Roselynn didn’t like looking in mirrors, even capture mirrors. There had been changes in her body and she did not think them flattering. But she was meeting Lew and she wanted to look her best for him. She stood there with a frown on her face as she assessed herself. She tugged at the fabric of her clothing. She wanted to get the hang of her shirt right. Then she turned and looked over her shoulder at her rear view. The jeans were tight fitting and accented the swell of her hips and the roundness of her bottom. The jeans held her firm.
A voice in her head said, “I always felt that a woman in a dress looked the most feminine.” She considered the voice. She heard it in her brain. She felt it in her heart. She couldn’t have it there right now. She squelched it.
“Not now,” she said to herself.
This was an important evening. It was a third evening date and it was going to result in the conversation. It had changed from the historical, third date expectations about sex. Now, it was a serious conversation about lives.
Roselynne clicked capture on the mirror and turned away from it. She waited the three seconds and then the mirror captured her image which it would only click away or store on her command. She studied it.
The voice again, “You have a beautiful ass.”
She smiled in spite of herself and then made that voice stop. She clicked the mirror and stood full-frontal and pushed her chest out. She forced herself to smile. It wasn’t her natural smile, the one that was often followed by giggling. It was a studied smile. She waited the three seconds and then examined the image, manipulating her facial muscles as she did.
Suppose he didn’t like this look? Suppose she should wear a dress. She asked for the time. A chippy British voice informed her that she had 85 minutes left on her timer. She could try the dress.
Seventy minutes later, after she tried the dress, discarded it and went back to the jeans, she applied her makeup. Just a hint of rouge to her cheeks, which she blended in and then some pale, pink lipstick that had a slight taste of tropical fruit that she knew he liked. She wanted him to enjoy the taste of her.
The chirpy voice said, “You have a call from Lew.”
“Hi,” she said sounding cheerful and not at all apprehensive.
“I should be coming by to collect you in about five minutes if you’ll be ready.”
She flushed, her cheeks became more pink. “Yes, I’ll be waiting.”
“Alright then,” he said.
“I’m excited,” she blurted.
She heard a soft laugh.
“I’m looking forward to tonight,” he answered.
He was preparing dinner. He was very good with food and that was impressive. Roselynne was not a great cook. She could bake but cooking was outside of her current interests. She always told herself that it was because cooking for one was no fun. She wondered if maybe that was going to change.
In 2059, immortality became possible but not for everyone. The world, that she hoped he also inhabited, was one that would allow a person to create a clone of himself or herself. They could age the clone and could inject into any point on the life continuum that they wished. It was the closest they would ever come to forever. It was almost like time travel. But the truth was that you could never go back, you could only go forward. It made it possible for a person to live many lives.
This was Roselynn’s third life. Her first had been a nightmare of mistakes and abuses. Although she wanted to forget it, there were scars. They weren’t on her body; they were inside of her. She hated them but could not rid herself of them.
Her second life had been better. There were times when she had thought that it was the only life that she ever wanted. There were times when she still felt that way, but she was ready for something new and there was no going back.
The voice again, “We are all in the same river but we need to flow with the currents. They will sweep us away if we don’t” Damn him! Why did he have to say such beautiful and impossible things.
That voice almost brought a tear to her eye but she made sure that didn’t happen. She didn’t want to ruin her makeup and what would Lew think if he saw that she had been crying. She did not want to bring her confusion to him. He was too nice for that. He didn’t deserve that. But how could she be honest and not tell him?
She told herself that he might have past lives too. She hoped that he was not a “one and doner.” Those people had resisted the notion multiple lives. They believed that God had given them one life and that it was an insult to their creator to want more. It was greedy.
Roselynne wondered if she was greedy. She didn’t want to be greedy, but she did want to be happy. Making this work was a way to happiness.
She waited. She heard his car approach and straightened herself one more time. Then she went outside to see Lew. She told herself she looked as good as she was going to look and then the voice.
“You are a beautiful woman inside and out. Any man would be lucky to have you. I am as lucky as I can be.”
It made her smile and then the smile vanished. She had to stop that voice. She did not know how. She did know how, but she was afraid to do it. There was a way to have it removed. Taken out of her. But that voice was a comfort. It gave her confidence. She wasn’t sure she could do this without that voice, and she wasn’t sure that she could do this with the voice. She felt stuck, but then she saw Lew and the smile that she had practiced in front of the mirror was now on her face. She could do this.
