To dream of magic is lovely and alluring.

When I was a little girl, I believed that I could slide down rainbows; that gold and silver unicorns freely roamed the earth for me to ride; that if I put a miniature paper boat in the ocean, it would sail away to some beautiful far-off land; and that we all lived happily ever after—forever and ever. All of that changed seven years ago when Mom passed away. I was only ten then. My belief in all things magical faded like snowflakes on skin.

To this day, that belief has not wavered. I just wish my friends could understand that.

I arched an eyebrow. “Dara, who told you about this fortune teller again?”

“Kelsey did, remember? She said the fortune teller was amazing, but looked like death.”

I moaned. “I don’t know about this. You know I don’t believe in this type of stuff anymore.”

Dara grabbed my shoulders and stopped to face me. “Madeline Olivia Morgan, don’t be such a party-pooper!”

“Dara no-middle-name Sassavong, I’m not trying to be!”

Dara is my best friend, and has been since we were kids. I remember the two of us spending countless afternoons playing with My Little Ponies. While I gently combed their tails, Dara blackened their eyes or scribbled random words on the sides of their bodies. She’s always been kind of unique.

Dara is Laotian. Her family immigrated from Laos years before she was even born. She is short and thin with jet-black hair that falls above her shoulders. The boys at school call her “exotic” because of her almond-shaped eyes, olive skin and full lips. I, on the other hand, nicknamed her “crazy” from all these years of knowing her.

“Fine,” I said. “Let’s go find the fortune teller so we can get this over with.”

“Maddy, your enthusiasm is so contagious.”

“And your sarcasm is so adorable.”

“Pfft,” was all Dara muttered as she stuck her nose in the air and took off running.

It was Sunday, two days before the start of senior year. Fall was dawning and the leaves peppered the ground with their soothing autumn colors. The annual carnival was making its way through our cozy town of Augury, Oregon. The afternoon heat felt great as Dara and I wandered through the crowded fair grounds, looking for a striped purple and black circus tent which supposedly held an honest-to-God clairvoyant; at least according to our good friend Kelsey who had visited the fortune teller the day before.

“I think I see the tent!” Dara screamed.


“Over there! It’s hidden behind the Ferris wheel, near that clump of trees.”

And before I could say another word, Dara grabbed me by the hand and we were running. The wind was wheezing in and out of my ears as we ran past the colorful juggling clowns, and the Haunted House of Doom, and the contortionist’s tent, and the goldfish game, and the Magician’s Lair, before making it under the rotating Ferris wheel, where we finally stopped. The fortune teller’s tent was just as Kelsey had described.

The sides of the tent were striped with purple and black and the canvas swooped down like a long flowing gown, hitting the dry, crunchy grass. As we headed toward the entrance, we stopped and perused the cheap-looking poster where a hand-drawn crystal ball gleamed. Come Inside and Discover Your Fortune was written in bold black letters at the top.

As I looked around, I got an eerie feeling. “There’s no one in line, Dara. This is a sign that we shouldn’t be here.”

Dara sighed. “The only sign I see is the one on your forehead that says: I’m a boring best friend.”

“Hey! I’m still fun.”

“Whatever, grandma.” Dara smirked. “Maddy, I really don’t see what the big deal is. You believed in magic when we were kids. Try to do it again. Just this once. For me?”

“All right,” I reluctantly agreed.

“Yay!” Dara shrieked before parting the velvet curtains that blocked the slender entrance.

After taking a few steps inside, the curtains suddenly sealed the entrance. The light from outside was gone and we could barely see anything. The only source of visibility came from flickering lights further down the hallway.

“This is creepy,” I said.

“I hate to admit this, but you’re right,” Dara agreed with a shiver.

“Let’s go back while we still can.”

“No! We’re already here. Let’s keep going.”

I didn’t protest, so we kept walking. And the further we went, the stranger the tent became. From outside, the tent was the size of a teepee, but from inside, the hallway seemed impossibly long. I tightened my grip on Dara’s hand and she instantly reciprocated.

“Is it just me, or does the tent seem a lot smaller from outside?” Dara asked.

“No, it’s not just you.”

“I hope Freddy Krueger doesn’t jump out at us.”

“Dara, what are you talking about?”

“Please! This is so Nightmare on Elm Street.”

“Hush and walk.” I wasn’t in the mood to be thinking about the boogeyman.

The rest of our trek continued in silence until…

“Huh!” Dara gasped, stopping mid-walk.

My eyes widened and I couldn’t speak.

“I think”—Dara’s voice quavered as she pointed forward—“that’s the fortune teller.”

Amid the oval-shaped room stood four flickering tiki torches equally adjacent to a tiny woman, cloaked in a burgundy robe. Her face was hidden underneath her hood, and she sat behind a circular table that was covered in a shimmering mauve cloth. On the table was a bright, glowing crystal ball.

“Hello?” Dara frighteningly whispered.

The ominous lady suddenly lifted her head and grinned, baring several rotten teeth. The flickering flames dimly lit her haggard face. Protruding from her nose and cheeks were quarter-sized warts. Her long chin drooped even further as she opened her mouth to speak.

“Please, come closer,” she invited. Her voice was raspy and lascivious.

“Leper,” Dara muttered.

I elbowed her as we started to walk. And the closer we got to the fortune teller, the louder her guttural breathing became.

“Velcome,” the lady said.

“Velcome?” Dara quietly repeated. “Her Ws sound like Vs. Maybe she’s Dracula’s mistress.”

