“Quick, Jeeves, she is getting away!” he said.
“Certainly, sir,” the online computer said. The car shifted gears and sped up.
Frederick Alphonse McArthur-McGillicuty leaned back into his plush ultra-velour seat and sipped a bit of his drink, eyeing the classic cream-colored car before him. “C’mon, c’mon,” he said under his breath, shifting his gaze to the rising speed gauge needle. Easily eighty miles an hour, and yet not a single sign of catching up to her.
It happened every time, he thought to himself, taking another swig. She would get upset and leave, and I am fool enough for chasing her every single time. But it was well worth it, he continued, and he smiled in delicious memory at the nights they had afterwards, those nights of rich pleasure.
His thoughts were scattered as the computer cleared its digital throat and said, “It appears we are catching up with her, sir.”
He looked up at the car and the huge building they were both getting into. “Of course, we are,” he muttered. “She’s parking.”
The woman in question appeared outside like a rabbit popping out of a magician’s hat. She was dressed simply: a virgin white swath of cloth covered the necessary items and a diamond brooch to keep it on. She glanced at the car behind her, more specifically, the driver, before swiftly walking away to the building, her straight, chocolate brown hair undulating like a cataract to her waist.
Frederick swore under his breath and unbuckled himself from the seat. After a large gulp of the drink for courage, he sped out of the car after her. He took a closer look at the building and realized it was an airport.
She was really going to do it, he thought to himself. She is really going to leave me.
He scurried to the entrance and sped through the corridors with their Art Deco mosaics and red plush carpeting and the desks with their mid green tabletops and Eames lines of maple, all of which modeled after designs a century old. He would gladly have given a better glance at them, but he had a lady to catch.
She was found at the main terminal – grand and majestic with arching white plaster and silver chrome lines – talking to several smartly clad gentlemen. He placed his hand on her shoulder, turned her around, wrapped his arm around her slim waist, and gave her a solid kiss on the lips.
A moment later, they separated. She looked into his eyes, smiled gently, and then landed another solid smack, this time on the cheek, making Frederick’s face to turn sharply. The men, surprised at such a scene, looked askance at each other and quickly wandered off, looking for other, less trigger-happy people to help.
“How dare you, Frederick!” she said, her crystal voice coldly accentuated in mild Northern tones. She pushed him away and started shaking feeling into her hand. “I told you that I was already leaving, and that is that!”
Frederick cautiously raised a hand to his cheek and winced slightly in pain. “You didn’t need to do that, sweetheart.”
“Really now?” she asked sweetly. “Would you prefer a kick in the groin instead?”
“Uhm, no.” He tried to smile but the cheek still smarted. Instead, he grabbed her left hand, fingering the solitaire ring at her finger. “Look at us. Three months into betrothal and you still want to get away from me.” He looked into her eyes. “How many times has this happened already? Five? Six?”
She glared before letting her eyes drop. “This would not have happened if you stopped your girl watching.” She said the last two words with acidic venom.
“Impossible for any man to do that,” he said lightly, trying not to let the venom seep under his skin. “The psychologists say so. The sociologists say so. Something about evolutional advantage or some high-circle slang.” He smiled as he caressed her chin. “Darling, I love you. I always will. Please understand that.”
She did not return the smile and turned away. “I do not know what to say,” she said. “Should I believe you or should I leave?” She shrugged, almost causing the cloth to drift down to waist level. She turned to the only attendant remaining. “When does the flight leave?”
He cleared his throat. “It left three minutes ago, ma’am. In fact, it left while you were coming into the building.”
“Oh,” she said, looking lost. She then recouped, sighing dramatically and placing a hand to her forehead in a mockery of a faint. “It then appears that I will be, once again, stuck here in this dismal rural heel of a city. Oh, if only there was a big, strong, handsome man willing to take me away from all this. No, not you,” she said as Frederick opened his mouth, placing a finger on his lips. “Oh, woe is me,” she continued. “I will be an old maid when all this is through.” She sighed again, and swiftly walked out of the airport and back to her car.
The attendant glanced at Frederick. Frederick was short, somewhat squat, his hair cut in the oddest fashion, all points sticking out and flopping everywhere. He was dressed in a flashy suit, he noted, all green brass and red bronze. “Does she do this often?” he asked.
Frederick sighed and nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “More often than I would like, but hey, that’s women for you.” He grinned and pulled out a five-credit bill, which he slipped across the counter. “For your troubles, kid. And you’ll have them, trust me.”
The attendant grinned back and took the money. “Not women troubles for me,” he said, tipping his hat and moving to the next needy customer.
