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The Fourth Wish: Chapter 23 - Secrets Shared

Elizabeh Varadan brings her story for children of all ages to a satisfying conclusion.

To begin reading this tale all over again just click on The Fourth Wish in the menu on this page. Give yourself a festive treat!

“So, my mom wouldn’t let me call you,” Melanie explained the next afternoon, after telling Jenny all about Mondo’s magic show. “I know I promised,” she apologized.

They were in her room, cross-legged on the floor next to Melanie’s bed, their presents from each other beside them: They had both given each other Race to Tomorrow posters. In Jenny’s, Travis Heartworth sat at the wheel of his red Corvette, fastening the chin strap of his crash helmet. In Melanie’s, he stood by his car, surveying the race track, helmet in hand. In the living room, Cory and Arthur were playing a new Vance Klorg video game with eight levels of space crimes to solve. Erin had taken her new Barbie next door to show Gloria.

“My mom wouldn’t have let me come over anyway,” said Jenny. “Not on Christmas Eve.”

“Pete promised me he’ll do his show for you, though.”

“Really?” Jenny squealed.

Melanie enjoyed the tingle of importance that knowing a magician gave her. “Really.”

“So, which trick was the best, anyway? Was the rabbit trick any better this time?”

Melanie grew cautious. “Kind of.” She hated not being able to tell her friend everything. After a pause, she said, “Jenny?”

“Yeah?”

“Can you…keep a secret?”

“On my honor, hope to die.” Jenny put a hand over her heart.

“No. I mean this is a weird secret. You probably won’t even believe me.”

“I’ll believe you.” Jenny put a finger against her eyelid. “Stick a needle in my eye.”

“Because I’d feel bad if you didn’t?” worried Melanie. “And then you told everyone at school I’d made up this story?”

“You’re my best friend. I know you wouldn’t make anything up. What happened?” Jenny’s face turned solemn.

“Okay, here goes.” Melanie leaned closer and lowered her voice, as if their entire sixth grade were outside in the hall, ears to the wall. “You know last Saturday when we went to see Race to Tomorrow?” She took a deep breath and began to tell her friend everything that had happened since then.

Jenny only interrupted her once to ask for a description of Mrs. Seraphina. “I think I saw her in the park yesterday, after we brought you home,” she told Melanie.

“What were you doing in the park?”

Jenny sighed. “My mother and my aunt asked me to take the Three Terrors outside for awhile so they could cook dinner in peace. Go on, though,” she prodded. “Pete lost his magic, and then what?”

When Melanie was finished, Jenny kept staring at her, her eyes dark pools of thought. “Where does Pete think Lucky has been all that time?” she finally asked.

Melanie giggled. “He has this really complicated explanation? He says she must have hopped into the wrong compartment in his trunk when he was packing up Saturday. He thinks he didn’t notice because he was so upset when Mr. Cottler fired him.”

“Five days with no food? That rabbit would be dead!”

“Pete says he probably opened the trunk accidentally after he got home and didn’t notice when she hopped out, since he was still upset.”

Jenny rolled her eyes. “Pete sure doesn’t notice much!”

“Well, he has to explain it to himself some way. He says Lucky was never yelled at before, and after all the shouting from Mr. Cottler, she must have stayed in hiding all this time in the apartment until she got over it.”

“Like, she ate leftovers when Pete wasn’t looking?”

“I guess.” Melanie didn’t like the look on her friend’s face. “I told you his explanation was kind of complicated. He probably wouldn’t believe us if we tried to tell him what really happened.” She found she was talking fast. “Even we don’t know where Lucky was all that time. Mrs. Seraphina never would tell us….”

“Melanie?”

“Yeah?”

“Like...we’re best friends, right?”

“Yeah?”

“And... you wouldn’t play a trick on me, would you?”

Melanie’s cheeks grew hot. “Why would I play a trick on you?”

“I’m just asking, okay? You have to admit it’s a lot to believe.”

“Didn’t I say it would be hard to believe?” Melanie jumped up, feeling betrayed. “Here, just ask Cory!” She strode to the door. “Co-ree.... Arthur....” she yelled.

“Just a minute!” Cory’s voice floated down the hall. There was the twinging computer sound of somebody scoring, followed by a muffled exclamation.

“Cory, didn’t Mrs. Seraphina grant all of us wishes? And didn’t it mess up Pete’s magic? And….”

