‘Foretold’ podcast Episode 5: ‘New Territories’

The Foretold logo surrounded by mist that obscures the flowers and Romani wheels in the background.

As a young mother, Paulina grows disillusioned with her home life and yearns for independence and a space she can call her own. Once she opens a new psychic shop, she meets a couple of new clients who give her a peek into their outside world — and there’s no going back.

Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.

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Faith E. Pinho: For the third year in a row, Amber Peck found herself at Newport Beach.

Amber Peck: My mom had always loved the beach. She had said she wanted to have her ashes spread on the beach.

Faith E. Pinho: Amber had gone to the ocean for this ritual every year. It was a little tradition she’d started, to be close with her mother’s memory.

Amber Peck: So just every year that went by, I would go to the beach and just take a little bit of her. Not going to do all of it, but I did a little bit.

Faith E. Pinho: Amber scattered the ashes and stayed for a little while by the crashing waves. But the water did not soothe her. Amber felt her mother’s void more than ever. She left the beach feeling lost.

Amber Peck: And I was like, “I don’t know what to do.” Kind of just thinking about it. And then all of a sudden I saw this sign, “Psychic,” and I was like, “Oh. I’ve never noticed it before.”


Faith E. Pinho: It was a Spanish-style house by the side of the freeway.

On the ‘Foretold’ podcast, Paulina Stevens gets perspectives from a couple of new clients. Then she takes action.

May 9, 2023

Amber Peck: I mean, I’ve seen it. I knew it was there.

Faith E. Pinho: Amber must have passed it a million times. On this day, though, she pulled to the side of the road and asked her mom for guidance.

Amber Peck: I know this might sound crazy, but I felt like my mother was speaking to me to go in there. I kind of would talk to my mom at the time. It was still pretty new that she hadn’t been around. So I’d be like, “Mom, is this what you really want me to do? ’Cause I’m here.” And I felt like I was supposed to go in. So I went in.

Faith E. Pinho: Amber walked up to the glass double doors and rang the doorbell. A short woman with dark hair, a small, tight smile and beautiful blue-green eyes answered. She asked, “What do you want?”

Amber Peck: “I’d like to see a psychic,” like all awkwardly. I didn’t know how to ask. I didn’t know what to say or what to expect.

Faith E. Pinho: Ruby stood in the doorway and looked at this timid young woman, and after a second she said…


Amber Peck: “OK, one moment.” And then I waited another 10, 15 minutes. She’s like, “This other lady’s going to see you.” So I’m like, “OK, perfect.”

So that’s when I met Paulina. It was the right choice. Because I gained a really good friend.

Faith E. Pinho: To Amber, it almost felt like her mother’s whisper from the beyond was a sign. Amber would come to need Paulina. And Paulina would come to need Amber more than she could have imagined.

This is “Foretold.”

So far, everything we’ve heard is about what goes on behind the psychic shop door, of life inside the house by the side of the freeway. But there was another version of this life, seen from the outside. What a customer saw when they walked in the front door like Amber did.

Amber Peck: So I’m looking around. There’s a big fish tank, a huge couch, a table. I remember thinking, “Man, this room is bright.” And I felt uncomfortable because I’d never been in a psychic office before.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina led Amber into another room and she laid out a spread of tarot cards.

Amber Peck: She just was very intuitive. She said, “It seems like you have a closed heart,” which I did. I had lost my mom. I didn’t want to let anybody in, you know? She said that’s something that we’d probably work on, and then she did a reading. The reading was dead-on with my past.


My mom was struggling with drugs and addiction, so we were taken away. Me and my twin sister were taken away at 18 months old. So our entire adoptive upbringing was not the best. So we had always yearned for a parent.

Faith E. Pinho: But Amber said she and her twin didn’t get to meet their birth mom until they were 16.

Amber Peck: And then I lost my mom at 21 to an overdose.

Faith E. Pinho: Wow. And that was right after you had just started to get to know her.

Amber Peck: Yes. So it hit even harder for me to lose her because I’d finally had that love that I’d never felt before, that I knew a mom loves a child.

Faith E. Pinho: Had you looked for guidance in other areas? Were you going to therapy or had you considered a counselor?

Amber Peck: Yes, of course. I was in therapy, but it’s just not the same as feeling connected to like your inner self to be able to — I don’t know. I sound like a crazy person, but to be able to feel, you know — I just wanted to feel connected to my mom because I felt so disconnected from the loss. And I had also, myself — I struggle with addiction. So at the time, I had just gotten sober, so I didn’t know how to live without my mom and being sober. These were all new territories for me.


Faith E. Pinho: Paulina seemed to immediately sense all of this. She knew what was off.

Amber Peck: She could sense me being adopted, which is so weird because I don’t just go out and tell people that. She said that I had also lost somebody that I loved, which, I hadn’t told her about my mom yet until after the reading.

