Blue Run Plantation, South Carolina
Songs from Aerosmith blared from the rollercoaster ride drowning out the screams as the people in the cars sped around the track. The aroma of the sweet sugary smell of cotton candy and buttered popcorn filled the night air. Paper wrappers, cups and cheap stuffed animals littered the fairgrounds. Families, couples—young and old laughed and joked as they tried their hands at the carnival games while stuffing their faces with hot dogs, hamburgers or big turkey legs.
The muggy air promised rain later tonight, but no one seemed anxious to leave the festivities. Arianna plopped down on the bench and smiled. She had helped the historical society plan the event and all proceeds from the carnival’s productive night would go toward the restoration of Blue Run Plantation.
Her eyes wandered toward the mansion silhouetted against the darkening sky of blue, orange and gold. In the colonial era, the river served as a highway for the Low Country plantations and the families used the tides to travel. She could only imagine how majestic the Blue Run would have stood facing the Ashley River.
She turned and waved as she caught sight of Megan hurrying toward her. Her long brown ponytail swung behind her with purpose, making her suspicious. “What did the spitfire want her to do now?” she whispered under her breath.
Megan pulled Arianna to her feet. “Everyone’s been talking about Madam Carlotta.”
“The gypsy fortune teller. People claim she has been freakishly accurate. We have to check this out.”
“And why would I care?” Arianna dragged her feet.
“We’re going to have our fortunes told. I want to know if Gregory plans on proposing to me on my birthday.”
Megan and Gregory had been a couple since their first year of college and the way he’s been scraping and saving, Arianna could give the prediction herself. Gregory would propose, no doubt about it. “Megan, I don’t— ”
“And you’re going to find out who your one and only is.”
Arianna drew in a frustrated sigh. “Not everyone is destined to find his or her soul mate.” At twenty-six, Arianna had become a successful music teacher at USC School of Music. With heavy schedules, concerts and her time with the historical society, dating become a distant memory.
Megan stopped in her tracks and spun her around. “You don’t give a guy a chance. Look at you.” She swung her hand up from Arianna’s head to her toes. “Talented, tall, slender, blond with cornflower blue eyes—men should be lining up to snatch you up, but you snub your nose.”
“Do not.” She lifted her chin.
Megan laughed. “Sure you don’t. You spend all your free time researching for the Historical Society and with the new items they uncovered you’ve been busier than ever. And I’ll have you know, I’ve seen you stare at the portrait.”
“Oh, don’t act all innocent. The portrait of the dark, handsome, brooding man related to the Buchanans of Blue Run. If you ask me, the family buried the portrait for a reason, probably an embarrassment to their refine upstanding position in society. I don’t need to do research.
The man’s arrogant stance reeks of danger and my guess is he paid for it with his life.”
“It appears I’m not the only one obsessed with the portrait.”
“Only because I was curious to know why you’ve become a hermit. If you want someone dangerous, at least make sure he’s alive. Now stop stalling and let’s find out if Carlotta knows where your dark and dangerous guy is hiding.”
“Very funny.” Arianna shook her head. “Where are we going anyway?”
“To the mansion. Don’t you find it perfect?”
“No, I don’t find it perfect. The mansion isn’t safe for people to run in and out of; it’s still being restored. How did this gypsy woman obtain permission?”
“Oh lighten up, Arianna. Someone from the Historical Society must have given her the keys. Besides, she’s drawing in loads of money. Isn’t that the plan?”
“Sure, but—” Thunder rumbled cutting off Arianna’s words and she gave up arguing. “We’re in for a storm tonight.” Arianna looked up at the sky as a flash of light sizzled across the heavens.
“All the more reason to hurry. My hair will frizz worse than it has already.”
Torches lined the walk like breadcrumbs leading them to their destination. Arianna stopped and placed her hands on her hips. She frowned up at the big purple sign over the entrance of the mansion that spelled out FORTUNES, in bold black letters. “She’s defacing private property.”
Megan yanked on her. “Sue her later, but first our fortunes.”
They stepped into the front foyer of darkness. A battery operated globe stood on the floor giving the illusion of the heavens opening up to them. A foldable card table stood in the center of the foyer, displaying a large crystal ball with an eerie glowing mist inside it that swirled around in milky silence. The fortuneteller wore a colorful scarf like a headband to keep her dark curly hair away from her face. She adorned herself with gold jewelry, hoops in her ears, chains around her neck and bands around her wrists. The whole ensemble gave the appearance that she could be a descendent from gypsies.
Carlotta beckoned her forward, her bracelets tinkling like tiny bells. "One at a time, please." Her voice was rich, flavored with a fake Romanian accent. "Let Carlotta tell you what you want to know."
Megan gave Arianna a slight push. “I’ll wait outside.
Arianna rolled her eyes at her friend, but she approached the table and sat down.
"For the cost of my eyesight into the future, there is a small donation of twenty dollars." She held out her hand and waited.
“Twenty …” she huffed. “Fine.” She reminded herself this was for a good cause and pulled out a crisp bill from her purse and paid the hefty price.
Carlotta stuffed the money into a skull-adorned black box.
