‘I wish that horrible man would leave,’ Philippa Harris thought to herself while typing on her computer.
No, that wasn’t fair. Byron Reynolds was okay really, once you got to know him and his foibles. He just wasn’t a ‘people person’.
The work Philippa was doing was near the bottom of her ‘get around to it’ list and in all probability nobody would mind if it never got done, but she needed an excuse to still be at work when her boss left. Despite the work’s inconsequential nature, Philippa gave it almost her full attention so she was taken by surprise, instinctively getting to her feet, when Byron emerged from his office. That led to further awkwardness as, at 6’ 2” in her flatties, Philippa towered over her much shorter superior.
“Oh, still here, Miss Harris.”
That was one of Byron’s foibles, he never used first names.
“Yes Mr Reynolds. I thought I’d stay a bit longer and get this finished.”
“Very well. But this had better not be coming out of the County’s overtime budget. And make sure you lock up securely when you leave.”
Philippa almost snorted with derision. She had locked up regularly for several years now and yet he still made that point as though she were new to the job.
“Yes Mr Reynolds,” she curtly replied.
Byron Reynolds stalked out of the library, holding his head as high as he could as though to make up for his lack of inches, closing the door on the latch so no-one could come in.
At last Philippa was alone. She saved her work and powered down her computer. Taking her personal laptop, she went into Byron’s office and helped herself to the key to the basement. A couple of minutes later she was in one of her most favourite places.
Seemingly with a prescience way beyond normal, Lord Medford had set up a complex trust to oversee the building and his book collection on his death. The County was a minority trustee, paid an annual stipend to maintain the building and the book collection, on condition that should the books or the building ever be sold against the wishes of the majority of the trust, all the proceeds would revert to the trust and the County would refund all sums paid to it up until that time plus interest.
Some 200 years later, the County would have loved to sell the books, and particularly the building, so they could knock it down and replace it with some of the extra housing the government was mandating. But the County’s lawyers were unanimous that under the terms of the trust, the money repayable to the trust would be ruinous. One administration even wasted money on a legal challenge to the conditions of the trust but the judges ruled against them.
So, grudgingly, the County used the building as a branch library, albeit with a staff mainly of volunteers. Lord Medford’s book collection was stored in the basement, fortunately so well constructed that it didn’t have any problems with damp or temperature extremes. However nobody had ever catalogued it, and Philippa had taken it upon herself to carry out the task, without permission and on her own time.
Philippa loved the basement and its collection of old books. She loved their smell and feel. These books were meant to last, not like the ephemeral paperbacks, CDs and DVDs, purveyed to the public by the library upstairs, which had a life expectancy of mere months.
Philippa set her laptop down on a desk and started to work. Out of curiosity she had checked a few of the books on eBay after cataloguing them and found some were worth more than she earned in a year, a couple more than she’d earn in her lifetime. It would be so easy to sneak them out of the building and nobody would ever know but she couldn’t do that, she loved the books too much and felt a strange connection to Lord Medford’s collection.
“Philippa, Philippa,” someone whispered.
Philippa started. She was sure she was alone in the basement. Perhaps she had nodded off and dreamt someone was whispering her name.
“Philippa, Philippa,” it came again.
This time Philippa was sure she wasn’t dreaming.
“Who’s there?” she called out nervously.
“Come out and show yourself or I’m calling the police.”
Philippa had watched her fair share of teen slasher movies. Far more than her fair share in fact. Being 6’ 2” ruined any prospect she had of a romantic life so she had spent many lonely hours curled up on the sofa watching movies alone, until she had plucked up courage to ‘borrow’ the basement key from Byron’s office and start her self-appointed task of cataloguing Lord Medford’s collection. She knew that she should leave the basement immediately and call the police otherwise some particularly gruesome fate would befall her, a quick death being one of the better outcomes. But there was something compelling about the whispers, as though she were being summoned.
