***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:
“I don’t see how making a man is a good idea. How can a robot be a lifelong companion?” The tiny straw my sister stirred her rum & Coke with sent the ice clanking against her glass.
“He won’t be a robot, Iris.” My two closest sisters, Iris and Ivory, gave the excuse of helping me gather some refreshments for the rest of my family who sat around the Christmas tree in the living room. I knew they were just dying for the gossip how my appointment at Dream Droids went. I pulled out a barstool and sat between them happy to fill them in. Sharkey, my great Dane, rested his head upon my lap and while I absentmindedly ran his soft, floppy ear between my fingers. “He’s a humanoid. Made to resemble and act just like a human.”
“I think it’s kinda romantic.” Ivory pulled back her long, wavy blond hair to show me her sweet smile.
“I don’t get the difference.” Iris stared into her drink and continued to fiddle with the straw.
Dayton had gone through all this with me during our initial phone conversations. He said many people wouldn’t understand what I was doing and education was key to help them see my perspective. “A robot is built to do a task, to make human existence easier. A maid, a worker at a factory, even crossing guards. Now, a humonoid is a machine designed with artificial intelligence. He’ll be able to read my facial expressions and change his responses. He’ll learn things and grow. He’ll be able to have a conversation about the news with me…with programming that gives him opinions and the ability to debate.”
“Either way, he’s artificial.” Iris pulled her straw away and took a sip of her drink. She was never one to keep her opinions to herself.
As I looked down into my dog’s big brown eyes, Ivory came to my defense. “I see a lot of good in it.”
“Like what?” Iris’s green eyes were wide.
Ivory ran her hand down Sharky’s spine and eyed me with a sympathetic expression. “Like he’ll never die. Ivy will never have to be alone.”
I cringed. Of course, Ivory didn’t want to help me through another period of depression like I experienced after Niles left. I didn’t think she’d survive—I knew I wouldn’t.
“I don’t know,” Iris said. “I could never choose plastic and wires over real-life flesh and blood.”
“He won’t be just plastic and wires.” I lifted Sharky’s head off my lap and hopped off my bar stool. “He’ll have a personality and be…real. At least as real as possible.”
“Iris, I think you’d feel differently if you weren’t newly engaged and head-over-heals in love.” Ivory nodded to the rest of our family in my living room. “I’m surprised you were able to sneak away from Max, anyway. He’s usually glued to your side like Sharky is to Ivy’s.”
Iris’s eyes lit up as a sly smiled filled her face. “I said Ivy had a secret to talk about.” She winked at me.
“My humanoid is not a secret. Everyone knows.”
“Yeah, but it worked. Sometimes, I need a little private sister time with my favorite sisters.” I gave Iris a look like she should be ashamed of herself. “Don’t judge me. We’ll always have a special bond that nobody can overcome.” She had a point. Being a triplet was something unique. We shared a bond that I couldn’t explain to anyone else. Even Sharky noticed, he was almost as comfortable around Iris and Ivory as he was around me—and it had nothing to do with the fact that we all looked alike with blond hair and green eyes.
Iris took a long sip of her drink and stood up from her barstool. She looked like she had something else to say, but Ivory came to my rescue again.
“Enough of this topic.” Ivory gave Sharky one last pet, then turned towards my living room. “It’s time for the Parade of Presents!”
I followed my sisters out of the kitchen and joined my family around the Christmas tree. My humble home burst at the seams. Mom and Dad sat arm-to-arm on my loveseat. My three-person sofa was crammed with four—my little brother and his wife, Felix and Faye, were squished next to my older sister Mary and her new boyfriend who I didn’t remember his name. Max sat on the recliner that Sharky thought was his despite it being way-too-small. Spewed out on the floor were my two nieces and Max’s son from a previous relationship. My oldest sibling, Jeanine, and her husband Alex sat on bar stools behind the sofa, since there was nowhere else to sit. As Iris took a seat on the floor in front of Max and Ivory settled in front of the Christmas tree, I clanked a butter knife against my glass.
“Is everyone ready?” I asked.
“Ready to kick your butt again this year!” Felix laughed. He leaned over the side of the sofa, lifting up one of last year’s trophies. “Everyone knows I always win the Spoiling the Fun trophy. It’s silly for me to even hand it over, but for the sake of tradition, here it is.” Felix stood from the sofa and passed me the ridiculous trophy we crafted out of someone’s old baton trophy with a little gift package wrapped on the top where the athlete used to be. I placed it on the mantle above my fireplace. Felix picked up a second trophy beside the couch. “And here’s the trophy I won last year for Best Gift. It’ll be hard to top that awesome sweater Mom’s wearing.” Everyone glanced over at Mom who made her light-up, ugly sweater blink some red lights.
