Monday, November 4, 2013

Wishing Star

The visual prompt:
Our main characters are:
A Fairy ~ This manic pixie dream girl will blow your mind with her tricky magic.
An Elf ~ He once shot an apple off of his own head right into a bull's eye.
The special object in this story is:
A Wishing Star ~ Be careful what you wish for! Because it just might come true in the most ironic way possible.
Our story takes place in:
Capital City ~ A bustling metropolis plagued by corruption, violent crime, and actual plague.
Wanda was driving me crazy. Again.
"Hey, Elf! Let's play a game together! Come play with me!" Her perky voice floated to my ears from the other room like bubbles. It grated on my nerves, especially when I was in the middle of something important, like filling out my application to take the Capital City bar exam.
"For the 9th time, Wanda, it's Alf, not elf. And I can't play with you right now, I'm busy."
As I ran an annoyed hand through my frizzy hair (I should really get it cut soon), I heard the bare-footed thump thump thump of her running through the hall and right into my room. Strange, I distinctly remembered locking the door.
There she stood in the doorway, wearing her prim yellow nightdress, lined with fluffy pink feathers. "You're always busy," Wanda pouted at me. 
I sighed. "I'm not always busy."
In my peripheral vision, I saw her walking around the room, tracing the multitude of cracks in the walls with her little fingers. I should remember to fix those. She could cut herself on those sharp edges. "Yes you are, Elf."
That was the 10th time today. "Alf, Wanda. How many times do I have to keep telling you to stop doing that to my wall?" 
"How many times do I have to keep telling you? I'm Wanda Fairy, and you're Elf Arrow-Shooter," she said stubbornly. "We both have magical powers, and magic people play together!"
Her last name wasn't really Fairy, it was Farri. (Close enough though, I guess.) And no matter how much she insisted on it, my name was not Elf. It was Alf. Alfonzo Shooter. (Though she was pretty clever to give me a bad ass name like Arrow-Shooter. Not bad for an 8 year old.)
I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose, counting to ten so I wouldn't lose my temper. "Alright Wanda. You win. You're a fairy, and I'm an elf."
She started to clap very fast, giddy with triumph. "Yay!" she crowed, and she clambered on to my neatly made bed to jump on it, flapping her arms through the air as if she really did have pixie wings.
"Aw, come on! I told you to quit doing that." Why did she have to jump on my bed, while I was working? I gave her her own bed, didn't I?
"Listen, I'd love to play with you Wanda, I really would," I lied, "but right now I've gotta work my magic on this paper over here, okay?"
Her little butt thumped on my bed, making her bounce off to stick the landing gracefully on the hardwood floor.  She folded her arms at me, giving me the stink eye. God, if looks could kill. "You're no fun!"
I shrugged, already ignoring her, having turned right back to my application paper.
"Guess what? You're not Elf Arrow-Shooter anymore. You're Elf Party-Pooper." Having said that, she stomped out of my room, slamming the door behind her hard enough to make me wince.
I put my pen down and covered my face with my hands, making a loud, muffled noise in exasperation. "Ugh!"
Sometimes I wondered why I'd ever let this little girl into my life in the first place. I never had time for Wanda anyway, and she always drove me nuts! I ought to just dump her in the Capital City orphanage and wash my hands of her entirely!
But I knew I couldn't possibly do that. Conditions at the orphanage were terrible and the people running it were nasty and crooked. I remembered meeting with the old headmistress. I was sure she'd have even less patience for Wanda Farri's antics than I did (if that were possible), so she was way better off staying with me.
Well, ideally she'd be better off with her parents, but it seemed like she had none. Anytime I tried asking her what had happened to them, she always changed the story. She was a chronic liar. Sometimes she said she'd run away from home, because her father was a corrupt politician and she'd discovered his secret. Sometimes she'd say her mother had died giving birth to her, and her father had been a vigilante hero before the police caught him and threw him in jail. Sometimes she said both her parents had succumbed to Capital Cancer, a sadly common sickness only found in this very city for which there is no known cure. Whatever her real story was, she couldn't go back to her real family, so she was on her own.
I started hearing the shrieks of different sirens whirring outside. Distracted once again, I looked out my bedroom window, staring out at the streets that were bathed in a toxic green neon glow.
3 stories below me, an ambulance barreled through traffic, probably with someone sick or in critical condition inside. WHAAAA-EEEE-OOOOH!
A cop car chased close behind the ambulance, apparently under the impression that speed laws applied the same to emergency vehicles. WHEE-WHOO WHEE-WHOO!
A guy stealing hubcaps caused some car's alarm system to set off, and the thief ran away with them. If the police had only been doing their jobs properly, they would have caught the guy and the crime would have been prevented. BEEP BEEP BEEP, WOW WOW WOW!
Capital City was a mess. Everyone knew it, and hardly anyone tried to change it. I used to think I could change it. About 2 years ago I'd moved here, all the way from Veritas Valley (one of those small towns where everyone knows your name, but that you've probably never heard of), so I could go to Capital College and become a doctor, or a lawyer, or a politician, and clean up this town. They said if you could make it here, you could make it anywhere.
My dad always told me to dream big. He used to tell me, "Alfonzo my boy, you're a Shooter, and do you know what Shooters do? They aim for the stars!"
Well, no one could see any stars in this city, not with all the smoggy air pollution caused by all the smog-spewing factories, not to mention all the light pollution caused by those green lights. I wasn't sure why the streetlights were green and not something easier to see by, like yellow or white. I think someone once told me it was to imitate the great Emerald City of Oz, but the lights only made the city look ill. (Anyway, the Emerald City was never actually green, was it? Everyone just wore green-tinted glasses. At least they did in the book.)
I realized I was doing nothing but dumbly staring into space. I shook my head, trying to get my concentration back. What was I doing again?
Oh, that's right! I was filling out my application to take the bar exam. I picked up my pen again and found the question I'd been trying to write the answer to before Wanda had rudely interrupted me.
Wanda. If it hadn't been for her, I probably still would have been undecided in my college major.

