tagSci-Fi & FantasyTasmin and the Djinn

Tasmin and the Djinn


Tasmin dug through the bin filled with junk idly, waiting for her boyfriend to finish bargaining for the chest that had caught his eye a week ago. She wished she was still in bed—8 am was obscenely early after closing at the bar the night before. But Jake had been most insistent, and after all the problems they'd been having of late, she'd dragged herself into the shower and dressed. If having her along was going to make him happy, she would go.

The sunlight pouring through the dusty windows caught on a tiny bottle at the bottom of the bin, picking out enameled colors that had once been bright but were now faded, and she picked it up to study it with curious eyes.

No longer than the length of her palm, it had a narrow neck and a wider bottom. It was surprisingly heavy for its small size, and dirty. But something about it tugged at her, and she wanted it. Glancing up at the sign above the wooden bin, she smiled. 'Everything here $3.' She had three singles in her wallet, and a handful of change. Just enough to cover the price and tax.

Closing her fingers around it, she turned to walk to the back of the antique shop and the cash register.

Jake's sunny mood had soured—he'd spent far more money on the chest than he wanted—but Tasmin couldn't bring herself to really care. The small shopping bag bumping against her thigh held her treasure, and the weight of it swinging from her hand cheered her immeasurably. Any other time her boyfriend's bad mood would have brought anxiety, and a need to make him feel better—but now she simply didn't care. She couldn't wait to get home and play with her new purchase—a little elbow grease and she just knew she could restore some of its brightness and sparkle.

"Babe, are you listening to me?"

She started when Jake dragged her to a halt, her smile faltering as she noticed his scowl.

"Sorry, I was daydreaming," she admitted. He sighed, shoved his free hand through his hair.

"I figured. Look, I'm tired and hungry, and have a thousand things to do later today. Why don't you catch a cab home and I'll call you later?" he said.

"Sure, no problem," she answered. For a minute he looked surprised. Any other time she would have pleaded with him to stay out longer, spend the day with her. "I've got a few things to do today too, and I'm still a bit muzzy from last night," she said, and he nodded, leaning forward to kiss her cheek.

"Great. I'll call you," he said, and loped off down the sidewalk. She watched him go and shook her head. No he wouldn't. He usually forgot. Normally it irritated her, but she knew they wouldn't last much longer. The past few months had been like this—the mood swings, the distance. She'd been hanging on, but now she wondered if she should just end it now, before it got any worse.

Shaking off the thought—she'd think about it later—she stepped to the curb and hailed a cab.

Tasmin loved her apartment. Old hardwood floors that she kept polished to a glossy shine, shabby-chic furniture that she'd collected over the years from friends and yard sales. She'd painted the walls a rich cream color to set off the rich colors of the old movie prints she'd had framed. Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Funny Face all hung scattered across her apartment walls, matching the collection of DVDs in her entertainment center. She'd tried getting Jake to watch them with her, but he never would. Despite his passion for antique furniture, his taste in films ran more towards action and adventure.

She locked her door behind her and kicked off her shoes in the foyer, padding barefoot through her living room and into the kitchen in search of something to clean her bottle with.

The proprietor of the antique shop had told her to use a gentle cleaner and a soft rag so as not to damage the ornament, and she knew there had to be something she could use under the sink.

Digging around in the cabinet, she found what she needed, and opened a drawer beneath the microwave for a washcloth.

She sat at the battered kitchen table next to the window, pulling her treasure from its plain plastic bag, holding the little bottle up to the light. There was a ring just at the top, and she smiled as she realized she could thread a chain through it and wear the piece as a necklace.

Cradling the piece carefully in one hand, she opened the bottle of cleaner one-handed, pouring a little of the thick white cream on the cloth, then bent her head to her work.

Kynaston was brought from sleep slowly, his nose wrinkling as a nasty odor drifted to his nostrils. Leaf green eyes snapped open, and he sat up in his bed of silks with a frown. Something had changed.

The wall beside him was warm, and that damn smell was becoming rather stifling. He became aware of a soft sound—humming—and his heart leapt. Could it be? Could someone be about to free him from his prison?

He pressed a hand against the wall, felt it grow even warmer to the touch, and an exultant grin lit his beautiful face. Any second now—he felt himself begin to dissolve and laughed aloud.

