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"Be Careful What You Wish For"

by ToddCheese


Brooke found herself outside her favorite upscale antique shop, in the middle of downtown. The cool air-conditioned breeze that greeted her inside the doors gave her a sudden rush of excitement. This was her favorite little store, and though she came in here all the time, she could only gaze longingly at the things she couldn't afford. Today was different though. Today she would finally take something home, thanks to the divorce proceedings that had ended in her favor.

The old propietor greeted her from the front counter, recognizing her as a regular visitor. Maybe with a little time and effort she could get him too, and the shop?

Moving among the rows of vintage furniture and glass cases lined with relics of yesteryear, Brooke happened across a full-length rosewood mirror. She paused to adjust her long, golden blonde hair, and admire her sleek red dress which accentuated every graceful curve of her feminine figure.

As she took herself in, she felt a twinge of regret about Andrew. He'd bought her this dress, and the matching shoes too, for their first anniversary. Which had also turned out to be their last. God, was that really just a few months ago? It felt like longer. It was astonishing how fast a marriage could crumble, even to Brooke, who made her living dealing with this kind of thing, and saw it firsthand every day.

It had been entirely her fault, she was the one who'd had the affair, but Andrew had suffered the most, and still was. He really should have known better, taking a divorce attorney to court. It didn't have to get that ugly. Now she had the house, half of his possessions, and most of his money, and was looking to spend some of it in this ritzy place. A purchase would make her feel better.

Something in the mirror's reflection caught her eye. Turning around, she saw an old lamp that seemed incongruous somehow, out of place with the rest of the shop's merchandise. It was made of solid but slightly tarnished brass, and had a distinctly Arabian look to it, with a handle on one side and a curved spout on the other, like a somewhat flattened teapot. She lifted it for a closer inspection. There wasn't a price tag.

This would look nice on the mantle, Brooke decided, but it could do with a bit of polishing.

Brooke held it close to her mouth and exhaled a short breath, then used the side of her hand to rub the metal to a shine. As she did so the lamp began to crackle with a strange energy....

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Brooke coughed as the sudden smoke cleared, and saw that there was now someone else beside her. A woman... or half of one anyway, floating in midair, her lower body disintegrating into a trail of smoke that curled into the spout of the lamp.

She was gorgeous and exotic, with long black hair and beautiful dark skin. Large gold circles looped through her ears, bracelets and bangles were wrapped around both her arms, and each of her fingers was adorned with at least two rings. In the center of her forehead was a tiny red gem, some kind of caste symbol, Brooke guessed. A cascade of shimmering beads and jewelled strands hung down from her neck, covering her chest -- Brooke noticed the woman did not appear to be wearing a top and quickly averted her eyes.

It was a Genie, Brooke realized, just like in that old story! She'd rubbed the lamp and it had magically appeared before her.

"Um... hello?" she said, uncertain how to address this strange being.

"Greetings, mortal..." The voice was booming and sonorous, but not intimidating. "Or would you prefer I called you Brooke?"

Brooke was astonished. "How did you know that's my name?"

The Genie smiled mischievously, an I-know-something-you-don't-know smile. "You told me."

Damn, thought Brooke. She'd used that same technique herself a million times to trip up witnesses in court, and she had to admit it made her feel a bit inferior, giving up information without realizing it. How HAD the Genie known? It must have been a really lucky guess.

"And you're... a Genie?" It was a dumb question, she knew. But she'd never heard of a female Genie before, except on that stupid TV show. "Is this for real?" She held the lamp up, inspecting the underside for a switch or battery compartment, anything to explain how this was being done. Maybe it was some kind of projection, a holographic image? She passed her hand through the Genie's smoke tail, which scattered at her touch, only to reform. Tentatively, she reached out a hand to touch the ebony skin. The Genie's hand was warm and substantial, just like another person's would be.

"I assure you I am completely real," said the Genie, giving Brooke a polite handshake. "A Genie must always tell the truth. It is part of the curse, along with being imprisoned in the lamp. I am incapable of lying to you."

"Really?" Brooke decided to test this claim. "How old are you?"

"About twenty-five hundred years, practically since the dawn of civilization." The Genie gestured around the store. "I'm the oldest thing in this place, that's for certain."

"Are you really female?"

"No. I am neither and both, simultaneously. I am capable of changing my gender at will. I was male last time."

"And what are you doing in this lamp?"

