To Aid And Abet
Chapter 1: A Pet Bird Named Sam
Back in her childhood home, Emilia had owned a pet bird which she named Sam. Sam had been a parrot, a small but colorful bird that looked at the world with wide eyes and would get excited whenever someone came through the door. Even more when that someone was new to Sam. Sam had been very open about people. He would always say: “Hello Friend, Welcome To Mimiville!” when someone came in.
Even when her parents came in, shouting at her, even when her siblings kicked the door open, even when she was mad at the world and came in stomping to her bed. It was always the same old greeting.
“Hello Friend, Welcome To Mimiville!”
There had been times when she’d grown so mad at the little guy. Mad for something she taught him. She’d always told him to say that word, given him food when he did. Always, she would go: “Hello Friend.”
And he would answer.
Emilia sighed, looking up at the Amazon. The woman had overdone her make-up, wore a dress that seemed specifically designed to show off what Amazons thought to define power. She even wore goddamn heels. Why would an Amazon even need those? Was she so afraid of not reaching top shelves?
Emilia wondered if there were blisters on her feet.
The Amazon herself checked something off on her tablet, nodded.
“All looks in order. To think that you lived in a house like this…”
The way she puckered those lips, as if to taunt Emilia, as if to say that all that was something she could never have. She hated Amazons, she hated them with a passion. Still, she looked at the room of her childhood, emptied out and in new, plain white color.
“I mean, the stairs alone…”
And that’s where she went. Of course that’s what she fucking meant. The stairs, her eyes showed worry. She had attempted to take Emilia’s hand at the start of it, to take her through the house and “make sure” she didn’t fall. She even said on the phone that this would be an exciting an adventure.
“I don’t know what you mean. The stairs are fine, you got up no problem. As a matter of fact, everything is in peak condition. I just had the kitchen renovated, too. I’m sure you can give me a good price.”
The Amazon looked at her for a second.
“Well, I could. How about we grab some lunch. Somebody looks hungry.”
She was hungry. She hadn’t eaten any breakfast today, hadn’t drunken much either. This whole thing had kept her up through the night. None of her siblings had been there for the funeral and the only message she’d gotten was about the inheritance. They trusted Emilia to handle everything and just reap some coin from all the dealings. That and they knew that all the official channels were stacked with Amazons who would just love to snatch them up. Like fucking boogeymen.
Emilia shook her head.
“Thank you for the offer, but I have a meeting in an hour.”
She made sure the word was spoken clearly. This goddamn Amazon should know that she wasn’t dealing with some sad street rat that couldn’t fight back. She had a position of power, she was someone!
“Ah, alright, but you should eat something. You Littles need to watch yourselves.”
“Unlike you lot?”
“Hm?” The Amazon tilted her head, curious. “What was that?”
Emilia knew bait when she saw it. This Amazon was expecting a fight now, maybe had even planned for it. Was this one more lonely woman who wanted to have an adorable little goblin for a child instead of the actual thing? One more sad creature yearning for a thing they knew they would ever get the natural way?
“I mean that you care so much about others, you Amazons also tend to forget yourself. Did you eat today?”
The Amazon smiled at that comment.
“Of course, sweetie.”
Power dynamics could be a bitch. An independent Amazon was hard to intimidate, and, without anyone here, Emilia was sure picking a fight was a bad idea.
“Well. The house is in a good shape. I wouldn’t sell it to Littles though. This could easily work for Middles, or even Amazons.”
That! That was what Emilia had been hoping for. A sad truth of demographics was that Amazons could earn way more than Littles, so selling the house to some of them would prove more lucrative than other options.
“Yeah, it was made with Amazon specs in mind.”
So that they wouldn’t stand out, her father had always said. A paranoid man, grown demented and sick. He had decided to leave the world long before his time and no Amazon Doctor had decided to save him, unlike they did with the “cute” ones.
“This is what I mean, sweetie. I guess it’s a good decision of you to sell it. I wouldn’t trust a cute thing like you in such a big house, it must’ve been awfully scary.”
Emilia looked to the window with apple tree in front. She’d decided to sleep here while she was in town, but only lasted half a night. There were noises coming from around the house, though the Amazon wouldn’t believe her, probably. Her current apartment in the Hotel was way better.
“I grew up here. Why would it be scary?” She asked to deflect.
The Amazon, Emilia could see it in the predatory grin, in the hungry eyes, that she didn’t believe for a second. Heck, even if it was true, she’d still insist it was a lie. That’s how Amazons worked, the filthy gits.
“Well, that’s very brave,” she laughed. “I don’t think I could stay around such a big house on my own. But we’ll find people who will. You have such a lovely view, and garden, too. Good neighbourhood, too.”
“So we have a deal? Good, you have the contact of my secretary?”
