“Master, is she really coming with us?” asked Mila.
“No, but I can’t give her orders like Aaliyah does.” I replied.
Mila’s avatar seemed to sigh before asking “Have you tried?”
“Well, no, but I’m not in a position of authority over her.” I replied while picturing myself bringing a plate of bacon to my little fairy friend in the forest.
She didn’t seem to like this idea, imagining how the other fey would all show up and steal her bacon. The amount she could eat was a bit mind-boggling. She then went back to imagining the city and asking if we were visiting various people again.
“Master, there is surely some way you can convince her to stay behind.” stated Mila.
Suddenly, another’s thoughts were there. I felt as an ant might if it truly comprehended the presence of a planet hovering over it. For a moment, I felt like I was part of every blade of grass in the image. I knew every bird, deer, bee, and all others present personally. The texture of bark was so familiar to me that I could identify any given tree by it. Even the air was different, something with which I was intimate.
Just as quickly, the feeling was gone. The little fairy darted to sit on Aaliyah’s finger.
“Good morning, boss-man, sir! Mind if I look after our friend while you’re out?” she asked.
“That was you…” I muttered, better understanding why the fey held Aaliyah in awe.
“Well, you were curious.” she told me, still smiling cutely.
I felt dazed. I wanted to hold onto that feeling, but there was too much.
Aaliyah took my hand and started walking with me.
“Master, are you well?” asked Mila.
“He’ll be fine, Mila! He’s just thinking about how I convinced our little friend to spend the day with me.” claimed Aaliyah.
She was right, of course. The equivalent to her thoughts in English might be “I’m here. Come.” As terrifying as Aaliyah was as Death, she was equally magnificent to the fey. The yearning within me to bask in that presence told me how addictive that could be.
“Umm… boss-man, sir. Alma might get jealous of your secretary if you keep thinking such things, and we wouldn’t want your business to turn into that type of show.” stated Aaliyah.
She sounded serious. Her words were truthful. She looked earnest at first, but there was a playfulness to her eyes. I was certain Alma had never experienced what I just had, or she would probably give up her pretense of distrust toward Aaliyah. I knew Alma didn’t really distrust Aaliyah even though she occasionally warned me against my friendship. Her words were never honest in that regard.
I was still struggling to retain that feeling when we arrived on the first floor, but I let it go as I entered the entrance hall. Mila was standing there in black, thigh-high boots and a navy blue sweater dress that seemed all too short. The way she turned and smiled at me, making her long hair whip back behind her, did strange things to my heart and head. For a moment, I had pictured Alma waiting for me like Mila was. In my defense, there wasn’t a far stretch between them appearance-wise.
Knowing I had to say something, I told her “You look beautiful. I love the outfit.”
The dress was very form-fitting, emphasizing her movements as she walked toward me.
“Master, shall we go?” she asked.
I nodded, but my thoughts were racing. Was this really a good idea? I did promise Mila a date, but I wasn’t convinced this was appropriate. I felt as if I was cheating on Alma, even though I knew I couldn’t cheat on someone I wasn’t dating. She was expecting an answer, but I still had misgivings about her. Was she really a good person, or was I simply convincing myself that she was?
Mila leaned against me, and I became very aware of her body’s warmth. Her dress was very soft, making her black scarf seem a bit rough in comparison. I really approved of how that shade of blue went with her auburn hair.
“Remember not to have her back before ten, boss-man, sir! Have fun storming the castle!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
The front doors opened for us as we approached, and I was surprised to see the car doors open as well. The seats folded forward, and I realized I had never sat in the back of my car before. The moment we were seated Mila wrapped her arm back around mine and cuddled into it. The doors shut, music started, and the car started rolling down the driveway.
By the time we arrived at the skating rink, I was feeling more than a little uncomfortable. The fact that we hadn’t moved didn’t bother me. My arms never seemed to get stiff anymore. Even the soreness I occasionally felt after sparring with Alma lasted seconds at most. The lack of conversation was very disconcerting. I was very aware by the end how much I generally talked with Mila throughout a day. Our conversations filled any empty spaces I might have as she reminded me of the time, updated my schedule, gave suggestions whenever needed, and kept me company wherever it was lacking. Having her be so quiet as she leaned against me felt decidedly awkward.
Seeing so much of her leg once she had donned the ice skates didn’t help me relax either. Alma wearing jeans had been a pleasant surprise on the one occasion I witnessed. She was forever modest in her attire. With Mila, the shortness of her dress only emphasized how much I was seeing. Though I knew this to be perfectly decent, I could not dissuade myself from fixating on it, even after we started skating.
Mila was amazing to see on the ice. She didn’t do a fraction of the fancy maneuvers Aaliyah had done as Trix, but seeing calf-length hair flowing behind her as she gracefully glided around was magnificent. When she spun, her hair wrapped around her to such an extent that I thought she might trip, but then she would easily glide to my side.
Ice skating was fun, albeit far easier than before. I had time to plan my landing as I spun through the air. Balance was perfectly natural, effortless. There wasn’t any challenge anymore. The fun came from the art of the forms and from the company. Mila talked a little more while we were on the ice, daring me to try different things. We left after a couple hours when more people had gathered. The two of us were getting far too much attention for my comfort, and I worried that I might have been a bit excessive in showing off.
Next on the itinerary was an overly long stop at the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce. I had protested when Aaliyah suggested it, since neither Mila nor I needed to eat. Aaliyah insisted that Mila would enjoy our time there immensely, so I caved. None of my previous trips to the restaurant prepared me for stepping through that door. I appeared to be standing on a small moon, perhaps an asteroid, and there were numerous types of beings dining there unlike any I had thought to encounter. Assuming I hadn’t lost my mind or been befuddled by the restaurants trickery, we were dining with aliens!
“James! You caught me filling in again.” announced Evanna. She peered intensely at Mila before saying, “Oh. Mila today? Let me get you two seated, and then I’ll get you some food.”
Something was different about her, but I couldn’t put my finger on what right off. As we walked, I asked “Evanna, I’m not seeing things, right? We’re surrounded by aliens.”
She stopped, turned and looked at us both again. “Wow. This is your first time, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Definitely not my first time here. You did wait on me before.” I replied, feeling more than a little confused. Then I realized what was different. “You’ve aged.” I stated in shock.
“Bit rude there.” she replied with a frown. Then she winked and said, “I’ll forgive you. Yes, those are aliens. No, I don’t have the faintest idea what year you’re from. In fact, I promise not to remember any of this conversation the next time you see me.”
“Two thousand twelve. Why won’t you remember this?” I asked.
“I’m assuming you know about Carl now, considering you’re here. Just take a seat here, and I’ll be right back.” she told us.
“Master, how is this possible?” asked Mila, staring around.
“You’ll have to ask Aaliyah.” I told her.
“She won’t tell.” stated Mila, frowning.
I nodded, not really surprised and still a bit caught up on what Evanna had said. Given her reply, I was guessing that she was a fair amount older, meaning that we were in the future. Was I going to be meeting her younger self next time I saw her? How many times had she waited on me now? Carl certainly had a way of making things more interesting… and confusing.