FOR WHOM THE GOD'S FAVOR
Copyright © Victor Hadnot and Amanda Travis
"Do not ask for whom the god's favor, for their mercies are unto thee." The Monk's Diaries
It could have been any other day. Just another day in Akarta city, Jerome looked out onto the neighbor's balcony, from across the street, in the other building. The city works did a very good job of affecting what a pleasant sunrise should look like, under the evo-dome. The young woman across the way, on her balcony, was beautiful. Long flowing dishwater colored hair, thin, but not sickly thin, Jerome could tell that she worked out regularly, even from that distance. As he sat there, in his kitchen sipping coffee, reading the news on is ethereal pad. She was wearing a shear gown, no doubt, something she had just thrown on, so she could walk out onto her balcony, stretch, breath in clean and clear, heavily scrubbed and processed air.
Just then, an aircar whizzed pass, followed by sky police, it wasn't suppose to be flying this low, this close to residential buildings. But, from time to time, people would take them off of autopilot and try a maneuver or two themselves, all before the A.I. which made such travel possible would kick back in, and safely correct the situation. Spectra, Jerome's domestic robot maid came around the corner. Domestic robots used to be so expensive, that only the very rich owned them, but with time, it became more apparent, that selling to the middle class, was the way to go, and so, the prices dropped as technology figured out how to make them cheaper. So, it was considered odd, if you didn't have the appliance, even if it was a used one. Spectra was a high end, used D.R. (domestic robot), he had gotten some three years ago, after trading up from the old economy model he had.
"Taking her usual morning stretch? Spectra questioned.
Jerome glanced at his maid and grinned, "Do you think she is aware that I sit here almost every morning and admire her from afar, Spectra?"
Spectra served him his tasty yet sparse breakfast. "I believe that she would be rather disappointed, if you didn't, Master Jerome."
He looked back over there, this time, considering possibilities. "Maybe I should call her. Introduce myself."
Spectra went on, "Hello, my name is Jerome. Oh, by the way, I've been acting like a Peeping Tom for ever so long, admiring your morning stretches. On that note, not to appear to be a pervert, would you like to have dinner with me some time?"
Jerome was just about to laugh at Spectra's sense of humor, when, there was a response.
"Hmm? You are the young man across the street? Sitting in his kitchen?" Jerome looked sternly at Spectra, realizing that the D.R. had taken, what was a whimsical notion from his part, and acted on it, as if it was a command.
Damn D.R.'s, no matter how well programmed they were, they could still take things too literally. "Er. Yes. Yes, that would be me." And at that, he waved.
She waved back and blew him a kiss. "I was wondering when you'd have the stomach to say something to me. Anything actually, but this is rather nice."
Jerome got up and walked to the window. "Yeah. Well. I'd been enjoying watching you for so long..."
"Not in a creepy way. No. I mean, you know, just sitting here. Having breakfast. Me and my D.R."
"I see. Is that the one who made the initial call?" Her voice was lyrical.
"Er. Yes. Sorry about that. I'd had done it myself. But..."
"It is ok. At least it got done. Right?"
"Yeah. Right." Jerome didn't know if he should go there, but his mouth went anyway. "You are taking all of this, rather well."
"Well. Thank you." She watched from across the way, as Spectra opened the curtains even more, on the pretense of getting in more light. "Ah, you have one of the better D.R.s. I have an older model, same make though."
Spectra waved at her. Jerome tried and motioned Spectra away. "Don't you have some chores to do, or something?"
Spectra was going to say, "Actually, I have already..." But, then the D.R saw the look on his face. "Oh, yes. I do have that thing, I have to do."
"Then, right then, go at it." Jerome ordered the robot. Then, he turned his attention back to the woman across the street. But, she had already gone on back inside of her apartment. "Damn." he muttered.
It had been over a hundred years, since the first colonization of Mars. Evo-domes were a normal sight on the surface. The smaller ones were from the early colonization, while the larger ones, haled the more modern era, all were linked with super highspeed rail. Jerome's family was one of the early settlers. Having had to endure hardships, that modern human Martians, only read about in history books.
As Jerome left for work, his ethereal pad activated. It was the girl from across the street. "Hi." The young woman said.
Jerome was rather pleased. "Hello. I didn't mean to leave things hanging like that."
