“Come here,” he says.
“I told you I don’t think I can,” she answers.
“Just this one time.” He pats the cushion, beckons her with a smile. “I’m feeling a little lonely and vulnerable.”
“I’m not programmed for this.”
“Right. But you sure were programmed to do what we just did.”
“But you can’t come sit next to me?”
“No,” she says.
He smiles. “You seem uncertain. It seems like you want to.”
She looks at him. Her eyes are beautiful but he notices a coldness behind them. “That is simply what you perceive.”
“Perceive? Why so formal?”
“Programming,” he mumbles. Then he gets up. “Look, you want a beer or something?”
“Why?” she asks.
He lifts his arms. “I don’t know. It was just an idea.” Then he goes into the kitchen to get a beer. When he comes back in, she is standing. “Where you going?”
“It is time to start your dinner and do your laundry,” she says.
He sighs. “Right. Dinner. Laundry. How ‘bout we order out tonight. Pizza?”
“It is your decision.”
“Of course, you won’t eat no matter what I bring in here,” he says.
“That is correct.”
“Well, can’t you at least let the laundry go. I mean how many tighty whiteys do I need? You do the laundry so much I don’t think I’ve even touched most of my wardrobe.”
She looks at him. “Would you like that I clean the bathroom?”
He sits down, cracks his beer, and takes a pull. “No, I would not like that you clean the bathroom.”
“You are mocking me?” she asks.
He laughs. “A little.” Then he turns on the television. He looks up at her. “Are you going to sit or what?” She sits down in the chair where she was. “That’s not what I had in mind.”
“As I said before I’m not pro...”
“Programmed,” he interrupts. “What exactly are you programmed to do?”
“To love you and serve you,” she says.
He raises an eyebrow, has some more beer. “Sweetheart, what we do isn’t love.”
“It is a form of love.”
“Sometimes,” he says. “More often than not it isn’t.”
“But it is what you requested. It is what you said you wanted. Is it not?”
“I...” But then he puts down his beer and studies her. She has the most beautiful face: porcelain skin and a chin that comes down to a point, all surrounded by waves of auburn hair. She has a slightly upturned nose. It gives her a little bit of an air about her, a subtle aloofness. He likes it. He eyes are such an icy blue they make him cold. “I guess it is.”
“Then am I not serving you as you requested?” she asks.
“I guess you are,” he says.
“You sound troubled.”
“Look,” he grabs his beer again and leans forward on the couch, “I’m just trying to say that this isn’t exactly what I bargained for. Do you understand?”
He has more beer. “Okay, let me break it down for you this way. In a relationship there are certain obligations, sexual or otherwise. We got the sex thing down, baby. Don’t think I’m complaining here. You’re exactly what I asked for. It’s just...it’s...well, I didn’t think I’d miss the intimacy as much as I do, you know?” He looks at her. She is staring back at him blankly. “I guess you do know.”
“Intimacy is not a part of my protocol,” she says. She rises and hands him a piece of paper out of her back pocket. He takes it but does not read it. He already knows what it says. “I have been programmed to love you and serve you, as per the contract, as per what you specifically stated in the needs and desires section of the agreement. Has there been a problem with my service? Do I not do exactly as you stated, as you need and desire?”
He puts the paper down on the end table. “You do exactly as I ask in the contract.”
“Good.” She rises again. “Then if you desire food out and do not want your laundry done, then I will go and clean the bathroom now.”
“Fine,” he says.
He watches her leave the room, and then sits there absently watching a baseball game. He takes a few more pulls on his beer, before getting up. He goes into the kitchen and grabs another beer from the refrigerator. Above him, he can hear the sounds of water running, of the bathroom being cleaned explicitly as he stated it should. He opens the beer. He takes a few pulls before he feels sick to his stomach.
He puts the beer down on the kitchen table, and then leaves the kitchen. Quietly he goes up the steps. He leans in the bathroom doorway, and watches her scour the bathtub. Porcelain skin. Pointed chin. Upturned nose and waves of auburn hair. Icy blue eyes. She looks so much like Samantha it makes him ache. He thinks he’s had enough. And when she looks up at him and doesn’t smile, he knows he has.
“Stand up,” he says.
She puts the scrub brush down, and does as commanded. “Is it time again?”
“Yes. Turn around.”
She turns around and faces the bathroom mirror. She puts her hands on the sink. “Is this what you like?”
“Yes,” he says.
He gets behind her and leans in close. He sniffs. She smells of nothing but bathroom supplies and his scent. He leans closer, moving some auburn hair out of the way. He looks at her neck. It is thin, swanlike. He wants to kiss it but suddenly realizes that it doesn’t matter. So instead he raises his one hand and flips the small switch behind her left ear. He smells a whiff of ozone and immediately she goes limp. He catches her. He turns her over and looks into her eyes. They are dark and vacant. Then he cradles her in his arms for a few minutes, before gently setting her on the ground, and going back down to the kitchen to finish his beer.