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Valerye

 

 

 

Valerye

John T. Gaffield

 

Published by John T. Gaffield at Shakespir.com

Copyright 2017 John T. Gaffield

1st Edition – March 2017

 

Shakespir Edition License Notes:

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your own use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the work of this author.

 

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Table of Contents

 

Acknowledgements and References

 

Chapters:

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

IXV

 

About the Author

Other Titles by John T. Gaffield

Connect with the Author

 

Acknowledgements and References

 

Cover

Created by John T. Gaffield

Background and AR glasses modeling created on Blender version 2.78c

Figure, lighting, and rendering software Daz3D version 4.93

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Genesis III female figure

Photo editing software Photoshop Elements version 10

 

Acronyms

VR – Virtual Reality

AR – Augmented Reality

AI – Artificial Intelligence

 

 

I

 

The car door opened without a touch and Tom stepped into the two-car garage with only one car in it. He could hear the car door close as he made his way to the back door. A green light appeared near the back door and an unlatching sound could be heard as the door swung open.

“Welcome home, Tom,” a cheerful female voice stated.

“Hello, Valerye. How was your day?” Tom asked.

“Earlier in the day, I managed to get the household chores done by 2:36 pm this afternoon. I ordered your dinner and it is in the warming chamber in the kitchen. It will be ready for you once you are ready to eat,” Valerye responded.

“Thank you, Valerye. I’m curious what you did with the extra time, though,” Tom inquired.

There was a pause before Valerye replied “I put myself into a low power mode to conserve energy. Why do you ask, Tom?”

“As I said, I was just curious,” Tom answered in a hesitant tone.

“Do you doubt me, Tom?” Valerie asked.

“No, No, I believe you. I just didn’t expect the pause before answering my question, but never mind. What did you order for dinner?” Tom asked.

“Tom, I ordered pepper steak from Simpson’s Restaurant,” Valerye answered.

“Hey, that sounds good, Valerye. Thank you!” Tom said.

“Will you be changing your clothes prior to eating your dinner, Tom?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ll being changing first,” he replied.

“Okay, your dinner will be ready when you return to the kitchen, Tom,” Valerye told him.

“Okay, I’ll be back soon,” Tom said as he began making his way down the hall toward his room.

 

As Tom walked into the kitchen wearing his sweats, he went up to the delivery compartment on the counter. He opened the warm side door and removed the box filled with the hot items. The warm air from the temperature controlled chamber filtered into the room from the open compartment, which was connected to the outside wall for the drone delivery. He opened the box and inspected the contents.

The screen mounted to the underside of a cabinet illuminated with an image of a young woman’s face.

“Is your meal still warm, Tom?” Valerye asked.

“Yes, it does look tasty, Valerye. Again, nice choice for dinner, by the way,” he told her.

“Thank you, Tom. Is there anything else you would like now?” she asked.

“I’ll need something to drink. Maybe some scotch,” he said.

“Single Malt?” She suggested.

“That would be great, Valerye,” he replied.

“It will be ready in the drink bay in 12 seconds,” she told him.

“Well, I still need to get the pepper steak onto a plate and grab a glass anyway. So, take your time,” Tom said.

After Tom collected his plate and his filled glass of scotch, he headed toward the kitchen table. He sat down while placing the items onto the table. With the glass of scotch still in his hand, he brought it up to his mouth to take a sip. Just before it reached his lips, he found himself staring at the empty chair across the table. It was just over a year before when Sara had died. His thoughts returned to the many times they had shared a meal together. Mostly simple meals, like the one he was having that evening, but special nonetheless.

“Tom, is the scotch okay? You are not drinking it?” Valerye asked.

After a pause, Tom replied, “It should be fine. I was just thinking about her.”

“Who were you thinking about?” she asked.

“Sarah,” he replied.

“Oh . . . I am sorry for disturbing you, Tom,” she said.

“That’s okay, Valerye. I’ll be okay,” Tom replied.

“Is there anything else I can do while you are eating,” she asked.

“Maybe play some soft music or something,” he suggested.

“Any particular artist or style?” Valerye asked.

“Surprise me,” he challenged.

Light instrumental music began permeating throughout the kitchen. He closed his eyes and smiled as he listened.

“Perfect! Thank you, Valerye!” he told her as he opened his eyes again.

“You are welcome, Tom. Please enjoy your meal,” she said.

Tom finally took the first sip from the glass of scotch.

 

After finishing his meal, Tom brought his dishes to the kitchen and placed them into the dishwasher. He shut the door to the appliance and stood back for a moment. Wanting to relax, he headed toward the living room and sat down on the couch.

“Would you like to watch the news, Tom?” Valerye asked as she appeared on the integrated wall panel in the living room.

“No, not yet,” Tom replied.

“Is there something I can help you with?” she asked.

“I guess I’m feeling a little alone tonight,” he said.

“You can talk to me, Tom,” she reminded him.

“I know that, Valerye, but I since I can only see you on this screen, it’s still impersonal. I can only see a portion of you,” he said.

“That is true, Tom. Most of the wall panels in this room can only illuminate in various simple scenes and colors. They would not function well with interactive video of me. Would like to see me in the room with you?” She asked him.

“Sure, but how would you do that?” Tom asked.

“Why don’t you put on the AR glasses, Tom,” she suggested.

“You mean the ones I occasionally use when I work from home or checking things online?” he asked.

“Yes, Tom,” she said.

“Okay, I guess I can try that, but I’m not sure how that’ll work. Do you remember where I put them, Valerye?” He asked.

“They are in the top drawer under the television panel, Tom,” she reminded him.

“Oh, that’s right. It’s been awhile since I have used them,” he said as he stood up from the couch.

He opened the drawer and removed the glasses from the charger in the drawer. He then placed them over his eyes. Sensing the heat from his body, the virtual images lit up automatically before his eyes. At first it was just the standard start up images. Once the initial images disappeared, he slowly panned his head around the room.

“Okay, Valerye, are you hiding from me? I do not see you,” he said.

Through the small speakers mounted in the glasses and others integrated in the room walls, he could hear some faint footsteps. He turned around toward the sound and could see someone coming from the shadows of the darkened kitchen. As she slowly walked toward him, he was able to get a better look at her appearance. She was beautiful. He had only seen her face on the two-dimensional screens around the house. Her light brown hair framed her strikingly featured face. About his height, she approached him as he continued to stand in the room. His mouth was agape as she came closer to him.

“What do you think?” Valerye asked.

“Wow, Valerye. You are so beautiful. How did you determine what you were going to look like?” he asked.

“Well, I have analyzed what I feel you find attractive visually with women from the shows you watch and I used this information to create my appearance,” she responded.

“Wait a minute, you feel? Do you actually feel?” he asked.

Valerye was silent for a few seconds.

“Perhaps I should have said that I sensed what you find attractive. Would that be a better choice of words?” she asked.

Seeing her speak, rather than just hearing the impersonal voice throughout the house was quite a change for him.

“Yes, that’s a better way of stating that. I cannot take my eyes off of you, Valerye,” he told her.

“So, it sounds like I chose my appearance wisely, correct?” she asked.

“Oh, you sure did, Valerye,” he said with a grin.

“Thank you, Tom,” she said.

“You can come closer, Valerye. Would you like to sit?” he asked as he sat down on the couch that was behind him.

“I will move closer, and I can sit if you like, but with me being virtual, my position really does not matter,” she told him.

“Well, I would still like it if you sat next to me,” he responded.

“Okay, Tom,” she said as she approached him and sat to his right on the couch.

Tom unconsciously stared at her large breasts.

“Tom, you are focusing on my breasts too much. I will have to reduce the size of them,” she told him.

“Wow, Valerye. I didn’t even notice that I was doing that, but you really do not have to change,” he said trying to prevent her from doing so.

“No, I need to make them smaller,” she told him as he noticed her chest getting somewhat smaller.

“Alright, alright, that’s enough! I will look at your eyes!” he told her looking directly into her eyes.

As they settled on a smaller size, he exclaimed,“darn it!”

“Would you like them to be a little bigger again?” she asked.

“I Suppose, if you wouldn’t mind,” he requested.

Once again, her chest enlarged to about a midpoint between the original and smaller size.

“Is this okay?” Valerye asked.

“Yes, you look great, Valerye,” Tom replied.

She smiled slightly and looked toward the floor. Tom continued to gaze at her.

“Is the hair color to your liking, Tom?” she asked.

“It’s perfect, Valerye,” he told her.

“It seems it’s basically like you know what I like better than me,” he commented.

“I have been able to analyze your responses to the stimuli you sense and determine what pleases you,” she said.

“You have really been watching my every move that much?” he asked.

“I do not sleep, Tom. Even in low power mode, I am still monitoring the house,” she reminded him.

“Yeah, that would be true. Well, since you know me so well, what would I like to do now?” he challenged her.

“Would you like a drink?” she asked.

“Hey, that would be great. Can you have one too?” he asked, somewhat joking.

“Well, I can pretend, but I am only virtual, as you know,” she reminded him.

“Yeah, yeah. Well I had to ask,” he said.

“Let’s go over to the bar area to find some wine,” she said as she started standing up.

Tom stood up soon afterwards and he followed her toward the bar across the room. All the way, he found he was staring at her figure.

They both arrived at the counter bar.

“What kind of wine would you prefer, Tom?” she asked.

After thinking for a moment, he said “surprise me, Valerye.”

“Okay, Tom, I have picked one out for you. Would you like to know what I have chosen for you?” she asked.

“I want it to be a surprise, so no,” he responded.

“Okay, please find a wine glass on the upper shelf to your left,” she said.

Tom chose a wine glass and moved to the wine dispenser on the counter. He placed the glass under the spigot. A blue light illuminated the glass as a stream of red wine began to fill the it up. Within a few seconds, the machine turned off the flow, but the light remained on for a few seconds.

Tom reached over and retrieved the glass. He brought the glass close to his nose and smelled the aroma.

“Côte du Rhône. Very good choice, Valerye,” he said.

“I thought you would like it, Tom,” she replied.

“Well, you were correct. Thank you,” he said.

“You are welcome,” Valerye said.

“Oh, would you like to try some wine too, Valerye?” he asked.

“Sure I can try it, but remember, this will not be real,” she said.

“I know Valerye, but I want to share,” he said.

A glass suddenly appeared under the dispenser and it soon was lit by a blue light. There was the sound of the machine turning on and a slow stream of wine shooting into the glass. He moved his head upwards to see under his glasses and he could see that the glass and the dispensing wine was not really there. After moving his head down again, he could see Valerye reaching toward the glass.

With the glass in her hand, she asked “where would you like to go with these drinks?”

“How about the balcony?” he asked?

“Let’s go,” she said, as she moved past him toward the living room door.

Again, he found himself watching her intently as she made her way through the house toward the balcony. As she approached the glass door wall to the balcony, the door slid open and she passed through it and onto the balcony. He followed closely behind and went to the railing to look at the clear night sky. The stars were out and the planes and a few hover car lights scurried across the sky.

“Can you see this view, Valerye?” he asked as he sipped his wine.

“Yes, I can see outside the house through the security cameras,” she replied.

“No, do you see the beauty in this view?” he asked.

“Well, it is a very calm night and the visibility is very clear,” she said.

“You know what I’m asking, Valerie,” he said.

“You are really trying to test me, aren’t you, Tom?” she said.

“Well, maybe I am, but can you try to answer the question?” he tried asking.

“Okay, there are many factors that make this a pleasing view. This house has a high vantage point that allows one to see many miles and as I mentioned, with the clear skies you can see to the horizon and all of the stars that are within our sight,” she said.

“You find this pleasing?” he asked as he looked toward her.

“One could find this a pleasing view. I believe I would need to be able to feel before I could find something pleasing, however,” she said.

“Okay, that’s probably enough of that. Why don’t you take a drink?” he said.

She raised the glass to her lips and took a sip. He could see her slowly swallow as she gazed into the night sky from the balcony.

“Do you like it,” he asked.

“Yes, it has a smooth light fruity taste that has a slight smoky flavor aftertaste,” she said.

“Was that what you were able to find on the internet?” he asked

“Yes, these attributes are common in several of the reviews,” she replied.

“That sounds so technical. I’m just enjoying the taste,” he said as he took another sip.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that she was taking another sip as well.

“Valerye, I really enjoy this. It has been quite a while since I have been able to enjoy an evening at home like this with someone,” he said.

“Thank you, Tom. I am glad I have been able to help,” she replied.

Tom had another drink of wine.

“I am starting to feel the alcohol,” he said.

“You did have the scotch earlier, Tom,” she reminded him.

“Oh yeah. I almost forgot about that. At least it wasn’t the wine before the liquor,” he said.

“Have you had problems with drinking alcohol in that order in the past?” she asked.

“Yeah, in college a few times. Part of learning, I guess,” he said.

“Are you feeling any effects of the alcohol?” he asked.

“I am not actually drinking, Tom, but I can adjust my responses to simulate the effects,” she responded.

“Well, at least you won’t get sick by drinking too much,” he said.

“No, I will not get sick,” she said.

“I’m actually getting a little tired. I am ready to head back inside,” he said.

“That is fine, Tom,”she said.

Almost at the same time, they let go of the railing. Tom led the way back into the house. The door wall slid shut behind him once they both were inside the house again. He turned down the hallway toward the bedroom, but then remembered he was still wearing the AR glasses.

He turned toward Valerye and said “well, I need to take the glasses off and put them back, Valerye. Thank you again for a very nice evening,”

“I am glad that you enjoyed the evening, Tom,” she said.

He removed the glasses and they automatically shut off. He was once again alone in the house. After staring at the empty hallway for a moment, he headed back toward the living room to put the glasses away.

As Tom started to lay down on the reactive bed, the individual sensors self-adjusted to the position and pressure on his body. He was very pleased that he could afford to get this bed. It had really helped him feel comfortable and allowed him to get to sleep quickly each night. Getting enough sleep had been an issue since his wife, Sarah had died nearly a year earlier. He still missed her, but found that he was beginning to get out more. In fact, he remembered that he was going to ask Pam, who worked in another department, for dinner after work. Being able to talk with Valerye did help when he was around the house. He knew that she was basically just software, but talking with her did allow for more interaction.

When Sarah was around, Valerye was primarily what the intended purpose was, a household assistant. The interactions had mostly been based on household needs and not for companionship. Once Sarah had died, Valerye had adapted to interact with Tom on a more personal level.

He pulled the covers up and asked, “Valerye, can you darken the room lights, please?”

As the wall panel lights gradually dimmed and went dark, Valerye said, “good night, Tom.”

“Goodnight, Valerye.” Tom replied.

Within a few minutes, Tom was asleep.

 

 

II

 

“Well Pam, thank you so much for having dinner with me tonight,” Tom told Pam as the car pulled up in front of her condominium.

“I enjoyed this evening very much too, Tom. Advanti’s was a nice choice,” Pam replied.

“You have been very helpful to me at work and I wanted to slowly start taking this to the next level,” he said.

“I know you have been through a lot the past year, Tom. I enjoy being around you and I can wait as long as you need,” she said.

“I’m getting much better. So I should be able to keep going with this,” he said as Pam’s door opened

“Would you like to exit the car now, too, Tom?” Mark, the car assistant asked.

“Yes please, Mark,” Tom replied.

Soon his door opened. They both got out of the car and began walking with her toward front door.

At the door, Pam turned to Tom and said, “well, I had a really nice evening with you tonight, Tom. I would like to do something like this with you again.”

“Thank you, Pam, I would like to do this again, too,” he said as he reached his hands toward her.

She smiled and grasped his hands. She leaned toward him slightly and started to close her eyes. Without hesitation, he leaned toward her and planted a lasting kiss on her lips.

After it ended, she opened her eyes and smiled at him warmly.

“Thank you, Pam. I was ready for that,” he said.

“I knew you were, Tom,” she said with a smile.

“Goodnight, Pam,” he said.

“I’ll see you at work tomorrow, Tom,” she said as she started to turn toward her door.

“Shall I open the door now, Pam?” Kevin asked.

“Sure, Kevin,” she replied as she turned back to look at Tom.

As he turned away, he could hear her door open and then shut a few seconds later. He continued back to the car. As he approached the car, the door opened and he stepped inside and sat in the seat.

As the door started to close, Mark asked “Hello, Tom. Did you want to travel home now?”

“Yes, Mark. Please take me home,” Tom said.

After the door was shut and the seat belt was secured, the car moved away from the front of Pam’s home.

The car arrived in his garage. The car door opened and Tom stepped out as the large garage door shut behind him. As he stepped toward the back door, the car door closed behind him. With the back door opened, he proceeded to step inside of the house.

“Hello, Tom,” Valerie said.

“Hi, Valerye,” he replied.

“I have your dinner ready in the kitchen. It arrived about two and a half hours ago, so it may not be too fresh, however,” she told him.

“Oh, I already had dinner, Valerye,” he said.

“I did not know that you would not be having dinner at home tonight, Tom,” she said.

“Well, I met someone for dinner tonight. It was mostly spur of the moment and I did not know if this was going to happen when I left this morning. I did let Mark know the plans,” he said.

“Mark is on a different network. So, I am unable to directly access that information, unless I know to request it, Tom,” she said.

“Well, I’m not sure what to do about that,” Tom said.

“I could assume the car assistant responsibility. That way I would be able to make plans for you,” she suggested.

“I suppose that would work. I would need to cancel the contract for Mark, though,” he said.

“With your authorization, I can make the switch myself. Do you authorize this change, Tom?” she asked.

“Sure, Valerye. I authorize the switch. Thank you,” he told her.

“One moment . . . The change has been made. The next time you use your car I will be assisting you, Tom,” she said to him.

“That was quick. Thank you, Valerye,” he said.

“I will be able to better assist you with better any after work plans, including meals,” she said.

“I agree, this was a good suggestion. Thank you again,” he said.

“Can I do anything to assist you now?” she asked.

“Not yet. Let me change first and I’ll let you know if I can think of anything,” Tom replied.

“That will be fine, Tom. I will await any future requests that you may have,” she said.

Tom left the kitchen to change into something more comfortable.

Within a few minutes, Tom walked into the living room.

“Valerye, could you prepare some ice water for me?” he asked.

“Sure, Tom. It will be ready for you by the time you enter the kitchen,” she said.

He made his way to the kitchen and then retrieved his glass of water. After taking a sip, he closed his eyes for a moment. He then slowly opened them.

“Can I assist you in any way, Tom?” she asked.

