I woke up on Sunday to the sound of someone typing at my desktop. Finding Aaliyah there, I asked “What are you doing, and why are you wearing glasses?” Without even glancing at me, she said, “I’m working, boss-man, sir. All good secretaries have secretary glasses, hence the name. You missed breakfast, boss-man, sir, but your mother assured me that you would prefer sleeping over breakfast this morning. I took the liberty to reschedule your jobs for today, although you’re going to be pretty packed tomorrow and wednesday.” The laugh I had been suppressing at Aaliyah’s notion about the need for glasses faded as I took in the altered work schedule. “Wait. What? Why did you change my schedule?” She glanced at me, looking over the top of her glasses, and said, “Boss-man, sir, you need a day off. You never seemed to recover from the shock about Luke last night, and Jarod needs informed of the situation and of our current plans regarding it. Luckily, daddy’s plane will be coming in late, so you’ll have the pleasure of my company for longer! I’ve scheduled for Jarod to come over shortly and booked us a room at the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce, so we can chat freely without worry about being bothered. Then we can spend some time shopping until daddy’s plane arrives, which will signal when you need to take me home.”
“Well, I suppose most of that works, but I don’t really feel that I should be spending that type of money for us to eat right now. Jarod definitely shouldn’t spend money like that on mac and cheese, which I’m sure he’ll get again.” Aaliyah hopped off my chair, which she had obviously raised, and then pulled two coupons for free meals out of her pink backpack. “I get to eat there for free, and Carl happened to give me tickets for two people to join me. Well, he gave them to you, but they were for me!” I vaguely remembered the meal tickets from Prom night, but I didn’t remember the elderly gentleman saying anything about Aaliyah getting to eat for free. “Are you sure you want to use your tickets on Jarod and I, and why do you get to eat there for free?” I inquired. “Well, daddy takes me there frequently, since he doesn’t have to worry about paying, being my family. I helped Carl out with his computers AND he thinks I’m cute, so Carl would never charge me a dime!” she exclaimed with a grin. “Now you should only have around seventeen minutes to get ready before Jarod arrives, unless he’s terribly slow, so you better get moving, boss-man, sir.” I grabbed some clothing and hurried to the shower as Aaliyah hopped back into my desk chair.
When I started my job, I never dreamed that I’d be letting a miniature twelve-year-old arrange my schedule, write software for my business, or even answer the phone. I also never would have dreamed that a twelve-year-old knew vastly more than I did about computers, law, or how to pimp out a car. I felt indebted to the sweetheart for far more than the price of my car, but I couldn’t help feeling that there was no way I ever could pay her back. Even in allowing her to choose where we ate, I was becoming more indebted to her, as she, in her way, provided the meal. All I felt I could do was hope that she eventually let me pay her back a little in some way. Maybe she would let me stop charging Chad altogether for babysitting her, especially considering that she was currently working for me while I was on the clock… Wow. My life was way, way too complicated anymore. Perhaps I should ask Aaliyah if there are any laws against working for someone while they’re working for you. I wouldn’t be surprised if she would come up with some sort of loophole even if there was such a law, like the technicality that I was working for her father, not her. I was still unsuccessfully trying to think up ways to pay her back when I walked back into my room.
Aaliyah, looking perfectly serious, was shutting down my computer. “All finished?” She glanced up at me, carefully stowed her glasses, first in her case and then in her back, and then grinned before jumping up at me. “Works done! Time to play!” she exclaimed after I caught her. At first I thought she was in the mood for a hug, but then she was crawling up my shoulder to sit and to guide me with her arms wrapped around my head as her legs draped over my shoulders from behind me. “Onward, boss-man, sir! We must move with haste!” With the doorbell ringing just then, I didn’t even bother trying to argue. “Wait! My bag, boss-man, sir! Get my bag! I put the coupons back in there!” I nearly stumbled when her legs wrapped around my throat as she fell backward to try grabbing the bag from my hand, which was still slightly out of her reach until I lifted my arm while catching myself. “Careful, boss-man, sir! You don’t want to drop me!” I rolled my eyes to no effect with her still behind me, so I went on to tell her “A little warning would help if you’re going to use me as a jungle gym.” She simply sighed and told me “Boss-man, sir, the evil twins, as your instructors, would surely not approve of you blaming the fact you were caught off guard on the little princess in your care! Constant vigilance is expected!”
