Chapter 3 – Sins That Bind (1)

Sins That Bind

     I wake up to the chirping of the artificial birds and the warmth of the sun. Its warmth denies my wakefulness and soothes me deeper into a sleepful bliss. As I’m about to give into the embrace of sleep again, I feel a hand trace across my cheek. I wearily half-open one eye to see her looking down at me.

     Rachel gives a shy little grin as if she had just been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Nonetheless, she doesn’t remove her hand. So I allow her to continue her little game. She traces the contours of my cheek down to my chin. I watch as she lets one finger dangle on my chin before playfully letting it drop and land on the top of my chest. I think of what thoughts could be behind those hazel eyes.

     Society demands a certain amount of decorum, but I’ve never been one to adhere to such rules as if they’re set in stone. Rachel is different from others. For starters, she’s very touchy, and well aware that it’s taboo. But I don’t let it bother me- perhaps because there’s a little something there, just behind her smile, that I can’t quite put my finger on

     The fog of sleep finally seems to recede from my mind and I reach for the heavens to stretch. It’s only now that Rachel finally pulls all digits to her side and gives a small giggle. “It’s time to get up Eve. Lunch is just about over. We still have half of our wonderful day left,” she says to me.

     I turn my eyes to her and take her in. Rachel, with her hazel eyes and brunette hair dangling just low enough to tease the beginning curves of her breast. She’s smiling- she’s always smiling. A “wonderful” day is what she always calls it; these mundane days that I let come and go, with not a thought of the things that plight us. Yet to her, these days are always wonderful.

     I can’t help but think that at times, she has something inside of her that the rest of us have seemingly lost. She’s a “Natural” after all. I try to resist, but fail, as I find myself all but admiring the way the world appears in the sparkle of her eyes. This mundane existence is wonderful in all that it is, to Rachel. However, these are but idol thoughts in a mind still not quite fully awake. “I don’t wanna,” I protest in a pout.

     “You will, regardless. Now-” she stands up and leans down to take my hands while yelling, “Upsie daisy!” and pulling me to my feet.

     I nearly run into her at the unexpected force but I manage to stop myself at the last moment. I see a frown flicker across Rachel’s lips for just a moment and then it’s gone. “Let’s go. We have history next,” she says much to my dismay.

     “Wonderful, Mr. Gordon’s class. Boy am I glad we won’t be missing that one!” I say sarcastically. Rachel holds up a hand, flick readied to go. I let out a gasp and swat her hand away playfully. She gives a giggle and pokes me in the side to tickle me.

     After several moments of what would certainly end up on the school bulletin as “violent,” behavior, we collect our things and head down to the class.

     The stairs give off a hum in protest to our stamping feet down them. When we reach the exit, Rachel gives a tentative peek outside before fully opening it. She says the coast is clear and we dash out. We run through the lonely courtyard and make our way to the main campus. We pass other students here or there- other “truants” cutting it close to the bell. A ding-dong chime lets us know we’re only a handful minutes away from class starting. We begin a full run but stop ourselves as we turn a bend and notice a teacher. I don’t recognize him.

     He probably teaches the last years- students about to “enter the real world,” but we still can’t afford to be caught by him, not this close to the bell.

     He spends forever trying to straighten up a poster. Behind me, Rachel lightly taps her foot in irritation. A couple minutes later he nods to himself and seems to finally be satisfied with his tedious chore. With an about-face, he cuts across the hall and into the teacher’s lounge. I can make out the name, “Victor” on his nameplate. But this isn’t the time for such idle thoughts.

     By my figuring, we have less than a minute left. Rachel and I sprint for dear life and slam open the classroom door. We rush to our seats and the moment we connect chair with butt Jamie shouts out “safe” and the bell rings. That very moment Mr. Gordon walks in on pudgy legs, with his short hair and his stupidly white tie. He pushes up his glasses while laying his books on his lectern and scans the room. Before long his eyes land on me and Rachel in the seat behind me.

     “Nice to see you ladies have made it,” he says in his throaty voice. With a bashful smile, Rachel gives Mr. Gordon a tiny wave. Mr. Gordon simply nods and starts his lecture on the wonderful world of history. He talks about the world of old and the wars they fought. I’m all but forced to daydream out of the window to get away from it all.

     I simply stare into the field below and imagine- just imagine- how much more things could be. War. I can’t even imagine a “war.” Entire groups of people killing one another for the vaguest of ideas and promises. Life doesn’t like that kind of thinking though. We’re given what we are, and can’t change it. That’s why history is so lame. You can’t learn from the past because the mistakes of the past are theirs and theirs alone. Just like today’s mistakes are ours, just like how today’s won’t be the next generation’s.

     The chime sounds and startles me from my thoughts. I look up just in time to see Mr. Gordon leaving with a scowl on his face, along with Rachel and Jamie making their way over to me. “What’s up?” I ask them.

