Genevieve was a good girl, steady and strong despite her slight build. Her long, brown hair flowed down her back and over her shoulders. She had no parents, but she had a godmother (aunt) who was weak of the body but strong of the mind, and she told her niece to never accept help of any kind, from any person, especially not from Mr. Shef, the enchanter. “We have everything we could possibly need,” the aunt told her. “We have the air we breathe, the clothes on our back, and the food on the table. What else could we possibly want?” And Genevieve humbly agreed.
One day Genevieve finally chanced upon Mr. Shef. She passed him on her way to market where she planned to sell her eggs and vegetables. She recognized the name when he introduced himself, and she was immediately afraid. Mr. Shef asked her what she wished for, promising her anything her heart desired, and Genevieve remembered her aunt’s warning and refused his offer. She believed herself content with what she had in life. “There is nothing you want?” he persisted. She shook her head and turned away, hurrying on toward the market. Genevieve breathed a sigh of relief and quickly put the scene from her mind. It was over, and she felt she had dealt with the situation properly.
Now, Genevieve knew a neighbor boy, Caleb, and she’d grown up with him, becoming very close friends with him. Before she’d realized it, Genevieve was a woman, and Caleb was a man. Over time, her fondness toward Caleb grew stronger, though she hardly realized it at first. But as time passed, it got so that she could barely stand to be apart from him and wished he would turn and look at her the way she knew she looked at him.
Soon after Genevieve’s revelation, Mr. Shef happened upon her again and told her that this time he knew her heart’s desire. He crowed about her love for Caleb, and her face would not hide the truth. So, he promised her Caleb and then promised he’d be back.
Genevieve was frightened because she did not know what Mr. Shef could do, but when she came upon Caleb, he looked at her with eyes that saw her, and she flushed with pleasure. By afternoon’s end, they walked hand-in-hand. By night’s fall, they promised to never leave each other’s side.
But though Genevieve’s heart was happy with Caleb by her side, she was also worried and heartsick. Had Mr. Shef alone made this come to be? (Was Caleb only with her because Mr. Shef had somehow made it so?) Not only that, but Mr. Shef returned as promised and demanded goods from her, thretening her if she did not comply. “Some eggs for my trouble?” he asked her one day. “Or perhaps your Caleb will be sent off to war!” Another time: “Your vegetables, my love? I’d hate to see your boy drown!” Terrified, Genevieve always gave Mr. Shef whatever he asked of her.
Then one day, when Genevieve’s aunt was very sick, and Genevieve had searched high and low for the special herbs that would help her recover, and Genevieve was in the process of making her dear aunt a soothing soup, Mr. Shef came up on her again. He demanded even this soup of her, and she refused. “You owe me for the love I’ve brought you!” he cried shrilly. “I am sick, too, and as much in need of your brew!” But this time, Genevieve stood firm. Mr. Shef stormed off, muttering curses under his breath. Genevieve shuddered and quickly returned to her aunt’s side.
The next day Genevieve went across the way to visit her beloved and was dismayed when he did not rush out to greet her. She peeked about his house and walked out to the field. She finally saw him, slouched to the ground, his back against a tree. When she approached, she recoiled in horror, for she knew that he was gone, and recognized the same sickness from which her aunt had recently recovered, and yet, she knew he’d shown no symptoms when she’d seen him only hours ago. Her heart broke that day, and she was never quite the same again.
And so, Genevieve, who once thought she had nothing to lose, began to lose everything she ever had to Mr. Shef. For, anytime she hesitated, he reminded her of her lost love and her jagged, broken heart dug further into her chest. She lost her chickens, her field, and her lovely long hair. She even lost her special aunt (though whether or not it was Mr. Shef who was to blame, she did not know). And then one day, finally, she realized she had nothing at all to her name but the air she breathed and the clothes on her back. And though she now scrounged for food and no longer had a home, Genevieve was the happiest she’d been since that first meeting with Mr. Shef because she knew she had nothing left to give. She would be free until death finally came to claim her, and she would be joined with her love and her godmother in the next life.