Ana adjusted the backpack on her shoulders. She couldn’t keep the smile from her face as she looked into the gorgeous afternoon sky. It seemed so much brighter in the countryside outside the city. She sighed and dropped her pack.
“Hey guys, wait a minute! I wanna get a picture.”
The trio of friends she’d come hiking with paused at the rise of the hill. “Just use your phone.”
“But my Nikon is better.” She unzipped her pack and pulled out her good camera. Bringing it up to her eye, she snapped a few shots of her friends on the rise then some of the little dip of a valley she stood. She really should have been paying attention to her footing. A step back and before her friends could shout a warning, she tumbled down the hill, landing in a thatch of fragrant lavender.
No sooner had Ana landed than a heavy weight crawled over her. She had barely a moment to realize a man had crawled on top of her but he looked just as confused and frightened as he was. She screamed and flailed. The shutter of her camera went off several times then he was gone. She sat up in the lavender and whipped around.
Her friends hurried down the hill. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. I’m fine. Where did he go?”
She whipped her head around again. There was no possible way he could have hidden. There was nowhere TO hide. “I thought…” She touched her chest where she had felt his weight against her.
Her friends looked between each other. “Let’s call it a day shall we?” They helped her up the hillside to retrieve their packs then headed back into the city. Ana looked over her shoulder at the patch of lavender. No way she had imagined him…
Ivar sat at the table in the hall, his flagon untouched. Ubbe nudged his arm and gestured to both is untouched wine and food. Ivar waved him away. The older brother looked across the table to the brother that was between their years.
Hvitserk furrowed his brow. Ivar’s pensive stare never left the fire. “Something on your mind, brother?”
“Nothing more than usual.” His piercing blue eyes reflected the fire light.
“You have not touched food or drink. Sigurd said you were spooked when you returned from the woods this afternoon.”
“Sigurd talks too much.” Ivar glanced at his brothers, finding them watching him expectantly. He sighed in dejection and took a large mouthful of the roasted meat then washed it down with half the flagon of wine. They were still not appeased. He narrowed his eyes then angrily tore a chunk from the bread and shoved it into his mouth. He finished off his wine. His brothers looked to one another then resumed their own meals.
Ivar said nothing as he left the table then the hall. No way would he tell them of the girl he saw in the woods. That she had not been there, then she had been then she was gone again. He’d had but a moment to see her but he’d seen enough. Hair the color of warm honey, eyes as green as the grass upon which she lay. Her breasts had practically spilled out the top of …whatever it is she’d been wearing. And her legs, long and toned and on display for him to devour… He licked his lips at the memory of her underneath him.
He sat by the water in the moonlight, wondering where she had disappeared to. Did she think of him now? He gave his head a shake. These soft-headed thoughts were alien to him. But then so was she and he longed to know her. He’d tasted fear in her and felt her strength. He must find her again.
The four of them had drank entirely too much. They leaned on each other as they swayed and sang their way through the streets. The flickering neon for a fortune teller drew Ana’s attention. Her sobriety increased as she bounced, clinging to her friend’s arm.
“No, it’s late and we’re fucked. Let’s just get back to the hotel.”
“Aw, you’re no fun.”
“We’ll come back tomorrow before we start drinking.”
“But then it won’t be AS fun.”
“Besides, they probably won’t let us in in our state.”
“Fine, you go on ahead and I’ll pop in.”
“Ana, that’s not a good idea.”
“I’ll be fine. Look.” She touched her fingers to the tip of her nose. “And I can see the hotel from here. My phone is fully charged. And if I start feeling funny, I’ll call a cab or the police or something.”
“You’re sure.” They looked between themselves. “One of us should stay.”
“No, I’m positive. I’ll be fine.” She nodded. “You go on ahead.”
Ana danced away from her friends, caught between the need for safety in numbers and the need for her curiosity to be satisfied. She felt a petulant anger at their refusal to join her. It’s not like anything would come of this. It was a fortune teller. She gave one final wave to her friends as she pushed in the door.
It was like something out of an 80’s TV show. Low light, lots of chintz, black and white and sepia photographs and vintage flyers covered the walls. “Hej? Er her nogen?”
“Da!Kom ind, kom ind.”
Ana ducked through the frilled curtain. “Taler du engelsk?”
“Da, er du amerikaner?”
The fortune teller stepped from the darkened doorway into the room. She didn’t look a stereotypical as the shop itself. “What can I do for you, darling?” Her Danish accent thickened her words but Ana could understand her clearly.
“I saw your sign.”
“You’ve been drinking?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Embarrassment and guilt swelled in her chest.
