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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Three Little Wishes by Liz Lafferty

Susannah cried. It nearly broke my heart.

She hated spending holidays alone, and though I was with her, she didn’t know it. I couldn’t offer her the type of consolation she needed, but at least I would have been good company. I know jokes in twenty-two languages.

As a ten-year old, she had purchased me at the Bay Flea Market and, since she’d inherited the family home, I sat on the fireplace mantel.

Susannah was now forty-seven. I was three-thousand, six hundred and twelve. Give or take. Time gets a little distorted inside my bottle.

She sniffed, wiping at her nose, reaching for me. “You were always my favorite bottle.” She cradled me, as she had numerous times. Each time, I flinched in anticipation. My bottle filled with smoke. My very skin itched, ready to leap.

Thirty-seven years I’d waited for her to rub the bottle.

Today, she did.

I dissolved into a showering mist as the lid popped off. My body materialized from the smoke and floated over the opening. “Your wish is my command.”

She screamed. The bottle slipped from her hand, but I landed one foot out, the other still a smoky apparition that started to form as I stood.

“Who are you?” She backed away, falling onto the worn upholstered couch.

“Alesade. I’m here to grant your three wishes.”

She fisted her hands and rubbed them hard against her eyes. “I’m hallucinating. I’m going insane. I’ve lived so long by myself, I’m now inventing people.”

I knelt in front of her. “No, mistress. You’ve freed me from the bottle, and I must now obey you.”

“If you have to obey me, you would go away, right?” She peered through her fingers.

“Not quite how it works. The sooner we begin, the sooner I can go away.”

I liked Susannah. She had a beautiful voice and had often sung as a child. But not recently.

I glanced up. She was lush and curvy, like women from my time in Mesopotamia. She’d be embarrassed if she knew the things I knew about her. It didn’t change my regard for her.

“Who are you?” she demanded. Tentatively, she reached out. Her fingers touched the center of my chest. “You’re real.”

“Yes, mistress.”

Her hand slid up my chest and caressed my shoulder. “You’re a man.”

“I am Alesade. It is my curse and my privilege to serve you.”

“You’re a man. And a genie?”

“Yes, that is the name you use in this time.” I learned languages easily. Sitting on someone’s shelf for thirty-seven years made it simple, especially when the television was Susannah’s only companion. I missed Murphy Brown and Frasier, though.

“A genie?” She laughed, falling back on the couch. “A genie has fallen into my crappy life?”

“No, mistress. I have fallen into the life of an angel.”

She frowned and folded her hands across her body. “This is a trick. Of course, my genie would be handsome and a liar.”

“Thank you, mistress, but I am not allowed to lie. It is part of the curse.”

“So, if my first wish was to free you from the curse, then what?”

“Only Ravisha, the Queen Witch of Mesopotamia can free me, and I do not know where in time she resides.”

Susannah touched my hair. Must I tell you that, at times, wishes involved sexual largess? It had been several decades since I’d been touched in any way. It was as good as I remembered.

“You are cursed? I’m sorry.” Her hand slid over my face. This was the Susannah I knew. Kind beyond measure. A heart of gold.

“Your wishes, mistress?”

“I don’t know what to wish for. Can you give me any instruction? What if I make a mistake?”

“One must thoroughly consider the consequences of the action. Do not ask for rain in the desert. The desert wasn’t made for such a wish. Don’t be rash. Make your wish be known in word and thought so I understand the complete request.” I opened my hands, palms up, waiting to receive the first request.

“I don’t know. There are so many people I want to help.”

Others. I hid a smile. I should have known she’d think of anyone but herself. Susannah’s wishes would be pure, unlike so many others before her.

She jumped up from the couch and brushed past me, stopping to look at her features in the large, ornate mirror. “I could wish myself beautiful, so someone would love me.”

“You are loved, Susannah.”

“Not that kind of love,” she said wistfully, touching her rosy, round cheek. “Okay, my first wish.” She closed her eyes. Her thoughts churned, spilling over into my magic. “My first wish is for everyone at the nursing home to be whole in mind and body until their natural death.” She opened her eyes and stared. “Well?”

“It is done, mistress.” My faith in her wasn’t misplaced. I knew she wouldn’t be selfish.

I knew what she wanted above all. Would she ask for such a thing?

I could hear the wishes forming, gelling into certainty.

She opened her mouth.

I opened my hand, to stop her. “Might I suggest you reverse the order of your wishes?”

“But I haven’t said anything.”

I couldn’t make her do anything. I had a few limitations. No lying. No freedom from the curse. But I was still a man.

“Okay, I’m ready.” Susannah closed her eyes. “I wish…” She faded into a cloud of smoke as we were sucked into the bottle.

Bewildered, she looked around. “I don’t understand.”

“I wish to love and be loved forever and ever, too,” I said.

“Oh, Alesade. I haven’t said my last wish.”

“Keep it. As long as you save it, I will belong to you and no other. And if you ever wish to return to your life, I will make it so.”

I was the selfish one.

I opened my hand, and she accepted.

About the Author: Liz is a hard working wage earner by day and a romance writer caught up with strong heroines and handsome heroes by night. "Three Little Wishes" is part of a larger series and genies her current male obsession.

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