Vivian Prescott paused in front of The Olde Book Shoppe display window. She was an avid antique collector. When she saw the antique bottles in the display window, she was inclined to go in and have a closer look. She looked at her watch to make sure she had enough time before her train departed for her home in Arlington Heights.
The little bell over the front door jingled merrily as she entered. As she closed the door she heard someone shuffling across the floor boards in an adjacent room. The curtain to the back room parted and Morris, the proprietor, entered. “Good afternoon, my dear. How may I be of assistance?”
“Good afternoon . . . ?”
“My name is Morris.”
“Good afternoon, Morris. I noticed the antique bottles in your display window. May I have a closer look?”
“Yes, indeed you may. The display window is unlocked. Just open it and help yourself. There are more bottles on the far wall which may also be of interest to you. Just take your time and let me know if you require assistance.”
“Thank you, Morris, I will.” She smiled and turned to the display window. She was charmed by the elderly Morris, peering happily over the gold-rimmed eyeglasses perched on the end of his nose. His dated wearing attire reminded her of another time, another place.
After examining the bottles in the display window, she turned to the shelf Morris had pointed out to her. As she approached the far wall of the bookshop, she was immediately drawn to a well-shaped bottle of Aquamarine color, laced beautifully with cyan and deep marine blues. She surveyed the entire collection but always returned to this particular bottle. At last, she could not resist picking it up and smoothing her hands over the comely contours.
As she did so, the bottle shook slightly which surprised her. When she set the bottle back on the shelf, she felt a presence behind her. “Morris, this is such . . .” as she turned around she saw a tall, handsome, well-dressed, middle-aged man smiling at her. “Oh, I thought Morris was here.”
“My name is Daniel. Thank you for releasing me from the bottle.”
“Releasing you from the what?”
“From the bottle. I’ve been in there for ages, and I appreciate being released to assist you with three wishes.”
“You’re kidding me?” Vivian smiled as her streetwise wisdom kicked in.
“No, I am not kidding. You rubbed the Aquamarine bottle you just set down, did you not?”
“Yes, but . . . are you trying to tell me you’re a genie?” Vivian was on the verge of laughter.
“I’m not trying to tell you anything. I’m here to grant you three wishes. That is my mission.”
“Well, thank you very much, whatever your name is, but I’m fresh out of wishes. You’re very charming but this won’t work. I’m not interested. I have no spare change for you. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” Vivian stepped around the handsome man.
“Please, miss, if you don’t allow me to grant your three wishes, I will be destined to stay in the bottle longer, and I’m tired of being there.”
“I’m very sorry about your plight, but again, I’m not interested.” Vivian moved toward the front door. The sadness in the tone of his voice caused her to stop.
Daniel came up behind her, “They can be any wishes you like. I have the power to fulfill them.” He was on the verge of pleading with her.
Vivian turned. “Well, if you have so much power, why don’t you wish yourself out of the bottle — for good?”
“That I am not able to do. It is part of my punishment.”
“Punishment? What are you being punished for?”
Daniel did not answer. He looked down and away.
“Come on. . . what did you say your name was?”
“My name is Daniel, Vivian.” he looked into her stern, uncompromising face.
“How did you know my name?” She held her shoulder bag closer, thinking he may have been able to look inside.
“I knew who you were the moment you picked up the bottle.” He looked expectantly at her. “This won’t take long. Just three wishes and I’ll be gone.”
“So, you don’t want anything from me except three wishes. Do I have that right?”
“Yes, you do,” Daniel smiled.
“Okay, I’ll bite. My first wish is … to have a fierce thunderstorm outside with a gully washer downpour of rain for … two minutes.” She smiled, raised her eyebrows and gazed at Daniel.
Before she closed her mouth there was a blinding flash of lightning followed by several booms of thunder that were so loud the building shook. Vivian’s breath caught as she realized Daniel might not be kidding.
“You have two more wishes, Vivian.” They waited together until the thunder, lightning, and the rain ceased. The sun appeared and brightened the interior of the bookshop.
“Oh, my God, you weren’t kidding.”
“No, I wasn’t. You have two more wishes, please.”
Vivian thought for a moment, “My next wish is that you be released from the Aquamarine bottle forever.”
“I’m sorry, Vivian. That will not be possible. Only wishes applying to you will be granted.
“May I ask you a question?”
“Yes, of course. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.”
“You said you are in the bottle as punishment.”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“What in the world did you do to deserve such a punishment?”
Daniel hesitated. He looked Vivian in the eyes, “I was unfaithful.”
