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My very own Genie
No one who knew me would have thought I’d step out into sunlight. With symptoms of photophobia, excessive sensitivity to light overwhelmed my senses. Living in an apartment complex along the shore of Jacksonville Beach, the sun was incessantly high in the sky for most days. For this reason, I remained indoors as much as possible. If I had to go outside, I’d wear sunglasses.
Heavy, thick curtains blocked the open windows all through the home. Instead of lamps or fluorescent ceiling lights, my home was full of candles and anything else that was subtle. Living in darkness was soothing, suitable for a person like me.
As a result, my skin was chalky white. My long, wavy hair was dark chocolate, almost black colored with no trace of natural highlights. I had blue green eyes but purplish, bruise-like marred shadows under those eyes. My appearance was ghostly, almost vampire-like.
I woke up, still night but dawn threatened to brake over the horizon. I slugged out of bed and into the kitchen. I grabbed a bowl and poured a box of cereal into it followed by some milk. My sister, Stacy Lorraine, must have heard the muted pitter-patter of my footsteps against the hard tile floors. When she trudged into the kitchen to see me, her complexion was zombie-like. Her face was unusually pale and her golden blond hair was chaotic; it reminded me of a bird’s nest.
“It’s too early for that,” she murmured, half asleep. “I want to enjoy my breakfast while it’s still dark so I can open the curtains,” I explained. “Join a gothic family, Leslie. You’re such a pain,” she nagged. I glowered at her.
“Go back to bed,” I urged. “I’m already up,” she mumbled. I could see the crust in her eyes from an obvious sleepless night. I sighed then reluctantly grabbed a bowl from the cabinet and poured her duplicate cereal and milk. I handed her a fresh bowl and a spoon and she ate hers at the counter. I brought mine to the wooden dining table and opened the heavy curtain wide enough to gaze onto the overwhelming view of the black ocean.
“Did mom go to work already?” Stacy croaked from across the room. “Yep,” I called. “What are you going to do all day? It’s summer vacation for goodness sake. Go outside. Enjoy the beach. We’re lucky to live right on the beach,” she nagged again. I ignored her.
“Have a nice day,” I breathed, gesturing in a nod towards the front door as a hint for her to leave. Her expression was fuming. “Fine,” she scoffed and left her empty bowl for me to clean up while she turned to the bathroom to gussy up and get dressed. “The forecast is supposed to be overcast today!” She shouted from the other room. Her announcement uplifted my spirits. To me, this was great news.
I fled to my closet and dressed myself in the usual outfit. I wore my denim jeans and my favorite royal blue blouse. In front of a mirror, I brushed my hair a few strokes and left it down. In the available bathroom across from my room, I gave my teeth a quick scrub with my toothbrush and I was ready. In the kitchen, I gathered the empty bowls and scrubbed them off with a sponge along with two spoons in the sink.
After about half an hour, Stacy finally exited the bathroom looking like the beach beauty I always knew her to be. Her skin was caramel tanned, her hair was tied up in a cheerleader-like ponytail, and her lipstick was blood red and shiny. She wore a denim mini skirt and a pink blouse with spaghetti straps. She examined me for a moment when she hovered into the kitchen where I was.
“Why are you dressed? You never leave the house,” she teased. “Overcast,” I answered with one word. “Oh, yeah,” she remembered, a smirk dominated her expression. “Leslie Lorraine,” she stated, “you’re the only person I’ve ever known who dresses to go out during overcast.”
“You’re dressed up,” I pointed out. “Yeah but, I’m not going to be outside. I’m going to a friend’s house,” she bragged, almost being smug. “Whatever,” I grunted.
I had to give Stacy credit for her accurate weather update because later that same morning after she left, little needle-like raindrops started to drop from the dull, gray clouds. I opened all the curtains to allow the open windows soak in the beautiful, dismal atmosphere then I closed them again just to be safe. I’d wait until it stopped raining and then I’d run outside to enjoy the sandy beach without being attacked by the rays from the sun.
Suddenly, I heard a clatter of heavy footsteps stampede through the indoor hallway outside my front door. I opened it slightly to sneak a peek. That’s when I first caught a glimpse of my new neighbors. There were three male figures and one female.
