tagRomanceHow to Be a Genie: 12 Easy Steps Ch. 05

How to Be a Genie: 12 Easy Steps Ch. 05


Chapter Five: Step Two: Avoid Leaving Your Master's Side at All Costs!

The biggest problem, when it came to having dinner with Vivian's parents, was that for some reason they always want to sit around the table at his place. Sure, there were plenty of other problems, too, but Avery considered this one to be at the very top of the list. On any other occasion, Vivian's parents liked to go out to expensive five star restaurants for dinner. Why they felt such a strong need to invade his personal space, he didn't know, but it was a trait they'd handed down to their daughter, no doubt about it.

Vivian's mother, Beverly, was one of those women who had to stick her nose in everything. She read every gossip column and trashy tabloid she could get her hands on. Although the two of them acted like the best of friends—they got their hair and nails done at the same salon—Avery knew for a fact that Vivian held a grudge against her mother for reading her diary so many times. He didn't have much sympathy, though; Vivian had always left a fake for her mother to find, and kept her real diary in her locker at school.

Vivian's father was one of those men who unfortunately hit upon every single businessman cliché in the known universe. He had what could be termed as a 'beer gut'—although it was actually from eating too much McDonalds, according to Viv—and aside from some hair around the sides of his head, he was mostly bald. Gerald "Call me Jerry" Waterman liked playing golf, telling really bad jokes, and betting on racehorses. Avery had never really liked either of Vivian's parents—they were far too concerned with appearances.

I don't know what's worse, Avery thought, nibbling at a piece of garlic bread. Having to go out to a fancy restaurant with them, or having them come here. At least the food was relatively simple. He and Vivian had gotten spaghetti and all the ingredients needed to make sauce with sausage and meatballs in it. And the garlic bread. Vivian had also insisted on making a salad, because her father needed to eat something healthy. Avery was still trying to figure out how anything slathered in blue cheese dressing and covered in bacon bits could possibly be healthy, when Gerald turned his attention—and his unfortunate sense of humor—on him.

"So, my boy," Gerald said, in a pompous tone that always grated on Avery's nerves. "Heard any good jokes lately?"

"Gerald," Beverly said, in a warning tone. In contrast to her husband, she ate her pasta without sauce or grated cheese, and her salad without even so much as a crouton.

"Come on, Bev," Gerald complained. "I've got a really good one. The boy's going to love it!"

Says you, Avery thought, trying not to roll his eyes. Much to his extreme fortune—not to mention surprise—a knock on his door kept him from having to hear the joke. What the heck is wrong with me? he wondered, as he made his way to the door. This morning I had a genie. I could have wished for them to change their minds. Or at least for him to grow a backbone where Vivian was concerned. Avery wasn't even certain Cypress could do such things, but it would have been nice to find out when he'd had the chance.

For all his thoughts about wishes, though, he would never have expected to find Cypress waiting for him when he opened the door. Avery choked when he saw her. His first thought was that she had to leave right away. But he realized almost immediately that something was not right, so instead he slipped out of his apartment, closing the door quickly behind himself. If Vivian saw Cypress now, she'd start to suspect that the whole lesbian thing wasn't true.

"Hey," Avery said softly. "Cypress...hey, look at me..."

He had to reach out and catch her face between his hands, forcing her to look up. Her face was so pale that her freckles stood out in stark relief and her eyes were blurred, as if she were drugged. She was trembling, as well, so much so that he could see it clearly. That was all Avery really had time to see, because she swayed on her feet and crashed into him. He had to catch hold of her and plant his feet, to keep both of them from hitting the door. Cypress snuggled against him, making a soft sound like a kitten curling up on a fluffy blanket.

"Uh...Cypress..." Avery rested his hands on her shoulders and pushed her back a little. "Are you okay?"

"I...don't know..." Cypress answered. Her voice was faint. "I just...got really dizzy and..."

She swayed again, and this time she almost fell. I am in so much trouble, Avery thought, as he caught her. I can't stay out here, they're going to come looking for me. Cypress snuggled up to him once again, which was really disconcerting. Even more disconcerting than that, though, was that this time he noticed that her trembling had eased some. Carefully Avery pushed her away again, but he held onto her so she wouldn't fall. She looked up at him, blinking owlishly, as though trying to clear her mind.

"Why did you come here?" Avery asked. "You should go to the hospital."

"This is just...where I ended up." Cypress shrugged weakly. "I am feeling a little better now..."

I think I know what's going on here, Avery thought. He really was in so much trouble. At the moment he needed to figure out what to do with Cypress; he couldn't just send her on her way. Leaving her propped against the wall outside his apartment door, he went back inside. Vivian and her parents looked up at him questioningly as he quickly shut the door. Avery flashed them a sheepish smile as he passed the table. He grabbed his cell phone from the charger on the counter and headed back towards the door.

"My neighbor's phone is out," Avery explained. "I'll be back in a moment."

"Don't be gone too long," Vivian said, frowning at him.

