четверг, 24 января 2013 г.

DINTEGRATION

Chapter V

The Day Arone Didn’t Smile.


“Mr. Stevenson,” the soft voice insisted. “Why are you upset about--”

“You know why, Sakura, and stop mistering me, you know my first name!” Microsoft rubbed his forehead with both hands. He couldn't bear another session centered around Rawotzki.

“I do, but may I remind you that I am following the protocol.”

“Damn the protocol! Isn’t it supposed to be the most intimate talk of my life? Shouldn’t I feel relaxed and free or something? Speak my mind?” Microsoft looked up and about himself, not sure where the spy screen was through which Sakura was watching them.

“Yes…Mike, I’m sorry, it was wrong of me to be so distant,” the voice said after a slight hesitation. “Please, speak you mind.”

“Thank you,” Microsoft ran his fingers through his hair, trying to calm down. “Well, the thing is, I don’t want to talk about Rawotzki anymore, and I really want this session to end right now.” He got up and started pacing.

“Mike, please.” Arone traced his steps with a pleading look.

“No, Arone, I’m sick of getting back to this thing, doing this over and over again, it’s like he’s haunting me, which he probably is, I don’t know! We’ve talked about it a thousand times, I’d rather pass on the thousand and first!”

“Maybe you just didn’t tell me everything. If there is something else, please, say it now.”

“Oh, I’ve said everything, I’ve said pretty everything the very first time you told me you slept with him! Our first anniversary? Remember?”

“Microsoft,” Sakura interrupted him in the same soothing tone. “Have you forgiven your partner?”

“Well, we’ve stayed together for 7 years, so, what do you think?"

“What I think is not the issue now. Have you forgiven Arone?”

“I let it go, if that’s what you want to hear!” Microsoft yelled, lifting his hands.

“What I want to hear is what’s on your mind.” Sakura’s voice glided through the room, almost enveloping with its softness. Microsoft didn’t speak, so Sakura repeated the question in the same steady calming voice.

“Have you forgiven your partner?”

“Maybe… not…I don’t know.” Microsoft looked at Arone. She was sitting with her back straight, fumbling with the rim of her dress, her eyes glistening with tears.

“Have you forgiven Celestro Rawotzki?” Sakura asked.

“No,” Microsoft said with the distinct feeling of defeat.

“Tell me again why you don’t like the idea of Arone going to Mister Rawotzki’s alone.”

Microsoft was struggling to say the truth and desperately wanted to deny it. He sat down beside his partner and started speaking.

“I…I am afraid…that it will happen again. I’m pissed off that…um…that you didn’t tell me before accepting the offer, knowing I wouldn’t like it. And you know, I think you wanted to be there. So-He paused and met Arone’s eyes with his. “Do you...want to be there…with him?”

“Don’t you trust me?” Arone's words balanced on her breath.

“Arone,” said Sakura. “Microsoft asked you something, please, answer him first.”

“Right, um…” Arone shifted on the sofa. “I want to be there but it’s not because of him. I want the job. It’s a real shot at something big, it will be the most valuable contribution to my portfolio. Besides, I won’t have to even meet him, he moved out for the time of the renovation, and there are people in charge of the house I’ll be dealing with. Please, Mike, I couldn’t let it slip through my fingers, this is one in a lifetime chance.”

“Well, why didn’t you tell me then?”

“I knew it wasn’t something you would particularly love to talk about, and I guess I was afraid…that you wouldn’t let me do the job that was very important to me. And you didn’t answer my question.”

Microsoft frowned.

“Do you trust me?” Arone put her hand over his, but he moved away from her and stood up.

“Do I trust you?” He turned towards the wall and touched it with the tips of his fingers.

The wall was warm and felt nice and smooth, like Sakura’s voice. He wished he could hear her voice again, as if it would tell him the answer to the question. He stroked the wall absent-mindedly, thinking how Arone’s skin had felt like when Celestro was stroking it. “I do,” he said finally, turning around with a ghost of a smile on his lips. “I do trust you. And I have forgiven you.”

“Thank you.” Arone seemed relieved; she let go of her dress.

“Do you want to talk about your sex life now?” the soothing voice said.

Arone opened her mouth to answer and looked at Mike. His expression was calm and he hoped perfectly unreadable, so she just closed her mouth and didn’t say anything. Sakura waited for a while before asking another question.

“Would you like me to end the session?”

“Like it’s even possible,” Microsoft grumbled. “Schedule and stuff, right?”

“I suppose we can bend the rules a little today, I can see that you are exhausted, and it would be the right decision to carry on with your day and meet at the next session.”

“Wow, that’s a first.” Microsoft jumped to his feet. Arone stood up without making a sound.