"Nothing, until you let me out. It's been supremely dull, to say the least."

Brooke tried her best to come up with more, but this wasn't like a court hearing, where she knew all the right things to ask. This was unfamiliar territory. "Okay... I guess that's all," she decided. No further questions.

"Very well, then. Let's begin." The Genie clapped her hands and rubbed them together in anticipation. Getting straight to business, Brooke realized. "You've temporarily freed me from the confines of this lamp, so as a reward you get--"

"Three wishes?" interrupted Brooke. She could tell where this was going.

"Three wishes," confirmed the Genie, then paused. "Actually it used to be four, but... Well, it's complicated, and you wouldn't understand if I tried to explain it. Besides, three is kind of a magic number."

"Okay, so, three wishes then," said Brooke, a bit impatiently. "Now what are the rules?" There were always rules.

"Only two," replied the Genie. "You may not wish physical harm to anyone. And you may not wish for additional wishes."

Damn, thought Brooke. Her very first wish would have been for unlimited wishing.

Seeing the expresson on her face, the Genie shook its head, amused. "You humans and your technicalities. Everyone thinks of that one right away."

"All right, fine," conceded the crafty lawyer. "There are plenty of other creative things I can do with three wishes. For instance..."

"If I might make a sugggestion?" the Genie interrupted politely. "Do be careful what you wish for."

Ah, thought Brooke, one of these.

As if aware of what she was thinking, the Genie nodded. "Words are dangerous, Brooke. They can be too vague, or taken too literally. And wishes change things. They may have unintended consequences you can't foresee. But I'm sure you've already thought of all that... being an attorney."

Brooke was speechless. How the HELL did she know I'm an attorney?!

Seeing her expression, the Genie answered the unasked question. "You told me."

"When did I tell you all of this?!" demanded Brooke. This Genie knew way too much about her. It was unsettling.

"It's complicated," repeated the Genie. "You wouldn't understand."

Brooke dismissed the whole line of discussion with a hand wave. "Fine, whatever. Let's just do the first wish."

"If you say so." The Genie looked at her expectantly.

Just a test, she decided, to see if this is real. But at the same time, she didn't want to waste a wish on something insignificant, like having some object appear. It'd have to be big enough that she could actually notice a difference. Brooke thought hard. What would she change, if she could change anything at all?

Well... there was the "divorce remorse", rearing its ugly head again. She wanted to rid herself of those feelings, so she could enjoy her little shopping trip. But seeing as how she'd pretty much ruined his life, nothing by mortal means could ever make a difference.

And just like that, she knew her first wish. She wished she could be free of her guilt over Andrew. Now... how to phrase it in an unselfish way? In the fairy tales, there were always consequences for people who wished out of greed, seeking only to benefit themselves. I'm smarter than that, she told herself.

"Okay," Brooke announced. "I've decided. My husb-- um, EX-husband Andrew... We divorced recently and I was... kind of a bitch when we were fighting it out in court."

The Genie's eyes lit up at the prospect of a story of human tragedy.

"Actually I was a total bitch," she confessed. "I'm a divorce attorney myself, and I used every legal trick in the book to get everything I could from him, and it worked. I pretty much ruined his life, and... part of me still loves him and feels bad about it, but... it's... it's complicated." She gave up, ending on the Genie's own words. "Anyway. Things would be better for him if we'd never even met. So that's my first wish."

She took out her cell phone, preparing to call Andrew once the Genie granted the wish. If they'd never met, he wouldn't know who she was, which would prove that it had worked.

"AS YOU HAVE WISHED IT," the Genie announced grandly, "SO SHALL IT BE!"

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Acrid smoke and a blast of cold air hit Brooke. She stumbled a bit, losing footing as the world around her changed in an instant.

The air quickly cleared, but the sudden chill she felt didn't. The Genie was still hovering there, watching her with a smirk. Her feet felt icy against the marble tile floor, as if she were barefoot... In fact, her whole body...

She caught a glimpse of herself in the rosewood mirror, turned... and it took her a second to register that all the bare skin she was seeing was her own -- she was NAKED! Naked in the middle of a classy antique store in the city's fanciest shopping district! Anyone could come walking in at any moment! Those people on the street, passing by the shop windows, all they had to do was turn their heads and they'd immediately see her standing there without any clothes on!!

Brooke let out a SCREAM and threw her arms over herself to cover up. Her eyes darted wildly for a place to hide, and she ducked behind a large mahogany armoire in the corner.