All of them were ginger haired except for one. The more boyish one had bronze hair with touches of blonde speckles from the sun. This boy had a baby face and dark blue eyes that glinted like the ocean. His jaw was perfectly proportioned to his cheek bones.
The other two brawny males were similar in appearance apart from the different hair color but had darker eyes as well. The tall, slender female had the figure of an hourglass and looked like an actress in the tabloids. Her hair was a fiery reddish, ginger color and her eye lashes were long, black and cat-like, almost Egyptian styled.
I stepped out completely to greet them. “Hello,” I said bashfully. I wasn’t what one would call verbal so greeting new people was out of my element. “Hi, you must be our new neighbor,” said the female as she gave me her hand. I reached for it with a quivering arm to shake it. I could feel the blood rise into my cheeks reddening my face just below the thin layer of skin.
Then I noticed that none of them carried any luggage. Not even the female carried a purse or anything. “Well, we can’t just stand around, let’s go inside,” said one of the ginger haired, brawny boys inviting me to go with them. I followed them through the door that led into the apartment across from mine. To my surprise, it was filled with furniture. I’d known that apartment to be empty for years.
The place had come across as Middle Eastern, filled with mostly golden and peach colors. The walls were a shade of tanned orange. The couches in the living room were gold and the carpet was beige. A flat screen television which was the only object that wasn’t foreign, hung on the blank wall. The kitchen was white but came across as a pinkish red color from the colored ceiling lights. This apartment must have been swept by a designing tornado, I thought. It was beautiful but I tried to stay out of any bright rooms.
The males all headed straight for the couch to watch their flat screened television set which they continuously referred to a she. I followed the female into the kitchen. “Do you want anything?” she offered but before I could answer she did something I could never forget. She blinked a squinted blink and a glass of water popped out of thin air into her hand. She reached out to hand me the water but I was too stunned.
“How…did,” I struggled with the words, my mind was obscure. “Are you alright?” She wondered, examining my puzzled expression. “Do you want this water?” she held the glass in front of me. “I’m fine,” my voice croaked. Did I just imagine that?
I glanced into the living room to find both ginger haired boys with their eyes glued to the television screen. The bronze haired boyish one, however, had his gaze intent on my face. The flush of color took over my face again. Then, suddenly, he was at my side so fast it was a blur. “We forgot to introduce ourselves. I’m Jared Newton,” he introduced. “I’m Paige Benson and one of those red head guys over there is my brother Brad,” she gestured to one of the boys with her index finger.
“The other one is Ike Parker,” Jared added. Paige looked to be around the age of twenty, the other two guys looked like they were in their late twenties, but Jared looked about my age, sixteen. “It’s nice to meet you,” I said politely. Jared and Paige grinned. “I was going to go spend some time on the beach,” I explained, meandering towards the door.
“Going on the beach in this weather?” Paige asked. “You are welcome to hang out with us for a while,” Jared invited. I sighed, “Alright.” I followed them as they danced into the living room. A bowl of popcorn flashed onto the glass coffee table and the boys dug into it like pigs. I couldn’t handle this anymore. “What’s going on?” I asked bluntly.
“Should we tell her?” The one called Ike asked Paige. “Why not? There’s nothing to hide,” she hinted. “We’re genies,” Jared admitted. “We just moved here from Baghdad,” Paige explained. Baghdad? They looked so American, I thought. It took me a moment to grasp my bearings. “Genies…like the type that live in bottles?” I wondered. Everyone in the room nodded, the television screen turned off. “Only, we don’t live in bottles. That’s just a myth,” she explained.
“Do I get three wishes?” I asked based on previous knowledge I knew of genies from childhood stories. Everyone chuckled. Ike and Brad had their bodies twisted to face me on the couch. Jared and Paige stood in front of me. “No dear,” she placed her hands on my shoulders, “only a finicky genie would limit a human to three wishes. Most genies love people enough to grant them anything they want. We love to serve.”
“Are you alright?” Jared asked. “That’s right; we never caught your name.”
“I’m Leslie Lorraine,” I responded. Jared’s green eyes glinted. Their faces relaxed from a hidden tension when I replied. “Why did you tell me? Why wouldn’t you keep this a secret?”
