Sunlight fell in through my window, and brushed across my eyes. I opened them, and was greeted by an open curtain I could’ve sworn I had closed last night. Disappointed, I got up and shut my curtain. I had only hoped that I could have gotten a few extra hours of sleep, but alas.
I looked to my bed. I could try to go back to sleep. I sighed, and reopened the curtain. I wasn’t going to get back to sleep after that, anyway. I’m just surprised I hadn’t woken up sooner.
Groggily, I walked out of my bedroom, into the hallway, and to my kitchen. I sorted through my cupboards, and finally took out a simple breakfast ration. I actually had time to eat and cook, so I figured that I would do that this morning.
I tore open the cellophane wrap. Inside there was some pancake mix, hash browns, and a banana. This was a fresh breakfast ration. Luck me.
I mixed the pancake mix with water, then took out two frying pans. One I loaded with the hash browns, and the other I poured pancake batter into.
I cooked with both pans quickly, and had myself a complete breakfast within a few minutes. I threw away all of the trash, put my food onto a plate, then threw away the waste. I sat down and ate my breakfast.
I scarfed the food down within a couple moments, then cleaned off my plate and put it away. The time was only 8:14, so I still had the rest of the day to waste.
Wait. I just remembered. Shelby asked me on a date yesterday. That’s right. She wanted to meet for lunch. That means I should get to her house at about twelve. She’ll probably want to spend more time together than just that, though. That’ll keep me busy for a while. I only need to be busy for a little less than four hours.
With that in mind, I went to my basement and turned on my computer. I was going to work on a hacking algorithm that I had started a week or two ago, as a backup plan for if Holland was removed from his post. He was, and so now I ought to work on the algorithm again.
I opened up my text file with the code, and searched through it. Hackers became less popular after the internet became a commodity. A hacker was even rarer than a serial killer in today’s age.
My code was around halfway complete. Passwords for most accounts in the police were a string of numbers and letters. All I needed to do was prepare the algorithm to test passwords with anywhere between five and twenty characters. My passphrase easily broke thirty characters, so there wasn’t going to be any issues concerning someone else trying to use my code to break into my own accounts.
My code’s biggest issue at the moment was putting passwords into the proper text box. It would put the password into every place text could be placed on screen, and that would result in the code hitting enter and leaving the proper website. That made the code too time consuming to use, and so it needed to be fixed.
I spent a few hours patching and testing the code. The problem persisted, but I was able to keep the code from putting its entries into the address bar, which felt like a feat unto itself.
I think that it would be easier to fix the code if I would decrease the number of characters being entered into the text boxes. I might consider doing that, as it would also decrease time that the code would take to break into an account.
I tested and changed the code a few more times, then laid back and sighed. I wasn’t fixing the things that needed fixing. If only I could find some archives to give me a tutorial in coding. Maybe I’d have to look harder another day.
I checked my clock. It was 12:13. I was late, and Shelby was probably waiting for me. I sighed, turned off my computer, locked all of my locks, then left. If I moved quickly enough, I would likely reach her home within fifteen minutes.
Fourteen minutes passed, and I arrived at Shelby’s home. I knocked on her door, and she answered.
She was wearing a dress. It was peculiar, at the very least. Dresses weren’t very practical in the police force, and so people didn’t often wear them. That and the fact that dresses weren’t cheap kept them off of the shelf for poor people. I’m unsure as to how Shelby got one.
Either way, the dress was a faded grey color. I could tell that it was bolder at one point, but it had seen many more days than it was intended to. It had a light floral pattern on its side, in white rather than grey. It held a feeling of sturdiness and tenderness at the same time.
“Ren, you’re here. Perfect. I was just finishing up our lunch. Come on in, make yourself at home.” Shelby beckoned me inside. I felt compelled to follow her, even if she hadn’t prepared a meal. I took off my jacket, hung it up, then followed her into the kitchen. It became apparent to me after removing my jacket that she was wearing better clothing than I was. I supposed I’d have to keep that in mind for next time.
“Where did you get that dress, Shelby?” I sat down at her table. It was just as cozy as I remembered it.
“I’ve had it for a while,” she replied, “I just never had a reason to wear it. I thought that now would be as good a time as any. Either way, I might end up needing to wear this dress to some formal occasion. Sometimes Superiors go to parties and bring along a Commander. Its rare, but I’m still young.” I nodded in return. I suppose all of that makes sense. Maybe I should get some formal wear myself. I almost giggled at the thought of crashing a party.
“Do you like it?” Shelby asked. I was put off guard. I was never asked about my opinions on such frivolous things. I figured the best reaction would be to just say yes.
“Yes. It’s a well designed dress.” Shelby laughed a bit. I didn’t know if she took joy from the compliment or from the way I executed it. Either way, she was enjoying herself.
“I used to wear dresses more often as a child, actually. My father could sew, so he would often find fabrics and make a dress for me. It was painstaking work for him. I can hardly believe he would go through that much trouble for his daughter.” She started serving the food that she had made onto a couple plates.
“Did your father make that dress as well?” I wasn’t sure how to act in a date. I wasn’t interested in most topics if they didn’t lead something getting done.
