The gypsies had been at the bottom of Farmer Dolton’s field for a week now. I had seen them on my way to the school house and back each day. They collected water, attended their horses, re-build their fires, cooked meals and talked in small groups. The sun shone off their brightly colored clothes and their strange accented voices filled the air. They seemed magical to me.
Everybody told me not to go near them. My teacher explained. ‘they are uneducated,ill-mannered and thieves. Not something young respectable ladies should be staring at.’
The priest said, ‘we shouldn’t love them like our neighbors for they are beyond God’s help. They worship Satan! We should all stay clear of them because they will led us into temptation! Just like the snake did to Eve.’
My maid added, ‘they kidnap children and sell them off to fairies!’
I wasn’t sure I believed any of them. I guess that’s why I did it. I sneaked under the fence and into their camp, early Saturday morning. The air smelt like burnt fire wood and herbs, mixed with the stench of horse stables. I moved around the heavily decorated caravans, my skirts all tugged in and trying to be as quiet as possible. Luckily, no one was around.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. I jumped, screaming and tumbling to the floor. Though my loose hair covered my face, I could see an old woman standing before me. She was bent over, leaning on a twisted stick which her gnarled hands seemed to be a part of. Her hair was long and light grey, her brown face heavy with wrinkles. She was wearing a bright orange skirt, dark cream blouse and a brown waist corset.
She looked at me, no doubt noticing my fine blue dress, black leather boots, matching blue hat and blonde hair. I got to my feet, brushing my hair back and then fluffing out my skirts. I wasn’t feeling afraid, what could this old woman do to me?
‘Your fortune told for a few coins, child,’ she spoke in a cracked voice that reminded me of bare tree branches rubbing together in the wind.
‘My fortune?’ I questioned.
She nodded and uttered, ‘I see all that the fates allow to be seen. Cross my hand with sliver and I’ll read your palm.’
I frowned, not sure I had any silver on me. There’s only a few copper coins in my coin pouch but I had been saving them to buy sweets with after church tomorrow.
‘Don’t you want to know if you will marry a good husband?’ the old gypsy asked, ‘led a comfortable life? Be blessed with children?’
‘I am too young to marry!’ I cried.
‘Does not matter. All our fates are already written,’ she spoke then held a hand out to me.
I tugged my red coin pouch out, opened it and stared in. I pulled out two copper coins and give them to her. There was still three left for sweets now.
She whipped the coins away faster then I thought she could move. She grabbed my arm, took off my white glove and raised my hand so close to her face I could feel her warm breath on my skin. I felt a pinch like pain and I tried to wiggle away from her, but her grip was so tight!
The old women began muttering under her breath and I could feel the tips of her long finger nails against my skin.
‘There has been a lot of tragedy in your life, I see,’ she mused, ‘too much death; brothers, mother and grandma. No doubt there will be more. You will marry twice but only have three children. You’ll have a long life but death will carry on shadowing you.’
I stared at her in shock and looked down at my palm. Questions popped into my hand, but I could not find my voice.
‘Beware of traveling over seas. There’s great danger in distant lands for you. I can see you are a strong, curious lady, that might cause trouble for you, but it will also save you. Reading will make you wise and respected. You will write and that will let you be comfortable in your old age.’
She stopped and looked at me with sparkling eyes.
‘That’s all?’ I whispered.
She let go of my hand, ‘all that’s in your palm,’ she replied.
I looked at all the lines crossing my palm and wondered how she could see all of that. The banging of a door made me jump and I saw a shirtless man coming out of one of the caravans close behind us.
‘Be off with you child,’ the old woman hissed, ‘ ’tis no place for ladies like you.’
Clutching my skirts, I dashed passed the old gypsy and to the fence. There I stopped and looked back. The old woman had hobbled away and was talking to the man as he washed at a bucket. I slipped through the fence and ran all the way home. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. My fortune was my own.