When the door opened, I could already see party decorations spread across the apartment. I stepped inside to find that the dinosaurs in the entryway were each wearing party hats. There were monkeys in the jungle also adorned with hats. The castle appeared to have fireworks, frozen in time as they left every tiny window. The rails of the upstairs walkway had streamers spanning between them. When I went to remove my shoes, I finally realized that Aaliyah was staring up at me through her secretary glasses, tapping her foot. “Boss-man, sir,” she said, looking very serious, “please come this way.” I quickly removed my shoes and then followed her upstairs as she pulled me along by the hand. We entered the “Bat Cave” to find Chad at his computer, apparently working since I had no clue what language was being displayed. “Hi, Chad.” I greeted him, which made Aaliyah start tugging on my hand with both of hers. “Hey, James. You better see what she has to show you. She’s looking pretty determined.” he told me with a smile, obviously suppressing a laugh as he looked at his tiny daughter. He then left the room, perhaps knowing that his daughter wanted to talk business. When we got up to her computer, she pulled the secretary glasses further down her nose and gazed up at me over them. “Okay, boss-man, sir. You took up half the morning on my BIRTHDAY, but I found a place for you.”
“What!?” I asked in shock. “I had told you that there wasn’t a rush. You really didn’t need to look today. I haven’t even had a chance to look myself yet.” She sighed, shook her head negatively, and brought up pictures on her computer. I didn’t even look at the pictures for a moment as I admired the tremendous speed of her computer, which had instantaneously displayed her browser when she clicked the icon and then loaded the website she had bookmarked with no delay. I was trying to account for how she was avoiding server lag when she cleared her throat and started telling me “I looked through all of the houses available within your price range, and found this place to be the best option, since I’m expecting the land value to increase over the next decade due to development in the area. I then procured a reasonable loan for you, purchased the property, and found appropriate roommates to help cover the costs. They’ll be moving there by the end of the week after the minor renovations I requested are complete. You should be able to move by Wednesday, so I arranged for you to pick up a truck for your move that morning. Any questions?” I had to find to where my jaw fell before I even had a hope of asking anything. When I finally did, every question tried leaving my mouth at once, leaving Aaliyah looking quizzically at me as I tried to organize the chaos in my head.
“First off, I’m sorry that I took up a large chunk of your birthday, but how… this…?” I asked, waving at the screen. Now that I was actually looking at the place and had stolen the mouse from her hand to click through pictures, I couldn’t believe the size of the place. She was right about the price seeming reasonable for the size, but I didn’t see how I could even come close to affording it. There were twin staircases curving up to the next floor and apparently a ballroom beyond the staircases on the first. I would need an enormous staff just to keep the place clean. After letting out an enormous sigh, she explained “Do you really think anyone would give you a loan on a place like that without hard evidence that you would be able to afford it? You should get your first quarterly dividend from your shares in Global Princess Entertainment at the end of the month, which is showing considerable profit off Ancient Tribes of Earth already. Though that should easily cover your first house payment by itself, I thought reinvesting the majority of it would benefit you more. Since you have ample space, I arranged for the twins and a few others to be your roommates, though they negotiated getting to renovate the east wing to their specifications.” Wing… My house has wings? She continued, saying, “Their cousin, Alpy, also wants to stay there and negotiated building her own addition, which will increase the value without cost to you. Regina hasn’t responded yet, but Emma is checking with her mother. Jarod declined, even though I told him he’d stay for free.”
I had planned spending half the month trying to find a suitable residence, probably a small apartment. This… this was crazy. I had mixed feelings about living with the girls who already consumed so very much of my time, but I couldn’t argue about the practicality of it, especially considering our joint endeavors. I looked forward to meeting this “Alpy” I always was hearing about. Would she truly be as amazing as everyone made her sound? As dangerous? “Wait. I’m not remotely against Jarod staying for free, but why would that be?” Aaliyah shrugged and told me “He wouldn’t be able to afford anything meaningful yet, and the house was purchased through your business as a business expense, allowing certain tax write offs. Your employees can have free room and board in the northwest wing as well as on-site training. If ever you retire, you’ll probably want to purchase the house from your business, unless you decide to move.” When looking at well my business was doing, Father and I always had checked my personal account. I never bothered to look at the business account itself, since the majority of the funds had been sent to my personal account as my earnings before hiring Aaliyah. I felt completely shocked when I brought up the account on my phone. “Boss-man, sir? If you’re alright,” she started, looking at me uncertainly, “can we get on with my birthday now? You are technically on the clock after all, and I have a thing for my birthday… I’m twelve now, you know.”
“I’ve honestly been thinking of you as twelve for over a month now” I told her, which earned me a grin as she removed her secretary glasses, carefully storing them in their case. “PARTY!!!! Carl volunteered caterers for the party and is supposed to stop here personally to help out. It’ll be AMAZING!!!” she exclaimed. Then she ran behind me and jumped onto my back, catching me off-guard. I really should expect such things from her by now. In my defense, I was still in considerable shock from finding out that my business was doing even better than father or I realized, from discovering I owned a mansion, and from realizing that I owned shares in the video company which made the incredible game that Jarod and I had just purchased this morning. At Aaliyah’s behest, I galloped around the walkway to her bedroom and slid down the fireman’s pole with her tightly clinging to my back. We found Chad moments later, sitting in the ocean room and gazing out at the view of the park. “Hey, James. Did my little princess finally ask you for time off?” he inquired. I took a look back at Aaliyah and said, “No. She seemed to let that one slide.” Aaliyah harumphed and said, “Daddy is under the impression that I shouldn’t work while we’re on vacation these next couple weeks. He’s taking me on a tour of Italy for my birthday. I told him that I haven’t earned vacation time yet and that my wonderful boss-man doesn’t care if I work abroad.”
“I hope you don’t really think I have a better chance of dissuading her not to work than you do. I am only realizing how little I know of what she’s done for my business now. I’m pretty sure her contract prevents me from controlling her hours in any way.” Chad laughed and told me “Don’t feel bad. I probably should have warned you what you were getting into. I once tried having Aaliyah explain what she’s done to my finances in French, hoping there would be less technical babble, and only understood every few words. To make matters worse, I’m the one who first taught her French!” I laughed, totally understanding the feeling. When I looked back at Aaliyah as she clung to my back, she was smiling in a way that incarnated innocence. One thing was for certain: I found myself feeling even more indebted to that tiny girl. No matter how much she loved her birthday this year, I needed to do better for her next year. She deserved far more than an idea my friends and I threw together at the last minute. Perhaps Chad would be alright with me making use of that enormous house to host her party next year. I’d also search all year for the perfect gift, whatever the cost. For now, I was going to try making sure this year’s party was as amazing as possible, assuming there was anything left for me to do. “Is there anything left to prepare for the party?” Chad shrugged and suggested “Laser tag,” which made Aaliyah cheer in excitement. Now that I knew Aaliyah better, I couldn’t really understand for what they ever paid me, but the game was on!