The fortune teller’s daughter did not inherit her mother’s gift of sight, but rather her father’s nimble fingers and sleight of hand. While her mother whispered visions into eager ears with unsettled hearts, her father wandered between striped tents and carnival lights, alleviating pocket trinkets from those whose hands were too full of cheap prizes and melting sweets to notice. His only rule: take what would not be missed. It was a rule he broke just once, when he plucked himself too soon from their lives.
Her mother said it was a privilege to stay behind the gates, to wander freely where others were charged and ticketed to enter. So for years, the daughter watched the mechanical whirlings of spinning rides and listened to joyous voices blend with fuzzy-speakered tunes in the popcorn-salted air. She learned the best treats were given by Guess-Your-Weight Gus, that young men won stuffed dragons to appease petty girls, and that knowing all the tricks did not mean she could win the games.
One night, as she picked the loose shine from inside careless pockets, she was drawn to a different kind of light. A boy hurried by, his grey eyes reminding her of steady stones beneath rushing water. The fortune teller’s daughter liked stones. She liked to turn them over and see what was underneath. She followed him beyond the gates, through the forest, and down to the river.
Her mother had warned her about the river, how it whispered seductions of moonlight and water sliding off skin, luring bodies into the vicious unpredictable current. She found the boy along the river’s swift uneven edge, unaware of the crumbling dirt beneath his feet that stirred the river’s hunger. Just before he fell into foaming rapids, she reached between the spaces of his fingers, pulling him into the sturdy shallows of pine tree shadows.
It was a small act he did, initiated by gratitude, but from behind her closed lids, a multitude of lifelines soar skyward, sparkling like fireworks, curving high above the confines of carnival gates before fading into distant darkness. She knew then it wasn’t the river her mother feared would sweep her away. But the fortune teller’s daughter did not believe in succumbing to the same worn cards dealt every night by hands that weren’t her own. Already, long strips of beautiful black road were crossing and uncrossing in her mind. Her fingers itched to gather and weave them into new paths only she could take.
She was gone before he opened his eyes, leaving behind a hint of candied-apple lip gloss and a taste of unsaid futures left to cool on his lips.
Jenny Wong is a writer, traveler, and occasional business analyst. She resides in the foothills of Alberta, Canada and is currently attempting to create a poetry collection about locations and regularly visit her local boxing studio. Recent publications include Atlas & Alice, Whale Road Review, Lost Balloon, and FlashFlood 2020.
Image via Unsplash.