Luc looked out the window, dazed, overwhelmed by what he'd learned. Darius waited for him to recover, skimming the headlines of the newspaper on the cafe table and saying nothing, respecting the other man's silence. A great deal of time passed.
"So I can wish for anything I want?" Luc said, once he could speak again.
"Almost anything," Darius said, flicking his eyes down columns of newsprint. "Technically, there are limits." He paused. "But so far no one has ever wished for something I couldn't give them."
The waitress brought more coffee. They waited until she'd left to say more. They sat, and talked, and drank coffee in the cafe by Pasteur park. It was a warm spring day, and through the window they watched couples stroll arm-in-arm while children played and occasional tourists wandered by. Luc seemed about to ask a question but let the silence ride out for a few minutes, and Darius did nothing to rush him.
"And I get two wishes?" he finally said.
"Isn't it usually three?"
"That's the industry standard," said Darius. "But for you it's two."
"Is there a reason?" Luc stirred his coffee.
"Of course there's a reason, but you don't get to hear it. Two is still pretty good you know. It's two more than most people ever get."
"So you do this a lot?"
Luc shook his head, bewildered. "What do people usually wish for? World peace?"
"All the time," said Darius. "Usually lasts about a day. They're nice days though, no fighting anywhere. But a new war always starts up sooner or later."
"And you can't stop that?"
"Of course not. I can change what is, but I don't know what's going to be. I can't see the future anymore than you can."
"What about a cure for disease?"
"People used to wish for cures all the time,. You'll notice you're all living longer than you used to. You could wish for a cure for cancer or some such, but I don't know if it's a good idea; how many more people can fit on one planet?" Darius shrugged. "Besides, that's not really what you want, it's just what you think you should want. Otherwise you'd have wished for it rather than just asking about it."
Luc ran his fingers through his hair. He looked into his coffee, looked up, and then looked into his cup again. "It's funny," he said. "All of a sudden I have no idea what I want."
"That's normal," said Darius. "You don't have to decide right away. You can think it over."
"What would you wish for?" said Luc.
"Really good Persian coffee."
"You can't get it anywhere these days, you know."
Luc kept staring. Darius sighed. "Look, I can't answer that," he said. "I don't have a wish, it's impossible. Only humans can have wishes. Me having a wish would be like you granting one; you wouldn't know where to begin, right? I'm afraid you have no one to consult on this but yourself." He smiled a little, and winked.
The waitress refilled their cups again. Outside, a young woman waved her phone around like a divining rod, desperate for a signal.
"Anyway, if you don't know what you want, you could always wish for more money. People almost never go wrong with that one. What would you like, a million euros, a hundred million? Better not wish for anything more than that, it's hard to find a place for it all."
"Money?" said Luc. "Isn't that petty?"
"Petty? Of course not! That's security you're talking about, it's a whole life for you and your family. People who tell you that money isn't important have never been without it. Trust me, I know all about need. I've seen it more than anyone.
"Besides," Darius said, watching the woman with the phone give up, "if you're not happy with money, you'll still have one more wish left."
"I guess," said Luc. He was itching his palms.
"You must want something," said Darius. He leaned in, just a little, the legs of his chair scraping the floor. "When you woke up this morning, didn't you feel there was anything missing from your life?"
"Yes. No. I mean..." Luc inhaled sharply. "It's hard to put my finger on."
"That sounds promising."
Luc watched the cell phone woman walk away; the fit of her pink jogging shorts was very apparent.
"Well, it's just, it's my wife, you know? I've been married for four years. Have you ever been married?"
"No, but I'm familiar with the institution."
"Don't get me wrong," said Luc, gulping his coffee too fast and burning himself. "I love my wife. She's amazing. And I love our life together, and our daughter, and our house. Everything is --"
"Yes. It is. It really is. But I feel like I'm missing something. Excitement? Adventure, maybe?" His eyes took on a pleading look.
"Yes!" said Luc, voice going up an octave. "That's it exactly."
"Well, I can help you with that, but that's not a wish," said Darius. "You need to be more specific. What is it that you want, in precise terms?"
Luc looked at him. He seemed desperate and hungry around the edges. "Is there such a thing as a bad wish?" he said.
