“The illusion of the first time” is a great acting phrase used by Stanislavsky. This short story has nothing to do with it. This short story did, however, take 2nd place in the Murray City writing competition as well as the people’s choice award over at writingforums.org. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
The Illusion of the First Time
Michelle never believed in Gypsies or their special powers until that night at the state carnival. She stood outside of Madame Gitana’s tent and heard “come in, come in.” The old woman’s voice was warm and inviting. Michelle stepped inside the multi colored tent. The small room inside was bare except for a small, round table centered perfectly in the middle of the tent. A covered spherical object sat in the center of the table with an old woman hunched behind it. She was a haggard thing with scraggly gray hair dirtied with splotches of ebony which refused to conform to the color loss. Her hands were gnarled and twisted, but strong. She beckoned again for the teenager to approach. “Come child. Sit down.”
Michelle approached, feeling a little self conscious.
“And, how can I help you today…Michelle?”
Michelle stiffened “How did you know my name?”
“Oh, I know lots of things” replied Madame Gitana coolly. “What would you like to know about?”
Michelle slipped hesitantly into the chair. This was a little bizarre for her. Outside she could still hear the carnival rides and the smell of popcorn was thick in the air reminding her that she hadn’t had dinner yet. “Why did they force me to come in alone,” she thought. Her boyfriend, Ronnie, and all of their other friends were waiting just outside. Linda would be next, but they were only allowed in one at a time.
The Gypsy read her thoughts. “You are uncomfortable child. Please, relax. I am not going to hurt you. As a matter of fact I want to help you.”
“Um…the palm reading is only 5 dollars right?” Michelle fidgeted.
“That is correct” replied Madame Gitana. “Five Dollars for a palm reading, seven for a tarot reading and eight for the crystal ball.”
“Okay, let’s go for the palm reading then.” Michelle was apprehensive but becoming curious as to what the Gypsy might say.
“Give me your right hand, child.” Michelle put her hand on the table, palm up. Madame Gitana began to study her palm carefully. She traced her finger along a line of the palm while explaining “this is your life line. You will live a long life. And, this line is your prosperity line. You will also find great wealth during your life.” Madame Gitana pulled the hand a little closer. “These wrinkles indicate the number of children you are going to have – see, you will have 4 children. This line is your love line and…” She trailed off. The old Gypsy looked puzzled, something was wrong. She began mumbling to herself.
“And what?” Exclaimed Michelle.
“Look here” the Gypsy began tracing a line from the base of Michelle’s palm. “This is your love line and right here it branches into 3 different directions – I have never seen this before.” The old woman furrowed her brow and squinted closely while scrutinizing the palm. “It appears that there are three men in your life. One you know and two in the future. Unfortunately, I cannot decipher who they are from your palm.” The old woman squinted her eyes in deep concentration. “One of them will dramatically affect your life. See here where this line intersects with your life line? In order to understand who this is though, we must use the tarot cards, they can tell us why this happens.” The old woman reached under the table and pulled out a worn deck of cards. “One moment and the cards will tell us.” She began to shuffle the ancient cards.
Michelle felt a little confused but drawn in by the possibilities. She watched anxiously thinking about Ronnie outside. Is it possible that he was the one of those three lines? And then there had also been that strange man watching them while they waited in line. Could he be one of the three men? She had so many questions.
“Ah!” The Gypsy closed her eyes for a moment and when she opened them she was in a blank stare. She dealt three cards from the top of the deck. The first was a man with a marred face and read The Knight of Cups. The second, a woman wrapped around a sword and read The Ace of Swords. The third, was a skeleton and simply read Death. Madame Gitana closed her eyes again. When she opened them she was looking directly at Michelle.
“What did we get?” Madame Gitana asked looking down at the old cards now face up on the table. “Oh. Oh my.” The words were weighted and Michelle did not like the sound of them. “This shows that the first man, the man you know, is not what he appears to be. However, he is harmless and he will love you. Beware of infidelity. The second man will be your champion – he will be strong and passionate but the final man…” She looked into Michelle’s eyes. “The final man will lead you to death.” Her face looked stricken. “You musn’t allow this man to get too close to you! There is a way we might prepare you to meet him but sadly, I cannot tell you his name – only the crystal ball can do this.”
Michelle could no longer hear the carnival outside and her hunger was completely forgotten. There was just the gypsy and the table. “If you can tell me his name then I have to know it!”
Madame Gitana looked very sober. She nodded. She removed the cloth from the ball on the table revealing a smoky crystal ball exactly at the center. Madame Gitana waved her hands over the ball 3 times while mumbling strange words. She closed her eyes again and drew a deep breath. The anticipation bore down on Michelle and she felt her heart pounding in her chest. The gypsy’s eyes flashed open and she peered deep into crystal ball core. A small light began to flicker and then a dull white glow grew within the ball. She strained her eyes…“his name…his name is…Dane Peterson.” The light pulsed and then faded. “You must beware this man, Michelle.”
Michelle repeated the name. “Dane Peterson…”
“I have nothing more that I can tell you…we have reached the extant of my psychic powers. But you now know how to avoid this man! You must do so at all costs, Michelle! Your life could depend on it!” The woman’s stare was so piercing that Michelle felt she could see right to her soul.
“I will, Madame Gitana – thank you.”
Michelle got up to leave. “You must leave through the back” instructed the Gypsy wearily. Still reeling from the experience, Michelle did not protest. A man opened the tent flap for her, a man who looked oddly familiar. After she exited, the man entered and whispered something in Madame Gitana’s ear. Michelle watched for a moment and then he returned to her, closing the flap behind him. Her head had cleared a bit and now she recognized him as the man who had been watching them in line.
“That will be twenty dollars.” He said flatly.
“What?” Questioned Michelle.
“You had your palm read, tarot cards, and the crystal ball. That’ll be twenty dollars.”
Michelle heard a warm and inviting voice inside the tent “come in, come in. How can I help you today…Linda?”
“Just a palm reading, please” was the response.