“And I want my grandparents to come back to life.” My cousin’s words ring in my ears. It’s like all of the air is sucked out of the room.
“Done.” The genie picks at her nails and turns to me. “Two wishes left for you. What do you want?”
My brain locks up. “Our grandparents are alive? Just like that?”
“Yes, that’s how wishes work.”
“But where are they?” Ness asks. She’s on her feet, eyes ringed red. Her car keys jangle in her hand.
“Wherever they were before.”
Ness grabs my arm with her cold fingers. “Jessica, wish for them to be here.”
“Don’t you want to see them?”
“They–they’re supposed to be dead.”
“Do you want them to be dead? I brought them back. They’ll be happy. Everyone will be happy.”
“I miss them too, Ness, but they’re supposed to be dead. Bringing them back…it’s not right.”
Ness’s grip tightens on my arm. “Please, Jessica. Wish for them to be here.”
“But what if?” The words stick in my throat. What if they’re decomposing? “How are we going to tell everyone that they’re not dead anymore?”
“We show them the lamp. And grandma and grandpa can explain it to them. Please, Jessica.”
My stomach twists so tight I’m not sure if it will ever untangle itself. “I wish our grandparents who you just brought back to life were standing in this basement, healthy and not d-decomposing.”
The genie, who had been completely ignoring our conversation, perks up. “Done.”
One second its the three of us, and then my grandparents are sitting on their ugly paisley couch. Just like that. As if they had been there the entire time. They barely have a moment to breathe before Ness is charging at them, trying to hug them. I stand back, scanning their skin for any sores. They don’t look pale or blue. Their eyes don’t look cloudy. But they aren’t smiling.
Grandma speaks first, “Ness? Where are we? Why are you crying?” Not a hair on her white head is out of place. She’s still wearing her nice navy dress, her funeral dress.
I jump in before Ness can. “What’s the last thing that you guys remember?”
Grandpa pushes his brown, oval glasses up his nose. “We were in bed about to fall asleep. Then we were ended up here. Did we sleep walk?”
“I told you you’re getting dementia.” Grandma put her hand on grandpa’s. “We were falling asleep. Then we heard you two rustling around. We came down here to see if you needed anything and…” Grandma’s brow wrinkles. She looks at the genie.
I hold my breath, waiting for her to ask. Instead she turns back to Ness. “What are you girls doing in our basement? Why are our boxes out?”
Ness shakes her head. “It doesn’t matter. You’re here now.”
“Where else would we be?” Grandpa huffs.
Grandma swats his hand. “Frankly, you girls are scaring us. What’s gotten into you two?”
“You were dead.” Why did I have to tell them? Why couldn’t Ness own up? My stomach drops at the horror on their faces.
Grandpa sticks his tongue in his cheek, his thinking face. “That’s not possible.”
I grab the genie lamp out of the box, ignoring the genie’s glare. “We found this and used it.”
“Oh.” Grandma won’t look at me.
“We-we thought you’d be happy,” Ness explains. “Everyone misses you.”
Silence settles over us. The seconds stretch on. Grandma doesn’t look up, but Grandpa holds her hand tight. I feel Ness dissolving beside me. Her shoulders shake with grief. I want it to end. I want our grandparents to say something, to go upstairs and hug my aunt and make cookies. I want that family reunion Ness was talking about. But it doesn’t feel right.
“Are you going to make your third wish?” the genie sighs.
Grandma jumps. “You didn’t use it yet?”
“No.” I didn’t want to yet either. I don’t know what to wish for, and I can’t think straight.
“Honey,” Grandma reaches for me.
I try not to shrink back. Her hand looks wrinkled and normal, but what if she feels dead? Swallowing the bile that rises in my throat, I lightly put my hand in hers. It’s warm. I feel her heartbeat beneath her skin. She’s not like a zombie or a vampire or a ghost. She’s really alive again.
“Wish for a wonderful life or happiness or love. It’s your last wish. Don’t waste it.” Grandma pats my hand.
She’s really here. The surreal sheen that had fallen over the past twenty minutes after seeing the genie finally falls away. They are here, and they’re going to have a reunion tonight. They’re going to be at my wedding. They’re going to meet my kids. They’re going to be alive.
I turn back to the genie. “How long?”
“Do you wish to know how long your grandparent’s have?”
“Can’t you just tell me?”
“Fine. I wish to have a long and happy life.”
“Done.” The genie shimmers, turning back into smoke.
I don’t feel different. I don’t feel healthier. And when I turn back to the empty couch with two butt imprints still mushed into the cushions, I don’t feel happy.
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