My grandmother Noni hands me the stone on its chain, her palm pressed against mine, hiding the stone from view. I glance over at my parents. They are screaming at each other, arguing about a TV show or maybe what color to paint the kitchen.
“Here, Lisa.” Noni’s voice is low. “Today is your sixteenth birthday. My Noni gave me this when I turned sixteen, and I wore it always, until today. It’s your turn now.”
She gestures with her free hand, telling me to turn around, the long chain dangling between her fingers. I pull my hair back. The gold feels cool where it touches my neck. A moment later, her fingers close the clasp.
“From grandmother to granddaughter. Seven generations, maybe more. Who knows? Keep it close to your heart.”
I look at Mom, still trying to make her point with Dad. “What about…?”
“No. Never. Grandmother to granddaughter. Remember.” Noni retreats to her blanket-draped rocking chair in the corner, sits down, and closes her eyes.
My parents’ voices grow louder, more strident.
“What’s going on?” I ask, hoping they’ll remember it’s my birthday. But their fight has reached that critical point-of-no-return. They ignore me.
I shrug. I’m used to their failure to celebrate important events in my life. I hate that I’m still sad about it. I head upstairs to my bedroom at the back of the house. The room is cold, chilled by the wind that whips around the corner and seeps through a north-facing window. I sit on the unmade bed, wrap myself in a blanket, and unclasp the chain to examine the stone.
The stone whispers. Daughter, daughter. Wishes three are free.
Three wishes for life? Three wishes without paying a price? I let the necklace dangle from my palm. The chain is long, fashioned from hundreds of tiny, irregular links. The stone is purple, like a chunk of raw amethyst or kunzite.
My parents’ screeching makes the house shudder. I wish they would shut-up and the stone grows warm in my hand.
Silence. The arguing has ended for the night.
I wear the stone to bed. I fall asleep immediately, something rare for me, and stay asleep until Mom wakes me. It’s still dark outside.
“What is it?” I know something has happened.
“Where’s the necklace?” Mom’s mouth is a thin angry line.
“What are you talking about? Why did you wake me?”
“Noni’s necklace. Where the hell is it? She always wears it. Always. And it’s gone.”
Mom can’t possibly know I’m wearing it, but she starts opening drawers, checks my jewelry box, pulls my pillow off the bed.
“Why don’t you ask her?” I don’t know what else to say. The stone is warm against chest.
“I can’t ask her. Noni’s dead.”
Three days till the funeral. Every day, I wish for my parents to get along. I waste my three free wishes on them.
But then I forget to write a composition for English. I wish and there it is inside my backpack. I hand it in and go to math. The teacher sends me to the school nurse. I’ve broken out in hives.
I wish for a car. My dad hands me the keys to a Kia and points to the driveway where he’s parked a new red car. The engine explodes when I take it to the grocery. Dad promises to get it fixed. But still.
In gym, I’m dying of thirst and wish for a drink. The teacher hands out bottles of water, cold and dripping condensation. We start to drink when someone screams. The bottles churn with tiny worms.
I’m not stupid. The stone is responsible for the good and the bad, and now I’m scared to use it. I swear I’ll stop wishing.
Mom stands in the hallway. “I know you have the stone.”
I don’t even pretend. “Noni gave it to me. Grandmother to granddaughter.”
“People have died for that stone.”
“Are you threatening to kill me?” I scramble up from the floor, wishing her gone. The stone burns against my skin, raising blisters.
She doesn’t leave. The stone whispers, telling me to beware my mother’s greedy soul.
“Go away!” My heart pounds, frantic. “Noni gave it to me. You can’t have it.”
She takes a step toward me. The stone is a live coal on my chest.
“Who’s the greedy one?” she asks. “Give it to me. You can have it when I die.”
Oh God! The wish for her death escapes the bowels of my unconscious mind before I can censor it. My nightgown smokes, on fire. I throw myself to the floor, rolling on the carpet runner to smother the flames. Mom crumples to the floor, hitting her head against the wall. The thump of our twin falls echoes through the house.
“Sara? Lisa?” Dad’s shout drowns out Mom’s thin wail.
She is dying, blood pouring from her forehead where she hit the wall. The wishing stone crushes her soul, forcing it from her body, sending it to hell.
I wish her back to life, crawling to her, shaking her, trying CPR. But none of it works. She is gone forever.
“She wasn’t a good person,” Dad says as we return from her funeral. “She was never satisfied, never happy, always seeing the dark side of life. We could have had everything if only she had tried to be — well — a nicer person. She made me miserable.”
I nod and hum agreement. I knew all that about Mom, but I didn’t like hearing my dad say it.
“By the way,” he adds in a voice that’s pleasant and casual and effortless. He looks over at me and his gaze hits the exact spot where the wishing stone lies, hot in the valley between my breasts. “Any idea where Mom put your grandmother’s necklace?”
Sipora Coffelt spent a decade wandering from university to university, earning her BA in philosophy, only to read the classifieds one day and realize her mistake. Unable to find work as a philosopher, she retreated to four acres in Kansas, where she grows vegetables while writing dark fiction. She can be found online.