Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 198

“The master will return shortly. He will apprise you of the situation once he’s arrived.” announced Mila.

“Mila, what do you mean?” I asked, suddenly feeling worried. Mila never sounded so flat.

“Patience, please.” she replied.

“What’s wrong? You look worried.” commented Portentia.

“I don’t know. Something’s wrong.” I told her.

“Why do you say that? James might want to announce a new flavor of ice cream. Perhaps someone named one after him. James flavored… I wonder what they’d call it.” she considered.

“Somerset Delight?” I suggested. I didn’t know where to begin explaining the difference in Mila’s tone to Portentia. She could probably understand the gist of it to some degree, but having never heard a sound in her life, I didn’t believe she’d fully be able to relate.

She shrugged and said, “Sounds about right. He is a delight.”

“Something wonderful happen on your date that you’re not telling me?” I asked, hoping for a bit of distraction while we waited.

Brenna looked over to us and insisted, “She wouldn’t leave us in the dark if something did.”

I wasn’t too certain. Nearly a week had passed since their date, and Portentia certainly seemed even happier than normal when James was mentioned. I’m sure too much couldn’t have happened between them, not with how James was, but she obviously had a wonderful time.

“Emma…” started Portentia, touching my shoulder.

I heard the front door open and ran to it with Portentia on my heels. “James, what’s wrong?” I demanded, watching as the little fairy flopped onto his head.

Ai and Mai passed us without a glance, steering Jarod along with him. Everyone looked so grim.

“Is he alright?’ asked Portentia, looking between everyone inhumanly fast.

Ignoring her, I asked “Where’s Alma?”

Alma had left with them, so her absence was worrisome, given how she treasured her time with James as much as the rest of us. He ignored my inquiry, motioning for us to follow as he walked into the ballroom.

“Mila, were you inside the park’s surveillance systems when the explosions took place?” he asked the moment he entered.

I stared at him, horrified by that one word, “explosions”. What happened!?

“Of course, master. Shall I show you?” she replied.

James nodded, and the mirrors that weren’t in use lit up, displaying a theme park. Explosions from countless video feeds appeared, showing people ripped apart by the blasts. Men, women, and children were killed in an instant. The lifeless pieces of the ones who were closest to the blast made bile rise in my throat. Others were moving slightly, despite their horrible burns. Fires went out on every feed simultaneously. Then there was Alma, appearing from nowhere in one of the feeds and starting to tend to a victim. That feed suddenly vanished.

“Sorry, master, but the camera was destroyed at that point.” stated Mila.

Shaking his arm, Portentia demanded “James, who did this?”

When he looked at her, his pained face stung my heart. “I don’t know, but I want to find out. When the first zombie blew up right next to me, Alma seemed to think someone was attempting to target her. She got me out of the park, fetched Jarod and the twins, and then went to search for more of the zombies. That’s all I know.”

I half expected Portentia to dash out of the room in search of the one responsible. Instead, she merely nodded. I brushed the tears on my cheeks, realizing I had started crying. We needed distraction. There was nothing for us to do at the moment.

“Let’s go find a dungeon.” I suggested, forcing my voice to be as calm as possible.

James stared at me blankly for several seconds. “I don’t really feel like playing right now.” he admitted.

I nodded and said, “Neither do I, but we need to be distracted for a bit, unless you know something useful we can do.”

I thought he was going to argue, but he walked over to his usual seat and sat down. I followed suit, logging back into the game. We picked a direction and headed off in a group with Brandon and Brenna catching up while we were picking fights with some troglodytes in a cave. Hours passed in exploration before I realized that others were in the room. Ai, Mai, Jarod, and even Alma were with us.

I almost gave into an impulse and ran over to hug Alma, but I controlled myself, not wanting to test her mood. She was surely hurting right now, and she was even more dangerous than I was in pain. I was thankful nothing seemed to be melting. I was being careful to keep my emotions in check as well, not wanting my clothes or the cushion under me to suddenly surge with malevolent life.

I kept playing, doing my best to focus on the game even after Marco brought us food. I wanted peace. Alma left us some time later without a word. I was certain she was going to do more investigating, trying to find the one behind the explosions. Alma would never let something so terrible go unpunished, and I had faith in her ability to find the one responsible.

The image of Brenna laughing as Brandon hit his head by growing too large under a tree entered my head. There was such warmth and life in that image that I found myself smiling. Another image came to mind, equally silly. The little fairy was trying to cheer us up. I smirked, thinking she was probably just trying to cheer James up. We were just fortunate enough to join in the merriment. I was glad James allowed her in the house. As mischievous as she could be, she was a joy as well.

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Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 197

“Not that I mind theme parks at all, but why are we here?” inquired James, looking all too serious.

I leaned my head against his arm. I knew he’d be suspicious coming here, but I was enjoying my time with him. “You don’t believe that I simply wanted to share a big wheel with you? This isn’t the London Eye, but I do enjoy the view.” I admitted.

“If there is anything I’ve learned about you, it’s that you rarely do anything for just one reason.” he replied, trying to stare into my eyes.

I nearly smiled, happy that he was learning, but I stifled it before saying, “I must confess that I’m glad you’re starting to know me. I bought this park due to the large number of incidents that have occured here lately. Unfortunately, I may have been too late.”

“Why? What’s happened?” he asked, obviously concerned.

“I fear whoever was creating the zombies found a new lair. What’s more disconcerting is that I cannot even seem to find where he had been hiding, despite having searched several times. Today I simply am noting what changes I need to make.” I informed him.

He nodded, and I felt his muscles relax. When the big wheel stopped, we roamed and tried numerous other rides. Owning the place, I chose to ignore the hassle of lines, so we could better utilize our limited time. I was certain Ai and Mai were making the most of their time with Jarod as well. I nearly sighed as I thought of how easy things were going for them. Of course, Jarod wouldn’t be troubled with rigorous trials due to their position in the Slayer family. Being the eldest, Duncan would, of course, inherit all of the responsibility and authority of their Japanese heritage.

We decided to take dinner at one of the small diners in the park. The hamburger and chips were perfectly adequate fair, better than I expected. I was thankful to have one less place that needed revision in this park. I had noticed that numerous rides were in need of a thorough cleaning beneath them, so the maintenance schedule was obviously subpar.

“Yes?” I inquired, realizing that James was staring at me instead of enjoying his meal.

Still staring, he said, “Sorry. You wouldn’t believe how easily I get lost in your eyes. They’re just so beautiful.”

