Go Ahead, Indulge
Wallace Brooks liked coffee shops but didn’t like coffee. It wasn’t quite as odd as it sounded. Most coffee shops these days served iced tea in a variety of flavors, and they served food.
He liked the comfortable chairs. It was a pleasant place to spend some time reading or working on a story. He’d decided to get out of the office today, improve his headspace for the story he needed to write. Coffee aromas warmed the air. The young ladies and one guy behind the counter talked in light banter as they served drinks and food to those using the drive through. He sat in his usual spot, on one of the worn leather chairs in the back. His Chromebook sat open but unused on his knees. Wallace stared at the cursor in the window, tea held in one hand, trying to come up with some story that didn’t sound completely lame.
A shadow fell across the keys. He looked up, surprised to see a woman standing above him. Two things hit him at once. She was beautiful and young. Her hair cascaded down in artful curls. Her lips quickened into a smile as their eyes met.
She held a book, a novel from the look of it, in the crook of her left arm. The title read simply, Winter. She gestured with the venti-sized coffee she held in her right hand toward the other comfy chair.
“Is anyone sitting here?”
“No,” Wallace said automatically, still taken aback. Attractive young women didn’t generally approach middle-aged men in coffee shops. At least not in his experience.
He glanced past her at the rest of the coffee shop, expecting to discover that the other tables and chairs were all full, but they weren’t.
She sat with grace and poise, smoothing her skirt as she leaned back into the chair. She was still looking at him. “These chairs are much more comfortable than the wood chairs. I hope you don’t mind?”
Wallace shook his head. Her asking to sit didn’t have anything to do with him. It was just the chair. Even though there was another available padded chair up by the front windows with no one nearby, it didn’t mean anything.
He realized she was still looking at him. “No, no. It’s fine.”
He gestured at the Chromebook on his lap. “I was just working on a story.”
“Oh?” She leaned forward with her elbows on her legs, hands clasping the book. Her eyes were gray and intense, with dark lashes. “So you’re a writer?”
Wallace ducked his head a bit to the side and gave a half-hearted shrug. “I guess so. Journalist. I mostly report on medical and technology topics. And write the occasional essay.”
She extended her hand. “I’m Autumn.”
Wallace laughed. “That’s funny.”
Confusion wrinkled her brow.
Hastily, he tried to cover. “No, I mean your because of your book. Your name is great.”
Autumn looked at the title of the book she held. She laughed then, open and warm. Her eyes sparkled when she looked back at him. “Autumn, winter, you’re right, that is funny! I hadn’t even thought about it.”
Her hand was still extended. Wallace reached out and shook her hand. Her grip was firm. A confident handshake. “Wallace Brooks.”
Her lips quirked. “Should I call you Wally?”
“Uh, if you want. Most people just call me Wallace.”
She gave him a satisfied smile. “I think I’ll stick with Wally. You look like you’re fun and Wally sounds more fun than Wallace.”
Maybe Wally was more fun. Wallace wasn’t sure about that. He had few experiences with what other people thought of as fun. Truth be told, the sort of fun he enjoyed were the quiet pleasures. He and his wife enjoyed movies and TV shows, videos online, and games. In his book, a fun evening was a quiet one at home.
“What are you working on now?”
“Um, actually I was trying to come up with an idea.”
“Well, I could help. Maybe I could be your muse?”
Was she flirting with him? Maybe? He really didn’t have experience flirting with young women. He wasn’t sure that she was, and besides, he was happily married. The best thing would be to ignore it.
“I was thinking about doing a piece on new tech companies in the area.”
She pouted. “Sounds a little dry Wally.”
She scooted forward and touched his knee. “I’m sure we could do better than that. At least more specific.”
“Okay, what did you have in mind?”
“Well,” her tongue briefly touched her lip. “I was thinking about this video I saw earlier. It was for this new company. I don’t know if you’ve heard about Vice?”
Vice? “The snack food company?”
“Right, sure, that’s the one.”
“They have that slogan, ‘go ahead, indulge.’”
“Right! They make those extra salty and extra sweet snacks.” Autumn chuckled. “Like me.”
Wallace lost his train of thought. This had to be the strangest morning he’d had in a long time. And it was beginning to feel somewhat uncomfortable in a couple ways. He was glad he had the Chromebook on his lap. But he also felt uneasily guilty, even though he hadn’t done anything.
“I’m not sure if that is the sort of thing I’m looking to write about,” he said. “It seems like they’re encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle.”
Autumn shrugged. “Experts also say that it’s better to focus on your happiness. Don’t you think that Vice Corp kind of has a point? They don’t say overindulge, just now and then do something to indulge that makes you happy. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, what’s the harm?”
“Okay,” Wally said, unconvinced. “But they aren’t really a tech company are they?”
Autumn leaned forward more, a fact that did nothing to hide her ample cleavage revealed by her blouse. Wallace quickly looked away. Meeting her gaze didn’t make him feel more comfortable. If anything the intensity and the sensation of her fingers grazing his knee again made things worse.
“Well,” she said conspiratorially. “I’ve heard that they have a new tech division making some exciting new products.”
Her voice dropped lower, husky, and warm. “Robotic lifestyle products.”
Wallace’s interest was piqued in spite of himself. “Really? How does that fit with indulging?”
She ran her tongue along her glistening top lip. “They’ve made realistic sex bots. I think that would make a hell of a story.”
Wallace stared at her and slowly his blood-starved brain started to put it together. “What do you do? Do you work for Vice Corp?”
She shrugged, smiling, and winked. “In a way. You could say that I’m a sort of demonstration model.”
Wallace looked around the coffee shop and then back at Autumn. Her flawless, youthful skin, the moisture on her lips and her eyes. The perfect hair. It seemed unbelievable.
“You’re a sex bot?”
She laughed a warm, joyful laugh and touched a finger lightly to her cute nose. “You got it. You’re such a gentleman, Wally. You figured it out fast. I’d like you to meet some people from our marketing team. We’ve been filming these encounters for our upcoming advertising campaign.”
The door of the coffee shop opened, and two professional looking women and a man walked inside. They were all smiling at him as they approached. Wallace swallowed. He didn’t much care for the idea of being in a marketing video. Maybe doing a story on it would be better. But it was going to be embarrassing to explain this to his wife. She’d probably crack up at the idea of him thinking that a young woman had approached him to flirt in a coffee shop.
“Okay,” Wallace said. “Let’s go ahead and talk about a story.”
He closed the Chromebook and stood. Autumn stood. Her hand slid possessively around his arm. “Good idea Wally. I think we’ll work well together.”
As the others approached, Wallace had a chilling thought. What if they were robots too? What if Vice Corp was run by robots? He pushed the terrifying thought aside and forced a smile onto his lips.
This story is licensed by Ryan M. Williams under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.