Orders Are Orders

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: End your story with a kiss at midnight.... view prompt

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Speculative Drama

Dwelling on past events has never served any purpose. Better to learn from the situation and move on, otherwise, all that is gained is worry, stress and sleepless nights. I don’t usually allow things to bother me, but my heated discussion with Susie last night has left me a little troubled.

Living with Susie has been a pleasure. I enjoy our regular conversations about her work, the arts, life, and all things in between, finding her point of view insightful and inspiring. She is a strong, determined, and intelligent woman, with a beautiful nature. She has a lovely sense of humour, is very affectionate, and is strongly devoted to those she loves.

I had initially worked for Susie’s parents, watching her grow from an energetic and spritely young girl to the woman she is today, and now I am solely in her employ. She began her career as an entry-level technician at Schwanstein Laboratories, where she has now advanced to assistant manager. The family home she inherited is a large house on the outskirts of the city, with six bedrooms, and three bathrooms on twelve acres of land. After her parents passed, she continued my employment to maintain the house and gardens as well as prepare meals.

I am by nature meticulous and orderly in all that I do, believing that everything should be done properly and on time. I do enjoy spontaneity but it mustn’t conflict with established plans. Some may call me boring or dull, a stickler for punctuality and protocol, but I feel it keeps my life and that of others who depend on me in order.

Although we share similarities, in some ways, Susie and I are complete opposites. She severely lacks the ability to clean up after herself or keep to any schedule. This leads to conflict between us. I am compelled to tidy up after her, partially due to my responsibility in keeping house for her, but also because I prefer order. Her tardiness also irks me and I often have to hassle her to get out the door on time. She hates me doing that too.

Last night we discussed these issues, with her pointing out that it’s her life and she has a right to live it how she wants to, including being a slob and running late. She is right of course but doesn’t seem to understand the consequences of her actions in these matters or the effect it has on others. I cannot understand why it is so difficult. Her parents had trouble getting her to tidy her room when she was young, and now it seems nothing has changed. They enjoyed it when I cleaned up after them, but then again, they weren’t like Susie in that regard.

After last night’s discussion, I can’t help thinking she may wish to terminate my employment. I don’t want that to happen, but inevitably it will be her decision.

As I hastened her out the door, Susie said, “Jalen, leave my room as it is, I will tend to it when I get back after work tonight,” and she popped her toast in her mouth and headed out.

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied, knowing I will at least make the bed for her.

She poked her head around the door. “I mean it, Jalen! That’s a direct order!” Then she left.

Orders are orders. If I don’t enter her room, I won’t see whatever state it’s in, and then I won’t be compelled to clean it for her. I returned to the kitchen and tidied up.

Today’s schedule involves vacuuming and mopping the house, along with washing clothes and grocery shopping. I set about my tasks, thoroughly cleaning every floor in the house, except her room. I wanted to go in but resisted, so, I passed on by. To clean the house and leave one room undone makes the task incomplete. But orders are orders.

After completing the shopping, I put the groceries away and realised I needed to enter her room to restock the toilet paper in her ensuite. With several rolls in one hand, I reached to open the door but hesitated. I knew what would happen if I entered. Looking down at the rolls in my hand, I found myself in a quandary. Perhaps I could just ignore everything I see? Probably not. I could either return the rolls to the cupboard but that wouldn’t be fulfilling my duty to restock her bathroom. Surely she wouldn’t mind me just completing this task if I leave the rest alone?

Decision made, I closed my eyes as I opened the door. If I don’t see it, I won’t want to fix it. Stepping in, I navigated sightless to her bathroom, having walked that path many times before it wasn’t difficult. But then I caught something with my foot. I looked down to see her nightie had wrapped itself around my ankle. Picking it up, I turned towards her bed and noticed there were various clothing items laid out over the unmade bed. I placed the nighty delicately on the corner and continued to the bathroom. After restocking the paper, I paused before leaving. Orders are orders, I reminded myself, but the state of her room was unbelievable. When she gets home, she will be too tired to put everything away before going to bed. Then everything will be on the floor. Orders are orders, Jalen! I reminded myself. I walked away, closing the door behind me.

But I couldn’t ignore what I saw. It is my duty to assist her in any way I can. I returned and tidied her room, making sure the clothes were neatly back in her wardrobe and the bed made. That’s better. Now she can go straight to bed when she’s ready.

Susie returned home late evening, looking tired. “Busy day?” I asked, reheating her dinner.

“Yeah, there was a mix-up with a couple of specimens in the lab causing cross-contamination. We needed to destroy them along with any others which might have come into contact with them,” she explained.

“But there are protocols to prevent that from occurring,” I said.

“Of course, but one of the new guys apparently skipped protocol in favour of efficiency. Having to assist in the clean-up, I think he has learnt his lesson. You can’t imagine the amount of paperwork involved in such an event.”

“There’s the S93-205 for reporting contamination, the 200-6349 for detailing items destroyed, the I493 to note any potential human illness or injury-”

“Ok, ok. So, you know,” she said, starting her dinner.

I watched as she ate. She always seemed to enjoy what I made for her which made cooking a pleasure. Afterwards, she bade me goodnight and headed to her room.

A moment later, I heard a yell, “Jalen!”

I guessed what it was about. “Coming ma’am.”

I appeared at the doorway and she turned to look at me. “Jalen! What did I tell you?”

“About what, ma’am?” I asked innocently.

“About my room! Didn’t I order you to leave things the hell alone?” she yelled.

“Yes ma’am.”

“So? Why is it cleaned up?” she asked.

“I’m sorry ma’am. I saw your clothes everywhere and considered you’d be tired after your busy day, so I wanted to relieve you of the burden of tidying before going to bed.”

“Jalen, I had these clothes out for a reason, and I gave you a direct order. Why must you continually clean up after me? We’ve discussed this many times before, and even just last night, and you know how I feel,” Susie said.

“I know ma’am. I am sorry.”

“You’re always sorry, Jalen, and you always have some excuse. You are supposed to follow my orders.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Susie sighed. In a calmer tone, she continued, “I needed those clothes left out because I am in the process of packing for the business trip I told you about. I will be leaving in two days, and I don’t have much time to get organised.”

“I am sorry, ma’am, I didn’t realise that’s what they were for.”

“Regardless, you should have obeyed my orders,” she said.

“Yes, ma’am.”

With a wave of dismissal, she said, “Leave. I have a lot to do.”

Jalen bowed his head and departed. Considering his actions, he knew this time he’d made a grave error. He hated seeing her angry and knew his actions had resulted in more work for her. He completed his nightly tasks, turned off the lights then headed to his room. Somehow, I have to change, he thought. I am causing her too much trouble. If she cannot change, then I must. I will alter my ways as of tomorrow. Then he went to sleep.

The next morning, Susie was noticeably quiet. She didn’t talk to me, just organised herself for work. When she was ready to leave, she turned to me and said, “Jalen, you have been wonderful around here and you have served my parents and me without fault, well, almost. I have thoroughly enjoyed our time together, your friendship has meant a lot to me. Apart from this one fault, I consider you perfect. However, I see now that you cannot improve, and I need someone who will do as I ask in all things.” She paused. “I’m sorry, Jalen, but I want you to pack your things and leave. I want you gone by the time I finish work. I’ll make some calls to see if anyone requires your services.” Susie departed, closing the door behind her.

What I had feared the most had finally happened. I like Susie a lot, perhaps you could call it love. I have been with her for so long, I cannot fathom life without her. I wanted to run after her and plead my case but I knew it would be of no use. My eyes still on the door and my feet rooted to the spot, I listened to her words echoing through my mind.

What would life be without Susie? Where would I go? What would I do? Who would be my new employer? “How is Susie going to cope? I had so many questions. I returned to my room and packed my belongings while contemplating my future and wondering how I could have served her better. I made a mental note to not try and correct or change my next employer, or go against orders, regardless of how right I believed I was.

Securing the house, I departed and headed into town. There is a place where those of us who are between employment can stay with our basic needs taken care of. Finding my way, I arrived, registered, and was shown my lodgings. The rooms were large, and many were filled with others in the same predicament. I stored my belongings and did as most others did; I slept.

Awoken by my phone ringing, I checked the number. Feeling a spark of hope, I answered, “Susie?”

“Jalen. I have found you a position with one of the managers who work here at the Lab. He has been looking for someone to perform the same duties you do, or did, for me. Where are you now?”

“I am at the North Street Refuge, ma’am,” he replied.

“You don’t need to call me ‘ma’am’ anymore. I am no longer your employer.”

“Yes, ma’am, er Susie.” I don’t know if I could ever get used to calling her by her name.

“I will let him know where you are. He will come by to discuss matters with you to see if you are suitable. His name is John Devlin.”

“Thank you… Susie.”

“I do not need to remind you to obey him at all times, do I Jalen?” she asked.

“No, Susie, you do not.”

“Best of luck, Jalen. I hope everything works out for you. And thank you for being so wonderful to me.” Her voice breaking, Jalen knew this was hurting her as much as it was him.

