About Jovial Times

I enjoy writing and hope that I might bring a few more smiles to this world by doing what I enjoy.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 309

A week had passed, but Dejon was still here. I would love to say that he was fitting in nicely with the others, but I hadn’t been persuaded to hire him and could only guess what he thought of my friends.

Why was he still here? I had initially said he could stay one night, but each day I kept coming up with another reason to let him stay longer. Thanks to Alma’s “errands”, he surely had the funds to rent a place. She always was generous in her pay. Mila had informed me that he was looking at possible places daily, but he hadn’t gone to visit any yet. He hadn’t left the house at all, usually not even leaving his room.

Over the weekend, Dejon had mostly kept to himself despite being in the ballroom, only speaking when someone spoke to him. The more relaxed he appeared, the more disinterested in everything around him he became, at least at a glance. He was watching and listening. Of that, I was certain.

He obviously avoided Kayla, shrinking into his chair more whenever she came bounding into the same room as him. I thought he was going to use his magic on her at one point when she tried talking with him, but he managed to restrain himself, probably because I was present. He was perfectly polite with Jemal, though he simply seemed curious about how Jemal felt about the job when he found out that Jemal was new here.

Brandon and Brenna were as nice as ever around Dejon, but they didn’t really make too much effort to try making conversation. Portentia wasn’t very proactive in trying to befriend him, but I didn’t really expect her to be. She had a pretty large secret to keep. Raine had avoided Dejon entirely up until Wednesday where she snuck into the room, dashing to the seat farthest from him with such insane speed that I took a moment to realize she was there. She hadn’t spoken with him yet.

Emma, however, seemed frustrated that she couldn’t even get Dejon to crack a smile. She kept trying daily, but she tried in vain. Despite her beauty and flirtations, he was nothing more than politely indulgent towards her. Perhaps he saw, like I did, that she wasn’t really interested in him.

The most reaction I saw from him since the day he arrived was when Aaliyah first came strolling into the room. He logged out of Ancient Tribes of Earth the moment she stepped into the room, obviously recognizing her. He didn’t try talking with her though, watching as she discussed my schedule and asked for a number of signatures for business deals she was making on the company’s behalf. When she waved and smiled at him, he waved back, logging into the game after she left the room.

Later, I asked Aaliyah if they knew each other. She smiled and told me that she knows everyone, which I didn’t doubt. Her “job” required it. I was almost tempted to press her further, but I knew she would’ve told me anything else she wanted me to know if there was something.

Was I keeping him around because I was curious about him? Perhaps. I wasn’t certain that he would fit here, but I had trouble picturing him in any job. Cosette had offered to keep an eye on him for me. Vampires were “highly resistant”, as she put it, to having their minds affected by magic. I turned her down, feeling Mila could keep tabs on him with even greater ease. I did wonder how Dejon would react to finding out there was a vampire living here. He probably didn’t believe in them anymore than he had believed in magic.

“Who’s that?” asked Deyanira after strolling into the room with Brandon.

“Dejon. He’s not actually working here, just freeloading at the moment.” replied Brandon.

“What!? Why hasn’t James tossed him out?” she asked.

Brandon shrugged.

“I think he’s still deciding on whether or not to hire me.” stated Dejon as he stood and faced them. Then, holding his hand out to Deyanira, he said, “As Brandon said, I’m Dejon Powers.”

Deyanira snorted as she replied “Powers!? Seriously? You’ve got to fit in here. I’m Deyanira.” She shook his hand, still smirking. “So what powers do you have, Powers?”

“Excuse me?” he asked. “What do you mean?”

Pretending not to be paying attention, I quickly put a protective spell on Brandon and Deyanira, just in case.

“He can mess with your head if you make eye contact.” explained Brandon.

Annoyance flickered across Dejon’s face but quickly disappeared. “And what can you do?” he asked. “I feel like I’m the only one being kept in the dark.”

“Sorry, buddy, but you don’t work here.” stated Brandon, shrugging again.

I hadn’t told anyone they had to keep Dejon from learning their abilities. They simply did.

“Tell me.” ordered Dejon.

I was surprised that he didn’t attempt to use his power.

Deyanira playfully gave Brandon a shove and said, “Oh, Brandon. Give him a break.” Then she turned to Dejon and told him “I’m just an ordinary person. No fancy magic. Brandon can transfo…”

Brandon quickly covered her mouth, yelping a moment later. “You bit me!” he exclaimed.

“Serves you right for trying to shush me up!” she retorted. Then she quickly said, “He can alter his size and shape. Pretty nifty, huh?”

“Really? So does he use that energy stuff?” asked Dejon.

“Nah. I’m like you. Fey magic.” replied Brandon.

Looking curious, Dejon inquired “Fey?”

“Yep. Magical folk.” Brandon smugly stated with a nod.

Unless Alma had tested Dejon’s DNA, the source of his magic was still just a guess, albeit a good one, given that he wasn’t descended from the Slayer family. Alma had checked with Adelmar, given the usefulness of his gift.

“Care to meet one?” I asked.

Dejon turned to me and questioned “Can I?”

“Yes. I’ve decided that I’m too curious what she’ll think of you to not know.” I told him, creating a series of flashing lights behind my home with a spell. My little friend would notice and come to me. Keeping her away from Dejon had been somewhat of a chore this past week.

“Is Mila fetching her or something?” he asked.

“No, but she’s coming. Don’t worry.” I assured him.

“Do you still want to work here?” I asked, after I observed him getting nervous.