“It’s still fabulous,” Mom said. “Every time I put it on, I think of each one of you.” My eyes glanced at all the people knit into the fabric of the sweater. Each of her children had a place–all six of us!
“That’s because I had it custom made,” Felix said.
Iris let out a deep belly laugh. “I can’t help myself! I keep picturing Mom wearing it backwards last year and having her back blink all evening. How she had no idea why we all kept snickering!” The room filled with some bouts of laugher while I grabbed the trophy from Felix, but he didn’t let go.
“Make sure you take a good look at this trophy,” Felix said when the room settled down. “I’m going to get it back this year. Both trophies belong together at my house.”
My shoulders tensed. He was rubbing it in, without a doubt, and I wouldn’t let him win again this year. I had held the title for Best Gift for the previous five years straight, and I was certain my Spiderman action figure I got Dad this year would win. I smiled politely and shrugged. “Anyone could win, not just you or me.”
“They could,” Felix said with a smile as he returned to his seat, “but they won’t.” He winked at me.
“Who wants to go first?” I asked.
“Me!” My thirteen-year-old niece exclaimed with her hand raised in an overly jubilant manner.
I nodded and Esme stood up, unwrapping a vibrant red scarf from her neck and laying it on the carpet where she sat. She searched through the pile of gifts, pulling out one wrapped in Snoopy paper and a big red bow. She held it up, balancing it on the palm of her hand like a waitress carries a platter of food. “This present is for Auntie Mary. Your one clue this year is that it’s supposed to be used outside.” Esme giggled and handed Mary the gift.
Mary shook it, filling the room with a soft clanking sound. “Hmm.” She turned the box over and shook again.
“Okay,” I said. “Ten seconds are over.”
Esme grabbed the gift with a smile and returned it under the tree.
“Save your guesses for Christmas. Same rules as last year. You get three guesses to what everyone’s gift is in honor of the three ghosts of Christmas. If you guess right, you get a point. The person with the most points wins the Spoiling the Fun trophy…and no cheating!” I looked directly at Felix who only laughed. I’m certain that’s how he won last year and every year. I’m not sure how, but he figures out what’s inside almost all the gifts.
“Where’s my scarf?” Esme asked after she returned to her spot.
I scanned the room, catching something red by my bedroom door. I laughed. “Sharky has it!”
Sharky turned his eyes my direction and retreated to my bedroom with the scarf. “Who’s going next?” I asked as I carefully maneuvered around my family.
“I will,” Mom said. “One of the names I picked this year is Gary.”
Gary? That’s must be Mary’s new boyfriend. I made a mental note. Gary rhymes with Mary. Now I’d remember.
Mom continued, “I figured that since it was your first time participating in our family traditions, like the Parade of Presents, I’d make it easy. It’s got a unique shape.”
I entered my bedroom to see Sharky laying on my bed. The scarf tucked beneath his chin. Sometimes, he didn’t like all the commotion in the house. I pulled the soggy scarf from underneath him and tried to dry it off before returning to the living room and handing it to Esme. By now, Gary was squeezing the gift that was narrower on one side than the other.
“Okay, ten seconds,” I said, taking my place in front of the tree again.
We went around and around as everyone held, shook, sniffed, rotated, and squeezed their gifts until it was finally my turn. I pulled out my gift for Dad, wrapped with red paper and a big silver ribbon and handed it to him. He shook it with no sound. Squeezed it some, making the crinkling sound that could be explained as the wrapping paper, then shook it again.
“I’d just like to warn everyone that they’re staring at the gift that’ll win Best Gift, and I’ll be keeping that trophy at my house again.”
Felix laughed. “You think so?”
I sucked in my bottom lip and gave him the sweetest nod.
“Not if I can help it this year,” Ivory said. “It’s my turn at glory! I picked out the best present of all for…you!” She grabbed a tiny box and handed it to me.
“You got my name for once!”
Ivory nodded as I squeezed the hard, little box, shook it, and turned it over. No clues at all! It could be anything four inches by four inches, flat.
“Uh uh,” Ivory tisked. “Time’s up!”
I handed it back without an idea of what was inside.
Once everyone finished up round one, our little game continued for two more rounds until everyone had the chance to present all three gifts they brought as well as hold all three gifts for them.
Faye was the last to go, and as she finished, sitting down beside Felix, I took control of the room again.
“Well, that’s it for this year. Thanks everyone for coming.” I turned to my nieces with a smile. “Now, all we have to do is wait three weeks until Christmas.”
“I hate waiting,” Esme said.
“Me, too,” her little sister, Else, added.
“Me, three,” I laughed, but then, the reality of that sunk in. My heart fluttered like I was a child again. It wasn’t the gifts from my family that I couldn’t wait to open, it was the gift I got for myself that I was waiting for. The gift of my lifelong companion. My Dream Droid.
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