Philippa selected a particularly hefty volume and picked it up. Not much of a weapon but it was all there was to hand.
Philippa set off towards the source of the whispers. They were coming from the rear of the basement, an area she hadn’t yet catalogued.
Yes, she was pretty sure the whispers were coming from a pile of books in a corner. She looked around. Nobody was there.
The whispers seemed to be coming from one of the books. Someone must have found out about her secret hobby and planted an MP3 player down here. It couldn’t be Byron, he was twice her age and distinctly short on technical savvy. But no-one else had access to the key.
It seemed to be coming from a book about two thirds down the pile. She kneeled down and placed her ear close to the pile.
Got it! It was a medium-sized black book with an expensive leather cover. A strange red wax seal prevented her from opening the book, resisting her strongest attempts to prise it open.
“Philippa, Philippa, don’t open the book, insert your finger under the seal and gently rub it from bottom to top.”
Stunned by the additional information from the clandestine whisperer, Philippa complied. There was a blinding flash of golden light and Philippa dropped to the floor.
After a few seconds during which nothing deleterious seemed to be happening, Philippa recovered her wits and carefully appraised herself. No stab wounds, no ringing in her ears, no sense of heat or burning. Carefully she opened her eyes, to see a tall, slim man dressed in a suit and surrounded by a faint yellow glow. Actually his suit was almost identical to the suit Byron had been wearing. And the tie too.
“I don’t know who the hell you are but the library closed an hour ago and you shouldn’t be down here,” Philippa informed the stranger. “The basement is off-limits to library users.”
Then, unable to help herself, Philippa sniggered at the strange man’s attire.
“I’m sorry, I thought you would be more comfortable if I wore clothes you were familiar with,” said the man.
There was another blinding flash.
Philippa opened her eyes again. The man was still there, but this time dressed in matching yellow baggy shirt and harem pants topped with a yellow turban.
“You’re not a normal person are you?” Philippa asked. “And will you please cut out those blinding flashes before you burn out my retinas.”
“You are correct. My name is Alibarran and I am Lord Medford’s Genie. Or I was, until he passed away.”
“So this is where you grant me three wishes, I wish for world peace and you trick me by sterilising the planet?” asked Philippa cynically.
“Well, I do have the power to grant my master certain boons, but my powers are far more limited than your fiction writers would have you believe. However the reason I have made my presence known to you is because I need your help.”
“You need my help?” asked Philippa incredulously, as she eased her way to her feet.
She was somewhat surprised to find the Genie was a couple of inches taller. If he had been a real man she might have been interested.
“Yes. I am the majority shareholder in the trust that owns the building and Lord Medford’s book collection. I have been able to subtly influence events in accordance with Lord Medford’s wishes while locked in the book, in which he secreted me for safe-keeping, but circumstances have arisen requiring a physical intervention.”
“But why me?” Philippa asked. Then after the Genie hesitated, “Are you under some sort of compulsion to tell the truth?”
The Genie appeared to come to some sort of decision.
“You are a beautiful person,” he started.
“Me? Beautiful?” Philippa snorted with derision. “I’m, tall, skinny and have no tits. Most men don’t give me a second glance unless it’s to ask what the weather’s like up here.”
“I judge on inner beauty. I had to be sure that whoever became my new master would honour Lord Medford’s wishes.”
“New master,” repeated Philippa, gobsmacked.
“Yes, you are now my master because you released me from the book. I’ve watched how you respect Lord Medford’s collection and have been diligently cataloguing the books. I think you’ll make a fine master.”
“I need to think about that one. But you said you need my help.”
“Yes. Have you heard of James Barclay?”
“Head of Barclay Property Development?”
“The very person. He intends to have this building burned down so he can buy the site cheaply to build luxury flats. Now that I’m out of the book I can physically annul any attack but that won’t stop him trying again. However, with your help, I think we can implement a more permanent solution.”
