Make a WishbyPennLady©
© 2009 All rights reserved.
"Miss Morgan?" the nurse said quietly. Julie turned in response, her face pale as she sat between the two hospital beds holding her parents, both in comas.
"Yes," Julie said, her voice rough.
"Dr. Terrance would like to speak with you, and I'm sorry to say that visiting hours are over." The nurse, Alia Easton, spoke very gently, trying to be as kind as she could to the young woman sitting between the beds. Jim and Ilsa Morgan had been recovered from the site of their plane crash, for what good that did. Both of them lay comatose. To make it worse, their brains had survived just enough for basic functions. They breathed on their own, their hearts pumped blood through their bodies, and IVs kept nutrients in their systems, but they would never wake up. And poor Julie, thought Alia, she comes every day.
"Thank you," said Julie. She stood, gave each of her parents a kiss on the forehead, and walked out of the room. Dr. Braydon Terrance was waiting for her, going over a chart at the nurses' station. "Doctor?" she inquired. He gestured her over to a chair in the waiting area.
Dr. Terrance felt badly for this young girl. He'd rarely seen a more faithful visitor, even for patients that were conscious and alert. He was guessing that guilt of some sort was driving her, in addition to the love he knew she had for her parents. She sat before him, her dark blonde hair pretty but untidy, her grey eyes surrounded by dark circles. He wished very much she had a sibling or other relative to share the burden, but it seemed she was alone.
"Julie," he said. She raised her eyes to him. "I've made arrangements to have your parents transported to a hospice."
"But…" she started to say, then stopped. She had no idea what to say anyway, and decided she should hear the doctor out. Some reflex had made her protest, she guessed. After all, hospices were where people went to die.
"It'll be a much nicer atmosphere, there," he continued. "Certainly cheerier than here. They'll be in a room together, with windows and fresh air, and you can see them whenever you like; the visiting hours will be much more flexible. The staff there can provide any necessary medical care, and there are always doctors on site and on call. There's really no reason to keep them here." He didn't want to mention that the hospital staff simply couldn't baby sit her fairly healthy but unconscious parents.
"All right," she said, somewhat dully. It made sense. Her parents simply lay there, taking space away from people who were probably more seriously ill and had a chance of recovering. It would be nice not to come so often to the hospital so often. The staff were all wonderful, people like Dr. Terrance and Alia tried very hard to keep her informed, to make her comfortable, to work around a rule or two if it helped. But it was a hospital, with sterile white hallways and sheets, the hydraulic beds and that antiseptic smell that you simply couldn't escape. Perhaps a hospice would do some good for her, too. Perhaps if she were in a place where death was prepared for, instead of avoided, she could cope a bit better.
Dr. Terrance gave her a small smile. "We will move them over the weekend, probably Sunday when it's a bit quieter. Here's the number of the hospice." He handed her a card that said Fleming Hospice Center, with an address, phone number, and the name of the hospice director. "Give Josie, the director, a call when you have a chance, and mention my name. She's very friendly and would be happy to have you over for a tour and answer any questions."
"Thank you," Julie said. "I really do appreciate it." Dr. Terrance nodded.
"I have to go," he said, patting her hand, "but don't hesitate to call me if you need anything." He stood up, grabbed some charts, and left to do his rounds. Julie stared at the card in her hand for a few more moments and then stood as well, putting the card in her pocket.
Alia came over before she could go. "Are you all right?" she asked, knowing how inane the question sounded.
"I guess," said Julie. "I hoped it would get easier, I suppose, but it doesn't seem to be. Maybe a change of scenery would help." She didn't sound as though she believed it.
"It will." Alia squeezed the other woman's hand gently. "It's a nice place. We took my grandmother there when her cancer became terminal. It's amazing how a place like that can help you. Now, go on home and rest up. I know you have to go to work tomorrow."
"Thanks," said Julie. She sighed and made her way through the brightly lit hallways, down to the dim parking garage. She found her little blue Dodge Neon, and drove home.
"Come on, Julie, let's get a coffee." Julie held a finger up to indicate she'd be ready in a minute, typed a few more keystrokes and saved her file.
