Living with Spirit Girl
It was not my job to wash clothes. I however would start them washing just because my sister would gripe and complain about not having time for her chores until there was no time to do the laundry. What made the situation worse was that with five people the laundry basket filled up rather quickly. Father had promised me that if I would just get the clothes started, he would ride Wendy to do her chores. As the youngest, I did have the lightest set of duties, so accepted what I considered really a simple assignment. What Wendy however felt a need to complain about today was finding Arraelly’s clothes in the load.
It surprised me to find our mother speaking in favor of Arraelly. “Now, Wendy, there is no problem with Blake having a girlfriend, and everyone is saying that she is a nice person.” She then turned to me to say, “But, really, Blake, if we are doing her clothes then you need to bring her over for supper one day so we can meet her properly.”
I found myself left out of the argument as Wendy replied, “And when is that going to happen? You and dad are constantly working.”
I picked up Arraelly’s clothes as Wendy and mother went into a useless debate about work schedules. While my sister had a point, she tended to stay at her job then leave with friends, which had her seldom at home as well. As I turned to sneak away and go to my room, I gasped sensing Arraelly return to me. As had happened before, she must have pushed her limit. My reaction to her however had my mother and Wendy turn their attention upon me.
Mother said, “Blake, I don’t want you staying up late if this is the effect it will have on you.”
I replied, “I’ll be all right once the day gets going.”
Wendy had to ask, “What are you and this Arraelly doing?”
“Arraelly spars with Fernando Freight Train.”
“Fernando Freight Train? The one they are advertising is to go into the cage this coming weekend?”
Mother said, “That is what I am told by your father and Felix.”
“And just how big is this Arraelly if she is sparring with Fernando Freight Train?”
I answered by saying, “You were looking at her clothes.”
Wendy reached and grabbed the clothes out of my hands, then shook them out before saying, “She is not that big.”
“She uses her feet and is quick. Fernando isn’t a boxer. He has to prepare himself for any style of combat.”
Mother said, “That would be true, Wendy.”
Wendy returned the clothes, actually folding them first, while saying, “Mother’s right, Blake. You need to introduce us to this Arraelly.”
Just then Felix yelled for me. Wondering what would be the problem this time, I went to see my brother at the front door. Thinking that Officer Tarkenton wanted to speak to me some more, I approached to instead see Mr. Tork, Dorothy’s father.
After a polite greeting, he said, “Blake, I have come to invite you and Arraelly to supper tonight. Dorothy says that I should only invite one or the other, but I want you to know that both of you are invited.”
I looked back to see mother standing there watching, and she said, “Go ahead, Blake. I’m not cooking anything special.”
Mr. Tork said, “I believe that my wife is, but it is Japanese. Can you use chopsticks, Blake?”
I answered, “I can learn.”
“I will be glad to teach you. See you around six, or at least before seven.”
I thanked the man, and my mother did as well. She stepped up to close the door. She then held me in a manner that I knew meant she had something to say to me.
“I guess that I am going to have to agree with your father, Blake. You are involved in something, but it seems to be good. If Wendy or Felix had police and adults coming over, it would not be for friendly conversations or invitations to supper. Go finish getting ready for school. Just, if you can, I would like to hear the whole story.”
“That might happen, as the gorilla escaped. Thus, Arraelly’s job is not over.”
Feeling that I needed to tell my mother something, I told her what Arraelly always said in introducing herself. “Officer S4 Arraelly Fortauber. She’s a cop, Mom. She doesn’t look it, but she is old. She however is very nice.”
“Felix said that she looked really cute. Where does she stay, Blake?”
“That is the complicated part, Mother. If I have to explain anything to you, that will be it.”
“She’s not living in our attic, is she?”
I considered that a strange conclusion to make, since I had never been in the attic. “No.”
“Okay, Blake, whatever. Go get to school. Just, if this thing begins to turn bad, you better come to me or your father first. Officer Tarkenton coming to just speak to you, and Usara inviting you to supper is one thing, but I better not have people wanting to accuse you of things without first confessing to your parents.”
“And I would like to meet Arraelly.”
“Good, now go.”
As with the last times Arraelly stayed up late, I did not feel as if I had lost sleep. What I felt like was like the first time she went off searching for the location of the criminals. Since that is what she told me she was going to do, I accepted that as the explanation for how I felt. Wanting the strength should something else happen in the day, I calmly headed to school to conserve my strength until I no longer felt affected by the return of Arraelly.
I spent time in class doing my assignment and checking my notes instead of seeking duties that would allow me to wander about the school. Going outside for lunch, I consider shooting hoops with some students out the basketball court. As active as Arraelly seemed to be, I felt it best if I spent time doing something besides playing on the computer or game system. It was as I went to my friends to eat lunch with them that I felt Arraelly in my mind.
She said, “I need to learn your language, I mean written language. I don’t even know your numbers.”
