The Summer Carnival

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
The summer before Natalie turns twelve, she and her friends receive disturbing news from the fortune teller at the summer carnival. Told from the point of view of an adult as she recalls this creepy, comming of age tale.

Submitted: July 15, 2012

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Submitted: July 15, 2012

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The Summer Carnival

By Sonnet Golightly

The summer before I turned twelve began with me attending my community's summer carnival for the first time with my two friends instead of my parents.  Chelsea had been my best friend because our mothers were friends and we lived on the same street.  Katie moved to our neighbourhood with her mother two  years prior.  Katie's mother rented a big beautiful home for a low cost because the homeowner decided to move back to his home country but wanted to keep his property in Canada in case he decided to return one day.

I was excited to attend the carnival without parental supervision. I had visions of buying as much junk food as I wanted, riding the biggest roller coasters the carnival had to offer, and shamelessly flirting with eighth graders. I knew this year the summer carnival was going to be different.

What I did not expect was how different it actually was once my friends and I arrived. The rides seemed smaller than they had in past years,  the prizes hardly seemed worth the price of playing the games, and there was not a single eighth grader in sight.

"The carnival seems so lame this year!" Chelsea complained.

"It is a little depressing," I agreed. "At least we can still have junk food; I'm going to get cotton candy and caramel popcorn."

"I'm on a diet," Chelsea announced.

"I'm saving my money for something else." Katie said timidly.

Chelsea and I ignored Katie. We both knew Katie's mother never gave her any spending money and that Katie was too embarrassed to say so.

After stopping by the snack booth we wandered around the carnival aimlessly watching excited younger children and their parents.  I agreed to share my popcorn with Katie and after awhile Chelsea forgot about her diet and had a few pieces of popcorn herself.

We walked past the petting zoo and a few tents offering face painting, puppet shows and free colouring pages.  We ignored clowns and jugglers and a band of middle-aged men playing children's songs.

"We should just leave," Chelsea decided. "I'm pretty sure we're the oldest kids here, and we're too tall for half the rides."

"Look at that tent there." I said pointing straight ahead of us. "Fortune telling."

"That might actually be fun." Chelsea agreed.

"It's a waste of money." Katie protested.

Chelsea and I were so excited to know our futures we burst into the fortune teller's tent, with Katie trailing behind us.

The fortune teller looked up at us from the novel she was reading. She was relaxing in a folding chair with her feet up on the table next to her crystal ball. She looked the way I would have expected a fortune teller to look. She had smooth ivory skin and long dark hair and eyelashes. She was the first person I had ever seen with violet coloured eyes.

"Sorry kids," she said flatly. "Adults only. I'm not allowed to read your future unless your eighteen or older."

"But by then I'll already know my future." I whined.

The fortune teller gave us a dismissive wave and turned her attention back to her novel.

"Come on lady," Chelsea argued. "You don't have any other customers. I bet we're the most business you've had all day."

The fortune teller stared coldly into Chelsea's eyes. Her violet eyes were so piercing I could feel the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up. Katie clung on to my arm.

"Besides," Chelsea added nervously. "We're almost eighteen; you can bend the rules a little."

"Don't lie to a psychic." The fortune teller snapped. "By the way, it's not a rule. I just can't stand kids."

"I got ten reasons  for you to change your mind." I said smoothly  holding up a ten dollar bill for the fortune teller to see.

"Make that twenty." Chelsea added pulling two five dollar bills out of her purse.

"I'm saving my money for something else." Katie mumbled.

The fortune teller snapped her novel shut and slapped it on the table. She moved her feet back to the ground and sat in an upright position in her folding chair.

"You know what," she began, "this one's on the house."

First she pointed her long pale finger at Chelsea. "You're daddy's going to lose his job. See how the kids treat you at school when they find out you're as poor as your friend there." She gestured to Katie.

"And you, "she pointed at me next, "you're parents are going to get divorced. I believe your father will have an affair."

"Well you're ...you're a sociopath!" I shouted. I did not fully understand what the word meant but I knew it was mean to say without counting as a swear.

Chelsea had a more sophisticated approach.

"Come on girls," Chelsea said loud enough for the fortune teller to hear. "She isn't even a real psychic . She just hates girls like us 'cause her own life sucked so bad."

My two friends and I left the strange woman's tent with our heads held high and a false sense of confidence.

"That was creepy," Katie whispered. "How did she know that I'm poor?"

"Everyone knows you're poor." Chelsea replied. "That's why Natalie and I are your only friends."

"She knew because you didn't offer her any money like Chelsea and I did." I interjected. "She only said those things 'cause she wanted us to leave."

"That's why no one else at school will talk to me?" Katie asked Chelsea.

"That's part of it. Also, you're kind of awkward.  Oh, and you're so skinny some of the kids are saying you're anorexic, and the rest are saying you're actually a boy in disguise."

"Forget about the kids at school!" I shouted. "It's summer vacation. Let's forget about them and forget about this stupid carnival."

My friends took my advice and as we left the carnival we drifted into the lazy care free days of summer vacation. I did not have another thought about the carnival fortune teller for the next couple weeks.

One morning I woke up earlier than I usually did during the summer with my mother sitting on the edge of my bed.

"Morning Natty," She said gently. "I just wanted to let you know I invited Chelsea to sleep over for a couple of nights."

"But I already asked Katie over for tonight." I replied sleepily.

