Mila was playing “Hmm?” to wake me this morning, which still entranced me with its enchanting melody. Though the song was a far less stressful than the sirens and gunfire of Tuesday morning, I wasn’t remotely at ease. When I returned home last night, I found Alma standing in the driveway. Before I had a moment to ask her what she was doing, she told me “James, I must ask you not to eat at Staker’s Staked Steak for a while.” Those words caused me to feel panicked, since I was hoping to keep my dating secret from Alma, but I also felt upset that she was still trying to control my life. Busy as I was fighting the surge of anger, she spoke again before me, saying, “Please, James. That particular restaurant is believed to be owned by vampires. Even I doubted they’d give a place such an audacious name and sign. Didn’t you find the sight of a bloody steak staked to the wall a tad much for a logo?” Part of me was wanting to believe that Alma’s intentions were truly good, but I still told her “I would appreciate you keeping your nose out of my affairs, Alma. If you have any troubles in your wing, please contact my secretary.”
She stood there, staring at me and looking all too regal. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to strangle her to dispel that image of superiority or if I wanted to hug her for being the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. I turned and started walking to the door when she said, “Since you’re so determined to hold my kindness against me, I’ll have you know that I killed a vampire who was tailing you tonight. He followed you from that restaurant, so the intel is good. Please heed my warning.” I turned to look at her, but she was already gone. Walking inside, I wondered if vampires felt fright when they met her. If not, were they too stunned by those captivating, violet eyes to even protest their deaths? If she could give up her manipulations and killing, I might well stare into those eyes for hours on end, but I knew that would never happen. The girl spent months playing with my life because she thought I was cute. What would someone like that do to accomplish a goal she was serious about? Alma seemed deadly serious about eradicating what she considered to be threats. At least Niele wasn’t the threat she was after.
I spent some time last night preparing for today’s battles on Ancient Tribes of Earth. Four more demons would soon be slain to secure that world from destruction. Even now I still felt a lingering guilt knowing that Alma surely knew I was on a date. The guilt was irrationable, laughable even, but I didn’t want to be the reason for tears in those perfect eyes, assuming Alma could cry. There were so many things I wanted to know about her, but I wasn’t going to ask. She manipulated me all too easily without me going to her for help. If I were to question her, she’d likely have the upper hand in the exchange, finding out far more about me than I about her. I never would have believed such beguiling arts were practiced outside of fiction if not for becoming a victim of them. I scarcely could keep the girl out of my head for any length of time. Throughout breakfast, a grandiose meal reaffirming that Marco was a far superior chef than that of Staker’s Staked Steak, I was still debating whether I still liked Alma or hated her.
As engaging as the long, mass battle against two demons was, I still found Alma on my mind far too much. Luckily, talking with Eseld afterward helped me some. She was charming and exceptionally creative. If not for clever planning on her part, the demon’s hordes would have outflanked my army. I was too confident in our victory, having already beaten five of the demons, to ever think losing fighters for scouting parties would be necessary. The massive army we faced turned out to only be two thirds of the enemy horde. The rest were discovered en route over an hour into the fight. Eseld redirected her team with swift efficiency and bought the time the rest of us needed to reorganize. Still, the tens of thousands lost in battle with two powerful demons alongside their horde would have been far too costly if these were real lives instead of player characters. Why couldn’t Alma be more like Eseld, using her abilities to openly do good in the world? Plus, Eseld and I could sit and chat without having an argument.
I was a bit disappointed to leave Eseld in a rush, but I didn’t want to be late for my date with Calandria Ewart. In her profile, she stated that she was “fun-sized” and loved being the shortest person she knew. Considering she was five foot tall, there probably weren’t that many people shorter than her in the area, but I was fairly certain that Alma was even shorter. Even if Aaliyah could grow, I didn’t imagine she’d even reach Alma’s height, not with being under a yard tall at twelve. I sighed and let Mila take over driving. Why did Alma always have to appear in my thoughts? I felt at times that I was stuck in a bad bit of literature with a horrendous author dictating my cruel fate, yet father always wondered why I wasn’t a more avid reader. How he never felt more sorry for the characters I’ll never know. I surprised myself by smiling when I thought of Alma’s abrupt visit to my parent’s. Seeing father, the insatiable reader, at a complete loss of words would have been rather priceless. I almost wished I had been there, but I was glad that my parents weren’t around for me losing my cool every time I talked with Alma.
When I arrived at the aquarium, I fondly remembered visiting here with the twins, one of the few times they seemed remotely out of synch with one another. “JAMES!” came my name slightly before I saw someone leaping at me. I jumped to the side and prepared to defend myself. Instead, I found Calandria missing her landing and stumbling to the ground. “Sorry about that. You surprised me.” I confessed, helping her up. I remembered seeing that she had curly hair in one of her pictures. She was wearing a hat in most now that I thought about it. The enormous mass of soft brown hair on this girl’s head was a bit befuddling. I gave into a desire to pat her head and was amazed at her hair’s capacity to spring back. Calandria smiled up at me and asked “Whatcha doooing?” I stopped, put my hand behind my back, and told her “Sorry again. Though I’ve seen longer hair, I can’t say I ever met someone with such impressive volume.” She grinned and exclaimed “It adds to my height!” Slightly bewildered, I commented “But I thought you enjoyed being short.” She nodded and enthusiastically stated “I do! Ever see Brave? I absolutely adored when that movie came out, because I then had a princess with my hair! Well, hers is the wrong color. They never responded when I wrote to them about it though.”
I was still trying to process the contradiction and the nonsense which followed when she grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the aquarium. “Let’s all swim with the fishies,” she sang, earning some looks from nearby patrons. I couldn’t help feeling that she was making some sort of Godfather reference, though that was probably due to the sort of people I was around these days. “So what got you interested in marine life?” I asked on the way to the first exhibit. “Well, I did name goldfish when I was little, but I just enjoy seeing them swimming around all carefree.” she told me in a perfectly serious manner. “Umm.. you named goldfish? What did you name them?” I inquired. “Oh no, silly. I came up with the word ‘goldfish’ when I was seven. I saw them on T.V. and was all like ‘Wow, those are pretty!’ Then I decided that they were goldfish. The name caught on really quick.” she explained. I was gaping and realized that seemed to happen all too often anymore. “Ah. Well then. I can’t say that I previously knew of anyone that named a fish, but last time I was here I felt like I was getting a tour. My friends are practically marine biologists, having studied sea life in great detail.”
Ignoring what I told her entirely, Calandria darted off to another and squealed in delight as a large fish swam by her. The date, if I really dignified it as that, continued throughout the aquarium with the girly not really seeming to care about anything I said, though she was quite enthusiastic in her lack of attention. My few attempts at babysitting showed the average child to have a longer attention span than Calandria, and the little ones wore out easily. I never knew anyone with quite so much energy before, excluding Aaliyah. Aaliyah was always in a league of her own, in being tiny and in being energetic when she wasn’t napping. I declined on catching lunch afterward, neither having the time nor desire to continue with the charade. Calandria didn’t seem intentionally inattentive by any means, but I couldn’t really enjoy time spent with a girl who couldn’t hold a conversation. If I managed to make my way home a little earlier than expected, I was more likely to find time with Eseld to plot the next battle. There was nothing wrong with finding the bright side of another failed date, so I hurried home to seek a more enjoyable adventure.