Aaliyah eventually fell asleep, followed shortly after by Jarod and Laura. I was tempted to wake Jarod up, so I could speak with him and Regina alone about seeing Alma in that video, but I decided he looked far too happy with Laura resting against a pillow on his chest. I wasn’t honestly certain that I could dislodge Aaliyah from my arm without waking her anyway. Since “quiet party time” was obviously over for the little one, I decided to resume whispering to Regina and hoping How To Train Your Dragon would drown out the sound of my voice for those sleeping. “Did you notice the girl at the end of that video showing the fire?” I asked. “Only you would want to talk about some random girl after the night we just had.” She was obviously exasperated, but I wasn’t quite sure why. With how she smiled, rolled her eyes, and kissed my cheek, I was certain that she had caught onto my confusion. “Ok, James. What about this mystery girl.”
“That’s the problem. I don’t think she’s a mystery at all. Well, I actually do, but I don’t think that her identity is a mystery. Have you ever seen a girl with hair that long? What about that bright auburn color?” Regina smirked and shook her head. “I truly didn’t even notice her in the video.” I was tired, but I really wanted to talk with someone about Alma. “Ok. Sorry. In the last second of that video, there was a girl with hair down to her calf. I’ve only ever seen one girl with hair that long. I met that girl, who also had that exact shade, while working. She was staring up at a building which caught fire after I rescued her from oncoming traffic.” While I was talking, Regina had let go of my arm. She now was sitting with her legs crossed, a pillow resting between them, and her head was on the pillow as she gazed at me. I glanced at Aaliyah to make sure she was still sleeping, since her grip had tightened briefly, but the drool running down my arm was evidence enough for me. “So you were this girl’s rescuer. What else do you know about her? Have you kept in touch?”
“I don’t really know all that much. She’s very pretty, short, and has these amazing violet eyes. Her name’s Alma, but we haven’t kept in touch. I think I’ve seen her a few times though.” Regina seemed absorbed in the story as if she was hanging on my words. “You think you’ve seen her? What do you mean?” I was careful to keep my voice low, although I was excited about finally telling someone about what had been creeping into my consciousness semi-regularly. “I could have sworn I saw her at a dance I attended where the school caught fire and these girls died. Then there was a lady who apparently suffered spontaneous combustion, and I thought I saw Alma at her house. I also had this… umm.. dream.” I quickly motioned for Regina to remain silent a moment longer as I caught the expression on her face. “Not that kind of dream. I dreamt of her associating with a guy who turned out to be a werewolf, as if she worked with them. I’m wondering if Alma is starting all of these fires.”
Oddly enough, Regina visibly relaxed. What was remotely relaxing about the idea that a girl would be going around and setting people on fire? “I’m guessing you don’t think this girl is going around with matches and gasoline.” I shook my head negatively and told her “I don’t know whether she’s using magic or is supernatural in some other way, but the police haven’t seemed to believe an arsonist was involved with any of these incidents. I don’t think they’ll be able to handle this.” Regina was shaking her head. “No, they probably won’t, but I hope you’re not thinking of trying to deal with someone like that yourself.” I knew the idea seemed crazy, but someone needed to do something. I couldn’t go demonstrating magic, or government scientists would be wanting to lock me away as a lab rat. “Remember Emma? I think we should all train with her. If we become capable of defending ourselves against people like that, perhaps we can help the police catch them without getting caught doing so.”
Regina just stared at me for several minutes, leaving me feeling very uncomfortable. I was about to speak when she said, “I know I won’t be able to talk you out of this, so I’ll train with you. Someone needs to make sure you don’t get in over your head. We both know Jarod will be more than enthusiastic about this. Let’s start this week and hope Emma can teach us as much as you believe.” We continued talking for well over an hour before Regina eventually fell asleep listening to me ramble. Emma would surely understand that we needed to do this. She already knew the dangers of supernatural people better than any of us. Once she knew there was one killing at will in the city, she would surely want to stop Alma as well. I pulled out my phone to send her a text and warn her that she had a new potential pupil. Instead, I found myself gradually browsing through a mass of emails and text messages that I had somehow forgotten about as the night progressed.
I sat there puzzling over the enormous number of job offers that had shown up out of the blue in such a short period of time. The strangest part to me was that none of the jobs appeared to be anywhere within a hundred miles of me. Some of the jobs would have me out of the country for numerous months. In addition, there were texts from Emma, Ai, Mai, and various clients; everyone apparently wanted to make sure I was doing alright. Emma and the twins claimed that they had gotten a notification from my website stating that I was in trouble. I sent responses to each of them, saying that I was fine and that my website must have been hacked. The twins replied, who knew which was texting this time, telling me that they would be back in the country soon for an extended stay and claiming that they were planning on attending college here. I couldn’t help smiling and wondering what sort of trouble they already had in mind to cause. Those two truly had a way of keeping me on my toes as well as keeping me quite entertained.
“Why didn’t you stick in the next movie?” inquired Aaliyah, who barely seemed capable of opening her eyes. “I’m sorry. I probably should turn that off. I don’t think my parents truly want us up all night.” She shut the television off with the remote that had still been at her side. “Who sent you all those messages?” The girl didn’t miss much. Even barely awake, she had caught that I was holding my phone. “Apparently, my website was hacked. I’ll have to see if I can tighten the security on it. Would you be interested in helping me?” She was scrubbing the wet spot on my arm with her sleeve when she answered. “Ok, but I want to be your secretary.” Wait. What!? “Aaliyah, you’re eleven. I don’t think you need a job yet.” She grinned up at me and said, “I’m almost twelve! I’m also in college, remember? Daddy already said I can start working if I really want. I just can’t work as many hours as a tall person yet. Do you want the best possible security on your site or not?”
I wasn’t going to argue about whether or not we could be certain that her software was truly the best. I didn’t think too many prodigies designed security software, and I never heard of anyone who knew computers like Aaliyah did. “I don’t really think I can afford to pay you what someone of your talents is worth.” She simply snuggled back against my arm and said, “Daddy and I don’t really need the money. I just want to have entertaining work.” I couldn’t argue against my job being entertaining, but I had to ask “What about being my secretary would be entertaining for you?” Her voice was growing softer as she said, “You just said that you need to make more money. As your secretary, I’ll find ways for you to do that, maintain your site, and answer the phone!” Oh no. The first couple points were fine in my book. The idea of Aaliyah answering phone calls for me seemed extremely risky. Wait a minute. “Aaliyah, I don’t have a company phone. I do everything through my cell phone.” As I felt drool once more collecting on my arm, I realized that she was already passed out again.
I would have to check with Chad in the morning to see what he thought of Aaliyah’s proposal. I was very much interested in seeing how she would go about improving my website as well as increasing my job opportunities. Somehow, I didn’t think he would argue against it. Chad seemed to dote on his daughter more than anyone I knew with the possible exception of Regina’s father. Regina would probably get a kick out of me having an eleven-year-old secretary. After how Prom went for us, I was more confused about my feelings for her than ever before. The girl was beautiful, intelligent, and talented. She was extremely dependable, and I felt horrible for having doubted her. I just wasn’t sure that I could give her what she wanted. She deserved better than a guy who, until tonight, had often been fantasizing about a possible serial killer. I honestly didn’t feel ready to have any sort of serious relationship. There was far too much happening in my life right now. I drifted off to sleep with all of the chaos in my life still sifting through my head.