School seemed to drag over the past few days, but the days still managed to pass quickly. Emma showed up to talk and watch as Jarod and I worked on my car each day. He still wasn’t able to even see the energy in the air, but Emma worked more with me to develop my ability to control light. She asked me to resist practicing on my own until I was capable of manipulating the energies while engaged with other activities, such as creating a flash of light while installing a new ignition, which I failed at on Wednesday. Emma said that most spells could be done without use of any gestures, but most people gestured while casting spells to increase their focus. Being able to do what she considered simple spells without being obvious would give me an advantage if I ever was attacked by someone else capable of using magic. By Thursday evening, I was able to change the lighting in a room by affecting its source with a spell while installing new brakes, an accomplishment Emma claimed was very impressive, but I wouldn’t get a chance to see Jarod or Emma today.
I would be babysitting Aaliyah at her home while her father stayed overnight out of town on business. My parents wanted me to bring Aaliyah to our home, so they could see her again. However, Aaliyah had dance practice tonight and a violin lesson in the morning, both of which were much closer to her home, so my parents wouldn’t get a chance to enjoy her company. Father still couldn’t believe how incredibly skilled the girl was at air hockey or the games at the amusement park. He was also impressed that a girl who acted so you would have the compassion to donate stuffed animals to children in a hospital. After hearing my own parents’ reactions to Aaliyah, mother said her fair share about the girl as well, I almost felt bad for any child near the same age. Who wouldn’t look like a bumbling fool next to her? But.. how did Aaliyah feel about any of it?
Aaliyah would look like the runt next to girls her own age. Kids were mean to the oddball, especially if the oddball showed them up regularly. In addition to that, how did Aaliyah feel about never growing? The girl timelessly watched everyone growing around her, so she might already wonder about being alone someday. Part of me rebelled against the very idea of watching everyone I know grow old and die while I remained the same. If the girl was truly as brilliant as Chad made her seem, she might even be schooled with kids far older than she actually was. The entire trip to her suburb was spent thinking of scenario after scenario of what being Aaliyah was like, and all I could conceive was that the poor girl was truly one of the loneliest children alive. I felt lonely at times when I was speaking with classmates who obviously weren’t understanding simple concepts related to schoolwork. Aaliyah surely felt that as well at times, but she also had to deal with being so obviously different, trapped in a body that couldn’t grow up.
When I stepped off the train and saw Chad and Aaliyah waiting for me, I felt like embracing them both. Being Aaliyah’s parent couldn’t be easy. He had to worry about what would become of her even more than an average parent. All appearance of the tiny girl seeming fragile disappeared as she jumped into my arms and hugged me. She was very strong for her size. “James!!! You’re late!” she exclaimed while hugging me. “Nice to see you again, James!” Chad shook my free hand as I held Aaliyah with the other arm. The pair of them were such exuberantly joyful people that all thoughts of loneliness and despair were left with the train station as we walked to the car. I was smiling and laughing as we talked. Aaliyah had been so quick to jump into my arms that I failed to notice the girl’s outfit. Chad pointed it out, talking about how difficult keeping track of her things could be. Neither her socks nor her shoes matched, and her shorts clashed with her t-shirt. Chad had let her leave the house in such a state only because he thought they’d be late.
“I was actually at the train station early. I can’t help the train running late. Shouldn’t be a problem anymore once I finish restoring my car.” Chad and Aaliyah obviously had good taste, since they were excited about the idea of me having a Bond car as well. She would make her dad pretend to be the villain at times when they played, and she would be “the super awesome female version of Bond from a parallel universe!” Coolest. Kid. Ever. Whatever Chad was doing, he was definitely raising Aaliyah right in my book. “You know that Aaliyah will want you to babysit even more often after you get that car, don’t you? She’ll probably try to get you here even when I’m at home.” I laughed and said that I would gladly give her a ride when I could, although I would have to borrow the booster seat. The little devil must have hid it somehow last time I drove Chad’s car.
I was still talking about my plans for the car when we arrived for Aaliyah’s dance practice, since she kept asking what sort of “super cool gadgets” were going to be installed in it. Every time I tried to explain how difficult fitting technology like that into the car would be, Aaliyah started rattling off ways to do it on my particular make and model. My jaw must have been hanging open at several points with how Chad was barely containing a laugh when he’d glance over at me. Chad’s company was apparently sending him a limo which would take him to the airport for his flight, so he would get to see Aaliyah’s first class, ballet. Chad had apparently read up on various types of dance after his daughter started taking lessons. I was impressed how well he was able to keep up a conversation on dance, considering he had never participated himself.
Aaliyah came running out of the class before the lesson was even finished, worried that she wouldn’t get to tell Chad goodbye. The limo driver walked in a moment after her to say he had arrived, making the girl seem almost precognitive in her timing. Chad kissed her head and said that he’d see her again soon. Aaliyah smiled at him and told him not to worry, she would keep me in line while he was away. I laughed, shook Chad’s proffered hand, and wished him well on his short trip. Then Aaliyah went running back into her class after telling me that I better not disappear. Similar to last time, she came out off and on to make sure that I was there and drink her water, but she was even more chatty, telling me about her day. School sounded even stranger than I had imagined for her. She didn’t go to a public school or even a typical private school. Apparently, there was some sort of “Institute of Autodidacticism” setup by her father’s work, where each student spent the day in a cubicle studying what they wished within given criteria for their educational level. Doctors would then guide the students in learning with consideration given to each pupil’s strengths and weaknesses.
I felt rather silly having to ask a little girl what some of the words, such as “autodidacticism,” meant when she was explaining her day at school. Apparently, an autodidact was “a person who educates himself, or herself, through self-motivated study.” In fact, there was so much explanation involved in talking with her about a single day in school that I felt I had barely brushed the surface when she had to go for her next class. Before talking with her about education, I never would have dreamed that the silly, happy-go-lucky girl was already better educated than I was. Even if I would have had the resources at her disposal for learning, I doubt I would be quite as far as she was already. No wonder Chad never seemed to worry much about what his daughter would do. Aaliyah could likely get any sort of job she wanted when she was old enough, provided that there wasn’t a height requirement.
After her last class, Aaliyah was still energetic enough to skip along out to the Mercedes, and my mind was still reeling over the girl’s massive intellect. I never felt slow when communicating with anyone, until now. I started asking questions on the way to her home about programming, since I considered myself better than average. By the time we arrived, I easily would believe Aaliyah if she told me that she could speak fluently in binary, not that binary was remotely conducive to verbal communication. She had casually started explaining to me the differences between how her father’s graphics card and my desktop’s graphics card handled data after asking which one I had. There were several points at which I had to stop her for further explanation, since I had never studied the architecture with such depth. My mind was blown. Next time I was planning on updating my website, I very well might see if Aaliyah would be interested in teaching me a few tricks. I couldn’t begin to guess what surprises the rest of the night would hold.