It was a redhead again. Everything else was right; the perky breasts, the come-hither look… but it was not supposed to be a redhead. Ever.
Shawn exited the Rorupurei and checked the settings. Everything he could control was exactly the way he always had it. Unfortunately, since the possible combinations of both appearance and action were infinite, much had to be left to the algorithm to figure out.
You’d think something simple like hair color could be selectable…
He went in again, and there she was. Her back was to him, and she was dressed for desire. A thong that was more jewelry than underwear, some kind of arm coverings that weren’t gloves, but they laced up like a corset, and matched the lacy thing around her neck. There was probably a fancy term for them, but knowledge of women’s fashion was not his strong point.
Her eyes smoldered from beneath a black veil, attached to a hat that covered her…
Red hair. Why did the computer think he wanted a redhead all of a sudden?
Shawn tossed the interface across the room and took his bottle of lotion into the bathroom to finish what he’d started the old fashioned way.
At just the wrong moment, his sister’s voice came over the intercom. “Shawn, are you coming up for dinner? It’ll be ready in about half an hour.”
Frustrated beyond hope, he yelled instead of pushing the button. “Yeah!” At least he’d get fed if he couldn’t get laid. Living in his sister’s basement had its advantages.
It was getting too cold to bike over to Jay’s house for gaming, but one of the guys was usually willing to pick him up. Being legally blind meant he would never be able to drive, never be able to impress a chick with his sweet ride, never be seen as the dependable, helpful type of man a girl wanted to date. Real girls, anyways…
“Wait!” Jay commanded as Shawn and Dave, his driver of the day, arrived on the doorstep. “Answer this truthfully. Last Sunday, when you bedded down for the night in the castle ruins, did you leave Barrowmaster in your bag of holding, or did you take it out to sleep with?”
“I took it out. I always sleep with Barrowmaster at hand,” Shawn answered confidently.
“It’s like his teddy-bear,” Dave added, prompting a snicker from the group already inside.
“Enter then. And partake of pizza,” Jay said, opening the door and sweeping his arm out in a gesture of generosity.
“I brought the Dew,” Shawn said, lifting the twelve-pack and putting it on the table.
“Did anyone bring ginger-ale?” Lyndsay asked, munching a breadstick. It looked phallic to him, but he chased that image away and blamed it on his poor eyesight. Lyndsay had enough to put up with, being the only girl in the group. She didn’t need some pathetic loser nerd who lived in his sister’s basement harassing her. Or staring at her, something he knew he did without realizing, but fortunately his friends were all used to kicking him under the table or poking him with a (sheathed, usually) katana to remind him of his manners.
“Here you go sweetie,” said Rob, handing her a can.
Sweetie? They’d been on, what, three dates, and he was already calling her sweetie? Rob, the pathetic nerd who lived in his parents’ trailer house with his my-neck-is-redder-than-yours white trash sister, was dating Lyndsay, one of the only females to ever come anywhere even close to his circle of friends.
Shawn ignored his usual chair and instead sat where Dave’s rather herculean mass would be between himself and “the female” as he preferred to call her. Even though she hadn’t laughed at his cute idea of a nickname, only smiled that long-suffering smile she aimed so often at him, he continued to use it. If he stopped, he’d have to admit he was being nice.
He’d have to admit he liked her.
In the three months since she’d moved to town and started gaming with them, he’d had plenty of time to tell her how he felt. She’d even come over to his apartment a few times to get help with her tablet or laptop. He just couldn’t bring himself to actually ask her out. The possibility of rejection was just too…preordained.
Shawn did his best to ignore the female as the dice rolled and the adventurers attempted to predict what the DM would throw at them next. He was fine until Dave got up and disappeared in the bathroom for twenty minutes.
“What is your real hair color?” Jay asked Lyndsay, whose hair was currently a bright blue. It had been purple when they’d first met, and changed frequently.
“She’s a real redhead,” Rob answered. The smugness in his tone was obvious. Shawn focused his eyepiece on Lyndsay, who was blushing furiously and trying her best to ignore the guys.
“I’m going to see if there’s any ice cream left,” she said, getting up.
“That’s it, woman. Back to the kitchen where you belong.” The words left Shawn’s mouth before his brain had a chance to censor them. It was stupid. It was rude. It wasn’t even remotely funny, even though he’d meant it to be.
Rob smacked him on the head with a rubber mace, defending his girlfriend’s honor.
When Dave dropped him off at home, Shawn fell into bed without bothering to undress. He awoke a few hours later and coded until his fingers started cramping. He reached for the Rorupurei interface, not caring whether it insisted on providing him with a redhead. A redhead, like every girl he’d ever crushed on hard. Like every girl who’d ever crushed him back, and not in a good way.
His shadow lover was there, as always. Ready to laugh at his stupid misogynistic jokes. Ready to stand on a pedestal or wrestle in the mud, whatever he wished for.
But now her hair was bright blue.
This story was inspired directly from the above picture by artist and friend Sharyn Yee. Actually, it was her husband James‘ idea to pick one of her pictures, then each write a story based on it. I invited my friends Geri and Gwen along for the ride as well. Below are the links to the stories they wrote. I’m interested in reading them myself…I made sure I didn’t peek at theirs until mine was finished!