tagRomanceHow to Be a Genie: 12 Easy Steps Ch. 01

How to Be a Genie: 12 Easy Steps Ch. 01

byaltar_ashes©

Chapter One: No Ordinary Girl

There were two things that Cypress Madison had never been. She had never been anything more than ordinary. She was not talented, or graceful, or even very smart, although most people assumed she was a genius of some sort. No, she had no ability for anything like sports or the arts. And her GPA was usually just enough to keep her from being flunked out of college. There was simply nothing special about her, and she was used to it. Content with it, in fact; ordinary people like her had ordinary worries. It was not something she should have been upset over.

Cypress had also never been pretty. Ask anyone, and they would tell you the same. She was tall and gawky, with frizzy mouse brown hair that stuck up all over the place. Her vision was poor, and she wore thick glasses. Only a few months ago she'd gotten her braces taken off. Everything about her screamed 'dork', as it had all her life. But again, it was not something she should have been upset over. That was what her father had always told her.

Which just goes to show you, Cypress thought, as she shouldered her book bag, parents haven't a clue what they're talking about. They just pretend they do. She braced herself as she started out of the classroom; there was, of course, the usual jostling to contend with. People tended to push past her as if she weren't there. Some of them did it on purpose, she knew. Cypress had realized, that first day of college, two semesters ago, that what people kept telling her was completely false; college was not any better than high school. Just as high school really hadn't been any better than middle school. The only years of school that didn't suck, in her opinion, were the preschool years.

School was bound to be a lousy endeavor for any glasses-wearing, frizzy-haired girl whose mother had named her Cypress and then run off, leaving her with just her father, anyway. This was not really a big surprise. She simply had thought that by this point in her life, people might have matured a little. A smidgen, even. But no, there they were, sticking out their feet as she walked past, trying to trip her. Naturally, Cypress thought, as she stepped over an all too familiar leg, making sure to trod on her would-be tripper's other foot as she passed, I get stuck in community college with the goons I went to school with all my life.

"Bitch!" The usual cry when she stepped on any of their feet—she wasn't exactly dainty-footed herself.

Cypress smiled. "Hello, Jake," she said, without even looking over her shoulder. "How are you this morning?"

"I was better before I had to see your ugly face," Jake shot back angrily.

"I can empathize," Cypress said calmly.

She could handle dopes like Jake. Perhaps she wasn't Ms. 4.0 GPA, but she was still about a thousand times smarter than him. He wouldn't know a real insult of it jumped up and bit him on the ass. Jake was your typical football-playing, Backstreet Boy clone sort of guy. He was a pain in the ass, but Cypress could always console herself with the fact that he was one test away from flunking out completely.

She could also handle people like Jake's girlfriend, who happened to step out in front of her at just that moment. Kelly and Jake were so painfully perfect for one another, because they were the two biggest clichés in the known universe. She was the petite, busty blonde cheerleader whose hair was never out of place. Who says the cliché is just a literary device, Cypress thought, coming to a halt. No, Kelly and Jake were living proof that art mimicked life. Or something to that effect.

"Watch where you're going, Bigfoot," Kelly said, tilting her head to the side in that annoyingly snotty way she had. "You might hurt someone with those gargantuan feet of yours."

"God forbid," Cypress said. She rolled her eyes. "You mind? I've got this little thing called class...you know, that place where you go to become smarter."

Kelly smiled. "Oh, don't let me stop you," she said, with saccharine sweetness. "You might as well have brains, since you'll never have beauty."

"I know the desire to learn is a hard concept to grasp," Cypress said, as she pushed her way past, "what with your IQ equaling your bust measurements and all."

"It's a good thing yours doesn't," Kelly called after her, "or you'd be dead!"

I would only be so lucky, Cypress thought. Okay, to be fair, most people had progressed beyond the pubescent stage that Kelly and Jake seemed to be permanently stuck in. Well, some people, at the least. And all of those people were much too busy with their own lives to notice a little bit of nothing like Cypress. Or in her case, a very tall bit of nothing. If she was an inch under five foot ten, she'd be lucky. Yet for some reason, even though she should stick out like a sore thumb, the only people who ever seemed to notice her were the ones from her childhood who still felt the desire to torment her.

Which just proves that old adage, Cypress thought, 'life sucks and then you die'. She made her way through the crowd in the hallway towards the stairs. There was simply no way she was going to squeeze herself into that damned elevator. From what she could tell, they hadn't changed the elevators in this place since they'd built it. The only thing that moves slower than those elevators is a snail, she thought, and snails are useful, at least, cause they—oof!

Cypress stumbled backward and—naturally, because her life didn't suck enough already—fell. She lost her grip on her bag, which skittered across the floor, spilling notebooks and pens everywhere. Really, God, this isn't necessary, she thought, as she pushed herself up onto her elbows. You've already proven to me that I am the biggest loser in the history of mankind. I may not be a genius, but I'm not slow, either. If she hadn't been convinced before that God was just a sadistic prick, much like a kid with a magnifying glass and a defenseless ant, she was now.

