Once upon a time, in a land just south of the thrifty country where the men wear skirts and north of the very proper country where they put steak sauce on their French Fries was born a young lad who would in later years become exceedingly fair of face and lithe of body, a lad who would cause women to swoon and make complete and utter fools of themselves when they were long past an age when they should have known better. But on the day he was born his happy parents of course knew nothing of this, all they knew was that they had a son, their first born. A boy to carry on the proud name of Gruffudd. His mother looked lovingly down upon him and said, "Peter, isn't he the most beautiful baby you've ever seen?" His father replied, "Yes, Gill- he's a nice strong looking lad." But he was really thinking, "I was afraid he'd end up with a nose like her father- look at that honker. Oh well, hopefully he'll grow into it." And his mother was thinking at the same time, "I wish Peter hadn't wanted to name him Ioan. Good God, people are going to have enough trouble with Gruffudd."
The young lad thrived in this loving, close-knit atmosphere, and within a few years had a brother and a sister to share his happy home. He displayed a talent for music, as did many of his countrymen, and took up the oboe which carried him to far off lands and earned him admiration from many. But alas, not from girls as he had hoped. So he also took up Rugby, favorite sport of the Welsh, both to follow in his father's footsteps and in a (still vain) attempt to win the attention of the fairer sex. Although he was a personable, talented and outgoing young man, he still hadn't grown into that nose and those ears, and young girls are flighty and shallow creatures. Little did they know that in a few years they would be kicking their own butts for spurning his attentions.
The young man discovered another talent, acting, and made the decision to pursue it as a career. During this time he had met and become fast friends with another lad, Matthew son of Glynn and Helen, who also displayed thespian tendencies. So at the age of eighteen our hero went off to the big city of London to study for the stage, making a pact with his mate that he would follow soon after. In his years of study he laughed, he cried, he worked hard to perfect his craft. He fell in love and left his boyhood behind (finally) and, having grown into the nose and the ears quite nicely he began to attract the attention of those who held power in his chosen field. He began to make a name for himself (granted that name was most often Eye-oh-ann Gruff-food) as a heart-throb and as a sensitive and intuitive actor. His newfound fame often came at a price though, and he endured stressful and physically taxing days on film sets, and alas had his heart broken by his first and only love. But through it all he had his stalwart friend and now housemate to commiserate, laugh, and get completely bug-eyed drunk with when the need arose. He tried to ease his aching heart with another, only to find that a broken heart does not heal in a few weeks and pain cannot be treated with more of the same. He began to gain more fame on the small island which contained his homeland, and captured the hearts of a few wise and canny women scattered across the globe. He won awards, was much in demand by trendy men's magazines to model over-priced and, um, interesting clothing, he schmoozed and networked with Hollywood luminaries, his name was linked in the press with women of questionable virtue, he partied many nights away at the world's largest film festival in France. It was unfortunate that he had forgotten to pack more than one shirt in his excitement though. "Oh hell," he told himself, "No one will ever realize that I wore the same shirt in every photo."
The young lad's dreams were coming true. He was successful in his chosen career, he had a loving and supportive family and many friends, including his best mate Matthew who was ever there to lend an ear, or even a hand for those times our hero ended up on the bathroom floor while in his cups. He seemed to have everything. And yet- there was a place somewhere in his soul that was still empty. Something was missing.
This is where our story begins…
"Oh God, another chat show," our hero said to himself and he studied his face in the bathroom mirror. "I always come off looking like a stiff or a complete dork on these things," he sighed. He leaned closer, then backed off again, scrutinizing the features that apparently sent women into fits of lust and admiration. "Girls, I just don't see it," he said, shaking his head. "You're all either mad or blind. Look at that nose, after all. How come I had to get my grandad's nose?"
Another voice interrupted his musings, "Mate, you really need to stop talking to the mirror. It won't talk back like in Snow White, you know. Except when you've been drinking cider maybe."
"Don't mention Disney films to me, mate."
Matthew grinned. "Oh well, chin up. Maybe it will go to video after a week or two."
"Everyone's a comedian," Ioan muttered.
"So what kind of name is Yo-ahn?", the interviewer practically screamed into his face. Our hero gritted his teeth and steeled himself to answer. Why did they all ask the same bloody thing? He was fed up to the arse with manic chat show hosts, couldn't one of them ever ask him an original question?
"It's Welsh. Just like me, oddly enough," he almost snapped. He instantly regretted it; he tried to be polite to everyone, as he had been taught. Even brainless, obnoxious chat show hosts, unfortunately. There were times when he really wished that he had not been so well brought up.
"Well, that explains it then," the ginger haired host grinned.
"Apparently it does," Ioan answered.
"So you're in this Disney film that's coming out soon, a hundred and twelve Dalmations, or something. What were you thinking, Yo-ahn? I mean- bloody DISNEY?"
Our hero began to get a sharp stabbing pain behind his left eye.
He walked into the pub that evening where a group of his mates were waiting to tease him unmercifully about his newfound status as a sex symbol. Taking the piss out of him seemed to be their new hobby, he sometimes thought. But he welcomed their good natured taunts like a thirsty man welcomes a tall cool glass of water- after a day of phony show biz types these lads were a very welcome sight indeed.
"Hey, Yo-aaahhhnnn- why don't you get a proper name that the Brits can pronounce?" One of them yelled as they spotted him waiting at the bar.
"Piss off!" he shouted back, but grinned hugely. Another of his mates was standing at the bar as well, trying his luck with a blonde beauty. Ioan watched him work his magic on her and wondered how some fellas did it, how they managed to be as successful with the ladies and make it look so seemingly effortless. He tried like hell and only managed to scare most of them away. He strained to hear what his mate was saying, hoping that he could pick up a tip or two.
"Here, you've something on your lips," his mate said to the girl. Her hand immediately flew to her face. "What?" she cried, thinking with horror that it was a bit of cheese and onion crisp.
"MY lips," he replied and gave her a quick one on the mouth.
"Oh vomit," Ioan said under his breath.
"If I gave you a pound for every time he's used that crappy line," said a voice at his side, "you could buy that red Ferrari you want so bad."
He turned and saw a woman standing beside him. An ordinary looking woman, nothing remarkable about her at all. And yet, there was some kind of…aura… surrounding her. Ah no, he thought- it's just a really heavy pong of Opium.
"I beg your pardon?" He asked her.
"Why, have you done something?" she answered.
"What? No, of course I haven't, I just…"
"I was joking, you doofus. God, you are kind of a stiff aren't you? And I thought it was just Chris Evans that made you look that way."
"Why, did you fart? That was a joke too, by the way."
He stared at her unbelieving for a few seconds, and then burst out laughing. They were really coming out of the woodwork ever since that damned Channel 4 show.
She grinned. "See there? I thought you had a sense of humor. Anyway- on to business. Three wishes. Three, count 'em three, only three, no more no matter what, and you have to take them all in a week or the deal is off. AND you get what you ask for, no refunds so to speak. If you're unhappy at the end of the three wishes there's no complaining to the management."
"Pard…ex…ur, what are you talking about?"
"Wishes. Three of them. I'm your Fairy Godmother, by the way. You're kinda slow on the uptake, aren't you? How much have you had to drink?"
"How much have *I* had to drink? How much have YOU had, is a better question." Why are they all attracted to me? he thought. Do I have some kind of invisible sign?
"Ah, another disbeliever. You modern people are such hard nuts to crack. Man, in the old days you told some poor schmoe that he had three wishes and he was spewing off the first wish before the words were even out of my mouth. But you people- you 21st Century people. Crikey- you'll believe almost anything BAD someone tells you, but let someone offer you something GOOD for a change and you're skeptical as hell."
