tagChain StoriesLaresa's World Ch. 06: Christine

Laresa's World Ch. 06: Christine


"Now there's something you don't see everyday." Christine squatted down, careful of the scattered junk in the alley. Her hand brushed aside some shredded paper spilling out of the priority mail box, tossed haphazardly into the dumpster. With each scrap moved, the gem showed more clearly. Careful of the grime, she reached out with both hands to cautiously pluck the little thing from the ground. As expected, some unidentifiable sludge clung insistently, forcing her to keep as little contact as she could while bringing it to eye level.

It was a ring! To judge by the design and large stone it was very old, possibly a family heirloom. But what would an heirloom be doing lying by the foot of a dumptser? Nervous, she stood. She couldn't help it, her innate curiosity demanded she look. Cautiously she leaned forward, peering into the dumpster. Nothing there but the usual city trash. She sighed, unaware she'd been holding her breath. There was no body unceremoniously left to rot in there. Unfortunately, that left the lesser mystery of where the ring came from.

Christine decided she could call the police when she got home and report finding the ring. Right now she was late for work. She wrapped the ring in a wad of tissue, that seemed destined to survive the frequent purges of the contents of her bag and dropped the whole thing into an outer pouch. There it would be safe from contaminating anything important should the protective tissue slip. She hurried down the alley, the smell of fried food growing with each step until it finally overcame the combined stench of rotting garbage, vomit and urine.

George stood by the doorway smoking a cigarette. He looked over at Christine and smiled, shaking his head. "Late again kiddo?" Her mouth quirked into an embarrassed smile as she nodded sheepishly. She was twenty three years old, only two years younger than the cook, but every time he called her 'kiddo' she felt like she was back in middle school with a crush on some college boy. "Don't worry. I don't think pops has noticed. Just slip straight into the bathroom to change and he'll just think he missed ya."

Christine nodded again and hurried through the door, hoping to remain unseen. Her heart was racing as she scurried towards the bathroom. It wasn't the fear of being caught coming in late, at worst Vasili would lecture her about 'when he was a kid at his first job', she simply couldn't believe George knew her routine. My Georgie actually noticed I have a routine? All right, she was honest enough to admit to herself, he's not really my Georgie. But I certainly wish he was. She slipped into the employees' bathroom, shutting the door safely behind her.

She looked into the mirror, taking a few deep, steadying, breaths. A boring face stared back at her. Her hair hung unimpressively, a dark blond or light brunette that seemed unable to decide its exact color. No matter what she, or any other stylist, tried no one had ever been able to breath much body into it without the entire thing frizzing like she'd stuck her hand in an electrical outlet. Her blue eyes were too bland, never 'shining like deep blue pools' or anything poetic like that. Her skin was too pale, her cheeks too pronounced and her chin too sharp.

She pulled her apron from the bag and something clattered to the floor. Confused she knelt down to find what could have fallen since she never kept anything but her apron in the outer compartment. Halfway under the counter sat the little bundle of tissue. Thoughts of George had swept aside all concerns of the strange little ring. Confronted once more with the object she picked it up realizing she could clean it off in the sink

Standing too fast, Christine banged the back of her head on bottom of the counter. Tears welled in the corner of her eyes from the pain. Her hand moved to the back of her head instinctively, checking the level of damage. There didn't seem to be any blood, but there would be one hell of a bump soon. She concentrated on unwrapping the ring as the pain began to fade. Once clear of the tissue, all but a few strands clinging to the unknown stickiness, she upended the paper, letting the ring clatter into the sink. She turned on the hot water and let it run, hopefully sterilizing the object, while she put her apron on. Once dressed for work, she returned her attention to the ring.

Cautiously she prodded it. It didn't feel sticky anymore so she used one of the ubiquitous brown tri-fold paper towels to begin drying it. She worked gently at first, careful in case it turned out to be delicate. As dirt began to fall from the intricate detail-work, she scrubbed harder until the fabulous ornament shown in the flourescent lighting.

