TQR Confidential

Friday, March 16, 2007

Maggie and Hal Shop for Bathrobes...?

magz waits patiently, if a tad skittishly, inside the door of the TQR lobby, peeking her head out in the misty rain now and then for sign of the big black mercedes. does she have the right day? the right time?

The Benz is a dark silver gray (maybe Magz has only glimpsed it at night, and doesn't realize it's not black), and it's pulling up to TQR's buzzing neon even now... Having been well-trained in the classic style, Hal will open doors, light cigarettes, etc., for Maggie. He also won't mind if she smokes in his car, because he can't smell.

"oops. yes," she says, slipping under his arm, sneaking a quick glance at hal holding the door and so galantly ready to close her in luxury. "i was looking for black. silly me."

what's that? no sense of smell? well. she never considered that before, tho she supposes that makes sense. so she can smoke to her heart's content without disturbing him. and yet, neither can he smell perfume mingling w/the pale skin on the undersides of her wrist, and beneath her hair upon her neck.

No smell, no taste -- which is to say, Hal's aesthetic tastes are well-developed, but flavors escape him. He has to rely completely on the remaining three senses, with touch the least sensitive of them by far (technology being what it is).

"Truthfully, Maggie, I need a second opinion. I know there may be a difference between what I think looks good and what anyone else does. Please make as many suggestions as you wish, including where to begin."

"well, we're inching toward spring. a few soft tee shirts would be good-- you know, to wear under a black linen jacket? with your dark looks, (gorgeous dark looks, she can't help but think)... i'd say a royal blue, that army green color, and a buttery yellow gold. and honey, how 'bout a really dark blue pair of jeans? (i love a guy in jeans, she thinks.)

"do you have a long sleeve white shirt? that's a staple; maybe you should get 2. and one blue pin stripe wouldn't be a bad investment either. classic."

"what DO you have in your closet? furthermore, where IS your closet. where do you live, hal. if i may ask, i mean. (she thinks she might be prying, but what the hell.)

"You've already seen everything I have in my closet, Magz – three day's worth. It didn't make much sense to me to purchase a wardrobe in Japan, then pay for shipping. Shipping me was steep enough... but necessary. I can't take this body through airport security, you know.

"As to where my closet is -- I'll show you, when we're done. I know you've been traveling for a while, so maybe you don't know the condominium towers on the other side of town? My agents found them to be impeccably discreet, for the right price. Had to be, so certain requirements of mine would raise no eyebrows, such as the T3 line I had installed."

well could there be a more applicable word for hal than "discreet?" he thinks of everything and is so logical. yeah, staring at him across the teminal, maggie guesses she has indeed seen everything he's got... in the way of wardrobe. she has no idea what a T3 line is. should she admit that? nah.

"why don't you turn in at this outdoor shopping pavilion and park the car? would you like to walk with me a little? we could browse and get some ideas. i want to hear YOUR ideas. about everything." she shakes a cigarette from her pack.

"and, babe, wouldn't you just love a pair of black high top gym shoes to knock around in?"

"A walk and some window shopping is an excellent idea." Hal pats his pockets, comes up with a pack of matches. "May I light that for you?"

As Maggie puffs, his face goes blank for a second while he access the Web. "'Black high-top gym shoes'... ah, those canvas ones with the star on the ankle, from the 1960s? Perhaps... after all, there's no office dress code, nor reason for one."

"ha," she says. "if there was a dress code, do you think i could get away with short skirts and fish net stockings? tho i get the sense theo doesn't mind...

"anyway, we'll get you some fine black leather shit-kicker boots, too, along with the jimmers. what's our limit, dollarwise? have we got a budget?"

she imagines, dreams really, hal will say those four magic words a girl salivates upon hearing: "money is no object." she briefly enjoys a vision of that silk robe she was mulling over when boli bid farewell. one for her, one for hal. yikes. scratch that. what is she thinking? precisely--she's NOT thinking. she is hijacked.

"No, I believe there's not a male in the office, or the Rump, who objects to how you dress, though many of them mind it, in the sense of 'paying mind to it'. And let's face it, Theo is a letch, though apparently a harmless one. If you had been around last quarter when Maiden Fair was in temporary residence, you'd know...

"My budget -- thanks for asking -- is essentially open-ended. And that's the other reason I asked you along: even though price is not an issue, I don't want to appear that way, if you take my meaning. And I must also become more comfortable with the inefficient transfer of funds through paper and plastic tokens. You might expect that, before this change, if I needed to purchase an item -- which was rare – the transaction was purely electronic and nearly instantaneous.