“Of course.” he replied.

“Why?” I asked.

“Good pay, flexible hours, and an abundance of perks.” he told me.

“What about the people?” I asked.

Looking somewhat curious, he inquired “What about them?”

“You really don’t care with whom you work?” I questioned.

“Come on, James. You have a great group here.” stated Deyanira. “Dejon’s gotta like them, right?”

“I really don’t think he does.” argued Brandon.

“I could try finding out.” offered Cosette with an unnervingly dangerous smile.

I assumed she was offering to use a vampiric form of compulsion on him, since she had mentioned knowing one before. Her typical silence in things was probably a measured step in making her words have greater impact when she wanted to make a point. Alma had mentioned to me several times that Cosette seemed very well educated, and Alma tended to be a harsh judge on such things.

“You’re all fine.” stated Dejon, looking around to everyone. “Maybe a bit noisy, but the rooms are soundproof.”

Only to his ears. Raine would argue the point even more easily than I would, and I often heard things echoing from the halls.

“A little noise helps you realize you’re not alone.” encouraged Deyanira.

“I know.” he replied glumly.

Did he really prefer being alone? “What would be appealing about working as a best friend for hire if you prefer being alone?” I inquired.

“I like people in a general sort of way. Now and then, I just need time alone is all.” he stated.

He was being honest, which surprised me. I really had been getting the impression that he didn’t care for company at all, coming out here just to study us. Jemal and Kayla stopped in the doorway, looking into the air as my little fairy friend flew past them. I nearly laughed when Dejon suddenly went slack-jawed as she started projecting her day into all of our minds. Deyanira was grinning. She always seemed to enjoy the sensation.

“What… what are you doing to me?” asked Dejon.

“That is how the fey communicate.” I told him. “Unique, isn’t it?”

Dejon’s mouth was hanging open again as he nodded.

My little fairy friend was showing us a fairly typical day, flying quickly through the trees as she dodged leaves and branches, chasing after other fey, and using her magic at whim.

“Those creatures… what are they? What is that place!?” he inquired in a hushed whisper.

“The land of the fey!” exclaimed Deyanira.

“Also known as part of my backyard. As you’ve been told before, don’t enter the forest alone. You might never leave if you do.” I cautioned, though I’d go looking for him if he somehow managed to get himself into the forest.

“This is all real?” he asked.

“This place takes some adjustment. Trust me, man. I know exactly how hard that was to believe.” stated Jemal. “The forest is like a thousand times more intense. You really don’t want to be there without James.”

“Emma never seems to mind.” I argued.

“Yeah, but that’s Emma. She’s… you know. One with them.” he insisted.

I laughed, easily understanding Jemal’s point of view. Seeing Emma’s magic for the first time impressed me greatly, and her abilities have grown greatly with greater use. Watching her ancestor and her at play could convince most people that Emma truly was wholly one of the fey.

“I really do want to work here.” stated Dejon.

“Let me think about it for a while longer. I’ll let you continue to stay here while I’m considering.” I replied. He had submitted a formal application as well as an apology the day after he arrived, but would he really be able to convince someone he was their friend without using his gift? “Friendly” certainly wasn’t the first adjective which popped into my mind when I considered him. I needed to put him to the test.

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Best Friend For Hire, Entry 308

“Is this everyone?” asked Dejon as we entered the ballroom for a bit of gaming.

He had met around half of the household in the time since unloading his stuff in his room. There was simply too much to fit easily, so he was left with a bit of a mess. I was certain that would get him through the night well enough. I did approve of how he greeted everyone with a firm handshake.

“You really should at least read through the website before you start making assumptions.” I warned him. “But no, there are several more.”

I was going to say more, but Kayla came rushing into the room, saying, “James! James! Jemal lifted me up with his powers!”

“Really?” I asked. “Did you feel like you were flying?”

“No. The zoomies are way better for flying.” she replied. “It was really cool though! His arms were full, and I was trying to sneak out, and he just lifted me!”

“Just don’t let me catch you flying a zoomie through the house again.” I warned her.

“What if Mila catches me?” she asked, all too sincerely.

“Don’t let her catch you either.” I stated.

“But what if it’s not one of her bodies?” she asked.

“Kayla, don’t fly zoomies through the house.” I told her.

“Yes, sir.” she told me, lowering her head.

I patted her head and said, “There are too many things which could easily be broken in this section, and you might run into someone in your wing.”

Grinning and looking up at me, she said, “I’d love to have feathery wings! Can you give me wings?”

“Sorry, but no.” I told her.

“Aww… okay.” she told me before skipping over to tell Emma about Jemal lifting her.

“You allow kids here?” asked Dejon.

“My secretary’s twelve years old, so yes.” I told him.

“But isn’t this a business?” he asked.

“Businesses can’t involve kids?” I inquired.

“Well, they can… but shouldn’t this be a kid-free zone? Like you said, there are so many things that could break.” he replied.

“Kayla lives here, and Aaliyah’s more capable than any of us, so no.”

“So employees don’t have to live here?” he asked.

I laughed and said, “No, I don’t really care where someone lives, as long as they have a place that suits them.” Looking him in the eye, I then said, “If you have somewhere you’d rather go, we don’t have to wait until tomorrow. I’m sure I can get you there this night.”

“What? No. I mean to say that’s not what I meant. I was just curious. I’ll look at your website if you don’t need me for anything.” he told me. Sitting down, he looked around before asking “How does this work?”

