A Date with Destiny
By Karen Byrom
A romantic short story from our archives
If only Min could see into her own future …
I sidle into the dining-room of Luffgate’s finest hotel just as the best man is finishing his speech. My makeshift mini marquee is to the right of the room – I’ll make a dive for it when he sits down.
My heart sinks slightly as I see the sweets’ table right next door to it. My swish satin sheets will be covered in small sticky fingerprints before the end of the evening. Oh, well…
Just as I try to make myself unobtrusive behind a pillar, the best man looks up from his notes, and his eye catches mine. He smiles and I blush – he is incredibly good looking.
I peek at the bridesmaids in their dresses of sky blue. Three are smiling at the jokes, but the pretty blonde at the end of the table keeps her eyes down. Her mouth trembles slightly.
I wonder if Mr Best Man is her boyfriend – but he’s a good bit older than her. Thirty-five if he’s a day. More likely to be the kilted usher at the next table. He’s looking almost as miserable as blondie, as he looks over at her, trying to catch her eye.
As the guests rise to their feet for the toast, I take the opportunity to slip into my tent, where the hotel staff have kindly left me a glass of champagne and a couple of canapés. I stuff them hungrily in my mouth, wondering wryly how I managed to get myself into this …
I bought a book about palm reading
It all started at work last year. We’d decided to raise money for the local hospice and some bright spark decided that, as well as the usual raffle and cake sale, we should have a fortune teller.
“Any volunteers?” Paula, our office manager asked brightly. “Min, you’d be ideal. You’re so tanned, and with your curly hair and bright eyes …”
“I am not dressing up as a gypsy,” I said firmly.
“But you will do it!” Paula clapped her hands and skipped away before I could protest further.
So I bought a book about palm-reading and set about practising on my family. All were unimpressed by the fact I could tell them so much about themselves apart from Gran.
“You’re just like my aunt Kitty,” she cackled as I held her wrinkled hand in mine and tried to convince her that a windfall was on its way. She had the ‘gift’, you know.”
“I never heard of Aunt Kitty,” I said, intrigued despite myself. “What happened to her?”
“Oh, they put her in the loony bin.” Political correctness was not one of Gran’s strong points. “My mum didn’t like to talk about her much.” Gran sighed and looked sad for a moment, then poked me hard in the ribs. “Better watch out they don’t do that to you.”
Turns out Gran was right. I did have a gift. Colleagues flocked to my desk and before I knew it I had agreed to attend a hen party in my guise as Madame Min.
From there, my fame spread and soon I was being booked for parties of near strangers. By now I’d got wise and was charging for my services. But I couldn’t help feeling wistful as I told brides-to-be of the happiness that awaited them. My Mr Right had never come along despite the fact, as Gran often reminded me, that I was pushing 30.
Business is brisk
And now one of those brides has booked me for her wedding. I’ve barely sat down when my first customer slips shyly into the tent. From then on business is brisk.
An hour goes by and I’m hoping for a quick comfort break when “blondie” appears. She’s touched up her make-up, and her voice is challenging as she thrusts out her hand.
“Can you forecast a happy future for me, Madame Min?” she asks.
I recognise the bravado behind her smile. “I can’t promise anything,” I say. “You will have to take what comes.”
Intently I study the lines on her plump, fair hands.
“You are at a crossroads in your life,” I say softly. “There’s a big decision you have to make.”
She’s trying to give nothing away, but her eyes blink rapidly.
“There are two ways you can go. One will lead to short-term happiness – but there’s a break-up ahead if you demand too much sacrifice of your loved one; the other road is more challenging but more fulfilling in the end. I see travel, adventure, as I follow that line … and a man who loves you.”
“I have a man who loves me,” she says, snatching her hand away.
I take her hand back and make a show of looking perplexed. “Ah, yes! That is the man I see … follow him and he will never let you down. Your future happiness is assured.”
Great aunt Kitty would be proud
As I slip out for my comfort break at last, I see Blondie, deep in the embrace of the kilted usher I’d marked out earlier. They’re both smiling. Passing behind them, I hear the words “passport” and “Australia.”
She sounds a lot happier now than when I overheard her crying in the loos when I’d first arrived, confiding in her fellow bridesmaid about her selfish pig of a boyfriend. They’d both just finished uni and he wanted them to go travelling for a year. She wanted to settle down –the excitement of her sister’s nuptials had her hearing wedding bells – but he wanted to see the world first.
I can’t feel at all bad about my deception – they are obviously made for each other. Great aunt Kitty would be proud.
By the end of the night, my queue of clients has dried up. I lean back, exhausted, as I listen to the strains of the last dance.
What a surprise when the best man steps inside the tent. I didn’t see that coming!
I reach out for his hand, but he takes mine, turning it palm way round.
“I foresee a dance, Madame Min,” he says. “And maybe dinner in a few days to thank you for all you’ve done this evening?” He jerks his head towards blondie and her partner and I see a twinkle in his eye.
OK, so sometimes I need a little help in foretelling the future. But I’m sure of one thing right now. I am going to dance with him and have dinner with him.
As for the future, who knows? Not me, but I’m guessing my happy ending has finally arrived.
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