“We’re not going to kill him, am I?” asked Philippa, realising that although the Genie had said ‘we’, it was obvious she’d be doing the dirty work.
“No, we’re going to hack his mobile phone. But don’t worry, I’ll talk you through your part.”
“Typical,” groused Philippa, “I encounter the only Genie that not only doesn’t grant three wishes but actually needs MY help.”
“I didn’t say I couldn’t grant wishes,” countered Alibarran, “just that my capabilities are restricted to what I can do without seriously knocking the rest of the world out of kilter.”
“So no lottery jackpot then!”
“No, that would make too significant a change to the world.”
“Oh well, I guess I’d better get on with honouring Lord Medford’s legacy. What do you need me to do?” she asked.
“I need you to purchase a mobile phone. A pay-as-you-go contract would probably be best unless you would like to use it subsequently to phone or text your friends.”
“All the people I’m ever likely to phone would fit comfortably into a phone booth. Have you any particular make and model in mind?”
Alibarran rattled off a make and model number. Philippa used her laptop to enter the details into a search engine and blanched.
“Do you know how much that one costs?” she asked.
“It has to be that because it’s the only current model with all the capabilities we need. Let’s see now, tomorrow’s Wednesday. Buy a lottery ticket for tomorrow’s draw with the numbers 1,3,5,27,38,47.”
“But you said you couldn’t win the lottery for me!”
“I said I couldn’t win a jackpot for you. Those numbers will win enough to pay for the mobile phone with a little to spare. But there’s no time to lose because we need that mobile phone by Friday. Barclay is planning to make his move this weekend.”
“Okay, I’ll buy the ticket on my way to work tomorrow. Happy?”
“Yes, that will be fine. Meanwhile have a think about what sort of wishes you’d like me to fulfill.”
“Yeah, right, like you’d be able to arrange for me to walk on another planet! I’ve always wanted to go somewhere no other human being has been before me ever since I read my first science fiction novel.”
“I might be able to arrange that for you, let me have a think about it. I can’t see how it would upset the rest of the world. Would Mars be okay? You’d need a spacesuit and oxygen cylinders but I think I can manage that.”
“Really!” Philippa’s eyes lit up, she grabbed Alibarran in a hug and kissed his cheek. Or at least that’s where she aimed. But she wasn’t very experienced at kissing and Alibarran moved his head at the last moment so she ended up kissing him on the lips. And she liked it, she liked it a lot, so she didn’t stop. He had a rather smoky taste; nice like smoky bacon, not nasty like cigarettes.
“Wow!” they exclaimed in unison afterwards.
“Now I understand why people kiss so much,” said Alibarran.
“I’m far from experienced but that was something else,” agreed Philippa. “Was that your first kiss?”
“Yes. I was made to be unattractive to women.”
Philippa gave him an incredulous look.
“When I was created, the average height was around 5’,” explained Alibarran, “and having a fuller figure was a sign of being well-nourished and therefore successful. So being tall and slender was considered to be very ugly.”
“It still is in my case. We make a good pair.”
“I judge on inner beauty, but your physical appearance is not displeasing to my eye,” said Alibarran.
That was a first for Philippa. Although mild, it was probably the first compliment about her appearance not from her late parents. She blushed and turned her head away so Alibarran wouldn’t see. Her eyes alighted on her neglected laptop, welcoming the chance to change the subject.
“I know it’s not in keeping with Lord Medford’s legacy but I don’t feel like doing any more cataloguing tonight,” she admitted. “I’m going to go home, get something to eat and have an early night. What are you going to do? Return to your book?”
“Although I will attempt to continue to fulfill Lord Medford’s wishes, now that you are my master your welfare is my overriding concern. Therefore I must accompany you unless it is otherwise impossible. I have a suggestion but you may not be agreeable unless I explain it fully.”
“Okay, explain away. I’m all ears.”
“The worst option, from my point of view, is for you to order me back into the book. I will again be constrained until someone deactivates the seal. If anything should happen to you or the book, I would be unable to defend the building or Lord Medford’s collection.”
