On Sunday Morning, Part 4: Garrett

On Sunday morning, Garrett did not wake up. He did, however, unplug himself from the charging station. He flexed his fingers one by one while examining the power indicator on his palm. There was a slight delay to the action, but nothing to be especially concerned about. Plus he had enough power to last at least a good four days. Some of his skin was starting to fray, he was going to have to get that looked at.

Freddie was sat at the breakfast bar, reading a paper and circling his finger around the lip of a ceramic mug full of coffee. The mug was sky blue, and had the phrase ‘#1 Dadboss!’ painted on both sides in bright red, surprisingly neatly.

“What are you doing?” asked Garrett, as he walked into the kitchen, perching himself on the counter.

“Nothin’ important,” Freddie said, folding up the paper and rubbing the sleep from his eyes, “What about you?”

Garrett shrugged, “I was going to head to the library at some point. But that’s it.” He shrugged again as if that helped emphasise his lack of point.

“Actually then, if you’re heading out, do you mind picking up my suit from the dry cleaners? We’ve got a party to go to in a week or so.”

“Really? What for?”

“Some silly socialite having a celebration about how great they are and why I should give them money or something. But, appearances and all that,” he said, rubbing his temple absentmindedly. A lock of greying hair fell in front of his eye, but he ignored it.

“Do you need me to come? Like, really need me?”

“Well, no, I don’t need you. But it’d be nice. You did say you wanted to get better at the whole uh…social calendar thing, right?”

“Did I say that? I don’t think I said that.”

“And also at lying. You really need to get better at lying.” Garrett pulled a face, broad and exaggerated. “And subtlety.”

“Message received, Freddie,” said Garrett.

Garrett no longer had to obey direct orders but he liked to, given half the chance. He wondered how much of that was out of compulsion and how much was out of choice. He hoped it was mostly the latter. Freddie had a way of speaking that made you feel intensely guilty for not doing what he needed. This was probably how he’d made most of his money. That, and making sure he knew everyone else’s business, even before they knew it. It was hard to resent him for it though.

The dry cleaners was quite a walk away, taking the best part of half an hour. But Garrett enjoyed the walk. He liked to look at people and imagine what they were thinking. Empathy didn’t come naturally to him, but he was working on it. He just liked to keep his distance. There was a logic to that. He was in and out of the shop itself in minutes. Freddie’s name tended to open doors like that.

In fact he’d-

It was at this point that Garrett tripped. This was not usual. He took a second, while lying on the floor, to reflect on his life choices.

“Oh my god, are you alright?!”

Oh no. People.

“Yeah, I’m fine, don’t make a fuss, please. I’m alright.”

He felt someone grasping under his arms and hoisting him to his feet. He made an attempt at some kind of apology, but he couldn’t find the processing power, so it came out as a useless stammer.

“There you- oh. Oh!”

Garrett turned his head to look at his rescuer. It was a young woman, with bright eyes, clad in a minty green dress. She was carrying a heavy looking, striped pastel-coloured box which had a swatch of fabric peeking out from the side. She blinked at him, taking him in.

Garrett did not look like a human, thus it was hard to mistake him for anything but a synthetic. But he had just enough in common with them to make most people feel a little uncomfortable. The fact that he had civilian clothes and was usually seen walking around unaccompanied made even more people uncomfortable. He’d long ago stopped counting the times he’d been threatened with scrapping, or worse. And then the overly friendly ones were worse. They always seemed like they were angling for something, which made him feel distinctly uncomfortable. There were more than a few people who were intensely curious about synthetics. It made his skin crawl, in as much as that was possible.

Usually, it was best to act as inoffensively as possible. He looked at the floor, folding his arms behind his back. The woman looked at him for a few moments more, before kneeling down and picking up the dry cleaning bag.

“Here, you dropped this,” she said as she passed the bag over. Garrett took it from her, forgetting to act inoffensive for a second and stared at her like she’d passed him a lit explosive. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“It’s not damaged or anything is it? I think I might have bumped you with this,” she indicated the box she was carrying.

“No, it’s not. Thank you.”

“DAHLIA! HURRY UP!”

Someone else was at the end of the corridor, waving frantically. Dahlia looked to the source of the noise and sighed.

“Alright then. You have a nice day now, yeah?” And with that she set off at a light jog. “I’m coming, alright?!”

Garrett stared after her for a minute, before turning on his heels and heading back to home. Freddie was going to want to hear about this.

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On Sunday Morning, Part 3: Avery

On Sunday morning, Avery woke up and started gathering her clothes into a small plastic sack. She’d been putting off a trip to the laundromat for the best part of a fortnight, and she was starting to get funny looks. Plus, she had a job serving drinks at one of the nicer shindigs in a few days. If you looked respectable enough at those, you could get repeat business for months.

