How to Be a Genie: 12 Easy Steps Ch. 03byaltar_ashes©
Chapter Three: Even Genies Get it Wrong Sometimes
There was a hierarchy among the society of the djinni. Those at the top, like Ephasia, had it easy in life. How could your life not be easy, when you were the daughter of the djinn who ruled Iifa, and the sister of the future ruler? And there were those who fell somewhere in the middle, like the many young female djinni who attended Ephasia. They were lucky enough to have a cushiony spot in life. Tending to the daughter of Iifa's ruler was a job that came with many perks. Like access to the halls of the palace at Mashaal.
Then there was those like him, those who wallowed on the bottom rung of the social ladder, just trying to get by. Savion was one of those unfortunate souls who had about enough power to toy with five-year-old mortals once in awhile, which made him pretty much worthless to the monarchy of Iifa. So when he'd been approached by Ephasia, who had a very special task for him, something only he could possibly do, how could he refuse? Only an idiot would refuse Ephasia. There were many things Savion was not, and he liked to thing that 'idiot' was at the very top of the list.
"Isn't this a Vessel?" Savion asked, carefully studying the blue and gold vase Ephasia had handed him. "I thought these weren't used anymore."
"Not usually," Ephasia told him. She tilted her head slightly and smiled at him. "But you see, sometimes there are djinni even my father is forced to punish and this…well, this was a very severe situation."
She really looked wonderful today. Ephasia was dressed in robes of golden silk, with silver flower patterns along the sleeves and down the skirts. Her hair was loose beneath a netting of gold and moonstones. A single, vibrantly gold lily was tucked behind her ear. Even if Savion hadn't been in love with her since the first time he'd seen her, he would have been then. She had the biggest, loveliest blue eyes he'd ever seen. And there were a lot of beautiful women among the djinni, but none were as breath-taking as Ephasia was.
"But…" Savion frowned. "Didn't you father abolish the law allowing djinni to be punished in such a manner?"
"No, no, no!" Ephasia shook her head. "No, silly, he changed the law. So that it could only be used to punish those who really deserve it."
Well, he supposed that that made sense. Besides, why would she lie to him? She had such a pretty, sincere smile. I guess I could do this, Savion decided, looking down at the Vessel again. It's not that hard. They were already in the human world, sitting atop the roof of a fancy, schmancy apartment building, watching cars zoom by below. He'd never really gotten a chance to look at cars, but now that he did, they were kind of cool. Ephasia thought that humans and everything to do with them was worthless, but Savion wasn't so sure about that. He thought some of their inventions were quite clever; like the bacon double cheeseburger, for instance.
"Please, Savion," Ephasia said, turning her bright blue eyes on him. "It's very important. My father trusted me to find the right person for the job, and I just knew you'd be up to it."
Savion straightened up. "Of course I can do it!" he said. "Which door was it again?"
Ephasia sighed. "The third from the left!" she reminded him sharply. "Savion, you absolutely have to do this right. If you don't…"
"I will," Savion assured her. "I know what I'm doing. Don't worry about a thing."
She didn't look terribly reassured. Clutching the Vessel, Savion approached the edge of the roof and looked down. He hated floating—mostly because he wasn't good at it—but he did it anyway. At least Ephasia had opened the window for him. As he touched down inside the building, he took a quick look around. Yep, it was as plush on the inside as it had been on the outside. The carpeting was soft, green and gray paisley, and it matched the trimming on the wallpaper. The doors were all hard mahogany, highly polished, with shiny brass numbers on them.
Why couldn't she have just given me an apartment number? Savion wondered, frowning. Ah, well, it was the third door from the…the…oh crap. He'd forgotten. How had he forgotten? She'd just told him. They were just talking and she's said…she'd said… I think she said… he thought, frowning, something about…right! Third from the right! That had to be it. Savion headed down the hallway and stopped in front of apartment number twenty-seven. He laid his hand on the door and focused for a moment; it was hard work, but a moment later he was holding the Vessel in a box, addressed to the occupant of the apartment.
"All right, Mr…" Savion paused and looked down at the package. "Mr. Avery Bachman. Enjoy your genie."
It was great to be home. Avery made his way up the stairs, jangling his keys idly as he climbed. It had been another long day. Not to mention disappointing. Although he'd asked around, very few people knew anything about Cypress. Except for that ditzy blonde, he thought, as he dragged himself up the last step. Not that her opinion seemed to be worth all that much. Avery had been rather unimpressed by the blonde—Kelly, her name was—and the way she'd flirted. He knew she had a boyfriend already. Even though he didn't consider himself and Viv officially an item, he still didn't go around flirting shamelessly with everything on two legs. That sort of behavior disgusted him.
