“You have a strong Heart Line, running from the Mount of Jupiter to the Mount of Mercury,” said Maria, her finger lightly tracing deep line stretching across the drunk girl’s palm. The drunk girl giggled. Maria continued. “That’s a sign of a warm heart and deep affection.”
“Ohh, you and Reece are going to get married,” giggled the drunk girl’s equally drunk friend.
Maria swallowed her next observation. The drunk girl’s Heart Line wrapped up and around the Mount of Jupiter. A sign of jealousy. She would love deeply, and hate just as deeply. Watch out, Reece.
Maria took a breath and kept going. “Your Head Line is long and even.” A sign of obstinancy. “You have a strong will and a clear mind,” she said instead. “Your Head Line is independent from your Life Line, which shows you have plenty of self-confidence.” But there was a long distance between the Head and the Heart, indicating a tendency to rashness. Maria chose her next words carefully. “You can be prone to acting hastily, so when faced with a big decision, make sure you slow down and think it through.”
The girls continued to giggle. The drunk girl’s friend snapped a picture of Maria holding her friend’s hands. “That’s so going on Instragram,” she said as phone dinged. More laughing.
Maria traced the girl’s Life Line. It completely encircled the Mount of Venus. “A good, long life. And see here, how your Life Line divides and branches into the Mount of Luna? That indicates long voyages. You will travel in life.”
The drunk girl’s eyes grew huge. “I totally love to travel.”
Of course you do, thought Maria. Who doesn’t? But the girl was paying more attention now, taking her more seriously. “What else?” she pressed.
Maria moved through the rest of the lines. The girl’s Fortune Line rose from her Life Line, indicating early financial success. Her Fate Line wavered a little, indicating highs and lows, but she had no Health Line. No major illnesses ahead. “You can expect prosperity and happiness overall. Remember that in the low times.”
The drunk girl stared down at her hand. “But I’ll be successful?”
Maria straightened up. “With your straight Head line and clear Heart line, you will do well in business.”
The drunk girl’s face fell. “But I’m a studio art major.”
Maria looked down at the girl’s palms. She was not wrong. They indicated business-minded, not art. “I see a business here. Perhaps an art gallery?”
The girl’s face brightened again. “Oh, I’d love to have my own gallery.”
“Now it’s my turn, Madame Maria,” clapped the girl’s friend.
Maria sighed. “Give me your hands.”
Maria tucked the drunk college girls’ cash into her wallet. She’d charged them full price, $50 each. She didn’t need to read their palms to know they were born to good fortune. Their hipster clothes, brand new smartphones, and the fact that they called her on a whim in the middle of a night of clubbing for a reading they probably wouldn’t remember in the morning, told her money was not much of an issue for them.
Maria preferred to read for the less fortunate. She cut her price in half for them, studied their hands for any positive sign that could soften the negative. Any bit of hope she could give them. She knew what it was like to live with bad fortune.
She shoved her hands into the pockets of the long embroidered jacket she wore to readings. People expected her to look like an ancient fortuneteller, a floaty, bohemian gypsy sort of person. But under her jacket, she was just a mid-30s college drop-out in jeans and a gray t-shirt, her ordinary brown hair in a short ponytail.
She waited for the Green Line bus, hoping the drunk girls didn’t look out their apartment window. A fortuneteller waiting for the bus wasn’t very mystical.
Maria handed the late-night sub shop worker $10, and watched his hands as he pulled her change out of the register drawer. A conic hand type. Medium sized, tapered fingers. Narrow palm. Imaginative, artistic, charming, but impulsive and likely bad with money.
She walked the last four blocks to her apartment, one hand in her pocket, the other clutching the sub. She unlocked the heavy glass door to her apartment building and used her shoulder to shove it open. The doorway wasn’t square, so the door hung at a slight angle that caused it to grind against the cement.
“Let me help you with that.” Her neighbor, John, had been getting his mail from the slots in the entryway. He gave the door a big push and held it open for her.