Cypress was still where he'd left her, but she wasn't looking too good. Avery put an arm around her waist and led her down the stairs and out of the apartment. I wish I'd thought to bring my car keys, he thought, glancing around the small apartment parking lot. I don't know where I'm going to put her. He felt bad enough, having to leave her unattended. But Viv had already seen Cypress, so it wasn't like he could claim she was his sick cousin or anything. Avery needed to get Vivian and her parents out of the way before he could help Cypress.

There was a rusty old pick-up truck in the parking lot. It belonged to his landlord and it was never used. Feeling guilty, Avery helped Cypress up into the pick-up truck and had her duck down in a corner. The Waterman's expensive Lamborghini was only a few parking spaces away. As soon as she's feeling better, he thought, eyeing her pale face, I'm wishing for a backbone. It was just that he hated complicating things; life was much more peaceful when he didn't. Unfortunately Avery got the feeling that his life was never going to be uncomplicated again. Not unless he could do something about Cypress' genie status.

"Here," Avery said quietly, pressing the cell phone into Cypress' hands. "Take this."

She blinked at him again, her eyes a bit clearer. "What for?"

"Viv's parents are here, remember?" Avery reminded her. "Do you think you can hold out for a little longer?"

"I guess so..." Cypress said. She looked confused.

"Good," Avery said. "Just wait a little while longer, and then use the cell to call me. My home number should be in the phone somewhere..."

Cypress was still looking confused, but he didn't have time to explain. Leaving her there with the phone, he quickly made his way back inside. Fortunately neither Vivian nor her parents had come out of the apartment. If they'd caught him, he would have been in deep. When she calls me, Avery thought, I'll tell them I have a family emergency and need to leave immediately. That will get them to go. It was the only thing he could think of—and it wasn't entirely untrue.

"There you are!" Vivian exclaimed, when he walked back into the apartment for the second time. "What took you so long?"

"Sorry," Avery said, shrugging. "My neighbor, he...he just doesn't shut up, you know."

"Oh, I just can't stand those sorts of people," Beverly said. "They just get on my nerves so much. Really, no one has anything good to say for that amount of time, so they should really just shut their traps, don't you think? I mean, I would never..."

Avery tuned her out. Beverly was one of those people; only she was a complete hypocrite about it. The only good thing was that it kept her husband from telling any of his horrible jokes. What the hell is wrong with me? he wondered, staring morosely down at his plate and pushing his spaghetti around with his fork. Why can't I just stand up for myself? He could in other situations, but not in this one. And right now Cypress needed him. Avery was pretty certain of that.

The next half hour was torture. When the phone finally rang, his relief was tangible—at least, until he picked it up. Cypress didn't say anything, but somehow Avery knew it was her. He pretended to be having a conversation, making sure that he sounded like someone who was very worried. God, I am such an asshole, he thought, as he set the phone down and turned back to Vivian and her family. But I guess maybe I'm an asshole for the right reasons? Helping a friend was important. Avery just didn't expect Vivian or her parents to understand that; they rarely had altruistic motivations.

"What's wrong?" Vivian asked. She was wearing that little frown of hers; the suspicious one.

"Family emergency," Avery explained, hoping he sounded sufficiently urgent. "It's...it's my grandmother."

Beverly let out an overdone gasp of false concern. "Oh no! Whatever is wrong with the poor dear?" she wanted to know.

"Her um...hip," Avery replied. At that moment he really wanted to strangle Mrs. Waterman. "She fell, you see...look, I don't mean to be rude, but I really need to get to her. It's very important."

"All right then, dear," Beverly said, patting his cheek and smiling condescendingly at him. "We understand, don't we? You make sure you give us a call if you need anything."

Avery nodded and forced a bright smile to his face, hoping she'd think he was grateful. At least they didn't seem too put out. Vivian, however, still looked suspicious. He caught her looking around the parking lot as he walked them outside. As her eyes skimmed over the pick-up truck, he started to panic. But she must not have seen anything, because she shrugged and climbed into her parents' car after giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. Oh, thank god, Avery thought, waving to them as they pulled out of the parking lot. I thought I'd have to wrestle them to the door.

He made his way towards his own car, just in case Vivian was watching him. When he was certain they were gone, Avery headed towards the pick-up truck. Cypress was curled up in the corner he'd left her in, clutching the phone. Her eyes were closed, and she was looking pale again. Worried, he scooped her up and headed back into the apartment building. No one was around, which was good; he didn't want anyone seeing him carrying a girl who wasn't his fiancé. Or almost fiancé.

It wasn't until he'd gotten her upstairs and was carrying her into his bedroom that he realized she was still wearing the clothes he'd lent her. Cypress stirred as he lowered her onto his bed, her eyes opening to small slits. She doesn't seem to have a fever, Avery thought. In fact...she feels a little cold... She was perking up a small bit, after he'd carried her, which made him pretty sure his suspicions were right.

"Where...?" Cypress mumbled, trying to force her eyes open further.

