Brock has emerged from the shadows full of rage and Elle and Sara are on his radar.
“So, are we all getting along—or at least managing to be civil?” Brock asks testily.
“Of course, we’re getting along,” Sara pouts. “I was just remarking on Audrey’s dress.”
Her voice is pitched high, her ruby lips twitching in a nervous, flickering smile. She tries to defuse the tension.
But Brock’s eyes are fierce. “Remarking on her dress? I’m sure you were.”
The harsh edge in his voice causes Sara to tremble. Elle looks flustered and tries to feign nonchalance, but even she is visibly shaken and averts her eyes to avoid his stare.
I feel trapped in a blind alley full of menacing shadows—with Sara’s garish red lipstick and shifting expressions resembling a flickering red neon sign that offers little solace or light.
The silence is ominous. Brock glowers at the women pondering a course of action, and at last, comes to a decision.
“Come along, Audrey, we have to do the meets and greets.”
He takes my elbow and guides me away pausing only briefly to call back over his shoulder, “Enjoy the party, girls.”
I glance back at Elle—she’s regained her composure. Her eyes flash back at me in simmering hatred.
I would not want to be alone with her in a midnight alley.
Thankfully, the rest of the night passes uneventfully. Brock is pleased—he’s managed to secure the backing of several investors who have bought into his retro Sixties campaign and new line of male cosmetics.
Finally, by three a.m. the clients have left, and the suite is empty again. Brock and I are alone and he sits opposite me in his black leather chair, staring.
He appraises me as if I were a painting—studying each nuance, each detail of my dress and appearance.
Sara’s voice comes back to haunt me.
I suppose he wants you in that dress because he’s still carrying a torch for Vanessa.
I want to ask him about Vanessa, but can’t. I’m frozen—caught in the amber of the moment.
In half-darkness Brock’s eyes glare—his large fish eyes pass over me and I’m magnified in aquarium glass.
“You did well tonight, Love—you were almost perfect.”
“I tried Brock—I really did.”
He sips at his wine. “I know. You did very well.”
He gets out of his chair and leans against the large picture window, staring out at the Toronto skyline. He seems to be searching for something in the colored jumble of lights.
He’s staring into the distance, talking in a sleepy, far-away voice—barely audible, as if he’s thinking aloud.
“I’m a lucky man. Not many get a second chance. And, of course, it’s even better when others invest in your dream.”
He turns back to face me.
“We make a good team.”
He comes over, and pats my shoulder affectionately.
I squeeze his hand, and watch as he picks up the remote and gently presses a key.
I see stars—they burst and slowly fall like fireworks as I begin the familiar slide into the cool oblivion of machine sleep.
Were you able to predict the outcome of this story? Being able to decipher the deeper meaning is a skill possessed by practiced readers who are able to pick up clues in the subtext as the story unfolds. Obviously, Audrey was a mechanical doll equipped with AI and her own distinct personality. If you are intrigued by the possibilities of automatons and companion robots you might also like to read Edison’s Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Wood.