As she opened the door to their flat, Bianca was looking forward to her welcoming glass of whisky from Kate. It had taken longer than she expected, but she'd finally come to terms with her presence in the house. Luke, of course, had been enthusiastic from the start. But even Bianca had to admit it was wonderful not to have to bother preparing a meal when you came home after a long day. Nor to have to force yourself to spend time tidying and cleaning when all you wanted to do was collapse into a chair.
She closed the door behind her and peered around the hall. It was empty. Where was Kate, and her whisky? "Kate? Luke?" There was only silence.
She went upstairs, maybe they were up there for some reason. The door to the bathroom stood open-and empty. Where could they be?
Hesitantly, she pushed open the door of their bedroom. Was Kate bringing Luke a nightcap before bed? What reason could they have for being in there? She soon found out.
Bianca froze in shock, one foot poised in the doorway. She blinked, hoping vainly that she was imagining things, but no.
There was Luke-in their bed with... Kate. Both of them were naked. How could he?
She drew in her breath, uncertain as to whether she was going to shout or sob. The sound of her indrawn breath alerted Luke, who turned to face her, his expression a curious mixture of guilt and defiance.
"How could you?" Bianca managed to get out. The words seemed woefully inadequate-five years of loving commitment cast aside in one devastating blow.
"I don't know why you're so upset," said Luke, sitting up, challenging her. "You're the one who said she was just a machine. It's no different from using a sex toy."
Bianca flinched as if she'd been struck. She felt dazed, her mind grappling with what Luke had thrown at her. That was true, it was exactly what she had said. Kate was a machine-she just looked and acted like a person. Could Luke be right? But however much her head rationalised, her heart wasn't buying it. Her heart didn't see a machine-her heart saw her partner in bed with another woman.
Luke was wrong-this was different. It felt different. Bianca felt betrayed.
She slept downstairs, not waiting to see if Luke would tell Kate to leave... or not. She felt too hurt and emotional to cope with the scene that was bound to follow if she challenged him in her current mood.
The next morning, she tackled Luke, making an effort to speak calmly and reasonably. He might honestly see Kate as the equivalent of a vibrator, but she couldn't. Luke loved her, surely he would listen to her.
But to her dismay, Luke refused point blank to get rid of Kate.
"Having Kate here has made a real difference to my work. I can spend my spare time on my inventions, instead of housework and other crap. I'm not sending her back. You're being silly, Bianca. It's just a machine! You said so yourself."
Bianca moved out into a hotel, no longer able to stay with Luke in the flat in which she had been at once so happy and so miserable.
Naturally the media had a field day.
"Android Romance Splits Couple. The romance of high profile partners, Bianca Minola, 28, and Luke Veron, 27, is on the rocks, reputedly over Veron's relationship with their android. 'No comment,' says a tight-lipped Bianca, owner of Androids'R Us, the multi-million electronics business which shot into prominence recently with the release of the popular Kate and Peter models.
'There's no romance! It's only a damn machine,' protests Veron, angrily. 'And besides, a man has to be boss in his own house, doesn't he?'"
Over the next few weeks, Bianca found herself wondering bitterly whether this was cosmic payback for her scornful laughter. Now she understood only too well, the feelings of those other people in the news; their relationships torn apart by an android-a machine that was supposed to make their lives easier, not harder.
Perhaps Elsa had been right, perhaps Kate and Peter were too human, at least for a lot of people. Should she withdraw them from sale? But despite herself, she couldn't help thinking that if a relationship was sound enough, the android wouldn't have been a problem. Look at Vincent and Giorgio, for god's sake. They had worked it out, together. Maybe the androids were not the cause of the problem but a symptom. Was humanity still not ready for relationships built on equality?
Even now, she couldn't forgive Luke for that crass statement about being the boss. He'd denied it of course, blaming the media for misquoting, but...
The separation was messy. The court case dragged on, month by painful exhausting month, Luke fighting every step of the way. The vicious struggle over who got what share of Bianca's business, Androids 'R Us, soon eroded any remaining feelings of love or even friendship between them, but eventually it was over.
Two weeks later
Bianca's feet were aching and she was thinking only of a hot bath and bed when she opened the door of her new apartment. Thank god she could finally move on with her life. The hall light was on low.
"Welcome home, Ms Bianca." A voice came out of the shadows. A hand offered her a glass of whisky, single malt by the colour. "I've run your bath."
Bianca took it with a grateful smile. "Thank you, Peter."
(Author's Note - 'Kate and Peter' ends here - new story 'Sam Strikes Back' commences next)
YOU ARE READING
SFSD XScience Fiction
7. Evleyen is on her seventh and-thankfully-final mission for the month. Crossing the silvery grey moon, Harooo, on her trusty Steed to deliver urgent medical supplies, she takes an unexpected detour... . Round Seven (tie-breaker) - Lost World...