MYSTERY OF MY LIFE: The mystery of the gypsy: “You are pregnant,” the gypsy said. “The child will bring you great joy.”
From the point-of-view of the gypsy fortune teller’s daughter. She was a teenager then, peeping through the curtain, but she’s older now, telling the story to her own daughter. Gumma is the gypsy who foretold my mother’s pregnancy with me.
Gumma couldn’t have known she was pregnant. She was as thin as a wand, that one. She didn’t mind being thin either, she was in a pencil skirt — navy, I think — and a white button-up blouse. Heels. Oh, I don’t know, they might have been two-tone, expensive-looking anyway. No, the thing I remember was her hair. Not all bouffy and beehived like the other girls at the fair. Quite the modern thing she was, with hair cut like a boy’s, snipped close to the head. A bit like, you know, Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. That straight fringe and shiny kitten fur hair at the back, in the nape of the neck. She wasn’t rich — awful handbag, cheap lipstick — but she was something to look at it. She was with another lass, frumpy she looked, next to the tall, skinny one. Her sister it was. Don’t ask me how I know. I know. Gumma had the gift good and proper but it didn’t pass me by entirely, you cheeky wotsit. Now, this short-haired woman sat down opposite Gumma in the tent. You could tell she wasn’t planning to believe a bit of it, that she just came in for a lark. She must have got a start when Gumma got going. There was always something in her voice that took the glad grins off people’s faces. Not just her accent. She knew and they knew she knew. So the woman went quiet, got stiffer, in the body. She leant forward a bit, started rolling her wedding ring around on her finger. When Gumma told her she was pregnant the girl smacked back against the chair. She recovered herself just as quick, got all proud, embarrassed and shot back: “That’s impossible!” Gumma just watched her. I watched her too. I had to be careful not to rustle the curtains, or burp or fart. I was so close to your Gumma’s table it might as well have been a table for three. I was on my haunches — a danger for me was bones creaking, but I was young then, just a girl, not much older than you are now. Gumma waited for the news to sink in, like she always did, respectfully-like, and then she said: “The child will bring you great joy.” I knew the woman wouldn’t forget hearing that. I never did either. When I was pregnant with you I kept remembering her saying it, wishing she’d been alive to say it to me. She would have too, you know. And it would have been true.