"All right, I'm ready, I could use the caffeine," said Julie as she stretched. She stood up, grabbed her purse and caught up with Mindy, who was already walking to the elevator. Mindy Rogers was a gorgeous Latina with silky dark hair, lovely eyes, and a name that belied her heritage. She'd never figured it out, she told Julie. Her mother, so traditional in so many ways, somehow decided her daughter looked like a "Mindy" when she was born. Could be worse, Julie had told her. You could have looked like a Bertha.
"So how are you holding up?" Mindy asked as they sat at one of the outdoor tables with their drinks. Julie noted with amusement the countless admiring looks Mindy received from nearly all the men in the vicinity, and Mindy's obliviousness of them. It kept her mind off of other things, such as the answer to Mindy's question.
"I'm all right, I guess," she said, then shrugged. "What's to say? They're each in a coma and God knows they most likely won't come out of them. It's a strange waiting game." She stared down at her coffee, then took a sip. "The hospice is nicer than the hospital, I'll say that. It's a less oppressive atmosphere, certainly a lot quieter. Luckily the insurance covers it, at least for now."
"I have something for you," Mindy said. She reached into her large handbag and pulled out a gaily wrapped box.
"My birthday was last month," Julie said, eyeing the package warily.
"I know. It's not for your birthday. Go on, open it." Mindy pushed the box toward her friend.
Julie took it and slowly unwrapped it. It was tall and rectangular. When she finally got through the ribbons and paper, she opened the box and found herself holding an antique bottle of some sort. Was it wine, she wondered? Finally, she said, "It's lovely, Mindy, but what exactly is it?"
Mindy smiled widely. "It's a genie in a bottle."
Julie smiled in return, figuring her friend was trying to lighten things up a little, and she appreciated the gesture. "Thanks, then. It really is beautiful craftsmanship. I'll find a place for it when I get home."
"No," said Mindy, shaking her head. "I mean it. It's a genie in a bottle. It's been in my family for ages."
"You have got to be kidding me," said Julie. Mindy shook her head again. "You mean, this is a bottle and if I rub it or something, someone will come out of it dressed in harem pants and tell me I have three wishes. Min, it's great of you to try to make me feel better, but come on…"
"Just try it when you get home," Mindy said. "I don't know about the harem pants, or exactly how many wishes you get, but there's a genie in there, honest to God."
"Have you seen it?"
"No, but my grandmother has, and my mother."
Julie narrowed her eyes at her friend. "You're serious." Mindy nodded. "Fine, I'll take it home. It's lovely. But I'm not going to be making any wishes."
"But, Julie," Mindy protested. "Think of how you could make things better. You could wish for your par--"
"No," Julie cut in, more sharply than she'd meant to. "I mean, thanks, but no. I don't believe in making wishes." Mindy looked about to say more, but Julie pointed out the time and they hurried back to the office.
Julie cleared a spot over her fireplace for the bottle she'd received from Mindy. It was the size of a wine bottle, with a light blue tint, but with a body sort of like a snowman -- three globes stacked on each other. There was lovely etching and other decoration on the glass. She wondered how old it was, and figured it had to be at least fifty years old, if it dated back to Mindy's grandmother. Genies, she thought, right.
A couple of weeks later, Julie was cleaning the house. It wasn't her favorite thing to do, but it had to be done and it kept her mind off her parents, still sleeping -- it was hard to think of it as anything else -- in the hospice. She would go over later, as she did nearly every day, but she needed a break. She wanted to believe that they heard her when she talked to them, discussing the mundane details of everyday life, but she didn't, not really. She couldn't, not when she knew there was no higher brain function happening in either of them. Still, she visited, not sure what else to do.
Mindy had been after her constantly, asking if she'd rubbed the bottle to bring out the genie. Every time, Julie gave her a dour look and changed the subject. How could Mindy believe that, she wondered. Sure, perhaps her grandmother was into mysticism, and had told it as a bedtime story. Her mother passed it on. But Mindy was adamant. Julie considered that she might have to rub the bottle while Mindy was there if only to show her how ridiculous it all was.
As she began to move items on the mantle to dust it, her elbow hit the bottle. It teetered in what seemed like slow motion, then fell into the bucket of water Julie had next to her. Relieved there was only water on the floor, and that the bottle wasn't broken, Julie retrieved it and used a towel to dry it.
Suddenly there was a small flash of light, a strange little sound, and a man was standing next to her. Startled, Julie backed away and nearly tripped over the coffee table, saved only by the stranger grabbing her arm.