Faith E. Pinho: What did that feel like for you to have someone read you so closely like that?

Amber Peck: The only other person that’s done it is my mom, my real mom, the one that passed. So I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.

Faith E. Pinho: So Amber kept coming back. In the beginning, Paulina suggested cleanses to help Amber feel emotionally lighter. Literal baths.

Amber Peck: Sometimes it was salts. Sometimes it was flowers. Sometimes it was potpourri things.

Faith E. Pinho: And Paulina introduced Amber to crystals. She instructed her to hold on to them when the pain would wash over her and Amber needed healing. Other times, Paulina played chakra bowls and performed sound baths.


Amber Peck: She’d have me lay down or sit with my legs flat or my hands up, close my eyes. And then all of a sudden you hear this “baroooomm.”

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina would lead Amber through meditations, teaching her how to take time to breathe, to sit quietly with herself.

Amber Peck: I think it just built my confidence up to do it and open my heart, I guess, which is what I needed.

Faith E. Pinho: You were telling a lot about yourself, sharing a lot of yourself here. Was there much of her starting to share with you?

Amber Peck: Not at all. I didn’t even know her age.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina was still a teenager. But to Amber, who was about six years older than her, Paulina was a beacon of serenity, her spiritual guide, leading Amber on a journey to a deeper understanding of herself.


Amber had no idea that Paulina’s life at home was chaotic: cooking, cleaning, raising a baby, running the shop, trying to carve out a place for herself in her marriage and family. Still, Amber did pick up on a few things.

Amber Peck: I picked up that she didn’t drive. I picked up that her husband took her everywhere she went. They were starting a family. They were newly together, and that’s really it. Just the bare minimum.

Faith E. Pinho: But this was, actually, kind of a lot of information that Amber was accessing. I mean, relatively.

Paulina Stevens: The line was a little bit blurred, to be completely honest with you, because every reader will say, “Hey, we really do want our clients to succeed” or “We really do care about our clients.” But our people didn’t really view outsiders as friends.

Faith E. Pinho: But Amber was sweet. She would bring Paulina smoothies and ask about her daughter. Paulina found herself wanting to be closer to her and maybe be friends.

Paulina Stevens: But I can’t call my community and be like, “Hey, I’m going to a movie with my friend.” That was very taboo. They’d be like, “What’s wrong with you? You’re going crazy. You’re not allowed to do that.”


Faith E. Pinho: Up to that point, most of Paulina’s friendships had been within the family. She hung out with girls from her community all the time.

Paulina Stevens: Literally all of my friends that are in the culture are related to me. So they’re cousins.

Faith E. Pinho: But since Amber was an outsider, Paulina said she could only see her if she had some sort of excuse.

Paulina Stevens: If I would tell my mother-in-law, “I want to go shopping and so Amber is going to drive me to the mall,” that would be like, “Oh, well, I guess you can go with her since she’s driving you.” So it was like a secret friendship. I remember I couldn’t really tell anyone else, “Hey, Amber is my actual friend.”

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina and her new client/friend Amber were seeing each other at least a couple times a month. And gradually Paulina started letting her guard down. She began to open up to Amber about her life and her unhappiness at home.

Paulina Stevens: I felt like I could trust her. With Amber, I had nothing to lose. I didn’t have my pride. There was no shame in sharing with Amber. She made me feel less alone in the way that she just listened. She would give me her opinion, she would give me some advice, made me see things from a different point of view. Isn’t that kind of what friendships are about?


Faith E. Pinho: After three years of seeing Paulina regularly, Amber’s life completely turned around. Amber had a new job, a new boyfriend, a new way of looking at her life. She wasn’t the same timid woman in search of guidance. But ...

Amber Peck: I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to stop seeing her.

Faith E. Pinho: So she’d show up at Paulina’s shop just to say hi. Just less frequently. Around this time, Paulina found out she was pregnant with her second daughter.

Amber Peck: I remember her being pregnant and I was like, “So have you thought of any names?” And she’s like, “Yeah, actually, I really like the name Amber.” I was like, “Aw.”

Faith E. Pinho: So in 2016, when Paulina gave birth to another little girl, she gave her the middle name Amber.

Paulina Stevens: I cared about Amber and she was a real friend.

Faith E. Pinho: Meanwhile, Paulina’s life at home wasn’t getting any easier. During her first pregnancy, Paulina said, the family had relaxed on some of her household duties. But she said that wasn’t the case during the second pregnancy.


Paulina Stevens: The day I went into labor with my second daughter, I was cleaning 10 chickens. So having to burn the feathers off and scrub them with salt. For this big dinner, that’s it. Just a dinner. No occasion or anything. It was really hard and I didn’t feel good, and I didn’t want to disappoint these men that were there.