James was such a marvel. He had a great many abilities that made him stand apart from an average person. He came from a distinguished family with impeccable taste. He had surpassing good looks and a business that was doing surprisingly well. Despite all he possessed, his sincerity and good will toward others stood at the forefront of who he was.

I smiled and calmly confided “I wear contacts.”

His jaw dropped open, his eyes widened in surprise, and the look of complete disbelief didn’t undermine his handsome features in the least. Laughter tickled its way out of me, making me smile all the more with its seemingly incessant need to be heard.

When I finally managed to speak, I assured him “I’m joking, of course. My vision is far better than a human’s, and I’ve never felt a need to hide my eyes. I am somewhat surprised that you believed me. Contacts? Really?”

James smiled, banishing the look of disbelief to the annals of my mind. I’d treasure each moment with him for as long as I lived, even if our time together proved brief. He had my heart, and I couldn’t imagine wanting to take it back.

“I suppose I can be quite gullible where you’re concerned. We’ve shared my home for months now, and I still know so little about you. I’ve been wondering what excites you for most of our time here. Roller coasters don’t seem to do the trick. What does?” he inquired.

I restrained the sudden desire to gently brush my hand through his windswept hair. I could think of a dozen ways I might dodge the question, but James wanted the truth. He deserved the truth, so I told him “When I was younger, I was always excited to spend time with my mother, though I wasn’t supposed to show it. My mother insisted that I maintained my composure at all times. Habits are easily formed, though she still wouldn’t be pleased at how often I lose my temper. I wish she could have met you.”

I refrained from admitting that mother wouldn’t have approved of how easily James affected me, bringing me to smile and laugh openly. Signs of joy could be used to note vulnerabilities quite easily, and vulnerabilities were often exploited in my family. He didn’t need to worry over such things, at least not yet.

“I thought you spent most of your life traveling with your mother. Were you perpetually excited then?” he suggested.

“I did, but we didn’t spend nearly as much time together as you might expect. More often than not, I was busy studying while she was handling business. We kept in constant contact even while she worked, but I preferred when she was actually with me. Visiting my cousin, Adelmar, was often exciting, I suppose. He can be such a proper bastard at times, but I do love his company when he’s not teasing me horrendously. You’ll love him, James. He is completely remarkable.” I assured him.

:Cousin, language. James might be offended, and we wouldn’t want that.: teased Adelmar, speaking in my head.

He watched me so often that I wasn’t surprised, but I did tell him off for intruding.

:But cousin… James is family business when you spend so much time with him.: he warned.

Nodding, James inquired “Do you think I’ll be meeting him anytime soon?”

:You know what my schedule is like.: replied Adelmar.

I shrugged and said, “He won’t tell me, so I can’t really say.”

“What sorts of games did you play together?” questioned James.

I laughed and said, “I doubt you would consider them ‘games’ at all, but we had various sorts of contests between us. Well, I say ‘contests’, but you would probably see them as an endless brawl.”

:An apt enough description.: encouraged Adelmar.

“There were loads of rules involved, so no one other than us was ever injured. I never experienced quite so much pain anywhere else, not even sparring with my mother.” I claimed.

:Oh? I can think of a few times that would surely have been worse.: he teased.

I continued, saying, “I do feel she restrained herself frequently, so it’s not that she couldn’t give me as much of a beating.”

:She loved you dearly, cousin. I know. I saw.: stated Adelmar.

“I’m still nowhere near a match for what my mother was.” I admitted, remembering some of the times I saw her let loose. She was glorious and frightening to behold.

Throughout my response, James smiled and listened, his marvelous blue eyes never leaving mine except for when he took a bite of his food.

“What is your favorite memory of her?” he inquired.

Still smiling, I told him “For my twelfth birthday, mother took me to Antarctica. We made a palace out of ice together, and she laid siege to it as I defended, not wanting our creation to be ruined. She won, of course, but she left the throne standing for me.”

“That must have been quite the sight to behold.” he suggested before finishing his last fry.

I nodded, completely agreeing. So far from civilization, I had little reason to hold back as much. There had never been a doubt that mother could take anything I threw at her. She radiated power and never doubted her strength.

James and I started walking toward our next ride when I noticed something off. A man with seemingly perfect legs was walking oddly. The breeze wasn’t even touching his hair. Examining him more carefully, I realized that the pattern of heat throughout his body wasn’t quite right. I created a spell to disperse the crowd around us, suggesting to their minds that they didn’t want to pass this way. Then I created another spell to collect the man.

James visibly jumped when he caught sight of the floating man.

“Whoever made this is getting more clever.” I informed him.

“What are you talking about?” he asked, looking distinctly confused.

I reminded myself that I barely noticed the illusion despite my gifts. James had no chance.

“Watch.” I stated, creating spells to dispel the numerous layers of illusion, purification, containment, and heat.

The foul smell of rotting flesh instantly hit my nostrils. The poor wretch had probably been alive when the necromancer had found him, given the look of the tattered clothes he wore. Furthermore, decay was still at an early stage, probably no more than a week.

I watched as James made a spell to purify the air around us and was quite pleased with the efficiency of his design, centering the spell around his head. I wouldn’t have complained had he done the same for me, but he might well expect me to be gleaning something from the putrid scent.

“How did you know?” he asked.

Still examining the corpse, I explained “His gait was a bit odd, which caught my attention. Then I realized that the breeze wasn’t affecting his clothing or hair properly. I sent the crowd scattering to make sure no one would get hurt when I brought him to us, but…”

I missed something! The corpse was exploding! I quickly dispersed the heat into my arm before it could reach James, but the body was destroyed. I stopped the rush of air with another spell. Clever necromancer indeed to hide that spell so well.

Realizing James had that accusatory gleam to his eyes, I said, “If you are thinking that I just blew up a zombie right next to you for fun, think again. I did, however, stop the explosion from reaching you.” I also sent a text to the twins, warning them of this possible danger. “The twins have Jarod and are leaving. We’ll meet them soon.” I explained.

“Do you think there are more of these things?” inquired James as he looked around.

“I hope not. They’re probably targeting me, but I would prefer to keep everyone safe. Shut your eyes.” I commanded, lifting him the moment he did. I protected him with spells as I created the spells to protect everything else by my movement, and then I rushed him back to the car. “Get in the limo and stay put. I’ll be back soon.”

