Leave Well Enough Alone
© Copyright 2000 Sarkel. All rights reserved. My intellectual property. All rights reserved. No part or whole of this work may be copied or used in any shape, form, or manner whatsoever without the author's express written consent. Don't be afraid to ask. The bard doesn't bite...
Disclaimers: The prerequisite disclaimers.
Intellectual Property: The characters are wholly my own. Any similarities drawn between them and any persons, plants, or animals, living and dead, are figments of your imagination. However, some places and products mentioned in the story do exist.
Ratings/Language/Violence: Nothing near what youd see on TV. This story is mild by those standards. There is no sex or bad language.
If you have any feedback, suggestions, or comments, please let the bard know at firstname.lastname@example.org Constructive criticism is accepted.
"Gramma!" shrieked the slim, regal girl with planar cheeks and wavy coal black tresses.
Crouching over the glass crystal globe, the young girl, her dark, exotic blue eyes enraptured with awe, extended a tentative hand and began to dust off the accumulation of the past twenty years.
Frieda Kolotov heard the excited cry emanate from the basement of her small one-story brick home. Her eyes shut in despair and her face paled in fear. Her hands shook. The summons could only mean one thingshe knew that tone of voice. Swallowing and trying to compose herself, the elderly woman clenched her fists. Her granddaughter knew not to go riffling through her grandmothers things! But Frieda knew the curiosity of children, and ten-year-old Dianne was exceptionally inquisitive. She also had the gift.
Thundering footsteps clattered up the stairs.
Clutching her hand over her trembling heart, Frieda Kolotov gasped in horror as her smiling, bright, mischievous, innocent granddaughter burst through the doorway grasping the globe in her arms. "Gramma!" the child shrilled. "This is so neat! It looks just like in the movies! Can I have it? Where did you get it?"
The girl finally noticed the elderly womans distress and approached her uncertainly. "Gramma? Whats wrong?" Placing the ball on the Formica kitchen table, Diannes small, smooth hand reached over to cover her grandmothers wrinkly, liver-spotted, and shaking hand.
"I told you not to go in my things, Dianne," the elderly woman said firmly, but the terror in her quavering voice was clear and offset the firm rebuke. "There are reasons I tell you to stay out of my boxes. I told you to get the hammer, Dianne. The hammer." Friedas panicked expression gradually gave way to anger.
"Oh, gramma " Dianne explained, stammering. Her grandmother looked like an entirely different person now.
"Dianne," Frieda said through clenched teeth, barely restraining pure anger and hot, scathing tears, the hammer is on the opposite side of the basement."
"I know, gramma," Dianne whispered, cowering and breaking the tremulous contact with her grandmothers hand. Her face was completely pale, and her swirling dark eyes stood out in contrast to the snow white of her skin. "Something pulled me to the box."
"The box was under five other boxes!" was Friedas anguished wail of a response. But as hard as she tried, she could not be mad at her granddaughter. It was their fate, just as she could not bring herself to destroy the crystal ball.
"I know, gramma!" Dianne was crying now, big, fat, jolly tears that broke her grandmothers heart. "Im a bad girl!"
"No!" Frieda implored, seizing the girl, gnarly red nails driving into her shoulders. The elderly woman held onto her granddaughter for dear life, clutching the girl to her sagging, flat breast. "Dianne, youre not bad." Frieda drew back, her faded blue eyes rimmed with the redness of tears. "Sit down."
Sitting across from the girl on the couch, the grandmother fixed a serious stare upon the trembling creature. "Dianne, please listen carefully. This is a matter of life and death."
The youngster could only nod, with round, confused azure eyes.
"I havent always been retired, sweetie. I used to have a job until something awful happened."
"What did you do, gramma?"
Frieda Kolotov sighed morosely and cast her eyes down. "I broke a cardinal rule, Dianne. I told people their futures. Maybe I even killed them. The final straw was Nancy Bonheim. After that, I knew I could go on no more."
