is headed for disaster.”

    Her father never said a word against him, just went on tending his garden. The day of thewedding, he planted a lemon tree. When Savannah came out in her short-sleeved wedding dress, hecovered the roots with his own mulch mixture, part puréed fish and sea kelp, part chipped bark.Every scent in his garden, coaxed out of the barren Phoenix soil, hit her at once—jasmine,hibiscus, the bite of lemons. For years after, the smell of citrus would make her cry.

    “Daddy?” she said.

    Doug Dawson stood up and shaded his eyes with his hand. Sweat dripped off the tip of hischarbroiled nose. The thermometer had hit one hundred degrees on May eleventh and wouldn’trecede again until October. All the birds, except the mean crows who might have even wanted ithotter, had gone north. All anyone ever thought about was leaving.

    “Now don’t you worry.” He held her loosely, so he wouldn’t sully her dress. “Love willcarry you through.”

    Savannah buried her head in the crook of his neck and loved her father more than anyone onearth because she knew he believed what he said. Yet it was her mother’s words that had thering of truth.

    She dropped out of college to marry Harry and move to Danville, California. It seemed romantic,giving up so much for him, but as soon as they settled into the upscale suburb of SanFrancisco, she was disappointed. She’d expected more from California. She’d been hoping forhippies and psychics, possibly even prostitutes-turned-actresses, but all she found were thesame square lawns and careful little lives she’d left in Arizona. They moved into a beigetract house and twice Savannah got lost in the subdivision, not realizing her mistake until shetried to fit her key into someone else’s beige lock.

    Harry loved Danville. He got a job as a salesman at a used-car lot and worked his way up tomanager. He eventually bought out the place, and followed with eight other lots in the Bayarea, and was seen on their block as a real go-getter.

    Savannah, on the other hand, was more enamored with San Francisco, its wild colors andunnavigable hills and absolute optimism. Half the year, no one could see the sky, but theystill built skyscrapers on fault lines and landfills; everyone just closed their eyes and hopedfor the best. The heavens, on clear nights, were breathtaking, an endless expanse of pulsing,pleading red stars.

    After Emma was born, Savannah enrolled at UC San Francisco and, on a whim, took a class inadvertising. Right away, she was hooked. With Emma in her infant seat beside her, Savannah fellin love with make-believe. Her senior project was to devise a campaign for an unfilteredcigarette the government was trying to ban. She shot photos of hell-raisers and bruised hockey

    .players, squinting through cigarette smoke. The caption read: Smoke Brigg’s, if you dare

    She was hired as a junior writer at Taylor Baines the next week.

    At first, she worked on obscure print ads, halfpage, two-color art that would never see anational magazine, and slowly earned her stripes. Two years after she was hired, she assistedon her first television commercial for a new chocolate-coated cereal. A year after that, shewas named assistant creative director.

    She loved her job and worked long hours, because when she came home there was trouble. It wasobvious she and Harry were toxic to each other. He was money hungry, he thought her new-ageideas garbage, he was unkind, she was not the type of woman he wanted to take out in public.

    Not even a brilliant ad campaign could have convinced anyone they were going to last. Harry wasembarrassed by her flashy style and shadowy premonitions. When Savannah took up the tarotsagain, he did not speak to her for a week. When she started practicing on a few neighbors, heput in a whole row of miniature roses, as if he was making something up to them. She ignoredhim and drew a card a day, leaving devils and wands on the windowsill. Harry told her she wasturning into white trash, but she noticed he stuffed the sword cards down the disposal and leftthe optimistic Sun and Cups alone.

    Emma was the reason they lasted as long as they did. They were stunned and often appalled bythe things the other said, but with a silver-eyed baby lying between them at night, no one wasgoing anywhere. Without Emma, they might have fought night and day about money and the rightway to live, but instead they hushed themselves the way they hushed their daughter, with afinger over their lips, with pleas in their eyes.

    Emma was colicky from the start and left little time for fighting anyway. She was a tight ballof fury, gulping formula then throwing it up, thumping her head against her crib bumper andwailing so hard she kept the mourning doves awake all night. The only peace came when Savannahtook her daughter into her own bed or bundled her out into the cold. The instant wind struckEmma’s face, her little fingers uncurled in sleep, as if she expected stars to fall right intothe palm of her hand.