“Thanks,” said Maria. She scooted through the entryway hoping John wouldn’t try to talk to her.
“You had a reading tonight?” he said, eyeing her embroidered jacket.
Maria nodded and clutched her sub sandwich to her chest. “Well, goodnight.” She started up the steps. John followed her.
“It’s been a while,” he said. “I have a big job decision to make. I could use a reading.”
Maria closed her eyes to keep from rolling them. John was a nice guy. Philosophic hand type. Reserved, but honest and uncomplaining. She’d read for him before, a few times. And while the Lines did shift and deepen over a lifetime, nothing would have changed much since his last reading, a couple of months ago.
“I’m sorry, I’m really tired,” said Maria.
“And you have dinner, there,” said John, nodding to her sub. “Sorry. Another time.”
John stopped at the second floor, where his apartment was, as Maria continued climbing to the fourth.
“I just need to know if things’re gonna turn around,” said the woman, Renee, who’d called Maria that morning. Maria had heard the desperation in her voice, but she had to finish her shift at the coffee shop before she could do a reading.
It was late afternoon now, and Maria could feel the tension in Renee’s hands. She’d been waiting all day for Maria to come tell her everything would be okay.
“I’ve been out of work for a year now,” moaned Renee. “I don’t want my kids to see me on welfare. I want them to see me working, providing.”
Maria nodded. Listening was a big part of her work as a palmist. Sometimes people needed that more than they needed a reading. Someone to talk to, someone they thought might have answers to the questions they never seemed to be able to answer.
Maria examined Renee’s hands. Her Life Line hugged the Mount of Venus. “I see you’ve struggled with illness.”
Renee’s eyes grew wide. “I had walking pneumonia last year. Ended up in the hospital. I missed a lot of work. I don’t have proof, but I’m sure that’s why I got laid off. Doesn’t make sense otherwise. I handled more customer calls per hour than anyone else.”
Maria’s eyes flicked across Renee’s palm, looking for good news. “Your Head Line is branched. That indicates interruptions and setbacks. And here, your Life Line breaks. Another sign of setback. But then the Life Line reappears. Stronger and deeper. That tells me you will begin again, with a new life.”
Renee’s shoulders visibly dropped. “A new life. God knows, I’m ready for that. When will this new life start?”
Timing was palmistry’s weak spot. Maria could see trouble, or happiness, ahead but she couldn’t accurately judge when. Some palmists tried, counting crosses or scrutinizing chains. But she stayed out of it. Instead, she redirected. Especially when it came to jobs and relationships, things people needed to push forward on their own but were hesitating for one reason or another.
“Your Life Line runs deep, telling me you are a hard worker. But you’re better suited to physical work. Something with your hands, maybe.”
Renee’s eyes, downcast till now, lit up. “You know, I’ve just been looking for call center jobs, like I’ve had before. But I saw that plant nursery over on Central was looking for someone to work in the greenhouse. I’m gonna check that out.”
Maria smiled. A new perspective. That was the true power of palmistry. She finished the reading. Renee’s Head Line was chained, indicating lack of concentration, but it cut all the way across the palm, indicating perseverance. Renee would overcome her shortcomings. Overall, the negative signs Maria saw were balanced by positive ones. “I see a lot of good ahead for you.”
Renee fumbled in her purse for Maria’s $25 fee. Maria waved her off. “When you get that job, you call me. We’ll settle up then.”
Renee smiled from ear to ear. “Oh, thank you Madame Maria. Thank you.”
“Glad I could help.”
“It must be nice to be a palmist,” laughed Renee as Maria rose to go. “You can read your own hands anytime you want.”
Maria blinked and balled up her fists. “Yes,” she managed to say. She turned away and hurried down the sidewalk to the bus stop, shoving her fists deep into her pockets. She paced the behind the bus bench, feeling the heat, then the sweat, building up between the lines of her clenched palms. The traitorous Lines.
She’d stopped looking at her own hands a long time ago.
She ran into John on the steps.
“Maybe I could have that reading now?”