I then hurried to Ai, Mai, and Jarod, collecting them in a similar fashion and depositing them at the car. Knowing what the signs were, I quickly found another zombie after arriving back in the park. This one exploded the moment I stopped. I was able to protect those around it, but I also felt heat blooming elsewhere in the park. A tear formed in my eye as I felt the heat of distant bodies torn apart. I stopped the explosions from reaching their full size, but I failed to save everyone. My reaction time was far too slow at this distance.

I rushed to grab first aid supplies and began attending to everyone there was a chance of saving, creating spells to alter what those around me would be seeing and to destroy nearby cameras. There were so many people that I didn’t have nearly the supplies I would need to properly bandage everyone even with my magic to aid me in stanching the bleeding. I made bandages from my own clothes when I ran out and tore apart whatever was at hand to make splints where needed. With my own clothes in tatters, I borrowed from others. Still, my efforts were not enough.

I recognized parts of men, women, and children cluttering the street near the injured. I did my best not to stare at the dead, especially the children. There was far too much work to do, and I was already struggling to control my anger. Cloth burned in my hands and had to be replaced promptly. I needed to remain calm. The one who did this would pay dearly, but not today.

:Cousin, I’m sorry. Relax now.: stated Adelmar.

My body instantly obeyed, and my mind was calm. He had ordered me with his full authority. All of the images in my head of the scenes became mere data. The rage was gone for the moment, and I continued my work in peace.

When the last of the injured was finally hauled away for treatment at a hospital, I followed, knowing they needed all the help they could get. I couldn’t attend to everyone personally, but I would cover their medical bills. I could at least do that much.

I left the hospital after treating the last of my patients and ran back to the park, wanting to examine things more thoroughly. As I inspected the carnage, I used my phone to have Mila clear my schedule, wanting to devote my attention to my park’s patrons. The one who did this was brutal and probably trying to scare me off from pursuing him.

I crushed the railing I grabbed on accident. The steel melted away under the heat of my renewed anger, scorching the ground where it dripped. Adelmar wasn’t listening now, surely busy elsewhere. I forced myself to calm down. I needed to see James, so I returned to his home and promised myself that these people would be avenged.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 196

James seemed tense lately, and I wasn’t completely sure why. My best guess involved Alma being mad over James taking Portentia on a date, though most of what Portentia had told me didn’t seem too date-like, at least not for normal people.

Smiled and hugging whichever of the twins was next to me, I couldn’t say anyone around here was particularly normal. My girlfriends practically shared their brains, Portentia seemed immortal, and Alma made the first three seem very human. I really, really wished I could take Ai and Mai to the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce, but their family wouldn’t permit it. At least, that’s what I gathered from their excuses.

Portentia’s description of the restaurant’s latest outlandish decor was incredible. How did they manage to make an enormous beach inside of a restaurant? I understood the technology involved in generating waves and creating a breeze, but making the walls seem endless was quite a feat. I could probably pull it off reasonably well for a single person with the right equipment and software, but getting the perspective right for multiple pairs of eyes was trickier.

I also didn’t understand how the restaurant could afford to have such an elaborate setup per group of patrons. Portentia hadn’t seen anyone else in the restaurant, so the room had to be subdivided in some manner. Even if the floor could open to allow for a realistic ocean swim, how did James and Portentia never reach a wall?

“James, are you coming to see me off?” asked Duncan, bringing me out of my thoughts.

Smiling, James said, “Of course. I’d feel remiss as a host if I did not. I only wish I could have been more successful in protecting you from your sisters during your stay.”

“If you learn that trick, I would be grateful for you to share.” replied Duncan with a laugh.

“I’d appreciate learning that one as well.” I teased, earning me an elbow to the gut from the girl under my arm.

I would actually miss having Duncan around. Having him here really helped me learn more of Ai and Mai’s family and traditions. Plus, I was able to see a different side of them. I was a little concerned over Duncan’s joy of visiting the fey, not that anyone wouldn’t enjoy seeing the creatures. I simply worried that Duncan was studying them more than simply playing. As much as I grew to enjoy his company, I still couldn’t entirely trust him.

“Be sure to give mother-dear our gifts, nii-san.” ordered the girl I hugged.

“We’d hate a repeat of two years ago.” insisted the other.

Duncan grimaced as he said, “That was two years ago, and I’ve told you that someone had moved the gift!”

I was careful not to roll my eyes. Ai and Mai had probably set him up. They did seem to care about their brother, but he was often on the receiving end of their pranks. We all followed as James and Alma led the way outside, but Ai and Mai continued poking fun at Duncan.

“Must she come too?” asked Alma.

“You know she doesn’t really listen to me.” explained James as he watched the little fairy land on his shoulder.

“I know, but I still feel you should work to fix the situation. She’s no less dangerous now than she was when I first warned against letting her off the grounds. Aaliyah is quite obviously capable of helping you if you simply ask.” she suggested.

I sometimes worried that Alma was going to break James’ hand on accident one of these days. She was far too strong for anyone’s good.

Shrugging, James said, “I don’t doubt that she’s capable, but she seems amused by the situation. Have you ever attempted to convince Aaliyah to end something that amuses her?”

“Perhaps you do have a point. Still, you could at least try to act like her boss for once and assign her a task.” she insisted.

James laughed before saying, “Sorry, but I really doubt her contract with me actually gives me any sort of authority. Care to look over it sometime? I’d take at least a year to read through the thing even if I had the time.”

Alma didn’t argue further, and I wondered again about the relationship between her and Aaliyah. I considered Alma’s temper legendary, but Aaliyah felt no qualms about teasing her mercilessly. What did Aaliyah have over her that somehow kept Alma from losing her cool?

The drive to the airport remained as chatty as ever, though Duncan just had to bring up the forest and the fey. He was borderline obsessed with them. Again, I couldn’t blame him. The creatures were remarkable, and knowing that one was Emma’s ancestor was fascinating for me. Their genetics could hold the key to magic itself, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with Duncan’s immediate family being the ones to discover that key anymore than I would be with Alma doing the same. There were too many hidden agendas that had nothing to do with the betterment of humanity.

I was amused when we entered the airport. The limousine received some looks, but our group received even more. James always received attention, and Alma’s inhuman presence was guaranteed to cause a stir. That was inevitable, but I was used to being James’ shadow more than in the spotlight with him. Having Ai and Mai each holding an arm did draw attention. They were intelligent, funny, and incredibly beautiful, so they always drew people’s eyes. Duncan surely caught the eye of plenty himself. When not speaking with Alma, he had an air of importance about him, and he looked wealthy with all of his fine suits. I’d wager most girls found him attractive. Frowning, I realized that I probably would have to order more suits for myself to satisfy the twins.

