Reckless Behavior: Chapter Three
The first time Aster had an accident on Molly's floor was on the first day that things got better. It was ironic like that.
It was a weekday morning. When he woke up, he was on the rug near the sofa, and his erecrion was straining at the fabric of Molly's sweatpants. It happened sometimes- he would just roll off the couch, and be too exhausted to climb back up. The erections, too, were common, even though he had little control of when they happened. He watched with almost clinical interest as it faded.
Someone was rapping on the door. His initial reaction was to sit up, grab the arm of the sofa to haul himself up, but then he stopped. What was he getting up for?
He lay back down on the rug. He felt his chin- prickly, and his skin was greasy. He was not exactly prepared for company.
Then, it happened in contained steps: he felt his bladder tugging at him, telling him to get on that desk chair and roll off, quickly. Then his bladder told him that he was going to urinate, right now. Dread of the inevitable reached his heart before his brain, which began to pulsate before he could scream, inside, Nononono-
Then he did urinate. It took an agonizing ten seconds. Warmth spread between his legs, and a wet circle grew on the crotch of his pants.
The knocking came again. Molly came flying past him, shrugging into a green blazer, no shoes on her feet. She pulled open the door.
Aster grabbed the fuzzy blanket from the couch and covered himself before he could understand what had happened.
"Hi," Molly said breathlessly. "So glad you could come."
Aster turned his head, pretended to sleep with an arm over his eyes. Eyelids open a crack, he saw a large wheel attached to a chair roll into the house, followed by pressed beige pants and shiny shoes.
"He's here," Molly said. It was indeterminate who she was speaking to.
The shiny laced shoes got closer, stopping a few inches from his face. Molly's feet joined the man's. All of her toes were colored a deep red, chipped at the edges. For reasons unfathomable, women here liked to draw attention to what is the least aesthetically appealing part of the body. Contrarily, Molly's toes weren't so bad.
"Aster, I know you're awake."
Molly kneeled in front of him. The look on her face was one he'd been seeing more often recently. Pity. Somehow he didn't care.
"Come on, sit up," she said. He didn't move, and in fact closed his eyes all the way. He heard her sigh, and then her hand, cold and soft, on his forehead. He swatted it away.
"Aster, this is Dr. Moskowitz. He's got some stuff for you."
Molly had briefed him on the Doctor last night, because they had to come up with a cover story for Aster. The details, which were mostly supplied by Molly, involved a birth deformity and a car accident (she clearly consumed large amounts of dramatized fiction). In this century, being hit on the head meant you were paralyzed for life. What an awful, in-between time to have yourself injured. At least in the older centuries you just died, but in this one, they kept people alive in all and any degree of pain and discomfort, shoved with tubes and wires. Doctors pumped every heart placed before them with gusto. Aster wondered what being an eye doctor in this century entailed.
Dr. Moskowitz crouched beside Molly, and stared at Aster curiously but kindly. He had three wrinkles beside each eye, a very small, straight nose, and dark hair that wasn't graying in an orderly fashion, but rather in strands at the temples and everywhere else.
"Thank you," Aster mumbled. His wet pants were beginning to itch, or perhaps that was just his mind, drawing attention to the fact.
"Aren't you going to try it?" Molly said, her eyebrows conveying a not-so-subtle message.
"I am very appreciative," Aster said, wondering when they would leave him to alone in his filth.
The Doctor looked at Molly. "I could come back if now isn't a good time," he said. His voice was deep, rough, a nice contrast after hearing Molly's sugary voice for a week.
"Oh, come on," Molly stood up, exasperated, and whipped away the blanket. He couldn't catch it fast enough.
"Just get up up, you can slee-"
He didn't even move to cover it, to cover himself, like he'd done that first morning. Seeing Molly's face was as if looking in a mirror, a mirror of his reactions, had he cared. She turned crimson, then pale, and her horror-stricken eyes drifted away. The Doctor stared.
"Oh my god," she whispered.
"Hold on," said the Doctor, and he left, only to return a minute later with another rolling chair, this one made of ugly grey plastic. Molly sat on the couch. She rubbed her eyes, the same way she did when she was conversing on her phone with a difficult client. Finally she spoke, if only to fill the lack of sound. "Are you okay?"