The woman couldn’t have been more than ten years her elder, chestnut hair pulled back at the temples but falling down her back. Her clear blue seemed to laugh even though her pale pink lips barely twitched. “It’s alright. Alright. Have a seat.” She gestured to the seat across the table from her.
Ana perched on the chair and set her hands lightly on the table. “You seem awfully young to be running a business like this.”
The woman laughed. “Time has been good to me. What is your name, darling?”
“Ana, lovely and simple, classic. What would you like to do tonight? Your palm read, or maybe your cards, or perhaps your future through the crystal ball?”
Ana smiled brightly. “Can we do all three?”
“If that is what you desire. Payment up front though. People do not like what they hear; they storm out, waste my time and energy.” They settled the price and money exchanged hands. “Now, first things first.” The woman took her hand and began to examine the fine lines in each of them. Her brow furrowed as she looked from one hand to the next.
“No, no, just…odd. See here.” She traced her life line with her nail. “There are two here.”
“As if you are living two separate lives at two different times.” The woman looked up at her then moved onto her heart line. “Oh yes, a deep love I see. Fierce and passionate.” She smiled up at her. “You are in love, da?”
“Nej.” Ana shook her head, but she remembered the strange blue-eyed man from the day before. Blush tinged her cheeks at the memory of his body pressed to hers.
“Your body says otherwise, darling.” The woman’s playful smile faded as she took in Ana’s fate line. “This…this isn’t possible.” She moved to the other hand. Her eyes shone bright and wide when she looked up at up Ana.
“What? What is it?” The woman started to say nothing but Ana drew her hands backed and crossed her arms over her chest. “Don’t you dare say nothing. ‘This isn’t possible’ and looking like I just kicked you in the twat is not nothing.”
The woman swallowed. “I have never seen a fate line like yours. It’s similar to your life line…like there are two. They overlap just so then one ends and another begins.” She clicked her tongue. “Let’s see what the cards say.” Ana watched the woman shuffle the tarot cards. “Cut the deck please.” She cut the deck of oversized cards. The woman shuffled again then fanned the cards out in front of her between them. “Pick three cards, darling.”
Ana didn’t hesitate when she picked the first two; the third took longer. The fortune teller’s frown deepened as she turned over the cards, The Tower, The Hanged Man, and the Lovers. Ana shifted in her seat. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“There is great change coming in your life, Ana. You will have to make many sacrifices. But I see love…a love to end all love, deep and passionate and intense.”
“Well that’s not so bad. I hope the sex will be good.” She smiled half-heartedly and attempted a joke. The fortune teller nodded, acknowledging the attempt but finding no mirth. This girl’s future looked so much like the distant past…it could not be.
The fortune teller pushed her chair back and walked through the darkened doorway. When she returned, she held a small orb of smoky quartz in her hand. It had been polished to a mirror finish. She set the stand down on table in front of her seat then gently, reverently set the ball onto the stand. “I need you to close your eyes and relax. Open your mind and invite the universe to show you what lies in your path.”
Ana took a deep breath then let it out, shaking her shoulders and forcing herself to relax into the chair. Again, the woman saw a great love and she said as much. “What’s he like?”
“He is strong…capable, iron-willed. But he is damaged, broken. And often misunderstood. But he will love you. Love you more than anyone or anything in existence.”
“What’s he look like then?”
“I cannot see.” She lied. Dark hair and brilliant blue eyes but with useless legs and a great anger and bitterness within. A lonely rage that needed tempered. She felt a presence behind her. As she turned toward it, darkness enveloped her. The woman’s body slumped forward.
Ana shivered. “Are you ok?”
The voice that slipped from the woman’s lips wasn’t the same, warm and thickly accent. It slithered from her lips, cold and foreign. It sounded like Danish when she spoke but it was something more. Her reflection in the crystal ball flickered from the hooded-eyed beauty to a cloaked figure with blackened teeth. “Du skal vaelge. Rolig det udbenede dyr. Eller do blandt de lilla blomster.”
The woman slumped onto the table. Her eyes shone wide and terrified like a spooked rabbit. Her chest rose and fell in a rapid breath. She pushed away from the table. Away from Ana. “Please leave.”
“I don’t understand. Are you ok?”
The woman stood and backed away from the table, shaking her head. She pointed to the door. “You go now. You leave this instant.” Ana was too frightened protest. She snatched up her purse and ran out the door, straight to the hotel.
Her friends had passed out as soon as they’d hit the room. She didn’t worry about waking them. She threw herself into the bed and kicked off her shoes, pulling the blankets up around her chin. She longed for someone to hold her in her frightened state. Her mind drifted to the odd warmth of the man in the lavender.