The Genie was laughing the whole time, hands at her sides, the jewels around her neck shaking and shivering as her chest heaved.

"Shut up, this is NOT funny!" snapped Brooke angrily. "What the fuck happened to my clothes?!"

The Genie steered its smoke trail around behind the armoire where Brooke was crouched. "Oh my, you didn't think that one through at all, did you?"

"What are you talking about? Why am I NAKED?!"

"Andrew bought you that red dress you were wearing. But you wished you'd never met him, which means he DIDN'T buy it for you. Hence," the Genie spread its arms, encompassing Brooke's naked form, "you're not wearing it."

Before Brooke could answer to this, another voice called out, "Miss? Are you all right?"

SHIT! thought Brooke. It was the elderly shopkeeper, and to her horror, she saw his reflection growing larger in the rosewood mirror. He was coming this way!

"SHIT!" Brooke swore out loud. "Okay, I wish--" She whirled around, but the Genie had gone, disappeared back inside the lamp. A faint wisp of colored smoke was all that remained. "God DAMN it!!"

"Miss? Do you need any help back there?"

Christ! He was standing right on the other side of the armoire! Brooke poked her head out, keeping everything below her neck concealed. Her heart was hammering, and her breathing came in shallow gasps brought on by panic at her sudden exposure.

"Um, no... I'm fine, I just..." --THINKTHINKTHINKTHINKTHINK!! -- "...I dropped a contact and I'm trying to find it!"

"Hmm, well these old eyes won't be much help there. Do you suppose it rolled under here?" He tapped on the side of the wardrobe. "I can haul this out of the way so you can check."

Brooke shrank back into the corner, one hand across her breasts and the other over her privates. "N-no! No! That's okay, I... um... Here it is, I just found it!" PLEEEEEASE don't look back here! she begged silently.

"Oh, all right then... Well, let me know if you need any help with anything else." And she saw his reflection shrinking in the mirror as he ambled back to the front counter. Brooke almost fainted from relief. Thank GOD!

Her panic subsided, giving way to anger, and she rapped furiously on the lamp. "Hey! You! Come out of there, you bitch!"

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The Genie reappeared, trying to hide a smile but failing.

Brooke threw the lamp to the floor, where it clattered around a bit, sending the Genie's smoke trail spinning. "What the HELL's the matter with you?!" Brooke demanded, hands on her bare hips. "I didn't wish for THIS!"

"I thought I explained it sufficiently," said the Genie. "You felt bad about what you did to Andrew--"

"Wait a minute, who the fuck is Andrew??"

"Oh, that's right!" exclaimed the Genie, as if pretending to suddenly understand. "You can't remember him. You just wished you'd never MET him. And because the wish came true, you've forgotten you ever felt the NEED to wish you hadn't met him! So you don't even remember the wish itself! But trust me, you made it. There's the proof." The Genie pointed at Brooke's naked body.

Reminded of her exposure, she quickly moved her hands off her hips and back over her front. "But this doesn't make any sense!"

"Think back. What were you wearing when you came into this shop?"

Brooke strained her mind, and was flabbergasted to discover she had no idea. "I... don't remember! B-but I know I didn't come in like THIS!"

"You're right," agreed the Genie. "It was a red dress. But because it was a gift from Andrew, and you never met him, it's gone and you can't remember ever having it." A shrug. "I can't prove it to you, since you've altered your own time-line. It's an unintended consequence of your wish, I warned you about that."

"But why the hell would I wish for that?"

The Genie shrugged again. "You felt bad for putting him through a messy divorce and taking all his money. Don't ask me why you did it if you were just going to feel bad about it later. How am I supposed to know how humans think? Just take my word. I can't lie, remember?"

Brooke glared, but realized she wasn't going to get any more answers no matter how hard she pushed. This wasn't at all like bullying someone in court. There were no laws she could use to slam a magical being into giving her what she wanted.

More importantly, she had to get herself clothed again, or she'd never be able to come out from her hiding place. Maybe if she could somehow sneak over to the vintage dresses, she could slip into one and wear it out? The old shopkeeper wouldn't mind as long as she was paying for it.

Except, Hey, wait a minute! I still have two wishes left!

"All right, FINE," she said angrily. "Let's just do my second wish. I wish I had some goddamn clothes to wear!" She'd still have one wish to use for something she really wanted. It wouldn't be a total loss.