"But, you were not going to do anything about it?" The woman's voice hung for a moment. "That's ok. Spectra was kind enough to give me your personal line."
"Spectra?" Jerome made a mental note to have a word with his D.R. "Oh. Ok. Great. Like I was saying, dinner sometime."
"How about tomorrow? I'm free."
Jerome wasn't very well prepared for this conversation, and, he wasn't a player enough to just go with the flow. "Er. Sure, why not. I'm free, too."
The young woman smiled. "Great. See you then." And before he could say anything else, the call was over. Damn, she didn't specify where we were suppose to have dinner. In fact, I didn't get her name, either. Jerome thought to himself.
At work, it was one big blur. Routine and schedule, just another typical day in Jerome's life. At certain points, the only thing that broke the routine, was thinking about the young woman across the street. The day was all done, and Jerome decided to have a bite out, at his favorite restaurant, it wasn't a super expensive, super fancy place. But, the food was good, service acceptable, and it was close to his apartment. As he got started, he glanced up, and standing next to his table, was her.
"Oh. Wow. You startled me. What are you doing here?" Jerome uttered.
She gestured, indicating if she may join him. He got up and seated her. "You did say that we were suppose to have dinner?" Her smile made his heart skip for a moment.
"Er. Yes. Yes I did, we do have a date. But, for tomorrow." He couldn't help staring at her amazing beauty. There was something magical about her eyes.
"Ah. I was never very good with time and dates. Hope you don't mind me just dropping in like this? I mean, if you have other plans?"
Plans? Jerome thought to himself. Then, "Nope. Not a one. Actually, I'm very glad that you are here." He gestured to the waitress, then after ordering her a meal, they settled in. "So. I'm Jerome..."
"Yes. I know." Her grey eyes darted about the room for a moment.
"And you are?"
"You can call me Auria." Her eyes finally resting on him.
"Nice to meet you, Auria." They ate, small talked, had a few genuinely good laughs, some wine. After all that, they decided to walk to her apartment. The artificial effects on the evo-dome were quite nice. "I had fun." Was one of the lesser inspired things to come out of his mouth.
"Yes. So did I." she took hold of his arm as they strolled.
"It is funny. All the time, I was noticing you, you were noticing me. And it took a D.R. to bring us together."
"Sign of the time, huh?"
"Actually, I'd noticed you out on the street, before."
"Really? I never saw you." His brow raised.
"No. You didn't notice me. We actually sat next to one another, one time, on the train."
"You know, I'd think that I would have noticed that. I'm so sorry, I get all caught up in my work and stuff." Jerome looked at her, really looked at her. "I should have noticed someone as beautiful as you."
"Oh, thanks. But, like you said. All caught up in your work. I was going to say something to you. But, then, I realized, what could I say? Hi, I'm the woman across the street. You know, the one you watch every morning,, while she stretches."
After a somewhat unusual start, the two managed to become a successful couple. What they didn't have in common, they made up for by having a mutual interest, and their differences seemed to compliment one another. Jerome and Auria had talents and interest that made them a good fit. After about six months of intense romance, Jerome and Auria found themselves on a warm day, sitting in the park admiring a sculpture by Aufonza, a post neo-modernist of Mars, They were just doing what they had mapped out for themselves, when out of nowhere Auria said:
"I love you."
Jerome went on doing what he was doing. Then, he stopped and looked at her. Auria was staring at him, waiting for him to respond. He finally took her hand and held it and smiled. But, the words that she was waiting for never happened. This sparked a change in their relationship. As would be expected. About a week went by, things had already started to cool off between Jerome and Auria, and he found himself in his favorite upscale bar, with a few of his long time friends.
Allen, a good buddy of his spoke. "Look. You blew it. You should have held her hands and told her what she wanted to hear. I've met Auria a few times. She is a nice girl."
Mandy on the other hand, had designs on Jerome, she'd had feelings for him for quite sometime. "I don't agree."
"What? You don't?" said Allen.
Mandy uttered to Jerome, who was sitting next to them, he'd had a bit too much to drink. "I think you did the right thing. I mean, think about it..."
"Think about what?" Jerome said.
"No. Seriously. Think about what it really means to tell someone that?"
"Ok. What does it mean?"