Ioan suppressed a little snort of laughter that tried to escape and covered his mouth. "Well, that's lovely, thank you very much. I'll think about it."
She shook her head in disgust. "Okay, I guess I'll have to give you the special Doubter's Deal then. I'll give you an extra wish, just to prove that I'm telling you the truth. But it has to be a material wish, something concrete. Those ethereal things really take it out of me sometimes. Well, go on- name something. Something big that you think you don't have a hope in Hades of getting right now."
Now our hero was getting ever so slightly annoyed with this nutcase and decided to tell her what she wanted to hear in hopes that she would then bugger off and leave him alone, so he waved a hand in the air and said, "Fine. I'll make a wish then, if it will make you happy. Let's see, something big…I've got it. I'll take the red Ferrari you mentioned earlier, how's that?"
"God, how predictable you young guys are. All of you either ask for a car or a gorgeous blond with big knockers."
"I didn't know I was allowed to ask for a blond with big knockers- I thought it had to be inanimate. Damn!"
"Some of them practically ARE inanimate," she answered.
"All the better."
"Mate," Matthew, who had come up to stand beside him at the bar, poked him in the arm. "You're talkin' to yourself again. That is not a good sign."
"Actually I was talking to-" he turned to introduce his strange new friend, knowing that Matthew would find the whole thing vastly entertaining, but there was no longer anyone next to him. "That's weird- where did she go?"
"Ioan, mate- you need a beer, quickly."
The next morning our Hero woke with a thumping head and eyes practically stuck shut, his mouth as dry and rough as alligator skin.
"Oh bugger. I really shouldn't have had those last five pints," he said to himself as he rolled slowly out of bed and staggered to the loo. On his way there, however, he was distracted by the ringing of the telephone. He stood for a moment, uncertain as to whether to let the machine pick up or answer it. After the second ring the noise was pounding his head so hard that he grabbed for the phone.
"Hello?" he croaked.
"Ioan! Look out your front window!" yelled the voice of his manager.
"What? Look out the window? Why- is it snowing or something?"
"Just go and look- trust me it'll wake you up."
Ioan walked to the window with a sigh, wondering if they were putting something funny in the water lately. He pulled up the shade, blinking as the sunlight hit him in his painfully sensitive eyes. "Bugger- where are the bloody clouds when you want 'em?" he muttered.
"So- whadda ya think?"
"Yeah well, red is the color you wanted, right? You're always talking about a red Ferrari, but you could probably change the color if you want."
What the hell is he talking about? Ioan wondered- maybe he was still asleep and dreaming this. But then his vision adjusted to the light and he spotted something- something parked right in front of the house. Considering his manager's odd statement he began to put something together, slowly, as his brain was still suffering from the effects of last night.
"Wait a minute, are you telling me…what I think you're telling me?"
"Yep, mate- a present from your friends at Disney!"
"What…why…how come NOW? I don't get it."
"Me either, Ioan- they're notoriously cheap. But Michael Eisner himself rang me a little bit ago asking your address so they could have it delivered. They must have been very happy with your performance when they finally screened the finished product. Congratulations."
"Well, thanks. Brilliant." But he was thinking- I feel rather like a really expensive hooker.
When he had hung up the phone he roused Matthew and they went out together to have a look at the car. A pretty blonde in a tight fitting chauffeur's uniform handed him the keys, gave him a quick kiss and a wink and then got into a waiting limo which sped off down the road.
"Wheeew," Matthew whistled as he ran his hand along the sleek hood. "Nice piece. The car looks good too. You must feel a bit like a really expensive hooker though." Ioan gave him a wry look.
"I really don't get this, mate- why would they do something like this now? We finished shooting ages ago, and the film isn't even coming out for a couple of months."
"Don't worry about it- just look at it as your reward for selling your soul to Hollywood."
Ioan gave him a good natured shove and they clamored into the car for a test spin, but as he was turning the key sometime in Matthew's words stirred a memory.
"Nah, no way," he muttered under his breath. "It's just a coincidence."
"Still talking to yourself, I see," Matthew laughed. "How bloody fast will this thing go anyway?"
Ioan dropped Matthew off at the flat and headed across town to his manager's office to find out more about the unexpected gift from Disney- a studio who up to now had barely seemed to remember he was in the film, much less seemed inclined to make a gesture like this.
"Guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but this is all really strange," he mumbled to himself while waiting in traffic.
"Still talking to yourself?" piped up a voice from the passenger side window. It was the woman from the pub last night, leaning into his car.
"Bugger! You scared the life out of me, where did you come from?"
"Well, you know- the Netherworld or someplace like that," she answered.
She opened the door and plonked herself in the seat beside him.
"Er, pardon me…"
"Again? Are you eating too many pulses, sonny?"
"You can't just get into people's cars without asking, you know."
"Oh bollox. Just drive- I haven't been in one of these things in years. Nice ride."
"Are you stalking me?" Ioan asked, narrowing his eyes at the odd woman.
"You sure are an ungrateful little toad, aren't you? I give you a free Ferrari and you accuse me of being a stalker, isn't that rich?"
"Look, this is all very quaint and, up to now, mildly amusing, but I think enough is enough. If you don't stop following me I'll have to tell the police or something."
It was her turn to narrow her eyes at him now. "Boy, you're a tough one. So how did you just happen to acquire a red Ferrari the morning after I tell you that you get a wish granted, and your wish just happens to be for the very same? Explain this one to me, Logic Boy?"
"Well, obviously you knew something about Disney giving it to me…"
"Disney gives you a sports car for having a supporting role in a film whose real draws are a very famous movie star and a bunch of cute puppies. Disney- a company so cheap that they make the Scots look like Fraternity Boys buying beer during Spring Break. Jeepers- they didn't even spell your bloody NAME right on the web site, you idiot. And you think they just happily handed over a car that cost them thousands of dollars and you got to keep all your clothes on? You can believe THAT but you think I'M crazy? Sheesh."
Ioan didn't answer her- all these questions had already gone through his head and he had come up with no answers, but obviously this woman was delusional. He crept along the congested street, wishing he could just get to his manager's office quickly and do something about this loon.
"Damn!" he exclaimed. "I wish there wasn't so bloody much traffic!"
"Really?" she asked.
"Do you really wish there wasn't any traffic?"
"Well, yes. Of course I do. Just twitch your nose or whatever the hell you have to do and make it all disappear, would you?" He made an annoyed sound with his lips.
Ioan was hit with a sudden blast of silence. He looked around at the inexplicably empty streets. For a few seconds he couldn't breathe. Then he leaped out of the car and looked wildly around him. Then he said a few words that cannot be repeated here. Finally he got back into the car and looked over at the strange woman, who was smiling a smug little smile at him and filing her nails.
"Oh, I just love the moment when their neat little worlds cease to make sense to them. You're all so easy to impress."
"You…they…the cars, they're all…Oh Lord- you didn't do something awful with them did you?"
"Of course not. Well, not really- I just sent them all to Croydon. Don't suppose that's going to make any of them exactly happy. Or the people in Croydon either, for that matter."
"Holy %*@." (Another one of those words that nice little Chapelboys shouldn't use, but do in times of extreme stress, or inebriation) "You're for real. You're for bloody real. Hey- I'm not dreaming or something, am I?"
She reached over and pinched his upper thigh, hard.
"There's your answer then. You're wide awake, Sunshine. Take a moment to absorb it all if you want. I just have aaaall the time in the world. You know you're my only client. Notice the heavy irony in my voice."