Before I could answer, the keyboard illuminated and Mila provided the chair tutorial on the screen. Feeling he had ample help, I took a seat to get an hour of work done in my guild before Marco would be serving dinner.

“James?” asked Alma as she walked over to me some time later.

“Hmm?” I replied.

“Would you be upset if I were to enlist Dejon for a few errands?” she inquired.

I stopped what I was doing and turned my chair to face her, suddenly feeling on edge. “What sort of errands?” I asked.

“I hardly see why that matters, since he isn’t in your employ.” she replied. “He’s just staying for the night, correct?”

“Yes, but I don’t really like the idea of you forcing him to mess with people’s minds.” I admitted.

“You are well aware that I’m perfectly capable of affecting the minds of others without the aid of someone like him. I simply thought of a use for him which might help us see if he’s trustworthy as well as let him earn a small wage.” she insisted.

“Would him earning this wage involve him using his ability?” I asked.

“Not necessarily, though I wouldn’t discourage him if that is how he wishes to proceed.” she replied.

I wanted to argue against it, but he wasn’t in my employ. I would hardly be dictating his life even if he was. I nodded and said, “Please let me know how things turn out.”

She smiled, walked over to him, and asked him to come with her. I didn’t feel easy about this, but she’d hopefully give me better details afterward. I probably should have had her sign a contract guaranteeing me information. She might have even approved of my foresight if I had, but I wasn’t going to start utilizing contracts with my girlfriend. We could discuss things without them.

Dinner passed without seeing either of them again. I could guess that Alma was stalking Dejon on his “errands”, but I still felt uneasy. Perhaps I should have argued more strongly against this.

By midnight, I found myself pacing in my office. Yes, Dejon wouldn’t be involved in whatever he was doing if he hadn’t shown up here, looking to use his magic on me, but he probably wouldn’t be involved with some mysterious errand had I not suggested that he stay here tonight.

“Master, what is troubling you?” asked Mila.

“Dejon. I still don’t know what to think of him, and I’m worried about what Alma has him doing.” I replied.

“He’s working as a bouncer for one of Lady Pendreigh’s clubs.” she replied.

“What? Are you sure?” I asked.

“Of course, master. Look.” she stated, displaying a video feed of the club next to me.

“Then what happened to Alma?” I asked.

“She’s in her wing, working and watching the same feed.” she replied.

“How is this an errand?” I asked.

“The errands came first, master. Lady Pendreigh had Dejon escort a package across town, assist in unloading a truck, and convince Eddie Clarke to sell his store. Then she set him up as a bouncer for tonight.” explained Mila.

Extra details as well as video footage displayed for me as she spoke. What bothered me the most was that Eddie Clarke was an elderly man, and Dejon quite likely used his magic to persuade the man. The contract was signed within a few minutes of his arrival.

“Master, you look disturbed. I assure you that no harm was done.” stated Mila.

“No harm? That elderly gentleman just lost his shop!” I exclaimed, shocked that she wouldn’t consider that harmful.

“Yes, he did, but he was in debt and the bank was probably going to foreclose soon, given that Eddie’s nephew had transferred. In the long run, this deal will let him have an easier retirement. Lady Pendreigh’s offer was more than generous.” she explained.

I still didn’t like it. At least, I didn’t want to like it. Mila was more than likely correct about the upcoming foreclosure, and Alma could’ve purchased the building at a far lower price had she let that happen.

“Do you think he’ll be happier this way?” I asked.

“I cannot say for certain, master, but he will at least be able to pay his bills. From what I have seen in the past year, Eddie Clarke was quite stubborn where his business was concerned, and he’ll probably wonder why he sold it for quite some time. I can monitor him for a while if you wish.” she replied.

I nodded and said, “Thank you, Mila. Please do. I’m sure Alma will be curious as well.” I already knew I didn’t always approve of Alma’s business practices, but she did have a good heart. I was certain she did. As I looked back to Dejon, I hoped he had a good heart as well, but seeing what he did only made me question it more.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 306

“Mila, how long until Emma returns?” I asked just after stepping into my home with Alma.

“In just over two minutes, master.” she replied.

“Right. Is everyone on their way out here?” I inquired.

“Of course, master. Several of them are in the ballroom.” she informed me.

Alma sighed.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I had planned to switch dresses.” she explained. “This is hardly fitting for a birthday party.”

I smirked as I said, “I’m sure there are many who would disagree, but I would bet you can change and beat her inside.”

Alma nodded and rushed from the room.

“Oooh. How much would you bet!?” exclaimed Aaliyah appearing beside me.

“If you’re betting against her, nothing.” I replied.

“Oh, I would bet on her too. I was merely going to place my bet based off what you were to wager.” insisted Aaliyah.

“Which door do you think Emma will use?” I asked.

“The one on the left.” she replied.

“Mother had me lock the garage door earlier today. Emma seems distracted by her thoughts, so she probably won’t think to ask me to unlock it until she’s at least partway here.” explained Mila.

As she talked more of my friends joined us, taking places behind me.

“Are we going to yell surprise or something?” asked Jemal.

Kayla blew her party horn.

“Shhh… Not yet!” reprimanded Jemal.

“I’m using my prototype confetti gun.” stated Jarod with a grin.

“Could’ve made me one!” exclaimed Brandon as he aimed three confetti cannons between his fingers.

“He didn’t make us one either.” complained the twins in unison.

“Aim higher. You don’t want to shoot her in the face!” insisted Deyanira.

“Huh? Have you never used one of these things?” he asked.

