by Martin David Edwards
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 table.
Be quiet. Your talking is giving me a headache, her father called from her parent's bedroom. He had gone straight back to bed.
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 Act.
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.
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 smile.
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 checking.
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 interrupted.
I made a decision. I'm going to start up a business, Fortune said.
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 the deal?
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 address.
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 said.
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 herself.
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 single.
One of us is beautiful, he said as drunk as her father.
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 champagne.
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 hoodie.
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 hedgehog.
I need the living room, she said to her parents.
Get a stall. You're not bringing customers here. I don't want strangers sizing up our valuables, her father replied bleary-eyed.
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 tint.
I want to start tomorrow, Fortune blurted.
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 business.
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 cans.
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 books.
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 ill?
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 parents.
The wedding was in a church, all dream-like but I couldn't invite anyone. We were rushing before the bump showed, Ivy said.
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 said.
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 Fortunes fingers.
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 said.
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