It couldn't have been more than a few months ago. I'd been doing some back-to-school shopping at the Capital City Mega-Mall, looking for bargain text-books, new shoes, that kind of stuff. A window display for this hobby-store had caught my attention, and I'd been checking out this mannequin dressed as Robin Hood with a hoodie or something, holding a bow and arrow. When I was a kid at summer camp at Lake Veritas, I'd been the arching champion. (How funny now that Wanda had called me Arrow Shooter. It was an apt name, even though I barely practiced anymore.)
Just then, I'd turned and noticed this girl dodging through the mall crowd, trying to avoid the mall security guards who were chasing her. We locked eyes with each other, and I guess she must have thought I had a kind face or something, because she decided to run straight in my direction and wrap me in a tight, desperate hug.
"Unh!" I grunted. (She was strong for a little girl!)
"Oh, big brother! I found you, I found you!" She buried her face in my winter coat and started to cry, apparently frightened by the big scary guards.
"Huh...? What are you...?" I was so confused.
She looked up at me, not showing any tears. She wasn't really crying; she was faking it! "My name's Wanda," she whispered quickly. "Help me!"
"Excuse me, son, do you know this girl?" asked one of the security guards.
I looked down at Wanda, and she'd gazed up at me with the innocent eyes only a girl her age could pull off. "Uh, yeah. I'm her... big brother. Did Wendy..."
"Wanda!" she hissed at me so only I could hear her.
"...Uh, did Wanda do anything wrong, officers?" I asked, quickly correcting myself.
"We caught her trying to steal a toy from the toy store. That kid sister of yours is a little thief!"
I grabbed Wanda's arms and forced her to let go of my waist, looking at her sternly. "Is this true, Wanda?"
She rolled her eyes and sighed heavily, pulling out the little box she was hiding inside her coat. Apparently the thing she had shop-lifted was called the Wishing Star. Able to grant real wishes! the box proclaimed. She pulled a shiny, plastic orange orb out of the cardboard, gave it a vigorous shake, and it lit up in flashing rainbow colors with cheap LED lights.
"It was just so pretty, and I didn't have anymore money, and I really, really wanted it!"
I shook my head, trying not to laugh. She was quite the little actress. "Well, silly, all you had to do was ask me for more money. I'd have gladly paid for it. It's very wrong to steal, Wanda."
Her eyes lit up like it was Christmas. (I forget whether this had all happened before or after Christmas. I think it was after.) "Really? You mean it? Can I really have my own Wishing Star?"
"Only if you say the magic words."
"If you don't do it, I'll wish you into a toad!" She shook the flashing ball in my face threateningly. I couldn't help but laugh at her.
In the end, I agreed to buy Wanda her toy ball (which cost over $10, with taxes, mind you!), following behind the grumpy mall cops and holding her tiny hand all the way back to the toy store. 
After we walked out of the mall, I tried saying goodbye to her and walking back to my apartment, which was only a few blocks away. But she just kept following me, trailing behind like a lost puppy.
"Can't I stay with you at your place? Just for tonight? I don't have anywhere else to go."
She looked so sad and helpless. Maybe she was only putting on another act, I don't know, but it worked. My heart went out to her, and I agreed to take her in.
My whole life, being an only child back in Veritas Valley, I had always wished for siblings to play with. And now, just like that, I found myself with a little sister.

Guess I should have been a little more careful what I wished for. I scratched my head with the back of the pen and sighed.
Wanda wasn't all that bad, really. Sure, she bugged me most of the time, but what could she do? She was just a little kid. I was probably her only friend in the world.
I looked down at my application paper for a few seconds. Suddenly I noticed, at the top of the application, in the space meant for filling in my name, I'd accidentally written "Elf Arrow Shooter".
Since I wrote it in pen, I couldn't very well erase it, and I was all out of white-out.
With one quick motion, I grabbed the paper and crumpled it up into a little ball using one hand. With a practiced basketball throw, I then tossed it right into the wastebasket. Yes! Nothing but net!
Capital City had a long way to go before it could be a good, healthy city again, but law school could wait. At least for tonight. (I could always get a new, clean application tomorrow.)
"Hey Wanda, let's play a game together."

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