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Fortunes Told - Heather Sanderson

She flew to Montreal to end it in person. After all that they had been through with her baby and his wife’s, she knew that it had to finish with a grand gesture: a sweeping statement of her loyalty and all that she had taken on and given up for him. All that she had gone through. She wanted him to see. To feel. To understand what it was like for her. He had to bear witness. It was the least he could do, she thought. He never complied which made her erode and fall away, and then want him to see that too. She wanted to matter.

Before she had met him, three years and seven months ago, she didn’t know that there were so many different kinds of tears, the quality and taste of each decidedly unique, and that the water could run dry. That’s why, after he left the chic Airbnb she had rented, and she was free (or so she thought), nothing came.

It was December 23rd. The air was so coldly crisp that her skin morphed in temperature to meet it; to merge with the elements and become clear. There were white bulbs of light hanging from empty tree branches, giving the illusion that they floated in the sky over the sidewalk on their own volition. She paused to really see them and felt the confusing memory that there are beautiful things in the world. Not particularly hungry, but knowing she should eat, she walked to the Chinese restaurant on the corner and sat, alone. Her body noticed the emptiness held within the confined structure of her bones. The lacking she felt of herself for not knowing better, for not being enough, for not being stronger, for not ending it sooner, for letting it start to begin with, for not understanding anything really. She used to think she was smart.

Her brain flatlined over a pile of chicken balls and rice which she prodded with a fork, eating only the batter.

A fortune cookie appeared with the check and brought with it the desire for a future that was different. That she could be different. There was the faintest sensation in her heart; a ghost of what joy was like before they’d met. Before all that had happened. What would her fortune be? She hesitated to open it, not sure she was ready to know and, all the while, wanting in clinging desperation and desire for the cookie to tell her great things. That not only would everything be okay, but something magnificent would come next. The cookie had the power to tell her she was worthy. To offer reassurance that she had done the right thing. She cracked the fragile-yet-strong container of the cookie open, half tentative, half eager to peer inside and learn what the future would bring.

Water flooded up from the earth of her flesh, pushed to the surface, as she saw the small rectangle of white paper. It was blank. All she could see in the wordless void was another thing she had done wrong. Another thing she couldn’t have. She couldn’t even get a fortune right. The future obliterated between her fingertips as she crumpled around it. What she could not yet comprehend, and maybe she would, in time, or maybe she wouldn’t, was that blank piece of paper was a gift from the fortune-telling fates: a space for her to create her life without condition. To write the story she wanted.


Heather Sanderson's work focuses on exploring the sacred feminine and healing invisible wounds. She has written 25+ short books in two series: Dreaming with the Plants and The Future is Possible. Poetry from her collection called Sister appeared in NightBlock, Anapest, and Understorey Magazine and her flash fiction has appeared in Grim & Gilded. Originally from Canada, Heather now lives in Brooklyn, NY. Discover more of her work at and follow her on Instagram at @heather.sanderson.


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