shall tell your fortune anyway, she declared.
I can tell when someone needs their fortune telling.
tell your fortune, she said looking directly at me,
vanilla and chocolate ice-cream smeared on one cheek. But
you have to promise not to hate me afterwards.
I stared at her with surprise. I was uncertain of my situation
It was a sunny morning, it is always a sunny morning in
St Maxime on the shores of the Cap dAzure. A man likes
to read his newspaper in peace with his cafe creme. She
did not look like a fortune teller. She was about eight
years old and sat in the cafe alone with a large and very
patient Doberman at her feet, who looked up at her with
keen anticipation that a tidbit would be coming. She wore
a delicate pink embroidered cardigan and pleated skirt with
huge black Caterpillar boots on her feet. She was concentrating
on her ice cream as she scooped it out of the chartreuse
green goblet. The cafe was utterly deserted - somehow I
had utterly missed her arriving and being served as I read
Do you always tell fortunes to strangers, I
asked her, wondering at the exquisite far-eastern eyes in
her petite western face. She had wonderful confident manner
and her hair was tied back to one side to prevent it going
in the ice-cream. She turned to stare at me, thinking, her
lips pursed liked a bright red button on her frowning face.
I immediately had this image of her breaking boys hearts
all over the world and knew, with certainly, that she had
a great capacity for sulking until she got her own way.
I could tell her fortune. Her delicate hands worked
over the ice cream and she seemed deep in thought. A motor
scooter went by disturbing the moment.
I shall tell your fortune anyway, she declared.
I can tell when someone needs their fortune telling.
Perhaps you will be critical. After all, a young girl, a
male stranger. But I thought it best to let her do her party
trick, no harm could come from it and besides, I had no
fortune. Just another peniless writer trying to get by.
Maybe she would give up those correct elusive winning lottery
numbers we all crave.
I smiled at her, she took her cue.
You dont come from around here, she began.
It is an easy one, the only people who come from around
here are the ones serving café creme or owning the
restaurants that cater to the passing trade. Besides both
she and I were speaking English. Her English was polished
and assured, with an accent, Hong Kong via Vancouver or
Taiwan via London. A displaced rich kid, there are a lot
I think you came from Africa, she declared.
I see you standing on a roof, a mountain behind you.
I tried to remain impassive and put away memories of my
home in Cape Town and the flat topped mountain that dominates
everything. It had been a long time now. Nevertheless an
You're always moving, you never stay long anywhere.
You have three places you call home.
One has ... she frowned flowers that grow inside.
I mean, the garden and home are mixed up'.
I nodded, she deserved a little present for that. Florida.
Its a courtyard, the bougainvillea grows everywhere,
The owners havent the heart to cut it back.
She looked away suddenly, touching on something she didn't
like. You had a wife. She ...I can see blood. I can
see a gun. My little fortune teller went quiet pale.
I sought to quickly reassure her.
It was a shark gun, went off by mistake. She didnt
She still calls you. The colour was returning
to her face now. No one had died. Janine had been fighting
with me, she picked up the shark gun in anger. It went off
immediately. I was pinned to the wall. Could have been worse.
I didnt lose my arm , the scar is all.
You still love her, my fortune teller told me,
then snatched a curious look at me. You wish you had
a child of your own...like me.
I said nothing, you cant change anything. That's the
nature of fortune tellers. They tell you what you know to
make you believe in the rest. But so far she had gotten
it all. She had a genuine gift. I began to fear for her.
I hoped her parents werent exploiting her.
You want to change your job I think, or do something
else. She paused, taking another taste of ice-cream,
thinking about what was going on in my mind. An artist,
you want to be an artist, but not a painter. She looked
at me for confirmation.
Photography, I always wanted to be a photographer.
You are afraid you are going to be poor again, but
you will find that something you have is worth more than
you think. You will have an exhibition. Not yet. But soon.'
I smiled, shaking my head with wonder. I hope you
She shrugged and gave me a confident, I am '.
She swallowed some more ice cream then and instantly scooped
up another and dropped it into the waiting arms of her dog
who barely swallowed, watching her intently in case there
would be more.
He likes vanilla best, she explained.
A discerning dog.
He isnt mine, hes looking after me.
Doing an excellent job, I declared.
Youre going to fall in love in February and
she will make you happy. Shell be different to what
you expect. Youll want to stay in just one place,
for a while.
I looked at this child and her serious look of concern.
I found myself hoping that she was right. Ridiculous, but
she declared all this with such authority one couldn't help
be be momentarily convinced.
Does anyone ever tell your fortune? I asked.
All the time, she answered quickly, but
I dont like it.
Their future. I know my future.
Tell me your future.
Her eyes narrowed as she thought about it. It will
be tragic. It will be beautiful.
You will be beautiful and have many lovers,
I told her.
I will fall for a man who will lock me up in a castle
and not let anyone see me.
That would be truly tragic.
He will be killed and I will be sad. There will be
A war? When will that be? Selfishly I was thinking
of myself again. So many places where 'little wars' were
being played out now. One wouldn't want to be in the wrong
place at the wrong time.
When I am nineteen, it will start on my birthday and
all the world will be very angry.
I just knew from looking at her that she could really see
this and the anger was real.
That is why you must enjoy your life now, she
added. My Aunt Ling says that all the time. Dont
She tells your fortune? I asked.
She shook her head. She talks to me, here.' She indicated
her head. 'She says you have missed many opportunities to
Your Aunt passed away? This child had more than
a gift. A dead aunt as mentor. Useful.
When she was young. She said that you can pay for
I smiled. Of course Aunt Ling would say that, but she was
right about the lost opportunities.
You think Im strange?
Not as strange as your Aunt. Do you tell many fortunes?
Youre my first.
Really? I wasnt sure I believed her at
all. She was so good at it.
I have to go. She suddenly stood up and the
dog followed, bumping its head on the table, nearly upsetting
the ice-cream goblet. She looked at me, something else having
occurred to her. Her name is Genie.
The woman you will marry.
A man stood at the door, unsteady on his feet, drunk at
ten-thirty in the morning. He looked rough and unshaved, his shirt was un-ironed. The
dog immediately hunched and bowed its head, clearly
afraid of the man, but the girl wasnt afraid. Shed
seen this before. The man looked at me. Is she bothering
Not at all, she is very polite.
The man pulled a face and produced a twenty Euro note from
his shirt pocket.
Get your mother something to eat. I told you not to
bring that fucking dog in here. If hes pissed on the
floor hes going to get it and itll be your fault.
The girl glared at him. Wolfie hasnt done anything.
She snatched the money from his hands and ran off, the nervous
dog taking a wider route around the man, followed her as
fast as it could.
I watched her go, not a glance back. The man turned and
went back into the street.
I was puzzled, but not surprised. Her father? An Uncle?
I hoped it wasn't her father.
And then I was alone with my fortune, a cup of cold coffee
and, I abruptly noticed on the back of the girls bill for
the ice-cream a note for me.
It will all come true - A
I await February now. Often I wonder if Anna is safe
and look for her when I go for coffee, but she has never
reappeared. I think of the man out there who will want
to lock her up in a castle one day. Most times I think about
the capacity of a child to surprise us.
It will all come true - A
© Sam North 2000
You can buy Sam's novel Diamonds
- The Rush of '72 here