Jarod had suggested that we start the ghost hunt immediately after breakfast, but Aaliyah protested, saying, “But Jarod… you can’t hunt ghosts during the day!!! Ghost hunting should be done in the dark! Otherwise, how are they supposed to jump out and say, ‘BOO!’” He rubbed his chin and replied “I suppose the boo factor should be considered. I have to leave in an hour anyways, or I’ll be late for my first job. Just don’t start before I get back! Really. You won’t, right?” Aaliyah assured him that we’d never abandon him like that, so I asked who else was up for it around eleven. “We don’t believe in ghosts,” said the twins in unison before walking away. “And what about you two,” I asked Brandon and Brenna, “Do you believe in ghosts?” The brother and sister looked at each other, and then Brenna said, “Considering what we can do, we both like to keep an open mind about things.” Brandon then asked “So is this considered a work gathering? Are we on the clock? Will there be many mandatory gatherings?” Aaliyah let out an enormous sigh and said, “I don’t know why I write things. No one reads the memos. No one reads the contracts thoroughly. No one even plays the games very long!”
I reached down, lifted Aaliyah up, and told her “But at least we always give you something to complain about. Before long, you’ll be complaining like the evil twins!” She stuck her tongue at me, and then gave me an enormous smile. Then Brandon added “Ever consider making things a bit shorter? I hear the national attention span is… Hey, sis! What’s up?” Brenna rolled her eyes and said, “Please excuse my brother. He pretends to be funny.” Aaliyah, who was hugging my shoulder now that I held her, told them “The memos AREN’T very long if you ever bothered to look at one. The contracts, however, are precisely the length they need to be for legal reasons. In them, you’ll find that I’m only supposed to be doing secretary duties, like explaining your contracts, when my secretary glasses are worn.” She then whispered “I added that to all the latest versions to make it official.” She gasped as I started to laugh, as if I could take such an addendum too seriously. Having Aaliyah as a secretary would never grow tiring. “So do you two have clients or other plans today?” I inquired. Brandon glanced at his sister before telling me “umm… well, boss… we were scheduled to have ‘special training’ with you today.”
I looked over to Aaliyah who just gave me a big grin, so I told them “Sorry again. I assumed that I wouldn’t be double booked, since I’m technically babysitting at the moment. Things seem to get complicated when you take your work home with you or make your home your business. Something like that. Would you mind getting the dish-…” The dishes were no longer by the sink. “Umm… did Ai or Mai wash the dishes before they left? Emma, did you do them?” I inquired. She shook her head negatively. Brandon and Brenna were gaping and looking around. “GHOSTS!” exclaimed Aaliyah. Not being able to confirm or refute her assertion, I said, “Well then. I don’t honestly have anything prepared for training you guys today. Mind just hanging out with Aaliyah and me, so I can get to know you two? You’ll be getting paid all the same. I think. Aaliyah?” She hesitated a moment before pouting and saying, “It’s true, but I really shouldn’t be answering these things without my glasses. Just doesn’t feel right.” Brenna then inquired “Ok. What do you two have planned? I’m not against pajama parties, but I really would like to get dressed first if we’re going somewhere.”
I truly was out of it. I completely neglected the fact we were all still in our pajamas, so I told them “I truly hope neither of you were expecting something more formal for your work environment.” Brandon laughed and said, “You kidding? This is the best! Suits aren’t my thing.” Then he paused and quickly added “Not that I won’t wear them for jobs… And I don’t have a problem with people who wear them…er… well…” I stopped him by saying, “Don’t worry about it. I rarely wear suits, and Jarod doesn’t like them either. Aaliyah probably can arrange someone else to take suit jobs if that suits you well. Maybe Brenna?” Brenna smiled and said, “I rock suits!” Emma grinned and exclaimed “Girl power suit day!” Then she frowned and said, “Oh yeah. I wasn’t invited.” I just couldn’t win today. “I’m terribly sorry, Emma. I didn’t mean to leave you out. Care to sit in on an exceptionally formal business training session involving… video games?” I looked around, trying to ascertain whether everyone was fine with the idea, but Aaliyah’s enthusiasm was obvious. She squirmed in my arm and yelled “ANCIENT TRIBES OF EARTH DAY!!!”
