As I trudged home from work past shops still flaunting Halloween displays, I thought of how I’d sat alone the evening before ignoring the trick-or-treaters at my door.
Maybe it was feeling so downcast that made me unusually suggestible. A discreet notice in a town house window caught my eye and, impetuously, I rang the bell. I hoped that nobody who knew me would see me standing there.
The dark haired woman who opened the door was younger than I’d anticipated.
‘Sorry – I haven’t made an appointment.’
‘That’s okay,’ she said and beckoned me in. ‘Can I take your coat, Mr…?’
‘Toussaint,’ I said.
She beamed. ‘I love that name. And today’s your day, right?’
She could see I didn’t understand.
‘All Saints’ Day. That’s what Toussaint means, isn’t it?’
‘Right. Yes.’ I hadn’t expected small talk. ‘Sorry – do I pay first or afterwards?’
‘Upfront, please,’ she said. ‘It gets…awkward, otherwise.’
I counted out the notes.
‘Do you use a….’
‘Crystal ball? No.’
We sat at a small table and she took my hands in hers. ‘What were you hoping to discover?’ she asked.
To my surprise, the words flooded out. I’d moved here two years earlier for a new job. It was great, I loved it, but I was so tired of being alone. I was a good man, I thought – why couldn’t I find Ms Right?
It was easy talking to her and I gabbled on. But then I started to suspect this was a trick of hers to elicit information. I clammed up. She just smiled, closed her eyes, and was silent too for a long minute. Then she spoke.
‘The one you’ve been looking for – she’s been waiting too. She’s right there, if you’d only see it. But you will. And soon. Then – marriage, children. Fast. Very fast.’
Wow. She’d shaken me out of my self-pity but this seemed crazy. And yet, for some reason, I felt sure it was true.
‘Is it someone I work with?’
‘Is there someone at your office who you think could be the one?’
My mind raced. There were several I would gratefully have accepted. Did one of them secretly yearn for me? I thanked her hurriedly and practically skipped out. I couldn’t wait to get to the office the next morning.
With every woman I met during the following days and weeks, I found myself thinking, ‘Is it you?’ It never was.
Increasingly desperate, I went through the gears from amiable to obnoxious, provoking reactions of corresponding intensity. Charm evoked puzzlement. Flirtation caused annoyance. Finally, my remark, “Come on, I know you fancy me really”, earned me a painful slap. I deserved it. I wanted to slap me too.
What the hell had I been thinking? I’d been duped by a phoney clairvoyant. I left work early, determined to confront her.
I rang the doorbell long and hard. She let me in and led me to the back room.
‘What’s on your mind?’
Good question. The angry accusatory speech I had prepared had disappeared. Looking into her eyes, I saw for the first time how perfectly green they were and the penny dropped.
‘I’ve been slow on the uptake, haven’t I?’
She smiled. ‘I knew you’d get there eventually.’
‘Was it love at first sight for you?’
‘Love at second sight, actually. I foresaw you coming.’
I still don’t know if she was teasing me. Mrs Toussaint seldom tells fortunes these days – the children keep her so busy. But every November 1st we celebrate our version of Valentine’s Day: Toussaint’s Day.
First published as Winner of the Writers’ Forum Flash Fiction competition, Feb 2016.
Note: The great songwriter Allen Toussaint died shortly after All Saints’ Day 2015 and I made the connection with his name. I binge-listened to his songs and one of his most well known, Fortune Teller inspired this story. I couldn’t use that as the title, as it would have acted as a spoiler for the start of the story.