I guess I'll try again tomorrow, Avery thought, if I get the chance to…huh? What the…? Because he'd nearly tripped over a decent sized box sitting in front of his door. He knew he hadn't ordered anything, so he figured it must have been from his parents or something. Except that when he picked it up, he saw that there was no return address on it. Anywhere. Life just gets stranger and stranger these days, Avery thought, holding the box under his arm as he unlocked the door to his apartment. Maybe mom forgot to put the return address on it. She can be a little flighty sometimes. He set the box down on the coffee table and went into the kitchen.
Avery grabbed a knife from the block on the counter and a soda from the fridge, then went back into the living room. He settled on the couch and cut open the box. Whatever he'd been expecting to find inside, a vase, made of clear blue glass with gold trimming, was not it. Must have been mom, he thought, setting the knife down and lifting the vase out of the box. Ugh, I hope this isn't supposed to be some sort of engagement gift or anything. Actually, it was a very pretty vase, but Avery wasn't really too keen on the idea of engagement gifts. Now, what does this say? he wondered, examining some sort of writing etched into the gold edging the lip of the vase. Looks like some kind of runes…
It was hard to see. Avery rubbed at the gold, trying to bring the writing out clearer. Except that that was not what happened. What happened was that the vase began to shake in his hands. Startled, he dropped it, then tried quickly to recover it before it hit the floor. But the vase didn't break when it hit the floor. There was a loud popping sound, followed by a flash of light that left him blinded. And then something landed hard in his lap, while he was blinking, trying to clear his vision.
Avery found, when his vision cleared, that his day had just gotten stranger. Because there was an unconscious girl lying across his lap. As if that wasn't weird enough, she was dressed like…well, like some kind of harem girl. Definitely not an engagement gift from my mom, he thought, staring down at the long legs revealed by the very scanty bit of silk she was wearing. It was really a good thing Avery was able to keep his sense of humor. Something had to balance out his libido, which seemed to have gone into overdrive.
"Um…hey…" Avery said quietly, not sure what else to do. "Excuse me? Miss?"
Lame, he thought, groaning inwardly. That was so lame. Well, what exactly was he supposed to do? He knew he couldn't just sit there, staring at her. So even though she was some strange harem girl that had come out of a vase that had been mysteriously delivered to his doorstep, Avery picked her up and carried her into his room. The couch isn't very comfortable, he thought, as if that justified it. It was as he was carrying her that he noticed the gold bands around her upper arms. Those gold bands put in his mind what was just about the stupidest notion ever: that she was a genie.
"No way, Avery," he said aloud, shaking his head. "Just no way. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this…"
Oh, like hell there is, he thought cynically, as he set the girl down on the bed. A scantily dressed harem girl appears out of what could be, in essence, a lamp, and there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for that? I guess anything is better than believing she really is a genie, Avery thought, studying her face carefully. And you know, she looks awfully familiar… The dark hair was smoother and straighter, the complexion clearer, but she actually looked kind of like…Cypress. No way, he thought. I mean, Cypress wouldn't be caught dead in an outfit like…that.
It was a very tantalizing outfit, to be sure. The silver and blue silk made such a nice contrast. Of course, Avery found his eyes drawn more downward, towards her hips, where it was quite apparent that she wasn't wearing anything beneath those little bits of silk. This is too much, he thought, reaching out and very gently touching her bare thigh. Agh, Avery, you pervert, stop that! He jerked his hand back, but it was too late. Heck, he'd barely even touched her, but it was enough to wake her up.
Which really was quite unfortunate, because she took one look at him, and started to scream.
One would think that, if a girl woke up to find herself in the bed of a Celtic forest god, said girl would be very happy. Except that Cypress, unlike other girls, was painfully aware, even in the first seconds of barely lucid wakefulness, just how terrible her situation was. She wasn't in the least disoriented; she remembered everything that had happened with Ephasia, and even part of her first moments inside that wretched vase. Which was why, when Cypress realized that she was laying—practically naked, as far as she was concerned—in Avery Bachman's bed, and she was now, by the law of the Djinn, his genie, she started to scream.
It wasn't her brightest idea. Or perhaps it was, depending upon how you looked at it. It was somewhat unfortunate, because Avery pounced on her as soon as she started to scream and pinned her down, covering her mouth with his hand. It was fortunate, however, because of course she'd just been pounced on by a Celtic forest god, which had to be the highlight of her day, if not her entire life. They stared at each other, wide-eyed, for a long, long time, before Avery finally spoke.
"Cypress?" he asked, his voice full of astonishment.
She shook her head. "Mrf mph mrph!"
"Oh!" Avery pulled his hand away from her mouth. "Sorry. You are Cypress, aren't you?"
"No!" she spat, after sucking in a gulp of air. "Get off me!"
Because it was really actually very nice, being pinned to the bed like that. Except there was no way she could let him get away with that, so Cypress wriggled beneath him, trying to push him off. Scowling, Avery sprang backwards, releasing her. And she found out right away that maybe it had been a bad idea, telling him to get off of her. Not because she'd really enjoyed the feeling of his body on hers, even though that was technically true. The problem was that all of Cypress' wiggling had caused her skirt—what there was of it—to be pushed aside.