She swung her legs out of bed onto a rug she’d saved for a few months to get. It was a luxury, but it was worth it t not to get instantly cold feet. Although, as bedsits went, this was one of the nicer ones that she lived in. There was enough floor space to get two beds in, so Reiko could stay over, and the landlord wasn’t too much of a hard-ass. You took what you could get.

Reiko was already awake and fully-dressed, making a cup of Postum.

“Morning, Avery,” she said, rubbing grit from her eyes.

“Mornin’,” said Avery without emotion. Reiko rolled her eyes, then handed a mug to her. In a previous life, it had been a good mug. Now it was held together with duct tape and dreams.

“Are you off to the laundromat, love?” asked Reiko.

“No, I’m deliverin’ presents to all the good little boys and girls.”

“Har de har. I’ve seen your wardrobe, love. It’s no gift for anyone.”

Avery pulled a face.

“You got a funny way of askin’ for a favour.”

“So judgemental! I could just be expressing an interest in your life.”

“Hah!”

This was how most of the conversations would go. She’d never tell her, but Avery had a deep, and unerring affection for her friend, and she liked to think that this went both ways. She liked how she talked, for a start, with a deep plummy voice, and she used words like ‘love’ and ‘friend’ as if they were conversational candy, used for decorating sentences. And it seemed that whenever something was wrong, Reiko was always the first to attempt to make things right. ‘Never leave a mistake unfixed’ she would say, with a knowing glint in her eyes.

“Would you mind taking a few of my things too? You’re a better runner than me. And just faster in general,” she tilted her head, like a puppy angling for a treat. Flattery will get you everywhere, my friend, thought Avery.

This was true. There weren’t many who were better at running than Avery, while Reiko was terrible. Which made sense, given that Avery had been born on the lower levels, and Reiko had moved.

“You have everything you could ever want up there, what could be worth havin’ what warrants you havin’ to come down here?” Avery had asked at the time.

“Believe me,” Reiko had said, “this is better.”

There was a lot of value in getting to be yourself, Avery supposed.

“You know I hate doin’ your laundry. I always worry I’m gonna ruin your bras.”

“You don’t worry about yours.”

“Mine are full of holes. Also they look proper sad. Yours are pretty and have all that nice padding.”

“It’s not hard, just put it on delicate.”

Later, as Avery was clambering over a particularly sharp bit of pipework, letting the bag rest in the crook of her arm, she wondered if there was any kind of reality where she didn’t take Reiko’s things. The fact that she couldn’t think of one seemed unfair.

She pressed her foot against the wall to tie her bootlace, listening to the whirring of the internal mechanisms. A part of her liked to imagine that she’d be able to tell if there was some kind of fault. Either she’d be able to fix it, or she could laugh while everything exploded around her. It was a win-win.

A sudden crashing sound interrupted her thoughts, and she immediately dropped down into a prone. After a few moments, she peered over the side of the rafters. There were two men stood in the main gangway, each draped in climbing gear. One was fretting over a canvas sack, from which various shiny things were spilling.

Scavvers. Fantastic. This was why she travelled in the rafters. She could count two, but you could never be too certain with these types. They’d even cut their own grandma’s if they thought she had some good loot on her.

“Shit, dude, what’s dropping the loot gonna prove to anyone?”

“This one’s my take, you hear?!” said one of them.

“We split it, that was the deal,” said the other, evenly.

I said 60/40. You weren’t listenin’,”

“Now I know for a fact that we didn’t, ‘cos I don’t agree to anything less than fifty.”

Avery briefly entertained the thought of intervening, like a ninja or a superhero, but thought better of it. She was trying to avoid that sort of thing now.

“Look, man, I got kids, you ain’t got anybody. Sixty to me is more like…like twenty to you.”

“You were never good with numbers, you asshole.”

There was the distinctive sound of a fist smacking into someone’s face, and the two men disappeared from her view. The sounds of struggle continued though, or more accurately the sound of something being smashed into the metal walls. A body dropping. A sigh.

“Shit.” Avery wondered who had lived. Who’d wanted it more? Probably the second one, if she had to bet on it.

She sat. And she waited. And when she was certain the cost was clear, she kept on running.

 

On Sunday Morning, Part 2: Joshua

On Sunday morning, Joshua woke up twice.

The first time it happened, it was 2AM. He went downstairs and sat on the sofa with his knees drawn up and waited quietly. This was what he usually did. The sofa was threadbare and springy and probably would need replacing at some point, but he’d never had the heart to. Anything newer probably wouldn’t feel right.

