Stella knows visiting a fortune teller is a stupid idea. It’s just one more daft thing her best friend Daphne persuades her into. Orphaned Stella doesn’t believe a word of the fortune teller’s claims the family she longs for and a tall, dark handsome man are coming her way. The gypsy produces a letter, to be read in a year’s time, which will prove the predictions true.
Stella knows Daphne’s fortune will be a self fulfilling prophesy. She’s happy to encourage the part about Daffers working in an Italian Restaurant owned by the delicious Luigi. She’s less keen on Daphne’s attempts to manipulate both their lives to fit the promised fortunes. This starts with an attempt to pair up Stella and her boss
Yes, Luigi introduces her to truffles, names cocktails after her and serenades her on the river. And yes, he only uses ‘would you like dessert?’ as a rhetorical question, but she isn’t going to fall in love just because some gypsy said so.
At least John, Daphne’s incredibly annoying brother, is so unlike anyone’s romantic hero image that Daphne’s no longer trying to push him and Stella back together. So irritated is she, by her friend’s determination to make their fortunes come true, Stella’s even nice to John. Well nice-ish. That includes sharing her chocolate and dressing as a schoolgirl.
When Daphne suffers a horrible accident, Stella changes her mind about the gypsy’s promise which included a threat to her friend’s safety. The only way to save Daphne, as foretold, seems to be to make the whole thing come true. That means stopping herself falling in love with the wrong man. Difficult, but that’s the only way they’ll both be healthy, happy and best of friends at the end of ‘A Year and a Day.’
This book is charming, its characters entertaining – and the ending? It doesn’t matter what fortune I’m offered, I’ll not tell!
What a wonderful read this book was. I thoroughly enjoyed the ups and downs of two friends flirtations with life changes and was taken in by the twist at the end.
A great read, full of emotion.
Another great one by Patsy Collins
Here are the opening few pages –
Stella tried to ignore the aroma from the hotdog stand as she bounced along in time to the rock music blaring from the dodgems.
“Step away from the burgers, mate.” Daphne attempted to steer her back into the hot, noisy heart of the funfair.
“It was hotdogs, not burgers and I’m hungry.”
“You’re as bad as the kids I cook for, always wanting to eat junk food rather than wait for a proper meal. I’m sure you’ll survive until we get back to my place for a curry.”
Stella could hardly make out her friends words but the thought of the crispy lamb samosas, creamy chicken korma and fragrant pilau rice Stella intended to order revived her enough for her to follow her friend to the next stall. Giant playing cards were arranged on a cork board and ‘all’ they had to do to win was to land a dart on three which matched.
Daphne threw first, if you could call her pathetic efforts throwing.
“Imagine you’re throwing them at someone you don’t like,” Stella advised. “And put some effort into it.”
Daphne threw again.
“I was thinking of you.”
“Were not! Come on, let me show you how it’s done.”
Stella conjured up the mental image of a short, smug policeman and aimed. One, two, three darts into each seven of diamonds.
“Lucky little lady here just won our top prize,” the stall holder bellowed for the benefit of passing potential customers. “What’ll you have, love?”
Stella selected a huge panther, with fur as dark and glossy as her own hair.
“Good choice; black cats are lucky. Maybe we’ll pull tonight,” Daphne said.
“Only thing I’m going to pull is a muscle carrying this thing around and it won’t be lucky if I have to pay extra on the rides for him. Still, I think we’ve been on the best ones already.”
“You’re probably right. Let’s just wander around for a bit.”
They’d already done quite a lot of wandering and Stella was getting the distinct impression it wasn’t entirely aimless. She narrowed her eyes at Daphne, but to no effect.
“I was thinking… shall we get our fortunes told?” Daphne suggested, twisting her blonde hair around one finger.
She sounded as though she’d just thought of the idea. Stella wasn’t fooled: she was relieved. She’d suspected Daphne was up to something and worried she’d planned another matchmaking attempt with her brother, John. The last time had been a disaster. OK, it had seemed like a good idea at the time, twelve years, four months and six days ago and Stella was completely over it, but she still didn’t want a repeat performance.
“I’ll take that as a yes, then,” Daphne said.
“Take what as a what?”
“We’re going to get our fortunes told.”
“No way; it’s stupid. Anyway, I’m not sure I want to know what’s going to happen.”
