“You made an impression on Tommy Laughlin,” said Alexandra as they were riding nowhere on bicycles bolted to the floor. “He called three times, I had them shunted to me, but I can’t do that for very long. You’ll need to handle it.”
“How?” asked Didi.
“You can probably get a proposal out of him, if that’s what you want,” said Arlette.
“We can make you look younger, a couple make-up tweaks and clothes,” said Katie. “And you could lose the implants, that would probably seal the deal.”
“Gross, I don’t even like him, and he treats me like I’m a teenager.”
“Dr. Rick,” said Katie, “How’s little Sheila coming along?”
“She got her GED two weeks ago and scored really well on her SATs. Claire and Tom are looking into both City College and State, if I can pull a string or two. Still, the life she had scarred her up pretty badly, mentally and physically.”
“And she’s how old?”
“She’ll be eighteen in three weeks.”
Sherilyn who had also tutored Sheila said, “She’s tough as nails, she had to be to survive. Took all of us like forever to get her attitude in the right place. If she didn’t have an IQ in the clouds, she wouldn’t have had any prayer at all. Remember her mother started prostituting her out at twelve. What have you got in your devious little mind Katie?”
“Tommy likes them young, so we arrange for Sheila to meet Tommy, say as assistant to Didi.”
“Sherilyn might find her tough, but I’d have used the term delicate,” said Rick. “She cries herself to sleep some nights because the VD she got at thirteen took her ability to have children.”
“You don’t get women Rick. She’s still a woman and still wants to be desired, Tommy may be very good for her,” said Arlette. “And Sherilyn is right, she’s already faced so much that a broken love affair would hardly be noticed. We’ll send her to you tomorrow, Dee. I’m sure you can figure out what to do when Tommy calls, and he will call.”
Sheila looked seventeen, it had taken the crew about an hour to make sure she looked seventeen. She was also beautiful, in fact she was so stunning that Didi felt a twinge of jealousy, even though she thought Tommy was a first-class asshole. Sheila was what she aspired to look like before her makeover and failed at. Except for a natural cleavage that wasn’t impressive, except on her, Sheila was who Didi tried to look like.
Tommy called at ten-thirty and they arranged a tour of the nearly completed “Adoption Shop” in Valley Fair, with lunch, though Didi did have a bit of a problem with bringing her ‘intern.’
Tommy was a bit crude, and his switch of affection from Didi to Sheila caught Didi off-guard a bit. The plain fact was that Sheila was about as close to his dream girl as any woman could get. Didi put in a quick unnoticed call to Alexandra to call back.
Alexandra called back and Didi took it in front of them.
“Well, I’m sort of in the middle of this,” she said, “and he is a donor.”
“In other words, he’s hooked and you need an excuse to get out of the way.”
“Well that’s true and she is important. Can I leave him with Sheila? Sheila doesn’t know her and she can’t help much.”
“Look,” said Didi to Tommy, “something came up and I have to get back to the office. Sheila can show you the rest of the facility. Then if you could take her home? Someone opened a can of worms and everybody is looking for a can big enough to re-can them.”
“I did promise you lunch.”
“A promise is a promise. Feed her well.”
Tommy felt like the Gods had smiled on him until he asked her age and his heart fell when she said ‘seventeen.’ Tommy didn’t touch underage girls, he wanted to with all his heart and soul, especially this one, but he wouldn’t for all the right reasons.
“When do you turn eighteen?”
“Two weeks from Friday.”
And the sun rose on his world again.
He bought her a very expensive lunch and started to take her home when he noticed a tear.
“What’s the matter?” he said as he parked in a supermarket parking lot.
“You don’t like me?”
“Why would you think that?”
“Most men try to touch me; more than that usually. You haven’t. Is something wrong with me?”
“Nothing at all is wrong with you. The reason I don’t take you home and put you in my bed is that you are seventeen, and you will be eighteen in a little more than two weeks, and you are the most beautiful, desirable thing in my world right now, so I’m doing what’s right, and what’s safe so I can love you, and nobody will say anything about it.”
“You love me?”
“I’d like to try, you’re as close to what I dream about as any girl…woman I have ever seen, or met. That deserves some exploration. But I won’t touch you until it’s perfect, and all that takes is to wait a little over two weeks.”
Sheila erupted into a torrent of tears and he had to reach across and hold her.
“You don’t understand,” she said. “Men can’t love me. I can’t have children. I was a prostitute when I was twelve. A social disease put me in the hospital and the court took me away from my mother. The DeAngelos adopted me and I was a handful, but my Dad, my foster Dad, worked for Katar, and they sort of adopted me too. Katie, Arlette and Alexandra I call my aunts. I never went to school so I got tutors; Dr. Rick supervised it. I just got a GED and I’m going to college. That’s how I got to be an intern at Katar.”
“So, if we get married we adopt, if we want children,” said Tommy. “You’re adopted; it works. It doesn’t mean I can’t love you. Dry your eyes, I need to talk to your foster father.”