After a great many well-wishings and goodbyes, Duncan departed, and I wondered if I’d see him again before marrying into the family. Unfortunately, that would rely on his mother’s mood. Between Duncan and his sisters, I learned much of what dealing with Izumi would be like. She was an unbending, overbearing woman with a cutthroat take on business. I hoped the twins wouldn’t want to visit her much in the future.

“Would any of you protest a trip to the theme park?” inquired Alma as we walked to the car. When no one spoke up, she said, “Excellent. Let’s have some fun.”

Ai and Mai seemed as confused by the sudden request as I was, falling to silence as we followed Alma and James. I really wished I could join in on the telepathic conversation they surely were having. Even with their ability limited to each other, it was incredible. Feeling what the other one felt wouldn’t always be so pleasant though.

Once we were in the car, Alma asked “Why are you so tense, James?”

“Oh boy. You’re not remembering that time Michael lost his lunch, are you?” I teased.

He laughed and said, “No. I had blissfully forgotten all about that. Thanks so much for reminding me.”

“Were you next to him?” asked the girl on my left with a big grin.

“No, thankfully.” he replied with a shake of his head. “I did find him some new clothes though.”

Laughing, I said, “Yeah. James couldn’t get out of there fast enough after being stuck for five minutes in a cart with three girls from some other school.”

James rolled his eyes, still smiling, but the smile didn’t seem quite real. Something was eating at him, and I wished we were alone for him to tell me what. All I could do was hope that he was worrying over something silly again. If something serious was bothering James, we’d all be involved soon.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 195

“Would you care to join me for some dinner, so we can have something a bit more typical on this date?” asked James shortly after he picked me up.

I smiled and nodded, eager to see what he had in mind. The day we met, James’ birthday, he had taken me to get new clothes and then out to eat. Though the dresses weren’t really to my taste, they were pretty. The meal had shown me far more about him. Everyone gravitated toward James. The idea was confirmed even more at his birthday party. There were so many people, all there to celebrate James’ day.

Working for him over the past month had introduced me to so many new ideas and wonderful people. First he made my life better than ever with a great many new friends and a place I could truly call home again. Then he made me a better superhero. Unlike before, I knew how to really fight now, had my own costume, and even possessed an incredible weapon. None of this could have happened without James.

I couldn’t feel more fortunate to know him. He took two weeks to take me on our date, but things were going so well. We had some entertainment, and now we were going out to eat together like something out of a movie.

“Mila, please drive us to the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce.” he instructed.

“Of course, master.” she replied.

I felt my grin grow wider. Ever since meeting James, I felt like I was living a dream, at least how people had described them to me. I knew James wasn’t a secret agent like I originally believed when I met him, but I still felt he had a great many similarities to the ones in movies. He was charming, skilled in many things, and perfectly brave when needed. He lived in a world filled with secrets and sought every day to use his craft to improve the lives of others. He carried no gun, but he was always armed. His magic could easily act as a more dangerous weapon than any gun if ever he needed one. Now this man of mystery was taking me to a place said to be mysterious by Jarod, one of the smartest people I knew.

When the restaurant came into view, I felt like jumping out before Mila even stopped the car. The building looked so unobtrusive with its shiny bricks. The sign was cheesily made with a smiley face surrounded by a galaxy off to the side of the restaurant’s name.

“You seem rather excited for someone who doesn’t need to eat.” he told me.

I was thankful as ever that Mila was supplying text for me, so I didn’t miss what he said while staring at the building. “I do still enjoy eating.” I informed him. “Plus, I’ve heard some pretty crazy things about this restaurant from Jarod. He told me that the rooms don’t make sense, like there’s some odd magic taking place when you enter. He also told me that he wouldn’t be surprised if criminals use this place for covert meetings, since overhearing conversations seems virtually impossible. How could I not be interested? We might stumble across drug dealers, mafia members, or some other shady types! I wonder if Maxine ate here while she was in town. I really wish I had my suit and Midnight, just in case.”

“Jarod does love this place as well, but I can’t say I’ve actually seen any evidence of criminal activity when I’ve been here before.” he insisted.

Unlike most people, James could easily afford to eat here often. Jarod probably hadn’t eaten here as often, but I knew Jarod did his research. James, as incredible as he was, did miss things. I sometimes wondered if he chose to miss things.

My mind went blank as the door opened, revealing a second sun setting over a purple ocean in the most spectacular way. I felt the gentle warmth of it on my skin as I followed James inside. As far as I could see was a beach and the ocean, stretching endlessly. The dark blue sand squished beneath my feet as I stepped on it. I wondered how all of this could possibly be in a restaurant, especially as I saw a well-dressed man nodding to us.

“Hello again, James. I’m Abdel, and I’ll be your host again this evening.” he told us.

With James in front of me and facing Abdel, I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I wouldn’t have realized he was even talking if his head hadn’t been turned as much as it was.

Nodding again, Abdel said, “If you would care to get changed, your assistant, Mila, warned us that you didn’t possess appropriate attire for our current theme, so feel free to get changed in the rooms just over there as I set your table. The current temperature might distract you from your meal, dressed as you are.”

I jogged over to the out-of-place structure, wondering what would be revealed to me inside. The doors were marked with the typical male and female symbols found outside of bathrooms, so I had no trouble knowing which to enter. There was also one with what looked like a showerhead.

At first, I was disappointed. The room was plain, simply hosting a bench and pole of clothing bags. I half-expected the room to have some sort of light show or other oddity when I was entering. I unzipped one of the bags and gaped. Was there an outfit split between the bags for some reason? This was barely more than underwear and a see-through top. Oh. Sandals too.

Opening the second bag, I realized what I was actually seeing: a bikini and something to wear over it when not swimming. I hadn’t been swimming for a long time, but I was sure James would help me if I couldn’t remember how. He didn’t have to worry about me drowning at least. I didn’t need air.

I quickly looked through the bags, wondering which swimming suit James would prefer. I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable in any of them. The one piece suit was tempting, just to cover more up, but James never minded my skin. If anything, he might enjoy it. Frowning, I thought of how Alma was nearly as white as me. Any whiter, and she’d be albino as well. Well, her hair and eyes wouldn’t work. After a month of seeing him look at her, I recognized his interest. If he could like someone as pale as she was despite her unnatural look, he could like someone as white as snow.

