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Nine Lives and Three Wishes

 

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Nine Lives and Three Wishes
YA fantasy

Jennifer St. Clair

 

Chapter One

 

The bottle, scratched and worn by the recent rains, lay on the sand in front of my nose. Early morning sunlight glinted off the facets of cut glass, marred only by a crack that spread down its length. Wherever the bottle had come from, it had not escaped undamaged. A black plastic cap, melted and rotted with age, clung to its mouth like a dried leech and smelled just as tasty.

I wrinkled my nose and poked at the cap.

Part of it crumbled away.

Intrigued, I used a claw to peel off a strip of pitted plastic until I could peer into the mouth of the bottle.

Something glimmered inside of it, a quick flash of color that vanished as soon as I faced it squarely. I used one paw to rub at the gritty sand that had dried between the facets, and saw the flash of color again. Was there something inside the bottle? I rubbed it again, using my claws to pick at the stubborn chunks of rock. The bottle's rough edges scraped across the pads of my feet, but I was too curious now to stop.

The flash of light did not return.

Disappointed, I turned away to finish my walk before Carla, one of my humans, noticed I was gone. A cat's patience could only withstand so much.

"Oh," someone said behind me. It was a human voice, a young voice.

I turned.

A red-haired boy sat on the sand near the bottle, his knees drawn up against his chest. His eyes were wide and green, almost glowing in the sunlight. He wore patched leather pants and a peasant shirt that hung on his thin frame like a shroud. His feet were bare and rested on top of the water without disturbing it at all.

I hissed, despite myself.

The boy jumped. His eyes focused on me for the first time.

I saw true fear in his gaze.

"Who... who are you?" His voice cracked. "Where..." He looked around the forest again, desperate for something familiar. "Where am I?"

I cocked my head. "How did you get here so fast? You weren't here a minute ago..." I didn't expect him to be able to understand me; most humans can't.

But he scuttled backwards like a crab and floated an inch above the pool I liked to fish in. Floated.

I tried not to imagine how many fish I could catch if I knew a trick like that. And then... I remembered the bottle. "Oh, no."

The boy blinked at me. "You must tell me where I am. Please."

"Well, for starters, you're on planet Earth," I said and tried to find a dry spot to sit down. This was much more interesting than my morning constitutional.

The boy closed his eyes.

I thought I saw a flash of annoyance cross his face.

"Earth," he said flatly. "Yes. I gathered that."

"The United States? Ohio? Beth-Hill?" I hazarded. Cats aren't stupid by a long shot, but most felines keep a certain distance from their humans' way of life. I'm proud to say that I know Carla's address and phone number. Most cats... well, let's just say that most cats are only worried about their next meal.

He picked up on Beth-Hill. "Then not so far away, after all. The year and the date?"

Cats work by one calendar and one calendar alone: feeding time. "It's spring," I hazarded. I didn't offer to fetch him a newspaper.

The boy raised his arm and let the sunlight wash over his skin. "Yes. Spring. I can taste snow in the air."

I couldn't taste anything but breakfast, myself.

When he tried to stand, he saw the bottle sparkling in the sunlight. His face turned gray. He reached out to touch the rough glass, and vanished from my sight.

I sprang back, forgetting I sat on a sandbar surrounded by water. My back legs sank into quicksand and I barely escaped with my fur intact. I hissed and batted the bottle into the water.

The boy reappeared. His face crumpled a bit when he saw the bottle submerged in the creek, but he did not try to touch it again. He took a deep breath. "I see."

"You see what?" I asked. "And will you stop doing that?"

He focused his gaze on me. "Doing what?"

"Vanishing." I stalked towards him, fighting the urge to flee.

His mouth twitched. "I'm sorry." He seemed more solid now, but his feet made no marks in the sand. "Would you mind... Would you mind retrieving my bottle?"

I stared at him. "What do you think I am, a dog?"

He frowned. "No. You're a cat. I'm not that far gone. But I would prefer..." He took another deep breath. "I would prefer to be imprisoned on dry land."

Imprisoned? Oh boy. "I've seen this movie, and you're no genie," I said. "I'll just be going now." I leaped up on the bank.

"Wait?" The boy's voice was very soft. "Please..."

