Welcome to the last of the short stories from What’s in a Name – Volume 2. The last letter of the alphabet ‘Z’.
Zoe – Looking to the Future
Madame Zoe looked at the screen in front of her and watched the teenage girl in the waiting room. She was her next client and looked nervous; as many did who came to consult the renowned fortune teller, in her little oasis in the back streets of the town.
These few minutes observing her next client were important before meeting them for the first time. Were they nervous, excited, and worried? That gave her some clues as to what direction their consultation might go. Added to the extensive report that her assistant Marjorie had compiled, this allowed Madame Zoe to tailor her reading to each specific client needs with outstanding results.
For example the young woman waiting for her fortune and fate to be revealed was called Sandra Johnson, and was twenty years old. She worked at a solicitor’s office in the main street, and was currently in a relationship with a young mechanic called Steve. Unfortunately this union of three years was going through a tough patch, as Steve had been fooling around with Tracy; one of Sandra’s closest friends.
Since her 18th birthday, the girl had been trying to find her birth mother. Unfortunately, it would appear that the official agency were finding it difficult to track her down, to get consent to reveal her whereabouts, to her long lost daughter. All that the girl had to go on was her mother’s name, which was Linda Watkins, and that she had been 16 years old at the time of her birth. Sandra had been adopted very soon after this and was brought up by her new parents in a village a few miles away. Seemingly this had been a very happy arrangement, but unfortunately her adoptive mother had died recently; obviously caused much sadness. And probably prompting Sandra’s search for her birth mother.
Madame Zoe adjusted her turban and creamed her hands with Shea butter; one of her little indulgences. When you are holding the hands of others, in an attempt to read their futures, it was important that your own looked their best. Sandra had booked a half-hour appointment. This length of time warranted the assistance of the crystal ball, currently residing on its gold trestle beneath a blue silk square.
What the client would not be able to see however, was the discreet screen resting on Madame Zoe’s knees, with all the relevant information that she needed to provide a satisfying and remarkable experience for this young woman.
At the tinkle of the bell over the inner door, Marjorie, who had been wafting incense across the waiting room, crossed over to Sandra and offered her hand. The girl stood and looked around nervously, as if about to bolt for the street door, but at Marjorie’s insistence she followed her through into the inner sanctum. There she was invited to take the chair across from Madame Zoe, whose hands stretched across the blue velvet cloth, palms upward in welcome.
‘Hello my dear,’ the gentle and soothing tones caused Sandra to straighten up in her chair. Zoe extended her well-buttered hand; taking the girl’s thin and cold palm in hers.
‘I understand that you seek some answers to very important questions today, but I would like to spend a few minutes sharing the thoughts and feelings that I am receiving from you.’ She paused for effect and waited for the girl to respond.
‘Okay, if you feel that is what we should do first,’ Sandra was visibly shaking, and for just a moment, the fortune teller felt a smidgeon of remorse for the scam she was pulling. But business was business and she had her reputation for accuracy to uphold.
‘My dear, I feel that you are going through a difficult time in your love life, and I see the letter S seems to be on your mind. Do you know someone with a name that begins with S?’
Sandra gasped and nodded her head in bemused agreement.
‘Sadly, I feel that this person has behaved very badly, and that the relationship has come to an end. Would I be right about that?’
Again the girl nodded and Zoe smiled sweetly as she stroked the back of her hand.
For a moment or two Madame Zoe stared intently into Sandra’s palm and then groaned theatrically.
‘Ah, yes I see that you have been betrayed by a friend whose name begins with a J… No wait… I am wrong it is a T.
There was a satisfying gasp at the mention of the letter T and it was clear that there was another relationship that was over.
‘I also feel that you work in a place that might be involved in legal matters,’ she held up one finger of her free hand to prevent any interruption.
‘Perhaps a police station, no don’t tell me… I think it might be a solicitor’s office, am I correct?’
By this time Sandra was hooked and it was now time to reveal most important element of today’s reading.
Claiming back her hand from the girl, Zoe lifted the blue silk square to reveal the glass orb beneath. Sandra’s eyes were riveted on this piece of fortune telling magic that she had been told about by some of her girlfriends. They had assured her that Madame Zoe seemed to have a window into their lives and had seen many things that they had only confided in to friends. They had assured her they always left their appointments safe in the knowledge that love would find them, and fortune was theirs for the taking..
After a few minutes of silence as Madame Zoe sought to pad out the half hour, she raised a solemn face to stare into the wide-eyed Sandra’s face.
Now confident that she had the girls complete attention, she delivered her next question in a fateful tone.
‘My dear child, I sense that you seek another, who is not a man but a family member long lost to you.’ You could have heard a pin drop. She continued.
‘There is someone from your past that you have barely met, but you are desperate to reconnect to.’ Both of her hands cradled the crystal ball in front of her as she searched its depths.
‘You look for your mother.’ With that Sandra clasped a hand over her mouth; tears filling her eyes. Absolutely stunned she stared at the exotic creature in front of her.