“Brandon always aims for people’s heads.” complained Brenna as she shoved his arm up.

“Th-that’s not… n-nice.” mumbled Raine, suddenly appearing behind him.

Brandon and Deyanira both jumped.

“Geesh… I’ll aim higher, okay?” stated Brandon.

“Isn’t Marco coming out?” asked Portentia.

“He is working on dinner for the party. My other body is assisting him, but we’re not at a point where he’d be willing to stop.” explained Mila, walking into the room in a multi-colored maid outfit.

“Shhh… Sh-she’s coming.” whispered Raine.

“You can hear that!?” asked Deyanira in a loud whisper.

Raine nodded, and I got ready, hearing the first door open.

Opening the door, Emma jumped as the noisemakers merged with the shouts of “Surprise!” and “Happy birthday!”, but she grinned as she watched Jarod’s gun continue raining confetti over everything.

“I thought the party wasn’t starting for a couple hours!” she exclaimed.

“We wanted to surprise you!” exclaimed Kayla.

“Guests will be arriving over and an hour and a half earlier than I had previously told you.” warned Mila.

“You’re coming with us.” commanded Mai as she stepped over to Emma.

Right behind her, Ai said, “We call first present.”

“Mila got the first kiss today, so I think she won.” teased Emma, still smiling.

“The kisses don’t count.” they told her in unison as they started pulling her off to their wing.

“Can I come!?” asked Kayla.

The twins stopped, looked at her, looked at one another, and shrugged. Then continued on their way.

“Let’s go!” exclaimed Aaliyah, grabbing Kayla’s hand and chasing after them.

A gust of wind from a spell swept some of the confetti off the floor, sending it flying into Brandon and Deyanira.

Frowning, Brandon said, “I’m not the party girl.”

“But you make such a nice party girl.” teased Brenna with a grin.

He smiled and told her “It’s so on, sis.”

As he went to grab her, Deyanira pulled on his shirt and said, “What’s she mean?”

“Oh… uh…” replied Brandon, looking a bit panicked.

“Let me help you with that.” I told him, creating a spell to gather up the mess from the floor and Brandon.

“Imagine this.” ordered Cosette as she changed herself to look like a smaller version of Brandon.

Deyanira stared at her in shock for a few seconds before looking up at Brandon.

“No, I can’t change myself as much as she can.” he stated.

“You like cross-dressing?” she asked.

“I wouldn’t say that…” he told her.

Jemal was staring at everyone with wide eyes while looking a little uncomfortable with the conversation.

“Just tell her.” I suggested. “Brenna’s bound to show her pictures eventually.”

“What!?” exclaimed Brandon. He turned to his sister and asked “You have pictures?”

She grinned.

“Fess up.” stated Deyanira, putting her hands on her hips as she stared him down.

“Nothing big really. I’ve changed into a girl a few times.” he told her.

Her jaw literally dropped open as Brandon demonstrated, shrinking and changing.

“Dude! Your pants!” exclaimed Jemal.

“Sorry! You try turning into a girl and catching your pants at the same time. It’s not easy.” replied Brandon as he grabbed them.

“Then I suggest you never change like that in front of others.” stated Alma.

“Or just practice in your free time.” suggested Cosette with a smile.

“Come on… the shirt’s huge on me now, so it’s not like anyone saw anything.” argued Brandon.

“I certainly saw something. Why didn’t you tell me about this!?” asked Deyanira.

“You don’t feel it’s more of a month together type of thing?” he inquired.

“Just change back before people arrive.” I told him.

He nodded and changed, growing into his clothing while becoming more masculine.

“I just realized that you could borrow my outfits and not look weird. Just don’t look better than me in them.” stated Deyanira, still looking a bit shocked.

“Whoa. That’d be way too awkward.” argued Brandon.

“When aren’t you awkward?” teased Brenna.

“Ha ha.” he replied, sounding odd as his voice was transforming.

The teasing continued clear up until Mila notified us of the first guest reaching the gate. Emma had invited a number of her other friends, some of which were clients as well. None of them escaped Emma’s kiss everyone policy when she arrived, wearing a red, knee-length dress with sheer stripes across the bottom as well as her stomach.

We started off playing numerous party games while having a bit of light snacking, and then had a magnificent dinner. We ended up playing one quiz-based game, but only the one. Mila, Aaliyah, and Alma were deemed unbeatable with Jarod coming in shortly behind. I felt I held my own reasonably well, considering those four were opponents.

The cake was elegant and every bit as elaborate as I expected of Marco with a taste to match. Alma relit a couple of the candles as Emma tried blowing them out, but Emma seemed to be having fun with it.

Through the course of the evening I was surprised to find that a couple of the girls who came were Emma’s exes, but I was pleased to hear things hadn’t ended poorly with those two. Apparently there were more dramatic break ups as well.

Emma’s favorite movie was played in the theater room, and I was quite tempted to opt out, having seen it once. I didn’t keep count, but Jemal might’ve gone through more tissues than any of the girls. Never Let Me Go was that type of movie though. Even Brandon didn’t keep it together. I watched Alma more than the movie throughout it, and I could tell scenes got to her as well through the slight twitching of her eyes or mouth.

At the end, Emma demanded a group hug, so we all obliged her. With all said and done, I felt she was happy with her birthday.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 305

“James, did you eat some of my share!?” demanded Alma, staring intently into my eyes.

“Of course not. Dessert just goes all too quickly.” I assured her.