“I hate having my life arranged for me, you know that. It’s bad enough when other people do it, I don’t like the thought that it’s all set up in advance and there’s nothing I can do to change it. Besides, looking into the past didn’t do me much good, did it? Why would seeing the future be any better?”
“Stella, I’m sorry, I didn’t think about that. If it will upset you then of course we won’t do it.” Daphne put her arms around Stella and hugged her.
Stella felt guilty. When she’d turned eighteen and tried unsuccessfully to trace her parents Daphne had been there for her and swore she’d never abandon her friend. The idea of having her fortune told did make Stella uncomfortable, but it was unfair to pretend to be more upset than she really was just to get her own way.
“I’m OK. I just think all this mumbo jumbo is a bit daft.”
“Asking for guidance isn’t daft,” Daphne said. She linked her arm through Stella’s and urged her to keep walking over the dust-dry playing field.
“It depends who you ask,” Stella said. “Personally I’m not sure a complete stranger wearing a headscarf, who’ll have moved on by tomorrow and who’s being paid to say what you want to hear, is the best bet.”
“Lighten up! I just thought it’d be fun. Anyway, Rosie-Lee is well known. I read an article about her and she’s really good. And she offers a money back guarantee.” Daphne gestured to the brightly painted caravan and its sign listing the almost famous people whose fortunes had been read by Romany Rosie-Lee. “You’d be able to find her again if you really wanted to.”
“Seems we’ve found her even though I didn’t want to.”
“Shall we do it then? It’d be a laugh,” Daphne said.
“Please. I really want to.”
Stella knew when to give in gracefully. “OK, OK. My treat.” Paying for the reading might help her feel in control of the situation.
“OK, but I’ll get the take-away.”
“Deal. Just as long as she tells me something nice and we agree it’s just a laugh and you absolutely promise not to do anything stupid based on anything she says.”
Unspoken between them was the memory of the time the previous year when Daphne had insisted they took the number seven bus because her horoscope had mentioned an exciting journey connected with that number. In fact the seven mile walk home after missing the last one back really had been quite eventful; a thunder storm made their mobiles useless and torrential rain ruined their clothes. Their wet shoes rubbed giving them blisters, which made the walk take even longer. Daphne’s parents had become worried and called the police – or rather they’d done something far more embarrassing. They’d called Daphne’s policeman brother John, who’d driven out in search of them.
Stella’s wet blouse had clung, almost transparently to her top half, her trousers were dragged down with the weight of the water and mascara streaked her face. She’d had to endure watching his shoulders shake with laughter as she sat behind him for the drive home and again when he gave her an umbrella for her birthday soon after.
Then there was the time Daphne had read some mystical mumbo jumbo claiming that for her star sign orange would lead the way. Daphne, without stopping to think, had dyed her hair, plus the bathroom tiles and carpet in Stella’s flat in a particularly hideous version of that colour.
Daphne stood outside the gypsy wagon with her hand over her heart. “I promise,” said and then gave a Girl Guide salute. It would have been a lot more reassuring if they’d ever got around to joining that organisation.
Daphne went in first. Stella tried waving her stuffed cat about to create a breeze, but the effort just made her hotter still. She held her hair away from her neck and glared at the gaudily painted caravan. If they’d really wanted it to look like an old fashioned wagon, they should have unhitched it from the gleaming Range Rover it was connected to. She looked at her watch yet again. How long could it take to rave over tall, dark handsome strangers and promise Dappy Daphne she’d live happily ever after? Stella hoped that was the sort of thing Rosie-Lee would tell her. What she dreaded was the gypsy promising what she wanted most; a loving family. She couldn’t bear to be told that and know it was all a scam, she’d rather keep her dream.
Fun; that’s what Daphne had said this was going to be. Compared to the awful thought of a go on the Tunnel of Love with John, being conned out of her cash by a gypsy might be bearable. Not actual fun, just more fun than another lecture from John the cop. Ever since she’d recovered from the humiliation of their break-up, he’d felt he had the right to act as though he was personally responsible for her safety and moral welfare. And ever since then he kept creeping into her thoughts when she really didn’t want him to be there.
She most definitely didn’t want to think of the time, so long ago, when she’d been pleased to have his company at the fair. She’d climbed out of her foster parents’ window and John had grabbed her waist to help her safely down. He’d taken her and Daphne to the fair, spending all his paper round money on rides and candyfloss for the pair of them. He’d taken her out a few times after that, without Daphne as a chaperone and was the first boy who’d ever kissed her. And then it had all gone horribly wrong and stayed that way.
