The world was dark and filled with a soft, beautiful sound. The strange melody was gradually growing louder, as if some satyr were dancing his way toward me while playing an enchanting tune. There was more though. I realized that there were drums and guitars as well, but I still couldn’t place the song. When lights started playing along my eyelids, I opened them to find Aaliyah, balancing on the footboard of my bed as she danced and played her violin. What had been a gentle, soothing sound now grew into a full-blown rock arrangement fit for a heavy metal concert. The flashing lights behind her were coming from the mirror on the wall, probably provided by Mila at Aaliyah’s request. As the song came to an end, she jumped from the footboard, tucked her legs beneath her, and raised the violin and bow into the air as she landed beside me. I applauded for her but said, “You know that’s dangerous, right? If you would’ve slipped and hit your head, the world would be out one…” I wasn’t quite sure what word could describe the world’s loss. Aaliyah had a tremendous number of talents, so I finished with “little princess”, remembering how Mila and Chad called her that.
Aaliyah grinned at me and said, “Good morning, boss-man, sir! If we don’t get breakfast soon, we’ll be late to train with Brenna and Brandon. When I told Emma what we were doing, she volunteered to help out. This’ll be exciting, boss-man, sir! Imagine if they can do magic too!!!” I felt rested, more so than even yesterday, but I really didn’t feel like moving at all. I was trying to remember every note of that song she had played with little success. “Aaliyah, what was the name of that song?” I asked. “Hmm?” was her response, big blue eyes looking up at me. “The song you were just playing. What was it called?” Again she simply said “Hmm?” as if inquiring what I was meaning. When I asked Mila, she told me, “The little princess has told you the name of the song twice, boss-man, sir. She wrote the accompaniment to ‘Hmm?’ into my databanks this morning along with the lighting effects just to wake you up right.” How was I supposed to recognize “Hmm?” as the name? That led me to think of only one possibility for the song’s writer. “When did you come up with that? It was truly quite beautiful.” I told her. Aaliyah grinned and hopped off my bed. Then she looked over her shoulder and said, “I wrote it for you this morning!” Before that fully sunk in, she was scampering to the door.
Emma’s hand was raised to knock when the door opened for her, but her shocked expression quickly turned to a smile as Aaliyah hugged her leg. “Good morning, Emma!” exclaimed Aaliyah, who was now gazing up at her. Emma replied “Good morning, again. I see James isn’t any better at beating you up than I was. You know that I’m free to babysit you too most of the time.” Aaliyah ran over to her pink backpack, which I had missed on my floor, and pulled out her secretary glasses. After putting them on, she said, “Sorry, Emma, but hiring someone outside the company to do babysitting would be a conflict of interests. Then the boss-man would have to fire me, and my tears would be an eternal stream sooo BIG that the world would wash away. No one would know the story of a girl who cried a river and drowned the whole world.” The last part, she had said in a sing-song voice. I hadn’t heard “Absolutely” by Nine Days in a long time. Whether she didn’t know the song or chose to ignore the reference, Emma smiled and said, “But I live in the headquarters! How much more in the company could a person get?” Aaliyah tapped her chin and then replied, “Ignoring contracts, training courses, taking jobs, and being paid, not much.”
I excused myself to shower and dress while the girls talked. “Hey, Mila.” I started, only to jump and to cover myself with a towel a moment later when the Alma-esque likeness appeared on the mirror. “Yes, boss-man, sir?” she asked. Panicking a bit, I told her “Never display yourself when I’m in the bathroom.” The mirror returned to normal, but Mila asked “Why the restrictions on locale, boss-man, sir? I thought you liked seeing me.” I wasn’t any more prepared to discuss appropriateness with my computer than I was to discuss it with Mila’s programmer, so I said, “Um… well… Just don’t, please. Can you bring up that music which was playing this morning?” The music started playing with the violin part included, so I had to ask “How did you get the violin part? Wasn’t Aaliyah doing that?” Mila replied “Of course. The little princess is a very skilled violinist. I merely recorded her playing and filtered out other noises, so I could study the piece more fully.” My computer had an interest in music? Not wanting to fully follow that thought, I thanked her and told her to put it on loop until I was finished. I was still humming the song when I stepped back into my room.
Emma wolf-whistled at me and said, “Looking good, man-slave! What was that song?” I smiled and replied, “Hmm?” Emma, looking confused, said, “Umm.. you were humming something when you came out of the bathroom. I think he’s losing it, Aaliyah.” Aaliyah smiled and nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, I was humming ‘Hmm?’” I told her. Emma looked at me in disbelief and said, “No way! That’s seriously the song name? Who would give a song such a…” She stopped mid-sentence to stare at Aaliyah, who kept grinning at her while saying, “Isn’t it the best name!? I feel like it really captures the emotional undertones.” Emma giggled and hugged Aaliyah. I was happy to see her smiling and looking well, so I asked, “Did you sleep well last night?” Emma nodded affirmatively and smiled even more brightly. “No bad dreams at all, though I did dream about that strange girl we saw. Jarod and I are going to do some more research on the house later. He had a job this morning. We’ll totally tell you if we find anything that looks like her. I can’t believe we saw something at all! I mean a GHOST, man-slave! It’s amazing!” Aaliyah started doing her ghost impression again until Emma tickled her. Then Emma offered a piggyback ride, which was quickly accepted by the tiny girl.
Breakfast was another lively affair, made even more so by Aaliyah helping Marco to cook. Whenever she said his name, he would respond “Polo”, making her laugh all the more. The rest of us, Ai, Mai, Brandon, Brenna, Emma, and I, all sat at the table talking about the ghost sighting last night. Ai and Mai offered numerous explanations for what we saw, but one of us always had a reason to discard it. After a while, they at least conceded that we “might have seen something”, but they still maintained that ghosts don’t exist. I wasn’t completely certain that I had seen a ghost, but I knew all of us couldn’t have imagined the same face by coincidence. Well, unless Regina was still around. Her ability to manipulate chance was a rare gift that might not be seen in the world again. I wondered what she would have done had she been with us. I could easily imagine her jumping and hugging me, but she was a skilled fighter as well. She might have just prepared to defend herself by this point. We had done so very much training together in a short time, yet we barely scratched the surface of what was out there. “Hey, Boss, why are you smiling?” asked Brenna.
“The man-slave’s just off in his own world again.” commented Emma with a grin. Ai and Mai spoke in unison, saying, “He just likes ignoring us,” as they pouted. “I’m quite sorry,” I apologized, “but I was thinking about.. something… and got distracted. What were you asking?” Ai rolled her eyes at me while Mai said, “We were wondering when you guys were going to catch up with us.” She paused before adding “and the redhead.” I shrugged and said, “I’ll try to catch up as I can, but things keep me busy around here.” Aaliyah, whom I hadn’t seen approach, set a plate in front of me and inquired, “Things? What things, boss-man, sir? You’re supposed to be babysitting me this week, not letting things keep you busy!” I motioned to her with my left hand while grabbing a fork with my right, and said, “Though I try to be discreet about the extremely important matters involved in running my business, my secretary here is great at expounding on my plans. I’m sure you two can have a lovely talk with her about any pressing gaming concerns.” Much to my surprise, they did. By the end of breakfast, I was wondering who had taken over Ai and Mai. They were sounding like hardcore gamers, negotiating my schedule around fighting bosses in Ancient Tribes of Earth. When breakfast was over, I was quite ready to dive into something real, like training Brandon and Brenna in magic. Their time had arrived.