Throughout this month (October) I shared my Christmas Novella: Created for Christmas. As of November 1st, I had to take it down to prevent being in violation of my contract with Amazon. (The story publishes November 15th.)
Thank you all for your support! If you didn’t get finished reading the story, you can grab a copy HERE. Also, for new arrivals, the first chapter is posted below.
But, I have some exciting news for all of you who read it! I had many people interested in Ivory and Ethan’s story, so I’m in the process of writing Validated by Valentine’s. It’s up on Amazon now and you can pre-order HERE it if you like.
Created for Christmas:
December 5th: Twenty-Two Days until Christmas
In the tiny Dream Droids’ waiting room, my hands fiddled with the hem of my skirt. After two years of contemplating an artificial companion, I gathered the nerve and gave myself a Christmas present.
The door opened on the far corner, and a thin man with dark rimmed glasses and light brown hair stuck his head out. His ice-blue eyes caught mine, causing my heart to pick up speed. “Ivy Weldon?” he asked.
I dropped the hem of my skirt and grabbed the bag containing my dad’s Christmas gift that rested beside my chair. I had swung by the comic bookstore next door before this meeting, not expecting to find the perfect present. I slung the bag’s handle over my arm, smoothed out my skirt with the other hand, and crossed the room, trying to ensure I looked presentable. “Yeah, that’s me. Are you Dr. Pierce?”
He nodded and greeted me with a soft, warm handshake. “You can call me Dayton. I prefer the more informal.” When our hands parted, he shoved his into his lab coat pocket.
“I’m so happy to finally meet you.” I stepped through the door Dayton held open into a brightly lit hallway.
Dayton and I had been emailing back and forth and talking on the phone for over a month now. He had patiently explained the process of creating a humanoid to me. I was almost as excited to meet him as I was to create my Dream Droid.
“You’re much younger than I expected,” I said.
He laughed. “I must have an old-sounding voice. I get that a lot.” His voice was deep, but didn’t sound old.
“It’s just that you were so knowledgeable of the process and great at explaining it to me. It was nice. If it wasn’t for you, I may have given up on this concept.”
“Thank you. It means I’m doing my job well. Dream Droids pays me to put you at ease. You’re younger than I expected, too. I mean, people making a Dream Droid are usually a little older.”
“I’m older than I look. I’m in my upper thirties.”
He laughed. “I doubt that.”
“Okay, thirty-six, but it’s beyond my prime.”
I caught a smile on his face when he glanced over his shoulder while leading me down the hallway. “You never told me what brings you to Dream Droids. I know you want a companion, obviously, but we still haven’t touched on the specifics, and don’t tell me it’s because you’re past your prime.”
My cheeks heated. We never discussed the specifics because I had deliberately avoided pouring my heart out to a man I had just met. I looked around to see who was listening, and lowered my voice, searching for the words. “I guess I’m just tired of being alone. Even with my dog Sharky at home, the house still feels empty.” That wasn’t the whole story, but hopefully it was enough.
Dayton’s words were way too loud. “Are you looking for a short-term or long-term companion?”
“Long-term, of course!” Why would anyone go to this extreme for something short-term?
Dayton opened the last door in the hallway and held it open for me. As I stepped inside a room twice the size of my bedroom, he pointed to a pair of comfortable-looking brown leather chairs sitting around a TV screen that monopolized one wall. I took a seat, setting Dad’s present beside me, and Dayton picked up a wireless keyboard from a table between the two chairs.
After Dayton settled in the leather armchair closest to me, the room filled with the soft clicking of keys and the TV came to life, flashing through a series of digital paperwork. “We need to fill out a series of forms that will be used to create your humanoid’s programming. This data will control everything about him, from his baseline knowledge, his physical appearance, personality, and even what information he innately knows about you. From our conversations on the phone, I’ve already filled out about half of them, but Dream Droids likes to meet our clients in person to complete the more critical information. Are you ready to get started?”
I took a deep breath and nodded.
“First off, I need to know why do you really want a droid?”
“I already said I’m looking for companionship. Someone to occupy my home with. Someone I can talk to when nobody else is around.”
“Yes, that’s why you want a droid, but maybe I should rephrase the question. Why are you choosing a droid over a human? Remember, I need the whole truth to truly create a Dream Droid.”
I sucked in my bottom lip, then blew out a breath. I felt raw admitting these words, but I let them be spoken for the first time out loud. “Because I’ve already loved once in my life. I don’t need to do it again.” As an image of Niles, my ex-fiancé filled my mind, my eyes flooded with tears. It was like I was right back there, a few Christmases ago, and he was leaving me once again.
“Many people love more than one person in a lifetime.” He tilted his head at me, and I tried to school my face. “You’re afraid of something…afraid to get your heart broken?”