“Shush,” I said.

“Take a seat,” the lady instructed, motioning with her veiny hands for us to sit in the two chairs across from her.

“Thank you,” I said as I quietly sat. Dara scooted her chair close to mine.

“So, children, vhat are your names?” she asked.

“You should know. You’re the fortune teller.” Dara chuckled nervously.

The fortune teller narrowed her eyes. She was not amused.

“I’m Madeline”—I cleared my throat—“and this is Dara.”

“Such lovely names for such lovely girls.”

“And,” I said, “if you don’t mind me asking, what is your name? The poster outside didn’t say.”

“I don’t mind, dear.” A creepy grin made its way across her face. “I am…Madame Anca.”

“Madame Conga?” Dara said. “Sounds tropical. Must be why you have the tiki torches.”

Madame Anca growled and then said louder, “No, dear. My name is Madame Anca.”

“Madame Anca. Madame Conga. Doesn’t matter to me. All I want to know is if you can tell us our fortune. My friend Kelsey said you could.”

“It is true, my child. I can tell everyone’s fortune.”

Dara looked at me and grinned. “Great! So how much will this cost?”

Madame Anca licked her crusty lips. “This session is free.”


Dara’s grin grew wider.

I became suspicious. “Why is this session free?” I felt a sharp pain on my side from Dara poking me so I slapped her hand away.

“Because not very many people come for my readings, as you can see,” she answered. “This vill be fun for me. And, you two girls seem very deserving. Now, shall ve get started?”

“Sure,” Dara happily replied. “But first, can I ask where you’re from? Your accent is really unique.”

“I am from Romania.”

“Oh!” Dara’s eyes lit up. “I’ve been there. That’s in Canada, right?”

“Quiet!” Madame Anca yelled. We jumped in our seats. “Ve are here to find out answers about the two of you. Not me. Now, vhich one of you vould like to go first?”

“I can,” Dara said, raising her hand.

“Perfect.” Madame Anca then grazed her rancid nails over the glowing crystal ball.

We waited in silence as she did her reading. It took quite a while before she finally let out a throaty laugh and said, “Interesting…”

“What? What do you see?” Dara anxiously asked.

“I see that you are a vild and funny little girl. And there is a very loud fire that burns deep inside you.”


“But, I also see that you like danger and attention—and that you are constantly the center of trouble.”

“Well,” Dara exhaled. “Aren’t you rude?”

Madame Anca cackled. “And soon, little Dara, trouble vill find you.”

“What do you mean by that?”

Madame Anca went silent, keeping her creepy stare on Dara.

“You’re bogus! I’ve heard enough!” Dara shouted. “Let’s go, Maddy.”

“You can’t go yet,” Madame Anca said to me. “I have not given you your reading.”

“We don’t care!” Dara answered. “We’re leaving!”

Dara and I scooted our chairs out, but Madame Anca continued anyway.

“You are thoughtful, devoted, quiet.” Her attention was still on me. “But your soul is timid and submissive. You are a veak little girl, Madeline.”

“Did she just call you weak?” Dara incredulously asked.

“Vhile your friend controls her destiny, you let others control it for—”

“That’s enough!” Dara interrupted. “You’re cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs. Let’s go, Maddy!”

“You are desperately searching for love”—Madame Anca’s voice got louder—“and soon, it vill find you.” She then threw her face upward and cackled vociferously.

Dara quickly grabbed me by the hand and rushed me toward the entrance. We didn’t look back. After what seemed like forever, we emerged outside. The soothing wind whipped through my hair as laughter and carnival melodies played in the background.

“Madame Anca was creepy with a capital C!” Dara yelled. “I can’t believe Kelsey recommended her. I’m gonna beat that girl!”

I didn’t respond. I was still thinking about Madame Anca’s last words: You are desperately searching for love and soon, it vill find you.

“Yoo-hoo? Maddy?” Dara waved her hands in my face. “Are you awake?”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

I faked a smile. “Yeah. I’m fine.”

Dara lightly shook her head. “I can’t believe that crazy witch-lady had the nerve to call you weak. I mean, she ain’t no Wonder Woman herself with those scraggily arms.”

“Dara, she was referring to my emotional state, not how much I can bench press.”

“Whatever! You know that woman was rude—and freaky. And what was up with the warts on her face? And those gross nails? I was like, hello lady! Ever heard of a nail clipper? And some wart cream? And a shower? And…”

As Dara kept going on and on, I still couldn’t shake Madame Anca’s last words. Was I really going to find love soon?

“Maddy?” Dara tapped me on the shoulder twice this time. “You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what?”

Dara sighed. “Your’e off in la-la land. What are you thinking about?”

“It’s nothing important.” I flicked my wrist to add a sense of frivolity.

Dara raised an eyebrow. “Fine! Don’t tell me then.”

“It’s really nothing.”

“I believe you,” she said sarcastically. “Now, let’s go find Kelsey and beat the crap out of her. Madame Anca will be giving me nightmares for the next six months.”

“Okay. Let’s go,” I said.

“Oh, but one last question?”


“Romania is in Canada, right?”

I giggled under my breath. “Yeah. It sure is.”

“I knew it!” Dara said, buffing her nails on her shirt.

As we left the Augury Carnival, Madame Anca’s last words continued to echo in my ears, and no matter how hard I tried to push them away, they kept coming back. And the funny part was, I didn’t know if I wanted the echoes to stop. Finding true love was never something I wanted to run away from, and the thought that it could soon be real—well, that was too tempting not to think about.