The door began to squeak open causing her to spin, her hands shifting behind her back. She didn't know what prompted her to hide the ring but, instinct insisted no one else should view the treasure yet. Vasili opened the door half way before he spotted Christine. "Ah, you are here." She never understood how the dear old man could have such a thick accent. He'd been born and raised only a few blocks away yet he spoke as if he, not his parents, had come over from Greece. "Anna's been having a fit that the dishes wouldn't get done today because she hadn't seen you. I go tell her you're here."

"Yes sir. Thank you sir." Her hands fidgeted behind her back. She couldn't bear to meet his eyes. He wasn't upset, the middle aged man was too gentle for that. It was the simple kindness in his expression that she couldn't meet. She felt guilty for taking advantage of the man by showing up late so often. Most of the time she was pretty sure he intentionally avoided noticing her absence just so this very scene could officially be played out.

The owner's head cocked to one side. "Chrissy! How many times I got to tell you? 'Vasili'!"

She flushed in embarrassment, unable to call her boss by name. Her entire body must have been flush since even her hand felt warm. "Probably many more sir." He rolled his eyes at her but left laughing. Her conscience pounded at her but it never seemed to help. No matter when she set her alarm, or left the house, something seemed to happen to delay her, like the ring had today.

"How may I be of service master?"

Christine's heart stopped as it tried to jump into her throat. She spun while trying to backpedal away from the woman's voice, the combination of maneuvers catching her feet and sending her sprawling to the floor. Her elbow crashed against the corner of the counter forcing a squeal of pain from her. The strangely dressed woman stood there, hands clasped in front of her loosely, with a concerned look on her face. There couldn't have been anyone in the bathroom. Could there? She stared dumbly up at the new woman searching for something to say. Finally her brain came up with something. "You new here?" Okay, maybe not the brightest thing to say but it was all she could come up with.

The woman's expression grew more confident studying everything about her. She looked around the bathroom quickly then returned to looking at Christine, her hand extended to help. "Yes. I've never been here before." Christine took the offered hand, pulling herself from the floor. She looked in the mirror sighing at her hair once more before lifting her arm to make sure she hadn't injured her elbow. It was red so there would be a bruise but at least it didn't look damaged. "How may I be of service?"

Confused, Christine turned to the woman. "I think you have the wrong person. You need to see Vasili if you've just started." She was beautiful to say the least. She was small, petite might be more suitable although there was nothing 'petite' about her hips or breasts, both very prominently emphasized by her strange outfit. She wore a very small vest that showed ample cleavage and seemed barely able to cover her chest. Her balloon pants were made out of a material so sheer it seemed only to color her very fit legs. Fortunately, for modesty's sake, her bikini underwear was a solid color rather than lace or some other sheer material. I wish I could be there to see what everyone thinks of her outfit!

The woman nodded, seemingly in response to something unseen. "No, you're my master, not Vasili, because you wear the ring."

Her hand came up seemingly of its own accord. Christine laughed slightly, human nature, you mention something and instinct tells you to look. She was wearing the ring she'd just finished cleaning. She realized she'd put it on, while her hands fidgeted behind her back, without even realizing it. "I don't understand? What does the ring have to do with anything?"

The woman sighed. Somehow her expression shifted slightly, giving Christine the impression of a schoolteacher explaining a very simple lesson to an obstinate child. "I am a genie. The ring is my home from which you have just summoned me."

"Yeah right." Christine turned back to the mirror. "Look, I gotta get out there. There's dishes to do and the owner's already upset." Well, technically Vasili was the owner but Anna was now his wife so that made her the owner, sort of. "I wish I didn't have to clean dishes for a living but, this place is close to my apartment and besides. . ." She stopped, realizing she had almost admitted her crush on George to a total stranger. Not just that but a potential rival if she was going to be working here. Not that it would be much of a rivalry. She couldn't help but feel inferior compared to the virtually shining form of the woman. She realized she hadn't finished her sentence. "Besides, there are other benefits to working here."

Christine washed her hands while she watched the beautiful woman in the mirror. There was a strange, almost triumphant, look in her eyes as she stared back from the mirror. Christine almost jumped when the woman grinned and winked. "Done!" That enigmatic declaration was more than Christine could stand. She hurriedly dried her hands on some paper towels and rushed from the room.

