***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:
This week, I sat in Dream Droids waiting room with a heavy heart. I should be happy, knowing that my lifelong humanoid companion was just beyond that door, but I wasn’t. I’d have to see Dayton again, and face how when he told me his feelings, I basically shoved him out the door. He was as shy showing his emotions as I was I was hesitant to let anyone in. When he finally worked up the nerve to let me see his heart, I crushed it.
The gift he had given me still sat on top of my end table. I couldn’t stomach taking it out of the bag and wrapping it for Dad. It wasn’t right.
But I also couldn’t get myself to bring it here today to return it. I liked it on my end table.
I jumped at a voice I wasn’t expecting. A short, pudgy woman stood in the doorway that led back to Dayton’s office.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Serway.” She gave a little wave from the hand that wasn’t holding a clipboard. “I’m taking Dr. Pierce’s place today.”
All I could do is nod and follow her down the hallway.
This was for the best. I didn’t want to see Dayton, anyway.
But why did I feel an emptiness inside? I needed closure, and I’m sure he did, too. “Where’s Dayton…I mean Dr. Pierce?”
She twisted around and showed me one brown eye, but then turned to continue walking forward. “He took the day off today for the holidays and asked me to help you with your humanoid.”
He took off? “Oh.”
Dr. Serway stopped in front of the doorway right across the hall from Dayton’s office. I leaned forward to see beyond his cracked open office door, but it was dark inside.
“You sound disappointed,” she said. “He didn’t tell you he was taking off?”
I didn’t blame him. This is why I stayed away from men. My heart was already breaking, and I only knew him for two months.
As I stepped into the woman’s office, my eyes immediately went to a handsome man sitting at a chair. He had dark hair, was tall and, I bet, muscular underneath his Dream Droid beige polo shirt. I could see his crystal blue eyes from across the room, and when he saw me, a perfect smile appeared on his lips. He stood up and extended his hand, in an almost robotic way.
Dr. Serway stepped between us for introductions. “Ivy, I’d like you to meet…well…what did you name him?”
“What did I name him?” I felt foolish as soon as those words slipped out of my mouth. This man in front of me…beautiful man…was my humanoid. The smile on my face made my cheeks hurt it was so large. “I…I haven’t named him yet.”
I can’t believe I forgot to come up with a name! With all the drama with the missing Christmas gift and with Dayton, it slipped my mind. I looked at his handsome smile, well-shaped nose, and strong jawline, trying to figure out what he should be called…but the only name I could think of was Dayton. “I don’t know.” I must appear like a bumbling fool. “Could you name him for me?” It was a stupid request, but maybe she’d know the perfect name—if she didn’t laugh at my unpreparedness first.
“Of course. All droids are programmed with a backup name for situations like this. Believe it or not, Ms. Weldon, you’re not the only one who needs a little help. About twenty percent of people struggle with this. Sometimes it’s that they put so much pressure on the perfect name, they lock up, while other times it’s that they meet their droid and the name they selected doesn’t quite fit.” Dr. Serway motioned towards my humanoid. “Please tell Ms. Weldon your back-up name?”
His lips parted to show a row straight, white teeth. “My back-up name is Ethan.” His voice was as pleasant as his appearance.
“Ms. Weldon, what do you think of that name?”
I looked him over. “I think it’s a beautiful name. Ethan it is.”
“Good.” Dr. Serway reached over and placed a finger beneath his right ear. “Ethan, set your back-up name as your permanent name, please.”
She pulled her hand away. “His programming button is behind his ear here,” she pointed. “Touch it.”
I was hesitant to reach out, but did as requested, placing my hand against the soft skin below Ethan’s ear, feeling a slight bump.
“It’s beneath the exterior, but it’s there if you feel it. If you need to save a program setting, you touch this bump while giving a voice command.” Dr. Serway reached down and picked up a folded, laminated piece of paper that she unwrapped like a folding map. “Here’s the quick start guide, but anything more in-depth is located on this thumb drive.” She picked up a little flash drive attached to a big rubber Dream Droid Keychain. She then pulled out a little Christmas gift bag with a handle and tucked the guide and the thumb drive inside, then held it out to me. “It was your Christmas present, right?”