“No, he didn’t make this dress. He died of starvation when I was sixteen. The last dress he made me doesn’t fit anymore. I had to buy this one, and I bought it used.
“My father was an odd man,” She went on, “He was just so much more tender than any man I had met before. He was wonderful at designing dresses. It was a talent that was just too underappreciated in the poor community.” She brought the plates over to the table. “He was so talented, he should have been making dresses for the rich. He couldn’t though. They just wouldn’t hire a homeless man and his dirty daughter to make them dresses. That’s why he starved. Refused to not let me eat, and would constantly give me his meals.” Shelby was tearing up at this point. I didn’t know what to do. I had never been placed in a situation like this.
“He never asked me to work. He only asked me to enjoy my youth while I had it. I didn’t even realise how sick he was until it was too late.” She sniffed, wiped her nose, and took a bite of her food.
“Sorry about almost crying. It just sort of happened.”
I nodded. “It happens. It’s no big deal.” She put her cutlery down and held her face in her hands. Oh christ, she’s having a breakdown. Let’s hope I remember what academy taught me about helping children.
I stood up, and sat on her chair next to her. I put her head on my shoulder, and held her. She pulled her face toward me, and kept crying. I pat her back, and held my head to hers. This was what we had been taught. I was lucky I remembered.
“Shelby. You’re okay. You’ve lived this long, you can live a little longer.” Turns out, I was a better actor than I had ever thought.
She sat up, away from me. “Yeah, I know. I just miss him sometimes. I guess today just a little more than usual.” She took a napkin and wiped her nose.
I really hoped that the next question I asked would be the right one. “Do you still have the last dress he made you?” She nodded, and was visibly more excited.
“Yeah, I do. It doesn’t fit anymore, because once I started eating a healthy amount I gained weight.”
She took my hand, and led me upstairs. I followed, glad that she was no longer crying. At the top of the stairs, there were only two rooms right across from each other. She took me into the room on the left, and sat me down on the bed.
“I still have it in my closet, so give me a moment to find it.” Just as she said, she opened her closet doors and looked for the dress. A moment later, and it was in her arms.
She held the dress proudly, and rightfully so. The craftsmanship was superb despite the poor material. It was made of swathes of blue and teal fabric, shifting between the two colors at what almost seemed random, yet still held a coherent sense of shading. I didn’t care much for clothing, but I could tell that this was something to be proud of.
She looked from me to the dress then back to me. “Ren, I think it would fit you.”
I blushed. I didn’t wear dresses. I had hardly even seen dresses, let alone wear them.
“Here, I’ll hop out real quick, and you can try it on!” She put the dress on the bed next to me, then left and closed the door behind her. I stared at the dress.
What had I gotten myself into? I wasn’t built for these frivolities. I had spent over ten years at a police academy learning how to deal with crime and kill criminals, and nothing had ever prepared me for the day that my Commander would want me to try on a dress. I could likely tell her no, but she might be offended. I had to make a choice, and quick.
Sighing, I took off my clothes, and put on the dress. It was surprisingly comfortable. I twirled the fabric around my calves, and felt the thin straps on my nearly bare shoulders. Given time, I could probably get used to this.
I opened the door, and briskly stepped down the stairs. Shelby was probably sitting in her front room, waiting for me. Therefore, I turned left at the bottom of the stairs, rather than right into her kitchen. However, the room was empty. Her furniture was there, but she wasn’t.
“Hey Ren, I’m in the kitchen. Come and eat.” I turned around and followed her voice.
“Wow. The dress fits you better than I thought it would. I thought it would be a bit small, but look at you.” She smiled. She seemed proud of herself. She had managed to get me into a dress. Go her.
I sat back down at my previous seat in at the table. I still felt odd wearing the dress, but I still figured that I could get used to it. At least this way I’m no longer under dressed.
We ate in silence for a short moment, before Shelby broke it. “So how do you like the dress?”
I considered for a moment. “Well, it’s comfortable at least.”
She laughed. “Yeah, they are pretty comfortable. It disappoints me that they were made less. You could easily make dresses out of the same fabrics used for other clothes. Oh well, I guess. Maybe you can make them in fashion again.” She laughed more. Apparently she still thought seeing me in a dress was a bit comical.
“Just imagine the headlines: Woman of the year: wore a dress while burning down homes! Man of the century: used dresses to bring about global change!” She laughed even harder. She was really cracking herself up.
“Man, wouldn’t that be great to see. If only. Too bad you don’t actually own a dress.”
We finished eating, and Shelby took our plates and cleaned them off.
“You can go get changed now,” she informed me. “Even if it doesn’t fit me anymore, it still means a lot to me. It was nice to see it worn again, though.” I nodded, headed up stairs, and got back into my clothes. It felt good, but it also felt like I was missing something.
I came back downstairs, and was about to tell Shelby goodbye when she hugged me. I pushed my surprise aside quickly, and hugged her back. She would appreciate it.
“Thank you, Ren. It was nice to have you here.” She let me go. I took my jacket, and left her home.
This will probably happen again. I don’t know how I feel about that. I couldn’t help but think to myself as I walked away. I hadn’t done anything like this before. Should I call it off, or just let it continue?