Thursday and Friday were exam days at school. That meant that for the students both days were half days of strenuous testing, with free afternoons to recover. For the teachers, the mornings were a scramble to get fourth quarter grades completed, and the afternoons were a scramble to grade tests, all the while attempting to get the classroom stowed for the coming summer months. In the evenings, after a workout at the health club, Mike would enjoy delicious dinners and relaxing evenings of watching movies on vueTee. On Saturday morning, Mike woke with the realization that not only did he not have to return to work that day, but that the school year was essentially over. Only Monday remained to finish make-up exams, clean up the classroom, and sign out for the year.
Climbing into his recliner, Mike went through Friday’s mail as he watched cooking shows on vueTee. There were a couple of bills and a handful of ad flyers. At the bottom of the stack was a white envelope that felt abnormally thick. He opened it up to find a matching set of Visa cards—one in his name and one with the name Patience D. Smith.
She came in through the kitchen from the garage, covered in dust and dirt, but was otherwise completely naked. As she smiled at him from the doorway, he felt himself aroused.
“How come you’re nude?”
“I didn’t want to get my clothes dirty while I worked.”
“Okay. How come we have new bank cards?”
“I thought we might need them, at least in the short term. It is going to be a few weeks before I can earn some extra money, and I don’t want to spend all your savings.”
“You’re creating more questions than you’re answering,” he said. “How are you planning to make money?”
“I’m selling a great many things on eBay. Then I will take that money and invest it.”
“I know I have a lot of junk around here. Just make sure you don’t sell anything I want to keep. I know you should have more clothes.”
“The money is not for my clothes,” said Patience. “It is for yours.”
“Clothes for me?”
“Hmm. Yes, I suppose that is a good idea. I don’t want to look like such an old fart if I have such a beautiful, hot young woman on my arm. Why don’t we go ahead and do some shopping at the mall today?”
“So what is this name?” He held up the Visa card. “You’re not my wife. You’re just my… well, I guess you’re my girlfriend.”
Patience leaped across the room and jumped into Mike’s lap. She planted her full lips on his and kissed him, then pulled back and smiled.
“I’m your girlfriend?”
She kissed him again. This was all the motivation that he needed. He pushed her up out of his lap, stood up, and then took her by the hand. He led her upstairs to the bedroom, where they spent the next half-hour, though Patience would not get on the bed until she had washed the dirt and dust off of her synthetic skin. Afterwards, Mike got up and went to the bathroom. Just as he was washing his hands, he heard his phone ring on the nightstand, and Patience answering it.
Her eyes flashed at Mike as he reentered the room and she said. “Yes, Mike is here. May I ask who is calling? This is his girlfriend.”
She stopped and listened for a moment. Then she said. “Just a moment,” and handed the receiver to him.
“It’s Lucas,” she said.
Mike grabbed the phone. “How is my son the general?”
“Don’t start all that,” said the voice at the other end. “Tell me all about this lady.”
“Tell me. I think it’s great you’ve got a girlfriend, Dad. She sounds young.”
“Umm. She’s a Daffodil.”
“A what? A robot? Huh.”
“What do you mean ‘huh’?”
“I don’t know. She didn’t sound like a robot.”
“She doesn’t look like one either,” said Mike. “I keep forgetting that she is one.”
“Well, I guess it’s all good,” said Lucas. “Everybody’s getting one. I’m just glad you have someone to take care of you. Can I tell Harriet?”
“No! I don’t know what she’s going to say about it. I’ll tell her when she gets back from her trip.”
“All right Dad. Take care of yourself. I love you.”
Mike hung up the phone. “He’s calling Harriet right now.”
“Which bedroom belonged to Lucas?” asked Patience, in the car on the way to the mall.
“The one on the northwest corner. Since we’ve been exercising, I’m thinking that we could make it into an exercise room. The room on the northeast corner, on the other side of the stairway was Harriet’s. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I wanted to turn the south bedroom into a study. I keep thinking I might sit down and write a book about all the goofy things the kids at school do. So far though, it’s just become a trap for all the crap in the house—kind of like the garage.