“Okay, then. Thank you for giving this time to each other, we can finish now.”

The light changed to soft red and a violin started playing a sad but charming melody. Microsoft turned to Arone and gently pulled her chin up. She looked at him and smiled, then put her hands in his.

“Arone,” Microsoft started the finishing routine. “I love you very much, thank you for being honest and open with me today, I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight. I will miss you.”

“Mike.” Arone's voice turned to whisper. “I love you. Thank you for listening to me and telling me what you feel openly and honestly. I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight at home. I’ll be waiting for you and missing you.”

Then Microsoft leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. They felt warm and soft, he wondered if they had felt the same to Celestro when he had kissed her.

As soon as they were out of the center, they parted without another word and got into their cars. Microsoft had a strange feeling, as if a tight helmet had been pulled over his head. Fighting the incipient nausea, he took a deep breath. 

"Calm down," he said to himself, "it's just a job. Just a job." 




The streets looked particularly bright that morning: windows glittered blue in the sun and reflecting the serene cloudless sky. The sunny week was about to end, and people enjoyed the weather outside, laughing and eating, and talking, and sleeping – ravishing in the joy of a fine summer day. 

After the roads had been gone and replaced by lawn grass, the ground turned into an emerald green carpet, striped with occasional sidewalks and dotted with flowers.

Everything was so beautiful, that Arone’s excitement built up with every block she passed and was bordering on pure panic when the amazing glass mansion loomed at the end of the road. She breathed in and out, scrolling though the blueprints on her e-board for a hundredth time. “This is your chance, don’t screw it over,” she whispered to herself. 

The city map popped up on her heads-up monitor, and she clicked on a spare parking space. The car lowered smoothly from lane to lane till it reached the bottom one and glided towards a parking platform. The billboard in front of it activated and so did the magnetic field that pulled the car towards the billboard to stabilize it; the display turned red. Arone waited until the identification was complete and the word ‘guest’ appeared in the red-lit screen. She stepped out onto the platform.

The house hadn’t changed at all since her last visit. Same huge glass walls displaying the interior, which she knew weren’t really transparent, just showing off the images of the insides. Same ever blossoming terraced garden covered the house floor by floor up to the roof in bright greenery. The house hardly looked like a place of a computer genius, more like the one of an artist. Arone looked up and winced as the tender Christmassy odor of fresh poinsettias reached her nose. Involuntarily, she leafed through the old images in her head - cream petals brushing her skin, star flecks on glass walls, soft hair against her cheek – she closed her eyes in an attempt to compose herself. Now, standing on the treshold of the new stage in her career, she wasn’t sure if she should come in or turn around and drive away as fast as she could.

“Missis Stevenson?” a male voice said. Arone opened her eyes to find a concierge looking at her, confused. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, Mr. …Gantier, is it?” Arone stepped forward with an outstretched hand.

“Yes, mam. You used to call me Causse.The concierge kissed her fingers with an impassive smile on his impassive face.

“Causse…right.”

She wondered whether Celestro had changed at all – keeping his concierge in spite of all the technology available. This touch of conservatism was something Micro and Celestro had in common, something that had probably drawn them together several years before. Something she loved about both of them. 

Arone cleared her throat and continued with more confidence,“I have an appointment with the Estate Manager.”

“I’ve been instructed to usher you into the main hall.” A part of the interior image blurred, and the wall became visible, then it dispersed, and Causse stepped aside to let Arone into the opening.

The mansion had remained the same inside as it had outside. Arone scoffed, as she passed a picture of stardust on the burgundy wall of the marble corridor – the picture she had once given Celestro for his birthday. The main hall was no less disturbing, and she hardly restrained a gasp. It seemed she had traveled in time and landed in the mansion 5 years before. Even a cracked porcelain cup was on the carved stone mantelpiece – exactly where she had left it that night. She was surprised at the clearness of her memories that rushed back to her, now that she was looking at the amazing silver-blue ceiling, fluorescent white-lit walls, an enormous deep-red sofa and red and white poinsettias planted in invisible pots, looking like they grew right out of the walls, the floor, the scarce furniture.

“Please, wait here, Mrs. Stevenson. Would you like a drink?” Causse purred from behind her.

“You used to call me Irony,” she said absent-mindedly and without granting him a glance walked towards the sofa in a strange dreamlike state. “And yes, a drink.”

After a brisk bow Causse retired from the room; a moment later a glass appeared on the hovertable. Arone knew just by looking at it that the old concierge remembered exactly how she liked her martini. She took a sip and sat down on the sofa. A deep contended voice called her name and caused her to look back with a start. Celestro was standing behind the sofa, leisurely leaned against the wall and fumbling with a poinsettia petal. He smiled as he caught her look. She didn’t. 

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