I explained the basic principles of meditation and my personal first experience in finding the right kind of focus for seeing the residual energy used for spells. I tried to make clear the difficulties I had at first with maintaining concentration and how this would take some work. I even managed to explain how much time and effort my late friend, Regina, put into seeing the energy the first time without shedding a tear. Well, maybe one, but I wasn’t overcome with grief how I had been all too often. I could hardly believe a month already passed since her death. I also mentioned that Jarod was still trying last I heard without any success at all. Not everyone had the gift. Brandon and Brenna seemed excited to get started, but barely fifteen minutes into the exercise, Brandon’s patience was already running low. “Are you sure I’m doing this right,” he asked, “We really just sit here and try to picture fairy dust?” Emma, who was working with him at his request, replied “I prefer to think of it as ‘glitter’ myself, but fairy dust works too. As for doing it right, no. You’re definitely talking way too much to be concentrating at all. Look at Aaliyah. She hasn’t moved at all.”
I opened my eyes and looked over at Aaliyah, who had insisted that this was what she wanted to do too. She sat cross-legged with her secretary glasses on, since this was “official secretary training too”. Emma was right; Aaliyah appeared to be fully entranced in her meditation. I was far more accustomed to seeing the tiny girl running around, performing athletic feats fit for trained professionals. Looking to Brandon and Emma, I said, “You can take a break if you want, Brandon, but this really is too soon to just give up. Maybe try exercising for a bit if you feel like you have too much energy.” As I watched, Brandon’s shirt suddenly bulged out with muscles, and he asked “Do I look like I need to work out? This is all natural.” I barely contained a laugh when Emma threw him to the ground two seconds later. She then told him “Not all exercise is bodybuilding.” He smiled, stood up, and replied “I can handle myself. Let’s see you try that when I’m ready.” His right arm seemed to go rubbery when she moved near it, but Emma was twisting under Brandon’s left arm and sweeping out his legs before he realized she was doing something different.
“You have some nice tricks, Brandon, but that doesn’t mean you know how to fight.” stated Emma after throwing him to the ground twice more. He simply shrugged and said, “Can’t say I’ve ever met someone with such fancy moves before. Generally people just try to punch me and break their fist.” The last part was said with a grin. I’d have to be careful if I ever sparred with Brandon. Brenna still appeared completely focused, despite the distraction, which I found impressive for her first time. I resumed meditating, despite Brandon and Emma carrying on some more. I wasn’t focusing on the energy in the air like Brenna was, since I could do that with ease now. Instead, I focused on Alma. I sorted through the memories of her floating in my head. I wanted to find some sort of pattern in her madness, some way to predict where she would attack next.
The first time I met Alma, an apartment caught on fire. With some research, I found that the man who lived there was still missing. I didn’t find any connection between him, Georgina, or the girls at Michelle’s school. The building that went up in flames the night of my senior Prom didn’t have any residents with connections to the others, at least not that I could. Most things from the past month were pretty blurry in my head, but Alma never was. I doubted I could forget details about her any more than I could forget meeting her. I could still see those violet eyes looking up at me and could remember how my heart seemed to skip a beat. She was as beautiful as she was dangerous. If only Alpy would show up soon, I might be able to convince her to help in the search. Ai and Mai hadn’t turned up anything useful yet, though they assured me they’ve been looking into the fire as well. I was certain that I was missing something simple, something obvious, but the pieces would not fit together. I wasn’t sure how long I spent puzzling at the various fires I read about, but I opened my eyes once more when I heard Brandon moving toward Aaliyah.
“How is she sitting so still? She seemed full of energy at breakfast” whispered Brandon as he knelt down next to her. He poked her shoulder, and Aaliyah stretched, hitting Brandon’s face ineffectually with her arm, yawned, and fell backward. Then she looked up at him and asked, “Is it lunchtime yet?” Brandon stood, guffawing and saying, “She was asleep the whole time! I told you meditating seemed an awful lot like taking a nap.” Emma smiled and shook her head. Then she said, “Aaliyah’s not trying to learn magic. You are. Sit and try again.” Brandon replied, “Nah. Maybe tomorrow. I’m clocking out early on this one. There’s gotta be another way.” I sighed. Even if Brandon had the potential, he seemed to lack the patience to learn. Looking at Brenna, I had to wonder if she dozed off as well. The girl had barely moved since we started. The only easily discernible change in her was the color of her hair, which periodically shifted between shades of red. “Still awake, Brenna?” I asked. She opened her eyes and smiled at me. “I haven’t dozed off like the munchkin yet, but I haven’t managed to see anything when I’ve peeked either.”
Emma and I worked with Brenna for another hour before I decided that was enough for a day. Aaliyah lay on the ground, napping, for the entire time. I woke her up when we were finished and asked “How would you like to take a walk? I could use a bit of fresh air before lunch.” Aaliyah smiled, looking surprisingly awake, took off her secretary glasses, and said, “Gardening time! Hooray! Let’s watch Emma work!” I hesitated and glanced over at Emma, who shrugged and told us “Sure. I wouldn’t mind if you watched me slave away in your yard. How about a dip in the pond while we’re at it, man-slave?” Brenna then perked up and said, “There’s a pond? I’d love to go swimming outside. No offense to the employee pool, but I prefer getting some sun when I swim.” Having never actually seen the employee pool, I couldn’t be sure there was nothing to complain about, so I said, “Well, I need to go get my suit if we’re going swimming. Then we can meet up in Emma’s wing if she doesn’t mind. That is.. if Aaliyah has a suit.” She started pulling her shirt off, much to my shock, so I spun around and said, “Aaliyah T. Syphers! You can’t just undress with a guy in the room.” For a kid genius, she did some really odd things.
Emma giggled and said, “Hey, man-slave, she was wearing her suit underneath her clothes.” I turned around while Aaliyah stated “Well, DUH, boss-man, sir. I’m TWELVE after all.” Brenna, who was laughing as well, told me “I wouldn’t have guessed that your face could match my hair so well, James. The ‘T’ must stand for Tricks!” Aaliyah then informed her “It’s ACTUALLY for Trixibelle.” To this Brenna replied “Well, I guessed the first part right, so let’s just go with it. Okay, Tricks? You can’t expect a blonde of all people to remember so many syllables.” Brenna’s hair had changed to a very light, curly blonde as she was speaking, leading Emma to reach up and touch it. Aaliyah rolled her eyes and said, “Well, Emma and I are blonde too, so the curve’s obviously different in this house. We at least know to eat the “W’s” at the M&M plant for quality control.” Brenna groaned and told her “You’re nearly as bad as Brandon.” Aaliyah stuck her tongue out and said, “You started it,” before smiling and winking at her. “Fine-fine, Tricks. You win.” conceded Brenna. I excused myself, leaving Aaliyah with the girls, so I could go change. I couldn’t believe that I had never gotten around to asking Aaliyah for what the ‘T’ stood before. Thinking about that, I realized that I didn’t know the middle name of most the people living under my roof. There was so very much catching up to do.