Madame Kolotov stared intently through her heavily lidded eyes at the fidgety teenage girl who had just entered her fortune-telling chambers. The older womans face was middle-aged, worn, and overly made. An inch of blue powder rested grimly on her eyelids and rude red circles blushed her scarred cheeks. She wore a shapeless blue gown, decorated with white stars. It was the same outfit she had worn for the last five years. A faded yellow turban perched atop the older womans head, holding dyed red hair firmly in place. Her spindly hands gave way to crooked black nails. Her lips retained little of the bright pink lipstick shed applied that morning. Most of it had worn off on various glasses shed drunk from during the day. As usual, she forgot to re-apply.
Madame Kolotov was silent as she observed the girl nervously glance around the small room, avoiding eye contact. The older womans working quarters were not spectacular in the least. She sat at a small, round table covered by a midnight black cloth. On this table rested a clear crystal ball, the Madames favorite working tool. The walls of the room were bare. The whole room was empty, save for the woman, the table, and the occasional visitor. The red-haired fortune teller did not like clutter, for it clouded her ability to see accurately into the future. She did not want foreign energies interfering with her special powers. She rented a small place in a somewhat seedy part of New York City. And the negative vibes she received from the busy, mindless drones in the world outside were more than enough.
Madame Kolotov squinted her alert blue eyes. The girl was pregnant. She could sense the second life form in the room, growing, flourishing. Perhaps that child was the cause of the customers obvious distress.
Growing impatient of the visitor lurking in the doorway, Madame Kolotov spoke. "Have a seat." Her voice was raspy and crackly, like a dying car.
The girl was about sixteen years old, with pale cheeks and furtive, scared green eyes. Her blond hair hung limply around her shoulders. Faded jeans and a worn green sweater comprised her outfit of choice. She hadnt developed yether breasts were little more than cherries and her hips were that of a mans. But she was pregnant. The fortune-teller wondered if her customer was aware of this fact. As the girl approached, a sense of disquiet spread through the older woman. By the time the girl was seated scant inches from the fortune-teller, Madame Kolotovs skin was prickling, every hair alert and awake.
Madame Kolotov did not know if she wanted to see into this woman-childs future. The news would not be good and the girl would blame her for simply being the messenger of bad news.
The blonde cast her gaze on the table, keeping her head demurely bowed. "I dont know what to do," she whispered. "I figured coming here would help as much as anything else." Then she peered up hopefully, apprehensively, into the weathered face of the fortune-teller. She scooted up an inch, her plastic chair squeaking against the linoleum floor.
Madame Kolotov winced as the sound reached her delicate ears. She swallowed, but met the distressed gaze squarely. "Im a professional. This isnt a fake job. Im serious about what I do. And that means I may bear bad news."
The girls white face paled even further. "I understand," she whispered. "I just want one question answered."
The girl nodded carefully, clasping her hands in her lap, her eyes enraptured by the crystal globe on the older womans table. It was just like in the movies.
"Yesterday I found out Im pregnant." She sighed mournfully, squeezing her eyes shut for a moment. "Im against abortion. I am. But I cant have this baby. And adoption I dont know. Tell me what to do, please." The girl spoke quietly, but commandingly.
Decisively, the older woman spoke. "Itll cost you $25 for one consultation. Cash up front."
"Fine," murmured the girl. She reached into her pocket, drew out a wallet and a wad of crumpled bills. Extending the palm of her hand, she offered the money to the fortune-teller.
Madame Kolotov took the bills, sliding them into the lockbox she kept under the table. Then she cleared her throat and placed her hands over the cool surface of the glass ball, allowing the heat from her palms to fill the globe.
Almost immediately, the figure of death loomed before her. Madame Kolotov stifled a gasp. Never before had she seen such a prompt and decisive answer.
The girl waited apprehensively for the verdict.
"Your daughter will kill you someday, when she is nearing adulthood."
Green eyes widened and a clammy hand covered a gaping mouth. "I dont understand," the girl murmured.
"Its all there," Madame Kolotov muttered with grave finality. "And theres nothing you can do about it. You cannot change the future."
