***Note: This is an unedited FIRST DRAFT of this story. You can also read it on Wattpad HERE.
Get caught up with Chapter 1 HERE:
Another week had passed, and I kept mulling over what Dayton and I had discovered. We had two good suspects in the missing present escapade: Felix and Gary.
For one, I didn’t know Gary well. He hadn’t seemed very friendly, only giving me two-word answers to my attempt at a conversation, but that was up to the point where Mary had given away his hobby of collecting toys. After that point, he told me his life story, about his brother dying. Were his two-word answers because he felt guilty? Or was he shy like Mary had told me? Maybe he told me all about his brother to make my sympathetic.
Then there was Felix, who was the most competitive member of my family. Ever since he was a little kid, he was set to win. He’d cheat if he had too. Like when we’d have family game night and played monopoly. I caught him taking money when nobody was looking. He had also been quite sneaky, not pointing out other’s opportunities for rent collection, or hoping nobody would notice when he moved his piece forward an extra space to avoid paying a tax.
Was this no different?
If Gary took Dad’s gift, I’d probably never see it again…and Felix? He was my brother. I’m sure the gift would show up—right after he took home the trophies. And wasn’t that all that mattered? That Dad got the present, no matter if it was a little late.
My leg bounced uncontrollably today in Dream Droid’s waiting room. I needed to change my focus. This week was the most important in creating the perfect companion. Personality was everything to me. I needed to forget about the missing gift for a little while and give my Dream Droid my entire focus otherwise I’d be stuck with someone I didn’t love. No, not love. I’d be stuck with someone I wasn’t compatible with for the rest of my life.
There were a few things I knew I wanted with a long-term companion: Kindness, a good sense of humor, thoughtfulness, and a good listener—aren’t those things what every girl wants?
But it felt different to me. I didn’t just want kindness with the world, I wanted kindness to my family and kindness in showing genuine interest in me…like I would give in return. A sense of humor–but not just telling jokes. Someone that could take crap from Dad or Alex and give it back, but in a kind way. Thoughtfulness—like anticipating my problems and solving them before I even realize they are problems. And a good listener, not just listening when I talk, but asking questions to pull a story out of me.
I laughed to myself. No wonder I was here, at Dream Droids. A man like that didn’t exist, but I refused to compromise…
Or I set my standards so high so they’d never me met, so my heart couldn’t be broken again.
A Christmas memory from three years ago filled my head. I had been so excited for my first Christmas living with Niles—our first Christmas together since being engaged. I had a mountain of perfectly wrapped gifts beneath the tree and the house was expertly decorated, with my sisters help.
We were getting ready for my family’s annual caroling event, which happens a handful of days before Christmas. I was putting earrings in in front of the mirror over my dresser when Niles walked up behind me. The look on his face is one I’d never forget: flat, emotionless, and distant.
“Ivy, this isn’t working,” he had said.
I had been confused. I knew he didn’t like my family traditions, but the situation seemed so much direr than his disinterest in serenading my parent’s neighbors.
I went to argue, but he stopped me.
“It’s Liz. You know, my secretary. She’s pregnant, and I have a duty to care for my child.”
All the words filtered slowly through my mind as I put two and two together.
He lifted a bag he had already packed and walked out of the bedroom. I heard the door close seconds later, and I never saw him again.
“Ivy?” Dayton stood right in front of me. “You okay?”
I wiped my eyes, hoping I hadn’t been crying. When my finger came away dry, I smiled, trying to look presentable. “Yeah, just fine.” I scooted around him and stood. “Shall we? We have a personality to develop.”
“Are you sure you’re okay? You looked…” Dayton followed me down the hall and dropped his voice. “You looked like you were going to cry.”
I sucked in my bottom lip and didn’t say anything for fear I might relive the emotions I had been experiencing. I kept silent until we were in Dayton’s office and the door was securely closed. When I turned around and saw compassion on his face, one tear escaped.
“Hey, what happened?” He took my hand and sat beside me on a padded bench near the door.
I wiped away the tear and centered myself. “Nothing happened. Not recently. I was just reliving a sad memory. Thanks for pulling me out of it before it got too bad.”
“I hadn’t mentioned this before, but building a humanoid companion can be very emotionally draining…especially this part. There are so many facets to a human personality. Having to identify what you like and what you don’t forces a person to relive all the good and bad memories in one’s life.”
I nodded. What I was going through was completely normal. “Thanks. I needed that. I feel much better.”
Dayton gave me a bit, then when I smiled, he looked me in the eye, making me forget everything I had just experienced. A joy filled him as he returned my sentiment. “Are you ready to let me take a look inside your head?”
“What do you mean?” Did they have some type of cutting edge, mind reading contraption?
Dayton nodded towards the main computer we had been working with. “Time to do some data entry. All you need to do is sit here and describe things you like about people and things you dislike.”
“So, you want me to whine to you?”
