Wishing For Truths
Vanessa considers her mother's drinking and crazy schemes her biggest problem. Until she meets the Genie.
When Vanessa finds a bottle on her doorstep, the last thing she expects is a wish-granting Genie. What could go wrong with a wish for her two friends and herself? Everything.
On top of that, her mothers’ newest scheme is starting to unravel, and the only help Vanessa can think of is the Genie. But he's refusing to come out of his bottle. Now Vanessa must use nothing but the truth to help her friends before her mother ruins everything.
This is a story about wishes gone wrong and a Genie who isn't telling the whole truth, served with a dash of Romance
Buy this Short Story now and join Vanessa as she learns what it means to ‘be careful what you wish for.’
Vanessa paced the length of her Livingroom; it was a short walk. The movement did little to improve her frustration, but it did help her resist the urge to hurl the phone at the wall.
“Are you listenin’ to me, Vee?” Her mother’s voice held a faint slur. Vanessa glanced at the clock; it was almost lunchtime. But then her mum didn't really believe in restricting drinking to any particular time of day.
“Yes, I heard you,” Vanessa said, aiming for a calm and reasonable tone, though she felt anything but. “I’m just trying to understand what you want me to do?”
Her mum snorted, the sound turning into a deep chesty cough that rattled down the phone. Vanessa fought the urge to ask if her mum was okay. She wasn’t—had not been for a long time—but that was more to do with the alcohol and drugs than anything else. Regardless, it was a useless question. It would only add leverage for her mum to use against Vanessa.
“I just need you to keep somethin’ for me, just for a few days,” her mum said when she finally caught her breath. The vague word ‘something’ set off every warning bell Vanessa had. To say her mum had a loose sense of following the legal system, was like saying fish could breathe underwater. “It’s the least you can do for me.”
Vanessa ignored her mum’s normal addition to any demand she made, like there was some imaginary debt that Vanessa could never re-pay. She needed to find a way out of this conversation. This was not how she wanted to spend her birthday; to be fair, it was not how she wanted to spend any of her days.
“I’ve already told you; I have people coming round,” Vanessa said, trying for a firm tone this time. Her stomach knotted as she waited for her mum to respond. The word ‘no’ was not something her mum took well.
“Your friends won’t even notice,” her mum said. The sound of glass clinking against glass told Vanessa what drug of choice her mum was on today.
Vanessa debated on her answer, taking a slow breath, trying to ignore the smell of mildew that was starting to lay claim to her living room again. It was a continuous battle in the old apartment, especially when winter rolled around. No matter how much she cleaned, it never really went away.
The flat was small, with one box sized bedroom, a tiny bathroom, a narrow kitchen, and a slightly above miniature Livingroom. But even as small and run down as it was, it was all Vanessa had; it had become her haven. She couldn’t risk it against one of her mum's less than legal adventures, not after all the work she had done building this life for herself.
A knock made Vanessa jump. She turned to stare at the peeling paint that was her flat’s door, half expecting her mum to shout through the thin wood. But her mother continued to drone down the phone, talking about how no one would notice, and how much Vanessa owed her.
The door had one small spy hole; Vanessa peered through it cautiously as her mother accused her of being ungrateful. Vanessa exhaled with relief when she recognised who was there.
James was built like a swimmer, tall with broad shoulders, and a slim build, though how he stayed that way she didn’t know. His idea of exercise was walking to the local takeaway. His hair was cut in a messy style that came more from negligence than actual choice. Thankfully for him, the sandy-blond locks required little maintenance.
He had three boxes of popcorn balanced precariously on top of each other. She hesitated before letting him in; taking the time to stare at him through the distorted fisheye lens. Look, but not touch. He would never know how glad she was to see him, or what he had just saved her from. Her mum’s voice was an all too real reminder of why James could only ever be her friend.
No one deserved her mum, not even Vanessa. At eighteen, she should have been old enough to break away from the cycle of her mum’s addiction, but it was always easier said than done.
“Vanessa,” James called through the door. He only just caught the popcorn as it tilted to the side. “We bring food, but I can’t promise it will survive if you don't let us in?”
She shook her head, smiling as she opened the door to wave him in, indicating to the phone, so he knew to be quieter. The smell of popcorn almost overpowered the stale smoke that permeated from the flat opposite hers.
“Vee, all I’m asking for is one small favour-” her mother continued to drone down the phone, Vanessa only half listened.
James walked the half-dozen steps it took to reach her coffee table, then dumped the popcorn. She was so focused on James she missed Ben following behind, and half-closed the door in his face. He caught the door with a smirk that made Vanessa blush. She gave him a warning glare that he ignored.
“I’m sorry, mum, I have to go. My friends have arrived,” Vanessa said, cutting in mid-stream without thinking it through. “I’ll call you later?”
“Happy Birthday, Cousin,” Ben whispered, closing the door behind him. He dumped the bottles of Diet Coke with the popcorn.
“Yeah, from me too,” James whispered, smiling as he pulled out a DVD and waved it at her, ‘Marley and Me.’ She fought not to laugh at him as he turned back to the popcorn.
“You have no respect, Vanessa, after all I’ve done for you over the years?” Her mum said coldly, voice making the laughter seep out of Vanessa. “I’ll call you back later when you’ve remembered who your family is.”
