The Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce was every bit as plain on the outside as I had remembered, but the interior was completely different than what I saw on Prom night. Instead of a massive open room, there was a series of corridors created by some black, translucent material. Even the sound was muffled or otherwise distorted in such a way that I couldn’t make out anything being said despite hearing a deluge of voices beyond the screen. Regina’s father truly must have spent a small fortune to book the entire restaurant as he had if the restaurant was usually as packed as it sounded. The host lead us to a corner table, which seemed to excite Aaliyah, who ducked under the table to pop out in the corner a moment later. “The manager will bring your food shortly. Please enjoy.” Jarod looked at me and then turned to Aaliyah and asked “Why is the manager bringing our food?” She gave him an enormous grin and Jarod jumped as a voice behind him said, “Would you miss a chance at seeing little Miss Aaliyah if you knew she was coming? I most certainly don’t approve of missed opportunities to see friends, even when we won’t have time to visit.”
The manager, Carl if I remembered correctly, was already there with our food, food I could only guess that Aaliyah had ordered for us in advance. To my complete lack of surprise, Jarod did have the mac and cheese once more, a fact that delighted him all too much. I felt I had somehow failed him by not introducing him to greater culinary excellence. As Carl placed a series of small plates in front of Aaliyah, I was at a complete loss as to what she was eating. One plate had what appeared to be some form of shelled creature I had never seen before. Another had what I would guess were some form of vegetables, but I couldn’t put a name to anything there. The last few had what were obviously desserts, but I wasn’t even able to put a name on any of them. I was honestly relieved to find mostly recognizable food in front of me as Carl set my plate on the table. The fried rice was easy to recognize as were the carrots and other vegetables mixed together. What seemed to be a dark brown meat dish of some sort didn’t look even vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t rightly be against trying something new after just mentally criticising Jarod on his continued romance with mac and cheese.
After Carl left us to our food, I decided that I might as well start explaining to Jarod what he had missed the previous night. “You know how the twins were chastising me about not paying enough attention to magic when Laura awoke?” He nodded. “Well, they were doing so because of a humanoid-shaped bundle of energy on the sidewalk below, which they explained as a residue of sorts from a werewolf, or other were-creature, changing shapes.” Jarod started speaking before he even finished chewing his food. “Dude! Did they say how long that remains? We could totally come up with a plot of these things if you keep an eye out in the city. Maybe we could find their den that way.” That hadn’t even occurred to me, though I was a bit distracted last night. “That’s actually a great idea for the future, but we already know where this one lives.” Even in inquiry there was something comical in Jarod’s expressions, enough so that I almost smiled despite what was coming next. “Luke’s a werelion according to the twins.” Mac and cheese nearly fell from his mouth, at which point Aaliyah’s little hand was stretching up to push Jarod’s jaw shut by his chin.
Jarod did us the courtesy of swallowing before he exclaimed “Luke!? Luke from the track team? The antisocial, would-be ladykiller Luke who puts you to shame in races?” I pulled on my collar which felt a bit tight and explained “‘Ladykiller’ might not be too far from the literal truth, Jarod. The twins were clear that were-creatures all maintain a diet consisting largely of meat, but they did mention the meat wasn’t all necessarily human. We need to find out if Luke is killing people or not. If he isn’t, I don’t really see any reason we need to confront him at all. Maybe he’d even be willing to help us fight the creatures out there that do kill people if we chose to talk with him.” I took a bite of the meat stuff on my plate while Jarod was commenting about how that conversation could go down. “Hey, Luke. You ever eat a human? No? Oh great! Care to eat some werewolves for us?” Though I knew what Jarod was saying, I felt distracted by the variety of flavors in my mouth. The food was rich and spicy, obviously having some form of hot spice in addition to the rest. “What is this, Aaliyah?” I asked while gesturing to the dish. “ I could tell Jarod wasn’t keen on the change of subject, but I had to know.