Jarod, hearing half of Aaliyah’s little speech as I opened the door, started laughing, either at the speech or how silly I probably looked with Aaliyah’s arms around my forehead. “Hey, Jarod. I’ll need just a minute to tell my parents that we’re heading out.” Aaliyah guided me to mother’s studio while I spread my arms and made airplane noises at her request. Mother seemed just as amused as Jarod, who got the door for me, by the spectacle. “Taking off already?” Aaliyah covered my mouth before I could reply and informed me “Plane’s can’t talk, boss-man, sir.” I felt and heard her rummage in her backpack momentarily before she handed me the case for her glasses, which I assumed she donned. “As the secretary for your son, it comes to me to inform you that he has a dinner engagement which he can’t possibly miss, so I fear that he must leave immediately. Given that fortune shined upon him this day, allowing him to enjoy my company for longer than anticipated, I assure you that he will be in good hands and returned safely!” Mother smiled graciously and replied “Thank you, Aaliyah. I am very grateful that you are kind enough to watch over my miscreant child. Do tell me if he misbehaves too horribly. And please, visit us whenever you like, dear. Your company is always a pleasure, and I can’t imagine James having a better role model.”
Mother was the best. She gave Aaliyah a hug, after the princess stowed her glasses once more, and then even hugged me, the princess’s plane. No words could express how much I appreciated my parents helping me watch Aaliyah when I brought her over, especially considering that father was charmed enough with the girl not to mention how he wasn’t being compensated for doing my work at times. Whether for their respective birthday, Christmas, or a gift for their anniversary, I truly needed to find some special way to show them how much they mean to me. “Catch you later, Mrs. Somerset.” called Jarod with a wave as he followed Aaliyah and I out. I was far enough along, making airplane noises once more for Aaliyah, that I didn’t catch mother’s reply. When we beat Jarod to the front door, I fought Aaliyah’s pull on my head and pretended to crash. “Mayday, Jarod! Assistance needed immediately! Somerset One is coming in hot!” she cried. He arrived in time to scoop her off my back and to say, “I’ve got you, princess. You’re safe, despite your rickety craft. Let’s hop in Mila and hurry off before our enemies notice the crash.” He set her on the ground and led her out while I got the door behind them.
As I watched them move, I couldn’t help wondering if she would have been so graceful without her condition, a condition that kept her from aging in the normal way. Was her surpassingly brilliant mind also tied to the condition? I could almost nurture a desire to enter into medical school simply to attempt unraveling the mystery, but I knew that Aaliyah would surely be more capable at that as well had she the faintest inclination to understand her state. Thinking of how well she played her part in the twin’s game last night as we cleaned, I wondered if, perhaps, Aaliyah already knew more than she told me once again. Who but Aaliyah herself could be certain how many secrets were kept behind that adorable, child-like face. I found out yet another secret when I stepped into my car to find Aaliyah already chatting with Mila. I hadn’t realized that Mila was still active when the digital interface was hidden or that Mila continued operating without the key in the ignition. “Pardon the interruption, but I must ask. Mila, what do you do when the car’s not in use?” There was a slight pause before Mila told me “I continue monitoring the vehicle in case a situation arises and interact with The Little Princess when she is inclined to have my company, boss-man, sir.”
Either I wasn’t feeling entirely awake yet or Aaliyah did far too well programing Mila, but I swore I heard excitement in my car’s voice when she spoke about “interacting” with Aaliyah, as if Mila felt enjoyment from communication. Part of me felt saddened, considering the idea that I might be unintentionally neglecting my car in a way. Out of curiosity, I allowed Mila to drive us to the restaurant, which was a bit disconcerting for me while I sat behind the wheel. Of course, listening to my car and Aaliyah chat with matching voices might have been part of my discomfort. I eventually asked Aaliyah if Mila had any other voice options, which lead to them speaking in unison about the multitude of options. “Wow. You two could give the twins a run for their money acting like that.” stated Jarod. After listening to Mila demonstrate voice options for a while, I stopped her at a Romanian voice, which somehow felt Bond-ish without being British, possibly due to fond memories of a Capture the Flag level in Nightfire. I had worried that a British accent might cause me to think of Alma a bit much. Between my own thoughts and conversing, I was distracted enough not to realize we had parked until Mila pointed it out. Having a self-driving car was truly an unusual experience.