MADAME HOLIAS • by Lydia Vonwyler

The Summer Fair was packed with people and stalls. Loud music filled the air.

My friend Sheila and I elbowed our way through the throng of people as we went from stall to stall. Her eyes darted here and there trying to find a stall where there was a psychic who could predict whether she would get married again or not. Since her divorce nine months ago she wanted a new husband and a father for her two children. I was only interested in adorning myself at the fair. In a nail booth, a nail technician had pressed some bright red false nails on my fingernails which matched my new oversized rings I had bought in another booth.

We turned a corner. On top a booth, a large banner read: Madame Holias — World Renowned Psychic. Sheila’s eyes lit up and she grabbed my arm.

“Let’s go and get Madame Holias to predict our futures, Hilda,” she said excitedly.

“I don’t believe in all this mumbo jumbo,” I said. “Anything Madame tells me will be foolishness.”

She led me closer to the psychic’s booth. Many people streamed in and out of it. Madame Holias seemed to be doing good business.

An elderly lady came out of Madame Holias’s booth. She was smiling. Sheila asked her whether the psychic was good.

“Yes, yes, she is very good,” the lady said. “She told me things nobody else knew about me.”

Sheila was convinced. “Let’s go in,” she said pulling me inside.

“Sheila, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go in as I can’t see Pat and the children.” I said, looking over my shoulder. “If they don’t see us, they’ll think we are lost.”

“I think they went to get something to eat,” she said, unconcerned, eager to get to Madame Holias.

She gave some money to the huge man who sat at the entrance to Madame Holias’s booth. She paid for me too although I had no idea what to ask the psychic. Since her divorce, Sheila got her palms read once a month. She consulted a lot of telephone psychics. The only question she asked them was whether she would get married again. Her husband had wrung all her confidence out of her by telling her she would never find another husband again for as long as she lived. Nearly all the psychics told her yes, she would remarry. Maybe it was part of the trade to tell people what they wanted to hear. After each psychic session she would telephone me to breathlessly tell me she would be getting married within the year. I would sigh, thankful she couldn’t see the expression on my face. I just couldn’t understand her. There was nothing wrong with being single.

As I stood inside Madame Holias’s booth I was glad I came with Sheila. It was the best thing for Madame Holias to tell her she would get married again. They say positive words can do a whole lot of good for a person. She needed to hear wholesome words on a beautiful summer’s day.

Sheila spent a long time with Madame Holias. She came out much later jumping and hopping with excitement.

“Madame told me I will definitely get a husband very soon,” she gushed clapping her hands. “She even told me what he would look like.”

My turn came. Sheila waited outside the booth. Madame Holias’s inner cubicle was dark and a dim glow came from a lamp in a corner. In the semi-darkness I made out a medium-sized table with an empty shoebox on it. Madame Holias was younger than I expected. She had on too much make-up on her shiny face. I kept my face expressionless and tried to sit still without fidgeting. I had heard that psychics could tell a lot about a person by their body language.

“Put a pound coin in the box,” she said in a husky voice, pointing to the box on the table.

“No,” I said.

“Put the coin in the box,” she ordered again, firmly.

“Why?” I asked.

“For charity,” she said.

“No,” I said, equally firmly.

She hesitated, then asked, “What can I do for you?”

I said the first thing which came to my mind.

“Am I going to get married and have children?”

She leaned forward and looked at me intently. Her gaze lingered on my blood-red finger nails.

“I don’t see you getting married and having children any time soon.” she said. “You are not stable.” She pursed her lips. “And you can be difficult which frightens many men. However, I can help you to overcome this problem for an extra fee.”

I stared at Madame Holias; my mouth opened in shock and disbelief. I thought it was her job to tell her customers what they wanted to hear.

“That’s awful,” I managed to say weakly.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, sympathy dripping from her voice.

At that point there was a knock on the door and Sheila peeped inside.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” she said. “Pat and the children are outside. They were searching for you. Little Chris is crying as he thought you were lost.”

I stood up. “My husband and children are waiting for me.”

The blood drained from Madame Holias’s face and she seemed to shrivel before my eyes.

Back outside in the brilliant July sunshine, my four children ran towards me. I dried the tears from my youngest child. My husband linked his arm in mine as we all went to the next booth.

Sheila and her two children came with us.

“Wasn’t Madame Holias good?” she asked. “She is truly gifted.”

“Yeah,” I laughed. “She is very good at what she does.”

Lydia Vonwyler is a Caribbean writer living in London. One of her stories was recognised as Highly Commended in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 2010. She tries to inject a dash of Caribbean in her stories.

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