Thurman Ober looked into his salad. Breann threw down her fork and said exactly what I was thinking.
“Yes, Clare, they will own us! That’s why Ava is so hot for Caleb and why Gavin Todd or Oliver Wicks won’t let us talk to Cluber or find Bulas. We’re their payoff. Cluber gets the fame in the mad scientist monthly and his minions get their own minions!”
The table was silent. Our waitress slowly approached the table, refilled our drinks and slinked away. Finally Lena announced.
“I’m sorry, ya’ll, but I need to go to to the bathroom. Anybody coming?”
Clare accompanied Lena but Breann stayed seated. She looked me with hurt eyes. I peered toward Dr. Ober.
“If you were in our position, what would you do?”
For the first time since meeting Thurman Ober in the hotel room he didn’t hesitate.
“Get the surgery. Dr. Cluber’s motives and methods may be suspect but you six are medical marvels. What you could mean to others is amazing. You will have some top notch medical attention whether you want it or not, for the rest of your lives. You all should find Connor Bulas, if it’s possible. The rumors of him becoming an expert in the field of genetically modified food are probably true. He may be willing to help you against Dr. Cluber’s ethics. Use the technology. I have added years to my life by eating healthy, employing advanced vitamin therapy, and using robotics to cure arthritis.”
I took some bites and thought about Shane and the girls. I knew my importance, but being involved with Ava was now a permanent problem.
“Dr. Ober, can Breann and the others I stay in touch with you for advice?
Ober nodded yes and gave a miniature grin. The others came back from the restroom and rejoined the conversation. Lena and Clare grew on me as our visit continued. They were as scared, confused, and stressed as Breann and I. After dinner, Lena, Clare and Thurman Ober hailed cabs. Breann and I decided to walk back to my hotel. She grabbed my arm at the door of the restaurant.
“Did you leave that change the waitress gave me for the rest of the tip?”
I had not, so she went inside. I turned toward the street and saw Ava and Lucas in black overcoats, standing side by side across the way. I put my thumb and finger to my eyes and looked again. They were gone.
I turned and saw Breann staring at me with concern. I put my hand to her face, moving her brown bangs away. Like me she was graying in her temples. I checked her forehead for fever. Breann did the same to me. We were warm.
“What are you going to do about Ava as far as your wife and kids are concerned?”
The wind began to gust and it felt like the temperature had dropped 10 degrees since we had been in the restaurant.
“I don’t know . I hope someone other than me will back down from their emotions and stances.
We talked about nonsense and music for the rest of the walk. As we got to the hotel, Ava was getting out of a cab. I looked at Breann and her eyes appeared to ingite. She hugged me good night and took Ava’s ride. Ava sneered at Breann and then smiled devilishly toward me.
“Did she cry when you told her?”
I began walking inside then turned to find Ava by my side.
She handed me her handbag and took off her overcoat and draped it over my shoulders.
“Oh good grief, Caleb, let me have some fun. Your surgery is in 62 days. So it’s my medical advice, you relax and not get caught up in the others’ drama.”
I took the coat off, draped in over my arm and we got in an open elevator together. I glared at her.
“You’re right. Your drama is more than enough.”
The elevator door closed and the metal box began to ascend. Ava reached for the stop button and suddenly we were suspended between the first and second floors. She moved strands of blond hair behind her right ear, licked her lips and moved within inches of my face. She ran her long fingers over my chest toward my waist then detoured into the inside pocket of the overcoat. She removed a white envelope and backed away a few inches, while she tore it open and took out a piece of white paper.
“Read this to me. “
I remembered what was on the paper. It was a letter I sent Ava five years earlier the day I didn’t show after she told her husband she had cold feet.
“I wrote that a long time ago Ava.”
She shoved the paper to my chest, hard.
“Read it Caleb. You treat me like I’m a cold hard bitch, but I’m not a liar like you.”
I felt sure she didn’t know who Thurman Ober was or at least what I learned from him.
“You lie like I never could Av. The stuff you’ve left out about my heart, Cluber, this whole thing. It’s all a lie. You can’t own me regardless of whether I have this surgery.”
Ava didn’t flinch. Her blue eyes steeled. I could see the tightness of my face in them. I hit the button to start the elevator. She pointed her right index finger toward her chest, crumbling the letter.
“You’ve been mine since college. The day I turned down two other boys to let you take me to that homecoming football game, you belonged to me.”
I stared blankly at her. My tolerance for nostalgia was low. She kept going.
“What? Have you been watching Terminator movies? Talking to Breann and her conspiracy hens? Without me, you’re dead. Anson Cluber can’t find Connor Bulas, so he’s created a hybrid network that will turn you into an almost perfect specimen. Without me, Gavin and Oliver, Dr. Cluber wants nothing to do with you, Breann, and those two southwestern housefraus.”
The elevator opened to the third floor. I fought back.
“You’re not coming in. I won’t start taking housecalls until January.”
I walked away from her and the letter. She fumbled out of the elevator, getting her coat, handbag and the paper into one arm.
“Read it to me! “
I took the letter from her hand. Her slender fingers waved over mine. I looked into her face. Her eyes had softened. She was hurt, like Breann earlier.
“I know what it says. I told you we were connected. I wrote that we should have found a way to be together when we were in our thirties. We’re forty now. I’m married and technically so are you. So I’m not yours, regardless of what happens if I get the surgery. I shouldn’t have written …”
Ava didn’t want me to finish. She moved quickly, pushing me violently against the hallway wall. Then my face grazed hers and she moved her lips into mine reaching her right hand behind my head and pulling my hair. The kiss was brief, but effective. I was pinned against the wall and looking side to side for someone to see us.
“Ava, get your stuff and come inside.”
She smiled and followed me into the room. Before she could come after me again I grabbed her arms, held them behind her and shoved her hard into the now closed door. My mouth was an inch away from hers and she pursed, expecting me to continue.
“This isn’t happening Av. You answer a question for me and I’ll have the surgery.”
We were breathing hard and she reached her mouth for mine. I pulled away but still held her arms behind her. She shook her yes and kept panting.
“Were you planning on telling me before the surgery that you were owning the heart and stuff inside of me?”
I let go of her arms and she bound toward me, balling the front of my shirt in her hand, lightly kissing my lips, whispering her answer.
“There is no law saying I have to. Robotics are so new, there are no patient-doctor commandments. Dr. Cluber says that I have to be your personal physician because of privacy and patent issues. Trust me, though. After the surgery, you’ll like me a lot more than you think you do now.”
I turned away from her. She put her arms around my waist and buried her face in my back.
“I’ll do it, Av. Don’t worry about Breann and the others. I’m not sorry I wrote that letter. I just need to think right now.”
She took her arms away from me waist. The door slammed.
*blogger’s note* – This is another story episode. The entire saga is here: https://lancemyblogcanbeatupyourblog.wordpress.com/crazy-robot-stories/ . This is also inspired by a fiction writing prompt THE LETTER from the good folks at The Red Dress Club – http://www.thereddressclub.blogspot.com . Their parameters were 600 words, so I doubled that and some. Hope they’ll still let me hang out.
Today’s song is a personal favorite. I am a complete Alex Chilton fanboi. He started his career as a teenager singing lead for The Box Tops. Later he began a legend with Big Star. Here’s a barely shaving Alex letting loose on one of the most underrated rock songs of the 60s – The Letter.