Luc look dazed, and for a long time it seemed he didn’t know what to say. When he did speak up, it was the same thing everyone always says: “So I can wish for anything I want?”
"Almost anything," Darius said. A newspaper and a cup of coffee sat on the café table in front of him. Luc was having nothing. "Technically, there are limits. 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. It was a warm spring day, and through the window they watched couples stroll arm-in-arm while children played in Pasteur Park. Occasional tourists wandered by. "And I get two wishes?" Luc said.
"Isn't it usually three?"
"That's the industry standard," said Darius, stirring his coffee. "But for you it's two."
"Is there a reason?"
"Of course there's a reason, but you don't get to hear it. You’re getting the offer, the offer is two, and I’m not allowed to say more. Rules. Two is still pretty good. It's two more than most people ever get."
"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?"
"I can change what is, but I don't know what's going to be. I can't see the future any more 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. I don't know if more cures are 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 asking.”
Luc ran his fingers through his hair. "It's funny," he said. "All of a sudden I have no idea what I want. What would you wish for?”
"Really good Persian coffee."
"You can't get it anywhere these days, you know."
Luc kept staring. Darius sighed. "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."
The waitress came again. Outside, a young woman waved her phone around like a divining rod, desperate for a signal.
"You could always wish for money,” Darius said. “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."
"Isn’t wishing for money petty?”
"Of course not! Money is security 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 guess," said Luc. He scratched his palms. “What if I wanted…something. It’s hard to figure out how to phrase it..."
"That sounds promising."
Luc watched the cell phone woman give up and walk away. The fit of her pink jogging shorts was very apparent. "I've been married for six years,” he said. “Have you ever been married?"
"No, but I'm familiar with the institution."
"Don't get me wrong. I love my wife. She's amazing. And I love our life together, and our daughter, and our house.” Instinctively he reached for Darius’ coffee, taking a sip too fast and burning his mouth. “Everything is--"
“It really is. But I feel like I'm missing something. Excitement, maybe? Adventure?" His eyes took on a pleading look.
"Exoticism?" Darius said.
"Well, I can help you with that, but that's not a wish. You need to be more specific.”
Luc looked at him. He seemed desperate and hungry around the edges. "Is there such a thing as a bad wish?" he said.
"There's such a thing as a stupid wish," said Darius. "But morally bad? I don't think so."
"But what if it hurts someone?"
"I'll make sure it doesn't. As best I can, anyway." Darius leaned in more. "Stop beating around the bush. 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, but that just goes to show that it's a real wish after all. Wishes aren't trifling things, they come from a place inside yourself where you almost never bother to look. Now you've seen that place and you know what's in there. Don't you?"
"So let's hear it. Make a wish. See what happens."
Luc took a deep breath. "Okay then.” 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 --"
"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." 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: Two women were with her, and both were smiling. "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. "The girls and I have been talking, and, well..." She blushed.
"We both think you're very attractive," said Elise, putting her hand on his arm.
"You and Nadia both," said Anna, and as Luc watched as 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. "Nadia loves 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?"
"Was that the time?" said Elise, frowning.
"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. 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?"
"I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life," said Nadia. " 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 him.
"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." She and Anna twined their arms around each other.
"That's very thoughtful," said Luc, squeezing Elise's large, firm breasts while kissing the side of her neck. 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? As long as no one was getting hurt...
Anna slid down Nadia's body, kissing and licking her thighs. Nadia giggled. 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 any time 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, 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?"
"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 care 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 and slid his cock out, stroking it with her other hand and licking 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 his wife kiss Anna's sweet, picturesque little pussy. Nadia's eyes were closed as she licked up and down, long red nails splayed on Anna's thighs. Meanwhile, Elise stroked 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. Her lips were wet and hot. 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. She pulled Nadia up to kiss her and the two rolled over…right 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 tighter around him and drew him all the way out, then swallowed him back in, the muscles of her throat squeezing him.
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 and Nadia cooed encouragement. 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 into her warm, receptive body. 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. 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 in response. Nadia pulled her elf away from Elise's pussy for a moment, saying in Italian (as she always did when they were in bed): "My God, you look amazing." Luc only grunted in response, 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 crying out.
Luc's felt Anna's slippery, sweat-drenched skin wriggle 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 are really something." 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 licking her erect nipples. 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. Nadia and Elise murmured 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. Playfully, they fought for turns, but eventually Nadia won, taking him all the way in, bobbing up and down on him in the practiced motion she knew he liked. She winked one green eye at him and with a rush Luc began to spurt. Moving quick, Nadia popped him out (leaving a trail of stickiness across her pretty pink mouth) and motioned for Elise, who squeezed her generous breasts together and let him gush onto them, the other women purring as they watched it dribble down the sloping curves of her cleavage.
When it was all over 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. “How do you feel?" she said.
"Fantastic," said Luc, still short of breath.
"Good," said Nadia. "I want you to be happy."
"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.”
"…darling, can you excuse me a moment?" said Luc, standing. He 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?"
"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?"
“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."
"All right," said Darius. "Your wish is my command."
"So that's what happened," said Darius. "He made another wish, and I granted it, and now no one remembers anything. 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."
Darius stirred his coffee and smiled at the waitress. His companion did not speak for a while.
"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. "But it all happened? I mean, really?"
"Sure," said Darius. "But it may as well not have. If no one remembers, then what's the difference?"
"But I know."
"You know because I told you. That’s not the same as remembering," said Darius. "Anyway, I had 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 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. He would regret doing it and he would also regret not doing it. So he did neither.”
Nadia said nothing.
"What he wanted wasn’t all that bad,” Darius said. “I’ve seen much worse. In fact, I'm impressed by how well he knows himself. Few people do."
"I'm not mad," said Nadia. "I don't know how I feel."
"Ah, the curse of human nature," said Darius. "Now I have a question for you: Why give Luc your last two wishes in the first place?"
Nadia sipped her coffee. "After the first one I didn't want anything else. I thought it would be better to make sure he was really happy.”
"Is that so?" said Darius. "That's sweet, but I don't believe you. I think you did it because you feel guilty. You thought that by using a wish to fix your marital problems you were manipulating him, so you gave up your other wishes to smooth over your conscience. Am I wrong?"
"I thought you'd given up figuring out why people do things?"
"Bad habits are hard to break. Are you saying you don't feel guilty knowing he probably would have left you if you hadn’t wished it otherwise?”
Nadia shook her head.
"Do you know what makes people be happy, or 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 it isn’t just magic every time? Like you said: If no one knows, what’s the difference?"
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, and their families.”
"Are we friends?" said Nadia.
"Who's your friend if not the person who gets you what you want? There’s my two o'clock." He signaled, and a lost-looking young woman in the doorway saw him and approached the table. Nadia gave her a polite wave and scooted out of the way. The newcomer watched her go.
"Who was that?" she said.
"An old customer," said Darius. "An old friend."
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..."