At last, the door to the gypsy caravan opened and the first part of Stella’s ordeal was over.
“You’ll never believe what she’s told me,” Daphne said as she emerged from the caravan and climbed down the antique wood and brushed aluminium steps.
“You’re quite right, I’m not going to believe any of it. Oh well, I suppose I’d better get this over with.”
The door closed behind Stella with a clunk that sounded unnervingly permanent. There was no need to panic, Daphne was right outside and the woman before her was just an entertainer. Nothing she would say could hurt Stella.
The fortune teller looked the part, Stella admitted that much. The interior of the van was flamboyantly draped in a scarlet velvet cloth embellished with pentangles and signs of the zodiac picked out in gold and purple. In comparison the slim, dark haired woman seemed subtly attired. The colourful scarf could almost pass as a fashion accessory and her gold hooped earrings were more tasteful than bling.
Stella looked down at the crystal ball and just for a moment she imagined she really could see swirling mists in it. Stella pulled back her shoulders and sat upright on her seat. Probably it was just smoke from the incense that was burning. Whatever she’d imagined she’d seen soon cleared and the gypsy said the reading could begin.
The gypsy first gave Stella a pack of cards and invited her to shuffle them.
“Lay five in a row here.” The gypsy indicated a silver tray inset with what might have been jewels but were probably coloured glass.
Stella turned over five cards, chosen at random. They were all very pretty, showing flowers and swirly patterns in bright colours. You wouldn’t want them as wallpaper, but they’d make lovely table mats.
Rosie-Lee made a great show of studying the cards and nodding her head as though she’d learnt something interesting. “You have a close friend. Closer to you than a family could be.”
Stella gasped. No, it was just a guess on the gypsy’s part; she knew nothing of Stella’s missing family.
“I won’t speak of the painful past; that is gone.”
Stella nodded. It was gone, the gypsy was right.
“There are happy memories too,” Rosie-Lee suggested.
Oh great, this was like listening to the weather forecast. Half of it would be about what had already happened and most of that not always right. The rest would be vague predictions, most of them generalities and hedged bets.
“Aren’t you supposed to tell me what’s going to happen, not what already has?” Stella tried to soften her comment with a smile; she hadn’t meant to snap at Rosie-Lee, she just wanted this to be over as quickly as possible.
“You will soon be going on an exciting journey across the water.”
“Well, I was thinking of going to Spain for my holiday,” Stella admitted.
“You will meet a tall, dark stranger.”
“You forgot about handsome.” Stella grinned. This was much more like it. Clichés she could handle.
“Oh, he will be very handsome and you will be instantly attracted,” Rosie-Lee confirmed. The woman seemed to be playing along.
“And get married, win the lottery and live happily ever after?”
“You doubt my power, but a year and a day from now you will believe. Your friend, the girl who came in before you, she does not doubt me.”
“Who Daphne? Oh no, she believes in it all. Doesn’t do a thing ’til she’s read her horoscope in the morning. She’ll follow any advice you give her to the letter. And all your predictions will come true; she’ll make sure they do.”
The gypsy’s dark eyes looked into hers and Stella felt they saw below the surface. She’d rather hear more about her forthcoming holiday. Maybe the gypsy could suggest a good beach or which colour bikini would suit her?
“Your friendship will be closer still after you save her life,” the gypsy gestured to where Daphne waited outside. “Your paths are close. Your long, healthy lives will be forever entwined if you take care of yourself and your friendship.”
Rosie-Lee continued to stare, almost hypnotically, into Stella’s eyes. She doubted there was much they didn’t see. Tearing her gaze away she reminded herself the gypsy probably overheard her reluctantly agree to this and offer to pay for Daphne’s fortune to be read, so it wasn’t surprising she’d guessed they were close friends.
“I’m not as gullible as I look, you know.” Stella tried not to glance at the ‘genuine precious stones’ bangle she’d won on the hoopla and the furry panther which had cost twice as much to win as it was worth.
“My powers are real. I shall prove it to you. I shall write down what I have said today, and I shall write something more, something that will prove to you I really can see your true path.”
“No,” Stella whispered. She didn’t want to believe her future was mapped out from the moment of her birth. Then she’d been unwanted, alone with no family to turn to. Stella felt tears sting her eyes, then the warmth of the gypsy’s hands on her own.
“The future is not the past.”
Stella looked up into the smiling face.
“A year and a day from now, you’ll willingly believe.”