Maria hesitated. But John always insisted on paying her full fee. It would make up for the free one she’d just done.
John talked the whole walk to his apartment. His ex-wife finally moved close enough that he got to see his daughter on the weekends. She was coming tomorrow. Work was going okay, but his boss just left and John was hoping for the job. That what he wanted Maria to look for. A promotion in his future.
“Looks like you just came from a reading. Again,” he said as he set down two glasses of iced tea.
Maria smoothed out her embroidered jacket. “Yes.”
“You like doing it? Fortunetelling?”
Maria nodded. “I don’t think of it as fortunetelling, really. I think of it as present-telling.”
John’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”
It was hard to describe, but Maria tried. “Our palms are maps of our lives. Successes, setbacks, fortunes gained, fortunes lost. Our hands show us our path, but we pick our direction. When someone asks me for a reading, it usually means they’ve lost sight of their direction. They’re trying to find it again. Now, not in the future. So I try to help them rediscover their direction, get back on their path.”
John smiled at her. She cleared her throat. “Let’s see about this promotion.”
She took John’s hands and looked at his familiar lines. A solid, deep Life Line. A straightforward Head Line. A sloping Heart Line that showed trustworthiness and sensitivity. A well-marked Fate Line, showing steadiness and discipline. A Fortune Line rising from the Plain of Mars, showing success and happiness coming late in life.
“I still see success in the second half of life, just like last time. Go for that promotion.”
“What about success in love?”
“I see nothing in the Lines to indicate loneliness or loss. You’ll find happiness there too, eventually.”
John’s eyes lingered on Maria’s face.
Maria dropped John’s hands. “I should go. That wasn’t much of a reading. You don’t need to pay me.”
But John caught her hands and turned them upwards. “That’s the Life Line, right? And that’s the… Head Line?”
“No, the Heart Line.”
John looked up at her. “What do your Lines say about you?”
Maria’s breath caught. What did her hands show her? She had a chained and broken Life Line, a faint Head Line, a Heart Line that abruptly dropped off. Early death. When, there was no way to know for sure. Palms held lifetimes. A millimeter could be a year, could be five. She’d thought maybe at age twenty-five, then maybe thirty. She’d white-knuckled through her last birthday, her thirty-fifth. But she was still waiting.
She swallowed and tried to pull her hands away. “I don’t really like to look at them.”
But John held on. He leaned down and kissed her palms. “I think they’re beautiful.”
Startled, Maria pulled back. John locked his eyes on hers. “There’s nothing good there,” she whispered.
“Maybe you’ve just lost sight of your path.”
John ran his right index finger along the lines of her left palm, his touch now sending strange vibrations up her arm. She steeled herself to look down. The Lines on her left palm, the hand that indicates the life she was born with, were marred and cut short, as always. The Lines on her right, that showed what she’d made of her life, were faint. She hadn’t been born with much of a life.
She hadn’t made much of her life either.
The hands told the story of a life lived, as much about the past as they were about the future. How many times had Maria said that to her clients as she searched for balance in their palms, positives to soften the negatives? She squinted at her right palm, at the faint etchings of her Life Line, her Head Line. The slope of her Heart Line. She flexed her palm, then relaxed it, watching the Lines shallow, then deepen. Shallow, deep.
She looked up at John, at his searching smile. Her shoulders dropped, her chest released. She took a deep breath and wrapped her cold hands—Mixed Hand type, restless, hard to read—around John’s warm ones.
He tightened his grip. And she tightened hers.
Stu Ducklow says
Great read– strong plot with good character development, not the easiest combination. It held me all the way through. Not sure I liked the ending– a bit like the prince finally arriving to sweep the poor girl off her feet. But I did like the down to earth approach, the solid grounding you obviously have in palm reading. So much better to read something authentic than the usual sci-fi fantasy. I’d love to read more of your stuff if you have a website.
Erin Halden says
Thanks Stu! I do have a fledgling website. Not a lot on it right now but I’m working on it!
