“Aaliyah? Why are you here? Where’s Trix?” I asked. She was staring up at me, her blue eyes… disturbingly like Trix’s. I was on my feet looking around, but my eyes came back to the diminutive girl. She was wearing a pastel blue dress, but thankfully not in the same style as Trix. My eyes frantically searched for Trix, and there was nowhere to vanish so suddenly. My lips were moving, but I couldn’t say anything. Aaliyah was not a shapeshifter. I didn’t spend the best day of my life on a date with a twelve-year-old. Despite what I was telling myself, there was a nameless feeling creeping up on me, a dark horror that would engulf me if I didn’t find answers soon. “Aaliyah, please tell me what happened to Trix.” I pleaded, needing answers. There was no slow shift or subtle change; one moment Aaliyah was sitting there, and the next moment Trix was. “My full name is Aaliyah Trixibelle Sypher, boss-man, sir, and yes, I can change my appearance on whim.” she told me, suddenly back to her normal form. “But you can’t use magic…” I protested, plopping back into my seat. I took a long drink, but Aaliyah was still sitting there when I set my glass down.
“Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. Everything’s fine.” she assured me. “Fine? Fine!? I was having the best day of my life, my first wonderful date. We even… well..” I started saying, suddenly not wanting to think about the hours on the boat at all. “Chad… What am I going to tell him? He’ll murder me! Forget losing you as a secretary, I’m going to be losing my life!” I told her, now pacing on my feet. “Maybe he’ll make you marry me!” exclaimed Aaliyah with an enormous grin! Couldn’t she take anything seriously? What father wouldn’t murder an eighteen-year-old ― well, nineteen-year-old now ― who kissed his little daughter, especially with how tiny she was? How was I going to tell him? “Chad obviously doesn’t know where you are. He’s probably called the police if he’s noticed you missing! We really need to get in touch with him.” I pulled out my phone and started typing his name into my contact search. What was I going to tell him? What was… Where was my phone? I looked quickly to Aaliyah who was singing of all things. How could she sing at a time like this? She stood up and caught me as I fell. The idea of a three-foot-nothing girl carrying an over six-foot-tall boy amused me for a moment as she set me back in my seat. I felt surprisingly relaxed.
“Daddy doesn’t know that I can shapeshift, and he never will. Got it?” she asked. I nodded, my brain was trying to fight through a fog. I forgot how early in the morning we came here. I needed sleep. “But Aaliyah, I was treating you like…” A tiny finger suddenly covered my lips, and Aaliyah said, “Exactly as I would hope from a wonderful guy. I’ll explain if you’ll just listen for a bit.” The fog was starting to clear again, but I didn’t feel panicked for the moment. I tried to gently push her arm aside, but I might as well have tried to lift a building. Aaliyah was incredibly strong. “First off, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that you finally gave me the right cake.” she claimed, lowering her hand to grasp one of mine in both of hers. “What does cake have to do with anything?” I asked, feeling bewildered. She rolled her eyes and told me “EVERYTHING, boss-man, sir. I promised you answers for cake, and you finally gave the right one, birthday cake.” I considered arguing for a moment, but I realized, beyond the futility, that I actually did cut her slice for her. “Unlike most humans, you have magic, a unique wonderful magic that rarely popped up in all of human history.” she explained. I wanted to argue that human history was too vast to be certain, but Aaliyah always seemed to know everything.
“This power of yours allows you to absorb residual energy and involuntarily use it in numerous ways. Most important with regard to your dates is that you enchant everyone around you, forcing them to like you. How much they like you and how they treat people they like varies greatly, of course, but you’re stuck with people liking you. Basically, the more energy you absorb, the more people will like you, though there are honestly a bunch of variables involved.” I sat there, staring at Aaliyah and wondering if she could be joking, but I gradually acknowledged that I did have a way with people. “In addition, you’re able to sense the truth of things, provided your body has enough energy. That is why you can tell Ai and Mai apart with such ease. Coincidentally, that’s also why you’re not still fighting about whether or not I’m Trix. You know it’s true. You knew it before I even told you, just not consciously.” I didn’t really know before, did I? If Aaliyah was just messing with my head, how would I know? “I’ll admit that I did feel exceptionally relaxed around Trix, er… you, before the revelation, but I never feel that I know the truth about anything.” I told her. “Not my fault if you don’t always trust your gut.”, she said with a little shrug.