I felt my cheeks heat, and I forced my blush away. It was time to be an adult. “It was,” I admitted.
“Of course, he’s also programmed with a full operational manual. All you have to do is ask him whatever questions you have, but some people prefer to look things up more…discretely.”
I tightened my grip on the bag’s handles and nodded. After all this time with Dayton, it appeared I still had a lot to learn.
Almost as if Dr. Serway could read my mind, she looked at me with concern. “Many people are a little overwhelmed, but your humanoid is programmed to take care of you and answer all your questions. If it becomes overwhelming, you can always take some time alone—all you need to do is tell him what you need. Ethan, what’s the command for you to leave someone alone?”
“I can be requested to Hibernate by saying ‘Ethan, hibernate’ and the number of minutes you want me to stay dormant. With this command, I’ll retreat to a chair or bed, if I’m at home, and shut myself off to the world…” his face softened, and he examined me with his blue eyes, “…but, you could just ask me to give you some alone time, and I’d do that too, without a command.”
“We’re just talking about commands right now,” Dr. Serway said. Her words were cold, and I wondered if Ethan noticed.
Whether he did or not, he nodded in a very human way. This was going to be hard—I didn’t expect him to be so…real. Or almost real. Watching him take orders from Dr. Serway made me feel like she was making him do things outside of his own will. Almost as if he was a prisoner.
He was a computer program, nothing more.
He’s not human. He’s not being forced to do anything.
And he’d never love me.
Dayton’s voice echoed in my mind, and now, I heard them as a warning.
I shook it away.
“Is that it?”
“Not quite. He’s full of information, but the first few days with you may take some adjustment—for both of you. It’s best to hang low a little—get to know each other before overwhelming anyone with the outside world.” Dr. Serway spent the next thirty minutes going through the quick start guide with me, and when I finally left with Ethan, I was as giddy as a child with a new toy.
As I walked to the parking lot behind the building with him at my side, he stopped, taking in all the parked vehicles.
“Which car is yours?” he asked.
“The blue one over there.” I pointed and clicked my unlock button on my keys to make the lights flash.
Ethan nodded and hurried up to the driver’s side door, pulling it open for me. I smiled. What a gentleman…maybe that uneasiness I had was for nothing.
Then I realized his actions were all in his programming. As he closed the door for me, I decided I didn’t care. It was still a nice gesture and if I dwelled upon his reasoning, it’d drive me nuts. I reached across the car and opened the passenger door for him.
As he caught it and crawled inside, he said, “Why’d you do that?”
“Open the door for me.”
“Well, it was only fair. You opened mine.”
“It just was…unexpected…and pleasant. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” I started the car and headed for home. I tried to come up with a conversation, but my thoughts were stuck on Dayton’s dark office. Dr. Serway said he took off for the holidays, but I knew better.
Today was supposed to be one of the most memorable days of my life, taking Ethan home, but instead I felt sick that I had upset Dayton so much that he missed work. It was good that I had a week off of work. Not only to get Ethan adjusted to my life, but for me to figure out a way to make it right with Dayton.
“So…” I stared out the windshield as I drove Ethan to my house…our house. Where do you even start a conversation when you just met your perfectly created soul mate? “So…it’s only a few more days until Christmas.”
“Yes, It’s December 23rd–Christmas is only two days away. I understand your family is very Christmas orientated, and we’ll be spending a lot of time with them.”
I nodded. Dayton must have programmed that information in his head as none of it was anything I put down on a questionnaire. “I’m a triplet. I think it gives us three sisters a special bond that extends to the rest of my family. We’re very close.”
“Did your parents want to have such a large family?”
I laughed. “Triplets were unexpected, but even with five children after the three of us came, they still tried one more time. They wanted a boy.”
