Have no friends not equal to yourself. - Confucius
Missy rode her bicycle on the foggy day, keeping to the side of the street. Unlike past years, few vehicles now made use of the lower roadways. Most commuters flew well above the ground in sky-cars or PFD's, stand-up personal flying devices. Rare vehicles actually touched the ground while a few hovered near her height. Some of the drivers honked when they saw her, amused by the devout Simplist on the old-fashioned bike. On the back of her bike a wrapped package was attached to the platform above the fender.
Vicki left the hospital minutes after 2pm. The mist-filled parking lot steamed with late summer heat and humidity. Vicki walked quickly, her mind on her schedule. She had time to go home for a meal and some rest before returning for a late shift. As she walked past rows of vehicles, Vicki slowed her pace. She looked around with the sense she was being watched. She glanced back toward the hospital entrance. Nothing but mist. She looked to both sides. Nothing but cars and fog.
She continued to her vehicle which detected her at fifty meters. When she got within five, the door dematerialized. She was about to enter it when she noticed someone waiting beyond the car, a pretty girl with a bright face and intriguing eyes. Vicki thought, Now she looks interesting. Oh my, that's her.
Vicki sensed who she was. The hospital had strict rules for patients like James. Abigail Melissa Walkins, also known as Missy, was at the top of his 'not permitted to visit' list. The girl sat on the bench just past Vicki's car. There were no other cars near hers. Did she know this was mine?
Missy stared pleasantly at Vicki as the nurse approached.
"Hello," Vicki said. "What a nice bouquet you have."
Missy held them up. "These are for James."
"Isn't that a coincidence? I'm his nurse."
Missy offered the flowers. Vicki took them as the right thing to do though she was heading home. She brought them to her nose. "They're lovely. What's your name?"
"Pretty name. These flowers didn't come from a shop, did they?"
Missy smiled at the compliments. "I grew them. Can you take them to him?"
"Visiting hours haven't ended."
Missy hesitated. "Well, unfortunately…"
"You're not on his visiting list?"
"My parents don't want me to see him."
Vicki didn't enjoy tip-toeing around the subject. Surprisingly, she sensed Missy actually wanted to visit him. Very few people had seen James.
Vicki looked more directly into the young girl's face. Her multi-colored eyes, tan cheeks and full lips showed nicely in the filtered light. Vicki felt herself drawn in and immediately jealous of her looks. My God, she's amazing.
Missy returned Vicki's stare then asked, "You know who I am?"
"I think so. Abigail, correct?"
The girl seemed disappointed. "Missy is fine. I've been wondering when we would finally meet."
Vicki found it an odd thing to say. "Are you here to see me?"
"I need to talk with you."
"James, of course."
"About how he's doing and what I can do to help."
Vicki paused. She knew Missy couldn't go near the boy. But for some reason, she liked her. "You know I can't talk about him with you," Vicki answered. "Can you understand that?"
"I do, Vicki. I just want you to know that I love him too. Even more than you do."
The nurse laughed at the suggestion. "What makes you think I love him?"
"Are you saying you don't?"
Vicki found herself unable to answer. The girl had cornered her, and either response would be difficult. Finally Vicki said, "I don't see any need to be talking about this."
"Aren't you curious about me?"
"Yes, Missy. That's true. I am."
"There's no court order keeping me from seeing you."
"I suppose," Vicki said. She stared at the open door of her car. "Want to come with me?"
Open passenger, Vicki thought. The door dematerialized and the two got in the vehicle. Vicki gazed at Missy and hesitated. She felt confused, tired, hungry. Yet Missy had a point. Vicki was terribly curious. What had happened between James and this girl?
"Do you mind coming over to my apartment?" Vicki asked.
"I'm a bit hungry."
"I have some things."
The vehicle started up, lifted off the ground and pulled away from the parking space. Missy's
eyes lit up as the vehicle adjusted its altitude to match traffic. It climbed quickly through the foggy sky. Missy scanned about the display on the dashboard with great curiosity. Vicki noticed, remembering the girl was a devout Simplist.
"First time in a sky-car? Are you alright?"
"Oh, yes. A little nervous though."
Vicki figured explaining the actions would help. "What we're doing now is merging our altitude with—"
"Other traffic moving in the same direction," Missy finished the thought. "Altitude and bearings are all mapped out and coordinated with other drivers. That way cars can't run into each other. I know how they work. I've studied them."
"I see." Vicki returned to her original plan of relaxing in the car for the three minute ride.
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