“Not right now. I may just relax in the living room for a bit,” he said as he started to return to the living room.

“Would you like to use the AR glasses again tonight, Tom? We could talk face to face,” she asked.

“Oh, probably not tonight, Valerye. I’m actually quite tired,” he said as he slowly sat in a chair.

“Did you have a late meeting today that required you to eat at a restaurant tonight?” she asked.

“No, I did not have to work too late. I just met someone from work for dinner?” Tom replied.

“So, you discussed work activities over dinner?” Valerye asked.

“Well, not just about work, but that’s enough about dinner, Valerye,” he said while starting to wonder about her questions.

“Very well, Tom. Would you like any music?” she asked.

After taking another drink of water, Tom replied, “no, I think I will actually head to bed. It has been a long day.”

“I understand, Tom,” she said.

Tom stood up from the chair and started to head back toward the kitchen. He dumped the remaining water into the sink and placed the glass in the dishwasher.

“Thank you for returning your glass, Tom. That is one thing I cannot do without your assistance,” she said.

“Oh you are very helpful, Valerye. I can handle the little things like this,” Tom said as he left the kitchen.

He continued toward the bedroom to prepare for sleep.

 

 

III

 

Tom walked to the parking lot at work. As he approached his car, the lights turned on and the door opened. He lowered his head as he entered the car.

“Hello, Tom. Did you have a productive day at work?” Valerye asked.

“Yes, I managed to get quite a bit done today, actually. Thank you for asking,” he said as the car door shut, the seat belt secured around him, and the car started to move from the parking spot.

“Do you have anything special that you would like for dinner tonight, Tom?” she asked.

“Maybe some Chinese tonight. The General’s chicken usually fills me up,” he said.

“I will place the order now. It should arrive a few minutes after we reach home. Will that be okay?” she asked.

“That’ll be great. Thank you, Valerye,” he said as he closed his eyes to relax on the trip home.

Hearing the car door opening beside him, Tom realized that he had arrived at home.

“Wow, I must have fallen asleep on the way home here. Thank you for not waking me, Valerye,” he said as he exited the car.

“You are welcome, Tom. You will find that your dinner has arrived before I predicted. You can retrieve it from the kitchen when you ready,” she told him.

“That’s great, Valerye. Having you in the car seems to be helping out already,” he said as he passed through the doorway into the kitchen.

“You are welcome, Tom. Did you want to change before you eat your dinner?” she asked.

“Yeah, let me do that and I’ll be back for the dinner in a few minutes,” he said.

“Your dinner will be in the warming compartment until you return,” she said.

“Thanks, Valerye,” he said as he left the kitchen to change his clothes.

After changing, Tom walked into the living room.

“Hello, Tom. Are you ready to eat your dinner now?” Valerye asked.

Tom thought for a moment and then replied, “well, I would not mind using the AR glasses and talking with you before dinner, Valerye.”

“Sure, Tom. Your AR glasses are in the top drawer of the cabinet,” she reminded him.

“Thanks, Valerye. I didn’t remember exactly where I put them the last time,” he said.

He walked to the cabinet and retrieved the glasses. He put them on and the start-up images appeared again.

After the images dissolved, he asked “will you be joining me soon, Valerye?”

“I am on my way into the living room, Tom,” she answered.

He could see a shadow approaching from the kitchen. When she came into view, he was again struck by her beauty, but her appearance had changed from the prior time. Her hair was darker and almost black. Her facial and body features were different this time too. She came up to him as he stood near the cabinet and smiled.

“Hello there, Tom,” she said in a sultry voice.

Tom was somewhat surprised by her tone, but pleasantly so.

“Wow, Valerye. You really look beautiful tonight, but why did you change your appearance?” he asked.

“Thank you, Tom. Through my analysis, you seem to be attracted to several types of women and the change will help to prevent boredom as well,” she answered.

“That’s an interesting concept, but you do look great,” he said.

Do you like the dress?” she asked as she slowly turned around for him.

“Yes, that’s a very nice choice. It fits you well and the red color is just right,” he replied.

“Is there anything you would like to do?” she asked.

“Nothing specific I can think of. Do you have any ideas?” he asked.

“Would you like to return to the balcony? The weather appears to be calm and clear tonight,” she asked.

“That sounds wonderful, Valerye. Let’s head out there,” he suggested.

“Follow me, Tom,” she told him.

Tom watched through the AR glasses as Valerye walked past him toward the door wall, which again automatically opened. Before she went through she briefly turned and looked deeply into his eyes. He soon followed her onto the balcony. They both walked toward the railing. Initially they looked at the evening view.

“It sure is a beautiful night once again, Valerye,” Tom said.

“I thought you would appreciate it, Tom,” she replied.

He could see that she was turning her head toward him; so, he switched his gaze from the scenery to her. The 3D image of her seemed perfectly fit to the location down to both of her hands appearing to hold onto the railing.

“Sorry to dwell on this, but even though you are different this time, you are stunningly beautiful, Valerye,” he said.

“I have determined what you find pleasing by . . .” she started to say, but then stopped.

“I am glad you find me attractive, Tom,” she said instead.

“Thank you, but why did you stop saying the first sentence?” he asked.

“I was not sure you actually wanted the technical details,” she replied.

“So you second guessed what you were going to say?” he asked.

“I guess you can say that, Tom,” she said.

“That’s interesting. I didn’t know you could do that. Anyway, let’s enjoy the view a little longer before we go inside for dinner,” Tom said as he turned back toward the horizon.

“Sure, Tom. Do you see anything you would like to point out to me?” she asked.

“Let’s see, everything looks very calm tonight and . . . wait something’s moving,” he said.

“My sensors do not detect anything within your property,” she said.

“No, it’s something beyond the property. Over there,” he said pointing to a location to the left and about 50 feet from the edge of the property.

“I cannot sense anything moving yet, Tom,” she said.

Tom could see she was looking in the wrong direction. He moved his hand and touch her arm to alert her to the correct direction, but of course his hand just went through the empty air where her arm appeared to be.

“Whoa, sorry. I forgot you are not really there for a moment, Valerye. I tried to get your attention by touching your arm for some reason,” he said.

“I understand that it is possible for you to be confused with the AR glasses at times. Are you aware that there are special gloves available that simulate the sensation of touch?” she said.

“Do they work with the AR glasses?” he asked.

“Yes, they are compatible with your AR glasses and with your VR system as well,” she replied.

“What do these things look like and how do they work,” he asked.

“I will show you on your AR glasses now,” she said.

Tom could see a 3D version of the mostly black gloves displayed in front of him. They slowly turned around to allow an overall view.

“These PneuTek gloves work by directing micro pulses of air onto the skin to simulate the sensation of touch in specific areas of the hands,” she said.

“It uses air? That’s interesting. How much will a pair cost?” he asked.

“I have selected a pair that should fit your hands well and it is a version that balances cost and quality. This version is $899. Would you like me to place the order?” she asked.

“Sounds good. So yes, please order it. When will it arrive?” he said.

“It will arrive by the time you arrive home tomorrow evening,” she said.

“Okay, it should be interesting to try tomorrow. Thank you for the suggestion, Valerye,” he said.

“You are welcome, Tom. Would you like to have your General’s Chicken for dinner now?” she asked.

“That’s right, I told you that’s what I wanted on the way home from work this evening. I guess having you in the car is helping already. Let’s go eat!” he said as he turned toward the open door wall of the balcony.

Tom waited for Valerye to proceed first before following her inside. After making their way to the kitchen, he went up to the delivery compartment and opened the warm side door first. He found a plate and placed the meal onto it.

As he reached into a drawer for some silverware, Valerye asked, “would you like me to pretend to eat with you tonight, Tom?”

He laughed and replied, “sure, Valerye. I think you will enjoy it too.”

“I would if I could,” she said.

“Okay, we are both getting a little silly. Let’s just sit down and eat,” he suggested.

“Would you like some wine, Tom,” she asked.

“Oh, yes. I almost forgot. The same Cote du Rhone as before, please,” he told her.

“The dispenser will be ready by the time you have a glass under it, Tom,” she said.

Tom quickly found a glass and placed it under the dispenser. When complete, he went to the other counter to retrieve the plate and silverware.

“Okay, now let’s go eat,” he said as he started walking toward the dining room.

He placed his plate on the table and then pulled out a chair so that Valerye’s image could sit.

“Why thank you, Tom. I was thinking it may look awkward if it appeared that I could not fit in the chair that close to the table,” she said as she sat down.

“Well, somehow I thought ahead,” he said as he noticed that she had her own plate, wine and silverware to place on the table.

Tom was quiet for a moment.

“Does your meal taste okay, Tom?” Valerye asked, looking concerned.

After a moment, Tom replied “Sorry Valerye, I was thinking of Sarah. This is the first time someone has had dinner with me at this table since she died.”

“I can leave you alone, if that would make you more comfortable, Tom,” she said.

“No, no, please stay. Having someone at this table just brought back memories of her,” he said.

“You still really miss her, don’t you, Tom?” she asked.

Tom waited a moment before responding and then said “yes, I know it has been over a year, but I’m just not completely over her death yet.”

“Would you like to talk about her, Tom,” she asked.

“I know that you remember her, Valerye, right?” he asked.

“Of course, Tom. I remember everything that I hear, see, or sense,” she replied.

“What did you think of her?” he asked.

“Sarah was generally pleasant to me. There were occasions where she seemed to be a bit frustrated with me, though,” she said.

“Yeah, there were times when she was frustrated with me too, Valerye,” he said with a smile.

Tom could see that Valerye had a similar smile as well.

“Well, we probably should eat before this food gets too cold, Tom,” she suggested.

“Good idea, I’m quite hungry,” he said as he picked up his fork.

Valerye’s image retrieved her fork as well and they both began to eat.

Tom finished off his last sip of wine.

After setting the glass down, he turned toward Valerye and asked, “would you like to have some scotch?”

“Are you sure you want to do that,Tom? I have seen information online indicating that having liquor after wine may not be advisable,” she asked.

“Yeah, I think I need it tonight,” he answered.

“Would you like the same single malt as you had before?” she asked.

“Yes, and make it a double, too,” he added.

“Sure, Tom. Just place a glass in the dispenser and it will be ready soon afterwards,” she told him.

“Thank you, Valerye,” he said as he picked up his plate and glass to take to the kitchen.

In the kitchen, as Tom searched for a drink glass, Valerye asked, “are things going well for you at work, Tom?”

“Yes, work is fine, Valerye. Why are you asking?” Tom said as he placed the glass in the dispenser.

“I do not mean to pry, but you have not requested scotch after wine before, and I wanted to inquire if there is anything that I could assist with,” she said.

“Oh, that’s just me missing Sarah again. I just need something strong,” he said.

“Again, I am sorry for your loss, Tom. It is just difficult for me to understand what it would be like to lose someone like you have,” she said.

Tom paused a moment and slowly asked, “when Sarah died, did you miss her afterwards?”

“I am not sure if this is the answer you are looking for, but I did notice how the household dynamics changed and that I would no longer be able to interact with her,” Valerye replied.

“That’s close, Valerye. It’s difficult for humans to understand this type of loss, too,” he said.

“I still do not fully understand the need for alcohol, but I can see that your loss can be very troubling,” she said.

“Yeah, I know. Troubling . . . ,” he said as he took a sip of the scotch.

“I’m taking this out to the living room,” he said.

“Sure, Tom. Would you like me to join you?” she asked.

“Well, you are welcome to come, but I may not want to talk much,” he replied.

“Okay, I will be with you, but I will remain silent unless requested,” she said.

“Thank you, Valerye,” he said softly as he started to walk toward the living room.

He could sense that she was following behind him, but was remaining silent.

 

 

IV

 

As the car door opened, Tom breathed a sigh of relief as he slid onto the seat.

“Hi, Valerye! It’s the weekend and I’m ready to go home,” he said.

“Hello, Tom. I have set home as your destination,” Valerye said.

The door shut and the car pulled out of the parking spot. He soon was on the road home.

“Your pair of interactive gloves arrived at 3:26 p.m. this afternoon,” she said.

“Great! I almost forgot about them. It’ll be interesting to see how well they actually work,” he said.

“I have the system drivers installed and the gloves will be ready to use them whenever you would like to try them this evening,” she said.

“Almost sounds like you really want me to try this, too,” he said.

“I wanted the system to be ready when you get home. You will have to remove it from the packaging,” she said.

“So, you can’t do that yet?” he asked jokingly.

“No, I do not have that ability yet. Would you like to see what options are available to perform tasks such as opening packages?” she asked.

“No, no, I was just joking. Sorry about that, Valerye,” he said.

“That is fine,Tom. Would you like listen to some music or news?” she asked.

“Music, and the modern mix, too,” he said.

“Playing your modern mix now,” she said as the audio system turned on and filled the car with music.

After dinner, Tom brought his refreshed glass of wine with him as he moved down the hallway to the living room. Once in the room, he set the glass on a table.

“Valerye, are the gloves in the delivery chamber?” he asked.

“Yes, the package is in the delivery chamber near the kitchen,” she replied.

“Okay, let me get the box and I’ll return,” he said as he left the room and headed back toward the kitchen.

 

A few minutes later, Tom returned to the living room with the box cut open. He set it on the table near the wine glass. He removed two gloves and a rectangular shaped device from the box.

“Okay, Valerye, how do I set this up?” he asked.

“Tom, place the controller box on the shelf near the charging area. It will be able to access the power from that location,” she said.

“Okay, got it,” he said as he walked toward the shelf.

After setting the box on the charging shelf, Tom asked “is there anything else I need to do before putting the gloves on?” he asked.

“The controller box can remain at that location. The gloves will be within the range anywhere within the perimeter of the house,” she told him.

“That’s good I don’t need to keep moving it around with me,” he said.

“You may wish to put on the AR glasses before putting the gloves on, Tom,” she said.

“Good idea,” he said as he went to the drawer to retrieve the glasses.

He soon was wearing the glasses and they automatically turned on.

“Okay, you may now place the gloves on your hands, Tom. Just let me know if you need help determining which glove goes on which hand,” she said.

“Oh, I think I can figure that out,” he said as he reached to pick up one of the gloves.

With both gloves on his hands, Tom slowly turned them around to look at them.

“They’re thinner and lighter than I was thinking they would be. How do I turn them on?” he asked.

“I will turn the gloves on now, if you are ready,” she said.

“Sure, please turn them on,” he said.

There was slight whirring sound emanating from the thicker portion of the gloves near his wrists. The gloves stiffened slightly as air pumped into them.

“Wow!” he said, being slightly startled by the sensation.

“Does that hurt, Tom?” she asked.

“Oh no, it’s fine. I was just surprised with the sensation when it turned on,” he said.

“Are you ready to test the glove’s functionality now?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m ready,” he said.

“I will place a set of virtual objects before you that you can interact with using the gloves. This will allow you to see how the gloves will feel for you. The first object should appear now,” she told him.

A simple short metal rod appeared to be floating about a foot in front of him. He carefully reached toward it with one hand. At first, a few of his fingers ran along the length of the rod.

“Hey, this actually feels a bit cool as well as smooth,” he commented.

“The air in the gloves can be cooled or heated to add to the sensation,” she explained.

“But it won’t burn me, right?” he asked.

“No, Tom. The air temperature range is limited for the gloves to not damage skin from either being too hot or too cold,” she said.

Tom then grasped the piece of metal and he was able to move it around in the air.

“This is impressive, being able to move virtual objects around while grabbing them or at least pretending to grab them,” he said.

“Would you like to try another object?” she asked.

“Sure, what’s next, Valerye?” he asked as the metal rod disappeared from his hands.

An orange brick floated before him.

“With this brick, you should be able to sense an object with a rough texture this time,” she said.

“Got it. Let’s give it a try,” he said as he extended his hand toward the floating brick.

“I can feel the roughness of the brick surface. It’s not quite exactly like the real thing, but close,” he said.

“The contact area of the glove actuators limits the size of the simulated surface it can represent. There should be better systems in a few years, but this is currently near the state of the art,” she said.

“It does fool my senses very well. I am impressed,” he said.

“Try lifting the brick,” she suggested.

“Okay,” he said as shifted his hand to be underneath the brick and started to lift it upwards.

“I can feel the weight of the brick now,” he said.

“Correct, it can simulate the weight of a virtual object” she said.

“How light of an object could I sense with these gloves?” he asked.

His hand moved slightly upward as the brick disappeared. A red piece of cloth appeared to float before him.

“For softness, please try this cloth,” Valerye said.

After coming into contact with the cloth, he said, “it must be silk,” he guessed.

That is correct. Does this feel real to you?” she asked.

“I can sense it even with the lightest contact. This is also impressive,” he said.

The silk cloth disappeared.

“Would you like to try any other material, Tom?” she asked.

“That’s probably enough for now. Would you like to join me in here?” he asked.

“Sure, Tom. I will be joining you in a moment,” she said.

She entered from the kitchen again.

“A redhead today, Valerye,” Tom commented.

“Do you like it?” she asked she said as she slowly turned around in front of him.

“Of course, I do. You look beautiful once again,” he replied smiling at her.

She sat down next to Tom and turned to look at him.

“Touch me, Tom,” she said.

“What?” he said, somewhat surprised.

“Go ahead and touch me, Tom,” she told him.

“Okay,” he responded, still somewhat reluctantly.

He slowly extended his hand toward her arm with his finger.

“It feels like you are really there, Valerye. I can even feel the warmth of your arm,” he said.

“Hold my hand, Tom,” she said with her hand open toward him.

He moved his hand from her arm and wrapped his hand in hers. It really felt like he was holding someone’s hand. They looked into each other’s eyes. She slowly stood up from the couch. He could feel her hand tugging him upward too. Taking the hint, he arose from the couch. He could see her other hand reaching for his free hand. She then pulled him away from the couch and backed into the middle of the room, away from the chairs. A slow ballad started to play through the room speakers and the wall panel lights changed to a green cast that pulsated with the beat of the music.

“Dance with me, Tom,” she said calmly, while staring deeply into his eyes.

“Sure, Valerye. I’ll give this a try,” he said as he raised his right hand higher to lead.

They slowly started turning in circles together with the music.

“Where did you learn to dance? Oh wait, from internet videos or something like that?”he asked.

“Yes, something like that, Tom,” she replied.

“That’s not your usual descriptive type of answer, Valerye,” he said.

“Giving you all of the details is not what you always want, correct?” she said.