I turned to face him. "No offense, but this isn't normal."

Confusion. "Of course it's not normal. It's magic."

Just what I was afraid of. "Look. If I had pockets, I'd be a card-carrying member of the Anti-Magic League," I snapped. "I don't need this. I'm just a cat."

He smiled. "No one is just a cat."

I stood my ground. "I. Am. Just. A. Cat. Nothing more. And I can't help you." I pushed past the stand of briars at the edge of the creek's bank.

"But you awoke me." His voice followed me up the hill. "You awoke me, and I must... I must grant you..."

"No!" I yelled. My ears flattened against my skull. My tail--my poor tail--puffed out to twice its size.

"Three wishes?"

My ears perked. "Don't you know?" Despite myself, I turned around.

The boy rubbed his eyes.

I thought I saw tears on his cheeks, but he wiped them away before I could be certain.

"I believe... three wishes are customary."

"What am I supposed to do with three wishes?" I shook my head. "I'm a cat. Cats have no need of wishes."

The boy opened his mouth. "But..."

"How long have you been a genie, anyway?" If he really was a genie in the first place. There were other... things imprisoned in bottles. I was sure of that.

He glanced down at his clenched hands. "Not... not long."

"Genies don't have cats for Masters," I said. "They have humans."

"Then take me to your human." The boy's eyes glowed. "And I will grant..."

"Nope. No way. I'm not taking you anywhere near Carla or Maddie." I backed away. "They don't need your wishes." Although, if I thought long and hard about it, I could probably use up three wishes on Carla and Maddie. I'd start with getting rid of the bills, and finding Carla a better job. No more store brand cat food for me….

"You've thought of something," the boy said.

I thought he'd sound happy, but saw only despair in his eyes.

"Yes, but I'm not going to let you..."

"What can it hurt?" The boy shivered and rubbed his arms. "You'll... help your humans, and use up one of your wishes. And I'd be gone from your life so much faster."

"What more can a cat want? Three meals a day, a soft place to sleep…. You can't stop Maddie from drooling, can you?"

"No."

I turned my back on the genie. "I didn't think so."

"But... but you can't just leave me here!"

I stopped. He had a point. As far as I knew, anyone could come along, find the bottle, and have three wishes. "Can I wish for you to go back into your bottle and leave me alone?"

He flinched and curled up on the sandbar, his head pressed down against his knees. "Yes."

I hadn't expected him to say that. For the first time since I saw the bottle, I felt a flutter of unease in the pit of my stomach. "Really?"

I couldn't miss the tears now. They sparkled in the sunlight that danced across his cheeks.

"Yes." He wouldn't look at me.

"Oh." I sat down, considering. "Well, then." I stared at him for a long time, considering all my options. "Three wishes?"

He did not raise his head. "If that is the customary amount, then, yes."

"Are you really a genie?"

His hands clenched. "If I am granting wishes, then what else could I be?"

I didn't want to try and guess. "What if... What if I only have one wish?"

This time, he glanced up at me, his face stiff. "Then I must..." He closed his eyes.

I could almost see him rehearsing the lines in his head. "I must serve you until I've granted your three wishes."

I tried to imagine being waited on hand and foot and decided that would be more of an annoyance than a pleasure. "That won't be necessary. Are you dangerous?"

His head snapped up. Those glowing green eyes fixed me in place.

I felt the fur rise along my back.

"What?"

"Are you dangerous? I need to know, if I'm bringing you back home with me."

The boy shook his head. His lips twisted in what might have been a smile, or a sneer. "No." His voice broke. "Not anymore." He muttered something under his breath that I didn't catch, but I did not press him for it.

"What's your name?" I asked.

He opened his mouth to reply and I saw the lie form on his lips. Then he swallowed it, and sighed. "Tib. Tiberius." He hesitated. "What's yours? Or shall I call you 'Master'?"

My name was Maddie's fault, but I couldn't blame her for trying. A three-year-old human didn't know much about names, after all. "Mist." I narrowed my eyes. "Misty."

"Mist." Tib rolled my name around on his tongue. "It suits you."

"Other than the fact that I'm male, and being named Misty is almost as bad as Buttercup," I muttered, but it was an old argument. "I have one wish, so far."