“That was…” she started to say, pausing as if her vast mind couldn’t pull the right word for it.

“Out of this world?” I teased.

“I suppose that would be one way of putting it, yes.” she agreed.

Evanna smirked. Carl had made her come cater for us. Toward the beginning of my meal, I had found myself wondering how much of her life was taken up serving me food. She was practically my exclusive host at the restaurant, and older versions of her seemed to have seen me a great deal, enough to tell the difference between Alma and Mila relatively quickly. I had let the worries slide away as she smiled throughout the meal. She seemed too happy to be troubled by me.

“Are you human?” asked Alma suddenly.

Evanna laughed and said, “Of course. What else would I be?”

“Can’t you tell?” I teased.

Alma sighed and said, “I can tell she appears human, but the phone in her pocket is not any model I’ve seen. Neither was the one she had at Aaliyah’s party, so tell me who would carry such an advanced device and trade it within a year?”

“Evanna, obviously.” I replied.

Evanna laughed again, rolling her eyes.

“Are you flirting with her?” asked Alma, looking between the two of us.

I hugged her and said, “Don’t be foolish. Evanna’s a friend and probably would like us to leave, so she can finish cleaning up.”

“But James…” protested Alma.

I quickly placed my finger over her lips as I said, “You’ll find out all you need to know soon enough. I promise.”

“Not really much to find out.” insisted Evanna. “If anyone’s strange around here, you two are, but I’ve found that the strange ones are the ones most worth knowing.”

I smiled and told her “Thank you. Please give my compliments to Carl.” He had shown up a few times through the meal, chatting away with me while time seemed frozen for everyone else, but I doubted Evanna knew.

Alma looked between the two of us and sighed as she stood. Then she said, “Thank you for the meal. My compliments to the chef.”

“How would you feel about a gondola ride?” I asked.

“Wha-t?” she asked, finding herself in Venice partway through the world.

“I asked Aaliyah for a favor.” I admitted.

“But what about Evanna. We were standing right next to her!” she exclaimed.

“Evanna’s fine. She’s seen Stranger Things, I assure you.” I replied, knowing that Alma couldn’t get the reference. The show wouldn’t air for a few years, but Aaliyah had insisted I watch it with her a while ago.

The gondola ride was made all the more enjoyable by finally being able to understand Italian. I had been meaning to learn it for a while. I can’t say that Alma looked particularly comfortable, since she seemed to tense when people passed us.

As we walked the streets afterward, I asked “What’s bothering you?”

“I’m a prominent member of my family, so I might be recognized. If rumor gets around that I’m here, Adelmar might start asking me questions I can’t answer. Even if he doesn’t care to check, some of my own subordinates might panic if they believe I’ve arrived in Italy, thinking I might be looking in on them.” she explained. “Then there’s those of my family who might feel snubbed if they find I was here and didn’t pay a social call.”

“Just laugh at their ridiculousness, mistaking Mila for you. She can be many places at once.” I suggested.

“I suppose that’s true.” she admitted. “Oh.” she stated, looking around. “Switzerland?” she asked.

“I thought we should have some chocolate, given the day.” I told her.

“James, this is so completely unfair. We’ve hopped through time twice as well as altering our location. The things you could do on whim are frightening to consider.” she stated.

“Scared of me then?” I teased.

“No, but… don’t you feel this is an abuse of power?” she suggested.

“I can’t abuse power I don’t have, and I trust Aaliyah’s judgement of what’s fine.” I told her.

“But I swear that she would do anything for you.” replied Alma.

“She does tend to tell me that.” I agreed.

“She’s the most powerful being in the world. Having her do as you please makes you the most powerful man.” she explained.

“Not really. The power’s all hers, so I’m just the guy lucky enough to be her friend.” I insisted.

“You do have remarkable abilities of your own, my darling.” she stated.

“Perhaps, but the things I can personally do aren’t really relevant to this conversation, given that you’re worrying over what I might convince Aaliyah to do for me. She’s also the most intelligent and wisest being on the planet, so not trusting her judgement is ridiculous.” I assured her.

“Given some of the things she’s done, I don’t know that I’ll ever trust her.” she argued.

“You will.” I asserted. “I have no clue why you’ll come to trust her, but I’m confident that she’ll convince you. She really does like you.”

“She could be lying.” stated Alma.

“And there wouldn’t be a thing we could do, so there’s no use worrying.” I told her.

She laughed and said, “Coming from you, that’s hysterical. You, my dear, worry about things far more than even I do.”

“The lack of use for worrying doesn’t negate the worries, unfortunately. I was attempting to be comforting.” I replied somewhat defensively.

I considered saying more, but we were almost to the shop. I purchased enough boxes to share with everyone once we returned.

“I’ll take those, master.” stated Mila as she reached for the bags the moment we left the store.

“Thank you, Mila.” I told her, passing the bags over. I couldn’t hear her footsteps the moment she rounded the corner, so I was certain she was home.

“Mind one last surprise?” I asked, holding my hand out to Alma.

Smiling, she said, “I’d hate to think what would happen if I refused you.”

I started to protest, but she pulled me down and kissed me, gasping a moment later as she quickly looked around.

“James, where are we?” she asked.

“A beach.” I assured her.

“Yes, obviously. Where in the world though?” she inquired.

I could see why she was a bit startled. I didn’t recognize what I saw of the coastline either, and the air seemed incredibly fresh. “Perhaps we should be asking when are we first. I had requested somewhere private for a swim.” Seeing tents, I pointed and told her “You’ll find a choice of swimwear in the tent over there.”

