by Emily Gaither
(Edtior’s Note: This is Part Three of this short story, which we are publihing in serial form. You can find Part One at southerngothiccreations.com/unwanted-wishes-part-one and Part Two at southerngothiccreations.com/unwanted-wishes-part-two.)
Zelda took a slightly meaningful breath and glanced at Meredith – any hint of an accent, gone. “What do you want, little girl? I know that the attraction is to have the old lady gypsy Zelda dripping with Romanian culture and giving you the crazy fortune…silly girl, silly tourist, and silly town, isn’t that right, Copernicus?” The bird sat on Madame Zelda’s shoulder, with a laser focus on Meredith, and gave little bother to anything else, while Meredith sat, looking right back at it, as if they were locked in some sort of game to which no one else was privy.
Meredith took some stock of the situation. She was actually in a game of “chicken,” no pun intended, with a finch, and a gypsy/witch/whatever she was, who was possibly about to predict her future, and she had to admit, despite Samantha and Zoe’s mockery, and her own self-deprecation, she had put more stock in this than she had wanted to admit. It defied logic, and she knew it, and that’s why she couldn’t admit to it, not even to her closest friends.
Zelda took her by the hands, and said, “I don’t think you want love. You are a modern, independent woman, who doesn’t need a man to take care of you. You can do all of those things. You can make all the money and buy all the things you need. I don’t know why you would need a man.”
Meredith interjects, “Money isn’t love. Money doesn’t hold you at night. Money doesn’t serenade you. Have you ever seen ‘Say Anything?’ He simply holds up a boom box, which no one alive now would possibly recognize as a thing, and he holds it aloft outside her window playing one of the greatest songs of all time, “In Your Eyes,” and, Zelda, no, I don’t need a man, no one needs a man, but I’d like that type of man, just, FYI.”
Just at that moment, the weather turns a bit, and Copernicus cleaves increasingly to Zelda, and the lights begin to flicker. Copernicus starts to flap his wings, but does not take his eyes from Meredith, and squawks, almost, towards her.
Zelda says, “Hmm, Sweetie, I don’t know what to tell you, but your future love life is as dry as the Sahara Desert. Do you know what I mean? There’s not much happening. It’s tumbleweeds in your future. I know you wanted better information, but I can only tell you what I can see with my vocation. I don’t mean for you to get discouraged or anything…
While Zelda is talking, Meredith has gone through a gamut of emotions pretty successfully, but she’s settled on rage by the time Zelda has gotten to discouraging her against any future love and finding her Lloyd Dobler. She would like to believe that this odd woman sitting in front of her is wrong. She really would, but she’s heard the legends of Madame Zelda, which discourage her from trying to get around loopholes concerning these types of predictions.
Zelda predicted a similar course for a man from Savannah, Ga. She foretold that he would never find true love. He seemingly defied her prediction, met a woman, and fell head-over-heel; they were set to be married, and the night before the wedding, her lovely and vengeful South African husband showed up and slaughtered the two of them, and then placed their heads on the altar where they were to have been married. She was wearing her veil.
Another type of Zelda’s predictions gone awry, Zelda set her sights on Mobile, Ala. tourist Bridget, who she “saw” was meant to be with her friend, Alex. Bridget was already in a relationship with someone else, and Alex had only ever been her friend, so she dismissed this prediction with laughter and thanked Zelda for the humor and “good show.” By the time she got back to Mobile, her fiancé, Darren, had drowned in Mobile Bay, and Alex was the one waiting to break the news to her. In the ensuing months, they grew closer, and by year’s end, they were married.
There were dozens of stories like these surrounding Zelda’s “gift.” Meredith was quiet while mulling over this information, and then abruptly slammed her hands down on the table. “You are a fake, crazy woman! I’m not listening to this! You know nothing; you’re a cheap tourist attraction that has about as much credibility as the bearded lady and the world’s fattest twins. I don’t have to listen to this.”
She yanked her purse from the floor, and in her fury, the contents and her black pearl necklace went flying everywhere. Beads, credit cards, lipsticks, a flurry of receipts and all the caverns of a woman’s purse sprayed Zelda’s table and floor as the two stood transfixed at the mess. As it settled and Meredith began to feel more than a little silly, Zelda made an inhuman sound that sounded like she was being strangled.
“Copernicus … my heart! He is dead! What has happened to my soul, my flying child?”
Meredith hurried over to where she was standing, and there he lay, still, no rise and fall to his tiny chest, and secretly, although she immediately felt terrible, she was glad those laser eyes were no longer piercing her soul with every move she made.
“What happened to him? Nothing would have hurt him. It was mostly paper and beads. It shouldn’t have been anything hard or harmful.”
Zelda leaned down, bereft and picked up his tiny body, cradling him like a precious stone, and ran a delicate finger down his feathers, cooing to him, “My poor baby, my poor, poor baby,” and as she caressed his stiffening body, turning him slightly to his side, a tiny black pearl dislodged from his beak and fell onto her hand. She turned on Meredith, her eyes blazing fire, as she gently placed her departed Copernicus on the table.
“YOU DID THIS. You horrible girl, who is so unlovable. All I did was tell you the truth, and you threw a fit because you couldn’t handle it, and you killed the most important thing in the world to me. He did nothing to you. He was more special than you will ever hope to be, and you couldn’t stand it. You hate that you are not special. You are ordinary, and that is why you couldn’t be loved. You will be sorry.”
Meredith became alarmed, quickly, at the look and tone coming from Zelda. She had never had someone aim such vitriol at her. She wanted to leave. Now. “I didn’t mean to hurt him. I am so sorry. I was just upset at what you said. You don’t know me. If you did, you’d never say those things. Really. I’ll pay you extra or whatever you want. I’m really so sorry.”
“PAY? PAY for my best friend? Everything you say makes it worse. I do know you; you just don’t get it. You have made the biggest mistake of your life. Honey, you’ve made the biggest mistake of several lives. You know the stories you have heard about me? You haven’t heard the one you’re going to star in. I was wrong…You will have love. You will have so much love that you can’t take it. It will consume you. I predict a lot of love for you, Miss Sorry. And because you are so repentant, I also predict great wealth, tremendous wealth that will make your head spin. Wait, and we can’t forget good health. No, we mustn’t neglect that. There, Miss Sorry, I predict for you a great amount of love, wealth, and health. I guarantee it. Let’s see how much happiness you will have. Now, get out of here so I can be alone with my friend. I’m sick of looking at your face.”
Meredith stood there for a second or two, completely confused, and walked out into the steamy night to find Samantha and Zoe. As the door closed behind her, she heard deep laughter, and the sound of a bird chirping.
TO BE CONTINUED.