"Well. For one. Telling someone that you love them, means something different, to a man than it does, to a woman."
Allen nodded. "I have to agree with Mandy on that one."
"Really?" Jerome voiced.
Mandy spoke. "Think of it this way. Since the two of you have been together. You both have played this little game of not actually wanting to be the first one to tell the other that you love them. Right?"
Jerome kind of shrugged. "I suppose you could put it in that context. Yeah. Okay. We did have this little thing going."
"Well. You know. Like you said. We'd play this little game. You know. Try to get the other to admit that they were in love with them. Just do little things that might lead up to an admission."
Allen interjected. "Every couple does it. It's just a game we all play."
Mandy agreed. "Yes. It is the love game. It has been going on for as long as their have been couples."
"So. What do I do about it?" Jerome asked.
Allen answered first. "Just go and tell her that you love her. It will be alright."
Mandy shook her head. "No. You can't do that now. If you go running up and tell her that you suddenly love her. She won't believe you. It'll look like a mercy vow."
Jerome looked up. "A mercy vow?"
"Yes. Sure. You see. Every time you tell someone in a situation like that, that you love them. It is a vow. You are vowing your love for them. It takes the relationship to the next level."
"The next level? And that is what you think that Auria was trying to do that day?"
"Well. Sure. She was trying to push you into committing to something that you were obviously not ready for." Mandy said this, because she had designs on Jerome, she wanted him for herself.
Allen spoke up. "But, look, buddy. You can still have the girl. It is not too late. Believe me when I tell you this. Auria knows that she probably pushed you too hard. And she is a smart woman. She'll give you another chance to tell her. In fact, that is exactly what she is probably doing, giving you a chance to process what had just happened. She's ready for the next step, the next level of you guy's relationship. Men are stupid, and women know this, but Auria is crazy about you, Jerome. Just tell her, no matter how stupid it might sound to you, because of the situation, tell her that you love her. She'll more than likely build a bridge to the next level, by allowing you to do that."
Mandy didn't want to hear that. "Men, you think you have all the answers. Allen, could you get us another round?"
"Sure. Good idea." And Allen went merrily on off.
Mandy had what she wanted, Jerome all to herself now. "Hey, I feel for what you are going through. I'm here for you, Jerome." She slowly, and slyly began to touch him in a certain way. "We've been friends for what? For how long?"
"Yeah. For like years. You and Allen are my best friends."
"Yeah. We are. And I am. I'm the woman that is here for you right now. In all the time that we have known each other, I've never tried to trick you into telling me that you love me. I wouldn't put you on the spot like that, Jerome."
Jerome had already had too much to drink. "You know, you are right. If she really cared for me, she wouldn't have tricked me like that. She would have waited for me to come around."
"There you go. Now you are thinking clearly." Clearly, not...
Jerome nodded. "Now I am thinking clearly. You know, I've never said it, but I want you to know it..."
"To know what, baby?" Mandy was pushing him on.
"I love you." Jerome blurted out. "I love you, Mandy. You are a good friend. A person can count their good friends, on one hand." He held up a finger. "There you are. One of my friends."
"Yeah. I feel the same way about you too. A good friend." Mandy echoed, then she kissed him.
"Oh. What was that for?" His demeanor changed.
She didn't get the reaction that she wanted. "Oh. You know. I'm a girl, you're a boy. We can be friends and a little more. Right?" And she kissed him again, but this time, he responded likewise.
"You know, I got to pee." Jerome suddenly decided.
"Oh. You seem a little shaky. Need help walking you there?" Mandy was more than willing to offer.
"Do you mind?"
"Don't be silly." And with that, she helped him to his feet. He was actually less tipsy than she acted like he was. He actually, probably didn't need all of her help. But, in the light of the situation, he was accepting the pity and the help, not realizing where it was headed.
Allen came back with the drinks, not realizing what had just happened. Mandy, gave him a story, and went on about walking Jerome to the restroom. Once inside the coed restroom, Jerome began to take care of his business. Mandy did likewise, but, while all the time, waiting for the right moment. Then, when she perceived the time was right, she began to make out with him, right there in the restroom. There was one other person in there with them, when they saw what was going on, they quickly got out of there, leaving the two, to have drunken restroom sex. The act went on for a good while. Then, suddenly, right in the middle of the two climaxing, the door swung open, and in walked Allen and Auria.
