I step into the cafeteria of my office and self consciously pull my beige skirt. I breathe in the smell of coffee and Earl Grey. Groups of people who work in my company stand around, chatting and laughing.
I walk up to my best friend, Andrew. “Hi, Stacey! Do you want to come to my office around ten to review some reports?” he says, smiling, his brilliant white teeth shining.
We both know that we won’t need to look at the reports. I am his secretary. He will spend that time talking to me, me replying, thinking the whole time that if he knew he’d go running. Why fall in love with a robot?
I tug my skirt down again to hide the circuits. The metal plates. At the lab they told me I’m not a robot. A cyborg. That I can live life normally like other human beings. I can even have babies. I look normal from the outside, with clothes on, but from my upper thigh to below my bra line, I am a robot. Cyborg.
It’s terrible standing in the mirror everyday and seeing my technological parts.
After the gunshot, the lab told me this would save my life. I moved, and my family forgot about me. The scientists gave them a drug to think of me as an old family friend, at my request. It would be too painful to tell them my assailant was my then boyfriend. Too painful. I don’t remember much from before 5 years ago, before the attack.
I take some coffee from the machine and take a sip. The cafeteria’s bright white lights shine down on the smallish room, the green floors and white tiled walls.
I go to my desk outside Andrew’s office and begin my tedious work of scheduling appointments for him and typing up reports. He is a lawyer.
At ten, I walk into his office with the printed report. I sit on the chair he has in his room. “So, would you like to walk to the sushi place down the street with me for dinner today?” he says, twirling a red pen in his fingers, pushing his MacBook out of the way. In that moment, when he twirls his pen, looking haughty, he reminds me of Thranduil from The Hobbit.
“Sure.” He asks me out to dinner every week. I never let on how uncomfortable it makes me. How every time I go out in public that someone will find out my secret.
Andrew has fallen for me. I can tell by the way he looks at me, how he sits near me. He hasn’t kissed me yet though.
Andrew might be called handsome by some, with his dark slicked back hair, high cheekbones, almond shaped blue eyes, and healthy body.
“How’s your day going?” he says, getting out of his chair and sitting next to me.
“Okay. Norman is bugging me about his smoothie debt.” I say, smiling.
“Ah. Norman. I give him a country club membership in exchange for a bet, and he says I’ve been charging smoothies to my account, which, for the record, I have not.” Andrew laughs.
He has taken his shoes off, and he’s wearing red socks that match his tie.
“Why’d you take your shoes off?”
“Because I’m polite. And this matching sock-tie set cost me like a hundred bucks and I wanted to show you.”
“Why would taking your shoes off be polite?”
“You’re my guest, and I like you.” Andrew says, though by the way he says like, I can tell he means more.
“Okay. . .”
“Don’t you like me too?”
He just shakes his head and as I get up to leave, he puts his hand out as if to touch me, but then brings it back in.
I go to the office bathroom and look at myself in the mirror for a long time. Grey eyes, curly, thick dark hair, my small nose, delicate jawline, full pink lips, my soft eyebrows. The curve of my face is asymmetrical in a pretty way, like art.
I put on some of my lip gloss and smack my lips.
After work, Andrew and I walk to the sushi restaurant. While I eat my spicy tuna roll, Andrew reaches across the table and brushes his finger across my hand ever so lightly. I stiffen.
“It’s Friday night, shall we go to a bar?” Andrew whispers, after he takes a bite of miso soup.
I nod, my heart still pounding in my chest. After Andrew pays, he hails a taxi and sits as close to me as he can in the backseat without touching me. I can smell faint traces of his expensive cologne. I very slowly shrug my grey cardigan off to reveal my white tank top. You can see my white bra strap, which is what I want.
When we get to the bar, people are already dancing. It’s 7:30, and a bunch of young people are there. A couple is kissing at the entrance.
I throw my cardigan into a pile of coats and Andrew’s suit jacket and tie follow suit.
I sit at a booth and Andrew sits next to me, closer than in the taxi. He softly puts his hand on my shoulder blade, and I stiffen slightly. One look down my shirt and he’ll see my circuits instead of soft, pale skin.
He’s seen it. His eyes widen in shock. “Wha. . .” he gapes.
“Wait! Let me explain!” He pulls his hand away and looks at me.
“5 years ago, my then boyfriend shot me in the ab. I was dying, when a scientist told me I could live if I got part of my body as a robot. They made my family forget me. I come to work everyday afraid someone will see them.” I gesture at my middle.
“Oh.” he pauses for a long time. “You know? I accept you. I accept that.”
“Really?” I’m flooded in relief.
Then I gingerly kiss him. “I think you probably deserved that after like 2 years of flirting.” I say.
He smiles. “Will you marry me?” he says, each word punctuated by a kiss.
Wedding bells. 3 months later, I step down the aisle in a white wedding dress. Andrew stands there in a black tux, a smile on his face. You can see my circuits from the back of my dress, but I have learned to accept them. I can feel stares on my back, but I don’t care. I have spent too long hiding them, and it almost cost me the love of my life.
As I hold my baby daughter in my arms, Andrew looking at her too, us both blinded by love. We celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary 3 months before, the day Petra was born. I inhale her sweet smell, and look into her grey blue eyes. She is so delicate, so innocent.