I chose the red bikini and the pink, knit shirt. We were on a date. This wasn’t a time to be timid. I smiled, certain that Alma would never wear something like this. Seeing that James wasn’t out yet when I finished changing, I ran with the sandals in hand, wanting to feel the strange sand beneath my feet. I could hardly believe the view. When I got to the edge of the water, I let a wave splash over my foot, hardly believing this was a restaurant.

The smell of the food called to me, and I took to the table, already anticipating the taste of the food. Where had the server gone? There was no sign of him. I couldn’t explain how the entrance seemed to be a free-floating door either. Maybe Jarod would tell me later.

I forced myself not to eat anything yet, taking a seat and putting on the sandals. When James finally emerged, I was happy to see he was ready to swim as well. I would’ve felt foolish had I been the only one to change clothes. I waved at him, anxious to spend more time with him.

As he ran over to me, I tried not to stare, but the movement of his muscles was yet another thing fit for a movie. I knew he was strong for a human, if he really was human, but I hadn’t seen him quite so bare before. I exhaled and smiled. There were guys, and then there was James.

“The ocean smells so real! I dipped my foot in just to see, and the water is real! How do they do this?” I asked the moment he was seated.

Shrugging, he said, “I have no clue. Aaliyah probably does. I believe she helped with some of the tech here.” He frowned slightly after mentioning her.

“That girl is amazing. I’m really glad I met you, James. Since I started working for you, I’ve met and helped so many interesting people! Well, not all of the helping is on the job, obviously, but being a best friend for people is pretty cool too.” I assured him.

James always worried, and I never thanked him enough. He might have frowned because he was worried that he mentioned another girl on our date, but I couldn’t care. He was here with me when there were so many beautiful girls in his house, and Aaliyah was far too young to be a rival despite her intelligence.

He smiled at me, and I instantly felt more at ease again.

“I’m glad you are doing well. I was honestly being a bit selfish when I started the business. My father wanted me to get a job, but I couldn’t think of anywhere with the flexibility and variety of work I desired. Then I decided to start my own business, and I wouldn’t be doing nearly as well with it if not for all of the help I’ve received.” he claimed, modest as ever.

“But you inspire people, James. Whenever I’m around you, I feel so… full of hope. I know the other girls feel it too. You’re not some average guy who just happened to get lucky. You’re amazing.” I insisted, reaching out and gently touching his hand.

He pulled back, frowning again. “Sorry.” he told me. “What you’re probably feeling is magic, actually.”

Having him pull away from me was discouraging, but having him worry about his gifts was so weird. Why did he treat his incredible abilities like a curse at times?

“I found out a while ago that my body absorbs residual energy and creates this sort of magical field which causes people to like me. I can’t control it. There’s no way for either of us to know if anything you feel around me is real or not.” he stated.

I stared into his eyes, still wondering why he seemed to be in pain. “You mentioned this before when we first met.” I reminded him.

He nodded.

With him being silent, I then said, “You’ve gotta be one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, but you let your abilities bother you too much.”

He stared into my eyes and I wondered what all he saw. There were times when James seemed to be delving into my soul. For all I knew, the feeling might be true. I smiled at him, trying to be reassuring.

“Well, you have to admit that sounds pretty lucky as things go. Vampires have to deal with finding a source of blood. Werewolves have to fight the urge to eat people. I have cold skin, which freaks guys out. You have to deal with everyone liking you.” I explained.

“I see your point, I guess, but aren’t you bothered by the idea that you’re forced to like me?” he asked, still looking upset.

I took a bite of my food, some sort of incredible chicken dish. The taste was too amazing to keep from smiling even if I wanted to try. James was worrying himself far too much, especially here. “How can I be bothered by liking my date when we’re eating on a beach during sunset?” I asked.

He nodded. I wished he would smile again, but I was glad he wasn’t frowning. We talked idly as we enjoyed our meal. The food here was easily as good as Marco’s, which was a feat by itself. Had Marco helped the chefs here as well? This past month had spoiled me more than I would’ve thought possible before coming here. I felt guilty at times, knowing there were people struggling for food out there when I ate incredible meals daily and didn’t even need food to survive. Emma couldn’t be everywhere to make the vegetables, and Marco couldn’t be everywhere to make the meals. We needed to do our best with what we have, and today I was fortunate. Not eating would only disappoint Marco, and I was making a difference in this city.

When we finished eating, I said, “Ready for a swim?”

“Huh?” he asked, looking surprised.

I took off the knit shirt, placing it on the back of the chair. “Swimming. Why get dressed like this if we’re not going to enjoy this exotic ocean?” I asked, nodding toward the water.

“Oh. Yes. I suppose we can.” he replied, looking nervous.

“Can’t swim?” I asked with a grin.

“What? Of course, I can swim.” he stated.

“Then come on!” I exclaimed, interrupting whatever else he was going to say and pulling him toward the water.

The water felt wonderful, but I was surprised by the lack of salt. There was no sting when some got in my eyes. I supposed they weren’t trying for authenticity, not with purple water and blue sand. The feel of the waves was plenty authentic for me, and being able to swim alone with James was amazing.

He eventually started to suggest we should leave, but I just dove back into the water. He knew I couldn’t hear him, so I didn’t know why he tried telling me such things. He needed more fun! If he had been serious about needing to leave, he wouldn’t have followed me back into the water, so I knew he was just being overly cautious.

I swam to the shore when I spotted someone odd. A very old looking man wearing robes like some sort of wizard was walking toward us. He took his time making his way across the sand, but he seemed plenty strong to me, especially for someone so obviously elderly. There was a confident ease to his stride that made him seem quite capable.

“Sorry to interrupt, but Aaliyah just called and informed me that you’re going to be late for your practice with Alma if you don’t leave in the next seven minutes.” stated the man when he reached us.

Turning to James, I asked “Why didn’t you tell me you had practice tonight? I don’t want to make you late!” I then ran to use the shower next to the changing rooms.

I didn’t quite trust Alma yet, especially alone with James, but I was aware that she was powerful. She was far faster, stronger, and more knowledgeable than me. If she was willing to instruct James, keeping him from the lessons was criminal. Before meeting James, I wouldn’t have thought of such a thing as criminal, but I realized now what a difference instruction could make. My world was expanding a little more each day, and a better me would exist tomorrow to give back to the world.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 194

I bumped my coffee, knocking it over as I reached for the radio. Sighing, I started cleaning it up. I was later than usual for lunch already, and the coffee had gone cold. I’d just pick up a new one when I picked up my sandwich. While still trying to wipe up the coffee, a call came over the radio. Someone was injured just two blocks from me. Lunch would wait. I told the dispatcher that I was on my way, not wanting some rookie to get caught up in the affairs of the triangle. Dangerous neighborhood.

