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Just Looking

Annie and Tom were still sitting on the park bench; they were slightly closer together now.

“That bloody bastard's car went within a foot of me by the gates on Monday and he was just sitting there like a stone. I don't even think he even noticed me; he was just fiddling with his bloody pen.”

“Well, it's only a rumour of redundancy, like you said Tom, or it might just be a pay freeze, but you should have told me Tom, you really should've done.”

“I was trying to, Annie, I've been trying to tell you all week but you haven't exactly made it easy for me have you? I want kids too you know. If the worst comes to the worst then we could have them the old fashioned way like our grandparents did?"

Annie looked at Tom in disbelief, “That's disgusting! I can't believe you just said that. You'd put me through labour? We're not living in the dark ages now; this is the twenty first century for God's sake. Besides you bloody well know my health wouldn't allow the old fashioned way to work even if I'd allow it. It would send my pressures up way too high or I'd miscarry or something! " Annie shivered, " that's why everyone gives their eggs and sperm to people like Genesis or haven't you twigged onto that yet?"

“Annie stop treating me like a bloody child...”

Annie ignored him.

“And Tom, for God's sake, what sort of a chance would our kids have if we can't give them any enhancements or help at all? Hey? How do you think they'd manage at school? How do you think they'd thank us when they got older and found out we didn't bother giving them any help? You know what happens to parents with kids like that, they blame each other, fight and fall out and before too long they don't have a family anymore, they drop out and they are on the streets or stealing or something. Frustrated kids from no enhancement homes.”

“Well some people still do it the old fashioned way, you know.”

“Tom! I can't believe this! Like one per cent of the population and they are the same ones that can't read, don't own a viewcom or live in the middle of the fucking desert!"

“Look Annie, shut up for once and listen," Tom snapped coldly, "shut up okay. I don't want the old way anymore than you do. I want kids just as much as you do but if we can't afford them, then we can't afford them. We'll just have to wait”"

“I've waited long enough," Annie said sulkily," Why won't you let me work for God's sake like all the other women?"

“You know what happened last time you did that, it pushed your blood pressure up way too high. I'm not the one with the health problems." Tom's voice grew louder.” I’m only trying to look after you. It's not my fucking fault we are a single income family, I'm not the one with the bad health! I'm not the one with...”

Annie stood up, tears cascading down her cheeks, "Go on say it. I'm not the one without any enhancements. I'm not the one with a birth defect. Why the fuck do you think I don't want to have them the old fashioned way, so they don't end up like me...That's right, blame me why don't you, you shit? I can't work and we're not rich so it's all my fault. I just stay at home and get bored with fuck all to do all day while you're out earning us next to no money..." Annie collapsed into a bundle of tears on the bench.

People passing by were beginning to look at them.

Tom took a deep breath and put his arms around his wife. “I’m sorry

Annie, I shouldn't have said that and I didn't mean it, I really didn't. Hush now, that was really cruel of me. Please forgive me. I didn't mean it," Tom said rocking his wife in his arms, "I get frustrated by it too, you know I do. Come on let's pull together I love you Annie. You know I do. Come on now,"

“Maybe it won’t happen,” Annie sobbed into her husband’s chest," Maybe they won't put a pay freeze on. And even if they do, it doesn't mean they won't promote you. I know you haven't spoken to Ralph, but you don't know, nobody does. "

Annie and Tom sat quietly for a moment watching a group of teenagers talking over the other side of the street, who were pointing at them.

“It's why I didn't 'wanna tell you, see," said Tom, “I didn't know what was going to happen, and I didn't 'wanna disappoint you, didn't want to disappoint myself. Some are saying it's something to do with some new nanotechnology or something, but I don't know."

Annie looked up at her husband. Tom kissed her gently.” It doesn't make any difference what it is."

“Hey, come on. Let's quit hanging around here and go off like we said huh? Come on, it'll cheer us both up."

Annie looked at Tom nervously for a moment.

Alright Tom, let's go,” said Annie finally, "On one condition. If I get upset we go straight home."

“That's a deal," “Okay Tom"

They walked off together.

Hertferd had only one main street and they were right at the extreme eastern end of it. Large poles with "Danger Electricity" written on them marched for a mile due west and they followed the road towards the mall.

They walked past the drive-thru Wendy's, the viewcom dealer, Harnmy’s second hand autos and Verne's second hand bookshop. Coming closer into town they passed a hardware and gun store.

As they entered the mall air conditioning wrapped its tentacles around them, drawing them in. They wandered into Sears, past perfume counters littered with glamorous women watching would-be passers by assessingly.

Genesis was on the top floor, sealed off from the rest of the mall. The glass lift glided up into the Genesis's vast atrium.

Tom and Annie got out of the lift, into the bright white sales area. It was the kind of white that has to be artificially scrubbed with chemicals to achieve the color of angel's socks.

There were twenty sales consultants in the children's department dressed in crisp white dresses with Genesis embossed in large green leafy letters on their chest. The slogan behind them read, "Genesis·, born out of Creativity."

Birdsong and the sound of water falling seemed to pervade the entire structure. A tall vase in the middle of the room furnished some unblemished orchids. Plush Persian carpets enhanced the color of the room with a slight tinge of purple. Tom and Annie looked at each other uncomfortably.

Kandie sat with her legs elegantly crossed talking to a sales consultant at the far end of the room. She was whisked off into a private room behind the scenes.

Another woman wearing a chic black suit and pearls poured over interactive brochures, showing the range of packaged and tailor made solutions on offer.

Tom and Annie walked to one of the five screens on the left hand side of the room and started leafing through. They leafed through the index with headings like: "The Genesis philosophy - finding your solution."

“Yeah but how much might it cost?" said Tom in an inquisitive sotto voce.

“Sssh!" said Annie quickly, flicking her eyes around the room to check no-one was looking.

“May I help you?" said a female assistant whose trained x-ray eyes scanned Annie," with something ".

Annie felt embarrassed and wondered what the assistant had heard.

“We're just looking at the moment," Annie volunteered with a forced smile.

A bottle of champagne glided seamlessly past them, the lady in black sipped and nodded nonchalantly. The 'invisible' waiter poured the clean, crisp semi-living liquid into a tulip glass.

Annie spun round, picked up a paper brochure, grabbed Tom's arm and made for the door.

“They're only $500 each but well worth it,” the assistant called after them and walked towards them.” They list all of our standard offerings, the additionals you can purchase...you can pay here, if you are a member of Genesis and you have come to us before. Have you?" said the advisor smiling her brilliant white smile.

Annie turned and faced the lady with a superior smile to her own.

“Do you take electronic cash?" said Annie with a sudden rush of courage.

“Well, no I'm afraid we don't. You see the procedure is this: first we do is a credit check and then when you've passed that you can charge everything by voice print."

I'm sure accounts downstairs can negotiate this. I'm so sorry, it’s just that so few people here need electronic cash and you're obviously unfamiliar with the procedure. We should make it clearer. So if you'd just like to pop downstairs I'll keep this ready for you."

The assistant smiled mechanically and proffered her hand to repossess the brochure, which Annie was clutching to her bosom.

“Thank you,” said the assistant. “I'll no doubt see you later." Annie slowly unfurled her hand and returned the brochure. Tom and Annie strolled out, through the cool languid air.

“Fucking bitch," said Annie." Let's go home."

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