She was having one of those dreams again. The ones where she was someone else. She could see all the bits, the pieces of a life that wasn't hers, and in an instant, they were gone. Sometimes when she awoke from those dreams, she got the feeling that she should have remembered them, but they would disappear from her so quickly. Anyway, she didn't mind. She only had those kinds of dreams when she went for her treatments, and she did enjoy her treatments.
The mechanical chair she sat in adjusted to an upright position, and she opened her eyes. The room was familiar, with all its screens and machines. She didn't bother to wonder what they were for. It wasn't something that mattered to her. All that was important was that she try to be her best. She thought she might swim thirty laps today. It would help her to be her best.
"Hello, Juliet," Topher said. Juliet turned to look at him. Topher administered her treatments. She liked Topher.
"Did I fall asleep?" Juliet asked. She usually slept through her treatments.
Topher smiled. Juliet liked his smile. "For a little while," he answered.
"Shall I go now?" She didn't prefer to leave Topher, but she wanted to go for a swim. She tried to be her best.
"If you like," said Topher, and Juliet stood.
She walked down the stairs and headed for the pool room, passing several of the others exercising with the yoga instructor. After her swim, she decided, she would join them. She changed into a bathing suit and lowered herself into the pool. She was alone today, and Topher's smile was still fresh in her mind. She thought about him as she did her laps, and imagined him smiling just for her.
Juliet was just finishing her dinner when the man she knew as her handler approached her. He reached a hand out toward her. "It's time for your treatment, Juliet," he said pleasantly, and she took his hand and smiled.
"I enjoy my treatments," she said gratefully, knowing she would see Topher in a moment. Maybe this time she wouldn't fall asleep, and she would have a chance to talk to him. Her handler led her up the stairs and into the room with the chair. Topher seemed to be very busy, moving quickly from one machine to another and looking a little upset. "Hello, Topher," said Juliet. She supposed he was just preparing for her treatment.
Topher stopped and turned to look at Juliet. His worried expression eased into something warmer. "Hello, Juliet," he said, gesturing toward the chair. "Are you ready for your treatment?"
"Oh, yes," she said. "I enjoy my treatments."
"Of course you do," he responded with a slight chuckle as Juliet sat down. The chair lowered until she was flat on her back, and she quickly found herself being pulled into another strange dream.
Topher had dismissed Juliet, and she did want to go to art class. They were painting today, and she liked making pictures with the pretty colors. Still, she hesitated at the door. She turned to speak to Topher, but he was heading into the next room. Juliet followed him.
"Topher," she said as she stepped through the door.
"Ahh!" he said, surprised. Then he relaxed. "Don't do that," Topher scolded her. "I didn't know you were here. Um. What are you doing here, by the way? Don't you have an art class to go to?"
"I like painting," Juliet said happily. "But I wanted to stay with you. Would you like to come paint with me?"
"I'd love to," he replied, and Juliet smiled hopefully. "But, uh, can't."
"Why can't you?" Juliet questioned, disappointed.
"Well, because. I have a lot of work to do here, Juliet." Topher moved toward her and put his hands on her shoulders, ushering her out of the room. "You go ahead, though, and I'll see you again soon, okay?"
"Okay," she agreed, and left to go paint. She heard Topher mutter something about her handler under his breath.
"Hello, Juliet," Topher said as Juliet opened her eyes.
"Did I fall asleep?" Juliet asked, watching his lips turn gently upward in a smile.
"For a little while," Topher confirmed.
"May I stay awhile?"
"If you," Topher started, then paused. "What did you say?" His eyebrows turned down in confusion.
Juliet smiled sweetly at him. She liked Topher. He always gave her treatments, and was always there when she woke up. He was kind to her, and pleasing to look at. "If I'm finished with my treatment," she said, "may I stay awhile?"
"Juliet," said Topher, stuttering through his words. "I, uh. I have a lot of work to do and, um, I don't really have time to, uh . . ."
"I'd like to watch you work," Juliet said eagerly, standing up. She turned toward her handler. "May I stay with Topher awhile?"
Her handler chuckled. "Sure, Juliet. If it's alright with Topher."
