EXCERPT FROM BEACH SEASON
THE BRASS RING
The old merry-go-round picked up speed, ancient gears grinding and black smoke spewed from the diesel engine and clouded the summer-blue Oregon sky.
Shawna McGuire clung to the neck of her wooden mount and glanced over her shoulder. Her heart swelled at the sight of Parker Harrison. Tall, with the broad shoulders of a natural athlete and brown hair streaked gold by the sun, he sat astride a glossy striped tiger. His blue eyes were gazing possessively at her and a camera swung from his neck.
Shawna grinned shamelessly. Tomorrow morning she and Parker would be married!
The carousel spun faster. Colors of pink, blue and yellow blurred together.
The challenge was on and Shawna glanced forward again, her green eyes fixed on the brass ring with fluttering pastel ribbons, the prize that hung precariously near the speeding carousel. She stretched her fingers, grabbed as she passed the ring and swiped into the air, coming up with nothing and nearly falling off in the bargain. She heard Parker’s laughter and looked back just in time to see him snatch the prize.
He was still gloating when they passed by the fortune teller’s tent.
Smelling of sawdust and cloying perfume, the tent was dark and close. Shawna sat on dusty pillow near a small table and wondered what had possessed her to enter. The floor was covered with sawdust and straw, the only illumination coming from a slit in the top of the canvas. The place gave her the creeps.
Placing a five dollar bill on a corner of the table, Parker sat next to Shawna, one arm still draped casually over her shoulders, his long legs crossed Indian-style.
The money quickly disappeared into the voluminous folds of the Gypsy-woman’s skirt as she settled onto a mound of pillows on the other side of the table. “You first?” she asked, flashing Shawna a friendly, gold-capped smile.
Shrugging, Shawna glanced at Parker before meeting the gypsy woman’s gaze. “Sure. Why not?”
“Good!” Lady Fate clapped her wrinkled palms together. “Now, let me read your palm.” Taking Shawna’s hand in hers, she gently stroked the smooth skin, tracing the lines of Shawna’s palm with her long fingers.
“You will live a long and fruitful life,” she said thickly and then her fingers moved and she traced another line on Shawna’s hand, only to stop short. Her face clouded, her old lips pursed and she dropped Shawna’s wrist as quickly as she had taken it earlier. “Your time is over,” she said gently, kindness sparking in her old brown eyes. “I told you everything. Now, if you’ll excuse me-”
“Wait a minute. What about my love life?”
“There are some things better left unknown,” the woman whispered softly as she started to stand.
“I can handle it,” Shawna said, but felt a little uneasy.
“I want to know everything.” Shawna thrust her open palm back to the woman.
The fortune teller slowly sat down on her pillows as she closed Shawna’s fingers, staring straight into her eyes. “I see there is a very important man in your life- you love him dearly, too much, perhaps.”
“And?” Shawna asked, disgusted for herself when she felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle with dread.
“And you will lose him.”