Aster's hands stayed motionless at his sides. "I do not think I understand what that means." Because if she was using it in her usual context, then it was quite obvious that he was not okay.
Dr. Moskowitz returned. There were whispered words over his head, ending off with the Doctor prodding Molly, with a "You can go. Go, I'll stay here."
Then Molly went toward her bedroom, and the Doctor tried to talk to him, questions with smiles, but he wasn't going to answer. Speaking would just make this nightmare real. Finally, the Doctor put one hand under Aster's knees and the other under his back, and lifted him with a grunt, and carried him to the bathroom. Aster had never been held before. He watched as his calves swayed, as if they belonged to someone else.
The ugly chair was inside the bathtub. It was shaped to cup the human form, complete with a plate to rest one's head. The hand rests were white, clean but worn. The Doctor lowered him gently into the seat. The gleaming tiles only made Aster feel more grimy, and the smell of Molly in here was delicate and almost too sharp to bear.
"Raise your hands," Dr. Moskowitz said, and Aster did so, letting the Doctor pull his shirt over his head. His chest was slick with chilled sweat. The older man instructed Aster to place his arms around his neck, so he could lift Aster off the seat to pull down his pants. Aster watched all these things happen with little interest. Even when the water hissed as the squeaky tap was turned, and the spray hit him with a thousand needles, he didn't glance up. He let the Doctor lather up his hair and massage his scalp with shampoo. Dr. Moskowitz's sleeves were rolled up, and he worked efficiently, which would later make Aster wonder if the Doctor had done this before. He only faltered by Aster's artificial nerves, becoming hesitant with the washcloth wherever the vein-like wires were, all up the back of his legs and back, blossoming over his taut stomach and neck.
It was only when the sound of the water ceased and the older man turned to retrieve a towel that Aster blinked, surprised.
"I am twenty-six years of age," he said. He glanced down at the drops of water rolling over his bare skin, as if surprised to see himself unclothed in front of another man.
The man handed him the towel. "Do you feel better?"
"I am twenty-six years of age. And…" and he'd been carried, undressed, and washed like a baby. Aster unfolded the towel carefully, starting by the corner. That was the way he always opened things.
The Doctor stood in front of him, waiting. "I'll get the wheelchair," he said, scratching behind his ear. Now that Aster was actually meeting his eye, the Doctor seemed unnerved. "I'll be right outside if you need help."
Thirty minutes later (at least his internal clock was still working) Aster rolled out of the bathroom, hands groping the sides of this strange new chair. Back home, he'd never seen wheels on the ground, not until he'd gone to the big city, Rhodium, to meet Cassia. Wheels were impractical on natural ground, among trees. Transport carts always hovered above the earth.
Molly was waiting on the living room for him, curled up on the couch and twiddling with her phone (a central aspect of life, Aster was quickly learning). She scrambled up when as he came in. He rolled himself slowly, pushing off the rims every few seconds, even though the wheelchair was easy to direct. Molly clearly did not want to say something first, so he did.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Oh," she said, and came over to put her arms around his back, putting her in an awkward bent position. He felt himself stiffening until she let go.
"Are these not you normal working hours?" Aster said. His direct line of view was now the crotch area. He wasn't sure how he felt about that.
"It is, but…" Molly clasped her hands, then folded them, then unfolded. "I'm taking the day off. I want us to… I want to take you out a bit. Show you around." She spoke at a rapid pace. "If you're up to it."
He wasn't what that last part meant, but he knew what 'out' meant, and 'out' was where he wanted to go. Alone. He needed to find a Danny's and find Cassia.
"Thank you for all that you have done toward me," Aster said. He mowed past her, straight for the door. He couldn't leave this place any faster. "But now I must go."
Molly beat him to the door. "Where are you going?"
"To find my mate."
Molly put her hands on her hips. She seemed to be waging an internal battle. "I should really just let you go," she said. "I mean this is all nuts, this is… But I won't."
