Maria stared at the compass from her driver’s side seat, thumbs tapping nervously on the steering wheel. This had to be the house. It was exactly as Nonni had said. A mahogany front door with bevelled oval glass and outer storm door. A large compass to the right of the door. And, directly underneath, the compass the table where Nonni claimed her future would be revealed.
Her phone chirped at her. It was 2:30 on the dot. Right then, time to do this. Maria blew out a heavy breath, undid her seat belt and climbed her way out of the car.
She crossed the sidewalk and slowly made her way onto the porch. Everything was quiet, except for the whirling hum of the fan overhead. She thought it odd to have a ceiling fan outdoors, but a lot had struck her as odd in the couple of weeks she had lived on the island. Pushing the doorbell, she heard heavy chimes echoing throughout the house. The curtains in the closest window shifted slightly and Maria stood back a bit so that the person inside could get a good look at her.
After a moment, the front door opened, revealing an older woman who must have been absolutely gorgeous when she was young. She was still quite beautiful. Her olive skin was firm and glowing; she stood tall and proud; in fact, only the tiniest of wrinkling around her eyes and mouth indicated that this woman was, in fact, at least twenty years older than Nonni. With her jet black hair pulled back in a bun, she had somehow managing to secure every piece of hair without looking too harsh. The fabric of her sleeveless purple dress brushed against her ankles and she wrapped a knitted beige shawl securely around her shoulders. Looking Maria up and down several times, the woman cocked her head to one side and lifted an eyebrow expectantly.
“Madame Teresa?” Maria’s voice was barely above a whisper.
“I am Madame Teresa. Who, exactly, are you?” The older woman crossed her arms over her chest.
“I, I, I’m Maria Poole. My grandmother is Katherine Merena. She told me—“
“I know Katerina, “ Madame Teresa interrupted harshly. “ I’ve know Katerina since before she could walk. She has come to me for advice her entire life and I have helped her the best I could every time. But you. I have never seen you before, yet by your account, you are Katerina’s granddaughter. How is it that I have never met Katerina’s granddaughter?”
“I only met my grandmother two weeks ago for the first time.” Maria dropped her eyes, willing the tears to stay trapped behind them. “My parents… they were killed in a car crash.”
Madame Teresa studied Maria’s face for a long minute, then without explanation, her entire demeanor visibly softened. Taking Maria by the shoulders, she guided her down to sit at the table under the compass. “Come here, my darling. I had heard of course that Angie had been killed in an accident. But no one told me that Angie had a daughter. I’m having a hard time understanding why Kat never mentioned it before calling me this morning. I was half convinced you were some horrible scam artist preying on an old woman’s grief!”
Maria sniffled and timidly glanced up at Madame Theresa. “What made you decide I was telling the truth.”
“The last time I saw your mother, she was only a few years older than you, but had the same, sad mask of grief on her face. You look just like her.” Maria leaning across the table, taking Maria’s hand. “But why, why on earth did Katerina never mention her beautiful grandchild before this morning?”
“Mom never told her,” Maria started in a whisper, her voice steadily growing stronger as her confidence flowed back. “I don’t know why, but Mom never told her about me. I knew about Nonni. Mom would give me letters that she said were from Nonni and presents she said were from Nonni… But I guess Mom just did it all herself, because Nonni says she has never known that I existed.”
As Maria explained, she was looking at Madame Theresa. For a brief moment, she saw a flash of clarity come over the older woman’s face that was quickly enveloped back into a noncommittal mask. Maria started, grabbing the older woman by her hands.
“You know something,“ Maria asserted. As Madame Teresa tried to raise her hand in protest, Maria tightened her grasp. “No, you know something! I saw it in your eyes! What is it that you know? Please, I need to understand!”
Madame Teresa looked hard at Maria for a long time, before finally answering, “I may know something, my darling, you are right. I do know why your mother left and I may know why she kept you away from here, or at least why she thought she should keep you away from here. I may be partly to blame. But before I can tell you anything, I must sort the truth from the possibilities.”
“Well, alright, I suppose,” Maria felt more clueless than ever. “What do we need to do?”
“I need to read your fortune, my darling.”