by Stephanie Escobar
The light-hearted sound of the mandolin and the fiddle played loudly through the wooden walls of Tanairy’s horse-drawn caravan. She sits at the edge of the bed lacing up her boots; quickly reaching for her patched multicolor skirt and releasing it as she stands up. The jingles the tambourine makes as its being played sends vibrations through her body.
She rushes to peek through the window to observe Romani folks happily dancing. Delirya, her best friend, waves as she runs towards her. Tanairy smiles and makes her way to the door, quickly picking up a hip scarf from the bed.
Delirya opens the door to the caravan.
“Tanairy come quickly, the dance has begun,” she says through a huge smile.
They both rush out making their way through the crowd, joined by fellow friends.
They reach the dance circle that surrounds Aemiliamus as he dances the flamenco with multiple women. Tanairy’s eyes immediately fix on the handsome Aemiliamus’ every move, and she bites her bottom lip.
“He’s so handsome, sadly he will never look your way, Tanairy,” a rough voice creeps up behind her.
Tanairy and Delirya turn around to face the woman who dared to say such a thing.
“What makes you so sure of it?” she answers.
The old Haitian woman laughs as she looks at Tanairy. “Child, please, Aemiliamus is a man and you my dear, you’re not woman enough.”
Tanairy lifts her chin up and raises an eyebrow while grabbing her skirt.
“You watch, old woman, I’ll show you,” she says as she signals her friends to join in the flamenco.
Tanairy’s heartbeat begins to race as she joins Aemiliamus in the dance.
“Ole!” the townsfolk shout as they clap their hands to the rhythm of the music.
Her friends join in and dismiss the other women dancing around him by moving their skirts aggressively around them. Aemiliamus’ intense brown eyes meet Tanairy as he slowly circles her giving her a good look from head to toe, while caressing his black beard. His earrings hide under that long curly hair covered by a brown bandana.
Delirya looks at Tanairy dancing with Aemiliamus and smirks back at the old woman.
“You see woman, you were wrong,” she says folding her arms across the chest.
The old woman laughs mischievously.
“I’m never wrong, child” she answers, not losing sight of Tanairy.
“Who are you? I never seen you in our camp before,” Delirya asks intrigued as she studies the old woman.
“Patience, You will find out very soon my dear Delirya,” she says softly sending a cold shiver down Delirya’s spine.
The old woman turns around holding herself up with a black cane with a skull head; the coins clinking on her belt as she walks away.
Delirya watches as the old woman disappears in the crowd.
The night has fallen and the music has stopped playing, Aemiliamus approaches his caravan. Tanairy runs after him holding on to her skirt.
“Aemiliamus!” she shouts for his attention.
He turns around and smiles.
“Tanairy, you should head back to your home, is late, my dear,” he says caressing her chin.
The single touch of his hand makes her weak in the knees; they exchange strong glances when suddenly another woman wraps her hands around his strong arm.
“Come on my love, it is time,” she says softly in his ear.
Aemiliamus quickly lets go of Tanairy and turns around to be guided by the woman.
Tanairy eyes get filled with rage as she stands there watching Aemiliamus walk away with another woman.
Delirya walks up behind her.
“Tsk, tsk you should let it go Tanairy, he is not the kind of man to be tied up to one woman,” she says.
They watch Aemiliamus devour the other woman’s neck as they head inside his home.
“I will not let this go! Aemiliamus will be mine even if I have to sell my soul to Legba himself!” Tanairy says, walking away furiously.
Delirya catches up to her.
“Where are you going?” she asks, worried.
“I’m going to see Rasheeda.”
Tanairy walks faster avoiding eye contact with Delirya.
“Have you gone mad? Have you not heard the stories? Rasheeda sold her soul to Legba to have the power to see the future.”
Delirya stands in front of Tanairy preventing her passage.
“Move aside Delirya, I shall find out if selling her soul was worth it,” she argues, pushing her friend aside.
