I was in Regina’s car on our way to meet Emma and Jarod at his father’s shop and didn’t feel remotely comfortable. School had gone by in a rush of people congratulating me on “getting back together” with Regina and saying what a great couple we make. I attempted to explain that we weren’t actually a couple only once. I ran late to class due to the fiasco which was more successful in making me question my relationship status than in explaining it. There were countless guys who would kill to date Regina, but I felt like a mouse who had been manipulated into a trap. With the help of mother, Regina had turned my excuse to avoid Prom into a date to Prom with her. The way she attempted to control my life was creepy to me in many ways, but the multitude of great qualities she possessed combined with my guilt over judging her unjustly to make a great mess of my feelings. She was smiling, and I realized that I had been staring at her again. Regina’s smile was an injustice against all attempt at fair argument, especially when my eyes ignored my wishes and went on admiring her other terrific features as well.
I wasn’t certain whether I was saved or cursed when my eyes picked a new target as we pulled up beside Emma’s car. Regina hit my arm before she got out of the car, but how could I help how Emma’s jeans emphasized her figure as she knelt on her seat to pull something out from the other side. Life wasn’t fair, and I knew girls had a part in that. Hormones and genetics probably did as well, but Regina could hit hard. Training was not seeming like a good idea right now, especially as I remembered Regina getting mad at me once at Tai Chi practice. She had tensed more than what was proper, but I had never taken such a strong blow to the gut prior to that. I stepped out of the car in time to bump a glass jar full of quarters out of Emma’s hand but managed to catch it before it broke. “Sorry, Emma. I’m having a bit of an off day.” Emma was wearing low rise blue jeans, a pink and black checkered vest, and a long-sleeve, collared shirt that was open under the vest just enough to show part of her firm stomach. “With a save like that, I wouldn’t think you’re too off today.”
Regina coughed politely behind Emma, probably wanting introduced by the look she gave Emma and I. I stepped between them and said, “Emma, this is Regina. Regina. Emma.” Regina’s smile as she looked at Emma seemed less than warm to me, but Emma seemed far too delighted as she openly checked out Regina. “You’re even more stunning in person than in the pictures Mr. and Mrs. Somerset showed me! I love your outfit.” Regina was wearing a cyan, mesh shirt over a white cami and white shorts, nothing which explained Emma’s enthusiasm to me. Before I fully realized what was happening, Emma was guiding Regina into the shop by the arm. I nearly laughed when Regina glanced back at me looking confused and helpless while being pulled along by a girl nearly six inches shorter than her. I followed them inside and barely got through the doorway before being ambushed.
“James! Jarod is letting me help work on your car!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she hugged my leg. “Aaliyah!? How did you get here?” Before sitting down on a mat beside Regina, Emma said, “I gave her a lift. Don’t worry. Chad knows that Aaliyah has secretary stuff to do.” I looked from Emma to Aaliyah feeling slightly amused and asked, “What secretary stuff do you want to do in a car shop, and shouldn’t I, as your boss, have a say in when we work?” Aaliyah was nodding yes as she said, “But you still have to sign the contract!” She pulled off her backpack, retrieved a tablet from it, and brought up the monstrosity she calls a contract. “We still haven’t really discussed any details yet. Don’t you want to figure out pay, scheduling, and the complete lack of benefits which I can’t offer first? I honestly have no clue how to be a boss, Aaliyah. Can’t we put this off till later?” She rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically. “Everything’s in there. You can read it later, but I need your signature and yesterday’s date on here.” I touched my finger to her nose and attempted to look stern, but I couldn’t help laughing a little when she went cross-eyed staring at my fingertip.
“Aaliyah, what did you do that would mean I need to sign this yesterday?” She gazed up at me with wide-eyed innocence and a gape to her mouth that suggested shock. “You didn’t see all the work I put into your website?” I had somehow managed to overlook that all of her changes were work as a girl in my employ, meaning that I would need to compensate her. “Oh. I did! The website is looking amazing! How much do I owe you for that?” She crossed her arms around the tablet and looked displeased. Then she thrust the tablet up at me and told me “One signature. One date. One set of initials.” I gave up and did as she instructed. I didn’t really want to be buried in legal jargon for the rest of the week. “Fine-fine. Just help me with the details as necessary. I’m surprised this doesn’t need my mark in more places.” Aaliyah just shrugged, but I had a feeling that she was cheating the system just as she had me attest to a false date. I probably should attempt to be a better role model as her boss in the future. As for now, I was worried about how we would practice with Aaliyah present.
Aaliyah grabbed her backpack and followed me over to where Regina sat with Emma. “Before we begin, I was wondering, Emma, how we should proceed given current circumstances.” I was attempting to find a way to ask how we were to practice magic with Aaliyah around without the child genius discerning what we were about. Despite all of Aaliyah’s remarkable talents, I was worried about her being involved in a supernatural world at such a young age. Emma, on the other hand, said, “I’ve been doing magic tricks for Aaliyah to entertain her for quite a while now. Isn’t that right, kiddo?” After all the warning and emphasis on danger Emma had given Jarod and I, she was entirely nonchalant about doing magic in front of a young girl. Emma must have caught my agitation because she shrugged and said, “What? Aaliyah’s fine. She can’t manipulate energy as we do, so she’s not at risk of that. She knows better than to tell Chad, and have you seen the security on her condo? I promise that she’s safe. Even her school is heavily guarded.”
Again I had to remind myself that I hadn’t truly known Emma or Aaliyah for very long at all. There were likely countless things about them which I still didn’t know just as there were surely countless supernatural things in this world of which I still remained unaware. “I’m still at a loss as to how you and Jarod get this stuff to move so easily. I feel like I’m attempting to push a car.” stated Regina who seemed frustrated already. I hadn’t gotten around to telling her the whole truth about that and Jarod piped up first, saying, “What? I can’t even see the stuff.” Regina’s eyes were glaring at me, but a smile played across her lips. “You are so dead, mister.” was all she said to me. “So Emma, what’s with these quarters? Collecting for charity?” She had crawled behind Regina and was starting to rub her shoulders. “Just relax and ignore the overly handsome boy. He’s only a man-slave after all. We have girl power!” She then turned her gaze to me and said, “Sit, man-slave. You’re learning to levitate things today. We’ll see how much you’re teasing Regina after you try juggling without your hands.”
Emma slowly showed me how to shape the energy as Aaliyah and Jarod worked on my car. I felt a pang of guilt at not contributing much to my own vehicle yet, but I soon was too focused on attempting to move quarters through the air to have room left for guilt. I lost track of everything around me except the energy and the three quarters until I was startled back to the moment as Regina shoved the jar over and stalked off. “What was that about?” I asked Emma as she stared at the ground. “I was making her flip a quarter every time she wanted a break. She only got her break on heads.” Emma flipped a quarter to me, and I found that both sides were tails. Then I looked down at the mess of quarters and found that every single quarter I saw out of hundreds had heads up, even the three I had dropped when I was startled. “That girl has similar problems to me with residual energy, but I think her other magic is quite potent.” Aaliyah had followed Regina out of the building and was now dragging her back by the hand. She didn’t say anything; just pointed at the ground where the quarters lay. The rising of Regina’s spirits was evident in the rising of her lips into a smile. This was progress.