Madam Savarona tucked in her voluminous skirt, took another swig of wine and cracked her knuckles. Her ginger-red hair wisped around her eyes as she took in the crowd walking to and fro around her motley stall. The crystal ball in front of her looked dim and damp, while the tarot cards she fingered absently felt soft and worn. Just as she was about to take another shot from the dark-green bottle, the one she knew would push her into the land of fog, a man’s voice drew her up short. “Are you--open? For a reading?”
Madam Savarona’s sea-green eyes focused on a tall man, his clothes well-cut, if slightly stodgy in style. His shoes were expensive, but scuffed at the toes. The hat he held too-tightly was a soft fedora, short brim, a quiet choice. Broad of shoulder, he held himself down, trying to appear shorter and maybe even smaller. Waving a bejeweled hand in what she hoped was a mystical pass, Madam Savarona forced her voice deeper. “Be seated, sir. Madam Savarona…is at your service.”
The man slumped more than sat on the fading cushioned chair, his legs akimbo, and ran a hand through wavy brown hair. His face was an open book of confusion and a touch of despair. He cleared his throat. “I’ve never… I’ve never done this, something like this before.”
Madam Savarona raised her hand. “You live in a world of facts and numbers, not feelings.” She saw him start and smiled behind her eyes. “I have seen this already.”
The man’s confusion increased. “My word! That--that is remarkable. I do work in facts and numbers. I’m a--” Madam Savarona’s hand cut him off.
Frowning, she let her eyes gaze into a distance. “You…are…I see money and…safety…I see…a bank. Yes. You are a banker.” She focused on the agape man in front of her. “You work in…I sense family…Your father is the bank president.”
The man slumped back, his face slack and almost empty of expression. “How? How can you, uh, see this?” She waved the question away. The man lunged forward, his eyes now ablaze, his face eager. "I know you can help me! You must! Please!”
“Ask. I shall do what I can.” Her eyes flashed deeply.
“I--I have a quandary…There’s these two girls, see? Two women, really. They’re both--well, they’re both fabulous, in their own ways. And I, well, I--” He shook all over, as if caught in a harsh fever. His mouth chewed air and tasted despair, “I love them both! At least, I think I do, but that’s not it. It’s that I have wanted to… I want to…” He looked up, helpless.
“You want to get married.”
The man almost fainted. “Yes! Yes! That’s it!” Madam Savarona watched her sense of triumph fade into memory, her eyes fixed on the anguished man. “You are remarkable! I know I can ask you--”
“Which one to marry?”
She rushed around the rickety table to help the man up into the chair, his head lolling as if punched by a heavyweight. “Oh my stars,” he mumbled, “That’s never happened to me before.” He gazed at Madam Savarona, who dashed back to her chair. “I’m so sorry. I’m not usually like this.”
“I know,” she said, then quickly added, “It is a strong thing, what you feel. I may be able, I think, to help you.” The gratitude in his eyes gave her the strength to go on. “Do exactly as I say. Approach each woman. Ask her to name a jewel. Your true love, the one that will light your life forever, shall be the one who says ‘A ruby, red as passion.’ She you shall delight in marrying.”
The man stood up, electrified. “’Name a jewel.’ Yes! I can do that. I will! By Jove, I’ll do that right now!” Slapping the fedora on his head, he strode out, the picture of determination.Madame Savarona watched him go, then quickly divested herself of clothes and wig. “A ruby, red as passion,” she whispered to herself. Yes, that’s exactly what Jonathan would hear when he asked her to name a jewel in about, oh, thirty minutes or so...