Trust Malik to start his birthday by taking a nap, Lor thought, shaking his head. He’d only just woken up! Still, start as you mean to go on, and Mal would almost certainly go on like this. At least they all knew not to wake him.
The doorbell rang, and everyone panicked. After a few seconds of frantic but silent hand gestures, Leo ran to the door before the bell could sound again. Crisis averted.
“Yaritza? You’re so tall!” Leo said, staring up at the teen in awe.
“Yaritza?” Al mouthed at his papa, putting down his plate and quickly throwing on his disguise. Leo was doing his best to keep the conversation outside, but there was only so long he could do so without seeming suspicious. When Al walked up behind him, fully sim-ified, it was a huge relief. Maybe his dad had the right idea – a nap sounded wonderful right about now.
Al was gobsmacked. It was so strange to see her so grown up. Would she still want to be his friend, or would she find him too childish?
She flicked him on the nose.
“Hey, cheer up. I’m still the same person. I brought my Llamawoman doll with me and everything.”
Al followed her out of the room, leaving his papa asleep on the sofa. Maybe growing up wasn’t such a big deal after all.
This was the best. His brother and sister were happy, his friend was over and there would be cake later. Al had never been happier in his life. He felt like he could just… glow.
He looked over at Leo questioningly. What could possibly be wrong now? Leo pointed at him and mouthed “look”.
Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no oh NO!
He ran out of the room at top speed, ignoring the calls for him to come back. He turned and ran into the kitchen, grabbing on to Lor’s legs, almost pushing him over. Lor cried out in surprise, but it turned to concern as he noticed that Al was trembling. His eyes were shut tight.
“Al? What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
“She saw me.”
Lor raised an eyebrow. He couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The disguise was still intact, and other than the damp cheeks and red eyes Al looked no different to any other time he’d been around his friend. “What do you mean?”
“I was really happy, and I started glowing. She knows, papa. She knows.”
Ah. Lor knelt down and hugged his son, wiping his eyes dry with his sleeve. “Did she get angry?”
“Did she seem upset at all?”
“No, but…” he trailed off. But what?
Lor stood up and went back to mixing the cake batter. “She won’t judge you, Al. If she had any problems with us, we would have found out well before now. In a way, isn’t it better that she finds out now?”
Altair looked over at the room. It was quiet now, but he had never been so scared as he was walking up to that door.
She closed the tab and turned to look at him. “I didn’t want to come after you – I thought it might scare you away.”
“Thank you. I… I’m sorry.”
“For lying to you.”
“Al. I’ve known about you from the start.”
“I’ve grown up with a scientist for a mother. I know that any child of an abduction is a full sixan, and from the moment you told me you weren’t adopted I knew you were one, too.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I thought that there must be a reason you were hiding, and that you didn’t want me to know. Was I right?”
“Well, yes” Al said, his mind reeling. She’d known all that time, and yet she’d still been his friend?
“So, can I see?”
“What you really look like. If it makes it easier, I won’t watch.”
“Why would that make it easier?”
“I’m not watching~” she sang, turning around and closing her eyes.
Al shrugged. Well, there was no point hiding it now.
“Ok, you can open your eyes.”
She did, a wide grin splitting her face. “See, isn’t this better?”
“Yeah. It is” he said, grinning back. He started glowing again, this time recognising the sensation as it crept along his skin.
“So, are you going to stay like this?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you going to stop wearing your disguise? You’re obviously more comfortable without it.”
Al looked down at his feet. “No” he whispered.
Yaritza frowned. “Why not?”
He wanted to be brave, especially in front of her, but he wouldn’t lie for such a shallow reason. “I’m scared.”
There. No more lies.