I was meeting Mona Sarila at The Frosty Museum, so named, supposedly, because museums are cool. More likely, the museum once had another name but was renamed due to the overwhelming consensus that the staff were as warm-hearted as icebergs. Nicknames had a way of sticking around. At least, that was what I happened to be imagining when I realized a tall, slim girl was standing next to my bench. She was wearing a deep blue, lace jacket over a white halter top with a blue skirt that matched the jacket. I quickly stood and greeted her before telling her that she looked lovely, which earned me a smile. She replied “Thank you, James. You really don’t mind going through here with me, do you? You mentioned that you had been here before.” I nodded and said, “Oh, I have, but that was years ago. I’m sure the exhibits are completely different now. What would you like to see first?” At her request, we simply headed left and started working our way around. The first exhibit was on dinosaurs, and I immediately thought of the Sypher’s entryway. I told Mona “A little girl whom I babysit actually has a dinosaur as a bench when you enter the condo. Then there are little pterodactyls for coat hangers.”
“That sounds highly impractical. Her parents must have a unique sense of taste.” she replied, gazing up at the nearby t-rex skeleton. “Well, I do agree the entire condo is unique, but though the decor was far from normal, everything seemed perfectly efficient. For example, taking the slide downstairs is far faster without using as much energy.” I argued. She shook her head and said, “I can’t imagine allowing a slide indoors. That just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.” I was already wishing I was on Ancient Tribes of Earth instead of on a date. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have time to play at all after this, since I was due for a hair appointment. Aaliyah would surely take offense at Mona’s opinion of her home, and I could easily imagine the diminutive girl defending her condo while casually sabotaging Mona’s phone. Even knowing Aaliyah to be part cybernetic, I couldn’t explain how she was able to hack into phones as she did at the mall. “Don’t you think, James?” asked Mona. I hadn’t been paying attention for the past several minutes, so I wasn’t entirely sure what she was asking.
“Sorry, but I seem to have missed what you said.” I told her. She sniffed and walked away, obviously irritated. Perhaps this was another date I needed to end early. Neither of us seemed to be enjoying the other’s company, or so I thought before Mona grabbed onto my arm as I caught up. She told me “Look at this video of baby dinosaurs. Don’t you think tiny things are far more adorable? I wish there was some creature that could remain tiny and cute forever.” I nodded, thinking of how, only minutes ago, Mona insulted the home of a girl who very well might remain tiny and cute forever. Once again I found myself realizing how there was absolutely no way to explain my secretary well and have any reasonable person believe me without meeting her. Mona then went onto say with a sigh, “I sometimes wish I was shorter. My dad obviously wanted me to remain little forever. My name means ‘little noble one’ in English, but it also means ‘wish’ and ‘desire’ in Arabic. If I could have remained smaller, maybe… maybe…” Her voice cracked and she stopped speaking for a moment. Dating really seemed like walking a field of landmines at times.
I sighed, which caused Mona to apologize, but I really didn’t feel like explaining that I sighed because I was thinking of another girl. Alma. Lady Alma Lucy Pendreigh V once again popped into my head unbidden. I didn’t feel like dating her would resemble a minefield at all, more like hugging a human-shaped, armed bomb while knowing the danger. Unlike a bomb, Alma did seem to have control over her detonation for the most part. As Emma pointed out, the city wasn’t gone. When Alma danced, I felt so alive next to her. Strangely happy. Coming back to the moment, I realized that Mona was excited over the next exhibit, which showcased Egyptian artifacts found in the tombs of various less known pharaohs. I took a couple pictures with her phone of her posing next to several of the artifacts, which seemed to delight her. Then she insisted on taking one with me, unfortunately. I never wanted to be anyone’s bad memory, but I really wasn’t seeing us getting anywhere when she was so quick to judge Aaliyah’s home. Well, that was the reason I tried telling myself, despite Alma lingering in my mind. I COULD find a girl who wasn’t so… words like “beautiful” and “graceful passed through my mind, but I rejected them for “controlling” once again.