“Umm.. Sure. That’d be great. Mind scheduling a similar training session sometime soon though? Jarod will be extremely jealous if he doesn’t get in on one.” I told her. Aaliyah smiled and said, “Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. I really doubt today’s jobs will keep him as busy as he thought. I’m betting he’ll be joining us well before ghost hunting time!” Then she turned to Emma and asked “Did you buy a copy of my game?” Emma bit her lip and replied “Not yet, but I doubt it’ll take that long!” She started turning to leave, so I caught her shoulder. “Hey, Emma. I actually bought a copy when Jarod got his. Neither of us realized we’d be getting free copies, so you can just have mine instead.” Then Brandon inquired if we should invite the twins too. I looked to Emma and Aaliyah before saying, “Well… if we offer, they’ll probably decline. If we don’t, they’ll complain about not offering, so we’re best off just to check.” Emma shook her head and said with a smile, “They’re really not into video games, so let’s not bother. They like having something to complain about. Besides, why chance them wanting to actually train when we can have fun?” I feigned indignation and asked “Are you trying to say that my very official business training sessions are subpar?”
Emma giggled. Seeing her smiling more was such a wonderful experience after the past month of nightmares. She really seemed more her old self today. I stated “Fine. Emma wins. Anyone have a room they prefer to play? We can all bring our computers to the same room, since using headsets to talk to people in the same house seems a bit silly.” Aaliyah gave me yet another of her enormous sighs and said “I spend so much time writing manuals. The poor things surely feel ignored. Mila!!! Please prepare the ballroom for gaming while I get out snacks.” Then she hopped out of my arm, but I managed to catch the back of her shirt before she took off. I then said, “Aaliyah.. we just ate. Are you sure you should be having more? I haven’t forgotten the spaghetti.” She turned around and gave me an adorable grin before replying “Well, boss-man, sir, there’s a great difference between delectable, hot spaghetti sitting in front of me and snacks that are just chillin’. I just thought we could put some drinks and snacks on the carts for when we start feeling peckish.” Peckish? “Mildly hungry, boss-man, sir!” Aaliyah was getting too good at reading my face. “Okay. Let’s see what we’ve got.”
I quickly realized that Aaliyah new her way around the kitchen far better than I did. The only way I was helping at all was by reaching things down for her. Emma was fetching and growing things from the garden to Aaliyah’s specifications. Brandon and Brenna just calmly watched Aaliyah work, but when she pulled out a kitchen knife to slice fruit, I couldn’t help feeling nervous. My entire childhood cried out against letting large knives near tiny people, but Aaliyah wasn’t merely cutting the food, she was sculpting it with ease, despite having to stand on a stool to reach the counter. When she was finished, the fruit looked like a bouquet, cheese was arranged in a fancy design with crackers, and vegetables looked like a work of art. “So why isn’t she hired as your cook instead of your secretary?” asked Brandon. I shrugged and told him “I can’t afford to pay for her cooking.” He smiled and was gracious enough not to argue. Aaliyah then mixed up some punch and had me grab glasses. Then we finally got her approval to begin our extensive training, so we loaded everything on a cart and headed to the ballroom. Aaliyah ran off to grab her glasses, claiming she might need them at the rate this day was going.
When we stepped into the ballroom, I had no explanation for the octagon of seats or the table in the center. Brandon helped me set the food on the large table while the girls tried out the chairs. “Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier, man-slave?” asked Emma. Brandon was barely containing a laugh, probably because of the “man-slave” comment. “Honestly, I have no clue from where this stuff came. Mila, some help, please.” The eerily Alma-esque form of Mila’s avatar appeared on all seven of the enormous mirrors I could see. The eighth was still open, so Aaliyah could enter. Then Mila said, “As part of the renovation project, the little princess had a gaming system installed to encourage recreational fun. The chairs and table are stored below the ballroom floor. Each chair has a foldout tray which incorporates the little princess’s proprietary digital keyboard and mouse. The chairs each also have a personal sound system only audible to whomever sits therein.” As she spoke, a video demonstrated every word she said on each massive screen. “Aww… you started the tutorial without me!?” asked Aaliyah, whom I didn’t see arrive.
“Wait. Are you saying you didn’t write the tutorial?” asked Brenna with a smile. She obviously was catching on. “Well, I did, but I never got to see it in HERE.” replied Aaliyah. I had to admit that seeing the video all around the room was truly a different experience. When I realized Aaliyah was going straight for the snacks, I said her name as sternly as I could manage. She merely turned around and grinned at me, now wearing her secretary glasses. “Just attempting to take advantage of employee benefits, boss-man, sir.” she told me. I laughed and asked why she brought the game from my room. To which she remarked exasperatedly, “Emma needs to have the serial number, boss-man, sir.” Then Aaliyah logged into her account on my company’s site and demonstrated where to do various tasks, making a point to show us that house memos were also accessible from the site. She then told Mila to expedite account creation by entering relevant data from the company database for all of us. I felt like I was learning all sorts of new tricks today, albeit ones I probably should have known. Before long, I was putting the finishing touches on my very first character. Business meetings were intense.