"But but I can!" the girl exclaimed. "You said near adulthood. Well, that tells me what I need to do."
Sadly, the redhead shook her head. "You cannot alter your destiny."
"Ill get an abortion then my child wont kill me!" the girl cried, on the verge of tears.
Madame Kolotov dug her gnarly nails into her liver-spotted skin, frustrated at the customers ignorance. "You cannot change what is in the stars."
The girl noticed the fierce intensity in the other womans eyes.
"Youre a cuckoo!" the teenager scoffed. "Come on! Seeing into the future? Please!"
"Why did you come here then?" was the retort.
The girl didnt answer, but instead pushed her chair back, it screeching in complaint. "Thats really mean to say!" She turned on her heels and fled the small chamber.
Madame Kolotov stood in resignation, hand on hip. She knew itd end this way. No one wanted bad news. But she had been right. That girls child was going to kill her. Simple as that.
"You were a fortune teller, gramma?" Dianne asked, awed. "Thats so cool!"
"Not in the least, Dianne," the elderly woman murmured, her thoughts lost in the past. "I quitwent into permanent retirement twenty years ago, when Nancy Bonheim died."
"Whos that?" the girl asked, leaning in, interlocking her hands excitedly.
"That very same girl Im telling you about, sweetie," said Frieda Kolotov with a trace of sadness, of regret. Guilt perhaps.
"So she didnt get the abortion?" Dianne asked, cocking a light eyebrow.
"She got the abortion. Oh, yes, she did," whispered the older woman, her voice becoming trance-like. "And she lived many more years."
"Im lost," Dianne admitted helplessly.
Her eyes vacant, Frieda Kolotov completed the rest of the tale.
Nancy Bonheim went on to college, majored in government. She wrote for the school paper, and during an interview about student safety on campus, met and fell in love with her future husband, Robert Klein. The fortune-teller and the aborted child from years past were long gone from her mind, although the guilt about the procedure still lingered.
The frightened sixteen-year-old that Madame Kolotov had known so briefly had transformed into a beautiful, self-confident woman. Nancy Bonheim was top of the worldher brains and beauty were unparalleled and she had the perfect man at her side.
Nancy and Robert truly loved each other. They got married right after her graduation. He was a pre-med major, and Nancy worked to support him through med school, her everlasting patience saving their marriage. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Nancy gave birth to their daughter, Lauren Rose. She was the apple of her parents eye, and her mother and father bestowed every possible gift and privilege upon their child. Two years later, Daniel David was born and the family was complete.
Nancy was afraid to tell Robert about the abortion. She knew how her conservative husband felt about such issues. She loved him and did not want to lose him. But as she watched her two perfect children grow up, thrive, say their first words, she began to think about what might have been. Would her baby have looked like Danny? Probably not, since her son favored his father. Lauren, then. Lauren looked like her mother, with the same dirty blond hair and mischievous green eyes.
One night, on the tenth anniversary of the abortion, and while both her children were still quite young, Nancy broke down in her husbands arms. She told her husband about Christopher Marlowe, the boy who had coaxed her into bed. About her first time having sex. "It was horrible," Nancy wept. "Nothing like you and I are. I was so naïve and gullible then. I thought the first time couldnt get you pregnant."
"Oh, no," Robert whispered, drawing his wife into his supportive embrace. He nuzzled Nancys forehead, his beard tickling her, as she liked it. "Oh, Nan."
Robert Klein was a big, well-built man. He was a human bear. His voice was rough and his edges not quite refined, despite his educated background. He was often clumsy, but in the operating room and with his family, Robert morphed into a man at peace.
"I didnt know what to do. You know how my parents are, Robert. And Christopher said it wasnt his baby. I went to a fortune-teller. Id always had a fascination with them. But after that session no more. She said she said my baby would kill me."
Roberts eyes narrowed. "What a crock."
