“I don’t understand why you’re upset.”
She said this at the breakfast table, her hair mused, her face still aglow as she pulled her robe close to prevent me, her husband of fifteen years, from viewing her cleavage.
Really? I thought but held my tongue. I reached across the table, but the salt and pepper were just beyond my reach. I looked at her, and she held my gaze, calmly sipping her coffee and making no attempt to pass the shakers. I found myself staring into those liquid brown eyes, the very same ones that first captured my attention, and felt the familiar pang. Dammit!
I slid my chair back, stood, and leaning toward her, snatched up the shakers and sat back down.
She rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Fine. If you want to be childish about this, that’s your prerogative.”
I wanted to break my silence, to yell at her, “I’m not being childish, you’re being selfish,” but I didn’t. I had committed to the tactic of the silent treatment and I was determined to see it through. Besides…she might be right. Pushing that thought away, I violently shook the shakers until my eggs were saturated in the spices.
“So, now you’re trying to kill yourself?”
Perplexed, I looked up and nearly muttered, “Excuse me?” Instead, I just glared.
“Doctor tells you to watch your sodium and cholesterol and you ignore her. Well, if you fall over with a heart attack, we aren’t going to help you.”
Her emphasis on the word, we obliterated my resolve. “We? So, like now you’re a couple? Which makes me, what? The odd man out?”
“Wwhat?” she said, tilting her head, her mouth twisting, eyes narrowing. Suddenly her eyes grew wide. “Oh my God, is that what this is about? Seriously?”
I said nothing, continuing to glare at her. Let her explain herself, defend the indefensible. I crossed my arms in front of my chest like a Middle School Principal who had caught a student in the hall without a pass.
“So, you’re judging me about this morning? Seriously?”
I remember a negotiation class I took once where the instructor informed us, “Whoever speaks next, loses.” I held my tongue.
She leans back in her chair looking at me as if I’m a petulant child. “And you don’t masturbate?”
Unable to contain myself I blurted, “Sure I do, on occasion when you aren’t in the mood. Rarely…using my hand…and always thinking of you,” I lied.
“So… you object to my dildo, and my vibrator? You are now saying that I can only masturbate using my hand, is that correct? Do I need to remind you that YOU bought me those things?”
“You didn’t use your dildo or your vibrator. This morning you cheated on me!”
“I did no such thing!” she protested. “I masturbated. I used a gadget—one that you bought for me, by the way.”
“To do the gardening, not to fuck you!” I bellowed.
For a moment, neither of us said anything. My adrenaline had kicked in, heart rate elevated, breaths coming in short, ragged bursts.
“He’s not human. I love you and only you. I just thought it would be fun to masturbate with a piece of equipment that was, well, more complete than a vibrator.”
Her voice was soft, but her eyes had a gleam that I hadn’t seen since the early years of our marriage.
I looked down at the floor and willed myself not to cry.
“Robert was a fun distraction, a-a tool, nothing more. Are you concerned that he might be better in bed than you, because believe me, he’s not.”
She wore the lie like a crown of thorns.
I glanced to the chair in the corner, where he sat. Robert, our android, our gardening tool, had now become my wife’s fuck buddy.
“It’s not cheating, not really. I have no feelings for him and it’s impossible for him to have feelings for me. He just responds to our commands. If it makes you feel better, we can establish some rules.”
I don’t want rules, because rules mean she intends to continue having sex with him.
“Rule #1: No sleeping with our androids when our partner wants to have sex.”
“I don’t want to sleep with Robert. I’m not gay.” I knew as soon as the words came out of my mouth that she would argue an android has no real gender and is not human, therefore if I had sex with him, it was not a reflection of my sexual orientation.
“I said ‘androids’ plural. We can order one to be our cook and housekeeper. You can pick her.”
I hadn’t thought of that. Me having an android fuck buddy. It felt wrong, dirty…exciting.
“Rule #2: If either of us feels the other has emotional attachment to our android, we will get rid of said android.” She paused and then said, “Can you think of any other rules we should agree to?”
“This is not a rule per se,” I pointed at Robert, “but make him stop smirking.”
As I pull into the drive, I see her pacing across the porch, cigarette dangling, her face pale and taut. The last time I saw her this way, her father had died. I slammed the gear into park and jumped out.
“What’s wrong?” I called as I ran to her.
She turned, and I could see the tracks where the tears had run. She waved her hand, the one holding the cigarette, toward the house. “They’re in there—doing it,” her voice raspy.
“Who’s in there, doing what?” I asked looking through the picture window to the empty living room.
“The androids. They’re in the spare bedroom, fucking! They’re cheating on us,” she said, tears welling in her eyes.
I pulled her to me, wrapping my arms around her. “It’s not cheating, not really.”
Operations Manager and daydreamer, Tom co-authored the anthology, “Nine Lives,” and is the winner of The Sunlight Press 2017 Spring Fiction contest. His work has appeared in Porridge Magazine, The Ginger Collect, Fictive Dream, Riggwelter Press, and other notable publications. Neither Tom nor his wife own an android. Find him on Twitter @TomGumbert