By Laurie Lucking
What I wouldn’t give for a chocolate cupcake. Unfortunately, Dad’s grocery shopping never included desserts. My snack would likely consist of veggies and hummus. I dropped my backpack and scrunched my nose. It’d been so itchy lately.
At least I’d get cake tomorrow for my sixteenth birthday.
I pulled open the fridge door. There, complete with colorful, rippled frosting, sat a container of cupcakes. Score! Mom must’ve stopped at the store on her way home from work.
Yum. I took a bite and settled onto one of the tall stools lining the counter. I’d made the dance team last month, aced this week’s calculus test, and won the raffle at the school carnival yesterday. Now I held a tasty cupcake.
Things were going my way.
I woke to a strange rustling sound, like something chafing against wood. My eyes opened wide, and tension propelled my shoulders upright. I guess I’m really excited about my birthday. Yawning, I emerged from the ridiculous swaths of material surrounding my mattress on all sides. Not my idea for décor, but Mom had insisted on a canopy bed.
“Good morning, Sis. Happy birthday.” Brandon, my older brother, leaned against my bedpost, grinning.
“Uh, thanks.” Since when did Brandon care so much about my birthday? “Did you need something?”
“Just wanted to be the first to greet you.”
“How nice.” I escaped to the hall.
He followed. “Man, I wish I could have homemade pancakes for breakfast.”
“Ha, don’t we all.” My nose tickled worse than usual. Seasonal allergies?
I plugged in the griddle and mixed up a batch of pancake batter. Brandon lounged at the counter.
I blinked. What was I doing? Was I still half asleep? “Why am I making you pancakes on my birthday?”
He smirked. “You’re just that kind of a sister.”
Guess I was. And the pancakes were good.
Brandon gave me a sidelong glance as we cleaned up.
“I wish I could get that last $300 to buy myself a car.”
“Start working more hours, dude.” I punched his arm then scratched my nose. “You’re not the only…” My toe slid on the hardwood floor. What—? An envelope lay beneath my foot. That wasn’t there before.
Brandon chuckled. “Well, look at that.”
I bent and opened it. Three crisp one hundred dollar bills sat inside. “Is this some kind of joke? How did you do that?”
“It was all you.”
“I don’t understand. This is my money?”
“Oh, no. It’s mine.” He snatched the envelope and collapsed on the couch. “You’ll get the official talk from Mom tonight, I’m sure, but the gist is—you’re a genie. Fully-fledged, now that you’ve turned sixteen.”
“What?” Maybe I was still dreaming, or Brandon had gone off the deep end.
“Weird, but true.” He yawned, as though this were an ordinary conversation.
“But I…” The chocolate cupcake. My spot on the dance team… Maybe it hadn’t all been luck. “Are you a genie?”
“Nope. Only passes through the female line. Turns out I Dream of Jeannie was a lot closer than Aladdin.”
The nose twitching felt more like Bewitched. “So, Mom’s a genie?”
“Yeah, but a lot of good it’s done me. I only got to rub her bedpost and be her master for one day, then she forbade me from ever doing it again.”
I sank onto the couch next to him. “I’m stuck granting your wishes because you rubbed my bedpost?”
“Yeah. Ever wondered why your bed is covered in crazy curtains and mine isn’t? Genies have to sleep enclosed in something.”
Better a canopied bed than a lamp, I guess. I pressed my palm to my forehead. “But if I am a genie—which I’m still not sure I believe—you only get three wishes, right? Why waste one on pancakes?”
“Pancakes are delicious.” He patted his stomach. “Besides, it’s three wishes today, but if I rub your bedpost tomorrow, I become your master all over again. Basically, a lifetime of wishes.”
“You can’t… That’s not…” Ugh, sputtering wasn’t going to solve anything. “You’re really going to be that much of a jerk?”
He raised his brows above his shaggy hair. “For endless wishes? Uh, yeah.”
I thought back through everything he’d said. “But… mom will just forbid you to be my master like she did for herself.” Ha! Solution attained.
“Hmm.” He tapped his chin. “Except I wish you wouldn’t mention a word about this to anyone.”
Grrrrr. At least that was his third wish for the day. But would I really have to spend the rest of my life serving my big brother?
What a miserable existence.
Sure enough, Mom had the talk with me that night about our genie family heritage. So bizarre. But she also filled me in on the cool powers that came along with my new status. I practiced all night in my genie bed-container.
The next morning, I lay in wait for another visit from Brandon. As light filtered through the gauzy bed curtains, my door hinge creaked. I sat up, muscles taut. Time to see what I can do. Like before, he slid his fingers down my bedpost, producing a burning compulsion for me to come out and face my “master.”
Oh, I’ll come out all right.
Hovering above my mattress, I whooshed under the canopy. My head swelled to almost twice its normal size, my eyes blazed red, and my voice echoed through the room, deep and resonant. The effect must have looked a bit like the Wizard of Oz. “What do you want?!”
“Ahhhhh!” Brandon shrieked and stumbled back, his eyes as wide as a cartoon character’s.
Don’t laugh yet. Keep frowning.
“Nothing! I—I don’t need anything. I’ll go.” He fled down the hall, slamming the door behind him.
I glanced at myself in the mirror before letting my head deflate. Not bad for a newbie.
Brandon never did redeem those wishes. In fact, he hasn’t stepped foot in my room ever since.