Alma looked like she wanted to say more, but she turned and walked toward one of the tents. I took to the other and quickly changed.

“You wouldn’t believe what Aaliyah had suggested.” I told her.

“Yes, I can. She probably wanted to know why we needed swimwear.” stated Alma.

There was a slight tremor to her voice, but I couldn’t discern the meaning behind it. To my surprise, I beat her out.

“Just give me a moment.” she stated, apparently realizing that I was staring at her tent.

“We have all the time you want.” I assured her, frowning when I noticed the waves stopped moving. Aaliyah was messing with us now.

The bikini Alma had settled on wearing seemed daring compared with the one she had chosen for the Bahamas. Not wanting to stare, I jumped several hundred feet into the ocean. She followed, splashing beside me. We swam for quite a while, seeing all sorts of exotic-looking creatures. The one that really seemed to shock Alma looked like an enormous dolphin. As the sun started to set, we came back to the beach to watch, sitting on the sand hand-in-hand.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 304

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.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 303

Most of yesterday was spent introducing Deyanira to magic, though Alma hadn’t seemed too thrilled by my plan. After Deyanira saw my little fairy friend by accident, I didn’t feel there was too much choice. Yes, Alma probably could have taken away the memory, but she’d just end up finding out again if Brandon continued to date her… or whatever they were doing. I wasn’t even sure.

I was certain today was going to be interesting. We had an absurd number of decorations to put around the house while Emma was out with her mom this morning, and I needed to hurry the moment she left, since Alma and I were going to have a Valentine’s Day date.

To start the day, I was waiting outside Alma’s door. She was probably finishing up some work. When she finally opened the door, I gave her a single red rose and admired how the color matched her gown. She was dressed in a beautiful, rose-red dress with touches of black lace around it.

“Thank you, James. This is lovely.” she told me as she accepted with a smile. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

I was shocked for a moment as she casually tossed the rose behind her, but a stream of spells brought water around its stem and placed it in a vase that flew out from a distant room. I was more happily surprised when she pulled me down to her and kissed me.

We proceeded into the kitchen where the smell of breakfast added to my happiness. Marco was preparing heart-shaped pancakes that smelled of chocolate as the main course today. Some of the others were already joining us before we took our seats.

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” exclaimed Kayla as she skipped over to us, holding up cards.

“Thank you, Kayla. Did you make these?” I asked as I examined the cards. They appeared to be drawn in colored pencil, but the art was fantastic. The chocolate at the bottom looked expensive. Smelled expensive too.

“Aaliyah helped me!” she exclaimed as she nodded.

Well, that explained the art and candy. I wondered what Kayla actually did. “They’re wonderful.” I assured her, though she was already turning to hand a card to Marco.

“Good morning.” stated Jemal as he slumped into his seat. He looked tired.

“Late night?” I asked.

He nodded and said, “Yeah. I’m still going through courses. I never thought I’d study so much for a job.”

“I’m sure we can get you out there more quickly if you want.” I offered.

He helped up his hands as he said, “No-no. Thank you, but I’m actually liking it. I know how to build most of a house from scratch now. This is pretty cool.”

I smiled and said, “Some of us do a fair amount of that type of work. The wages vary greatly, but you’ll hopefully always be entertained by the diversity of work here.”

He looked like he was about to say more, but stopped as Deyanira joined us, still wearing the baggy sweats and big t-shirt in which she probably slept.

“That smells amazing.” she stated.

“Here’s one for you!” exclaimed Kayla, handing her a card.

“Wow. Thank you! This is pretty amazing.” insisted Deyanira as she examined it. “I’ll try the chocolate later.”

Kayla grinned and then ran to Jarod and the twins as they entered the room.

I was somewhat surprised to see the Ai and Mai graciously accept the cards with smiles. Maybe Alma had talked to them at some point about being nice to children? I almost laughed as I pictured Jarod trying to have that conversation with them.

My little fairy friend flew in and stole the first bite of my pancake off my fork.

Deyanira’s eyes grew wide, and she asked “Does she eat here often?”

“Yay! The fairy!” exclaimed Kayla.

I didn’t bother answering. My little friend was showing Deyanira a number of breakfasts she ate here, each of them seeming enormous from her perspective. Kayla had apparently made a card for my little friend as well.

The little fairy stared at it intently for a moment before diving at the chocolate. She tried biting the wrapping at first, so I tried picturing how to open it. She seemed to love the chocolate once she got to it, hugging it with her whole body as she ate.

“One day, I will a get her to use her plate.” proclaimed Marco, glancing at the dollhouse in the corner near me. “Then I will a make the most amazing fairy food.”

“I have no doubts.” I assured him, though I secretly doubted he’d successfully domesticate her.

“I should go change.” muttered Deyanira, apparently realizing that she was the only one at the table not dressed.

“Change!?” asked Emma, entering the room. “You’re perfectly adorable as you are!”

“Happy birthday!” I exclaimed at the same time as several of the others.

“Thank you!” she replied

“It’s your birthday?” asked Deyanira.

“Yep! So kisses for everyone!” insisted Emma just before kissing Deyanira’s cheek.

Deyanira blushed, but Emma was already moving on to Jemal. He looked like he wanted to argue, but Emma was too fast, ducking around his hand as she kissed his forehead. He didn’t seem to really mind, smiling as she walked toward me.

“Pucker up, man-slave!” exclaimed Emma.

