Chapter One

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Martin inhaled the fresh autumn air as leaves tumbled and swayed around him. He usually hated going outside after the rain. Regardless of how many layers sheltered his skin, he could never remain warm enough to bear the outdoors. He preferred to stay...

Martin inhaled the fresh autumn air as leaves tumbled and swayed around him. He usually hated going outside after the rain. Regardless of how many layers sheltered his skin, he could never remain warm enough to bear the outdoors. He preferred to stay in where he could at least hover over his vintage beat machine in preparation for his upcoming gig at the Spin Factory.

The perfectionist in him wanted to make sure every wobble and tap aligned with the fast, yet steady bass. However, Charlotte accused him of working too much, of fretting like a young boy would days before his first prom. When he protested with a bit of a whine, she laughed at him as she tossed him his jacket and told him that they were going outside.

Though the sun shone between the shedding tree branches, the weather was brisk, becoming even more chilled when the beams hid behind dust colored clouds. Martin squeezed Charlotte’s hand when the wind lightly brushed against his back and cropped blond hair. With his free hand, he buttoned the top of his coat, hoping the gesture would help him avoid the cold. Charlotte’s gaze fell on her boyfriend and she immediately stopped walking. Her green eyes sparkled as she begun laughing.

“You serious?” she asked, brushing her red hair from her face. “Marty, it’s 15 degrees and you’re shivering!”

“It’s the wind’s doing,” Martin replied as he slipped his hands into his jacket pockets. “I was attacked from behind. I feel violated, you know.”

“Well, at least you survived. And you managed to do it without me.”

“That’s a bit of an overstatement, don’t you think?”

“Hmmmm. Perhaps.”

Martin smiled broadly as Charlotte leaned over and gently kissed him. He touched her face, enjoying the feel of her soft full lips against his. He began to deepen the kiss when he suddenly heard a click. When Martin’s eyes opened, they caught Charlotte’s outstretched arm and the digital camera in her hands.

His girlfriend giggled mischievously when Martin backed away slightly. “Oh no. Nononono!” he protested, waving his index back and forth.

“Oh c’mon, Martin,” Charlotte teased. “Just this once.”

“No, I don’t like having my picture taken. You know this.”

“I know—which is why we’re taking one.”

“Seriously, Love. My pictures are atrocious!”

The young woman rolled her eyes playfully. “I swear. You’re worse than my girliest girlfriends.”

“At least they can fix their flaws with whatever makeup they have on hand. I usually have red demon eyes from the flash.”

“Yeah. But you pull it off very well. Please…do it for me?” Charlotte then canted her head slightly to the side, softened her gaze and bit her lower lip with a coyness that only she could get away with.

He sighed and smiled crookedly. “Fine. But make it quick. We’re in public.”

She smiled broadly and stretched out her arm once again and held up the camera. “Now say ‘Good morning. It is now 9:00 a.m…’”

 

Martin Keating’s eyes snapped open at the melodic sound of digital bells. The alarm was eclipsed by the robotic female voice repeating “Good morning. It is now 9:00 a.m. Good morning. It is—“

Martin grumbled as his palm landed on the snooze button, silencing the voice he subconsciously mistook for his girlfriend’s. He then slowly slid up, blinking away the remnants of his dream.

His eyes fell on the neon numbers and letters displayed on the hologram screen. 9:01 a.m., May 18, 2040. Martin sighed heavily as he flung off his blankets and swung his legs towards the side of the bed. He then covered his face with large hands, sighing against his palms as he fought his hangover. He didn’t remember how he ended up buried under his sheets or what time he drifted off. He just recalled sitting on the couch and swallowing down bottle after bottle of Guinness while watching Are You Being Served?

Martin lifted his head again. His eyes fell on the nightstand where the beloved photo of him and Charlotte stood. Last night, he had studied the five year old image, sliding the tips of his fingers against the glass that protected it. As always, his thoughts ruminated on Charlie: the warmth of her skin, the silkiness of her wavy red hair, her smile. May 18, 2035 was the day she asked Martin to marry her. That was five years ago. Maybe that was why he had that bloody dream…

Martin jumped slightly when he heard his cell phone ring before he reached over towards the night stand to answer. Within seconds, the hologram screen projected the image of a young man. His brown hair was slightly unkempt, which told Martin that he too had just awakened. Yet his brown eyes revealed no trace of fatigue and a wide smile decorated his chubby face.

“Morning, Sweetheart,” the man teased before lifting a glass of orange juice to his lips.

“You owe me one, Chess,” replied Martin groggily. “You do know it’s Saturday, right? Nine o’clock in the morning, no less.”

“More time for the outdoors then.” Chess wagged his meaty finger at his hung-over friend. “You need sun, Marty. You look like shit.”

“Thanks for the compliment.” Martin lifted his arms over his head, stretching out the tightness in his body. Where’re we meeting again?”

“At the Thames Café for coffee,” Chess replied as he bit into a piece of toast. “And believe me, you need it after the pints you told me about last night.”

“Wha—I called you?”

“Yeah. And you told me about how much you love me. And… how much you wanted to get off with me.”

“Did I really say that?”

“Yeah…the truth is? I want the same thing.”

Martin stared at the screen silently while desperately trying to recall whether he even picked up his phone the previous night. Suddenly, he closed his eyes and groaned. “Awwww! Fuck you, Chess!” he said when his friend burst into laughter. “So wrong of you, you know.”

“I had to,” Chess countered between breaths. “You were sooo gonna shit yourself.” He suddenly took a deep breath, calming himself down. “Anyhow, when can you get to the café?”

“About 45 minutes tops. Look, I’ll get showered and all that. I’ll ring you when I’m close.”

“Sounds good. See you then.”

“Ass.”

“Dick.”

The image disappeared as his friend hung up. Martin looked at the clock again: 9:11 a.m. He slowly rose from the bed, careful not to make any sudden movements that would aggravate the pounding in his head. This day is gonna be shit, Martin mused as he dragged himself towards the bathroom.

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