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Scheherazade, the famed Arabian storyteller, had to come up with a thousand and one nights' worth of tales to save herself.
Eden should have it so easy. But at least her life wasn't on the line like Scheherazade's, so that was a plus. Her mind, though, was another matter. There was only so much magic a genie could do to pass three thousand years of confinement and not go mad.
Unwilling to succumb to such madness, Eden flicked her wrists and snapped her fingers, her magic sending the butterflies, hummingbirds, and twirling glass balls she'd bewitched toward the ceiling of her bottle so she could have a better view through the hazy saffron glass. The rain of yet another Pacific Northwest storm streaked the storefront display window she'd inhabited for the last forty-five years, two months, and thirteen days. If the Arabian weaver of tales had used Eden's last half century as the basis of the stories that had saved her life, the poor woman would have been dead before her first sunrise.
"Mornin', babe." Obo, the cat she'd been cursed-or blessed, depending on one's viewpoint-to share this latest part of her penance with, leapt onto the shelf beside her bottle, licking his Egg McMuffin breakfast from his whiskers. The cat was a master forager. "Whatcha lookin' at?"
"Wilson." Eden nodded to the tree in front of the store. She'd watched it grow from a sapling to its current block-the-rest-of-the-world-from-view size for so long that she'd named it.
"Kind of pitiful that you named a tree after a volleyball."
"It worked for Tom Hanks."
"Yeah, but he was stranded on a deserted island. You've got the bustle of the city and hundreds of people right in front of you to keep you company."
Hundreds of people she couldn't interact with. She was on the outside looking in-well, actually, she was on the inside and wanting to get out. But the High Master had sealed her bottle with so much magic that nothing short of an explosion would set her free.
"And me, of course." The cat winked at her, his yellow eyes against his black fur making the motion noticeable.
"You've always got me. I know I'm the bright spot in your day."
"In your dreams, Romeo."
"Speaking of lover-boy, has he been by yet?" Obo nudged the copper ashtray with the mermaid cigarette holder out of the way and curled his tail around her bottle before plunking himself onto his belly. Mr. Murphy, the store owner, hadn't shown up yet, so Obo could get away with hanging out here. Once the man did, however, all bets were off.
It was a sad state of affairs to look forward to these daily chats with Obo, who was high on her list of Least Favorite Beings ever since he'd let her take the fall for his necklace heist from Ramses II's tomb. It showed just how lonely and bored she was that she even deigned to talk to him, let alone looked forward to it. Other than her thoughts and her magic, she had only him to keep her company.
Oh, and "lover-boy" Matt Ewing. Couldn't forget him. And she didn't. He was pretty unforgettable, and heavens knew, she thought about him more than she should.
"No, he hasn't been by. I guess this weather's keeping him inside." Almost every morning, Matt jogged around the corner of the store in those tight, formhugging running clothes. The perspiration slicking his face, that sexy curling hair, the controlled, even grace of his movements had fueled her fantasies ever since Mr. Murphy had moved her glass bottle to the front window.
"Or he could have had a hot date last night and it carried over."
Eden curled her legs under her, the curly toes of her slippers catching on the piping around the edge of the new sofa. She propped her elbow on the back cushion and plopped her chin onto her palm. "Thanks, Obo. That's helpful."
The cat licked his paw and swiped it over his ear. "Just callin' it like I see it."
Eden turned to look at him, brushing a wayward hummingbird out of the way, her gold shackle, er, bracelet flashing in the lone weak beam of sunlight that somehow fought its way through Wilson's leaves and the steady rain. "And how do you see it, Obo? You've been to his house. What's his world like?"
The cat shuddered and tucked his paws beneath his chest. "A damn sight wetter than yours. You should be thankful you're in this place. It's a monsoon out there." The cat could be tight-lipped when he wanted to be. Which was often. All she asked for was news of the outside world and its people, descriptions of the smells and sounds, and the general feeling of being free to come and go as she pleased, but other than getting Matt's name out of Obo, the cat barely shared anything else. He had no idea how lucky he was to have the ability to go where and when he wanted.
She definitely didn't understand why he chose to be here. In this musty old shop, surrounded by things other people wanted to get rid of. How Mr. Murphy stayed in business was beyond her, because most of the stuff had been here as long as she had, and there certainly hadn't been any runs on antique plant stands or tarnished brass headboards.
Flicking her wrists again with the accompanying finger-snap that completed her Way of doing her magic, Eden arced a rainbow from one side of her bottle to the other, the purple ray disappearing into the shadow of the bottle's neck. The butterflies immediately began flying through it, and the hummingbirds raced along the ribbons of color that matched their wings.
She snapped her fingers again, and Humphrey poofed onto her arm like a trained parrot. The dragonlet, a baby dragon about the size of her palm and her latest "foster child," reminded her of Bogart in his early movies, with a long face, high forehead, and large eyes, hence the name, though the dragon's eyes were blue to Bogart's brown. In that, Humphrey reminded her of the High Master, but Adham was such a lofty name for such a tiny thing. And besides, like the Humphrey of those on-demand movies, this Humphrey was on loan, too-until he reached unmanageable proportions, which, with a dragon, was usually around the one month mark, meaning she had about five days left with this one before the hormones kicked in.
She stroked Humphrey's golden scales, then pointed to the rainbow. He gave her the tiniest nip on her palm-full blown dragon love could be really painful-then fluttered his little wings, his strength increasing daily. Today was probably the last day he could fly with the butterflies. The hummingbirds were fast enough to evade his beak-like jaws, but the butterflies wouldn't be a match; they'd more likely be lunch. But for today, he could play among the colors with them. Dragons loved rainbows.