"My place," Avery told her. "Remember? Geez, Cypress...are you okay?"

"I have no idea," Cypress told him. Her voice regained a bit of strength the more she spoke. "I just...I got dizzy and...and these stupid things...they hurt! It was like they were burning or something!"

Carefully, Avery pushed one of her sleeves up to get a look at the gold band around her upper arm. The skin didn't look irritated, and the band didn't feel hot, but there was certainly something wrong with her. Color flooded back into her cheeks when he touched her. Cypress' eyes were still a bit foggy, though, especially when he pulled away from her. I can't take her to the hospital anyway, Avery thought, as he took a seat next to her. What am I going to say? "Um, excuse me, but my genie seems to have come down with something..." No, that wasn't going to work.

Cypress tried to sit up, but she was still weak. Poor thing, Avery thought, shifting closer to her. This just isn't fair. He didn't really understand what was happening to her, but it didn't seem right. Well, okay, the whole thing was crazy, what with her being a genie and all, but... No one who's been human all their life should have to become a genie, Avery thought, reaching down and gently pushing her hair from her face. And I don't understand how she ended up being my genie.

"Looks like you're going to have to stay here," Avery murmured. "I've just got this sneaking suspicion..."

Maybe he was the one who was sick. The more he stared down at her, the more he found himself thinking about how soft her lips looked. And, really, how cute her freckles were. And, of course, at the worst possible moment, Avery found himself calling up an image in his mind's eye of her in that genie outfit. I have a fiancé, he reminded himself, as he leaned forward to kiss her. Well, okay, an almost fiancé...

Then he decided to just stop over-thinking it so much. Cypress' mouth felt as soft as it looked. He felt her stir, coming awake at the touch of his lips against hers. Avery wasn't quite sure what possessed him, but when she wrapped her arms around his neck, he lowered his body over hers, pinning her to the bed. At first Cypress seemed a little stiff and awkward, especially when his tongue brushed up against hers, but the longer his kissed her, the more she relaxed.

This isn't right, Avery thought, pulling back from her a little. I really shouldn't... His lips brushed the corner of her mouth, as if his body was moving of its own accord, and then he was right back to square one. Right or wrong, he didn't really want to stop. It was Cypress who ended the kiss; she let out a sudden gasp and pushed him away, scrambling to sit upright. Avery had to keep himself from falling off the bed at this abrupt change of mind.

"What are you doing here?" Cypress demanded.

Confused, Avery turned, following her narrowed gaze. He swallowed hard at what he saw: there was yet another genie standing in his bedroom. He was positive that she was a genie, and not just because she'd somehow appeared in his apartment without coming through any doors. Although her outfit was a bit more practical than Cypress' had been, it was also very harem girl-ish. Her blonde hair was absolutely perfect and the color of her eyes was inhumanly intense. Unlike Cypress, though, there were no bands around her upper arms.

"Aw, isn't this cozy?" the newcomer cooed, tilting her head in the same annoying way that Vivian did.

"What are you doing here?" Cypress repeated. She had regained her strength, and she looked furious.

"Oh, just checking in," the other genie said, smiling maliciously. "Boy, you sure got lucky. I was furious with Savion for screwing this up...and now there's nothing I can do to change it."

Cypress rolled her eyes. "Ephasia, get to the point, or get out. You might be a full genie, but I am fully pissed off at you!"

The other genie, Ephasia, laughed at that. Oh yeah, Avery thought, she said her sister's name was Ephasia. And it had been her sister who had slapped those damn arm bands on her. From what she just said, he thought, eyeing the blonde, Cypress wasn't meant to end up with me. That unnerved him. What had this spiteful bitch had in store for her poor half-sister? He knew there were some pretty unsavory characters in his apartment building. Avery didn't like to think about what might have happened to Cypress if she'd ended up a few doors down.

"You are so droll, sis," Ephasia said. She folded her arms across her chest and narrowed her eyes at Cypress. "Don't think you can get away with speaking to me like that, though. If you don't think I can make your life more miserable than it already is, you're wrong."

"If you're trying to make me miserable, you're doing a lousy job of it!" Cypress shot back.

Ephasia sighed. "As I already said, this," she pointed at Avery, "was a mistake. A very unfortunate one. But as it turns out, I may get more entertainment out of this debacle than I thought. Read the next step, sis."

Ephasia snapped her fingers, and a scroll appeared in her hand. She tossed it to Cypress, who nearly missed catching it. Avery could see that, despite her brave face, her hands were trembling as she opened it. She wouldn't let him see the scroll, but what she read made her face go pale. Annoyed, he snatched the scroll from her hands. These are steps? Avery thought, eyeing them skeptically. Well, I suppose...in a roundabout kind of way...maybe steps to being the best genie you can be or something... Well, what was he supposed to think? The second step was...

"The first months of a genie's bond with her master are terribly important," Ephasia said, her voice taking on that cooing tone again. She looked straight at Avery, her smile vindictive. "If she's out of your presence for too long, poor little sis will die."

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