Ioan did take a moment to think about this. Three wishes. Well, two now, he supposed. He had apparently wasted one creating a freak traffic jam in Croydon. His head began to swim with possibilities- fame, money, world peace, independence for Wales…an undefeated Welsh rugby team…but he was surprised himself at what came out of his mouth.
"I want a girl to love me," he said, and was embarrassed by how needy and pitiful it sounded. But he continued. "I want someone sweet and affectionate that will love me for myself and not because of how I look or because I make films. I want someone understanding and patient, who can cope with me being gone a lot, and will welcome me home with excitement instead of biting my head off when I walk in the door after being away. Oh, and…she has to be nice looking too. Not gorgeous or anything, but you know- attractive."
He had expected this to surprise her but she just looked at him dispassionately, with a tiny bit of what he thought might be pity, and said- "Ah- the old unconditional love thang."
"Yes, that's it exactly- unconditional love."
"Okay- it'll be done before the day is out."
"Well yeah that's it. Whadda you want, a sideshow or something?"
"I don't have to sign something in blood, or anything like that?"
"For Pete's sake, you doofus- I'm a Fairy Godmother, not the bloody Devil! How the hell do you get through the day without falling down a manhole or something, is what I'd like to know."
He had no answer to this. She continued-"Two down, one to go. And you only have five days after today or you forfeit the last wish, don't forget."
"Um, when do I meet her?"
"Sometime today I said, you impatient little weasel. God, you really take ungrateful to new heights. You haven't even said thank you, by the way."
"Oh, I'm so sorry. Thank you."
"Yeah, that's better. When you're ready for that last wish, let me know." She started to get out of the car.
"Wait!" Ioan stopped her. "How will I get hold of you when I'm ready?"
"Just whistle," she answered. "You know how to whistle, don't you? Just put your lips together and blow…" She winked at him and exited the car, slamming the door after her.
"Jeez, now THAT was original," Ioan muttered.
Ioan spent the rest of the day running errands and searching the face of every woman he came into contact with wondering- was she the one? Which one was his second wish? The tall blonde with sunglasses at the deli? Perky little redhead with a killer smile who was temping at his manager's office? Maybe the sultry exotic dark woman in the dry cleaners….But none of them even spoke to him, barely returned his smile. Well, plenty of time left in the day, he thought, and headed for home.
He was parking his car when he spotted his neighbor, Lucie, standing on the footpath. She was a nice girl, and the lads had always gotten on well with her. They had the occasional meal together in one another's flats, even nights out at the pub. She was great fun to drink with, almost like one of the lads, with a great sense of humor- and always ready to listen when a fella needed a sympathetic ear. Ioan noticed as he watched her inspecting his new car that she was sort of cute, in a normal-girl kind of way. But he supposed it could be just his exceptionally good humor making him think that now.
"Whoo-eee!" she said. "Is that yours? Ioan, you'll be moving to a better neighborhood soon if you're doing this well!"
He grinned at her. "It was a gift actually."
"Hmm, you must have impressed somebody quite a lot then," she winked at him.
"Michael Eisner, apparently, but please don't spread that around," he laughed.
"You slut. You look well anyway, having an obscenely expensive car obviously agrees with you."
"Well, it's not just the car…"
"Ah, I knew it. People only look as happy as you when there's romance involved. So who's the lucky girl?"
"Mmm…don't know yet, but when I meet her I'll let you know."
She looked at him oddly. "This isn't some Internet thing is it?"
"No, nothing like that."
"Oh, good. You can run into some real weirdoes on the Internet."
"Luce- we don't even have a computer."
"Oh, that's right. You have to find your weirdoes in the pub." She didn't know the half of it, he thought.
"How about you?" Ioan asked her. "Any romance in your life?" He thought she gave him an odd look before she answered.
"Apparently not, but a girl always has her eyes open, doesn't she?"
Ioan then noticed movement at the edge of his vision, something at his doorstep that he hadn't seen up to now. When he looked he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"What the hell is that?" he cried.
"Um- it appears to be a dog, Ioan. Do you have your contacts in?"
"I can see it's a dog- but what's it doing on my doorstep?"
Lucie giggled when it became apparent just what the puppy was doing on his doorstep.
"Ooops- looks like she had a little accident."
"Oh bugger, where did you come from?" They approached the small, brown, fuzzy bundle, who looked embarrassed and apologetic about her faux pas.
"Oh, she's adorable! Look at that sweet little face!" Lucie cried, and bent down to stroke the tiny head. The puppy immediately began to wag its tail so hard and fast that its whole body shook manically. Ioan remained hardened to its seductive charms, however.
"We have to find out who owns it, they'll be missing it by now."
"Ioan, her lead is fastened to the doorknocker. And there seems to be a note stuck to this big red bow around her neck. I'm no Miss Marple, but I think this just might mean she isn't a stray."
With a sinking feeling Ioan plucked the note from around the puppy's neck. As he was retrieving it, her little pink tongue shot out to lick his hand and her big brown eyes looked soulfully into his. "Don't you do that!" he warned her. "I don't care what the story is, you're not staying here so get that right out of your head."
He opened the note and held it out so that he and Lucie could read it together. As she leaned in close to him he caught a momentarily distracting whiff of her soft, powdery perfume, and then turned his attention to the small card in his hand.
"Dear Ioan," Lucie read aloud, "it made me so sad when I read that you never had a pet when you were a child. Every boy needs to have a dog of his own at least once in his life so I'm giving you this cocker spaniel puppy. I'm sure you'll love her as much as she loves you. Sincerely- A Devoted Fan."
"Oh bloody hell. They couldn't just be happy sending the damned stuffed Dalmatians any more?"
"I think that's kind of sweet, though. And look at that little face…"
"I am not looking at that face, because she has to go and that's all there is to it."
With impeccable timing Matthew came walking up to the door just then.
"Hiya kids," he said. "Did you get a puppy Lucie? She's cute."
"Ah, no mate- apparently the puppy is ours." He handed Matthew the note.
"Bloody hell. Are you keepin' her?"
"No! Of course not! I can't have a dog, I'm gone too much."
"I could mind her when the two of you are away," Lucie volunteered. Ioan glared at her.
"Oh, don't give me that look Mr. Gruffudd," she scolded him. "I think it would be good for you to have a pet. She would be company for you, and good practice for later on."
"Practice for what?"
"You know, when you have kids." She and Matthew giggled.
"I'm glad this is all so entertaining for the two of you," Ioan told them.
"Lad, you are having some day, first a Ferrari and now a faithful companion. Well, you did say you were getting lonely, Ioan, and here's one woman who won't nag you or bitch when you have to go away on location. She might piss on your shoes, but at least you know she won't run off with any of your mates while you're gone."
Ioan stared at him, wide-eyed. "WHAT did you say?" he demanded.
"Well, you know- dogs don't expect much from you except food and a walk and a bit of a pat on the head now and then," Mattie replied.
"That's right," Lucie added. "Unconditional love."
"Oh BUGGER!!" Ioan shouted into the air. "I can't BELIEVE you did this to me, you annoying COW!"
Matthew and Lucie stared at him in amazement. The puppy ran to hide behind their legs.
"I beg your pardon?" Lucie finally sputtered.
"Oh, no- not you Lucie, it's that other bitch- that Fairy…" he realized then how completely insane he would sound if he told them what had happened to him that morning. He stood there, suddenly silent, seething and embarrassed now at his outburst.
"Fairy? Hello- Ioan? What's the problem, mate?"
"Oh, never mind. I just figured out who sent me the damned dog, that's all. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting."
Lucie reached out and gently stroked his arm. "Ioan, sweetheart- I think you need a holiday."
