Authors: Deborah Kreiser
Matt's face was troubled. “Okay, this is weird and kind of a sick joke. Why would you tell me you love me and then play this bizarre mind trick?”
“It's not a trick. I needed to make sure you loved me first, before I told you the truth about me,” I explained, worried now at his reaction. “It's not a joke,” I repeated. “I can prove it. Watch. Hold out your hands.” He did so. “I wish for two chocolate crÃªpes.” They appeared, warm and fresh, and smelling delicious. I took a big bite of one, while gesturing to him to do the same with the other. After a moment's hesitation, he tasted it, and then stared back at me, a strange look in his eyes.
“This is either the most bizarre dream I've ever had, or the most warped reality I've ever experienced,” he said. Squaring his shoulders, he seemed to make a resolution. “I'm not sure which, but I do know this is a delicious crÃªpe.” He proceeded to eat it up. I watched him for a moment before finishing my own. It seemed almost too easy, with all my worries for naught.
“Listen, GeneviÃ¨ve, I'm still not sure of everything you've told me. It doesn't all seem real. But I am sure of this â I do love you. And if I can believe in love at first sight, why is it any stranger I had to travel four thousand miles from home to find it, and the girl I love also happens to be a genie who can grant wishes? If I can believe in God, why shouldn't I believe in genies, too, when you've made a delicious crÃªpe appear out of thin air?” He laughed. “After a chocolate crÃªpe, I could use a coffee, too.”
I made that happen.
“Hmm,” he said. “I could get used to this.”
I decided to wait to tell Matt about Guy until yet another time. He was dealing with all of this well, so far, and I didn't want to push my luck. He held out his hand and pulled me up from the bench, and we walked toward the beach.
“You're something I could believe in,” I told him, reaching up to touch his cheek. He hugged me again before taking my hand and leading me along the beach. “So, please, tell me more about your home, and your family, and your school in the U.S.”
“I'd rather hear about yours,” he hedged. “There's so much I want to learn about, uh, genies,” he said, with a self-conscious laugh.
“Later,” I promised. “Tell me more about your family.”
“All right.” He sighed. “But I'm sure your life is far more interesting than mine.”
“Only to you. I think you're the most interesting person I've ever met,” I said.
He laughed again. “Doubtful. Anyway, I grew up in a tiny New England coastal village called St. Philomena. It's named for the patron saint of lost causes, but was a pretty great place to be a kid. You know I'm an only child, right?
“So, yeah, I was allowed to go all over town on my own. My friends and I used to ride our bikes everywhere, down to the beach to play in the tide pools in the summer. We'd tear up the ice on the ponds in the winter. My parents and I knew practically everyone around. We went to the little church on the common. Pretty much what you'd imagine small-town life to be.”
“It sounds charming,” I said, smiling, as I imagined Matt as a little boy. He paused, considering.
“It was, but when I left for college, I knew I had to see more of the world. New England can feel pretty insular. So I went to the University of Chicago â other than the winter snow, a sharp contrast to St. P's. Anyway, that's part of the reason I wanted to come to France, too â learn more of my mom's family's native language and experience a different way of life.” He rubbed my hand between his. “Not only did I find that, I found true love.” He laughed at the corny phrase.
“So, thenâ¦ they all lived happily ever after?” I laughed with him as we stopped walking.
He nodded. “I like the ending best of all,” he said as he pulled me close and held me tight. My hair was blowing wildly in the wind, and he held it back with his hand so he could kiss me. A sweet kiss, with promises of forever. It was all I'd ever wished for.
Then Matt cleared his throat. “So, my love,” he said, separating from me, “Now you tell me a story about a little genie named GeneviÃ¨ve.”
We sat down on the sand, and I hesitated. Would telling Matt more about who I was change his feelings for me? Of course, he now knew what I was, but he didn't yet know any of the details.
“Once upon a time,” I began, focusing on the crashing waves, then faltering. “Once upon a time, there was aâ¦ oh, forget it. It's better if I show you.”
