exactly what I mean. Three days ago, I couldn’t write a song to save my life, and just now he asked me to play a professional gig with him. And don’t try telling me all that stuff happened by itself, because there is no way.”
“Oh, that,” he said. “It was nothing. Just a little suggestion here and there. I
have put it into George’s head that he should
pay attention to the girl playing the guitar before the rehearsal started. And I
have arranged for his original opener to land a headlining gig at another venue on the same night. It was just a matter of creating the right circumstances.”
“But I didn’t wish for all that,” I said, alarmed by how blasé he was acting. “What’s the catch?”
“There’s no catch,” he said. “You have to understand, my magic is bound by the actual words you speak, but as long as I don’t directly contradict those words, I can embellish your wish as much as I want to. I saw in your mind that you want to impress George, and since that was in keeping with what you wished for, I figured, why not?”
Oliver was right. I did want to impress George—I’d wanted that ever since the day I’d first met him and seen firsthand how talented he was, and even more since he’d complimented my work in
. But that wasn’t the point. I’d thought so carefully about what I’d wanted that first wish to be, and he’d turned it into something else entirely.
“You could have warned me,” I said, letting an edge of accusation creep into my tone.
“I thought it’d be a nice surprise,” he said—then narrowed his eyes. After a second, he said, “Ah. You don’t like being taken by surprise, do you.”
I didn’t reply. It was true, but when he said it out loud, it sounded kind of dumb.
“You like to know what’s coming,” he continued. “You like to have a plan for everything.”
I lowered my eyes, embarrassed by how easily he was summing me up. “I’m just saying,” I said, more to the pavement than to him, “you could have warned me.”
“And you could have said no.”
“Just now, when George asked you to open for him. Just a hunch, but I’m guessing he didn’t have a gun to your head. You could have said no.” Oliver’s lips curled into a smug smile. “But you said yes, didn’t you.”
“Well, obviously,” I said, throwing my hands up in exasperation. “It’s the South Star. Who says no to that?”
want to play the gig?”
“Of course I do!”
“Then what’s the problem?”
I stared at him, all smug and proud and still completely missing the point. But as I opened my mouth to give him a piece of my mind, I realized that somewhere in there, I’d lost track of what the point actually was. Here, in front of me, was a real live genie who’d not only granted my wish, but made it bigger than I’d ever imagined it could be . . . and I was annoyed about being taken by surprise?
“Why did you do it?” I asked, my voice coming out small.
“Well, this is kind of my last hurrah, so I wanted to do something big.” He went quiet, his smugness falling away as he scraped the heel of one boot against the pavement. “And because I thought you’d like it. It was supposed to be a gift.”
I blinked at him, completely floored. “A gift? For me?”
He rolled his eyes theatrically. “No, for George.
And then, before I even knew what I was going to do, I was on my tiptoes with one hand curved around the back of Oliver’s neck, and my lips pressed against his.
They felt like regular lips, without the tingling warmth I’d felt in his fingertips, but even so, a thrill rushed through me as I took in the thin shape of his mouth, the hint of roughness above his upper lip, and the way he was pushing into me—
Or pushing me away?
I thought, as I realized what I’d just done. I pulled away, taking a few hasty steps back to put some distance between us, and covered my mouth
Nonna Bannister, Denise George, Carolyn Tomlin