"Hey, are you all right?"

No, Cypress thought, looking up very, very slowly. No, I'm not all right. I'll never be all right. Never. For she soon found herself staring up into the gray-green eyes of Avery Bachman, who was in her Philosophy class. Except that he undoubtedly didn't know he was in her Philosophy class, because it was unlikely that he even knew she existed. Except he does now, you dork, Cypress thought, seeing as how you just, oh, ran right into him! And because she wasn't embarrassed enough as it was, she found herself unable to look away.

But really, who could blame her? Because aside from those gorgeous eyes—which were framed by the kind of long lashes that made girls melt—he was absolutely dreamy. A juvenile description, perhaps, but wholly accurate, what with his somewhat curly, reddish brown hair and sort of cat-like features. He had olive-toned skinned and Cypress suspected that, if you gave him some antlers and put him in a loin cloth, he could easily pass as some kind of Celtic spirit or god. Even with the thin, wire-framed glasses he wore in order to see the blackboard. He looks like a god in his glasses, she thought, and I look like a dweeb in mine. Yeah, that is so fair.

"Um...excuse me?" Avery said, his eyebrows raising. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah I uh...yeah," Cypress stammered. Oh, I'm great, she thought sarcastically. Not to mention witty and articulate. "Um...thanks..."

"Here." Avery straightened and held a hand down to her.

"Don't you know," Cypress said, as she placed her hand in his, "that I've been outted as Feminazi? Sure you want to help me?"

Avery grinned. "I'll risk it," he said, as he pulled her easily to her feet. "Besides, my best friend is a Feminazi."

Cypress turned away quickly and began to gather up all the things that had spilled out of her bag. She had to turn away, because he cheeks were turning red. Okay, what is going on here? she wondered. A totally gorgeous guy is talking to me and goddamnit, Cypress, stop acting like you're fourteen! Easier said—er, thought—than done. She noticed that her hands were trembling as she reached for one of her notebooks. Because Avery was helping her gather her things, and he was standing close enough that he bumped against her every time he moved. Cypress just didn't know how to be around guys—or anyone, for that matter—without freaking out.

"So um...why is she friends with you, then?" she asked, because the silence was getting awkward. "The Feminazi, I mean."

"Well, we met in middle school," Avery explained. "I was...well, a skinny dork. Not exactly a threat to the female of the species, if you catch my meaning."

"All too well," Cypress assured him.

She couldn't imagine him ever being a dork, but she supposed it took all kinds. Maybe then he might have some sympathy for other dorks, she thought, as she stuffed her notebooks back into her bag. He could even, you know, like other dorks. Except there was no way he could have ever been as big a loser as she was. And besides which, he was Avery Bachman. The guy Kelly occasionally talked about leaving Jake for. Cypress' only hope was that someone like Avery was too smart to be interested in a girl like Kelly. Ha! she thought. Maybe when hell freezes over.

"Here," Avery said, handing over her Philosophy book. "I think that's all of it."

"Thanks again," Cypress said quietly. She looked down at the floor. "I um...I'm very..." She stopped, her eyes widening. "Late! I'm late!"

Well, of course she was late. She'd just spent ten minutes in the hallway talking to a Celtic forest spirit. Professor Davidson is never going to let me hear the end of this, Cypress thought, as she sprinted down the hallway, regretfully ignoring Avery's voice calling out her name. He is such a prick! She skidded around the corner and into the stairwell, which was completely empty. Securing her bag on her shoulder, she made her way down the stairs as fast as she could go.

*****

Not since sixth grade, Avery thought, has a girl run away from me that fast. Ah, well. He doubted that it had been meant as an insult. Still, he'd actually been enjoying his conversation with her. He hadn't thought that Cypress Madison spoke much to anyone. She was in his Philosophy class and she was always so quiet. The only reason he'd noticed her, from that very first day, was because it was pretty hard not to notice a five foot ten girl named Cypress. Also, sometimes she spoke in class, when called upon. Avery had always thought that she had a nice voice.

And a great sense of humor, actually, he thought, as he turned to head to his own class. Not like Vivian...hey... There was a notebook on the floor, half hidden beneath the lockers sticking out from the wall. Avery hadn't seen it before. Damn, he thought, and we don't have Philosophy again until Friday. He picked it up and flipped it open, figuring that it must have been notes. Except it wasn't a notebook at all. It was a sketchpad. She's an artist? he wondered, as he flipped through it. No...not quite... They were clothes. Every sketch was a design.

He would never have taken her for a fashion designer. Any girl who wore combat boots, Army issue pants with the knees torn out, and a Pantera t-shirt with a long-sleeved thermal shirt beneath it, didn't exactly come off as the fashion designer type. Takes all kinds, I guess, Avery thought, as he reached back and put the sketchbook in his backpack. He'd have to find the time to get it back to her. Obviously it was something of a private hobby, and he knew how he'd felt, if some jerk didn't give him back something of his that was important. He liked to avoid being a jerk when possible.

"Avery!"

