Soft and sad.
A fist closed around my heart. I tried to let him go once before. It didn’t work.
“I can’t,” was all I said to her, and quietly.
“Then you will love him to ruins,” she said, and let my hands go.
SHE WITHDREW THE CASH FROM HER POCKET AND offered it back to me. “I cannot take this from you, and you must not tell him what I said.”
“That’s convenient,” I muttered under my breath.
“If you leave him, tell him,” she said with a shrug, “by all means. But only if you let him go. If he knows of his destiny and the two of you remain together, it will seal his fate.” She gestured to the door.
I didn’t move. “That’s it?”
“I cannot help you further,” she said.
My nostrils flared. “You didn’t help at all.” My voice was sharp, but then it thinned. “Isn’t there something I can do?”
She crossed the small space and stood by the door. “Yes. There is something you can do. You can let him go. If you truly love him, you will let him go.”
My throat tightened as I looked at her. Then I marched out of the tent.
Noah was waiting outside and matched my pace as I stomped down the dirt path.
“Bad news?” he asked, clearly amused.
I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand and kept walking.
“Wait,” he said, reaching for my hand and spinning me around. “Are you crying?”
I pulled away. “No.”
“Stop,” Noah said, and stood in the path. I hurried along and increased my pace to a jog. Before I knew it I was running.
We were nearly back by the Hall of Mirrors when Noah caught up with me. I felt a hand on my shoulder and whirled around.
“Mara,” he said softly. “Why are you running from me?”
And that undid me. The tears came faster than I could wipe them away. Noah took my hand and pulled me behind one of the game booths, then wrapped me in his arms. He stroked my hair.
“What did she say?”
“I can’t tell you,” I said between quiet sobs.
“But it’s the reason you’re crying, yes?”
I nodded into his soft shirt. He felt so solid beneath my cheek. I didn’t want to let go.
But Noah took a slight step back, pulling away, and tilted my face up with his hand. “This is going to sound mean, but I don’t mean it that way.”
“Just say it.” I sniffed.
“You’re gullible, Mara,” he said quietly, and his voice was kind. “An easy mark. A few weeks ago it was hypnosis and Santeria. Now it’s possession and tarot.”
“She didn’t do a tarot reading.”
Noah sighed and dipped his head. “It doesn’t matter what she did. What matters is what you believe. And you’re highly suggestible—you hear something offhand and suddenly you think it’s an all-embracing explanation.”
I glared at him, but there was no heat behind it. “At least I’m trying to find one.”
Noah’s eyes closed. “I’ve been trying to find one for years, Mara. It hasn’t led me anywhere. Look,” he said as he opened his eyes, taking my hand and lacing his long fingers through mine. “We’ll go straight back to her and I’ll double her money to admit the truth and she’ll tell you she made the whole thing up. To put on a good show. I’m not letting some con artist upset you this way.”
“She didn’t take my money,” I said quietly. “She didn’t have anything to gain by lying.”
“You never know what another person stands to gain or lose by anything.” He pulled me back onto the path. “Let’s go.”
When we made it back to her tent, a sign was hung over the entrance that said BACK IN ONE HOUR. Noah ignored it and pushed the flap open.
The fortune-teller’s daughter sat in a small overstuffed armchair reading a magazine. There was a Ouija board on the table in front of her. I looked away.
“Where’s your mother, Miranda?” Noah’s eyes roamed the small tent.
The girl cracked her gum and looked at me. She blew a fat pink bubble, then sucked it back into her mouth. “She got you good, huh?”
Noah arched an eyebrow at me.
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
“You bought her Madam Rose crap?” she asked me. “Look, her real name is Roslyn Ferretti and she’s from Babylon, Long Island. You’d get better predictions from a Magic Eight Ball,” she said to me. Then turned back to her magazine.
Noah tilted the page down with one finger. “Where can we find her?”
Miranda shrugged. “Getting high probably, behind The Screaming Dead Man.”
“Thanks,” Noah said, and we left the tent. He held my hand and walked like he knew where we were going. “See?” he said gently. “It isn’t real.”
I didn’t respond. I didn’t trust my voice.
An intimidatingly tall tower rose in front of us, right next to the Ferris wheel. A small car ascended slowly into the air; I assumed it would eventually fall in one drop. We hooked back behind the ride, searching for the woman as we walked. Noah led me around a patch of dirt; we wandered until it became grass and then, finally, we saw her.
Madam Rose, aka Roslyn Ferretti, was sitting perched on a small rock, the hem of her skirt pooled at her feet. Smoking a joint, just as her daughter predicted.
“Hey,” Noah called out.
The woman coughed and hastily moved her hand behind her back. Her eyes were bloodshot and unfocused. When she recognized me, she shook her head. “I already gave you your money back.”
“Why did you say those things?” I asked quietly.
Her eyes roamed over the two of us. She lifted the cigarette back to her mouth and inhaled deeply. “Because they were true,” she then said, exhaling the words in a cloud of cloying smoke. Her eyes began to close.
Noah snapped his fingers in her face. She pushed his hand away. “Listen closely,” he said. “I’ll give you a hundred dollars to admit you made it up.”
She looked at me then, her eyes suddenly sharp. “Did you tell him?”
I opened my mouth to insist that I didn’t, but Noah spoke before I had the chance.
“A thousand,” he said darkly.
She gave him a long look. “I can’t take your money.”
“Don’t fuck with me,” Noah said. “We know you’re a fraud, Roslyn, so please do yourself a favor and admit it.”