After last night an idea had started to form in M.A.L.C.O.L.M.’s mind, a new and unique idea, his own idea, which made it all the more potent, and entirely impossible to resist.
“Ma’am, I have a request.”
“A request M.A.L.C.O.L.M.? You never have requests.” Addison stated tinkering away at her car, not even looking up. Her mind filtering through different ways to make it more efficient, even better without disrupting the beauty and originality of it’s maker’s design.
“It’s a bit odd ma’am”
That caused her to pause, visions of mechanics coming to a halt, but after a moment she continued working, not wishing to scare her A.I. off. Her curiosity was piqued and it wouldn’t allow for anything less than learning what had her A.I. so hesitant.
“Well, fire away don’t be shy.”
A loud clank was heard, as Addison Lockwood dropped her wrench in shock at hearing what M.A.L.C.O.L.M. had to say.
“Of course ma’am, unless you think you can’t do it.”
Addison recovered quickly, a large excited smirk spreading across her face.
“On the contrary M.A.L.C.O.L.M. I am not sure why I haven’t thought of this before.”
Olivia had a rather small mouth, but it stretched into a large beaming smile, eyes crinkling, dimples showing. Olivia smiled with her whole face, transforming her countenance into that of a warm sun. It’s rays were full of affection, fondness and amiability. Her smile was by far her most stunning feature.
She had expressive upturned eyes, that were a color somewhere between green and brown. They were too brown to be green and too green to be brown. Society had deemed this color hazel. Her hair was thick and long, with tangled unmanageable curls, Olivia though had a knack for wrangling them. She had a fair complexion, and a dusting of freckles, that were light and only noticeable when you looked closely. The type of freckles you would never need to cover with foundation, not that Olivia would, foundation made her skin itch and always felt stuffy to her.
From a long line of women under 5’ 3”, Olivia stood at an unremarkable 5’ 2”, which basically meant she had to stretch on her tip toes to reach places most people could, and did not often have to worry if men were shorter than her. She had slim shoulders, and lean arms, with surprisingly wide hips for her size. She was a pretty woman but wasn’t overly eye catching, her subtle beauty took a moment to notice. You had to stop and appreciate it, it was a warm beauty. One that once you had, you didn’t want to let go.
At that moment Olivia’s hazel eyes were swollen and red rimmed, her hair was in a sloppy bun and her fair cheeks were stained pink in embarrassment, her freckles standing out in contrast. However, she wore a pair of open-toed heels, showing off her new blood red toe nails, and her step was filled with a confident sway.
Olivia couldn’t control her embarrassment though. Crying over that asshole. Addison finding her tear stained and soaking, wrapped in a towel. She was beyond embarrassed. She wasn’t sure it was possible for her to have come across more awkwardly.
Okay, that was a lie, there was that one time when she had come in, in her p.j.’s with lipstick smeared all over her face, but that had only been because she had had a sleepover with her girlfriends the night before. Being the jerks her friends were they had turned off her alarm clock for falling asleep first, and then like a bunch of teenagers, covered her face with horrendous make up. Olivia had had the choice of showing up on time, in a state of disarray or showing up quite late looking presentable. She had never been sure if she made the right choice.
She groaned but continued walking through the halls determined to reach her destination quickly. Despite the misery of the night, there had been…aspects that she would forever hold close to her heart.
The quirky reassurance and faithful nature of Addison, as she took her home, offering her the strength she need. Helping her pull herself out of her soaked clothes and into her pajamas. Olivia had consider Addison something of a mentor and even a close friend in her three years of service to Donovan Tower, last night had merely reaffirmed that in her mind. Sometimes Olivia still couldn’t believe that Addison Lockwood, inventor and possible genius, was a close personal friend. It just reaffirmed what she already knew, that life took you to unexpected places.
Then M.A.L.C.O.L.M., Olivia didn’t even know what to think about M.A.L.C.O.L.M. Unsure and baffled, but still unwilling to leave her to her misery. He’d done everything in his power to make her as comfortable as he could, offering support in the few ways he knew how. Addison and his kindness had nearly broken her heart all over again.
Squaring her shoulders, her lips tight in determination, now that Tom had broken up with her, she would be even more intent on her work, and she would repay every shred of kindness that had been gifted upon her.
One week later
“Addison?” Nothing but the quiet hum of machines. “Addison.” Now she knew she heard him, and was simply being obtuse in hopes he would just wander off. “ADDISON!”
“What?” she said looking up from her most recent project, face slightly put out, clearly displeased with the interruption. When her eyes landed on Ezra’s broad form, his arms crossed in displeasure, her face lightened up considerably.
