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Decisions, Decisions (The Chariot, Major Arcana Series) by Francesca Burke

 In January, Marnie Doyle emerged from New Year celebrations with a headache and a bad mood. Her girlfriend had gone off with a past boyfriend, at Marnie’s New Year party.

  You still have a key to her flat, a voice whispered in Marnie’s head. Throw out all her stuff. Nick the change she keeps in that jar. Go for that fancy plate while you’re at it. It would make a bit on eBay.

  Nah, another voice whispered. That’ll just prolong the agony. Put the keys through the letterbox, delete her phone number and take advantage of those new year offers to learn yoga.

  The voices, Marnie would have been interested to know, were not the musings of her subconscious. They were an angel and a demon, who had a bet running over could convert more souls. To keep eternity interesting, they occasionally targeted the same person.

  Marnie gave back the key, but only after accidentally-on-purpose breaking the fancy plate. The angel and the demon looked at each other with renewed interest.

  In March, Marnie found fifty pounds in cash, dropped in the street. She pocketed it. The demon smirked.

  Two weeks later, Marnie used the money to help pay for scheduled surgery on her cat. The angel smiled benevolently in the demon’s general direction.

  In May, Marnie reported a colleague who had been stealing from the company accounts, even after he offered to split the substantial funds if she kept quiet.

  In June, Marnie slept with her boss and suggested, for the ears of the boss, the angel and the demon exclusively, that she be considered for promotion lest the boss’s husband found out.

  ‘Interesting work,’ said the angel, with no small level of respect. ‘You really got that ruthless streak to come out.’

  ‘I didn’t do anything,’ the demon said with surprise. ‘That was all her. You’ve reminded me, though, nice job with the accounts.’

  ‘I just watched,’ the angel replied.

  In July, Marnie started two direct debits: one for the Royal Horticultural Society, and one for the Stephen Lawrence Trust. The demon glanced at the angel, who shrugged.

  In August, Marnie refused to swap seats on an aeroplane to Mallorca so a nervous flyer could sit with his mother. When the child vomited over her, Marnie gave the mother her soiled cardigan.

  The angel gave the demon a thumbs up, with an obligatory eye roll, but the demon waved him off.

  In September, when her flight home was postponed due to bad weather, Marnie spent the extra day spending five hundred pounds at local shops, then wrote glowing reviews for all of them. When she went back to her hotel, she threatened to sue the people staying in the room next door to hers for snoring too loudly.

  In October, Marnie’s estranged older sister, Claire, phoned. ‘We should do lunch.’ Marnie agreed. By the end of the meal, the sisters’ hatchet was buried. Marnie spent a day with Claire’s teenage children, showing them how to make sticky toffee and chocolate cake, and offering her niece sage advice. Apparently, slashing the tyres of her ex-boyfriend’s very expensive car was not the correct way for her niece to recover from a revenge porn ordeal, but the idea made them both feel better.

  The angel and the demon looked at each other, eyebrows raised. ‘Did you…’

  ‘Nope. Did you…’

  ‘Not at all.’

  In early December, Marnie’s ex-girlfriend came round to grovel. Marnie made her cup of tea, wished her well and sent her on her way. A day later, the girlfriend discovered that her purse had been emptied of cash and replaced with a note: you owed me for those Coldplay tickets.

  At Christmas, Marnie adopted a second cat and spent the holiday with her Claire in her chocolate box village. They planned a camping trip for spring and played eight rounds of Pictionary. When the ex-girlfriend texted, she just replied with ‘happy Christmas’ and a tree emoji. She donated a large sum of money to the Trussell Trust and paid for her mother’s gravestone to be cleaned.

  On her way out of the corner shop on Boxing Day afternoon, Marnie spotted a group of teens famous on the local Facebook groups for petty theft and general disturbance of the peace. They were congregating messily, next to a souped-up hatchback, obnoxious music blaring from open doors. As she left the shop, Marnie recognised the loudest one: her niece’s ex-boyfriend.

  It was growing dark and the teens were busy trying to light a spliff out of view of passing traffic, so Marnie ducked around the car and sliced all four tyres using the infinitely handy camping knife her Claire gave her for Christmas. Then, for good measure, she scratched ‘THIS CAR IS OWNED BY A SEXUAL ABUSER’ on the side and helped herself to the weed and cash in the footwell. The boyfriend, bless him, didn’t notice until he tried to drive away three hours later, by which point it was raining.

  ‘Hm.’ the demon looked at Marnie, and then at the angel. ‘Tie?’

  ‘Tie,’ the angel agreed. ‘Tell you what, though. If that’s what happens when no one interferes with humans…’

  ‘It rather seems that they have rather less need of us than we thought,’ the demon agreed. ‘Never mentioned this to anyone in charge?’

  ‘Agreed,’ the angel said. They shook hands and continued on with eternity.

Thank you for reading! I realised halfway through writing this that it could conceivably work as Good Omens fan fiction. I take that as a good omen. Please consider sharing these stories with anyone you think might enjoy them!

Commissions are open until August 2020! Learn more here.

Did you know you can read my short stories before they’re public by joining my Patreon? When you join, I’ll name a character after you. Alternately, consider buying me a coffee – you’re still helping me to build a career, but with fewer direct debits.

You can read more about what inspired the Major Arcana series on my website. Learn about where you can get my book, The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes here.

Copyright © 2020 by Francesca Burke

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

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