One minute she was alone, rubbing at the layers of dirt coating her bottle. The next there was a very large man standing on the other side of the table laughing.

Tasmin's mouth dropped open at the sight, and she almost dropped her treasure. Carefully placing it on the table, she put down the dirty rag and tried not to let her panic show.

"Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my apartment?" she snapped, and his laughter abruptly died. She found herself pinned to her seat by a pair of extraordinarily green eyes.

"I'm the djinn of the bottle, Mistress," he said, sweeping her a low bow. Inky black hair slid over one shoulder, catching the light and shining with a thousand colors. Her eyebrows lifted.

"A what?"

"A djinn—a genie if you will. I am called Kynaston," he said. His voice was deep, velvety, and it washed over her like a caress. And then she realized what he had said, and her eyebrows slammed down in a scowl.

"There's no such thing!" she growled. His eyebrow lifted.

"No? Then what am I doing standing here?" he asked lightly. She blinked up at him. He had appeared out of nowhere. One minute she'd been alone, cleaning her purchase—rubbing it—oh. But really—a genie?

"What do you want?" she asked cautiously. Maybe she was dreaming. A quick pinch to her arm—and a flash of pain. Okay, maybe not a dream.

"To serve. I can grant you three wishes, Mistress. Anything at all you desire—but I can't bring back the dead, and I can't make anyone fall in love. Oh, and I can't give you unlimited wishes either," he said softly. She blinked up at him again. Either she was losing it, or there was a real genie in her apartment.

"A djinn, not a genie," he said.

"What?" she asked stupidly. She hadn't said that out loud.

"No, you thought it—rather loudly I might add," he murmured, folding his arms across his chest. A rather broad, muscular chest. A very naked chest.

"You can read my mind?" she squeaked, shoving back her chair. He shrugged.

"Only when you're thinking very loudly. So Mistress, what's your first wish?" he asked. Her eyebrows lifted again and she mirrored his shrug.

"I don't know. I've never really thought about it."

"Never? Anything in the world—you can have it. Riches, power—anything," he said softly. She wanted to squirm beneath that gaze, but straightened her spine instead.

"I have to think about it," she said, her chin lifting, just a little. He frowned, just a little, opening his mouth to speak, but she held up a hand. "You're not in a hurry, are you?"

His frown deepened. "I have all the time in the world Mistress. Eons, actually. But you're very much human," he said through gritted teeth, and her head tipped to one side as she studied him. Hmmm—he was irritated. Why? She'd read too many stories and watched too many films where people made foolish wishes and were sorry later.

"Are you a good gen—djinn," she corrected herself hastily when his frown turned to a scowl—"or a bad one?" If anything, his scowl deepened, his beautiful face darkening like a thundercloud.

"There's no such thing as good and bad djinn. We're slaves—we grant what our Masters ask us to. Nothing more, and nothing less," he snapped. She sighed.

"So if ask for a fortune, where does it come from? Do you merely create it out of thin air?"

He shook his head. "It's not possible to create something from nothing."

She frowned thoughtfully. Yes, she would have to be very careful what she wished for. She'd seen the Wishmaster movies—they were among Jake's favorites.

"What if there's nothing that I want?" she asked.

"It doesn't work that way. You have to wish—it's the rules," he said. She shook her head.

"Then I need some time to think about it. I don't want to make the wrong wish—and have it blow up in my face. Until then—erm, I don't suppose you can go back in there?" she asked, gesturing to the bottle sitting innocently on the table. He sighed.

"Do I have to? I've been stuck in there for years." His voice was almost plaintive.

"How many years?"

He shrugged. "My last Master called me forth somewhere in the 1400's."

Her mouth fell open. "But it's 2007! You mean to tell me you've been in there for six hundred years!" she exclaimed, quickly doing the math. He nodded solemnly.

"Something like that. And my home smells now."

She glanced at the bottle of cleanser somewhat guiltily. "Sorry. I wanted to clean the bottle, and the owner of the store I bought it told me to use something gentle. I didn't mean to make your home smell."

He shrugged. "I'll get used to it if I must."

She shook her head, making up her mind quickly. "No, no—that won't be necessary. You can bunk down on my couch if you like. Um—do djinn sleep?"

Amusement danced in his eyes. "Of course. And you're offer is very generous, Mistress," he said. She frowned again.

"Stop with that Mistress stuff. My name is Tasmin," she said. He bowed again.

