“Visitors. They’re going to be staying a couple of days.”
“How exciting,” she said, hurrying forward. “We never have overnight company.”
She was within arm’s reach before Dakota realized that she was a robot. Tall and thin, with short blond hair and blue eyes, she was dressed in a yellow sundress.
“This is my wife, Mindy,” said Stephen.
“You’re kidding,” said Dakota.
“No, I’m not fucking kidding! She means a lot to me—a hell of a lot more than you do!”
“Shh,” said Mindy. “You’ll wake the children, dear.”
“Mindy, please show them to the guest room.” Stephen looked at Dakota. “We’ll talk tomorrow. I have to get ready for work.”
Mindy smiled at Dakota and then locked eyes with Charity. They both froze for a split second. Then she beckoned them after her, as she walked like a game show spokes-model to the rear of the room. Exiting through a doorway took them from a small living room down a long hall.
“That’s Tag’s room on the left” said Mindy. The one just past it is the guest room. Stephen and I are at the very end of the hall, and the twins are across from you. I’ll try to remind them not to bother you, but they haven’t had much experience with visitors.”
“That’s fine,” said Dakota. “I don’t exactly know how to ask… how old are the children?”
“Tag is thirteen. The twins are eight.”
The guest room was small but neat, with a double bed covered by a crocheted comforter and with a large painting of a cat on the wall.
“You can used the bathroom across the hall,” said Mindy. “Clean towels are in the rack just inside the door. If you need anything else, let me know.”
She left, closing the door behind her.
“It’s like some sort of domestic Twilight Zone,” said Dakota.
“She seemed nice,” said Charity. “Remember what I told you about Daffodil Amontes? About them making excellent wives?”
“She seems like a robot. I mean, even if she wasn’t a robot, she’d seem like a robot. And since Stephen didn’t have any kids when I saw him last, I’m really interested to get a look at them.”
“You should get some sleep,” she said, peeling the bedding back for him. “I can stand quietly in the corner, or if you’d prefer, I could stand in the closet.”
“Why don’t you just lie down over there?” He pointed to the left side of the bed.
If the truth were known, Dakota actually preferred sleeping with someone else. He had been doing it for more than four years now. Rachel had insisted that they not get a bed larger than a standard double. He had complained, saying that there wasn’t enough room for him to turn over. Now he had missed it for three nights. Sleeping with the robot was not quite the same. She didn’t feel plastic; her skin was as soft and supple as a real woman’s would have been. She was hotter than a real person though, at least in some places. In others, she was cooler. But if he just lay there—if he didn’t touch her and feel the differences in temperature, and her shape, then it was almost like sleeping with Rachel.
She was gone when he woke up. When he climbed out of bed, he found his suitcase on the floor by the door. Pulling out a clean set of clothes, he crossed the hallway and took a hot shower. When he was done, he brushed his teeth and then ran his hand through four days of whiskers. He would have to either buy a razor or learn to live with a beard.
In the front of the house, Dakota found the dining room. Charity was sitting at the table with three children. They were just as mechanical as she was. The boy looked enough like Stephen to be his real son, but he wasn’t. He was a robot. The two eight-year-old girls looked like their mother, with similar bright yellow dresses. All four of them sat with nothing but water bottles in front of them.
“Sit here,” said Charity, vacating her chair for him. “Mindy has made you some waffles.”
At the sound of her name, Mindy danced out of the kitchen, holding a plate of waffles high in one hand and a bottle of syrup in the other. She sat them directly in front of Dakota and pirouetted away.
“Do you prefer coffee or milk?”
“I’ll take a Coke if you’ve got one.”
“Here’s a glass of milk. We don’t keep sodas in the house.” She sat a tall glass of milk in front of him. “Say hello, children.”
“Hello,” they all said primly and in unison.