Ioan slammed his bedroom door behind him and began to whistle loudly, and it was not a pleasant little tune. He heard Matthew's voice from the other side, "Mate- are you all right? What are you doing in there?"
"I'm fine, really. Just pissed off, that's all."
"You know Ioan, maybe you do need a holiday, you're acting a bit off lately," he grumbled as he walked away. Alone again, Ioan continued his whistling, although a bit more softly now. He was interrupted by the ringing phone.
"Hello?" he said, annoyed at the intrusion. He heard a woman laughing on the other end.
"HAAHA! I can't believe you actually WHISTLED! God, you are such a dork!"
"Oh, very funny! I'm so happy that you've finally found the source of amusement you've been searching for after all these years. I feel bloody honored."
"What's your problem? Not happy with your second wish or something?" Now the voice was coming from directly behind him, and he jumped a foot, startled to say the least.
"MOTHER! You scared the hell out of me, don't do that."
"So…what's your beef, Chapelboy?"
"You know exactly what my beef is- the bloody dog!"
She looked at him with one eye narrowed and a raised eyebrow. "The dog?"
"Yes, the cocker spaniel puppy. Har har- 'unconditional love, sweet and affectionate'- and she is attractive, I have to give you that one. Lovely big brown eyes. I did, however, rather expect that she'd be house trained, at least. Not to mention HUMAN."
The Fairly Godmother shook her head and started to inspect the items atop Ioan's dresser, seemingly ignoring his questions. She sniffed a bottle of cologne. "Pee-ew! What's this goop- it smells like toilet bowl cleaner."
"Put that down!" he grabbed the bottle from her hand and replaced it on the dresser. "You can't go rooting around in people's stuff. Anyway, what have you got to say for yourself?"
She faced him then, crossed her arms on chest and blew out her cheeks. "You know, Chapelboy, you really have got a lot to learn about life." He stared back at her. Oh great, a lecture- like he didn't get enough of these from his mother. He rolled his eyes and sighed, resigned to it.
"Granted, you do seem to have a lot more sense than most boys your age, not to mention better manners, MOST of the time. But you need to learn a little patience. And- to learn the truth of these words: Things aren't always what they seem."
Ioan and the Fairy Godmother stared at each other for what seemed an age. "What the hell does that mean?" he asked, finally. Then he had a thought- "Is the dog going to turn into a gorgeous girl or something later on?"
"Oh brother. The crap they feed you kids for literature in the modern world." She shook her head. "No, I'm afraid the puppy will have to stay a puppy, unless you want to make that your third wish?"
Ioan thought about it for a couple of seconds, but he got an unpleasant mental picture of Caprice chewing up his shoes and weeing on the sitting room carpet and rejected the idea quickly. He was getting the hang of how this wish thing worked.
"No, I think I'll pass thanks. I'll let you know when I'm ready for the third one- I want to make sure I get around your little loopholes."
"Hey, you're a lot smarter than you look, Flower." She winked at him. "And don't forget to whistle," she cackled.
"Ha ha. And put my brush back before you go too." She made a face at him, slammed the brush down on the dresser top, and vanished.
"I would have to get a fecking klepto Fairy Godmother, wouldn't I?"
Needing to think about his third (and last) wish, Ioan decided to take the puppy out for a stroll around the block.
"C'mere…hey- what's your name anyway? Well, I guess it doesn't matter since you aren't staying. Where have you gotten to?"
He searched the sitting room and finally found the little thing lying in a corner, happily chewing a shoe. "HEY! That had better not be one of my Pradas!" He wrenched it from the pup's little jaws. "Oh, that's all right then, it's Matthew's. Teach him to leave them on the floor eh?"
The shoe's owner passed them then on his way to the front door. "Ioan mate, I'm out for the evening, don't wait up. What's that you've got there?"
"I believe it's yours, heheh," he said, handing him the gnawed object.
"What the…Bloody hell! It mangled my shoe! That damned dog has got to go, Ioan."
"Really?" Ioan said with an evil grin. "I was just starting to think I might keep her after all."
"You will my bollox."
Ioan thought about his wish while he walked the puppy, who excitedly trotted along with her little floppy ears swinging. "Well," he said to himself, "trying to get something non-material seems to have backfired in my face, so maybe I should just go for crass materialism for my last wish. A nice juicy part in a Hollywood film with a big fat salary. With my luck I'd end up doing the whole thing in a gorilla suit or an iron lung or something though. This is so tricky- I have to be really careful or she'll screw it up for me, the loony cow. Maybe I should think about it a while, after all I still have a few days. That's right- I can just obsess about this every waking moment until I've figured it out, that's good. Very healthy. You know, everyone's right- I am talking to myself too much. I wonder if I've lost my mind and this is all some kind of delusion?"
"But if you had lost your mind, you wouldn't even be asking the question, now would you?" Lucie came up behind him and linked her arm in his. He wondered how much of his mutterings she had heard. "Hey Ioan, I thought you weren't keeping the puppy."
"I'm not- but until I figure out what to do with her she has to be walked or she'll pee all over the house. Right?"
Lucie grinned at him. "Sure Ioan. I know it isn't that you're starting to think she's just a wee bit cute, because you're such a hard man and all."
"Oh, shut up. You want her?"
"I might. It might be nice to have another girl around, even up the odds a bit."
"She's all yours then. I have to warn you though- she seems to have a taste for expensive leather."
"So I guess you won't be taking her for a spin in the Ferrari then."
"Will I what! She's not getting near that car!"
"Well, how about me?"
"How about you- what?"
"Can I have a spin in your fancy new car- or do only supermodels and sleazy pop singers get to ride in it?"
Ioan found himself blushing, and this slightly irritated him. "Of course not- I mean…of course I'll take you for a run in the car, if you want."
"I want. When?"
"Well- what are you doing now?"
"Hmm…going for a ride in a hot sports car with a famous movie star, I hope." She gave him a naughty joking wink.
Ioan laughed at her, despite feeling slightly off center at her rather unusual behavior.
"Lucky you. Someone phone The Sun."
"Brilliant! We could get out of the car with newspapers over our faces like Madonna and whats-his-name do when the Paparazzi are chasing them. What fun!"
"Um, Luce- I hate to break this to you but those guys don't even take photos of me at premieres and stuff when I want them to."
"Oh, bugger. Well, we'll have to pretend we're just plain old folks from Kilburn then."
"Plain old folks from Kilburn with a Ferrari, mind you."
"Well, one of us has a Ferrari. One of us still rides the tube. Shall we put the dog inside and head off then? Hey, she'll have to have a name won't she?"
"I suppose calling her "Dog" could get a bit old. It's up to you- new pet owner. You are still taking her, right?"
"Let's see- what should I name her?" Lucie stooped and looked into the little pup's face. The puppy yawned and flopped onto the footpath, bored now. "How about…Nicky?" She looked at Ioan and grinned wickedly.
"Oh, you wouldn't!"
"I think it suits her really well, don't you? Hello, little Nicky, good girl!" The puppy wagged her little tail and smiled at them. "See?" Lucie insisted. "She likes it."
"You know Lucie, I never realized that you had this little sadistic streak in you. Maybe I should reconsider letting you have my dog after all."
"Just go get your jacket while I put my dog in my flat. Then I want to see what a car worth more than my house has to offer."
Ioan was smiling to himself as he popped inside to collect his jacket, and then something funny struck him as he was locking the door behind him. For several minutes, he had forgotten all about his wish.
Ioan opened the passenger door for Lucie. "Get ready for a life changing experience, darlin'," he said.
"Boy, you men sure are easy to please, aren't you? It IS just a car, Ioan."