Both boys were at the doorway.

“Duh, Melanie, just blab everything,” said Arthur.

“Tell everybody our business,” Cory fumed.

“See?” she told Jenny, who had gotten up and come to the door.

But Jenny wanted to hear the whole story again from the boys.

Cory started. Halfway through, Arthur took over. He dragged out his own wish, Melanie noticed, making himself look like some kind of genius. Still, watching her friend’s face, she could tell Jenny believed every word this time. All four of them were sitting on the rug.

“Can I see one of the boxes?” asked Jenny. Melanie got up and took hers out of the top drawer.

Jenny held it for a long moment, turning it and rubbing the smooth orange surface before handing the box back with a sigh. “I never have anything exciting happen to me,” she said, as Melanie put it away again. “I’ve been stuck with the Three Terrors this week, and you’ve all been having nothing but fun!”

“Nothing but headaches,” Melanie corrected her.

“Yeah, you should try being chased by someone who wants to cream you for sure,” said Cory.

“You even saw a more exciting show than I did Saturday,” Jenny complained. She wrinkled her brow. “How could we have seen such different magic shows?”

Arthur preened. “Simultaneous universes,” he declared. “Both shows were going on at the same time, only in different universes.”

Jenny’ furrowed her brow. “How would that work, though?”

“Hmmm,” said Arthur.

“I don’t think we’ll ever know,” Melanie said, and she felt a familiar prickle of annoyance. “Mrs. Seraphina never explains anything.” “Anyway,” said Arthur, changing the subject, “Pete’s going to teach me a couple of his magic tricks.”

“Me, too,” said Cory.

“See?” Jenny told Melanie. “All of you are so lucky!”

“I can ask him to teach you some tricks,” Melanie offered. Knowing Pete seemed to be turning into an unexpected prize. Her thoughts drifted from Pete to her father then, and she pursed her lips. Not everything was turning out so lucky. Her father had phoned first thing this morning to wish them Merry Christmas, and that Dorothy woman had chimed in on another extension. Just poking into their Christmas like that.

Jenny’s words interrupted Melanie’s thoughts: “You know, it probably was Mrs. Seraphina I saw in the park yesterday.”

“Did she have white hair and a black cape?” asked Cory.

“Mm-hmm. And this really weird cane. Sort of like a big stick?”

They all nodded.

“I thought she was a bag lady,” said Jenny. “I thought she was talking to herself at first, but she was really talking to me. She said it twice, too. She looked straight at me the second time.”

“What did she say?” asked Melanie.

“It didn’t make any sense.”

“That’s how Mrs. Seraphina talks,” Melanie assured her. “Like she’s telling your fortune.”

“What did she say?” Cory pursued.

Jenny paused. “See, I was kind of mad at Victor for not getting off the swings when it was time to go home? And, well, my grandmother kind of favors him. She likes him better than me. Like, he can’t do anything wrong. But if I do something, it’s always wrong....”

Arthur blew his lips out, making a noise like a car muffler. “Why do girls have to tell every little detail that doesn’t even matter?”

“But listen,” said Jenny. “So, I was yelling at him to get off the swings, okay? Because he was going higher and higher, which was dangerous. And I told him if our grandmother saw him going so high like that, she wouldn’t think he was so cute. Even though she probably would. But that was when this little old lady came by. It probably was Mrs. Seraphina….”

Arthur pressed his fingers against his lower cheeks until his mouth bulged out like fish lips. “Blub-blub-blub,” he gurgled, then dropped his hands. “Can’t you just tell us what she said?”

“Well, I’m coming to that.” Jenny cleared her throat. “She said, ‘Spring is a good time of year to take care of things. The lilies are so pretty.’ And then she gave me this... nod. Is that weird?”

Melanie stared at Jenny. “That’s exactly what she said to us yesterday!” She looked around at the others. “At Daisy’s, remember?”

Arthur gave a mad cackle and lowered his head in his hands, hunching his shoulders and still cackling. When he looked up again, his eyelids were turned inside out.

“We haven’t seen the last of Mrs. Seraphina!” he hissed.

Cory snickered. Both girls groaned.

“Who do you think you are,” asked Jenny. “Dracula?”

“Get a life, Arthur, added Melanie.

But, as it turned out, Arthur was right.

© Elizabeth Varadan 2006

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