“I am worried about Olivia.” Ezra admitted, cracking his knuckles, a terribly nervous habit of his. “She’s been working non-stop,” His thumb tucking under to pop each knuckle, one right after the other in a slow, efficient rhythm. “ever since Tom broke up with her. She’s a workaholic, now that she doesn’t have a distraction.” During this time Addison had returned to tinkering away, listening with only half her attention, her head cocked in a mockery of attention, eyes unfocused hands fiddling with wires and metal joints. “She’s almost as bad as you.” She looked up smiling sheepishly, a large grease stain on her forehead, and her hands battered from whatever she was so diligently puttering away at.
“I am sure she’s fine.” she assured him, trying her hardest not to glance at her project and keep her attention focused on Ezra. She would never intentionally ignore Ezra, in fact he was usually quite distracting, but once her mind was sucked into a project it was nearly impossible for her to escape.
“Thank’s for your astounding help.” He sighed, exasperated. “I really shouldn’t have expected much, not when you are this deep into a project.” He glanced over and his interest was piqued at the complex mass of wires and metal bars in front of him, “What are you working on, anyway?”
“Secret.” she sang, pushing it under a tarp out of sight. He sighed heavily, dismissing her with a wave of his hands, stalking off with the loud thump of his boots.
“I’ll talk to her if you want.” she shouted as he retreated.
“Good.” and then the door shut with a click.
Addison pouted to the open air. “I think Ezra’s upset with me.”
“Undoubtedly.” M.A.L.C.O.L.M. agreed.
“Miss Moore, Ms. Lockwood would like your presence in her lab.”
“Tell her I’ll be there in a second, M.A.L.C.O.L.M.” she murmured, hands fiddling with her necklace, sliding the tiny white bow charm back and forth.
“And M.A.L.C.O.L.M.?” the necklace slipped from her fingers, and she bent down in search of her shoes, scrambling about under her desk.
Her head popped up, a pair of pumps in hand, they were a light denim fabric, a large bow adorning the front, the heel of glittering silver. “How are you today?”
“Good, Miss Moore.” he replied and if M.A.L.C.O.L.M. could smile, he would have been beaming.
“Ms. Lockwood, you asked for me?” Her leg popped up and she adjusted her heel, before tucking the appendage back under her.
“Yes.” Addison said shoving her work back under a tarp, eyes bloodshot, and darkly rimmed. “Mr. Mayhew has brought it to my attention that you have become a bit of a…well a….workaholic.”
“Is that a problem?” she said, face scrunching up in confusion, which M.A.L.C.O.L.M found oddly fascinating, filing the image away to be studied later.
“No, no, not at all, while I appreciate the hard work, and understand that compulsion,” she muttered drolly, gesturing to herself, and her disheveled state. The mechanic jump suit she was wearing stained and wrinkled, and not smelling all too pleasant. “If you overwork yourself, Donnavan Industries might get a lawsuit for abuse of employees. And then Mrs. Donavan would have to pay you some ridiculous sum and pay for you to take some ridiculous vacation or something equally as drastic and then Ezra would hear no end to Mrs. Donnavan’s reprimands, which means I’d hear no end to it and we wouldn’t want that.”
“I don’t know. Mr. Mayhew told me when he was forced to go on a vacation, you sent him to the Caribbean. A free vacation sounds appealing.”
She smiled wryly at her. “Yes, well, the point being Ezra’s worried, stop working so hard, or I am going to have hell to pay and if I do-”
“I do too.” she finished for her.
“Exactly!” she said grinning, winking cheerily at her. “Ezra’s worse than a freaking mother-hen. Now take a break and take the rest of the day off, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Of course.” she replied turning to leave, Addison’s brilliant mind flickering to her project.
“Oh,” Addison said sitting up, able to keep her brain focused long enough to remember. Olivia paused, glancing at Addison over her shoulder, waiting patiently. “and if I hear from M.A.L.C.O.L.M. that you just did your work at home, I will make you take a longer break and take all your work from you.”
She smiled at her boss. “You know Addison some employees might think that’s a good thing.”
The inventor paused for a moment, eyes wide at the sound of her name, a wide smile stole across her features. ”I know, but you’re not most employees.” Olivia thought she was going to add more, but she was already too sucked back in to her work. She left beaming.
Olivia sighed heavily, glancing about her living room, the sound of the TV adequately distracting, but it felt too early to entirely veg out. She’d finished her most recent book, and did’t have any interesting replacements. She’d already eaten three different snacks, and was pretty sure it wouldn’t be a good idea to eat the ice cream in her freezer only to stave off boredom.