The phone went dead in Vanessa’s hands. “You too,” she said, words tasting bitter as she covered the abrupt hang up.
“Your mum wishing you a happy birthday?” James asked, grabbing a handful of popcorn to shove in his mouth.
Ben’s eyes darted to Vanessa’s, the frown telling her he had noticed her tension after the phone call. She shook her head at him. James didn’t need to know about her family drama. Ben watched her with thin lips but said nothing.
“Yes, that’s what she wanted.” Even to Vanessa, her voice didn’t sound like she meant it, but James thankfully didn't seem to notice as she tossed her phone on the coffee table.
James went to get the rest of the snacks that Vanessa had bought from the kitchen, leaving her alone with Ben. He barely waited for James to leave before he pulled her into a tight hug. Since he was almost a foot taller than her at six foot and change, and at least twice as wide with his rugby players build, it felt more like he folded himself around her. Vanessa let him hold her, just for a second, to remind herself that she had other people in her life who did care.
“What did she want?” Ben asked, voice low so it wouldn't carry through the thin walls. “Don't try and tell me she wanted to wish you a happy birthday. I’d be shocked if she actually remembered it was today.”
A knock rattled her front door before she could answer him. They both stiffened, but she put a hand on Ben’s arm to stop him from going to get it. She loved her cousin, but her mum was not his problem. It was not fair to have him stuck in the middle.
“Go help James,” Vanessa said, watching his jaw muscle twitch. “Please.”
Reluctantly he left, rolling his shoulders as if trying to reset his tension. Unlike James, he was into exercise. His broad shoulders and thick muscular arms were hard-earned. Few believed he was training to be a primary school teacher. There had been more than one joke about the gentle giant. But physical strength would not help her now as she turned back to the door.
She opened the door slowly, body tense as she braced herself to try and send her mother away, but there was no one there. All the other apartment doors were shut; mostly her neighbours were quiet and kept to themselves, sitting nicely between small-town etiquette and big-city ignorance.
The damp walls and threadbare carpet swam a little as she stepped out to look further down the hall, the smell of stale smoke making her eyes water. It was empty. She moved to go back inside, almost tripping over a small parcel that sat on her doormat.
It was wrapped in metallic green paper, with a small tag sticking out the top. Vanessa doubted her mum could have walked away and left it; she wasn’t known for her subtlety. Vanessa glanced behind her at the kitchen. It wasn’t the guy’s style either. Why wouldn't someone wait to hand it to her? She hadn't been that slow answering the door.
She picked it up carefully, the shiny paper was smooth under her fingers, it barely had any weight. There was a hand-written tag with her name on it and ‘birthday wishes,’ but no delivery address or postage stamp. She rechecked the hall, half expecting to see her mother anyway, but it was still empty. Sighing, she shut the door, locking it as she gently shook the box.
“Where’d that come from?” James asked as he threw himself back on her couch with a hand full of popcorn.
“It was on the doorstep,” Vanessa said, turning it over in her hand before looking at James. “It’s not from either of you?”
“Here was I thinking me being here was your present,” James said, joking, but it still sent a thrill through her. Oh, how she wished that was true.
“I don’t know why I put up with you,” Vanessa said, sighing for effect as he stuffed all the popcorn in his mouth until he looked like a hamster as he tried to chew it.
Shaking her head, she peeled back several layers of paper, cardboard, and bubble wrap. Inside was a prism-shaped perfume bottle the size of her fist, with a sharp point at its base. She pulled it out of the box, looking to see if there was a note, but there was nothing else. The colour in the bottle changed as she spun it around in her hand, like oil in water; it almost looked like swirling smoke. Someone had sealed the stopper with wax.
“That’s pretty,” Ben said, from behind her making her jump, the bottle flew from her hands.
She tried to grab it but stumbled on the edge of the coffee table, falling forwards. Ben caught her, pulling her back upright. She held onto his arm, heart in her throat as she caught her breath.
The bottle wasn’t so lucky; it hit the wooden floor with a loud crack, and the wax seal broke, letting the lid roll free. Green tinged smoke poured out of the gap, crawling across the floor, a dozen tendrils creeping closer to them. Ben pulled her back with him.
“What’s that?” Ben asked, hands almost painfully tight on her arm as he watched it. The thick smoke didn't smell like anything at all as it quietly sizzled and popped.
“Is the middle bubbling?” James took a step towards it, not away. The smoke twisted faster, moving like stage smoke, clinging low to the ground.
“No,” Vanessa shouted, but before she could say anything else, the tendrils exploded out.
Greenish smoke hit them almost like a physical blow. She stumbled back a step, gasping, choking on it as the taste of chocolate hit her. Then it rushed back towards the bottle. She fought to pull in clean air, coughing out a cloud of green mist. She could hear the others coughing with her.
The smoke travelled upwards, becoming as tall as Ben, changing, turning in on itself in waves until a dark-haired man appeared. Or most of him, at least. His legs never materialised; they remained a pale-green, swirling cyclone of smoke.
A Note on previous versions
This Short Story was originally published in 2013 and was then heavily updated in 2020.
If you purchased the original Story and would like the updated version please email me via the contact form at the bottom of the web page with your receipt and I will send you the new version.