"Yes Mist—Tasmin."

She smiled up at him. Damn he was beautiful. She immediately squelched the thought—she didn't want him to know that. But his smile widened fractionally, and she knew that he had. He offered her another bow.

"Thank you, Tasmin. And you may call me Kynaston if you like. It's been many centuries since anyone has used my name," he said solemnly, and she felt a pang. It must have been very lonely for him.

"Of course—Kynaston. Um, I don't suppose you could cover up, could you?" Though she was no prude, but all that naked skin on display was quite distracting. She tried to remember if Jake had left any clothes in her closet, but a quick perusal of Kynaston's muscular form quickly made her discard that idea. He was built a lot bigger than her boyfriend, whose figure was leaner—bony almost. She shoved the thought away as uncharitable. She shouldn't be comparing Jake to the djinn—Jake was, after all, still her boyfriend.

"Of course." He passed a hand across his body, and clothing materialized. She nearly swallowed her tongue. Tights hugged long muscular legs, and an open-necked shirt clung to his chest.

"Um, a little out of date. We'll need to work on it, I think," she managed to say. Wow, he was gorgeous—and still distracting. She thought immediately of introducing him to television—"Kynaston, if I show you some modern men's clothes, can you make them for yourself?"

He nodded.

She rose from her chair, trying to avoid looking at him, and left the room. This was almost going to be fun.

"Come on, I have something to show you," she said, and heard him follow.

His new Mistress was very strange.

She sat him down on what she called a couch—yet was unlike any furnishing he had ever seen—and pointed a slim device at a dark box. He'd nearly leapt out of skin when the box lit up—and had sat for hours looking at the pictures flashing on the front. She'd called it a TV—television—and he'd listened to her explanation in awe. That humans could put such lifelike pictures in such a small object—and make them move and talk! It fascinated him. This world was very different from the 15th century.

He was wearing a pair of trousers like hers—imagine a woman showing her figure when all the ones he had ever seen had been covered from neck to knees—made of a fabric she called denim. His shirt was something she called a tee shirt, and made of the softest fabric imaginable. He touched it now as he stared down at the footwear she called boots—they were nothing like the boots he'd worn over the centuries, but were comfortable for all that. She'd called them Doc Martens—apparently now they names boots after doctors.

Tasmin had spent hours explaining things to him—the world, modern marvels he saw on the TV, fashion—and he soaked it up like a sponge. And his Mistress herself—she was quite unlike any woman he had ever met—and quite unlike the moving pictures on the TV as well.

Standing beside him, the top of her head barely reached his chin—which wasn't so different from the ladies he used to know, but she had mentioned that she was considered short for this time period. She wasn't beautiful—but her features were pleasing to his eye. Long, dark red hair she wore loose down her narrow back, big blue-gray eyes fringed with thick black eyelashes. Her features were gamine—like the picture on the wall of a woman called 'Audrey Hepburn', her mouth wide with a pouting lower lip, high cheekbones and a dusting of freckles across her nose. The pants he wore—called 'jeans'—skimmed her long legs, hinting at shape of her, and she wore a loose tee shirt like his own. He found himself entranced by the sight of her elegant little toes with their polished blue toenails, the narrowness of her feet. And her scent—he found himself inhaling deeply as she sat beside him on the couch, drawing that rich, spicy aroma deep into his lungs.

Tasmin was different all right—and he found himself approving of her intelligent decision concerning her wishes. Too many Master and Mistresses had wished blindly, with very little thought at all. And they almost always wound up very unhappy in the end. The small woman beside him was smarter than the rest—and he admired her for it. And as long as she thought about what she wanted, the longer he would be hers. He found the prospect surprisingly cheery.

Tasmin was very glad that she had the night off.

Kynaston soaked up information at a rapid rate, and she found herself enjoying his wonder and his intelligent questions. And he looked very at home on her couch, almost like he belonged in her apartment.

She drew up short at that thought.

He wasn't a permanent addition to her life. She knew he would be gone as soon as she made her last wish—he'd told her that both he and his bottle would disappear. And though she thought about never making a wish and keeping him around, he'd also told her that one day he would be free. He would serve a certain number of Masters—the exact number was uncertain—and the bottle would simply disappear, and he would be his own master. She couldn't be selfish and keep him, no matter how much he fascinated her.