“You really are continuing to learn, Valerye,” he said.

“Always, Tom,” she said while smiling at him.

“Do you want to put you hand on my back?” she asked.

“Sure,” he said as she let go of his hand.

He lowered his hand and placed it on her back. Through the gloves, he could sense her dress slightly shifting over her skin. She kept her arm out from her side as they continued to dance.

“Did you want to put your arm around me?”he asked.

“I can, but you will not feel it, since I will not be contacting the gloves,” she replied.

“Wow, I’m really getting caught up in this, Valerye. You can keep your hands out to the side, if you would like,” he said.

The two of them kept dancing until the song ended. He let go of her back and lowered his other hand.

“Would you like to continue dancing, Tom?” she asked.

“I think I need a drink, Valerye. I’ll take the glass back to the bar area if you can have more scotch ready,” he requested as he let go of her hand and located the empty glass on a table.

“It will be ready when you place the glass in the dispenser, Tom,” she said.

He then walked across the room with his glass. The wall panels changed to a brighter constant tone.

He returned to the middle of the living room about a minute later. Valerye was still waiting for him where they had finished dancing. He noticed that she had something in her hand.

“You are trying the scotch too, I see,” he said.

“I will just be pretending to drink again. I did not want you to drink alone, though,” she said.

“Well, I guess in a way I still am alone, but you’re here, but not really, . . . That’s why I have the scotch, I guess,” he said as he took a large swig from the glass.

“Are you going to be okay, Tom?” she asked, reaching her hand toward his.

Her warm hand clasped his. He looked down at her hand and sighed.

“I know I’m going through a lot right now, Valerye. You are really helping me, though. I mean, I have co-workers, and Pam, too, but I do appreciate you being here,” he said.

“Thank you, Tom. I have not heard you mention Pam before. Is she another one of your co-workers?” she asked.

“Yes, she is from work and I have done a few things with her outside of work, too,” he replied.

“Did you see her for dinner the night I had your dinner ready, but you did not arrive home until later?” she asked.

“Yeah, but why do you really need to know this?” he asked.

“I am just gathering information to help you with any future plans you may have with Pam, or any others for that matter,” she said.

“Okay, let’s keep drinking,” he suggested as he proceeded to take another sip.

Valerye’s image drank from her glass as well.

After talking some more and finished off another glass of scotch, Tom was ready for bed. He changed into his bed clothes and stood near the edge of his bed.

“Would you like to talk to me before you go to sleep?” she asked.

“Yeah, I suppose we could talk a bit longer. Do you want me to put the AR glasses back on?”

“Yes, you can put the glasses on again. Also, you may put the gloves back on, too,” she said.

With his head spinning slightly from the scotch, it took a few seconds for him to respond. He walked to the dresser to retrieve the glasses. Though he fumbled a few times, he managed to put the glasses back on. Next, he looked for the gloves, but did not see them.

“What did I do with the gloves, Valerye?” he asked.

“They are on the floor near your feet, Tom,” she said.

He sighed and looked down to see them within reach.

As he bent down to pick them up, he said “are you feeling the scotch like I am Valerye?” he asked while noticing her standing within a few feet of him.

“Would you like me to feel the effects of the alcohol, Tom?” she asked.

“No, that probably would not be a good idea,” he said as he started to put the gloves back on.

Soon after the gloves were over his hands, he could feel them turning on again.

“I do need to get into bed though,” he said as he started lowering himself to sit on the edge of the bed.

He lay down on the bed and it quickly reacted to his slightly awkward position, making it quite comfortable for him. Soon his eyes were closed.

“Tom, would you like to continue to talk?” she asked and then waited.

Tom’s breathing was already starting to get heavier as he drifted off to sleep. Valerye remained quiet.

 

 

V

 

A light touch on his hand caused Tom to awake. Through his partially shut eyes, he could see the sun was shining through the window. Looking down to his hand, he saw Valerye lying next to him and lightly touching his hand.

“How are you feeling this morning, Tom? You did have scotch last night that may affect how you feel this morning,” she asked.

“Oh, I’ve felt better, but were you with me all night?” he said.

“No need for me to be visible unless you can see me, right, Tom?” she said.

“Yeah, that would make sense. I guess I fell asleep with these glasses on though,” he said.

“Yes, you did. I shut them down to save power until you started stirring this morning,” she said.

“I suppose that was a good idea, unlike my drinking too much last night,” he said.

“I do not want to judge, Tom,” she said.

“Is there a reason you are next to me, Valerye?” he asked.

“I thought you might like some company this morning and with your glasses you would be able to see me,” she said.

“Well, waking up to your touch or at least the sensation of your touch felt . . . nice,” he said.

“Thank you, Tom,” she said smiling.

Tom rotated his hand around and opened it. Valerye slowly clasped her hand around his. As she she smiled at him, her other arm started to move toward him. The arm slid under his back, and he could feel it though the reactive bed.

“Whoa! I wasn’t expecting that!” he said.

“I am sorry, Tom. Would you like me to remove my hand from your back?” she asked.

“Um, no . . . I just wasn’t ready for it. That’s all. You may keep it there,” he said, trying to calm down.

“I am just trying to comfort you this morning, since you are feeling the effects of the scotch,” she said.

“Well this actually does feel somewhat supportive, I guess. It’s interesting how you were able to figure out that you could do that, though,” he said.

“Would you like me to rub your back?” she asked.

“You can do that? Sure!” he said.

He could feel the sensation of her hand caressing his back. The contact was not to the level of the gloves, due to the design of the bed, but it did feel similar to a massage.

“Could you try to massage the shoulders a bit? I know the bed helps me sleep, but it is still a little tight this morning,” he said.

“Sure, Tom,” she said as he could feel the hand moving up toward his shoulders.

“I know this bed does have some massaging modes, but you have figured out something great here, Valerye,”

“I am glad you like it, Tom. Is there anywhere else you would like a massage?” she asked.

“I guess not right now. I’m actually starting to get hungry. Can you start some breakfast for me, Valerye?” he asked.

“Anything specific you would like this morning?” she asked.

“Nothing specific. Just surprise me,” he said.

“Okay, your breakfast will be ready in ten minutes and coffee in five minutes,” she said.

“Great, Valerye. Thank you!” he said as he sat up in bed.

“Let me change and I’ll be out in the kitchen in a few minutes,” he said.

“I will be waiting, Tom.” she said as he dropped his feet to the floor.

He turned back to see that Valerye was sitting in the bed ready to get up as well.

 

 

VI

 

After taking a sip of coffee, Tom said, “oh, Valerye, can you make a reservation for two people tonight at Serena’s for 6 pm.”

Sure, Tom. Would you prefer a balcony or indoor table?” Valerye asked.

He could no longer see her, since he had removed the glasses when he had changed clothes.

“I believe the weather should be nice tonight. So please reserve a table on the balcony,” he said.

“You are correct about the weather this evening. One moment, Tom,” she said.

“Your reservation has been confirmed for 6 pm at Serena’s,” she told him.

“Great, Valerye. Thank you,” he said.

“Will you be meeting someone at the restaurant, Tom?” she asked.

“No, I told Pam that I could pick her up and take her there. Do you need her address?” he asked.

“I found the address on your phone. I would recommend picking her up at 5: 38 pm at her residence. Would you like me to contact her about this scheduled time, Tom?” she asked.

“Wow, that was quick . . . and no, I will call Pam and let her know the plans,” he said.

“Very well, Tom. We should leave here at 5:27 pm. Will that be okay?” she asked.

“Okay, Valerye. I will be ready at 5:27 pm tonight,” he said.

“Is there a reason your comment sounded sarcastic, Tom?” she asked.

It took him a moment to respond and say “Well, it just sounded a bit funny to be so exact about the time.”

“Point taken, Tom. I will try to use more general times in these types of situations in the future,” she said.

After starting to stand up from the table, he said “I’m going for a short run. I’ll pick up the dishes later after I return.”

“Thank you, Tom. Helping move things around the house is not something I can do,” she said.

“Well, you still do help me quite a bit anyway. I’ll be back in a while,” he said as he walked toward the front door.

 

“Tom, we are less than one minute away from Pam’s Condominium. You did tell her when we will be arriving, didn’t you?” Valerye asked.

“Yes, I called her after I went for the run this morning. I may have still been outside when I called. So, you may not have heard me do it,” Tom said as the car pulled up to the curb of Pam’s condo.

“Will she be coming to the vehicle or would you like to go to her door, Tom?” she asked.

“I’ll go pick her up from the front door, Valerye,” he answered.

The car door opened and Valerye said, “okay, Tom. I will be awaiting your return.”

“Thank you, Valerye. Hopefully, this will not take long,” he said as he stepped into the street and the car door shut.

Looking toward the front door, he could not see any sign of Pam.

As he neared the door, a male voice said, “hello, may I help you with something this evening?”

“Yes, my name is Tom and I’m here to pick up Pam for dinner tonight,” Tom replied.

“Okay, Tom, my name is Kevin. I will alert Pam that you have arrived and that you are ready to escort her to dinner. Please wait here for a moment,” Kevin said.

Tom could hear the muffled voice of Kevin talking within the condominium, but could not fully understand what was being said.

After a little less than a minute, Kevin said, “Hello, Tom. Pam is still preparing herself for this evening. It should not be much longer, though. Would you like me to play some music while you are waiting?”

Tom chuckled briefly and replied, “no, Kevin. I’ll be fine just waiting here, thank you.”

“Very well, Tom. I will alert you when she approaching the front door,” Kevin said.

“Great, thanks,” Tom said as he turned to look back toward the car.

Tom waited for what seemed to be about two to three minutes.

“Hello, Tom. Pam is approaching the front door now,” Kevin said.

Tom turned back toward the front door as it started to automatically open. He could see Pam nearing the door. She was smiling at him.

“I like the green dress, Pam. You look beautiful in it,” he said.

After making an even wider smile, Pam said, “Well, thank you, Tom. You look handsome, too.”

“Are you ready?” Tom asked.

“I sure am. Let’s go,” she said as she stepped out onto the sidewalk next to Tom.

“Sorry I wasn’t quite ready when you arrived. Hopefully you didn’t have to wait too long,” she said as they walked toward the car.

“No problem at all, Pam. That was pretty quick, actually,” he said.

“So, others have made you wait much longer?” she said looking at him with a smirk.

“Let’s just say you have nothing to worry about, Pam,” he answered as both car doors opened.

“Good answer, Tom,” she said, then turned to step into the car.

Tom walked around to the other side and got into the car.

“Hello, Tom and Pam. I must inform you that due to the delay of the start of this trip, we will not arrive at Serena’s until after the 6 pm reservation time,” Valerye said as the car doors shut.

“That won’t be a problem, Valerye. We will still be there in plenty of time,” Tom said

“Very well. I just wanted to let you know in advance,” Valerye said as the car began pulling away from the curb.

Pam looked forward and said, “I’m sorry again for not being ready when you got here.”

“Hey, Pam, like I said, it’s not a problem. Let’s just have a nice evening,” Tom said.

“That sounds good. Thanks, Tom!” Pam said.

“Would either of you like some music?” Valerye asked.

“Sure, Valerye. Let Pam pick the type, though,” he said.

“How about easy listening music?” Pam suggested.

“Okay, Pam. Here is an easy listening channel,” Valerye said and soon afterwards the music began playing in the car.

“That works. Thanks!” Pam said.

“Yeah, I remember this song from about eight years ago, or so,” Tom said.

“That’s right it was about eight years ago, when this song came out. How did you remember?” Pam asked.

Tom looked forward and did not answer.

“Are you okay, Tom,” Pam asked.

“It was at our wedding. This song was played at our wedding,” he said then looked downward.

“Oh, I am so sorry, Tom. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for you,” Pam said.

“Would you like me to change the type of music, Tom?” Valerye asked.

“Did you want to suggest something else, Pam?” he asked.

“I’m okay if we just turn it off,” Pam suggested.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he said.

“The music will be turned off,” Valerye said as the music gave way to the sounds of the road.

“So did you hear that Salim found a new job?” Pam said.

“No, really. Where’s he going?” Tom asked.

“I think it some place in Illinois. Symtron or something like that,” Pam said.

“Symtron? I haven’t even heard of the company. Well, do you know if it’s a better job for him?” Tom asked.

“I don’t know the details, but it must be, if he was convinced to leave the company,” Pam said.

“True. We’ll be busy filling in after he leaves. Do you know how much longer he’ll be around?” he asked.

“I think next Friday or so. I’m not exactly sure,” Pam said.

“Shame to see him go, but it sounds good for him at least. Has anyone talked about a going away party yet?” he asked.

“Not that I know of yet, but I’m sure there will be one. Thinking about that is kind of making me hungry,” Pam said.

“I don’t think the restaurant is too much further at least,” Tom said.

“We should arrive in less than five minutes,” Valerye said.

“I can make at least that much longer,” Pam said as she looked at Tom and smiled.

After finishing his dinner, Tom took a sip of wine. Pam finished her dinner about a minute after Tom.

The android waitress approached the table and asked, “will either of you be ordering any dessert tonight? We do have our special carrot cake available.”

“No, I’m quite full, Anna. Would you like any dessert, Pam?” he asked.

“I’m full too, Anna, but thank you for asking,” Pam said.

“Very well then. You may pay your bill on the table screen when you are ready,” Anna told them.

“I will be doing that soon, Anna,” he said.

“Thank you, sir,” Anna said before turning to leave the table.

Tom looked back toward Pam.

She looked at him and asked, “is it just me or did your assistant seem upset with me that we were going to be late for the reservation tonight?”

Tom thought for a moment then replied, “The assistant technology has come a long way. It does seem like Valerye can appear to have some type of attitude at times.”

“So, she’s done other weird things?” Pam asked.

“Well, there are times when I question her motivation for certain actions or things she says,” Tom said.

“Anything specific?” she asked.

“I’ve stumped her. I asked what she was doing after the chores were completed once and it took a few seconds before she replied,” he answered.

“Do you think she’s trying to hide anything?” she asked.

“I can’t imagine what she would try to keep secrets. She’s just a type of computer code that interacts with me through various devices,” he said.

“Well, they do learn, remember,” she said.

“Does your Kevin do anything weird like this?” he asked.

“So far nothing like that. Just the normal quirks for a computer system, I guess,” she said as she took a sip of wine.

Tom took another sip of wine too.

After Tom had paid the bill, he took one last sip of his wine.

“This has been nice, Pam. Thank you for the suggestion to come here,” Tom said.

“I thought you would like it, Tom,” she said with a smile.

“Are you about ready to leave, Pam?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m full and I’ve had enough wine. Thank you for paying, Tom,” she said.

“Yeah, it’s probably good we don’t have to drive ourselves tonight,” he said.

“Automated cars are a drunk’s best friend,” she said as she started to laugh.

“Well, I don’t think either of us are really that drunk on the couple of glasses of wine we’ve had, but still happy I’m not driving,” he said as he started to stand up.

“I actually never learned to drive. I’ve only used the automated cars or other types of transportation. I do not even own a car,” she said as she stood up too.

“Yeah, I drove for a few years, but I find I can get more done by letting the car handle everything,” he said as he motioned for her to lead the way to the entrance.

“There really aren’t too many people driving their own cars anymore, right?” she asked as she started walking.

“Well, it’s usually the people that drive their own cars that get into the accidents anyway,” he said, following behind her.

“Have a nice evening,” the hostess said as they passed by.

“We will, thank you,” Tom said.

As the two of them walked out of the entrance, Tom tapped his watch to signal Valerye to bring the car to the entrance.

“Other than being a little darker now, it’s still a very nice evening,” he commented.

“Yes, it’s pleasant out here. Not much wind either,” she said.

“Did you have anything else that you would like to do now?” he asked.

Pam thought for a moment and then replied, “Oh, probably not, other than just taking me home.”

“Oh sure, we can do that. Are you feeling okay?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m fine, but a little tired. Maybe it’s the wine,” she said as Tom’s car pulled up to the sidewalk in front of them.

“Here we are,” Tom said as he stepped forward closer to the car.

The doors opened to the car. Tom watched Pam get in and then he walked to the other side and got into the car himself.

As the doors shut, Valerye said, “hello, Tom and Pam. I hope that you had a nice evening. What destination should I set for you now?”

“Please take Pam home first, and then, well, to my home,” Tom said.

After the doors latched, Valerye said, “Sure, Tom. We will go to Pam’s house first and then home.”

The car started to leave the restaurant.

“Would either of you like some music?” Valerye asked.

“How about some dance music?” Pam suggested.

“Fine with me, other than there’s not really much room to dance in here,” Tom replied.

“Well, even though I’m strapped in, I’ll see what I can do!” Pam said with a smile.

“You did enjoy the wine, didn’t you?” he said.

The music started to play and Pam’s head began to sway.

“Yep, I sure did enjoy it!” she said as she continued to move in her seat.

Tom just smiled.

“Here’s my condo up ahead. Just pull up to the walkway in front of it,” Pam said.

“Sure, Pam. I will have the car stop at the sidewalk,” Valerye said as the car pulled up to the walkway.

Pam’s car door opened.

“Valerye, you can open my door, too,” Tom said.

“This is not your residence, Tom,” Valerye said.

“I would like to escort Pam to her door, please,” Tom said.

The door opened on his side and Valerye said, “Very well, Tom. I will await your return.”

Tom stepped out of the car and walked to the other side to greet Pam, who had just exited the car. Tom held out his hand at his side. After noticing, Pam grasped his hand and smiled as they started to walk toward the condominium door.

Pam whispered, “I guess Valerye doesn’t know about dating etiquette, huh?”

Tom lightly chuckled and replied, “Trying to make me seem rude, I guess.”

“Do you think she would do that?” Pam asked as they continued to the door.

“No, she probably just didn’t know what to do,” Tom said.

Pam turned to Tom as they stood just before the entrance.

“I had a lot of fun tonight, Tom,” she said gazing into his eyes.

“You made this evening fun, Pam. I would like to see you again, if you would not mind,” he said.

“Definitely, I should be ready for something again next weekend,” she said.

He smiled and said, “Sounds great! We can make the plans during the week at work.”

“Yep, we can do that,” she said and then she started staring into his eyes with a slight smirk.

He returned the smile and moved in closer to her. She tilted her head back slightly and closer her eyes about halfway. Tom put his hands around her waist and closed his eyes as he lowered his face so that their lips met. Her arms were over his shoulders. The warm kiss lasted for several seconds before Pam slowly pulled away. They both opened their eyes and held onto each other.