"By the Power of the Lamp," recited the Genie, "your wish is GRANTED!"

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Brooke waved the smoke away and looked down at herself. She still saw an awful lot of skin, and became worried that the wish hadn't worked, or that someone was coming and the Genie had had to suddenly disappear again. As the air cleared, she discovered she was actually wearing a matching set of bra and panties, trimmed with pink lace, and very light and sheer. In fact both garments were almost completely transparent! Her large nipples and shaven pubic area were still completely visible through the thin fabric! Turning in the mirror, she could see her ass was equally inadequately covered.

"What the fuck is THIS?!" Brooke demanded, covering up again. "I wished for CLOTHES!"

"Underwear is clothing," answered the Genie. "You weren't specific, so I had to go with my own interpretation."

"But I can't come out like this," cried Brooke. "I'm still not dressed!"

The Genie shook its head. "You humans and your silly little hang-ups about decency. Look at me, I'm wearing even less than you." And she swung the beads around her neck to one side and, hands folded behind her head, began shaking her large naked breasts around without the slightest trace of shame. Brooke couldn't help but notice that each of the Genie's nipples was pierced with a golden ring. She blushed, embarrassed to be looking at the spectacle.

"Now come on." The Genie adjusted her beads back into place. "You've got one wish left, make it a good one."

Brooke thought as hard as she could. The obvious choice would be to wish for her dress back, that red one the Genie said she'd been wearing... which she still couldn't remember! But if she did that she'd waste all three wishes and have nothing to show for it.

Slowly, the lawyer gears in Brooke's head began turning... The Genie said I altered my own time-line before, so... What if I were to wish I'd never MADE that first wish, the one about... Andrew, was it? The one that left me naked. Then I wouldn't have had to wish for clothes either. I'd buy myself back two whole wishes! The Genie had not said there was any rule against unwishing a previous wish.

Brooke smirked triumphantly. "Okay, I've got it. I want to wish I'd never made that first wish, the one that made my dress vanish. That way I'll get back that wish, plus the clothes one, since I made the second one as a direct result of the first. Understand?"

A shake of the Genie's head. "Sorry, you know the rules. You can't wish for more wishes."

"But this isn't for MORE wishes," argued Brooke, going into laywer mode despite still wearing just the pink see-through underwear. "I'm using my last wish to unwish another. It's still using my existing wishes. I'm not specifically asking for more, that'd just be a side effect. An unintended consequence," she sneered, mocking the Genie's words.

The Genie sighed heavily. "Oh, very well. Congratulations, you've found a loophole." She rolled her eyes. "Lawyers. That Shakespeare human was right about what to do with them."

Brooke felt a smug satisfaction. She now understood exactly how this game worked.

Except... why was the Genie still wearing that mischievous grin?

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Brooke felt a bit disoriented, as if she'd completely zoned out for the last couple of minutes. Something had changed, just now, but she couldn't put a finger on what.

She turned once again toward the rosewood mirror, pausing to adjust her long, golden blonde hair, which had become slightly dishevelled by the smoky explosion. And to admire her sleek red dress which accentuated every graceful curve of her feminine figure.

"So," said the Genie, clapping its hands together to magically dispel the smoke. "Have you decided what your remaining two wishes will be?"

"Wait, hold on," said Brooke, confused. "TWO wishes? I thought you said I got three!"

"You did," answered the Genie. "But you just used one."

"No I didn't!" She felt her frustration level quickly rising. What sort of game was the Genie playing? She couldn't remember wishing for anything yet!

"Yes you did," the Genie said calmly. "You had three, then you used two of them -- rather foolishly, I might add -- and unwished the unexpected results of those two with your last one. So you got the first two back, but you had to use the third to do it." The Genie pulled an abacus down from one of the antique shelves and began sliding the large wooden beads. "See? Three minus two, minus one, plus two, equals two." She handed the primitive calculator to Brooke. "Check the math yourself if you don't believe me."

"But what did I wish for before? Nothing's changed!"

"Let's see... First you wished you'd never met Andrew. You remember Andrew, don't you?"

"Of course, he's my hus--... my ex-husband." Again the guilt-trip hit her.

"Yes, that's the face," the Genie pointed. "That's the same expression you had when you wished you'd never met him. But because he's the one who bought you that dress? Yes, that red one you're wearing now. It disappeared once I granted the wish, leaving you naked."

"I was NAKED?" Brooke gasped. "Right here??" Her cheeks began to blush at the very thought.