"That's okay, it'll be like a slumber party; it'll be fun."

"Mom, you're acting really weird."

"Chelsea's dad lost his job, and things are a little stressful at her house right now."

My eyes widened and I sat straight up in my bed. I clamped my hand over my mouth to keep me from crying out.

"Don't worry Natty," my mother said soothingly. "They'll be just fine. People get laid off all the time. Chelsea's dad is getting a decent severance package and they have been putting money away in their savings account for an emergency. But they still have a few things to figure out, Chelsea may as well be here having fun with you during that time."

Chelsea arrived at my house a few hours later, wearing the same expression I had been since I had heard the news of her father's unemployment. My mother assumed our horrified faces were due to the fact that Chelsea's father had lost his job, she had no idea that it was the foretelling of the event that had us so rattled.

Katie was less surprised when we told her the news.

"I knew she was psychic," Katie confessed. "She had such a crazy look in her eye I wondered if she might be, I don't know, something scarier."

"What are you saying? "Chelsea asked. "Like a witch? Or the boogieman?"

"Don't make fun of me. Maybe it wasn't a guess, maybe she made it happen. Which means if we can find her again maybe we can ask her to make Natalie's parents not get a divorce."

"Or maybe, now that we know about it we can stop it from happening!" I suggested. "We can follow him around and when we see him with a woman, we stop him from cheating on my mom."

"Natty," Chelsea began. "That could get really, well icky."

"I mean, we see him go into some hotel and we pull the fire alarm. They go to a restaurant and we pop his tires . Anything we can do."

"But your dad travels around everywhere. We can't exactly follow him on our bikes if he goes out of town. He could have already met this other woman."

Chelsea was right. My father worked as a motivational speaker and often traveled all over the country to attend various events. My mother and I were used to my father being gone days at a time, sometimes longer. I took a moment to consider this new found flaw in my plan.

"So when he's not here, I can search through his things and maybe find out who this woman is. The fortune teller said it would cause my parents a divorce which means my mom has to find out about it, so chances are it might be someone she already knows!"

"Natalie, you're really smart." Katie told me. "Who do you think it could be."

"Katie's mom is single; you two could be sisters."

Katie looked thoughtful for a moment. "I don't think he'd go for someone like my mom, but she does have a lot of single friends. I'll pay more attention to them and let you know if I find anything out."

And so following spying  on my father and going through his things became our new favorite past time. It had begun to seem like a fun game to us.  Chelsea's father went to work for Chelsea's uncle at a landscaping company. Because her uncle lived two hours away, her father would often stay at his brother's house and only come home for the weekends unless he had a job interview scheduled in town.

What we did learn during the time we spent following my father, was that his life was actually quite boring.  On the days he was working his day consisted of going to various events and speaking to groups of other adults. All sorts of companies would hire him to come speak to their employees. He spoke at events for everyone from bankers to Mary Kay ladies. Meanwhile, my two friends and I would wait around for him outside either hiding or trying to look inconspicuous.  Every time we followed my father it turned out he was doing exactly what he said he would be doing. There was no sign of any "other woman" lurking  around the corner to steal my father away.

"Maybe the fortune teller was wrong," Chelsea suggested. "Maybe my dad losing his job was just a lucky guess."

"Whether she was right or wrong," Katie began, "is there anything we can really do to stop it? We're just kids. You're dad keeps getting hired out of town more and more often. I still think we should try and track the fortune teller down and see if she can undo what she said would happen. Or maybe you could just talk to your dad."

"Or maybe I'm just not snooping hard enough.  I should be going through his suitcase when he comes home or listening to his phone calls."

The carnival psychic's prediction had begun to drive me mad and my poor parents seemed completely oblivious that their marriage was in danger. My father was spending more and more time out of town and I was becoming obsessed with snooping through his belongings. Katie and Chelsea, on the other hand, started finding other activities to occupy their time like swimming and bike riding or other normal activities for girls our age to enjoy.

Two weeks before summer vacation ended and only days before my twelfth birthday, I found the name and phone number of the hotel my father was staying at while he would be out of town. He wrote it down in case my mother needed to contact him while he was gone. I phoned the number early one morning and to my surprise it was a local call. My father had not left town at all. He had been staying at a hotel downtown the entire time.

I phoned Chelsea right away. She had been spending more time at her own house since her father had found a new job and life at her house was nearly back to normal. When I explained my father had been staying at a hotel in town for the past few days her interest in my strange new obsession peaked up again. I met her and Katie at Chelsea's house and we rode our bikes downtown to once again spy on my father.

We locked up our bikes to the nearest tree and watched the hotel lobby from across the street. We waited for hours for any sign of my father all the while trying to go unnoticed. We were waiting so long we never expected to see him getting out of a taxi in front of the hotel. He stopped to help a dark haired woman out of the same cab. We watched as he walked the tall pale woman to the front door of the hotel. She turned her head just for a moment, as if she felt our eyes watching her.  She did not seem to notice us because she turned her head right back, her long dark hair swaying behind her.

I was not shocked to finally see him with a woman other than my mother, what I had not expected is that I would recognise the woman he was with.

"Was that..." Katie's voice trailed off.

"There's no way, but she looked so much like..." Chelsea seemed to choke on the words. "The fortune teller from the carnival."


© Copyright 2017 Sonnet Golightly. All rights reserved.

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