‘I have her name on the tip of my tongue… Now let me see it begins with an L…Yes that’s right, her name is Linda, is that correct my dear? Sandra nodded eagerly and waited with bated breath for the next pronouncement.
‘I see that this woman has changed her surname more than once, and I see her living in Manchester, in a house with the number 15.’
With this Madame Zoe appeared to go into a trance. Sandra looked on in concern as she desperately waited for the woman to resume her revelations. She was about to interrupt, but Zoe raised her hand in a gesture to remain silent.
Sandra couldn’t see that the mystic in front of her was consulting her hidden screen; waiting while Marjorie typed further information into the computer behind the reception desk.
Finally the silence was broken and with a smile of relief, Madame Zoe announced with a flourish.
‘Your mother’s surname is Baxter and she is looking forward to meeting you very much.’ With that she collapsed against the back of the chair, and smiling weakly at her now very emotional client, waved her away from the table.
Sandra didn’t know whether to hug or kiss this strange looking, all-seeing woman, but sensing that it would be unwelcome, she retreated through the door into the reception area. Marjorie was waiting behind the desk and while Sandra wiped her eyes and composed herself, the assistant prepared the bill for this momentous session.
Without looking at the cost, which was nearly a week’s wages, Sandra handed over her credit card and gratefully tapped in her pin number.
‘Please thank Madame Zoe for me, she is amazing, and I will pass on her information to all my friends… Thank you, thank you.’ With that the smiling girl opened the door to the shop and headed off into her future.
After making sure that Sandra had gone, Marjorie locked the door and put the closed sign up for lunch and headed back into the consulting room. There she found Zoe divested of both turban and wig with her feet up on one of the velvet chairs.
‘Well done Marjorie… all that Facebook chit chat between her and her mates was gold dust, but that was a stroke of genius hacking into the adoption agency. What a coincidence that the girl’s mother had been in touch after their letters finally reached her. The girl should get their message informing her of her mother’s name and address tomorrow and that will really seal the deal.’
Marjorie put two plates down on the table and settled herself into the vacated client’s chair. ‘It will soon be time to put our charges up Mum,’ she smiled across the table as she helped herself to a ham and cheese sandwich.
‘Once the word gets around on Facebook about this latest prediction we are going to be overrun… Tenerife here we come.’
‘Her mother laughed and then shook her head… No… I don’t think so pet… I see Hawaii in our futures.’
This story is from What’s in a Name volume 2 – which is also available in a combined print edition from me directly. The collection has recently received a wonderful review.
About What’s in a Name? Volume 2
Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.
Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.
Meet Queenie and Rosemary who have both lost their husbands and must face a very different future. One that will take courage and the use of new technology.
Sonia is an entitled princess whose father has reached the end of his tether and Theresa has to deal with a bully in the checkout. Usher is an arrogant narcissist with a docile wife and is used to getting his own way and Vanessa worries about the future of her relationship with her teenage son.
Walter is a loner and is happy with just his dog for company, Xenia is the long awaited first baby of a young couple. Yves is a dashing romeo who has the tables turned on him unexpectedly and Zoe… Well she can see into the future.
In one way or another all these characters will be remembered by those whose lives they have touched.
There is also a bonus story at the end of the book – The Village Square – September 1939.
One of the recent reviews for the collection
This second volume continues where the first book left off. The first story begins with “Kenneth,” and the rest of the stories flow through to “Zoe.” The author includes a bonus story at the end called, “The Village Square.”Prepare to be transported into the lives of the many personalities, Sally Cronin creates, inspired by a first name only. Each person’s name has a different tale to tell or life to lead, all carefully constructed to draw the reader into their experiences. Linking the stories together are the themes of romance and family. Need I say more?
I’m a great fan of short stories and find them some of the most satisfying bedtime reading there is. But, this book offered more than that. Sally Cronin writes in such a way that she evokes a range of emotions from the reader.
On numerous occasions, I couldn’t help but cheer or cry for several of the characters. The writing touched my heart.
Many of the stories are filled with plenty of sudden developments that will leave you guessing. Some, I couldn’t even attempt to guess the ending, which I found to be a special gift to the reader. Each story is character driven, and the author skillfully reels you in until a satisfying end is reached.
My favorite story was called, Queenie, who after the death of her husband, finds her way forward by taking on a project that matters most to her – her granddaughter’s happiness. Queenie’s granddaughter, Penny, is a psychiatrist and unmarried.
Nana (Queenie) decides that she must help her find a husband before she is called to her husband’s side in the great beyond. Of course, there are plenty of shenanigans that take place, but the underlying truths that unfold touched me deeply. This is the author’s style – she allows you to feel her stories.
The “What’s in a Name,” two book series, has proved to be one of my most favorite short story compilations. I’ll reread these stories, and greet them like long lost friends. Believe me; there’s something here for everyone!
MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5 Reader Engagement: 5 Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars
The combined print edition of Volume’s One and Two is available directly from firstname.lastname@example.org..
Other print books on request and you can find out more about them and their most recent reviews in my directory. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018
I hope you have enjoyed today’s story, and the last in Volume 2 is tomorrow.. thanks Sally