I ended up not finishing it, though. I was like, “I don’t feel good. Something’s off.” And I went to the hospital that night.

Faith E. Pinho: And now juggling two babies on top of her full-time work, Paulina started leaning on Amber more and more. Sometimes Paulina would reach out to ask her for little favors or errands, like once when she needed help getting food for her babies.

Paulina Stevens: There was a time where I needed milk and so I had to call Amber late at night. And I was like, “Amber, please, I need baby milk. I can’t walk to the market. It’s too far. It’s late.”

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina said Bobby wasn’t home.

Paulina Stevens: “The boys have been gone for a couple days, and can you help me?” And so that was a little bit of a turning point, where I let Amber in maybe a little bit more. She 100% made me feel less alone and it kind of opened a door.

Faith E. Pinho: For most of her life, Paulina saw clients as she was taught to see them: as outsiders, gadje, people who were unclean and needed help with outsider problems like drug addictions or alcoholism.


It was true that Amber was an outsider, and she did struggle with addiction. But now she was also a friend. And she was opening a door to the non-Romani world — with its problems and struggles, sure, but also its friendships and possibilities. Soon Paulina started to wonder if that world might have a place for her.

Paulina said she and Bobby had always wanted to open their own psychic shop. They’d planned on it before they were even married and before Paulina started working with Ruby. So, after two years of living and working in the Train Station, Paulina was getting stir-crazy. She was itching to put that plan into action.

Paulina Stevens: Part of it was I wanted to escape from my day-to-day life.

Faith E. Pinho: She desperately wanted her own space.

Paulina Stevens: And I felt like I just wanted to kind of do my own thing.

Faith E. Pinho: So when Paulina was 19 years old, it was finally time to expand. But here’s the thing: Paulina’s new shop would not be in the same neighborhood as Ruby’s shop.


Paulina Stevens: We have to only operate psychic businesses specifically in certain territories.

Faith E. Pinho: In the Romani American world of fortunetelling, when you “purchase a territory,” you are basically calling dibs on it. This is your area. That way, fortunetelling businesses are not in competition with each other. Every psychic gets their own domain and the potential client pool that comes with it.

Paulina Stevens: And we found a place. We put down whatever money we had saved. We remodeled it and — done. Boom.

Faith E. Pinho: The proposed new shop was going to be in a pretty desirable territory: a small, upscale beach city in Orange County. They had found a sweet little spot on a major street with lots of shops and foot traffic. So Paulina and Bobby tapped their savings, and Ruby and John Paul pitched in too.

Paulina Stevens: They were happy. They were supportive. If it’s business, it’s business.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina had a place she could actually call her own. And whether or not they knew what they had done, John Paul and Ruby had granted Paulina a new sort of independence.


Paulina Stevens: I kind of was able to have the power to do my own thing. I had a huge space. Everything was really bright. I also even had this artist put up some art in there, super colorful, inviting and a little mystical at the same time.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina was coming into her own. She was excited to set everything up in her new shop and to get some space, both physically and metaphysically. To try something new, apart from Ruby’s shop.

Paulina Stevens: It just wasn’t my vibe. I feel like I wasn’t flourishing there.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina started to settle into her style, focusing on her own brand of help and healing. And over time, clients started trickling in.

Paulina Stevens: I wanted to really cater to the Western version of wellness, basically. I definitely wanted to cater more to the American world.

Faith E. Pinho: So she got her life coaching certification, sold crystals and candles and really made the place her own.


Paulina Stevens: I remember I put this massage bed in there and I did some sound bowl healing. That was healing for me. Opening the business the way I wanted to open the business was amazing.

Faith E. Pinho: It was also a place where she could bring her kids to work. While Paulina met with clients, her girls would play nearby just like Paulina once did with her mom when she was a kid.

Paulina Stevens: During my in-between breaks — because it wasn’t just straight work, you know — I’d go in, do a little Legos with them or puzzles. I was just so blessed to have clients that were OK with me bringing my kids there.

Faith E. Pinho: And so Paulina found herself spending more and more time in her new shop. More than normal working hours. She’d go there to get space away from the Train Station and so her babies could get some sleep. Paulina even hired someone to install a shower in the little bathroom, to make it easier when she wanted to sleep over, which she often did.

Paulina Stevens: So when I opened that place and I installed that shower and stuff, I was like, “I want to spend the night here with the kids. No interruptions.”

Faith E. Pinho: These long stretches away from the Train Station gave her time to think. To reflect on her life at home. And slowly she started shaking off her in-laws’ rules.


Paulina Stevens: They were like, “Well, you wake up and you don’t do anything. You don’t fix breakfast.” And I’m like, “Yeah, because I need to open my office. You know, it’s like 9, 10 o’clock. It’s a business.”