     “Let’s go have some fun,” Rachel says with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

     “Can Johan come?” Jamie asks.

     Rachel pointedly says,“The new one? Ew, no. Just us friends. We haven’t all hung out together in a while. You’ve been busy-”

     “Having a life?” Jamie says with a hefty dose of snark. Rachel rolls her eyes and goes to flick Jamie before seemingly thinking better of it, and pulling back. The glare on Jamie’s face is terrifying. But she’s familiar enough to Rachel’s far-too-casual attitude. Once we’ve all collected our stuff we decide to make a beeline for the shops by the station.

     My time spent with them is long, and bittersweet in its relative shortness. There’s a small candy store we love to go to when we have a chance. I love their little chocolates. They’re handmade, a trait so few of us have nowadays. The clothing stores we visit are nice too. Clothing isn’t my forte the way it is for Jamie- she’s all about the fashion. But she’s in an extra fervor today due to us making her ditch her boyfriend.

     The clothes she makes us try on range from too embarrassing to think about again, to super cute like the kinds of dresses you see in old children stories, like the one about sheep. Some of my favorites, though I wouldn’t admit it to Jamie, were the darker dresses with the frills. I personally think they give a nice mix of cute with tones of maturity.

     I can’t help but notice Rachel a bit more than I usually would. The setting light, and the way it bounces off of her makes her seem a little otherworldly. But in paying extra attention to her, I’ve realized that she’s gotten quieter as the day’s gone on. I also notice her offering me a lot of glances. Everytime I try to get her attention, to give a silent inquiry on what’s wrong with her, she looks away in a hurry.

      It was during one of these little games of cat-and-mouse that Jamie offers up paying for our food if we eat her favorite restaurant- so of course we do!

     The restaurant we visit is part of the normal layout. We’re greeted by the Serverbot as we enter. It requests our handprints in order to verify our identity numbers. For myself, and Jamie, the beep is a fairly flat one. Yet for Rachel, it’s a bit higher. Nothing else comes of it, but it’s another one of those subtle reminders of how she’s different from the rest of us.

     The Serverbot directs us to a table- though honestly, it’s three tables places loosely together to give the illusion of a connected dinner. The chairs have a few feet between them too, to prevent any kind of misunderstandings. My observations are cut short as the Serverbot comes wheeling up to us, on four wheels, don’t you know it.

     We slide into our seats, and after analyzing the space between each of us, to make sure we’re following decorum, it seems satisfied and asks us to choose from the menu on its chest. It comes to us each in turn as we make our selections. “God I love these salads,” Jamie says while placing her order.

     “Pff It’s all about the cake Jamie. You just don’t understand,” Rachel says while tapping through the Serverbot.

     “I understand my figure Rach,” Jamie quips back. I glance up to see the Severbot wheeling up to me. It stands at about four feet tall with a sleek design. Every bit of it is perfectly angular and its aesthetics are efficient without being offensive. It’s a cool metallic gray, boxy, and with two kinds of cameras on its square “head” to represent eyes. Its chest flashes at me when it stops a foot away from me.

     “Hey now. Serverbot that’s awfully close to my friend don’t you think?” Jamie starts to raise a fuss.

     “Jamie. It’s fine. It’s proximity algorithm probably just had a hiccup,” I try to calm her down in hopes of avoiding a scene. But Jamie is having none of that.

     “No. That’s not alright. Especially not with regulars. Serverbot reexamine your distance parameters and upload the results. Then decommission yourself while sending us another Serverbot.” I feel a frown coming on with the eyes of the restaurant on us now.

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     “Apologies consumer. This unit has completed its primary function. Uploading data now…. Upload completed. Calling for new unit…. Message received. This unit thanks you for your time and patience. This unit apologizes for any and all perceived slights, real or imagined.” With that, the Serverbot slumps forward some and goes dim.

     A moment later its chest flashes and it straightens itself up. It moves a good three inches away from me and announces that a new unit has been installed and apologizes for the inconvenience. “Of course our meals today are free,” Jamie says with spite in her tone.

     “Of course Consumer.”

     I’m so embarrassed, but at least now people are mostly looking away- seemingly having grown bored. I quickly place my order for the most generic mix of foods I can and breathe a sigh of relief when the Serverbot moves on.

     I feel a tap on my foot under the table and almost jump in surprise. I look up and find Jamie is busy playing with her iWrist and taking some kind of photos of herself- seemingly never satisfied with them as she keeps making angry faces after looking each one over.

     I glance over to Rachel but she’s looking away with a bored expression. I see a smile tugging her lips, though, when I feel a small nudge on my foot again. My heart starts to speed up and I take a nervous glance at the people around me. No one seems to be paying us any attention. I can’t believe she’s doing this. She’s always skirting the rules like this.