“Oh, dear God in Heaven. I don’t believe this.” She searched Daniel’s handsome face. “How long ago did this happen?”
“A few thousand years ago.” Daniel’s face could not hide his sadness. “You still have two more wishes, Vivian.”
“How long before you are released from this curse?” Her curiosity was piqued.
“Each time I am able to grant three wishes, the time allotment is reduced considerably.”
“Is there’s no way to null and void the punishment immediately?”
“There is, but I’m not allowed to speak of it.”
Vivian stood staring at Daniel. She turned and shouted, “Morris! Are you there?”
“No,” Daniel urged, “you cannot bring someone else into this.”
“Wanna bet?” Vivian heard Morris moving across the wooden floor.
The partition curtain parted, “Yes, my dear?”
Vivian looked around – Daniel was gone. She walked over to the shelf holding the antique bottles and pointed to the Aquamarine bottle. “This bottle, Morris.”
“Yes, it’s quite beautiful. Were you interested in purchasing it?”
“No, I am not interested in purchasing it. Would you mind telling me what’s going on?”
“I’m not sure what you mean, my dear.”
“Please don’t give me any more of your my dear stuff. You know exactly what’s going on with this bottle, don’t you?”
Morris strolled into the room and stopped in front of the very annoyed Vivian, “Yes, my dear. I do know.”
“Well, would you mind enlightening me?”
“I can, but you may not appreciate the answer,” Morris smiled.
“Go ahead, Morris, give it a try.” The condescending tone of her voice surprised even her.
Morris sat down at the nearby table, sighed, and invited Vivian to join him. “I’ve known Daniel for a very long time. It is terribly sad. His punishment for being unfaithful is justified. He will agree with that.”
“Has he learned his lesson?” Vivian was somewhat smug in her street-wise comment.
“Oh, yes, he has learned his lesson.”
“Then why does his punishment, this curse, continue?”
“It will end when he is reunited with the person to whom he was unfaithful.”
“Well, that sounds fair. How does she feel about it?”
“That remains to be seen, my dear.”
“Well, for heaven’s sake, why am I involved in this?”
Morris smiled at Vivian and was silent.
“Wait a minute. Are you trying to tell me that I’m . . .” she stared at Morris. “I don’t even know this guy.”
“You can find out by utilizing one of your wishes.”
“And how would I do that?”
“By requesting that you be permitted to join him in the bottle. If you are not the one, your wish will not be granted.”
“And if I am?” Morris was silent. “This is beyond ridiculous.” She got up and almost ran from the building. When she arrived at the Canal Street Bridge she turned around and was shocked to see that the bookshop was not there. “Good riddance,” she muttered as she stared at the blank wall of the parking structure.
Finally, her shoulders sagged in frustration, she turned and walked to the train depot.
The annoying part was that she could not get the image of this sad man out of her brain. Daniel, Daniel – morning, noon, and night. The more she resisted the thought of Daniel, the more entrenched he became. She tried every diversion imaginable, nothing worked.
Out of desperation, she related the incident to her best friend, Gloria. They had been bosom buddies since grade school. They knew each other’s secrets.
“Vivian, what the hell are you complaining about? You say he’s good looking and repentant. With your history of frog kissing, I should think you would have been all over this guy by now. You’re not getting any younger you know.”
Vivian glared at Gloria, “That’s what I like about you. You don’t beat around the bush.”
“How good looking is he?” Gloria smiled with anticipation.
“Oh, God, he’s so beautiful. He’s tall with broad shoulders and the saddest expression on his delicious face you’d ever want to see. Even you would feel motherly toward him.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. How old is he?”
“About my age.”
“That old.” Gloria waited for a retort, which didn’t come.
“Oh Gloria, what am I going to do? I’d let him put his shoes under my bed anytime he wanted to – in my bed if he wanted to.”
“So, he’s that good looking?”
“Yes, but it’s more than that. He oozes goodness. Something I don’t have much of.”
“That’s not true, Viv. You’re a good person and it sounds like a good match. So what’s keeping you from using one of your wishes to be with him — in the bottle?”
“What if he turns out to be a frog?”
“Well, it couldn’t be any worse than that trailer-park-trash you dragged around all of last year.”
“He wasn’t trailer-park-trash. He was just finding himself.”
“Viv, he only had one oar in the water, and you were footing the bill. Come on, this looks like Kismet to me, and you probably will never get another chance like it. Maybe I should go in and rub his bottle.”
“You keep your hands off of his bottle. And I mean it!”