The phone rang around 9 o'clock, and she smiled when Kynaston jumped, looking around a bit wildly.

"Relax—it's just the phone. I'll be right back," she said, rising from her seat. The right side of her body was warm from his closeness. Padding across the room, she grabbed the portable phone off the table set against far wall, clicking it on. "Hello?"

"Tas—we need to talk, babe."

Jake. The sound of his voice brought a surge of guilt—she'd been enjoying her djinn's company so much she'd forgotten all about her boyfriend. A quick glance back at Kynaston showed him engrossed with the reality show playing on TV, and she went into her bedroom, closing the door almost all the way behind her.

"What's up, Jake?" she asked, sprawling across the bed. She was surprised he'd called.

"Tas, things haven't been going well for awhile now—you know that and I know that," he said, and she sat up straight, frowning. She opened her mouth to reply, but he went on.

"I think it's safe to say we're over. We like different things, and to tell the truth, you're not quite what I want anymore."

Her heart plummeted. "What? What do you mean?" she asked softly, feeling tears prick the insides of her eyelids.

"You smother me—and you just don't do it for me anymore. Honestly, you never really did in the first place."

She frowned. "What the hell does that mean?" she snapped.

He sighed. "I mean you bore me in bed, Tas. You're not exciting, and all I feel is dread when we're together. You're frigid," he said.

She swallowed hard, feeling as she'd been slapped. It was true that he didn't make her climax—but she'd read that lots of women were like that.

"I'm sorry Tas, but I've met someone else. I hope we can still be friends," he said, and the cheery tone of his voice made her feel sick.

"I don't think that's a good idea Jake. Good bye," she said quietly, then hung up. The phone fell from numb fingers, and she curled on her side, hugging her knees to her chest as the tears came.

Something was wrong.

Kynaston could feel it—and the wrongness came from his Mistress's bedroom.

He stood, uncertain whether he should check on her or not—and a terrible sense of grief overwhelmed him, deciding him.

He rushed to the bedroom, door, shoving the door open and racing inside—only to be drawn up short by the sight of Tasmin curled on her side on the bed, her sobs quiet but still audible.

He fell to his knees beside her, reaching out to push her hair out of her face, and she jerked away.

"Go away!" she wailed.

"Mistress, Tasmin, what's wrong? Are you injured?" he asked. Her face was streaked with tears, her nose bright red, and her eyes swollen. She shook her head.

"He broke up with me!" she cried. He saw the phone lying beside her on the brightly colored counterpane, and understanding dawned. She'd explained that people could talk to each other on these little devices, even across oceans—and he realized that she must have gotten some bad news.

"Who? What?"

"My boyfriend—he just called and told me it was over—and he called me fr-frigid!" she stuttered the last part, and his expression darkened. He didn't know the word 'boyfriend', but he did understand frigid. A boyfriend must be a lover—and hers had just ended their relationship, rather badly as well.

He'd had plenty of Masters and Mistresses over the centuries, but Tasmin was by far the nicest—even if she was frigid, she was still a sweet person. She'd been so patient with him, explaining her world, teasing him gently, her face wreathed in laughter that he found entirely enchanting—and he'd forgotten for awhile that she was indeed his Mistress.

She sat up, swiping at her face angrily.

"I know what my first wish will be, Kynaston," she said grimly, and his heart sank. And so it would begin. She would seek revenge, and his illusion of her would be ripped away. He felt something inside him wither and die.

"As you wish, Mistress," he said tonelessly.

She took a deep breath, drawing herself up. "I wish I was irresistible to men."

His mouth dropped open. Not quite what he expected, and a trickle of dread slid icy fingers down his spine. She'd phrased it correctly, so he had no choice but to grant it.

Power filled him, burst free to surround her.

"Done," he said in a dull voice.

She wiped her face again, and smiled. But he couldn't smile back. He knew they would both regret this wish.

Tasmin didn't understand why the djinn looked so grim.

After she'd wished last night, she thought he would be happy. Two more and he would be that much closer to freedom.

It was nearly 8 o'clock the following night, and she was dressing carefully for work. Tonight she would see a change—men would flock to her at the bar like they did the other bartenders. She would be the center of attention at last. No more ignoring her while they flirted with her prettier co-workers. No more pitying looks when Cassie and Gwen and Frieda talked about their conquests. Tonight was her night to shine.

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