I lost count of how many people to whom I was introduced as the party progressed, but I was confident I knew everyone’s names. The biggest oddity to me about the whole affair was the lack of anyone remotely close to Aaliyah’s age in attendance. The twins were probably the youngest at seventeen. With Aaliyah only turning twelve, that seemed like quite the age gap. Most of the people were much older, people Chad knew from work. From the conversations I was hearing, this might as well have been a business meeting for his company. On the other hand, how well could other twelve year olds understand Aaliyah? I barely understood a fraction of the things she told me about my own work and was hopelessly confused with regard to her education. If she didn’t seem so blissfully happy most of the time, I would really worry about her. Worrying too much about someone who was currently kicking Emma’s butt at video games while wearing a Von Schweetz costume was virtually impossible though, especially with how she bit her tongue while it hung off to one side while concentrating. Even Aaliyah’s video game console was a mark of her achievements though.
From what Chad told me, Aaliyah had bought every type of console from old to new, took them apart, and then built the sleek thing by the television to replace them. She then wrote software to streamline everything together and fool verification protocols. I really had trouble worrying too much when I thought of her abilities. Still I could easily imagine how many people would look at the extraordinary girl and only see the tiny body and cute face. I would be horribly frustrated if everyone judged me on my looks and didn’t give me a chance, especially if I looked so young. Aaliyah seemed to thrive on people underestimating her though. Maybe the constant looks of disbelief were sources of great amusement for her. Something had to be. The poor girl probably got bored in all her free time between dance lessons, violin lessons, schooling for extra doctorates, and working for me. I smiled and sighed. I would never know anyone as accomplished as Aaliyah was by twelve. I wondered if Aaliyah might have custom business attire made for her someday. She’d look absolutely adorable walking around in tailor made suits. Knowing Aaliyah, she’d probably have specific glasses or some other adornment for her “business look”.
“Want a snacky thingy?” asked Evanna, startling me. “Snacky thingy? Umm… sure.” I told her, helping myself to a strawberry with a delicious cheesecake filling. There apparently wasn’t going to be an actual dinner served. Carl kept putting out more and more random snacks which his employees served. There was also a constant supply of various foods on the long breakfast bar. Louise and Evanna were the two who most often floated my way, but I much preferred Evanna’s company when she stopped to chat. Louise seemed a bit too flirty for my comfort, wanting to feed me various hors d’oeuvres herself. Evanna obviously had no clue what she was doing, and didn’t really care. I was basically doing the same thing as her, save that Aaliyah wanted me to serve her and only her while she beat Emma at games. Ai and Mai weren’t actually around too much to my surprise. When I did catch them, they were in the middle of one business discussion or another, apparently representing their parents’ interests. I wondered at why Chad would host a business party for his daughter’s birthday only until Regina came back by me. Her father had done that on numerous occasions for her birthdays. She always seemed to have fun, despite that fact, but I always felt a bit sad that she wasn’t the focus of his attention even on her day.
Chad came over and asked Aaliyah something. I easily heard her respond as she shouted “TIME FOR CAKE!!!” I picked up the mess of candy wrappers from where she was sitting and tossed them before joining the crowd standing in the ocean room where Carl had somehow wheeled out a cake on a cart. The man was truly a magician! I would have to ask the twins later if they knew of any way to magically create cake. Aaliyah would be in her personal heaven if she knew someone who could do that. The cake was enormous and extremely elaborate, a castle for a princess with astounding detail. I heard the front door of the condo open and shut, so I looked to see who was here. There was a girl whom I should recognize, but I couldn’t place where I met her. She was carrying a large present, but I nearly stumbled when I tried moving to help her with it. I reached up and grabbed my head, suddenly feeling a bit nauseous. I couldn’t get myself to greet her though. My parents would be disappointed in my behavior if they knew I failed to greet someone I knew, especially when I’m being paid to help with a party. Aaliyah was eating her cake and waving to someone. I looked and saw a girl setting down a large present. I knew her from somewhere, but my head started hurting. “James, are you alright?” asked someone.
I looked over to find Regina with her hand on my arm. I didn’t remember grabbing onto the castle for support, but I was feeling alright now. “Yeah. Sorry. I was just feeling a bit out of sorts for a moment there.” I told her. I took a deep breath and then saw that Carl was serving cake to other people. “Did you see where Aaliyah and Chad went?” I asked. “Yeah. They went to greet the girl who just showed up. Her dress is lovely, but I can’t help wondering if she’s trying to show up the birthday girl or something. It seems a bit much. What do you think?” commented Regina. When I moved to look, I felt nauseous again, and quickly went to the couch to sit down. As my head cleared some one of the twins started talking with me and handed me a piece of cake. The other one sat on my other side and held up a fork for me. I thanked them both and stared at the large slice, wondering if I truly should risk eating it. “The little monster would be disappointed if you don’t at least try her cake.” one said. Then the other continued “The girl has her faults, but her taste in food is not one of them. This truly is amazing. I wish the old guy would share the recipe with us.” The first one started talking again immediately, saying, “I can’t blame him for not sharing recipes, considering he owns and runs a restaurant, but we probably wouldn’t compete with him, unless we feel like running a store eventually. Would you help us with it?” The second one chimed in and said, “You know you’d have a wonderful time helping us out.”
There was something I wanted to investigate, but I couldn’t remember what. What was going on with me? I knew that I was missing something, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly. I took a bite of cake, and the flavor was absolutely amazing. The texture was perfect. I had no hope of ever describing whatever this flavor was, but I would call it ecstasy with feelings of joy cascading through my body as water over a dam. I still knew that something was off, but I couldn’t say what exactly. My head was feeling so very sluggish. Everytime I moved, I felt like part of me was following a couple seconds behind. The cake was helping me relax though. The twins had perfect timing on this one, even though cake would have been the last thing I would expect to help with nausea. “This cake is truly magnificent. I probably should get back to Aaliyah though. Chad is paying me to help out, not eat cake.” I told them, before I was even half done. That slice was enormous. One of them sighed and said, “You’ve hardly talked with us though. Did Mai do something to make you upset?” The other one stuck her tongue at her sister and replied “If anyone upsets James, it’s you, Ai. You always interrupt us.” Ai and Mai were always interesting company. I knew there had been something I wanted to ask them, but I couldn’t think what right off.
I absently took another bite of cake when Aaliyah came skipping over, wearing the shiniest tiara I had ever seen. The silver tiara had two dragons meeting with their heads raised. What appeared to be a very large sapphire sat just above their open mouths and their open wings angled down from it. The dragons themselves were largely comprised of what appeared to be diamonds with two smaller rubies forming their eyes. “That can’t possibly be real, right?” I asked, looking from Ai to Mai just before glancing over my shoulder to see the door shut through the forest vines. “Boss-man, sir, Adelmar and Anwen Slayer would be offended if they knew you accused them of giving fake gifts! They sent their cousin to give me my tiara! Isn’t it pretty? An ooooooooooold friend made this just for me!” I could see Ai and Mai nodding in my peripheral vision. Who were these people to be giving such an outlandish gift to a little girl? Did they even actually know Aaliyah, or were they trying to talk Chad into some new business deal? This was one of the many reasons why crossing business and personal life was so very tricky. I had to laugh at myself on that thought. Having a business as a Best Friend For Hire, I was the last person who could really chastise anyone for crossing business with their personal life. Things just never got simple.