“Well, we like to be open with what we are. We don’t like to keep secrets. In the case of a scenario were police captured us and took us to a research lab or something, we could just pop out very easily. Besides, the police never believe anybody who complains about us anyway so we don’t worry,” she explained.
“You guys look so American, how are you from Baghdad?” I had to ask. “Yes, we are American. We’ve just been living in Baghdad because most genies live there. We moved back because we love having people around us.”
“Most genies are philanthropists. That means we love mankind,” Brad added. “We obtain our energy and nutrition off of people’s emotions.”
“Is there any pain involved?” my voice cracked. They chuckled again. “No, of course not, sweetie, your emotions flow off into the air around you and we simply breathe it in. Your emotion right now tastes like a syrupy sweet so you must be relaxed,” Ike noted. I eyed the popcorn and then exchanged a quick glance at each of them. “We eat human food sometimes too. We don’t need to, it just tastes good,” Paige explained when she read my curious expression.
“So, now that the cat’s out of the bag, do you want anything?” She prompted. Jared shoved her to the side with his body weight, facing directly in front of me now. “I’ll take her. She can be my ‘master.’” Ike and Brad chuckled and then turned back to their television. “Alright,” she sighed.
“Well then, I’m at your humble service, my lady. Want to go hangout on the beach with me? The weather’s nice now,” Jared invited. I noticed a glint of sunlight sneak past the thin layered, white curtains of an open window by the television and shivered. Obviously overcast had dissolved. “What’s wrong?” he asked. Paige gracefully walked back into the kitchen. “I can’t stand any bright lights,” I admitted, biting my lip.
“Oh, well, I could pop us somewhere where the sun isn’t out. How about Vancouver?” he suggested. “If you hate bright lights, why do you live in the sunshine state?” Brad insisted on knowing, turning his head to face me as I remained standing behind the couch. “Brad, don’t be rude!” Paige shouted from the other room.
“My mom has a steady job here. She supports me and my sister,” I replied. Jared reached out for my hand. His skin felt warm and comforting against mine as our fingers intertwined. “Let’s go,” he prompted. “Umm…instead of taking me somewhere where it’s not sunny, could you just cure my photophobia?” I asked shyly. His face went blank. “If that’s what you wish.” He flashed a blink and all of a sudden I was standing in the soft, silky sand, my hand still in his and my body behind my clothing was fully exposed by the sun’s intense rays.
My breathing grew faster; my heart thudded at racing speed. I heard a piercing shrill that pulsed in my head. Shock caught up with me when I realized I was screaming. Jared’s face looked contrite. “This is the only way to cure it, being exposed,” he explained remorsefully. “I’m sorry. Genies don’t like pain. It tastes horrid.”
I curled myself into his chest, using him as a shield. “Calm down now. You’re in sunlight, Leslie. You’re not hurt, you’re not bleeding and you’re not dying.” My tense stance began to relax, my breathing slowed at his soft and silky voice. “Leslie?”
“I think I’m okay,” I murmured. I pulled myself away from my personal shield and stepped forward to face my fear. “I’m in sunlight!” I called with enthusiasm. “It’s not bad. In fact, it’s so warm and comforting,” I whispered. “It’s nice.”
I kicked off my sandals to feel the sand between my toes. “I could get a tan now,” I told myself. “Thank you so much.” I thrust myself towards him and gave him a tight squeezed hug. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Take me to my apartment please,” I commanded. Once again he flashed a blink and we were in my home. My eyes struggled to adjust to the sudden darkness. With a fathom for more of the comforting warmth of sunshine, I dashed over towards each curtain and yanked it open. Sunlight flooded my home bringing life into it. “My mom and Stacy will be surprised when they get home,” I said to myself. Jared grinned at me.
“Anything else maybe?” he wondered. “Like what? You’ve done so much for me now. What else could I possibly need?” His face blushed. “Would you be willing to squeeze in one more wish?”
“Like what?” I asked even though part of me knew what he was about to suggest. His face grew solemn yet insecure. My expression copied his. “Would you like to go on a date…with me?” his voice croaked. A date with my genie? It sounded fine to me. “Sure,” I breathed. Then he once more reached out to hold my hand.