29. Family
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Lily and I talked a while more, we ended up sitting together on her sofa as we ironed out some more details and stuff between the two of us.

As far as I was concerned, the whole thing could have gone two ways.

I could have gotten bent out of shape about her hiding details from me and trying to manipulate my emotions a few weeks ago. I could have been resentful and angry, and the two of us could have spent the rest of our life fighting and arguing and hating each other.

I could have abused her true name to try and control and oppress her, and she could have used her magic and power to try and corrupt and manipulate me. And our life would have absolutely sucked.

That wasn't what I wanted at all. I wanted it to go the other way. I wanted us to be friends, to get along, and to be happy living and existing together.

So I embraced my demon, literally and metaphorically. I kind of guessed that she'd never really experienced this sort of thing before, like friendship and forgiveness. So I understood it was new to her and she was suspicious of me because of how humans treated her in the past.

It was sort of funny in a way, but I thought of this huge powerful ancient demon like an anxious feral kitty or something. She'd been burned by humans before so of course she had trust issues, of course she did what she thought was necessary to look after herself. I wanted her to feel comfortable and safe with me, and to know I wasn't going to turn on her.

So I forgave her for trying to manipulate me, and the two of us kind of worked out a new interpretation on our pact.

Lily promised not to keep me in the dark about anything else, she wouldn't try and half-truth her way out of anything. I promised not to abuse her true name. We both promised to get along. We hugged again, and I gave her a kiss which left her a complete flustered adorable mess for a little while.

In the end, we were both able to relax, my good mood came back, and the two of us put the whole thing behind us.

That was all two days ago. Now it was half past eleven, Sunday morning. Me and my mom and Melissa were all in mom's car, heading out for brunch together. All three of us were in a good mood, we all felt like celebrating.

For mom, we were celebrating her retirement. She worked her final shift at the restaurant last night, now she was free. Melissa was excited because her transformation was finished by the time she woke up yesterday morning. Me and her went shopping yesterday afternoon and got her some more clothes. And I was happy for both mom and Melissa. Plus I was still feeling good about sorting things out with Lily.

Mom took us to a slightly posh place, or at least I thought it was kind of posh. The three of us were quickly seated in a nice booth, with me and Melissa together on one side and mom on the other side facing us. We all spent a few minutes looking at our menus before we placed our orders.

Mom and Melissa got coffee while I got some juice. As we sipped our drinks and waited for the food, mom sort of quietly stared at both me and Melissa. I could almost guess what she was thinking based on her expression.

We were two days away from the one-month anniversary of when all this began. A month ago she'd have been looking at two tall quiet occasionally-moody socially-awkward guys. Or more likely, I'd have been sitting next to mom and my best friend would be seated across from us, because we were too self-conscious to sit too close to each other.

Now I was a cute petite girl with dusky skin, dark eyes, and long jet-black hair. I was wearing a pretty black dress and my low-heeled shoes, and had some dark make-up on. I was almost always smiling, I was more outgoing than before, and I was definitely a lot happier than I ever was in the past. And I was bound to an ancient supernatural being who had magical powers.

In some ways Melissa had changed even more than me. She was still tall, but she was slim, busty, blonde, and beautiful. She had long wavy sunny blonde hair. Her bright blue eyes sparkled, and her face was gorgeous. She was wearing a tight pink tank-top with a deep scoop-neck that showed off a lot of cleavage. She was also wearing a short pink skirt with a floral pattern, and she had white high-heeled sandals on her feet. Her make-up was bright and colourful, which suited her personality. Where I was cheerful, Melissa was positively bubbly.

One thing that you couldn't tell by looking at her was she was just as smart as she ever was. That kind of worried me at first, like I was almost scared she was actually turning into a bimbo or something. Between her looks and her bubbly personality and the way she'd started acting a bit ditzy now and then, it was kind of easy to assume she didn't have much going on upstairs.

I was happy though when she told me yesterday it was all just an act. She was every bit as intelligent as before, and I had no doubt when we started college she'd be getting As and Bs again like usual while I'd still be down in the D's.

And as for the two of us together, we still weren't girlfriends even though we spent almost every night this past week sharing my bed.

For most of the week we were just together for comfort and cuddling. Last night though we went well beyond cuddling. It was even better than our first time together, and a whole lot hotter. However, we both continued to agree about not looking for romance with each other. We were best friends with benefits, and that seemed to suit the two of us just fine.

Eventually I emerged from my little reverie and realized mom was still staring at me and Melissa. I finally asked her, "Hey mom? Is everything ok?"

She gave me a quick smile, "Yes Mara. I was just reflecting again on how much our lives have changed in the past month."

I had a sort of hopeful smile on my face as I asked, "It's ok though right? I mean, I know there were some really rough spots for all three of us. Like me dying, dad showing up then dying, and Melissa's folks being jerks. But that's all behind us now. And I think things are looking good for the future, for all three of us?"

