Madame Justine LaFourge was the most celebrated fortune teller and spiritual medium in Alexandria. Two years ago she had appeared in the city with only a steamer trunk full of clothing and a twisted old crone of a maid who never spoke. She set herself up in a stylish little apartment near the bay and had a little sign tacked outside the building's door: "Mme. Justine, medium, tarot reader, etc."
She was quite popular among some of our set, particularly those gullible individuals who had convinced themselves that they were reincarnations of Pharaoh So-and-So or Queen Thus-and-Such. They went to her to have their fantasies confirmed.
I never went to the woman, myself. Superstitious nonsense, and a waste of money besides. She performed at a dinner party that Nathan and I went to, however. She made a dramatic entrance after the lights had been dimmed, flinging aside the draperies of a doorway and posturing there with hooded eyes, her beaded dress glittering. Her billowing dress and heavy bracelets were a ridiculous imitation of ancient Egyptian costume, but she had a curious sort of charm. After standing there long enough to catch everyone's attention, she glided across the room and seated herself in the throne that had been placed out for her. It was a rather vulgar piece of furniture, probably inspired by the throne of Tut-ankh-amon, whose tomb had been discovered only the year before. Her performance itself was nothing remarkable, just the usual smoke and mirrors employed by her ilk.
Nathan and I stayed afterward to chat with our hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Gordon. The Gordons were good people, even if they were numbered among those with a weakness for Madame Justine's nonsensical babble. After we had emerged from the building we stood in a pool of golden light from a street lamp, waiting for our automobile to be brought around. Another guest who had stayed late was being helped into a cab. As she sat down she turned her face so the light fell on it. It was a pretty face, and a young one, but tired. Not the tiredness you get from staying out late, but the tiredness you get from being knocked around hard by life. I remember she was wearing a severe gray dress and her dark hair was pulled back into a tight bun except for a few tendrils that brushed against her cheeks.
She met my gaze with an indifferent, almost vacant stare. I opened my mouth to introduce myself - I could not recall seeing her at the party, although there had been many young ladies present - but the cab driver popped his whip and the cab clattered off into darkness. It wasn't until I was laying in our bed, staring at the shadows on the wall and listening to Nathan snore, that I realized the young woman had been Madame Justine herself.
©S.L. Stevens 2010