Tanairy stands outside of Rasheeda’s caravan and takes a moment to think it over.
“Tanairy are you sure you want to do this?” Delirya asks staring at Rasheeda’s black caravan with a red bulb hanging outside the door.
“It is said she is blind and underneath her bandana she has a third eye that allows her to see the future.” Delirya feels a chill as she says it aloud.
“Nonsense, that’s just a bedtime story,” Tanairy says as she pushes her curly hair back.
“Bedtime story or not, we shouldn’t be here Tanairy.”
A crow lands on top of Rasheeda’s home, cawing as it stares at them. Delirya takes a step back, grabbing Tanairy’s arm.
“Let’s head back, we are far enough from camp,” she says fearfully.
“You head back, or stay here. I’m going inside,” she says as she pulls her arm away from Delirya and runs up the steps to Rasheeda’s place.
“Tanairy!” Delirya shouts but is useless as Tanairy is already inside.
There are only many candles providing light as she closes the door behind her. She stands still, too fearful to take another step.
“Rasheeda?” she calls out.
“Come in Tanairy, I been waiting for you,” a rough voice says from the table behind the beaded curtain.
Tanairy slowly walks through the curtain; petrified when she lays eyes on a mature woman with blind eyes sitting in front of a crystal ball and a black bandana covering her forehead.
“Come child, do not be afraid of a blind woman,” the woman says as she caresses the crystal ball with her burgundy pointed nails. She wears a big onyx ring on her index finger and tattoos of the planets decorate her fingers.
“You know why I’m here?” Tanairy, intrigued, asks as she comes closer to the table.
“Aemiliamus is the reason of your visit,” she says grabbing her tarot cards from the table.
Tanairy, eager to find out more pulls out a chair from the table and sits in front of Rasheeda.
“Tell me more woman! Will he ever be mine? I want to know will he ever look my way.” she rambles on.
“Silence child, remember there’s more time than life,” she says calmly.
Tanairy frustrated jumps from her chair slamming her hands on the table.
“You will tell me what I seek!”
She grabs her leather pouch and pulls out a couple of silver coins and throws them on the table.
“Is it money you desire? Here! Take it! Now speak.”
Rasheeda smirks as she hands over the cards to Tanairy to shuffle.
Tanairy shuffles the cards and hands them over to Rasheeda.
The blind woman slowly spreads the cards on the table. “Pick a card, child,” she says, staring at Tanairy.
Tanairy carefully stares at the cards, tries to find the right one, and finally she picks a card.
Rasheeda turns it over.
“The High Priestess… mmm?” Rasheeda stops to evaluate the card.
“What? What’s wrong?” Tanairy asks, concerned.
“The Priestess represents a love that has become an addiction; she often craves what she cannot have,” Rasheeda adds. “Draw another card.”
Tanairy quickly picks another card.
Rasheeda uncovers the card. “Reversed Empress; the loss of personal power through placing too much emphasis on another person,” she says.
“What are you trying to say? Aemiliamus won’t be mine?” Tanairy begins to get flustered.
Rasheeda ignores the question.
“Pick your final card my dear,” she says.
Tanairy, harried, reaches out to pick her final card. Suddenly she feels Rasheeda’s hand gripping her arm.
“Don’t be too hasty child. Look into my eyes. Believe,” Rasheeda says, slowly releasing Tanairy’s arm.
Tanairy pulls her arm back. She looks deeply into Rasheeda’s vacant eyes and carefully reaches for the card.
Rasheeda turns it over.
“Death,” she says.
Tanairy jumps from her chair and takes a step back.
“You lie! You’re nothing but a scam artist,” she shouts angrily.
Rasheeda, unbothered, collects her cards.
“The universe has spoken child,” she says.
“You lie! Aemiliamus is mine, I’ll show you and everyone else in this miserable camp,” Tanairy says as she makes her way to the exit furiously.
“Wait! There is one other thing you can do child that will guarantee you the love of the man you desire.”
