Authors: Deborah Kreiser
Our first day together, we wandered along the streets running through the city, pausing here and there to lock eyes again, and commenting on matters of no consequence. We continued on until we came to the door of a small chapel. “Let's go in,” he urged.
“Oh, no, Iâ”
“It'll be fine,” he tugged on my arm.
“Well, I'm not a Catholic.”
“Not a problem. I want you to see this.”
Regardless of my religious affinity, I was able to appreciate the artistic beauty of the elaborate stained glass and richly colored mosaics throughout the space. The peace of the chapel and its silence enveloped me, and I found myself relaxing almost to the point of sleepiness.
I almost didn't notice the small rustling sounds from above our heads, until a clear soprano voice opened up and began singing in Latin. Above us, a small group of six young boys and their adult musical director were up in the choir loft.
“Listen to this. It's called
Ubi Caritas et Amor,“
Matthew whispered. “It's like angels singing.”
Of course, I understood the Latin, and some of the lyrics resonated with me, despite my non-belief: “Where charity and love are, there God isâ¦ And from a sincere heart let us love each otherâ¦ A joy which is immense, and also approved: Through infinite ages of ages.”
It was perfect.
It ended there.
Mom, not again!
“I wish for more of the story,” I say.
Try again tomorrow
Live your own life for a while.
“Okay: I wish it were tomorrow.”
Nice try. It doesn't work that way. Don't you have some homework you need to do?
The diary snaps shut.
like having my mom here. The diary makes my parents seem more real than I could ever have imagined. They were so young! My mom was only a little older than I am now when she started writing it. Though I've had a lifetime to get used to being an orphan, I still would have wanted a chance to get to know them. But as mom already told me, I can't bring someone back from the dead. Which would be a pretty creepy wish, anyway.
Thinking ahead, I'm planning on keeping my wishes a little less heavy and finding a master who'd want easy stuff like money or acceptance into an Ivy League college.
I contemplate again the most recent entry: homework I need to do.
I groan to myself. There's my essay on
Crime and Punishment
due soon and an AP Bio test next week. In addition, I have twenty calculus problems and a European history timeline of the Norman Invasion to the present. It will be a long night.
Maybe I could wish it to be done and save myself the time?
Not bad, not bad. In my quick glance over the paper, timeline, and calculus problems, all seem complete, and the bio test should be a cinch, too, after I wish it so.
I use my now-free evening to catch up on my social media and check to see what Pete has going on. I also see Joel just posted a video from a swim meet last year, tagging me in it as well. It was the one where I broke the school backstroke record, and I comment it's cool to see the video again. He IMs me right away.
What're u up to?
Homework's done. Hangin out. U?
Still calc. Anythng tricky?
Nope, piece of cake.
Got2 go. CU2mrw.
Joel's such a nice guy. I wish I could do something nice for him.
“O-o-o-oh.” I let out a long breath, remembering what Marc mentioned earlier. I
do something nice for him. For both of them. I could be like the Robin Hood of wishes. Except I wouldn't be robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Okay, the fairy godmother of wishes. Nah, that's redundant. Well, anyway, it would be so cool to make my friends' wishes come true. Now I just have to figure out what those wishes might be.
I'll start working on it first thing tomorrow.
I check the clock, and it's only eight p.m., way too early for bedtime. I try calling Leia's cell, but it must be off, because it's going straight to her voicemail. I don't bother leaving a message, and after hanging up I go downstairs to check in with my grandparents. I find them down in the basement.
“Hello, sweetheart,” MamÃ¨re says.
“Hey, Genie!” Papa greets me.
They're busy working on a massive project down there that has been in process for years now. Papa wants to install a bathroom, while MamÃ¨re says she needs an office. Our house is pretty small, and space is at a premium.
“Can I help?” I ask.
“No, no,” they both shake their heads. “You go on and do your homework.”
“I'm done,” I say. “I'm bored.”
“Bored? Wow.” says Papa. “I wish I had the time to be bored. If only this project was done!”
Here's my chance â I grant his wish, and the basement is complete. And, actually, it's awesome. There's a bar along one end of the room, gleaming with brass and polished wood, a fancy bathroom tucked into the corner, and an office area for MamÃ¨re separated from the rest of the basement by a half-wall of glass blocks. I fold my arms, satisfied.
“Oh,” says MamÃ¨re, lowering her spackling tool.
“Um. Aren't you excited?” I ask, dismayed by her reaction. “Now you have time to do other stuff, instead of having this hang over your heads all of the time.” They look at each other then back at me.
“Well, it'sâ¦ we enjoy fixing up the house together. Having a joint project keeps us focused and working as a team. It's fun for us,” Papa says.
I try not to roll my eyes. Papa sounds like a shrink sometimes. He says it's from talking with
down at the hardware store all day. “Besides,” he jokes, “I'm not sure if what you've done here is up to the building inspector's code.”
“Uh, I can wish it back?” I tell them, expecting a negative answer. Have they
how cool this place is?
“We know you're trying to help, sweetie, but, well, I think we would like it how it was,” MamÃ¨re says.
“Okay, I wish the basement back to how it was five minutes ago.” Back it goes.
“Oh, uh, well,” says Papa. “When it's time, I would love to have you do the plumbing for the bathroom. You could save us lots of money.”
“Money? Papa, I can give you that, too, you know.”
“Yes, we know,” he answers. “We're happy, though, being regular humans.”
I feel crushed and must look it.
“Sweetie,” my grandmother touches my arm, “You as our granddaughter is the greatest wish we could ever have granted to us. We couldn't ask for a better human being â er, genie. You're smart, caring, hard-working, accomplished, and beautiful. So much like your parents, may they rest in peace. But we believe in letting God's will prevail, not our puny human wishes. We know you would give us every wish you have in you, but we don't need you to. We love you, just as you are, and no matter what.”
