Cassandra sat at a cafe in Paris. It was spring, and her smirk showed that she knew how cliche’ she looked. But she pulled it off great.
Her red hair, styled like the forties, had very short bangs curled under with a bob. The smoke from her cigarette wisped off the cherry into the wind as she sipped her espresso. She leaned back in her chair to show off her dress and let it steal the scene. It was white with a tiny repeating pattern that matching both her black belt and flagerantly pink freckles.
As people walked by she whispered in French, “Look at me. I’m an American Cliche!”
They were French. They believed her.
She laughed, took a puff and waited.
Her presence so dominated the space around her that it looked like her face chiseled the scene from reality itself. Her ‘pretty’ was obvious, but nothing defined the scene like her smarts.
“CASSY!” came a voice from the crowd outside the cafe.
“Karen,” said Cassy, crushing out her cigarette. You came after all! Come on in!”
Karen walked through the front door, and made her way to Cassy’s patio. Cassy stood, they hugged and sat down.
“God, how did you look younger than me? I swear you look twenty and I look 40.”
“Nanobots!” smirked Cassy. “I live on another planet and nanobots keep my body free of aging and reverse all these pesky effects of smoking.”
“I heard those may come some day! You are SUCH a card!” said Karen.
“Karen, people don’t use card anymore.”
“I’m rebooting a meme.”
“Ooh, the soccer mom goes viral,” said Cassy.
“Seriously, enough of your nerdy sic-fi stuff,” said Karen, “How do you do this? You really do look twenty.”
Cassy paused and then replied.
“Vitamins and exercise. I’m a vegan too. And I moisturized since I was seven!”
Cassy’s face betrayed her lie but Karen didn’t catch it. Inside her lungs the nanobots were already sweeping away the effects of the dozens of chemicals in her lungs delivered to her by the cigarette. Cassy’s face was frozen in a friendly impish smile that made Karen bubble with joy that she was so glad to see her.
Karen smirked. “Well, you look beautiful.”
“As do you dear.”
Karen’s face turned shameful. Her eyes looked downward.
“Cassy, I was really mean to you in high school and college. I’m glad you asked me here today. I … well … I made your life hell and I really do apologize.”
“It was hell dearie. Let me assure you. Having someone sabotage your life at every turn sucks.”
Karen’s face showed shame. She looked away. A tiny Buddha hung around her neck.
“I was young, insecure and needed to put others down to feel good. Oh Cassy, you are so god damned smart and confident. I HATED how … arrogant you were and how you could back it up so. And you never EVER fought back and succeeded anyway. You are such a star.”
There was a long pause. Cassy crushed a tear. Looked up to the sky in a very specific direction.
“Apology accepted. So, we’re good then?”
“Yes,” said Karen brushing her straight, thin brunette hair behind her right ear. “So what’s up with you. Have you a guy?”
“A guy has me, more like it. Has it bad actually. Really bad. Crushing on me beyond hope.”
“Ooh!,” what’s his name?
“Phil? That names MEANS love.”
“It means BROTHERLY love Karen. Oh, dearie, I love him to bits. He is the joy of my heart. He is literally the meaning of my life. We ARE soul mates. He is my best friend and he longs for my touch like the desert desires rain. I wake up and he is … wait for it … SKETCHING me on a note pad!”
Cassandra laughed joyfully.
“Awww. Sounds like you have some hot intimacy going.”
“Actually, NO. I’m gay.
“Yes, and it’s the cruelest trick EVER to be played on a human being like Phil. I am his only love. But he can never have my heart and it is killing him. And it’s killing me too, because if anyone I know deserves my love it is him.”
Cassy reached for a cigarette, offered one to Karen, and Karen declined. Cassy lit her cigarette. and looked wistfully at Karen.
“His heart is so beautiful. His mind so … honest. And yet … YET … “
She spread her arms up to the Universe to see if she could feel any romantic attachment.
“Nope, nothing,” said Cassie lowering her arms smiling.
“Wait, you’re gay?”
Cassie took a puff on her cigarette while darting her head in an impish manner with a slight closed grin.
“And it SO, SO sucks too. I WANT to love Phil and I do in so many ways that go beyond explanation. And …”
She held up her arms to the Universe again, laughed out loud, lowered her hands…
“Wow Cassy, you gotta cut him loose. That’s just cruel. Does he know you are gay?”
“Is he refusing to take no for an answer?”