His face stilled again. His gaze became watchful, wary, expecting punishment--or worse.

I'd seen similar expressions on the faces of stray cats and dogs that animal control picked up. Abused.

"What is your wish?"

"That Carla not have to worry about her bills anymore," I said. "I don't want her to win the lottery or anything stupid like that, but I'd like her to be financially secure." I let those two words linger in the air.

Carla said them a lot.

Tib blinked. "That's your wish?"

"That's it." I shrugged. "I told you..."

A hint of relief passed across his face. "Then it is done."

"No thunderclaps? No..."

His lips drew up in a very faint smile. "No bells. No whistles."

I stared at him. "How do I know you're not trying to trick me?"

"When you return, your Carla will be gardening. She'll find her financial security."

"In a flowerbed?"

Tib closed his eyes. His face sagged, as if he held back a crushing weariness. "Yes."

"Oh." I waited for more, but he didn't open his eyes. "Okay, then. Thank you."

His eyes flew open. He opened his mouth to speak, stared at me, and bit his lip.

"What?" What more did he want?

"You still have two..."

I shook my head. "I don't have any more wishes right now. I told you that."

His eyes filled with an unimaginable sorrow. "Are you... Are you going to leave me here, then?"

"Can you come with me?" I had no desire to fish his bottle out of the creek; cats and water don't mix.

"Not without my... not without my prison," he whispered, and shivered.

"And you can't pick it up?"

"No." He fixed his gaze on his bare feet, which still floated an inch above the water. "You... you saw what happened the last time I tried."

I sighed and ventured down to the sand bar again. The bottle had rolled into a deep depression, at least a foot under water. I would have to... swim to retrieve it. I shuddered. "I am not a dog." But I couldn't leave it there, either.

A thought struck me as I stared at Tib's feet. "Can I wish you solid?"

He reacted in a peculiar manner. Instead of answering me, he shrank away, his eyes shuttered and cold. "Do not jest. You have no idea what you've asked."

Had I been human, I would have raised an eyebrow. Being a cat (with no eyebrows to speak of), I cocked my head instead. "It was a serious question. Can I wish you solid so you can pick up your... prison?" I nodded towards his feet. "You're floating about an inch off the ground right now..."

The weariness returned, sagging his shoulders now as well. He braced himself against the ground, or against air, in truth, and shook his head. "You have no idea..."

I sat down in front of him. "It's really a simple question. Yes or no?" My tail lashed the air behind me, more in confusion than frustration. Why was it such a difficult question to answer?

Tib took a shuddering breath. "Yes."

"Okay, then. I wish..."

He lunged for me, but his hand passed right through my chest.

I had to force myself not to leap away. My poor fur would never be the same.

"Wait. You don't realize..." He struggled with something--his conscience?--for a moment, then shook his head, defeated. "You asked me before if I was dangerous."

"You said you weren't anymore."

"No, I'm not. Not anymore." All at once, his emotions rose to the surface.

I saw fear on his face, as well as hope. I think the hope made up my mind.

"I wish you solid, then, so you can fetch your own prison."

He fell to the ground with a dull thump. His feet splashed in the water and would have soaked me if I hadn't jumped up on the bank. His eyes widened at the coldness of the water, and then he fell backwards, into my fishing pool.

I counted to ten before daring to peek.

Tib sat up to his chest in the water, a look of shocked surprise on his face. He raised one dripping arm, stared at it for a moment, then slowly gathered a handful of sand.

I watched him as he let it clump through his fingers.

"Are you okay?"

A flash of guilt swept over his face. He scrambled out of the water, teetered on the edge of the sandbar again, then fished into the depression for his bottle. His face froze a little when he touched it, but he did not vanish.

"You have one wish left," he whispered.

If I could think of one more wish, I could get rid of him, but he was rather growing on me. "I'll let you know if I think of one."

He nodded carefully, as if unused to gravity.

I supposed he would be.

"So, what happens now?" I asked. "Can you still vanish?"

"Do you want me to?" The bottle fell to the sand with a dull clunk.

"No. I just wondered. Are you coming home with me? Can anyone else see you?"