He feigned shock at her last words. "Just a car! JUST a car?! You blasphemer! A Toyota is JUST a car, a Ferrari is NOT just a car. It's art rendered in metal and leather and…whatever else it is they make cars out of. It's like, a transportation masterpiece. It's War and Peace on wheels, Lucie. You probably think that rugby is JUST a game, too. Gaa!"
"Ioan, have you ever read War and Peace?"
"No. Get in the car, smart arse."
Ioan steered his bright red piece of motor art through the crowded city until nearly an hour later they were zipping along a country lane. They had been mostly quiet until now, Ioan wanting to concentrate on the heavy traffic and Lucie lost in her own thoughts. "Well, so what do you think? Better than the tube?" he asked her.
"It's very…smooth. And…red."
"This is it? This is your assessment of one of the most expensive and well-built sports cars ever made? Smooth and red. Sounds like a mid price Tesco wine from Romania."
"Sorry- I'm a Philistine, aren't I?"
"No, you're just a girl," he sighed.
She gave him a little smile. "You mean you actually did notice?"
"Notice what?" Ioan glanced at her then, puzzled.
"That I'm a girl. I was beginning to wonder if you thought I was a lad with an odd physique and a rather high-pitched voice." Now Ioan stared over at her, wide eyed. What the hell was she talking about?
"Hey- keep your eyes on the road there, Eddie Irvine, or we're going to end up like some bad pop song from the fifties."
"Of course I noticed that you're a…girl. Woman, whatever it is I'm supposed to call female people now. Bits of you are very… girlish. But you're enough like a lad to be fun, too. That's a very big compliment, by the way, coming from a bloke."
"Taken as such and noted, matey. My girlish bits thank you."
Ioan risked another quick glance at her and grinned. "Lucie, are you flirting with me?"
"And they say he isn't smart, folks. Give the boy a tuppence."
"Funny, I always thought you had a thing for Matthew."
"Who says I don't? I could just be very kinky, you know," she said, and winked at him without a hint of a smile. He looked ahead at the road, slightly flustered. She was kidding, wasn't she?
"I'm kidding, silly," she told him, giving him a little thump on his arm. He let a small sigh of relief escape then.
"So…" she said, and then left the word hanging between them like an unopened birthday present. Full of possibilities, both good and bad.
"You sure do like that word, don't you? SO- have I made a complete fool of myself and we'll now have to avoid making eye contact when we meet on the footpath? Have my nights out with the lads come to a halt because it would embarrass everyone too much to know that poor old silly Lucie is pining for Ioan and didn't have the pride and good sense to keep it to herself? In short- do you like the idea that I'm flirting with you, or do you hate it?"
He smiled, but with his eyes still on the road. "I like the idea okay. Let's say I'm glad one of us has no pride or good sense."
"The road to celibacy is paved with pride and good sense, Ioan. Of course, if you'd rather make the first move like a good little Neanderthal, we can forget this ever happened. Just keep in mind that neither of us is aging backwards."
"Lucie, you're an interesting girl. Kind of scary sometimes, but interesting."
"Wait till I show you what I can do with a ball of twine and some candle wax."
Ioan looked over at her with raised eyebrows. She smiled demurely at him.
"You're thinking about it now, I know you are."
"Actually, I'm trying to place who it is you remind me of," he told her. And he was- there was something vaguely familiar about her sense of humor, but he couldn't quite grasp it.
"Well, I must warn you, if you say it's your mother, I will have to do something unspeakable to your fine leather upholstery."
When they turned into the quiet street in Kilburn, Ioan felt almost reluctant to have the day end- by now it was just after dark and London's night shift was coming alive around them. He was struck suddenly by how much had happened to him that day. Had it only been that morning when he had awakened to find the car waiting for him? Was it less than twenty-fours hours ago that he had met the strange woman in the pub? It seemed more like years.
Ioan edged up to the curb and stilled the engine, then turned to look at Lucie. "So- what now?" he asked her, grinning.
"You could ask me out for a date," she replied.
"Okay- would you like to go out for dinner then?"
"Let me check my calendar and see if I'm free," she teased. "But I have a better idea- let's make dinner in my place instead. No waiting in a queue, and I guarantee the service is impeccable."
"How's the wine list in this dive?"
"Well, we have a choice of two, actually. One of them is better known as beer in some parts of the world."
"Funny, that's my all time favorite wine. Let me change and I'll be right in, okay?"
"Oh Ioan, don't change, I like you just the way you are, no matter what anyone else says."
"Lucie, are you ever serious?"
"Oh yes. I'm very serious about dessert."
He couldn't miss the innuendo in her words. Was he ready for this, he wondered. Bet your arse he was.
He was pulling his favorite black jumper over his head when she appeared, so it was her voice that startled him again.
"Don't use that horrid cologne if you're hoping to get lucky tonight. Unless she's lost her olfactory sense in some tragic accident."
"Jeez! Will you please stop sneaking up on me! What if I'd been naked?"
"I know- my timing is really off lately. I haven't caught you once."
"What do you want, anyway?"
"Can't a manifestation just drop in to say hi? See how you're doing?"
"I'm doing fine, now go away."
"Some manners! Didn't your mother teach you to be polite to guests? Especially ones who just gave you a Ferrari and an adoring companion?"
"Yes, lovely. Thanks very much for letting me waste one wish sending a load of commuters back to the suburbs and then deliberately misinterpreting my second wish. Very sneaky of you. Is this how you amuse yourself- watching people make complete fools of themselves?"
She shrugged. "They never let me down," she agreed. "So have you thought about the last wish? What's it going to be, a big mansion in Hollywood? A private island? A place on the A list?"
"I'll let you know, don't worry. I still have plenty of time to work around your little tricks so that you can't distort my words and make me waste the last one. Anyway- as you seem to already know, I have a date, no thanks to you."
"Congratulations Romeo, I'm chuffed for you. Don't keep her waiting."
Ioan picked up a bottle of cologne from the dresser, hesitated, then put it down and chose another one. The Fairy Godmother smirked.
"Shut up," he instructed her.
"What? Did I SAY something?"
Ioan was chopping garlic, per his instructions from the chef. "How much do you want me to do?"
"Loads. I love garlic." He gave her a questioning look, eyebrows raised.
"It's fine," she said, "as long as you're both having it." He smiled. The puppy, now firmly christened Nicky, stood beneath him and looked up with large hopeful eyes.
"You don't want this, I promise you," Ioan informed her. "But if you don't go away I'm going to give you some anyway."
"Don't be threatening my dog, you."
"I've always found the best way to get even with a woman is to give her exactly what she thinks she wants," he joked.
Lucie put down the spoon she had been stirring the sauce with and faced him, hands on hips.
"Why you cheeky little man. Of course you'd know, with your vast experience of pop stars and supermodels. I have to warn you, us ordinary mongrels aren't as easy to get rid of as those thoroughbred types."
"I don't know- I seem to have the knack of it." His voice lost its joking tone then.
"Ioan, things happen the way they're supposed to, they really do. If something didn't work out, then it wasn't meant to be and nothing you could do would change that."
"Lucie- if you could have one wish, if someone walked up to you, say in a pub, and told you that they would make one wish of yours come true, and you knew they were telling you the truth, what would it be?"
"Hmm, that's a tough one. Wishes are tricky- it's true that sometimes what you think you want more than anything in the world turns out to be either something you didn't really want at all, or something you already had but didn't know it. In which case, you could have spent the damned wish on a holiday in Spain or something. What would you wish for?"
"I don't know- you're right, it would take a lot of thought. Maybe even six day's worth."
She laughed. "Six days? Where did you get that figure? You're a funny old thing sometimes, Ioan. Well, if I had to make a wish right now, and didn't have any time to consider it- I think I know what it would be."