It was too hard to deal with such strangeness. She slid into the kitchen determined to use work to ignore the turmoil that was forming around her. Anna looked up from tasting the sauce. She never did trust George with that part of the cooking. Her eyes widened briefly on seeing Christine then narrowed. She handed George the spoon, who smiled that roguish lopsided smile at Christine. She blushed and started to turn away before realizing Anna was storming over.

"She didn't show up?"

Christine just stared dumbly at the woman, unsure who she was talking about or why.

"The new dish girl! Hasn't she shown up yet?"

"I was just about to start on them."

"What? You think we'd make our manager do dishes? Of course not." She put a friendly hand on Christine's shoulder. "Vasili hired someone when he gave you manager last week." She gave the shoulder a squeeze, turned and left the kitchen. Christine's day was getting weirder and weirder. She finally was forced to believe Anna's assertion when a mousy young woman politely asked her to move so she could get to the dishes.

Confused Christine staggered backwards out of the kitchen. She found a vacant booth near the still swinging door and sat. She took a deep breath, followed by another. They're playing a joke on me. It has to be. This must be Vasili's idea of punishment. The owner was too kind to dock wages for five minutes here and there, or even to confront her, but he'd probably set up this joke as a lesson. Or maybe a guilt trip. He certainly hadn't made her manager.

Someone brushed past her and began to settle into the seat across the booth. It was the strange woman from the bathroom. "Does it please you?"

Christine couldn't decide if the woman's smile was playful, triumphant or simply cocky. She gave up trying to decipher the expression. "Huh?" The woman certainly was no muse to inspire Christine to eloquence.

The woman's breasts bounced underneath her vest as she laughed. Somehow, without any fasteners whatsoever, the cleavage remained perfectly visible without the fabric shifting in the slightest. "How do you do that?" The woman laughed harder. Christine hated the way the woman's already luminescent face seemed to brighten with the simple release of joy. Comedy at my expense, no less.

The woman's eyes found Christine's, suddenly looking very hurt. Almost as quickly as the mirth appeared it vanished solemnly. "I'm sorry Master. I didn't mean to offend you." The worst part was Christine knew she was telling the truth. It was written across her face. "I was asking if your wish pleased you. Unfortunately, I do not quite understand what action you wish me to explain. If you would clarify the question I will try to answer in terms you understand."

Christine squirmed. She hadn't meant for the woman to become despondent, she just got upset with feeling like people were laughing at her, especially when she was already convinced Vasili was playing a joke on her. God! George could be in on it too! In there laughing at me?


The single word brought her back to the immediate problem. "Please stop calling me master. My name's Christine."

"Very well, Christine, I am Laresa. What was your question?"

Christine had to think, running the conversation back in her mind. Suddenly she realized what the woman was referring to and began to laugh herself. "I asked how you do that with your vest. Your breasts don't fall out of it."

"Oh that! That's easy. Magic."

Christine began to laugh harder. "Yeah, it would have to be." She stopped laughing quickly, seeing Laresa's deadpan expression. She looked down at the woman's chest, back up to her honest eyes and back down to the chest. It rose and fell with her breath but the vest didn't move at all. Even with tape it should be shifting in time with her breathing. "You're serious aren't you?" Laresa smiled as she nodded vigorously. Christine leaned across the table, afraid to be heard by the patrons. "You really are a genie aren't you?" Another vigorous nod responded to the question.

Christine slumped back into the booth. Everyone knew genies were just a myth. This was the twenty first century after all and genies and magic rings just don't appear in an alley in Boston. "So, what, I get three wishes or something? And I'm sure there are rules like 'no wishing for more wishes'. There are always rules." And I just wasted a wish to make me manager.

Laresa smiled and nodded, apparently pleased Christine was finally taking the situation seriously. "You get as many wishes as you like provided you do not break the rules. Yes there are rules but most of my masters have been able to fulfill their needs and desires without breaking them. First..." Christine cut her off and leaned close motioning for her to keep it down. "I don't understand why? Oh, you are afraid someone will try to steal me from you."