    Harry started taking Emma camping when she was two. A few years later, Harry escaped to themountains with Emma every weekend. They never asked Savannah along, yet at night, she saw starsinstead of acoustic ceiling. Instead of traffic noises, she heard the rumble of the river andHarry’s soft voice telling Emma he had never imagined he could love her so much and still beable to leave her.

    On the petition for divorce, Savannah and Harry cited irreconcilable differences. On the day heleft, she drew the Eight of Cups, the card of abandonment, and that night drew the Star, whichmeant she had never loved him right in the first place. She called up Ramona Wendall, a palmreader who had worked one of Taylor Baines’s company parties, and asked her advice on goinginto business on the side, telling fortunes. There was only one clear thing, and that was thateach person was born for something, and sometimes she didn’t know what it was until she’dalready made plans elsewhere. Sometimes, to do what was right, she just had to uprooteverything.

    She and Harry sold their picture-perfect house, which had a central vacuum system and his andher sinks, but never enough air. She couldn’t count the times she’d stood at her Palladian

    kitchen window, taking tiny little breaths while she watched her neighbor Ken Sykes takescissors to his already flawless lawn.

    Harry took his half of the money and moved up higher into the exclusive, manicured hills ofDanville. Savannah took hers and leased a small Victorian near the ad agency in San Francisco.She still cooked up impressive marketing campaigns but late at night and on weekends, she toldfortunes of love and riches beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. She gathered a following oflovelorn teenage girls, but never the business she’d hoped for.

    Then Harry found out about her sideline. He called in his lawyers and sued for custody of nine-year-old Emma before saying a single word.

    Savannah didn’t waste time either. She went straight to Harry’s faux-Tudor monstrosity inDanville and plowed into his oak-paneled study, the one his new wife, curly-haired Melinda, haddecorated in hunter green.

    “You can’t do this,” she said.

    Harry sat behind his desk, twisting his rings. He looked her up and down once, then let out hisbreath in a low, mean whistle. “You can’t take my daughter down with you.”

    Savannah marched across the room and leaned over the desk. She had his collar between herfingers before he could even breathe.

    “You’re a cold-hearted snob, Harry Shaw.”

    “I can offer her a better life,” he said, unblinking. “I don’t want her in the city,hanging out with that crowd of yours. You’ve got her in that artsy school when she ought to bestudying calculus. She needs to be around kids who are going to college. She needs to be aroundpeople with some class.”

    Savannah let go of him and stood up straight. She had a blinding headache, and she knew exactlywhy. She was having trouble remembering why she had ever loved this man. She was having troublenot hating him.

    She walked over to the bookcases and took out one of his stiff, unread books. “I know youthink I’m beneath you. But I don’t know, Harry. You’ve searched half your life for somethingmeaningful, and you’ve ended up in used-car sales.”

    “There’s nothing wrong with what I do!” he said, bristling.

    “Of course not. You’re the only one who thinks there is.”

    “You know why I married Melinda?” He stood up and yanked down his sleeves. “So I wouldn’thave to be psychoanalyzed by you.”

    Savannah put the book back and turned to him. “I’m not psychoanalyzing you. I’m telling youyou’re never going to be happy until you accept what you are, right at this moment. A used-carsalesman making eighty thousand dollars a year. People would give their right arm for that.”

    “For the thousandth time, Savannah, it is not immoral to be ambitious.”

    “Absolutely not. But it’ll kill your soul if you can’t be grateful for what you’ve alreadygot.”

    “As usual, you’ve got it all figured out.”

    “No.” She paused. “But I do know one thing. I love reading fortunes. I was made to do it,and if that makes me common, I don’t care. All that matters is giving Emma a full life, tryingto be good to people, and sampling every food there is.”

    He hung his head, and Savannah dug down and found that last speck of love. She’d just have tomake do with lukewarm devotion; in truth, it was surprising even that much was left. She wentto his side and put an arm around his thin shoulders. His hair was the exact same shade ofsandy blond it had been when she’d first met him, but aside from that, nothing was familiar.He ate Melinda’s tuna salad every day for lunch and had given up his pantry in favor of a wetbar. He wore too many rings now and often spoke in a voice he must have stolen from some radiopitchman.

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