The decorations for tonight’s party didn’t take too long, since I didn’t hold back much in my haste, stopping only once in the forest for a quick recharge. Alma seemed amused when I had finished.
“I still am not accustomed to your speed these days.” she admitted.
“H-he’s f-fast.” mumbled Raine.
“Not compared with you.” I insisted. “Emma’s going to be disappointed if she doesn’t catch you today.”
“C-catch me?” asked Raine, looking confused.
Nodding, I told her “Today’s Emma’s birthday, and she apparently has a tradition of giving everyone a kiss. She got Marco when returning her plate after breakfast, and most of the rest of us beforehand.”
“I was her first target. She jumped me in the hall before she reached the kitchen.” added Mila.
Raine looked a little startled as she said, “I-I b-bought her a p-present. I-I wasn’t av-avoiding her.”
“I didn’t think you were. I just wanted to let you know that she’ll expect to see you today even if Deyanira is present.” I informed her.
“D-Deyanira’s her p-present!?” asked Raine with wide eyes and a small smile.
“Though I’m sure Emma wouldn’t be against eating Deyanira up, Brandon might take issue with that idea.” stated Alma impassively. She then grabbed onto Raine’s wrist.
Raine looked at her in shock and then stared at the door behind me. “B-but…” she mumbled.
I didn’t see anything over there, but I could guess Deyanira was on her way with Brandon, having finished their share of the decorations.
“Don’t worry, Raine. I haven’t seen her bite anyone yet.” I assured her.
The room appeared to warp around Raine as she grinned up at Alma with an incredibly large mouth filled with extremely sharp-looking teeth, but Alma didn’t even flinch.
“No. Stay here.” reprimanded Alma.
As things returned to normal around her, Raine lowered her head, seeming to pout. “Y-you d-don’t understand.” mumbled Raine.
“Don’t understand what?” I asked.
Raine shook her head but didn’t respond.
I looked over to Alma when I noticed that Raine seemed to be shivering. She gave a slight shrug.
“Heya, boss. We umm… yeah. We didn’t do quite as much as you guys did, but we got part of a hall done.” stated Brandon as he looked around.
“Raine!? Is that you!?” exclaimed Deyanira, staring at Raine.
She nodded without looking up.
“You’re the only person I know with that hoodie. What happened to you? You disappeared before the second semester was up.” stated Deyanira.
“You know each other?” I asked.
“She was a freshman my senior year in high school, but she suddenly switched schools without a word.” explained Deyanira.
“Y-your friends were b-bullies.” muttered Raine.
“Not that again. I wanted you to hang out with us.” insisted Deyanira.
“I-I h-heard them.” stated Raine.
“Heard what?” asked Deyanira.
“Y-your f-friends… p-picking on m-me.” replied Raine.
Shaking her head, Deyanira said, “They were just teasing. They didn’t really mean anything by the things they said.”
“T-they threw away m-my b-backpack.” stated Raine.
“No. Why would they do that?” asked Deyanira.
Raine shrugged and said, “T-they weren’t very n-nice, and y-you… y-ou always y-yelled at me.”
“You were just too quiet. You’re still too quiet.” stated Deyanira.
Raine shook her head.
“Raine could have killed them by accident if she had gotten angry.” explained Alma.
“What?” asked Deyanira incredulously.
“I can easily create a nuclear explosion that would destroy a city, and I’m no match for Raine. You’re berating one of the strongest beings on the planet, so tread softly.” stated Alma.
“You’re serious?” inquired Deyanira, looking startled. Turning back to Raine, she said, “Why won’t she just speak up for herself then?”
“Because she’s scared of what would happen if she did.” I informed her.
Raine was shivering still.
“Will you show her if Alma releases you?” I asked.
Raine shook her head.
“Deyanira’s tough. She can take it.” I assured her.
“Show me what?” asked Deyanira.
“James, are you sure this is a good idea?” questioned Alma. “Deyanira is only human.”
“Yes, I’m human. Show me what?” asked Deyanira again.
Ignoring her, I said, “My parents were fine. Deyanira can handle seeing Raine’s other side briefly.”
Alma let go of Raine’s wrist.
“Just show her.” I encouraged.
Raine shook her head and hugged herself.
“I want to see what they’re talking about. Just show me already!” demanded Deyanira.
Raine looked up at her, snarled, and transformed. “D-don’t be a bully!” she exclaimed.
Deyanira jumped back, and Raine caught her from behind, stopping her instantly. Then Raine moved the moment Deyanira started to turn. I sped up to follow what was happening, but Raine was far too fast, like a phantom just out of sight.
“Raine, that’s enough. You’re scaring her.” I warned.
Raine stopped, transformed, and caught Deyanira as she tripped backward. Hugging Deyanira, she said, “I-I’m s-sorry. Y-you… f-frustrate m-me.”
Deyanira cried into her shirt, shivering as the smaller girl held her.
“James, perhaps that was a bit much for her.” suggested Alma in a whisper. “I could try taking some of it away.”
As I was about to reply, the front door swung open.
“Happy Valentine’s Day!” exclaimed Aaliyah. “Ooooh. Deyanira’s visiting again! Is Raine stealing her from Brandon?”
“No. They apparently knew each other. Raine just showed Deyanira a little of what she can do.” explained Alma.
“Did you see them in the yearbook?” asked Aaliyah. “So cute!”
I was about to ask what she meant, but Mila displayed the pictures around the room. Deyanira and Raine certainly looked close in them.
“I-I… n-never saw… these.” mumbled Raine.
Deyanira looked around with tears still streaking down her face. Her voice shook as she said, “I missed you. You changed your number and never got in touch.”
“I-I’m s-sorry.” muttered Raine. “I-I d-didn’t… didn’t w-want to h-hurt you.”
“How’s your mom?” asked Deyanira.
Raine stared at her for a moment before saying, “S-she… d-died.”
“I’m so, so sorry. She was wonderful.” replied Deyanira.
Throughout all this, Brandon stood there, looking around uncomfortably.
“Shouldn’t you two be going out on a daaate?” asked Aaliyah, staring up at Alma and me.
“James, perhaps we shouldn’t.” suggested Alma as she nodded toward Raine and Deyanira.
“They’ll be fine. Let’s head out.” I told her. “Aaliyah can manage things here without us.”
“You bet, boss-man, sir! Tonight’s party will be amaaazing!” she exclaimed.
“You really do work here?” asked Deyanira as she stared at Aaliyah.
“Yep!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“Care to help me study sometime?” asked Deyanira.
“No. Mila would get all jealous.” replied Aaliyah.
“Oh, mother. I can’t blame anyone for preferring you.” insisted Mila.
“I can!” exclaimed Aaliyah with a grin. “You don’t pick on my baby girl, miss.” she ordered, pointing at Deyanira.
“I wouldn’t!” exclaimed Deyanira.
“Y-you can’t h-help yourself.” mumbled Raine as she continued hugging Deyanira. “You’re a b-bully.”
“If you’ll all excuse us, we’ll be off.” I stated, taking hold of Alma’s hand. “I’ve got an exquisite reservation for us. Something truly out of this world.” I teased as I started walking out the door.
Alma looked at me curious as she said, “You can’t mean…”
“Of course not. You’re not allowed in there. Carl is willing to cater for me though.” I told her with a wink.
The limo was already waiting for us outside, so we stepped in and were off. This date was just getting started.