"Indeed. And it was hilarious."

Brooke was almost afraid to ask. "Did... did anybody SEE me??" She'd die from embarrassment if anyone had!

"Just me. Though the elderly human who owns this place came close. By the way, you have a very attractive body for a mortal." The Genie grinned. "At least for now."

Brooke recoiled in disgust. Was this Genie woman coming ON to her?!

The Genie continued, "Then you wished for some clothes, but for some reason you didn't like the ones I picked out for you--"

"But..." Brooke struggled to wrap her mind around all this. "But... I don't remember wishing for ANY of that!"

"Of course you don't," explained the Genie, with the patience of a teacher instructing a particularly slow student. "Because you DIDN'T. You wished you hadn't."

"But... I..." Brooke stammered, exasperated. "...but... You TRICKED me!"

The Genie shook her head. "I did no such thing. It's merely another unintended consequence of your careless wishing. I warned you. Didn't I warn you?"

Brooke nodded sullenly. She remembered that part.

"Amnesia is not an acceptable excuse, Brooke. It would never hold up in court, would it?"

No, Brooke was forced to admit, it wouldn't. She'd knocked down testimony that had tried to use it plenty of times.

"So trust me, it happened. I was there. And Genies can't lie."

"But... this isn't FAIR!" Why should she lose a wish for something she couldn't even remember?

"Let's talk about fair, Brooke. Is it fair that your ex-husband Andrew is now sharing a ratty apartment with two other divorced men while you got the house, the car, and still get monthly alimony, despite the fact that your salary was more than twice his?"

"How do you KNOW all this stuff about me?? Wait, let me guess... I 'told you'."

The Genie nodded, and smiled. "Now you're catching on."

"Did you pull this same shit with the LAST person who freed you?"

"Yes. Almost exactly." Without a hint of hesitation or shame, Brooke noted.

"All right, look, I'll make you a deal," the lawyer pleaded. "It can't be fun being stuck in that lamp all the time. So, you just let me start over with all three wishes, plus a fourth? I'll use that extra one to wish for your freedom." Of course, Brooke didn't really plan to honor those words. It was nothing more than a non-binding verbal contract. She'd use the extra wish on herself, she deserved it after everything she was being put through.

But the Genie wasn't taking the bait. "This isn't a court case, Brooke, you can't negotiate a settlement here. You've got two wishes left. Are you going to use them, or stand here arguing all day?"

"All right, FINE, just let me think...!"

She still felt her guilt gnawing over the whole mess with Andrew, but should she try to make things better? According to the Genie she'd already done that once, and all she'd gotten out of it was a lost wish.

But still... she had to make these unpleasant feelings go away.

All right, fine. One wish to help him, and one left for herself. That was fair, and not selfish.

But... how to phrase it? She couldn't wish they'd never met or married, she'd just end up naked again. Maybe if she wished she'd never had that affair...? Yeah, that'd work. The guy she'd been fucking behind Andrew's back -- what was his name? -- was over at their house when Andrew came home unexpectedly, that's what had led to the divorce. So if she wished she'd never met THAT guy, she'd fix the whole problem.

Right?

The Genie floated quietly nearby, watching her puzzle it out.

"Okay, I've decided. The guy I cheated on Andrew with, I can't remember his name. I wish I'd never met HIM."

"Yes, O Master," intoned the Genie with a noticeable hint of mockery. She raised her hands, prepared to snap her fingers.

As soon as the words were out Brooke saw the horrifying possibility. "No, WAIT--!!"

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Acrid smoke and a blast of cold air hit Brooke. She stumbled a bit, losing footing as the world around her changed in an instant.

The air quickly cleared, but the sudden chill she felt didn't. The Genie was still hovering there, watching her with a smirk. Her feet felt icy against the marble tile floor, as if she were barefoot... In fact, her whole body...

She caught a glimpse of herself in the rosewood mirror, turned... and it took her a second to register that all the bare skin she was seeing was her own -- she was NAKED! Naked in the middle of a classy antique store in the city's fanciest shopping district! Anyone could come walking in at any moment! Those people on the street, passing by the shop windows, all they had to do was turn their heads and they'd immediately see her standing there without any clothes on!!

Not only that, her head looked... strange... Brooke ran a hand over her scalp, and was shocked to find it completely smooth. She was BALD! Bald and NAKED!! She felt sick to her stomach. How had this happened??

