Nereida was sick of being a freak. She would trade it all for her fantasy. She looked up at the faded sign swinging in the breeze, then back down to the card in her hand. They matched.
-Readings, spells, potions- your dreams come true-for a price.
A shy smile swept across her face and a flush spread over her cheeks. She looked around the grubby alleyway with its dusty coloured stores selling everything from ancient silver jewellery to strange smelling spices, just to make sure no one she knew, saw her going in.
She stepped in the foyer of the building and stumbled up the stairs in her oversized awkward feet. She couldn’t wait to get rid of them: the size 10 clodhoppers that caused her so much grief growing up, as she galumphed her way through her teens, instead of gracefully gliding through puberty. She hated people staring and cringed especially at the exasperated saleswomen’s stifled sighs. She was a freak and she never did feel like she fitted in- anywhere. That was all about to change, soon.
She knocked at the door softly at first, then more insistently as she grew impatient for her life to change. She pushed the door and it slowly creaked open, smoky incense filling her nostrils and obscuring her view. She waved her hand over her face and saw that beyond the smoke was a long, dark, corridor softly lit by candles on either side. She tried to tip toe down the hallway but instead she thudded and almost tripped over. When she reached the door at the end she took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
Inside, Madame Farouq sat at a round table covered in deep crimson velvet, in the center of the room with her eyes closed and her hands clasping a crystal ball. The air was thick with sandalwood incense and soft muted light from a multitude of candles. Without looking up or opening her eyes, Madame Farouq motioned for Nereida to come forward and sit down. Nereida looked around at the heavy purple curtains and velvet wallpaper and slowly moved forward careful not to slip.
As she settled down opposite Madame Farouq with her jet-black hair and deep olive skin she noticed her long purple nails and many silver and jewelled rings on each finger. Nereida didn’t breathe as she waited for Madame to speak.
“You have felt like a freak all your life and vould sacrifice it all for a new life,” she stated knowingly whilst opening her eyes slowly and staring straight at Nereida whose eyes stretched wide open as her jaw dropped open and her mouth formed a small“o”.
“How, did you, you know?” stammered Nereida.
“Madame Farouq knows everyfink. Zat is my job,” she replied with a flourish of both hands. Then she squinted and tilted her head sideways and asked, “Are you completely sure zat you can give up your vay of life; everyfink you know and love for ziz new undervorld?”
Nereida nodded hesitantly and whispered, “Yes.”
“You realize you can never go back to your old life onz ze change has been made?” Madame continued.
Nodding her head quickly Nereida sucked in sharply as her chest filled with air and sighed deeply as her chest sank.
“Are you ready to leave your old life behind you today?
“Mmm Hmmm”, answered Nereida quickly.
“Ze potion vill burn your stroat and you vill feel nauseous as your body adjusts, until you get used to your new environment, your new diet, your new fins. Are you really sure you vant to be a Mermaid?