“Okay, I wasn’t planning to order you to do anything anyway.”
“Another option would be for you to go about your normal life with me accompanying you in physical form. I could adjust my appearance to fit in with your dress conventions but there would always be a tell-tale glow to mark me out as abnormal.”
“Yes, it is rather obvious.”
“My preferred option is for you to order me into an object which you keep about your person. Provided I was not locked in by a seal, I would be able to materialise and protect you should the need occur. I would also be able to discreetly advise you by speaking into your mind.”
“That sounds acceptable to me, and I don’t know how to create a seal anyway so there’s no question of my locking you in. Did you have any particular personal object in mind? My purse or watch for example?”
“I have conducted a survey of personal items likely to get stolen or lost and there’s a clear winner. The least risky object you could order me into is your bra.”
“My bra? You want me to order you into my bra?” asked Philippa disbelievingly.
“Statistically it’s the safest option.”
Philippa sighed resignedly.
“Oh well, if it’s statistically the safest option,” she said, with just a hint of sarcasm in her tone.
“And you might want to close your eyes when you issue the order,” Alibarran advised.
“Okay, I order you into my bra,” said Philippa, shutting her eyes.
She saw the bright yellow flash through her closed eyelids. When she opened her eyes, the Genie was gone. Was it her imagination or did her bra feel warmer and softer?
“Alibarran, can you hear me?” she asked, suddenly not convinced the whole thing had not been a hallucination.
<Yes master, I can hear you, > came the reply into her mind.
Philippa closed up her laptop and looked around to make sure she wasn’t leaving any evidence of her secret nocturnal activities. Spying the black book lying on the floor where she had dropped it, she picked it up and reinserted it into the pile at roughly the same place she had found it. Then she switched the light off, locked the door and returned the key to Mr Reynolds’ office.
Ten minutes later the library was locked up and she was in her cheap and cheerful car, exiting the staff-only section of the library car park.
“Alibarran, do you eat?” Philippa asked as she was driving along.
<I don’t need to but I can eat human food should the circumstances require.>
“I’m going to get a takeaway. There will be more than I can eat so I’d like you to share it with me.”
<As you wish, master.>
Half an hour later Philippa was in her apartment setting out the meal cartons on her dining room table. It seemed strange setting out two plates and two sets of cutlery. Something else was unusual but it took a while for her to realise what it was. She was still wearing her bra. Normally she took it off as soon as she walked though the door. She didn’t need a bra, but she wore one at work to satisfy one of Mr Reynolds’ foibles. He thought the library staff needed to project a certain image and a woman going braless was too risque. Philippa sniggered to herself.
“Hey Alibarran, if it weren’t for my boss, I wouldn’t wear a bra to work and you’d be inhabiting statistically the second safest personal item. What would that be, my knickers?”
<I would need to recalculate in view of the new information but no, your knickers would not be the next best option. Would you like me to do the calculation?>
“No, it’s not necessary. But I don’t usually wear a bra at home so I’m going to take it off. And dinner’s on the table so if you’d like to rematerialise.”
<Very well. Please close your eyes.>
Another blinding flash seared its way through Philippa’s tightly shut eyelids. When she opened her eyes, Alibarran was standing before her wearing his yellow harem-style attire. Although her apartment was several floors up in the tower block and the blinds were drawn, Philippa wondered whether anyone might have seen the flash. She wriggled out of her bra, sat down at the table and started to spoon food from the cartons onto her plate.
“Help yourself,” she instructed Alibarran.
“I will wait until you have sufficient,” he replied. “It is not my place to deprive my master of food.”
When Philippa started eating, Alibarran helped himself to small samples of all the dishes.
“Look, I’m really not happy about being your master,” she observed.
“I know, and that’s one of the things that make you a good master.”
“In some of the stories I’ve read, enlightened recipients of three wishes request the Genie’s freedom.”