And when not possible, he thought, turning slowly, excuses help. Like being late for class. Except that he currently wasn't, so when his fiancée Vivian came bearing down on him, he didn't have any way to get out of it. Technically, their engagement wasn't official yet—at least, not as he saw it. Avery seemed to be the only one whose opinion on the matter hadn't been asked. But his parents, and Vivian's, were determined that they marry. Unfortunately, Vivian was also quite determined, too. In everything she did. It took a lot of effort to peel her off.

"What are you doing out here?" she asked, tossing back her hair in that very annoying way she had. "I was waiting for you to come get me!"

"You don't need my help to leave your classroom," Avery told her.

"Oh, don't be such a baby," Vivian said, sticking out her lower lip in a pout. "Come on, let's go down to the cafeteria."

Sheila keeps telling me I'm pussy whipped, Avery thought, as Vivian tugged him along. Except that no amount of sex with Vivian would make me want to actually marry her. The problem was more that his parents and hers—and her, too—didn't seem to accept "I just don't want to" as a good reason for him to not marry her. And while Avery was working on convincing them, he didn't want to be an ass about it. He'd known Vivian since childhood, after all. It's just that we're not right for each other, he thought, letting her drag him along. I doubt she would ever make jokes about being a Feminazi.

*****

The apartment building in which she lived might be dilapidated, but it was home. Cypress found it comforting to walk into the living room and find her father slouched on the couch, watching T.V. and munching on Chee-tos. He grumbled a greeting as she bent over and kissed him on the cheek; that was just his way. Humming off tune to herself, she went into the kitchen to prepare a snack. That was her afternoon ritual: come home, kiss her father hello, get a snack, and go upstairs to do her schoolwork. Not terribly exciting, but it was what she knew.

A small chirruping sound greeted her as she walked into the kitchen. It was followed by a loud thump as her cat jumped off the kitchen table. He was a big, black Maine coon and he weighed a good twenty-five pounds or so. Grinning, Cypress swooped him up into her arms.

"Hello, Phil," she said, giving him a gentle squeezing before setting him down.

Most people didn't know it, but Phil was short for 'Where's the Cream Filling?'. Because he was black all over, except for one small spot on his tummy, like a Hostess cupcake. That had been Cypress' favorite snack when she'd gotten the cat—still was, in fact. That was what she grabbed now, before heading up to her room. The one blessing she had in her life was a fast metabolism, allowing her to eat pretty much anything. Although admittedly, she wasn't sure it was exactly a blessing to be as tall and thin as a tree.

Cypress' room was the one place in the world where she could be completely alone, if she wanted to. Which was why she was not happy—and more than a little surprised—to find someone sitting on her bed, waiting for her. She had to swallow hard, almost choking on a bite of cupcake in an effort not to scream. Never mind the fact that she didn't have any friends. Never mind the fact that her father hadn't mentioned that there was a visitor. Never mind, even, that this girl wasn't someone she recognized.

It was because she was dressed like a...like a belly dancer, or something. In those kind of see-through puffy pants, with a bra top, and lots of dangling, jingling things attached to a scarf around her waist. She had long, blonde hair that was as smooth as silk, and up in a high ponytail. Bands of gold circled her upper arms, and she was wearing—believe it or not—slippers with bells dangling from the curved toes. She looks like something out of a bad Disney rendition of a classic Arabian tale, Cypress decided.

"Who the hell are you?" she demanded out loud.

"Aw," the girl pouted. "Is that any way to greet your sister?"

Cypress took a moment to shut the door—this was not something she wanted her father to hear—then turned to frown at the stranger. "I don't have a sister," she said.

"That isn't very nice," the girl said, rising from the bed. "Oh, I know you've never actually met me, but I am your sister. I'm Ephasia."

I don't remember inhaling any gas fumes on the way home, Cypress thought, backing up against the door. God, this is weird. Well, it wasn't impossible for her to have a sister. After all, her mother had just up and left almost right after she was born. But a sister named Ephasia? Who went around dressed as some kind of belly dancer or gypsy or something? Cypress just couldn't see how she would have failed to find out about this sooner. Like, oh say, when she'd walked in the door and her father told her that she had a whacko sister named Ephasia waiting for her in her room! Because there was no way, even in his somewhat oblivious state, that her father would have missed this.

"Don't be afraid, Cypress," Ephasia said, taking a step forward and holding out a hand. "I know this is a little weird...but trust me. I've been wanting to meet you for so long."

"How did you know about me if I didn't know about you?" Cypress asked, frowning warily.

"It's a long story," Ephasia replied, taking another step forward. "Come with me, and I'll tell you."

Cypress would have asked where exactly Ephasia intended to go. Really, she would have. But this strange girl who was claiming to be her sister got a hand on her arm, and that was it. Any thought she had of asking anything was gone as the room dissolved around them. She could hear Phil yowling outside the door, but there was nothing she could do. Cypress thought she saw a glimpse of maliciousness is Ephasia's eyes, but then the world went strangely dark, and she saw nothing.

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