When I returned home last night, my parents were shocked at how bruised my arms were, though they didn’t look nearly as bad as they had before Emma helped out. Father had commented, “Wow, son. I don’t think you were that clumsy even when you were little.” I had attributed the bruises to difficult terrain. Jarod had responded to the video of Mila’s guns destroying pumpkins within a minute of Mila sending it. Aaliyah was only a couple minutes behind him. They both loved it and insisted on being there the next time I took Mila out for some destruction. Regina called me when I was trying to convince myself to go to bed. She was as wound up from the weekend as I felt, which lead us talking well into the night. Neither of us had suspected how dangerous Emma could be. Even knowing the twins were dangerous, we didn’t realize how strong they were either. I couldn’t explain it, but that was becoming the norm now that magic was infused with my life. I could tell Regina was practicing basic spells by the long pauses in our conversation, often followed by giggling on her end. She could be very cute when she was happy, and I wished the rest of the high school could know this side of her. Even in my sleep, I was thinking about how lovely Regina was as she practiced magic, though my dreams exaggerated her abilities greatly.
Regina was so jubilant at breakfast that I nearly missed the tiredness in her eyes. Mother was quite obviously thrilled to have Regina joining us, instead of simply coming to pick me up for school. Having the four of us sitting around, making jokes, and simply enjoying the morning together was wonderful, which was odd considering my typical distaste for mornings. I couldn’t believe that I once had been suspicious of Regina, thinking that she might be evil given flesh. Sure she played tricks and would occasionally use her feminine wiles against me, but she was also a fantastic, caring person who knew how to enjoy the little things. Although I wasn’t really certain how “little” learning to use magic was. Part of me, I realized, was envious at the thought that Regina, like Ai, Mai, and Emma, could draw residual energy into the world and use it too. I gained my focus on the residual energy in the room and looked around. My house truly appeared barren of energy after spending time in that forest. I wished I knew why my body was absorbing the stuff, even now I could see some disappear as my arm passed through it while I ate. “James, dear, what are you looking at?” Regina chuckled, and I could see that she probably knew exactly what I was thinking about. “He’s probably daydreaming about swimming with the other girls and me, although you would have been shocked by how rude he was being.” claimed Regina.
She went on to tell a tale of me ignoring perfectly sweet girls who merely wanted my attention. I was grateful she left off the lack of swimwear, though I wished she would have left the story out completely. “He was blushing very similar to how he is now. Isn’t it cute?” continued Regina. Father was stifling a laugh as mother just smiled and nodded. “Yes, James has always been the cutest lobster. Did I ever show you that picture of him in a lobster onesie when he was just a baby?” asked mother. After Regina nodded affirmatively, mother went on to say, “You really should visit more often. One woman dealing with these two is simply too much at times.” Father and I both feigned shock at her comment, which got Regina giggling again. Before breakfast was over, Jarod sent me a text asking for a ride. With Regina’s assent, we excused ourselves, despite mother’s assurances that we had time to stay a little longer. I hugged father and her, grabbed my stuff, and hopped into Mila, who had opened the doors for Regina and me. “Boss-man, sir,” said Mila, “Miss Aaliyah left a message for you regarding your schedule today and asked me to make certain you received it.” I asked Mila to bring up the message while driving us to Jarod’s house.
“Wait. Why did you buy up my evening, Regina?” I inquired. “Well, there’s this little thing called ‘magic’ which I can do now, so I thought I could use a best friend to help me practice.” she explained, still smiling so brightly that my lips smiled back of their own accord. When we picked up Jarod, Regina was demonstrating her light spell before I had even shut my door again. “Wow! You got it too now!” he exclaimed with a whistle. Then he continued “I think my problem is that it sounds too much like doing math. As amazing as the things you guys do are, I can’t get myself to focus on something that leads to memorizing a bunch of formulas.” I smirked and said, “Are you telling me that you designed Mila’s engine without doing any math?” He shrugged and somehow told me “That’s different. The engine was for a sweet car!” with a straight face. Then he asked “What? What!?” as Regina and I were laughing. “Despite what the twins say, Mila is a sweet car,” said Regina, still grinning. I nodded and remarked “So is her firepower. Did you know about the missiles?” Jarod’s mouth dropped open, and he asked “Why didn’t you send a video of missiles being fired? Aaliyah never told me about that. Well, she might have. I remember grinning and showing me a list with a bunch of letters and numbers that didn’t really seem to mean anything at the time.”
For the remainder of the drive to school, Mila was running through simulations of various missiles being launched. Jarod was having far too much fun picking out things to blow up. If I didn’t know my car was equipped with these things, I’d probably be having just as much fun, but the idea that my car could eliminate an entire neighborhood with the press of a button was a bit startling for me. The last couple simulations had us all gawking and late for homeroom. Jarod, on a whim, started asking Mila to demonstrate how well Mila could resist her own firepower. The windshield was not glass. The windshield supposedly wouldn’t crack when directly hit with a missile that would blow up a two story house. Mila went into an explanation of it that was beyond all of us. She might as well have been speaking some alien language. “Well, Aaliyah did tell us that Mila has armor plating,” said Jarod. “Armor plating!? That’s a complete understatement and probably not entirely accurate with Mila talking about ‘field generation’ of some sort.” declared Regina as she started doing something on her phone. “What are you doing?” I asked her. “I want to know if Ai or Mai have heard of anything like this,” she said. I supposed those two would be our best resource outside of Aaliyah with what she had accomplished. I was now feeling more certain than ever that I wasn’t capable of stopping Aaliyah if she went to the dark side.
“Mila, do you have any defenses against magic?” I inquired. More unintelligible explanation was displayed on the windshield as Mila rambled about things far beyond me. “Well,” I started, “at least we know that Aaliyah wants to keep us safe, right?” Jarod nodded still gaping. “We really need to get to class. We can check more of this out tonight.” stated Regina, who was staring at her phone as if she were trying to will the twins to respond. “I DESIGNED THE ENGINE!” exclaimed Jarod not two feet from Mila. I looked back at him, shocked at a first. Then I started laughing as a grin was spreading across his face. Contributing anything to that car was truly an accomplishment. “Yeah, buddy. I wish I could say I contributed anything to it. If your father had a clue what we built in his garage, I don’t know whether he’d be more horrified or impressed.” Jarod’s expression was exuberant as he declared “Impressed. Dad would be very, very impressed. He likes Bond too, you know.” As we walked into the school, I knew none of us would be able to concentrate on anything being said. I knew my car was ridiculous before. We all did. Now we all realized that no one but Aaliyah truly knew what was going on in that crazy machine, and she didn’t seem to think she was being excessive at all. I stopped in my tracks. “What’s wrong, James?” ask Regina. “Someone capable of designing Mila doesn’t think it’s excessive. What is out there that would require Mila to protect us?” I asked. We split up toward our homerooms in silence, all of the mirth having evaporated.