"I know," Nancy sniffled. "I had an abortion and Im not dead, am I? That woman oh! She made me worry for days on end." Nancy sighed, wrapping her arms around her husbands back. "I dont worry about that anymore though. I feel bad about the baby what would he or she have looked like? I dont know "
"Nan," Robert said firmly but gently, nudging his wifes chin up and meeting her tear-stained eyes. "Thats all in the past. Were in the now. We and our family. I still love you, Nancy. How could I not? I love you even more now, if thats possible."
Frieda Kolotov abruptly stopped speaking. She jerked her head back, as if she was noticing her grandchild there for the first time.
Dianne was totally enraptured in the story. "Go on, gramma," she implored.
It was like her grandmother did not hear the words. As if she was possessed, Frieda rose from her seat and shuffled to the crystal globe on the kitchen table. A tremulous index finger extended and lightly brushed the surface of the glass.
"Ah!" The elderly woman gasped in anguished pain, like the glass had burned her. "Oh, it hurts."
Dianne joined her grandmother, but all eyes were on the ball as a cloud of black billowy smoke, as thick and as dark as a Halloween midnight, spread inside. "Gramma!" Dianne whispered, clutching her grandmothers forearm.
"Oh, no," Frieda Kolotov whispered.
Transfixed, Dianne watched the events of years past occur right before her eyes. She saw Nancy Bonheim die.
Nancy and Robert were at the cusp of middle age. They were growing portly and comfortable, but remained madly in love with each other. They made plans and more plans for the future, for their children.
The day of Laurens sixteenth birthday was a proud occasion for the family. It fell on a Thursday, and Nancy was all too happy to miss work and to let her daughter cut that afternoon of school while they went to get her drivers license.
She let Lauren lead the way home. Nancy was so proud of hershe was such a good daughter, such a careful and cautious driver.
But she was also young and inexperienced. Nancys work briefcase was on the floor in front of her. She suddenly remembered a paper in there she wanted to show her daughter. Bending over, Nancy struggled with the clasps of the satchel and finally snapped the stubborn restraints open.
Lauren Rose Klein, her blond hair pulled into a ponytail, was approaching a green stoplight at 55 miles per hour. The light quickly shifted into yellow. She was plagued with indecision. The teenager glanced to her mother for help, but she was otherwise occupied. "Whatever," she muttered under her breath and pressed the gas. She had time.
Dianne flinched as she witnessed the scene before her. Lauren Klein had erred badly, very badly. She careened through the stoplight a full two seconds after it turned red.
The crash was sickening. Frieda Kolotov was unable to peel her eyes from the scene. "See " she whispered to her granddaughter.
"But thats the wrong child," Dianne countered weakly.
Nancy Bonheim lived long enough for one last exchange with her only daughter.
She held her mothers head in her jeaned lap, sobbing hysterically as screaming sirens came closer.
In death, Nancy Bonheim could only see the irony of it all. Her face horribly disfigured, her teeth littering the car seats, the dying woman managed a giggle.
Lauren Rose Klein thought it was the scariest sight of her life.
Blood gurgled from her mothers mouth and the teenager strained to hear her words. "My daughter will kill me someday nearing adulthood."
"I didnt mean it, mom," the girl implored pathetically.
Nancy laughed, causing a ball of blood from her chest to spew out of her mouth. The red material splattered on her daughters fair, freckled features. "You fool. You were destined to kill me," Nancy hissed, then fell silent as death rattled through her body.
Lauren Rose Klein was numb. She would remain numb for as long as she lived.
The crystal globe filled again with the black smoke.
"I found out on the evening news," said Frieda Kolotov in a hushed monotone. "As soon as I saw her picture I knew. I was right. I predicted her daughter would kill her."
Dianne was speechless. She could not absorb the information.
"That was the final straw. I went into retirement that very moment. I shoved this crystal ball far, far back into hiding and into the furthest recesses of my mind. I dared not set eyes on it until today."
"What happened to that girl, gramma?" Dianne wanted to know. "What will happen to her?"
Frieda shook her head. "I am too frightened to find out. I swore to never practice my magical powers again."
"But youre now," Dianne protested. "Lets see what happened to her!"
