Was she hot?
Oh, yes, she was hot.
And was she mine?
Oh, yes. She was mine.
I paid for her with my own money.

"Ai? Ai. Are you there?"
"Here!" she called, sticking up a hand from the far side of the room. I sighed and waded across the piles of rubbish that she had stacked up.
"What is all this stuff?" I asked, prodding the nearest pile as I moved towards her flapping hand.
"I'm cleaning," she replied brightly. "Any arguments with that?"
"Nope!" Ai had already delivered a few too many "friendly" blows for my taste. "But how long is it going to take? We're holding a party tonight, remember? It's not very often I get the house to myself for a whole month, and I'm not spending my last few free days in a rubbish tip."
My parents had decided to fly off to Paris, to renew their weddings vows. After they had left, my sister phoned to say that, in fact, she could not come up and stay with me, as we had originally planned.
We decided to keep that information from our parents. They had left me with a wad of fifty-dollar notes, with orders to keep the place clean. Our family is kind of rich, although I don't like to talk about it too much.
Ai wasn't originally in the plan. I don't really know where she came from. On the second day she just turned up at my door, said, "Hi, Seiya," and carried her things into a spare bedroom. Somehow she knows all about me, but in return I seem to remember all kinds of things that never happened.
It's kind of strange, now that I come to think about it. But I don't have a choice in it, so...
Ai got my attention back by throwing a banana peel at my head. "Ouch!" I said in surprise. "What was that for?" I picked the peel out of my hair and tossed it in the rubbish bin.
"Just keeping you awake." She stood up for long enough to give me a cheeky grin, then knelt down to attack the piles again.
I sighed again. "Ai, I've got to go shopping for tonight. Why don't you just finish cleaning up here, then we can organise it all, is that all right?"
"Oh, sure. I won't be long. What do you want me to cook tonight?"
"Uh... whatever you like. Don't eat too much though, we'll eat some at the party. What do you want to drink?"
"Drink?" Ai stuck her head up again, her eyes round. "You're going to let me drink?"
"Is that a bad thing?" I asked meekly.
A huge smile dawned on her face. "Not really! Just as long as you keep an eye out for me. Okay?"
"All right, I'll try," I lied. Ai could handle herself. "Do you want anything in particular?"
"No, you can pick. I'll be fine here."
"All right. Bye."
"See ya!" She stuck her hand up and waved, then got busy again. I left the kitchen, walking through the door and grabbing my wallet from the dining table before heading down the street to the corner shop.