"Now, we shall see what the cards hold for you. She shuffled the tarot cards before she turned them over revealing first the Death card, then the World card and then the Lovers card. “This cannot be right.”
Carlotta chuckled nervously. “Sometimes the cards are not clear.” She scooped them up and put them back in a pile.
“Let me see your palm."
Arianna leaned forward and held out her hand.
The fortuneteller’s brows furrowed as she concentrated, a look of fear passing over her features before she concealed her anxiety.
A primitive warning sounded in Arianna’s mind. She suddenly didn’t want her fortune read. She tried to pull her hand away, but Carlotta wouldn’t release her.
"You have an interesting palm." Carlotte pointed to the line that ran the course of her hand. "This is your life line. You will live a long life."
“What’s the shorter one next to it mean?”
Carlotta didn’t answer. Her eyes rolled back in her head and her whole body jerked as if she was being controlled by another force. She flung to one side then the other before she sat up ramrod straight.
Blood slid through Arianna’s veins like cold needles and she tried to break free, but Carlotta’s grip was like a vice. As if this wasn’t freaky enough, the woman began to hum.
Arianna froze and her eyes widened in surprise as she recognized the melody. It was an old Scottish tune, she’d been haunted by as long as she could remember. The melody lingered in her subconscious surfacing at odd moments like an annoying tick. Her parents swore they never taught her the song and no one knew where she’d picked up the tune.
How did this fake fortuneteller know it? Arianna again yanked her arm and this time pulled free. She rubbed her bruised hand, staring at the woman with suspicion.
Carlotta blinked rapidly before she focused her gaze on Arianna. "I am sorry. Did I hurt you?"
"I'm fine," Arianna answered, surprised that her voice sounded calm. "But I think I'll skip the fortunetelling, if you don't mind?" She didn't wait for Carlotta to say anything, but stood and hurried toward the exit.
"Arianna," Carlotta called.
She halted and whirled around. "How did you know my name?"
“Does it matter?”
She arched her brow. “Yes, I believe it does. Is this some kind of hoax?”
“You don’t belong here.” Carlotta dropped her fake accent.
“There are souls out there … wandering … lost, but time always has a way of sorting out the mistakes. You belong to Blue Run. Your destiny intertwines with his.”
“What are you talking about?”
Carlotta walked around the table to face Arianna. "You must listen, for you don’t have much time. You will think you have met your end, but it won’t be over. You’ll return to where you belong, and another woman will take your place of doom.”
“Is this all a part of your theatrical presentation because if it is, I don’t like it.”
“In this other era, you will meet a very strong man with the blackest of hair.”
“Did you hear me?”
“His eyes will be green, clear and sharp like a cat,” Carlotta continued. “He is called …” She chewed on her lower lip, but then her eyes lit up. “The Scotsman. He is called the Scotsman. Trust him, for he will protect you. He may feel mistrust for you because of the other woman's black heart, but in time, he will see you for who you really are. He’s your soul mate. It will be his child you carry."
Terror had kept Arianna frozen in her spot, enduring Carlotta’s eerie premonition, but now the woman had finished and Arianna took a step back. “You’re crazy.” She pointed her finger at her.
Thunder rolled shaking the rafters. Dust and debris fell around Arianna and she held up her hands to protect her head. Coughing, she turned and ran for the door, but a sharp pain to the back of her skull brought her to her knees.
“Watch out!” Carlotta warned.
Arianna’s eyes widened as she watched the wood beam hurdling toward her.
Carlotta finished what she set out to do here and packed her belongings. A crowd had gathered in the cramped foyer as the young paramedic frantically worked on Arianna, but in the end, he turned toward her friend, Megan and shook his head.
“Oh my God. I can’t believe it. She can’t be gone. She can’t.”
Carlotta heard Megan’s heartfelt cry and stepped forward, placing a hand on the young woman’s shoulder. “She’s not dead,” Carlotta told her.
Megan sniffed and wiped away the stream of tears running down her cheek. She turned toward the paramedic as he pulled a sheet over Arianna’s face.
“Listen to me,” Carlotta insisted and Megan looked back at her again. “Listen to your heart. Arianna didn’t die here tonight. She went back to where she belonged, back in time.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t take my word. The proof is on her finger. Your friend wasn’t married, am I correct?”
Megan nodded, her brows furrowing. “I don’t understand what her being married or not has to do with it.
“Check the woman’s finger for the proof of what I tell you. Trust me, Megan,” Carlotta insisted.
“How do you know my name? Who are you?”
“Who I am is not your concern. I only tell you what I know because Arianna would have wished you to know she is safe.”
Megan held the fortuneteller’s gaze for a moment longer before she knelt down. She reached beneath the sheet for her friend’s hand, surprised of how warm her flesh still felt. She stared at the huge sapphire wedding ring that had been set in gold. “This isn’t hers.” Her voice was thick and unsteady. She whipped back the sheet and stared at the woman who had lost her life. “Oh my God!” She covered her mouth with her hand. The woman’s haircut was slightly different without the streaks of pale-blond. Her lashes were void of mascara, and she didn’t have a sprinkle of freckles across her nose. “This isn’t Arianna,” she said aloud knowing how ridiculous she sounded. How could this be? She looked up wanting answers but Carlotta had already vanished.