"I am not requesting your care," Aster said through gritted teeth. His years of learning to keep his face and tone neutral were quickly dissipating. "Nor am I requesting your permission to leave. I am eternally thankful, and hope to repay you one day in the future. But I must find Cassia."
"And what if you don't?" She spoke to him as if he was an unyielding child. "Aster, where are you going to go? I think you're absolutely crazy, but I'm offering to let you stay here until you can figure your shit out, buy a ticket home or something. Get a job, maybe."
He glanced up at her, jaw clenched and eyes narrowed, but he knew that she was right.
"Dr. Moskowitz went to the pharmacy to pick up some… things for you," Molly said. She looked away. "When he comes back, we can go."
Aster licked his lips. His options, his very few options, were flippping through his brain rapidly.
Finally, he lowered his arms, and folded them on his lap.
"Where are you going to take us?" He said.
Molly's phone buzzed forty-five minutes after she'd told Samuel to stop calling. Her phone stayed in her pocket. She'd managed to get to Main Street in Williamsville without getting lost, but now she was having trouble. This was her second time circling this block of traffic. The sun was caught on the rear window of the car in front of her, and she squinted, trying to read the sign mounted under the traffic light. Her phone buzzed again, somehow louder, somehow more insistent.
"Can you get that?" Molly said to Aster, passing him her iPhone, as the light turned and they lurched forward. "Tell him I'm driving."
There was that sadistic part of her, she knew, that wanted Samuel to know that she was with Aster. Just yesterday, Samuel had been flirting with that short woman from the copy place, where they got the name tags printed. Molly knew he'd been trying to get her riled up. Well, two could play at that game.
Another part of her felt guilty, because of Aster. He was staring at the phone dumbly, tapping at it. He turned it over, poking at the sides, until the screen turned on, a picture of Samuel's face appearing. She was in that picture as well. It was from last year, when the two of them had gone to the beach in New Hampshire. They were both tanned, freckled, and smiling so widely that Samuel's eyes were slits.
Aster figured out how to pick up. "Hello," he said, resigned. Molly didn't even need to tell him to put it on speaker. Her boyfriend's voice came through loud and clear.
"Moll, this is insane. The event's in seven hours and we didn't even do the bakery order yet, and the restaurant is calling and I dont even know what to tell-"
"I am not Mohy," Aster said. "She is currently driving her vehicle and unable to converse with you."
Molly smirked. "Wow. You could be my secretary." She turned onto Glen Street. Touristy businesses and shops gave way to trees, held in by a fence on each side of the bumpy road. The sidewalks were littered with tourists, older couples, and dancing red leaves.
"Who the fuck is this?" Samuel demanded.
Aster was silent.
"Tell him I'm driving." Molly scanned ahead from a palace to pull in.
"You may tell him." Aster held out the phone. Molly was taken aback, but only for a second.
"Samuel, I need to take off work for an hour or two. I'll be back before one. Or two, tops."
"You can't take off two hours today!" His anger seeped through the receiver. "We've got a ton of work to do! And who's with you?"
"I'll see you." Molly took her eyes off the road long enough to end the call. She turned the Mazda into a small, cracked parking lot that was encircled by trees.
"You should go back," Aster said, shifting uncomfortably.
"This is more important."
"Perhaps your flawed understanding of priorities is the cause of your failure in business." Aster rested his elbow by the window. It was hard to believe that this was the same man who'd said so many kind words to her.
"Don't be an asshole."
"I do not know what that means." His usual retort.
She got out of the car to get his wheelchair from the trunk. Before Dr. Moskowitz had left that morning, he showed both of them how to fold the wheelchair and how to store the shower chair. As Molly struggled to get the chair to click into place, she berated herself for spacing out when he demonstrated how to unfold it.
Finally getting it to open, she wheeled the chair to Aster's passenger side. He scratched the spot in front of his ear where scraggly hair grew. He did this often and it drove Molly insane.
"If I continue may insolence," he ventured, "You would have to place me outside of your possession. Would you not?"
Molly smirked. "A, you're not in my possession, and B, I'm not gonna kick you out. Nice try."
