Authors: Deborah Kreiser
Standing up for her and for all of the other girls who think they can't fight back, the rage rises within me as clarity strikes. Just because he's the hottest ticket in school, and I wanted him for years doesn't mean he should be my, or anyone's, master. I spit out, “You never listen to me. I wish you would stop
Pete is frozen in place with his body poised above mine. I'm so tempted to knee him in the cojones, but that would be uncharacteristic of me. He's blinking in confusion as I extricate myself from his embrace.
I can feel the power flowing through my body and tingling in my fingers and toes â it's getting close to midnight, and I'm on the cusp of becoming a full genie, what my heritage and my every gene wants me to be. But by declaring my independence, it would seem I've ruined that option. Now's not the time for me to mourn my losses.
Somehow he's not questioning how I wished him away from me. Instead, he says, “All of my friends think you're a prude, you know, because we haven't done it yet. If you really loved me, you would do it already and stop teasing.”
“Seriously?” I sniff, blazing with my newfound realization. “You're going to use that line on me? I thought you'd know better. I don't know what your friends have to do with it, but I'm not a prude â and I do
like that word â I'm just a girl who wants a boy who listens to her, treats her with respect, and doesn't try to control her.”
“All these months we've been together, and that's all you have to say to me? Who took care of you in the hospital? Who went to a dumb musical because it's what you like? Who cheered for you at all of your stupid swim meets? All this time I've put into this relationship, and that's what I get from you? I knew it was a mistake to date a total reject, even if you are hot.”
I let out a choked laugh.
I spent six months with this loser?
“Goodbye, Pete. I'm sorry it didn't work out.” Straightening my dress, I grab my overnight bag, still packed, and give him a not-so-gentle pat on the cheek. “And, for the record? I'm way too good for you.”
As I walk toward the door, he says, “Hey,
, by the wayâ”
I turn, expecting, well, I don't know what I was expecting, but he gives me a sickeningly sweet smile and says, “Make sure you don't gain that freshman fifteen in college.”
I feel so strong right now it doesn't even bother me. Instead, as I close the door behind me, I whisper, “I wish you would forget about me.”
Where there is great love, there are always wishes. â Willa Cather
I march to the stairs, too full of righteous anger to use the elevator, and, still in my too-high heels, I
down the two flights all the way to the lobby. I'm nearly to the bottom before I realize my predicament â Pete was my ride home. At least I have my purse with me, and I dig into it for my cell phone to call my grandparents. This isn't at all how I imagined this night would go.
With only twenty minutes to go before my deadline, my nerves are taut, even while I'm deflated from my missed opportunity to actually find a master. I push open the staircase door into the lobby and flop into one of the chairs, leaving my bags on the floor next to me. There are a few prom-goers wandering around; the dance is over at midnight, and I'd expect some of them are either heading up to their hotel rooms soon or departing for the after-parties.
I stare down at my chest.
It was pretty great while it lasted.
I think wistfully, too, about the good wishes I've been able to grant these past six months. Saving my grandfather after his accident, making sure Tori got into college, finding cufflinks to complete Marc's prom look â from big wishes to small, all of them have been satisfying. I sigh, back to being a princess, but this time feeling like it's after the ball. My dress is probably going to turn back into rags, and the limo will likely become a pumpkin.
Them's the breaks,
I try comforting myself.
Time to move on from what wasn't meant to be
I start phoning my grandparents when I hear a throat being cleared behind me.
Pete, I'm not going back to you, no matter what you say
, I think with a frustrated release of air.
“It's over, I'm done with you. Go away and leave me alone,” I say without turning around.
“I'm so sorry I ruined your night, Genie. I know it was all my fault.”
Wait. That's not Pete's voice. Of course it's not â I wished he'd forget about me. My heart flutters as I realize it's Joel here with me. My eyes dart around the room, not yet willing to make eye contact, but he comes around to the front of the chair and crouches down so I'm forced to look at him.
“I understand why you're done with me and want me to leave you alone. I didn't mean to make Pete angry, and I hope he didn't take it out on you. You two have a special thing going and it's not right for another guy to get in the way.”
“Actually, Joel, I thought you wereâ”
“I know, you probably thought I'd be gone by now. Leia told you we were going to an after-party, right? But I was worried about you when I saw you leave the dance. The others caught a ride with someone else, and I was about to leave if I didn't get a hold of you.” He pauses. “Hey, come on. Why are you crying?”
Oh, no, not the weepy girl again.
I was feeling so strong a moment ago. Blinking, I'm trying to stop the tears, but they only slow and don't disappear. “I'm not crying,” I say, denying the obvious.
“I'll leave you alone,” he says, searching around, I guess for Pete. “I didn't mean to make you cry. Screwing up yet again.” He shoves his hands in his pockets and starts moving away.
At his words, the flow of tears increases again, though I'm trying to control them. “Don't go,” I manage to choke out. “Can you take me somewhere?”
“Uh, of course,” he answers, clearly confused.
I'll explain to him in the car. Right now, I just have to get out of here. We climb into his uncle's car, and I admire how cool it is. It distracts me enough that I'm able to keep it together for a few minutes.
“Do you want to go home?” he asks.
“Can we â drive for a little bit?”
We drive in silence for about five minutes, heading toward the ocean. When we reach the large, empty parking lot at Singing Beach, home of the world-famous squeaky sand, he inclines his head. “Stop here?” he asks, and I nod, grabbing my purse.
We take off our dress shoes and leave them in the car, so we can walk barefoot along the sandy boardwalk and onto the beach. At the last minute, Joel pulls out the car blanket from the back seat, “In case we decide to sit on the sand,” he explains. The air is warm and sultry, unusually so for a June night in New England, but perfect for a midnight walk on the beach. The sky is overcast, but the full moon is only partially obscured, so we have enough light to make our way.
