“W-Wow.” stated Jemal as he stared up at me.
“Yes?” I asked, releasing his hand from our handshake.
“Nothing. Sorry.” he quickly stated.
“Take a deep breath, have a seat, and relax.” I told him, walking around my desk to have a seat. The room currently looked like a more typical office with wood walls and flooring, a bookshelf on one side, and leather chairs.
He took a breath, sat, and immediately said, “Whoa.”
“The seats feel a little different than they look.” I stated with a smile.
“No kidding, but they’re really soft. What is this?” he asked.
“It’s complicated. Why do you feel you’d be an excellent addition to Best Friend For Hire?” I asked.
“Oh. Right. Sorry. Well… umm…” he started.
He was definitely nervous. I already knew I was going to hire him, having had a thorough briefing from Aaliyah, but I wanted to work on my interview skills.
“I-I’m a hard worker, fast learner, and I won’t let you down.” he blurted.
“What if I ask the impossible of you?” I questioned.
“P-pardon?” he stuttered, staring at me with eyes wide.
“What if I ask you to do something beyond your limits?” I teased.
“I dunno. I mean… well, I-I’ll try anything you say.” he replied. “That’s what we do here, right? Try to please people no matter their request?”
Smiling, I said, “No, actually. We try to act as a best friend for our clients, always pursuing their best interests but never being afraid to tell them if they’re in the wrong. Part of your schedule as an employee here will be training in numerous things, such as martial arts. I would want you to be the type of best friend who can protect yourself as well as those around you, but I never want you to feel you have to be a hero, just the best possible friend you can be. The skills of those here vary greatly. Aaliyah, my secretary, is the president of Global Princess Entertainment which made Ancient Tribes of Earth, currently the most successful video game on the market. Emma is the best gardener you’ll ever meet. Our chef, Marco, has yet to make a meal that is less than exceptional. Jarod is a self-made millionaire due to his engineering prowess. Mila is a self-aware Artificial Intelligence capable of tending to everyone’s needs with exceptional skill and care, often foreseeing a need before it even arises. What can you bring to the team?”
“Umm… uh… P-perseverance. I don’t have any skills as incredible as those sound, but I will stick to the task at hand until I see the job done right.” he assured me. “You’ll never find anyone with more determination than me.”
“You might be surprised.” I told him, thinking of Portentia. If he could compete with her on determination, I’d be impressed.
“Can you juggle?” I asked.
His jaw went slack for a second before he said, “What? No. Sorry. Is that something I’ll be doing? I’m sure I can learn.”
I shrugged and told him “Sorry. I really need to work on my skills as an interviewer, having never needed to be interviewed for a job myself. I wasn’t inclined to get a more typical job, so I made this company.”
“I know, sir. Er… umm… I read about you founding the company on the site when I applied, not about your interview skills. T-those seem fine.” he assured me.
“You failed to place an emergency contact on your application, and your résumé could use some work on the formatting.” I informed him. “We can help you on both accounts. I’m sure you’ll fit in here just fine.” I held out my hand to him.
He looked at it and then to me. “Y-you’re hiring me?” he asked.
I nodded, and he quickly grasped my hand in both of his.
“Thank you, sir. Thank you! I won’t let you down!” he exclaimed.
“Please, just call me ‘James’. Everyone does. Well, not everyone, but there’s no need to call me ‘sir’ all the time.” I assured him.
“But master, mother loves calling you ‘sir’.” insisted Mila.
Jemal looked around as if he were confused.
“As I told you, Mila’s a sophisticated A.I. She’s integrated throughout the house, many of the vehicles, and phones as well as the body who greeted you at the door.” I explained.
“Welcome to Best Friend For Hire, Jemal.” she told him.
“T-that’ll take some getting used to. When do I start?” he asked.
“After you move in, assuming you will want to live here. I suppose you could start immediately if you don’t. There’s a wing dedicated to employee housing, and Marco provides exceptional meals.” I replied.
“Oh… umm… How do you feel about kids? Ya see, I’ve got a kid sister whom I need to look after.” he told me.
I nodded and said, “Kayla can live here too. The second floor of the employee wing has some accommodations for families. They’re not large, but the entire first floor of the main building is open for everyone’s use. There’s also the employee rec center where you can get some exercise if you feel like a swim, lifting weights, or anything of that nature. If you have any questions, Mila’s always available to help out.”
“What… umm… How did you know my sister’s name?” he asked.
“Aaliyah does a thorough background check on everyone who applies. Though use of magic on these grounds is encouraged, I do ask that you don’t ever use magic in front our clients, save as a last resort to protect someone.” I informed him. “Come along. I’ll give you a tour.”
“Magic!? What?” he asked.
“Yes, you’re able to create telekinetic effects whenever you’re emotional or really focused. That’s a result of inborn magical ability. Such things are perfectly normal here.” I explained.
Mila was physically awaiting us in the hall and quietly followed.
“You’re joking…” he told me, looking more than a little shocked when a light appeared over my hand.
“Though not a requirement, most people here have ‘gifts’ of this nature. My fiancée can create enormous amounts of heat, enough to vaporize a city from what I’ve heard. Emma’s skill with gardening is aided by her ability to manipulate plants in a very large area, causing them to grow and flourish or even revert to seeds at her whim. You’ll see.” I assured him. “Along with lessons in martial arts, I give lessons in magic every morning. Your sister’s welcome to join us. I understand she has similar abilities to your own, though slightly stronger.”
“What kind of background service did you use!?” exclaimed Jemal. “Sorry, sir… er… James. T-that’s just not the type of stuff on public record.”
I stopped on the stairs, looked him in the eye, and said, “Trust me on this: Aaliyah’s explanations are so incredibly thorough that everyone will question your sanity if you attempt to even read your employment contract in full. I can only imagine the weeks you’d spend listening if she were to explain her background check process.”
“Oh, master, you’ll spoil all of mother’s fun!” complained Mila.
Jemal glanced at Mila and then stared at me a moment before nodding. Then we proceeded down the stairs.
“Is Cosette in?” I asked.
“She’s currently on a job, master.” replied Mila.
I nodded and led Jemal onward. Cosette was popular with all of her clients, going by the reviews she received. Day jobs took so much extra care for her that I felt a tad guilty for not working out the changes for her new suit yet. I didn’t bother inquiring after Emma, since she had talked about visiting the fey not even an hour ago.
Upon arriving in the kitchen, I introduced Jemal to Marco, who was thrilled to have another person with whom he could converse in Italian. Marco then insisted that Jemal and I try some of the stracciatella semifreddo he had made for tonight’s dessert. Who could refuse?
Introductions with the others went well enough before Jemal needed to get back to his apartment. I insisted that he let us help him with the move when he was ready, knowing that Aaliyah had already scheduled everyone for that day.
Jemal had gone through enough troubles after his father died eight months ago, so stressing over a move wasn’t one he needed. His half-sister was abandoned with him three months ago when her mother took off without even leaving a note. He was desperate and needed a hand, and I could give him that much with ease. With how highly Aaliyah spoke of his character, I had no doubts that he’d be a magnificent fit here. He was quite welcome.