Tib stared down at his dripping clothes. "I... I don't know."

I tried to imagine what Carla would say if I showed up with a human boy. "I think it would be best if no one else can see you, at least for now."

Tib nodded. "Yes." He curled his toes into the sand and licked a drop of water off his lip. When he bent to retrieve the bottle, I saw the opposite bank through him. And when he touched the bottle, he vanished, just like before.

"I wish you solid, then, so you can fetch your own prison." Evidently I hadn't wished him solid for long enough.

 

 

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Author Bio

Jennifer St.Clair grew up in Southern Ohio and spent most of her childhood in the woods around her home. She lives in an old house filled with antiques, cats and sisters, not necessarily in that order. She wrote her first novel when she was thirteen, and hasn't stopped since.

She is the Fantasy/Horror editor for Planet Relish E-Zine, an ebook reviewer for EbookReader Reviews, and a member of the Brown County Writers Group.

She is the author of The Tenth Ghost, The Ninth Guest, Prince of Shadows, Lost in Shadows, and Second Coming as well as a scant handful of short stories and one or two novellas. She has written over forty novels, and she just taught herself how to knit.

Visit Jennifer's web page.

 

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Nine Lives and Three Wishes Copyright 2003. Jennifer St. Clair. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

Format: PDF, HTML, Palm
    Payment Method
PayPal -or- Credit Card -or- Fictionwise
List Price: $4.50 USD

Format: Trade Paperback
    Available at
Amazon;  Bamm.com;  Barnes & Noble  Borders;  Bookstores
List Price: $13.50 trade paperback

 

  Author News

Jennifer St. Clair will appear in two library programs in February.
The Mary L. Cook Library "Chocolate and Romance" Program, February 10 from 6-8:30 pm in Waynesville, Ohio.
The Clermont County Public Library, Amelia Branch, "Saturday with the Scribes" program, February 21 at 10 am in Amelia, Ohio.

 

  Reviews

Misty is deeply devoted to his family, even though he's not related to them by blood. He loves Carla, and it troubles him that she worries about the bills all the time. He loves Maddie, Carla's small daughter, even though she almost strangles him when she hugs him, and it was she who started calling him by his unfortunate (for a boy) name. So when a bottle shows up in a puddle one day, and the perhaps-genie inside it offers Misty three wishes, his first wish is that Carla won't have to worry about money anymore. Unfortunately, the bottle comes from Faerie, and They have rules about wishes. In return for granting Misty's wish, They take Maddie.

Misty can't let this happen. He just can't. So he decides to go into Faerie and get Maddie back. After all, They also have rules about rescue. Everyone gets one chance to win his or her loved one back. There's just one catch. Tib -- the not-quite-a- genie from the bottle -- tells Misty he won't be able to pass the border into Faerie. Cats aren't allowed in Faerie, because they do strange things to its magic.

Yes, that's right. Maybe you already saw it coming. Misty is a cat.

But like all cats, he's undaunted. He's got a wish left, and he wishes to be turned into a human, so he can go after Maddie. And for good measure, he's going to take Tib along with him to help, like it or not.

Jennifer St. Clair writes a fast-moving story. She doesn't spend time on pages of lush description, nor does she work too hard to make her characters deep and complex. The story's the point here, and she's got a good one. Not that the landscape feels flat or the characters like cardboard. No indeed. Misty is believable, both as a cat and a boy. He gets scraped up, gets hungy, and acts impetuously. Faerie as imagined by St. Clair is quirky and interesting. Side characters show up briefly, and their appearances and dwellings are intriguing enough that we wish we could go back and take another look. But not right now.

Right now, the plot pulls us along. We turn pages quickly, wanting to find out what's going to happen next to Misty and Tib. Things keep surprising us. But not in an "Oh, no! She killed my favorite character!" kind of way. Instead, we find ourselves thinking, "Wow, I did not see that coming!"

This story is fun. It's easy to follow, just suspenseful enough, and has a satisfying ending. It's written for young adults, but I'm going to harp on my usual string and say, "Who's a young adult?" I can see people as young as nine and as old as... well, however old... liking it -- so long as they're ready for a good time and a lively adventure.

