Only a week had passed since Deyanira’s first arrival, and this was already her third visit. I felt bad for everyone having to restrain themselves this often, but Alma insisted that this was good practice. I didn’t really feel anyone here needed practice, they needed a place to be themselves. I did understand why Alma encouraged her more magically-inclined employees to only reveal their abilities when absolutely necessary, even keeping the secret after marriage, but I wasn’t going to encourage my friends to go quite that far.
If Deyanira was anything other than human, I didn’t really see signs of it. There wasn’t any distinct odor to suggest she was a therianthrope of some sort. She certainly hadn’t manipulated residual energy that I had seen, so she might not be able to use that sort of magic. If she had some other type of magic, I hadn’t felt its use. I still wasn’t entirely certain what to make of her.
She had started playing Ancient Tribes of Earth last time she was here, apparently wanting to see why we all played it so often. I thought she enjoyed it, but seemed to limit her time on it, stopping just after an hour to make Brandon go out with her. At the moment, she seemed content to watch Brandon, Brenna, Cosette, and me play.
For all Brenna’s teasing the other day, she hadn’t seemed too surprised when she met Deyanira. They seemed to get along fine, trading pleasantries about each other’s attire and places they shopped.
Her relationship with some of the other girls seemed a bit off to me so far. With Alma and Cosette, Deyanira almost seemed deferential to me. She didn’t believe Emma could have a doctorate yet until she quizzed her on botany, and still seemed shocked by the idea. She seemed careful around Portentia. Maybe I shouldn’t have verified that Portentia could beat up Brandon, or maybe Deyanira worried about misstepping around the hearing-impaired. I wasn’t certain.
Raine hadn’t worked up the courage to speak to Deyanira yet, running before Deyanira even made it to the front door these last two visits.
Jemal had barely exchanged more than greetings with her, but he’s been working hard to “catch up”, even though I told him there was no rush. His first martial arts lesson this morning proved him to be a complete beginner, but I was certain he’d get the hang of everything soon enough. His skill with magic might progress more quickly. He took most of an hour before he was able to purposely move something with his natural magic, but then he took to it almost as quickly as his sister.
Kayla attended both lessons as well. Her enthusiasm for martial arts greatly surpassed her skill, but magic came easier for her than for her brother. Using her natural magic barely took her ten minutes to start showing real promise. I got Brenna to start working with her on using residual energy within half an hour.
I found myself suddenly focusing on footsteps approaching. Then I stood and went to the hall. Jarod was home.
Smiling, he said, “So I hear Brandon’s got a girl.”
“Maybe? She might just enjoy bullying him.” I replied.
“Come on… Brandon probably enjoys that about her.” he teased.
“Still doesn’t mean she’s actually going to date him.” I stated.
“Do you not like her or something?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t say that I don’t like her…” I started.
“Of course not, but do you dislike her?” he asked with a grin.
“I’m not certain what to make of her yet.” I admitted. “She really does seem to bully Brandon.”
“Brandon’s fun to bully. You can’t hold that against someone. You know how they say playful hits from a girl are a good sign? Might be something similar. I’ll have to see.” he told me.
I shrugged and inquired “How was your trip?”
He grinned widely and asked “How much detail do you want?”
I rolled my eyes. “You know I would never ask for details of your honeymoon.” I stated.
“But the island is beautiful! You really should check it out sometime.” he replied, still grinning.
“Good to hear. I might. Are the twins back as well then?” I asked.
“Of course. They’re unpacking. We did a bit of shopping while in Japan, and now they’re talking about doing additional renovations to their… er… our… wing. Guess I’m not quite used to that yet.” he told me.
“That’s probably for the best. Father always told me that you might as well give up any delusions that the house is yours immediately after marriage. He was joking, of course, but… you are outnumbered.” I teased.
“Is that her?” asked Jarod.
I didn’t need to look, having heard the footsteps as she approached the ballroom doors. I nodded.
Walking towards her, Jarod waved and said, “I’m Jarod, one of Brandon’s friends.”
I followed him over to her.
“Oh. He told me about you. You’re the one who built his car, right?” she asked.