“Don’t you dare.” stated Alma.

Emma grinned impishly, wrapping her arm around my neck. Then she kissed the top of my head.

“Kayla! Kisses!” exclaimed Emma.

Kayla stood tall, holding her cheek up expectantly. Then she gave Emma a card.

“It’s adorable! I’ll keep it forever!” exclaimed Emma as she hugged the girl.

“You’re welcome!” replied Kayla.

Emma then moved to Alma, kneeling, taking her hand, and kissing it. “Were I to try for your cheeks, I’d surely hit your lips.” she teased.

Alma rolled her eyes.

“Good morning. Am I missing something?” asked Cosette as she entered.

“You’re next!” exclaimed Emma. “My birthday is a global kissing day!”

“Careful, I’m said to have a very deep kiss.” teased Cosette, her fangs elongating as she smiled.

Swearing and pointing, Deyanira stood and stepped back.

“Sorry. I guess we didn’t inform you that I’m a vampire yet.” apologized Cosette.

“Vampires are real!?” exclaimed Deyanira.

“And so cute too!” insisted Emma as she kissed Cosette.

“That wasn’t my cheek.” stated Cosette, looking amused.

Emma shrugged and said, “I miss at times.”

As Emma moved toward Mai, she was stopped by our little fairy friend flying up to her and kissing her cheek.

“Thank you!” exclaimed Emma, watching as the fairy moved on to kissing everyone else. “Looks like she understands the day!”

“You’re a terrible influence.” stated Alma.

“Should I give everyone kisses too?” asked Kayla.

“Yes!” exclaimed Emma.

At the same time, Jemal exclaimed “No!”

“But Jemal…” complained Kayla.

“Get it over with.” stated Mai, moving her hair out of the way.

Emma gladly obliged her. Then she happily kissed Jarod’s cheek.

“Ah! Not my neck!” complained Ai a moment later.

“Sorry. Cosette inspired me.” replied Emma, grinning widely.

“Sounds extra lively today. What’s for breakfast?” asked Brandon, walking into the room and looking around.

“You are!” exclaimed Emma as she jumped at him.

He dodged, looking confused.

“Fine. Hand then.” stated Emma as she took his hand and kissed it, giggling afterward at Brandon’s confusion.

“Wait. Were you going to kiss me? Like kiss me kiss me?” asked Brandon, sounding disappointed.

“Easy there.” stated Deyanira, glaring up at him.

“What? I was just asking!” insisted Brandon.

“Where’s Portentia hiding?” questioned Emma.

“I’m walking towards you with her at the moment.” replied Mila.

Emma grinned and asked “Which door?”

Mila appeared on a mirror and pointed, winking as she vanished again.

When Portentia was about to enter the room, Emma jumped her, wrapping her arms around her and kissing her.

“What was that for?” asked Portentia, looking surprised.

“My birthday! Kisses for everyone!” exclaimed Emma.

Portentia nodded and said, “I see.”

Yes, this certainly was going to be an interesting day.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 302

Kayla came running around the corner towards us, stopping and staring at Jarod when she got close. “Hi! Are you Deyanira’s boooyfriend?” she asked. Quickly turning to Deyanira, she asked “What about Brandon!?”

“Hi there. My name’s Jarod. I live here, and I’m actually married to someone else.” he explained. “Who are you?”

“I’m Kayla. IIII live here, and I’ve never seen you before.” she insisted.

“I’ve been on my honeymoon for a couple weeks.” he told her.

“Jarod lives past that gym we were in this morning.” I informed her.

“Really!? Emma told me there’s a pool on the roof of that section! Is it amazing!?” she asked.

“I enjoyed it. There’s also an underground pool that looks like a cave. I can see if Ai or Mai will show you sometime.” he suggested.

“I don’t know if leaving her alone with the twins is the best idea.” I told him. Then I said to Kayla, “Jarod’s the one who invented that flying machine you’ve been using.”

“He is!? Those things are awesome!!!” she exclaimed.

“Flying machines?” asked Deyanira.

“Yes. They’re these small platforms you stand upon and control with a wireless device.” I explained.

“Wow… That sounds interesting.” replied Deyanira. “Are they safe?”

Jarod shrugged and said, “Relatively. The board will auto-adjust to some extent if you seem to be trying to balance, but I didn’t want that taken too far, or you’d be dramatically limited on maneuverability.”

“I assure you that they turned out marvelous. No injuries as of yet.” stated Mila.

“They’re super fun!” exclaimed Kayla. “I can’t believe you built them!”

“Well, Mila usually does most of the actual building. I didn’t even fully design them myself, just the basic layout. Aurora did all the fine-tuning, and I heard James helped out with a little modification of his own.” explained Jarod.

I quickly said, “I really didn’t do too much.”

Jarod’s wry smile seemed like an argument, but we couldn’t say too much in front of Deyanira.

“Kayla, want to check out my lab?” offered Jarod. “I’m going to check on Aurora.”

“Awesome!” exclaimed Kayla.

“Who is Aurora?” asked Deyanira.

“Jarod’s lab assistant.” I informed her.

“Can I see this lab too?” she asked.

“Sure. Come along.” replied Jarod. “Hey, Brandon! I’m stealing your girlfriend.”

“Hey, now! No stealing girls. We’re not exactly dating yet.” stated Brandon. “I mean… we’ve gone on dates, but… it’s not… well.. you know…”

“Do I!?” exclaimed Deyanira, looking a bit perturbed.

