"Magic in a Bottle (or the tales of Andelu) " 1
Long Island Sound -The End of the Island
Chrissy, the oldest, was the first to see the old bottle bobbing in the waves.
Janey, the middle child, saw it a second after.
Becky, the youngest, was intent on filling a beach pail with wet sand to complete their castle and didn’t look up to see it until she’d heard the excited voices of her sisters.
“Maybe it holds a message asking for help.” Janey’s bent for intrigue wove a tale of mystery for the bottle’s journey and mission.
“Or, there's a love letter slipped inside it with the writer's hopes of reaching someone on these shores,” Chrissy romanticized, imagining a hero and heroine torn apart amid a rich context of star-crossed events, much like her beloved fairytales with dependable, happy endings.
Becky on the other hand, being only eight and three years younger than Janey, and five years younger than Chrissy, had a much different version of what that bottle held. For her, it was driven to these shores by magic, much like the stories their mother read to them.
“I think that bottle was made from the lightning struck sands on the Isle of Andelu's beaches, and it’s magic,” Becky said with a wistful sigh.
“Andelu? Oh Becky, those stories mother wrote for us are just a fantasy; there’s no such place as the Isle of Andelu and there is no such thing as magic,” Chrissy lectured her sister in her, older and wiser, big sister voice.
Janey, not being as far removed from those tales their mother had told them, defended her younger sister’s desire to believe in them
“I don’t know if that's true Chrissy, remember mother did say she’d based those stories on the place our grandparents took her and Uncle John to on their summer vacations, so…maybe, something is true.”
“Well, if there’s any truth in it at all Janey; it certainly isn’t the magic part,” Chrissy concluded straightening her round owl like glasses over her sharp, serious green eyes.
Becky’s little brow sloped down in a defensive line over her deep brown eyes, heralding she was about to argue, loud and long.
Chrissy and Janey both noted the telltale sign but it was too late to stop their little sister’s tirade.
“There is so such a thing as magic and a place where it exists, Andelu. You’ve just grow too big to see it anymore but I’m younger so I can see it; that bottle is magic!” Becky insisted, stomping her foot for punctuation, but of course, standing on sand, it didn’t give the desired effect she’d wanted.
“That was just mother’s imagination too; telling us the world of magic disappeared when you cross from childhood was just good storytelling.” Chrissy stated the fact with a shrug of her shoulders and Becky’s eyes grew teary.
Once again Janey stepped in to mediate.
“Since none of us knows for sure what’s in that bottle, or where it came from, why don’t we agree to disagree,” Janey suggested, with middle sister reasoning and calm hazel eyes, and placed her arms around both sisters.
“But I can resolve that question, if I swim out there and retrieve that bottle,” Chrissy said, eyeing the distance to the bobbing, blue-green bottle.
“It’s too far out there,” Janey warned her.
“I think you should go and get it and then you’ll see I’m right,” Becky egged her oldest sister on.
“I will and then you’ll see I’m right,” Chrissy argued, making up her mind and ignoring Janey’s dire warnings of ten foot waves.
She lifted the goggles that hung around her neck and secured them over her sight correcting glasses and headed to the ocean.
“Please don’t go. Chrissy, I’m begging you not to do this,” Janey cried out as her older sister dove into the waves.
Chrissy swam towards the bit of bobbing glass with strong strokes.
The bottle rode the waves and played a good game of keep away as Chrissy tried to reach it. She looked back to the shore and knew she’d gone a forbidden distance but that bottle was still out of reach.
“Please come back!”
Chrissy heard Janey’s frightened voice but she had to show Becky it was just an ordinary bottle and besides, it wasn’t that far away; if only she could just grab hold of it.
Chrissy thought she was close enough to grab it when a particularly strong wave rolled over her and she felt the undertow trying to pull her down. Her heart pumped with electrical frizzles of fear as she fought to stay afloat.
“Please protect me,” she whispered silently with her mother’s image in her mind and oddly, the wave calmed and the illusive bottle was now, almost magically, in her reach.
Chrissy’s hand slid over the smooth top of the glass and her fingers closed around the neck of it.
“I’ve got it,” she crowed holding it up, into the bright sunlight.
The sun wove through the glass and for a second, a brilliant rainbow shot through the bottle’s deep colored middle blinding her with the beauty of the colors.
Chrissy blinked, stunned by the strange appearance of that rainbow, but knew it was the sun reflecting off the water that had created the odd vision; it had nothing whatsoever to do with the bottle, or magic. Keeping a tight grip to the bottle, she swam back to her sister’s waiting on the shore.
“Let me see it, let me see it,” Becky said with excitement.
Chrissy handed the bottle to her little sister to allow her to examine its ordinary properties.
“You shouldn’t have gone that far out Chrissy; if mother saw you, we’d all be in trouble for it,” Janey scolded.
“Hush, no one saw me and I was perfectly safe,” Chrissy said with fingers crossed behind her back; she had been in danger, momentarily, but there was no need to tell that to her sisters, and no need at all for them to tell their mother.
“It is just a plain old bottle,” Becky grumbled handing it back to Chrissy.