Next to the sofa was a balsawood coffee table with a thin, rattling drawer. There was a bottle of whiskey inside, with two neon post-it-notes attached.

The first said: ‘Happy Birthday! xxx’ in a neat, considered print.

The second said: ‘Don’t’, in a much less considered print.

Joshua pulled off the second, then put the bottle back. An hour later, he went back to bed and stared at the ceiling until he fell asleep again. This was all quite normal.

The second time it happened, it was the more reasonable time of 8AM. This time he was awoken by a gentle ‘ahem’ from the other side of the bed.

“You woke me up this morning.”

Jacqueline was wrapped in one of the thin sheets, lying on her side and resting her head lazily on one arm. Joshua liked Jacqueline best in the morning. Her eyes were softer then, and her ash brown hair naturally fell in tight ringlets that framed her face. In the evening she tended to tie it to the side, and her eyes gained an aloof quality to them. It was like a set of armour for her.

“Sorry.”

“I’ve got a show tonight.”

“Sorry.” There was a pause, as Joshua considered this, “Who the hell goes to a cabaret show on a Sunday evening, anyway? Don’t these people have jobs?” Jacqueline chuckled, rolling over so that she straddled him, and let the sheet fall away.

“Not real ones. Although perhaps I shouldn’t start throwing too many accusations about in that regard,” she sighed, absentmindedly tracing her hand over his chest. Her fingers were smooth, but cool which made him wriggle uncomfortably and turn his head away. She’d hung her costume for the evening on a hook on the door. It was made of a sheer, peach-coloured fabric, and trimmed in something glittery. He liked the sheer part, at least. And the peach looked good against her skin. Although Jacqueline was the type of woman who could wear a ball gown and still look naked. He wondered if that was the correct opinion. He wondered if he should ever tell her that. “You really should talk to Dr Kalua about it, if you can’t sleep.”

“I know. Been too busy.”

“You’re always busy, darling.” The ‘darling’ was pointed like a shiv. Jacqueline had pet names for everyone, but ‘darling’ seemed to be reserved for him, and even then only when he was disappointing her. She called him darling quite a lot. Joshua felt a little patronised, but was too sleepy to comment.

“Crime never sleeps, Jazz,” he said, in an equally pointed way, drawing out the zeds.

“Yes, but you still need to,” Jacqueline prodded him in the chest, a little sharply. Nicknames, thought Joshua, should probably not be a way to score some cheap points.

“It ain’t like-“

“Isn’t.”

“It isn’t like I’ve got plans that need me to be well and wide-awake.”

Jacqueline sighed again and rolled off of him, heading over towards her vanity and directing her attention to a powder puff.

“You never have plans. Get some plans.”

“Mmm.” Joshua rolled over and pulled the sheets back over his head. The bed was warm and non-judgemental.

Jacqueline had introduced herself to him in a fairly typical way. A lounge singer who’d gotten herself on the wrong side of the law and was rather insistent that only he could help her. In hindsight, it was perhaps less of a coincidence that they’d ended up together. Joshua doubted he’d actually had much of a choice in the matter. Not that he minded. Much. Jacqueline was good company at the best of times, and often quite funny.

“Hey.” The bedframe creaked slightly, and Joshua became aware of their being a weight on the bed next to him. Jacqueline tugged the sheet back down firmly, but there was a warmth to her smile. “Happy six month-iversary.”

Joshua waited for the punchline. The slightly earnest look on her face told him that one was not coming.

“You just made that up. Also, no way has it been six months.”

Jacqueline smirked. That was concerning.

“Firstly, maybe I did. Secondly, it totally has.” She reached over to the nightstand and produced her PDA from one of the drawers. “See?” Joshua blinked, deciding it was probably best to take her word for it.

“So…what does that mean?”

“Besides the obvious time thing? I don’t know. What do you want it to mean, darling?”

“It’s way too early for questions like that,” Joshua said, a little too quickly. Jacqueline leaped on the opportunity like a house cat on an unwitting mouse.

“In the day, or in the relationship?” There was a playful tone to her voice. Joshua never knew how seriously to take her. This was exhausting. He briefly wondered if he could fake falling asleep, or if that would just make the situation more awkward.

“Yes.”

She laughed at that, and the tension dissolved.

“Now, not to panic you or anything, but I’ve got a performance at Dahlia’s launch party in a week, I’m not saying you have to come along but if you do then could you try and talk like someone of decent bre-“

And morning Jacqueline was gone. She’d put her armour back on. Joshua rolled over again and let her talk some more.

