It was Monday morning break time. Sally, Christine, Bernadette and Anna were all crowded round Maria at the far end of the playground, far away from the main school building. They were all interested in the new fortune-teller that Maria had made over the weekend. Such things were not approved of by the strict nuns who ran the school, which was why they were as far away from the school building as they could be. Maria was explaining about the fortune-teller.
“I made it on Saturday after seeing one on the television,” Maria told her friends proudly holding out the fortune-teller for them to see.
“It’s beautiful,” Christine said admiring Maria’s handiwork. Maria was the group leader and anything short of admiration of anything she made was rarely tolerated.
“I know,” Maria replied, “And it’s not just any ordinary fortune-teller. It’s the real thing. When I’d finished it I went with my mum to the supermarket, but instead of going inside I told her I’d wait in the car. But what I really did was went and found Old Clara.”
“Old Clara!” Bernadette exclaimed, with a whistle. Old Clara was a homeless old woman that lived under the bridge near the supermarket. She had a reputation of being a witch.
“You didn’t?” gasped Sally. “She’s dangerous and could have cast a spell on you or something if she felt like it.”
“Sally don’t be silly. She is a witch but she’s not dangerous. Anyway I took her some of my mum’s pie that was left over from dinner. That made her happy, and she cast a spell over the fortune-teller for me. So you see it really can tell your fortune.”
“No way!” Sally chipped in again.
“Way,” Maria replied, “Shh, here comes Sister Agnes.”
Sister Agnes passed the girls slowly as she eyed them suspiciously. “Girls,” she said by way of greeting.
“Sister Agnes,” the girls replied in unison.
“Are you hiding something, Maria Ablelove?” Sister Agnes asked as she stopped and turned to star at the girls with her steely gaze.
“No, Sister Agnes, of course not,” maria replied as sweetly as she could.
“Then take your hands from behind your back and show them to me.” Sister Agnes smiled almost triumphantly.
The other girls looked worried. They knew Maria had hidden the fortune-teller behind her back and if Sister Agnes saw it they would be in trouble for playing with it.
Maria slowly withdrew her hands from behind her back. They were empty. Maria smiled innocently.
“Very Good.” Sister Agnes turned and was back on her tour of the playground satisfied the girls were not up to anything.
As she walked away Sally held her hands out inquiringly. Maria simply put her finger to her lips and nodded in Sister Agnes’s direction. Once she thought the nun was out of earshot she smiled and pulled the fortune-teller from behind her back. “I stuffed it in the waistband of my knickers,” she said laughing. “So who’s going to go first?”
“Me, me,” Anna said as she pushed to the front of the group.
“OK, what’s your favourite colour?” Maria asked her, holding the fortune-teller forward.
“Magenta,” Anna replied.
The other girls burst out laughing, while Maria had a very serious look on her face. “Anna, you can only chose one of the colours shown on here.”
“Oh sorry, but magenta is my favourite colour. So Red, then.” Anna had coloured up and her face was almost as red as the square on the fortune-teller.
“R – E – D.” Maria said moving the fortune-teller first one way then the other with each letter. “What’s your favourite number?”
This time Anna was careful to look at the fortune-teller and find out which numbers were available before she said making her choice, “Three,”
“One, Two, Three,” maria said moving the fortune-teller back and forth again.
“OK, six or nine?” She said as she opened up the fortune-teller to reveal Anna’s future.
“Six,” Anna said. She as slightly nervous now what the fortune-teller might tell her. Despite being a good Catholic girl she was still superstitious and was worried that Maria might have a charmed fortune-teller in her hands and that her fortune was about to be told for real.
“You will marry twice and have two children and a dog,” Maria said seriously.
“I’m Catholic. I can’t marry twice,” Anna said, “It’s just not possible. I will marry once and for love.”
The other girls laughed. They weren’t sure if they believed the fortune-teller was charmed or not, but they all wanted to see what it would predict for them.
“Me next,” Said Sally enthusiastically.
“OK, So what’s your favourite colour?” Maria asked beginning the whole process again. At the end of the questions Sally was told that she would marry someone from far away and go to live in a foreign land.
Bernadette was next. The fortune-teller told of untold riches for her, but no romance.
Christine said she didn’t want to have a go, but suggested she could do it for Maria. At first Maria was reluctant to let anyone else take charge of her charmed device, but gave in after the other girls carried on pestering her. Maria’s favourite colour was blue and her favourite number seven. Christine told her that she would marry a rich man and run her own company.
“Come on Christine. have a go. It’s just a bit of fun really,” Anna said.
“I don’t know.” Christine replied, handing the fortune-teller back to Maria.
The other girls tried to get Christine to join in, but she wasn’t keen at all.
“Well I know your favourite colour is green,” Maria said counting off the letters and moving the fortune-teller back and forth.
“No, Stop,please,” Christine begged worriedly.
“Too late now, the charm has started…” Maria told her. “What’s your favourite number?”
Christine didn’t say anything. She wanted to run away, but knew that would alienate her from the girls she loved more than anything.
Sally looked into the fortune-teller. “Six, there. Six, I know that’s your favourite number. I remember it from when we did that thing ages ago with Sister Dorothy,”
“OK, Six” Maria counted the numbers as she moved the fortune-teller.
“And look six is still visible, so six again,” Sally said. She hugged Christine to her. “It’s just a game, Chris, and we’ve chosen your future.”
Christine shrugged and pulled away. Although she hadn’t really taken part, on one hand she was keen to her what the fortune-teller had in store for her while on the other she was scared it might just come true.
As Maria opened the fortune-teller she looked slightly taken aback.
“What does it say?” Sally and Bernadette asked together.
“It , er, It says…. you will have a long and happy life by the sea, with a wonderful husband and five children,” Maria eventually told them falteringly.
“Phew I thought you were going to say something horrid,” Christine said with relief, “But five children. I don’t think so.”
The other girls giggled nervously. They had talked about making babies before and it all sounded too gross to them.
“OK, let’s promise to meet in twenty years on this date to see how true it all is,” Sally suggested.
As soon as the bell went to signal the restart of lessons the girls made a pact to meet. Walking back to the school building Maria held back and signalled to Sally to do the same. The other girls were rushing on ahead giggling about what their futures might hold.
“It didn’t say that for Christine,” Maria confided in Sally, “But you can’t tell anyone. Promise?”
“I promise,” Sally said solemnly. “What did it say?”
“It said ‘you will not live longer that your thirtieth birthday’ and I know for a fact that I didn’t write that in there. I’m scared, Sally. Do you think it might be charmed? I mean really charmed?”
Sally thought Maria was pulling her leg so simply agreed with her. “Wow, Maria. I guess it must be. Don’t worry though we’ll all be back in twenty years to find out ….”