Tact deserted her. "Where the hell did you come from?" she demanded.
A soft chuckle came from the stranger. He was tall and lean, which made him look even taller. His hair and eyes were dark brown. His nose was… Roman? Not just Roman, Julie thought, but Roman like the pictures of Caesar on ancient Roman coins.
"I came from the bottle," he said, gesturing at it.
Julie stared at him silently for a few minutes. "I'm hallucinating," she said, finally. This brought an outright laugh from the man.
"No, no, you're not, although I can understand the reaction," he said, after he had settled down.
"Let me guess: you're a genie." Julie took short-lived refuge in sarcasm.
He nodded. "Yes, I am." This woman was quite something, he thought. Very different from most people who came into possession of his bottle. She was, perhaps, the first one who did not really think there was a genie inside it. This should be interesting, he thought.
"You don't look like Aladdin," she said, realizing how ridiculous it sounded even as the words came out.
He simply nodded again. He was wearing blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and a denim shirt, unbuttoned, over that. His feet were bare. "Yes, that's true. But Aladdin wasn't the genie in the lamp, you know. He was just a street waif who got lucky."
"Do you have a name?" Julie asked.
"Marcus. Marcus Antonius."
She stared at him again. "Marcus Antonius. Marc Antony. Like Caesar and Cleopatra, that Marcus Antonius?"
"Well," he said, looking a bit sheepish. "I did admire Marc Antony. He was quite nice to me when I was a young soldier in his army. So after a while, I took his name, I liked it better than my own." He paused. "I never did meet Caesar or Cleopatra, although I did see her from a distance. She was quite a woman."
"I need to sit down," said Julie, letting herself collapse on to the sofa.
"It's hard to take in, isn't it?" he asked, moving over to sit in a chair opposite her.
"Oh, no," she said, waving her hand dismissively and affecting nonchalance. "I run into people who are thousands of years old, named after famous Roman generals, who claim to be genies all the time. You're the third this month."
Marcus laughed once again. He liked her spirit. He could tell she was trying to digest it all, and that the sarcasm was her attempt to do so, not a means to offend him. "I can prove this to you," he said. "Or at least, I can perhaps do something that would lessen your doubt." Julie nodded cautiously. Marcus held his hand out towards the flowers on her kitchen table. She'd bought them nearly a week ago and they were starting to brown and wilt. As Julie watched, a soft light surrounded them like an aura, the brown faded and the flowers came back to life.
"So Mindy was right," Julie said in almost a whisper. "Her grandmother really did see you…"
Marcus nodded. "Oh, yes. Miss Guadalupe was a wonderful woman. She never abused the privilege of her wishes."
"I need a drink," said Julie. She went to the kitchen and got herself a drink of water. She had considered some wine, but figured that wouldn't help. Hallucination or not, she wanted as clear a head as possible.
"So, I get three wishes?" she said, returning to the living room. She didn't sit, instead leaning against the wall, arms crossed over her chest.
"Well," said Marcus, admiring her as she stood by the wall, "there's no real limit on the wishes. It's more to do with the quality of them. At least, I think so. Anyway, there are rules, of course. No wishing for mountains of gold, or world peace, or that sort of thing. Each one must be prefaced by 'I wish…' I can tell you before hand if your wishes are grantable."
Julie shook her head. "There's no need. I don't make wishes."
Marcus stared at her. "What?"
"I don't make wishes," she repeated.
"But, but…," Marcus groped for words. Never before had he encountered someone who wouldn't wish. Some had been greedy, others amazingly altruistic, but none had ever refused outright. "But that's not possible. Everybody wishes for something."
"I don't," she said firmly.
"Because for one thing, I'm sure there's a catch. If I asked for a raise at work, someone would be fired so I could have it. If I asked for a new apartment, someone would be kicked out of theirs."
"You've read too much Poe," Marcus told her.
"Maybe." She shrugged. "But whatever you may think, I don't wish for things anymore."
"But why?" Marcus was still baffled.
Julie was getting angry. "Because," she snapped, "the last time I wished for something -- and there wasn't even a genie around, mind you -- I wished for my parents to get back in time for my birthday. Next thing I know, they're being retrieved from the site of a small plane crash, and I got to spend my birthday in the hospital with them while they were each in a coma." She had to fight back tears now, and took a deep breath.