"Oh, my... oh, Ai!"
The kitchen, as Ai had promised, was completely clean.
Ai, also, was completely clean.
Ai's clothes, however, were not. And Ai has a very casual approach to nudity.
"Ai, would you please put some clothes on?" I said in a pained voice, trying to keep my eyes on her face.
"Why? You've seen me like this before," she reminded me. For some reason, I've never been able to hit on Ai. I usually don't have any trouble with girls, but Ai just seems like a taboo.
I sighed. "Fine, then. Don't wear any clothes. But you won't need to wait to start drinking before you start doing stupid things."
Ai stopped, and looked at me suddenly. Her huge eyes filled with tears. "You think I'm... stupid?" she asked, sounding heartbroken. "I'm not that..." She gave up, and tears started flooding down her face as she stared at me.
Naturally, I felt terrible. "Ai... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-"
"That's no way to apologise!" she sobbed, turning her face away and putting a hand to her brow.
Once again, I sighed. I had sighed more in the last month than I had in my whole life. Ai had told me that whenever I had to apologise to anyone, I should kiss them. If it was a guy, she said, it would teach me to be more careful next time. If it was a girl, it would force me to think a bit differently about what I had done. And with Ai...
"I'm not going to kiss you unless you put some clothes on," I stated flatly.
"Deal!" Ai put on a huge grin that quickly disappeared, and the tears kept coming. They were starting to drip off her chin now.
"I meant before I did it... oh, Ai..." I gave up. Careful to mind my hands, I put my arms around her and kissed her softly on the mouth. She grabbed the sides of my head and yanked me closer, pulling my tongue into her mouth.
It was a seriously good kiss.
Finally, I broke away. And realised what we had done.
"Ai..? Was there a reason for that?"
"For what?" Ai's tears had inexplicably vanished, and she was calmly dressing herself. It was like she had flicked off a switch.
"The really, really long kiss. Was there something you meant by that?"
"What? Didn't you like it?" She started to button up her blouse.
"No! I mean... yes... I mean.... Oh, damn, Ai! I can't think straight, you keep messing with my head!"
She poked her tongue out at me. "Well, if you like it, don't complain!" She pulled on a skirt. "Is this too short, do you think?"
"No, probably not. You'll probably wear it anyway." Say what you like about her, Ai is hot. A little shorter than me, her legs are very, very long, and despite being blonde she has a perfect honey-brown beach tan. This contrasts with my dark hair and bigger build, although she's not a slight girl.
"I've finished cooking!" she rushed on, her eyes sparkling now. "It's my very first time all by myself. Chicken Tortellini a la Vid-, I mean, a la Ai!"
"What was that?" I was startled. "What were you going to say there?"
"Just a slip of the tongue," she said quickly. I wouldn't have followed it up, except that she looked so flustered by her mistake.
"No, there's something wrong. Ai- Ai!" I grabbed her shoulder and made her look at me. "What is it?"
"I... I can't tell you! Okay? You can't know! Just let it drop!" she said, not looking me in the eye. "Come and try this chicken, it..."
"I know what it'll be like. You've cooked for me before. Even though I don't remember it. What's going on?" I was shaken now. I knew Ai had cooked before, she cooked every night so we could save money on ordering food. And I knew she wasn't exactly Papa Luigi when it came to the kitchen. But my mind kept telling me this was the first time she had cooked... "What's going on?" I repeated.
Ai broke down, crying for real this time. "It's all falling apart! This wasn't what I wanted!" she wailed. "Just go, Seiya! I don't want you to see me like this!"
"Your tears," I said, numbed. "Your tears don't make the carpet wet. How..?" I left it hanging.
"My time's almost up," Ai sobbed. "That's why it's all weakening. I can only be here until your parents come back. It's because..." She took several deep breaths. "It's because you played me on a broken VCR."
"What?" My eyes flickered instinctively to the VCR on top of the TV that my father had always promised to fix, but had never gotten around to. "What does..."
"I'm a Video Girl. Reality changes when I'm around. My tape's in there, it's been playing for the last month. It should have lasted for a year, but your VCR is broken... I only had a month. I worked it out... I'll finish the day before your parents get home." She paused, silent tears running down her cheeks. "Tomorrow."
"Ai... You'll... finish?"
"My tape will run out, and I'll vanish. And you'll remember me going off with some relatives or something."
"You're not... human? Not real?"
"I'm real..."
"I don't want you to go." I was surprised by how firmly I said that. Ai looked up at me through tear-reddened eyes. "I want you to stay. Ai..."
"Don't say it, Seiya! I wanted to leave after the party, so you'd never know..."
"But I know now. Why are you here?"
"You went into the shop," she said, her breath coming in short sobs now the storm of her weeping had passed. "because you were bored and lonely. And Garath the owner gave you me, my tape. He could see how much you needed to learn... about everything." She stood up, her face deeply troubled but resolute. "Go get ready for the party. Eat some chicken. It's our last night together."
"Forget the party..."
"No. You have to enjoy yourself! That's what's being a Video Girl is all about. To make you have as much fun as you can, and to open your eyes as much as we can." She took a deep breath. "I love you, Seiya. But my tape will end tomorrow, at ten thirty six A.M. There's nothing you can do about it. Try to live as if you didn't know."
"Can't you... change my memory? Make me forget that this is your last night?" I was totally numbed inside. I had grown to care about Ai so much... it was like losing a part of me.
"If you want to..." She sounded unsure.
"Give me back my memory tomorrow. Just don't let me live tonight knowing you'll be gone at the end of it."
"All right," she said in relief.

