The bottles came in a set of three. At first, I did not quite take to the one with the spray pump although I was besotted with its amethystine hue. But the salesgirl refused to sell the pieces individually; it would bring bad luck, she was adamant. She insisted I try on each one, perhaps that would change my mind.
My fingers first headed towards the russet-coloured one. I lifted the stopper and dabbed some perfume on the inside of my left wrist.
At once I was enveloped in an odour of tea and earth and mint, spices wafting from my mother's kitchen, baby shampoo and the delicate smell of my baby sister's locks, Caramel panting in our backyard after a mad morning spent chasing his tail, a wintry nip in the air, the comfort of freshly laundered clothes, cotton candy and popsicles, the wonder of possibility.
I next turned to the dainty one in purple and squeezed the spray pump. Soft white fumes as if from an incense stick drifted forth and snaked over me, in and out of my hair, garlanded my neck, twirled around my ankles and calves and over my heart and around my wrists and up my arms, and I was blinded as if by a thick fog that had rolled in from the seas.
In my mind's eye I found butterfly colours on my fingertips, fairy rain, a piece of blue sky here, a tuft of white cloud there, the cool touch of a silvery anklet on my skin, a lover's heartbeat, happiness, sorrow, then happiness again, freedom, life, loss, a new lease of life, a new life, the smell of roses, poetry, longing, the ease of letting go.
By now it was evident the third bottle held my future. I caressed the translucent green container in my hands and with more curiosity than trepidation I withdrew the stopper. I peered inside. It was empty.
My disappointment must have shown on my face. The salesgirl quickly covered my hands in hers and said, "You are lucky," she said. "You have the gift of choosing your future. Not all of us have that choice."