My tears dried as quickly as they came. “I’m not afraid. I just don’t need to do it again. Why subject yourself to that kind of pain?” But his words stirred something inside. Was that fear? Was I a coward? I had loved Niles for nearly ten years, but three years ago, he stomped on my heart without warning, leaving me for a coworker who was carrying his child. At the time, I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get out of bed for more than a week, and I never want to feel that again. “A droid just seems less…complicated.”
Dayton nodded and typed non-human companionship into the form. When he was done, he balanced the keyboard on his armrest and leaned his forearms on his thighs. “I need to make sure you’re clear about something. A droid will never love you. They’re hard-programmed against that sentiment.”
“That’s perfect. I don’t need love. I’ve already had love once in my life and it wasn’t fun.” I fumbled with the hem of my skirt again. “Besides, I have love. Lots of love. My family is amazing and supports me with everything I do. I have five siblings.”
“Five?” Dayton laughed. “That must be a handful! When I was younger, I was happy that I was an only child since I didn’t have to share Mom and Dad’s attention with anyone. Now that they’re gone, I wished I had a big family.” He smiled awkwardly, then looked away. “I shouldn’t share this. Go on about love not being fun.” There was almost a hint of sarcasm in his voice. Not the mean kind, but the sweet, teasing type. Like you do with a long-time friend.
“I didn’t mean love wasn’t fun. I just meant the end wasn’t fun.” I shook my head. Making a humanoid wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d expected. It appeared that I was going to have to face my deepest, hidden emotions to get my droid companion, but I was tired of being lonely. “I did have fun with Niles…and loved him with all my heart…he just didn’t seem to love me the same way.”
Dayton nodded, then turned back towards the computer screen. “I have some gaps in the earlier forms we need to fill in. Some basics, like what is your favorite color?”
I rattled off answers to about a hundred questions before Dayton clicked around on a collection of forms and finally hit Save.
“Very good,” he said. “We’re done for today.”
“That’s it?” A kaleidoscope of butterflies filled my stomach. We were one step closer to my loyal companion that would never leave me. One that would go with me to my family events so I didn’t have to go alone. One that would be waiting for me at home every day after I finish with clients at my accounting firm. I couldn’t wait.
“Our hour’s up and that’s it for today. We need to meet once a week for the next three weeks to finish the build.”
“Three more meetings? I was hoping to have him soon.” Like by tomorrow for my family’s Parade of Presents tradition, but on the bright side, I’d see Dayton a few more times before this was over.
“We just finished the basic information and still need to create the complexities that will make him seem human. Next week, we’ll go over physical appearance. The following will be personality, then at the last meeting, we’ll bring him to life…so three more meetings. You’ll still have him in time for Christmas.” Dayton looked down at the gift I purchased for Dad. “Sorry, I couldn’t help getting a glimpse inside your bag, but is that a vintage Spider-Man action figure?”
I pulled out the vintage toy. “Yeah. It’s a gift for my dad. I figured since Dream Droids is right next to AmaZing Comics, I’d check it out for a perfect Christmas present. See, when I was a child, I used to watch the Spider-Man cartoon with my father. It was the only bit of TV he had time to watch. I loved…well, I still love Spider-Man and so does Dad! He’s going to love this!”
“Can I see it?” Dayton cautiously reached out.
“Sure.” I proudly handed the package over.
Dayton fondled the package as if it was made of delicate glass, turning it over in his hands. “I always check out the Spider-Man table at Comic-Con.”
“Don’t tell me that you haven’t heard of Comic-Con? It’s where all lovers of fantasy and superheroes get together and share their passion. There’s one going on this weekend downtown. It starts Friday night. You should check it out. It can be a little odd and overwhelming, but they have lots of stuff like this for sale. Usually for a good deal, too.” He lifted the Spider-Man action figure up, turned it over one last time, then slipped it back into the bag.
“Hmm. As tempting as it is, I don’t need to go,” I smiled, taking the bag back from Dayton. “I already have the perfect gift.” Part of me wanted to get to know Dayton a little better, but he didn’t exactly offer to take me to Comic-Con. Besides, I didn’t need the distraction. I had lots of family Christmas festivities in the next few weeks, end of the year tax documents to begin at work, and what purpose did it have? I was committed to my no more men mantra.
A sweet smile emerged on his lips. “Well, if you’re bored, it’s quite a sight to see.” His eyes glistened in a way that made me want to share the joy that he felt towards Comic-Con
Dayton stood. “I really need to get to my next appointment. I’ll see you next week.”
Next week. I took a deep breath and nodded, certain that this was going to be the longest month of my life as I waited in anticipation for my Dream Droid.
Grab the entire story HERE.