Aster shrugged, as if defeated, and struggled himself into the wheelchair. It was harder to get into than the desk chair had been, but he was strong in a way that didn't show in his sunken cheekbones, so he managed. He had to pull both legs onto the ground, lean over to the wheelchair, and drop himself down into it. He did it clumsily. Molly watched him look around, and imagined what this place must look like for the first time- there was a recycling dumpster on one side of the parking lot, sitting near a blue portapotty that had band stickers all down its sides, like it was prime advertising space. The spots where the concrete was broken were filled with crunchy gravel. Maybe she hadn't thought this through.
Either way, Aster didn't seem intent on going anywhere. He was looking around, but with a faraway look in his eyes.
"Ready?" She said brightly.
He said, "Is there not a forest behind your office?"
She chortled. It was getting cold. She wrapped her arms around her blazer. "This is a park, Aster. Glen Park. And there's a waterfall and everything, and later we could go down Main Street and check out a bookstore or something. Whatever you like."
"I liked your sofa," Aster said.
Molly tucked in her lips. She rounded him and took his handlebars. She started to push. Aster didn't move to help her.
She sweated and braced her shoulders and bumped him over cracks and tree roots. After three minutes, when they were halfway down the sidewalk to the park, Molly stopped. She'd barely taken in a breath of pinecones, wet wood and other parkish scents before he went rolling away, almost doubling the pace. She hurried after him.
Okay. So now she was really, really, regretting her decision to let him stay. Damn that optometrist- Dr. Moskowitz had been the one to influence her to let Aster stay. He'd always seemed dismissive of her and Samuel, both in terms of business and relationship. But Molly felt she'd been upped a notch last night, when in his response email the Doctor had praised her willingness to 'take in a sick friend, someone with no other place to go.'
Aster really didn't have a place. And he clearly held it against her. In that way they were both captives of the circumstances. Aster rolled up to the bridge, where the first waterfall gurgled some ten feet away. This one was a small one, so that you had to stand beside it to take a picture, not in front. The waterfall gushed down into a brook that flowed throughout the park, in some places so gracefully it looked natural, in others unmasked as fake by the bricks framing the stream. Aster held onto the railing with tight fists. Molly joined him, leaning down to catch glimpses of rocks peeking out from the current.
"Cassia loves… loves that." He furrowed his brow.
"Waterfalls?" Molly suggested the obvious.
"No." He rolled in closer, until his footrests tapped the chipped railing. "The… the entirety of it, the water that is falling but also the horizontal waters it becomes, below, and the steam that rises from the larger falls."
Molly scratched the paint on the bars. "A waterfall. I guess the word encompasses all that stuff. I don't know."
"I would like you to realize that this is not my usual you manner," he said. "I must sound imbalanced to you."
It was unnerving, the way he switched trains of thought like that. It was sudden enough that she didn't catch herself before saying, "Yeah, a little."
He started to roll away. Molly first thought it was because he was upset, but then she realized that Aster wanted to be facing away from her, to say what he was going to say. "You should return to your work. The kindness you have supplied me with exceeds what is deserved, and I-"
"Aster." She marched up to his face, even leaned down, to be in line with those weary eyes. "Shut up, okay? Loosen up a little. We're just going to relax and enjoy the day, and we can figure out your fucked-up life afterwards."
Aster shrugged. "If I am compelled to do so."
Molly turned away, with an exasperated, "Oh, god."
"He had nothing to do with it."
"You know it's just something I say, right?"
Aster's sly smile as he turned away suggested that he did. He was easier from that point on, not overly cheerful but bearable, even if it was only for her sake. The park was man-made to look natural, with subtle paths often in view of the falls. The other waterfalls were sometimes hidden by sight, but made themselves known by their steady hiss.
They started towards a pond that was green like the leaves above it. At one point down the path, Aster rolled onto a patch of grass. They were near a clump of trees, which hid a shuttered barn house that bordered the park. "Here," he announced.
"What?" Molly said.
He took a deep breath, and Molly knew she was in for a discourse. "As I may have mentioned, your language lacks many concepts and modes of expression for the nuances of the conscious experience."
