“Wi-shes!” The market trader had a booming voice, far louder than any other in the market. “Get yer wishes fulfilled ‘ere!”
I faltered, red wine hangover adding to my confusion. The thump, thump, thump in my head meant I couldn’t be certain what I’d just heard. After all, I’d only popped out to remedy the empty void that was my fridge and was in no state to cope with anything out of the ordinary quite yet.
The rest of Surrey Street market seemed perfectly normal. “Pep-pers! Five fer a pahnd!” shouts competed above the cheerful and expected din. Enticing aromas from my favourite doughnut stall tested my self-control as they did every Saturday. No, everything was quite normal. I had clearly misheard him.
“Wi-shes! Yer dream come true for very reasonable prices!”
Impulsively, I walked over to the stall. There was nothing noteworthy about it at first glance — it was of the usual canvas, metal and chipboard construction. Its owner looked no different from any other trader — jeans, sweater, thick long coat to keep out the January cold and no distinguishing features. The only thing out of the ordinary was the large leather-bound book with an ornate metal clasp in place of the expected produce display.
“Mornin’, love!” The trader said cheerfully as I approached.
The throbbing in my temples grew stronger as I squinted suspiciously at him. “I’m sorry, I must have misheard you. Did you say you sold wishes?”
He laughed. It was a big hearty laugh as if it was the most ludicrous thing he’d heard all day, which I suppose it probably was. I even started to laugh nervously along with him. Insanity was contagious.
“No, I don’t sell wishes. I fulfil wishes,” he said.
“What… any wishes? Winning the lottery, World Peace?”
“Well, I can do, but those kind of wishes tend to be quite pricey and there’s not much trade in them. In fact,” he laughed again, pre-empting his own joke, “you’d have had to have won the lottery many times over to afford World Peace. I tend to deal on a much smaller scale. Falling in love, small windfalls, improved careers… that kind of thing.” He peered intensely at me.
I squirmed under his gaze. It felt like he was inspecting my soul. “So you’re a genie, then?”
Another ear-splitting laugh. “People have called me worse names, love, so I suppose that will do. Now, can I interest you in any wish fulfilment this morning? Perhaps something for that broken heart you’re carrying around? Like him back, would you?”
I gasped and took a step back. How did he know? Mark’s face swam into view along with a replay of the bitter argument from the evening before. I shook my head free of the image and blinked back angry tears. I was not going to cry in front of this madman. “No, I don’t want him back,” I said, a little more fiercely than I had intended.
“Oh,” he said softly. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Actually,” I said. “I’d just like the pain to stop. I don’t want to have to live through months of getting over him. He’s not worth it. That’s my wish.” I folded my arms resolutely and looked around for the hidden camera. Might as well ham up my pain for whatever stupid TV show this was going to be on.
His eyes glinted a little as he turned and undid the metal clasp of the book. “That’ll be a tenner,” he said and started writing meticulously with a biro.
Ten pounds? I shrugged and got out my purse. It was probably worth it for the most elaborate set-up I had ever seen. I idly wondered when the show would air as I passed the note over and watched him place it carefully inside a cash box extracted from somewhere underneath the stall.
“Nice doing business with you,” he said.
I paused for a moment, waiting for the presenter and a cameraman to jump out from behind the doughnut stall but no-one came. “I need another drink,” I muttered to no-one in particular, turned my back on the stall and crossed the road to the pub. The shopping could wait.
It was over quickly. I never saw the bus.
Georgina Allen is a writer, a fighter and a geek.
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