“So, she broke your heart?”
I look up at the vision before me. She looks spectacular. In her heels she is as tall as me, with eyes a deep brown and hair teased into delicate locks. I notice these things, but they only make me miss my love.
“Yes, Baby did.”
“Tell me about it.”
So I do. At length. I am in tears in a few minutes, all up in my feelings, wallowing in dejection and self-loathing, my incredulity at the hand love had dealt me. She lays my head on her breast and lets me sob, her hands gliding gently through my hair. It is beautiful. Heart wrenching, yet beautiful.
When I stop, when I am all cried out, I look up. Her eyes are glistening too, but she flashes me a smile. She really is beautiful. She holds my head in her hands and kisses my forehead.
“I can help you,” she says.
I sit up straight.
“You can help me get Baby back?”
She laughed sadly, a musical sound, Adele or James Blunt worthy. She shakes her head slowly and pats my cheek.
“No, no. But I may be able to give you the next best thing.”
I take a lingering stare at her. She would probably be an amazing lay, but a rebound definitely isn’t on my agenda. I felt guilty just considering sex with anyone else. I bite my tongue though, and wait.
“What do you plan to do now?” she asks.
“Don’t be like that,” she continues, “the only way you can possibly heal is by moving on.”
“I don’t want to move on.” I say quietly.
“I don’t want to heal. I want Baby. Or I want to die.”
“What if I told you there may be a way you can be with her till the day you die?”
“I would jump at that. In a fucking heartbeat. But how on earth can I get her back?”
“You can’t.” she didn’t mince words.
“Baby’s gone. But we can put her in your head, make her your reality…” I wince when she says Baby – she said just like I would, syllables dripping with longing.
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t worry. I shouldn’t be trying to take advantage of you. I’m sorry. Just know I’m here for you whenever you need me.”
She hugs me and presses her lips against mine briefly, a phantom kiss. I hold her close, didn’t let her pull away.
“Please, tell me about this… this way.”
She holds my gaze and I stared back, daring her to defy me, begging her not to. She sighs and tells me to follow her.
As we walk she speaks, telling me about the pioneer work her company is involved in. They are creating dreams, crafting super-real alternate realities. The problem they have is that no one wants to give up the vast amount of time required to be a useful test subject. So progress is slow.
I am intrigued, in spite of myself. Baby retreats temporarily to the back of my mind as I let the science wash through me. It is amazing, and I am being offered the chance to be part of it, even though it means I’ll have to leave my life behind. Will it be worth leaving everything for a semblance of the beautiful dream being with Baby was?
We keep walking.
“We are five minutes away”, she says.
And then it happens.
“Oh hey you!”
Baby’s voice is light and airy, the way it always got when she was tipsy. She didn’t drink when she was sad, so she must be happy. Hugo is clutching her bum and necking her. Hugo. The same Hugo we used to diss together, the same guy who wasn’t a scratch on me in her estimation, whose infatuation was an utter waste of time, the person she’d left me for.
“Hi,” I say, and walkfaster, away from Baby. I couldn’t bear to think of her like this. I needed to be away, far from this iteration of Baby. I turn to her.
“Let’s do this,” I say.
She snuggles up to me, all long limbs and warm skin and pretty face and full lips and perfect breasts and killer voice. She is naked, and still as beautiful to me as she was the day we met. Her kisses feel like heaven, so I keep at it.
When she pulls away, it is a wrench, but we are going on holiday. Bora Bora. Just us two, no phones, no tablets, no computers. Just sun, sand, awesome service and each other. We laughed and talk all the way from the house to the hotel, in the airports and the different planes.
Love is such a drug. We’ve just finished making love, the kind of love that leaves your soul shaking and your body such a quivering wreck you wonder how on earth you were able to do it in the first place, and at the same time makes you hunger and thirst for next time. We sit, sweaty and breathing heavily, in front of a mirror. There are cocktails beside us. Margaritas, I think. I sit behind her, my arms around her, my head nuzzling lightly on her shoulder, and lookbat our reflection in the mirror.
It is disturbing.
She is crying. Not the happy, smiley faced tears of amazing love, but the silent wracking sobs of the deeply hurt. I lookbaway from the mirror, and there is the smile again, and another kiss. Bliss. I quickly forget about the tears as I slip into a happy, exhausted slumber, with Baby safely ensconced in my arms.
I wake up half a million lifetimes later, rested and insatiable. Only I am not quite as insatiable as Baby, who is already straddling me. I lay back and enjoybthe view. And the sex. She’s as beautiful when we’re screwing as she is when she’s all dolled up for a night out.
Love, love, love her.
I look in the mirror to figure out exactly what kind of shape we were making, and there it is again. The tear-streaked face. This time I look closely. And yell as I scuttle away from her. It is Baby in the room, but in the mirror is a girl I could have sworn I’ve seen before. But the more I look, the clearer she becomes. I see her look change from one of misery to one of terror, as though somehow the source of her misery had suddenly become corporeal.
I look up. Baby is still rocking back and forth on thin air, her beautiful face enraptured, her skin glistening with sweat.
I must have passed out from the shock, because I wake up an indeterminate amount of time later. I am in a room with white walls. The girl stands over me, crying, saying over and over how sorry she is. I am still trying to place her when she swoops down and brushes her lips lightly against mine.
Then I remember. All at once. The sadness. The misery. The offer.
“Why did you pull me out?!” I yell. I reach out for her. Or try to. I try really hard but nothing happens.
I have no hands. No arms.
I scream. Then I look down. There is nothing at all.
“What have you done to me? Why?”
She only cries harder. Between sobs she explains that they’d been forced to sell my organs to pay for further development, and she’d been shut out for daring to defy them. She’d snuck in to apologise to me in person, but she hadn’t meant to pull me out.
I was losing focus.
“Bring me a mirror, please.”
“You’re not actually talking,” she says.
“They hooked you up to a machine that can interpret your brain waves – so you wouldn’t stop interacting with the Experience.”
She moves up with a mirror, but without any enthusiasm. She holds it up. I focus on on it. I am confused. How am I talking? How on earth had she kissed me?
I was a brain in a rigid plastic tube, wired to a console behind me, my wet eyes glistening on bionic stalks like a snail’s ommatophores.