“That is purely fiction and would not be advisable.”
“I was made to serve,” replied Alibarran, “and I could no more be freed from servitude than a fish could be freed from water.”
After the pair had eaten and Philippa had tidied up the debris, she made nightcaps for both of them and settled on the sofa to watch the late evening news on television. She patted the seat next to her and Alibarran joined her, sipping the nightcap she had prepared for him.
“What do you do with food? Does your body digest it?”
“No. I move it to another dimension until I can discreetly dispose of it.”
“So you derive no enjoyment whatsoever from it?”
“I enjoy the different tastes and sensations, but I have experienced so many over the years that it is rare to encounter anything that excites me.”
“How old are you, Alibarran?”
Alibarran opened his mouth as though he was about to speak but no words came out.
“I’m sorry, it seems that telling you would have too many consequences.”
Stunned into silence, Philippa watched the rest of the news then the weather forecast, fine until after lunch then steady drizzle the rest of the day.
“That’s wrong,” said Alibarran. “The weather front will accelerate overnight and the drizzle will reach here by the time you leave for work. But it will die away tomorrow evening and the night will be fine but chilly.”
“Thanks for that,” said Philippa. “I guess lunchtime would be a bad time to go shopping.”
“If you want to stay dry,” confirmed Alibarran.
“I’m going to get ready for bed,” said Philippa. “Stay and watch the television if you want.”
Normally she just went straight into the bathroom to shower but somehow she felt she constrained to be modest with Alibarran in her apartment and went to her bedroom first to collect her pyjamas. Showered and changed and teeth cleaned, Philippa emerged to see Alibarran still sitting on the sofa but completely ignoring the television, which was showing what was supposed to be a highly-rated comedy show.
“Alibarran, do you sleep?”
“I can simulate sleep should the circumstances require.”
“I only have one bedroom.”
“I can stay here if you like, or you can order me into one of your possessions.”
Philippa remembered the kiss earlier that evening. She had never slept with a man. Okay, Alibarran wasn’t a man, but even better, she was his master and he couldn’t do anything she didn’t want.
“Alibarran, I would like you to sleep with me tonight,” she said. “I don’t want you to do anything, you know, romantic, just hold me. Would you be okay with that?”
From her face’s burning sensation, Philippa was sure she had gone bright red while asking the question.
“It would be my pleasure, master,” Alibarran replied.
Philippa wished he hadn’t used the word ‘master’. That made it sound like an obligation.
“Can you change into appropriate sleepwear?”
“Please close your eyes.”
There was a blinding flash. When Philippa opened her eyes she couldn’t help giggling. Alibarran was wearing pink, floral-patterned pyjamas, a copy of hers.
At the bedroom door Philippa had a crisis of confidence. Should she have put clean bed-linen on the bed? And while there was plenty of room for both of them in the double bed, she had to choose which side to sleep, whereas normally she just sort of sprawled in the middle.
“Don’t worry,” said Alibarran, “whatever makes you feel comfortable will make me feel comfortable too.”
“Can you read my mind?”
“Yes. Now that you are my master it is a prerequisite for your safety.”
Philippa swore under her breath at word ‘master’ appearing again. Then she gritted her teeth.
“I’ll take the side closest to the alarm clock,” she decided out loud.
Philippa got into bed and Alibarran joined her. It felt strange the way the mattress sank under his unfamiliar weight, but it made it inevitable they’d end up sleeping in close proximity. Alibarran wrapped an arm round her.
“Is this acceptable, master?” he asked.
Philippa didn’t reply, but snuggled back until she was resting against his warm body and wrapped the arm tighter, placing his hand on her tummy. She soon felt warm and comfortable and drifted off to sleep.
The shrill sound of the alarm clock brought initial panic because Philippa wasn’t used to waking up with company. She would have been miffed about the hand tightly cupping her tiny tit if it weren’t for the fact that her own hand was holding it firmly in position.
