Mind of Freeman.

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5

CJ let the warm water run down his body as he thought of Allie's response when he told her about his past. A woman he had just met was so sweet and understanding, everything felt like a dream. When she said that everything was going to be okay he believed her. Strange, how easy it was to trust her. But the best thing about her was her bright red lips. Her kisses were so smooth they made it all better. Clothing, food, and shelter became unessential when he had her in his arms; all he needed was her body to survive.
Unknowingly, a tower rose so stiffly it made him moan. Water droplets on the blossoming end traced down his veins. Its color was a shade brighter than usual as skin stretched gently until it was fully engorged.
He had never experienced so much pressure inside. His lower sack was starting to feel painful. He knew the feeling and immediately grasped the tower and allowed every thought about Allie to guide him.
His whole hand, fully curled around him, rubbed up and down, allowing him to feel himself from top to bottom. The inexplicable hedonism that wanted to reach the end was only willing with her —her thick lips, her large breasts and her heart-shaped rear.
He closed his eyes imagining the feeling of being inside her. He went faster. His veins popped thicker, making room for the build up.
He was kidding himself. Even when she was throwing herself at him, he could never get to be inside her. A janitor and a damsel: leave that in the storybooks.
"No," he grunted as his tower deflated. "Come on!" He juddered it. He started all over but there was no reaction. The pressure was gone.
"No." He slapped his head and squatted on the bathtub. He held his temples in frustration and gave up on himself.




"Good morning." Kathy poured batter onto the waffle iron.
"Good morning." Allie fixed her satin pajama shorts and slid the hood of her cotton jacket behind her head. "The boys still asleep?" She yawned.
The kitchen's full size window wall let the morning rays inside. It was gloomy but in a cozy way. The good feeling was mostly added by the beautiful aroma of gingerbread and the red, white and sparkling accents of the Christmas decorations.
Silver garlands were placed around each door frame. A small porcelain sleigh held the sugar on the kitchen counter and a wacky Rudolf served as a bread basket.
There was a beep.
"Cinnamon rolls are ready." Kathy put on her Santa Claus mittens and pulled a tray out of the oven.
"Cinnamon rolls? Waffles? Is there any hot cocoa?" Asked Allie.
"With tiny marshmallows, you bet there is," the grandma grinned.
"All of Dean's favorites. Could this become the best Christmas ever?"
"Are you kidding? After what you told me last night, I have no doubt that is my son in there." Kathy whispered the last few words while pointing toward the guest bedroom.
"Maybe I should make meatloaf for lunch." Allie opened the fridge and pulled out a bag of frozen ground beef.
"Girl, he would love that."
The cinnamon rolls were stacked in a pyramid as a table center piece. A plate of chocolate and caramel fudge had been squeezed into a corner. Gingerbread cookies were placed around a pecan pie. A tower of waffles had been adorned with whip cream and glazed strawberries. Buttered toast were cut into triangles to make space for more butter. Beside the fried eggs and bacon, a jar of hot cocoa and a bag of marshmallows added to the breakfast randomness.
"What are we missing?" Said Kathy.
"Tater tots," Allie ran toward the oven and pulled out a tray of golden hash-brown capsules.
Andrew, Daniel, and CJ walked into the kitchen from different entrances. Humorously, they had the same reaction. With their jaws dropped and their eyeballs popped, they approached the kitchen table.
"Maybe I should change back into my jeans. I didn't know you had guests," CJ addressed Allie. He had been wearing a pair of shorts and a white t-shirt Allie had given him, which ironically had belonged to Dean.
"No guests. This is just for us," said Allie.
"This. Is. A. Christmas. Miracle." Daniel jumped on a chair and got ahold of two cinnamon rolls, a waffle, and all of the fudge. His double chin was more apparent as he shoved a piece of bacon with a marshmallow into his mouth.
"Daniel, leave some for the rest of us," said Andrew.
Allie aimed her hand at the table and everyone sat down.
"Hi," Daniel addressed CJ as he sat beside him.
"Hi," CJ chuckled at Daniel's chocolate stained face.
"Waffle?" Daniel grabbed a can of whip cream and passed it to CJ.
"I see you like mixing different kinds of foods. Have you tried egg and waffle?"
The boy's pupils turned into a dot by the idea. He grabbed two fried eggs, dumped them on his waffle, and gave it a big bite.
"Ande'w, you should twy it. So de'wishious."
CJ chuckled again and did the same thing but in a more refined way. As he had been starving for the last week, the reality was that he wanted to eat it all at once.
"Wow, this is amazing. It's perfect." He tried to slow down.