"And- are you going to share this secret?"
She crossed the couple of feet of space between them and put her arms around his shoulders, pressing her body lightly against his. His arms automatically went around her as well.
"I think I would wish that we could skip the entrée and go straight to dessert."
He hesitated for a beat, and then bent to kiss her.
The kiss lasted for years, millennia, eons perhaps.
It was sweet as only first kisses can be- tentative at first while two people tested each other, tried each other out like a new flavor of ice cream. Then, when they had consumed the first little taste and found it rich and delicious, they dug in and devoured each other. Ioan thought her lips felt better that anything should be allowed to feel. Lucie thought his lips felt just as wonderful as she had hoped they would.
When they finally broke apart they both became suddenly shy, flushed from the excitement of the new feelings but still afraid to trust them.
"That was lovely," he whispered against her soft, clean smelling hair, holding her tightly to him.
"Would you like to see my…lamp?"
He thought he must have heard her wrong. "Your…lamp?".
"I have a really interesting lamp. A rare antique. I think you'd like it."
"Okay…" What on earth was she talking about? One minute they're sharing a kiss he could feel in his big toes, and now she wanted him to discuss collectibles? Women. Who could figure them out.
But her next words made it all clear. "It's in my bedroom," she whispered.
"Oh…I see. I, um, I would love to see your lamp."
"Are you sure? Because sometimes when friends see each other's lamps, well- afterwards it's hard to stay friends."
"Lucie, I'll always be your friend. Even if you decide that you don't want to…show me your lamp after all, we'll still be friends."
She looked into his eyes then and knew that he at least believed it to be true.
"In that case, come with me. You won't believe how nice this damned lamp is." She grinned and took him by the hand.
And that's all I'm going to say here, gentle reader, because people's lighting fixtures are private things. Although I know you're all wondering about the wattage of the bulb.
After they had, ur- inspected the lamp, discussed the lamp in rather loud and excited voices, then rested and thought their separate thoughts about the lamp (each relieved to find that the lamp was to their mutual liking), then had yet another look at the lamp, they were drifting off in each other's arms- happy and relaxed.
"Luce," he said softly.
"You know that question I asked you before? I mean, about having one wish?"
"Yes?" Her voice was sleepy.
"Have you thought about it any more?"
"Mmm. Toilet water."
"What?" Was she asleep already, or was toilet water another euphemism, like the lamp?
"My mum always wore this certain kind of toilet water, because my gran wore it, and whenever she smelled it, it reminded her of her own mum. Now that my mum is gone I'd like to wear it too, because I think I wouldn't miss her quite so much if I had that scent around me. But they don't make it any more. So- I would wish that they did. Now go to sleep. Unless you're thinking about the lamp again…"
"Luce- I'm twenty-seven, not eighteen. I'm done with the lamp for a while." He heard her snicker softly in the dark.
"Well, you'd better have that bulb changed by morning, mate."
"Hey mate- I wondered what happened to you." Matthew looked up from his paper while Ioan flopped down in the other kitchen chair. "I thought for a minute maybe you were trying out the bathroom floor again."
"Lookin' at a lamp, mate."
"I'm not going to ask."
"I think I'm in love."
"Oh, is that all. I was worried for a minute."
"Well, wait for it-" Ioan hesitated, steadying himself for Matthew's reaction. "It's Lucie."
Matthew just shook his head. "Sometimes you're such an idiot, it scares me."
"Ioan, anyone with a brain could see that one coming like the 8:57 from Brighton. She looks at you like you're the last chocolate éclair on the planet. I've been wondering when you'd finally notice."
"Well thanks mate, for helping me out! I really appreciate it."
"Hey, you know I never interfere in your love life. You never listen anyway, stubborn bastard."
"So anyway- what do you think of her? Do you think it's a bit close to home maybe?"
"Nah- Lucie's not like other women. She's not as…girly and fussy and whiny. I think she can handle you. She's like one of the lads, only with all the right bits."
"I can tell you for a fact that her bits are exactly right. Well, it's been an interesting couple of days."
The conversation was interrupted by the ringing phone. They both ignored it; Matthew went back to his paper, sipping his tea. Ioan stole a slice of his toast and began to munch on it.
"I'll just get that then, will I?" Matthew finally said.
Ioan grinned. "You always give in first, you wimp."
"It's always bloody for you," Matthew called over his shoulder.
"Hello, we're not home right now-"
"Shut up Mattie, I know that's not what the answering machine says."
"Oh… hell-looo Lucie…"
"Wipe that smirk off your face, we're not silly teenagers."
"Speak for yourself."
"Is your goofy mate there or has he already run for the hills?"
"He's here, and from the looks of him he's not able for even a mild jog much less a run. What did you do to him, you evil woman?"
"Oh, grow up," but she was giggling.
"Ioan, it's your new GIRLFRIEND…" Matthew shouted. Ioan came up behind him and took the phone.
"Ioan and Lucie, sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S…"
"Matthew, go make more tea, would you?"
"This WAS a lot more fun ten years ago, wasn't it?" He headed for the kitchen, still snickering to himself.
"Sorry about that, he's a nutter," Ioan told her. "How are you?" He couldn't stop the big grin from appearing on his face.
"I'm wonderful, thanks." He could tell she was grinning too.
"I miss you already."
"Oh Ioan- don't be gross! I just rang to see if you want to go to lunch with me. Or would that be breaking the rules? Am I supposed to wait for you to make the next move?"
"No, it's fine. Well, I would like to know that you're going to let me make the first move once in a while, Lucie. Or at least let me think that I am."
"Oh, okay. If you insist. Meet me outside by your vulgar car at half past twelve, then."
"It's a date."
"I'll even let you pick up the check, Caveman."
Ioan put down the phone, laughing at her. He had just turned to walk away when it rang again.
"What? Aren't you even going to let me shower?"
"Pardon me?" It was his manager.
"Oh sorry- I thought you were someone else."
"Obviously. Well, are you sitting down? I have a bit of news."
"Good God, am I getting a boat to go with the car or something?"
"No, but if you get the part you've been asked to audition for, you could practically buy yourself a fleet."
"This is the big time, mate. It's between you and three other huge Hollywood names, but they requested you specifically. It's a starring role, apparently kind of a Tom Hanks-ish thing. One of the producers is a big Hornblower fan. If you get this, you could be on your way to the A list. But I'm warning you, those other three are going to be hard to beat. Ioan? Are you there?"
"I'm in shock. When's the audition?"
"Day after tomorrow. I've got you on a flight to LA tomorrow morning, so get your bag packed."
"LA. I should have figured. That's probably where it's shooting too, eh?"
"Yep. Is there a problem?"
"No, no problem. I'm over the moon."
But he felt strangely…NOT over the moon. Snap out of it, he told himself. This is what you've always wanted. Get a grip. One night of lamp inspecting and you've turned into a lovesick calf.
A few minutes later Ioan had just jumped into the shower and was lathering up his hair when one of his worst nightmares came true.
"Want someone to scrub your back?" The voice was mere inches behind him.
"GOD!" He jumped forward and banged his head on the shower wall. "OW!" Now he had shampoo in his eyes too.
"Well, I guess what they say about big feet is true after all," she cackled.
"Jeez, you are such an old lady, Gruffudd."
He snatched a towel from the hook beside the tub and wrapped it around him, then reached blindly for another one.
"Here," she said, and handed him the towel.
"Thanks," he grumbled, wiping the soap from his eyes. "That is quite unacceptable, you know. You can't just join people in the shower without their permission."
"Sorr-ree. I didn't know you were shy- you sure show it off enough on film."