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina was clearly feeling emboldened by her shop, and not just because it was her own space with her own rules and her own decor and her own practice. Really, she just loved the customers she attracted in this little beach town so much more than at the Train Station, which, if you recall, was across the street from a club.

Paulina Stevens: And so people would come in drunk or people would just come in a lot more kind of skeptics or whatever.

Faith E. Pinho: But in Paulina’s new shop, she had a different type of clientele.

Paulina Stevens: It was a different atmosphere. It was more early morning business, and people were aware and interested.

Faith E. Pinho: And one of those very aware and interested customers was Matt Verminski.

Matt Verminski: Well, the very first time I went in there was with my wife, and we were walking around and just trying to explore.

Faith E. Pinho: Matt was in his 40s. He had been married for about five years at this point. He and his wife had been having a hard time in their marriage, but they were trying to make it work. So, one weekend, they went on a date.


Matt Verminski: I think it was on a Sunday and we were just trying to do something together. A day to kind of rekindle something.

Faith E. Pinho: Matt said they wandered into the psychic shop on a lark.

Matt Verminski: And I remember going in there and Paulina saying, “Hey, you guys have good energy. Do you want me to do a reading for you guys?”

Faith E. Pinho: They declined the reading, left the shop, and over the course of the next year, Matt’s life fell apart.

Matt Verminski: So there was the failed marriage. I didn’t handle it right.

Faith E. Pinho: Soon after they separated, Matt was charged with two counts: corporal injury on a spouse and a child abuse and endangerment charge. The child abuse and endangerment charge was later dismissed. But Matt pled guilty to the corporal injury on a spouse charge.

Matt Verminski: I pushed her in her face. And I’m in a holding cell and I have to tell my business partners that I’ve been arrested for domestic violence.


Faith E. Pinho: Matt was at rock bottom. He had a criminal record, he was getting divorced and he was trying not to lose progress on his years-long journey of sobriety. He was desperate to stop his destructive cycle.

Matt Verminski: I’m talking with a psychologist. I’m going to church. I’m working out. I’m doing all of these things.

Faith E. Pinho: And then for some reason, Matt remembered Paulina’s shop by the beach. Something seemed to be calling him back.

Matt Verminski: To me, walking into that shop was kind of like a last-ditch effort to quiet my mind.

Faith E. Pinho: This time, Matt agreed to let Paulina do a reading.

Matt Verminski: And I think it was just coming back to Paulina. She was very engaging and there was just something different, something interesting about her.

Faith E. Pinho: By the end of their first session together, Matt wanted to sign up for Paulina’s package deal.


Matt Verminski: In those hour sessions in that little office, I could get intimate in my truth with a stranger and not feel judged for it. I told her all my worst things, right? All these things I wanted to change about myself. So there was no facade.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina used all the tools in her arsenal. The singing bowls. Custom meditations. Spiritual advising. The whole shebang.

Matt Verminski: And we did a chakra cleansing, and that was life changing.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina got Matt started on a whole new diet.

Matt Verminski: Which is raw. I mean, the diet’s very strict.

Faith E. Pinho: With all of these lifestyle changes, Matt was starting to carry himself differently. With more confidence.

Matt Verminski: People were coming up to me. Girls were asking me to dance. People were drawn to me. It could have been because of my meditative state. It could have been having more of a smile on my face. It could have been a different physique or exterior. But something in my life was changing.


Faith E. Pinho: Matt was convinced this was more than just a series of healthy lifestyle changes. He came to believe that Paulina was truly gifted with special metaphysical abilities.

Matt Verminski: One time during a session, she did a healing bowl and it put me in a complete trance. I opened my eyes and the whole room was like a white cloud and I could barely see her — under the influence of nothing, broad daylight, in her office. It was unreal.

So I’m thinking, what a powerful individual to be able to bring that out in me. Just this powerful little force with a lot of influence. And the people that she would advise, some of these people were a lot more successful than me. So I’m like, “What is it about this little individual?”

Faith E. Pinho: OK. As someone who is also around 5 feet tall, I wouldn’t describe myself as a little individual, but whatever. You get it: Paulina was really talented. She was in her early 20s and she already been practicing for years, and she was pretty skilled.

But as the months went on and Matt continued his sessions with her, he started noticing parts of her life that just weren’t adding up.

Matt Verminski: I knew what kind of money I was paying her. I would see people come in after me and leave before me, so she’s got a pretty good practice. And yet there wasn’t any proof of massive success.


Faith E. Pinho: As far as Matt could tell, Paulina seemed to be barely scraping by, even though she was always working at the shop.