They both then take me in their arms for what we always called a
, but which we haven't done much since I was little, squishing each other as tightly as possible.
“MamÃ¨re, Papa, I love you too,” I whisper with our heads close together.
They release me, and Papa says, “Now, upstairs with you â go watch TV, or do something fun. You're only young once, you know!”
At this I laugh outright, for they know as well as I now do â as a genie I'll be forever young.
So, I go and flip on some crummy reality TV show, something mindless to distract me from all of the thoughts swirling around in my head.
If genies are supposed to live for three hundred thirty-three years, what had happened to my mom, anyway? How did she manage to make a relationship with a human work? Where was the rest of her family? And â what happened to Guy Maroc, my mother's fiancÃ©?
I attempt to shut off my brain, and concentrate on the contestants performing on the television.
It's ridiculous. All of them sure look the same â and not a bit like me. Or Joel, for that matter.
In a homogeneous town like St. Philomena, everyone but the two of us matches the snow we get half the year.
St. P's has some stuff going for it. My education has been pretty interesting, I have a few awesome friends, and I've always felt safe here. Hey, we don't bother locking our doors, even when we go on vacation. But, it would be nice if not everyone in town knew my business all of the time. News spreads so fast it's like we have our own town news feed.
I need to be careful about how â and with whom â I share my newfound identity. Even Leia has been known to let secrets slip at times, so I have to figure out if I should tell her. Of course I'll tell herâ¦ eventually. But how will she react? I mean, my grandparents handled it well, but they've known this was coming my whole life.
Not to mention this whole
thing. That word gives me the heebie-jeebies. I am going to have to start strategizing soon, if I want to come into my full powers in less than six months.
And do I even want to be a genie? Is all this attention worth it? Do I like my new body? Will I keep looking this way only if I stay a genie?
I guess the crummy reality show hasn't done enough to distract me. I'm going to bed, after I eat this chocolate Halloween pumpkin I found, forgotten in the back of the cupboard.
“I wish I had ten more of these,” I sigh.
I'd forgotten how effective that is. I'll save the rest for my grandparents. Well, maybe just one moreâ¦
Stop the habit of wishful thinking and start the habit of thoughtful wishes. â Mary Martin
I climb the attic stairs to my sanctuary and get ready for bed. It's only nine-thirty but I am worn out. I decide to treat myself to a nice warm bath to relax my cares away, and I bring in
Anne of Green Gables
to read as I soak. I guess it's because she's an orphan, too, but I've always loved Anne Shirley. Plus, I've re-read the series so many times it's a real escape to get lost in them again. So, I wait with Anne at the train station for Matthew Cuthbert to arrive, and then allow the horse-drawn carriage to take me away, too.
Some time later, I wake in a cold tub. I dry myself off and tumble into bed. Snuggling down into my comforter, I let myself slip back into slumber, but it's not a deep, restful sleep.
In the morning my eyes pop open before the alarm goes off, my head still full of the crazy dream I had where I was Anne and Joel was Gilbert Blythe. I wonder at its meaning, but dismiss it as the product of having fallen asleep while reading. Besides, Leia is the true believer in dream interpretation. I figure nighttime is when our brains get to party.
While thinking of reading, I realize I'll now be allowed to read my mother's journal again. I reach for the drawer of my nightstand, where I'm now keeping the journal, but am interrupted by my grandmother's voice.
“Genie? Come down here, sweetheart. I've made a special breakfast.”
Sniffing the air, I think I smell French toast and coffee. Ah â my favorite meal. It must be the Frenchwoman in me, though I'm spoiled with expecting French toast to be made with real baguettes. Regardless, I'll take it. I leave the journal for later, hurry through my shower, and wish for another of the outfits in my closet to adjust itself to my new frame.
Less than ten minutes later, I'm swinging down my staircase, ready for a tantalizing meal. And, yes, it's even
French toast. “What's the occasion?” I ask my grandparents.
“We realized we hadn't properly celebrated this milestone,” Papa answers. “What better way than with a French breakfast?” He picks up a woven basket and pulls back the napkin covering it to reveal croissants inside.
French toast, fresh coffee, and croissants?
And then I notice the fruit salad, too.
Becoming a genie does, indeed, have its perks. I'm not yet convinced food I wish up will be as tasty as that made the traditional human way, and tell my grandparents so. Papa gives me a wink as we all sit down and dig in. I'm glad I woke up so early this morning to give me enough time for the feast. When the table is cleared, I pat my belly and say, “It's good I have swim practice tonight â I'll have to burn off some of these calories.”
“And I'll have to squeeze in a lunchtime walk today,” agrees MamÃ¨re, with a laugh. “Pat, you can join me?” It is more of a statement than a question. My grandmother is always trying to keep us all healthy. Papa waggles his eyebrows at her in affirmation, and then we break apart, each headed to start his or her own daily routine.
With Luke in the car, Leia keeps her mouth shut for a change. When I arrive at school, the stares are a little less prominent, at least from the girls. I see more behind-the-hand whispers from some of them, but less obvious glares. The boys keep
at me, bordering on leering. At home, I was starting to feel more comfortable with my body, and had almost forgotten about the big change, but the sidelong glances I keep getting from all the guys make me more self-conscious than ever.
“So what gives, G?” Leia asks me when we reach our lockers, located next to each other. “Are you ever going to tell me more about what's going on with you, and why thisâ¦ transformation?”
Luke, walking by, hears the last word, and for a fraction of a second he peers down at my chest before throwing us both a greeting. Why does that, especially, make me feel like a piece of meat? I cringe and angle myself toward my locker. I don't feel like talking about this.