“Ok, ok, ok. But you better make up your mind before someone else drops by that bookshop and gives Aquamarine a stroke or two.”
“You’re hustling me, Gloria. You know I hate that. Why do you persist?”
“Because I love you and I’m tired of hearing how lonely you are.”
“You never were bossy like this before. What happened?
Gloria smiled, “I am not bossy. I just know what you should be doing, as always.”
Vivian glared at her friend, then broke out in laughter. She threw her arms around Gloria and hugged her, “Okay, I’ll go back and make that stupid wish. I just hope Daniel doesn’t laugh at me. Are you satisfied?
“I am indeed. You’ll thank me.”
“I certainly hope so. I just hope the bookshop is there when I return.”
The next day, Vivian came out of the train station on Jackson Boulevard. She paused on the Canal Street Bridge and gave a sigh of relief — the Olde Book Shoppe was there.
She hurried to the front door, stopped, took a deep breath, and then casually entered. The little bell above the door greeted her with the same cheerful tinkle.
She walked over to the shelf with antique bottles. Her bottle was not there. She shouted, “MORRIS!” at the top of your lungs.
“Coming. I’ll be right there.” Vivian heard the familiar shuffling in the back room as Morris neared the entrance to the main room. “Hello, hello. How nice to see you again.”
“Where is it?” she glared at Morris.
“It’s right here, my dear. I put it away for safe keeping. Didn’t want someone else rubbing it before you returned.” He handed the bottle to Vivian, grinning from ear to ear.
“Very funny, Morris. You devil.”
Morris smiled, “Perhaps.” He turned and returned to the back room.
Vivian held the bottle up and gently rubbed its side. She waited. Nothing happened. She rubbed it again, still, nothing happened. She rubbed it a third time – nothing. “MORRIS!”
“I’ll be right there, my dear.”
She heard him shuffle across the floor before he pulled the curtain aside.
“DANIEL!” Vivian shouted in surprise.
Morris smiled, “I rubbed the bottle earlier. I wanted to have a little chat with Daniel before you arrived. And here he is.”
“You are a devil.” Vivian wasn’t sure how she should react.
“Yes, so you’ve said.”
“Hello, Vivian.” Daniel stepped into the room.
“Daniel, I know what my next wish is.”
Daniel looked at her, “And your wish is?”
Tears welled in her eyes, “I want to be with you, in the bottle.”
Daniel was perplexed. “I don’t know. I don’t think that’s possible.” He looked at Morris for an answer.
The Aquamarine bottle slipped from Vivian’s hands and crashed to the floor, breaking into hundreds of pieces. “Oh, my God,” Vivian cried out, “what have I done?” She was beside herself. “I’ve ruined everything, Daniel. I’m so sorry.”
Morris interrupted, “No, you have not ruined anything, my dear.” He looked at Daniel, “The spell has been broken, Daniel. You are free.”
“But I thought …”
“And you thought correctly. But remember, when the one you wronged returns and forgives you, you will be free.” Morris smiled.
“You mean …?” Daniel looked slack-jawed at Vivian.
“It certainly looks that way,” Morris agreed.
He turned to Vivian, “You have forgiven him haven’t you?”
“There is nothing to forgive, Morris. Has he forgiven himself?” Vivien beamed with joy.
“Yes, Morris. Yes, Vivian. I have forgiven myself. Oh, look!” Daniel put his fingers to his eyes, “Tears, at last.”
Morris giggled with joy as he left the room.
“I don’t know what to say, Vivian.” Daniel was perplexed.
“You don’t have to say a word, Daniel. The minute I first laid eyes on you, I knew. I’m not exactly sure what I knew, but I knew something of importance was happening. Come on, let’s go.” She laughed, “We’ll figure it out as we go along.” She opened the bookshop door and paused, “Morris!”
From the back room, “Yes, my dear.”
“You’re not a devil, you’re a beautiful angel, thank you.” She turned and followed Daniel into the sunshine. “Welcome to the 21st Century, Daniel. You’re gonna love it. It will drive you absolutely crazy.” She laughed as she took Daniel’s hand. “Hungry?
“Yes, I am hungry. It’s been a long time,” he laughed.
“Come on, I know the perfect place. The Lola Palooza Soup and Sandwich Bar. Claudette, the barista, is a personal friend of mine. You’ll love her. She’ll take good care of us. Do you like ice cream?”
“I don’t know, Vivian. I can’t remember ever having any.”
“Oh, Daniel. You and I are going to have so much fun.”
They paused when they reached the corner and looked back. The Olde Book Shoppe was gone.