   I fight, but fail to hide a small smile while returning a small kick back to her feet. I see her smile widen a little and feel another nudge. I send a kick back to her and before I know it we’re wrestling with each other’s legs under the tables. Even though we’re goofing off and having fun I can tell even Rachel is starting to get nervous. No surprise there though, we could easily get in a lot of trouble for this. Reluctantly, we both seem to come to the same understanding and give up our little game after just a few minutes.

     “Oh god, why are you both smiling like fools?” Jamie asks the moment we stop. I breathe a sigh of relief when I realize that she’s none the wiser of our little game.

     “I know not of what you speak Princess,” Rachel says in a mocking old-timey accent.

     Jamie rolls her eyes and scoffs, simply saying “Ok” before returning to her pictures. Before long she stops and a forlorn expression plasters itself on her face.

     “What’s up bitch?” I ask hoping to get a rise out of her.

     She glances up at me and says, “Just… memories lost,” with a distant expression I didn’t even realize someone like her could make. In that moment I realized that maybe I’ve been looking down on her more than I should have been.

     But before I can say anything, Rachel stands up and asks if we wanna leave yet. Jamie nods and stands up quickly while putting her iWrist to sleep.

     We walk slowly through the streets together, us three, separated by a distance dictated to us before our births yet followed with a fervor. The sleepy sun paints us orange while teasing a purple throughout the sky. We’re connected in the sun’s gift and walk slowly back to the station.

     I believe in each of our minds, we simply want to extend this day just a moment longer. We drift through the crowd, always wary of our proximity to everyone else. We keep our relations just out of reach, yet just close enough to form.

     Stuck in a purgatory, the ties that bind are numerous and multifaceted, yet ephemeral. I could reach out to take hold of one, only to have it simply disappear from the briefest of touches. Before the melancholy can truly take over, we arrive at the station and give our goodbyes to Jamie. She lives further away than we do so this is a common scene for us.

     As if choreographed in our synchronicity, Rachel and I turn around and start walking at the same time. Once the crowds start to thin and the twilight begins to take on a deeper hue of darkness, Rachel starts to make her way closer to me. With every step, I watch as she shrinks the gap between us. Perhaps this is proof of what binds us.

     As we get closer to home, Rachel suggests we take the scenic route through the park. It’s a detour for sure but I figure it’s alright. I enjoy the sound of the small transitions of our steps, from concrete, to dirt, as we enter the park from the roadside entrance. We pass through overhangs of trees greeting visitors with touches not always desired.

     I’ve noticed for some time now, that Rachel keeps stealing glances at me. And I don’t mean the kind of glances from before, that seemed like she was just hesitant to say something. No, these glances were wrought with worry. In the coming darkness, with the artificial lights bouncing at us from various directions, it looks like she’s also slowly turning red.

     Eventually, I realize we’ve entered the center of the park and are wholly alone. This is when I notice Rachel has stopped walking with me. I turn around, a good five feet in front of her, and my breath catches in lungs.

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     She stands in the light, beaming red with her fingers twirling against each other- head hung low. I don’t know why but my heart starts to beat rapidly and my breath comes with difficulty. “Rachel?” I ask in a raspy voice. Why am I acting like this? She doesn’t reply to me so I clear my throat and call her again.

     She looks up at me and then back down. The longer I stare at her, the more she nervously shifts her weight from one leg to another. The sight captivates me- confuses me. So I shake my head and take a couple tentative steps toward her. “What’s wrong Rachel?”

     She seems to have finally made up her mind about something because she raises her fist to her chest and gives a nod. She turns a steely gaze toward me. Our eyes meet and again my breath catches. I’ve never seen that kind of expression before.

     My heart is racing so fast that I feel like I could set off the health warning on my iWrist. My body is coated with a sheen of sweat and my joints have turned stiff. Rachel takes a step towards me. Just a single step but it feels like a giant leap. She so close to me now- about a foot away. I’m panicking and the anxiety has turned me to stone.

     My breathing is quickening and that causes my throat to burn as air it rushing down it at extreme speeds. Rachel disregards this though, and reaches up to cup my cheek. “Rachel, what are you doing?” I can’t help but ask.

     “Eve I…” she hesitates, and her eyes take on a watery sheen. She takes in another lungful of air and continues with shaking hands and a voice to match, “I love you Eve. I have loved you for so long.”

     I feel an instant disconnect between myself and my surroundings. I cannot even begin to understand what is happening; yet all of that aside, Rachel is leaning in. I’m no fool. I know what’s coming. I need to pull away and it needs to be now. Barring that, I need to push her away from me.

     But I do neither. I need to take charge of this situation and stop things from proceeding but I don’t. Why am I just standing here?

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