“You get four wishes.”
Shelly coughed as the smoke cleared. The blue flowerpot in her hands slipped onto the ground. Luckily, it was carpet. The pot didn’t break. In the smoke stood a petite young fairy, about half Shelly’s size. She had her hands on her hips and a frown on her face.
Shelly’s eyes widened. “What…how…did you get here?”
“I’m a wish fairy,” the fairy said. “I live in the pot. You touched it, so I have to give you four wishes.”
“Why four wishes?”
“Because three is too boring. Buy three get one free. That’s my policy. Actually, not mine, but whatever. The rule is: four wishes.”
“Oh, well then…”
“Before you start, there are some rules you have to follow.”
“Oh, I know. Like ‘I am not allowed to wish for more than four wishes,’ right?”
“Not just that. You can only wish for material things. I don’t do healings, and don’t even talk about resurrections. I can’t resurrect a worm or a dead leaf. So don’t even think about it.”
“And, wishes can only cost $100 USD or less. I don’t help wishers win the lottery.”
“Interesting. Is that $100 for all four wishes, or $100 each?”
“All four. Also, no givebacks. So if you wish for a pony, and you don’t have a place to put it, it’s not my problem.”
“What pony costs less than $100?”
“Hmm. Good point. Just saying. Also, wishes cannot break existing physical laws. I don’t do endless bubble gum dispensers or perpetual motion machines.”
“I see. Can I combine the four wishes into one?”
“Why would you do that?”
“Four $25 dollar wishes might not be as useful as one $100 wish.”
“Nope. Wishes can’t be combined. You gotta wish for four.”
“Are there any other rules?”
“Oh yeah. Wishes can only be made on between the hours of 12pm and 10pm. Wishes must be spoken aloud, and once spoken, they’re set. I think that’s all you need to know for now. Okay, I’m ready. Go ahead and start wishing.”
“That’s quite a lot of limitations on wishes. What can I wish for, then?”
“Well, based on previous experience, there are a lot of options: Candy, movie tickets, golf clubs, flower pots, clothes, handbags, whoopee cushions, asbestos…”
“Don’t ask. A tree house, a hamster, the complete set of Lost DVDs Seasons 1-6, a baseball bat …”
“Okay, okay, I get the idea. But I can buy all those things myself if I wanted them. Why should I wish for them?”
The fairy shrugged. “Convenience? I don’t know. I don’t care. Hurry up and start wishing…”
“Hmm.” Shelly tapped her chin. “You know, actually I don’t need any wishes.”
The fairy blinked at Shelly. “You don’t want to use your wishes now? You don’t want anything? Pretty clothes, yummy food…concert tickets?”
“No, thank you,” Shelly said. “Very nice of you to offer, though. I actually don’t need any wishes at all. You can give them to someone else.”
The fairy seemed entirely speechless. “But…but…but…you were the one who rubbed my flower pot.”
“Sorry about that. I didn’t know you were in there. I was cleaning the pot to put in the shop.”
“But you can’t not use your wishes!”
“Does it inconvenience you if I don’t use the wishes? If so, I can wish for four chocolate bars or something like that. Then you can get back to whatever you were doing.”
“No, no, it’s not that,” the fairy said, staring at Shelly.
“What is it, then?”
“I’ve never had anyone refuse free wishes.”
“Yeah, well not everything free is worth having,” Shelly said. “My dad always said the harder you work at something, the more valuable it is. All of the best gifts in the world come at a price.”
“Oh. Well…I’ll be here in the flower pot if you change your mind.”
“Sure,” Shelly said. “Oh by the way–”
“What? You have a wish?”
“Not really. Just wanted to ask–what’s your name?”
The fairy blinked again. “My name?”
“Yes, do you have one?”
“Uh…yes. I’m called Kalida.”
“Okay. Thanks Kalida, it was nice chatting with you.”
“It was nice chatting with you…too…” the fairy watched as Shelly bustled off to clean something else in her antiques shop. “I’ve never had a human ask my name, either,” she said as she ducked back into her flower pot.
Every morning when Shelly came downstairs to take care of the shop, Kalida would poke her head out of the pot and ask if she had a wish today. Smiling, Shelly would shake her head no, and ask Kalida how her day was going.
When the shop was not doing well, Kalida offered to help Shelly make a new sign to attract customers…when the shelving broke, Kalida offered to help Shelly magic up new ones. But each time, Shelly cheerfully refused and set to work making her own signs and shelves.
Shelly also asked Kalida about herself:
“So how did you become a wish-fairy, anyway? Is it a job, or is it something you were born to do?”
“To put it bluntly, it’s a punishment.”
“Yes. In my country, I used to be a princess.”
“Wow,” Shelly said, drawing a chair next to the flower pot and sitting down. “Should I call you Your Highness?”
“No, it’s okay. I’m not used to hearing that anymore. Usually it’s ‘hey you!’ or ‘hey fairy.’ I prefer it when you call me Kalida.”
“Okay,” Shelly said. “I’ll do that. So what happened next?”
“My father the king thought I was taking my servants for granted, so he cursed me to become a wish-fairy. I was sent to the human realm to serve others until…”
“Until what?” Shelly asked.
“I don’t actually know,” Kalida said, sighing. “I’ve granted over 500 wishes in my time here, and still haven’t heard from them. I don’t know when I’m going to get to go home.”
“I see,” Shelly said. “Is there anything I can do to help? Should I make four wishes as soon as possible?”
“No, I don’t think it works that way. It doesn’t matter whether you make the wishes or not. If you did, I’d just have to move on to the next human who touches my flower pot.”
“Hmm,” Shelly said. “How is that flower pot, by the way?”
“What do you mean?”
“Is it cozy in there? Would you feel more comfortable if I made something up for you upstairs? There’s plenty of room.”
