Thursday, September 6, 2012

Living the High Life

Wine glasses clinked on the side table as Garrett forced himself to get up from his chair. These formal gatherings always required a light buzz to make the evening tolerable. He didn’t remember why his father was throwing this party, which was not unusual for him, nor did he bother to find out. All he knew was that his attendance was required so his mother could parade him about to help his father’s business by pawning off his future.
He shed his comfortable outing clothes and donned his formal attire. Black was such an appropriate color for this outfit, he thought, as if preparing for a funeral procession. He walked over to the mirror to check his reflection.
He was quite a handsome fellow, especially amid the noble crowd. He sported his chestnut hair into a neat short back-and-sides . The top of his hair he kept longer and usually permitted it to fall wherever it felt like going, but this evening he had to pretend to show effort, so he slicked it back neatly.  He wiped his fair, angular face clear of stray fallen hairs. His charming, vibrant green eyes focused as he tied the silk noose around his neck, considered the appropriate accessory for the event.
He turned around experimentally, taking in his reflection. All the climbing and pseudo parkour of the buildings in the Underground has served his musculature well. He leaned in to take a closer look at his strong face. He was very proud of his appearance, especially considering he achieved this without the use of genetic enhancement, as was common practice among the youth of his status. His own mother often pressured him to “remove this” or "adjust that” or “just a little bit here.” He managed to dodge her army of cosmetic surgeons, mostly by never being round where she could find him.
He finished straightening himself out when Baran knocked on his door.
“Come in,” Garrett greeted halfheartedly.
“Your mother is waiting for you downstairs.” Baran reported.
“Let’s get this over with,” He said and followed Baran out of the room.
The ballroom was festively lit in pastel colors, enveloped the crowd of nobles in a beautiful ambience as they gathered at the center of the white marbled floor. The tall windows were swathed in deep burgundy curtains and gold findings, framing the city lights in an elegant silhouette. The hired orchestra played a soft melody, which was drowned out by the droning of the bourgeoisie chattering away their menial gossip.
His mother, dressed in a navy blue evening gown, impatiently beckoned him over, wine glass already in hand. She looked at him sternly with her artificially enhanced eyes. She was at the starting descent of middle age, but thanks to modern technology, showed no signs of age; neither a wrinkle nor grey hair polluted her face. She walked up and took Garrett by the arm, escorting him through the thicket of haughty laughter.
“It is about time you decided showed up. Where have you been?” She demanded from him as she dragged him forward.
“I was detained.” He said, keeping his face as stoic as he could manage.
“Hmph. No matter. There are people I need you to meet.” She scanned the room distractedly.
“Mother…Not another conquest search again.” He groaned.
“Don’t give me that. You are not getting any younger, and you won’t be able to keep up this charade of ‘natural beauty’ you have managed to maintain.” She looked him over up and down disapprovingly.
“But I’m not interested in anyone here.” He argued. She stopped in front of him and glared coldly.
“You will learn eventually that marriage has nothing to do with ‘interest.’ And you should be very grateful; your father and I are giving you the chance to choose who you end up with, from a select elite, of course. We are a fortunate family, so it would be considered charitable to partner with someone below station. Many suitors don’t have that fortune.” She explained. Garrett couldn't help but cringe as she used the word "family" so loosely.
“I understand this but…” His mother cut him off, whisked him away to greet one of the guests.
“Mr. Allarin, what a pleasure it is to see you attend. I trust you are keeping well?” His mother welcomed, as the gentleman in question took her hand warmly.
“Well indeed. I am glad to be here.” He said. Garrett was terrible at guessing ages, but he suspected that was the intent. The man before him looked to be about mid forties, with the authoritative gaze a head of society was expected to wear. His face was a clean canvas; no marks or pocks tainted it. Garrett might have been impressed, if he hadn't already seen hundreds of other people with similar features every day.
“Have you met my son, Garrett?” She edged him forward, and he managed a polite smile.
“I have not. It is nice to meet you, young sir,” He greeted.
“The pleasure is all mine, sire,” Garrett shook his hand, performing the dance he had learned to do so well.
“My daughter Veronica should be around somewhere, you should stop and say hello if you get the chance,” Mr. Allarin offered.
“I will be sure to do that, sire.” He placated.
“I must be off to visit the others, please enjoy yourself here,” His mother wished Mr. Allarin.
“I am having a wonderful time already, my dear.” Mr. Allarin said. Garrett’s mother escorted him away.
“Veronica is a lovely girl, her father owns the BioMetal manufacturing company. His partnership would be most beneficial in the Galavantier establishment.” She explained as she walked on.
“Mother, I just don’t like the girls here…” He began.
“Well, Mr. Talyn of Talyn Tech has a wonderful son about your age…” She offered as she made another sweep of the room.
“That’s not what I meant, mother.” He frowned.
“Ahh, come with me,” She ignored his protest and dragged him onward by the wrist. She stopped short of a young lady talking with a few other members of nobility. “Her. She’s a good one. Her father owns Vaylenuran Systems, specializing in neural netways and augmented reality. Very promising.” Before Garrett was able to speak, she walked over to the girl and offered her hand.
“Ahh, Cordelia! How delightful it is to see you again!” The girl turned around and smiled warmly.
“Mrs. Galavantier, It’s always a pleasure to see you.” The girl gave a sweet smile.
“Have you met my son, Garrett? You two have a lot in common.” His mother patted him on his bruised shoulder proudly, forcing him to stifle a wince.
“I have not, it is nice to meet you, sir,” She curtsied, and Garrett bowed in acknowledgment.
“It is nice to meet you.” He managed to speak with a faint smile on his face.
“How is your father doing?” Garrett’s mother inquired.