When I arrived, there was someone in a too-large, black hoodie kneeling over what hopefully was the victim and not a new body. The man in the hoodie turned, and I knew something was off. He was perfectly clean-shaven, had well-groomed hair, and his shoes looked expensive. He was also young, probably a teenager. I knelt down by him and told the man on the ground to sit tight. Possible broken arm and leg. No bleeding. Nothing I could do that wouldn’t just hinder the paramedics when they arrived.

“Mind telling me what happened here?” I asked.

“Oh. No, sir. I was just walking by when this man fell, landing here pretty much as you see him.” explained the kid, his accent further betraying that he didn’t belong around here.

“He fell? Tripped and broke his arm and leg?” I asked.

Shaking his head, he said, “No. From up there somewhere. I’m not precisely sure how high he was, since I didn’t see him until he screamed. He was still in mid-air, so I came running over.”

I looked up and didn’t see any broken windows, though there were a couple open. Was our “victim” trying to jump between windows? If so, why? He was lucky he didn’t end up even worse for wear.

“Mind if I take down your information? Name, date of birth, phone, etc.” I told the boy.

“Oh. Sure.” he replied before listing off his information.

I wrote everything down in my notepad for my report. “Thanks, James. You’re free to go. I’ll take care of him from here.” I assured him. I’d love to know what his story was. What brought him to this neighborhood? I was sure he had his reasons, but this type of place wasn’t safe for a kid like him.

As James walked off, I started questioning the man on the ground. I didn’t want him to pass out for one, and I was very interested in what he was doing that led to his fall. He wasn’t very coherent and probably had a concussion. The ambulance arrived before I asked too much, but I was betting his fall didn’t come about simply from goofing off.

I wasn’t even back to my car yet when another call came over the radio. Robbery just down the street. Did someone miss the flashing lights over here, or was I supposed to be too busy to respond? Someone replied to the dispatcher just before me and went flying past as I stepped into my car. I sighed, knowing the voice. Pat. Good kid, but he had a lot to learn still.

Another police car sped past. I followed. Seeing someone in a red hoodie running remarkably fast, I knew where Pat was going. He’d forget about checking for injured, accomplices, or anything else. The figure in the red hood had been acting as a vigilante for months now. Rumor was that he had a fancier costume now, so why the red hoodie again? Did we have multiple vigilantes running through the streets? Possible, but unlikely. Considering some of the people we’ve found tied up, the person was incredibly tough.

The car in front of me was quick to pull over. Peterson stepped out. He had enough experience to know what he was doing.

I slowed down, looking around. A silver DB5 had parked across from the shop, looking completely out of place. The owner perhaps? I was somewhat tempted to follow Pat and keep him out of trouble. I shook my head as I noticed James standing next to a man who was probably the shopkeeper by the uniform. The altercation was over, and I knew Peterson would be able to cuff the man on the ground easily enough without me. James seemed to have the man on the ground secured. Still, this was the scene of the crime, and the person in the hoodie had never injured an officer.

Wanting to hear what James’ story was now, I parked behind Peterson’s car. Peterson was already frisking the robber and had a firearm off the man.

“James, right? This just isn’t your lucky day, is it.” I stated. “Any idea who that guy in the red hoodie was, James?”

He shook his head and said, “Not a clue, sir. The whole thing happened in a flash. One moment, the robber there was stepping out of the store, and the next moment, the guy was taping up his hands.”

His blue eyes stared into mine, daring me to doubt him, but he seemed a bit nervous. Most people would be nervous this close to an armed robbery, but James didn’t seem to have a problem holding the man down.

“That’s what I saw too, sir.” claimed the shopkeeper.

Peterson had removed the robber from the scene as we were talking and came back.

“Would you mind showing Officer Peterson any surveillance footage you have?” I asked.

He nodded.

I waited for them to go inside before asking “Did you get a look at the guy in the red hoodie, James?”

“No, sir. Things happened too fast. Sorry. I was still mulling over what happened down the street when this fell in my lap. As you implied, this just isn’t my day.” he replied.

I nodded, though I still felt something was off about him, so I asked “You don’t really look like you’re from around here. Do you come this way often?”

“No. I just happened to be in the area today. I can’t imagine I’ll come this way again though. Things are a bit too wild for my tastes.” he explained.

Pulling out a card, I said, “Well, here’s my card. Give me a call if you remember anything else. Oh, and I didn’t get your address earlier. Mind writing it down for me?” I asked. I handed over my notepad with a pen. There was something about James that made me feel he was a good kid, but I really wanted to know how he ended up here today.

When he handed back my notepad, I looked to find he had written down an address. If he actually lived at the address, his parents had to be well off. I couldn’t afford to live in Naperhill.

“Thanks again, James. Take care of yourself.” I told him.

To my surprise, he crossed the street and hopped into the DB5. Where was the driver? Was the car his? If so, who was he? I quickly wrote down the license plate. Then I did a search on my phone for the price of his car. My jaw dropped. Who was he?

After I helped Peterson wrap things up, I ran James’ license plate. He was the registered owner. I called in my lunch break and looked up James’ name online. Turned out that he owns a business called Best Friend For Hire. If someone from the triangle had hired him, there was dirty money involved. Some of the suggested rates listed on Best Friend For Hire’s website were up there, especially for James himself.

My phone rang before I could look at anymore. I didn’t recognize the number but answered. As the Superintendent of Police announced himself, explained that he was informed I ran James’ plate, and directly ordered me to drop any investigation into James Michael Somerset III, I found myself wondering yet again who that kid is. He certainly had friends in high places.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 193

“Let us off here.” I ordered, not wanting to get too close to the triangle yet. Turning to James, I said, “I know Mila can take care of herself, but we’d stick out like a sore thumb in such a fancy car. Probably should do something about your clothing as well.”

James nodded, but seemed lost in thought. Then he shivered as if the cold just cut through his clothes.

“Oh! If you’re cold, we can get you a hoodie like mine. No offense, but even your hair is a bit too clean cut for this area.” I warned him.

“So says the girl with perfect white hair and skin.” he teased.

Grinning, I said, “Thank you! You wouldn’t believe how paranoid I’ve been about it lately. Everyone at your place is so beautiful. I sometimes wonder if you even notice me.”