Tanairy immediately freezes at the door and quickly turns around.
“I won’t give you another dime!” she answers aggressively.
“Come now, my dear. Your money is not valid here. Rasheeda wants only to help.” The blind woman releases a slow cackle as she moves her fingers around the crystal ball.
Tanairy raises an eyebrow intrigued. “I’m listening,” she says as she stands at the door.
“Come, come.” Rasheeda signals her to come closer.
Tanairy sits again.
Rasheeda removes her bandana, uncovering a real third eye on her forehead.
Tanairy is horrified as she sees the blue eye staring right at her.
“I see in your future that Aemiliamus will be yours forever and you will become the greatest woman he ever loved,” Rasheeda says.
Tanairy, speechless, sits there petrified as she remembers what Delirya said about Rasheeda. The clack sound of a small bottle hitting the table brings her back to reality.
“You must drink this love potion with a drop of your own blood tonight, and I guarantee you that your precious Aemiliamus will love you by sunrise,” Rasheeda says.
Tanairy looks up at her empty white eyes and grabs the bottle.
“If I do this… Are you sure Aemiliamus will be mine?” she asks with uncertainty.
“If you don’t trust in Rasheeda, then why waste my time?”
The blind woman begins to retract the bottle, but Tanairy pulls it away.
“I’ll do it! I’ll do anything that guarantees the love of Aemiliamus,” Tanairy reassures her.
“Remember, a drop of your own blood,” Rasheeda repeats slowly.
Tanairy listens carefully as she hides the bottle in her chest and she runs out with a smile from ear to ear.
Later, Tanairy stares back at her reflection on a mirror hanging inside her home, smiling joyfully. She reaches for the love potion inside her shirt, looks the bottle over, and then opens it.
“Remember a drop of your own blood.” Rasheeda’s voice plays in the back of her mind.
Tanairy picks up a knife from a nearby table, and without hesitation, slashes her hand. She holds the potion bottle steady and drips a single drop of her blood into its open mouth. After wrapping her bleeding hand in an old rag, Tanairy swallows the concoction to the last drop.
“Aemiliamus… The things I do for you,” she whispers as she winces in disgust from the taste.
In bed that night, she fights herself to stay awake, but her eyes refuse.
Tanairy wakes up to the sun’s rays cutting through her window. Her her bed sheets, covered in blood, startle her. She quickly jumps out of bed and runs to the mirror.
Tanairy lets out a bloodcurdling scream when she sees her reflection. Half of her face has rotted in the night. Her skin peeling away from the bone. Blood rolls down her chin, pooling along the seam where flesh meets exposed skull. She reaches with trembling hands for her face. Crying in agony, she peels the rotten skin from her lips, leaving nothing but her bared and glistening teeth.
A dark form appears behind her in the mirror. She turns with a start, but no one is behind her. Tanairy looks back at the mirror, and the dark form becomes clear. The old Haitian woman from the dance stares back at her in the mirror.
“My name is Atibon Legba, my dear, Tanairy,” she growls. “I come to take you with me. Your soul now belongs to me.”
Tanairy falls to her knees, weeping.
Outside, Delirya is hanging laundry to dry. She watches as a black butterfly lands and perches on one of her sheets. Goosebumps course through her body.
“Tanairy?” she asks, dropping the basket of clothes.
She turns and runs to Tanairy’s home. Inside, she finds her friend’s lifeless body on the floor.
Distant echoes of Atibon Legba’s and Rasheeda’s cackles drown and mix with Delirya’s blood-curdling scream, and are heard throughout the camp.
Elsewhere, Aemiliamus quietly sings a love song to himself, picking flowers for his dear Tanairy.
Stephanie D. Escobar is an aspiring writer. She loves to spend time watching the latest movies and reading books. If she is not writing, she is spending time with her biggest fans: her mother and her loving pet, Onyx. You can follow her on Instagram at @OnyxandMe.