"Well, there's such a thing as a stupid wish," said Darius. "But bad, as in morally bad? I don't think so."
"But what if what you want hurts someone?"
"I'll make sure it doesn't. As best I can, anyway." Darius leaned in more. "Come on Luc, stop beating around the bush. I can tell there's something you want, and you've known what it was from the moment we sat down. It might have taken you a while to admit it to yourself, but that just goes to show that it's a real wish after all. Wishes aren't trifling things, they come from a place that you almost never bother to look because it never seems to be within your reach."
Luc appeared slightly mesmerized by Darius' voice. Darius smiled a little. "Now you've seen that place, and you know what's in there. Don't you?"
Luc nodded, once, face grave.
"So let's hear it. Make a wish. See what happens."
Luc hesitated a moment longer. Darius smiled a bit more. "What's the worst thing that could happen?"
Luc took a deep breath. "Okay then. All right." He licked his lips. "I wish..."
Nadia was waiting for him when he got home. She smiled, and kissed him, and hugged him as tightly as she could. He had trouble getting out of his coat.
"Hello dear," she said.
"Hi," he said, kissing her back.
"How was your day?" She took him to the living room.
"It was...a hell of a day, actually. I got an offer. Kind of a business proposition. Don't know what to make of it. Where's Solenne?"
"My mother is watching her for the afternoon. I wanted us to have some time alone."
Nadia sat next to him on the couch. She seemed more attentive than usual. He couldn't remember her ever waiting by the door for him like this.
"The thing is hon," he said. "I feel like --"
"Luc, before you go on, I think there's something we need to talk about."
He sat up straighter. "Okay?"
"I hope you won't be angry..."
He frowned. "What's wrong?"
"Well," she said, "I love you. And I love our marriage. But do you ever feel like you need more...excitement? Adventure?"
"Exactly!" She beamed. "I'm so glad you understand."
"Well, to tell you the truth, I was just talking about that this afternoon."
Nadia bounced up and down on the couch like a schoolgirl. Luc had never seen her so giddy. "Before you say anything else, just wait right here." She was bubbling with enthusiasm as she ran up the stairs. Luc watched after her, curious. When Nadia came back she wasn't alone; with her was a curvaceous woman with auburn hair and a slender Thai woman, both smiling at him.
"Luc, this is Elise," Nadia indicated the auburn-haired woman, "and this is Anna. They're in my aerobics class."
"I know," Luc said, standing. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize we had company."
"I wanted to surprise you," said Nadia. "See Luc, the thing is, the girls and I have been talking, and, well..." She blushed.
"We both think you're very attractive," said Elise, walking over to him and putting her hand on his arm.
"You and Nadia both," said Anna, and as Luc watched she kissed Nadia on the lips.
"We thought you could use a little company," said Elise, pushing him back onto the couch and sitting on his lap. "We talked it over with Nadia and she loved the idea, but we wanted to be sure you were, you know, comfortable."
"I know this is probably a shock," said Nadia.
"Not as much as you'd think," said Luc. "Girls, I mean, ladies, did this idea just come to you today, around one o'clock?"
"I think so," said Elise, frowning. "Was that the time?"
"I don't know," said Anna, busy kissing Nadia's ear. "Does it matter?"
"Not really," said Luc. "I was just following up on something. So, should we open some wine, or --"
"Let's not waste time," said Anna, pulling her top off. Elise began undoing the buttons of her blouse. Luc looked at his wife.
"Honey, are you sure you're okay with this?"
"Yes," said Nadia. "Very sure. I've never been more sure of anything in my life. In fact, I'm going to be very angry if you don't do this."
"Well, twist my arm," he said, kissing Elise. Her lips opened to his kiss.
"Actually," said Nadia, undressing too, "I have a whole list of women I want to bring into the bedroom. I spent most of the afternoon working on it."
"That's very thoughtful," said Luc. He was squeezing Elise's large, firm breasts while kissing the side of her neck.
"Would you like to look it over when we're done?" said Nadia. Both she and Anna were completely naked now, and twined in each other's arms.