I hadn’t meant to admit quite that much, but I was flying high on James’ compliment.

“There is a thrift shop just ahead on the right, master, if you do wish to change.” stated Mila as she displayed text for me to read. She also displayed a map for us, showing where we were and the simple path to take. “I’ll remain here and care for anything you wish to take off.”

“Okay. Thank you, Mila.” replied James just before stepping out.

If he said anything else, she didn’t show me, so I quickly hopped out of the car to follow him. His long strides carried him quickly ahead, but I kept up easily enough, half-jogging at times to close the gap.

I knew this store, having passed it numerous times. A sense of nostalgia swept of me as I looked around. Not so long ago, I came to stores like this relatively often, needing the cheapest clothes I could get when my clothes were too badly damaged to patch up.

“Oh! Try this on!” I exclaimed, noticing a very colorful, Hawaiian-style shirt. I didn’t really want James to buy it, but I wanted to see him in it.

He agreed, sliding the shirt over his own before looking in the mirror.

I grinned as I watched him. He looked so ridiculous. “I think that might make you stick out even worse!” I teased, helping him out of the shirt.

I found several more obnoxiously bright shirts for him to try, and I love how he smiled as he tried each. He seemed to be enjoying himself. Then he found a gigantic, black hoodie. I wondered how wide the previous owner was when the hoodie hung loosely on James.

“I’ll just get this.” he told me as he examined himself.

I wanted to stop him, suggesting anything else to have a bit more fun, but I shrugged instead. The hoodie hid his expensive shirt and hung low enough to cover the brand of his jeans. If he was happy with how he looked, I couldn’t argue.

“Let’s just hope no one looks too hard at your feet. Since I don’t recognize that brand, it’s gotta be expensive.” I cautioned.

James smiled and shrugged. He knew what his clothes were like. As I walked toward the triangle, he followed. I tried thinking of something to say, but he started texting before I managed to come up with something he’d find interesting. When he looked up again, he seemed startled, glancing over his shoulder and back in front of him quickly. I walked ahead, glancing back to make sure he was following again. He was.

How did this place look to James? He lived in such an enormous, well-kept house in a beautiful neighborhood. What did he think of people who lived like this? Did he realize that an area similar to this is where he would have found me a year ago?

I stopped, glancing back at him as he tapped my shoulder.

Pointing, he said, “I just heard glass break. I think from over there.”

I nodded. I would have glanced down the alley anyway, but now I knew someone was probably there. I frowned and turned down the alley after seeing a large man on the ground. James fell behind when I turned off, but he hurried to catch up now. I quickly moved to catch him as he slipped.

Seeing that the man was still breathing, I started feeling the man’s pockets, looking for a wallet. James tapped my shoulder again, so I turned toward him.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Finding out where he lives.” I replied. “How else are we going to get him home?”

“But what if he’s injured? Should we get him to a hospital?” asked James as I pulled a wallet from the guy’s back pocket.

“Most of the people in this area don’t want to end up in a hospital for anything minor. He probably just slipped like you. Can’t you smell the alcohol?” I asked.

There was even part of a bottle still in the man’s hand. Having seen his address on the ID in the wallet, I slipped Louis’ wallet back into his pocket and lifted him up. James looked surprised.

“Care to give me a hand?” I asked him.

He nodded and hunched down to put Louis’ arm over his shoulders as I had done. James struggled a bit as we walked the block, readjusting his position several times. Being that tall apparently was a disadvantage at times like this.

When we reached the right address, I knocked on the door. An older woman answered the door, probably Louis’ grandmother.

“Oh! What happened to my Louis?” she asked.

I glanced over to James, but he was already talking. I couldn’t really see what he was saying past Louis.

The woman shook her head, looking glum as she looked at Louis. What had James told her?

Motioning to follow her, she said, “Well, get him in here. Good Lord knows we don’t want the neigh-…”

I had no idea what she was saying now that her back was to us, but I followed till she stopped and pointed at the couch. I followed James’ lead positioning Louis on the couch. A young boy came running into the room, staring at Louis the moment he was in the room.

“Is he dead?” asked the boy.

I shook my head as the lady seemed to be saying something.

Turning to us, she then said, “Well, you two sit right there, and I’ll dish you up some pie. Louis will want to thank you when he comes around.”

I nodded and took a seat, not wanting to offend her. I tried not to laugh when I noticed how uncomfortable James seemed. Had he ever been in a house this small? I wondered what he would have done if the place wasn’t as well-kept, somewhat of a rarity in neighborhoods like this.

The lady came back with two plates and handed me one, saying, “Here you are. Now I baked that myself. Bought…” She turned to walk around over to James, leaving me clueless as to what she was saying. She smiled wide after giving James his plate. Looking surprised, she said, “Oh, heavens, I forgot to introduce myself. My name’s Edna. Now who might you be?”

“James. Meeting you is a pleasure.” he told her, holding up his hand to shake.

I quickly set down my plate as Louis moved. Standing and touching his shoulder, I said, “Easy. You hit your head.”

He stared up at me and said, “Are you an angel?”

I smiled, having had this happen before. “You’re home.” I assured him.

“Gran-gran?” he asked.

I turned to see if she responded.

“Who else would be in our house taking care of our guests?” she asked.

I backed up, so I could see them both more easily.

“What happened? Who are you two?” he asked.

“Sorry. I’m James.” replied James, holding out his hand again.

“I’m Portentia. We found you in the alley back there.” I explained.

“Alley?” he asked.

“You drunk fool.” stated Edna.

“Drunk? Nah, gran-gran. I was buying you more eye medicine. Smell my breath.” he told her.

“I can smell you from here.” she stated.

James quickly said, “He was on top of a shattered bottle.”

“I didn’t smell anything on his breath.” I assured her.

“Oh. Now that’s a good boy. You sit there, and I’ll get you a slice of pie.” she told him.

“Thanks for getting me back. Sorry if gran-gran’s pushing you around.” he told us. Looking to the door, he said, “What kind of question is that? Boy, you better learn yourself some manners!”

I looked to the doorway to see the young boy smiling.

“Portentia’s deaf. That’s why she often signs thing as she speaks.” explained James.

“Care to learn something?” I asked.

He grinned at me and said, “Sure!”

Demonstrating as I spoke, I told him “This is how you say ‘grandmother’ in sign language.”

“My word, aren’t you just precious.” stated Edna as she walked in with Louis’ pie.