"Should I be writing this down, professor?" Molly went a few paces ahead, expecting him to follow. Instead, he was pushing himself unsteadily into the brush.
"Perhaps I should show you," he said, "Since you do not possess the required facilities of understanding."
"Ooh," she said, following him with a roll of her eyes, "Pressing me where it hurts."
"I would adopt a lower tone." Aster's voice was beginning to fade with the rustling of the trees. She hurried to follow him. "Your chatter ruins the allure of the nature."
He was in full let-me-show-you-something mode. Samuel got into those sometimes, when they were discussing tech or politics. He felt good when he was explaining things, as apparently did Aster. Men.
"Your chair is ruining more than my mouth is," Molly pointed out, pushing through grass that pricked her ankles. It was shady here, and her view of the sky was mostly obscured by the monstrous red house. It really was monstrous- the cheerful color was an illusion. The only window it had was high up on the third floor, a single, shuttered pane of glass.
She was looking up, he was looking down. Then she looked down with him, and they noticed together the track marks he was making. Her jab would have been light-hearted if it wasn't true. He was mowing a path through the delicate undergrowth like a tractor. Hands on his rims, Aster peered over his knees furiously.
"Okay, just- just tell me what you wanted to show me," Molly said. She couldn't stand beside him- there were fat trees there- so she stood in front.
"Alright," Aster said, but he struggled to move his chair, so he stayed still. "In my native tongue, we have a term for when a location is in a state of perfection for all five of the senses. We say, Warmaig'd."
Molly brushed a leaf from her hair. "What language is that again?"
"You do not know of it." Aster tried to move forward again, but it looked like he was stuck.
"So you're saying you think there's a place here that's perfect?"
Aster rolled back, then forward. "Yes. I think it may be-" he tipped back dangerously, but managed to ride over a bit of hard terrain.
"I'll push," Molly offered. She didn't know much about these things, but she knew enough that wheelchairs weren't made for forests. At least this one wasn't. They bumped their way forward until they reached an opening: the water. It streamed past the house, which was on the opposite bank. Trees blended into the vines that snaked up the concrete basement. It was instantly quiet, of human sounds at least, though the brook rushed busily over hundreds of pebbles. Molly looked up at a complete carpet of green, all around in every direction.
"Wow," she whispered.
"It is the building," Aster said. "The soft acoustics are caused by-"
"Hush. Your chatter ruins it."
Aster smiled. He was right- all her senses were pleased. The ground, spongy and fertile, covered in swaying grasses, muted her steps. Flowers the color of doves sprouted between the weeds. The air was fresh, and the redness of the barn house was beautiful in a defiant way, an industrial piece that stood out among the wizened trunks, the faded greenery. Aster completed the picture. He seemed to be at home here. He pushed ardourously on his rims, pushing to get over a tree stump, and Molly was reminded how out of place he really was.
"This is... Really cool," she said quietly.
"We must touch the ground to experience Warmaig'd," he said. Molly could not help but stare as he lowered himself to the ground, landing unsteadily in a sprawled-out position. Aster caught her looking, so she quickly dropped beside him. Plastic and tinfoil rustled as she fetched their sandwiches from her purse. They ate in silence.
Molly finished first. She was sitting perpendicular to the stream, so close that she was able to reach over and dip a finger into the rushing water. It was icy cold. She ventured a glance at Aster, who was leaning against his wheelchair, pulling at the crust of the pb&j she'd made for him.
"Are you uncomfortable here?" He said, looking concerned.
"No, not at all." Molly pulled up her knees. "This is so nice, actually. I thought I was going to show you something, take you out to town, but then you… well, this is great."
"I am still inclined to your sofa," Aster admitted, swallowimg the last of his lunch. "Though there is something familiar about the sensation of a forest carpet beneath yourself."
Molly leaned forward. "Wait, you can-" she looked at her lap, regretting having started the sentence. "You can feel?"
He squinted. "I do not understand."
"Your legs. You can feel your…" she let the thought trail off. It was unspoken that they'd never mention what happened that morning, but here she was, flirting with the edges of dangerous territory.