Allie panned from her boys to CJ until she was overwhelmed. It was a happy despair. Her children didn't know they were in the presence of their father, a man they had heard so much about. The first time they could comprehend death, they cried so much, she worried for their health. The next day after they found out about Dean, Andrew was angry and Daniel was quiet.
To make them happy, she took them everywhere: the park, the museum, Disneyland, Summer camp...She bought them every toy, every snack, and even built them their own playground. At the end of the day, it all spiraled back to their father. That's why this year, she had decided not to take them to visit his ashes at the columbarium.
"Mom, why is your new boyfriend looking at you all weird?"
"What?" Allie and CJ blinked and turned their heads to the side, pretending to do anything else. They had been staring at each other in silence for a long time.
Kathy laughed so hard, she almost spit out her tater tots.
"Clever boy."
"I, I wasn't—" CJ stuttered.
"He's not—" said Allie.
"Here, try some more hot cocoa." Kathy poured the drink into CJ's and Allie's mugs.
"Thank you for the help with the dishes." Kathy patted CJ's back. In reality, she squeeze him against his chest and never let him go.
"Food was so amazing, it was the least I could do for ya'll," he replied.
Allie finished wiping the granite counter and rested her elbows on it. She watched Dean pour more liquid soap on a sponge.
"Sorry, am I not doing it right?" He asked.
"You're doing great," she smiled. "I just wanted to talk to you about something."
"Is it about me sleeping here? I was thinking about asking you if I could stay after New Year's if it's not too much trouble."
"Oh, please, you can stay here as long as you want."
"Are you sure? I can't really pay you."
He seemed apologetic. His shoulders were tense in embarrassment.
Seeing this, she quickly responded.
"I want to pay all your debt."
Kathy gasped with a smile then scurried out of the kitchen to give them privacy.
Andrew and Daniel had already left to do their beds.
CJ dropped the sponge and turned toward Allie with a knot in his throat. Then they heard a bell coming from the front door.
"I'll have to get that." Allie dragged her feet out of the kitchen.
Annoyed, she pressed her cheek against the peep hole, hoping to send a salesman away. To her surprise, it was someone she knew from her company's software development department.
"Mr. Halpert," she opened the door. "Merry Christmas. What can I do for you?"
"Ms. March, I'm sorry to bother you but I've been trying to contact you since yesterday and it seems that you have not received my calls or e-mails."
The boy was much younger than Allie. Half of his head was shaved and his hair was a bright blue. Both of his ears were covered in piercings.
"Reynolds Farms has been having issues with the new irrigation system," he continued. "The app keeps sending the wrong orders to the equipment and we aren't sure of what's going on."
Allie patted her body for her phone, then remembered she had left it in her bedroom.
"Oh no. I've been so busy, I haven't bothered to check my notifications. I guess that's what Mr. Reynolds wanted to talk about yesterday morning. Oh my, how are the crops?"
"I don't know, but judging from his tone, pretty bad."
Allie unzipped her hoodie as her body began increasing its temperature.
"Okay, okay, okay. Um, we need to assess the situation and they need to shut off the irrigation system. How can the app order one thing and the equipment do something else all of a sudden?"
"That doesn't necessarily have to be the cause," a voice spoke behind her. "If the equipment is not well maintained, it might not work correctly. Basic principles of engineering, really."
"You remember!" Allie's stomach bounced.
"Remember?" CJ's neck shrank. "I shouldn't have said anything. I don't know why I even said anything. Why would I have an opinion—"
"No, it makes sense," said Halpert. "Maybe it's not a coding issue."
"Can you come to Reynolds Farms with me?" Allie held CJ's arm.
"But I don't even know what's going on."
"I'll give you a briefing." She let Halpert into the house and went upstairs to change.
CJ stood there confused. He couldn't say 'no' to her after what she had offered minutes ago. He jerked his chin at Halpert and stared down at himself. He figured at least he should jump back into his jeans.