"-chicken tortellini, a la Ai!" she said triumphantly.
I smiled nervously. "Ai... are you sure this is going to be all right? Last time you tried cooking..."
"Yes, but this time for sure!" she said quickly, not giving me time to finish my thought. "Come o-o-o-on..." She dragged me to the table and pushed me down into a chair. "Open up," she commanded, dipping a spoon into the bowl of pasta she had made and raising it to my mouth.
"Uh-uh!" I replied, shaking my head vigorously.
"Seiya, eat the damned thing! You're going to be wearing this spoon if you don't open your mouth." She leant further forward over the table and pinched my nose. When I had to open my mouth to breathe, she popped in the spoon's contents.
I chewed.
I swallowed.
Ai was looking at me with a kind of excited nervousness on her face. "Well? What's it like?"
"Tastes... a bit... like chicken," I smiled. "You're a genius, Ai. It's delish."
She smiled from ear to ear. "Okay, you eat some more and I'll go set up the stereo for the party. I want music. Lots of music." She dashed out of the room.
I stood up and calmly walked over to the rubbish bin. Still totally calm, I knelt in front of it, then coughed and gacked until every trace of that foul chicken sauce was out of my mouth. Didn't anyone tell Ai you should kill a chicken before you try and turn it into pasta sauce?
"Are you all right, Seiya?" Ai called from another room.
"Fine," I said hastily, wiping at my streaming eyes. "Just a bit of chicken went down the wrong way. I'm stuffed. I'm going to get changed, okay? Give me a yell if you need me."
"When are-"
"Seven." I had a shower and walked into the lounge room at six forty-five.
"I'm all excited!" Ai glowed, wriggling on the sofa.
"Me too. I can't believe it's our last night together." She jumped. "It's a real pity my parents would never let you stay here once they're home."
"Mmm..." Ai looked relieved, but I decided not to ask.
The party began soon after. By about twelve o'clock, everyone who had arrived was lying in a sort of communal drunken heap stretching between several rooms.
"Seiya... could you come outside for a moment?" a girl asked me. I smirked owlishly at her through the haze.
"Three girls have said that to me already tonight. I bet there'll still out there gasping."
"Oh, I haven't got time for this!" she said. She snapped her fingers, and suddenly I could think again.
"Huh?" I said stupidly. "You just wasted an awful lot of vodka, Ai. How did you do that?"
"You need to know this, Seiya. Come on." She led me to the lounge room. A couple rose from the sofa as we approached. Ai pushed me down.
Ai waved a hand in my face. "Remember what I told you? About being a-"
"-Video Girl," I finished. "I remember. Why are you reminding me so early?"
"Because... I broke the rules, Seiya."
"What?" I was confused, but hopeful. "You're staying?"
"No! That's not a rule... I mean, I broke the rules for the Video Girls. I won't be able to be a Video Girl anymore..."
"What are you talking about?"
"My name, Seiya. Ai. A-I. Artificial intelligence. I was something special, the first Video Girl to be completely sentient. But I have emotions..." She turned her face away. "Seiya..."
"Ai..." My voice was weak. I had no idea what to say, except that I had to say it. "I have to tell you... I never said..."
She silenced me with a finger on my lips. "You didn't have to, Seiya. I knew."
Then she kissed me.

"Seiya, wake up!" Ai said urgently. "You have to wake up!"
"Urg... what time is it?" I muttered, half-asleep.
"Ten thirty," came the reply. A kind of static burst seemed to interrupt her words.
My eyes shot awake. "Why did you let me sleep so long?" I demanded. Ai was holding my head in her lap.
"I couldn't... you were so peaceful. A Video Girl can't deliberately make you unhappy..."
"Ai, you wouldn't let me say it last night, but I have to say it now. I love you, Ai."
"I know, Seiya. I love you too. But you can't afford to love me. I'll be gone in a few minutes." A ripple passed up and down her face, distorting it like static. "My image is already corrupting."
"Ai... I'll miss you so much..."
"No, you won't. I've seen to that. Anyway, I want you to get another Video Girl. The others in that shop are all the generation after me, they're more refined, some of them are meant for sex..."
"Ai. Shut up. I don't care about them. I don't want to lose you."
"You'll never lose me. You've got me forever," she said. Then she looked up, as if listening to something. "Your clock's slow, Seiya," she said finally, with a sad kind of smile.
Somehow, those four words were more terrible than anything I had ever heard before.
"Five. Four. Three. Two..." Ai counted down. I felt my eyes burning as static ran more and more rapidly up and down her body. At "One," the hum from my VCR that I had stopped noticing finished. With a click, the tape was ejected. Ai looked me again with tears in her huge eyes.
"Seiya. I wanted to be with you forever. Goodbye... Seiya."
Then she leaned forward and kissed me for the last time, and a golden light filled out all her features. Then she was gone.

"Seiya."
Words in my head.
"Do you hear me? I have something important to say."
I tossed and turned in my sleep. The vision of Ai was uncannily perfect.
"You were such a child when you bought me. I wasn't sure if you'd ever grow up enough to love me back. But you did. And seeing you all grown up, Seiya, I realised something. We are all individuals. It's important to live naturally."
Tears leaked from my eyes. I was awake at this point, but I squeezed my eyes tightly closed and tried my very hardest to see the dream to its end.
"You won't remember me. I saw to that. You'll have no memory of me, and not even this message. But... if we are bound by fate, then we will meet again. Until then, Seiya..."
I let out a choked sob as the meaning of the words sunk in.
"... goodbye, for just a little while."
My eyes flew open. I lurched to my feet, tears streaming down my face.
"Ai! No! Come back!" I collapsed back on my bed. "Come back..."
But I was already forgetting who she was.
My tears dried, and I walked down to the corner shop to buy the newspaper. While I was there I fell to chatting with a girl, about my age. Say what you like, she was hot. Although she was blonde, her long legs had a perfect beach tan. Her skirt was little more than a strip of material, and she seemed almost unaware of how much of her thighs were showing.
And her name was Ai.
Isn't that interesting?