Bladerunner: Aimee Calls The Number
She always thought the carousel was out of place, even in such an anything-goes city. But that quirk made it a favorite of hers, and a natural when she needed a public place for a first date. She watched to see what brightly painted, jewel-clad animal he'd pick, but he hung back, letting her choose. She would've chosen the palomino with the eagle saddle but it was stationary, so to start things off she went for the giraffes.
They rode around and around, up and down under the sounds of a canned Wurlitzer, talking and watching the people on the other side of the glass.
"This one's called 'Professor Markey's Philharmonium'." Seeing his look, she added, "I only know that because I have the cd." Seeing his look, still, she continued, "Hey, I like carousel music. My father calls it a charming quirk."
"It's more charming than drug addiction. Or having a cleft palate." He was smiling.
"Exactly." When the music wound down and the carousel slowed to a stop, they moved to a new pair of animals and rode another turn, four, five, six, a new song and a new set of mounts each time. They chatted about work, about their favorite neighborhoods in the city, the worst movies of all time and the best music of their lives. About old pets and car trips and sushi mishaps.
"Oh my God." He reached down and grabbed hold of her horse's tail. "Is this real?" He lifted it up and let the hairs fan out.
Aimee squirmed around on the slick wood saddle and took a look. "Yeah, those are real horse tails. Does it creep you out?"
"Well, yeah, I mean, where's the rest of the horse, right?"
"You eat hamburger, don't you? What's the big deal? Long after the dog food is gone, at least people will still be admiring their tails. Tsk! We're slowing down. I've got one more ticket left—choose something good for the last ride."
"Let's finish on the giraffes, then." They wove around the platform and got back on their animals. "You know, Aimee, I was surprised you asked me out. I was sure I was dead in the water with you, you know?"
She smiled, ducking her head. "I wavered plenty, I'll admit. But then I started thinking, here I was in a job I didn't really like. Then this origami thing started, and even though it was this simple thing, it just made all the difference. Gave me something to think about other than being miserable. Like sunshine, somehow." She lifted her head now and looked him in the eye. "And I thought, to heck with what people might think, I'm asking him out. And I wanna say, thank you for that."
Her date grinned a goofy grin, thought about leaning over and taking her hand, but didn't. Not yet. "Well, I'm glad you asked me here to solve this mystery. We're stopping. What are you up for now? Wanna get something to eat?"
"Sure." She hopped down, and let him steady her with his arm even though her balance was fine. They were almost off the carousel platform when he looked up and said, "Hey, it's the guy from the theater!" He pointed. "Standing in front of the Zeum, there!"
"Huh, what do you know? You were right. I didn't think he'd show." Aimee threaded her arm through Russ's. "Neo. Mystery solved."
"I owe you five bucks."