On Sunday Morning, Part 1: Dahlia

On Sunday morning, Dahlia was wide-awake and annoyingly perky by 7AM. She’d never been one to sleep in, it always felt like a waste of time. She immediately set about the kitchen to make tea, but made far more noise than was warranted. The kitchen was full of sleek, branded equipment, but the only piece that seemed to have any evidence of use was a large, cream kettle, which had some light water-staining on the metal.
Sam was also in the apartment, sleeping on a slightly deflated blow-up bed. Sam was definitely one to sleep in, in their mind anything that happened before 10AM should be forgotten by history. Dahlia always wondered whether she should find this endearing or tiresome. She clicked the button on the kettle again, letting the screeching roll through the apartment. It was at this point that Sam finally woke up.
“Hwuh?”
“Morning!” said Dahlia cheerfully. “Tea?”
“Hwyuh,” came the muttered response. Dahlia immediately poured in a tiny splash of milk into a mug, then turned away from the kettle to let it boil and watched her friend try and wake up.  Sam rolled off of the bed, and made a weak attempt to simultaneously rub the sleep from their eyes and smooth down an errant, dark brown cowlick.
“I’ve got something for you,” said Dahlia, drawing out the words in a sing-song way. Sam pulled a face.
“Why do I get the feeling that comes with massive caveats?”
Dahlia mouthed ‘massive caveats’ in mocking outrage.
“I would never- OK, yeah, there’s a caveat.” She darted back into her bedroom, returning with a box, “so it’s my launch party in a week, and I thought it might be cool to have a few plants, by which I mean willing participants, to wear some select pieces.” She rooted around in the box, producing a soft cream-coloured scarf, with light gold embroidery. “I embroidered this one by hand. I’ve got a machine that I can program to do that now, so this one’s unique!” Sam seemed unmoved.  “You promised me you’d help,” she added, pouting a little. Sam furrowed their brow excessively.
“I don’t remember that.”
“Well, I didn’t get it in writing, but if you’re going to be difficult, I’ll make sure to draw up a contract for all casual promises in the future,” she said, clicking the kettle button again as if to punctuate her point. “Look all I want you to do is wear the scarf. And also tell everyone I made it. And also look pretty.” The last part wouldn’t be hard. Sam would never admit it, and barely seemed aware of it in fact, but they had a pretty face, with sharp, angular features and soft, tawny beige skin.
“There will literally be mannequins with all your designs on them. Why do you need me?”
Sam, I swear to god, thought Dahlia.
“All clothes look different when worn by a real person,” she said, waving her hand as if that answered the question. Sam rolled their eyes again.
“Fine. Show me how you want me to wear it.”
Dahlia clapped her hands together like an approving monarch and draped the scarf around Sam’s shoulders.
“See, it’s like a neckerchief, but you have to make sure the embroidery goes like this.” Sam nodded, but their eyes were shut. “Hey, don’t fall asleep, you arse.”
“I don’t see how this is helping,” said Sam. Dahlia continued to drape the scarf, making small adjustments to how it fell. “And I don’t see why you invited me. To the launch party, I mean.”
“It’s helping,” said Dahlia, “and I invited you because you’re my friend?”
“It’s not like you need the moral support. I’ll just bring the whole mood down. You know I’m no good at parties.” Sam spoke with a breezy certainty, but it was clear this had been bothering them.
“What makes you think I won’t need moral support?”
“Because, no offense, this is the third launch party you’ve had in as many years. Surely you’ve gotten used to it by now?”
“There has not been three.”
Sam grinned, as if taking this as a challenge.
“So the photography album and the poetry collection, those were just what? Trifles?”
Dahlia frowned, “I just lost interest…I don’t know. Made some good money off of them but…” she shook her head. “I’m thinking this,” and at this Dahlia inhaled sharply and spread her arms wide as if to add emphasis, “is going to be my thing.”
“Sure.” Sam padded over to the counter. “Now how about that tea, eh?”

Seeking Drowning Pearls

Emma’s Notes: This particular poem comes from a seminar prompt about ‘Experimental Poems’, which always struck me as missing the point somewhat. Still though, it matched my tendency to write down a lot of gibberish. Also, my unending love of homophones. You can read this poem anyway you like,  some of the lines are intended to wobble a bit. Much like the sea. Poetry, son. My poor tab key has never quite forgiven me.

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City of Rebels

Emma’s Notes: I don’t really consider myself a poet. The word implies a level of skill which I don’t have. But I like writing poetry, especially stream of consciousness poetry like this one. There’s something pure about it. They’re just little pieces of you and no one can take them away from you. Even if you’re not a writer, give it a go. 

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