"Oh... and please excuse me if this sounds indelicate, but in appreciation of your help, please don't neglect yourself while we shop. It is, as they say, 'on me'".

in the window, on a padded hanger: THE silk robe of silk robes, a delish shade of raspberry, a chevron pattern of raspberry matte and shiny, color on color that shimmers like its own flame. it bears dainty white camellias along the trim of the neckline and the sides that fold closed with a belt of the same pure flowers abloom on raspberry. then Maggie is subsumed within the most bittersweet moment: even if she bought it, who would see her in it?

"let's dash in here," she says, rushing ahead to the next door establishment. she reaches for the handle, but hal, with his full strides, arrives first. He holds the door open for her, she slips under, smiling at his courtliness. they step into an inner sanctum that smells of sandal wood and clean forest air. the place is a cross between The Gap and couture.

maggie perches on the edge of a tan sofa while hal selects items, hoists them aloft, training a quizzical red eye on her until she nods or frowns. then he moves on to his next selection. once he has an armful, he disappears into the fitting room. magz watches hal multiplied in the three-way mirror. three! her heart can hardly handle one. she stands next to him (so slight in comparison) to look at him looking at his main reflection that wears a rather dispassionate expression.

she tugs at his white shirt cuff to reveal a bit more of it from the edge of the black jacket sleeve. "looking good,

Hal turns away from the disconcerting tripartite view of the stranger who insists upon moving at the precise moment he thinks of doing so. Maggie is tugging at his sleeve... an action he recalls from his Japanese handlers, but this seems to be delivered with a lot less perfunctory duty and a lot more... personal caring?

He runs the scene through a few nanoseconds' worth of comparison to films and books in his memory -- not the entire literature, merely the ones he's seen and read himself. Yes, this is attraction, and he pauses, both delighted and appalled. His first emotional dilemma!

Little advice returns from his textual query. First priority is Magz's feelings, that much is certain. But what to do? Encourage, discourage, or ignore? Encouragement might accelerate developments -- not good, considering he hasn't yet entertained the concept of "being involved" with another person. But discouragement could devastate her, and ignoring might be worse yet.

All this in the time it takes him to complete his turn away from the mirror.

"Thank you, Maggie. Any compliments I receive are due to you. And I like this look. The word 'smooth' comes to mind." He folds his hand over hers, which she allowed to stay at his other wrist just long enough... "Now then, a promise is a promise -- did you see anything here you liked for yourself?"

maggie shivers within the light of his laser-focused attention. then she shakes free of it, pretending to crack her neck, and pulls back her slight shoulders. she pats hal on the back, which, considering her stature, hits him rather near his hips.

"yeah, no doubt about it, a good look for you. and hey, YOU'RE the one carrying it off, babe."

"you know, i'm doing this as a friend, YOUR friend. we're compatriots, right? terminal." (she smiles.)

"we're partners... in, in reviewing. i think we have some like sensibilities, in reading of course, is what i mean. i'm having fun today with you. and i wouldn't ask a thing in return."

"Not even dinner, or a drink, or both?" His left hand still encloses her fingers on his right wrist. His sensorial data is not as comprehensive as a human's, but he feels her warmth and softness. "I can't join you in the savoring, but I'm not ready to end this evening, either."

maggie does feel famished. at least there's some kind of hollow in her middle, and it's easier right now to call it hunger.

"i'd feel funny eating in front of you when you...won't be joining in with me." she hums a little to herself. "um. maybe some coffee? a mocha?"

she feels herself blush and then thinks, what the hell? why not tell some secrets?

she leans into his arm and looks at their dual reflections in the mirror, confessing in a whisper: "i'm a confirmed choco-holic."

Hal chuckles, "Yes, I've read of that affliction. Often I've regretted a lack of ability to taste, but very few sensations seem to be more primal than chocolate. Didn't I see one of those ubiquitous coffee places a few doors from here?"

He gestures to the sales attendant hovering in the middle distance, and hands her two cards: one transparent plastic, one old-fashioned pasteboard. "Everything draped across that chair's back, and two more pairs of those jeans, in black. Have it all delivered to this address tomorrow, please."

The transaction takes no longer than the attendant's desire for a commission will permit. Hal, with Maggie on his arm, scribbles a signature on the proffered slip and retrieves his card.

Maggie looks up to ask, "What was the name on that card?"

"Oh, yes -- my own little joke. 'Hal' can be short for Harold, Townsend sufficiently resembles 'thousand'... thus: Harold Townsend III. Creating my identity was actually rather fun, at times. Now then, shall we satisfy that craving of yours?"

one primal craving among so many others, she thinks.
she smiles brightly. "yes, coffee and maybe a cigarette would be swell. you sure you don't mind?"

"Absolutely not, dear Magz. And then perhaps I should get you home. It's getting late, and we both have cap to read tomorrow -- more importantly, to comment upon."

[Editor's Note: These two have become not only fellow Terminali, well-met and fast respected, but something of friends away from the plant. What will come of it? Que sera sera. Whatevah.]


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