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Part 29: Fortunes And The Truth
The Artist’s Village was across from Orchard House. Right beside a rolling creek lay several wooden buildings, all with porches and awnings. Hand painted signs decorated each one, signifying which artist or craftsman set up shop there. At the first, handmade jewelry was laid out on the porch railing. Across the bottom of the awning, a few dozen brightly colored dream catchers spun, trying to catch the sun more than dreams. We stopped and spoke to the woman who was set up here. It was the very same one who crafted the jewelry we had seen on display at the Italian restaurant in town. After perusing a few of her pieces and engaging in small talk, we moved on to the next little building. Here, an older man was sitting on the steps, telling an audience of three how the local Native Americans who once graced the area made their own knives. He was deeply engaged in showing them how they used flint to shape the arrowheads, and was in the process of making one himself as he talked. I found this fascinating, but it wasn’t why we had come to the village, so we moved on.
The next was the shop of an old woman selling hand carved walking sticks ornately designed with scenes of deer, bear, and even buffalo, which I doubt were ever this far east. The intricate carvings must have taken large amounts of time to create, which accounted for the large price tag as well.
At the very last building we discovered the fortune teller. Her shop was surrounded by little stone cairns she had made from rocks drug up from the creek bed. A sign hung over the awning declaring “Fortunes Divined”, and the woman who stood there at the railing as if expecting us fit the bill of wandering gypsy. Hair wrapped up in a colorful bandana and wearing a dress so long it dragged the earth, beaded necklaces around her throat, she looked like something out of an old novel getting ready to warn us not to go to Dracula’s castle. She greeted us with a smile.
“Ah, the couple from the house,” she said.
It was easy for her to know this. After all, we were staying right across the street, and had just walked down its long driveway to the village, but the way she said it made it seem as if she were indeed expecting us.
“We’re looking to have our fortunes read.” I replied.
Now she frowned. “I don’t read fortunes.”
I was confused. “You don’t? Your sign says fortunes divined.”
“I do divine fortunes, but not as in palm reading or tarot cards, or giving vague predictions about tall dark strangers. I help others divine their fortunes, mostly in the form of finding things they have lost. Have you lost something?”
“Yes,” Summer answered. “But I don’t want it back.”
The fortune teller looked to me for a different answer. “Yeah, I lost something too,” I said, “but like her I don’t think I want it back.”
She smiled, and when she spoke her reply sounded like a doctor gently trying to tell a patient whatever they have is terminal. “Both of you should consider this. Often, lost things have a way of coming back to you. Now you can be as you say and refuse to accept it back, but remember, some things lose themselves just so you will come looking for them again.”
Great, we not only had a gypsy who didn’t tell fortunes, but she also talked so cryptic it could take weeks to decipher her meaning. So I cut to the chase. “What do you mean?”
She looked at me as if it was obvious and I was only embarrassing myself. “You lost someone you believed you loved. You are almost over this person, but something remains, some little piece of you that craves to know what was lost. If anything.”
I glanced over at Summer. She looked a bit put out, as if all this time I had been harboring a secret desire to call up Ashley and beg her to come back. Before I could tell her that was preposterous, the fortune teller fixed her with her gaze. “And you, young lady, are in the same boat. Someone you believed you could love disappointed you, and yet you still long to know why they could not love you. It is a man of course, but not necessarily this one.”
She smiled at me, as if to secretly say, ‘I’m setting this up for you, son. Don’t blow it.’
Summer smiled as gracious as she could, but I could tell the woman’s words were hitting her close to the belt. “That’s correct. But I’m not going to waste time on that particular disappointment anymore. So in this case, I guess it’s best to stay lost.”
“But what if that person could change, or perhaps he is quite not what he seems? Would recovering what was lost mean something then?”
“I suppose,” Summer answered. “But that’s not likely.”
The gypsy nodded and then cast her eyes on me. “And you darlin’, if the one you lost could change, would you wish to find her again?”
I hesitated just an instant, but it was long enough for Summer to notice. “No, I wish her to stay lost.”
The woman smiled at both of us and gave a slight bow, more for effect than any courtesy I imagine. “Then you have no need of my services. I believe you both know what you want. You just don’t know how to get there, or what to do with it once you have it.” She sighed. “But it will come to you in time. Fate always gets her way like that.”
The walk back up the drive seemed longer than the walk down. And it wasn’t because we were going uphill either. It was because of what I dreaded lying in wait once we arrived at the house. My hope had been this fortune teller would encourage Summer that something wonderful could be waiting in the wings for her instead of cryptic predictions about her father and my ex. I don’t think it helped out my cause any.
