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by Ciara Grubbs 10 months ago in science fiction

Initial Encounter

“A Glass of Merlot”

Wendy was tall with bone-straight, icy blonde hair that reached the small of her back. She had the kind of hair that women pay hundreds or even thousands to emulate at the finest salons in the world. Her skin was pale, while maintaining a light, healthy glow. Her only potential flaw was a faint smattering of freckles that adorned the bridge of her nose, thinning at the very tops of her cheeks—and Cara felt that these birthmarks only added to the woman’s almost ethereal charm.

Although Wendy appeared to wear no makeup at all, Cara believed Wendy to be the most stunning person she had ever encountered. Cara, a 25-year-old high school history teacher, could not pinpoint the woman’s age—Wendy could have been 25 or 45 for all Cara knew. Though Cara tried to appear unintimidated, her confidence was waning.

In an effort to ease the stiffness in the air, Cara opened her mouth to greet Wendy, but was interrupted by Ryder with a wave of his hand.

“Wendy is a robot, Cara. One of my finest creations. Patent pending, of course, or else we’d be having this date on a yacht,” he laughed.

Ryder sauntered over to an open bar, littered with bottles of various spirits, juices and seltzers. “Go on, Cara. Ask Wendy to fix you a drink.”

Cara paused, wringing an invisible cloth between her thin, olive-colored fingers. “Um. I just say, ‘Wendy, fix me a drink?’ That’s it? And she’ll do it?”

Ryder smiled, “With Wendy, it pays to be specific. She is very good but very . . . literal. It’s something we’re working on down at the lab—but, for now, perhaps just a glass of white wine?”

Cara was slightly put off by Ryder’s tone. There was a presumption there. Not quite a command, but an intensifying expectation that seemed to lurk beneath his countenance.

Cara had never visited this up-and-coming San Francisco millionaire’s home before. She had only initially come for the gossip, but his aura was mesmerizing. Her great-aunt’s housekeeper (of all people) was best friends with Ryder’s own housekeeper. And, somehow, the match had been made.

Cara, an Italian transplant from Manhattan, had her long, thick hair pulled back into a sleek chignon. She wore a skin-tight black dress with straps that barely held up her chest, and she had finally broken out the only designer clutch she owned for the occasion. As she had painted her lips a crisp crimson red earlier that evening, she imagined she looked like something out of a noir thriller.

As Ryder awaited her reaction, Cara straightened her back and cleared her throat. “I’m more of a red wine girl, actually. Wendy, please pour me a glass of your finest Merlot.”

Wendy beamed, suddenly, with wide blue eyes and a closed-tooth smile that, to Cara, seemed at once inviting and unsettling. “Yes, Cara, right away.”

Yet, Wendy did not move from where she stood.

Cara choked softly on her own saliva. “I hadn’t expected you—her to know my name. At least not immediately.”

Ryder smirked as if he had been awaiting Cara’s shock with the eagerness of a golden retriever seeking a biscuit. “Yes, that’s the artificial intelligence I was telling you about over dinner.”

Cara tried not to cringe as she remembered that she had followed this near-stranger back to his home after an expensive dinner, despite the fact that he had nearly bored her to tears with his rambling about the distinctions between mechanical and software engineering.

Cara replied, “You know, I really think I should be going soon. After the drink. I do appreciate it, but—”

Ryder interrupted, “And I appreciate you, Cara. And, if you’ll let me, I’ll tell you the truth about Wendy.”

Cara shuddered and grimaced. “I do not want to know what you do with Wendy at night, Ryder!”

“What?” Ryder scowled. “It’s nothing like that! Wendy was my wife!”

Wendy smiled again, this time showing two rows of perfect porcelain teeth, so blindingly brilliant that Cara was forced to avert her gaze. Wendy then opened her mouth a bit wider, and Cara had a horrifying realization. After letting out a small shriek, Cara bolted toward the door.

“Cara please!” Ryder cried out. “It was our wedding night.”

Cara’s hand paused on an antique brass doorknob enveloped by thick mahogany wood.

Fiery tears threatened to engulf Ryder’s dark irises as he continued. “A drunk truckdriver careened across a highway divider and crashed into Heather’s side of the car.” Ryder’s clean-shaven cheeks now dampened, as his six-foot frame hunched solemnly.

“I couldn’t bear to lose her. Not that night. Not when she was so beautiful . . .”

Cara coughed and doubled over, fighting the urge to vomit her pasta dinner all over Ryder’s immaculate hardwood floor.

Ryder continued, unfazed. “I will spare you the details, Cara. Let’s just say, Heather became Wendy. And Wendy is my wife. Or she was. I saved what I could of her.”

Cara finally managed to rise up and face Ryder. “Then who is ‘Wendy’?”

Ryder paused, shifting his black Oxford loafers to and fro.

“Who is Wendy?!” Cara shrieked wildly ready break something if necessary.

“She’s m-my ‘Wedded. Evolved. Neurologically-Driven. Idol’. It is actually spelled with an “I” at the end, but most people just assume . . .”

Cara backed away again slowly, shaking her head. “No, no that’s impossible.”

Suddenly, Ryder collapsed on the floor and prostrated himself at Wendi’s feet. Ryder’s tears and mucus muffled his voice so strongly that Cara could no longer make out his words.

But, apparently, Wendi understood her husband.

“Yes, Ryder.” That was all Wendi said before stepping promptly over the weeping man in her white red-bottom shoes and venturing through a door that presumably led to some sort of basement.

It was at this moment Cara realized that Wendi was dressed in white from head to toe. White floral headband. White 1950s-style cinched dress that flowed out above her knees and showed off subtle cleavage. Cara would not have been surprised if a white garter belt lay hidden upon one of her milky thighs.

While Cara’s mind had already fled out the door and down the street, her feet and failing stomach kept her firmly planted, waiting, for what, she had no clue.

As Wendi’s footsteps were heard rising up from the dark cellar, Cara half-expected to see the bride of Frankenstein emerge.

However, Wendi was unchanged and beautiful as ever. As Wendi approached, Cara nearly toppled over backward, but Ryder, thankfully, had risen to steady her frame.

Wendi—or perhaps Heather—just smiled at Cara sweetly.

And, just as Cara opened her mouth to speak again, Wendy handed her a fresh glass of Merlot.

science fiction

Ciara Grubbs

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