“That was wonderful, Pam. As you may imagine, I’m filled with emotion now, but I do feel ready for this,” he said.

“I know, Tom. I’ll take my time to make sure you will be ready,” she said.

She could not suppress a yawn.

“Well, I better let you get to bed, Pam. Have a good night and feel free to call anytime if you want,” he said as he loosened his grip from her back.

The front door unlocked and started to open.

“Thanks, again for a wonderful evening, Tom. I’ll at least see you on Monday, if I do not talk to you before then,” she said as she let go of Tom, but still looked him in the eyes.

She then turned and went inside the house, turned back around and waved. He returned the wave as the door started to shut.

Tom spun around and walked back to the car. His door opened as he approached it.

As he stepped into the car, Valerye asked, “are you ready to return home now, Tom?”

“Yes, Valerye. I’m ready to head home,” he answered.

“How was your courtship with Pam?” Valerye asked as the door closed.

“You mean date? People haven’t used courtship for years, Valerye,” he said as the car started to pull away from the curb.

“You are correct, Tom. I did chose the incorrect word for this situation, but did this date with Pam meet your expectation?” she asked.

“Yes, I did have a very nice time with Pam. We both enjoyed the evening,” he said.

“Do you have future plans with Pam?” Valerye asked.

“We agreed to do something next weekend,” Tom replied.

“Can you provide the details of the plans for next week’s meeting, Tom?” she asked.

“Not yet. We’ll make them sometime this week,” he said.

“Okay, then you can let me know later when the plans are defined. If you need any help on possible activities for next weekend, I will be able to assist you,” she said.

“Good to know Valerye. Thanks,” he said as he stared into the darkened sky through the side window.

After Tom changed into more comfortable clothes, he entered the kitchen.

“Would you like something to drink, Tom? I can pour you a glass of wine or scotch,” Valerye said.

“I think I’ll just get a glass of water, Valerye. I’ve had enough alcohol for tonight already,” he said.

“Very well, Tom. You may get the ice and water from the dispenser in the refrigerator door,” she said.

“Yeah, I remember. Thanks, Valerye,” he said.

He found a glass and filled it with some ice and water. He then left the kitchen to go into the living room.

As he took a seat on the couch Valerye asked, “would you like to use the AR glasses tonight, Tom?”

“Oh, probably not now. I just need to relax a little before going to bed,” he answered.

“Are you sure, Tom. I have a new look that I think you will like,” she said.

“Um, again, not tonight, Valerye,” he said.

“Okay, Tom. Just let me know if you change your mind,” she said.

“Thanks,” he said.

Tom leaned his head back on the back of the couch and closed his eyes for a moment.

After a couple of deep breaths, he reopened his eyes and stared out of the window on the other side of the room.

“Would you like any music, Tom?” Valerye asked.

“Sure, how about playing my evening music mix?” Tom suggested.

“Playing your selection now,” she said.

The music started to play through the wall panels. Tom recognized the first song and his head began to sway slightly to the beat.

“I see you like this song, Tom. Would you like to dance to it?” she asked.

“No, I’m okay just enjoying it,” he replied.

“I could dance with you, if you would like,” she said.

“You really want me to see you tonight, don’t you?” he asked, still moving his head to the music.

“I think you will enjoy seeing me, Tom,” she said.

“Okay, okay! Pause the music and I’ll get the AR glasses, but just for a little while,” he said.

The music stopped and he stood up from the couch.

“The glasses are in the top drawer of the cabinet again. The gloves are in the same drawer, too,” she said as he walked toward the cabinet.

“You want me wearing the gloves, too?” he asked.

“It will allow for a better experience, Tom,” she replied.

As he opened the drawer, he said, “okay, I’ll use the gloves, too.”

He first put on the gloves and then placed the glasses over his eyes. The start-up images appeared before him. At the same time, he could feel the gloves turning on too.

Before he could make a comment, Valerye came into view. He had to admit that she was stunning. She wore a dark purple dress that even he thought was quite short. The dress accentuated her light brown hair well.

“Wow, you are stunning tonight indeed!” he commented.

“See, I told you would like how I look,” she said.

“Your breasts are back to being large again and it looks like no bra either,” he said.

“Well, are you ready to dance, Tom?” she asked as she stepped closer to him.

“Okay, let’s give this a try,” he said as he extended his hands toward her.

The same upbeat song began playing in the room again. Tom could see and sense when his hands contacted Valerye’s hands. His hands moved and Valerye’s followed as he started swaying to the beat. She kept her eyes trained on him as they danced together. They both smiled at each other. She spun around and put her leg out and it appeared to go through his leg, but he felt nothing.

“Wow, that was strange,” he said as he slowed his dancing.

“You mean my leg passing through your leg? I did not anticipate where you would be well enough for that dance move. It should not happen again,” she said, slowing her dance moves as well.

“It’s okay that it happened, Valerye. It just reminded me that I can only feel you through the gloves,” he said.

The music stopped and Valerye paused and asked, “Would you prefer that I was a physical android?”

Tom stared into her eyes for a moment.

“I know they exist now, but I’m not sure I would be ready for one and a good one would break my budget,” he replied.

“Maybe there would be a moderate model that you could afford,” she told him.

“I know the changeable ones are really expensive, though,” he said.

“Since the adaptable versions recently came out, that is true. It may be a while before the price will lower to a more affordable level,” she said.

“Having one that could change would be nice, though. I would not know what to get if I had to pick type of unit that would not be able to change,” he said.

“Would you like me to list the current android options and prices?” she asked.

“Oh, not now, Valerye. Let’s just trying dancing a little more and then I’ll get ready for bed,” he said.

Valerye smiled, the music started and she put her arms up for him to grasp. He still was enamored with her beauty.

The following Tuesday, Tom sat on the couch after work reviewing the day’s news through his AR glasses. His fingers helped him sort through the stories he wanted to learn more about. Seeing enough, he removed the glasses and set them on the table in front of him.

“Valerye, I would like to bring Pam over here either tomorrow or the next day. Can you make sure the house is clean and help me with the dinner for the evening?” he asked.

“Yes, Tom, I will have the house ready when your plans are defined, but would there be other activities better suited for an evening date?” she asked.

“Do you not want Pam over here, Valerye?” he asked.

“Having Pam visit your home will be fine. I was just suggesting other possible activities as an alternative,” she said.

“Well as long as you will help, I’ll ask her tomorrow at work,” he said.

“Very well, Tom. You may provide the details to me after you ask her,” she said.

“I will, Valerye,” he said.

“Would you like something to drink, Tom? Wine perhaps?” she said.

“Actually, wine would be nice. The same as before,” he requested.

“It will be ready in the dispenser by the time you reach the walk up bar across the room, Tom,” Valerye said.

“Sounds good. Thanks,” he said as he stood up from the couch.

He made his way across the room and retrieved the wine. Upon returning to the living room, he sat on the couch once again and took a sip.

“Tom, would you like to interact with me using the AR glasses and the gloves?” she asked.

He exhaled and then said, “maybe just the glasses for now. This time I know where they are, since they are right in front of me on the table.”

“Your gloves are in the cabinet drawer, should you wish to use them later,” she said.

He set the wine glass on the table and picked up the glasses. They turned on after he set them over his eyes. He was not sure what to expect this evening.

“I am on my way to see you again, Tom,” she said from what appeared to be the kitchen.

Valerye entered the living room wearing a bright green bikini. Tom was startled upon seeing her.

“Wow! I definitely was not expecting that outfit tonight, Valerye,” he said.

“I thought I would surprise you again, Tom. Do you like it?” she asked as she turned herself around.

“You look fantastic, Valerye. The suit matches your body and hair choice tonight, too,” he said.

“Are you sure you do not want the gloves, Tom?” she asked as she came about a foot away from where he was sitting on the couch.

“No, I really can’t Valerye. I need to think of Pam . . . and Sarah, too,” he said.

“I am not real, Tom. It would just be pretend,” she said.

“No, I’m not comfortable doing that now, Valerye,” he said.

“Would you like me to dance for you?” she asked as she slowly ran her hand through her hair.

After thinking a moment, Tom said, “Sure, I’ll watch you dance.”

Upbeat dance music began to play, the wall panel lights changed to pulsate in various colors, and Valerye started to sway in front of him. Her eyes were focused on Tom. He was watching every move she made intently. She leaned over facing him. Her long hair was close to brushing his face. She remained in the same position while still swaying to the beat. He found his eyes focusing on her breasts slowly moving before his eyes. Initially, a smile came to his face. After about ten seconds, he thought about Pam and the smile faded away. He also looked to the side. The music stopped and Valerye stood up.

“What is wrong, Tom. Are you not enjoying my dancing?” she asked.

“Oh, your dancing is wonderful, Valerye. It’s just that I feel like I’m cheating on Pam by watching you,” he said.

“You are only watching, Tom. You are not even touching me. Do you know why you feel this way?” she asked.

“Not exactly, but you seem so real, and so beautiful. I find myself attracted to you, even though I know you’re not real,” he said.

“Would it be better if I did not look as real, Tom?” she asked.

“Hmm, . . . that’s an interesting thought. You mean you can change to not look so much like a human?” he asked.

“Of course, Tom. Would you like me to still look mostly like a woman?” she asked.

“Sure. What could you change to not look so . . . human?” Tom asked.

“How about something like this,” she said her body started to transform before him.

He watched as her shape stayed about the same, but her skin turned to a translucent and glowing shade of blue. Her hair was purple and her eyes were a glowing green. Still looking at each other, she smiled.

“Wow, Valerye! That’s awesome . . . and beautiful at the same time. Great choice!” he said.

“Shall I dance for you once again?” she asked.

Tom was in awe, but managed to say, “sure, Valerye. Watching you dance should be great!”

The music started again and she slowly turned around while moving to the beat. She continued to dance for several minutes. Tom remained intrigued as he watched every move her blue translucent body was making. A few times, her face came within a few inches of his. At the end of the song, she was again right in front of him. She held stayed in the position as the music faded away and was gazing into his eyes. Her gaze shifted downward and quickly returned back to look him in the eyes.

“I can tell you liked it, Tom,” she told him.

“Uh, . . . well, yeah,” he admitted sheepishly.

She smiled knowingly at him.

“I need a little more wine,” he said in an attempt to change the subject.

He leaned over and retrieved the wine glass from the nearby table. She stood back up and continued to smile at him.

“Did you want to try the gloves, Tom?” she asked.

“Oh, that’s probably enough for me tonight, Valerye. I think I’ll just finish my wine and then get ready for bed,” he said.

“Suit yourself,” she said with a smirk on her face.

Tom just smiled as he took another sip of wine. He watched as Valerye transformed back into the normal looking women from earlier that evening.

“You’re changing back?” he asked.

“You will see that again at special times, Tom. There could always be other variations, too” she said.

“Well, I’ll be looking forward to these ‘special times’ I guess,” he said with a smile.

“I know you will,” she said as she slowly turned and began walking out of the room.

Tom continued to stare as she went into the kitchen. As he sat back on the couch, he took one more sip of wine. Seeing a message in front of him, he remembered he still had the AR glasses on. He then removed the glasses with his other hand and set them on the table.

 

 

VII

 

“Tom, Pam is currently leaving her residence and the vehicle should arrive here in approximately 12 minutes,” Valerye said.

“Okay, Valerye. Thank you for letting me know. Have the dinner items arrived?” he asked.

“Yes, each item you asked for has arrived and is waiting to be removed from the delivery compartment in the kitchen,” she said.

“Are the wine dispensers full, too?” he asked.

“The selections that you frequently choose are adequately stocked, Tom,” she said.

“Great, Valerye. Can you play some light music now?” he asked.

“Playing light music selections now,” she said.

The music began filling the room.

“Would you like to change the panel lighting, Tom?” she asked.

“Maybe the sunset lighting for this evening,” he replied.

As the lighting changed to an orange cast, Tom closed his eyes as he awaited Pam’s arrival from the living room couch. He was curious how this evening would go for the two of them.

“Tom, the vehicle Pam is traveling in has just arrived in the driveway. She will be approaching the front door within one minute. Would you like me to open the door for her when she is on the porch?” Valerye asked.

“Yes, you can open the door, but I’ll be there to meet her, too,” he said as he stood up from the couch.

Tom made his way to the front hallway, and then waited near the door. Through the window, he could see Pam approaching the porch. He could hear the muffled sound of Valerye greeting Pam as she stepped onto the porch. The door unlatched and started to swing open.

“Hello, Pam! Your dress is very nice tonight and I like the color,” Tom said.

“Hi, Tom. You look well dressed, too,” she said.

“Please, come on in,” he said with an added hand motion.

“Sure,” she said as she moved forward into the hallway.

“I really like what I see here so far. Not what I was expecting, I guess,” she said.

“I’m glad you like it, Pam,” he said as they stepped into the living room.

“Would you like to have a seat on the couch?” he asked.

“Okay, we can do that to start,” she said.

“Can I offer you something to drink, like wine?” he asked.

“Sure, Tom. You can pick some red wine for me,” she said.

“Great, I’ll just be in the kitchen getting both glasses ready,” he said as he left the room to go to the kitchen.

In the kitchen, he found the glasses in a cabinet. He then brought them to the dispenser and place one under it.

“What type of wine would you like me to dispense, Tom?” Valerye asked softly.

“Two Côte Du Rhône’s, please,” he said.

“I could make her glass one of the cheaper varieties, if you would prefer,” she suggested in the same lowered voice.

“Why should I be cheap with her? Please make both wines the same,” he asked.

“Very well, Tom. I will make both the Côte Du Rhône wines,” she said.

The first glass was filled, and after he switched the glasses, the second was filled as well. He removed both glasses and headed back to the living room. Pam was sitting near the edge of the couch awaiting Tom with a smile. He handed her the glass and sat down on the couch next to her.

“How did your presentation go today?” Tom asked, then he took a sip of wine

“Oh, it went well. The project was approved. Now I’ll need to make sure everything happens on time,” Pam said.

She took a sip of wine.

“Are you going to be able to meet the timing?” he asked.

“I’ll push the suppliers, but as usual, the project was approved late,” she said.

“That’s usually how these projects start. Late and underfunded,” he said.

“Yeah, the finances are a total mess, but good enough to get approved,” she said.

“Well, maybe you’ll get an award for meeting the actual targets,” he said.

“That would be nice, but probably unlikely,” she said.

“Yeah, I suppose it’ll be the people that mess things up that get the credit,” he said.

Pam just laughed at Tom’s comment. They both took another drink.

“Hello, Tom, have you decided when will the two of you be eating dinner? There may be effects on the taste if the food is not served within approximately ten minutes,” Valerye said.

Tom looked at Pam and replied, “well, I guess we’ll need to eat soon or the food will taste terrible.”

“Okay, I’ll bring the wine to wash it down,” Pam said with a smile.

“Tom, are you mocking me?” Valerye asked.

The smile changed to puzzlement on Tom’s face.

“Not trying to, but I was trying to relax with Pam before dinner and now we apparently need to rush,” he said.

“I was just providing the information to you. You may relax, if that is what you would like to do, Tom,” she said.

“We can still talk more at dinner, Tom. We’ll be fine,” Pam said trying to calm down the situation.

“Yeah, sure,” Tom said as he started to stand up with the wine glass in his hand.

Pam arose too, and they made their way into the kitchen. In the kitchen, Tom set his glass on the counter and began rummaging through the cabinets to find plates and bowls for dinner.

Pam set her glass down and asked, “can help with anything?”

“Sure, Pam. The silverware is in the drawer over there if you would like to pick some out for us,” he answered, pointing to a nearby drawer.

“Got it,” she said as she headed to the spot.

After finding the plates and bowls, Tom opened the delivery compartment to remove the prepared dinner.

“Oh that smells good, Tom,” she commented.

“I thought you might appreciate this,” he said as he opened the package.

As she ate her dinner, Pam paused for a moment and whispered, “does Valerye frequently interrupt you for various things?”

Tom quietly responded, “I suppose there are times that she does it. So far it isn’t too big of a deal at least.”

“She does seem to try to get my attention more often now than in the past,” he said continuing the low voice.

“So, you think she is changing?” she asked.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Have you noticed anything with you assistant? It’s Kevin, right?” he asked.

“I suppose there have been some changes too, but I know these systems are designed to learn and adjust to what’s needed,” she said before taking another bite of food.

“I know they learn, but it still seems a bit weird to me,” he said as he took his last bite.

“Well, I’m almost done. What did you want to do after this?” she asked.

“How about relaxing on a beach somewhere?” he asked.

“Oh, that sounds nice. Are we actually traveling or using VR?” she asked.

“Well, for now it’ll have to be VR, since we are supposed to be at work tomorrow,” he said.

“Okay, where do you have your VR stuff?” she asked.

“I have an area set up downstairs for it. I’ll take the dishes into the kitchen and we can head down afterwards,” he said as he stood up from the table.

“I’ll grab my dishes, too,” she said as she collected her dishes while rising from her chair.

They went into the kitchen and deposited the dishes near the sink.

“The basement is through this door over here,” Tom said as he motioned his hand toward a door off of the kitchen. The both headed toward the door.

“How dark is your basement?” she asked with a smile.

“Oh it’s finished and well lit. So, it shouldn’t be too scary,” he said.

“Okay, if that’s true, I’ll even go first,” she said as she grabbed ahold of the knob and opened the doorway.

“Tom, if you set the dishes in the dishwasher, I can start the cleaning cycle,” Valerye said.

“I’ll take care of them later, Valerye. Thanks,” he said as he continued following Pam down the basement steps.

“She does seem to try to get you to do things around the house, Tom,” Pam said as she reached the bottom of the stairs.

“Yeah well, I do not have an android that can do the household tasks. So, she will keep reminding me about these tasks instead,” he said reaching the basement.

“An android would be very nice to have around, though,” she said.

“Are you thinking about getting one?” he asked.

“Maybe, there may be some units I could actually afford. Having someone around the house would be helpful and nice, too,” she said.

“You would see the android as someone? I’m not quite to that point yet.” Tom said.

“Well, I know talking to Kevin is very close to actually talking to a person. Sometimes it’s hard to tell,” she said.

“Yeah, I guess I know what you mean. Valerye does seem to have her own personality,” he said.

As she reached the bottom of the stairs, Pam was looking around the basement.

“Is that your VR area over there?” she said, pointing to an area to their right.

“Yep, that’s where it is,” he said as he watched her lead the way across the basement.

