After parting from the others, Wil and Matilda decided to walk around for awhile. She wanted to see the older, non-tourist area of town. They strolled casually down streets that grew progressively narrow and shabby. Wil put his arm protectively around her shoulders. As they wandered the seedier parts of town, they walked past a sign advertising: Lady Lena, Psychic Readings.
It had an arrow pointing down the street. In the next block, another sign. Learn your future! See Lady Lena to find out what the stars hold for you! There was another arrow. A third sign in the next block said: Does he love you? Ask Lady Lena!
Matilda eyed this last sign for a few moments. “Hm, that’s a very good question to ask Lady Lena. Maybe I should find her.”
Wil turned her toward him, her fingers entwined with his. “If you really have to ask someone, why not ask me?” He kissed her gently.
“Do you love me, Wil?”
“More than life, Romance.”
Walking a little further, a large sign stood in a front yard. In screaming orange, chartreuse and gold, it said: What does your future hold? Ask Lady Lena! No appointment necessary! Walk in and have a seat!
She tugged his hands. “Let’s go in and see her.” She pointed to a small Open sign in the window.
Wil held back cautiously, not from fear but courtesy. He knew how telepaths reacted to him and he didn’t want to hurt anyone. “Baby, if she is a real telepath—they don’t like me much.”
“Oh, how could she be? It’ll be fun. I’ve always wanted to have a psychic reading done. Come on!” She tugged his hand doggedly.
He reluctantly followed her to the porch of an old house on a back street. The door opened quietly inward, the hinges smooth and soundless. A dry, raspy voice emanated from a back room behind the faded curtain of cheap green beads. “You are expected, children. Come in and be quick!”
The room was Spartan with a single round table top sitting on crates. Three chairs surrounded it. The small room smelled of decay and mold. A timeworn ceiling fan moved the thick, moist air with very little effect. The beads jangled aside, moved by a gnarled, age spotted hand, more like a crustaceous claw than a human appendage. An old woman stepped through. The ancient, wrinkled face gazed up at them. Her clear, bright green eyes bored into theirs; steady, calm, unwavering. Wisps of thin, white hair were pushed back with another frail and trembling clawlike hand. She wore a faded black woolen dress; long sleeved, even in the oppressive heat. Around her tiny shoulders was a white knit shawl.
She smiled up at Wil, then turned to Matilda. “Welcome, my dears. Please sit.”
Wil remained standing. Matilda sat across from the old lady who hobbled to her seat. She was the tiniest woman Matilda had ever seen. Just over four feet tall, her body was frail and thin. Her gaze compelled Wil to sit reluctantly at Matilda’s side.
“Let me see your hands, child,” she said to Matilda.
Slowly, she raised her hands, holding them across the table. The old woman reached over gracefully, taking Matilda’s hands in hers. Like moths in the dark, her touch was light, fluttering. Lady Lena studied them, muttering to herself.
“These are good, strong hands. You’ve worked hard in your life, my dear.”
Lady Lena turned the palms up, tracing the lines with one delicate finger. A hiss escaped her lips. She took the other hand, tracing those lines too. She studied the palms a few moments longer, going over and over the lifeline with her nail. With a decisive nod, Lady Lena drew a dome shaped object from her lap. It could have been wood or metal, it was impossible to tell, for it was more ancient than she. The lid was dark and sleek, polished to a dull sheen, as if hundreds of hands had held it, caressing it tenderly for centuries. It was devoid of all ornamentation, with no visible seams.
Chanting, she closed her eyes, moving her hands over the box once, twice, three times. She pressed both hands on the sides of the domed container. Leaning across the table, she slid the box toward them.
“Place your right hands on the dome. If it opens, take what is offered.”
“And if it doesn’t open?” Wil asked.
The old woman’s eyes flashed brilliant green, a suppressed fire dwindled to almost nothing, throbbing in the iris. “If it doesn’t open, then I have wasted our time.” Lifting her chin, she gestured sharply to the box. “Touch it.”
They did as she told them. The dome felt warm, pulsating and sleek. Suddenly, the box flew open without a sound, startling Matilda, making her jump. Wil stiffened in his chair.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes