Holo-files held all of a person’s information: Gender, appearance, health records, work history, skill sets, training, level of education, address, etc. Only occupation Crew Supervisors and officials had access to holo-files normally. She didn’t look like an official.
Officials had greasy, jet black hair, and bold− nearly glowing− purple eyes. Bluish green and purplish black veins crept out and around their temples and down their necks. Their pale, pasty gray complexions were like death marked their skin for collection. Some officials didn’t look that ghastly. A few had normal complexions, and their black hair was barely greasy.
“Of course, I’m a Super−,” she paused to clear her throat, “I was the supervisor for our kitchen crew.”
Crys knew making assumptions was ill advised by anyone with common sense, but Crys couldn’t help himself at this moment.
“Gayle is the new kitchen crew Supervisor…”
“Yes,” Pearl said, putting on a brave smile. She was trying not to allow her demotion to negatively affect her. “Guess why I requested to add you to the kitchen crew.” She told Crys.
Crys honestly answered, “I can’t… I don’t know.”
Pearl slammed her small fist against the surface of the table as she blurted, “C’mon! Guess!”
Crys knew her demand was lighthearted. A guess would only add to the spirit of conversing between two friends.
“Because… I’m handsome,” Crys guessed, half for fun and half urging to know if Pearl found that statement to be true. Crys didn’t understand why he wanted to know if Pearl found him attractive, he just felt it was imperative that he know.
Pearl coyly smiled as her cheeks flushed a light rosy pink. Locking her eyes into her bowl of stew, she feebly said, “You are− you’re− you are very han− very cu− that’s true you are.” She took a loud gulp and a deep breath; soon followed by a big bite of stew. As she chewed the contents of her stew, she mumbled a muffled, “Ba nuh.”
Crys guessed she had meant to say ‘But no’. Crys gave his undivided attention to Pearl, waiting for her to answer. Pearl swallowed her previous bite of stew while trying not to laugh. The power of laughter conquered both Pearl and Crys; the tension in his shoulders lifted with each spurted laugh. A wave of awe-encompassing relief rippled through his entire being. Crys could hardly fathom the stir of emotions swimming within his core. It was indescribable.
Calming down from the storm of laughter, Pearl explained, “But no, that… is not why.” Searching for the right words to say, she scratched her left eyebrow.
Clearing her throat again, she continued, “You have an incredible work ethic and you do as you’re told. You have no idea how appealing that is to a supervisor.”
Sadness settled on Pearl’s face again. Without thinking Crys asked, “How come you are not the kitchen crew Supervisor anymore?”
Pearl furiously batted her eyes as if she were trying to hold back tears. She exhaled and inhaled as if she had to let go of harnessed inner anger and take in inner peace. “An official, I think, was in my home when I got home last night. She said that… She basically said I was no longer Supervisor, that Gayle was, and−,” Pearl felt silent.
Without warning, Pearl did something completely out of the ordinary. She laid her hands on the table, lifted herself up and forward, and pressed her lips against Crys’. A heat burned in his chest and a tingling sensation danced in his stomach. He had no idea what this action between he and she was, but he knew it could never last long enough or ever be enough. When Pearl’s lips left the embrace of Crys’, he leaned forward urging for more, but Pearl’s gaze went past his. Crys felt a heavy presence behind him; cautiously he looked over his shoulder.
Two Officials in royal blue suits, with light gray shirts and white ties stood behind Crys. The stringy, greasy black hair was neatly slicked back, the veins around their temples crept up into their hairline and down the sides of their cheeks, and their complexion faintly had a touch of flesh tone. Their cold stares glowed purple from the bold hue of their irises.
Crys looked at Pearl again. She wasn’t surprised to see the Officials, but a bit of fear hung in her glance. The officials split up and walked around the table to lock Pearl in place.
The taller Official of the two, stared at Crys as he reached inside his suit jacket. He pulled out a paper thin black tech-pad about the size of his hand. A beep chirped from the tech-pad as it flickered on with a flashing purple light in the top right corner. The Official held the device out towards Crys. Crys noticed a tiny lens on the back, at the center of the device.
“State your name, occupation, and what building you live in, please.”
Wearily, Crys replied, “Crys Al-in, kitchen crew, building one thousand four.”
Suddenly, Crys’ eye began to sting as if he stared at a light too long, although a second only passed. Crys pried his eyes from the tiny lens and focused them elsewhere. Crys observed the Official work its operations busily, pressing the surface of the device with purpose as its eyes searched the screen. When the Official stopped exploring the contents of the device, it flashed neon blue. When it stopped flashing, the Official looked at Crys.
“Have a good afternoon Crys. Return to work please.”
Crys recalled the words Pearl just shared with him. He had a good work ethic and he did as he was told. As he collected both sets of dishes, he exchanged one last gaze with Pearl. He didn’t know what to do for her. He wanted to help, but knew he couldn’t. Only one thing during their gaze brought him reassurance, Pearl’s smile and the happiness and joy in her eyes. The fear had left them. He walked away with that contagious happiness and joy Pearl seemed to spread.
That night, Crys went to sleep thinking of Pearl. A part of him hoped he’d see her again. Yet, a big part of him felt that hope was futile. As he slept, something happened that Crys never recalled experiencing. He dreamt.