By the time we reached the second floor and were looking through the gem collection, I had already rehearsed several different ways to make my escape, but I couldn’t abandon someone who looked at me with such hope in her eyes. Mona needed someone to listen to her, at which I was largely failing. I did my best as she talked about which were her favorites, but our tastes weren’t even close to matching. Then we watched an hour movie which briefly told the history of the museum. I truly could appreciate the value of the building, but the current date’s compatibility with me wasn’t on par. We continued through several other exhibitions before I noticed the time. How did we already spend three hours in here? Granted that the movie took an hour, but the other two passed surprisingly quickly considering the little enjoyment I had. “I’m terribly sorry, Mona, but I’m going to be late for an appointment if I don’t leave.” I confessed. She took hold of my hand in two of hers and said, “Please, don’t go.” She looked to be on the brink of tears. “Well, I suppose I can go through another with you, but I truly can’t stay too long.” I replied. She clung to my arm as we looked at the history of some Native American tribes.
“My dad left a few years ago. He wanted his ‘little noble one’… a little princess, really, but I… I grew up.” stated Mona out of the blue. “I can’t imagine a father leaving his daughter just because she aged. Don’t blame yourself for his faults.” I told her. She shoved my arm at me and yelled “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH MY FATHER!” The poor, poor girl. “I’m sorry to have offended you, but I’m questioning your reasoning here. Something happened to cause your father to leave, whether he could control it or not, but he should have explained in a note if he couldn’t in person. Whatever reason he had for reasoning, I don’t believe he left just because you grew up. You’re a tall, beautiful girl who has many talents from what I gleaned from your profile. Your mother must be proud.” I told her. She shook her head and said, “She’s dead. Father left. My aunt died years after. Now you’re leaving.” I could see why someone wouldn’t display such loss on their profile, but why was she feeling so attached to me!? We just met and could hardly say we knew one another. I wanted to help her. I truly did, but if I tried to comfort her, would she become more attached? There was no way I could become what she wanted. I knew no spell to make her troubles disappear.
“I obviously don’t have a daughter and probably shouldn’t mention this, but I recently was reminded by an acquaintance that every girl’s a princess in their father’s eyes. Whatever happened wasn’t your fault, and I hope you can come to terms with that in time. I’m sorry, but I need to leave. I’m not leaving because anything is wrong with you, per se, but I really don’t see us dating. There hasn’t been much of anything we’ve actually agreed upon this whole date.” I confessed. To my surprise, she hugged me, tears rolling onto my shoulder. “But I like you, James. I really do. I don’t know why, but do I need a reason?” she whispered. I gently patted her back and told her “Yes, you do. Not for me, but for yourself. Just acting on impulse can lead to many unpleasant places. I really wish you the best of luck.” Mona wasn’t letting go, so I gently pried her off me. I felt horrible, but I didn’t know any way to save her. If I brought such a girl into my life, how would she survive the horrors I face? If she knew of werewolves, she might just decide one killed her father and tried to take revenge. Even if one had, a quest for vengeance wasn’t a better life for her. Could I really date a girl without magic knowing that my use of magic might put her in danger?
With a heavy heart, I let Mila drive me home, the image of Mona standing with her head down haunting me. As Aaliyah cut my hair, she sang to me. The music might as well have been magic with how my worries eased and soul found peace. The tiny, tiny girl who was so proud to be twelve worked miracles compared to me and probably would have handled the situation with Mona better, even if her solution was cake. Despite the worries and pain my life as a best friend for hire brought me, I was extremely fortunate in my friends and family. My friendships here were fairly young, but I could feel how strong many of the bonds were. Well, Jarod’s was old now. I needed to make up with the twins. Both of my parents lived and loved me, which was more rare and precious than I often realized. Aaliyah grinned as she held up the mirror for me to see my reflection. My hair looked perfect, for lack of a better word. I was thinking of canceling my second date today to play Ancient Tribes of Earth with everyone, especially Eseld. Then Aaliyah said, “Your date tonight’s going to be soooo happy when she gets to look at you! You look wonderful, boss-man, sir. Tell me how it goes!” My little secretary could have easily hacked into my dating profile if I hadn’t made her help with it in the first place. Of course, she knew. I could survive one more date.