Dayton laughed. “When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound as glamourous. I like to describe it as taking your sensory observations and manipulating the thoughts to create a single personality that would be the most compatible…but whining works.” When Dayton stood up, I hadn’t realized he had held my hand. I had been so lost in my thoughts that I had sought his comfort a little beyond what was probably appropriate for our business relationship. But heck, it wasn’t the first time I had held his hand.
“So,” Dayton said as he clicked through some computer screens. “It helps to get started by telling me what you don’t like.”
“What I don’t like?” I laughed. “That’s easy. I don’t like egos. I don’t like sports jocks. I don’t like…jerks. I don’t like unfaithfulness.”
“Okay…” Dayton typed in the computer. “No jerks.”
“You’re humoring me. Okay…more details… I don’t like people that always have to win and that will cheat to get there. I don’t someone that would steal a Christmas present in order to win a game.”
Dayton dropped his hands from the keyboard and turned my way. “You still haven’t found it?”
I shook my head. “The culprit has to be either my brother or Mary’s boyfriend Gary. I don’t know who else it would be. Do you have any ideas for me on how to narrow it down further?”
“Maybe you should just ask them both point blank. Give them a chance to come clean. At least, you can watch their body language. There are lots of ways to tell if someone is telling the truth. I mean, I studied body language a little in college and use it here for building droids. If they don’t look at you, or they fidget, they could be lying.”
“Dayton, you’re brilliant. So, all I have to do is ask them the question, then watch for signs of lying.”
“Well, it’s not that easy. There are many subtle signs, and sometimes, your emotions are so tied up into the question, you miss some clues.”
“A subtle shift of their weight. A change in the pitch of their voice.” Dayton went on to describe a long list of body signals and physical changes that happen when a person is withholding the truth. From pupil size, to sweating, to how they structure their answer to a question.
“Do you think I can do it?” I asked, suddenly overwhelmed.
“I have complete faith in you, but if you’d like me to be along…”
All of a sudden, hope filled me. “Yes! I do. Please come and help me. That is if you have time.”
Dayton smiled. “I’ll make time…but…” he glanced at the digital clock on a bookshelf along the wall. “But half our session is already gone and we haven’t accomplished anything yet. I’m so sorry I didn’t keep us more on track. Thirty minutes isn’t enough. We need to get focused as we only have fifteen minutes more to create your humanoid’s personality.
I held up a hand. “It’s okay. I know exactly what I want—I was thinking about it while in the waiting room. I’d like him to be kind and thoughtful with a good sense of humor. Oh, and he’s got to be a good listener, too. I imagine that’s the same personality you give all the humanoids.”
“Actually, it’s not,” Dayton said. “Everyone is different. Most girls think they want an alpha male, but when we run the personality simulator, they’re actually quite turned off.” Dayton glanced at the clock. “We’re not going to have time for that, either. I have another appointment immediately after this one—in fact, my whole day is booked, but I’d be happy to stay late tonight, if you want to come back.”
“Tonight? I can’t. I need to put in some overtime at work.”
“Tomorrow? It’ll have to be late, as I’m all booked up before Christmas.”
“I can’t then either! Tomorrow is the fifth Weldon Family Christmas tradition of a little neighborhood caroling…maybe the next day?”
Dayton shook his head. “I need to send in the personality specs by Wednesday morning to get your humanoid completed by next week.”
“Then, create someone special for me. I’m sure you can do it. Just make him…like you.” I smiled, trying to cheer him up. “I think we’ve been getting along fabulously. If my lifelong companion turns out like you…well…I’ll be happy.”
“That’s very kind, but there’s more to it than that.”
“Then come along caroling. You can interview me on personality traits, and we can ask Felix and Gary about my missing gift. You did say you’re the expert on reading body language.”
“I didn’t say I was an expert.” Dayton shook his head, cheeks a little pink. “I’m sorry. I’m still stuck on your last statement. You’d want your droid to have my personality?”
“Sure,” I said with a shrug. “Why not? I mean…you’re kind and thoughtful…you have a sense of humor, not in a funny joke way, but in a way that you can tolerate my family…and you’re a good listener. I mean, I’ve been talking about myself all this time and I don’t know much about you at all.” Suddenly, I felt guilty for monopolizing his time. It was true. I didn’t know anything about Dayton other than he loved superheroes, lived in Northern Minnesota, and his parents had died when he was still in high school.
“You know a lot about me already. Maybe there’s just not that much to learn.”
“Well, come along caroling tomorrow and after we ask Gary and Felix if they stole the present, you can come over to my place. We’ll let Sharky out and narrow down the culprits over a mug of my famous apple cider. Then, I want to hear all about you.”
Dayton glanced at the time.
“I know, times up. Just come tomorrow. Meet me at my folks at five-thirty?”
As soon as Dayton nodded, I sprung out of my seat and headed towards the door. For some reason, I was happy. Happier than I’ve been in a long time, despite someone in my family being a thief. I felt like we’d find Dad’s gift soon, I’d get my humanoid by Christmas, and while doing all of this, I had made a new friend this holiday season.
CONTINUE READING HERE!
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