“You put it there yourself,” said Alibarran, confirming that he too was awake, “and I would have woken you if I had tried to remove it.”
Philippa rolled over on her side so she was face to face with Alibarran. Suddenly whatever she had intended to say evaporated from her mind and she found her lips locked on Alibarran’s. As she relished the now familiar smoky taste, she couldn’t help thinking that at least genies didn’t suffer from morning breath, and this one didn’t seem to mind if she did.
“I’ve got to get ready for work,” Philippa panted, reluctantly extracting herself from Alibarran’s grasp.
Philippa grabbed her clothes for the day and headed for the bathroom, where she showered and dressed. She emerged to the delicious smell of a fried breakfast.
“What?” she asked.
“It is what you would make for yourself if you had time,” said Alibarran. “With your permission I have things to tell you and it is easier if you can concentrate on what I have to say rather than making breakfast.”
While Philippa sat there eating, Alibarran said his piece.
“The lottery numbers I gave you yesterday will result in the maximum prize you can claim at a supermarket or post office. I am not allowed to help you win bigger prizes but I can help you win multiple prizes of this size. One win will be enough to buy the phone we need, but a spacesuit and oxygen cylinders for your trip to Mars will take another five wins.”
Philippa gave an involuntary shiver of excitement at the mention of Mars. She was starting to believe it really might happen.
“However I am still constrained to ensure that the lottery organisers must not find out that the prizes are going to the same person. I have identified the optimum strategy: for the next three draws, purchase two tickets with the same numbers at different retailers, and cash all six winning tickets at different supermarkets and post offices. That will involve some travel but will result in the necessary money in the least number of draws while guaranteeing untraceability.”
“That sounds good,” acknowledged Philippa in between mouthfuls of breakfast.
“However I now have a dilemma which only you can resolve.”
“What’s the problem?” Philippa asked.
“As you are my master, I am obligated to be with you at all times for your protection unless I am ordered into one of your possessions and restrained by a seal. To ensure the library isn’t physically damaged by the arson attack, I have to be present and unrestrained. But that can only happen if you are present too, which puts you in unnecessary danger.”
“So I have to be there too!”
“I cannot ask that of you, it has to be your choice.”
“If it ensures the safety of Lord Medford’s collection, then it’s a choice I’m happy to make.”
“I’m glad I chose you to be my new master,” said Alibarran with a smile.
Philippa finished her breakfast and gulped down her coffee, instantly regretting not taking longer to enjoy the unexpectedly delicious beverage Alibarran had prepared for her.
“I suppose it’s bra time,” she said.
“It is statistically the safest option,” affirmed Alibarran.
Philippa shut her eyes then commanded Alibarran into her bra, secretly pleased she had chosen a soft, lacy one for that morning. Because she only wore them for work she only had a small selection. She’d have to go out and buy some more nice ones.
<Don’t bother on my account, > said Alibarran. <It really makes no difference to me.>
And yet Philippa felt an inexplicably strong desire to make herself look nice for Alibarran.
Philippa stopped at two corner shops on the way to work and bought one lottery ticket at each as Alibarran had told her. Alibarran had been right and the drizzle had already set in.
Unusually Philippa found work a chore. It wasn’t so bad when she was interacting with customers or the volunteer librarians but she couldn’t seem to concentrate when it was time to do the paperwork. Several times Byron Reynolds gave her suspicious glances, making her feel like a naughty schoolgirl. And Alibarran didn’t help, frequently suggesting more efficient ways of doing things until she explained about the library’s ISO 9001 qualification and the set processes she wasn’t allowed to deviate from unless she went through another set of processes to justify each deviation and then waited for her manager’s permission. And knowing Byron Reynolds, that permission wouldn’t be forthcoming.