"Yes," he said. He folded his tinfoil carefully, in contrast to her balled-up smush. "Although the last time this happened to me, I could not."
"When did this last happen?"
Aster had a perfect square between his fingers. He pressed it carefully. "Only once before, a year before last month. I would rather not speak of it. But I must say one thing as a warning to you- it was worse than this."
Molly had a dreadful feeling but she asked anyway. "What do you mean?"
Aster kept his head down. He began to pull open the square. "I lost all movement, my arms, my head. I could not control my bowels or bladder. And I could not speak."
It hung in the air between them. Molly found herself rubbing his thigh, then just leaving her hand there. "How long… how long did it-"
"A week. Prior to my being fixed."
Molly shook her head. "Why don't you go home, then? Get yourself fixed?" Strange choice of words, but he probably meant 'healed.'
"There is something I must do here first," Aster said. "Regardless, I can't leave without finding my mate."
Molly remembered something. "You said you arranged a meetup place. Where is that?"
Reckless Behavior: A Guide to the Early Twenty-First Century
Chapter Six: Sex and Society
…To 'lose one's virginity' denotes the first time a woman has penetrative sex. This term may be used by males, but is more common among females. When used by definition by homosexuals, the meaning of losing virginity is different. Although definitions of 'virginity' do vary, the widespread belief is that something is lost or broken. Even if the hymen is already stretched due to masturbation or menstruation flow control, one can still be considered a virgin.
Although a fading ritual, 'abstinence,' the lack of sexual intercourse before marriage, is still in existence.
This leads us to our next topic, Marriage. A dating couple…
And this was the ultimate paradox: that their meetup time was at three thirty in the afternoon, but Danny's wasn't open until hours afterwards. It wasn't a place for cold delicacies, like they'd thought, but instead it was a place for men to be entertained by scantily-clad women. Aster imagined Cassie's reaction to such a place- she was probably horrified. The mistake of their meetup plan was in the details somewhere, but if only he knew which detail.
Aster did try. He sat next to the glass double doors for hours, the whoosh of vehicles numbing his brain. It started to drizzle at about sunset, and he channeled his mind into that, the drops that came whizzing down. It felt good not to think. Not to feel. He focused on the goosebumps on his arms, the cold metal of his wheelchair, because the discomfort drew his thoughts outward. It was a discipline more popular in the Northern cities, like academia-obsessed Rhodium or industrial New Chicago. Up there, a laugh was a crack in you, a weakness, and even a jump in your step was divulging too much information. When he'd first met Cassia, he'd thought she was cold, when in fact she was well disciplined. And lately he'd been taking in the literature of Northern thinkers, because their techniques worked. People appreciated when you presented them with a collected exterior, rather than a complicated mess.
Aster rubbed at his thighs, warming them up. He was tucked beneath a sparse awning that did little to shield him from the blowing rain. His mind was feverishly cutting away the morning's events, but a few questions remained like bugs that couldn't be chased away. He wondered where this Doctor of Molly's got his expertise from. After all, he was a man who sold lenses and eye glasses. Aster's second question concerned Molly herself: why had she not evicted him? He knew well enough that nobody did anything without an ulterior motive. It was all a matter of figuring out what it was, even if Molly didn't know it herself.
The rain got denser, needles of cold that stung his eyes, dotted his shirt. A vehicle came near the sidewalk, a silver car, dispersing a puddle in a spray of grey drops. Molly emerged from the other side. She was holding a thick outer garment, black in color.
Wordlessly, she approached him, hunched by the downpour, and draped the garment over his shoulders.
"I am aware of the route to your house," he said gruffly. His face was wet, his vision was blurry, and Molly was crouching in front of him, tracing warm fingers down his cheek. "Oh, honey," she said. "She's not coming. Just come home."
"I cannot," he whispered.
He took that hand, slid it off his face, held it in his lap. "There is a limit to- your language cannot express- the, the limit to when kindness is done, and-" the words danced in his head, but Late English was crude and lumbering. "When kindness is done and not reciprocated. I can not be a man who does not reciprocate."
Molly's lips curled down and her head tilted to the side. The rain had dampened her clothing too, and they were getting close to the soaked state of his.