“Well, Mila helped with design and building, so I can’t take all the credit.” he told her.
“And you were on a honeymoon?” she asked.
“Yep! My wife and her sister are currently unpacking, but I’m sure they’ll be out soon enough to yell at me for something.” he replied.
“They both live with you!?” she inquired, seeming startled by the idea.
“Yep. Identical twins. They can’t stand being apart.” he stated. Then he leaned in conspiratorially and said, “Just don’t get them mixed up, or they might get mad.”
“James! I totally had her!” exclaimed Jarod.
“My apologies.” I told him.
“So… wait. They’re not twins, or they don’t get mad?” she asked.
“Oh, they are twins who get mad, just not about mixing them up. I am quite confident that you’ll never know to whom you’re speaking.” I assured her.
“Umm… okay.” she muttered. Then she told Jarod “Congratulations on your marriage. I was hoping Brandon might introduce us, but he’s too busy on his game!” The last was yelled back into the ballroom.
“What? Not my fault he showed up while I’m fighting some things.” replied Brandon. “Jarod, your timing sucks!”
“Sorry!” called Jarod.
“I was wondering if you might be willing to work on my laptop. It died, and Brandon told me that asking you for help would be better than taking it to a store.” explained Deyanira.
“Oh. You could’ve just hired Mila for that. She’s got a few advantages over average tech experts.” he told her, looking amused.
“Mila, you can do that?” asked Deyanira.
“Of course. I can probably fabricate damaged components as well if you want the laptop repaired.” explained Mila, appearing on the nearest mirror.
“That would be incredible. Can I drop it off tomorrow?” she asked.
“I’ll be happy to go collect it for you if you wish.” suggested Mila. “Then I can get started immediately, possibly even finishing by tomorrow.”
She quickly said, “Yes, please! If you don’t mind.” Then she pulled out her keys and told Mila “This one’s to my dorm. The laptop’s still on my desk. You’ll see my name on the bottom. If my roommate’s there, just tell her I sent you and to call if she has any doubt.”
“No need for the key. A copy is already printing.” stated Mila.
“A copy!? We’re not supposed to make copies.” insisted Deyanira.
“No, and you still haven’t. Nor did you request one. If it will help put your mind at ease, think of this as an artistic demonstration of sculpting, where I saw something and wished to recreate my own version.” suggested Mila.
“I guess… just make sure you destroy it afterward.” ordered Deyanira.
“If you wish, I’ll destroy the key now. Having seen it, picking the lock would take me less than a second.” replied Mila.
Jarod laughed and said, “Pretty easy, aren’t they.”
Looking toward the nearest mirror, Deyanira said, “You’re a bit scary. You know that, right?”
“No, but I know some who are.” teased Mila.
“Riiight…” replied Deyanira.
“Don’t worry. She’s too good to be bad.” I assured her.
“Oh, master… you know I’d be bad for you.” teased Mila.
“Please don’t say such things in front of our guest. She might believe you.” I stated.
Nodding, Mila said, “Sorry, master. I will only tease you behind Deyanira’s back, since that’ll be so much less confusing for her.”
I sighed and said, “I assure you that I do not do anything indecent with my friend.”
“Despite her best attempts.” teased Jarod.
“Did you design her?” asked Deyanira to Jarod.
“No-no.” replied Jarod. “Someone far more clever did. Ever hear of Aaliyah T. Sypher?”
“Yeah. She designed that game they’re all playing. Youngest self-made millionaire and youngest practicing attorney in the world, according to one of my professors. He’s brought her up in lectures a few times. I think he’s a fan of her games.” replied Deyanira.
“Mother’s also the secretary here at Best Friend for Hire.” stated Mila.
“Whoa… What!?” exclaimed Deyanira. “She’s joking again, right?”
I shook my head and said, “No. Aaliyah does work for me. She designed most of the tech throughout the house and acts as my secretary. Never got around to looking at the company site?”
“No… my laptop’s dead.” she stated.
I was certain her college had other computers she could use, but perhaps my company’s site was blocked on them for some reason. Still, she could have just used her phone. Whatever the case, there were a great many surprises ahead for her.