She started to say something else, but I interrupted her, saying, “Wait a second. How am I supposed to know who actually likes me, and who likes me because of this ability?” Aaliyah smiled and told me “That’s the best part! They do actually like you. The more time someone spends with you, the more your power has affected them, the more you’re sincerely and legitimately liked from the bottom of their hearts.” I didn’t buy it, no matter what my gut said. I needed a way to stop this. “Is there a way to stop it? As far as I know, I wouldn’t even have friends today if I didn’t force friendship on them.”, I said, muttering the last part. Patting my hand, she told me “If you find a spot void of energy for you to absorb, your body will run out for a bit, but you’re worrying too much about this. You’re not doing anything horrible to people. They just like you. Now that you know what you’re doing, you can use your abilities to take over the world!” I stared at her incredulously for a moment before saying, “I’d never want that!” Aaliyah giggled and replied “I know, but you could at least run for president. I guarantee you’d win votes everywhere you went!”
Aaliyah definitely couldn’t take things seriously. I needed to tell Jarod about this and hope he wasn’t offended. No one liked being forced into things, and I apparently was influencing him for countless years now. My poor parents were surely victims as well. I was sure they would have loved me anyways, but… “Aaliyah, I can’t really think of my parents giving me any sort of special treatment. Father can be pretty harsh at times.” I confided, feeling exceptionally confused. “Fair point! Are you convinced that you don’t steal away free will yet?” she asked, picking cake crumbs off my plate. “How can you still be hungry for cake?” I inquired. She grinned and asked “Do you want some more!?” I rolled my eyes and said, “No, thank you. You really shouldn’t overeat. You know you’ll throw up.” A guilty, yet somehow cute, look passed over her face before she told me “Well, I haven’t actually thrown up unintentionally for years. I kinda did that to distract people when I needed to go kill some folk. Besides, if you had to be so many different people in the past couple weeks, you’d be hungry too!” Wait. “You purposefully threw up when we met!? You were killing someone? And who else were you recently?” I asked, suppressing thoughts that were coming to mind as well as I could.
With a shrug, Aaliyah said, “When people need assassinated, who ya gonna call?”, pointing to herself as she said it. “Aaaaand I may have been busy keeping my boss from regretting his dates.” she told me with a shrug. I gaped, those not-so-suppressed thoughts being confirmed. “None of those girls were real?” I asked. “Well, they’re all real girls. I just borrowed their identities, personalities, etcetera to let you experience dating them without you having to worry about hurt feelings and such for long. Surprise! You didn’t actually offend anyone!” she told me. “But…” I started before even letting my mind wander across the field of “buts” that were springing to mind. “Hold on. You’re the one who got me in a fight!?” I asked, watching Aaliyah cut herself another slice of cake. “Yes! Weren’t you amaaaazing!?” she exclaimed. “Someone could have been seriously injured!” I told her, feeling my anger rising. “I knew you wouldn’t hurt them badly. You’re a good person, boss-man, sir. Otherwise, I wouldn’t work for you.” she explained. My anger deflated as I considered that though out-numbered, my second in that fight was the world’s greatest assassin. Those guys were lucky that she didn’t intervene.
“What was the point of all this?” I asked, my mind still reeling. “We’re getting through them, though you forgot the plural. ‘Points’, boss-man, sir. Life’s way too interesting to ever just have one point.” she claimed. I decided to join her for another slice of cake, since I was feeling surprisingly hungry again. I needed to do something, and maybe shoving cake in my mouth would give me enough time to work through these bombs Aaliyah so casually dropped on me. The best date of my life was with the same person as all of the bad ones, and she claimed all of it was for my benefit. On top of that, I found out that I was accidentally enchanting everyone and needed to trust my gut instincts more. Despite what Aaliyah might say, I was still very glad that I didn’t go any further with my last date than I had. Looking at the tiny girl gobbling down an enormous slice of cake, I never would suspect that she was a shapechanging, cybernetic assassin, but I knew she was that and more. She was also the greatest secretary I could want and my friend, but I still wondered at what other secrets she was keeping. She had mentioned that she wanted me to know her better, but this was not what I expected. What other surprises would she spring?