"I'm sure I'll do just that," said Luc, burying his face in Elise's cleavage while she giggled.
Although he'd never doubted Darius's word, Luc had still been anxious about whether his wish would really come true. His life, he'd decided, was almost perfect. All he lacked was a little variety now and then. and what was wrong with fixing that? Darius said he'd protect Nadia, and as long as no one was getting hurt...
Anna slid down Nadia's body, tugging running her hands up Nadia's bare legs. She kissed Nadia's thighs, and licked them. Nadia giggled and shivered. They stood in the middle of the room while Luc and Elise reclined on the couch, watching. Elise nibbled Luc's ear, murmuring now and then as he returned her little nips and kisses. Her breasts were still out, and anytime he touched one she moaned. Nadia and Anna rubbed their bodies together and kissed, lightly at first but soon becoming hotter and more insistent. Luc admired Nadia's enthusiasm; she was really taking to this.
He turned his attention to Elise, leaning in and kissing each of her breasts, just above the nipple. He extended his tongue, flicking them once. She smiled, running her fingers through his hair and sitting up a bit more to make sure he had better access. "You always did seem like the attentive type," she said. "Didn't we always say that, Anna?"
"That's right, we did," said Anna, who was now lying naked on the coffee table while Nadia kissed her way down her body.
"Luc is just amazing," said Nadia in between flicking Anna's navel with her tongue.
"Now, now hon, don't oversell me," said Luc. He squeezed Elise's ass as she sat up on her haunches.
"I think she's just trying to--ah!" said Anna, her breath catching as Nadia kissed her way between her thighs. "Ohhh, mmmm...give you your fair due, Luc..." Anna raked her nails through Nadia's hair, pulling her in more.
"A man like you deserves his due," said Elise, snaking her way down his body now, slipping to her knees and positioning herself between his legs, running her hands along his thighs and tugging his pants down. "Why don't you let me take are of you while you enjoy the show?"
"I--" said Luc.
"Ah, ah," said Elise, cupping her hand against his crotch. "You just relax. Let us do the hard work."
She squeezed his balls against her palm and slid his cock out, stroking it with her other hand. She licked the swollen head with one, quick, darting motion of her tongue. Luc obeyed her missive to relax, leaning back with his hands behind his head and watching as his wife kissed Anna's sweet, picturesque little pussy. Anna's face was turned toward the couch, giving him a view of her beautiful features as she sighed and moaned, content. Nadia's eyes were closed as she licked up and down the other woman's cunt, long red nails splayed on Anna's thighs.
Meanwhile, Elise was stroking Luc's cock from bottom to top, punctuating the motion with the occasional lick. He felt something inside of him jerk up every time she did it and he wanted her to go faster, but whenever he tried putting his hands on her for encouragement she playfully fended him off. Finally, whether due to his mounting frustration or her own growing eagerness, she swallowed the tip of him into her mouth. Her lips were wet and hot, and they sucked tight around his cock. Elise slid down and then up, taking him in a bit at a time, matching the pace of Anna's small, choked moans behind them.
Luc closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the feel of Elise's hot mouth, then opened them again to watch Nadia and Anna. Anna pulled Nadia up to kiss her and the two rolled over, putting Nadia on the bottom. They continued to kiss and then rolled again, this time off the table and onto the floor. Both women landed in a heap, yelping, then laughing, as if drunk, and continuing to kiss and fondle. Elise sucked her lips tight around him and drew him all the way out, then swallowed him back in, the muscles of her throat squeezing him all the way down.
This went on until Luc stood, gently pushing Elise away and moving to where Anna and his wife writhed on the floor. Nadia was on her back now, and looking at the ceiling with half-veiled eyes, and Anna was positioned between her legs, mouth pressed against her. Luc cupped Anna's arched backside, sliding his hands along her smooth cheeks. Anna squealed in delight, and Nadia, watching, cooed, encouraging him. Elise lay beside Nadia, kissing her, reaching out to squeeze Nadia's bare breasts as she did.
