“Good luck on your dates, Bill!”
I took the 5th Street HighWalk to the 28th Avenue UnderWalk, cruised under two blocks of local foot traffic, and came up about a hundred yards from my unit, which was a modified 21st century Stacked Brownstone, situated in a row of the same structures between two office towers. I went up the West Office Tower... it has a rapid-lift, and we have an entrance from one of the interior catwalks. Stepping from the matted beige office interior to the lush, wallpapered hallway of my own building... it was like a gust of warm, perfum'd air, a breath of comfort.
From the hallway to my front door... a retinal scan, a quick bioprint (we were thorough with our home security), and the outside door unlatched and let me into our foyer. I could hear Janie at the end of the hall, tapping away on a Hand Tablet.
I looked into the rear study and regarded Janie for a moment. At 9 years old, she was already beginning to look like an adolescent... her frame gradually lengthening, her red hair falling luxuriously across her shoulders. She was very smart, too... CONTRACT had pushed up her Rigor Curve a point last week, and she was still knocking out her homework 41 seconds ahead of baseline. She still had a few years to go before she entered her secondary track, but Marge and I were already thinking maybe she could be a level-6 or level-7 specialist... not a level-3, like me, stuck as I was with routine maintenance jobs.
As I watched her touch the Tablet, lightly, with intricate caresses, I felt a soft hand on my shoulder. I turned around to find Marge looking at me with a warm, sleepy smile.
“Napping before dinner, darling?” I put my arm around her and pulled her into me. I glanced back at Janie; she hadn't looked up at us.
“You look at her like a little boy in love,” Marge said softly.
“Yeah, well, it's a nice scene to come home to.” I pulled Marge in and gave her a kiss; at this, Janie glanced up for a second, and then went back to her homework. “Did she go into Primary to get the Tablet scanned?” I asked Marge.
“Yes, spent most of the day playing with some friends, then stopped by Primary before she came home. Now diligently doing her homework, before she eats us out of house and home.”
“That's what it takes to grow that fast, I guess.”
“Well, she eats so much, we're practically over allowance for this period.”
“Seriously? Are you being serious about that? We can raise our Appeal next period...”
“No, Bannon, I am not serious. Between you and her and my snacks, our Appeals are big enough for two families.”
I looked at Janie for another second, and then Marge and I drifted off toward the kitchen, as if to check that we had enough food for the three of us. Marge settled in behind our mini-bar and started pawing through the cupboard for some ingredients. I watched her for a second, and then turned to our dining area to see if anything needed cleaning up before we sat down to eat. I noticed a beautiful red velour hat on the table, a sort of squat little thing, with a small feather tucked into the band.
(The RSS for this serial fiction can be found here.)