“The phone number? Yes, I have your… secretary’s contact.”
Emilia didn’t like the way she said the word. Like it was some sort of special game terminology. Still, she pressed on.
“Alright, she’ll handle the rest. I just wanted to show you around and make sure we get this thing rolling. Now, I’m still busy so we’ll have to cut this short…”
The Amazon nodded. There was one more exchange, some jabs at Emilia being a little that were clearly thought to be subtle and then the woman was gone and Emilia stood in the room of her childhood.
“Hello Friend. Welcome to Mimiville,” she muttered and sighed again. “God fucking dammit.”
Her hands ran along her cheeks, her fingers rubbed her eyes. She felt fatigued. This had been one drawn-out experience and exercise in both futility and condescendence.
“Fucking Amazons. Fuck. Fuck!”
She shouted into her hands. From the doctors, the morticians, the lawyers to the fucking broker nobody seemed to care that her mother was gone from this world. No, she was just one more animal in the corner. Small ,alone, helpless. She felt herself shaking. She had wanted to punch this woman so bad. It was hard to hold back the tears.
She stomped her foot, shook her head.
“Calm down, Emilia Barbara Berger, you are above this,” she told herself. She was hungry and hungry meant moody.
This could not stand. She needed to get to a restaurant, so she looked to the window. It was too high up for her to look through. Always had been. The window of her childhood. She’d loved climbing on the sill and watch the world. Once this big, immense world had seemed so wonderful to her.
Back when she had a pet bird named Sam. [HR][/HR]
Leaving the house behind, she went through the garden towards the gate, where two cars stood parked. The broker stood there, her smile broken as she clutched her tablet. And then there was Mary, who stood there in her new suit and sneakers, those damn sneakers, her afro moving with her head. Compared to the other Amazon, Mary was smaller, skinnier, less impressive, and yet she made the other uneasy.
They parted with a handshake and the broker went over to her car, grumbling. Mary, seeing Emilia approach, bowed her head.
“Sorry, boss, I told her to treat you more respectfully.”
Emilia sighed. “It’s fine, we could’ve done a lot worse.”
“She said the house will fetch a good price. Do you want me to–”
“Yeah, and get it done soon. I just need to see the money,” Emilia answered casually, turning around again. One last look at the home of her childhood.
Mary leaned against the fence.
“It looks like one of those houses from the movies. Y’know, one of those wholesome family pictures. It’s very romantic.”
Mary said, trying to sound poetic, probably. She always aimed for something and out came something different. Emilia looked at her. The dark-skinned woman with a strong preferrence towards green suits and sport shoes had a dreamy smile on her face. She was probably fantasizing about living in a home like this, even though it was very much out of her reach. Her job paid well, but not that well.
“Dad used to have all kinds of stuff in the garden. We had homemade salads so often I can’t even remember,” Emilia told her. “It was fairly wholesome for a little kid.”
Mary sighed. “Oh, you must’ve had a wonderful childhood.”
Emilia shrugged. “I came out well, I’d say.”
“I grew up in the city, I think I saw my first forest when I was eight or nine.”
“That’s a bit sad,” Emilia answered, leaning against the large fence now, too, pulling out a package of cigarettes.
“Do you want a light?”
“Nah, got one my…”
Yet Mary had lit the cigarette the moment it was in Emilia’s mouth. The girl felt her muscles tending, but Mary didn’t do anything else. She had simply lit her boss’ cigarette. Nothing more. You could say a lot about Amazons, but Mary was at least one smart enough to know where the line was. She wasn’t even fawning over littles being paraded around in public.
No, she was all quiet smiles and helpful adivice.
“Thanks,” Emilia said, taking a puff. “I’m missing this place already. Haven’t been here since I was fifteen, but still.”
“Fifteen? That’s an awfully young age to leave home.”
Emilia shrugged. “When you’re a Little, age is irrelevant. Most Amazons can’t tell the difference between a teen and an adult Little anyway.”
“I can very easily tell that you’re twenty-two and four months, ma’am.”
“You can tell because you wrote it down in your notebook, Mary.”
There was an awkward laugh above her. Mary hadn’t known that she knew about her notes.
She took the chance to really let the sight sink in. This would be her final visit and soon this would be someone else’s place. The final bits of her childhood left behind.
“How’s the hotel treating you, ma’am? I noticed you hadn’t taken your breakfast today.”
Emilia sighed. “I just was too nervous to eat. I want this all to work out.”
Mary nodded. “It will, just let me handle it and you can go back to business as usual.”
Let me handle it was a sort of mantra for Mary. Everything that wasn’t big company business she handled for Emilia, so she could focus on the important stuff. It worked out for both of them. Mary had become an invaluable asset to Emilia over the last year and Emilia’s constant fight against a board of Amazons had become far easier. She wasn’t as respected as some others, but at least to some agree accepted as a member, if not a valuable one.
