"I wish my life was a fairy tale," Ashley said, looking up from her fashion magazine that lay on the breakfast bar side of the kitchen island. Caleb did his best not to roll his eyes. He scooped a noodle from the boiling pot and bit down. Al dente, just the way he liked it. He puttered around the kitchen, ignoring his sister, but when the fettuccine alfredo was set before her, she hadn't given up. "I want my prince to come."
Caleb took a bite rather than tell her that if she lived in Cinderella, Ash would be the stepsister. Tonight was Ash's night to make dinner, but she felt her part was complete once she'd left the cookbook open on the counter. Caleb was forced to add a trip the grocery store to his list of things to do. He was hoping the laundry soap would last until their parents got back from their convention, but as he had to buy Romano anyway….
Most of his chores were done. He'd vacuumed the living room and the hallway, put the dishes away while the water boiled, and done all his laundry plus the clothes Ash left, unrinsed, in the washer. He even folded her stuff, but he drew the line at putting it away. All he needed to do was clean the dinner dishes and start the dishwasher.
Caleb stood up to take his plate to the sink. Ash sighed, flipping through the pages as if she was looking for something that wasn't there. She got up and went into the living room, leaving her empty plate on the bar. Caleb picked it up and started in on the dishes. Ash wasn't normally this preoccupied. Even if she didn't ever do her chores, usually she kept him company while he did them.
Ash came running in, the magazine folded so the front and back covers touched. As far as Caleb knew, Ash had never done this before; her five year old magazines looked better than his five week old ones. She shoved the magazine in his face. "Look! Look at this ad."
Caleb, his hands damp from wiping down the bar, took a moment to dry them before taking the magazine. The ad, the only color on the page otherwise devoted a short story, had a castle with a unicorn at the top, a knight in golden armor on a white horse at the bottom, and bold blue letters in the middle that asked, "So you want your wish to come true?"
Caleb stared at the ad and then glanced at Ash. Her face was flushed and eyes bright, she looked more like a grade-schooler than the mature young woman most adults took her for. Caleb looked back at the ad. "I can't believe you're that gullible."
"I'm not, Cay. But look, this wasn't here before." She took the magazine back and flipped it closed to check the date. "This magazine is four years old. Don't you think if this ad had always been here, I would have seen it before?"
With the way Ash read her magazines, Caleb couldn't image her missing an ad that looked like it had been written with her in mind. "I don't know. But it doesn't matter. I didn't see a number or a url or even a street address."
Ash paled and flipped back to her page as if she wasn't sure the ad would still be there. "Aha," she laughed, "And there is too a phone number."
Caleb looked over her shoulder. Sure enough, under the words was a phone number. The horse also looked different. All four of its feet were on the ground. Wasn't it just three before? Caleb reached for the magazine to get a closer look, but Ash pulled it away and ran to the phone.
"What?" Caleb asked, "You can't just call them. What if it's one of those five dollar a minute calls?"
"It's an eight hundred number." She flashed the magazine at him so fast he only saw a blur. "And I'll let you listen."
She carried the cordless phone into the living room and set it on the coffee table before plopping on the couch, but that only lasted until Caleb sat down beside her. Then she bounced to the edge of her cushion and stared at the phone, fists clinched, as she counted the rings. Halfway through the seventh ring, just as Caleb was about to tell her that no one would answer, a crackly voice said hello.
"Hello," Ash answered brightly. "I didn't think you were going to answer. I want my wish to come true."
"What," the voice asked, "is your wish?"
"Hey wait," said Caleb. "First, how much will this cost us?"
"Am I giving one wish or two?"
"One," said Ash, quickly. "But both of us will be in it."
"Ah," drew out the voice as if he suddenly understood them better than they understood themselves. The voice was masculine and younger than it had first seemed. Caleb felt imaginary spiders running along his spine. He almost dove for the phone to hang up as the voice finished the word and asked, "So you both want a prince?"
Caleb blushed and turned his head away. Ash laughed. "Right in one. I want to live a fairy tale. I want Cay to come with me."
"Don't drag me into this," Caleb said. If he was pulled into some fairy tale world—not that it could ever happen, but if it did—then he wouldn't ever meet that college student he stopped by the coffee shop twice a week to see, but who he hadn't yet got the courage to speak to. "I like my life."
"Ah," the voice said, drawing it out longer if that were possible. "Your price is this call. Only people who deserve a wish get through. Your wish will come true with the dawning of the sun."
"Wait," Caleb said, but the line was dead. Ash preened. Caleb rolled his eyes. He hoped the guy at the other end of the line was a sicko who got off on breaking girls' hearts. What a thing to hope. Ash bounced to her feet. "The sooner I sleep, the sooner tomorrow will arrive."
Caleb rolled his eyes as she practically skipped down the hall. Phrases like that were why everyone assumed she was the more grown up one. Adults never looked at her actions and no one ever witnessed the results of her behavior because Caleb was forever cleaning up after her. Maybe he should wash her silk shirts with his new jeans. But no, she'd probably like the effect and thank him.