“No, I’m not planning on dating Portentia. She’s unique and needed help, so I very well might attempt to hire her for a bit if she’s interested. She’s deaf, by the way, so you need to face her if you want her to be able to know what you’re saying.” I told Alma as we exited her wing. “I am quite fluent in sign language, James, and very few people who aren’t deaf sign while speaking.” replied Alma, sounding annoyed. Aaliyah was far more understanding with me when I was failing in my attempts to be helpful. I really wasn’t sure how Alma would react if she found out that all of those dates turned out to be with my secretary. Maybe she already knew, but I didn’t feel comfortable with mentioning it, not when I really wanted to enjoy this party with her. The music stopped moments before we arrived at the ballroom. I briefly noticed Aaliyah up on stage by the twins before a spotlight blinded me. “And now,” said Ai. “let us introduce to you” added Mai. “the wonderful girl who brought us all here tonight to celebrate James’ birthday, Lady Alma Lucy Pendreigh V!” they proclaimed together. “Please clear a space,” said Mai. “for these two to dance together” finished Ai. Alma didn’t seem turned off by the fanfare or pleased by it either. She calmly stood there a moment as if this were completely normal.
Then we walked to the center of the room together and started dancing as the trio on stage sang. Alma was just as fantastic as I recalled. No matter what I tried, she gracefully followed as if we had rehearsed a thousand times. I quickly lost myself to the music, the dance, and the smiling girl in my arms. Every chance to look into those spectacular eyes of hers made my heart beat a little faster. By the end of the dance, I was, quite unfortunately, sweating profusely. There was perfect silence for a couple seconds, and then the applause was thunderous, even louder than when I had danced with Portentia. I bowed, and Alma made a slight curtsy. Then the spotlight was off us, so people moved to dance once more. “Would you mind meeting Portentia if we can find her?” I asked, taking in how perfect Alma looked. She was completely serene without so much as a hair out of place or a bead of sweat upon her brow. “Follow me.” replied Alma, walking off toward the entrance. As we walked, I felt the sweat leaving my body without the salty residue. “Are you doing that?” I inquired to Alma. She said, “Of course. We don’t want your new clothes soiled, now do we? Don’t worry. The salt’s in the dustbin.” I hadn’t even begun to worry about where it went yet.
Portentia was looking extremely uncomfortable, leaned up against a mirrored wall near the door. “James! I can’t move.” she whispered urgently. “Alma?” I asked, unpleasantly certain of the reason. When I didn’t get a response, I said, “I’m terribly sorry, Portentia. Alma can be extremely rude at times.” My gut ached instantly as Alma’s elbow hit me. “What are you?” inquired Alma. “Stuck.” replied Portentia. “Obviously, but what race,” said Alma. Gaining my breath, I told her “Stop this immediately. She’s my guest.” Alma’s intense eyes stared up at me as she asked “Did you know she has no heartbeat? Her ankle broke when she tried to jerk her leg free, but the bone seems to have mended. She’s not human.” Portentia looked shocked as she asked “How do you know? What are you?” As disturbed as I felt, I admired Portentia’s relative calm. Most people would have been scared at this point, but, of course, she had no clue who Alma was. Alma observed Portentia for a moment more before turning around and saying, “Mr. and Mrs. Somerset, I’m delighted to see you again.” I hadn’t noticed my parents approaching us.
“Lady Pendreigh.” stated father uncertainly. “Please, you really have no need to address me as such, since you’re not citizens of the United Kingdom. ‘Alma’ will do nicely,” she replied. Father looked a bit surprised. I stepped to the side and spun Alma with me, so Portentia would be able to see our faces while saying, “If you don’t mind, let’s face Portentia, so she can be part of the conversation.” I needed time to think things through. There must be a way to defuse the situation before Alma hurt Portentia more. “Oh, sorry. My son is so tall that I didn’t see you there,” said mother to Portentia. “James was just introducing us,” said Alma, her brilliant smile nearly making me forget her potential malice. “They caught me as I was slipping off. I didn’t realize your son had a girlfriend.” added Portentia. “A girlfriend? James, when did you two start dating?” asked mother. Father seemed surprised as well. “We haven’t.” I replied at the same time as Alma. Was she mad at me? I wasn’t on fire, but she didn’t seem too happy at the moment. “Oh,” said mother at the same time Portentia said, “You’re not? Aaliyah’s explanation was a bit confusing when you left.” Alma flatly replied “I’m sure.” Nodding, father said, “But isn’t she a wonderful singer? Each time I look at her, I see her as the most adorable child, second maybe to James when he was young. Then she performs, and I stand in awe.”
“Yes, she is very unique,” said Alma. There was no way she should be able see Aaliyah given the short stature of both girls, but Alma’s eyes were staring straight at her, as if she could see. Portentia asked “How old is she? When we were talking, she claimed to know every language under the stars, and I almost believed her after just talking the once.” I responded, saying, “She’s only twelve, but she’s exceptionally brilliant. I wouldn’t doubt that she knows a large number of languages given that her father’s a professional translator.” Mother nodded, and we all stood there watching, save for Alma, who was looking at Portentia. When the song ended, my parents excused themselves to catch Chad, who father spotted near the stage. When they left, I teasingly asked Portentia “Why were you leaving? I thought you wanted to be my sidekick.” She was blushing again and told me “I do. I just… I’m not accustomed to these sort of things, and I felt embarrassed. You two looked so perfect dancing together.” Before I could reply, Alma said while signing, “Thank you. I’m sorry about your ankle, but I mistook you for a vampire at first. I’d love to hear your story after the party.” Portentia nodded and said, “I’ll accept your apology if you allow me to have another dance with James.”
Alma didn’t look pleased, but she assented. I was surprised Portentia wanted to give it another go so quickly. We kept to the edge of the dancers, but we still joined them. “If I stay here, will you teach me to dance like she did?” asked Portentia. I nodded and told her “I’ll do my best, though dancing can take years of practice.” She smiled at me, her teeth as perfectly white as the rest of her. Then she asked “So who is Alma to you?” I didn’t really know how to answer and said as much. “Okay. Is she some sort of vampire hunter? I think she’d be great at stopping the bad ones,” she said. I nodded, feeling a bit grim as I thought of the number of people I knew Alma killed. “Hold on. You said ‘bad ones.’ Do you know some that aren’t bad?” I asked. Portentia nodded and told me “Oh yeah. There are a number of really nice ones that I met here and there. Being a superhero, I tend to bump into all sorts that like the dark. Vampires often mistake me for one of them at first, so I can’t blame Alma for doing the same.” No wonder she wasn’t offended by the idea. I still had trouble seeing her as a superhero though. She seemed delicate to me. When the song ended, Alma was immediately there, claiming she was next. Then Emma appeared behind her saying, “But I haven’t had a turn yet!” Alma looked annoyed, and I was in for a long day at this rate. Still, things could be worse.