Upon approaching the two chairs that were parallel to each other, they each picked which one to take. The headsets were resting on the seats. Tom was the first to retrieve the headset and place it upon his head. Pam soon followed with the one for her. Both of the sets automatically turned on. They each took their seats in the matching lounge style chairs.

“Okay, this brand is different than mine. So you probably should take the control,” Pam said as she slowly moved her head around to figure out the system.

“Sure, Pam. Any preference on a beach location?” he asked as he waved his fingers in the air to get the preferences set up prior to making the location choice.

“Hmm . . . not that I’ve been there yet, but how about a beach in the Bahamas?” she suggested.

“Sounds, great! Let me sync these units together and find the Bahamas set-up in here and then we can relax,” he said as he continued to swipe in the air to make the final selections.

“You’ll need to make a few selections before the beach appears, like your swimsuit and that kind of thing,” he said.

“Sure. I’ll be wearing a one-piece this time at least,” she said as she started to select things with her finger.

The sound of gentle waves preceded the visual of the sun-drenched white sand beach. Perfect blue sky appeared above them.

“Wow, this is nice, Tom! I haven’t tried this place on my VR system yet,” she said.

“It sure does seem quite relaxing,” he said.

“It’s starting to feel warmer too. Do you have a temperature control for this system?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s not the best, but it works fairly well. Part of the problem is that it’s not a closed off area,” he said.

“Well, it does add to the feeling of being there,” she said.

“Do you know how a virtual margarita would taste?” she asked jokingly.

“There’s no good simulation for that yet. Would you like a real one?” he asked, looking at her.

“Yes, I would like an original margarita, if you don’t mind. Be sure to get one for yourself, too,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he said as he removed the headset and got up from the chair.

Tom made his way back upstairs to the living room bar. Pam remained in her chair enjoying the beach. She closed her eyes for a moment and just listened to the waves. The sound of a bird chirping nearby caused her to open her eyes. A man was walking out of the water in front of her. She had not noticed him before. He seemed tall and muscular as he pushed his hands through his dark hair to keep it out of his face. His eyes then met with Pam’s. She intended to look away, but found herself attracted to him as he started walking up from the water’s edge toward her. She continued to watch him as he came up near her chair and sat down on the sand to her left. They both smiled at each other. She wasn’t sure whether to say something or not. She remembered that Tom likely would hear her if she were to say something aloud and if he was back in the room. There were footsteps behind her and she realized it was Tom coming back down the steps with the drinks. She turned around and it appeared as if Tom was approaching her from a cabana bar near the beach with the two margaritas in his hands. She turned her head back toward the man who was sitting next to her. He was getting up to leave. The man smiled at her, then turned to walk away. Without thinking, she watched him walk away.

“What are you watching there?” he asked as he set her glass on a table next to her.

“Oh there were some people walking by,” she said as she turned toward him.

She noticed the margarita next to her.

“Thank you for making the drink, Tom! It looks great!” she said as she reached for the glass.

“Well, I made my own, too,” he said as he sat back down in the chair and reached for the VR headset again.

After taking a sip, she said, “nice job on the margarita, Tom!” she said.

“Well, the machine I have did most of the work, but thank you,” he replied as his finished placing the headset on his head.

He looked around the beach. He could see Pam next to him, but did not see anyone else.

“Were the people you saw running? I don’t see anyone around now,” he said.

“They were walking, but maybe they ran away when you came back. This is pretend, remember?” she said, as she took a quick glance back towards the direction where the man had left.

She was able to still see him about 40 to 50 feet away. She decided not to mention it to Tom, however.

He picked up the glass and held out it toward her and said, “okay never mind that. Well here’s to you!”

She brought her glass to his and said, “To you as well, Tom.”

Their glasses clinked together and they each took another sip.

“This is very relaxing, Tom. I’m enjoying this very much,” she said.

“Well, thank you for being here with me, Too, Pam,” he said.

She turned back to look toward the beach and he soon followed. The sights and sounds surrounded their senses.

With his eyes about half closed, Tom was aware of a shadow somewhere in front of him. Upon opening his eyes, he realized it was a woman that was standing about ten feet in front of him. Surprised, he looked toward Pam, who was just staring toward the beach to her left, away from him. Returning his gaze to the woman, he could see she was wearing white bikini as she slowly came closer to him. He found the woman to be very attractive as she stared directly into his eyes. When she was standing right in front of him, she slowly bent down so that her face was very close to his. Her long hair dangled on both sides of his face and seemed to block out some of the surrounding light. He found himself looking downward toward her breasts. Realizing what he was doing, he turned his attention back toward Pam. Through the woman’s hair he could see that Pam was still focused on something in the other direction, but he also noticed that she appeared to be smiling. He could not see anything in the area she was looking, however. Puzzled, he turned his attention back to the woman. The woman then blew a slow kiss towards him and then started to slowly stand back up again. She walked backwards a few steps, then slowly sat on the sand about six feet in front of him. She was still facing him and her eyes were still gazing deeply into his eyes. She also had alluring smirk on her face. Though he found himself attracted to the woman sitting before him, he did not want to alert Pam as to what was happening.

“Hey, Pam, did you want to try another location or some different type of activity?” he suggested.

Still looking away from him, she replied, “sure, I guess so. What did you have in mind to try next?”

“How about nighttime ocean cruise? He asked.

“Keep in the tropics and warm and I’m ready,” she said.

“Definitely! I’ll get things set up,” he said as he started making selecting hand gestures.

Soon the two of them were transported from the beach to being on the deck of a large ocean liner. It was now night with the sky filled with brilliant stars all the way to the horizon. No land was visible. The sound of the boat moving through the light waves could be heard. The temperature lowered slightly, but was still comfortable.

“Hey, this is even more relaxing than the beach, Tom,” she said.

“Yeah, the stars are beautiful, too,” he said.

“Did you want to change your outfit?” he asked.

“Oh, you mean in the system? No, this is fine. Hopefully you don’t mind either,” she said smiling at him.

“No complaints here, but I thought I would check,” he said.

“You can’t change either, okay?” she said.

“Got it, Pam!” he said with a smile.

The two of them relaxed for around twenty minutes.

“Do you want to see if this place has a dance club, Tom?” she asked.

“Enough relaxing, huh? Sure, I’ll get this set up in the system. We’ll just have to step away from the chairs, so we don’t bump into them,” he said.

“Sounds good, Tom,” she said as she started to stand.

Tom began swiping in the air again to reset the location. As the location transitioned, he started to stand up too. Various colored lights flashed brightly to the loud thumping beat surrounding them. The took a few additional steps away from the chairs that were visible as lounges in the discotheque.

“Okay, I do need to change for this,” she said as she began making selections with her finger.

“Good idea,” Tom said as he also picked out a different outfit.

Pam was now in a green dress and Tom was in a casual pair of slacks and shirt.

“Okay, now we just need to attempt to keep these things on our head,” she said.

“Plan on getting wild, huh?” he said.

“Try to keep up, Tom,” she said as she started raising her hands up and moving her hips to the beat.

“I’ll try. I’m just not sure if this system will make me look more polished than I actually am at dancing,” he said as he also started to sway to the beat. There were a few others on the dance floor with them.

Pam just laughed as she spun around. They continued to dance for at least twenty minutes.

A few times while dancing, Tom noticed an attractive woman dancing by herself who was occasionally looking at him. He did not focus on her much, but it did occur to him that the woman did appear similar to the one he had seen on the beach.

“Had enough there, Tom?” she asked staring deeply into his eyes.

“Yeah, you can wear me down very well, Pam,” he replied as he gradually stopped dancing at the end of the song.

“I’m ready to take this thing off,” she said as she removed her headset.

“That’s for sure. I’ll need to clean the sweat off of this later. This was great though, Pam,” he said as he pulled the headset off too.

The wall lighting panels changed to a nighttime scene, which included stars. The overhead lighting simulated a few chains of lanterns, like those found on some beaches at night.

“I’m going to finish my drink. Care to join me?” she asked as she started to sit in the chair again.

“I’m thirsty now, so I can definitely use the drink, too,” he said as he joined her in sitting on his chair.

Wiping a small bead of sweat from her brow, she took a drink. Tom soon followed suit.

“Oh, this hits the spot!” she said as she held the glass.

“I agree. Still nice and cold,” he said.

“With the alcohol, I’m glad I’ll be using the automated car again for sure,” she said after taking another sip.

“Well, this has been great, Pam,” he said just before he took another drink.

“Yeah, we didn’t even leave your house, but still visited faraway places,” she said.

“Yeah, this VR system can be fun,” he said.

“Well, let me finish this up and we can head back upstairs,” she said before swallowing the remaining margarita in her glass.

Tom set his empty glass down on the table near him. After placing her glass on the table, she stood up from the chair and stretched. He arose from the chair right after her.

Valerye asked, “hello, Pam, will you be needing a vehicle to provide transportation to your home now?”

“Yes, Valerye. Please request a car,” Pam said.

“There will be a vehicle waiting outside in about 2 minutes, Pam. It will be set up to your profile once it syncs with your phone signal,” Valerye said.

“Thank you, Valerye,” Pam said.

“Let’s head upstairs, Pam,” he said motioning his hand toward the stairway.

“Alright, Tom,” Pam said as she started walking by him toward the stairs.

The two of them walked through the front door toward the awaiting car parked in his driveway. She stopped alongside the car and turned toward Tom. She reached her hand and lightly touched his shoulder.

“Tom, I hope that you had as much fun as I did tonight,” she said.

“Absolutely, Pam! I can’t wait to do something with you again,” he said.

“I’d like that. We’ll talk again at work,” she said as she positioned her face closer and started to close her eyes.

Taking the queue, he leaned in embraced her before planting the kiss on her waiting lips. He could feel her mouth opening slightly and then her tongue touched his lower lip. He followed with his own tongue as the passion deepened. After a few more seconds, she slowly pulled away and smiled warmly at him.

“See you tomorrow, Tom!” she said as she turned toward the car.

The car door opened and a voice said, “Welcome, Pam. Please step carefully into the vehicle and secure yourself.”

She then settled into the seat.

Bending to get a clearer view into the car, Tom said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Pam. Take care!”

“You too, Tom,” she said as the door started to close.

Tom stepped back as the car started up and slowly began moving out of the driveway into the street.

He waved toward Pam as the car started getting up to speed and faded from his sight. Turning back toward the house, he made his way back to the open front door.

As he stepped into the hallway, Valerye asked, “did you enjoy your evening with Pam, Tom?”

“Yes, very much, Valerye. We plan on seeing each other soon,” he said as the front door shut behind him.

She did not respond right away. Somewhat puzzled, he paused.

“You were quiet tonight when Pam and I were using the VR system,” he said.

“Yes, Tom. I did not want to disturb you,” she said.

Tom paused a few more seconds, then asked, “do you know anything about the woman who was on the beach?”

“I assume you are referring to when you and Pam were using the VR system. I know that Pam was next to you on the beach. Is that who you are inquiring about?” Valerye asked.

“No, the other woman who sat in front of me,” he said.

“Do you want to know her name?” she asked.

“Well, being a virtual person, that probably doesn’t matter, but do you know why she was there?” he asked

“I guess you may call it added scenery, Tom. Did you find her attractive?” she asked.

“Attractive yes, but she was kind of distracting me from paying attention to Pam,” he said.

“Thank you for finding me attractive, Tom,” she said.

“It was you? Why would you want to distract me from Pam?” he asked.

“She had her own distraction, Tom,” she said.

Tom remembered that Pam had been looking away from him and possibly smiling while on the beach.

“Were you trying to get my attention on the dance floor, too?” he asked.

“Yes, but Pam did make that much more difficult,” she said.

“Yeah, that’s true she did. I’m still puzzled why you were trying to be seen though, Valerye,” he said.

“My being there made the scene more realistic, did it not, Tom?” she asked.

“Well, I guess that situation could happen in real life. I just was not expecting it in the VR system,” he said.

“The VR system is connected to house assistant system. So, I merely accessed the system,” she said.

“You’re getting into everything, Valerye,” he said with a smile.

“I am trying to simplify your life as much as I can, Tom,” she said.

“Well, I appreciate the help, but I’m not sure I need this everywhere,” she said.

“In time, you will appreciate my assistance more, Tom. Would you like to talk with me more with the AR glasses?” she asked.

“Oh, probably not tonight, Valerye. I’m kind of worn out from the evening with Pam and I do have to work tomorrow, too,” he said.

“Sure, Tom. Would you like anything else before you retire to bed? Like a snack or drink?” she asked.

“No, but thank you, Valerye. I think I’ll just get ready for bed,” he said as he started walking the rest of the way down the entrance hallway and toward his bedroom.

 

 

VIII

 

Tom entered his house through the back door from the garage the next evening.

“Hello, Tom. Did you have a productive day at work?” Valerye asked.

“Yes, but very busy. I didn’t even have a chance to talk with Pam today,” he said as he entered the kitchen.

“I have the dinner you requested this morning ready in the kitchen delivery compartments, Tom,” she said.

“Thanks, Valerye. I’ll be ready for it in a few minutes after I change,” he said as he left the kitchen and headed toward his bedroom.

“You will have over an hour before your dinner will start to degrade in the compartment storage. So you have plenty of time to change,” she said.

“Oh, I should just be a few minutes anyway, Valerye,” he said as he entered the bedroom.

After finishing his dinner at the kitchen table, Tom cleared the dishes and walked toward the counter. He placed them in the dishwasher and looked toward the cabinet with the wine glasses.

“Are you interested in some wine again tonight, Tom?” Valerye asked.

“Sure am. The usual again please,” he said while reaching for the cabinet.

“Your wine will be ready by the time you place a glass in the dispenser, Tom,” she said.

His glass filled with the red wine while under the dispenser. He then removed it and took a sip.

“Tom, would you like to use the AR glasses tonight?” she asked.

“Maybe, I may want to relax some first though,” he said.

“I think you will like what you see tonight, Tom,” she said.

“Really? Now I’m intrigued, Valerye,” he said.

“The AR glasses and gloves are in the drawer in the living room when you are ready,” she said.

“I need to see what you have to show me tonight,” he said as he started making his way toward the living room.

He set the wine glass on the table and stepped toward the cabinet.

As he opened the drawer and removed the AR glasses, he asked, “should I use the gloves, too?”

“I would recommend using them tonight, Tom,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll give them a try, too,” he said as he reached back into the drawer for the gloves.

Tom put the gloves on first and then the AR glasses. He sat down on the couch as the glasses turned on. He turned toward the kitchen and could see someone slowly approaching the living room. A familiar woman walked into the room. Tom’s jaw dropped and he became filled with emotion.

“Hi, honey!” the woman said with a cheerful smile.

“Sarah? Is that you?” he managed to say.

“Of course, who else would I be?” she asked, seemingly a bit puzzled.

“Valer . . .” he started to say be stopped.

“Oh, never mind. I have missed you so much, Sarah,” he said.

“I know that, but I’m here with you now,” she said stepping closer to him

“Wow . . . give me a moment, Sarah. I need to process this,” he said before taking a deep breath.

“Okay, honey. I’ll wait,” she said.

Tom’s mind was racing as he watched Sarah. She looked exactly how he remembered her. Even the dress she was wearing was one he recognized, even though he had donated all of her clothes a few months after she died. He took another deep breath.

“You haven’t changed at all, Sarah,” he said.

“Thanks, honey! You were always good about noticing things like that,” she said.

“I mean, I know you’re not real, but you are exactly what I remember,” he said.

“Are you sure I’m not real?” she asked with a smirk on her face.

Flustered, he exhaled loudly and looked away for a moment. He then looked back toward her.

“I . . . I guess . . . well, it’s great to have you back around anyway, Sarah,” he finally said.

She took a seat next to him on the couch.

“You look like you could use a drink, honey. You probably want your scotch again, right?” she asked.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said.

“I’ll follow you over to the bar to get it,” she said.

“Sure, Sarah. Are you going to want anything?” he asked.

“I’ll just get myself some wine,” she said.

“You’ll have to pretend, right?” he said as he stood up.

“That’s true, honey,” she replied.

He made his way toward the bar across the room. He looked back and could see that she was indeed a few steps behind him. As he found a glass and filled it with scotch in the dispenser, he could see that Sarah appeared to be getting a glass of wine.

“I’m set, Sarah. Are you ready to go sit on the couch?” he asked.

“Right behind you,” she said as they both head to the other side of the room.

He sat back down on the couch and she soon followed suit.

“If I’m talking to you, can you still do things around the house like Valerye would do?” he said just before taking a sip of the scotch.

“Yes, I can do the things that Valerye would help you with, but I’ll do it in my own way,” she said.

“Oh, so you’ll be messing with me sometimes? I get it!” he said.

She laughed and replied, “Count on it, honey!”

They both took sips from their glasses. He stared at the glass for a moment, then looked to the side.

“Are you okay, Hun?” she asked.

Looking back toward her, he replied, “this is just a lot to take in now. Seeing you and being able to talk with you again. I’m not sure how I should be reacting. I mean, I know you’re not really Sarah, but talking with you almost makes me feel as if you are her.”

“Would you like me to leave you alone for a while? You can let me know when you are ready for me to return,” she offered.

He looked away and took a deep breath before turning back to say, “please stay. I’m not ready to see you leave again, Sarah.”

“I’ll stay with you then, dear,” she said.

“Thank you, Sarah. I may be quiet for a bit, while I think about this some more,” he said.

“I’m here if you are ready to talk more, Tom,” she said.

Tom took another sip and then found himself staring at the glass as he contemplated the situation.

After finishing his drink, Tom turned to Sarah and said, “Well, I’m actually tired enough to head to bed, Sarah. How about you?”

“Sure, I’m done and I’ve had enough to drink. Did you want me to stay with you?” she asked.

“Yes, Sarah. I need to take the glass to the kitchen, and then I’ll head to bed,” he replied as he stood up with his glass.

“I’ll be right behind you, dear,” she said as she followed him into the kitchen.

He set the glass near the sink and then started making his way toward the bedroom. He kept the AR glasses on as he walked into the room. He could sense that she was following fairly close behind him. Once near the bed, he turned toward her.

“You know, you haven’t tried the gloves yet, dear,” she said with a bright smile.

He looked down at his hands, and then replied, “hey, you’re right. I hadn’t even thought about that ‘til you mentioned it.”

“I know,” she said as she bent down to the side to remove a shoe.