It was an hour long drive to the mall, because the closest good one was in the nearby city of Pico Mundo. Patience spent the entire drive holding onto Mike’s arm with both hands, and pressing her face onto his shoulder. At the mall, the two entered by the food court. Mike bought a smoothie, and they began to circumnavigate the mall, stopping at each clothing store to see what was available for either of them. Mike let Patience make all the style decisions.
“I would like to get my ears pierced,” said Patience, as they stopped in front of a jewelry store.
“Are you sure that you want to?” wondered Mike. “Your holes won’t grow closed if you change your mind, will they?”
“No. But would you like it if I had my ears pierced?”
“Yes, I think I would.”
When they went into the store however, they were turned out.
“Humans only,” said the woman behind the counter. This made Patience pout, which in turn, made Mike smile.
They had quite a load of shopping bags, by the time they made their final stop at the lingerie store. Mike sat down and waited while Patience gathered her selections and then stepped back into the changing booth. She stepped out again and again to show off tiny lacy bras, thongs, and some very hot little lacy things called tangas, as well as garter belt ensembles. With her perfect body, her chiseled features, and bright eyes, Mike thought she put to shame the giant photos of the models wearing the same things plastered across the wall of the shop. By the time that she was done, a sizable audience of men, some ignoring the women that they had come in with, were gathered around to watch.
Mike decided that it was time to head home. Gathering all of the items that Patience had tried on, he sat them next to the register and, when the clerk had finished ringing everything, he paid for them. Both smiling, they made their way out of the mall and into the parking lot. The sun was going down. They had spent the entire day shopping, and had spent almost four thousand dollars.
“I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on clothes in a year, let alone a single day,” said Mike.
They reached the car and opened the trunk to put away all of their packages. Then Mike heard a voice behind him.
“Give us the packages and your wallet.”
Mike dropped the shopping bags and spun around. Two men, both in their early twenties stood there. One was white, the other Hispanic. They both had shaved heads and they both carried butterfly knives.
“Maybe we’ll have some fun with your little girl too,” said the closest one.
Mike snapped into action. He dived at the punk who had spoken last, hitting him square in the chest. They both went down onto the pavement. As they did, Mike felt the knife blade penetrate his stomach. The punk hit his head hard on the pavement but he still managed to push Mike off of him. He was already on his feet while Mike was still rolling around on the parking lot.
Just as he was finally regaining his feet, Mike saw Patience planting some kind of karate kick to his assailant’s neck. The other thug was leaning against a nearby car. It was obvious from the way he was holding himself that she had already dealt him some heavy blows. She was about to hit the second one again when she saw the blood streaming down Mike’s shirt. With a small squeal she rushed toward him. The two would-be robbers took off between the cars as fast as they could.
“That’s right!” yelled Mike. “Run, you pussies!”
“Mike!” gasped Patience. “You’re bleeding!”
“It’s nothing,” said Mike, his eyes starting to roll up into his head. “But I think I’m going to pass out.”
Mike felt Patience guiding him to the ground, so that he wouldn’t bash his head on the pavement.
“Thanks,” he said, as darkness spread across his world. “That’s my girl.”
* * * * *
“That’s my girl.”
“Yes Daddy, I’m here.”
He opened his eyes and looked up into the concerned face of his daughter Harriet. He was on his back in a hospital room. An I.V. was attached to the back of his right hand. He reached up with his left hand and felt the bandages that covered the left side of his stomach.
“When did you get back?” Mike asked.
“I got home late yesterday,” said Harriet. “Right about the time you decided to take on a couple of desperados. The police said they haven’t caught them yet by the way, though the officer left his card in case you remembered something when you woke up.”
“Call him,” said Mike. “I recognize both of those guys. Carlos Fernandez and Nathan Spencer. They were in my class seven or eight years ago. I think Nathan’s mother still lives down the block from me.”
“Nathan Spencer!” said Harriet, whipping out her phone and stepping toward the door. “I dated his brother! Officer Darling please…”
As Harriet stepped out the door the doctor stepped in to check on Mike. He informed him that he had been operated on the night before– a relatively small amount of damage, all things considering. The knife had only nicked his descending colon. Had Mike not been overweight and possessed of a fairly large amount of belly fat, the knife could easily have caused much more damage, perhaps even death.
“Well at least there is one consolation to being fat,” said Mike.