“I…no one’s ever invited me out of my flower pot.”
“Why not? I don’t know what it’s like to live inside a flower pot, but surely it can’t be as comfortable as a full bedroom. I have a spare right now, feel free to use anything in the shop to decorate it as you like.”
“Really?” Kalida brightened as her wings fluttered with pleasure.
“Of course,” Shelly said, smiling. “Just treat this place as your home, until your family comes for you.”
From then on, Kalida and Shelly were partners. Whenever Shelly went out to collect new items for her shop, Kalida helped her to clean and arrange the best pieces in the window. Shelly taught Kalida how to create financial plans and calculate taxes. She also taught her how to cook, clean, and
Once in a while, Kalida would ask Shelly if she had thought about what she wanted to wish for.
“Oh, I forgot about the wishes,” Shelly would say. “But I don’t need anything, thanks.”
When it rained and the roof leaked, Shelly fixed it herself. When the inflow of cash slowed, Shelly portioned out her rice and beans. Even when Kalida offered to use the wishes to help Shelly create a hearty, delicious meal, Shelly would merely say, “Don’t worry. I eat to live, I don’t live to eat.”
As time passed, Kalida and Shelly both forgot how they’d met in the first place, until one day there was a knock at the door after-hours.
“I’ll get it!” Shelly said. But as she opened the door, she took a step back. “Um, hello?”
“Excuse me for disturbing you,” the dark-hooded yet regal figure at the door took a step forward. “I am here about…”
“I know. You must be here for Kalida, right? Are you her father?”
The figure at the door blinked at Shelly in surprise. “Yes…I am. How did you know? You have spoken to Kalida?”
“Of course. She’s my roommate.”
“Shelly, who is it?” Kalida flew over, then stopped, slowly floating to the ground. “Hello, Father.”
“Kalida.” The figure turned to address her. “The watchers have reported to me that you have gotten along much better during your time here on earth. They say that you have learned even to work in a small business. I take it this is the small business?”
“Very well. Based on your willingness to finally humble yourself and help others, as of now, your punishment is ended. You may come home.”
“Really?” Kalida said, brightening. Then she paused. “Can I come back to visit Shelly sometimes?”
Kalida’s father turned to look at the human standing next to his daughter. “Of course not. You won’t have time for that. Now come along, daughter. Your mother and siblings are waiting for you.”
“But nothing. I am your father and your king. Come with me, now.”
“Oh…” Kalida said, her wings drooping. “Let me get my things…”
“What things? Surely there is nothing worthwhile to hold onto in this human realm. Everything you need is at home.”
Kalida looked at Shelly miserably. “But…”
“Why are you delaying, child?” the king said, visibly irritated. “I sent you here to learn some lessons, but it is time to go home and take on some duties. It’s time to consider your marriage.”
“My what?” Kalida screeched.
“You’re about the right age. And so is Duke Wally.”
Shelly had heard of Duke Wallly. Kalida told Shelly several months ago on a rainy night about the fairy duke she had been betrothed to since birth.
“Wally’s pretty nice,” Kalida said. “I wouldn’t mind marrying him, except for…”
“His uber-traditional, strict parents. I know that once I’m married to Wally, they will never let me out of the home. They think that fairy duchesses have to stay in the palace all day and attend to ‘duties.’ To tell the truth, that’s one of the things I dread most about going home. Not being able to ever come out again.”
Now, Shelly watched Kalida’s wing tips tremble as she made to follow her father.
“Wait!” Shelly said.
Kalida and her father turned to look at her.
“I haven’t made my four wishes yet.”
“What?” the king said.
“The four wishes Kalida must give me before she leaves. It’s part of the rules,” Shelly said. The rules which, as Kalida had explained to her before, had been made up by her father, the fairy king, and were therefore unbreakable. For in fairy realm, the king’s word was law.
“Well hurry up and make them, then,” the king said, tapping his foot impatiently.
Kalida looked at Shelly hopefully.
“My four wishes are: 1) I wish that Kalida can come to visit me sometime in the Spring, when she wants to. 2) I wish that Kalida can come to visit me sometime in the Fall, if she wants to. 3) I wish that Kalida can come visit me sometime in the Winter, if she wants to. And 4) I wish that Kalida can come visit me sometime in the Summer, if she wants to.”
“What?” the king roared. “What kind of wishes are those? You can’t make those kinds of wishes. After Kalida is married her in-laws–”
“After Kalida is married, the rules set by Your Majesty still apply, even to her in-laws,” Shelly said. “And these wishes are perfectly in line with the stipulations. They don’t cost $100, it’s not yet 10pm, I’m not wishing for more wishes, and I’ve spoken them, so no take backs.”
“I…I…” the king started
A corner of Kalida’s mouth started to lift, and then she flew up on her tiptoes.
“You’re the best!” she said.
“Hmph,” the king said. “Very well, then. Your wishes shall be granted. Come, daughter.” Without looking to see if Kalida was following, he swept off the porch and into the street.
Kalida started to follow, then turned back to smile at Shelly. “You were brilliant. Thank you so much for using your wishes to let me come back.” Then her smile faded. “But, you didn’t use any of your wishes on yourself.”
“What are you talking about?” Shelly said. “I used all of them on myself.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I don’t want tasty food, or presents, or anything…I’ve only ever wanted one thing.”
“What is that?”
Shelly grinned. “A friend.”
Kalida flew back and gave Shelly a hug. “I will always be your friend.” She fluttered through the door and at the edge of the sidewalk, turned and waved at Shelly. “I will come back and see you soon, my friend!”
Shelly waved back, and watched as Kalida flew off into the distance.
Then she went upstairs and smiled fondly at the blue flowerpot. “See you soon.”