Had this speculative fiction idea percolating in my head this morning and this is what has come out so far. (That felt semi-finished.)
I…don’t think this is a love story, despite the romance-y title.
He remembered the first time he saw her, walking into Sally’s Diner during the lunch hour rush. The moment she walked in the door her blue hair marked her as an Econ, one of those specifically bred to have a head for numbers and finance.
That she’d even get close, let alone walk into such a grubby place when such as her could have the pick of any fine dining establishment uptown was surprising on its own. When Sal had come up to him after she’d left and told him she’d come in asking for a job he’d laughed out loud.
“She must be screwing with you”, he’d said, downing the last dregs of sub-standard coffee, but the best kind he could be expected to afford on his meager paycheck.
Sal just shrugged and pushed crumbs around on the counter top with a damp rag.
“I told her to come back with a resume. Her hair wouldn’t be enough to land her a job here, I said.”
“I bet she just came here on a dare, we’ll not see her shiny blue hair in here again.”
He nodded thoughtfully before he settled his bill and pushed his way out into the hazy sunshine of downtown.
It turned out that he’d been wrong about the Econ.
The next week, when he’d been having his lunch as usual she returned, with a folder tucked under one arm and a determined look on her perfectly shaped face. She had a scarf wrapped around her blue hair, but strands of it had escaped its folds making her identity obvious to everyone in the diner.
Sal took the papers from the girl and she surprised them all again by taking a seat by the counter and picking up a menu.
His curiosity got the better of him and he moved himself closer to the girl. If she was actually serious about working in a place like Sally’s Diner, then maybe it might be worth picking her brain a bit.
“I hope you’re not expecting the kind of quality you get from your fancy restaurants”, he said, dipping his piece of crumbly toast into his egg yolk. “Everything served here is Grade C and below if it’s not Synth Imitation Protein outright.”
The girl looked a bit spooked at first, but found her voice fairly quick, tucking a few strands of her blue hair into the scarf folds.
“I don’t dine out all that often”, she said, her voice low and brittle. “I prefer cooking my own meals, if I can.”
“Well, I expect you can afford the best stuff for your kitchen pantry”, he said lazily and shoved the piece of bread into his mouth.
“I-…Well, I thought it would be good to try the food I’ll be cooking soon”, she said quickly, before hiding her face behind the menu. “If I can have a job here.”
He grinned widely. Somehow he’d always imagined the Vitro classes to be rather stuck up and proud, but this girl didn’t quite fit the bill. Though she’d only been bred for her numbers skills, he reminded himself. That would not automatically come with great social skills. He supposed those genes would be more important for the Politic, Phys and Creat classes.
“Well, I’d try the breakfast food if you want something decent”, he said, figuring he should be more helpful. “The eggs come from Sal’s own chickens and the bacon is where most of her meat budget goes. Sal always says everything is better with good bacon, even the shoddy meat she uses in her burgers.”
The girl peered up over the menu with a surprised look.
“You shouldn’t speak so openly about the standard of her food like that! That’s not proper!”
“Sal warns people against her burgers all the time! She just puts them on the menu cause a diner is supposed to have burgers. The only people that order them are the school kids who do it for a dare and ignorant tourists who somehow find their way here.”
The girl seemed to relax slightly at that and lowered the menu. Her eyes matched her hair.
“I will take your advice then”, she said and nodded. “Thank you.”
When Sal came over she ordered the breakfast plate with whole-wheat toast (even after he cautioned her that Sal would sometimes add back old crusty bits of bread when she baked a fresh batch). And when Sal went off to take care of her order she held out her hand rigidly towards him.
“My name is Belladonna”, she said. “Hopefully we will see more of each other in the future.
He gave her hand a good look before he took it and shook it as she surely expected of him.
“Belladonna…You’re the first Vitro I’ve ever properly talked to like this”, he said. “Everyone else I’ve just seen on the TV or stared down from the other side of a wide desk.”
Belladonna blushed slightly. “I hope I made a good impression then. Mother always says first impressions are always important.
“Your mom sounds like a decent lady. Is she an Econ too?”
Belladonna shook her head. “She was a Creat, but her parents were Normals, like you. They won the lottery and put all their money towards making my mother. She was their only child.”
He whistled. It was incredibly rare for a Normal to ever afford a Vitro baby, unless they won the lottery or something. Though it if a Normal ended up with money, it was said that it was more likely that they’d spend it in some shallow way, without thinking of the future, like making a child who’d be guaranteed a secure career path in life. It was just some of the subtle racism that permeated their society.
Well, he didn’t feel like he had suffered too much from being a Normal. Sure, he’d never have a fancy job with a nice paycheck, but he made do with what he had. He didn’t demand much from life anyway.
“Are you sure about working here?” he asked. “You’re not going to earn even close to a fraction of what you would earn in a normal Econ job.”
She nodded shyly. “I’ve thought this over. Even argued with my father about it…I just want to do something different.”
An Econ straying from her designated career path in life…It was hard to keep the surprise off his face. Any other Normal might have been upset at how she was throwing away her nice slot in society to steal jobs from them.
“Well, if that’s what you really want I’ll wish you luck then”, he said. “Sal is a nice gal and she’ll treat you right if she decides to let you work here.”
And then his wrist watch beeped to remind him that his lunch hour was up and he had to leave.
“Might see you later then, Bella”, he grinned, finding himself hoping that he really would see the Econ girl again. He offered her a slight bow as he unfolded himself from his seat.
She gave him a flustered look in return as he passed her by.
“My name is Belladonna!” she cried, her eyes sparkling.
He chuckled all the way out into the streets where he soon lost himself among the milling crowds and the automobiles spewing exhaust into the summer air.