Surprisingly, our conversations flowed for the whole ride home and soon, we stood in front of the bushy wreath that hung on my front door. “Can you smell that?”
Ethan took a deep breath. “It’s the scent of pine.”
I smiled. He could smell things, too! “It’s the Christmas wreath. My family makes them right after Thanksgiving, and we all hang matching ones on our doors. It kinda keeps us bonded together throughout the holidays.”
I unlocked my door and before I pushed it open, a deep “woof” sounded from the other side.
“I have to warn you about Sharky. He’s a big dog—a really big dog with an equally big heart. Sometimes, he can be a little pushy, so stand your ground and don’t get whipped by his wagging tail. It can really hurt!”
“I’m sure I’ll manage,” Ethan said. His words caused me to turn and look at his perfect face. He was so human-like, that I was already forgetting he was a machine created just for me. The awkwardness I first felt, unsure of his wishes and uncertain how I should treat him—like a robot, a machine, a man—now slowly slipped away. It didn’t matter how he came to be with me, I’d treat him as if he was a man, and I hoped I never had to use the program button.
Sharky was all excited to see me, but he was a little apprehensive of Ethan. Sharky smelled his hand, and his leg, then backed up, turning towards me, instead. That was a little unusual, usually he enjoyed our guests quite a bit when they arrived, but I imagine Ethan didn’t smell human to a dog.
“Hey, Sharky, say hi to Ethan. He’s going to be living here.”
Ethan flashed us both a white smile.
I put my holiday bag of items from Dream Droids down on an end table, hung my jacket up on a hook, along with a fleece jacket Ethan was supplied with. “I bought you some clothing, like Dream Droids instructed, but now that I’ve met you, I don’t know if you’ll like any of it.”
“I’m sure it’ll be perfect.”
“I didn’t over do it, because I had this part of me that wondered if this would even happen, but now…I wish I would have gone more extravagant.” I led Ethan to the spare bedroom and showed him the array of clothing I put together that hung in the small closet. “I just bought some windbreaker type pants and t-shirts. They didn’t know exactly what size you’d be until we finished all the questionnaires, so they suggested some generic one-size-fits-all clothing.”
“Would you like me to change?” Ethan asked.
“Oh, you don’t need to…I mean, you can if you want to.” Urgh. This whole situation was a little odd again. “I just wanted to point out that all this stuff is yours and we can go shopping for different clothes whenever you’re ready to go on a little adventure.”
Ethan pulled out a generic grey t-shirt. “I think it’ll be just fine.” There was a softness in his blue eyes that I didn’t expect—not the softness I saw in Dayton’s but something similar. “I feel bad you went through all this hassle for me.”
“You feel bad?”
I knew humanoids were sentient, heck, Ethan had mentioned other feelings since we left Dream Droids, but the way he told me his feelings made me wonder what else was going on in his microchips. “Well, why don’t you change out of that stiff polo and throw on that t-shirt while I get something to drink. Did you want anything?”
“I’m programmed to always say yes to that question, as it’s a human trait, but I never need anything to drink.”
“Well, I need some water.” When Ethan lifted his shirt up, giving me a glimpse of the muscles of his abdomen, I spun on my heels to face the bedroom door. “I’ll meet you in the living room when you’re done.”
After filling a glass with water, I pushed Sharky off the sofa, waiting for Ethan, but my doorbell buzzed.
“What’s that?” Ethan asked.
“The doorbell. We have company.” I stood from my spot and headed towards the door, meeting Ethan in the entryway. I have to admit, there were defiantly parts I was already enjoying of not being alone.
Out my peephole stood Ivory and Iris. Both had a stocking hat, covering up their very different hairstyles, and I smiled at how similar they looked—only Iris had a slightly crooked nose and Ivory’s chin was more pointed.
I flung my door open. “Hey guys!”