The diary goes blank. She leaves me hanging again, but at this point I'm pretty used to it. It's getting a little tiresome, though, and I've almost decided to figure out the whole genie thing for myself. Tossing the diary under my bed, I resolve to focus on my own life for a while. Maybe I'm finally playing the rebellious teenager.
I need to get out of my parents' lives and into my own. With a flourish, I push back the bedcovers and bundle up in my robe against the cold house before leaving my room and the diary behind.
Men wish to be saved from the mischiefs of their vices, but not from their vices. â Ralph Waldo Emerson
The next few weeks leading up to Christmas pass in a total blur. Every day is like sunshine, and I barely notice the gray skies and snowstorms.
I'm stunned at how easily everyone at school seems to have accepted Pete and me as a couple. After so many years of feeling like an outcast and semi-unloveable, it's amazing I've become popular alongside my new boyfriend. It is that simple. As we walk hand-in-hand through the halls, other girls look at me with a mix of envy, admiration, and a little bit of scorn â just like I used to look at the popular crowd. But now that's
My weekends have been chock-full, because one or another of Pete's friends is always having a party or some other get-together. Unfortunately, cute and popular little Kaydee runs in the same crowd, and she seems to make a point of picking on me anytime Pete's not around, still calling me Beanie whenever she gets a chance.
Between homework, daily runs, twice-a-week weightlifting sessions, and four two-hour swim practices each week, my
I don't have practice Wednesdays, when my grandparents both happen to work late. Pete and I have had some pretty hot make-out sessions, and I know he'd like to take it further. There's no way I'm ready, and he's not pressuring â for now.
Leia's been keeping her distance since Pete and I hooked up. A couple of times I've had to cancel plans with her when something came up with Pete, and she hasn't been very understanding about it. Even when I invite her along to one of these parties where she can meet the popular crowd, she does so only reluctantly. I've always envied Leia in that regard. She's always been friendly to everyone, regardless of social status.
knows Leia, and everyone has an opinion of her, good or bad, but she doesn't care.
It's true she and I haven't had much alone time â and I
haven't screwed up the courage to tell her about being a genie â but I would have thought she'd be happy for me. I want to help her find the same happiness, and I have a plan. Then maybe she'll lighten up on me.
The Friday before Christmas, the last day of school before break, I find Joel at his locker between classes. “What's up?” I greet him, leaning up against the locker next to his.
He inhales, releasing his breath as he gets his books out. “Not much.”
I can't keep my smile from spreading when he glances my way. “Got any plans for tonight?”
His eyes light up. “Got something in mind?”
“I was thinking it could be fun if you and Iâ”
“Yeah, sounds good,” he interrupts.
“You didn't let me finish!” I tease. “If you and I and Pete and Leia all hung out tonight.”
His face smoothes out. “Um, yeah. That could work. Where should we go?”
“There's a movie Pete's dying to see â
. Sound okay? Maybe we'll go out for a bite beforehand.”
“Sure. Count me in. Should I meet you there?”
“Let me talk to Pete and Leia and figure it out. I'll text you the deets later.”
“See you then.” He nods and walks away as Pete comes up to me.
“Why were you talking to him?” he asks, glaring at Joel's back as we head to the parking lot.
“You and I are going on a double-date tonight,” I tell him, ignoring his expression, which soon changes to amusement.
He snorts. “Who's going to date
I punch him in the shoulder. “C'mon. Joel's my friend, and he's perfectâ¦ for Leia.”
Pete gives me a look and twirls a finger around his ear like I'm crazy. “Leia is a nut-job, too.”
Now I'm getting annoyed. “Shut up! She is not.”
He sees my expression and tries to erase his smirk. “No, she's not. You're totally right. I'm sure it's going to be a great night.”
I settle into the passenger seat, and Pete tosses our bags into the back. I text Leia and get her to confirm she's willing to come along, though I don't reveal my plan. Checking my phone for movie times, I go ahead and buy four tickets to the nine thirty-five show while Pete drives me home.