Matt Verminski: I remember she had this s—y stroller and the wheel’s wobbling. She had no idea of her surroundings. I’m like, “There’s a dry cleaner over there. There’s a healthy organic shake shop over here. Open up. Smell the roses.”

Faith E. Pinho: It’s funny how two people can see the same thing in totally different ways, right? Sometimes the way Matt saw Paulina’s life was at odds with the way Paulina saw her own life. For example, Matt thought it was strange Paulina often wore safety pins in her clothes. But for Paulina, that just made sense.

Paulina Stevens: I was gaining a lot of weight, then losing weight, then gaining weight, then losing weight ’cause I was pregnant and then nursing.

Faith E. Pinho: And Matt was shocked when he discovered Paulina had put a shower in the shop’s bathroom.

Matt Verminski: She’s basically living in the back of her store.

Faith E. Pinho: Which, for Paulina, was totally normal. Everyone had lived in their shops her whole life. And this shop had been her freedom.


Paulina Stevens: I only felt that it was an escape, and it was better than being the other place. But I guess he had felt like I was being mistreated or something. That’s kind of what he had said.

Matt Verminski: That’s where I started asking questions about what the family life was like or what was really going on.

Paulina Stevens: And he just kept asking questions and he was so interested. And I felt like I could just open up.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina started telling Matt more and more about her life and the way she was raised.

Matt Verminski: I think a lot of the things that she would bring up, I think she brought them up for validation that, “Is this normal?” No, it’s not normal. I think you already know that it’s not normal.

Faith E. Pinho: Although, you know, normal is relative. And Matt and Paulina were each looking at what “normal” meant from two very different vantage points. So even if Matt didn’t totally understand what was going on, Paulina was eager to hear his take on her life. She was really curious about his perspective as an outsider, especially one who was taking a special interest in her wellbeing.

Matt Verminski: I just saw things that needed to be done, so I would do them.


Faith E. Pinho: Matt would change lightbulbs at Paulina’s shop or take out the trash. He even bought her a brand-new stroller. And honestly, Paulina was loving the attention.

Paulina Stevens: There was little things that Matt was doing and saying and I felt like — just that in general had me surprised.

Faith E. Pinho: Their relationship was deepening. Paulina started leaning on Matt as much as he was relying on her.

Paulina Stevens: I felt like he was the support system that I had never really had. I was just like, “Wow. Here’s this really nice guy.”

Faith E. Pinho: He went out of his way to make her feel special.

Paulina Stevens: He had texted me, “Happy Mother’s Day,” and he said, “I hope you’re cherished on this day. You’re a great mom.” And I don’t know why, but no one has ever used that word, “cherished.” And I still kind of get emotional because that was just very personal.

Faith E. Pinho: Matt’s life experience was totally different than any of the men in her family.

Paulina Stevens: He was talking, I remember one time, about high school and I was like, “Wow, you went to high school,” and he played lacrosse. Some real, I don’t know, American kind of sport or something. And I was like, “Wow, it really happens, all this stuff.” And I was like, “Oh, it’s like in the movies. Like in the American movies.”


Faith E. Pinho: And just like a movie — well, I’m sure you can tell where this is going.

Matt Verminski: So I had a sense that there was a connection there, but I didn’t know where it was going to go. Because she’s in a relationship. She has children. And I remember kind of being caught in that “What do I do?” You know?

Faith E. Pinho: What would he do? Well, for now, Matt left the future in Paulina’s hands.

Paulina had established herself as a married woman with two kids, a husband and a psychic shop she could call her own. But that wasn’t enough for Paulina. She was growing increasingly antsy. While she was helping her friends Amber and Matt turn their lives around, her life continued to trudge along a path she had always known. A well-worn path. One that her husband and in-laws expected for her.

But gradually Paulina started to inch off that path.

Paulina Stevens: I stopped wearing the head covering all the time in public, and people were talking, and I was like, “I don’t give a f—.” Not getting dressed up, putting makeup on. Wearing sneakers. I don’t know. When you change, people notice.

Faith E. Pinho: She started to try on what dressing differently might feel like. And it felt pretty good. Felt right. It got her thinking about what else she might want to try.

Paulina Stevens: I just remember thinking, “I just want to be able to have my own independence. I would like to get an education. I would like to not live with his parents. I would like to drive.”

Faith E. Pinho: So she decided to get a driver’s license. She didn’t ask permission. And she said Bobby’s family did not approve.


Paulina Stevens: That was one of the first things I remember that set them off because I just went and did it. I was like, “I don’t care. I’m just getting my driver’s license. I need to get it.”

Faith E. Pinho: As you know, I wasn’t able to talk to Bobby or his parents. But I do have some court documents from Bobby’s perspective, and he said that Paulina portrayed him as controlling because she could not drive.

In his defense, he wrote, “Women of our culture customarily do not drive.” He added that he drove her around whenever she wanted.

