Her name was Age. Age is the Norse word for Ancestor, the young women had a striking almost eerie, resemblance to that of her Great Grandmother. Age possesses a timeless, innocent beauty. Her eyes which seem to reflect the ancient past, are the color of multifaceted, sapphires. Her skin shimmers of golden teak from the Florida Keys sun. Like a modern-day gypsy, her long amber tresses flow dreamily in the wind, untamed and without apology. Her spirit did not fit well within society, or traditional jobs deemed suitable for young women in the 21st century.
Age was a Seeress.
She worked in Key West’s Mallory Square, telling fortunes to tourists. She read tarot cards, with grace and accuracy. Around her neck she wears a small dowsing wand. It is made from Lapis Lazarus which is fastened by a leather cord.
The wand was purchased in Cairo from a merchant at a dusty Souk when her Aunt Valentina was on holiday. The merchant pulled the crystal wand from a box of other unassuming trinkets and said in broken English, “Sister, you come for this, no?" "This is for special girl who need crystal." “Here Miss, please you take, no money please,” Valentina held out her hand and held the stone, at that moment she got a chill throughout her body.
She smiled with the reply, “Yes, I know exactly who this stone is for.”
She thanked the merchant and tucked the crystal into a pocket of her backpack.
Age could not resonate with societies reasoning as to why the art of prophecy was now viewed a stigma. Evil perhaps by some of the passersby. The frequent name calling often filled her days with despair, sadness, but mostly anger. All she ever desired was to fit in—to be accepted for who she was. She wanted people to stop calling her names like, fraud, witch, or gypsy.
Age worked in a self-made tent made from colorful sarees sewn into drapes which were pinned to the top of her tent. Her free time, however, was spent in the cemetery, the most haunted place on the Island. The cemetery is at the center of Old Town. It is full of rich colorful history, legends and ghosts. It was founded in 1847 after a terrifying hurricane washed away the original site, scattering bones, and the dead throughout a forest. She delighted in conversing with the spirits who walked the streets of Key West and who haunted the cemetery.
There are many incarnate spirits milling around the Island, like the lady in the blue dress, and Manuel Cabeza who had been tarred and feathered by the KKK. But her favorite was Hemingway, who she affectionately called “Mr. H.” Every morning on her way to work she encountered him, as he took his daily walk to Sloppy Joes Bar. For Age to be among the dead and not the living, was a comfort few would appreciate.
In her teens her mother had given her a small leather black notebook which once belonged to her grandmother. It was a gift to chronical her dreams, visions and predictions. It was adorned with Celtic engravings. In the center was what appeared to be a black Moonstone. The rustic pages were of fine parchment. Over the years Age transformed her journal into a grimoire of natural magic. What could be once called witchcraft are only in her view, proven remedies, using herbs and plants from nature. Long used by wise women and long forgotten. For Age there was no better feeling then meditating in the graveyard, whilst putting pen to paper.
Age woke early this November day. It was not a day like every other day. Today was the day that the long-awaited cruise ships would be returning to Key West after months of lockdowns. The Island chain was spookily deserted. Strolling along Duval Street was likened to walking through an abandoned town. A city once filled with debauchery. Today Age was excited to return to Mallory Square and resume her fortune-telling work.
She woke at sunrise and threw open the wooden French doors. The persistent easterly winds whistled through her hair and she took a deep breath of fresh ocean air. With a glowing smile, she brewed some Moroccan mint tea. The aroma of tea, along with the faint smell of salt water filled her tiny conch house. As she rummaged through her closet to find something suitable to wear, she wondered to herself who might make their way to her tent? “What shall I wear today, to attract tourists?” She said to herself.
She settled on a crimson-colored dress. She loved the name the gown was given: Spell & The Gypsy Ocean. The gown was crafted with silken fabric. It had a tiered bottom and was garlanded with exaggerated lace trim. She slipped in oversize hoop earrings encrusted in crystals and carefully situated a flower wreath atop her head.
She grabbed her black notebook, tarot cards, and some head wreaths she had crafted to sell at the market. She stuffed them inside her fringed oversize hobo bag. On the way out the door she ripped the foreclosure notice off her front door and shoved it into her bag. “I simply cannot think about that right now” she said to herself in her best Scarlett O’Hara impression. She headed to the square to start her day.
“Good morning Mr. H” she said acknowledging Earnest Hemingway.
Good morning Ms. Age” he replied. “There is a storm coming” he said.
“A storm, it will ruin everything!” she recited back.
“Well, you better enjoy it” he said with a smile. Then he asked her, “Do you have your notebook today?”
“Yes, sir I do." "Never leave home without it,” she answered.
“Remember what I told you, always write the truest sentence that you know.”
“Got it, “the girl snapped back.
“By the way missy, you better warn the living who come to your tent today about the storm coming, less they end up here with me!” Hemingway insisted.
