Anyway, this is the beginning of Djinnocide after the rewrite had I just finished before the HV submission window opened. So, basically, no one has seen this polished version in its entirety. Tada! (Unlike the last few Beginnings posts, this is not the whole first chapter - just the first few pages.)
No one ever asked me if I wanted to be a genie. I never even thought such a thing was possible. I was a modern woman living in the Roaring Twenties. Against my mother’s wishes, I wore my hair and my skirts short. I drank at speakeasies. I danced with gangsters. Hell, I even smoked for petesakes. After surviving for almost two whole decades, I had certainly aged too far to believe in fairy stories anymore.
My father, Reggie, he was the dreamer in the family. He was the one always looking for the next big thing and if he could steal it? Well, even better. Me, I spent years looking for the next big party. In fact, I’d been prepping for my own birthday extravaganza when the package arrived. The shipping label said ‘Constantinople’, but whether my thief of a dad could still be found there was anyone’s guess. Odds were he’d moved to the next port of call and his next score. At least he’d bothered to think enough of me to send a gift. After all, it’s not every day a gal turns eighteen.
“Marriageable age,” my mother mumbled at me that morning in lieu of a more sentimental greeting. She’d meant ‘well past the age of finding a husband’ if her previous birthday greetings were any indication. She wanted me married and out of the house before I could graduate high school. To Evangeline’s thinking, she should’ve had at least a couple grandchildren bouncing on her alcoholic knee by the time I reached this age.
I didn’t care about her whims. Lucky for me neither did Reggie. As he often told his dear wife, “Josephine Eugenia Mayweather will marry when she damned well pleases”. I mentally amended that to add ‘if ever’.
If the gifts he sent from abroad were any indication, I’d have no problems in life if I joined the family business. How hard could stealing really be? Reggie didn’t seem too taxed on his infrequent visits home. In his words, he only had the law to worry about and they hadn’t nabbed him yet.
Prison didn’t scare me. Not then. I was young. I was invincible. And I planned to tell Reggie that I was his new partner as soon as possible. If he couldn’t come home for my birthday, I’d go to him. I imagined myself demanding my place in his life. He could teach me how to relieve the world of its monetary burdens.
I was an adult. I would do as I damn well pleased. A fact I planned on telling Evangeline, as soon as my party guests left. I’d board a tramp steamer before the month was finished.
But even before that, I had a package to open.
The small box, wrapped in brown paper tied with twine, sat on the foyer table—waiting for me when I returned from a late lunch with friends. They left with promises to return later and ruin the party for me. Such good friends I had then. The quicker they raided Evangeline’s special plans, the quicker I could start my new life.
I called out to tell her I was home, but she was either soaking her brain in absinthe or sleeping off an earlier drunk. Servants scurried around the place, preparing. Somewhere deeper in the apartment, duck and pheasant and veal waited to be consumed. My stomach rumbled. Too bad for it my curiosity overwhelmed my appetite.
Grabbing Reggie’s gift, I raced up the grand staircase to my room. I kicked off my Mary Janes and flopped onto the impossibly-girly canopy bed my mother thought proper for a female child. Unconcerned with any black smudges the box left, I pushed it across the silk bedspread Reggie sent from the Orient as last year’s gift and wrestled the twine free. The paper tore away to lay forgotten on a goose-down pillow. Packing material tumbled from the upended box along with a beige envelope.
Reggie’s bold strokes graced the front: To my dearest Daughter. I pushed it aside. Time enough later for his birthday wishes. I took comfort in the certainty his note only contained professions of a father’s love—perhaps along with when he would be home again. I knew he loved me. Whether he actually made it home according to his schedule was a crapshoot.
My eyes centered again on the package’s contents. Peeking hesitantly from the remaining shreds of paper, lay a rosewood box. I didn’t have Reggie’s knowledge of antiques, but I knew a prized piece when I saw it. The carvings were intricate, if a little primitive. The inlays centered in each delicate flower had to be ivory.
I lay there devouring every nook and cranny of its beauty. My fingers itched to trace the designs, but I held back, savoring the visual meal before allowing myself to dive in. I held onto the delicious delay as long as I could, teasing my innate impatience until I couldn’t stand myself anymore. I reached out, caressing the silky wood the way a loving hand might slip tenderly over its lady’s cheek.
A gentle breeze ruffled the bangs across my forehead as I lifted the lid. I stifled my disappointment when I realized the box itself had been my only present. Not that it wasn’t a really lovely gift, I’d just hoped to find at least a necklace nestled in a velvet interior.
“Expecting baubles perhaps, my young Master?” said a voice from behind me. No sooner had the words hit my ears then the box filled with a rainbow’s worth of light and color. I flung the possessed thing away, scattering gems of every size and shape across my bed. A single emerald the size of a walnut teetered on the edge for a second and then dropped, clattering on the floor below.