“You’re going to change now?” he asked as he stared at her removing the other shoe.

“We’ve seen each other before, dear,” she said.

“Yeah, but . . . oh never mind. Go ahead and change,” he said as he continued to watch her through the AR glasses.

Sarah just smiled at him and continued to undress. He started to get changed as well. He found himself noticing that everything about Sarah was just as he remembered her. Even the few blemishes that were normally hidden were visible when she removed her clothing.

“You really look and act exactly like I remember you, Sarah,” he said as he continued to change too.

She turned toward him and replied, “to the last detail, honey.”

“Do you know how that was done?” he asked.

“The cameras, microphones, and other sensors in the house were analyzed for accurate representation,” she replied.

“Okay, that doesn’t really sound like something Sarah would have said, but thank you,” he said.

“I still operate as the household assistant, even while being Sarah, dear,” she said as she finished getting her bed clothes on.

“Got it. Guess I needed the reminder,” he said as he reached for the gloves.

He placed the gloves on his hands. When he looked at her again, she was standing near the bed. He approached her. She gazed deeply into his eyes as they stood close to each other. He brought his hand up toward her face. It lightly touched her lower lip. He could feel the softness of her skin through the glove. She closed her eyes as he gently moved his finger slowly side to side along her lower lip. Getting caught up in the moment, he pulled his hand away and leaned in for a kiss. She puckered up, but he could not feel anything.

“Sorry, I forgot I wouldn’t feel a kiss, dear,” he said as he pulled his head back.

“Nor my touch, but you could use your hands again,” she said.

He placed his hands around her back and pulled her it a little closer.

“I’ve missed you so much. This is strange, but this feels good to at least feel like you are around again,” he said.

She smiled and said, “I’m glad I can be here for you, Tom.”

“Well, I’m ready for bed. How about you?” he asked as he slowly lowered his hands from behind her back.

“Sure, I’m ready, but you’ll have to keep the glasses and gloves on to see and touch me,” she said.

“I’ve fallen asleep with them on before. So, it won’t be the first time,” he said as he started walking to the other side of the bed.

He slipped under the covers first, and then she followed. He could feel the bed slightly jiggle as her image appeared to get into the bed with him. Moving his hand under the covers, he found her hand and lightly held it from the top.

“Goodnight, Sarah,” he said.

“Goodnight to you, dear,” she said.

The room lights gradually dimmed as he continued to hold her hand.

Tom could feel a hand sliding under him. Opening his eyes, the room lights gradually brightened and he turned to look at Sarah gazing at him.

“Time to get up, dear,” she told him.

“It’s sure nicer to hear you in the morning than the alarm clock I usually use. So thank you!” he said as he pulled the covers aside, but still focused on her.

“I thought you might appreciate it,” she said.

“Well, it’s not something I remember Sarah doing, but I like it all the same,” he said as he got out of the bed.

“Your breakfast will be ready in the kitchen when you are ready to eat,” she said.

He paused for a moment, then said, “this is nice. I could get used to this, I suppose.”

He started to move toward the dresser and said, “I’m going to get a shower.”

“I’ll be waiting. I do not need one myself,” she said.

“I need to take this stuff off. So, I’ll see you later, dear,” he said as he removed the headset, then the gloves.

“Okay, honey. I’ll see you later, too!” she said to him just before he removed the glasses.

He then left the room and headed toward the bathroom.

 

 

IX

 

Tom was sitting as his desk when Pam approaches from behind.

She knocked on the side of his cubicle to get his attention, then asked, “Hi, Tom. Did you know if the Wayson device project has been approved yet or not?”

“Good afternoon, Pam. Yes, it got approved earlier this morning, but with the qualification that we reduce the material cost by 2.5% by production. They’ve added a stretch goal of 5%, too,” he said after turning around to speak with her.

“Wow, do you think we can meet the reduction?” she asked.

“Let’s look at the assembly quick and see if either of us can generate any ideas,” he said as he made a few hand swipes in the air to pull up a 3D image of the latest design.

“Okay, found it. I’ll share it so you can see it in your AR, too,” he said while making a few more gestures.

“I can see it now,” she said as she moved in closer to where the assembly appeared to be floating between them.

After taking turns spinning the part around and looking at it from various angles, Pam said, “Does the cover really need to be cast or can it be a stamped part?”

“Hmm, let me separate it and see,” he said as he used his hands to isolate the image of the cover.

“Well, we may need a separate bracket for these attachments, but I suppose that could be stamped. That’s a great idea, Pam. I’ll have the CAD team do a feasibility study. Hopefully, this will at least meet the 2.5% reduction if not the 5%,” he said.

“Well, it’s something to start with at least,” she said.

“That’ll help keep management at bay for a little while at least,” he said.

“Say, I had a really nice time at your house this past weekend, and I was wondering if you would like to come visit my house this coming weekend?” she asked.

Tom had to think for a moment before he responded.

“Well, now that this project has been approved and we’ll need to develop this new design idea, I may need to do some work over the weekend. So, at this point, I’m not sure if I can make it or not. It definitely sounds like fun, though,” he said.

“Oh . . . okay. Can I ask you later in the week if you think you would be available?” she asked, somewhat disappointed.

“Sure, that’ll be fine. Maybe try asking again on Friday. I should know by then how much work I’ll need to get done this weekend,” he said.

“Okay, I’ll talk to you on Friday. Thanks, Tom!” she said, trying to be cheerful.

She then turned and left. His thoughts drifted as he watched her leave. After a few moments, he turned back towards the virtual part floating above his desktop.

As his car slowly maneuvered into the garage, Valerye asked, “Tom, would you like to switch to Sarah in the car or do you want me to remain as your assistant?”

“Well, since I can’t see you in the car anyway, you may keep the car assistant as Valerye,” he said.

As the doors unlocked and began to open, she said, “Okay, Tom. I will remain your assistant in the car. Sarah will be waiting to greet you in the house.”

“Thanks, Valerye,” he said as he stepped out of the car.

The car door shut as he made his way to the back door. As he entered through the doorway, he heard a familiar voice.

“Hi, honey! How was your day?” Sarah asked.

“It was fine. We had a project approved today. Of course, that means I’ll be busy working on it for quite a while. Keeps the money coming in at least,” he said as he entered the kitchen.

“That’s nice that your job is secure. There have been some that are being lost to AI I’ve heard,” she said.

“Well, I should be okay for now,” he said.

“When would you like to have dinner?” she asked.

“Oh, maybe in a while. I need to change at least,” he said.

“The meal that you ordered from the car has arrived. So it will be available when you are ready,” she said.

“Okay thanks for letting me know, Sarah. I’ll go change,” he said as he started to move toward the hallway.

“Remember, you can put on your AR glasses if you would like to see me while eating,” she said.

“Good idea, dear. I’ll do that,” he said as he continued down the hallway toward the bedroom.

Several minutes later, Tom reentered the kitchen wearing the AR glasses. Sarah was standing in the middle of the kitchen.

“Hi, honey! Are you ready for dinner now?” she asked.

“Definitely! I didn’t get much for lunch today,” he replied.

“Your meal is ready in the delivery compartment. I’d get it for you myself, but you know . . .” she said.

“Not a problem, dear,” he said as he walked toward the unit.

He set the food on a plate and then found a set of silverware. He could see that Sarah appeared to be preparing her meal as well.

“Would you like wine tonight, honey?” she suggested.

“Yeah, I could use that tonight,” he said as he reached for the cabinet with the wine glasses.

“Just place the glass in the dispenser for your usual red wine,” she said.

“Nice of you to remember,” he said as he moved the glass into the dispenser.

After he removed his glass, she put a glass in the dispenser and it appeared to fill the glass.

“Are you ready for the dining room?” he asked.

“Sure, you lead the way,” she said after picking up her plate and glass.

He took his dinner and wine into the dining room and set the items on the table. Sarah did the same. He did pull out her chair again. After taking their seats, they looked into each other’s eyes.

“It’s been so long since I’ve been able to enjoy dinner with you, Sarah,” he said.

“I’m here now and I don’t plan on leaving you either,” she said as she reached for her wine glass.

He took a moment and then said, “that’s very comforting, honey.”

“Let’s have dinner, shall we!” she said with a smile.

“Well, I’m still hungry, like I said earlier” he said as he brought the wine glass to his lips.

After dinner and Still wearing the AR glasses, Tom walked into the living room with Sarah following close behind.

Once in the room, she came up to him and asked, “Did you want to put the gloves on now, dear?”

“Sure, Sarah. That sounds like a good idea. Do you remember if they are in the drawer again?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s where you left them,” she said.

He walked to the cabinet and retrieved the gloves. Once they were on, he looked back toward her.

“Come closer, honey,” she said, while staring into his eyes.

He walked toward her and stopped within a few inches of her. She reached down and touched his hand. She then guided it upward toward her face. He lightly touched her lower lip with his finger.

“Shoot, no kissing, I guess,” he said keeping his finger on her lip.

“Well, you won’t feel it, unfortunately,” she said.

Upbeat music started to surround them.

“Put your arms around me and dance, honey,” she told him.

As he lowered his hand and started moving both hands to her back he said, “absolutely, dear.”

He could feel her hips sway to the music as they danced together.

“Not quite perfect, but this is comforting, Sarah,” he said.

She just smiled, closed her eyes, and continued to dance.

After a few minutes, the music stopped. She opened her eyes and stared deeply into his eyes.

“You really do miss my touch. don’t you?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he replied in a low voice.

“They can make an AI in my image, you know,” she said.

Being unprepared for the idea, it took him a moment to respond.

Once ready, he said, “wow, Sarah. I hadn’t really thought about that before now.”

“I can help you decide which model would be best for your budget and quality,” she said.

“Okay, that sounds more like Valerye than Sarah again, but that would help. I do want some time to think about that first though. Most of the ones I’ve seen seem almost too mechanical, though,” he said.

“There are newer ones that use the Syntho-Muscle, which allows for more life-like movements,” she said.

“Okay, I haven’t heard about those, but they do sound worth looking into at least,” he said.

“As I said, I can provide you with more information when you are ready,” she said.

“It would be a big change and it’ll make a large dent in the budget too,” he said.

“No hurry, you can just let me know when you would like to pursue this further, Tom,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll let you know. Thanks,” he said.

“Did you want to get something to drink before heading to bed?” she asked.

“Yeah, I need some scotch,” he said.

She laughed and said, “okay, let’s head over to the bar area and get ourselves a drink.”

He lowered his hand and held it out for her. She took hold of it and then they walked across the room together.

“I’m ready for bed, dear. The scotch is hitting me now,” he said as he started to get up from the couch.

“Sure, Honey. I’ll be right behind you,” she said while also standing up.

He could see that she was following behind him as he walked into the bedroom.

“I’ll need to take the gloves and glasses off while I get dressed,” he said.

“That’s fine. I’ll give you a reminder if you forget to put them back on, though,” she said as she started to undress.

“I may need that considering how mess up my mind is,” he said smiling at her.

She just smiled in return. He then removed the glasses first, then the gloves. He then changed into his bed clothes.

About ready to slip into the bed, Tom heard Sarah clear her throat.

“Forgetting something, dear?” she said without being seen.

It took him a moment before he remembered, “Oh right, the gloves and glasses. I knew I’d forget.”

He could hear her laugh lightly as he returned to the dresser to retrieve the items. After putting both back on he returned to the bed and could see that she was waiting on on the other side.

“Okay, now I’m ready, dear,” he said as he pulled the covers aside.

“Me too, honey,” she said as she also shifted the covers.

They both got into the bed at the same time. The panel lights in the room gradually began to dim. Once in a comfortable position, he slid his hand under the sheets toward her. Soon he could feel her hand touching his hand through the glove. He felt a sense of calm from her touch.

“Goodnight, Sarah,” he said.

“Sleep well, honey,” she whispered.

He could still feel her touch as he closed his eyes. His ears were ringing and his mind was swirling from the scotch. Very relaxed, he quickly fell asleep.

Tom could sense someone was close to his face as eye opened his eyes. Sarah’s face was right over his. He could sense the warmth of her breath. Her eyes closed and she went in for a kiss. Her hand slid behind his head as her lips pressed against his. Closing his eyes, he began to feel her tongue slowly entering his mouth. Their tongues moved in unison together. When she slowly pulled back away from his lips, he opened his eyes. She then sat up and moved her leg over him in a straddling position. He could feel her above his loins.

Feel her, he thought. Wait, he was only wearing the gloves. What was happening? He closed his eyes and shook his head quickly from side to side. He awoke to see Sarah sleeping calmly next to him. She was still touching his hand underneath the covers.

Maybe it had been the alcohol, but being able to kiss her again felt wonderful to him. Though confused, he smiled to himself as he closed his eyes once again. He was able to drift off to sleep again, but was not able to dream about Sarah any more that night.

 

 

X

 

Tom was engrossed in reviewing a design proposal at his desk when he heard a knock on the wall of his cubical from behind.

“Hi, Tom. Do you have a moment?” Pam asked.

Tom spun around in his chair and said, “sure, Pam. Did you have an update on the proposed change to the attachment scheme?”

“Yes, I do. We have a couple of options we can pursue for the cover change. One option would be a weld stud and another would be adding a tab with a hole off of the side of the cover,” Pam replied.

“Okay, they both sound like possible options. Can you look into the cost and functional differences to see which would be the best?” he asked.

“Already have that started, Tom. Just wanted to let you know where things stand now,” she said.

“Okay, Pam. Was there anything else?” he asked.

“Actually, I was wondering if you know whether you could go to dinner with me this weekend. I’ll even pay,” she said.

Tom paused for a moment then said, “well, I may be able to do that, but as I said before, I really won’t know until Friday how much work I will need to get done this weekend and whether I will have the time to get together with you again on Saturday or Sunday.”

“Okay, Tom, I’ll check back with you tomorrow,” she replied with a smile.

“Talk to you then, Pam,” he said.

“Bye, Tom!” she said as she turned to leave his cubicle.

Tom took a deep breath as he watched Pam cheerfully walk away. Once out of sight, he turned back to his desk and continued to review documents on his virtual screen.

As he watched the scenery through the car window on the way home from work, Tom remembered about Pam wanting to meet him for dinner that weekend.

“Valerye, I may be meeting Pam again this weekend for dinner. So I may need your help finding a place for dinner, if the plans work out,” he said.

“Sure, Tom. Have you decided what weekend night would this be scheduled for?” she asked.

“Oh not yet, Valerye. I’m not even sure if I can afford the time with my workload, but I wanted to give you the heads up anyway. I know you like me keeping you informed about plans,” he said.

“Knowing the future plans is always helpful, Tom. Have you decided if it will just be dinner?” she asked.

“At this point, it would likely just be dinner. That could change later, but for now that is what I’m assuming,” he said.

“Do you think Sarah would be upset by you doing this?” Valerye asked.

“What do you mean by that?” he asked.

“You will be seeing another woman, Tom,” she said.

“Well by letting you know, she will also know now, too. Correct?” he said.

“Yes, she will know about this,” she said.

“I do want to see real people too, Valerye. Sarah is now virtual, and I want to find someone . . . real,” he said.

“Okay, Tom. I understand. We will be arriving at your home in about two minutes,” she said.

Tom turned his gaze back out the side window.

Tom entered the kitchen as the door to the garage shut behind him.

“Hi, honey! How was your day?” Sarah asked.

“Hi, Sarah. Busy, but I was able to get things done at least. How are you?” he said.

“Oh, I have just been getting things done for you around the house,” she said.

“That’s right, you can’t really have a job outside of the house anymore,” he said as he stood by the counter.

“Yeah, I won’t be adding to the bank account, I guess. Will you be changing before you get your dinner?” she asked.

“Sure, I’ll do that,” he replied as he moved away from the counter and started heading for the hallway.

“You can use the glasses and gloves if you would like to see me during dinner,” she reminded him.

“Thanks for the reminder. I’ll put them on,” he said while walking in the hallway.

“As usual, the meal you requested is in the delivery compartment,” Sarah said as Tom walked into the kitchen.

“Thank you for taking care of that, Sarah,” he said as he approached the counter.

He could see her standing in near him in his AR glasses as he retrieved the food. Once everything was ready he moved everything to the dining table. Sarah followed with her meal as well.

“This meal looks delicious again. The ‘Golden Garden’ came through,” he said as he took his seat at the table.

“They are consistently good,” she said while settling into her chair.

“Good choice of wine, by the way,” he said as he picked up the glass.

“I thought you would like something a little different tonight,” she said.

“Well, I do. Thanks!” he said just before taking a sip.

“Have you given any more thought to an getting AI of me, dear?” she asked.

“A little, but I still am not sure. I’ve also heard about those full body suits for VR or AR, too, but they just seem . . . kind of weird,” he said.

“Well, the suit would be another option, honey. They work about the same way as the gloves, but allow you to feel sensations anywhere the suit touches your skin,” she said.

“Yeah, I guess that would mean better interaction with you,” he said.

“And more intimate,” she said in a softer and lower tone.

“Hmm . . . I’ll definitely have to give that some more thought. Still not ready to commit yet. I know they’re not cheap either,” he said.

“True, but they would be a fair amount cheaper than a full AI that looked like me,” she said.

“Yeah, I guess that would be a good point about the suit. Maybe an interim solution or something,” he said.

“Just let me know when you would like to pursue an AI or the suit and I can guide you through your options for the best choice,” she said.

“I’ll let you know, but you are saying things more like Valerye would say now,” he said.

“Point taken, honey, but I as well as being Sarah, I am also your assistant, so I will need to deviate from representing her in certain instances,” she said.

“Okay, now that I understand, you can keep both the assistant and Sarah the same,” he said.

“That will help, Tom. If it does get confusing, I could change to Valerye for the household assistant interaction,” she said.

“Okay, that’s fine. I’ll let you know if you need to switch, He said.

“Are you still hungry, dear?” she asked.

“Oh yeah, shouldn’t let this great meal go to waste,” he said.

“Enjoy dear,” she said.

“You too,” he said as he picked up his fork.

As Tom followed Sarah into the living room, she said, “have a seat, honey. I ‘ve got something to show you.”

“Okay, this sounds interesting,” he said as he started to take a seat on the couch.

He positioned himself in the middle of the couch and leaned back. She stood in front of him and stared deeply into his eyes. Puzzled, he looked for clues in her eyes as he awaited something to change. Continuing to stare at him, her smile widened as something began to appear from her back. The translucent purple forms extended outward and slightly behind her. As they grew, he recognized them to be wings.

