The girl walks aimlessly, as if she remembers that she is seeking something, but forgets what; turning left and right through the stalls and rides of the fun-fair. Tinny music and raucous laughter swirl unnoticed around her. She glances at this stall and that ride, but only stops when she reaches a tent at the end of a thoroughfare.

Its sign is faded and reads, Dya Drabarni, Reader of Cards. She hesitates, then ducks under the open flap.

Oil lamps illuminate the old woman sitting at the table. Skin as dry and white as parchment hangs loosely on a skeletal figure, and her mass of grey hair is gathered into a loose knot. She wears traditional Romany clothes, black for a widow, gold earrings the only colour breaking the monochrome.

"Come in, girl, and sit," she orders.

The girl obeys, glad to be directed.

Inside the tent, all noise is muted, and tendrils of incense hang in the air like cobwebs.

"Have you a question that troubles you, or do you just want to glance into the future?" The old woman's voice scratches like chalk, but the tone is kind.

The girl shrugs. "I'm not sure. I've got lots of questions, but none of them seem particularly important."

"A general reading then; but first you must pay the fee."

“How much?”

The old woman holds out her hand. "You'll know, child. Just stop when the price feels right,” she smiles, and repeats, "you'll know."

The girl reaches into her bag, and counts four coins, then drops them into the cupped, waiting hand. The woman's fingers close around them and she slips them into the folds of her skirt, unlooked at, and uncounted.

She picks up the cards, and shuffles them. Her hands are agile, given her age. She holds the pack out. "Cut," she says. When this is done, she lays five cards on the table, face up, in a cross pattern: top, bottom, left, right, centre.

Eight of clubs, jack of spades, three of clubs, nine of clubs, three of hearts. She sits, silently, looking at the spread.

"There is loss here," she says, "It seems vast, to you, this loss, so vast it clouds and distorts the view ahead. Deceit, unfaithfulness, disillusion." She looks up at the girl with eyes darker than strong coffee, "These are not happy cards, child."

"I'm not a happy person." The words are flippant, but soaked in pain. The old woman nods, sadly, with understanding.

“You are looking for a way back to the place you came from, but the roads are closed; you can only go forward. I see a death ahead, but not of one that you care greatly for. There may be peace for you, perhaps, but you will not find it easily. That’s all, I’m sorry.”

The girl stands, and smiles at the old woman, as if to reassure her. "That’s okay, it's enough. Thank you." She stands, turns and goes, no hesitation in her tread now.

"Dza devlesa,"1 the chalk voice says softly as she leaves.

The girl relaxes back into her hot bath. She holds a glass of white wine, beads of condensation running down the outside. It is crisp and acidic as she sips.

"A death," she thinks, "but not of one I care greatly for." She smiles to herself and nods "That’s true". She puts the glass down, and lifts the razor.

The pain is swift and sharp. She hears the old woman’s voice again. "There may be peace for you."

"I hope so," she thinks as the blood billows into the water, like sunset clouds.


1.Dza devlesa is "God go with you" in Romany

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