“Hey…wow. Is this him?” Ivory’s jaw almost dropped on the ground as she sized Ethan up. “Does Dream Droids take a payment plan? This confirms I really need to get myself one of him.”
I slapped her with the back of my hand. “Ivory, Iris, this is Ethan, my humanoid. Ethan, meet my sisters Iris and Ivory.”
Ethan looked between my two sisters and then to me, then back at my sisters.
“Remember, I said we were triplets. Identical triplets.”
“Not identical,” Ethan said. “Your voices are different and there are markings that don’t quite match. Like that beauty mark here above your lip.” Ethan touched a spot right above my upper lip to the side of my nose.
“I’m impressed,” Ivory said. “Most people can’t tell us apart.”
“Come in,” I said, stepping away from the door. As soon as the words were out, I cringed. I was so excited to show Ethan off that I invited my sisters inside before I remembered I was supposed to take it easy for Ethan’s first few days with me. “Ethan, are you okay with company?”
“I’m okay if you’re okay,” he said, appearing to catalogue the similarities and differences between my sisters and me.
Iris and Ivory made their way into the living room and sat down across from each other on my two recliners, leaving the sofa for Ethan and I to sit side-by-side. My sisters were being cute.
“Sorry to come over unexpected,” Iris said, “but we couldn’t stay away! Today’s your big day and we had to meet him.” She shook her head. “Honestly, I didn’t think you’d go through with it. I thought for sure that you’d fall in love with Dayton.”
I coughed, then my eyes darted down at the paper bag holding the Spiderman action figure he’d given me on my end table, then up again to my sisters. They didn’t know what was inside the bag, and a sudden urge to keep the gift a secret consumed me—even if I had no intentions of giving the present to Dad and that I’d eventually return it to Dayton. “I didn’t fall in love with Dayton, and I’m not falling in love ever again.” I smiled at Ethan, but I saw a twinge of a frown on his face. I knew he was sentient, but did I hurt his feelings? Sure, he couldn’t love me, but did he want me to love him?
My insides felt hallow. I was sick to my stomach again. Something was wrong and my thoughts were fleeing as fast as I tried to put them back together. All I knew is I needed to avoid the love topic.
I smiled at Ethan and tried to dig myself out of a hole. “I just picked him up this afternoon, and he’s perfect so far!” I picked up Dayton’s bag from my end table and walked it behind the tree, tucking it where nobody could see inside.
“I can see that,” Iris said, with a seductive smile. Ethan’s composure returned and the swirling in my stomach lifted. Iris sat back into the oversized chair and looked between Ethan and me. “It’s just so…different having someone here with you. There’s so much I want to know…like…did you kiss him yet?” She smiled.
“Iris!” Ivory said. She looked between Ethan and me, and her cheeks turned rosy. What could she possibly be thinking about that made her embarrassed…unless…she found Ethan as attractive as she found all the men I picked out.
I couldn’t help smiling.
“You have kissed him!” Iris exclaimed.
“I didn’t.” And I wasn’t planning on doing that, but I didn’t say it out loud. What if Ethan wanted it…or rather, his programming was set to crave that intimacy? I didn’t make a humanoid to be that kind of companion.
“I’d kiss him,” Ivory blurted out, her cheeks turning from rosy to a beet red.
“Enough of this.”
“Come on, Ivy! I’m just as lonely as you. Sure, I have dates—lots of dates—but never more than three with the same guy!”
I picked up a pillow on the couch and threw it at Ivory. “Enough. You can’t have him and Ethan and I barely know each other, right Ethan?”
“I know everything about you.” He smiled. “And you should know everything about me…since I was made to your specifications.”
I guess that was true. Before I could change the subject, the doorbell rang again.
“Doorbell!” Ethan said. “I’ll get it.”
He sprang from the sofa like I had done earlier and headed to the door. I stood, but Ivory pulled me down to squeeze on the chair beside her. “Let him get it. It’s good practice. Besides,” she dropped her voice to a whisper. “When are you going to kiss him?”