Frederick looked at the retreating person with a raised eyebrow, and then walked back to the car.
“Is everything alright, sir?” the computer asked as Frederick climbed into the car.
“I wish,” Frederick said, buckling the safety belt.
“I am terribly sorry to hear that, sir,” the computer said, its mechanized tones sinking into sympathy. “If I may take the liberty to offer you another drink? I have heard it is the thing for heartbreak, sir.” A small slot opened, and a cocktail glass, filled with something clear with blue swirls and topped with a lemon twist, was shown.
“How did you know I needed one?” he said, reaching over to grab at the offered glass.
“Eighty seven percent of the time my sensors have detected low levels of dopamine in your system. Coupled with the fact that this happens mostly every time you have been chasing Miss Reglatta von Blanke, it does not take a genius to put the two of them together, sir”
He took a sip and winced. It smelt of freshly mown grass and yet tasted harshly like holly berries. “You made it stronger this time.”
“I am terribly sorry, sir. If you may hand it back so I can give you something milder. May I suggest water?”
“No, no, this is alright,” he said, ignoring the quip and then drinking another gulp. “Just take me home.”
The car glided out of the parking lot and back onto the road, soon joining the rest of the other drivers that were heading towards their own destinations. The sky was a dismal orange, the beginning of a sunset in the making; the clouds were plump with rain.
Frederick took another sip. “If you can please put something on? Maybe the radio.”
“Certainly, sir.” A moment later, Paul Simon softly sang about leaving your lover through the speakers.
Frederick leaned back in the seat and mulled the current situation. He was feeling his oats once again, something that Reglatta did not like in the slightest, judging from her perpetual trip-hopping. The fact of the matter only caused her, not to mention her family, to want to break the betrothal, thus leaving him another scandalous bachelor. One of many that populated the metropolis, from her opinion.
“And do not forget to try our new station for new tunes,” the radio chimed in, slightly intruding Frederick’s thoughts. “WKJB, our new station for new music!” A cheery jingle was heard, and a thumping rock song started playing before he could change the station.
He sighed and went back to looking at the scenery. It was of buildings of various sizes and colors, mostly brick. The people, the men either in various suits or in the more casual t-shirt and shorts combos, the women in dresses of every color and variety, swarmed the walkways. Trees of various types and forms peeked out between the buildings and displayed themselves rightly on the planting squares.
Of course, he mused as he noticed the buildings getting grander and taller, those swell guys in the white coats may have gotten it right. It could be the fact that the people were looking for biological fitness, or whatever they were saying. That could lead to lovers’ tiffs like this one. However, for her to run so often was a habit left best to the guys’ running track, however that mangled metaphor ran.
“We are home, sir,” the computer intoned.
He broke gently from his musings and glanced at the sleek and shining building that was his home in front of the roadway, almost a quarter of it covered in swaths of ivy. One of those fantastic creations that they are making nowadays, an acropolis? That might be the name of it. Old-circle terminology was so passé in this day and age.
The car drove into a vaulted parking lot, garnished with baroque faux-wood and ornamented with chrome. He got out with the glass in his hand and handed his keys to a droid who bowed and drove the car away to get it cleaned and restocked. Softly whistling the tune that was on the radio, he walked into one of the elevators, joining with about seventy others, most of them dressed as smartly as he was, others with assorted glasses and bottles. A good number of the males were arm-linked with various girls of obvious endowments dressed in slinky white cloths, laughing and conversing with other people. Snake girls, the current slang went; high-circle geisha girls that were always on call for a good time.
As the elevator went up, the walls disappeared, showing off the city in its entire jeweled splendor. He put his hands on the waist-high railing and glanced at other towers he saw across the metropolis, glittering in the ignited sunset like cut topazes. He smiled at the fantastic flying Kamas, some looking like butterflies, some like birds of paradise, and lastly looked at the people around him, clearly enjoying the life that the modern age offered to whoever wanted to have it.
“Section 10-B,” a neutral elevator voice said.
Fredrick and several others unloaded themselves around a wide parquet walkway. It encircled a large zero-gravity fountain that hovered among the seven floors in the Section, the glittering sprays of water looping in and out of them, illuminated by assorted lights of various colors. The walkway was tastefully furnished with assorted furniture – overstuffed sofas, plush ottomans, cozy armchairs, various forms of chairs – all of which was upholstered in an eye-blindingly mix of colors. Electric chandeliers the size of dinner tables hung from the ceiling while discreet wall sconces lit the walls. Colorful balls of light swirled and circled around the area like flocks of birds, some landing on the furniture, others on people, before moving elsewhere. A twelve-piece brass band, the players slender and steely robots, played jazzy instrumentals of ABBA songs. Crowds of people mingled with other crowds, and flying robots moved about, delivering drinks and the occasional plate of food on linen covered plates. The atmosphere was gay and fantastic.