Auria had come to the bar, looking for Jerome. She wanted to tell him that she understood what he was going through, and that she was willing to wait on him, because she felt that the two of them had something special going on. But, like so many things that happen in life, her plans didn't go the way that she thought. When she arrived, Allen told her that Jerome was using the toilet, he had gone to take a piss. And that Mandy had gone with him, because he was a bit tipsy.
The rest was now so obvious. There they stood, watching their friends, Auria's boyfriend and lover, having dirty sex on the restroom counter, they were so into it, that they didn't even realize that Auria and Allen had entered the room. But, then, Jerome noticed that they had an audience. He quickly pulled away from Mandy, who gave Auria a stern look, knowing now, that she was the other woman.
"So. That is why you couldn't tell me that you loved me." Auria looked scornfully at Mandy. "Because you are involved with her!" And with that, Auria stormed out of the restroom.
Allen voiced. "Dude. Dude, you shouldn't have done this. And, Mandy, really? Really?"
Jerome pulled on his pants and tried to go after Auria, but Mandy pulled on him, and gave him a big lustful kiss, then watched Auria's and Allen's reactions. As Jerome fumbled his way out of the restroom chasing after a now gone Auria.
As time went by from that day, things never got back to where they had been, before Auria had caught Jerome cheating on her. For some reason, now, they seemed to bump into each other, here and there, something that didn't seem to happen, before they had been a couple. Perhaps it was because, now, they paid attention to each other, even if afar. Time went by, emotions cooled, a chilling realization went over Jerome. He had lost perhaps one of the best ladies that he'd ever known. And all for what? One moment of weakness? One day at work, he got to talking with Allen and Mandy, during a break.
"It's been awhile since she and I talked." Jerome pined.
Mandy was still working her angle. "You know, sometimes things are just not meant to be."
Allen weighed in. "Have you tried calling her?"
"Yes. The first week, everyday. Then, I realized that it was getting creepy. So, I stopped. Then, I realized, that if I stop, she might think that I didn't care. I don't know."
Mandy voiced. "Maybe it is time to move on?" As she said that, she tossed her hair, hoping that he would notice.
"You might be right. I mean, let's face it. She caught me having sex with you, Mandy. I don't know what got into me, I just did it, I'm so weak, I guess." Jerome uttered.
Then suddenly, a voice he recognized from around the corner. "Is that what you think? That you are weak, Jerome?"
Jerome looked around, and rounding the corner was Auria, looking even more beautiful then ever, if that were possible. Jerome said, "Auria? How? What?"
"Really? Jerome? Is that the first thing you want to say to me?" She looked him squarely in the eyes. Then, she glanced at the other two, as if to imply that they should give them some privacy.
Allan and Mandy, seemed as shocked to see her as Jerome was. But, took the hint and left the area. When they were gone, Jerome uttered. "No. What I want to say is that I'm sorry."
"So am I." she voiced.
"What? What do you mean? I'm the one who should be apologizing to you. For all that I have done to you. I'm really sorry." His voice was weak and wimpy.
"We had some good times together."
"Yeah. We did."
"Walk me out of the building?"
"Sure. Yes. You look great, Auria." He blurted out as they started.
"I wanted to say goodbye. I'm leaving. I got an offer in another city, good job, great pay. Nice position." She looked at him tentatively.
"Oh. I see. Well. Congratulations. I'm very happy for you, Auria. You know I wish you only the very best. I really do..."
They stopped for a moment, she touched his face, "I know you do, Jerome. You need to stop tormenting yourself. What happened shouldn't have happened. But, it did. I am not going to tell you that I wasn't seriously hurt. I was and still am. But, forgiveness is part of my philosophy."
"Not that I deserve forgiveness." Jerome said.
"Really? Did you mean to hurt me?"
Jerome shook his head, took hold of her soft, delicate hands. "No! Of course not. Auria, I love you. I know it sounds crazy. Now. After what I did. And I can only imagine the horror you felt when you caught me and Mandy in the restroom. I don't know what to say. I am so sorry that I ever caused you pain, like that."
Auria kissed him gently. "I know." And they began to walk on again. "You have to get, out that way, and visit me some time."
Jerome was emotionally off balance. "I'd like that, Auria. You know, I can help you move. Help you pack and stuff."