At lunchtime Philippa braved the drizzle to pay her usual visit to the sandwich shop. As it happened, there was a posh lingerie shop on the way and Philippa plucked up courage to go inside on her way back to the library. She had to admit the bras looked nice, but when she got down to her size the selection was very limited. And then she saw the prices. She’d need more lottery prizes to pay for them. Suddenly feeling downcast, Philippa hurried back to work.
The afternoon dragged until finally it was closing time. The volunteers had long departed and Philippa shooed the last reluctant customers out into the drizzle and latched the door.
“Are you alright, Miss Harris?” asked Byron. “You seem somewhat distracted today.”
“Yes, I’m fine thanks. It’s just that something unexpected happened in my home life.”
Philippa knew that mentioning her home life would stop any further questioning. She knew that Byron was married, but had never met his wife and Byron seemed very keen to keep personal and work life totally separate.
“Oh well, why don’t you take an early night for once, make up for all the unpaid overtime you’ve been doing recently.”
“Thanks Mr Reynolds, that sounds like a good idea.”
That thwarted any plans to continue cataloguing Lord Medford’s collection, but it meant she could stop off at the supermarket and stock up on food. She would quickly run low if Alibarran make her a cooked breakfast each morning.
The supermarket was a huge, edge-of-town store with half its retail space given over to non-food items. The depressing weather seemed to have deterred many shoppers so it wasn’t particularly busy and Philippa had no problem finding a parking space near the entrance. In the store Philippa did her shopping my memory since she hadn’t made out a list, and Alibarran ‘helped’ by making suggestions about ingredients for meals that Philippa wouldn’t normally consider. Finally she could think of nothing else and started to guide her trolley towards the checkouts.
<If you please, master, there are two more locations we should visit.>
“Okay, which way?”
<Head towards the home electronics section.>
“But we don’t have the money for the phone yet.”
<But they sell the cable that we will need to connect the phone to your laptop and it is cheaper here.>
Philippa followed Alibarran’s instructions to a display stand with all sorts of computer and phone related widgets, mostly items about which she was clueless of the purpose. She was reminded of a very old game show when Alibarran had to give directions for her hand to follow because she couldn’t locate the cable by its name.
“Great,” she sighed with relief when the desired short black rubber-covered cable with mismatched connectors at the ends was safely in her trolley. “Now where else do you want me to go?
<Head for the clothing section.>
Philippa was mildly surprised at that because as far as she knew Alibarran had no need for conventional clothing. She was even more surprised when he directed her to the children’s section. He directed her to stop when they reached the girls’ underwear. To her surprise Philippa saw some rather nice little lacy bras. She was somewhat disconcerted that such adult items were being targeted at young children.
“What do you want me to do? These are children’s clothes.”
<Look at the sizes. I think you’ll find they’ll fit you. And they’re just as nice as the ones in the lingerie shop at a tenth of the price.>
“But I can’t buy children’s clothes for myself, it’s embarrassing.”
<Nobody will know. You could be buying them for a present.>
Philippa had to concede Alibarran was right. And they were really nice bras. But even so she self-consciously looked around to see if anyone was watching when she put a couple of 5-packs into her trolley. To Philippa’s relief, the girl at the checkout didn’t give her a second glance when she waved them past the barcode reader.
Back at her apartment, Alibarran materialised and set about cooking dinner for the two of them, promising he would honour the choice she had made but enhancing it using some of his Genie know-how, while Philippa set about putting away the rest of her purchases, after first jettisoning her bra.
The meal was every bit as delicious as Alibarran had said it would be. Afterwards they cuddled up on the sofa and watched a docu-drama on television, although Philippa was paying more attention to the pleasure of curling up against a warm Genie than the rather turgid acting.
At last the late evening news came on, followed by the weather which Alibarran said was mostly accurate, then eventually the lottery results. Philippa’s heart jumped as she checked her two identical tickets.
“We’ve won, we’ve won,” she sang gleefully, grasping Alibarran in her best impression of a bear-hug. Then as she relaxed her grip she added, “Not that I ever doubted you.”