A hand slapped his back. “What a crowd, eh, kid?”
Frederick looked at the side to see a lanky black guy dressed in a slightly off-white suit, two-toned shoes, and a royal purple tie. An afro punctuated the outfit with aplomb.
“Oh, it’s you,” Frederick said. “What are you doing here in the lower levels?”
“I came to see you, of course!” he said, fiddling with the cuffs. Frederick noticed that the suit’s shadows did not quite fit, shifting around the surfaces in haphazard fashion.
“Let me guess,” he said. “You are wearing the light suit again, aren’t you?”
The guy grinned crookedly. “Now, now, there’s no need to ask. As a matter of fact, I am wearing it, but I am not supposed to let anyone know.” The grin turned a bit lanky. “Apart from you, I mean. What gave it away?”
“The shadows still do not fit the suit,” Frederick said.
“Oh?” the guy looked down at the suit and shrugged. “Guess the sensors need to be tweaked again.” He touched a wrist and the suit disappeared, showing a black T-shirt, camouflage shorts and leather sandals. The shirt had the phrase, “Elvis still lives!” in big, sans serif font.
“I would love to know how you did that,” a passing lady commented, eyeing the lithe frame and the afro with much interest. “It looks so fascinating.” She smiled slightly. “And I am fond of Elvis.”
“Oh come off of it, Terra,” another lady said. “Clearly he is talking about Costello, not Presley.” She smiled duskily at the guy. “You are, yes? Oh, do say yes?” She leaned a bit down, showing off the cut of her dress to her best advantage.
“Go off, the both of you,” Frederick said, smirking. “Ladies do not interest him.” The two looked at each other in surprise, laughed, and walked away.
“Aw, why did you say that?” the guy said. “I was gonna lead them on, y’know? Let them buy me a few drinks, have them fight over me, then wander off with Billy.”
“Did someone say my name?”
“Babe!” the man turned towards a heavy-set guy dressed only in threadbare blue jeans. Although he was somewhat chubby, it did not hide the fact that he was thickly muscled and heavily tattooed in green and black swirls. A heavy swath of wiry hair covered his chest and belly, and a thick beard and moustache graced his chin. He grabbed the other and landed a solid kiss on the lips.
“Mmmph,” said Billy before separating. “I always do love the way you kiss, Con.”
“And I always love the way your beard plays with my lips, babe.”
“And here I am, kind of jealous of you guys,” Frederick said.
“Don’t you have that Blanke girl hanging over your arm?” Billy said, looking at him. “Ah, I notice she isn’t here.”
Fredrick took a sip of the drink he still had. “She walked out on me again.”
“That girl is really something,” Con said. “How many times has it been already? Six times?”
Frederick shrugged. “I do not know why I put up with her.”
“The question could be put around the other way,” Billy said. His boyfriend nodded. “It is not like you are a steady man, if you catch my drift.”
Frederick drained the last of the drink and placed it nonchalantly on an empty-handed servitor. “Get me a seltzer on the rocks,” he said. The robot nodded and zoomed past.
“It’s like this,” he said to the couple. “It is not like that she is all-white either. I mean, I catch her sometimes, making googly-eyes with some random guy when we are together. And what can I do? It is not like I can run off.”
The two chuckled as the drink was delivered. Frederick tossed money on the salver of the droid, taking the drink and giving it a stir before taking a sip. He nodded, and the droid flew off. “I mean, it is not like I am screwing them or anything,” he said before his eyes picked someone in the crowd.
She was tall and languid. Her skin was café brown, and her afro was peach bloom yellow. Her protrusions were generous, and her legs wickedly long. She was wearing a fiercely figure hugging dress of thick chevron stripes of brown and grey that finished mid thigh, showed everything off to the greatest appeal. He then took a closer look: those were not stripes.
He looked away, blushing hotly, then glanced again at the dress. It was a cutaway, the swaths of fabric hanging from each other and causing the entire thing to look it was one garment. She turned to talk to someone, the fabric showing off an exquisitely shaped backside. Wow, he thought.
A brown hand waved in front of him. “Hello, Freddy. Earth to Freddy.”
“I’m…” Frederick started, jerking his head towards Con. “Sorry about that,” Frederick before glancing at the lady again. Who was headed in their direction. Uh-oh.
“Conway,” the lady said when she joined the trio, sounding like buttered caramel. “Who is this gentleman that is making the most improper advances towards my form?”