Brooke let out a SCREAM, hands atop her head, until she remembered her naked body, then threw her arms over herself to cover up. Her eyes darted wildly for a place to hide, and she ducked behind a large mahogany armoire in the corner.

The Genie roared with laughter, clutching her sides, the jewels around her neck shaking and shivering as her chest heaved. She rolled around on her back in midair, almost turning upside-down at one point.

"Shut up, this is NOT funny!" wailed Brooke. "What the fuck happened to my HAIR?? And my CLOTHES??"

The Genie managed to subdue her laughter, and steered her smoke trail around behind the armoire where Brooke was crouched. Wiping her eyes, she said, "My, you REALLY didn't think that one through, did you?"

"What are you talking about? Why am I NAKED and BALD?!"

The Genie sighed. "Do I really have to explain everything all over again?"

Before Brooke could answer to this, another voice called out, "Miss? Are you all right?"

SHIT! thought Brooke. It was the elderly shopkeeper, and to her horror, she saw his reflection growing larger in the rosewood mirror. He was coming this way!

"SHIT!" Brooke swore out loud. "Okay, I wish--" She whirled around, but the Genie had gone, disappeared back inside the lamp. A faint wisp of colored smoke was all that remained. "God DAMN it!!"

"Miss? Do you need any help back there?"

Christ! He was standing right on the other side of the armoire! Brooke couldn't even poke her head out, or he'd see that she had no hair! Her heart was hammering, and her breathing came in shallow gasps brought on by panic at her sudden exposure.

"Tell him you dropped your contact," suggested a voice from the lamp.

"Um, no... I'm fine," Brooke called to him. "I just dropped a contact and I'm trying to find it!"

"Hmm, well these old eyes won't be much help there. Do you suppose it rolled under here?" He tapped on the side of the wardrobe. "I can haul this out of the way so you can check."

Brooke shrank back into the corner, one hand over her head and the other down her front. "N-no! No! That's okay, I... um... Here it is, I just found it!" PLEEEEEASE don't look back here! she begged silently.

"Oh, all right then... Well, let me know if you need any help with anything else." And she saw his reflection shrinking in the mirror as he ambled back to the front counter. Brooke almost fainted from relief. Thank GOD!

Her panic subsided, giving way to anger, and she rapped furiously on the lamp. "Hey! You! Come out of there, you bitch!"

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Brooke threw the lamp to the floor, where it clattered around a bit, sending the Genie's smoke trail spinning. "All right, start talking! What the FUCK just happened?"

The Genie shrugged. "You got your wish."

"What the HELL's the matter with you?!" Brooke demanded, hands on her bare hips. "I didn't wish for THIS!" She fought back tears, trying to avoid glancing at her reflection again. "God, I look like a FREAK! What the hell did you do to my HAIR?!"

"Only what was necessary to grant your wish. You regretted hurting your husband, so you wished you'd never met the man you ended up having an affair with--"

"Affair?!" exclaimed Brooke in disbelief. "I never had any affair! I LOVE Steve, I wouldn't DO that!"

"Ah, but you DID do that," came the correction, "before you wished otherwise. Of course, now that you didn't, you don't remember." The Genie was clearly enjoying this immensely.

"But... that still doesn't explain what happened to my HAIR! And my CLOTHES!"

"Before I can answer that," said the Genie, "I am positively dying to know: Who is Steve?"

"Steve, he's my husband, for over a year now," Brooke answered, then sneered. "What, so you mean there's finally something about me you DON'T know?"

"Actually, I could be mistaken, but I thought you told me earlier that your husband's name was Andrew."

"Andrew?" Brooke paused to think. "Oh, him. We dated for awhile, but then we broke up. He said the physical attraction just wasn't there."

"Ah, of COURSE, now it all makes sense!" exclaimed the Genie, as if pretending to suddenly understand. "The man you slept with, when you were married to Andrew? The reason he was first attracted to you in the bar that night was..." she paused for emphasis, "your long, blonde hair. So you see, the easiest way for me to ensure you never met him was to..."

The Genie waved a hand and a halo of sparkly smoke appeared around the naked divorce attorney's hairless crown, then dissipated, pantomiming her vanishing locks. Annoyed, Brooke batted it away.

"...take away your hair, so he wouldn't notice you," concluded the Genie. "Of course, now that he didn't, you can't remember him. But trust me, you just wished you'd never met him. There's the proof." The Genie pointed one finger at Brooke's bald head, and another at her naked body.