“No, he’s just refusing to let ‘no’ matter about what he wants. He’s the kind of guy who – if he can’t get what he wants – goes without. There is no sexual harassment from him AT ALL. In fact, he’s the most professional co-worker i have had in my life. It just breaks my heart to see someone I love SO SO much hurt because I cannot love him … THAT WAY.”
“Can’t he find someone else?”
“There is NONE better than me dear.”
“Oh Cassy, you are so ARROGANT.”
“No Karen, if I were him I wouldn’t settle either. I’m THAT amazing. If I were him I would do the same.”
“Because when you know what you want, nothing else will do.”
Karen’s eyes flamed with jealousy. She caught herself and breathed. Her days of cruelty were over.”
“You know what I asked you here for?” asked Cassandra.
“Before I tell you, you must promise to do something for me that will cost you nothing and mean absolutely everything to me. And really, I do mean it is a mere minute of your time.”
“Let’s go for a walk.”
Cassandra paid her bill and her and Karen walked in the park with Karen telling Cassy about her life and Cassy listening in pretending to be interested. Finally Cassy had enough and interrupted her.
“Okay, here is the deal, I forgive you for all your drama if you do ONE thing for me. It’s free, takes very little time and will do a LOT of good. Do you agree?”
“Kiss me for ten seconds, my count.”
“I … I … uh …. uh …”
Cassy took her hand and continued.
“I promise it won’t hurt. And it is really ALL I ask. I have always loved you Karen. THAT has been my real torture. You treated me like shit, tried to ruin my life at EVERY turn, and I went home and crumbled inside at WHAT you did for me and how I felt for you. YOU MADE MY LIFE A DOUBLE HELL! AND GODDAMIT YOU OWE ME A TEN SECOND KISS!”
There was a long pause that was beyond awkward.
“I’m married,” said Karen.
” … I … I … ” said Karen.
Slowly Cassy drew Karen in, so purposely that Karen could feel Cassandra’s intention on her lips They kissed as Cassy counted out loud to ten. The entire kiss lasted just over a minute with multiple kisses between counts.
“… ten … “, whispered Cassandra as she stepped away.
Karen stumbled on her feet. Her breath short. She grabbed onto a tree.
“That POOR Phil!,” said Karen.
“No pity, dearie. He hates that. He never gives it nor receives it. I make it up for him though.”
“Let’s just say that I rock at video games…”
“Cassy, I never knew … I … could … feel … like this.”
“Now you know. Bye Karen.” said Cassandra.
She walked ten steps and turned around.
“BE HAPPY!” she cried to Karen.
Cassandra walked away nursing the kind agony of nostalgia. The nanobots had completely finished cleaning out her system from the effects of the smoke and were now onto fixing telomeres.
She looked up to that blank spot in the sky and smiled.
Phil looked up at Disang in the blank sky of his world and gave it a wave. He walked into Cassy’s lab holding a note from her.
It read: “Hey Feeler, you seem to be doing great and bouncing back nicely! But there is still a deep pain you still possess that we finally have the tools to deal with. Now, go to my lab and put on the virtual reality helmet. I’ll be gone for awhile.”
He went over to her lab and found the virtual reality helmet. He put it on and laid down on a couch. The helmet completely took over his brain’s ability to perceive reality and move his body. He instantly beheld the exact world he lived in reproduced in his mind. But in this world, Cassy’s white board had a message that didn’t exist in the real world. “Come to my place – stat!” He walked over to Cassy’s virtual home knocked on the door. She opened it in the nude.”
Phil was speechless.
“Dearie, I know what you need. And here is the BEST part. I programmed this version of me so that it will be hyper-realistic. It will seem more real than if it really WAS me.”
“Wow. That’s addictive. I may never leave.”
“Yeah, it’s a trap alright. That’s why if any fantasy ever goes beyond 8 hours, the system automatically terminates. I spent a lot of resources on security. That way, you always return to reality and regular senses.”
She grabbed his hand.
“Wow. It DOES feel more intense here,” said Phil. “You know, I snooped around a little and found an interesting file on the screen of your computer. It was like you wanted me to find it.”
Cassy gave a faux look of surprise.
“Me? said Phil, “AS A GIRL?”
“I can dream right?”
“You hacked my DNA, changed my chromosomes and put me in a software program?”
“Oh don’t let it bother your pretty little head sweetie.”
“So are you going to get these memories of us?,” asked Phil.
“No baby, they are all yours. The real me doesn’t love you that way. So it would be wrong for me to know your most tender parts.”
She paused and turned to him. Her eyes showing the slightest of discoloring from her real face.
“I do love you to bits Phil.”
“And honey,” she said whispering in his ear, “I put the YUM in yab-yum.”