“You may have guessed it wasn't you I was telling to go away in the hotel lobby,” I say when we pause along the shore, leaning against the lifeguard chairs already in place for the summer.
“I'm starting to figure that out.”
“I thought you were Pete.” I sigh. “It's over with him.”
“You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to,” Joel says.
“No, for once, I do want to.” Glossing over the details of the physical activity, I tell Joel all about the breakup. It feels good to spill it all out to a sympathetic ear.
When I'm done talking, Joel gives me a big hug â a real hug, and it feels great.
“I have a confession to make,” he says in a low voice as a cloud passes over the moon.
I'm glad of the darkness â he can't see the mix of emotions on my face as I wonder what he's going to say. Holding my breath, I stay silent, willing him to continue.
“As your friend, I'm glad you broke up with Pete. I never thought he was good enough for you, and I didn't like how I saw him treating you, acting like you weren't good enough for him.”
I exhale, knowing he's right.
“But there's another reason I'm glad. This might be the last chance I have to tell you this, and I've been trying to do it for, like, forever.”
A long pause as we listen to the waves crashing. My heartbeat speeds up, waiting for what he'll say next. Then, he lets the words tumble out.
“I've liked you for as long as I can remember. I was going to ask you out last year when you started dating Luke, and I was so jealous, but then I started dating Andrea, and we were happy together for a while. After she and I broke up, I was trying to ask you out, but you didn't seem to get it.” He gazes up at the stars before looking at his feet, scuffing deep holes in the sand.
“Then Pete was in the picture, and you had every guy in school following you around, and I didn't stand a chance. On Valentine's Day, man, I totally screwed up. I had been thinking about kissing you for so long, and I couldn't resist you. But that was so not the way I wanted it to happen.”
I feel like the air has been sucked out of my lungs and I've been punched in the stomach. I can't even think.
? Joel likes me!
Why can't I get my brain to calm down? I've got so much adrenaline running through my body, it feels like I'm about to float away. Oh, no, it's not adrenaline.
“What time is it?” I ask. I suddenly have an incredible, amazing idea, but it means putting this other conversation on hold for the moment.
Joel fumbles for his cell phone for a moment to check, and the bright display highlights the confusion on his face. “Uh, it's five of midnight. What, are you going to turn into a pumpkin?”
What is it with this princess thing?
“You wouldn't believeâ¦ Well, maybe you would. Okay,” I take a deep breath then point out one of the few visible stars to Joel. I ask him what one does with a star â winging it as best I can.
Fortunately, he goes with it and answers, “You make a wish.”
“What if I said you could make a wish in other ways, and you could be sure they would come true?”
“Um, yeah.” He clears his throat. “What exactly are you getting at?”
“Have you ever thought about my name, Joel? Do you know there's a reason my parents named me EugÃ©nie â Genie?”
“Is it a family name? I don't know â this is a bizarre conversation.”
“You've heard of genies, right?”
“Uh, who hasn't? As in
I Dream ofâ¦?
A big blue guy coming out of a lamp?
1,001 Arabian Nights?
What about them? They're just myths.” He laughs then notices I'm not laughing with him.
“Well, I'm a genie, a real genie. And tonight, on my eighteenth birthday, I come into my full genie powers, but only if I get a master. Within, like, the next minute.”
something? What is this, some weird joke?”
“I'll prove it,” I say and wish for the beach to be filled with candlelight. It's beautiful, and magical, and romantic, and Joel gasps when I do it. He leaps up and begins pacing along the shore, shaking his head in disbelief. I join him, reaching out for his arm. He won't make eye contact. I say softly, “Joel, I have only a few moments left to make this happen. I choose you to be my first master, if you'll have me.”
“I don't â this is â what in the world is happening?” He swings around to me, his face half-hidden in shadow. I can't see him well, even with the moonlight.
“Please, Joel, you've gotta roll with it, and believe me this is real. If only I had more time to explain, but that's not something I can easily wish up. But if you'll take me, you can have three wishes, anything â almost â your heart desires. Please.”
He sighs and sits back down on the blanket. “Okay, I'll play along. I still don't understand what it's all about, but I'll agree to be your first master. I don't like that name, though. Even, I don't know,
would be better.”
? “As you wish.” I let out a nervous laugh.
With shaking hands, I reach into my purse and pull out my tetrahedron, which is pulsing with light; it shoots out a zap of electricity to me, like one of those static machines you can buy at cheesy mall stores.
Joel puts out a finger to touch it, and I grab his hand and have him cup the tetrahedron. This is my big moment, and I don't want to risk either of us dropping the tet. The moment both of our hands touch the tetrahedron, the energy surges, and I can feel a cord of light grow between Joel and me and the tetrahedron. So this is what it's like, I think to myself, my body at last starting to relax.
“How long do I have to make my wishes? Will you tell me if it's something I'm not allowed to wish for?” he asks in a hushed voice. He must be feeling something, because he's no longer questioning the reality of the situation.
“Yes, I will. And you can take all the time you need. There's no hurry now,” I answer, feeling languid and serene with my full power now upon me.
A few minutes later, though, he makes a wish. With his hands still on the tetrahedron, he says, “I wish for a chocolate cake with a lit candle on top.”
Laughing, I tell him, “Too easy. Doesn't even use up any of my power.” But he insists it's what he wants.
“I still have two others left, anyway.”
I make it appear and think to add plates and a cake server. For some reason, though, I'm surprised when he starts singing “Happy Birthday” to me â distracted by the sensations of my new powers, I somehow hadn't thought I was the reason for the cake wish. “This is your favorite, right?” he asks. “Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting? Eat up, birthday girl.”