Beware the Ides of March

It’s the fifteenth of March and seemed a fitting day to tell a story of betrayal.

Et tu, Brute?

Julius Caesar

the Fortuneteller Tells

Giggling, she dragged him into the fortuneteller’s shop. They entered into a waiting room. A plush pink velvet sofa adorned with gold piping sat against one wall. The oval, wooden coffee table was covered with pamphlets. Against a far wall stood a taller rectangular table. It held burning incense and crystals.

The melodic tinkling of the chimes brought the fortuneteller out from somewhere in the back. She was dressed as an old Romani gypsy. Tendrils of silken red hair creeped out from beneath the purple headscarf she wore. Her bright purple skirts flowed loosely about her making the red accents pop with color. Her fake Romani accent was thick with Jersey as she invited them through the bead curtain to a back room.

“Come. Come. You sit. I tell you your fortune. No?”

He hesitated though he couldn’t say why. He didn’t believe in this foolishment. He glanced at his girlfriend who was already taking a seat at the table. With a shrug, he joined her.

“You want I should do one fortune for you both? Maybe look if there’s wedding in your future?” She waggled her eyebrows. “Or, maybe you need career advice?”

“What do you think, Babe?” his girlfriend asked. “Should we get a reading on our wedding chances?”

“No way!” he replied a little too adamantly.

“Relax, Babe. I was only teasing. You can get whatever reading you want.” She reached into her purse and produced a couple of bills. “I’m gonna get the ‘life reading’ myself.”

She handed the fortuneteller $60. The woman slid the money into a beautifully adorned wooden box that sat on the table in front of her. She produced a deck of cards and handed them to the client.

“You think what you want to know,” the fortuneteller said. “Then, you shuffle, cut once, and hand them back to me.”

The woman lit incense while his girlfriend shuffled her cards. She began to hum softly. She continued to hum as she took the cards back and began laying them on the table before them.

“Let’s see now. Mhmm, mhmm, mhmm.”

The fortuneteller touched each card lightly as she made a sound. She took in a sharp intake of air on the last card. Her eyes met his, and, for a moment, he thought he saw worry. Then, she turned her attention to his girlfriend, and the moment was over. She flipped the first card.

“The wheel of fortune. That’s nice. Very nice. You will see great success in this. The wheel brings you much luck.”

She flipped another card.

“The tower, it’s upside down, you see?” She pointed but did not wait for a reply. “You’re in danger of standing in the way of all that luck and good fortune because you’re afraid. But, what you are afraid of is nothing more than being afraid to take that leap. The tower, it says you should go for it.”

She hesitated before turning the last card. She looked at him, and he felt uneasy. Then, she flipped the card.

“The moon is such an ugly card. Upside down or not, it brings only bad news. If it was upside down, I’d say your doubts are mountainous, but this.” She paused and pointed at the card, hesitating just enough to bring his girlfriend to the edge of her seat in anticipation. “It means that the danger is real, and it comes from your enemies. You have every reason to be afraid.”

His girlfriend gasped, and her hand fluttered up to her throat.

“You don’t even have enemies!” he proclaimed. “This is such nonsense, and I’ll prove it,” he said, reaching in his pocket to pull out his wallet.

He produced $60 and handed it to the woman. She slid the money into the box and handed him the deck of cards with the same instructions she’d given his girlfriend. She didn’t hum while she waited for him to return the deck nor did she hum as she laid the cards out on the table. She flipped the first.

“No surprise, you’ve got the hanged man. We see it here now, the way you’ll sacrifice yourself for her.”

She glanced at his girlfriend, who watched with bated breath as he received his reading. She flipped his next card.

“See how the moon comes back? It’s upside down, now.”

“So he’s standing in his own way, too?” his girlfriend asked.

“Oh no, honey,” the fortuneteller replied. “He’s hiding his unhappiness. He hides it even from himself, but he knows it’s there.”

The corner of her mouth turned up slightly, and he thought she was enjoying herself. Enjoying the yarn she was spinning. But, he wasn’t buying any of it. He was about to tell her as much when she flipped the third and final card.

“The magician landing upside down and in this last spot is very telling. You are being betrayed. You are being deceived by someone close to you. You are being manipulated into thinking you can trust this person.”

“Ah ha!” he shouted. “There’s your proof. She says someone has manipulated me into trusting them, but I don’t trust anyone. You know that,” he said to his girlfriend. “So, unless you are manipulating and betraying me, she is a fraud. Let’s get out of here.”

He pulled her to her feet and guided her through the bead curtain, across the waiting room, and out the door. On the sidewalk, he slipped an arm around her waist and held her close to his side as they walked down the street. She was stiff and tense, and she didn’t relax in his embrace.

“Come on,” he said. “Everyone’s waiting for us. This will be the best engagement party ever!”

“She was right, you know?” Her words were so soft he almost missed them entirely.

He froze. “What are you saying?”

“She was right. I manipulated you into trusting me, and now I’ve betrayed you.”

“It can’t be that bad,” he whispered. Please, don’t let it be that bad, he added silently.

Tears were sliding down her cheeks when she looked at him. In her eyes, he saw the truth.

“I can’t marry you,” she said as his best man came walking up to join them. “I can’t marry you because I’m having his baby.”

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