“You can do anything,” said the voice, but she didn’t listen.
Dinner was a surprise. She had expected he would cook, but he ordered take away Chinese. He said it was so they could both relax and talk.
Before she could work her way into the conversation Lew asked her right off, “Have you had other lives?”
She swallowed and flushed. It was gonna happen just like that?
“I have,” she said.
The voice again. It said, “Your turn.”
She hesitated. Her stomach flipped.
Her voice was smaller than she wanted, “Have you?”
Now it was his turn to hesitate. He said, “I hope to.”
Roselynne felt more confusion. He was young enough to want children. The law was that multi-lifers were not allowed to have children unless they had them in their first life. It was because of chromosomal degradation. The chromosomes were intact, but they did not pass on intact eggs and sperm. What was that going to mean?
Roselynn nodded. She wanted to ask the next question but she didn’t know how to phrase it. It was personal. She was always unsure about asking for personal information.
Lew studied her. Her medium length brown hair covered her face because she kept her head tilted slightly forward. But her face was a pretty one. Her body seemed so sensual when she moved. She was not stiff or jerky in her motions. He watched her take another long swallow of wine and noticed that she was drinking more than she was eating. He wondered if she liked to drink.
Roselynn heard the voice again. This time it said, “You only get to know the things that you are brave enough to ask.”
She listened that time. The voice was right. She felt that it usually was, but sometimes it was too difficult. She looked up and found eyes. They were kind eyes. He would understand her question.
Roselynn said, “Are you accepted?”
By the New Lives laws, he had to be accepted and the Commission was very choosy about new members. There was no way for them to approve everyone who wanted to enter the program. The birth rate had dropped. The Commission was dedicated to not having a negative birthrate. That meant that some people had to keep having babies.
“My application is still pending,” said Lew. “It has been for the last year.”
Roselynn wasn’t able to have children. She had developed a medical condition that could have been life threatening without the removal of her ability to reproduce. She had decided that she did not wish to store eggs for future use when she had the surgery. That condition and her artistic nature had smoothed the way for her. The Commission had categories of people who they thought would be best for the Multiple Lives Program. Artists were held in high esteem.
Then Lew said, “I already have two children.”
Roselynne smiled her natural smile, the one that brightened her face and seemed to create a glow that exuded warmth and interest. “Please tell me about them,” she said.
Lew explained that he had been married in a conventional relationship. He said that his children were living with his ex with whom he was on amicable terms. His ex had moved on and was with another partner. “They are 7 and 9 years old,” said Lew. “A boy named Zeke and a girl named Holly.”
She watched his face and looked for clues as he spoke about them. His eyes stayed kind but he was a little stingy with details. She was hoping that he would go on speaking. It would remove the necessity of her talking. She liked to listen more than she liked to talk. That was true with men anyway. With other women, she could be chatty and silly and gossip. She didn’t do that much around men. At least not all men. She listened for the voice, but this time it was silent. That was unnerving. She drank more wine.
Lew reached across the table for her hand. “Does that disturb you?”
His hands were larger than hers. Everyone’s hands were larger than hers, and she felt a rush at the feeling of physical contact with him.
There was the voice, “He’s arousing you.”
Roselynne wasn’t sure that she was ready to be aroused. She poured another glass of wine and drank what was more of a gulp than a swallow.
She wished that he had ordered chicken, but he hadn’t asked her what she would like. He had just ordered for them both. She liked that. It made her feel spoken for. She saw his eyes gaze downward to her breasts, and instinctively, she straightened so that he would like what he saw. Then the feeling of arousal again. She drank more wine.
The rest of the night was a blur. Roselynne got dizzy and then she got sick. Lew let her sleep it off in a spare room at his house. She woke mortified and sure that she had screwed everything up. She kept apologizing to him for ruining an important night. But then he said something that warmed her like the summer sun.
“If you were that nervous maybe you weren’t ready for the experience.”
That was something the voice from her other life would have said. It was comforting and unsettling at the same time.
There were guidelines that were supposed to be followed by participants in the Multiple Lives program. Each life could be as long as a forty-year commitment, but extenuating circumstances could change that. That had happened with her first life. That was what caused her to enter the program. Usually, a person as young as she had been was not eligible.
