The photograph had fallen from her mirror during the night.
Fortune cursed and scrabbled on the bedroom carpet to fix the frame back to the
glass. Her sixteen-year old self was locked in a frozen wave with Ivy. Both
girls shocked the camera with bright purple hair, the result of a dare to be
different. Now Fortune was twenty and she had not heard from Ivy for two years.
Abandoned without an explanation, she accused the mirror.
Fortune heard the toilet flushing. Her father was interrupting
his lie-in and preventing her from using the shower. She picked up the black
t-shirt and jeans from her chair and dressed.
You're going to be late for the supermarket again,
her mother said in the kitchen. She nodded at a cup of lukewarm coffee on the
Be quiet. Your talking is giving me a headache, her
father called from her parent's bedroom. He had gone straight back to
Life should have been better, Fortunes mother
sighed while she gulped down the coffee.
There was no point in replying. Her mother's complaint was a
daily morning reminder of the familys lost hope. Fortune had been
conceived for a brighter future. In a sober moment her father had suggested the
name to reinforce the prospect of good luck. But after her birth he lost his
job and they had gone into debt. Her mother moaned the burden of a child and
despaired silently. Fortune failed all her exams at school and had no
prospects. Her father said they should sue her under the Trade Descriptions
You're working on the tills today. Deborah has called in
sick and I can't spare anyone else, the supermarket manageress said to
Fortune mumbled her thanks.
Use the scanner, ask customers for their reward card and
avoid chatting. I'll be checking your float, the manageress said, handing
over a name badge.
Till Number Eight. Fortune waited while the manageress double
counted the banknotes in the cash register and entered the totals on a check
sheet. She worked the till for two hours before a man pushed his trolley up to
the belt. A sixth sense told her he was checking out her cleavage. She blushed
and looked up.
What a name. A girl like you is lost in a
supermarket, he said to her chest.
Loyalty card? Fortune asked, forcing a
You should be in fortune telling. Your name and your hair
would be your unique assets, he grinned like a shark.
Card, Fortune repeated.
I'm in insurance. I know how to sell people dreams,
he replied. He delved into his suit pocket and gave her a business card and a
fifty pound note. She was so flustered that she handed him his change without
At the end of the shift the manageress counted her float as
promised. Fortune tucked the business card in her pocket while she waited.
Employees were not allowed to litter the store.
You're under by ten pounds, she said, holding up her
check sheet as evidence.
I got distracted, Fortune replied.
This is a supermarket not a theatre. I warned you the
policy is strict. You should do yourself a favour and resign. Otherwise the
head office will have to investigate and will send me extra forms to complete.
I'll be late for my drama class, the manageress sighed.
Fortune handed back her name badge. There was no point arguing
without Ivy to booster her.
Besides, I saw you chatting. Actually, I think you were
flirting, the manageress added pocketing the badge. Her eyes narrowed as
they checked out Fortune's t-shirt too.
At home her father was slumped in front of the television on a
couch with an open can of beer. Her mother was ironing in the corner, the steam
hissing with the adverts.
I've been sacked. Kind of, Fortune said to her
mother, avoiding the couch.
What do you mean kind of? her father
I made a decision. I'm going to start up a business,
My daughter an entrepreneur, Her mother gasped while
her iron burned a shirt.
Tell me when you've failed and need another lost cause.
Ive got plenty, her father said. He belched and toasted her with
the can as she left the living room.
Credit remained on her phone for only one call. She fished for
the business card in her pocket and dialled the number.
My honey bunny, the man said.
Fortune, she corrected him.
I'm going to make you a star. When can we meet up to seal
Fortune hated his self-confidence but could only say that she
did not know and that she was shopping with her mother. Ivy would have invited
her round to commiserate by poking fun at the manageress.
Give your mother a miss. You can come out tonight. I know
a bar that would be perfect, the man said and named an
Fortune repeated to herself that she was nothing special. A
baggy shirt would discourage him.
Going on a date? her mother asked in the evening as
she tiptoed past the living the room.
Definitely not, Fortune replied.
Dont get pregnant like your mother, her father
Fortune could hear her mother giggle as she left the house. She
decided that her mother had no self-respect either.
Champagne, the insurance man declared.
I don't drink, Fortune replied. But he already
ordered a bottle so she obliged. The price on the menu was more than she earned
from a supermarket shift. Before she was sacked, she reminded
You learn that everyone's a sucker from insurance. Tell
them the future they want to hear, the man said.
Interesting, Fortune replied.
When the champagne arrived he filled her glass to the brim. As
he lectured her, the man let slip twice that he happened to be
One of us is beautiful, he said as drunk as her
Fortune crossed her legs under the table as the man breathed
over her. Ivy would have told him to brush his teeth.
Let's get tanked and talk about the art of fleecing,
he continued, raising his hand.
A second bottle appeared on the table without them waiting.
Fortune wondered if he had a routine prepared with the barman.
Have you got any more money? she asked.
I get your priorities, he replied with a wink.
We can find a cashpoint on the way back to my place. I can work from home
in the morning.
The man put his arm around her outside the bar as they wobbled
across the pavement. Fortune tried to spot a cashpoint through a haze of
I'm falling in love, he slurred.
You don't know me, she replied. She half-remembered
a bank by a bus stop further down the High Street.
