As I drove back home, my mind worried over the past several months. When I met Alma, I was enchanted by her, perhaps literally if there existed magic to meddle with thought. Was the meeting a coincidence or had she already decided to mess with me before I even knew she existed? Either way, what was the point of such a trick? Why bring the other girls into it? With how the twins showed her deference, they were surely acting under her instruction. I doubt Emma would risk her mother’s career by opposing her mother’s boss, so she might well be trapped in Alma’s plot. She might well be using the girls to spy on me but to what end? I wasn’t anyone important. My business was a bit unusual in nature, but I hardly saw anything about it that would draw the attention of such a person. Supposing she really was studying my business, why would she reveal herself now? Did she already have what she wanted and was now gloating? I really didn’t have nearly enough information on her. “Mila, will you take over driving and bring up all you can on Lady Alma Lucy Pendreigh V?” I asked.
Images of Alma flooded the windshield as Mila started reading off articles pertaining to the images. Born February twenty ninth, Alma was over two years younger than me, but the girl was definitely busy. She had been present at countless charity works, was infamous for her business dealings, and met the Queen on numerous occasions. I started staring out the window after a while. I couldn’t handle looking at her due to countless conflicting emotions. Even after finding out that the girl was manipulating me, I couldn’t deny her exceptional beauty and found myself wanting to… to do so many things with the girl that I wasn’t sure one lifetime was enough for all of them. Then there was also the anger, still boiling away in my gut, each bubble bursting only to be followed by another as I pondered yet another way she might be affecting my life. I might love her. I might hate her. I needed to cleanse my life of her touch and make sure no one else ever gained such a hold on me.
“Does that mean we’ll no longer be practicing magic?” asked Brenna, sounding worried. I supposed that Emma and the twins might have taught me to use magic at Alma’s request, but I was capable of it before that. Turning to speak to everyone present, I said, “Whatever their reasons for teaching me, being competent enough not to blow ourselves up makes sense, but I feel we should go beyond that still. Even though this threat wasn’t what we thought, there truly are werewolves, werelions, and countless other dangers out there. I want everyone in Best Friend For Hire to be able to defend themselves and our clients if the need arises. Aaliyah would probably pout if we let all her hard work in training programs go to waste.” I winked at Aaliyah on the last part, which made her grin. Jarod smiled slightly, and I found myself missing his usual ear-to-ear grin. He was obviously concerned about what was revealed tonight as well. Mila was still reading articles on Alma aloud, and none of it alleviated my confusion at all. Why was this girl even in the U.S.?
My thoughts left me as I stepped outside of Mila to find Alma standing on the steps with her arms crossed, looking as if she teleported from where we were to here. “What are you doing here?” I blurted. “Alpy rents the west wing, boss-man, sir,” said Aaliyah as she stepped out beside me and hugged my leg. “Wait. I thought that wing wasn’t finished yet.” I replied. “I moved in around the same time as the twins.” stated Alma. Another bubble of anger came bursting out. “So you’ve been living under my roof all this time and didn’t even bother saying anything to me?” I inquired fiercely. “Says the man who wouldn’t even give me a lift.” she coldly responded. “Why would I help a girl who’s been playing with my life for months!?” I demanded. “Do you really think I wanted to go without seeing you for months? I’ve been doing my best to help you prepare!” I realized my hands were in fists again as I yelled “Prepared? For what!?” She looked tense with her hands clenching and unclenching as well. “Don’t be daft! Prepared to date me, of course,” she said, raising her voice. “If someone is not good enough for you, leave them alone! Don’t go trying to change people at whim!” I told her. To date her? The girl wasn’t making any sense at all.
Alma was glaring at me. The others were slipping by us into the house, save for Aaliyah who still clung to my leg. Alma took a deep breath and said, “James, I didn’t mean for us to have a row. Please understand that I could not date you without you having at least some training first. Let’s sit down, have some tea, and put this behind us, so we can get started on the right foot.” Part of me was curious, but I mostly felt dumbfounded. The girl looked perfectly serious. “You’re completely nuts. I don’t know why anyone would consider dating you after being manipulated, and I’m not staying up to listen to this. I’m heading to bed.” I told her before lifting Aaliyah up and walking around Alma into the house. As I shut the door, Alma remained motionless, save for the wind in her hair. Aaliyah’s head was slumped against my shoulder, and I wondered if she had managed to fall asleep so quickly. The poor girl couldn’t have slept much before tailing me to face Alma. She must have been worried to have followed at all, which only added to my feeling that Alma couldn’t be trusted. I probably should look into evicting her, but I didn’t want to do anything rash.
I tucked Aaliyah into bed, and then headed to my room. I needed to find out whether the twins and Emma were just lackies or if, in some part, they were true friends as well. If I asked them, could they be honest with me now, or would I just be getting what Alma wanted me to hear from them? I wasn’t sure. Trusting them again would take time if I ever managed it at all. Life had just started seeming like it was going well again. Why did things have to turn out like this? Because of Alma, obviously, but I wouldn’t be know the twins or Emma at all without her. I thought for a while that the Ai, Mai, and Emma each might have been interested in me. Was that all part of Alma’s plan? Assuming that was true, why would she want me attached to other girls if she wanted to date me herself? I really wanted to throw that out as crazy, so I could believe those three honestly liked me. Nothing Alma did really seemed to make sense though, so crazy might actually be all too accurate. I barely had started working again, and I already felt like I needed to take a break from my life. When would I find peace once more?