I managed to find a way to whisper, “You are in math class with me, and do not know the numbers?”
“Yes, Blake, fault mine. It is however time to bring me up to speed.”
“After we eat, Arraelly.”
“No problem, Blake. You do what you need to do.”
The school was serving a simple soup. I thought of my mother and Wendy who would usually just scoop out some broth while mostly eating a salad. The men in the house usually devoured the soup barely eating any of the salad. I saw Dorothy accept a bowl of fruit from the school lunch ladies, and moved to get the same for myself.
When Tim called attention to me basically ignoring the soup, I replied that I wanted a little more variety in my diet to sustain my double life. Justus spoke of calling a salad rabbit food, or girl food, and that latter reference bothered me. Arraelly did share my body, so she probably would eat more salad. While I did want to support her, I also did not want to stop being who I was. I however did like Arraelly, so felt I could do some things that would better accommodate her. I thus ate the bowl of fruit along with the soup feeling that the combination would be better for me.
As I moved, I heard Arraelly say, “You don’t have to do things for me.”
“Yes, I do. I will take care of you, Arraelly. You’re a girl, and taking care of girls is part of being a man.”
“You’re doing a fine job, Blake.”
That was not the response I expected. Wendy or mother would let me know that they could take care of themselves. Father would however then point out how they would come to us men to do certain jobs. Instead of me having to respond to defend my statement, Arraelly however did not argue with me.
I brought up another topic. “Mr. Tork invited us to supper. There is no way we can both go.”
“No, as it would be impolite to sit at the table and not eat. You go, Blake. I can appear if I need to. Might go with you to properly excuse myself. They did seem to be rather formal people.”
Wanting to explain things to Arraelly as they were explained to me, I said, “Mr. Tork works at a bank, and helps people with their taxes. He says that one has to be proper and accurate at all times.”
“And Dorothy is your friend. So, you go, Blake.”
“She gave you the clothes, Arraelly.”
“She did it because of her friendship with you, Blake. You go.”
Just because I considered Arraelly a friend, I said, “Mrs. Tork can make good food.”
“I am not accustomed to your eating routines or choices in taste. Allow me the body long enough to make myself presentable, and you can go. If you carry the brooch, I can become substantial enough to make an appearance.”
That was a plan, so I changed the subject to teaching Arraelly about our written language. She had trouble with our numbers, because they did not seem to relate to their value. She showed me that her people used a type of tally system for their numbers. I however felt their system got a little confusing since their numbers went up to fifteen, as the symbols for numbers over ten tended to look very similar. We then spent time figuring out how Arraelly should spell her name. A straight phonetic spelling did not have me pronounce it right, since there were two sounds for the letter A. While she did not like adding the E after the second A, I assured her that it would have people pronounce her name correctly. Since I had classes, I had only limited time at school. Coming home, I felt freer to work with Arraelly in practicing with our written language.
Arraelly had become substantial to work a pen while practicing with the letters, so smiled as she said, “It is nice to meet you, Mrs. Manwell.”
I had not noticed mother entering the room, but was pleased with her gracious reply. “It is nice to meet you, Officer S4 Arraelly Fortaubin.” I believe mother noticed something in the not-quite-real handshake, but was too polite to say anything. “I assume that Blake contacted you to let you know of the supper invitation at the Torks.”
“Yes, then I had Blake help me with some things of your culture that I had not yet fully learned. He is quite smart.”
“Where are you from, Arraelly?”
“We call it Spothazin. It’s a long way from here. I however am enjoying the visit.”
I felt mother was about to cause trouble as she said, “Well, we usually do not involve the children when we visit other countries.”
“I don’t like it either, Mrs. Manwell. This is a very unusual circumstance. Attempting to resolve it is a priority, I assure you. Blake is however handling things very well.”
“He’s a good son. I am proud of him.”
“You should be, as I am proud to have come to know him.”
Again I felt mother was trying to cause trouble for Arraelly as she said, “Blake said that you were old, but you do not look old.”
“A blessing I take no credit for. I however assure you that I am much older than Blake. I served time in my military, and advanced through the police skill ranks in the proper manner. I am S4 because I earned the rank, and have managed to retain that status for four years through a number of successes. If I take Blake from you, it will only be to introduce to other ladies his age while I seek men of my age.”
I felt relief as mother said, “Dororthy Tork is a good girl.”
“I have enjoyed spending time with her and her family. I hope to have another pleasant experience tonight.”
“Yes, have fun.”
Mother told me that she noticed I had been weeding the plants. She said that she only came into my room to thank me for not having to scold me even with all the other things on my mind. She then again spoke of her pleasure in meeting Arraelly, before closing the door.
I breathed a sigh of relief and said, “That went well. Mother can be a bitch at times.”
Arraelly giggled before replying, “You have a good family, Blake. Honestly, after I get Lorither dealt with, I will work on restoring you. You have too good of a life for me to spoil it for you.”
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