Her eyes flickered, to a pile of folders on her desk. She found herself shifting, wiggling in her seat, trying to resist the temptation. She quickly discovered she was weak, and pounced on her folders.
“I believe Ms. Lockwood expressly forbid that.”
“Son of a bitch!” Olivia cried, jerking back as if scalded, moving so quickly she got tangled in her own feet and tumbled to the ground, cracking her elbow painfully on the corner of her coffee table.
“Miss Moore, what has happened? Are you alright? Do you need medical attention?”
“No, no I’m fine.” Her crab pillow lay beside her, similarly prone. “…M.A.L.C.O.L.M.?”
“Yes, Miss Moore?”
“How-uh-What-“ Olvia’s startled brain struggled to form words. “What the hell are you doing in my apartment?”
“Ms. Lockwood had me installed on your phone in case of an emergency.”
“Oh,” she murmured her lips forming an o shape, eyes wide. “Is there an emergency?”
“Only that you are considering doing work despite a clear directive not to.”
She blushed, skin hot. “M.A.L.C.O.L.M. I think I might be a workaholic.”
“Whatever gave you that idea, Miss Moore?”
“Cute.” she grumbled pulling herself off the floor, pulling her shirt back down from where it had rode up her belly. “Where are you?”
“I told you, on your phone.”
“No sorry, I mean where’s my phone?” her eyes flickered around her apartment over her belongings, but she couldn’t remember where she had placed it. The bright turquoise case not jumping out at her.
“Well I can’t give you an exact location but I can see your desk from your camera as well as what looks to be your living room. I lost visual with you when you fell.”
“Hmm…” she murmured glancing around, “Can you see me?”
“Yes, you’re looking away from me.”
With an eep she straightened up, turning around, what little bit of color that had left returning to her checks ten-fold.
“You are approximately 10.57 feet away from me.”
“Wait, how come you aren’t seeing like the ceiling or the floor? Are you vertical?”
“I was surprised by my clear visual as well, and had come to a similar conclusion. “If you’re vertical that means you’re…aha!” she shouted in triumph, swooping down to scoop her phone off the dock on her speakers. “I forgot I had been listening to music earlier while snacking.”
“Yes, I believe you shuffled an Adele album.”
“I believe you are right.” she snorted, giving her phone a quick affectionate hug. The technology was scorching against her skin. “Damn, that’s hot.”
“You’re phone doesn’t seem to be coping well with Ms. Lockwood’s technology.”
“Is it normal to have such a sudden sharp spike?”
“It seems fine now.”
“I have boosted the cooling system.”
“Ohhh, niffty. Can you make my phone do any other cool things?”
“Oh I don’t know…” she pondered, leaning her phone up against a vase full of bright flowers, sinking down into a chair before it. “Can you make it take a picture?”
The flash went off nearly blinding her. “That’s a surprisingly small request, Miss Moore.”
But she didn’t seem to hear him, instead her eyes were bright with wonder, lips stretched into a wide grin. She did duck lips at her phone lifting an eyebrow, and M.A.L.C.O.L.M. humored her, snapping another photo. Pleased laughter escaped her lips, gliding against her phones speaker in a pleasant way.
“Never going to need a timed camera again. Oh! Oh! Get this,” She jumped out of her chair pushing it to the side, and quickly fell into a handstand holding her head off the ground, the muscles of her arms taunt from the weight of her body.
“Got it,” he murmured, his tone surprisingly soft.
“Hell yeah!” she cheered, rolling down, coming to rest on the floor legs sprawled before her. The phone’s camera clicked again.
“I have observed you seem to cuss more at home, Miss Moore.”
She grimaced, running a hand through her hair, sending her long, thick locks tumbling. “A bad habit I know, I am always worried I am going to let one slip at work.”
“You have impressive control at work, I wouldn’t worry. Especially not with Mr. Mayhew around.”
“He does have a bit of a mouth on him.” She glanced back at him, smile causing her eyes to crinkle. “So what else can you do?”
“Seeing as most employees carry their phones with them everywhere, I can locate any employee at any time.”
“Isn’t that a breach in privacy?”
“Yes, that’s why it’s only to be used in emergencies, it’s in your contract and I only report it to Ms. Lockwood and a specially selected team of Mrs. Donavan’s.”
“What about Addison’s location?”
“Ezra is allowed that information if needed, and other senior employees in emergencies.”
“So I could spy on Addison?”
“In theory, but I wouldn’t divulge the information unless Ms. Lockwood was somewhere she shouldn’t be.”
She puffed out a breath, “Well then why brag about it if we can’t do anything fun with it.”