Paulina said she remembered her father-in-law, John Paul, warning that her new driver’s license would be bad for Paulina’s marriage.

Paulina Stevens: He was like, “Well, if the women get their driver’s license, then the men will not have any way to bond or spend time with his wife. The wife has to need the husband to drive her around and to do things or else she’s going to be free and do things on her own.”

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina said she already felt like she was doing a lot of things on her own.

Paulina Stevens: You’re just sitting there all that time, having to take care of two kids and tend to the whole house.


Faith E. Pinho: In those court documents, Bobby wrote, “I have been involved in raising our daughters since their births on a day-to-day basis and am extremely close with them.” He said he’d help them with learning their shapes and colors, doing crafts together and coloring. “I am involved in all aspects of our daughters’ lives. We play and have fun.”

Paulina acknowledges that Bobby helped with the girls sometimes. But what stands out in her mind are the times he was away.

Paulina Stevens: Your partner goes missing for, like, three days and he doesn’t answer his phone. You have no idea where he is.

Faith E. Pinho: Bobby wrote in the court documents, “This is a melodramatic representation of the facts. On occasion, I would go out with friends or stay at a casino for a few days.” Paulina, he said, “was always invited but declined to go.” He also said that he never shut off his phone. He said she knew where he was, who he was with and how to contact him.

He wrote that Paulina “enjoyed her freedom at other times and left me responsible for our children. I believe this is normal for most families. All parents need a break sometimes.”

Paulina does not remember it that way.

Paulina Stevens: I would go on Yelp and look at pictures and be like, “Maybe I could find him.”


Faith E. Pinho: Of course, no one uploaded pictures of Bobby on Yelp. But from Paulina’s perspective, the situation was that desperate.

Paulina Stevens: So that’s where it just gets to a point. I don’t know. You’re just so uncomfortable that you want to leave. And that’s what it was.

Faith E. Pinho: As Paulina was itching to leave, her in-laws were doing their best to make her stay. Over the years, they tried different ways to appease their daughter-in-law. For one thing, they permitted a nanny who was an outsider to help Paulina watch the girls.

And after years of living at the Train Station, Paulina was getting cabin fever. And her in-laws could tell. So eventually, Paulina said, John Paul and Ruby picked out a house for them — not too far away, just about a mile up the road. It gave her and Bobby some breathing room as they grew into a family of four. Still, though, Paulina wasn’t happy about it.

Paulina Stevens: I really did not want that place whatsoever. But his dad was, “If you guys don’t want it…” And I was like, “I don’t want it and I’m not sure about it.” And he’s like, “Are you sure, ’cause it’s a great place, blah, blah blah.” And I’m like, “Yeah, OK. Just get it. Go ahead.”

I never even got attached to it because I never wanted it, you know what I mean? They just placed me there. But I told Bobby, “I’m done with the house. I hate this house.”


Faith E. Pinho: Paulina wanted to leave the house. She wanted to leave her marriage. She wanted out.

Paulina Stevens: I knew I was going to go, and I was planning to leave at that point.

Faith E. Pinho: But then Bobby’s parents would intervene, thinking maybe some time away would patch things up.

Paulina Stevens: His parents sent us to Vegas. We were like, “Oh, let’s have fun in Vegas.”

Faith E. Pinho: But after every vacation, the couple would come back …

Paulina Stevens: And everything was the same again.

Faith E. Pinho: Once again, she’d plan to leave.

Paulina Stevens: And he’s yelling at me and, like, “Why do you want to go?”

Faith E. Pinho: Back and forth. Back and forth.


Paulina Stevens: And I’m like, “Just let me go.” I don’t know why, but I felt like I’m a mother, and I deserve more.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina said she had so many experiences that felt like the last straw. Last straws on top of last straws. When her mom moved to a nearby town in L.A. County, Paulina started spending time at her place. Any excuse to get away.

Paulina Stevens: I didn’t want to see his family or talk to them because it wasn’t good whenever we did talk and I was like, “Just give me space.”

Faith E. Pinho: No matter how much space she had — new shop, new house, even her mom’s house — it was never enough for Paulina. And all that space was a big red flag for John Paul and Ruby.

Paulina Stevens: They said, “Why isn’t she making an effort for us? She’s not fighting for us.” Just weird stuff. And I’m like, “Am I married to you people? No, I’m not. I don’t understand.”

Faith E. Pinho: They must have been able to tell things were getting worse between Paulina and Bobby. Because once, when Paulina was staying at her mom’s place, John Paul and Ruby decided enough was enough. It was time to hash things out. Paulina recalled one day when Bobby, Ruby and John Paul came over and gathered in her mom’s living room.