She came from a religious family. At first, they had not been supportive of her decision, but their love for her was stronger than their beliefs. They came to accept their differences in approach. It ceased to be important when they saw how much more at ease Roselynne had become in her body.
The River Mersey flows into the Irish Sea. Roselynne and Lew walked along the sand dunes at Crosby Beach. Physically and emotionally their relationship was deepening. They had simply detoured around the rest of the conversation and talked about what was happening at the moment. The talk was easy and felt good. She had to look up at him as they walked and she liked that.
Lew said, “How does it feel to have other lives?”
Roselynne considered. She still wasn’t sure how much she could share. How much she was able to share… “It was awful, it is wonderful. It is complicated.” Internally, she gasped. She had used the present tense. Maybe he wouldn’t pick up on it. But she did.
Lew didn’t seem to hear anything unusual. Most people wouldn’t, but that voice had taught her to pay attention to every word. She was almost disappointed that he didn’t notice.
They held hands and laughed as Roselynne’s little pup Laurie wagged her tail. She ran to the water until it touched her paws and then romped back, as if to them about the experience. On the fourth or fifth try, Laurie got brave and plunged in. Roselynne felt an automatic pang of worry. She didn’t swim. She watched hard and hoped Laurie was better at it.
“The other lives stay with you. You don’t forget them. It is almost like you are still living them but you aren’t.”
Along the beach there was a song playing from a small radio. She knew the song. It was called, Love Knows. She couldn’t stop the tear. This was crazy. She was happy. What was she crying about?
When a multi-lifer moved to a new life, it was often a preference to change the people from the former life. Earlier, those who had chosen to return as children realized that they found the loss of control destabilizing. It caused emotional issues. Most now settled on twenty-five as the point at which they wished to restart everything.
While she did not want anything at all as a memory from life number one, she still decided to keep those memories. She told herself it was so that she did not make the same mistakes again.
Richard had been brutal with her. He had convinced her that she was nothing, isolated her from her family and friends. He took delight in watching her suffer and struggle to please, which he never allowed her to think that she did. Those had been the worst five years of her lives. Then he kicked her to the curb, ruined her finances and left. She had to crawl home like a wounded animal. It frightened her about the world. It frightened her deeply. She saw herself crying shaking and screaming and each she saw it; it was like it was happening all over again.
That was when she started reading more about multiple lives. She was sure that she would never qualify. She had no opinion of herself of any value. Sure, she could draw a little and she loved designing little pieces of art. She did not see that they had much value. She even felt guilty about spending her time making them. Then she got sick and had a hysterectomy.
Her therapist was the first person to tell her about her opportunities for multiple lives. While she was recovering in the hospital, she was given the necessary tests and interviews. To her astonishment, she was accepted.
She explained all of this to Lew who sat there serious and attentive. His face darkened when she talked about what Richard had done to her. She felt his body coil and muscles tighten. It was a very strong male reaction and it thrilled her.
“That’s a sad story,” said Lew. “I don’t know how anyone could get satisfaction from treating you that way.”
Roselynne bit hard on her lip to keep from saying anything. Then she said vaguely, “He was mean inside in his heart.”
“What was your second life like?” asked Lew.
Roselynne felt an instant hot flush rush through her. “Can we talk about that another time?” she asked. “I think I have been in the sun long enough.”
They held hands as they walked along the shore. The sand dunes led to the sea. For a while, she stared at out the sea and what was across it. Then she looked up at Lew and smiled. They kissed. She molded her body to his. She held her mouth open in a small O and invited his tongue. They were excited to get back to her flat as fast as possible. Laurie now accepted when she was being locked out of the bedroom. She curled up on the couch and waited. The love making was tender and sweet.
Afterwards they ate food that he had prepared and stored in her refrigerator while they were out. While he readied the food he said, “Now would be a good time to tell me about life number two.”
She smiled and said, “If you really want to hear, I will.”
Lew shaved a carrot and said, “I really want to hear.”
“It started out great, but then those fears that I hadn’t eliminated were still really strong. Stronger than I expected them to be. I was afraid. I had a subsistence income that was sort of guaranteed by Multiple Lives, but it was barely enough to get by. I just couldn’t bring myself to go out without being apprehensive and a bit frightened. I went into MetaCafe.”
MetaCafe was the current iteration of what used to be known as virtual reality. Now they were almost indistinguishable. There was taste, tactile sensation, and smell along with sight and sound and an avatar which was incredibly lifelike.
