1997: Esmeralda

1997: Esmeralda

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Read after Black Sun 026.

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Point of View: Leo
Featured Characters: Leo Lanier
Word Count: 638

At a Halloween party, Leo has a confusing encounter with a fortune teller.

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“Care to hear your fortune, sir?”

“Not really,” he replied, not even glancing over at the woman as he squeezed between her table and the crowd of party-goers. He would have kept on going, too, had her small hand not flown up to catch at his elbow, her fingers curling into the leather of his jacket.

“Are you sure?” she pressed. He turned his head toward her, taking in the brilliant crimson scarf tied around her head and the outfit straight out of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. That was probably where she’d gotten the idea for her costume, he figured. Every little girl was Esmeralda this year, and every woman was the grown-up slutty version.

“Lady, that’s not really my bag.” He waved his hand. “I don’t believe in fate or destiny or any of that other crap.”

She smiled back at him.

“I didn’t think you did. That’s why, for you, no charge. What do you say?”

He raised his eyebrows.

“If you want to touch my hand so bad, you don’t have to come up with excuses.” Pulling out the metal chair on his side of the table, he flipped it around and sat down the wrong way, propping one elbow up on the chair back. His other hand reached out, fingers wiggling in invitation. “I let all the pretty girls touch me if they just ask nicely.”

She didn’t answer this time, not at first. She had already snatched up his hand and was making a very good show of examining it, turning it over in her own and brushing the pad of her thumb over every line. He watched her with interest. Was she serious about this?

“You’ve had a long, difficult life marked with bitterness and great losses. Too many.” She lifted her eyes to meet his. It was funny; he hadn’t noticed before how striking those eyes were. So deep green, but not quite a true green. There were bits of gold in there, as well. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too.” He snorted. “You need to get better at cold reading, sweetheart. That’s daily horoscope bad.”

“You’ve never forgiven him,” she continued softly. “And if you aren’t careful, you never will. That will be the downfall of you both.”

His amused, lackadaisical grin turned brittle and tight.

“Okay,” he said in a calm voice. “So someone’s got a little special something going on for her after all, huh? Why don’t you save these parlor tricks for someone who’ll appreciate a nose sticking in their business.”

“The ones you mourn weren’t the one you’re meant for,” the woman went on as if he’d said nothing at all, her hand clenching tight around his, so tight that it almost made him think he wouldn’t be able to break free. “That’s why you had to be alone all this time. So you would be ready when she comes.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Leo finally got the sense to extricate himself from her grip. He stood up from the table, staring down at the fortune teller with cold blue eyes.

She sat back in her chair, folding her hands in front of her.

“She’s here now. By the time you meet her, you’ll be ready.”

“Ready for what?

His muscles were coiled tight. He considered hopping over the table to grab her, to make her explain the ominous bullshit she was babbling.

But before he could, a drunk man dressed as a pirate stumbled right into him, jostling him from behind. It took a moment for Leo to untangle himself from the inebriated man’s flailing limbs.

Predictably, by the time he turned around, he found himself gazing upon an empty table.

“…Well, fuck,” he remarked, slipping his hands into his pockets. “That’ll teach me to hit on creepy-ass psychics.”

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