“I don’t see why she needed to come along.” stated Alma as she impatiently waited for Aaliyah to stop examining a particularly large beetle that was crawling around the nearby lightpost. “Sorry, but you know my schedule is pretty tight. How was I supposed to know that Chad would desperately need a babysitter today?” I asked. Alma rolled her eyes and said, “You could have pawned her off on Emma. Emma would’ve been overjoyed.” Aaliyah looked up at her to inform her “Emma’s modeling for one of her favorite brands. You wouldn’t really want to have her be distracted on such a big day, would you?” Alma curtly asked “Are you quite finished now?” To which Aaliyah excitedly nodded and said, “Yep! She’s promised to return home tonight, so all is well! Crisis averted!” We proceeded walking with each of them holding one of my hands ― well, Aaliyah held a finger ― as Alma told me “You do know that as the owner of the company you do have a say in the schedule. I realize that Aaliyah is a marvelous secretary, but don’t you rely on her a bit heavily?” I knew father would likely agree with Alma on that point if he ever found out half of what I knew Aaliyah did, and I was certainly missing a great deal. “You do realize that I can’t keep up with her at all, don’t you? The amount of work Aaliyah does in her free time is mind-boggling.” I replied.
“Quite, but aren’t you making enough to spend more time managing and less time in the field, babysitting your employee?” she asked. “But the boss-man likes his job, Alpy! You shouldn’t bully him when he’s finally having some fun with his life.” claimed Aaliyah, defending me. I really did appreciate her help in numerous things. If not for Aaliyah showing up today, my little fairy friend would have surely tagged along, but Aaliyah somehow convinced her to stay behind this time. Over the past couple weeks, I was continually followed by the tiny fairy even as I worked. Thankfully, she did her little vanishing trick while we were out for the most part. The downside was that if I failed to keep in constant communication with her, she’d reappear to get my attention. I was lucky that no one caught sight of her yet. Aaliyah seemed to find the situation amusing and wouldn’t help me convince the fairy to stay behind. “James, are you even listening?” asked Alma. “Sorry. Was thinking about stuff. You wouldn’t believe how strained my head’s felt of late, having to communicate with a fey so frequently.” I explained. Alma nodded and said, “I actually appreciate the fairy’s company during your lessons. I never would’ve guessed quite how skilled you are with multitasking without seeing you attempt to fight, chat with her, and maintain a spell. You’ve been improving quite satisfactorily. However, I do still maintain that the fairy should not be allowed off your yard, particularly out of that forest. Can you imagine what she’d do to some daft bloke that attempted to mug you?”
Oh, I truly could imagine. “I am getting better at communicating with her, you know. I might be able to persuade her to stay out of it.” I argued. “Alpy, want to hire a mugger and test it!? We can place bets and everything!” exclaimed Aaliyah. Given Aaliyah’s profession as an assassin, I was losing hope that she’d ever have reasonable sentiments regarding murder. “I’ll never speak with either of you again if you hire a criminal to attack me.” I claimed, though I wondered if I could manage not speaking with either of them for a day. “Come now, James. We would just be having a little fun.” stated Alma with a small smile. How did I get myself into a situation where these two were actually on the same side? Worse yet, why did I have to enjoy seeing Alma smile so much that I didn’t want to argue? The girl clearly had an unfair advantage against me. We walked another block down the narrow side street before Alma said, “Here we are. This will only take a few minutes, but please make yourselves comfortable.” I wasn’t certain what business Alma had in this small antique shop, but she insisted on coming here before shopping for the dress I owed her. The elderly woman at the register nodded to her once we entered, and the two went through a door at the back of the shop, leaving Aaliyah and me to look around. There were old signs, dishes, and basins. An odd assortment of silverware sat in a box with a price per utensil. Exotic looking mirrors adorned one wall, hanging over a variety of small sculptures.
I froze as I stared into one of the mirrors. Across the street behind me was Death’s daughter. I shivered uncontrollably but couldn’t turn my gaze from the reflection. She was following a man, tiptoeing behind him in an exaggerated fashion. My eyes were locked on the black void of her scythe as she raised it over her head. “Boss-man, sir? What’s wrong?” asked Aaliyah. I somehow tore my gaze from the mirror and grabbed her in my arms, hiding her eyes against my chest as I gazed out the window, but nothing was there. I was still shivering as I looked around. “James, whatever is the matter?” asked Alma. I hadn’t seen her come through the door. “I’m… well… I’m fine, so far as there’s nothing physically wrong with me.” I claimed, my voice still sounding shaky. “Anna, might I trouble you for some tea?” called Alma, looking back at the door. Aaliyah’s muffled voice said, “I want some too!” I let her go and apologized. I forgot I was holding her for a moment. “Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. Everything’s fine!” she claimed, not having a clue what was out there. Again I found myself hoping that my tiny secretary never met Death’s daughter. Though seeing her this time wasn’t as jarring for me as the first, I was already convinced that I wouldn’t sleep tonight. Some things weren’t so easily forgotten. “James, you can talk with me. What happened?” questioned Alma.
Aaliyah wasn’t like a normal child in ways too numerous to count. There was no possible way I could phrase something intelligibly and have the idea go over her head. For one, she was far, far more intelligent than I was, and I sometimes wondered these days if she might actually be more experienced in a way. Her cybernetically-enhanced mind seemed to continually pump the internet through her head with no filter to my knowledge. As absolutely wonderful as the internet could be, there were loads of things out there that I didn’t desire to see. “Aaliyah, will you cover your ears until the tea is out?” asked Alma. Aaliyah tilted her head and inquired “Why, Alpy?” Alma sighed loudly before saying, “I’ll give you the last of my chocolates if you don’t listen to us for the next couple minutes.” Grinning widely, Aaliyah was quick to agree, covering her ears and turning around. I had to wonder what type of chocolate Alma was offering. “I really don’t see how covering her ears will stop her from hearing us.” I admitted. Alma let out a small sigh before saying, “Due to her condition, she is quite capable of turning off her hearing. We made a deal some time ago that she’d do so for me whenever she covered her ears. Now please explain what happened to frighten you.” I felt somewhat silly for causing such a fuss, but I still told her “I saw Death’s daughter when I looked in one of the mirrors. She killed someone outside, and I just started shaking. I couldn’t help it.”
“Don’t feel bad. You’ll meet few who aren’t traumatized by the sight of her. Sorry, but I have to ask, were you holding Aaliyah the whole time?” inquired Alma. I shook my head. “No. I grabbed Aaliyah the moment I managed to look away.” I admitted. Alma was smirking at me. “Sorry. Truly. I’m terribly sorry.” she told me, but the mirth was obvious in her voice. “What’s so funny?” I asked, though I almost laughed myself despite what had just happened. Alma’s laughter was incredibly infectious. Not holding back any longer, she laughed as she said, “I can’t help it. You’ve seen some of what she can do, yet you were trying to protect her of all people? James, I am sorry for laughing, but you’re ridiculous!” Yet again, I found myself unable to argue, especially as I was laughing harder myself. Aaliyah was capable of moving fast enough to simply vanish from sight. There was nothing I could do to defend myself from her if Aaliyah decided to attack me, yet I always felt so protective of her. The situation was a bit ludicrous. “Would you do the same for me if I would have been the one close at hand?” she asked. I shrugged and said, “I’d probably hide behind you, honestly.” Alma’s laughter, unfortunately, abated as she told me “Somewhat more sensible, but a bit less chivalrous, don’t you think?” I grabbed her hand and told her “I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you either.” I loved the small smile she gave me and hoped to continue seeing her smile more often. Anything that could help cheer me up after what I had seen was truly priceless.