"No. Well destroy this globe now. Now! I should have done this years ago."
"Gramma!" Dianne cried. "But this is so neat!"
"Dianne Ruth!" Frieda screamed. "Didnt you learn a valuable lesson here?"
Dianne shrunk back. "Youre right," she conceded. "Im sorry." Her eyelids fluttered, and her grandmothers concerns seemed to be assuaged somewhat.
But the ball! It was so tempting. Dianne reached out and covered the ball with her slender fingers, caressing the globe sensually. Frieda watched in horror as her granddaughter was filled with evil, pure evil. Diannes blue eyes narrowed malevolently as she scrutinized her future.
And then she watched herself die.
"No!" Frieda wailed plantatively. "No, Dianne! Stay away from that evil!"
"Gramma!" the girl shrieked. "I wanna seeeeeeee!"
"No!" the elderly woman gasped, seizing the sphere from her granddaughters possessive clutches.
Dianne let out a growl and sunk her teeth into her grandmothers paunchy flesh, wrestling for control of the prized globe.
Frieda bellowed in anguished pain and roared in rage. Recessing into an animal, the old woman slammed the ball into her slight granddaughters heaving chest.
Dianne collapsed to the floor, her head ramming against the side of the kitchen counter. She groaned in pain from the wound and as broken shards of glass, sharper than knives, slit her fair skin and sliced through her skull, beginning the process of her death.
"Oh my God " Frieda could only stare as life drained out of the little girl. "My Dianne " The grandmother fell to her knees, collecting the dying girl in her arms.
"Gramma " the girl mustered.
"Dianne, Dianne," Frieda wept as her granddaughter died in her arms. "You just cannot change what is in the stars."
With the solemn proclamation, Frieda Kolotov wrapped her shaking, old fingers around a handsome piece of glass and brought it to her throat. Closing her eyes, the elderly woman did what she had to do, and her lifeless body took its place next to her granddaughters still form. Only then did the tormented expression on her face that had plagued her for years finally disappear, replaced by a sense of tranquility.
Lauren Rose Klein had never felt so helpless in her life. Her husband was abandoning her, taking their boys with him. She was lost. She needed guidance desperately. Her whole life was just falling apart.
Walking alone in the wee hours of morning, on the desolate streets of New York City, hands stuffed in his pockets, Lauren saw the bright yellow neon lights from afar. MADAME KOLOTOVS FORTUNETELLING! FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR FUTURE HERE!
Lauren thought about it then shrugged. Why not? It was as good an option as any. She tucked a strand of blond hair behind an ear.
Striding to the small building a half-block away, ignoring the sleeping forms of several homeless people here and there, the fair-skinned woman arrived at the fortune-telling salon in no time at all.
The woman who awaited Lauren Rose Klein looked to be barely over eighteen. Dark waves spilled from her head, and her blue eyes were sad and solemn. "Ive been expecting you," she said. "Youre right on time."
Lauren laughed, quickly absorbing the fortune-tellers tall and lithe frame. "You almost had me there for a minute. Sure, sure." She waved her hand dismissively. "What do I have in my pocket here?" she asked, patting her left trouser pocket.
"Your wedding ring," said Dianne Kolotov. "Because your husband left you. He took the children. He does not love you anymore."
Laurens mouth formed an o but she quickly recovered. "Lucky guess."
"Perhaps," Dianne conceded. "Perhaps so. Come, sit down." But she was grave and unsmiling, and her eyes were haunted.
Lauren grunted and slid her small frame onto the wobbly wooden chair. Fastening her eyes on the crystal goblet that sat on the table, she whistled admiringly. "Fancy ball you have there."
"Dangerous, too. Very dangerous," said Dianne Kolotov. "For you cannot change what is prescribed in the stars."
"Uh-uh," Lauren replied, somewhat doubtfully.
"Lauren Rose Klein, are you ready to know your future?"
"Yep," the small woman said. "Im ready."
Tell me what you thought. Sarkel_Bard@yahoo.com