“What color are my eyes?” she asked. Chrissy’s eyes were closed. She tucked her blue chiffon dress and sat across from Josh in the white, garden swing.
Josh exited the news display and looked up. “What color do you want them to be?”
“I asked first,” she said then bit her lip, her laced fingers clenched in her lap. Raven hair framed her pale, pretty face and curled softly under her chin.
The spring day was sunny, blue, and breezy. Multi-colored flowers danced in the garden and along the paths, spreading their fragrance with each gust. Splashing water laughed in the pedestal fountain. A red-throated skink jag-walked from a cluster of blue phlox, glanced about then skittered away.
“Your doe eyes are soft brown and beautiful, my love,” Josh said.
“Then it is me,” Chrissy said. She opened her eyes, her gaze dropping. “Now you’re going to tell me they’ve always been brown.” Their eyes came together.
Josh restrained a sigh and leaned forward. “What’s the matter, dear?”
“I remember my eyes being blue,” she said. “If they’ve always been brown, my mind must be going. And you, Josh, you’re getting older while I look the same … except for having brown eyes. I don’t mind looking younger, but I want us to age together. I feel out of place, like I don’t belong here.”
“I love the dress you’re wearing.” Josh changed the subject.
“Thank you. It was laid out on the bed when I woke up.”
A call came from the hedge gate. “Joshua, Chrissy, anybody home?”
“Here by the garden swing,” Josh said. Jordan, Josh’s sister, appeared. She nodded up and strode toward them.
“Such a beautiful day,” Jordan said. Josh smiled his agreement.
Chrissy closed her eyes. “Jordan, what color are my eyes?”
Startled, Chrissy glanced at Josh and saw him mouth, “Brown.”
“Have you changed your eye color?” Jordan asked. “Last I recall they were a beautiful brown. Did you get contacts? Show me.”
Chrissy opened her downcast, brown eyes. “Can I get you something cool to drink?” she asked.
“Iced tea, lemon, not sweet,” Jordan said. Chrissy slid off the swing and slumped to the patio service counter.
“Sorry, Josh,” Jordan whispered to his ear. “I remember she said she wanted brown eyes.”
“She’s upset about the difference in our ages, too,” Josh said. “Of course, our ages are different. It’s been ten years.” Jordan squeezed her brother’s neck and kissed the side of his head.
“No matter what I do, I can’t make her happy,” he said, bringing his folded hands to his forehead. “I don’t think I can handle another suicide … even one day without her … I just can’t.”
Jordan rolled her lips in then wrapped both arms around her brother’s head. “You’ll start again?”
“I have no choice.” Josh kept his voice low. “Once depression sets in, she goes quickly.”
Chrissy returned with a tall glass of tea and handed it to Jordan. She forced a straight-lipped smile then pulled the garden swing under her and kicked gently to start its motion.
“Thank you,” Jordan said, lifting her eyes and brows toward Chrissy. “I stopped by to ask if you’d like to go with me to the craft fair. It starts in the park this afternoon and runs all weekend. We could go tomorrow, if you prefer.” She tilted her head.
“Yes, maybe tomorrow,” Chrissy said. “It’s warm and I’m a little tired. I think I’ll go lie down.” She rose and flashed the same flat smile as she left.
“Check with you tomorrow,” Jordan said, keeping her tone light. She touched Josh’s sleeve then headed for the hedge gate.
Josh found Chrissy reclined on the sofa, shoulders back, eyes closed, breathing deeply. “Are you upset,” he asked. She pursed her lips. A tear rolled from the corner of her eye down across her temple.
“Let me help,” he said, reaching and kneading the back of her neck. Chrissy rocked her head forward. He pressed her second cervical vertebra then the first vertebra twice, completing the code. Chrissy’s lips and eyelids parted slightly, and she went limp.
Josh carried her to the back room and down the steps. He laid her gently on a high, gray, soapstone table. Tenderly he removed her blue chiffon dress, her shoes and stockings, her underwear, earrings, bracelet, and sapphire, pendant necklace. He moved her body to a tub-sized, glass tank and opened the fill valves. He checked the cell assembly and flow tracks then opened the additive manufacturing schematic. He replicated the last design pattern and advanced the model number to 344. He then reset the eye color to bluish gray and tweaked up the dopamine receptors. Before pressing restart, he added ten years, composed a script to cover the lost time, and erased the memory of today. A dozen laser tools and suction pipes, guided by cell-recognition software, swung into place.
Josh couldn’t watch. He knew Chrissy’s cells were being removed, reprogrammed, and reset—the recycled cells from the body he’d claimed after her suicide. He wanted her back with all the joy she had when they’d first met.
Chrissy tucked her blue chiffon dress and slid into the garden swing.
Sitting opposite her, Josh closed the news projection, sat up, and smiled. “How about going to the craft fair with Jordan this afternoon?” he asked.
“That’d be fun,” Chrissy said. She leaned forward and kissed him.
“I love that dress you’re wearing,” Josh said.
Chrissy smiled. “I haven’t worn this dress in years, but it was laid out on the bed when I woke. You set it out for me, didn’t you? I know we’re aging, but you still prefer me dressing young.”
He flashed his best who-me smile. “It looks great on you.”