“Look,” said Stef, as she held up a small bronze lamp. “It’s a genie lamp!”
Paul looked at it briefly and gave a non-committal “Mm.”
“Come on, show a little enthusiasm.”
“Stef, we’ve been clearing out your old man’s junk for 3 days straight, now. The novelty has worn off. All of it is shite, alright? Pure shite.”
“Yeah. I’m just trying to keep my spirits up.”
Paul nodded. “I know. Sorry love.”
Stef gave a small smile to show no hard feelings. She knew this was weird for him. He’d been lumped with clearing through her father’s life’s hoardings and he’d never even met the bloke.
“I’d hoped we might have found something by now,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“A clue. Something that might have told us where he went or what happened. Something that might have confirmed he’s not dead. Anything, really. I can’t believe he’s been gone for seven years. And no fucking trace of him, except stacks and stacks of junk.”
Stef inspected the lamp as she spoke. It was a plain little thing; no engravings or embellishments. There were a few dents and scratches on it, but that was the same for almost everything in her Dad’s house – tatty. And covered in dust. She rubbed at the lamp with her sleeve to remove what she assumed was years of grime from its surface.
A sudden bang caused her to drop the lamp to the floor with a yelp. Plumes of grey smoke quickly filled the room, and the couple found themselves hacking and coughing.
“Stef, you okay?”
“I’m good. What the fuck’s happened?”
“Dunno, I can’t see!”
“Oh, it feels good to stretch my legs!”
Stef froze at the familiar voice. Goosebumps went up and down her arms. “Dad?”
“Stef? About sodding time. What took you so long?”
Stef stayed silent until the smoke cleared. And then she stayed silent a little longer. Her father was stood in front of her, and he looked exactly as she remembered. He hadn’t aged a bit.
“I’ve been in the bloody lamp,” he said. “It’s magic, y’know? Well, I suppose you do, now. Bought it at a flea market; just liked the look of it and thought it might be worth something. It was, as it happens, ‘cos when I rubbed it, y’know, like in Aladdin, this wizened little bloke popped out in a load of smoke, and he said I could have three wishes.
“What the bastard didn’t tell me was that when he’d granted them, I’d have to take his place in the damn lamp. And then I was trapped, wasn’t I? I thought one of you kids might have been along sooner, to be honest. But I suppose you’d have no reason to come up to the attic.
“I’m banging on, aren’t I? You can’t get a word in edgeways. It’s just nice to have someone to talk to, is all, after all that time. It’s chuffing lonely in there, let me tell you.”
He paused for breath and turned his attention to Paul. “And you are?”
Paul stuck out a hand. “Paul. Stef’s husband.”
Stef’s dad ignored the hand. “Husband?” he said incredulously. “Husband? That bastard!”
Paul looked panicked. Stef looked mortified.
“My first wish was for my little girl to marry that ginger prince. What’s his name? Barry?”
“Harry, Dad,” Stef muttered.
“I said, ‘I wish for my daughter to marry Prince Harry, ‘cos she deserves royalty,’ and he said, ‘Your wish is my command!’ and I thought, cracking. That’s that sorted. Only it isn’t. Because you,” he pointed a finger accusatorily at Paul, “are not Prince Harry. That old git scammed me!”
Stef said the only thing she could think to say: “Dad, why don’t we all go downstairs and have a nice cup of tea?”
“Tea? We don’t need tea. I’ll fix this for you love. You. Paul, was it?”
Paul nodded, and Stef’s Dad leaned in close to him.
“I’ve a proposition for you, Paul. I can grant you three wishes.”Follow Ellie Scott on WordPress.com