Terry squinted at her. “You’re here again,” he said sharply, but he seemed a lot less annoyed than he pretended to be.

Karen plopped herself on the chair opposite the table. “Okay, hear me out. I’m not a stalker, by the way. It’s just… I’ve been thinking about your situation all day, and I have come up with a possible solution for you.”

Terry frowned, yet again. “Solution to what exactly?” He made a fist on the table, he seemed to want his chocolate right about now. The setting was the same as yesterday, the afterburner sunset, the quiet buzz of the café, the golden-red hues everywhere. He was a fine-looking man, he seemed to work out and had good taste in clothes.

Karen chuckled awkwardly, fumbling for the words. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table and making it jostle. Thankfully there were no cups on it, or she would have spilt something for sure. You clumsy idiot, you. “Heh. Okay, give me like five minutes, let me explain my idea to you and you promise me you’ll think it over, okay?”

He shrugged, crossing his legs and turning to the side. His entire body language was evasive. “I have no idea what you want. And you’re spoiling my romantic moment here, to be honest.”

“Yes. I am. And I’m sorry, but that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Listen to me once and if you say ‘no’ I won’t bother you again, alright?”

He shrugged again, waving her to get on with it and then crossed his arms over his chest.

“You’re in an increasing-distance relationship, right?”

He nodded. Of course he did, she wasn’t saying anything new so far.

“The problems with regular long-distance relationships have been dealt with with the proper tech, teledildonics, videocalls, sensory feedback, VR, the works.”

Terry scrunched up his nose, shaking his head. “I-I don’t really like those things. I mean, of course we tried them, but they were, I dunno… Too-Too much in the way, you know?”

“I get you, completely!” Karen said, excited. She forced herself not to squeak like a chicken, she did that when she got excited. She grabbed the salt and pepper from the table and demonstrated the ever-increasing distance between them. “The generation ship flies further and further, away from the solar system. And you’re in love, you wanna hang out, you don’t wanna break up, it hurts too much. I get it, I really do. And people in love wanna have sex, you know. It’s only natural, no judgies there.” She raised a finger in the air. “But! The distances keep increasing, the lag becomes a bother, it ruins all the fun.” She leaned forward, her eyes wide. “What if we put an intermediary body?” She winked at him. “Huh?”

Terry uncrossed his arms and turned to her. “I’m not sure what you’re suggesting.”

Karen licked her lips and looked around. She stole a pepper shaker from the table next to them. The woman there protested, “Hey!”

“I’m doing for it love, you dolt,” Karen said and placed the pepper shaker in the middle of the other two on their table. She shut her eyes, flailing her arms around as she explained. “Okay, now here’s the kicker. You’re the salt shaker, okay? And this is Chloe,” Karen tapped the original pepper shaker.

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“How do you know Chloe’s name?” Terry frowned.

Karen winced. “It’s on your social media profile. Come on, it’s not like I’m stalking you, it’s floating next to you in Augmented Reality. Big deal. Check your privacy settings if you don’t want people knowing it.”

Terry grunted for a while, but let it go. “Okay. I’m still waiting for this big idea of yours. Sunset is almost over.”

Karen tapped the pepper shaker she stole and placed it between them. “What if, we link up Chloe and me, and sleep with you with her commands exactly? And I fill in the gaps when there’s a communication lag, by getting to know what she wants from you etcetera etcetera,” Karen blurted out and rolled her hands in front of her.

Terry blinked slowly. He leaned back on his chair and looked away. “Heh…”

Karen tapped the shakers, rapping on them like a drummer. “Well? Just tell me what you think. I can handle it, Terry. Really.”

“You want me, to sleep with you, while you surrogate for my girlfriend? And she’ll tell you what to do, you’ll carry on during the gaps, and she’ll tell you in the next interval etcetera.”

Karen shook her head up and down furiously. “Pretty much, yeah.”

Terry smiled. “And how much is this gonna cost me?”

“What?” It was her turn to blink.

“You’re a prostitute, right?” he declared with his palm up. “I don’t mind your profession, heck I’ve been a john a couple of times, but I don’t like the way you’re approaching me.”

“No. No!” Karen stood up. “I’m not a hooker, Terry!” she shouted, grabbing the attention of everyone in the café.

Terry grabbed her by the arm and sat her down. “Can you be quiet, dammit?” he said through gritted teeth.

“Yes,” Karen pouted like a scolded child. “Sorry about that. But I’m not a hooker,” she said softly, bringing her fist down her knee.

“Okay, alright.  But you have to admit it sounds fishy. I mean, I don’t even know you, Karen,” he said her name as if he didn’t believe it was her real one.

“I get it,” Karen assured him, “I really do. And we can get to know each other first, perhaps a date. Yeah, a date would be a great idea. And then I’d need to get to know Chloe, you know, see what she likes and so on. And if everyone is on board, we just go for it, you know?” she ended with a grunt, mimicking a slight thrusting motion with her waist. “Just like in any threesome. Eeeverybody needs to be cool with it.” She made a smooth gesture with a swipe of her palm in the air.

Terry closed his eyes and touched the bridge of his nose. “This is insane, Karen! And I’m still not convinced that you don’t want money out of this.”

Karen showed her teeth, looking around the café. “I’m not a hooker. How many times I gotta tell you-“

“Alright!” he interrupted. “Then what do you get out of this?”

Karen snorted. “Besides getting laid? Well, I can do a thesis on it, with your permission, you and Chloe’s too?”

Terry stared at her for a minute. Then he slapped his hands on the table and stood up. The waitress brought his chocolate. “I don’t want it now, sorry. You can charge my paycard for it anyway,” he said and left the café.

The waitress turned to Karen. “Do you want it? It’s hot.”

Karen wiped the side of her eye. “Yes,” she sniffled quietly. “It goes well with the afterburner sunset, after all.”

End of chapter

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