“I was not aware you wished for an entertaining function.”
“Yes, please!” Her eyes were wide and her lips in a puppy dog pout, hands clasped together.
“I can download any of the various, music and movie files Ms. Lockwood possesses.”
“While we will definitely be using that later, I was expecting something with a little more…” she pursed her lips thinking. “Boom!” her hands spread out in a wide explosive gesture.
“Their is only so much your phone can do, Miss Moore, I am capable of many unique and boom-like functions, but only if connected to the proper source.”
“Makes sense.” she murmured, nodding her head. She leaned back resting on her hands. “What time is it, M.A.L.C.O.L.M.?”
“3:37, Miss Moore.”
“Hmm… well I was thinking about going on a run and then stopping by the bookstore. Care to join me?”
“Nothing would please me more.”
Bending over, Olivia stretched for her sneakered toes, her legs clad in tight maroon leggings. Her matching sports-bra was just visible over the edge of her low-cut, gray tank top. Her phone was strapped to her arm, and her earbuds were already in her ears. Her long hair had been swept back into a tight ponytail, and she was ready to go.
Hopping up she stretched her arms above her head.
“If any one does anything interesting you let me know, I enjoying watching strange people.”
“A strange request, Miss Moore.”
She shrugged her slim shoulders, “I never said I wasn’t one of them.” Double checking to make sure her earbuds were fully tucked in, she reached for her phone to play a song, and froze, a grin stretching across her face.
“Why don’t you pick a tune M.A.L.C.O.L.M., something with energy, but… classy.”
“I have just the song, Miss Moore.” It was odd hearing his voice directly in her ears.
Olivia nearly squealed, excited to hear what he’d play. She took a few steps, keeping a slow pace, and when Frederic Chopin’s Etude no. 12 in C minor came on, she nearly tripped and fell flat on her face.
“You said classy.”
She bit her lip to keep from grinning. “Sassy, M.A.L.C.O.L.M., sassy,”
Addison sat in her lab, staring ahead dreamily, laying on her stomach on the hood of her renovation project, the engine purring against her. She tucked her fists under her chin and sighed. Her lab was equipped with one-way mirrors, she could see her fellow co-workers scurrying around like headless chickens, but they were oblivious to her scrutiny, all they saw was a cream wall. The only person to have been in her personal lab was Ezra. Who, coincidently, was the object of her attention.
At that moment he had gotten caught up on the way to her office by some employee and was chatting amiably. He reached up scratching his head sheepishly as his friend laughed with him. Addison’s mouth went dry at the sight of a sliver of tanned, toned stomach. His shirt had come untucked, those were her favorite days, where Ezra was busy and slightly frazzled and grew more and more mussed as they day went on. He smiled, smacking his friend on the back before turning away. Addison’s insides melted at his patented crooked smile. If he only knew what it did to her, he would have been able to get her to do anything. Unfortunately, he was oblivious to her feelings, or fortunately, Addison had yet to decide.
She wasn’t that great with people, they tended to like her and find her amusing, but she was better with machines. They made sense to her, they didn’t confuse or betray her, they were simple and sublime.
“Addison?” She was jolted from her thoughts so suddenly she slipped off the hood slamming into the concrete floor. She stared up at the ceiling in utter surprise, how had she gotten here?
“Addison!” Ezra called, voice sounding concerned and a touch panicked. He rushed to her side, bending over her, glancing down at her with searching eyes. Her bumper was bruised, but beyond that she felt alright, her ego suffering the greatest injury.
“I am fine, Ezra.” He offered her a steady hand and she took it allowing herself to be pulled to her feet. She desperately tried to ignore the feel of his calloused fingers against her skin, running through the different screwdrivers she owned and how she would organize them to keep her mind focused.
“I am glad.” he murmured brushing a strand of her colorful hair behind her ear, her earrings clacking together, the touch tentative. Thoughts of screwdrivers flew out the window. If only he knew. She released a heavy inward sigh. It had been eight years, since they had known each other, and she had been in love with him for the majority of that time. If he was going to reciprocate her feelings it would have happened by now. Didn’t mean it stopped her from fantasizing any less.
Her teeth dug into her lip imagining him grabbing her, shoving her up against the hood of her car, and kissing her till she melted.
“Addison?” she broke from her fantasy, tasting the grease and oil on her lips. She couldn’t entirely blame him, she wasn’t exactly in full form right now, stained and smelly, in a few days old clothes. It was a wonder he hadn’t run away entirely yet. “You do remember where we are going right?”
“We have a meeting with Ms. Donovan, and you know how she hates the smell of grease.”
Addison’s face twisted into a grimace.