“It’s okay to doubt me, trust has to be earned,” replied Alibarran, sensing her real feelings.
After following the same bedtime routine as the previous evening, Philippa couldn’t believe how relaxed she felt as she lay in bed, drifting off to sleep with the Genie’s arm wrapped around her.
When the shrill alarm clock sounded the next morning, Philippa had absolutely no sense of panic, just a sense of rightness. She gave Alibarran’s hand, clamped to her little tit again, a gentle squeeze as confirmation of approval, before rolling over for a generous sample of his smoky-tasting lips.
“We have a lot to do at lunch time,” said Alibarran as Philippa sat down to the breakfast he had prepared. “You should ask Mr Reynolds whether you can take a long lunch break because you have a couple of errands to run in the car.”
“He won’t be happy but he can’t really complain because I never usually take my full 45 minutes,” said Philippa, in between mouthfuls of food. “Where will I be driving to?”
“There’s a shopping centre on the edge of town with a Post Office that can redeem one of your lottery tickets and an electronics store that has the requisite model of phone in stock,” replied Alibarran.
“I’ve heard of it but I’ve never been there.”
“Which makes it very suitable for our need to stay under the radar.”
As predicted, Byron Reynolds acted grumpy when Philippa asked for an extended lunch break, but he yielded when one of the volunteer staff said she didn’t mind covering for her.
At the Post Office, Philippa presented one of her winning lottery tickets. The cashier scanned it.
“Congratulations, you’ve won,” he announced. “I’m afraid you can’t claim the money here because we can’t pay prizes of that size. You’ll have to ring the lottery helpline.”
From inside Philippa’s bra, Alibarran could sense she was preparing to flee to avoid any confrontation.
<We don’t have time to go elsewhere, > he warned. <Just repeat these words.>
“Oh, that’s a shame,” Philippa repeated. “The lottery website says you can cash prizes this size. I’ll make sure that they correct their mistake.”
“Wait one moment,” said the cashier. “We might be able to make an exception. I just need to check with the manager.”
The cashier disappeared through a door marked ‘Private, staff only’.
<He’s lying, > said Alibarran. <He’s going to wait a couple of minutes then come back and claim his manager has authorised the payment.>
Exactly as predicted, the cashier returned after a couple of minutes.
“The manager has agreed to make an exception in your case,” the cashier lied, then he counted out the money.
“Wow, I never thought I would hold a £50 note, let alone this many at the same time,” said Philippa once they were outside the Post Office.
<Enjoy it while you can. Easy come, easy go, > replied Alibarran.
Inside the electronics store, Alibarran guided Philippa to the mobile phone section. It was almost deserted, the sole staff member on duty standing behind a counter at the edge of all the display cases.
As Philippa approached the counter, the teenaged-looking assistant, whose nametag read ‘Talbot’, adopted a fake smile.
“Hello, I wish to purchase this phone on a pay-as-you-go contract,” said Philippa, handing Talbot the piece of paper on which she had written the make and model number.
Talbot perused the details, his smile becoming predatorial.
“A commendable choice,” he said. “But you’re in luck. We have another phone that will do everything you need and is on special offer at the moment. I’ll fetch one for you.”
Before Philippa could protest, he disappeared through a door into the back.
<The phone he is about to fob off on you won’t do what we need and is in fact subject to a secret manufacturer’s recall because it has so many faults, > advised Alibarran.
Philippa turned, unsure whether to flee to avoid confrontation or try to seek out a manager.
<I have a better idea but you have to trust me, > said Alibarran.
“What does it involve?”
<You have to command me to take control of your body and let me handle matters. You will be able to regain control at any time.>
“Okay, I guess. Alibarran, I command you to take control of my body.”
Philippa hoped there wasn’t a blinding flash because the security cameras would be bound to pick it up. She felt a moment’s panic as her body turned back towards the counter under Alibarran’s control but she managed to control it.