Reminded of her exposure, she quickly moved her hands off her hips and put one back over her front, and one atop her head. "But this doesn't make any sense!"

The Genie sighed. "Humans are such pitifully slow learners. Think back. What were your hair and clothes like when you came into this shop?"

Brooke strained her mind, and was flabbergasted to discover she had no idea. "I... don't remember! B-but I know I didn't come in like THIS!"

"You're right," agreed the Genie. "You had long blonde hair, and a red dress. That was a gift from Andrew for your first anniversary. But since you never married him, you didn't receive it, so now it's gone too." The Genie shrugged. "I guess without your hair, Andrew wasn't attracted to you either. Turns out he was every bit as superficial as the guy in the bar. Trust me, Steve is much better."

"But... couldn't you have made me a brunette or something? I don't WANT to be bald!"

"Oh come now, it's not so bad. Here, I'll even join you."

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   ( `   )_
  (   (_    `)
 (   *POOF*   '
(_   )_ .  _) _)
  (_,   _)   )

And just like that, the Genie was also bald... and... male! With a smooth head, rock hard chest and enormous biceps, but with similar facial features, especially the eyes. When he spoke again, the voice was deeper, more masculine, but with the same vocal mannerisms and inflections as when he'd been female.

"There we go... Solidarity. Now we're both in this together, Brooke."

"But... it's not the same! You can just change yourself back any time!" Even though it was the same "person", Brooke felt distinctly more uncomfortable to have the Genie looking at her naked, bald body now that he was male. She kept her hands tightly over herself as best she could.

"Incorrect again. You can change yourself back too, with a wish. Of course, it's your very last one..."

Oh yeah! In all her panic and exposure, Brooke had completely forgotten! "Okay, I want my hair and clothes back!"

"Phrase it in the form of a wish, if you please."

Brooke gave an angry snarl. "I WISH I had my hair and my clothes back."

"Sorry, that's two wishes. You may have one or the other, but not both."

But this wasn't FAIR! She'd lost two items with one wish, why couldn't she get them both back? She had to be dressed or she'd get arrested, and she couldn't go out in public bald, she just COULDN'T!

Brooke forced herself to stop and think. Maybe if she wished for hair, she could then somehow sneak over to the vintage dresses, and could slip into one and wear it out? The old shopkeeper wouldn't mind as long as she was paying for it. It'd be embarrassing, but still better than her current predicament.

Except...

"IF I were to wish for hair," Brooke asked slowly and deliberately, "where exactly would you PUT it?"

The Genie immediately looked guilty. "Oh my, it looks like you caught me. I was planning to put it down there," pointing at Brooke's crotch. He sighed. "Being forced to tell the truth can be such a curse."

Brooke grumbled angrily, but continued trying to think. Did the store have any hats or wigs? She'd never noticed any, but then she'd never had such a pressing need to look before.

"You know," suggested the Genie playfully, "you could wish you'd never made that last wish. The one that left you naked and bald. Of course that wouldn't really gain you anything, since you'd only buy yourself back one wish, instead of two like last time." He pulled an abacus down from one of the antique shelves and began sliding the large wooden beads. "Let's see, three minus two, minus one, plus two... minus one, minus another one, PLUS one... this is getting complicated..."

Something inside Brooke snapped. "Shut up, just SHUT UP!! I'm sick of this mind-fuck! I wish you would go to HELL and BURN there!!"

The Genie wagged a finger. "Ah-ah-ah! You can't wish physical harm to anyone."

"Then I'll do it MYSELF!!" And with that, Brooke took a wide swing at the Genie, who didn't budge or even flinch. Her fist passed directly through him, with only a faint trail of sparks on the other side.

"Feel better, Brooke?"

NO, she did NOT feel better! She picked the lamp up and threw it at the Genie. Still suspended in midair, he caught it like a football, then set it down gently.

"You do realize you look ridiculous, don't you?"

"Why," scowled a sarcastic Brooke. "Because I'm naked and bald??"

"Not only that," the Genie replied, "but because you're the only one who can see and hear me."

"What are you t--" began Brooke, and then she froze at a distinct tapping sound nearby. She turned, slowly, almost too afraid to look. Someone's finger rapped against the storefront's plate-glass. A crowd of people had gathered outside and were pointing, laughing and staring at her through the window! Seeing her smooth, hairless head! Seeing her bare, exposed body! Seeing her yelling and swinging angrily at something they couldn't see!