After a moment I corrected myself, "It's looking good for all four of us. I don't want Lily to feel left out. She's here too even if she doesn't get her own seat at the table. And things are looking up for her too."

Mom grimaced slightly, she still wasn't entirely comfortable with Lily. And she didn't even know Lily was a demon.

Melissa spoke up, she was grinning happily as she replied "Yeah I totally agree Mara! I'm excited for the future and I'm super happy with how things have turned out! And I'm really, really grateful for both of you, Mara and Ms. Carter. And Lily too. Without all three of you, my life would be way worse."

She blushed and added, "Maybe this is weird, but I have to say it almost feels like we're all family. I mean, I know you two are already family? And I guess it's weird with Lily not quite being here even though she is? Maybe it's just the way you've both just accepted me for who I am and welcomed me into your home. Anyways, yeah. I'm happy and grateful and excited for the future."

My mom was quiet for another few moments, then she finally nodded. "I have to agree. It's been a very difficult month, and there were times I didn't think I'd get through it all without some kind of a breakdown. And there's still some challenges ahead of us yet. There's just over two months before the autumn semester starts at college, and we need to get our housing situation sorted. But apart from that, yes. We're all in a much better place now than we were this time last month."

After a sip of coffee mom said, "Speaking of housing..."

Her voice trailed off as the waiter brought our food. Mom got an omelette florentine, Melissa had a western omelette, and I got eggs benedict. It all looked and smelled great, and the three of us dug in.

It was a few minutes before mom picked up the conversation where she left off.

"Speaking of housing, there's something I have to discuss with you two."

Me and Melissa both looked at her and nodded so she knew she had our attention.

Mom continued, "As you know I'm planning to going back to school as well. I've selected the program I want, but it's not at the same college. We're going to be at opposite sides of the city."

She sighed, "I've been looking at houses, but I can't find anything which satisfies all my requirements while also being conveniently located to both campuses. Either we move somewhere convenient for me while you two have an outrageous commute, or we move somewhere better for you girls while I have a terrible commute. Or we pick something in the middle but I have to sacrifice some of the things I wanted in a new home."

I shook my head, "Ok you're not doing a big commute. And you're not giving up any of your dreams. Me and Melissa can figure something else out."

Mom smiled, "I was getting to that, Mara."

She had another sip of coffee then asked, "How would you two feel about moving into your own place? I've found a nice two-bedroom apartment that's practically next-door to your campus. Then I'll get my dream-home, and of course you two are more than welcome to come and visit and stay with me on weekends, holidays, and whenever you like. You'll always have a place with me, but while you're at school you'd have your own place there too."

That kind of blew me away. I glanced at Melissa and I could tell by the look on her face she was a little stunned too.

"Mom that sounds amazing!" I smiled. "I'm sure me and Melissa will need to talk it over and maybe have a look at the place, but yeah, it sounds like a great idea!"

Melissa nodded, "Ms. Carter that would be really wonderful! Like Mara said, we'd need some time to think it over, but yeah, that's brilliant!"

Mom gave us both a smile, "Of course. When we get home I'll send you the information so you can both have a look."

"Does this mean you've found a place for yourself too?" I asked. "You've already got something picked out?"

"Yes Mara. I've got an appointment with a realtor tomorrow to visit the property and do a walk-through. You and Melissa are welcome to come along if you want."

"Cool!" I grinned. "I'd love to come and see it!"

Melissa nodded, "Me too!"

"All right," mom smiled. "We have to be in the car for eleven, so make sure you both get up with enough time to shower and get ready."

She teased as she added "That's my biggest complaint with how things stand now, you two take forever to get ready and we only have one bathroom in the bungalow."

Melissa giggled, I grinned, and we both blushed as the three of us continued enjoying our brunch.

When we got back home again mom emailed me and Melissa a link to information on the apartment and we both had a look at it.

The place looked perfect. It was a little on the small and cosy side, but it still beat what we were doing right now. There were two bedrooms, both were larger than my current bedroom. Then there was a nice sized living/dining room area and a small kitchen. The bathroom looked all right. And there was even a balcony outside the living-room.

The location was perfect too, it was practically walking distance to the campus and there was a mall across the street where we could get groceries and everything else we needed. It came with one parking spot in the underground garage, so Melissa had somewhere for her car.

After talking it over, the three of us agreed to go and see it tomorrow afternoon, after we'd visited the house.

Then Melissa and I spent the rest of the afternoon reviewing the course requirements for our photography classes, and made plans to go back to that camera store this week to buy the gear we needed. I still had the info on my phone, plus I'd added a few more items that would be handy for setting up a little home studio for shooting video and stuff. I still hadn't let go of my cam-girl idea, though I hadn't mentioned it to Melissa or Lily in a while.

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