Luc slid into Anna from behind, pulling back on her hips, thrusting hard and finding her body warm and receptive. Anna moaned, ecstatic, and buried her face even deeper between Nadia's thighs. Elise spread her legs and lowered them over Nadia's face, propping herself up on her hands and knees as she did. Luc saw Nadia run her tongue up and down the length of Elise's slit. He squeezed Anna's taut ass, ramming his hips forward; he was pleased to find that her ass actually bounced a little in response to the impact of his body. She was tight inside, and with each stroke he felt the muscles of her sex grabbing hold.
Nadia pulled her self away from Elise's pussy for a moment, watching Luc with eyes half open as he worked behind Anna. She smiled and cooed, speaking in Italian (as she always did when they were in bed): "My God, you look amazing." Luc only grunted in response, but smiled back, reaching down Anna's back and grabbing a handful of her hair, pushing her face against Nadia's pussy. Nadia screamed, and then Elise pushed herself down over her, and they continued like that, a living chain of sweaty, writhing bodies, set to the tune of four ragged voices moaning and crying out. Luc's hands slid over Anna's body, feeling her slippery, sweat-drenched skin as she wriggled under him. He cupped her petite breasts from underneath, squeezing them, accompanying each nipple tweak with a particular sharp thrust of his cock. Elise watched him over her shoulder as she worked her pussy back and forth against his wife's mouth. "My, my," she said, "you really are amazing." Anna made a noise that sounded like agreement. Luc shrugged and then winked, and everyone laughed.
Luc swiftly lost track of time, but soon it was getting dark out. Nadia and Elise, worn out, laid by Anna's side, stroking her body with lazy fingers and occasionally leaning down to lick her erect nipples or kiss the side of her neck. Anna and Luc had switched to missionary after her knees started giving out, but she showed no signs of exhaustion, eyes rolled back and body bucking against him dutifully as he continued thrusting into her over and over. Nadia and Elise murmured, impressed, as they trade slow kisses. Luc watched Anna's head thrash from side to side, her pretty face knit in concentration. He felt something start to swell up inside of him and Nadia, recognizing his body language, leaned over, taking hold of him and pulling him out, licking Anna's wetness off of the head of his cock and swirling her tongue around it. Elise leaned in too, eager to share.
Luc finally let himself sit down; his knees were killing him and his back was aching, but he didn't care. After a moment to recover, Anna joined the others, and Luc groaned as his wife and her two friends passed him back and forth between them, each of their hot lips and wet mouths swallowing him one by one, pushing to the backs of their throats, hot pink tongues sliding around and around his shaft. They giggled as they playfully fought for turns, but eventually the other two ceded to Nadia, who took him all the way in, bobbing up and down on him in the practiced motion she'd learned from so many years of marriage. She winked one green eye at him and with a rush Luc felt himself start to spurt.
Moving quick, Nadia popped him out (leaving a trail of stickiness across her pretty pink mouth) and motioned for Elise, who stood and squeezed her generous breasts together, letting him gush onto them, the other women purring as they watched it dribble down the sloping curves of her cleavage. She gasped, and Luc cried out, and when he fell back, spent, Nadia and Anna sprang forward, licking at Elise's tits, lapping up each hot drop while taking ample time to tease her pink, pert nipples. When they were done, Anna and Elise curled up on one couch, cuddling, while Nadia threw her arms around Luc, kissing him as hard and deep as she could and then snuggling up against his neck. "Mmm. How do you feel?" she said.
"Fantastic," said Luc, still short of breath.
"Good," said Nadia. "I want you to be happy, more than anything in the world."
"Do you?" said Luc, voice a little faint.
"Oh yes. You deserve it. You deserve absolutely everything you want and more, and from now on I'm going to give it you. All you have to do is ask. In fact, you don't even have to do that much, I'll just go ahead and --"
"Darling, can you excuse me a moment?" said Luc standing. He smiled at the other women, who nodded in reply, Elise winking while Anna looked away, suddenly shy. Luc went to the kitchen, stopping along the way to discretely retrieve his phone. He thumbed a number, and it rang twice before Darius picked up.
"Hello, Luc. Enjoying your afternoon?"
"Yes," said Luc.
"Good," said Darius. "Have you called about your second wish?"
"Actually, yes," said Luc. "Is it possible to use my second wish to undo the first one? Just put things back to the way they were?"