At the end of the aisle, the old shopkeeper was staring too. His hand was on his chest, like he was trying to stave off a heart attack.

Pushing through the crowd, a blue uniformed man in a cap leaned close and peered through, to see what the public disturbance was about. A police officer! When he saw Brooke naked he grew irritated, and began making his way toward the entrance to the shop.

"Uh-oh, you're in trouble now!" laughed the Genie. "See where your careless wishing has landed you?"

Brooke was in a panic. The cop was at the door.

"Oh God, what do I DO?!"

He was inside, coming down the aisle. There was no place to hide.

"You've got one wish left, Brooke. Use it wisely."

The cop was right beside her. He reached for his handcuffs. Brooke saw that she was about to be arrested, and dragged out into the street naked in front of all those people! She'd be taken to jail and have to appear in court! She couldn't bear the humiliation!

She turned to the Genie. "I know what I wish!" she snarled fiercely. "I wish I'd never even FOUND your stupid lamp!"

The Genie nodded benevolently. "Your wish is my--"

"JUST GRANT IT!!" Brooke screamed.

The once-proud divorce attorney struggled, in tears, as the officer pulled her hands behind her naked back, snapping the cuffs tightly around her wrists.

The Genie smiled. "I promise I will NEVER get tired of you, Brooke."

"What are you t--"

       __
   ( `   )_
  (   (_    `)
 (   *POOF*   '
(_   )_ .  _) _)
  (_,   _)   )

Brooke found herself outside her favorite upscale antique shop, in the middle of downtown. The cool air-conditioned breeze that greeted her inside the doors gave her a sudden rush of excitement. This was her favorite little store, and though she came in here all the time, she could only gaze longingly at the things she couldn't afford. Today was different though. Today she would finally take something home, thanks to the divorce proceedings that had ended in her favor.

The old propietor greeted her from the front counter, recognizing her as a regular visitor. Maybe with a little time and effort she could get him too, and the shop?

Moving among the rows of vintage furniture and glass cases lined with relics of yesteryear, Brooke happened across a full-length rosewood mirror. She paused to adjust her long, golden blonde hair, and admire her sleek red dress which accentuated every graceful curve of her feminine figure.

As she took herself in, she felt a twinge of regret about Andrew. He'd bought her this dress, and the matching shoes too, for their first anniversary. Which had also turned out to be their last. God, was that really just a few months ago?

Something in the mirror's reflection caught her eye. Turning around, she saw an old lamp that seemed incongruous somehow, out of place with the rest of the shop's merchandise. It was made of solid but slightly tarnished brass, and had a distinctly Arabian look to it, like a somewhat flattened teapot. She lifted it for a closer inspection. There wasn't a price tag.

This would look nice on the mantle, Brooke decided, but it could do with a bit of polishing.

Brooke held it close to her mouth and exhaled a short breath, then used the side of her hand to rub the metal to a shine. As she did so the lamp began to crackle with a strange energy...

       __
   ( `   )_
  (   (_    `)
 (   *POOF*   '
(_   )_ .  _) _)
  (_,   _)   )

Brooke coughed as the sudden smoke cleared, and saw that there was now someone else beside her. A woman... or half of one anyway, floating in midair, her lower body disintegrating into a trail of smoke that curled into the spout of the lamp. It was a Genie, Brooke realized, just like in that old story! She'd rubbed the lamp and it had magically appeared before her.

"Greetings, mortal..." The voice was booming and sonorous, but not intimidating. "Or would you prefer I called you Brooke?"

Brooke was astonished. "How did you know that's my name?"

The Genie smiled mischievously, an I-know-something-you-don't-know smile. "You told me."

Damn, thought Brooke. She'd used that same technique herself a million times to trip up witnesses in court. How HAD the Genie known? It must have been a really lucky guess.

"Very well, then. Let's begin." The Genie clapped her hands and rubbed them together in anticipation. "You've temporarily freed me from the confines of this lamp, so as a reward you get--"

"Three wishes?" interrupted Brooke. She could tell where this was going.

"Three wishes," confirmed the Genie, then paused. "Actually it used to be four, but... Well, it's complicated, and you wouldn't understand if I tried to explain it. Besides, three is kind of a magic number."


THE END (AND THE BEGINNING)


(This story is Copyright June 2007 by ToddCheese.)