I wrote this last year as a blog post for a crisis center I used to volunteer for. You can find the original, unedited version at www.imalive.com, and a good resource for mental health crisis as well. For this little blog, I cleaned it up slightly to celebrate that tomorrow, February 26th, is National Fairy Tale Day. I love me a good fairy tale. Stella and her Djinn are characters I want to play with more, but for now I encourage you all to write a little fairy tale of your own and celebrate tomorrow. (Apologies for the formatting. The preview does not look like the published version no matter what I do!)
Happiness for Stella
By Natalie Dumas-Heidt
The frosty drizzle coming from the grey blanket above me was fitting for the day I was having. Once upon a time life had been good but that life had been ruined. Today started with a broken shoelace and that was followed by spilling my much-needed, extra large latte. Yesterday my cat watched a mouse run across our counter and then went back to his own breakfast like it wasn’t his job to be concerned. Tuesday was the kicker though. Chris left on Tuesday. Packed up and moved out with barely a goodbye, and now he’s in the Bahama’s sitting on the beach with his chiropractor’s receptionist.
A cold wind pushed my umbrella inside out and the drizzle turned to penetrating rain. I ducked into the first shop on my right, my broken umbrella dripping on the tile floor. I stared at it and the growing puddle, lost.
“Trade ya?” A young man with kohl black hair smiled at me, holding out a clear vinyl umbrella with a shiny pink handle. My hesitation made him chuckle. “Free of charge. You look like you need it more than I do.”
“Um…thanks,” I stammered. I took in the look of the young man in front of me. He was tall, probably over six feet. Definitely taller than Chris. His dark hair was long enough to hang in his eyes, and his grin was punctuated by two dimples. I would guess he was in his twenties, but his purple silk paisley shirt screamed ‘I rocked this in the seventies.’ I swapped him for the new umbrella and followed him to a cashier’s counter where he ceremoniously dropped my old one into a trash can too small to adequately hold it.
“Take a look around.” He brushed his dark hair off his forehead. “We might have something else that strikes your fancy.” He smiled and I was drawn into the warmth of it. His eyes flashed in the most enchanting shade of green I’d ever seen. “The umbrella is still on the house though.”
Knick-knacks, vintage clothes, and boxes of vinyl records were stacked throughout the small shop without much order. It was exactly the kind of shop that Chris would have hated. ‘Other people’s garbage’ he would have called it. I loved it. Each gob of rhinestones with a pin back, every porcelain cat, had a story. I ran my fingers across baubles stacked amongst teacups as I walked, stopping when my hand landed on a bejeweled teapot sitting on a collection of old VHS tapes. A surge of electricity jumped through my fingertips. At the same moment the shopkeeper was at my side.
“I thought it might be you.” He grinned and his green eyes lit up again.
“Me? What might be me?”
“My lamp tends to call people in on occasion. They always find it when they need it.”
I laughed nervously, unsure if this was his attempt at a pick-up line. Who tries to woo a girl with a lamp covered in plastic gems? “I thought it was my broken umbrella that brought me in?”
“Nope. It was the lamp. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories – three wishes, no more than three, and your wishes can’t be wishes for more wishes.”
“Don’t I have to rub it first and wait for the Genie to pop out?”
“I’m already out. Haven’t lived in there in a long time. Found myself a bigger place with rent control.”
“You? You’re a Genie?” I couldn’t help but match his grin. His playfulness was catching.
“Ah, well…Genie, Djinn, tomato, potato. It’s all close enough. The rules are the same. You found the lamp, you touched the lamp, now I get to give you three wishes.”
Thoughts raced through my mind like wild butterflies and the prospects of this being real. Was he flirting or could he really grant me wishes? At a minimum could playing along get newly single me at least a coffee date? With that smile, those eyes, I’d take a coffee date. “Alright, I’ll play. I only have one wish.”
“Just one?” He cocked an eyebrow, disbelieving.
“Yep. I want to be happy. Always. No sadness, no depression, just happy.”
“All rainbows and dragonflies, huh? That’s the best you’ve got? C’mon! I can make you famous. I can make you rich. I can make chocolate a health food. Let’s hear it.”
“Happy. That’s what I want. I’m tired of broken hearts. I’m tired of being sad. I just want to be happy. All happy, all the time.”
His electric green eyes swept over my face. I felt like he was looking into the core of my being. Uncomfortable with the concern, I shifted out from under his gaze. “How will you know?” he asked finally.
“How will I know?”
“It’s a simple question.”
“Right now I’m sad. Yesterday, I was sad. I don’t need sad; I just want to be happy.”
“But what does that mean; to be happy?”
I laughed at the ridiculousness of his question, and his eyes crinkled in the corners as he smiled back at me. “Happy is the opposite of what I am right now. Happy is not being dumped by the boyfriend who promised to take you to Paris this summer. Happy is not looking at the prospect of going to your best friend’s wedding in two weeks without the Plus One you RSPV’d for.”
“Alright, but how would you know? If you’ve never been anything else how will you know happy? And what level of happy do you want to be set at? Perfect coffee happy? Ecstatically happy? Room full of puppies happy? Great sex happy? There are flowers and rainbows because there are dark skies and rainstorms. The world would be flat and grey otherwise.”
“I thought you were a Genie…”
“Djinn,” he corrected.
“Potato,” I returned. “It’s my wishes, right?”
“Just think about it first, is all I’m asking.” He was so sincere, his green eyes almost pleading, that I stopped. I took in all that he’d said and let it tumble around in my brain. Was I asking for the right thing? Was he right? Would I lose knowing the difference between good coffee and holding a Goldendoodle? Would it be worth the risk if it meant not knowing heartache?
“You can make chocolate healthy, huh?”