“He’s been ever so busy with the next generation. It is a shame he was unable to attend, he always hates missing out on a party like this.” Cordelia apologized.
“He is greatly missed, but I am glad to hear that he is doing well.” She looked over to Garrett. “Oh, I have an idea, Garrett, sweetie, why don’t you show Cordelia the observatory upstairs? I’m sure she would love the view on the balcony.”
“I..” He started.
“I will leave you two alone, I have some other matters to attend to. Please enjoy yourself here, Cordelia, and don’t hesitate to ask Garrett if you need anything.” She dashed off before he could create an excuse. Holding in a distressed sigh, he looked back at the young lady and offered his arm.
“This way please, if you like.” She took his arm and followed him down to the observatory.
The observatory was designed to simulate classical architecture, with a little help from technology. Trees and vines enveloped themselves around grey marble columns and statues. A rock waterfall stood in the center of the room, cascading over into a small pond with a quite murmur. Small stone channels led out from the pond, offering mesmerizing pathways for an observer to follow and gaze at the exotic foliage. Garrett escorted Cordelia up a flight of stone stairs to the balcony, the best vantage point to observe.
She walked over and leaned on the marble railing. Garrett sat down on the bench and took a closer look at Cordelia. She was a handsome young woman, slender and fair, with waves of auburn hair reaching past her shoulder blades. She wore a dark purple knee length dress with detailing lines in a contrasting iridescent white that contoured her shape elegantly. He rested his arms on his knees and looked down at his shoes.
“It’s a well kept garden, lovely flora you have here.” Cordelia said.
“Mmhmm,” He uttered, trying desperately hard to feign interest. She looked back at him with her narrow features and smiled at him.
“Since we are alone, I suppose we can dispense with formalities. It is nice to shed the mask once in a while.” She explained and sat down next to him. She casually stretched her arms over the bench, absent mindedly tracing the lines on the stone. “It’s also nice to pretend to be human once in a while,” she laughed softly. Garrett looked over at her.
“You don’t like playing these games?” He asked. Perhaps he may have found someone who shared similar beliefs.
“Oh they have their moments. It’s interesting to play different people, see through different eyes. I’m a psychology major, the weirdest things fascinate me.” She twirled a lock in her hair.
“Ahh. I see.” He looked back down at his feet.
“What about you? Don’t you like the power and influence your line brings?” Her coy smile irritated him.
“Not really, no. It seems pointless to me. You are told everyday who you are and what you are supposed to be. It gets old after a while.” He said. He was growing increasingly uncomfortable with her presence.
“You just need to be patient, that’s all.”
“Oh really?” He regarded her questioningly.
“Yes. It’s a parent’s responsibility to bring up their children in the most rigid mold, making them suffer in every way. Then when they are finally dethroned, the children cast the parents aside, leaving them to revel in their own destructive hell. All while bringing up their own children, and starting the process all over again. It’s a delightful cycle of misery that has never been broken, since the beginning of time.” She smiled gleefully at her generalization. He looked at her, almost horrified.
“And you see nothing wrong with this?”
“No,” She said plainly. “It is best to take what you can get, and be patient with what is expected of you, because in due time, you will get your revenge.” She stood up and took his hand, ushering him to the railing. “You can maintain your sanity by taking whatever pleasures your mind and lifestyle will allow you to do, or what you can hide the best.”
“That’s a relatively simplified outlook on life. And a limited one.”
“It’s a definition of survival. You either fight for influence and sanity up here, or fight for your flesh and blood like dogs in the Undercity.” She continued. Her black and white generalization angered him.
“I’m sure there is more to it than that.” He argued.
“Not exactly. But I am probably the few who are willing to admit it. Other girls are completely content in their role, wearing their pathetic masks as if it was a second skin. With me, you will at least know that this truly is a charade, and have a chance at some escape.” She turned to look at him with an alluring face. He knew this game, he’s played it many times before, on this very balcony. He wasn’t in the mood to play this time.
“I don’t think…” He started to speak, when Cordelia brought herself near to him. She slid a hand over his shoulder and traced patterns across his chest. She teasingly loosened the knot in his tie and bit her lower lip.
“We could, make this ‘official.’” She spoke sweetly. He smiled and shook his head at her.
“It’s not exactly appropriate,” He said.
“It doesn’t have to be. We could just have a little exercise in maintaining sanity in the life of high society. No one needs to know.” She continued toying with the buttons on his jacket, her tenacity not easily swayed. He took her hand and kissed it softly, while politely giving it back.
“I’m sorry, but this is not the right time. I am in a bit of a mental conflict at the moment, and I need time to properly think about what to do.” He rejected. Cordelia sighed loudly and nodded her head.
“I understand, you prefer to know someone a little bit more. But perhaps later, when we have the opportunity to know each other better. I am sure you will know where to contact me. Good night, Garrett, it was nice meeting you.” She swaggered off, confident that she made a lasting impression on him. How correct she was. Her worldview sent a chill up his spine. He sensed she was a very dangerous person, and he needed to keep her as far away as possible.
Frustrated, he sunk down into the bench and angrily loosened his tie. What the hell am I doing here, he thought as he tore off his jacket.  He opened a secret compartment hidden in the bench and extracted a bottle of heavy liquor. He stretched out over the bench and proceeded to drink enough until he passed out, a feeble escape from the real world.

***Pretty much decided that I am going to work on polishing my novel before doing anything else. I have a deadline set for it, and I intend to make it. However, I will try to divurge a little bit on the weekends and post flash fiction and such.***
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