“Yeah, let’s do that.”
“Alright, and, uh, I took the freedom to schedule us a table at a wonderful restaurant. The one you told me about, the…”
“Old Mill? That’s still around.”
“Yes, new owner but it has a good reputation.”
Emilia shrugged and put the cigarette to the ground.
“Alright, let’s try it. Anything to keep in mind?”
“They follow standard procedure concerning Littles now, but we should be fine.”
Mary didn’t say ‘because I’m around’, but the implication still annoyed Emilia. Mary insisted to call it bodyguard duty, since a Little walking about town might just end up getting adopted. Life was a rigged game for her kind, after all. The one benefit was that Mary didn’t abuse it. She still called her ma’am and when Emilia disagreed with any of her more liberal decisions she made an effort to revoke them and go more along her boss’ line. Few Amazons could stay professional if their boss was a little.
Hell, her last secretary had wanted to dress her up in a dress for a meeting and spiked her drinks, too.
“I checked online and the Little communities say you don’t actually even need a booster seat in the restaurant.”
“Oh?” Emilia was genuine surprised. Most tables were “Amazon-friendly”, which was just coded language for “Everybody who isn’t a friggin giant is fucked”.
“I know, right. I figured after the Austen Square thing I should actually look into that.”
Emilia nodded. That had been an embarrassment, but it could’ve gone so much worse if Mary hadn’t been there.
She looked one more time at her home.
“Fucking hate this…”
Mary laughed. “Well, maybe some steak’s gonna lift your mood, ma’am.” [HR][/HR]
It didn’t. Standard Procedure meant the world thought you were as capable as a toddler and Mary had to confirm with the waiter everytime that yes, she could have a normal fork and knife. No, she did not need a bib, and no, they did not need to know where the changing room was. It was an embarrassing tedium, being handed the children’s menu, having people talk over her, she was sure someone was asking about her own suit.
“Maybe you should try a different look, ma’am,” Mary offered once it had all settled down and the orders were made.
“A different look?”
“The fishtail with bangs is just making you look more…” Mary was silent for a few seconds, unable to say the word.
The Amazon nodded.
“You think that matters.”
“It would, yes.”
“They’d see me as a child pretending to be an Amazon.”
Mary, after a moment, nodded to that. “Sure, but, they might give you more respect. I mean, now they think…”
“That you dressed me?”
Mary’s eyes sunk to observe the table. Emilia sighed.
“I don’t care about them. I’m accomplished, I have a job, a life, a lover,” Emilia laughed at that. “I have everything they want a Little to not have, and I do it while combining Minnie Mouse socks and bangs with a business suit and a secretary. I like that they need to justify my existence, that they need to talk. It means I won the game you Amazons created. I won it hard.”
The woman nodded at the explanation.
“It’s good that you feel that way, ma’am. It’s, well, it’s fun working for you, even though people don’t like me being a subordinate to a Little. But it’s challenging work and I’m grateful to you for having me.”
Emilia felt herself blushing, butterflies rising in her stomach. With her mother dying and coming to sell the house, this entire trip had felt horrible, so finally having a moment for herself and Mary just validating her made her feel kind of giddy. It was just a biological thing, she told herself, that getting told that she was good by an Amazon and feeling feelings because of it was out of her control. That made things easier.
Their food came. Emilia had taken fish fingers with french fries. The ugly truth was that child menus were all she could really eat since the stuff on the adult card, or Amazon card, tended to be either too spicy or too sour. It’s like these people needed vinegar on everything. And no sugar. Honestly, Amazons were so strange in their tastes. So, despite the difference in presentation, the fact that they called her food “fun” and gave her a little toy doll as a gift, the waitress calling her adorable in her suit, she just swallowed it down and enjoyed the food, as did Mary.
“So, uh, ma’am. I wanted to ask you for a while now, but you’re always so quiet when people come over to gush at you?”
One year and Mary had never dared to ask her questions like this. Emilia raised an eyebrow as she put a fish finger into the dip and then proceeded to chew on it. After swallowing, she answered.
“I had a pet bird named Sam.”
“He always said the same thing when someone came into my room. One day, when I came home, I found my brother trying to strangle the bird, I don’t even remember why. I think he just wanted to see if he could. Either way, Sam, in his final moments, looked to me and said: Hello Friend, welcome to Mimiville.”
Mary stared at her for a moment.
“That’s just an incredibly creepy non-sequitur ma’am. And I didn’t know your brother was such a dingus.”
Emilia shrugged. “I think it answers everything.”
She smiled as the waiter came to refill their drinks. “Thank you.”
Mary looked at her as she turned back to her.
“Y’know, just whatever happens, it’s always: Hello Friend and welcome to Mimiville.”