“Well, I guess that didn’t really give us any answers,” I ventured, as we trudged up the gravel drive.
“She was nice though,” Summer added, though I think there may have been some sarcasm intended there. “She was trying to hit on you, you know.”
I snickered. “Yeah, right.”
“Batting her eyelashes and calling you darling. Fishing to find out if you’d take Ashley back or if she had a chance. I could have smacked her if I hadn’t been afraid she’d put a hex on me.”
I laughed. “She wasn’t hitting on me. She was just being nice.”
“Yeah, nice, sure. Your mother was nice. This woman was..ooh, I’ll take me some of that.”
I shook my head, embarrassed. I don’t believe any girl had ever thought of me like that. “You’re nuts, “ I said.
“Maybe so,“ she agreed. “But she was checking you and your rack out.”
I stopped in the drive way. “What? I got a rack?”
“A nice one too, I might add,” she answered, matter-of-factly.
I thought I would die laughing if she hadn’t looked so serious about it. “Now see, this is why I love your company,” I admitted. “You make me laugh and smile like I haven’t in ages. And even when I say something that hurts your feelings I still find myself craving to be around you.”
“Craving? Oh, am I chocolate now?” she teased.
I started walking again, and she kept the pace with me. The laughter was over now though. We were drawing alongside her car in the drive. It was just a short walk around the corner to the back door where her bags waited. I didn’t know what else to say, what else I could do, to convince her to stay. The only thing I had left was honesty.
“Look Summer, I don’t know what’s happening between us. I don’t know what to call this that I feel.” We both stopped at the porch steps. “All I know is when I’m with you, I feel good. About myself. About the world around me. About you. And to even imagine you being gone makes me feel lost. Even more lost than…” I couldn’t finish the sentence, I couldn’t even look at her for fear she would know how scared I was. “Well, regardless, all I’m asking is if you feel the same way, or even a shade of what I feel.. Please stay. We can take these few days and figure things out together. If you needed me to be there when you faced your father, then I need you here to face..Well, whatever’s next for me.”
I heard her take a breath. I dared a glance at her face to see how she might be looking at me, and realized she too was staring down at the gravel, unable to look in my eye.
“Matthew, you know I like you. I really do. But I am scared. Absolutely terrified of my feelings. And of yours. I don’t know what this is either. I feel it, but it scares me. And I do want to run. I want to hide away where no hurt can come to me. My defense has always been to run when I find myself getting close to someone. But if I’m going to stay, I’m going to need you to keep me from running.” She finally looked up into my face and I noticed the look in her eyes was desperate, pleading. “I’m going to need you to make me stay.”
“How am I supposed to do that?”
“I don’t know.”
We stood in silence for a moment and then I stepped towards her. I opened my arms and she came into them like a prodigal returning home after a long absence. I wrapped my arms around her and pressed my lips to her ear. “Don’t run,” I whispered.
My lips grazed her cheek and I felt her sob against me, her body quietly shaking in my embrace. I kissed her cheek and spoke a quiet “shhh” in her ear. I felt her clutch me as if it were the last time she would ever do so, and then she pulled away. With her arm she wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at me with a new sense of resolve. I wasn’t sure what she was resolved to do, though. I felt I had only one more shot at convincing her, if that. I didn’t want her to go. If I knew only one thing in my life, this was it. More than anything, I wanted her here with me.
“I’m not one for begging, Summer,” I told her. “But I’m begging you now. Please stay.”
She looked up in my face, and her gaze was one of someone whose mind was almost made up, one way or another. “If you had known she wasn’t going to show for the wedding, would you have called her and begged her to show up anyway?”
The question threw me off, but I knew she wanted an answer, and only the truth would do. “I don’t want Ashley back,“ I answered.
“That’s not what I’m asking.”
I hung my head for a second, and then looked right back at her, my eyes meeting hers with the truth. “Yes, if I had known, I would have begged her.”
At first I thought she was going to cry again, for her lip trembled just slightly, before showing me the warm smile I knew her for. “Then, I’ll stay,” she said.
I took her back into my arms and held her so tight that if she changed her mind she wouldn’t be able to run, not even in place. We stood there like that, two statues of flesh and blood, perfectly molded in place. With her breath in my ear, and my kisses upon her cheek, her lips came seeking mine in a tenderness that said things our own voices could not: I need you.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.