“Rendang daging” she said, which truly meant nothing to me except that the food was foreign. “While we’re talking food, what is any of that stuff on your plates?” inquired Jarod. The sounds Aaliyah made when gesturing didn’t even seem like parts of an actual language to me. “Ok, kiddo. I’ll take your word for.. that. Although I’m fine with there being something you’re clueless on, even if you’re eating it.” remarked Jarod with a smirk. Though I didn’t disagree with Jarod, part of me still wondered if Aaliyah was actually right about the food names. I never had heard such strange noises even on B-rated movie night at Jarod’s. Besides, with Chad being a linguist, Aaliyah very well might know some of the more obscure languages in the world. With multiple doctorates, she could lay claim to being a bit of a prodigy, if only a small one. I was smiling at my own unvoiced pun which elicited a quisitive look from the little princess, a look that involved a puckering of lips to one side as her eyebrows raised. Then she took an enormous bite of a dessert-looking thing which made a noise I would relate to a boot being pulled free from mud. Never had I felt so squeamish about something being eaten before.
“I still can’t believe that I missed Luke being a big kitty at heart. I should have known.” Aaliyah, looking legitimately confused, asked “How?” Jarod shrugged and explained to her that he liked to think he was well-versed in conspiracy theories. As a self-proclaimed expert, he would like to think he was “more observant than a certain giant-sized guy who runs really fast.” I did my best to glare at him while I chewed more “rendang,” assuming I was even pronouncing that right in my head. The glare had no effect but to make Jarod grin as he continued explaining “I should have known that anyone who could makes James seem slow had to be cheating somehow. I was just, well, used to James getting his butt kicked by someone, I guess. I suppose that explains Luke being all anti-social-like too, since few people want to befriend their food before they eat it.” I was still uncomfortable with the idea that Luke might be eating people. “We truly don’t know that he’s ever hurt someone yet. Let’s just work on finding out before we start assuming he does. Ok, Jarod?” He merely shrugged and told Aaliyah, while doing his claw impression again, “I wonder if he prefers eating little genius-girls.”
Unfazed, Aaliyah responded “I wonder how were-lion tastes myself, like a were-lion steak. Ever consider that there might be a were-cow? If there is, do you think they drink their own milk? What if the big milk producing states actually send out mostly were-cow milk? Maybe there’s were-cow beef. What if we’re eating were-cow while other were-beasties are eating us? That’s fair, right?” Strangest. Girl. Ever. Jarod, on the other hand, joined in on her line of thought. I was finished with my food and second glass of water by the time they were finished talking about a were-creature foodchain. Carl had the most amazing knack for appearing the moment a glass was empty. He exchanged glasses the second I set the empty glass down, replaced it, and was gone as I thanked him. There was nothing for which I could fault this restaurant, save for the prices. I was exceptionally grateful that Aaliyah brought us here, being quite comfortably full after the delicious meal.
With little more to say at the moment about our newfound were-lion, I suggested that we depart for the mall as soon as Aaliyah finished her…meal. Carl truly didn’t charge her a dime. He merely took the coupons she proffered, tucked them somewhere in his… clothes. Strangely, I had only just realized that the manager of the most expensive restaurant of which I knew was wearing something akin to wizard robes as if he had walked straight off a Harry Potter set. I was somewhat distracted from his odd attire as he and Aaliyah started talking in a language the likes of which I had never heard. When I looked at her, Aaliyah paused from her conversation to say, “What? I was thanking Carl for the wonderful food and apologizing to him for your complete lack of appreciation over the great lengths he went to prepare…” She made those bizarre noises once more. When I looked up at Carl, he patted my shoulder and told me “Don’t worry, James. I can never pronounce that last one quite right either. Aaliyah is truly her father’s daughter. Has she ever mentioned that she’s acquired fluency in a vast number of languages?”
Carl continued expounding upon how marvelous he found Aaliyah as he was showing us out. I wondered at how many times Chad had taken his precocious daughter to this place for Carl to know them so very well. After we hopped in Mila, Jarod and I both asked, though not remotely in unison, if Aaliyah knew an easy way for us to pick up another language. He apparently thought he could impress Laura if he learned French. I was merely interested in anything that could expand my clientele, not because the twins made me feel somewhat lacking in that area. Aaliyah let out the long sigh with which I was becoming well-accustomed of late. “Guys? Really? If either of you ever bothered using the manuals I painstakingly made you, you’d know there I included my language software in Mila AND the tablet. Slackers.” She said the last with a crossing of her arms as she turned her head from the sight of us. “Sorry, Aaliyah. Though the manual seemed extremely informative, would you truly rather I consult that then enjoy conversation with you?” She turned toward me, tapping her finger against her chip, and then jumped forward to hug me. “I’m satisfied this time.” she said with a smile. Now if only I could convince the girl that seatbelts were necessary, life might get slightly less complicated.