By Melissa Marni
They weren’t punctuated flickers of light after all, if such a phenomenon existed. Nor were they spotlights hinting at a faraway land where she’d find escape. They were beads (of course they were beads), hanging in strips of blue, green, yellow and some kind of magenta-orange from one end of the narrow doorway to the next. Their very presence meant the peculiar, neon flashes that tempted Anna from the sidewalk of Flower Street moments before had been, like the woman she would probably find inside, nothing but plastic-made deception.
“Hello. I’m Madame Bovigne. Can I help you, dear?”
Ah, she speaks. A cut of words through the dim.
“No, probably not.”
“And yet here you are.”
“Made a wrong turn on my way home.”
“Is that right?”
“No need to apologize.”
“I just don’t believe in this … stuff.”
“Ah, this stuff. Your hesitation is only natural but please don’t go. I’m sure there’s some way I can help ease your troubles.”
“I have no troubles.”
“Nonsense. Everyone has troubles. Only the fool feels no pain.” She had a wise voice, bittersweet and rich with notes of Eastern Europe.
“I’m not a fool …”
“I wasn’t saying you were …”
“And I already told you, this whatever that you do, it isn’t for me.”
“Those of little faith are those for whom my powers work best. Come, why don’t you sit down and we’ll have a try, Anna?”
Never mind she’d never told the woman her name.
“All I’m asking is that you sit.”
The chair Madame Bovigne motioned toward with spindly fingernails polished black was a large, traditional piece befitting of an old aunt named Gertrude who collected antique furniture on Sundays and made papier-mâché figurines every other day of the week. Or an untruthful lady who piled fiction upon fact for a dollar bill or two.
Anna wanted to leave Madame Bovigne with every tingling nose hair in both her nostrils except the rest of her body seemed to think there was no other choice but to stay. So she sat however reluctantly on the tufted red velvet cushion and settled her hands along gold-painted armrests. Much like the chair, this place was just so … so.
“Tea?” Madame asked and turned on a lamp to pour some before Anna could get out a ‘no thank you.’ Anna managed to say it one beat too late; a blue porcelain teacup circled twice against the inner rim of its small saucer before rattling to a stop in her lap.
“Drink, dear. It’ll calm you.”
Anna placed the tea on one of the armrests and turned away from Madame Bovigne, searching the room now feebly lit. She found everything the exact portrait of what should be expected inside a fortuneteller’s lair: a stack of oversized tarot cards here, a crystal ball there, a vase with wisps of peacock feathers neatly arranged into a circle of green plumage on a shelf behind her. The extraordinary ordinary of Madame Bovigne’s little windowless space left Anna searching for any faint curiosity that she could use to ease her mind.
“Tell me what ails you. I feel strong vibrations of anxiety and fear.”
“Ha. Doesn’t take a psychic to figure that one out,” Anna said, frowning.
“I’m not a psychic,” Madame Bovigne replied coolly. “I simply reveal what has yet come to pass.”
Anna said nothing and with a dubious squint looked right at the fortuneteller’s rounded face. Her eyebrows were thicker than most, Anna discovered, and her chin folded thrice over into the fat ringlets encircling her neck. Her ivory hair was unruly, her gray-speckled eyes small and not to be trusted. Yet something in Madame Bovigne’s barely perceptible cheekbones and another thing in the curve of her wide upper lip smacked of pure honesty that almost—almost!—made Anna believe.
“You’re a baker,” said Madame Bovigne quite casually, as if only to fill the silence.
“Yes,” Anna admitted. “Although right now, I can’t bake.”
No. No no no no no.
She said too much, showed her hand too soon. No more than a minute had passed since Anna made the stupid decision to stay and here she doled out information like her life was some silly fruit market and her secrets were merely free samples of just-picked pineapples.
“Because of your grandmother’s necklace.”
Anna’s jaw hung loose. “How can you …?”
A pause here for dramatic effect.
Madame Bovigne continued, “And I know you haven’t been able to bake since you lost the necklace, which makes perfect sense. It was your golden motivation. Your grandmother funded the bakery in the first place. When everyone else said ‘be practical, Anna’ she said dream. So you cling to her memory through the necklace and it gives you strength. Without it, you’re lost, unable to see a mixing bowl from a measuring cup. Yet …”
She took Anna’s hands inside her own and the fortuneteller’s palms were surprisingly warm and tender. “Yet, what you seek is no more lost than you were when you came to my shop tonight. You’ll find exactly what you’re looking for if you search within the do.”
“Search within the do?” Anna asked. “What can you mean?”
Sorry, that was it. Ten dollars were to be paid immediately—cash only because the credit card machine wasn’t working—and Madame Bovigne would answer no more except to say, “Whatever fortune had to be told has been told. So goodbye, Anna dear, and remember to search within the do.”
The fortuneteller’s beaded entryway was long behind Anna when she returned not home but to her rent-by-the-week bakery space on Flower Street, skeptical but determined to find her missing ambition for pastry by doing. Doing what, she didn’t know, so she took out from the giant, steel refrigerator the batter that she couldn’t last week bring herself to bake and decided she might create a batch of pain au chocolat because that had always been her grandmother’s favorite and here she was doing to see what she might find.
As she rolled and kneaded and melted more butter into her bowl, life sprung anew into her nimble hands and she could feel the tingles of passion return to her fingertips like a wave rushing toward shore.
Madame Bovigne had been right, what she lost could indeed be found because there inside the flour, water and sugar mixture Anna had abandoned all week she noticed a familiar sparkle that could only belong to her grandmother’s necklace, that cherished piece of jewelry now discovered in the do … or better yet, in the dough.
[This story was inspired by DŌ, an NYC-based bakery founded by baker Kristen Tomlan serving up delicious cookies (and of course, cookie dough) for the hungry people of Manhattan and beyond. To see more of the confectionary creations, visit DŌ on Instagram or order your very own dough today!]