"Hmm? Would you be willing?" she asked as if he'd say otherwise.
"Absolutely. Yes. I'd love to help the only woman I have ever truly loved. Leave my life, forever. Yes..."
Auria giggled. "You are being silly..."
"Silly? Yes. This is me, not knowing what to say. How to act. You know. I do have trouble behaving."
"We'll have to work on it. Won't we?"
Jerome was dense when it came to things of the heart. Spectra, his D.R. had to give him a push in the right direction, just to get him to connect with someone as exquisite as Auria. His friend Allen, had to give him solid advice, and be a good friend, when in need. While he was still, on speaking terms with Mandy, he didn't totally blame what happened on her alone. After all, some part of him, must have wanted to be with her, if only for that brief moment. But, it was Auria who won his heart, lived in his dreams and possessed his soul.
What he and Mandy had done to Auria, Jerome would never forgive himself, for behaving like that, being unfaithful. But, the real surprise was how Auria behaved, after the initial hurt and pain, of betrayal had settled. There was that rare quality to forgive him, to look past a moment's indiscretion, and see beyond normal human frailty and weakness. Just before they entered the elevator, Auria glanced sternly back at Mandy, who was watching them from her cubicle. Auria grinned a grin, that told Mandy, that she understood what she had done. That while Jerome was not without blame, she understood that Mandy, had she been a true friend, would not have sought to take advantage of the situation, like she did.
At that moment, Mandy flopped into her chair. Allen came over, drinking a cup of coffee. He said, "I called Auria."
Mandy looked up. "You? You set this whole thing up? That is why she is here?"
"Yeah. That is what good friends do for one another, Mandy. They help when they can. I told her what really happened that night. How Jerome was trying to figure out how to propose to her and everything. How he loved her so much, that under normal circumstances, there was no way he'd cheat on her. Basically, I blamed it all on you." Allen took a sip of his coffee, grinned a wicked grin at Mandy, then glanced around, as he watched his best friend and Auria, as they entered the elevator, and the door close.
Jerome sat there, at the table, looking out of the window. It could have been any other day. Just another processed, environmentally engineered day. He glanced out the window, watching the flying cars above. The people below, on the street, going about their usual daily business. Suddenly, an aircar whizzed by, followed by the sky police. Jerome shook his head, will people ever learn? Spectra rounded the corner with his sparse breakfast. She pulled the curtains back for a better view. Out on the balcony, was the most beautiful woman Jerome had ever had the pleasure to watch.
She was tall and thin, not too thin, because she worked out regularly. It was so obvious that she took good care of herself, and all things pertaining to her.
Spectra uttered. "Seems like it is going to be a nice day, Master Jerome.
"Yes. It does, doesn't it, Spectra?" he responded as he sipped his coffee.
Spectra questioned. "Shall I bring out Master Auria's breakfast now?"
Jerome looked over at the robot and said, "Yeah. Give it a few minutes and bring her breakfast out."
And with that, he stepped out onto the balcony, where his newly wed wife was stretching. She smiled as he joined her, they kissed, and he began to shadow her routine, moving slowly in harmony as she moved.
"Honey, I love you." Jerome told her.
Auria smiled, though she kind of turned so he couldn't see it. "You better!" she expounded.
They moved with the grace and harmony of a young couple deeply in love. Spectra watched the two of them for a good moment. Then the robot turned, and rounded the corner to go about putting the final touches on Auria's breakfast. Spectra said, "Sometimes, you just got to give them a little push, and love will find a way."
That was very wise for a machine. Back on the balcony, Jerome and Auria had stopped stretching and were embracing. Auria said, "You know, we should go out tonight, after work."
Jerome replied, "Oh. Really? But it is just a week night."
"Hmm. Just a week night? But, week nights can be made special." she looked him deeply in the eyes.
"I'll get Spectra to make the arrangements." He called over to Spectra who indicated that she'd get on it. "So, we need to make up a reason for such a departure from our normal routine."
Auria kissed him softly on the lips. "Well. I've got one, if you like..."
"Oh. I'm sure I'll like whatever occasion you say, Auria."
Auria buried her head on his chest and replied, "How about the celebration of us becoming a family?" Then, she looked him in the eyes. "We're pregnant..."