Darius paused. "If that's what you want?"
"Luc, if there's something you're not happy about with the way I granted your first wish, we can change it?"
"That's not it," said Luc. "It was exactly what I wanted. And now I want you to put it all back the way it was before, without anyone remembering."
"Regret is a funny thing, Luc."
"It's not a regret. This is what I planned all along."
Darius made a noise that might have been a sigh or might have been a laugh. "You'll never get another chance like this again, you know. Are you absolutely certain?"
Luc's voice was firm and steady. "Yes, I am."
"All right then," said Darius. "Your wish is my command."
The phone turned off.
"So that's what happened," said Darius. "He made another wish, and I granted it, and now no one remembers anything. Except for me, of course. He doesn't even remember meeting me, he thinks he spent lunch in a particularly boring meeting and then he went home, had a nice dinner with his family, made love to his wife, watched television and went to bed happy."
He stirred his coffee and smiled at the waitress. His companion did not speak for a time.
"Of course, I still felt like we should talk on account of the special circumstances around Luc's wishes. Such as they were."
Nadia bit her fingernails, mulling things over. "But it all happened? I mean, really?"
"Sure," said Darius. "But it may as well not have. I mean, if no one's to remember, then what's the difference?"
"But I know."
"You know because I told you, which isn't the same as remembering," said Darius. "Anyway, I was obligated to tell you. It was part of our agreement."
"I suppose." She sighed. "Why do you think he did it?"
"The first wish or the second?"
Darius shrugged. "I've long since stopped trying to figure out why you people do anything, but I could hazard an educated guess. I would say that Luc knew exactly what he wanted and that he wouldn't be happy with anything else, but he also knew he could never live with it after the fact. In short, he couldn't bear doing it, nor could he bear not doing it. So he did neither. Or both, depending on your point of view."
Nadia said nothing.
"I hope you're not too angry at him?" said Darius. "What he wanted wasn't all that bad, you know. It could have been worse. A hell of a lot worse. In fact, I'm impressed by how well he knows himself. Few people do."
"I'm not mad," said Nadia. "In truth, I don't know how I feel."
"Ah, the curse of human nature," said Darius. "But now I have a question for you: Why give Luc your last two wishes in the first place? Why not ever use them yourself?"
Nadia sipped her coffee. "Because I didn't want anything else. So I thought it would be better to make sure he was really happy. Make sure there was nothing he didn't have."
"Is that so?" said Darius, smiling a little. "Well, that's sweet, but I don't believe you. I think you did it because you feel guilty. You know he only fell in love with you because I granted your wish. You hoped you could make up for manipulating him by sacrificing your other two wishes. That's what I think."
"I thought you'd given up on figuring out why people do things?"
"Bad habits are hard to break," he said. "Are you saying you don't feel guilty at all for the way your marriage began?"
Nadia shook her head. "No."
"Do you know what makes people fall in love?"
"Of course I don't."
"Me neither," said Nadia. "No one does. So who's to say magic isn't as good a reason as any? Who's to say that love isn't always like magic? How would we even know?"
Darius smiled again, a wide smile that animated his entire face. Then his phone beeped. "That's all the time we have," he said. "I hope you two are happy together, now."
"We will be," said Nadia, standing.
"Hmm. Incidentally, keep my number. In a few years, when your daughter is grown, give it to her. Maybe there'll be something she wants? I like to keep tabs on old friends, help them out down the line if I can."
"Are we friends?" said Nadia.
"Of course! Who's your friend if not the person who gets you what you want? Oh, excuse me, there's my two o'clock." He signaled, and a lost-looking young woman standing in the doorway saw him and approached the table. Nadia smiled at her as politely as she could and scooted out of the way. The newcomer watched her go.
"Who was that?" she said.
"An old customer," said Darius. "An old friend. No one you need to worry about."
The young woman sat and fidgeted in her chair. "Well," she said. "Here I am."
"Yes," said Darius, "here you are. Would you like anything?"
"What are you having?"
"Persian coffee. Not the really good kind though, you can't find that anywhere these days. But you misunderstood me, what I should have asked is..."