He turned his head at the lady. “Oh, you mean Freddy? He is mostly harmless, I assure you.”
“Freddy?” She glanced at Frederick, an invisible smile appearing on her pert lips. “Not THE Freddy? The guy that Miss Reg is engaged to?”
“The very same,” he said, glaring at the now innocent-appearing Con. He cleared his throat and did a slight bow. “Please, allow me to apologize most sincerely at my slight, and I can assure you that this will not happen again.”
She waved the comment aside. “I heard about your latest chase,” she said, the smile now appearing. A drink appeared next to her and she took it, taking a sip before continuing. “She and I are mid-circles, you know. The poor girl, she always wanted to have a stable boyfriend, and the rumor mill is most intrigued at the latest incident.” The smile grew elusive. “One would think that she is thinking of breaking the engagement.”
“That ain’t gonna happen!” Frederick said, slipping into low-circle rural. He flushed in embarrassment, and took a gulp of the seltzer. “I mean, I love her, and she loves me back. I can’t see a single reason why she would want to break it anyway. We are made for each other.”
She raised an elegant eyebrow. “Hm. And if some lady, say six feet tall, dressed like me, and built like me comes in and places herself against you with her outlets, would you have your way with you?” the lady asked. “I mean, I am very sure, knowing you, that you would try her within five minutes. So the rumor mill says.” She shrugged elegantly, causing her assets to bounce gently in their striped halter and having Frederick trying very hard to focus on her face. “But I have been a rather naughty girl.” She extended a finely wrought hand. “Clarissa Bangladesh Dupree. Conway’s niece from abroad.”
“You are Clarissa?” Frederick said, surprised, taking the hand and shaking it. “I would have never guessed that such a lady like you would have been connected in any way with this guy here.”
“Watch it,” Con said. “One wrong move and you’ll be limping for days.”
“Conway, I got it, alright?” Con rolled his eyes while Clarissa removed the hand from Frederick’s. Then she used it to slap a cheek, the force causing Frederick to swivel and some of the drink to spill on the floor. “That was for staring at me when I was coming over,” she said as Frederick raised a hand to touch the cheek. “I would slap you again for Reglatta’s sake, but apparently, she did that already.” She sipped the drink to cover a smirk.
Frederick did nothing to hide the anger brewing inside. He was about to say something caustic then his watch chirped. He looked at it, noting the time. “It’s that late already?” he asked rhetorically. He looked up at the trio and swallowed his anger in a tight smile. “I have to get going.” He showed the chirping watch. “I need to get this. I will see you guys tomorrow?”
Con shook his head. “I have to take the ol’ Banger around the city. She never seen this area in years, and I promised her a tour.”
Clarissa’s eyes narrowed as he said that, “You also promised not call me that.”
“Banger?” Frederick said, looking at Con. Billy, he noticed, was not there; instead he was a bit away, trying to ignore the entire scene.
“Old nickname of mine,” Clarissa said, rolling her eyes. “Old habits and all that.”
“She would bang anyone who made eyes at her,” Con clarified, ignoring her stiletto stare.
“Oh.” Frederick felt it was an auspicious time to leave, so he nodded and walked off, but not before hearing Clarissa say, “Try not to land on anything bouncy, will you?”
He stumbled a bit, to her lilting laughing, and headed to the elevators.
“Section please,” it asked.
The elevator slid up through the other sections – a swimming pool, a massive library, a virtual image movie theatre – before landing. The place was a double-section layer of apartments. Doors of every color and style graced the walls. Stairs, walking belts, and escalators transported anyone everywhere around the sector; tele-pods, despite the scientific possibilities of making them, proved to be extremely nasty for those with stomachs when tested.
He leaped on a belt, which quickly lead him to his apartment door, which was basic matte blue with a slight shimmer around the frame. He opened the door, hearing a loud, stringent ringing from the interior.
“Lights,” he said, causing the room to brighten up considerably, showing off a pale blue and green striped sofa and matching chairs, several end tables of colored glass, and various Technicolor prints of Frank Sinatra hanging from the pure white walls. A piebald cat leaped from its perch of carpet and quickly scampered towards him, rubbing against his legs and purring loudly.
He walked on over to a section of a wall clear of decoration, and said, “Accept call.”
The wall blinked, changing color and form to show a rather homely woman. She was dressed in faded clothes, her hair valiantly blonde, although plenty of grey showed through.
“Mother!” Frederick said, putting on a grin and sitting on a stool. “To what do I owe the privilege of getting a call from you?”
