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My Auntie Annie was a witch.

She didn’t wear a pointy black hat, have a warty nose or ride around on a broomstick. Instead she favoured floppy pastel coloured hats, was rather pretty despite her age, and drove an old Ford Escort.

She did have a black cat, though. His name was Hubert and he was the stupidest, laziest cat I ever saw. But that’s beside the point.

The point is, my Auntie Annie was a real honest-to-goodness witch who could tell your fortune in any number of ways. She wasn’t like the carnival gypsies who spoke mysteriously in vague terms and basically told you whatever you wanted to hear. She actually told you the future, and whatever she told you, however big or small, it always came true.

For a long time, my mother took me to see Auntie Annie every Thursday. We would have tea and sandwiches, then she would tell my fortune for the week. Sometimes she would read my tealeaves, but mostly she read the tarot. I would shuffle the cards as she instructed, then she would lay them out in front of me, turning them over one at a time and telling me what she saw.

Everything she told me, from losing a tooth to passing a test to the day I would get my first period, it all came true.

I got so used to it that I would write it all down carefully in my diary, and arrange everything around it. If Auntie Annie told me I was going to be busy on a school night, I’d make sure my homework was all done in advance.

I suppose in hindsight it made my life a little dull. There were never any surprises. Everything happened exactly as Auntie Annie told me it would. If she told me that I would be somewhere at a certain time, I ended up there even if I tried to be somewhere else.

Until the Thursday right after my fourteenth birthday.

“Did you ever wonder,” Auntie Annie asked me, “Why I never tell your mother’s fortune?”

The thought had honestly never crossed my mind. In that child-like, self-centred way, it had always seemed perfectly sensible that I got my whole week spelt out for me and my mother got nothing.

“It’s because, when she was fourteen I gave her the same present I’m about to give you.”

I was terribly excited, looking around for something in bright wrapping paper. I loved presents. But she wasn’t giving me anything tangible; she gave me something far more important.

“I give you the gift of free will.”

She never told my fortune after that, and I didn’t miss it for one moment.

© Kari Fay