Dame Fortune 

Dame Fortune 

The newlywed couple strolled at the fair, holding hands. The splash of evening colors was giving way to the sparkle of carnival lights. A chill breeze blew in from the sea. Mary wrapped her scarf around her delicate face. The soft flannel caressed her satin skin. How she loved that scarf, Martin’s first gift to her! I’ll surround you with my love. Like this scarf. For the rest of my life. He had avowed.

They passed a tent, its door wide open, intimate and inviting. Sweet-smelling frankincense and soft-hued lamps beckoned them inside.

“Let’s go in!” said Mary.

“But you don’t believe in fortune-tellers!” 

“I’m so happy tonight, I’m willing to believe in anything!” She simpered, dragging him inside.

“What brings the lovebirds to my house of fortune?” boomed a grand old dame in a dabbled kaftan, seated on a divan, bolstered by many-splendored cushions. A heavy blood-red book burned like an enormous ruby in her hands.

“Wise madam, what does the future hold for us?” said Mary, giggling like a kitten. Martin squeezed her hand; his heart raced. 

The dame peered straight ahead with nary a blink. The smoke from joss sticks merged with the flickering lamplights, casting strange shadows on the walls. Martin pulled Mary close to him. Her playful smile gave way to tense unease.

Suddenly the dame sprang up, dropped the huge tome and shrieked. “Your scarf. There’s death in it. Cast it away! Else it’ll lead you to the grave.” After that, she spoke no more.  

Walking back home, the chatty couple were unusually quiet. An amber moon shone in the heavens. The wandering stars were searching for something they had lost in the darkness. Down below the winding road, the sea roared. The incessant crashing of the waves on the rocks felt as though the leviathans of the deep were at war.

Martin’s hesitant voice pierced the din of creation. “I love you very much. But this scarf…it troubles me.” He put his arms around her neck and untied the scarf. “Please forgive me for doing this.” He rolled the scarf into a ball and hurled it down; it fluttered in the wind and flew away.

“No! What’ve you done? Your first gift’s precious to me!” She took off along the gradual slope, chasing the drifting scarf. Ahead, the slope ended in a cliff beyond which the sea bellowed like a hungry monster.

Martin rushed behind, screaming, “Mary, wait!” He saw her trip and tumble, turning round and round as she plunged downhill and vanished over the cliff. Like lightning, Martin was at the edge, leaning over. The sea yawned below, a gigantic mouth ready to swallow him. Mary was dangling desperately, clasping her scarf which poked out from a tangled bush of huckleberry, its roots ready to snap. Their eyes met; terror mingled with relief in a heady rush of emotion. Martin seized Mary’s hand and heaved her up beside him. There on the brink of doom, they sat shuddering in each other’s arms. Martin’s first gift to Mary rested safely in her hands.

Such are the vagaries of Life. Who can say what was in that scarf? Was it Death? Or was it Life?

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