"Was there something you wanted?" Ioan pulled the towel from his face and turned to look at her. "And how come you're not wet anyway?"
"Because I'm not an actual physical presence, you nincompoop. I'm a non-corporeal entity. This body is only a manifestation."
"No offence, but couldn't you look like Cameron Diaz then? If you get to pick, I mean."
"Hey, what's wrong with this body? This is what I looked like when I was alive!"
"And exactly when was that, just out of curiosity?"
"Hey, you NEVER ask a woman's age- don't you know that?"
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I give up. What do you want?"
"Just to remind you Sunshine, tick tick tick…"
"I know, I know. I have a few days left, don't nag."
"Better get used to nagging now that you have a girlfriend."
"Very funny. Hey, you weren't watching when…"
"Oh please! What do you think I am, some kind of PERVERT? Sheeze. I should have given the wishes to your mate. Now HE looks like a lad who could make the best of his opportunities. He has that naughty look to him." She gave him a broad wink and clucked her tongue.
"I've been wondering about that. How come you did pick me?"
"Actually, it wasn't my choice. Orders from above, don't you know. Don't ask me how they make the decisions- but that's bureaucrats for you. If there's a wrong step, you can count on them to take it."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence."
"Anyway- I'd say it's pretty obvious what your last wish should be. You'll never beat out Ben Affleck for that part without a little nudge, don't you know."
In his heart, Ioan thought she was right.
"What's the matter, is your chicken gone off?" Lucie reached across the table and stroked the back of his hand with hers.
"What? No, it's fine."
"You have a face like there's a pain in your tummy. Having second thoughts about last night?"
Ioan took her hand in his then. "No! Definitely not that. I just got some news this morning."
"Oh dear, bad news?"
"No, actually it's really good news, I guess. I've been called to audition for a big budget film. If I get it then this could be the break I was waiting for." "But that's fantastic news! Isn't it?"
"Well, the film will be shooting in LA…"
"Oh. I see. How long would you be gone then?"
"A few months, with rehearsals and all."
"Oh, a few months. That's nothing- a few months will fly by. You'll be having a brilliant time out there with your mate Leo and all the others, you won't even notice the time."
She tried to pull her hand away but Ioan held it tightly. "Luce- I know the timing is bad."
"Ioan, I'll be honest with you- I suppose I would rather you were a plumber or a bank teller or something nice and boring that meant you'd have weekends off and not have to go away to exotic places and snog beautiful women for a living. But you're not, and if you were, you'd be a different person. Maybe I wouldn't like that person nearly as much. And look at it this way- at least you're not a cop or a fireman."
Ioan released her hand then. "This is all easy to say now, but it gets harder when it happens time after time."
Lucie took his hand again and looked into his eyes. "Hey, I'm not her."
He returned her gaze, searching her eyes for some hope.
"So when's the audition?"
"I leave tomorrow morning."
"Then we'd better make the most of tonight."
Ioan shut the hotel door behind him. He flopped onto the bed and reached for the telephone, gave the number to the operator and listened to the ringing on the other end until a sleepy voice answered.
"This had better be good, it's bloody half two in the bloody morning."
"Ioan mate, you had better be drunk or in jail."
"Neither one, I'm afraid. I just got back to the hotel. Haven't even gotten into the mini bar yet."
"How'd the audition go?"
"Okay. I think they have their hearts set on Affleck though."
"Hard luck. Still- you could be in with a chance though, you never know what they might do."
"Yeah." He paused before asking the question he had really rung to ask.
"Did you see Lucie today?"
"No, but she did leave a message for you on the answer phone. Seems she's run off with a rich solicitor."
"Mate, that was just bloody heartless, even for you."
"Teach you to ring me in the middle of the buggering night. Yes, I saw her- she's fine. She's going to collect you at the airport."
"In what- she doesn't have a car."
"She has the keys to a gorgeous red sports car, mate. And I have to tell you, the dog seems to have really taken to it. Heh-heh."
"She's never driving the damned dog around in my Ferrari! Bloody hell. I forgot how annoying women can be." He was grinning though.
"I'm hanging up Ioan. If you want any more chat you'll have to ring and wake Lucie. That would be a nice test of her love for you."
The phone clunked in his ear as it was hung up several thousand miles away in London.
"Not big on manners when he's half asleep, your buddy."
"Good Lord, you followed me all the way here?" Ioan walked past her and toward the mini bar.
"Get me a G and T if they have one, would ya?"
"I thought you were non-corporeal. How can you drink a G and T?"
"Spoilsport. So…ready for your last wish Princess? Or are you going to keep me in suspense until the last possible moment? I DO have other things on my plate besides following you around, you know."
Ioan chose a bottle of beer from the fridge, sat down on the edge of the bed and took a big swallow. Then he sighed.
"How can you ever really know what you want when life throws so many surprises your way?"
"Gag. You sound like a Hallmark card. But of course the answer to that question is- you don't. You just do the best you can with the information you have and hope it all comes right in the end. It's not a Nintendo game, there's no win or lose with real life."
Ioan looked up at her standing above him with her arms crossed on her ample breast. She was gazing back at him, and her expression was not unkind.
"How come you have to start making sense now?" he asked her.
"Women are annoying that way. Even us non corporeal ones. So? What's your poison Welshboy?"
He thought about it for a moment. Then he sighed. Then he told her.
"You're sure?" He just shrugged. He wasn't, but he had made his decision.
"IOAN!!" She was standing just outside the barriers and waving happily. He hurried over and swept her into a big hug. He couldn't believe how good she felt. How could someone become so important to you so quickly that a few days of not seeing them would be so hard?
"Look at you, you got a tan, you dog! It looks great." She kissed him, and their lips lingered together for a long moment.
"YOU look great. I missed you."
"Good," she grinned. They began to walk hand in hand through the crowds toward the baggage claim.
"So how did it go anyway? When will you hear? Tell me everything! Did you see any movie stars? Was Ben Affleck there? Is he cute?" She giggled at the look he gave her. But before he could answer any of the questions, her attention was diverted by a display in an airport shop they were passing. "Oh my God, I don't believe it!" she said.
"What? What are you looking at?"
She walked over and picked up a bottle of perfume from the stack arranged artfully on the small table. "This is it! What I was telling you about- the toilet water that my mum always wore. I don't believe they've started making it again."
Ioan tried to hide a smile. "Give us a sniff then," he said. She sprayed some on her wrist and offered it to him. "Lovely, it's perfect for you." He insisted on buying several bottles for her, of course. Well, he would, wouldn't he?
When they had continued on their way she repeated her question. "So anyway- do you know anything yet?"
"Not yet- it might take a while to hear. But I don't think I'll get it."
"You sound very sure."
"Well, it's kind of- insider information, let's say. But that's okay, there will be other parts."
"Hmm. I get the feeling you would like to have this one, though."
"What I would like is for my brand new girlfriend to take me home, feed me, and then model her new perfume for me. Just the perfume, if you get my drift." He winked at her.
"Look what that evil city has done to my nice sweet little Chapelboy, it's gone and made you all cheeky and bold. We'll have to send you over there periodically, I think. For your health, like."
He grinned at her and then couldn't resist stopping in the crowded airport to kiss her again, longer this time.
Ioan, Lucie and Matthew sat around the breakfast table, each reading their papers and distractedly sipping tea and crunching slices of toast. Little Nicky trotted from chair to chair, looking up with big sad eyes and hoping for a handout.
The phone rang. It rang again, and several more times. They all ignored it.
"Oh bloody hell, I'll get the damned thing!" Lucie exclaimed, throwing down her paper. "How come neither of you lazy sods can ever remember to set the answering machine anyway?" After she had stormed out Ioan and Matthew exchanged naughty smirks.
