Elizabeth believed in fortune-telling. I didn’t.
But because she did, I was standing outside of a small, walled purple tent in the middle of the state fair with a sign that read One a time please. Tips appreciated, waiting for her to emerge. We were engaged, our wedding was within the month, and she wanted to see if a psychic would have anything to say about our future.
Finally the flap flew up and a whorl of incense escaped along with Elizabeth. She was ecstatic. “Ben! You’ll never guess what she told me!” She looked at me expectantly, like I was actually supposed to guess.
“I have no idea. What did she say?” Elizabeth grabbed my arm, and I pulled her in close.
“She told me that May 16th is going to be an important day for me.”
“Oh, really?” That was the day we’d set for our wedding. That’s also when we would head to the Bahamas for our honeymoon. Church ceremony in the morning, beach that night. “How ever did she get that idea?”
“I didn’t give her any clues, if that’s what you mean. She’s just the real deal.” I rolled my eyes at her, and she smirked at me. “Anyway, it’s your turn now.”
“My turn? No, no, I don’t really care for that sort of thing.” The smell of incense was strong even outside the tent. I could already barely breathe.
She started pushing me towards the tent. “Nope, you have to. I didn’t tip her, told her you would.”
Reluctantly, I let my fiancée push me through the flap and into the cloud of lavender and rose and sage and who knows what else. My eyes took a moment to adjust, but slowly a plump, lightly wrinkled, smiling woman with long curly brown hair came into focus. Folds of colorful clothing draped around her, and each finger had at least one ring with a giant plastic gem on it. It was gaudy.
“Hi,” I said.
“Welcome, you must be Benjamin.” She motioned to the folding chair across the small round table she sat at. As much as I’d expected one, there was no crystal ball in the middle of the table, just a large purple candle. I sat down. She gazed at me as if she were looking for something. It was too warm inside the tent.
“Hi,” I said.
She didn’t seem to hear me, just continued to stare through clumps of mascara. I waved and she smiled at me again.
“Yes,” she said. “You know the young lady that was just in here.”
She said it as a statement rather than a question, which confused me a little. “Yeah, she’s my...” I stopped. I didn’t want to give the woman anything to work with. “I know her.”
“My spirit guide is speaking to me.” She closed her eyes, and her hands fluttered through the air. “May 16th will be an important day for you too, just like that young lady.”
“Yes, I suppose it will.” She was obviously the real deal.
“But I have a warning for you. Whatever you do, do not travel on that day.”
I sat up straighter. Not much, but a little. Elizabeth must have told her some of our plans. “Why not? Why shouldn’t we travel?”
“You should not travel.” She paused. She waved a bit more. “My spirit guide will not tell me why.”
Figured. She was probably just waiting for me to tell her more. I took the bait. “I actually am planning on traveling that day. Should I change my plans and go a different day? Would that help?”
“Yes. Yes, that should be fine.”
“Is there going to be an accident or something? Should I warn everyone else who is on that flight?”
She tilted her head a little bit. “I don’t know. I don’t think that is necessary.” She hesitated a moment. “But you should not travel that day.”
The psychic didn’t seem to have much more to say after that, claimed that’s all her spirit guide would tell her. I gave her a nice tip so that Elizabeth would be happy, then escaped the fumes. Elizabeth asked what the psychic had told me. She was concerned about the travel warning at first, then reasoned that if it really was a big issue, the psychic would have warned her as well since we would be traveling together. I brought up maybe delaying the flight a day, just in case, but she shot the idea down. It was important to her that the first night we spent as a married couple was special. We didn’t bring it up again.
The wedding ceremony went great, exactly as we’d planned. Family and friends had a great time, there were lots of photos, we did our bride-and-groom-ly duties, and then we headed to Charleston International for our flight to the Bahamas.
It was when I heard the click of my seatbelt on the plane that I remembered the prophecy. I dismissed it immediately and started to read the book I'd brought to pass the time. Elizabeth played on her phone and watched the in-flight movie.