Topher's jaw dropped as he turned to face the other man. "Jeremy! Why?"
He shrugged. "She likes you. Why not? She won't bother you. She just wants to watch."
"But," Topher began, "what if I have to imprint an active? She can't just hang out up here all day!" Topher sighed. "Alright, Juliet. You can stay for a little while. But don't get in my way. I'm very busy." He turned and walked away into the next room.
Juliet looked at her handler. "Is Topher upset with me?" she asked. She didn't want him to be upset with her. She liked him better when he was smiling. "Was I not my best?"
Her handler reached out and hugged her gently. "You're always your best, Juliet. Topher's just having a bad day. He'll be alright." He released her and started to turn away. "You go enjoy yourself. I'll come and get you for dinner."
Juliet followed Topher into the other room. He was doing something with a machine. She didn't understand it, but she liked the pictures on the screen he was looking at. "What is that?" Juliet said curiously, walking toward him and the machine.
"That?" asked Topher, indicating the screen. "It's a brain scan."
"I don't understand," she said, her eyebrows coming together. "What is a 'brain scan?'"
Topher smiled, then laughed. "It's not important," he said. "Just a computer. You know, you are so cute when you're confused."
Juliet smiled. "I try to be my best."
"Hello, Topher!" Juliet said excitedly as she entered the room, her handler trailing behind.
Topher turned to face her, a grin on his face. She liked it when he smiled. "Hello, Juliet," he said. "Are you ready for your treatment?"
"I enjoy my treatments," Juliet agreed. She had been looking forward to a treatment all day. She was pleased to see Topher again. She sat down in the chair.
Topher turned to her handler. "So Jeremy," he began. "How long do you think this engagement is going to last?"
"It's an all-nighter," he answered. Topher frowned. Juliet hoped he would smile again when she woke up. It was likely she would fall asleep. "What's it to you?"
Topher looked away and got something off of a shelf. "Oh, well," he stammered. "You know how she's been, er, staying up here with me all the time. I was just, uh, wondering how long it would be until I, um, have to deal with her again. You know?" He inserted the thing into the chair, and Juliet slipped into her dream.
"Did I fall asleep?" Juliet trained her eyes on Topher, smiling.
"For a little while," he responded. "Would you like to stay?"
"Oh, yes!" she said enthusiastically. "I like it here."
"Good," Topher said, laughing. "I'll get us some refreshments."
Juliet walked into the next room and waited for Topher to come back. He returned with chips and soda in his hands. As he leaned forward to hand her a can, Juliet pressed her mouth to his. For a moment, he only stood there. Then he pulled away. "I like you, Topher," Juliet said quietly.
"No," Topher said, surprise and confusion in his face. "No, no, no. Juliet, you can't do that." He put the food down on the coffee table and walked toward his computer.
"Why not?" asked Juliet. She didn't understand. She liked Topher and wanted to be close to him. He smiled when she was around him, and she liked him better when he smiled. "Was I not my best?" She reached out and touched his shoulder. "Topher? I'm trying to be my best."
Topher turned and grabbed her arms, pinning them to her sides. "You are your best, Juliet. You're better than your best." He didn't seem to be paying much attention to what he was doing as he slid his hands down her arms and to her waist. She liked the way his fingers felt on her skin. She liked it when he pulled her body against his and put his lips to her forehead. "You are the best, Juliet." He kissed her cheek. "But we can't do this." One of his hands touched her back as he said this, and his kisses found her mouth again.
Juliet touched his face. She liked the way he felt beneath her palms. She liked the heat of him, and she wanted his skin to touch hers all over. She began unbuttoning his shirt. "Why can't we? I like you, Topher. I like being near you. I like it when you smile. I think when you smile, you are your best."
Topher pulled away and looked into Juliet's eyes. "Oh, God," he whispered as he pulled her shirt off and kissed her lips. They dropped to the floor, a tangle of limbs.
"I can only be my best when I'm with you," Juliet breathed, sensation washing over her as their lips met again.
Topher's lips moved against hers as he spoke, and she felt him form the words as he presses his body into hers, "Adelle is gonna kill me for this."