“On the other hand I’ve seen knife blades turned by a well-toned abdomen,” said the doctor. “And of course there are other benefits to being in good shape.”
“Fine fine,” said Mike.
The doctor left and Harriet returned.
“They’re going to get those little bastards.”
“They weren’t so little,” said Mike. “How did you know I was here, anyway?”
“Your girlfriend called me.”
“Yes, your girlfriend,” said Harriet. “You do remember her? Patience? Or do you have amnesia.”
“Oh I remember her. I just didn’t realize you knew about her yet.”
“I heard about her yesterday. From my little brother,” assured Harriet. “I was happy to meet her though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Daffodil before, let alone talked with one. She’s not like other robots I’ve seen.”
“Does it bother you that I got her?”
“You’re a big boy,” said Harriet. “I trust you to make your own decisions.”
“Good. Your disapproval would have bothered me more than anyone else’s.”
“Come on Dad. I know I wasn’t your favorite.”
“Don’t tell Lucas this,” said Mike. “But I’ve always felt like I had more of a connection with you than with him.”
Harriet looked at him strangely for a moment.
“Where is Patience?” asked Mike.
“I sent her home a couple of hours ago to shower and change. I hope she gets some rest too. She looked really tired.”
“She doesn’t get tired. She’s a robot.”
“Maybe,” conceded Harriet. “But she was by your side almost the whole time you were out.”
Harriet stayed with her father for another hour. Then Mike sent her on her way. He hadn’t actually wanted her there at all. He had always been of the opinion that children, even adult children, should not have to see their father in that kind of weakened, compromised condition. The two other times he was admitted to the hospital, he hadn’t allowed any of the kids to visit him.
Mike was served lunch of soup and some kind of light purple jell-o. By the time he had eaten he was feeling pretty fit. He flipped on the vueTee and tried to find something good to watch, but nothing interested him. Then he saw that a texTee was sitting on the bedside table. It was a newer model than the one he had at home. He turned it on and flipped through the selection of magazines. Time. Electronic Entertainment. National Geographic. Penthouse. And three comic books: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. It was as if someone had transferred his own subscriptions to the new device. Then when he selected one of the magazines and watched the image fill the screen, he realized that this was just what had happened. Although Harriet could have compiled that selection, she would have died before buying a Penthouse. Patience had done this for him.
Mike had read all of the comics and was flipping through Time when Patience bounded into the room. She was wearing a black camisole top cut just above her perfect belly button and a pair of very low rise jeans, which together created a truly expansive piece of exposed stomach real estate. The pair of five inch sandal pumps, called Rowenas that she had purchased at the mall made her slender figure look seven feet tall.
When she saw that Mike was awake, she leapt to his side, clasped his face in her hands and kissed him deeply. She climbed into the hospital bed with him, and continued kissing him. When she seemed about to give him a hickey on his neck Mike pushed her head away.
“Hold on,” he said. “I’ll be out of here in a few hours and then we can do that at home.”
“The doctor said that you need to spend another night, Mike.”
Mike’s face immediately turned sour.
“I really hate hospitals. Always have.”
“Don’t worry,” Patience said. “I’ll stay here with you.”
“I didn’t say I was worried. I just don’t like hospitals.”
Patience nestled down in the bed next to him and put her head on his chest.
“I was so worried, Mike,” she said. “I thought for a moment that you were going to die. You were so heroic. I love you so much.”
“Oh, come on,” Mike said. “You were the one who kicked the crap out of the bad guys.”
“Self defense is part of my programming. You didn’t have that advantage and you still went after them.”
“Whatever. Tell me everything that happened after I passed out.”
“When you fell, I used my first aid programming to staunch the flow of blood. Then I used my infiNet connection to call the fire department. Paramedics and an ambulance arrived nine minutes later. The police arrived two minutes after that. While you were being loaded into the ambulance, I made sure that all of our purchases were stowed safely in the trunk, and then drove the car to the hospital. Once here I needed to notify your daughter, because the clerks at the hospital would not accept my signature to begin medical treatment. They said they needed a relative to sign admission papers.”
“And you stayed here until Harriet sent you home.”
“I’m glad you’re back.”
“I’m glad I’m back too.”
They lay together on the hospital bed for some time not speaking. It was not an awkward silence, but rather a pleasant one. Mike finally broke it.