Not much later, James and I were playing board games with them. Edna insisted, saying that James and I might keep her grandsons honest. The game took quite a while and we all ended up in the poor farm, but James seemed to be having fun. Despite Louis wanting another game, James and I excused ourselves when Edna left for work. We had more to do out there!

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 192

The door opened as I reached for it. That sort of thing happened frequently around here when Mila was being helpful. I realized I was even luckier this time as I saw James. He was home!

“James, we have to talk!” I exclaimed, signing quickly as I spoke.

“What’s the matter?” he asked as he looked down to me.

He always made me feel so tiny next to him with his broad soldiers and greater than average height.

“The matter?” I asked. “What would be the matter? It’s not like I’ve been waiting two weeks for the date you promised only to find out that you went out with her instead as soon as you were free.”

Alma said something to him. She didn’t seem to be very happy either, running off with her incredible speed. I still wasn’t used to someone moving that fast.

“Umm… I think I hear my daddy…” started Aaliyah, turning before I could catch all of it. She had followed James and Alma inside. After a couple steps, she turned back to face me. Then she signed and said, “By the way, why are you in your hoodie?”

I fidgeted as I replied “Oh. I was getting frustrated waiting, and thought I might bump into James if I was out on patrol.”

“What happened to your other outfit?” she asked with wide-eyed innocence.

“I sorta lost part of it when Maxine hit me with a missile.” I explained.

She face-palmed before saying, “You’re not supposed to let missiles hit you, silly. If I were you, I’d ask Mila to print you a new outfit. See ya!”

New outfit!? I turned to James, grabbed his hands to get his attention, and asked “Was she being serious? Mila can do that?”

He shrugged said, “Mila ,are you capable of printing a superhero outfit for Portentia?”

Appearing on a nearby mirror, Mila signed as she said, “Oh, master. I would have no idea what you’re speaking about, though I do have a design in my database for Calamity’s outfit, strictly for cosplay purposes, of course. I think Portentia would be able to fit into it if she wished to cosplay as the city’s greatest superhero.”

James was saying something back to her, but he had turned to face her, blocking my sight. Oh! Mila was transcribing again.

“Are you saying she’s not the only one?” he had asked.

“If there are others, none have been successful enough to catch my attention, but I don’t claim to know everything.” she insisted.

I’d argue on her behalf. Mila certain seemed to know everything when asked. She wouldn’t always tell what she knew, but she knew.

“Please, get started with it!” I pleaded, nearly bouncing in my excitement. “I’ll put off going on patrol until after my date with James.”

I never dreamed getting a new outfit could be that easy. If only they could be as durable as me. Noticing Mila frowning, I felt a moment of unease.

“As you wish, but don’t let the master forget he still owes me a date as well, though I’m not quite ready for it.” she insisted.

I snapped my mouth shut, realizing it had dropped open. Then I turned to James and asked “You’re going on a date with Mila? James, why didn’t you tell me!?”

He seemed to be thinking too hard about what to say.

“Ugh. Now I’ll really have to show you that I’m more fun.” I insisted, grabbing his hand and pulling him back through the door.

Was I though? Mila was incredible. She was beyond incredible. I had no doubts she’d come up with some incredible date specifically designed for their needs.

James tugged back, so I stopped and looked at him.

“Are you sure you want to do this right now?” he asked. “I’m not entirely certain that I’m even done babysitting Aaliyah for the day.”

He quickly pulled out his phone to check.

I said, “She’s gone, so you must be. I have to grab you before you promise ten other girls dates before me. You’re not forgiven for giving Alma a date first.”

“Actually, I owed Alma a dress, since one of hers was ruined when she was helping me.” he stated.

I stared up into his eyes. He seemed to be perfectly sincere… When he wasn’t teasing someone, he was usually sincere. He was a good person.

Grinning, I said, “Sorry! I should’ve known better than to have doubted you. I’m still questioning this date with Mila. How is that even supposed to work?” I couldn’t get past the part where Mila was stuck in mirrors and phones.

He shrugged and told me “I have no idea, but she cornered me into it. Mila’s extremely bright.”

I nodded and pulled him forward again. “I know!” I assured him. “I’ve spent enough time watching Jarod and her talk to realize that they’re amazing.”

“So… what do you do with Jarod?” he asked, trying to be casual.

Was he jealous? I tried not to grin as I said, “Just hang out and talk about ways to stop Maxine, really. I’m not into him, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Why are we walking?” he suddenly asked.

“Sorry. Are you cold?” I inquired. “I can’t really help with that. I don’t get cold, so I generally don’t think about it.”

“No. I dressed for the weather when I left this morning. I merely meant that we could be taking my car.” he explained.

“I don’t have one of those either, so that’s not the first thing that comes to mind. I have borrowed Mila a few times when she’s free. You don’t mind, do you?” I asked, feeling embarrassed by asking after the fact. Mila always seemed fine with the idea, and she was actually reliable, unlike most cars.

James laughed and said, “No, not at all. She needs to be kept entertained, so she doesn’t end up finding trouble.”

I found myself wondering if Mila’s idea of a date involved her using the car to be out with James, but I quickly said, “Thank you! You wouldn’t believe how difficult hiding the fist off maxine’s machine was. If not for Mila, I wouldn’t have managed getting it all the way here.”

James put his phone to his ear and said, “Mila, could you give us a lift?” After a moment, he looked down to me and said, “Mila’s bringing the car.”

I nodded and said, “I know. I was watching.”

Mila would never turn James down. Her admiration of him was obvious whenever we talked about him. She could seem so… human. I found myself wondering again what I was. I never really had this problem before. Meeting Alma changed things. She forced me to consider that I might not really be human. Most people certainly couldn’t keep up with me, and they certainly didn’t heal as I do.

James waved to get my attention before asking “So what do you have planned for this date of ours?”

“Huh?” I asked, blinking. “You don’t have anything planned?”

He sighed before saying, “Of course not. I didn’t realize we were doing this today.

I shrugged and admitted “I guess I just thought you’d have done some planning already. You had two weeks. Don’t worry though. Let’s just go down to the triangle and roam around.”

“Sorry, but I’m not familiar with that area. What’s ‘the triangle’?” he asked.

“It’s a bit of a slum, really. I’ve been trying to clean up the streets some now that Maxine’s not keeping me busy. Since you don’t have plans for us, I figure we might as well check if anyone needs some help today.” I explained.

He nodded and seemed to get lost in thought again, standing there silently. He never seemed to understand how incredibly handsome he was. One way or another, I was going to show him a good time.