Twenty-five years ago Dani DeSilva developed her first roll of film using instant coffee, vitamin C and a couple other common ingredients. At the time she was pretty sure it was the magic from the mysterious Inn that did the processing. Hundreds of rolls later, Dani was positive it was the magic though in everyday conversation she called it her trade secret. D-Square was both Dani's business , and the name of the gallery where her unusual prints captured the attention of art lovers round the globe. Her clients not only bought her art, they stayed for coffee, shortbread cut into shapes of ducks, stars and moon and then Dani DeSilva held their hands and told them stories about themselves. Like her talent for reading lines, the hands as well as feet, this woman loved what she could do well, and that truly put her into the flow with little resistance. She was forty-one, never wished nor sought a four-year college degree; apprenticed on farms and community gardens when she finished high school. Family ties with tradition and culture made her very aware of what hands and feet do. Magic was one of those traditions, the culture for its practice? That will unfold as the story does.
"How do you do it, really?" Luc Baldwin was an acquaintance, an unabashed cynic with imagination fed by old money. "Magic, shmagic. What else is in that canister?" Sticky like rice, he was also her biggest competitor with his eyes on expanding his business to include D-Square. Dani DeSilva liked that she could see his motives clearly. No smoking mirror or split to the reflection, this man was greedy. But, he was honest. She liked that, and dealt with the tall and seductive man with braids as she did gin and tonic. The latest prints were haunting. The grainy texture of coffee processed film was always present in her photos. She loved the look, felt at home with the earthy sense she could smell even after the prints were dried and mounted. What was unusual about the art she stilled on paper were the images that made themselves known to her alone, until she met and sold the photograph. That was when the magic grew ... when the image showed again.
Just minutes before Luc Baldwin walked through the old wooden door of D-Square, Dani called her sister to double check on the star that had shown up in her sister's palm. "Nope, like the rest of me, every part of me was the same-old same-old. Why?" Olivia was used to her sister's trade secrets and respected how Dani kept her feet planted firmly even when the ancestors or their maps of potential showed up in unexpected places. Rather than explain what she'd found, Dani shielded and changed the subject. "You and Katy are coming for dinner tomorrow night right?" "No change on our end. I picked up some of that goat cheese while we were on the island. How about a little fondue?" "My mouth's watering. Do you have the pots, and the little fire pots for keeping 'em hot?" Details were Olivia DeSilva's trademark, "I called mom this morning. She still has those things. Remember?" It had been a long time since Dani heard the word. When they were girls it was their mother's favorite treat meal: chunks of crusty French bread with thick melted cheese along side a pot of melting chocolate with bananas and strawberries. "Yup, yup, and yup! I loved fondue and haven't had any since. And those long forks did you ask her about those?"
"She still has those, too." Dani let out a deep and satisfied sigh. Knowing some things stayed the same made her happy. She said, "Pat was lucky with his hook. Trout with mushrooms stuffed with onions and garlic. How about that?" Patrick Sweet was not an official boyfriend, but he could be. The grandson of family friends made him nearly a brother. But something was sizzling just under the surface. Olivia thought of teasing, but didn't. "It's a date then. Take a look at the photos over fondue and trout. See you tomorrow. Love to Katy!" Dani closed her old flip open cellphone, another of her relics.
Face to face dealings with Luc Baldwin always left Dani jittery. He was too close to her at the moment, his braided black hair way too sexy , and his timing distracting. She wanted to ask "How is it you know when I've fished out a new roll of film?" But didn't. Instead Dani held her hand out between them, "Trade secrets. And besides," she knew he was also here for a reading, "if I told you what other reason would you have to keep pestering me?" There was way too much of an opening in that question. Dani bit on her lower lip something she did when her words flew in a direction her mind would have edited. Luc had his hands around Dani's wrists, "Let me count the ways." He was teasing and it was working. "Cut it out. I'm the palm-reader. Down boy, down." Dani pulled the door to her developing room shut, and pointed in the direction of the nook and kitchen she used for readings. A small kitchen with stove and oven was big enough for baking the shortbread. Open shelving held spices, glasses, mugs and small plates. A tiny refrigerator was tucked next to the single but deep sink. A narrow rectangular table made of oak filled the center of the nook. At one end a basket with a roll of textured cloth was tied with a length of black silk thread. The kettle steamed, but did not sputter or sing. "Coffee or tea?" Dani asked. "Coffee please." Luc never did get into the habit of tea drinking though being half-British it seemed almost counter-genetic. A canister of freshly-ground beans filled the small kitchen with the smell of caffeine. Dani prepared a small pot of French roast for Luc, and pulled a tea bag of Lemon-Ginger for herself. A small dish of shortbread stars sat on the counter. "Help yourself." Luc had his manicured right fingers around a cookie without hesitation. Dani reached for the jug of coconut milk she always laced with vanilla. The art dealer nibbled the ends of the star slowly, considering just what this odd and beautiful woman did to make him give up his desire to collect more. The thick white swirled, the smell of vanilla and coffee tapped switches in the man. And, she reads my lines like a book written with words I don't see. It's my book.
The routine for her readings were simple, but always the same. Dani and her friends, or clients, or clients who were friends had their drinks and the signature Sweet Sisters Shortbread before any reading. The recipe for the barely sweet pastry was equal in its magic as was the photographer's touch with a camera. Luc Baldwin had no way of knowing just how much the tradition of magic lived in the gallery, but he had a keen nose for special, and that is just what Dani DeSilva was. The bark cloth in the basket was an exquisite piece a gift when she opened D-Square. Soft pounded mulberry cloth dyed with olena, turmeric root, gave the kapa a golden-red glow. Stamped in the center was a line of ridges in muted green. She never did a reading without the kapa, and always remembered the protocol of asking for permission. Today's reading followed the same rules. Only a few crumbs remained of the Sweet Sisters Shortbread. Dani cleared mugs and plate and put them on the counter for later. "So, Mr. Balwin. You have come with hands and questions." Dani rolled the kapa from its silk string, sat facing the man with braids and reached for his right hand.