“James, can I show Dani the zoomies?” begged Kayla, mere minutes after finishing her meal.
The two were instant friends after meeting.
“Later. Mila, remind Dani not to take apart the zoomies when she sees them.” I stated, worrying that she might.
“Daddy!” exclaimed Dani. “I haven’t done anything like that for… days at least.”
“But does she know how to put things back together?” inquired Jarod.
“Of course! Everyone takes…” she started, hesitating before saying, “note of what they take apart.”
She was probably going to reply with one of her courses at school, something akin to an advanced physics or engineering course here I’d wager. Luckily, she remembered not to explain how she knows as much as she does, though Jarod would surely ponder the pause in her response.
“Dani will probably want to hang out in your lab off and on if you don’t mind.” I told him. “I assure you that she will surprise you.”
“What about her hasn’t been surprising?” teased Jarod with an ear-to-ear grin.
In response, Dani started singing a pleasantly lilting melody about the surprises found wherever they’re sought. Unfortunately, the song was in her native tongue, so only Alma and I would understand why she started singing.
“Dani, you might consider asking Mila to acquaint you with more music here when you get the time. You’ll probably like some of it.” I informed her.
Grinning she said, “I know I will. Mom and you sing beautifully. Aaliyah’s songs are a dream.”
“Or a nightmare.” teased Alma with a small smile.
“I quite liked what she was singing. What did it mean?” asked mother.
“Oh… umm… The title means… Something Wonderful Can Be Found, I think.” replied Dani. “The song’s about finding surprises wherever you go.”
“Maybe you can teach it to me when we paint.” suggested mother.
Dani grinned with excitement and nodded. “I’d love to!”
“Is there anything she can’t do?” questioned Jarod.
“Control her excitement.” I frankly replied.
“Daddy!” exclaimed Dani, looking indignant.
“You know he’s just being honest.” stated Alma.
Dani sighed and said, “I know.” Then, grinning, she told us “But there’s so much to see and try! And this little lady keeps showing me fantastic things!”
Yes, my little fairy friend hadn’t even stopped showing us her adventures for our meal. Life here would certainly be interesting while Dani grew acclimated to it.
“Mom, I want to paint something now. Can I?” inquired Dani, looking to Alma hopefully.
“Of course. I think the others might be entertained by watching.” she replied. “Mila, is Dani’s studio prepared?”
“Yes, Alma. You know I don’t slack off.” insisted Mila.
“Sorry, Mila. Everyone who’s interested in seeing my daughter paint, please follow me.” stated Alma as she walked toward her old wing. “I assure all of you that you’re in for quite a treat.”
“Mom, you’ll make me blush.” complained Dani, though she was still smiling.
“What does blushing even look like with your skin tone?” inquired Emma, smiling mischievously. Then she noticed me watching her and said, “Er… sorry. I’ll behave.”
Looking forward again, I said, “Just like Dani will stay calm for an hour.”
“Daddy! Don’t em- umm… oh… wait… I know it! I really do.” insisted Dani.
“Oh, the suspense.” teased Mai.
“Yes, it’s killing me.” replied Ai.
After kissing Mai’s head, Jarod said, “Don’t make Alma roast you for teasing her daughter.”
Alma laughed, shocking Jarod, and said, “I’m planning on leaving incinerations to Fridays now.”
The twins stared at one another past Jarod, looking equally shocked, and were probably communicating telepathically again.
“Don’t worry. She’s fine. My wife is simply happier than ever.” I assured them.
“I really am.” agreed Alma.
“You certainly seem to be in good spirits. Ai and Mai must be wondering if you’re a different person entirely.” suggested father.
“Are you claiming I was dismal company before I was married?” teased Alma.
I heard the smile in her voice, but I doubted my father could, not with his relatively little experience around her and inferior hearing.
“Well… uh… no. I was just meaning…” he started.
Interrupting him, Alma said, “I’m only teasing. I was well aware that I could be more than a little moody at times.”
“But why, mom!? This place is fantastic!” insisted Dani, hugging Alma from behind.
“I worried over too many things.” she replied.
Though two of Mila’s bodies had stayed behind to clear the table, having shooed Marco after us, another waited ahead by the door. When I peered into the door, the hallway that met me was incredibly different than what I had remembered. The woodwork was the same, but the furnishings were far, far brighter. Paintings of forests, meadows, and stuffy-looking nobles had been replaced with vibrant pictures that were quite obviously some of my daughter’s works.
The painting she had made me when she was eleven, showing me one of her favorite nebulas in extraordinarily vibrant hues, was off to my left. On my right, a “family portrait” she made a year ago showed us standing on the shadow moon of Ternitus IV. There was a branch of my company now where we had been standing. I doubted even Jarod would recognize it as something more than an artist’s fancy. Mother was certainly interested in the paintings as they continued, but the studio was just a couple rooms inside on the left.
Dani’s excitement was boundless as she entered the room and looked around. Mother gasped as some of the paint canisters flew toward one of the empty canvases, leaving their lids behind. Dani grinned toward the rest of us, still filing inside. Then she began to sing again.
Alma walked over and leaned against me as we listened and watched. This song had no meaningful lyrics. All of Dani’s people were taught it as an expression of their dreams and desires. Humans couldn’t have the vocal range to manage many of the runs throughout the song. Dani’s people had a more complicated vocal structure than ours.
The streams of paint seemed to dance with the music, twirling through the air and lightly touching the canvas as Dani directed them. Part of my forest was appearing on the left half of the canvas in bright blues and greens while the right half seemed more of a collage between parts of my home. In a pink far brighter than Dani’s actual skin tones, she was appearing in the center, larger than life. In her arms, the rest of us were forming. I hoped she left room for the ones she hadn’t met yet, or she’d probably insist on repainting the entire scene.
Our positions and expressions obviously reflected what Dani thought of us. Alma and I were centered and closest to her with my parents just in front of us. The rest were taking interesting poses, such as Emma attempting to kiss Dani’s arm. Jarod was portrayed as holding back Ai and Mai by their shirt collars as they grinned viciously and reached toward Dani’s thumb. Kayla was doing a handstand on Dani’s right forearm while Jemal looked up at her with a worried expression. Marco casually balanced a tray of food on his head, balanced another in each arm, and smiled widely. Raine’s hair was impressively enormous where she crouched down to poke at one of Dani’s fingers. Portentia gripped Maxine’s arm, giving her a stern look while Maxine appeared annoyed. Cosette casually leaned against Dani’s left forearm, smiling as she seemed to watch the others. Brenna appeared confused, staring up at Dani’s smiling face while reaching behind her for something that wasn’t there. Aaliyah appeared on Dani’s head, laughing and pointing at the scene below.
“James, dear… this… this is incredible.” muttered mother, her eyes glued to the painting in progress.
All at once, the paint that had been twirling around the canvas dove into their cans as the cans headed to the floor. Dani stopped singing and rushed to my mother.
“You should paint with me. Please!” begged Dani, staring up at her and gripping her hands.
Mother looked hesitant as she glanced around. Then she nodded and said, “I won’t be nearly as quick, but okay, dear. I’ll try.”
I smiled as mother started examining the brushes mounted on the wall. She and father would probably need quite some time yet to fully grow accustomed to Dani, but things would work out.