“When did you know you were lost?” he asked.
“Lost? But I’m not lost,” I replied, confused. Did he think I had stumbled in because I’d lost may way among the beachside carnival tents?
“No, you’re lost. It’s in the cards, right here,” he said as he tapped one of several cards he had spread out in a formation on the table. On the face of the card was a picture of a girl in a long dress walking down a dark path in the depths of a forest. She was dwarfed by the trees, their green boughs woven intricately overhead.
I frowned. Some fortuneteller this guy is, I thought, sighing. I almost wished I hadn’t been tempted to waste the last of the foreign change that was rattling around in my pocket with the broken bits of seashell.
I wasn’t even sure that men were supposed to be fortunetellers. Wasn’t it supposed to be an old woman with a headscarf? Truth be told, he had won me over with his dark good looks. And I was annoyed with Taylor anyway. Not that I was looking for something to happen. I just wanted to do something Taylor wouldn’t approve of. I’d never tell him I was here, but it was my little bit of rebellion. Besides, I’d always been intrigued by the promise of having something mysterious about myself revealed.
The fortuneteller had seemed authentic, too, which had helped lure me in. His black curly hair was held off his face with a pink and mauve scarf. He wore a billowing black silk shirt, faded jeans and bare feet. He had a gold-capped tooth, too; the whole nine yards. And his tent! It was small, shadowy, and lined inside with tapestries. A small table sat in the centre, a hammock hung off to the side. I guess it was where he slept at night. The place smelled, predictably, of sweet, woodsy incense.
“What else?” I asked, trying to move beyond the being lost bit. I wanted to get my money’s worth, but I also had my eye on the time. At a certain point, Taylor would be beyond annoyed and it would be wise to get back before then.
“The man you are with now, soon you will have to choose between him – he is fair, no? – and a darker man.”
Oh, brother, I thought. Could you be any more predictable?
“Whichever man you choose, you will have a boy with him. But your love will not last. You and your son will leave. In five years, you will go to live in Australia and there you will meet another man. You will have another son with him.”
He was speaking quickly by then. If it was a trick, it was a good one. I had slid to the edge of my seat and was leaning in, waiting for more. It sounded so concrete, so detailed.
“You will work either as a healer or a wilderness guide. You will be happy.” For a moment, he was quiet, then he sat back and looked impassively at me. “That is it. That is all I can see.”
I nodded, feeling a bit bewildered, but thanked him, paid and left. As I stepped out into the night, the sea air shocked me back to my senses. What a crock, I thought, rolling my eyes. I couldn’t believe I had been taken in by what was obviously a routine designed to convince the doubters, to get that extra bit of money. Well, joke was on him; I didn’t have anything more than the advertised rate.
I didn’t think much about that night once it was over. It hadn’t ended particularly well. I forgot about the silly fortune, the card with the lost maiden in the forest, the rest of it.
It wasn’t until five years later that it all came back to me.
I was standing on a lookout platform absorbing the warmth of the sun. My eyes were closed, but I could feel my son’s small hand in mine. I squeezed, he squeezed back.
After a few minutes, I opened my eyes and looked out over the treetops. The forest spread out for miles in front of us. At that moment, I remembered the night in the fortuneteller’s tent. This wasn’t quite Australia, but it was close enough.