Paulina Stevens: And then the conversation just went like, “Why do you want to leave? Why are you here?” I remember I started laughing when they asked me that. I said things like, “I’m just really stressed out” and “I’m just going through a really hard time and I need space,” and “I don’t trust your son.”

And they’re like, “Well, you knew that when you got here.”

And so I knew even that — even me trying to fake some of the things, like talking about the small issues, they were arguing about. And so I was like, “Yes, yes, you’re right. You’re right.” Again, taking the advice of Ruby, right? And just using it.

“Block it out. Block it out. Block it out.”

Faith E. Pinho: Until suddenly the conversation with Ruby shifted.

Paulina Stevens: And then she looked at me, and she looked at me in a way that I felt like she was speaking to a younger version of herself.

I could just tell that she knew how stressed out I was. I was losing my hair. I had anxiety, hives, it was a really stressful situation. And I know that she’s been through some really crazy stuff in her life.


Then she looked at me and her tone of voice changed and she was like, “Do you feel like maybe there’s something else out there for you? Do you feel like maybe you’re not fulfilled enough in this life or with this family or with your husband, with your kids? Do you need more?”

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina says Ruby kept repeating that question over and over.

Paulina Stevens: “Do you feel like we’re not good enough? Do you just want more? Do you want to do more?”

Faith E. Pinho: And then something began to crystallize for Paulina.

Paulina Stevens: Before that moment, I was thinking more of like, “I just don’t want to be here.” That’s it. “I just don’t want to be here.” I wasn’t thinking about what I really wanted. And then when she said that, I really felt like she was possibly contemplating or thinking that herself.

Faith E. Pinho: For a moment, it seemed as if Ruby could understand what Paulina was feeling. That perhaps she knew the risk it posed and what could happen to Paulina’s kids — her own grandkids — if Paulina were to ever leave.

Paulina Stevens: “Do you feel like we’re not good enough? Do you just want more? Do you want to do more?”

And I lied and I was like, “No, I’m not thinking that.” I was like, “No, that’s not why.” And maybe in the moment, maybe it wasn’t why. But I felt like we really had a moment with each other.


Faith E. Pinho: It was spring 2018. Paulina was almost 23 years old, and she was staying away as much as she could, either at her shop or her mom’s place. One day, Paulina said, she brought her daughters to her mom’s house without her in-laws’ permission. She and the girls stayed overnight. And then another night and another. They stayed there for a few days, maybe longer. She said Bobby panicked.

Paulina Stevens: And then the kids were crying and he’s like, “We’re not going to share the kids,” and I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I ended up going back. But I told Bobby, “I really don’t want to come back. I don’t like this house. I hate this house.”

Faith E. Pinho: So Paulina continued to spend stretches of time away from home. Then, in July 2018, Paulina’s mom had to get a surgery. Paulina went to take care of her for a few days, but this time Paulina said she was told she could not bring the girls.

Paulina Stevens: They say that I can’t bring the kids with me because, you know, that stunt I pulled? That’s what they said.

Faith E. Pinho: So Paulina went to her mom’s place and left her girls at the Train Station.

Paulina Stevens: I was like, “I’m just going to focus on my mother.” And this is the longest I’ve ever stood away from my kids. So it started with four days.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina said that when she called the house, no one would pick up.

Paulina Stevens: I didn’t get to talk to them. I didn’t get to see them. Nobody would answer their phone.


Faith E. Pinho: Her children were 2 and 3 years old at the time. Paulina was anxious about being away from them for so long.

Paulina Stevens: So four days go by and then five days go by and then I’m like, “It just doesn’t seem right.”

Faith E. Pinho: And once again, Paulina said, Bobby was in Las Vegas.

Paulina Stevens: So the day he’s coming back from Vegas, I decide that I’m going to go there.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina had been gone for nine days.

Paulina Stevens: I just needed to see my kids. I was like, “I need to see my kids. It’s been nine days,” and that was the longest I’ve ever spent without them.

I walked back in the house and I saw them and they ran to me and they were crying and they were like, “Mom, we missed you.” And my little one was like, “What happened to you?” And I was just crying. And so in my mind I was thinking, “Who’s nurturing them? Who is being there for them the way that I was?”

They were hugging me and holding me and I just can’t explain it. There’s this — these little endorphins that were just going off in my head. It was like an emotional high.


Faith E. Pinho: Paulina said she and the girls went into their bedroom, just playing and holding on to each other. But the spell of their reunion was immediately broken.

Paulina Stevens: So then Bobby walks in. Finally, he gets back from Vegas. And he’s in a full-blown suit with a hankie and everything, all wrinkled. And he says, “Listen, all these days,” which it’s only been nine days, but he’s like, “All these days without you has made me realize that I just like being single and I don’t want to be with you.”

Faith E. Pinho: Which, honestly, was fine by Paulina.