"Uh, not exactly. Look, I don't know how long you've been in there," Christine was whispering as an example to the apparent genie, "but in the twenty-first century no one really believes in genies anymore. You're liable to get thrown into an insane asylum."

"Don't you believe in me?"

"Honestly? I'm not sure. You certainly seem to believe it and you're either using magic on that vest or you should be raking in millions as the world's best wardrobe designer."

Laresa smiled at that. Christine was glad, she knew her penchant for honesty sometimes got her into trouble for being too blunt but, it was who she was. "First rule," Christine was glad Laresa was finally whispering, "I cannot bring anyone back from the dead. I can heal people but once they die they are beyond my powers." Christine nodded and smiled as Robin Williams' voice flashed through her mind. "Second, I cannot make anyone fall in love, in fact I cannot forcibly change the emotions of others in general, although I can alter memories to a degree. Third, if you lie to me I shall disappear and the ring with me. Fourth, I cannot alter major historical events."

"One moment. How will I know if something's a 'major historical event'? I mean, ok I could understand a riot or war or something, but how will I know if the man dying on the street won't become the next Hitler if I ask you to heal him? Wouldn't that change history?"

Laresa looked taken aback. "You know? I have never considered that before. I do not know the answer for you as it has never occurred. I don't imagine I would disappear if you requested it but at the very least I assume my power would fail to work. With my previous master we helped a good number of people but my powers directed us to those in need so I suppose it could have been directing us away from major historical figures."

Christine nodded absently. She'd only been half listening after the preliminary answer as she pondered her hearts desire. The answer was easy, George. She wouldn't want Laresa to make him love her even if she could. That wasn't real. Christine wanted him to love her for who she was not because some magic said so. Suddenly an idea began to form. "Laresa, do you have much experience coaching people? I mean, there's this guy I like and want to ask out but I don't have much experience with dating. And he's way out'a my league really."

Laresa thought about it a moment and nodded. "I could help you with that. The simplest thing would be a new wardrobe and money for the date. Of course I could also change your appearance however you like, if you think that would attract him."

Christine shook her head vigorously. "No thank you. It would feel too fake, like I was lying to him. That's almost as bad as if I had you make him fall in love with me. Actually, I was more hoping for you to whisper advice in my ear when I'm saying something stupid or when to make a move. That kinda thing."

Laresa thought about it a moment. I could always talk to you telepathically. That way I could remain hidden in the ring. Christine nearly jumped as the woman's voice seemed to form within her mind. If you wished I could even forge a stronger connection so I could hear through your ears and see through your eyes. That way I could offer you more timely advice.

Christine was a little nervous about the prospect. "Well, how do I know you won't try to take control of me or go through my memories?"

Laresa looked horrified at the question. Master! I could never do that to you. Oh, if you made a wish I could but otherwise it would be an intrusion. That would be unacceptable. Christine could feel the indignation flowing across the mental link. She nodded, figuring Laresa would be able to sense, now, her acceptance.

The door to the kitchen swung open behind Christine. She looked over her shoulder to see the handsome cook heading directly towards her. As he neared and looked over at Laresa she almost panicked, contemplating ordering the woman to stay away. If she's truly a genie then that shouldn't be a major request. She sighed to herself. If he wanted Laresa over her then it was hopeless anyway.

George stepped to the edge of the booth looked briefly at Laresa with a curious expression before turning to Christine. She felt a flash of annoyed confusion across the still active link but put it from her mind as she looked up to meet his eyes. Staring into those brown eyes her heart fluttered and her chest tightened. Her entire body seemed warmed by his gaze. She missed what he said as she simply gazed at him.

"I'm sorry, what'd you say?" She'd never felt this strongly for him before. Suddenly it was difficult to even think.

"I just wanted to make sure you were okay." He motioned towards her left arm. "I noticed the mark on your elbow."

Unconsciously she reached for her elbow, rubbing it in memory of the collision with the bathroom counter. "Yeah, I fell in the bathroom and caught it on the counter. It'll be a hell of a bruise but nothing major." George nodded and seemed to hesitate. Ask him! Startled Christine glanced at Laresa. Trust me, ask him. Unsure she looked back to George. "You wanna do something tonight? Watch a movie or sumthin?"

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