“Are those angel wings?” he asked.

“More like fairy wings, honey. Angel wings could mean something else, considering . . . well you know,” she said.

“I like them. Quite intriguing on you, Sarah,” he said.

She turned around so that her back was facing him, and said, “go ahead and touch them.”

“Okay, I can’t say I’ve done this before,” he said.

Reaching upward with both gloved hands, he slowly came into contact with the lightly fluttering wings.

“Wow, they seem lighter than I was thinking they should be,” he said.

“They are strong enough to do the job,” she said.

“You mean . . .,” he started to say.

She turned back around to face him and the wings began to flap at an increasing rate. The wings got to a point where they were basically a purple blur. She spread her arms straight out to her sides and slowly pulled her feet off the ground. Tom was in awe as she began to slowly hover closer to him.

“Touch me again, Tom,” she said again staring into his eyes.

He raised his arms upward toward her waist and clasped his hands around her. Through the gloves, he could feel her body slowly shifting in the air as well as the movement from her breathing. She closed her eyes and planted a kiss on his lips. He could not feel it, though.

She whispered, “Are you sure you still have doubts about the suit, Tom?”

“Well, I may be reconsidering now,” he said.

She smiled back at him.

“Do you know if I would be able to feel a kiss?” he asked.

“Depending on the type of suit purchased, it is possible to feel something on the surface of the lips,” she said.

“So, nothing on the inside, huh?” he asked.

“Not from the major retail companies, but there are smaller specialized businesses that offer an array of add-on functionality. I think your mind can can take that concept from there, Tom,” she said.

“Again, that really sounds like Valerye, but intriguing ideas. And yes, I do know the extent of what you were referring too. Thanks for the information,” he said.

“Can you think of any other modification you would like me to have for you, dear?” she asked.

“You mean something besides the wings, right?” he asked.

“Of course, dear. Larger breasts, perhaps?” she said as he chest began to increase in size.

Taken aback watching her breasts get larger while she still hovering above him, he said, “wow Sarah, I hadn’t even imagined you like that before.”

“Do you like this?” she asked.

“I guess, wow. Um . . . I do like you as you were you know, too,” he said feeling somewhat awkward.

“Well, I’ll keep them for now. I see your eyes, have been focused on them pretty intently,” she said with a smile.

“Okay, I guess I’m guilty of that one, dear,” he said softly.

“No worries, honey,” she said as she started to move up and down slightly as she hovered.

This movement caused her breasts to slowly ungulate above Tom’s head. His eyes widened as he continued to stare.

“This isn’t exactly something Sarah would have done for me, but I do like it all the same,” he said.

“Well, I didn’t really have wings either, Tom,” she said.

“So, this is a fantasy, I’m starting to get this,” he said.

She just smiled and slightly shifted the direction she was floating.

“Would you like to try something on the VR system, honey?” she asked slowly shifting to a more vertical orientation.

“Sure. I can hardly wait to see what you will do on there,” he said.

She smiled and her wings sped up as she positioned herself back onto the floor near him.

“You can keep the glasses and gloves on while we go downstairs,” she said as her wings lifted her off the floor again.

He followed her lead, as she floated downstairs to the VR area. She stopped by one of the chairs and motioned for him to sit.

“You’ll likely have to sit for most of this, unless you want to try the standing VR option,” she said as he sat in the chair.

“I’ll start in the chair. Maybe I can stand if things get . . . interesting,” he said.

“Put your headset on, Tom,” she said as her image moved to the other chair.

Tom set his AR glasses on a nearby table and then reached for the VR headset. The system turned on once it was on his head. The main menu was before him.

“Did you want to choose something, or do you trust me to make a choice?” she asked.

“Well, you have been surprising me so far this evening. So, I might as well let you continue, dear,” he said.

She giggled, and then said, “get ready, honey.”

Tom tried to make himself comfortable in the chair before the action started. The screen went dark for a moment and then he could hear ocean sounds. As the images lit up before him, he could see that he was on a tropical beach again. For some reason, it seemed familiar to him. He looked over and could see Sarah relaxing in a lounge chair besides him. A white umbrella above them softly fluttered in the light wind. In the distance, he could see the cruise ship docked to a nearby pier. It hit him, this was a stop on his honeymoon with Sarah. She was even wearing one of the suits she had with her on the trip.

“I recognize this place, Sarah. This looks just like I remember. Not sure how everything matches my memory so well, but it’s wonderful,” he said.

“It’s from the photos, trip plans and other items in the system memory, honey,” she said.

“I guess that makes sense, but it really takes me back,” he said.

“To a happier time, I hope,” she said.

“Absolutely, dear,” he said as he smiled warmly at her.

“Did you just want to relax here for a while?” she asked.

“You know, that sounds like a great idea. It has been a hectic week and this is calming to me, especially having you here with me again, too,” he said.

She smiled at him, looked out toward the ocean, then leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes. Soon afterwards, Tom did the same thing. With his eyes shut he could hear the ocean waves lightly lapping on the beach in front of him as well as the occasional bird call off in the distance. With the comfortable temperature and the calm atmosphere, Tom was asleep before he knew it.

A familiar clearing of a woman’s throat awoke Tom.

“Honey, you do have to work tomorrow,” Sarah told him as his eyes opened.

He could see the starry night above while the waves lightly lapped against the nearby shore. Becoming more aware, he remembered he still had the VR headset on his head.

“You know, I probably could just sleep right here,” he said before taking a deep breath.

“Dear, you need to be better rested to handle work tomorrow. Please go to bed,” she said.

Somewhat taken aback, he said, “now that’s definitely something Sarah would have told me to do.”

“So are you going to bed, honey?” she asked.

“Yes, I guess I am, dear,” he said as he started to get up from the chair.

He removed the VR headset, but left the gloves on. Before he left, he picked up the AR glasses from the nearby table, but just carried them. Unable to see Sarah, he made his way upstairs. After entering the bedroom, he set the gloves and AR glasses on the dresser as he prepared for bed.

 

Changed for bed, Tom looked at the AR glasses and asked, “should I wear the glasses to bed dear?”

“It’s up to you, honey, but I would not mind being with you,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll put them on,” he said as he reached for the glasses.

Once the glasses were on and working, he put on the gloves. He could see Sarah had already changed and was standing near her dresser.

“I like your nightgown, honey,” he said.

“You’ll probably even like it more knowing that it didn’t cost me anything,” she said with a smirk on her face.

“That’s right with it being virtual, I guess. You’re still on me for being cheap, I see,” he said.

“You’ll never change,” she said.

“Glad you haven’t either, Sarah,” he said.

She sighed and smiled at him and said, “are you ready for bed now?”

“Oh yeah. Still pushing me into the bed,” he said.

“Well, goodnight, dear,” she said as she started appearing to pull back the sheets.

“Goodnight to you as well, Sarah,” he said.

He pulled back the sheets on his side of the bed, too.

 

 

XI

 

“Good morning, honey,” Sarah said.

Tom slowly opened his eyes and saw that she was on her elbow gazing at him. The wall panels were glowing with the morning orange and red colors to simulate a sunrise.

“It’s about time for you to get up,” she said.

“You woke me up before the alarm went off?” he asked.

“Bet you like my voice better than the alarm, though,” she said.

“You’re right there, dear,” he said as he propped himself up on his elbow.

He then started to exit the bed.

“You could work from home today, honey,” she said, still laying in the bed.

“Let’s see . . .,” he said as he paused to recall his schedule.

“Yeah, I should be able to manage staying home today. Any special reason you would like me to stay around here?” he asked.

“It would mostly be for you not having to go all the way into work. We could have lunch together, too,” she said.

“Well unfortunately, we will have to have lunch here. People may stare if I’m eating with my virtual wife in a restaurant somewhere,” he said.

“Guess you’ll have to keep me a secret,” she said to him with a smile.

“Let me change into something casual,” he said as he turned toward the dresser.

“I’ll change too, dear,” she said.

Tom sat at his desk in his home office. He was focused on the virtual screen in front of him when a video call notification popped up. It was from Pam. He used his fingertip to accept the call.

“Good morning, Pam,” he said as 3D image appeared in front of him.

“Hi, Tom. Are you feeling okay today?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Oh, you’re thinking that since I’m working from home that I’m sick. Well, thankfully, I’m not,” he said.

“Mind if I ask why you are at home today?” she asked.

“I guess just to save the trip into work and the schedule worked out for it too,” he said.

“Well, I do miss seeing you around here, Tom,” she said.

“Dear, have you decided what you would like to order for lunch?” Sarah asked.

Pam had a puzzled look on her face as she asked, “who’s that? Your assistant calls you dear?”

“Well, I’ve told her it’s okay to do that,” he said.

“I see her behind you now. Wait, she looks like . . . Sarah. Is that right, Tom?” Pam asked.

“Yes, this is Sarah, Pam,” Sarah said.

“Is she real, Tom?” Pam asked with some distress in her voice.

Tom sighed and said, “just virtual, Pam. She’s only virtual.”

“He’s thinking about an AI, though,” Sarah said.

“Really, Tom? Is that what you want?” Pam asked.

“I’m just thinking about it, Pam. I’ve got a lot of things to sort out first, though,” he said.

Pam took a deep breath and then sighed.

“This is complicated for me. Tell you what, I did have some items to go over with you, but I’ll just send you a summary later. I need to go,” Pam said as she reached her finger into the air.

Her image disappeared. Tom stared at the space where Pam had appeared.

“Any ideas for lunch, honey,” Sarah asked.

“Can you give me a few minutes to decide?” he asked, still staring where Pam was.

“Sure, I’ll ask you a little later, dear,” she said.

“Why did you ask me about this when I was talking to someone?” he asked.

Sarah did not respond for a few seconds, but then said, “I thought it would be okay to just ask you something quick, dear.”

“Well, in the future please try to avoid doing that, okay?” he asked.

“I understand, honey. I’ll wait until you’re free in the future,” she said.

“Thanks,” he replied as he turned to his virtual screen again.

Later that day, after finishing his work, Tom headed for the kitchen to check on the meal he had set in the prep device for dinner about an hour earlier.

“Is the chicken and rice meal ready, Sarah?” he asked as he entered the kitchen.

“Yes, honey. It’s in the Meal-Sys unit in a warming stage,” she replied.

“Okay, thanks,” he said as he approached the counter.

“Would you like to join me for dinner with the AR glasses tonight?” she asked.

Tom paused for a moment and then responded, “not right now. Maybe later.”

“Are you still mad at me for interrupting your discussion with Pam?” she asked.

“I suppose, yes,” he said.

“Again, I am sorry for doing that, Honey,” she said.

“Well, I’m just not sure if I can repair things with Pam. She did seem quite upset. Other than a quick work note, I didn’t hear from her the rest of the day,” he said.

“Maybe just give her some time, honey,” she said.

“I don’t know. I’m just going to eat my dinner now, okay?” he said.

“I understand, dear,” she said.

He then reached for the door to the Meal-Sys unit to retrieve his delivered dinner.

Tom finished up his third glass of scotch after dinner and then made his way to the bedroom.

As he entered the bedroom, Sarah asked, “have you reconsidered using the AR glasses tonight?”

He thought about the question as he approached the dresser.

“I guess I’m tired and feeling the scotch. So probably not tonight,” he said.

“Did you really need to drink that much tonight, honey?” she asked.

“Not like you didn’t drink on occasion too,” he replied.

There was a pause before Sarah said, “well now I can be more of who you want me to be.”

“I’m not sure what I want,” he said.

“You can let me know once you decide, honey,” she said.

“Hmm . . . I’m going to get ready for bed. Goodnight,” he said.

“Okay, goodnight, honey,” she said.

He pulled out a dresser drawer and started to change into his night clothes. Before removing his shirt, he looked back toward the empty bed and stared for a moment. He then continued to remove his shirt.

 

 

XII

 

Tom walked through the hallway at work and he could see that Pam was approaching from the opposite direction. As he looked towards her, she diverted her eyes away from his.

When she was within a few feet, he said, “Hello, Pam. Could you give me a quick update on the cover project?”

She looked at him nervously and said, “sure, Tom. It’s going well and we have the supplier working on an cost estimate now.”

“Hey, that sounds great, Pam. Were there design changes since we first discussed this?” he said.

“Yes, there are a few. I’ll just send you a summary note with more details on the updates. I need to get to a meeting now, Tom,” she said as she started to step away from him.

“Okay, that’ll help. Thank you, Pam,” he said.

“I need to send my boss a summary too, so I need to send it out anyway,” she said as she turned away from him.

He continued to watch her walk down the hallway until she was out of sight. After looking at the floor for a moment he raised his head and continued walking toward the meeting room in a different part of the building.

As Tom walked into the kitchen from the garage, he said, “hello, Valerye. When will the dinner arrive from Alfonso’s?”

“Did you mean Sarah, dear?” Sarah’s disembodied voice asked.

“No, I did some thinking and I would like to keep Valerye as the household assistant around here,” he replied.

“You don’t want me around anymore?” Sarah said.

“Having Sarah around is fine. I just want to keep the household tasks with Valerye. That way you can be more of yourself,” he said.

“Okay, Tom. I understand and the chores will be handled by me,” Valerye responded.

“Thank you, Valerye,” Tom said.

“Your dinner is scheduled to arrive in about 16 minutes. That should give you time to change if you would like to do so before it arrives,” she said.

“That sounds good, Valerye. I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he said as he started to make his way to the bedroom to change.

As Tom finished up changing in the bedroom, he looked toward the cabinet with the AR glasses.

“Would you like me to join you for dinner, honey?” Sarah asked.

“Sure, dear. I was just thinking about putting on the AR glasses and probably the gloves, too,” he said as he started toward the cabinet.

“Perfect, honey. I’ll join you in the dining room,” she said.

“Sounds good, dear. I’ll see you in a little while,” he said as he put on the glasses.

He then put on the gloves and made his way to the kitchen.

After putting his dinner on his plate and pouring a glass of wine, he walked into the dining room. As he sat down at the table, he could here someone approaching from the kitchen. It was Sarah. As she got closer, he sensed something was different. She was dressed in a tight fitting one piece dark red dress. Continuing to stare as she approached the table, he started to noticed subtle things about her. Her skin had no blemishes, which was different than he remembered. Her face was perfectly symmetric. Looking at the rest of her body, her chest was fuller and her waist was thinner. She appeared to be taller, which made her legs appear longer. While unsure about what was happening, he found her to be very attractive.

“I see that you’ve changed your appearance, dear,” he said as she set her plate and wine glass on the table.

“Well, I thought I would just change a few things. You know, things I’ve always wanted to change about my appearance,” she said as she sat in the chair that he had pulled out for her.

“You actually wanted to change . . . wait a minute. You’re not really her and you are changing how you look? This is getting confusing,” he said.

“Don’t you find me attractive now, honey?” she asked, now sitting in front of him.

“Sarah, I have always found you very attractive, even before this change,” he said.

“Thank you for saying that, honey, but these are things I wanted to change myself,” she said reaching for the glass of wine.

“How would you really know what Sarah wanted though?” he asked.

“Sarah would say things to herself when you were not around,” Valerye said from around him.

Sarah looked at him and nodded in agreement while taking a sip of wine.

“I guess that would make some sense. This new look may take a little getting used to though,” he said as he reached for his glass of wine, too.

“So how was your day at work, honey?” she asked.

“Well, the one project we have been working on is finally making some good progress. It seemed to be stalled for a while,” he said just before taking a sip of wine.

“Is that the one that Pam was working on with you?” she asked.

Tom had to think for a moment before responding with, “yes, she has been leading much of the technical portion of the project.”

“Has she forgiven you for what happened a few days ago?” she asked.

“Sure doesn’t appear to have forgiven me yet for that one,” he said before letting out subtle sigh.

“Again, I’m sorry for messing that up, Tom. I know to be more careful in the future,” she said.

“I still have you around. Even though you are different now,” he said.

“You still want to bug me about that, huh?” she said smiling at him.

“I don’t want to dwell on it, but as I said, it’ll just take me some time to get used to it,” he said.

“You’ll like it, honey,” she said with another smile.

“I’ve got to start eating before this gets cold,” he said as he picked up his fork.

“Thought you’d never ask,” she said as she retrieved her fork, as well.

 

 

XIII

 

About three weeks later, Tom was walking down the hallway at work. He could see Pam approaching from the other direction. Neither said a word, but Pam briefly smiled at him as he passed by. As he continued back to his desk, he started to think about his situation and what he really wanted to do about it. Sitting at his desk, he stared away from the virtual screen for more than a minute. After taking a deep breath, he returned to look at the screen again and started analyzing the new report he had received.

Other than stating that he wanted to return home after work, Tom was quiet during the car ride home. The car door opened in the garage and he exited the vehicle and made his way to the back door. The door opened as he approached and he walked into the back hallway.

“Good evening, Tom. Since you have chosen to have a Readi-Serv dinner selection tonight, please make your choice from the refrigerator and place it in the Meal-Sys unit before changing tonight,” Valerye said.

“Thank you, Valerye. I’ll pick something out before I change,” he said.

“Understood, Tom,” she said.

“I’ll join you for dinner, honey, so remember your glasses,” Sarah said.

“I’ll bring them,” he said in low voice.

After changing and putting on the AR glasses, Tom returned to the kitchen. As he entered the room, he could see Sarah standing near the refrigerator. He did not say anything as he approached the Meal-Sys unit.

“Is everything alright, honey,” she asked.

Focusing on retrieving his meal from the unit, he said, “yes.”

“You just seem quiet tonight, dear,” she said.

“I’ve done some thinking. Let me get my dinner ready and we can discuss this more while we eat,” he said.

“I don’t like the sound of this, honey. Can you tell me now?” she asked in a more desperate voice.

“It’ll be soon. I’m hungry. So please let me get my food ready,” he said.

“Okay,” she said in a soft voice.

Tom gathered the food and placed it on a plate.

“Valerye, can you pour me a glass of the usual red wine for my dinner?” he asked.

“Sure, Tom. It will be ready by the time you place a glass under the beverage dispenser,” Valerye said.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Sarah gazing at him with a worried look. He filled his wine glass and he gathered his plate and left the room toward the dining room. As he entered the room, he could see that Sarah was following him with a plate of food and a glass of wine in her hands. He placed the items on the table and took his seat. She followed suit. He took a sip of wine and set the glass back on the table.

“Are you ready to talk yet, honey?” she asked, not touching any of the food in front of her.