“You are late answering the phone,” she said, her voice oddly melodic. “Am I going to see another tit-naked snake lady creep out your bedroom again?”
“Is every one going to mention my sex life tonight?” he muttered under his breath. He cleared his throat and focused at the task. “Of course not, mother. I just got in.”
She made a sound that would have been recorded as a harrumph. “In my day, people would not simply spread their legs and get on with it. We had something called romance.”
“If by ‘romance’ you meant driving down the Seven-Eleven with your car windows down and blaring out Thin Lizzy, then I am glad we do not have that.”
“We played Beyonce and Jay-Z,” she snapped.
“Ugh, even worse. Next you’ll be telling me you danced the tango to that snoopy dog guy.”
“Snoop Dogg was one of the best singers of the time, you sax-loving alchoholic,” she growled out.
“Singers? He does not have any tone or sense of melody at all. He is worse that candy guy, what was his name, M&M? At least that guy had some beat.”
A frigid silence descended for a moment before they broke into laughter.
“Ah, mom,” Frederick said in between chuckles, “How have you been? How’s Hawaii?”
“Fine, sweetheart, just fine,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “The place is fantastic, as you know. I have to thank you for getting me over here. The sights and the sounds, just fantastic.”
“I am glad you like the place,” he said, knowing she would enjoy it. He did pay for the trip after all.
“And how is Miss Marple?” she asked, eyeing the cat that just now leapt onto Frederick’s lap.
“She is doing fine, right little kitten?” She looked up with her dual-color eyes, one blue and the other green, and purred loudly. “I caught her in the sweater bin last night,” he continued, stroking softly, “all tangled in the cashmere and the faux-leather. Poor thing.”
“I did tell you she was an extremely curious kitty.”
“Yes, I know.” Frederick said, giving the feline more vigorous strokes.
“So, what is going on, sweetheart? You look rather downcast.”
He sighed. “She ran off again.”
“Again!” she exclaimed. “What was the cause this time?”
“My fault I am afraid.” He stood up, causing the cat to jump down and roll over on the floor, and went to a table to pick up a pile of mail that just slipped down a chute. “I may have been a bit more forward with Miss Angela from the party last week.”
“Hm. No wonder.” She narrowed her eyes, causing her to look like a sleeping bulldog. “And am I going to see her tit-naked, creeping out of you bedroom?”
“Mother!” he said, shocked, turning around to face the screen. “I did not and most definitely will not try to seduce her. For starters,” he added primly, “she prefers ladies.”
“And knowing you,” she said, “you will most definitely try to corrupt her.”
He shook his head in bemusement and browsed through the mail. “Hm. It appears Dad sent a post card.”
“That drunk?” she said wryly. “You take after him.” She ignored his eye roll. “Where is he now? Bermuda? The Canaries?”
“Give me a moment,” he said, turning over the card and pressing the postmark. The card projected a full color holographic image of a face aged lightly with age. Silver threaded through his black hair and trimmed beard.
“Hey son,” the figure spoke in a baritone. “Just letting you know that I am here in the Hawaiian isles right now, Moloka’i to be exact, enjoying the sand and surf. Wish you were here!” The image faded a moment later.
“What is he doing there?” Frederick said. “I thought he was in Hong Kong!”
“What is he trying to do, find me?” the mother screeched. “We have nothing left to talk about!” She walked away from the screen, showing off a tastefully decorated hotel room, and a dumpy figure. “The court said we are supposed to remain five hundred feet away from him.”
“Calm down, Mom,” Frederick said. “You are not even near him, and the tour will not be headed there for another week. I am very sure he will not be seeing you.”
She harrumphed again, and stepped closer to the screen. “If I do, then I will give him a piece of my mind. And my fist.” She brandished a clenched hand.
Frederick sighed internally. Three years from a rather messy divorce and they are still going over this hammer and tongs. It was not Dad’s fault that he was caught with another woman. According to her, she just slipped. Her own words. However, it did not explain why they found him buried to the hilt. He sighed again, and started to sort the mail again. He picked out several slim packages and set them aside, intent on opening them later on. “So, anything going on over there?”
She calmed enough to answer the question. “Apart from the sun and the half-naked bronzed men around, nothing much.”
“And am I going to see them lounging on your bed later tonight?” he asked waspishly.
She chuckled. “I wish,” she said and sighed. “I had the pleasure of flirting with this fascinating surfer. However, his wife dragged him away. Ce la vie, I guess.”
“Hm,” he said, clearly more interested in looking through the rest of the mail. “Oh, hey, look at this.”
He looked at the screen and flourished a purple envelope. “It seems I have been invited to a birthday party.”