Noah and Joseph reappeared from the multitudes, then. My little brother looked pale and shaken. Noah’s blue-gray eyes were lit with amusement.
“How was the ride?” I asked.
Joseph lifted his chin and shrugged. “It was okay.”
“He was very brave,” Noah said. A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
The four of us meandered until Joseph stopped us and pointed up. A huge menacing clown face towered over the entrance to a garishly painted building.
“Hall of Mirrors! Yes!”
Daniel must have noticed my unease because he put his arm around Joseph’s shoulder. “I got this,” he said to Noah and me. “You guys have fun.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Joseph called back, and the crowd swallowed them up.
A slightly wicked smile appeared on Noah’s lips. My favorite. “It seems we’re on our own,” he said.
It did. “It does.”
“What shall we do with this newfound freedom?”
The twinkling lights accented the angles of his high cheekbones. Noah’s chestnut hair was a tousled, gorgeous mess.
I’m sure we can think of something, I thought. I was about to say so when I heard a voice behind us.
“Would the young lovers like their fortunes told?”
We turned to find a woman wearing the traditional costume: long and flowy printed skirt, check. Peasant blouse, check. Wavy black hair spilling out of a head wrap, check. Too much makeup, check. Regulation gold hoop earrings, check.
“I think we’ll pass,” I said to Noah. No need to tempt fate. “Unless you want to?”
He shook his head. “Thanks anyway,” he told her as we headed away.
“You must not go out there,” she called out after me.
I felt a rush of familiarity as her words tickled the back of my mind.
“What did you just say?” I’d heard those words before.
The fortune-teller peered at me with guarded eyes, her expression mysterious. “Come with me and I will explain.”
Noah sighed. “Look—”
“It’s okay,” I said, glancing up at him. “I want to go.”
Noah raised an eyebrow, his expression darkly amused. “As you wish,” he said to me, and we began to walk.
We followed the woman as she wove a path through the people to a small striped tent. She held the flap open; there were twinkle lights and crystals, flocked tablecloths and hanging tapestries. They adorned the little space without irony. Noah and I stepped in.
The fortune-teller shook her head at Noah. “You may wait outside,” she said to him. “My daughter will show you where. Miranda!” she called.
A sullen-looking girl with a pink streak in her hair appeared from behind a beaded curtain.
“Please offer this young man some tea. Show him where to sit.”
The girl, who was about thirteen or fourteen, seemed like she was about to roll her eyes until she noticed Noah; the long line of him leaning carelessly against the frame, the slight sarcastic smile on his perfect mouth. Her demeanor changed instantly and she drew herself up.
“Come on,” she said to him, and tipped her head toward the curtain.
He looked to me.
“I’ll be okay,” I said, nodding. “Go.”
Once they were gone, the fortune-teller gestured to a plastic folding chair beside a round card table that was swathed in cheap fabric. I sat. There was a deck of cards in front of me. Tarot, I presumed.
“Money first,” she said, and held out her hand.
Of course. I reached into my pocket and withdrew her fee. She tucked the cash into the folds of her skirt and then stared at me for a beat, like she was expecting something else.
I had no idea what. When she didn’t stop staring, I said, “So do I cut the deck, Miss . . .”
“Madam . . . what?”
“Madam Rose,” I said with mock seriousness. I glanced up at a crystal ball sitting on a shelf. “Is the pseudonym thing a requirement too?”
Her expression was grave. “There is power in a name.”
The words filled my heart with ice. They echoed in my mind but in someone else’s voice. I blinked, and shook my head to clear it.
“Do you have a question?” she asked, breaking the silence.
I swallowed and refocused on Madam Rose. “What do you mean?”
“A question you seek an answer to.”
A bitter smile twisted my lips. I had tons of questions. All I had were questions. What’s happening to me? What am I? “I have lots of questions,” I finally said.
“Think carefully,” she warned. “If you ask the wrong questions, you will get the wrong answers.” Then she nodded at the deck.
I reached for it but paused before my fingers made contact. My heart thundered against my ribs.
Madam Rose noticed my hesitation and dipped her head, catching my eyes. “I can do a different type of reading, if you like.”
“Give me your hands,” she said. I reluctantly placed mine in hers, palm up. She shook her head and her earrings swung with the movement; she flipped my hands over, palm down. Then she rolled her neck, her long hair draping her face like a veil. She said nothing. The silence stretched on uncomfortably.
“Hush,” she hissed. The fortune-teller drew her head up and examined my hands. She studied them for a few moments, then closed her heavily shadowed eyes.
I sat there while she held my hands and waited—for what, I didn’t know. After another length of time, I don’t know how long, her red lips parted. Her eyelids twitched. She tilted her head slightly up and to the left, her forehead creased in concentration. Her fingers twitched around mine and then tightened. I was getting freaked out and I nearly pulled away, but before I could, her eyes flew open.
“You must leave him.” Her words cut the air.
A few seconds passed before I found my voice. “What are you talking about?”
“The boy with the gray eyes. The one outside.”
“Why?” I asked warily.
“The boy is destined for greatness, but with you, he is in danger. You are linked, the two of you. You must leave him. This is what I have seen.”
I grew frustrated. “Is he in danger because of me?”
“He will die before his time with you by his side, unless you let him go. Fate or chance? Coincidence or destiny? I cannot say.” Her voice had turned soft.