As Allie arrived at the farm with CJ and Halpert, they were greeted by a very concerned farmer and his associates.
Mr. Reynolds didn't wait for her to get out of the car.
"Ms. March, half mah cabbage finna die over here. Them tech tubes be spraying pesticides instead of water."
"I am aware, Mr. Reynolds. I'd like to apologize for my late response," said Allie.
The old man pulled down on his ball cap, and grunted at her apology.
"May we check out the harvest?" She asked.
"This way."
He guided them through a dirt pathway.
Good thing she was prepared for it with her long boots and jeans. They passed rows of beautiful red cabbages that were encased inside of a grid. The grid itself was made out of a white plastic material. They stopped in the middle of the field, where part of the harvest was starting to wrinkle and die.
"Oh my, Mr. Reynolds, I do see your problem," said Allie.
"Yeah, these types of vegetables don't need that many pesticides and this area is being sprayed twice a day. I ain't computer saavy but I'm sure as hell ain't telling the program to spray my cabbages."
"It's clearly not you, Sir. My team will figure it out and in the meantime, I'll pay you for the crops that don't get to market."
"Thank you, ma'am. That's all I wanted to hear." Mr. Reynold's semblance softened. His body movements were more relaxed.
He shook Allie's hand and went off to work.
"So I guess you can figure it out." CJ broke the silence as Allie and Halpert examined the dead cabbage and the plastic grid.
Halpert gave Allie a worried look and shook his head.
"We have no clue and now I'm starting to freak out," replied Allie. She stomped back to CJ and pulled his arm.
"Do you see anything?"
"Yeah, dead cabbage," he said.
"What about what you said at the house?"
"Um." He was beginning to feel the pressure. Even Halpert was staring as if the janitor had become the expert.
The blue-haired techie gave CJ a tablet and opened the Wellington Farms application.
The janitor wanted to return it and make them understand that his brain was blank. Seeing his boss's nervous hands, he feared her disappointment however. So he looked back at the cabbage and started to think.
"These tubes." He pointed at the ground. "They must come with a user manual, right?"
Halpert tapped on the tablet multiple times and pulled a file full of pictures and diagrams.
To CJ, all of it seemed like a different language. He kept scrolling down the pages and walking around the grid. Allie followed him like a puppy.
At some point, things started to become familiar and he stared down at the field.
"Is there any reason why the grid is on the ground?"
"Um, that's how it was designed," said Halpert.
"By whom?"
Halpert shrugged but Allie knew the answer.
By you.
"It was Dean. He and his friend designed it for my garden years ago. He was studying engineering in school when I met him. He was really good at it."
"Oh. There's your problem," said CJ. "The system looks good but it has one flaw." His tone changed as if he was reciting textbook information. "It was designed for a small garden. If you want to scale up, you can't just glue thousands of tubes together. You have to make individual systems that connect to one app for better maintenance. Also, if you placed the grid a few inches above ground, it would keep clean for longer."
"So it's just a design issue."
"Well, remember, I'm no expert." He went back to being 'CJ.'
"Okay," Allie turned to Halpert, ignoring CJ's last sentence. "Tell Mr. Reynolds not to use this area and that he'll have a new grid by the end of January."
Halpert nodded and grinned. He was mostly happy it hadn't been anyone's fault and that he wasn't going to lose his job.




"I thought we were going back to the house," CJ looked out the car's window.
Allie stopped her van in a large parking lot.
"I was thinking, I'm gonna have to explain to our investors why we're redesigning the irrigation system. They're gonna grill me with questions I might not be able to answer, so I need your help."
"Okay?"
"When the day comes, could you stand in front of the panel with me?"
"What?" CJ held on to the seat belt as if they were about to crash. "Boss lady—"
She pushed her body across the cup holder and sucked on his lower lip.
"Allie. Call me Allie, please."
He nodded with his eyelids half closed in a hypnotized manner.
"Sure, yeah. What are we doing at the mall?"
"I was also thinking, we need to get rid of your pants."
CJ's eyeballs left their sockets, thinking she was proposing sex in a parking lot.
"So you'll need a new wardrobe," she added, lifting a credit card between them.
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