Annie adjusted her turban and rearranged the folds of her black velvet robes for what seemed like the thousandth time. The bracelets on her arms jangled softly, and she paused to examine her fingernails, which Kate had spent half an hour painting a deep red. She liked the polish, which she'd never tried before, but she wished she hadn't let Kate convince her not to wear her glasses. She could see things close up, but anything farther away than the ends of her arms started to get blurry. She was just able to make out the entrance to the tent, but it was as if she was looking at everything under water.
She couldn't believe that they had talked her into doing this. What had she been thinking? What if she made a mess of everything? What if nobody even came? At least then no one will see you looking like some kind of thrift-store genie, she thought, once more pushing back the turban, which kept threatening to slip down over her forehead.
Despite her reservations, she had to admit that she was sort of getting into playing the part of Miss Fortune, Tarot reader and seer into the future. They'd done a great job of setting up her tent for the carnival. The table in front of her was covered with a black cloth, and there were candles flickering in different parts of the tent, filling it with constantly moving shadows. All in all, the mood was very witchy.
It had all been Cooper's idea. Two weeks before, during their weekly Wicca study group at Crones' Circle bookstore, they had been working with Tarot cards. Archer was describing the different cards and their meanings, and Annie had been fascinated by them. She'd been doing a lot of readingabout the Tarot on her own, and it was fun to put what she'd learned to use. Archer showed them how to do a simple reading using five cards, and then they'd split into pairs to practice. Annie and Cooper had been partners, and Annie had really gotten into it.
But when Cooper suggested that Annie tell fortunes at the upcoming school carnival, held every year before finals, she'd hesitated. For one thing, she was still getting over the events of the weeks before, when she, Cooper, and Kate had become involved in solving the murder of a girl at school and Annie had been used as a hostage by the girl's killer. Even more important, while she'd practiced with the Tarot cards a lot outside of class, she wasn't at all sure she could read them accurately, especially for other people.
Cooper and Kate worked on her, however, and finally she agreed to give it a try, if only to get her friends off her back. Now, sitting in the tent they'd put up for her and waiting for her first visitor to come inside, she decided that she'd made a terrible mistake, excellent costume or not. She listened to the sounds of the carnival going on outside her tent. There were booths of all kinds set up around the school grounds, and the air was filled with voices as people talked, laughed, and shouted to one another. Why would any of them come in here? Annie asked herself. There were so many other things to see and do. Every club, class, and student organization had come up with something to do for the carnival, so there was a lot going on. She herself was doing the readings to raise money for a new science lab.
She sat there for fifteen minutes, listening to everyone else having a good time and smelling the scent of popcorn and hot dogs that wafted in on the breeze. Her stomach rumbled, and she thought about how much nicer it would be to be chewing on a sugary sweet cloud of cotton candy and talking to her friends. She was just about to take the irritating turban off and call it quits when she saw the flaps of the tent open and someone came inside. Between the darkness and her bad eyesight, she wasn't sure who it was.
"Welcome," she said, trying her best to sound mysterious but coming across more like she had a bad cold. "I am Miss Fortune. Please sit."
"How very spooky," the person said, walking to the table and dropping into the chair across from Annie. "And what a lovely turban. Very Aladdin."
Any excitement Annie might have been feeling about playing Miss Fortune disappeared as soon as she recognized the voice and saw the familiar face framed by the glow of candlelight. It was Sherrie Adams. Of all the people who could possibly walk through the tent flaps, why did popular-but-mean Sherrie have to be her first customer? If Annie hadn't been nervous before, she certainly was now. If there was anyone at Beecher Falls High School who would like to see Annie Crandall make a fool of herself, it was Sherrie.
Sherrie was looking at Annie expectantly, a mocking smile on her face as she twirled her long, curly black hair around her finger. Her eyes sparkled mischievously in the candle...