"How did I get here?" He whispered. The fog, the thrum of the world made it easier for things to slide from inside to out. The thing Dr. Moskowitz gave him to wear under his pants was wet. How did he get to be this way, helpless, pitiful, a body he couldn't control anymore?
Molly silently came behind him and began to roll him towards her car, and he did not stop her. She did not rush- they were both at a place where the rain had no further effect, where wet couldn't get wetter. She opened his door and sat inside, facing him. She was going to say something, but he stopped her.
"For everything," he said, with sudden forcefulness, "Thank you, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
"Aster, stop it," Molly said, reaching over to wrap her arms around him. She had a firm grasp, and long arms, and where they reached his back they squeezed hard. Aster sat limp, until she drew back her face an inch. Then he put a hand on either side of her chest, feeling her bra and warm skin beneath her sopping shirt. He searched her face, the big dark eyes and small lips. Molly's body in his arms paused for but a moment until she melted into him, responding with such an ache as if she'd been waiting for this, for him. Her mouth brushed his, so briefly, and it made him so dizzy that later, Aster couldn't remember who initiated that kiss. Their lips and mouths were wet with the weather and each other. Aster drew her onto his lap.
It took twenty seconds for other thoughts, practical matters, to trickle in. They broke apart with a gasp from Molly.
"Oh, my God," she said, stumbling off of him.
"Mohy," Aster said.
She rubbed her forehead. "Just- just get in the car."
The drive back was silent. Molly in his arms was like a phantom pain, her wet hair brushing against him, her legs squirming on his. Molly now sat rigid, eyes locked on the road.
"That will not happen again," He said as they pulled into her driveway. He was still shivering.
She shook her head. "Oh, God, Aster," she said, her voice jarringly loud in the small space, "What have you done to me?"
For Cassia, one of the most delightful facts of the Early Twenty-First Century was how many people were working feverishly to slough off all the old confinements of society, to show that they weren't like the older generations. The delightful part was how in their rush to not conform, they were simply creating more boxes. There was now a myriad list of genders and sexualities to choose from, of political groups and subgroups, of ethnicities and organizations and the like. Instead of simply being, people had to create ever small spaces to creep into. This presented Cassia with a profound moral lesson: to rid herself of her own personal boxes.
For example, when she first met Aster, his box was Tree-Dwelling Cloudhead. It took time to recognize his brilliance as a mathematician, his passion as a lover.
Well, that one was a work in progress. Still, she found moral lessons quite satisfying. As the Book said: "Matter on microscopic levels can appear indistinguishable in the human sense of difference in color and shape." The quote wasn't so relevant here, but she made it work. It was good to have your thoughts confirmed by a knowing authority.
A breathy snore arose from the other room. Boxes. Right. Cassia adjusted the covers to fit beneath her chin, trying not to think about last night. Her back ached from the slab of springy foam Croton called a 'mattress.' The ancient people clearly knew nothing about comfortable sleep.
His face kept popping into her head. She rolled over on the mattress. No boxes. An exercise in moral-
Quswàk. Croton, loudly slumbering in his bedroom, fit very neatly into a new box she had: men, two hundred years ago. And so far she wasn't impressed. It was no surprise that Croton had wanted to copulate with her last night, but he didn't know her. She didn't know him.
Granted, she'd had limited exposure so far, but surely such forwardness was mainstream among males here. After all, how did she end up in his home?
She told herself that this was the only way. When he'd asked her to come home with him, that was exactly what she needed. Croton was the man they were after, and what better way to gain his trust?
The noises stopped, so she assumed he was awake. A few minutes later, a door creaked, and Croton stuck his head through her open door, yawning with his mouth stretched open. His sleepy eyes found her. "Hey," he said. "Slept well?" He looked confused, angry maybe. Cassia knew she had to leave soon, or else copulate with him. She would have no reason to remain in his home otherwise.
She could only smile tightly. She'd come close- too close. Seeing him standing there, hair disheveled, a shadow over his lips, it was hard to remember that this was the man who would change history, for the worst.
∆∆ To be continued...