Reviewed by Gray Walker. Reprinted with permission from The Green Man Review.
Copyright © 2004 The Green Man Review.
 



Nine Lives and Three Wishes, by Jennifer St. Clair, is a fanciful tale filled with magic, adventure and love. Follow Misty, Tib and Nia on a life-changing, life-affirming quest. It's a journey you'll thoroughly enjoy."
Gayle Trent, author, "Laughing and Learning: Adventures in Parenting."
 



What do you get when you take a cat and introduce him to a genie? A lot of trouble, that's what! Meet Misty, he's a cat who just met Tib, a genie. Tib agrees to grant Misty the customary three wishes. Misty uses the first wish to make Tib solid for a short period of time. He uses the next wish to give Carla, his owner, financial security. But something happens soon after that -- Mattie, Carla's daughter, is kidnapped by elves! Misty uses his final wish to become human and find Mattie. Now Tib and the newly human Misty are off to find her. The world of the elves is tricky, but Misty is determined to find Mattie. Will he succeed?

Nine Lives and Three Wishes is one of the best fantasy books anyone could read. It has the perfect blend of fiction and realism, and you almost believe it could really happen. Jennifer St. Clair paints such a clear picture of each character that you are left with a lasting impression of the characters and the book itself. This story will keep you guessing what will happen next right to up the end.
Reviewed by Amanda Roberts, YA reviewer for Romance Reviews Today.
 



4 stars!

Misty, a cat, who lives with Carla and her three year old daughter recounts a agreeably puzzling yarn of his finding a bottle laying in a puddle, scratching it and watching as a mysterious red haired boy appears. Tib, Tiberius, is a being only the cat can see, offers Misty three wishes and he disappears when he touches the bottle. Misty unselfishly wishes for Carla who is always fretting about bills to pay to become financially secure. Little does Misty initially realize that the bottle comes from Faerie. Carla soon finds a small silver box containing a ruby, a roll of bills, and 77 cents. The population of Faerie have inflexible regulations about granting wishes; they want something in return. Maddie soon vanishes into the forest where a veil separates the human world from the Faerie. Faerie consents to but one possibility to return a loved one home from Faerie. More than that; Cats are not allowed in Faerie, they do inexplicable things to its magic. However, a human who loves Maddie can liberate her. Misty has a wish left but Tib warns: If Misty becomes a human the feat cannot be undone and human Misty will remain. Misty as human Matthew willingly sets out to rescue his tiny companion. Many doors, a fall that breaks Tib's bottle and Tib who is afraid to go to meet the faeries, the Faerie queen, a spell around the hill and a castle where Maddie is being held all figure in the narrative.

On the pages of Nine Lives and Three Wishes writer St Clair has crafted a fast-paced, imaginative account filled with challenging experiences, enchantment, authentic devotion and machination. Characters are acceptable, fascinating and credible. Misty as both cat and boy is a strong presence. Faerie as deftly portrayed by St Clair is offbeat and entertaining. The mission presented to Misty is a life-affirming quest certain to be enjoyed by those who take pleasure from the genre. Characters appear, act out their role and depart; some forever, others to reappear. The story line holds reader interest, Misty and Tib move from challenging experience to daring feat. The yarn is fun, easy to trace and hazardous enough to delight the most hard to please reader. It has a gratifying ending sure to satisfy.

Nine Lives and Three Wishes is an entrancing, well written fantasy tale completed with a plot presenting a perfect blend of realism and fiction sure to enchant the target audience of strong middle grades readers to young adults. Writer St Clair adroitly paints a sharply focused unclouded illustration of each milieu and the character's populating it. Nine Lives and Three Wishes will keep the reader guessing from beginning to end.

This is an easily read tale certain to be reached for often for pleasure reading among the 11-15 year old set. Nine Lives and Three Wishes is an excellent choice for the home and school library. The tale will intrigue the 'read to set' as an older student mentor reads aloud to them. Nine Lives and Three Wishes will nicely do for the 'teacher' reading time in middle to upper grades during the 'quiet time' following the lunch recess and will be often read by youngsters.

Enjoyed the read, excellent for a warm summer afternoon reading time. Happy to recommend.

Reviewed by molly martin for Midwest Book Review.

 

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