“I met a man there. I found him attractive, intimidating, and handsome. He is smart and a really creative person. We bonded in a very special way and then I got slammed by a long-term side effect of injection that is rare. My blood stopped recognizing itself as being mine.
I was very sick. I needed a lot of transfusions and eventually stem cell therapy.”
Lew interrupted. “I thought that a terminal illness was a reason for another life? I thought that was guaranteed.”
“It is,” said Roselynne. “But the definition of terminal has become very bureaucratic. They really require that you stay for at least ten years, like it or not.”
“I didn’t realize that was the way it was,” said Lew. His face showed doubt.
“This man stayed with me the entire time. He became a huge part of my world and my life. He helped me. He helped me so much!”
Roselynne felt her lip begin to quiver. Images, that were not images of where she was, were firing in her mind with the speed of a pulsar. She felt herself shake. She managed composure.
Roselynne said, “I’m sorry. I just got carried away by one of those runaway trams that can roar through your mind.”
Lew asked, “Did you ever meet this man for real?”
Roselynne involuntarily looked askance a moment and wanted to say that it was very real each time they met, but his voice again. “Don’t expect other people to understand.”
“He came to England and I couldn’t manage it.”
“He came to England to meet you and you said yes and then, no?” Lew was drawn in by the story.
“That’s pretty much what happened,” said Roselynne. Then she added, “He was doing other things here as well.”
And now it was time for Lew to leave for work. They kissed. He said a sweet goodbye to Laurie.
Roselynne worried about what she had said and about what she hadn’t said. Everything that she told him was true. She had just left out quite a few important details.
In the back of Roselynne’s closet, she found the things that she had decided to keep from her second life. She stared at her box of toys with fondness. They had been so important. Then she found her Metaskin. It was a thin form fitting layer that almost became a second skin. Once it was on, you could barely feel it. She put on her head set and did something that she had debated doing since her third life began. She entered the place that had mostly been her world for the ten years that she had to keep her former body.
She knew where to find him. It was Saturday night and he would be playing music for other people. She went into the club and there he was. He wasn’t standing in back of his music table, which she found unusual. He always stood, but tonight he was sitting. Quietly, and from the corner she opened a private speaking line. She waited until a new song started and said simply, “Hi.”
The response was almost instant. His voice was soft, “Hi, beautiful flower.”
She waited, unsure of what to say. Then, he said, “This is a surprise I did not expect to see you. How are you? Is everything ok?”
She stammered. “I just missed you. I need to talk to you.”
He laid in the recorded tape he used when he wanted the show to continue, but needed to concentrate on something else. It would run an hour of songs that he had prepared for the occasion. Most of the patrons there would never know the difference between his live work and this live to tape that he regularly produced as a back-up.
“Come sit with me,” he said.
When she got closer, she found herself dropping to her knees and hugging his legs. “I missed you.”
“You don’t ever have to miss me,” he said. “I made it so you could always find me if you needed to.”
“How do I do this?” Roselynne said. “How do I get this new man to love me the way that you do?”
She told him about Lew, but she could not bring herself to let go of his legs until he took her arms away and sat her on his lap. She could feel the warmth of him on her skin. She inhaled his scent. The sound of his voice was doing what it always did.
She asked, “If I brought him here, would you talk to him?”
“If that’s what you really want,” he said.
“I don’t know what I really want,” she said. “I want him but I am so confused and I hear your voice in my head all the time. Would you talk to him for me?”
They had this talk so many times as he prepared her for her third life. She knew that he hated seeing her go. They both knew that she should. She needed this new life and now she was ready for it.
He kissed her. It was a long slow kiss that started out tender and then became deeply passionate. She felt it all through her skin like electricity. She had wanted to feel it again and then out of nowhere, it happened. An orgasm that was both sweet and so ferociously strong that it vibrated her entire being.
He felt it as the spasm came in waves. Its aftershocks run through her body from just that single kiss. Then he stood her up, flattened his palm and slapped her bottom with a sting that was followed by that warmth that she missed, that she craved.
“You could teach him,” said Roselynne aware that she was asking him to do something that would be very difficult for him.
He smiled. “I think you should teach him.”
“I can’t. No one understands me the way that you do.”
“You can. You can do anything.”
“Can I please keep coming to see you?”
She could not see the tears in his eyes. “Roselynne, there is absolutely no one in this world that I would rather see.”