“Where do you think we should get dinner?” I ponder.
“Why not pizza?” he grumbles.
Um, no. “Can't we upgrade a little?”
He rolls his eyes. “Okay, Chinese? It's not like we have many options.”
“Fine, but Golden Buddha, not Szechuan Happy. The Buddha is way nicer.”
“Whatever you say.” He pulls up to my curb. My grandmother's car is in the driveway, so he doesn't invite himself in this time. Still, he gives me a long, lingering kiss before saying he'll pick me up at six-thirty. I get out of the car and grab my bag.
“See you in exactly three hours, then,” I tease before closing the door.
He lowers the passenger window. “Be ready for me!” he shouts as I walk away.
I blow him a kiss before heading inside.
Doesn't he know I've been ready for him for years?
That night, Pete, Leia, and I meet Joel at the restaurant. We are greeted by an eight-foot gold statue of the Buddha and a smiling Jenny Lee, who goes to our school and whose family owns the restaurant. She shows us to our booth, giving Joel a wink, which he misses.
Joel seems a little out of sorts and keeps shifting on the shiny red seat. Pete and I are doing most of the talking. Leia only speaks up when deciding what to order. The three of them are carnivores and decide to share sweet-and-sour pork, beef with broccoli, and General Tso's chicken.
I'm debating what to get, and Pete suggests the steamed Buddhist Delight. “My sisters get it with garlic sauce on the side. They say it's great.”
I shrug. Might as well. I order it with tofu and have no worries anyone's going to want to share. We also get an order of vegetable potstickers and scallion pancakes for appetizers, which arrive quickly. We're spared having to make conversation for a while by eating.
I have no idea why this is so awkward. True, Joel and Leia don't know Pete well, but they do know each other. I decide they need to move closer to one another, so with a quick little wish under my breath I nudge them. Unfortunately, my little nudge makes Joel bump the dish of beef with broccoli in Leia's hands, so she spills said beef with broccoli into her lap.
At least it breaks some of the tension.
Leia and I go to the bathroom to get her cleaned up, and I use a little wish power to make the soap work on the grease spots. “This sucks, huh?” I ask her, testing the waters to see how mad she is.
To my surprise, she just shrugs. “No, it's coming out.” Dabbing at the extensive wet areas, she laughs. “At least I'm not wearing a white T-shirt.”
When we return to the table, we manage to resemble a group of friends having a nice evening out, but still it's strained. Pete won't stop teasing Joel about swimming, saying basketball is the sport for a real man. When stoic Joel seems to be getting annoyed, Pete backs off with a little smirk.
We get to the theater early and take our time at the refreshment stand. So far, I'm seeing no signs of either Leia or Joel making a move on their own. Maybe they'll need more encouragement during the movie.
Leia narrows her eyes at me when I insist they're seated together, right in front of Pete and me, but I ignore her. Genie knows best.
During the movie, I'm almost too excited to concentrate on the plotline and focus most of my attention on Joel and Leia. Ever so slowly, I wish for the two of them to lean closer together. About halfway through the movie, I make Joel ease his arm around Leia's shoulder. But just as he's almost done it, she shifts so he ends up hitting her in the head.
She glares as he whispers an apology, though I won't yet let him move his arm away. Leia leans forward so his arm rests on the back of the seat instead of over her shoulder. He's able to pull it off the seat and studies it, puzzled. She sits back with a huff.
I let out a big sigh as I witness this. So far, they're zero for two, including the beef-with-broccoli incident. Pete interprets my sigh as a reaction to what's happening in the movie, when the two leads start hooking up. He traces along the inside of my arm, but it tickles and I pull away.
A little while later, right as the heavy action starts on-screen, I have Leia take Joel's hand. Both of them examine their entwined fingers and then leap apart as if each thinks the other has a new breed of cooties. They lean as far away as possible, and study the movie screen like it's revealing information about the meaning of life.