But you're my special charm, he said, puckering his
lips for a kiss.
Her memory was right. She stopped in front of the bank and
nudged him to the cashpoint.
Would three hundred pounds do the trick for your start
up? he asked, waving a Platinum credit card in her face.
Ivy would have told her not to be cheap. She asked for five
hundred. To her surprise he agreed.
Do I get a girlfriend experience? he asked as he
handed the notes over.
Fortune heard the throb of a bus engine behind her and jumped on
board. The man stared at the bus moving off through a puzzled funk.
A boy was sitting on the backseats of the bus absorbed in his
Christmas has come early, Fortune said to him and
gave him the phone. She told him it needed credit but would be good for games.
If a man called they could talk about insurance premiums.
One hundred pounds went on a website from India. When the
webmaster emailed Fortune to ask what text she would like, she wondered what
Ivy would say and asked for a site that was optimistic. Fortune telling for
happy people. And they should stress the prosperity of her name. She took a
selfie for the website with her laptop, her purple hair sticking out like a
I need the living room, she said to her
Get a stall. You're not bringing customers here. I don't
want strangers sizing up our valuables, her father replied
Ivy would have had a back-up plan. Walking down the High Street,
Fortune passed the bank and saw a sign advertising a chair available to rent in
a woman's hairdressing salon.
A fortune teller might work with the colour and style
crowd while they are waiting. I might give you a free touch up. Youve
gone a little green yourself, the male chief stylist said, appraising her
I want to start tomorrow, Fortune
Four hundred pounds in advance for four weeks rental. Then
you can review and see if nail varnishing would be more profitable than a
crystal ball, the stylist said.
Do you do treatments for men? she asked, thinking of
the insurance man and wanting his money back.
Only my boyfriend. He wants a matching fringe to mine.
Totally cute, the stylist replied.
Fortune had no money left for a crystal ball or tarot cards, so
she took her bedspread instead to the salon and draped it over a styling chair.
She prepared to invent tales of perfect romances for her customers with men
who were sober and of marriages that stayed faithful. As an
afterthought she handwrote her name and trade on a poster using a discarded
lipstick, and offered twenty pounds for a ten minute consultation. She was in
Three weeks and five days later, the stylist called her for a
meeting after the salon was closed. The sack again, Fortune thought. But she
had three thousand pounds saved from her future predictions. Customers had kept
asking if her name was real when they paid.
Fantastic. Social Media has gone crazy and my bookings
have gone up twenty percent. You can extend the lease but let's forget the
rent. I want a quarter of your profits instead, he said.
Fortune mumbled that she would think about it and declined the
offer of a drink with the boyfriend. Instead she went home wanting to talk to
the photograph of Ivy.
She found her mother stocking the fridge with beer
Tell them yes, her mother said after Fortune told
her about the salon's offer. You should share the money to get your
father back on his feet. Hes waited twenty years for a turn-up of the
Her father walked into the kitchen wearing his boxer shorts.
That fortune telling is a sham. You should be arrested for fraud,
he declared while inspecting the fridge.
Fortune said she had a headache and needed to rest. She covered
her head with a pillow so her tears would not be reflected in the mirror. Ivy
would have said Fortune was only giving the customers the optimism which they
were paying to receive. But her father was also right.
In the morning at the salon she told the stylist she wanted more
time to make a decision. He replied that he would settle for a fifth of her
takings instead of a quarter, and congratulated on her ability to drive a hard
bargain. Fortune got to work.
A girl walked into the salon with purple hair. She was pale with
wrinkles under her eyes but Fortune recognised her instantly.
I found your website. We both kept the
colouring, Ivy said, standing side-by-side with Fortune for
comparison in a window.
Where have you been? Fortune replied. She
immediately regretted her question, an accusation of unjustified absence. Why
could she have not been welcoming or expressed concern that Ivy looked
The stylist glanced at Fortune from a consultation and she
wondered if he was listening. She held up five fingers to indicate she was
taking a break.
Outside the salon Ivy popped two sticks of gum from a packet and
offered the first to Fortune. They lent against a wall, chewing and waiting for
the other to speak.
I got hitched, Ivy said at last.
Fortune swallowed her gum.
We thought I was having a baby, Ivy continued.
I didn't plan anything, she added quickly.
I didn't even know you had a boyfriend, Fortune
replied feeling faint.
Not really. But we was desperate to be a dad so we did
it, Ivy said, popping her gum.
Did it, Fortune repeated in her head. Just like her
The wedding was in a church, all dream-like but I couldn't
invite anyone. We were rushing before the bump showed, Ivy
Fortune sank to her knees. A wedding needed witnesses, a
bridesmaid. She was an awkward girl that was better ignored.
I lost the baby after falling down the stairs, Ivy
There was more to tell. There had to be.
Ivy started to speak but Fortune squeezed her hand. I've
got money. You could leave him, she interrupted.
I don't deserve the chance, Ivy said, examining
Three grand. You could have a fresh start. I could add
more in a month, Fortune replied, conscious that even such a large amount
might not go far. The stylist would get his deal.
With you? Ivy asked.
Anything was possible, Fortune told her customers. Two years of
looking at a photograph followed by a random search for a website. She let
Ivy's hand drop to her side.
We'll get a flat. Better start looking, Fortune