Paulina Stevens: And then I was just thinking, “OK, but I’m taking the kids.” That’s all I said. I was like, “I need to take the kids.”

And then he said, “No. The kids are safer here with my parents, so they’re going to stay with my parents. And you can come in the house and visit whenever you want. And I’m going to do what I want with my life. And you could do what you want with yours, but the kids are staying here.”

Faith E. Pinho: They argued in the bedroom for a few minutes. Paulina says she got up with her kids to go to the kitchen but Bobby thought she was heading for the door.

Paulina Stevens: Because I was just trying to go in the kitchen. But I guess he thought I was trying to leave the house and he was blocking the doorway. So then in my mind, it clicked in me. And I said, OK, I’m taking the kids.


I was scared. I went into a very panic protective mode when he was blocking the door, and my heart started racing. I knew not to engage with him. And so I wasn’t arguing with him. I was just agreeing with him, but not in a way that’s like, “Yeah, yeah, you’re right.” I was just trying to hold my composure and I was planning in my head. I was like, “OK, jackets, shoes. Where’s my purse?” Because he’s about to go to the bar and meet the boys.

He takes off his jacket and he puts on another jacket. He puts on a new hankie. And then he says, “I’m going to the bar. The kids are not to leave the house.” So then he goes and talks to his dad or something and his dad tells his brother to stay in the house to watch me because I think they think I’m going to leave.

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina said she kept her cool. She stayed on the bed playing with her two daughters. She lay low, just biding her time.

Paulina Stevens: So then his brother and his cousin are outside in the backyard, smoking or something. And his dad knocks out. He is snoring, knocked out on the couch.

Faith E. Pinho: It was midnight. Ruby was out, running the psychic booth at the Orange County Fair, but she could come back at any moment. Paulina knew she had to get out of there fast. She slipped into the bedroom closet, pulled out her phone and called her friend Amber.

Amber Peck: She usually always seemed calm when I talked to her, but she sounded like she needed help, like she had nowhere else to turn.


Faith E. Pinho: Amber was at her house just down the street, hosting a friend.

Paulina Stevens: And I said, “Please. It’s an emergency. Please come and pick us up right now.”

Amber Peck: So I just went out and said, “Hey, I’ve got to go pick up my friend. She really needs me right now,” and it was kind of all I said. And I left.

Faith E. Pinho: The minutes felt like hours to Paulina.

Paulina Stevens: I was looking out the door, watching the kids, I don’t know, I was pacing. I had walked in the kitchen. I walked around just to make sure he was snoring. And the brother, who was supposed to be keeping an eye on me, was out smoking in the backyard with one of his cousins.

So I grabbed the girls and I said, “Hey, we’re going to go to Amber’s house and we’re going to watch a movie.” They didn’t see any crying. They had no idea. I said, “Just be quiet so you don’t wake your grandfather up.”

Faith E. Pinho: Paulina grabbed the girls’ jackets and shoes and, at the last minute, a hobby horse toy Bobby had brought the girls from Vegas. Then they headed to the door.

Amber Peck: She told me to meet her at the doughnut shop, so I had literally just pulled in.


Paulina Stevens: While she was pulling up, I had called her. And she’s like, “Are you OK?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “I’m grabbing the kids. I’m stepping out. I’m right in front.” And she’s like, “Do you want me to park at the doughnut shop right in front of you?” I’m like, “Just pull up a little closer.” I couldn’t walk. I felt like my knees were trembling and —

Amber Peck: She was like, “Go, go, go.”

Paulina Stevens: I go with the kids in the car.

Amber Peck: She was clicking the girls’ seatbelts as we were driving away.

Paulina Stevens: I just was like, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. This means so much to me.” But we were whispering because the kids were playing or something. And she’s like, “Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it.”

Faith E. Pinho: The house by the side of the freeway got farther and farther away. Paulina had left.

About 'Foretold'

“Foretold” is hosted and created by Faith E. Pinho, with senior producer Asal Ehsanipour and producer Alex Higgins, assistant editor Lauren Raab, editors Avery Trufelman and Sue Horton, executive producers Jazmín Aguilera and Heba Elorbany, Romani cultural consultant Dr. Ethel Brooks and audio engineer Mike Heflin.

Theme music by seven-string guitarist and composer Vadim Kolpakov and composer Alex PGSV. Additional original music by Vadim Kolpakov and Alex PGSV, as well as Alex Higgins. Fact checking by Kasia Broussalian, Lauren Raab, Asal Ehsanipour and Faith E. Pinho. Additional research by Scott Wilson.

Thanks to Shani Hilton, Kevin Merida, Brandon Sides, Dylan Harris, Carrie Shemanski, Kayla Bell, Kasia Broussalian and Nicolas Perez.