“What shall I wear today?” asked Katherine.
Every morning Katherine would ask the same question of her husband. Getting drawn into a discussion on clothing was anathema to Marius, yet unavoidable. Ignoring his wife was the only option yet it could not last forever, Katherine would always win this ritual. Marius’ strict up-bringing meant he was dressed before breakfast. The first he knew of Katherine’s attitude was when they married, that was ten years ago.
“I think I’ll try something different.” said Katherine, trying to draw Marius out.
He was reading the news as she pushed ahead. Outside the sun was busy waking up the world.
“Yes, I think I’ll go for black today.” said Katherine, looking wistfully out the window. She could hear the neighbours talking.
Jealousy had crept into her world when Maryanne had unveiled her new garden sculpture. A fifteen metre long replica of the first interstellar ship dominated the greenery. The light dancing across the structure told Katherine of the money that went into making it.
“Black is such a lovely colour, don’t you think?” she added when her husband failed to respond.
“Black?” said Marius, shaking his head and looking puzzled.
“You can’t do that, you don’t have the skin, you’ll look ridiculous. Have you ever seen a white head on a black body?”
“There’s this new procedure, they can change your skin tone. You can do it as many times as you like. It only increases the cancer risk by twenty seven per cent. With our medical technology being what it is, we don’t need to worry about that, do we?”
“What’s the name of the company?” said Marius.
“Give me time to think it over.” he answered, standing.
“You’ll say no. You always say no when you give me that line.”
“I’m late for work.” he said, pointing to his watch.
“You own the company, dear.”
“I like setting a good example.”
The door buzzer sounded. An image of the chauffeur appeared on the screen by the door.
“Ready when you are, Mr. Walton. Your itinerary for the day has been loaded and your sleeping tablets and anti-pressure pills have been re-stocked. Josephine needs to talk to you about last night’s progress so I’ve scheduled her first.”
“Thank you Vernon, I’ll be right down.”
“Do I have an answer for my question?” pressed Katherine as the screen clicked off.
“It doesn’t matter what answer I give, you’ll go ahead and do whatever you want anyway.”
“Not true.” answered Katherine, trying to sound hurt.
“Fine, go with the black.”
“I’ve changed my mind, I’ll go with Indian.”
Marius threw his hands up in despair.
“Fine, fine, go with that then! I really must get going.”
Marius headed to the door, looked back and said
“Love you.” before slipping out.
“Jane, fetch me the Indian and call Active Harmony for me.”
“Yes, Mrs. Walton.” said the in-house AI.
Five minutes later, a slim Indian woman stood shivering and blinking before Katherine. Breakfast had been cleaned away, leaving Katherine to occupy centre stage. After taking in her surroundings, the woman looked at the disconnected head.
“She seems malnourished to me. I hope you’ve been remembering to feed the animals, Jane.” said Katherine.
Jane remained obstinately quiet.
“Turn around.” said Katherine, addressing the woman.
A small electric shock by Jane reminded the woman of her obligation. Katherine eyed her up.
“Hello Mrs. Walton, what can Active Harmony do for you today?”
A well groomed male had appeared on the main screen.
“I want to look like this woman.”
“Certainly madam, I’ll take her measurements and you’ll have a new skin ready for you tomorrow.”
“I want it today.”
“No problem, we have a six hour service-”
“I’m going out in an hour, have it ready by then.”
“Yes, ma’am.” he answered obsequiously. His face told a different story.
“All right Jane, take the body from the base of the neck and I want a good job this time. Maryanne spotted the join from two metres away when I tried it before. I’ll not have that happen again.”
“I understand, Mrs. Walton.”
While they had been talking, the Indian woman rubbed her neck.
“Don’t worry, you won’t miss it.” said Katherine.
Maryanne looked out of her front window and saw a strange woman in her garden. It was the colour of her skin which made her stand out. All her neighbours were white, this woman was chestnut.
“Get off my property this instant!” screamed Maryanne, on opening her door.
When it garnered no reaction, she marched across to the woman.
“I know what you said dear, I was busy admiring your new toy.”
Maryanne looked at the woman, her mouth wide open.
“Surprised?” said Katherine, turning to her.
“Why surely you must recognise your own neighbour? Don’t tell me you were drawn in by this?” said Katherine, waving at her new body.
“That AI of yours is good, I’ll admit.”
“True.” said Katherine. “But Active Harmony completed the picture. Did you know they can take a skin tone, match it and deliver it all in under an hour?”
“They claim twenty four hours on their advert.”
“If you don’t believe me, just ask for Blair Aldrich, he’ll confirm everything I’ve said.”
As an aside Katherine said
“I have a feeling I’m going to be their favourite client. I might try Chinese tomorrow, see how it feels.”
“Or Mexican.” replied Maryanne.
“That’s so common. Everyone wants to be Mexican, I want to be different. Frankly I wanted to be black but my darling husband explained to me that the light wouldn’t be favourable to a black body. He’s such a dear.”
Growing up, Mexican had seemed so exotic to Maryanne. She had tried and failed many times to achieve her dream of looking like one. Abandoning her dream had made her feel a failure. Katherine’s comment cut deeply. Maryanne turned on her heel to hide her tears and walked away.
Smiling to herself, Katherine headed to the shops. She had a feeling she would turn heads there too. Being the wife of the richest man on the planet had some advantages, she mused.