What a fabulous idea and you’ve finessed it! I enjoyed reading your story so much. The dialogue sizzled (There’s a book by that name), the characters are believable and interesting, and the plot is perfect. The pace is quick and the ending is so well-timed. It’s a winner and you, the gifted writer.
Erin Halden says
Thank AL! Thank you so much for reading!
Gabriela Martin says
Absolutely loved this story.
This character Maria, her wisdom, her gently ways… human, easy to identify with… hopeful of her clients’ future yet doubtful of her own.
I was glad in the end that she allowed herself some hope for romance.
Excellent. I’d like to read more of your stories. There is a classic flair to your writing style… simple and unadorned yet elegant and rich and powerful.
Erin Halden says
Thanks Gabriela! Thanks for reading! You made my Monday!
Cheryl Halden says
What a beautifully, well written story! You obviously did your research into palmistry.. I felt the angst of Maria’s clients and the calming and confident demeanor of Maria. Eventhough Maria’s confidence in her ability to read palms becomes her own angst. Maria is a strong, caring, and insightful character which is revealed through her interactions with her clients. A wonderful story! I want to know about Maria’s future and the direction she chose!!!
This story is basically abt the palmistry how they depend their lifestyle on that amazing . Maria is the splendid character .She believes in love at the end. .Brilliant. what a wonderful story
Erin Halden says
Thanks Sazia! Thank you so much for reading!
Heidi Ferber says
Really great read. Loved where it was going, but thought the ending was rushed and odd. This could be the start of something really good. Keep at it! Well done!!
I loved this story. The characterization was believable, the dialog true, and the premise just enough out of the ordinary to be captivating.
The ending was good closure.
Mike Simcik says
The subject matter is good but you keep drifting in some other direction.
I would re-write that dialog until it’s clear in the mind of the reader where the stories headed.
The opening sentence in every chapter must make an impact on the reader.
Drunk, drunk, drunk, girl, girl, girl? Just need polishing.
Diane Saed says
I liked this story. However, I kept having the feeling that it wasn’t finished. And, I wanted to know more…become more involved with these characters especially Maria and John.
I loved the character of Maria—strong, insightful and empathetic. We need to know more about her. She seems to be able to “raise up” her clients and give them hope but cannot do it for herself. Why? I felt the ending came abruptly…yet, I was glad to see John take charge, and see a glimmer of hope for Maria and her belief in herself.
You obviously should be doing exactly what you are doing. WRITING! You never disappoint, and your stories always progress in an unexpected delightful manner.
Christy Brown says
Well done! I enjoyed your take on the palmist as an average, everyday person instead of an eccentric gypsy.
Sherrie L. Stewart says
Thank you for this story. You teach your readers about the art & science of palm reading while portraying your palm reader Maria as an everyday person with a real job and caring heart. Riding the bus is a great touch.
A good twist at the end. The ending did feel rushed, but also felt real rather than contrived. Your readers can hope for Maria’s and John’s happiness and conjure their own supplements to your ending. Nicely done.
Maria and her escapades with her clients could be an interesting book about twists in life. Just a thought.
Thanks again for the wonderful story.
Enjoyed the read but found its ending a little disappointing for my taste!
Debra Campoli says
I Loved your story so much! I am gifted with some psychic abilities and read tarot cards besides writing. The realistic way you have Maria a regular person who DOESN’T read herself is right on the money! I also can help so many with my own insight yet CANNOT give myself help! You could have been writing MY STORY! I enjoyed all of your characters and loved the easy flow to find out what was going to happen next! Actually, I got a bit nervous thinking that she should have seen her own future because she was going to be raped and killed! LOL I am glad it had that happy ending! Great realistic writing!
Erin Halden says
Hi Debra! I’m just saw this comment from you. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the story. It means a lot to me to know that I was able to get inside the head of someone like Maria in a realistic way. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.
I have links to all my Short Fiction Break stories on my website, erinhalden.com, if you want to read more!
Loved the story but it felt incomplete!