(He knew before he forced me to admit it and then he took out my braids and cut my bangs. You looked too old like that, he said. He didn't say anything else after that for a long while, because he was too mad. Not at me, at himself. That was when he learned that my curiosity is a force to be reckoned with and reckon we have.)
I am directed to sit on a small wooden backless chair in front of a mirror while she braids my hair. Lochlan had to take a twenty-four-hour man shift and has gone ahead to the next town to put up flyers and distribute early-buyer discount tickets and so I am charged to remain with the fortune teller and will meet him there with the rest of the show.
Her real name is a closely-guarded secret. She's in her forties, single and makes really good tea. She said she wished for a daughter once but I have taught her children are nothing but worry. She doesn't like me all that much and I don't like her either but she is safe and Lochlan puts that before comfort.
I know this and so when she tells me to sit up straight because handsome young men like Lochlan don't like hunchback little girls, I do. I tell her the only things Lochlan doesn't like are when my bangs get too long and when my stomach growls really loud because he feels guilty.
She tsks and undoes all the braids and goes to work on braiding my currently too-long bangs right into to the braids so they aren't even there anymore. I look wide-awake and kind of surprised. Older. More mature. She puts a stack of graham crackers in my hands and stops talking for a while as I eat and she works on braiding all of my thigh-length heavy hair. When she gets to the bottom of each braid she secures them with three heavy elastic bands each and then wraps the braids around and around my head, pinning them together. Then she gives me a pretty scarf to wrap around my neck and asks if I want to try a lipstick.
No, thank you, I tell her.
You look better, anyway. Once you reach womanhood you are supposed to pin your braids up.
Sleeping with men. No longer virginal.
But I haven't-
Oh, I keep all secrets, darling don't worry about me.
But we never-
It's so obvious. Young love, your tiny little camper, the fact that he never lets go of your hand. You should know your future though, it's important-
No, thank you.
Did he tell you to say that? Because he told me not to read you. Men like Lochlan are practical and they will deal only in things that are easily proven.
But he wants to be an entertainer! An illusionist! He does tricks and he believes!
She just laughed. You let me read your fortune, I could explain that for you too. She puts her hands on my shoulders as if there are things she needs to tell me but she needs permission and my guardian has expressly forbid it. But since I'm an adult now, with my braids pinned up I can give it.
Just once, okay? Don't tell him.
You don't tell him. You're the one who will have to live with this, not me.
What do you mean?
Come and sit at my table and don't you ever breathe a word of what I say. Someone has to look out for you here, because he won't be able to when he must and because there are things I see from here, without even trying, that tell me things are going to become difficult and knowledge is power, my dear. I'd like to give you a fighting chance.