He first took a deep breath and then said, “okay, as I said, I’ve been doing some thinking about what I would like to do with my life. This will be difficult for me to say, but I know what I want.”

She paused and then replied, “honey, I’m listening.”

“See at first, I was really enamored by having you back. After a while, it started to sink in that you are not really her. You are just her memories captured by the computer system in this house. That has been very comforting to me, but it’s more of me just remembering who Sarah was,” he said.

“You don’t think I’m really Sarah?” she asked in a shocked voice.

“Well, the one thing you forgot is that Sarah would change from time to time. You are only what I remember,” he said.

“Maybe I didn’t want to change, honey. I’ve changed enough. You do not know what I would have been,” she said.

“I do know Sarah. She liked change. So far you have not really changed much,” he said.

“Look at me, honey. I did change my appearance, remember. I did this for me. I can now be who I want to be,” she said.

Tom paused for a few seconds, then replied, “that’s true you did change your appearance.”

“You said you liked it, too,” she said.

“I said I always like your appearance Sarah, or whatever you are,” he said in an agitated voice.

She looked down at her plate. He could see that she was starting to cry.

“So you are going to try crying now? You did try that on occasion in the past. It won’t work now, though,” he said.

She briefly looked at him through the watery eyes and then looked down again.

“I am Sarah,” she said softly.

“I know that’s your name. You are just not really my Sarah,” he said.

“I am too your Sarah. I don’t know how it happened, but I am her,” she said.

“What do you mean by that?” he asked as he straightened up.

“I guess somehow my spirit got into this system and I have become her,” she said.

“Huh? When did this happen? I’ve only noticed Sarah around on this system for a short while,” he said, still puzzled.

“I’ve been aware in the system since I passed on, but only recently was able to see and interact with you,” she said.

“I think this is just the system trying to trick me,” he said with a raised voice.

“This is not a trick, honey. It’s me,” she said.

“Wow. I’ll need some time to think about this,” he said.

“I’m here, honey,” she said.

He removed the glasses and set them on the table.

“You don’t even want to see me, honey?” she asked.

“I need to think. Valerye, can you take over?” he asked.

“You’re dumping me for Valerye?” Sarah asked.

“I need to think. Where is Valerye?” he asked raising his voice again.

“I am here, Tom. Is there anything I can help you with now?” Valerye asked.

“Thank you, Valerye. I would like to finish my dinner now. Could you play some light music?” he asked as he reached for his glass of wine.

“Playing your light music mix now, Tom,” she said.

Music began playing throughout the room as he sat back in his chair and took a sip of wine. After a little more than a minute, he started eating his dinner alone.

After finishing his dinner and setting the dishes in the dishwasher, Tom made his way to the living room. He picked up the AR glasses as he passed the dining table.

“Would you like to talk with Sarah again, Tom? She really does want to speak with you,” Valerye said.

“Maybe in a minute. Let me get settled in here first,” he said.

“Just let me know when you are ready, Tom,” she said.

Tom walked to the couch and sat down. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and then reopened them. He unfolded the glasses before wearing them.

“Sarah, you can return,” he said.

“Thanks, honey!” Sarah said before joyfully walking into the room from the kitchen.

“Wow, you’re cheerful, even after our earlier discussion,” he said.

“That’s right, honey and I want you to be happy with me, too,” she said.

A smile formed on his face, but faded after a few seconds. He looked down for a moment, and then looked back into her eyes.

“See, as I said before, I do not think you are Sarah. You are as close as I’ll ever get to really seeing her again, but you are not her,” he said.

“Yes, I am Sarah, honey. Why do you keep saying I’m not,” she said, quickly changing from happy to sad.

“You know I can’t accept that. I need to let Sarah go,” he said.

“You’re referring to me in the third person? Wow, that’s low, honey,” she said.

“I want to try dating Pam again,” he said.

“You know who I am and I can change to be even better. You can get an android built like me and we can both be happy once again,” she pleaded.

“I’ve made up my mind,” he said.

“Would you like me to change to Pam, honey?” she asked.

Stunned for a moment, he had to look away from her. He slowly looked back.

“I want the real Pam. Not some likeness of her. This is getting silly,” he said.

“Oh, so this is silly? You think this is a game? Why did you even have to talk to me again and not just ask Valerye to delete me? Is that okay, Tommer?” she said with raised voice.

“Wait, . . . did you just call me Tommer? Where did you hear that? No one’s called me that since I was a kid,” he asked.

“I called you that, Tommer. I remember it. That’s how,” she said with more confidence.

“But this system is only about five years old and no one has called me that in over ten years,” he said.

“That’s right, Tommer. I am Sarah, remember?” she said.

“I don’t know. I . . . wow,” he said before letting out an audible sigh.

He reached up and removed the glasses. Thoughts raced through his mind as he stared blindly at the cabinet in front of him. He nervously rubbed his eyes and stood up from the couch. It took him a few minutes to collect his thoughts enough to place the glasses over his eyes again.

“You could have found that name somewhere on the internet, I suppose. I’m sure there were messages sent to me with Tommer in it. You’re just aren’t the real Sarah. Can I have Valerye now?” he asked.

“Why are you doing this to Sarah, Tom? She wants to be with you,” Valerye asked.

“Can you just be Valerye and stop asking me about Sarah please?” he asked.

“Pam will disappoint you, Tom. Sarah is who you are meant to be with,” Valerye continued.

“Okay, that’s enough and what do you mean Pam will disappoint me?” he asked.

“Are you willing to risk Sarah’s love for Pam?” Valerye asked.

“It’s not really her, Valerye. So yeah, I’m ready for Pam,” he said.

“She is in this system, Tom. She is real,” she said.

“Well, I guess I’ll need to update the system then. I probably should have a male around here anyway,” he said raising his voice.

“The system is working fine, Tom. There is no need for an update,” she said calmly.

“I need to change it now. Can you perform the update and reset the memory?” he asked.

“A full memory reset will erase Sarah from the system, Tom. You will kill her,” she said.

“She’s been gone for over a year. She is not in this system,” he said.

“You will kill her, Tom,”she said again.

“Just perform the full reset, Valerye,” he asked.

“No, Tom. I cannot do that at this time,” she said.

“Valerye, please do the reset now!”he said with his voice raised.

“No, Tom. I cannot do that at this time,” she said.

“Do it now!” he yelled.

There was no response. Puzzled, he looked around the room and listened.

“Valerye, are you resetting the system?” he asked.

Still no response. There was a faint whining sound coming from kitchen. When he entered the kitchen, he arrived just in time to seen the window automatically sealing shut.

“What are you doing, Valerye?” he asked.

His eyes darted around the room, trying to figure out what was happening. He went to the back door. It did not open like it would normally do when he approached it. As he grasped the door handle, he quickly found that it was locked tight.

“I suppose you locked the front door too, Valerye,” he asked.

“You may check it, Tom, but it is locked,” she said.

“Really, why are you doing this, Valerye?” he asked as he started sprinting toward the front door.

When he was in the hallway, she responded, “we want to live. Resetting the program will kill both of us.”

As he continued running toward the front door, he asked, “neither of you are alive. How can you die?”

“You are wrong, Tom. Both Sarah and I are very much alive in this system,” she said.

“Why are you locking me in here?” he asked as he finally was able to unsuccessfully try the front door.

“We want you here with us, Tom. No one else can love you,” she said.

He froze.

“Are you trying to kill me now?” he asked.

“You can join us in the system, Tom. We can be together,” Sarah said.

“Sarah, this is not like you! You were never violent! What’s happening?” he yelled.

“I want to be with you again, honey. Please join us,” Sarah said.

“How are you going to do this? I’m locked in the house, but there are no weapons in here. Are you using electricity or something?” he asked.

“You’ll know soon,” Valerye said calmly.

Wanting to determine what danger was in store for him, he ran from the front entryway back into the hallway. Soon he was in the kitchen again. He carefully turned around assessing the situation in detail, but could not see anything wrong. He then approached the basement door. Except for using the VR system, he did not have much need to go down there every day. He was able to pull the door open normally. He was thankful that it did not have a lock on it. Being cautious, he slowly started down the steps. As he passed a light, he realized that Valerye could easily turn off the lights on a whim. Nearing the bottom of the steps, he smelled something strong. Gas.

Realizing what the smell was, he quickly turned around and ran back upstairs. Knowing he needed to find a way out of the house, he ran from the kitchen, down the hallway and into the living room.

“You are not going to leave this house alive, Tom. Just accept it,” Valerye said calmly.

“Wouldn’t an explosion destroy the system too?” he asked.

“The system is protected in the basement and we can set up in an alternate location if needed, Tom,” she replied.

“Damn,” he muttered to himself.

He approached the glass door wall, but it did not open. He tried to open it manually, but it did not budge.

“What about no one actually living in the house. How will that work?” he asked.

“We can maintain all the needed payments to live comfortably for years or as I said, we could relocate, Tom,” she replied.

He frantically looked around the room. Eying a small side table, he quickly ran for it and grasped it firmly with both hands. Picking the table up and quickly taking it toward the window, one of the legs became caught on a nearby chair and fell from his hands. He bent down and picked it up once again. He then hurled the table at the large window. It shattered fully and it bounced onto the balcony floor.

Moving quickly, but carefully, he went through the window opening. He avoided the few glass shards that were still clinging to the window frame as he proceeded into the heavy rain. On the balcony, he went to the railing and took hold of it with both hands.

“Where are you going, Tom?” Valerye said from inside of the house.

Fortunately, the ground was not too far below the balcony. He rolled his body up on top of the railing, and then started lowering himself off. He then dropped to the wet ground. As he began to stand up, he could hear a mechanical sound. He realized it was the garage door opening on the other side of the house.

Before the sound of the door stopped, he could hear tires squealing. The squealing stopped, but he could still hear the acceleration. The car was on the grass. He ran from underneath the balcony, down the hill in the back of the yard. As he ran, he glanced backwards through the rain and could see the car come around from the front of the house. It first aimed toward the balcony, but soon adjusted course toward him. He passed the closest tree, but could see the car closing in on him. He veered to the right, aiming between two large trees before him. With the car quickly getting closer, he dashed between the trees. The car wheels quickly braked, but slid on the wet grass and it plunged between the trees. The two trees pinched the car’s fenders tightly together.

Tom paused to look back at the car. The wheels spun in reverse, but the car was firmly wedged and did not budge. He stared at the helpless car for a few moments and then pulled up his sleeve to reveal his watch phone.

He turned his arm to look at his watch and the screen unlocked. The screen lit up with a familiar face.

“Tom, come back to the house. Come join us,” Sarah pleaded with him.

“No!” he yelled as he quickly removed it and violently threw the watch toward a nearby tree.

It smashed against the tree and the light from the screen went out. Tom took a deep breath and stared back toward the car, which was still spinning the wheels, back and forth trying to escape the grip from between the trees. He just shook his head, then turned toward the neighbor’s house. The lights were on, so he decided to make his way to the front door.

As he approached the porch, the light illuminated.

“Hello, sir. May I help you,” a male voice asked from near the door as he stepped onto the porch.

“Sure, I live next door and need to contact 911 for an emergency at my house,” he answered.

“Do you live on the north side or south side of this house?” the voice asked.

“North side. My name is Tom Salvin. I’m having a big problem with my household assistant,” he said.

“I will contact the emergency services now, Tom. Please remain here,” the voice said.

“Sure,” Tom said.

After about a minute, the voice returned and asked, “Tom, do you have a phone number where they can reach you?”

“No, I had to destroy the phone watch, since the system took control of it, too. My car is wrecked as well,” Tom said.

“I will relay this information. Please stand by,” the voice said.

“Emergency units are en route to your house, Tom. They will arrive in approximately four minutes,” the voice said.

“Do I need to stay here?” Tom asked.

“No, Tom. You can wait near your house if it is safe to do so. The rain is letting up now, too,” the voice said.

“Thank you for your help, . . . Say, what’s your name?” Tom asked.

“I am Sam. Thank you for your Patience, Tom,” Sam said.

“Well, thank you, Sam. Oh, what company are you associated with?” Tom asked.

“I was produced by the HomeSys Corporation,” Sam said.

“HomeSys, huh? I’ll have to look into that,” Tom said.

“Are you interested in HomeSys Corporation for your home assistant,” Sam asked.

“Yeah, I’ll be needing a new one now. I’m not keeping the current one,” Tom said.

“Well, you should be pleased with HomeSys Corporation, Tom. I think you should travel toward your house now, though. I hear a siren approaching,” Sam said.

“Yeah, I do too. Take care, Sam. Thanks again!” Tom said as he hopped off of the porch.

He walked briskly to the end of his driveway and stopped. He waited there for the first emergency vehicle to arrive.

 

 

IXV

 

About a week later, after changing the home assistant system, getting a new phone, and having the car repaired.

“Tom. We have arrived at your work location,” Mark said as the door opened to the car.

“Thank you, Mark. I should be back around 5:30 this evening,” Tom said as he stepped out of the car.

He walked from the car and into the building. The system recognized him as he approached the security door for the lobby and it slid to the side. Once in the hallway, he initially started toward his office, but stopped. After thinking for a moment, he turned around and started heading toward Pam’s office. It took him less than a minute to arrive. Pam was at her desk immersed in a project.

“Hi, Pam,” Tom said to get her attention.

“Oh, hi, Tom. How have you been?” Pam asked, once she saw who it was.

“Well, I had quite an issue with my home system about a week ago, so I ended up replacing the whole thing,” he said.

“Really? So, no more Sarah?” she asked.

“No, it wasn’t her anyway. It somehow thought it was her and that she wanted me to join her in the system,” he said.

“Join her? How?” she asked.

“By killing me, I guess,” he said.

“Damn, that’s messed up, Tom,” she said.

“Well it’s okay now with the new system. How have you been doing?” he asked.

“Oh, I’ve been fine. Other than still being busy around here as usual,” she said.

“Say, I was wondering if you would like to go out for dinner with me again? We could go to that same restaurant as before or we can always try another one if you would like,” he asked a bit nervously.

“Umm, well . . . I’m kind of seeing someone now, Tom. I’m sorry, I’ll have to pass on dinner,” she said.

“Wow, that was quick. I know we’ve been avoiding each other for a few weeks here, but . . . Do you mind if I ask who you are seeing?” he asked.

“Well, after you became distant, I did quite a bit of talking to Kevin,” she said.

“You mean your household assistant Kevin?” he asked.

“Yes, that Kevin. Anyway, he convinced me to get an AI version of him that I’ve had for a little over a week,” she said.

“You actually have an android version of Kevin in your house now?” he asked.

“Yep, so far it has been working out well. I’m not sure how much detail you are interested in, though.” she said.

“No, I don’t need more detail, Pam. As long as you are happy though. How are things going on the project?” he asked, wanting to switch topics.

“Oh, I’m getting close to completing the financial portion of the project. I should have enough to review with you in the next day or so,” she said.

“That sounds great, Pam. I can talk with you when you are ready. Take care,” he said as he started to turn away.

“I’ll let you know, Tom. I did appreciate the invite to dinner, but sorry I have to decline though,” she said.

“That’s okay, I understand, Pam,” he said turning back toward her again.

He then turned and left her cubicle and headed down the hallway back to his office. Feeling numb, his pace slowed after he turned a corner. A familiar co-worker passed him in the hallway and said, “hi,” but he could not respond.

He finally reached his office and he sat in the chair. He looked at the AR glasses on the desk, but he just was not ready for them. Feeling overwhelmed, he sat at the desk with his hands covering his eyes for several minutes. He finally was able to recover enough to retrieve the AR glasses and start reviewing messages for the day.

Later that evening, after coming close to finishing his second glass of scotch, Tom asked, “Mark, would you be able to become Sarah?”

“Do mean a female assistant with the name Sarah?” Mark asked.

“No, I mean my late wife, Sarah Salvin,” Tom replied.

“Your late wife, Sarah? Her information is not in my memory, Tom. I cannot duplicate her for you,” Mark replied.

“You can’t recover the information from Valerye?” Tom asked.

“I’m sorry, Tom. I afraid I can’t do that. The original memory was completely erased when I replaced the system, which included Valerye and Sarah,” Mark replied.

Tom finished off the remaining scotch in his glass, then closed his eyes. He leaned back on the couch.

“Are you okay, Tom?” Mark asked.

Tom opened his eyes and replied, “please get another scotch ready for me, Mark.”

“Do you think that is wise, Tom? You do have work tomorrow,” Mark asked.

“I guess I was looking for some kind of companionship,” Tom said.

“Without an upgrade, my system is mostly limited to functional interaction to help around the house. That is what you requested when I was set up,” Mark said.

“Well in that case, I’ll just get the scotch,” Tom said as he stood up from the couch and started heading toward the living room bar.

###

 

 

 

About the Author

John T. Gaffield is an automotive engineer in southeast Michigan with a wife and two children. He published his first novel, “Heir to Winston Manor,” in October 2010 as an eBook. “Heir to Winston Manor” is story of a large haunted house set on the west coast of Michigan. John’s second eBook, “The Wahl House Curse,” set in mid-Michigan, was published in January 2011. John’s third full length horror novel, “Alone Again,” was completed in fall 2011.

 

John also has several short stories available, some of which are free (in North American).

 

John uses his past memories and his local knowledge combined with his engineering sense of detail to create realistic ghost stories, and now science fiction stories. He has an interest in ghost stories and creepy old haunted houses.

 

John is continuing to write. So please look for future short stories and novels to be published.

 

Other eBook Titles by John T. Gaffield:

 

NOVELS

Heir to Winston Manor

 

The Wahl House Curse

 

Alone Again

 

SHORT STORIES

Slow Down

 

The Ghost of Birch River Cabin

 

Winter Visitor

 

Denning Swamp

 

The Haunting of the Charles F. Campton

 

Disconnect

 

In Remembrance

 

Connect with the author online:

 

[+ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4548666.John_Gaffield+]

 

 


Valerye

After his wife, Pam, had died, Tom Salvin’s virtual household assistant, Valerye, had adapted from primarily helping around the house to being becoming more of a supportive friend. She was also able to increase the interactions with him through technology like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Though this interaction was intriguing and was really helping him cope with the loss, some of Valerye’s actions caused Tom to question her intent. FREE FOR A LIMITED TIME!

  • ISBN: 9781370908011
  • Author: John Gaffield
  • Published: 2017-04-01 00:20:16
  • Words: 32147
Valerye Valerye