"Hello, Beavis and Butthead residence- they can't come to the phone right now because they're being little brats. Can I help you?"
"Excuse me, I think I have the wrong number, I was looking for Ioan Gruffudd."
"Oh! I'm sorry! Yes, he's here, just a moment." She slunk back down the hallway, embarrassed.
"Ioan, it's for you. It's someone American, I think. I'm afraid I was a bit silly when I answered." He just smiled and kissed her on his way out to the phone.
"What did you say?" Matthew wanted to know. "You didn't answer it Fanny's Massage Parlor did you?"
"NO! Of course I didn't, don't be cheeky. I answered it Beavis and Butthead residence."
Matthew guffawed. "Lucie- I could get used to having you around."
"You only say that because I got fed up and cleaned the bloody kitchen yesterday."
"Well, there's that too. But it's mostly because of your wit and style." She rolled her eyes at him and went back to her paper.
Ioan came back into the kitchen then, looking gobsmacked.
"I don't believe it," he said. "I just really don't believe it."
"What?" Lucie and Matthew said in unison.
"I got that part, the part I auditioned for two weeks ago in LA. I actually got it."
"Congratulations, mate. Now you can buy me a Ferrari too," Mattie joked.
"That's brilliant, sweetie! I'm so happy for you!" Lucie jumped up and kissed him on the lips.
"Thanks, I just don't understand it though, I mean I didn't…Jeez- they must actually want me for the part."
"Well, of course they do," Mattie said. "What do you think- someone put a hex on them or something?"
Ioan looked over at Lucie and thought that she had a bit of an odd look on her face, one he couldn't read. "I have to leave for rehearsals in three days though," he informed them.
"Plenty of time for a proper old piss up- er, celebration I mean," Matthew checked himself, with a sideways glance at Lucie.
"Oh, don't worry," she told them. "I know that you ladies will want to go out on your own and get rat arsed before he leaves. I'll just stay home with my knitting and my faithful pooch one night."
"You're a peach, Luce," Mattie told her with a grin. He looked over at his friend. "Ioan, mate- you don't look too sure about this. What's the matter?"
"I thought this was what you wanted, love," Lucie said, searching his eyes.
"It is, it is…I'll just miss you both, that's all."
"Hey, if they put you up in some posh condo with a pool, you won't have to miss me for long," Matthew said. "'Cause I'll be over there with you."
"I wish you both could come with me," Ioan said, with a pointed look at Lucie.
"Sorry, mate," she answered, shaking her head. "Some of us have to work for a living, and I don't imagine my boss thinks a movie star boyfriend trotting off to Hollywood is exactly a good excuse for sick leave. But I might pop over for a long weekend, just to see if I can catch you in a compromising position with a starlet."
He grinned. "I'll try to scare one up, just for you, darling."
When he was kissing her goodbye in the hall she asked him, "What's the matter? You should look happier than this."
"I'm just worried, a bit, about…you know. Whether what we started here can survive a separation."
"Ioan, it's only a few months. We'll run up horrifying phone bills, I'll fly out to visit- of course you'll pay for it- and we'll see what happens. I have a feeling it will be fine, but I will say this- I'm not a supermodel. I'm not an A list actress. I'm not even a washed up pop star. If that's what you decide you want, then I'm history. I'm just me and that's all I'll ever be, but I think that's okay. I can only hope that you do too."
"Of course I do, I think you're wonderful."
"Then stop worrying like an old lady and have a good time in LA."
"Okay, I'll try. But promise you will come to visit."
"Sure I will. I want to meet Ben Affleck."
Later, when Ioan was out in the Ferrari running some errands to prepare for his departure, he heard a now familiar voice from the back seat.
"Hey, Chickadee. I guess congratulations are in order."
"You know, I don't think I'll ever get used to you popping up like this. I think you've taken at least ten years off my life this week."
"Well, you can rest easy now, buddy boy, your last wish is over and done with. This is strictly a social call, and my last one. Ah go on, you know you'll miss me."
Ioan gave her a wry look in the rear view mirror.
"What's wrong with you anyway? You don't look as happy as you should do- this is your big break, right? What you've been wanting since you were just a gangly youth at RADA?"
"Yeah. I suppose it is, it's just…sometimes timing is a bitch, isn't it? But there is something I don't understand- my last wish was the perfume, right?"
"But I got the part anyway. Are you telling me I beat out Ben Affleck without any…help?"
"No, that's not true either, I'm sorry to say. They would have gone with the other big dumb guy. People can pronounce *his* name."
"I'm still not getting any of this."
She sighed and rolled her eyes. "You're not the only punter who gets offered three wishes, you know."
Ioan thought about this for a few moments, and then realized what she had to be telling him. "But….who?"
"Welshboy, let me just tell you one thing and then you'll have to work it all out for yourself. Now listen carefully and see if this can get past all that hair and through that thick skull- the dog was not the answer to your second wish. The dog was just a gift from a fan. Now, have a good life."
Ioan blinked and she was gone. He thought about what she had said, and then a slow smile lit his face, like pulling up a shade in a dark room. And he knew that everything was going to be okay after all. He would do the film in LA, and whatever would happen after would happen. But when he came home to Kilburn she would be there waiting for him. Not a supermodel, not a pop star, and not an A list actress. Just Lucie. Sweet and funny and loyal and…normal. The best answer to his second wish that he could ever have hoped for.
Lucie was getting herself ready to go out for the first celebratory dinner when she heard a now familiar voice from behind her.
"That shade of lipstick makes you look like a corpse. Wear the pink one."
"God- you really do startle a person doing that, you know? I think you've damaged my bladder permanently."
"You're young, you can take it. Think of it as aerobic exercise for your heart, without all the sweating."
"You sure did give me a scare with the damned toilet water. I really thought that you had played a trick on me and made that my last wish. I hardly even remember saying that- I was half asleep."
"Such trust, it's astounding."
"Well, I know how you are. Anyway- it's all worked out. He got the part, that will make him happy. I have the keys to his fancy car, that will make him come back."
"Oh, I think he'd come back anyway."
"I'm still not sure that I'm happy with getting him this way. It doesn't seem quite fair, you know? It seems a bit- sleazy."
"No sleazier than the ways women usually get men. All you asked for was the chance, anyway. The rest is up to you. Just make sure you don't screw it up."
"Gee, I'll try my best. I wouldn't want to embarrass you after all."
"Well, you do get points for selflessness. First the car and then the movie role- two whole wishes spent on him. I'm so touched I could gag."
"Who said the car was strictly for him? This way I get to drive it while he's gone, and he has to pay the tax and insurance."
"See? I knew you reminded me of- well, me, actually."
"You sure know how to hurt a girl. Anyway, thanks for telling me what he wanted. Great tip." Lucie thought the Fairy Godmother looked just a bit shifty then. "Anything else?"
"Nope- just wanted to say oh-ree-vore. I'm off on my hols now- you two eejits really took it out of me. Think I'll go to Tenerife and get some sun."
"Yes well, don't let me keep you," Lucie said, and then jumped as the Fairy Godmother popped out of existence with a little soft sound like a cork coming out of a bottle of expensive Bordeaux. She shook her head, checked her face in the mirror, and then headed out the door.
Later, on a beach in Tenerife, a short, stout, ordinary looking woman in expensive sunglasses lounged on a towel in the sun, surrounded by beautiful young men who couldn't get close enough to her.
"You know boys, sometimes I do have just about the easiest job in the world. Now- who wants to get me another G&T, and who wants to rub oil on my back? Oh, don't fight..."
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