The Fortune Teller
Love Me Till I’m Me Again
It was a mild night, and Madame Spangles was glad that she still lived in a tent, even if it was battered and motheaten. Most of the other crew had discarded their own tents in favour of wooden caravans years ago, but she was an old fashioned sort, and liked to feel the fresh air on her face. Au natural, she liked to call it. She was a simple character, and always had been. She liked to get up early each morning, and take a walk barefoot on the soft, damp grass. There was nothing like the feeling of stepping over, from the fabric of the tent, to the dewy strands. She’d done it every morning, since she was a babe. She shuffled her deck of cards, and laid them down on the small round table in her living area. Slipping off her shoes, she went behind the curtain, and laid down on her bed. It was only a straw mattress, which was nearly as old as she was, but it was hers, and she liked it. That night, as she lay there and listened to the sounds outside, just before sleep washed over her, she was struck by a thought that hadn’t occurred to her in years.
Eddie looked through the one way glass into the room where Aila, or Madame Spangles, as she had now become known, was seated. He didn’t know what to think. He had never met Madame Spangles before a fortnight ago, and strange as it sounded to people, he was scared. It did sound stupid. He knew it did. How could he be scared of his own wife? The doctors had looked at him like he was dirt when they’d told him the diagnosis, as if he should have known. How could he? He hadn’t married Aila until they were both in their late thirties, and she’d always been guarded about her past. Never brought it up, and if he did, she’d change the subject. ‘Now I know why’ he thought to himself.
It wouldn’t have come to her, if it hadn’t been for the overwhelming fragrance wafting from Billy the bear-tamer’s van. The hookah. She hadn’t touched so much as a sniff in years, but it did smell so tempting. Yes, maybe just one breath. She inhaled deeply, feeling the calm flood her senses. She looked around her, and suddenly, the visions in front of her became so bright, they were almost luminous. Staring through the tiny skylight in the roof of the tent, the stars began to dance around the sky, some in quick, shooting bolts, which added to her excitement, some slowly and delicately, calming her withered nerves. She felt sleep coming, and while part of her wanted to fight it, and continue to ride the high, the larger part of her submitted, allowing her body to give in to sleep, as she climbed on the nearest cloud and floated away.
He’d realised when something was wrong, but it had been a huge shock to find out that this was not the first time that his wife had become Madame Spangles. No one seemed to know why, and she was unable to tell them. She just continued with her charade. She looked up just then, and he could see her face. The same lost look crossed it as when she had been dragged from the house by the police. He still hated himself for allowing such a scene. All the neighbours had seen, and he just knew that she would be mortified to know. She had always appeared to be the model housewife. Then, one day, he came home to find her not in her usual attire of jeans and fitted shirt, but in a long and brightly coloured flowing skirt, and blouse. She was also wearing jewellery and rambling about a tent, and grass, and dirt tracks. It had been so quick, she had been fine when he left that morning.
The next thing she knew, the birds morning song had been and gone, and the sun was high overhead. She’d missed her early morning walk in the peace and quiet, for now she could hear the sounds of the crew going about their daily business, of feeding the animals, and setting up for the first show. Today was a Saturday, she thought, which meant a matinee performance. Slowly easing herself to her feet, wincing as the rheumatism in her joints shot through her, she padded lightly to a table, where an old, battered copper teapot sat. Stoking a small fire, that had been smouldering just outside the tent, she set the filled teapot above the flames, and waited for it to boil. When the water began to beat the sides of the pot in fierce bubbles, she lifted it from the heat and carried it indoors, where she poured herself a cup of herbal tea. She carried it over to her card table and sat down. Taking a sip, she then set the teacup to one side, and picked up her cards. Shuffling them, she laid them out in the simplest of her spreads, and slowly, methodically turned them over. “Ah yes, a dreamfilled night. Oh yes, we definitely had that didn’t we?” she chuckled to herself. “But what’s this? Seven of hearts. Oh no. This is not a good sign. I’m sensing…” she closed her eyes as if trying to remember something.
The doctors said this was normal, and that it only takes a small thing that in seconds can trigger this. Why didn’t she tell me? He thought to himself. He felt guilty and betrayed, angry and hurt. He should have known. The doctors obviously believed it too. Watching her in there, talking away to herself. He just wished that he could run in there and hold her, but it was like she didn’t even recognise him. When he’d tried to talk to her, she’d started screaming, and hitting him. The doctors had had to pull her off him and restrain her. Being a man, he wasn’t prone to crying, but on this occasion, he had cried like a baby.
“Ouch!” she exclaimed. “Needles. Sewing needles.. no.. a sewing kit. Am I to meet a seamstress today? A dressmaker maybe. Ouch. Stop it” she swatted at her arm, but when she looked there was nothing there. She shook herself, and turned over the final card. “Queen of clubs. This is a bad omen, yes?” she queried, more to herself than anything else. “I fear this is not good news, and that maybe I will soon no longer be reading, but having more dreamfilled sleeps” she finished speaking, picked up her teacup, and stared off into the distance, as if entering her own world.
Suddenly, Aila looked up, and saw the room around her. In a rare moment of clarity, she felt her heart sink as she realised what had happened. Standing up, she walked over to the toughened glass window. Gazing blindly through it, she whispered, “I’m sorry, Eddie”. With that, the door buzzed open, and Eddie ran through it. She burst into tears as he grabbed her in his arms. “I’m so sorry Eddie. I hoped you’d never have to see me like this. I thought I was over it” she said into his strong chest, where she was huddled.
Eddie just hugged her tighter, tears now readily falling down his cheeks. He couldn’t understand what was happening. Why his wife had been this other person one minute, and now she was back, huddling into him, apologizing. It made no sense to him. “What happened, Aila?” he asked her gently. The doctors hadn’t told him much, only that she’d relapsed, and he felt very much in the dark about everything. He’d tried to ask questions, but all they ever told him was that he had to wait. ‘Wait’ he thought. How useless could he get, just sitting there, watching; waiting. “What’s going on Aila? No one will tell me anything” he asked her.
She looked up at him, fear flashing through her eyes. “I’m ill. I thought it was under control. I haven’t had an episode for years. I’m sorry Eddie. The pull back there is just so strong. I don’t know how much longer I can hold on. I’m sorry. Please wait for me. Just love me. Please just love me till I’m me again” she stopped talking, gasped and then a blank look came over her face
In seconds, her face became alive again and she said “Hello young man, you want your fortune told?”
Li Carter is a writer, artist and crafter. She lives in South Wales, UK, with her family, and five rescue dogs. She’s on Twitter @rbcreativeli , Facebook: Rainbow Butterfly Creative, and Instagram @rainbowbutterflycreative and is the author of My Only True Friend: The Beginning. She is currently working on a new series titled The QuickSilver Chronicles. She is the original Rainbow Butterfly, and wants to fill an ever darkening world with a little bit of beauty and creativity.