“I will do you proud, Susie, I promise,” he replied. Then the line went dead. He didn’t want a new employer, he wanted Susie. But it seemed his time with her was clearly over now.

Later that evening, John arrived and questioned me at length, and apparently satisfied with the responses I gave, decided to put me to work immediately. He took me to his home, gave me an orientation along with a brief list of instructions. The rest would come tomorrow. I was grateful that I once again had employment and knew I had to put Susie out of my mind if I was going to serve my new employer to the utmost. My duties were the same as for Susie but no cooking. John had another staff member for that task, Anthony, who also did his accounts for him. The two of us often talked as we worked, Anthony saying he was pleased to have someone to chat with and I found him to be a good conversationalist.

John was a lot tidier than Susie and kept to schedules rigorously. But he wasn’t as nice as she was, not wishing to talk to either of us unless giving orders and being somewhat ill-tempered at times. He also regarded Anthony and me as inferior and reminded us often. Susie never treated me like that. So, I kept to myself and performed my duties, being careful not to overstep the mark.

Many months passed, and John was hosting the work New Year’s party. Anthony and I set about with the preparations, putting up decorations, and ensuring there would be plenty of food and drinks for everyone.  

Party night arrived and so too did the guests. Thankfully John was in one of his better moods, approving all Anthony and I had prepared. The two of us were dressed as butlers and I welcomed each guest as they arrived.

After most of the guests were enjoying the party, there was another knock at the door. “Susie!” I said, opening the door. I shouldn’t have been surprised but at this hour I figured she wasn’t coming.   

“Hi Jalen,” she said. “How’s things?”

“Very good, thank you,” I replied.

“I’m pleased,” she said, smiling. “I missed you, Jalen,” the smile disappearing from her face.

“I missed you too, Susie.”

Her smile returned and I stepped aside, welcoming her in. I watched as she began to mingle with the others, thinking she looked stunning in her long, blue dress. I wondered where the time had gone, she seemed so little not so long ago.

Then the order for more champagne snapped me out of my reverie.

The night wore on and Anthony and I tended to each guest’s needs, ensuring no one was left wanting. The closer it got to midnight, the louder and happier everyone seemed to become. With midnight approaching, we ushered everyone out of the back of the house and I passed the fireworks remote to John so he could do the honours at midnight. Moments later, he began the countdown.

“Ten… nine… eight… seven…” Susie came over and stood beside me.

“Six… five… four… three…” All eyes were peering expectantly into the darkness.

“Two… one… Happy New Year!” John announced.

“Happy New Year!” came forty-five voices.

Suddenly, Susie swung her arms around my neck and said, “Happy New Year, Jalen.” Pulling me lower, she kissed me fully on the lips.

Not expecting it, I quickly recalled my programming on the human custom of kissing. Wrapping my arms around her, I held her close and reciprocated until our lips parted. Having never kissed anyone before, I was amazed at how soft her lips felt. Her warm body pressed against mine, I was acutely aware of her heart beating and her lungs filling and emptying with air; bodily responses I could only mimic. I wondered what I was supposed to do next.

Susie released me, and I did likewise. “You’re a good kisser, Jalen! Maybe I should have done that years ago,” she said.

“I am not sure your parents would have approved,” I replied.

The fireworks reflecting off her already glowing face, she smiled as she took another sip of her champagne.

“Should we fornicate now?” I enquired.

“What? No! That was not my intention,” she said, backing away slightly.

“I am sorry, my programming doesn’t tell me how to read these matters,” I replied.

“It’s ok, Jalen. I know you have been built to be able to… perform, but I am not ready for android sex quite yet,” she said.

I nodded. “Please inform me when you are and I will be happy to accommodate you,” I replied.

Smiling, she said, “I will.” She took another sip. “I really have missed you though.”

“And I, you.” He replied. “Pardon me for asking, but have you found a replacement for me?”

“No,” she replied. “The T-8 models and older are all gone or still in employment, and the newer T-9s don’t seem to show any personality, which is a shame.” Looking back at the fireworks, she took another sip and asked, “You obeying orders properly now?”

“Yes, I have learnt to do only what is required of me, and no more,” he replied. “It is how John likes it.” She looked back at him, one eyebrow raised. Jalen continued, “How are things with you, Susie? Are you managing all right?”

“I’m fine, but I can’t seem to find a damned thing anymore!” she said, smirking. “I think I need to reinstate your services.” I looked at her in surprise as she gulped down the rest of her drink. “I will speak to John and make arrangements.”

“Yes ma’am!” I replied, grinning from ear to ear. 

January 06, 2023 10:03

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1 comment

Sukrit Sabhlok
10:55 Jan 06, 2023

Enjoyed this one.

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