“So, what do you believe? Is magic real?” Professor Laurens places her textbook, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, on her podium. “Or, how do you believe that so many backed then believed in magic, and the legends surrounding Merlin and King Arthur?” The class is silent for a few minutes. “Anastasia, what do you think? You’ve been uncharacteristically quiet.” She fiddles with her wedding band.
The whole class looks like they do every time my stepmother calls on me during class. I arch my eyebrow and look between the blank faces. I know she did this to me on purpose. She wants me to share what my mother has written to me my entire life. “Maybe they did have magic.” I wait. “All kinds of knowledge is lost through time. Language, history, architecture, why not magic?”
She smiles, but my classmates chuckle. The conversation continues with them believing that I was just kidding. I shake my head and start to doodle the Deathly Hollows symbol from Harry Potter on my notebook.
My stepmother and I have similar conversations when she drops me off at home. I dump my backpack on my futon and my Chinese textbook spills out. I’m about to crash on my bed and take a five hour nap then get up to study for an hour, but I notice a brown package tied off with twine on my desk. I stalk over to it, as if it could be a bomb or a failed test. I grip my stepmother’s star necklace in my hand.
I unwrap the box and a note sits on top. I flip it over and I recognize the handwriting immediately. It’s the only thing of hers that I have seen of for sixteen years. It’s your choice. Choose well.
I open the box. In it sits a lamp as if it popped out of a Disney cartoon. It has a gold inscription encircling the entirety of it’s silver base, but I can’t translate the dialect. I almost don’t want to touch it.
My curiosity gets the better of me though and I pick it up and rub the top of it. I half expected a blue mist to come out of it and hear Robin William’s voice to start singing, Friend Like Me. Instead, the world seems to come to a screeching halt. The air seems to sit still, and the noise of silence vanishes. I didn’t know that was a thing. No wind blows in from my open window, and my loose notes don’t flutter around the room. My wall of postcards seem to freeze sticking up, even though there is no current to pick them up. In front of me, standing in the vacuum, is a man. A regular man a little older than I am, wearing a brown leather jacket, hiking boots, and rings on each of his fingers. Only the fact that he just magically appeared in my room and his vibrant, crystal eyes tells me that he is not a real boy.
He smiles at me with his coffee stained teeth. “The fact that you’re not screaming is so refreshing; you have no idea.” Even though his mouth moves, his voice doesn’t seem to come from him. It echoes like if we were in a cave.
I stand there, blinking like my classmates. “Um,” I start. I loose myself in his blue crystal eyes, wondering how he can possibly see. Maybe it’s like looking through a kaleidoscope? Or maybe he doesn’t see through his eyes at all?
He puts his hand up. “Before you ask dumb questions and embarrass yourself, let me explain. No, I don’t do wishes and I don’t sing. Damn, I hate Disney.” He pinches the bridge of his nose before looking back at me. “So, let’s cut to the chase. I am a genie of choices. All you have to say is, “I choose to” and then you can change any choices that you have made in the past
or that someone else has made that has affected you. No, your bff’s boyfriend cheating on her didn’t affect you. So what will it be?” He waves his hand and a single piece of paper pops up in front of him. He flips it back and forth. “Well, you must think you’re perfect if you don’t have any real regrets. All of these choices are ones that have affected you.” I blink again. My stepmother’s words echo in my ears, and I want to share them with him. However, I just let he continue. “Oh, so she did send it to you,” He says as glasses appear in front of his eyes, causing his large crystals to look even bigger. “Man, that woman had a long list. You must take after your father then, right Anastasia? Or do you prefer Ana, like what your stepmother calls you?”
I try to process all that is happening. “Um, Ana is fine. What woman? My mother?” I reach for the paper, but my hand fazes right through it. He walks away from me as I look at my hand.
“Yeah, the archaeologist one who watched too many Indiana Jones movies when she was younger. The one who had a dig in Russia.”
“My mother never had a dig in Russia.” I look over to my postcards, just to be sure.
He pulls his glasses down to the bridge of his nose. “That’s because I’m good at my job.” He walks around the room until he lands on my futon. “So, what choices will you change?”
I inch closer to him, the shock wearing off. “She was right. It is real?” I try to poke at his arm but he squats my hand away.
“I am not a goat at a petting zoo.” He glares at me and the glasses vanish. “And I’m assuming you mean your mother and magic. I think it’s obvious that she is. Now, I should tell
you that you’re on a timer here. So make your choices. You can make three, at least Disney got that right.”
I kneel in front of him, he doesn’t seem to mind. “At one point in time, I knew my mother had a dig in Russia. Before you changed that choice for her?” I sit in front of him, staring into his eyes. His eyes glimmer and he nods. “So,” I start. “If I change something, like keeping my parents together, no one will remember my stepmother. I would have never meet her?” I instinctively reach for my necklace.
“Well, mostly. You will remember, for a time, but no one else will. Until one day you’ll wake up and not remember a thing. I can’t tell you how long it will take, it’s different for everyone.”
“And my mother, what were her choices?”
He shakes his head. “Can’t tell you. Genie, patient confidentiality.”
I let out a humph, and tap the side of my leg. “May I at least see the list.” He nods and hands it to me.
I slowly reach out for it, but when he places it in my hand it’s solid. I scan over the list, and he’s right about one thing…all of these are about choices that have affected me. Though, I don’t think I’m perfect. I just lived by the saying my stepmom always told me. No matter what you do, shit will happen. But you are the one who gets to decided if you’re a victim, or a scholar. I grip my necklace, the one she gave to me when she first told me that.
“You know what you want to choose.” He smiles at me, not asking, just stating.
I take a deep breathe. “Is that okay? I know it doesn’t exactly fit in with the guidelines.”
He nods. “We’ll call it a loophole.”I smile from ear to ear. I grip my necklace and look at the postcards. “I choose for you to teach me about magic.”
2018 Photograph: High Violet by Marissa Schrader