“Shh.” I said, watching Ethan disappear into my foyer. “I already said I’m not going to. It’s not why he’s here.”
“I’m just amazed how human-like he is,” Iris said, joining us on the arm of Ivory’s chair. “Someone walking down the street wouldn’t know the difference.”
“Except everything about him is perfect—too perfect. Like, his teeth are aligned and nose is straight. Even his eyes are perfectly symmetrical.”
“Makes him handsome,” Ivory said with a shrug.
“Handsome, but a little unreal.”
Mary cleared her throat from behind me. “Looks like Iris and Ivory had the same idea I did,” she said. Beside her stood Gary, and behind them were Felix and Faye.
Ethan stepped beside them with a huge grin. “It looks like your whole family wants to meet me.”
I looked into his crystal blue eyes that reminded me so much of Dayton. “You okay with that? Is it too overwhelming?”
“No. I’ll be fine. I already know who they all are.” He pointed and named each of them before doorbell rang once again.
“It must be Mom and Dad,” Felix laughed. “They were right behind us.”
I took a deep breath. I was hoping for an uneventful evening getting to know…no, like Ethan said, we already knew each other. Rather, I was hoping for an uneventful evening getting comfortable with Ethan, but instead, I was hosting an unexpected party. Honestly, what better way to get comfortable with Ethan than to see how he reacted to my big family.
About an hour into me playing hostess, Jeannie and Alex showed up, too. Now, we were all gathered in my living room, and I was seated tightly next to Ethan on the sofa. Everyone was in conversation, and Ethan’s fingers interlace with mine. I pulled away.
“You don’t need to do that,” I whispered.
“I’m programmed for human companionship. I want to hold your hand.”
“You want too?” I felt my hand reach out. It could feel nice, right? I hadn’t held a hand in a while.
“At least my programming wants me to.”
Ahh. His programming. Why were there constant reminders of that? “Not yet. Give it a few more days.” I smiled sweetly.
When he returned the smile, I could see how easily it’d be to fall for some—thing like Ethan. It was no wonder Dream Droids was quickly becoming a Fortune 500 company. They knew what they were doing.
By the end of the evening, I had grown to enjoy Ethan by my side. I liked his questions he asked my family, saying he was filling in the gaps in his programming. Questions about our Christmas traditions, about quirks when I was little, and the story about how I ended up with Sharky, even though Jeannie and Alex had purchased the puppy.
It was nice, Ethan fit in. Nobody seemed to judge me, and at eleven PM, when everyone finally went home, I was exhausted. I closed the door behind Iris and leaned against the wall.
“Wow, Ethan, I’m so sorry you had to go through that on your first day here.”
“Did you enjoy it?” Ethan asked.
I thought back to the loud evening of chatter and teasing. “I did.”
“I did, too.” Ethan said. “Anything that makes you happy makes me happy.” He smiled, but there was no dimple to be seen. “Your family is unique, especially your sister, Ivory. She really likes to give you a hard time.”
“That she does. She’s done it her whole life, but she’s also the first person to stick up for me.” I pushed off the wall and flipped off the lights in the house.
Ethan was nice. Sweet even, but it was sickly sweet. A little unreal. I laughed at myself. Of course, my love life was so messed up that I’d even find flaws in a perfect humanoid companion.
“Time for bed,” I said, heading towards my room. When I realized Ethan was right behind me, I pointed to the room next door. “That one’s yours.”
“Of course.” He flashed me one more too-white smile, then nodded. “Good night, Ivy.”
“Night, Ethan. I can’t wait to spend the day with you tomorrow.”
“Likewise,” he said as he turned into his room.
“Ethan, one more thing,” I called after him.
“Do you need anything?”
“No. I’ll be fine.”
“Well, if you do, don’t hesitate to wake me up.”
I was so tired, I couldn’t even change into PJ’s. I hit the bead in my t-shirt and leggings, falling asleep only moments later.
MORE COMING SOON!
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