“I will, I always tell them what I foresee good or bad, maybe that’s why I am not as popular as the other psychics on the Island," she laughed.
“Don’t lose sight of your notebook dear, it’s a real gem,” said Hemingway.
“Don’t worry, I won’t, you remind me of that every day!” She giggled.
Age sat down at the round cloth covered table in her tent and opened her notebook. She often wrote of her encounters with Mr. H. She wrote what, Hemingway had said today; “There’s a storm coming."
She felt sullen and depressed, thinking to herself “My only friend is a ghost of a writer and my house is going to be foreclosed in less than a month.”
An elderly couple stopped outside her tent. The woman was admiring the wreaths displayed. Age gave them a warm smile and asked, “Are you here on vacation?" "Where are you from?” Her questions were ignored.
The women asked her, “Did you make these? They are really beautiful.”
“Yes, mam I did”, Age warmly replied.
“How much for this one?" the women inquired.
“Ten dollars” the girl said firmly.
“Sold!” said the woman.
Age kindly thanked her.
The man looked at her and said, "Sorry my wife was so rude.” "To answer your questions, we are here on business from New York. I am here to examine and appraise the gemstones recently found off the coast.” “We believe the items discovered are from the Nuestra Señora de Atocha. It is exciting," he continued.
Bored with the conversation, his wife asked, “Are you a psychic or something?"
Again, the girl replied, “Yes mam I am."
“Can you read my cards?" She inquired.
“I would be happy to, come into my tent and have a seat," she said gleefully.
She proceeded with the reading informing the women that she saw a boat journey.
The women said in amazement “Yes, yes, we are taking a catamaran out to the site tomorrow where the items were found!” “You must love the ocean and boating, living here in the Keys” the women stated.
“Oh no, I never go near the ocean let alone a boat, I am terrified," she responded.
“Umm that’s a shame, living in such a beautiful place”, the woman said with some disdain.
Age returned to the reading and told the woman her vision of a storm and suggested that they postpone their trip, again insisting a storm was coming. Age foresaw disaster.
The man, chimed in, “That is ridiculous, there is nothing on the news about bad weather and we couldn’t possibly postpone our trip." “Honey, the girl said herself she was afraid of water and boats, didn’t she”? He asked. “You know all these people are just hustling tourists, and are frauds, right?” he touted.
Age became angry and slammed her notebook shut. The man began gawking at her notebook.
He asked, “May please I see that?"
“Sure, go ahead,” she said reluctantly, as she handed him the book.
“Ya, wanna sell this?" He asked.
“No way, I could never sell it. It has all my deepest thoughts written in it."
“Sweetie," he said, “I don’t want the book, just the stone embedded in it."
“The stone? That old black moonstone? Why?” she asked.
“My dear that is not a moonstone, it is the biggest Alexandrite stone I have seen in a long while!” He exclaimed.
“Is it valuable? She asked.
“Very,” he replied.
“Well, I still don’t think I want to sell it, it belonged to my grandmother," she replied.
“Are you sure I can’t persuade you?" Asked the man.
“Nope,” she said firmly.
“Well, I will strike you a deal little gypsy girl," the man teased. "I am willing to write you a check for 20,000 dollars right now for that stone.” “How bout it?”
“Absolutely NOT!” “My stone will be lost at sea in a storm If I sell it to you, never to be seen again” she said with some despair.
“Oh, not that story of foreseen storms and disaster again,” he grunted. “I will make you a wager." “How about I write a check for $20,000 and date it three days from now”?
“And then what” she asked inquisitively.
“I will write in the notes at the bottom of the check 'payment for' wager/stone.” "When I return from our catamaran excursion you agree to sell me the stone." "If I don’t and your fortunetelling is right you get to keep your Alexandrite stone and the 20K," he said.
Age thought about the wager and shouted “DEAL!”
“It’s a pleasure doing business with you gypsy girl, we will see you in three days,” he said confidentially.
When Age returned home that evening, she took the foreclosure notice from her bag and laid it alongside the check the gemologist had given her on the table. In her heart she knew she must sell the Alexandrite in order to save her home. But her heart was heavy at the thought of giving up either.
Three days came and went, as did the tropical storm. There was no sign of the man and his wife. Age struggled whether to cash the check. She decided hesitantly “a deal is a deal” she told herself. She headed to the bank. Along the way she heard someone call “Hey gypsy girl.”
“GYPSY GIRL” the voice grew louder. She looked behind her, to her bewilderment it was the man and his wife. The man smiled at her and said, “A wager is a wager young lady," I should have listened to your prophecy story."
Just then Mr. H approached and said, “I told you that notebook was a real gem, didn't I?”
He looked directly at the newest spirit residents of Key West and said to them,
“All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-storyteller who would keep that from you”. -Earnest Hemmingway