Then I was reminded of the prophecy again when the turbulence began. I watched a stewardess stumble and fall before she was able to reach her seat and strap in. One especially large drop seemed to remind Elizabeth about the prophecy as well.
“Ben, do you remember what Cassandra told you, that we shouldn't travel today?”
Cassandra. I hadn't even bothered to ask the psychic's name. My stomach dropped as the plane lurched again. Plastic covers popped off above us and oxygen masks fell down. We all scrambled to put them on. I made sure Elizabeth had hers secure, and she did. Then the overhead speakers crackled and the pilot spoke through them a little too quickly.
“There’s no reason to panic.” Judging by some of the passengers around me, it was already too late. “We will be out of the area momentarily. We will be fine. Everything will be fine.”
Elizabeth was pressed firm against the back of her chair, fingers gripping the armrests.
“Pilot says we'll be fine,” I told her. She glared at me and her lips pressed tight together, but she said nothing. “We'll be fine.”
There's no way the psychic could have known the plane would experience turbulence, maybe crash. Hopefully not crash. It was just a lucky coincidence.
The plane was much quieter after the masks had fallen; the screams that followed every dip and small dive were muffled. But eventually the dives came less and less frequently, and once they had stopped, the pilot's voice came through the speakers again.
“Good afternoon, everyone. We have left that little storm behind, and everything should be fine for the rest of the flight. Thank you.”
The stewardess near the front of the plane stood and pulled off her mask. She grabbed the receiver next to her. “You may now take off your masks.”
I pulled mine off. Elizabeth pulled hers off. The stewardess repeated, a little more sternly, “You may now remove your masks.” A few more people did so.
I smiled at Elizabeth. She smiled back, grabbed my hand and squeezed. The rest of the flight went well. Eventually I returned to my book, and the in-flight movie was rewound for those of the passengers who hadn't been paying attention. There were no more disturbances. Perhaps the psychic had just been prophesying the stress that the turbulence caused us, or maybe our fates had somehow changed at the last moment. Really, I was a little self-satisfied that the psychic had been wrong.
We landed at Lynden Pindling International Airport just before sunset. The sky was nearly cloudless, with just a few wisps lit up red and orange on the horizon. It was going to be a good week. Inside, we followed the signs and crowd towards the baggage claim. People around us wore suits, casual T-shirts, sundresses, bathing suits and floral button-ups. Elizabeth noticed one tight-fitting white shirt in particular.
“Mark?” She squinted a little bit. “Mark!” Mark looked up, saw us and broke into a huge smile.
“Liz!” He jogged over to us. “Man, I almost didn’t recognize you.”
Elizabeth smiled like a newlywed, gazing at Mark in disbelief. “Mark, I haven't seen you in… Gosh, it's been so long!” She seemed to realize where she was and turned to me. “Ben, this is Mark. We, uh, we used to date back in high school.” She brushed her hair behind her ear. She had never told me about any high school crushes.
“Yeah, we were sort of high school sweethearts, I guess you'd say. Thought love would conquer everything.” He turned back to Elizabeth and smiled with his perfect white teeth again. I stuck my hand out.
“Well, I'm Ben, Elizabeth's husband. We just got married today, actually.” He shook my hand, held it a little longer than was necessary. He was very tanned.
“Damn, seems I’m a day too late,” Mark said. Elizabeth giggled. “Ben, you are one lucky man.” He glanced down at his watch and frowned. “I'd love to stick around, but I've got a flight to catch. We should catch up sometime, Liz.”
“Where do you live nowadays?” Elizabeth asked. I hoped the answer was Texas, California, China, something far, but no such luck.
“Charleston, South Carolina.” That made Elizabeth happy. Elizabeth being happy was supposed to make me happy. “You?”
They exchanged numbers and promises to see each other again, and we all exchanged pleasant goodbyes, though for differing reasons. They were happy to have seen each other; I was happy to see him leave.
“This trip is going great already,” Elizabeth said. “I really never thought I'd see him again.”
But she did.