A Penny Wish #CCC

Girl on Bank CCC25

She sat by the river, playing with the one pence coin in her hand. She had found it on the walk here and it was good luck to pick up money. The penny wasn’t worth keeping though, instead she kissed the cool copper surface, made a wish and threw it into the river.

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/05/01/crimsons-creative-challenge-25/ with thanks).

Fortune

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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.

Music Mystery

Balancing the old guitar on my knee, I still couldn’t believe the bargain I had gotten. Even with the new strings, I still felt worried that I had ripped the charity shop off. A smile crept on to my face at the two old biddies that had stood arguing behind the counter. They both had had wispy pinked hair and glasses perched on their noses. Their wrinkle faces had been so animated and their lipstick dabbed mouths popping like fishes’. I think they had both been wearing blue pinafores too.

I had stayed quiet and a few minutes later, the first one had keyed up the till and demanded a fiver off me. Trying not to laugh, I handed it over and received back the guitar. Now in my one-bedroom apartment, the instrument played beautifully. Strumming the old strings made me realise how worn and too twinge they sounded. The guitar sang of how it had been loved and played every day.

Having replaced the strings, I decided to dust the inside sections and then wipe some bee’s wax over the body. Carefully dusting, my fingers hit something. I wrapped the cloth around it and pulled it out. There was a piece of paper folded into a small square. Placing everything down, I folded the paper and saw it was a hand drawn map at the centre of which was taped a coin.

I pulled the coin off and looked it at. On both sides was the fading image of a guitar. I had never seen a coin like that before. I looked down at the map and saw the title, Best places to busk. It was a map of Manchester city centre with roads covered in different symbols. Running the coin over my fingers, I turned the paper and saw the shapes listed in a key. I had never busked and I only played the guitar for pleasure.

Still though, everyone needed the extra money these days. Placing the map and coin on the table, I picked up the guitar and finished off cleaning it. Afterwards and before I got ready for bed, I looked up Manchester’s rules about busking and realised that I wouldn’t need a licence and as long as I stuck to a few simple rules, I could perform. That made me more determined and with tomorrow being Saturday, I decided to give it a shot.

Arriving in the city centre, I followed the map to a seemly quiet street in the Northern Quarter. It was the nearest spot to me, but also the key listed it as a good place to start. Standing under the street sign, I put the guitar case on the floor and pulled out the instrument. I spent a few minutes sorting things out, then I placed a handful of coins in the case and began playing.

Even though the area had seemed empty, moments after starting up people began walking passed me, dropping coins at my feet. I nodded my thanks and carried on playing. I wasn’t that good a singer, but strangely the urge to start adding the lyrics came to me. My voice rose and fell with the guitar as more people came by.

Forty minutes later, I paused and looked down at the shining coins. There was a lot more then I had expected. I sipped some water and pulled out the map and strange coin. Looking for the next location, I rubbed the coin between my fingers. There was another street at the back of the Northern Quarter, outside the cinema.

I headed over and set up to play again. The same thing happened, only this time a small crowd gathered to watch me. The jingle of coins became mixed in with the notes of the guitar and my voice. I told myself I wasn’t just doing it for the money, I wanted to entertain and inspire. As that thought curled around me like a sleepy kitten, I realised that it was the first time I had thought such a thing about my hobby.

I took a break at lunch and decided to place all the money I had earned into the rucksack I had brought with me. I had made over thirty pounds already. Shocked, I went to get a sandwich and on the way out I give some money to a homeless man. After I had eaten I studied the map, placing the next three street names into my mind. The first was on Market Street, the second Spring Gardens and third St Ann’s Square.

I went to the first and began playing. I seemed to draw in an even bigger crowd then before and my confidence grew. The rest of the afternoon was spent like that. I moved around from street to street playing and singing, coins dropping my way. I didn’t want to pack up and go home, but my fingers and throat were hurting too much.

I placed the guitar, map and coin on top of alot of coins in the case and went to catch the bus. I dozed off and awoke just before my stop. Getting off and arriving at my building, the only thought in my head was to shower and change. It wasn’t until I was getting ready for bed, that I decided to count up the money I had made.

Seventy pounds and sixty-seven pence were stacked in coins on my coffee table. I sat back and smiled. That map and coin had been useful. I doubt I would have been able to make that kind of money on my own. I should do something useful with it though. I earned an all right income from my full job already and though the extra odd pounds a week would be good. There were more people out there at needed it.

I bagged up the money and decided to look into local homeless charities I could give the money too. Picking up the guitar, I inspected it more closely, but could see no markings or anything. As for the map and coin, there was nothing else to them. Maybe it was just coincidence and had nothing to do with magic or supernatural elements?

Sighing, I went to bed knowing I’d probably never know the answer.