"I'm very sorry," Marcus said softly. He wanted very much to put his arms around her, to let her rest on him for a while, but he didn't. She wouldn't appreciate it, he was sure, and he couldn't quite figure out where the impulse came from. Genies obeyed their masters, of course, and there was often an implicit love in the situation, but this was different. He found that for the first time in centuries, he genuinely cared about someone. It was a bit unsettling.
"So," she continued, staring past him at the far wall, "if I were to ask for them to be home, they'd be home in the same vegetative state they are now, with no prospect of recovery. If I were to ask for them to be better, the question would be 'better relative to what,' and I would probably end up with zombies who could function but not talk, or something like that. I'm not clever enough to phrase things to prevent a loophole. So, no, thank you for the wishes. It would only come back to hurt me." The words all came out in a rush, and when she was done, she found she was out of breath.
"It doesn't have to be like that," Marcus said, after considering her words. "I mean, I can't work miracles, but really, Poe had the wrong idea."
"Every action has an equal and opposite reaction," Julie said. "There's a price for everything. I won't chance it."
"You're going to make my job very difficult," he said, "if you won't wish."
"I'm sorry," she said. "I could give the bottle back to Mindy, perhaps. She could wish for things."
Marcus shook his head. "It doesn't work that way. You released me, you have to wish. I can't leave or go to anyone else until you do."
"Can't I just pass?" Julie asked, feeling a little desperate. She didn't like having Marcus beholden to her when he hadn't done anything. It smacked of slavery and made her very uncomfortable. "Can't I just refuse? Isn't there a time limit or something?"
"No," Marcus said gently. "Look, why don't you leave it be and think about it. Perhaps you'll find small things to wish for, that you'd be comfortable with."
"And in the meantime, what?" she asked. "You're my roommate?"
He grinned. "I suppose so."
"Do you need a bed, or do you stay in the bottle?" she asked, dryly. I give up, she thought. Maybe I'll wake up in the morning and find out this is all a dream.
"Either," he said. "You can make that choice, if you want."
"Can you cook?" This time it was Marcus who nodded warily. "Good, you can do that to earn your keep."
"Are you serious?" he asked, incredulous. "You've got someone at your disposal who's hundreds of years old, with magical powers, and you want me to cook?"
"You bet," she said. "I've had a hell of a last couple of months. I'm exhausted and I can barely think. I've been living off of Starbucks and store-bought sandwiches. It's not doing much for my physical or mental health. So, you can cook." Besides, she thought, if this is my dream, I might as well go for the things I'd really want. What she really wanted, even though she couldn't admit it to herself, was someone to rely on, someone to take care of her. Mindy was being as supportive as possible, but there was only so much even a best friend could do.
"How do you know I can even use your cooking appliances?" he asked.
Julie gave a short laugh, and Marcus found that it warmed him. She should laugh more often, he thought. The sadness, the depression that he saw in her was not the way she should be. "For one thing," she said, "you called them 'appliances,' so you've at least seen them. You're wearing jeans, which tells me you're not unacquainted with some of the more modern aspects of the world. Besides, I can show you how it works. Surely with all you've experienced, you can adapt to a gas stove."
"All right," he said. "Show me where everything is."
Julie cocked her head at him, raising an eyebrow. "Really? You'll do it?"
"I don't have much of a choice," he said. "You're my master, or mistress, or whatever you'd like to call it. Aside from granting your wishes, I'm at your command. I'll do what you tell me."
Now Julie reddened and bit at her bottom lip. Marcus wondered why her demeanor changed so suddenly.
"I didn't realize that," she said. "I don't want to take advantage of you. You don't have to cook. I'll try to figure out what to do to end your obligation as quickly as I can."
Marcus was stunned. No one -- no one -- in all the time he'd been a genie had ever not taken advantage of this situation. Julie's concern for his well-being, his captivity and freedom, touched him as nothing had before.
Julie turned to go to her room. She was mentally drained and needed to rest. Needed to close her eyes and try to clear her mind. This was all too much, and she had the suspicion that she was, in fact, not dreaming. She hated the idea of having this kind of control over anyone, genie or not. It wasn't right. She liked her relationships to be equal, or at least as equal as possible. Most relationships were a little unbalanced, she realized, but there was no reason to consciously abuse the difference.