“Well, I mean… we didn’t exactly ever talk about making anything official, and I didn’t want to assume anything. So… are we dating?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I guess we’ll need to talk. Later.” she stated, turning to follow Jarod.

Brandon was looking wildly between his monitor and Deyanira, obviously struggling to focus on both as he took a hit in the game that he should’ve been able to avoid.

After a few steps down the hall, I asked “So are you two dating?”

“We’ll see.” she stated.

“Wasn’t that a little mean though?” I asked.

She smiled and said, “Isn’t he adorable when he’s flustered?”

“I can’t really say I’ve thought of him as adorable ever.” I replied.

<Master, a moment.> signed Mila.

<Yes?> I asked.

<Aurora’s rather active in the lab. This may not be the best time for Deyanira to visit.> she informed me.

<I see. Thank you.> I told her.

“I’ve just been informed that Aurora is in the middle of an experiment, and we’d best not interrupt her at the moment.” I announced.

Jarod turned to look at me curiously for a moment, but his expression changed after a moment. <Is she using one of the suits?> he asked.

I nodded, since Deyanira was looking at me.

“Sorry, guys. Next time. I suppose I should’ve asked Mila about that first.” stated Jarod. “Care to play around on the… hmm… I really should name those. How about…”

“ZOOMIES!” exclaimed Kayla.

Grinning, Jarod said, “Sure, why not.”

“Mila, can you spare a body for safety?” I asked.

“Anything for you, master.” she told me. “I’ll bring four right up.”

“Uh… Maybe I’ll just watch.” stated Deyanira.

“Mila, mind bringing an extra and getting Brandon out back?” I asked.

“As you wish, master.” she told me. “Lady Pendreigh will be joining you as well. Oh. Ai and Mai will be coming to yell at Jarod. I’ll bring a couple zoomies for them.”

Jarod laughed and nodded. Then he said, “Kayla, I might require your help naming more things in the future.”

“Really!? Sure thing!” she exclaimed. Grabbing Deyanira’s hand, she said, “Race you there!”

I was worried for a moment, knowing Kayla was wearing her suit, but she kept her pace somewhat reasonable as Deyanira chased after her.

“Is her brother as excitable?” asked Jarod with a grin.

“More anxious than anything. I’m sure he’ll relax eventually.” I replied.

“I’m glad to be home. As beautiful as the island was, I missed being able to tinker. Seeing everyone is good too, of course. This place can change so much week-to-week. Even Brandon’s probably catching my stats on Ancient Tribes of Earth now.” he told me.

“I somehow doubt it. Glad to have you back.” I told him.

He suddenly grabbed my arm. Then he said, “You’re really not wearing a suit, are you. Was there a problem?”

“Oh. My magic interferes with the enchantment I place on them. Turns out that I don’t really need them.” I told him.

Jarod barked a laugh and said, “I’ve noticed.”

“Umm… really. Turns out I can move faster than Alma when she’s wearing a suit. Some things happened, and I found out how to control my magic a bit better.” I explained.

“Wow.” he stated, shaking his head. “You really get more amazing all the time. What are you going to do next? Realign a planet?”

I adamantly said, “No. Of course not. I wouldn’t even begin to know what would be safe. Even if I did the math and everything, there’d be no explaining it. Besides, why would I want to do that? I’m sure there’d be consequences, other than the entire world wondering what happened. I suppose I could give a giant meteor a shove if one was coming toward the planet, but even then, there’d probably be a cost…” I realized I had been rambling, lost in my thoughts about the details of doing such a thing while trying to avoid the memories I had of feeling such power. I said too much.

“You can really do it, can’t you…” he stated, stopping and staring at me.

“I… sorta discovered something while you were away.” I admitted.

He nodded and waited.

“Remember that stone room with all of the engravings?” I asked.

“Yeah…” he stated.

“I know how to use it now.” I explained.

“Use it? What do you mean exactly?” he asked.

“You can’t tell your wives about this, okay?” I demanded.

He nodded, frowning.

“I haven’t told Alma either, but that room allows me to access a powerful source of magic. Overwhelmingly powerful. The things I could do from there are frightening.” I insisted.

“Such as moving a planet.” he replied with a nod. “Wow. Can anyone use it?”

“No… From what I gather, most people would die if they somehow managed to start it.” I told him.

He nodded again and said, “You probably absorb enough energy to counter its negative effects. I wonder if its creator could do something similar? Even worse, someone might have figured out how to create it, tried it, and died. Still, useful thing to have in your arsenal, isn’t it?”

“I never want to use it again.” I stated.

“What? Why not?” he asked.

“Jarod, power like that is too much for me. I could accidentally wipe out our planet. I don’t really want to talk about it.” I admitted.

He looked like he was about to argue, but then he shrugged. “Okay. But wow… seriously. That’s incredible. I hope you can muster the courage to use it if there is some sort of catastrophe. Great power, great responsibility, and all that.” he teased with a wink.

I nodded, still feeling glum. I wished I could convey to him how frightening the experience was. How could I really get the point across without bringing someone else in on the secret?

Jemal ended up joining us as well, claiming he wanted to supervise his sister. I could tell he was having fun. Deyanira seemed to enjoy herself as well. I was glad we convinced her to try one, until I heard her gasp and watched her fall.

Mila easily caught her, but my little fairy friend was plainly visible, eagerly telling me about her day. Alma could probably take away the last couple minutes of memory from Deyanira, which would probably be the simplest solution, but would that really be the correct one? I wasn’t sure.