They both looked down at the same time. There was another of those long pauses, in which they were both very still and silent. Then Cypress sucked in a breath and, before Avery could stop her, started screaming again. He pounced a second time, quickly clamping his hand over her mouth. Which was good, because now she was covered—except that this time she could feel something hard pressing against her stomach. Okay, Cypress thought, her cheeks starting to burn, since when did my life become some low budget romantic comedy?
"You can't scream," Avery hissed, his eyes wide. Although that might have been more because he was easily as aware of what was going on with his body as she was. "This is an apartment building."
Cypress gave him a rather pointed glare.
"Well, then, you shouldn't have worn it," Avery said, obviously getting her point. "I mean, why…what…what are you?" And he took his hand off her mouth again, although this time he didn't move, and she didn't try to make him.
"I am a freak," Cypress grumbled, "and a loser. But among other things I am also, apparently, half-genie. You know, it's probably better if you don't ask."
"You came out of a vase and landed in my lap," Avery pointed out. "Of course I'm going to ask."
"Believe me, none of this was my idea!" Cypress snapped. "Some weird girl shows up and tells me she's my sister, and oh yeah, I'm half-genie, and then she takes me to this place called Iifa and sticks me in this stupid outfit and puts these gold bands on me, and then she stuck me in that vase and gave it to you for some reason, so now I'm stuck being your genie!"
I'm not going to cry, Cypress thought, gritting her teeth. I'm already babbling like an idiot, I am not…I'm not… Except she already was. She could feel the tears as they trickled down her cheeks, hot and wet. Avery, looking uncomfortable, turned his head and rose slowly. He grabbed the edge of the blanket and yanked it free, so he could wrap it around her, then helped her sit up. What am I going to do? Cypress thought, rubbing fiercely at her eyes, as if that alone would get her to stop crying. I don't want to be anyone's genie…not even Avery's!
Because she was stuck with it. She knew it, even though she wasn't exactly sure how she knew. There was no three wish limit on this gig, either. No, Cypress was stuck being Avery's genie until he died and she was passed on to someone else. Or until they found a way to free her, but she had no idea where to begin on that. I miss Phil, she thought, hugging herself. I want my cat. Because Phil, unlike humans, understood when she was upset. And Phil, unlike humans, was really good at making her feel better.
"Cypress?" Avery said softly.
Like an idiot, she responded. "What?"
"I knew it was you," Avery said. "What…why…your father is worried about you, you know!"
Well, at least I'm not the only one with an intelligent thought traffic jam, Cypress thought. "My father…" Cypress said, frowning. "Geez, how am I going to explain this to him!?"
She couldn't even explain it to herself. But as it turned out, she probably wasn't going to have to tell her father. Because that was when Avery said something that turned her whole life upside down:
"Maybe he already knows."
Savion cringed. Judging by the enraged expression on Ephasia's face, it was pretty apparent that he'd managed to screw this one up big time. She stood on the other side of the roof, having just finished watching the proceedings below, and she was obviously not happy. But I did what she asked! he thought, as she began stalking towards him. I did! So why was he having to backpedal so swiftly? Because Ephasia might have been a tiny little five-foot-nothing dewdrop, but as far as power went, she had him way overmatched.
"How could you mess this up?" she demanded, jabbing a finger at his chest—which hurt like hell, considering how long her nails were. "I told you, the third door from the left!"
"I thought you said right!" Savion cried, backing up another step. "Look, Ephasia, I'm sorry! Really! I didn't mean to—"
"But you did!" Ephasia interrupted. "You gave the Vessel to the wrong person and now she's not going to get the punishment she deserves!"
Savion realized he was going to have to do some looking into just who lived in the apartment three doors from the left. But not right now, since he had bigger problems on his hands. Ephasia had backed him up to the edge of the roof and, if he didn't do something soon, he was going to have to float. So he edged sideways, trying to stay out of her range. At least when she was angry she seemed to forget that she was a genie. Savion slipped around her, to the relative safety of the rest of the roof.
"I'm really sorry, Ephasia," he said again. "I can fix it! Just tell me what you want me to do!"
"You think I'm going to trust you with something this important again?" Ephasia demanded. "You're an imbecile!"
"Ephasia…" Savion said quietly. That hurt. That really hurt. All he was trying to do was help her. "Come on…You know I'd do anything for you…"
And he would too. Savion had always loved Ephasia, ever since they were little. When they were just kids, she actually played with him, until her father found out. Then she wasn't allowed to come out and play with him and his other friends anymore. It's like she's changed since then, he thought, sighing. She's not the same Ephasia that I remember. But then she turned and smiled at him, ever so sweetly, and he realized that he was being silly; of course she was the same Ephasia he'd fallen in love with.