Maisy and Max
Edward was eager to leave London. The circus had been here almost two months, since the beginning of November, and even though the weather had been a little more agreeable the last few days, it was still cold and damp. He was told the temperatures would continue to climb away from the 5-7 degrees Celsius it had been hovering at, but numbers didn’t really matter when you were cold. Cold was cold. He was looking forward to the crossing to New York, and then P.T. Barnum would take its winter break in Connecticut, before starting on their scheduled route again in April. Edward didn’t usually mind traveling, but this year it had been wearing on him a little more than it usually did at the end of the season. The extended months for the European tour had been difficult. Maybe it was because he was without a mate. A nice woman would have done wonders to keep him warm at night, and the companionship would have been a whole lot better than the roustabouts he usually chummed with. The simple fact was that Edward was growing up and ready to settle down, something he never would have thought about himself in a million years.
A walk in the rain was probably a bad idea, but Edward needed some time alone. He had to think about his future and ponder what was to become of him if he ever left the circus life. He roamed from street to street, each one more dismal than the last. London was a dark and dreary place in the 1890s, especially if you were poor. He stopped for a minute to look around and get his bearings, trying to decide if he was lost, when a shop window decorated with brightly colored scarves caught his eye. The festivity reminded him of circus colors meant to attract attention. He crossed the street to see what it was about, and as he drew near he could read the letters painted on the glass -- Fortune Telling. See Your Future. Edward smiled to himself because they had the same type of fortune tellers at the circus, and he knew they were all a sham. He had been in on some of the shake downs himself, helping a poor soul who only wanted some answers to feel better about herself. Some marks were more difficult than others, but they all caved eventually. Out of curiosity as to how they did things here in England, he entered. His experience would be good for a laugh when he retold it back at the grounds.
A small bell tinkled when he opened the door, and shortly after a striking woman dressed in a turban and a long loose kaftan came to greet him. Her makeup was exaggerated, and she wore an excess of jewelry – huge gold hoops in her ears, and several necklaces around her neck. The colors of the gems flashed in the light. Her expression was blank as she beckoned him to come behind the curtain of beads; the bracelets on her wrist clinked pleasantly with the movement of her hand. Edward smiled to himself when he saw the traditional crystal globe on the table with a burning candle beside it. It was exactly the way the circus fortune teller was set up, but when he sat down across from her, he felt the hairs on his arms stand up.
“So, you Want to know your fortune?” she asked in a sultry tone, as she leaned forward and stared directly into his eyes.
“Uh, yes,” said Edward. He was a little shaken, and he had no idea why -- he knew the drill. “I am trying to make a decision, and I thought I could use some help.”
There was silence as she studied him, making him feel very uncomfortable. “You want a mate?” she asked in her thick accent. “Yes, I can see it clearly.”
Edward wondered if she was trying to sell herself to him. He turned a deep shade of red. She laughed making him feel embarrassed; he was not an innocent child; he had had experiences – just not any kind of permanent relationship. “Yes, actually,” he stuttered. “Perhaps, I am looking for a wife.”
She smiled for the first time. “Now we are getting somewhere. Give me your hands.” Edward reached across the table and took both her hands in his – she gasped, and pulled back.
“What? What happened?” he asked.
“I think you are a very special man. I think you are the one.”
“What do you mean?”
She reached up to her neck an unclasped what looked like a ruby and diamond necklace, but as he well knew, it was the same kind of fake paste that all the circus performers wore. She wrapped it around her fingers and closed her eyes, then she took his hands into hers once again, with the necklace touching them both. Edward felt a warmth and tingle right down to his toes. He smiled, relaxed and closed his eyes; it felt like home, it felt like comfort; it felt like love.
“What is your name?” she softly asked.
“Edward. Edward Woods.”
Her eyes widened. “You are Gyspy? You speak Romany?”
“No, I don’t speak Romany, but I have been told that my ancestors are Romani from Wales.”
“Of course you are. So I thought. Here, take this.” She separated her hands from his and pushed the necklace into his hands alone.
“Why?” Edward was completely puzzled. He had come here for a reading, not a piece of jewelry.
“This necklace has special powers. It has been waiting many years for you. It wants to be with you and you only. It will bring you the answers you need, and when you know the time is right, you will pass it on to the one you love and receive wondrous results.” Then she smiled a very seductive smile. “would you like to try it out?”
Edward did not have a clue what she was talking about, and beautiful as she was, he had no intention of doing what he was sure she was suggesting. Besides he couldn’t afford to buy the necklace, anyway. After last night’s card game, he was flat broke.
She laughed out loud, as she read his mind. “No, there is no need to pay me for the bauble. It is yours, as it should be. I have only been the caretaker. It is my pleasure to find the rightful owner. Now, go and find your woman; she will be much more eager than I.”