Chrissy saw the disappointment in Becky's eyes and, now that she’d won her argument, wanted to cheer her up.
“Oh, I don’t know. It is an old bottle. See how it’s made? So who knows what its adventures have been, crossing an ocean to get here, it must have many stories to tell, if it could talk,” Chrissy spun the idea in a reverent whisper, stirring her younger sister's imagination once again.
“That’s true,” Becky nodded taking back the bottle, “It does look old.”
“And even if nothing is inside of it now; we don’t know if it once held a note or even a map to a treasure that someone might have already found,” Janey added, helping to embellish the bottle’s journey.
Becky’s eyes lit up with interest.
“Yes, it could even have fallen from a pirate ship,” Becky took up the story, cradling the fascinating bottle in her arms.
“Well, wherever it’s been; it’s here now and we’ll take it home and give it a place of honor on our bookshelf. Then we can make up wonderful tales of possibilities for it,” Janey offered, thinking it the perfect solution to satisfy all of them.
They each took turns holding the newly respected bottle as they trudged along, kicking up sand on the secluded beach. The beach fronted the little beach house their mother had rented for their entire summer vacation.
Yesterday, they had ridden the Long Island Railroad train for three hours to the last stop, to the depot at Greenport, to the end of the Island.
The girls loved the idea of being at the farthest point of somewhere. They imagined sitting on the beach and dreaming of what distant shores could be reached from here, if they dared to sail to them, which being children, they could not do, but the imagined adventure was just as much fun.
After dinner, the three girls lounged around in the bedroom they shared, relaxing until the time their mother would peek in to tell them to turn out the light and go to sleep.
Chrissy was reading the newest edition of Seventeen. She’d begged her mother to buy a subscription to it, even though she was far from that age. She snuggled into her pillow, curled up in her bed and sighed over the latest fashions while dreaming of growing up to look just like Natalie Wood.
Janey sat in one of the two comfy reading chairs in the room, positioned under a bright, reading lamp. She was engrossed in the newest book, in a series of mystery and magic, written by her favorite author. Her eyes were saucer wide at the moment, which was a sign she’d come to a very scary part in the story.
Becky sat at the desk in the room working on a puzzle in a Highlights activity book their mother had bought for her at the newsstand in the railroad station, before they’d boarded the train.
The bookcase in their room was filled with many books and magazines. They’d brought quite a few along to read on rainy days and before bedtime. The bookcase was also where they’d placed the treasured glass bottle they’d rescued from the Atlantic Ocean.
The bottle was sitting next to a small fern and a dog-eared copy of their mother’s favorite childhood book, ‘Magic by the Lake” by Edward Eager. The book was dog-eared because after she’d read it to them, they’d re-read it many, many more times to each other.
The three girls were absorbed in their books and didn’t notice the odd glimmer coming from the blue green bottle on the bookcase, not until Janey looked up and gasped.
“Why is it glowing?” Janey asked aloud, causing Chrissy to take notice.
“It must be from the light filtering in the room,” Chrissy offered the explanation weakly, knowing there was no sunlight to cause this effect, as it had done over the ocean, for it was dark outside and even the overhead light in the room couldn’t cause what they were seeing.
Becky was the last to look up from her book but when she did, she jumped up with joy. “I told you it was magic!” she exclaimed but then she fell silent and sat back down, too afraid to say anything more and her eyes grew wide with fear.
The three girls watched with captured breath as a glowing ball of light formed inside the bottle and slowly flowed out of it, taking a solid form. The imposing formation of a very tall, very annoyed genie, with hands on his hips, was not a comforting sight to behold.
“It is magic,” Becky repeated but this time her voice cracked in her whisper and the genie’s eyes snapped to hers.
“Oh I am Magic for sure little scamp, but my magic is not the kind found in fairytales,” he warned her then his booming laugh shook the bedroom walls.
Becky and Janey both ran to Chrissy’s bed and the three girls held on to each other as they wondered what they could do to get that genie back in its bottle…and before it woke up their mother!
“And that’s all I'll tell you for tonight,” Grandma Christy told her three grandchildren, snuggled in their beds.
“No Grandma, you have to tell us more,” Tara begged prettily but her grandmother shook her head.
“It's time to go to sleep and if your parents come home and find you three still awake, I will not be babysitting anytime soon.”
“But grandma does the genie give them magic? Or does he keep it for himself and give them trouble?” Jennifer asked leaning over from her top bunk above her younger sister’s lower bunk.
“That is a question to be answered next time, now tuck in and go to sleep. Maybe you’ll dream the rest of the story,” she chuckled at her granddaughter’s grumblings but they did as she'd asked and pulled up the blankets to go to sleep.
She bid them goodnight and switched off the light as she left the room.
Tommy their little brother was across the room in his captain’s bed and he sat back up, wide awake.
“I bet that genie is still around somewhere,” he said as he switched on his night light and worried that the shadows on the ceiling might just be that troublemaking genie.
“Oh go to sleep,” Tara told him,” There's no such thing as genies.”
But in a dark corner of the attic, in a long forgotten box marked 'summer books', was a cloth wrapped, blue-green bottle that shook with corked laughter.