“I’ve only known you for six days but I already feel like I never want to be without you. I never want you to leave.”
“You will never be without me, Mike,” she said. “I will never leave you.”
Patience lay in the bed with Mike for the rest of the afternoon. He had never been so comfortable sharing such a small bed in his life. They both ignored the disapproving looks they received from the nurse each time she came in to check on him.
“I don’t think they’re going to let you stay the night with me,” Mike said. “Can you go home and sleep?”
“I don’t need to sleep but I have plenty that I can do. Then I can come and take you home tomorrow.”
“Good,” said Mike. “Why don’t you go ahead and go now. They are going to start serving dinner in a few minutes anyway.”
“As you wish, Mike.” She climbed out of bed and bent over, kissing him on the cheek before walking briskly out of the room.
Time without Patience went very slowly. Mike ate the soup, toast, and pudding that made up his dinner. He watched Animal Olympics on vueTee, the only thing even remotely interesting. He even took a little nap, though it was hard with the nurses talking right outside his door. Loudly. Without any concern for someone trying to sleep.
The next morning Mike got up and dressed in one of the new outfits that Patience had picked out for him at the mall– a twill jacket and matching pleated pants with a mustard colored tie. Then he had to wait an interminable amount of time to be discharged. If Patience hadn’t arrived when she did, he would have thrown a fit. But with her there nothing seemed to be that bad. At last an orderly arrived with a wheelchair and rolled him out the front door. Once outside, Mike got up and walked to the car. But he let Patience drive him home. As they drove, Mike watched Patience, marveling at her motoring skill. Then he noticed something else.
“You have earrings! I mean you have pierced ears and earrings.”
“That’s right, Mike. I was able to get them done last night at Electronics City.”
He looked carefully at the right ear, the only one visible. Her lobe was pierced twice and there was a small stud at the top of her ear through the cartilage—plastic, he corrected himself.
“I didn’t know you wanted three holes.”
“I have four in the other ear,” said Patience. “I noticed signs of sexual arousal when I approached the subject.”
“You did? Well, yes.” Mike cleared his throat and took a scholarly tone. “Ours, like most civilizations, uses pierced ears to signal sexual availability.”
“But I saw little babies with their ears pierced.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s revolting.”
When they reached the house, Patience came around and opened the door for him. Together they went inside. Mike was struck at how perfectly clean the place was. It had been vacuumed, dusted, and he noticed that even the bookcases had been organized according to the Library of Congress system.
“This house looks great,” he said.
“Thank you.” Patience beamed. She led him to the couch and kissed him. They made love right there in the living room, Mike noticing only afterwards that the window glass was set to transparent. He relaxed afterwards and was just beginning to doze off when Patience returned to summon him to dinner in the dining room. She had set the table for one, with a lit candle as the centerpiece. Then she sat down across from him as he ate. She had prepared red pepper halibut and for dessert– cannoli. The dinner was delicious.
“Can I ask you about some of the things I found in Harriet’s old room?” asked Patience.
“I found approximately four thousand three hundred comic books, and several hundred old paper books.”
“Yes. Those are mostly from my teen years. I was going to try and sell them on eBay, along with the old books I have boxed away in there. They don’t make them anymore, you know. So they should be worth something. But it’s a lot of work.”
“Very good,” she said. “I also found six boxes of pictures and associated memorabilia.”
“That’s all the family souvenirs. Tiffany started making scrapbooks a few years before she died, scanning that stuff in to go along with the pictures on the vueTee. But she only managed to complete a couple. I thought about making some myself, but it just takes so much time. I’m not really into it anyway. Maybe I will just give it all to Harriet.
“Would you mind if I sorted through all of these things, Mike?”
“Of course not. You are my girlfriend after all. Just take good care of the scrapbook stuff.”
“I will take good care of all of it,” said Patience. “Except the old books and comic books, which I will sell for you.”
Mike spent the remainder of the evening with his feet up, in his recliner watching Star Trek: Engineering Corps. He had purchased it a week before but hadn’t had a chance to play it. When he was done he brushed and flossed his teeth. Then Patience changed his bandage for him and tucked him into bed. Then she turned out the lights, and lay down next to him until he had fallen asleep. That was precisely11:02