Bond of Code

By Graham L. Wilson

First written with gedit 2.28.3 on Fedora 12.

February 26, 2011 - May 4, 2011

Copyright (c) 2011-2012 Graham Wilson.

Edited on November 14, 2012

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included at this link: . #TOC1".

Note: as a creative exercise, here is a story lacking any character names. This is also partly because that would make some of the personal allegories too obvious.


I tapped at the edge of my table in what one of less discerning tastes might describe as rhythmic. If it was not for the fact that I was waiting to give someone a job interview I would have began to feel that I was being jilted. It had been the employee-to-be's idea to meet at a restaurant and I had not questioned it. All I had said is that we had to talk and discuss how she would fit into the team and here was as good a place as any for that discussion. Finally the door to the cafe opened and in walked a short black haired woman. Her unsure blue eyes darted across the various tables before she spotted me and proceeded towards our arranged corner.

"Good evening" she said courteously as she took a seat.

"Same to you" I replied in kind, before taking another sip of water. She wrung her hands together nervously.

"Where do you want to begin?" she asked quietly.

"Well, you won the contest and so of course we want you to join the group" I replied, "I think someone of your talents will turn out nicely for us."

"I still can't believe you liked my submission" she said, "it can't have been as good as all the others..."

"I'm not necessarily saying it was" I replied. She looked back at me confused.

"Then why..." she stammered, "surely you're not saying you chose dishonestly..."

"You misunderstand me. Art is subjective you know and, despite what those 'established' might think, game design is an art."

"But game programming is engineering..."

"True, but the mark that way is efficiency of implementation and given all the designs submitted are different how am I to compare?" She winced before replying.

"Alright, just tell me if you really liked mine or not."

"Fair demand, yes I did. You showed ingenuity" I assured her.

"It was a clone" she said simply.

"I did not say original. You did take an old concept but you innovated on top of it and more importantly you did a good job with the basis." For the first time since she approached she let out a little smile.

"If you say so."

"I do. Too often have I heard that a game, or an entry in any other medium mind you, is too ordinary - too simple in graphics and too derivative in game-play. We do need those that push the limits of the visual spectacle and those that define new expressions for the interactions, but at the end of the day I tend to judge one based on how well they can do implementing the tried and true. It seems a more fair test." She looked me squarely in the eye.

"I think you should know that I admire you" she trembled, "it was your games that got me to learn programming. I am glad you want me to work with you." I held my chin and thought about that for a second.

"Good thing you told me that after we chose your draft" I said, and she giggled. She was finally brightening up. Once she had regained her composure, I addressed her again. "Though if I am honest I will admit there was another reason I voted for you as the winner."

"Oh?" she asked.

"I never expected to get a draft by a woman. All too often this, like most technical fields, is left only to the male." She frowned.

"Well, I'm not like most girls" she said with an unexpected air of sadness.

"I'm sure that is true but that is good. Anyways, I figure it was an idea to give the award to you and help encourage this sort of thing. Given judgment of this is subjective, as I said, it was good to double it up with a rational reason - even if it is one I don't think the other contestants should hear."

"I guess not" she replied. There was another reason I chose her, but I did not want to admit it.

"If this is not too intrusive a question" I began, "how old are you?"

"22, it's quite alright" she replied.

"When did you start coding?"

"Around when I turned 16" she said, "it sounded like something interesting to do."

"I started considerably younger than that but then I was only truly getting good at it around 14 or 15."

"I am aware of that." I raised an eyebrow.

"Are you?"

"As I said" she began, "I admire you. I probably know more about you than you suspect."

"Then maybe you should tell me some more about yourself to even the scales a bit." Once again I had managed to illicit a smile.

"There is not much to say really. I grew up here in the city and played with my computer. Most of the time I think it is my only true friend."

"Just your computer then?" I asked, sensing that her certain sadness was at play again here.

"Pretty much. I have never really gotten on with people to be honest. I think I mentally intimidated them. Even as an elementary student."

"I see."

"Of course, come high school, it was even worse. I'm not actually a recluse by nature though. It is just that no one seems to be able to understand me."

"If it means anything I think I partly get it. I have never been terribly social either and I think I intimidate people too. Though I am naturally introverted by nature and was home-schooled so I did not have my face rubbed in it, so to speak."

"Thank you" she replied, "but you are not here to hear about my inner demons. I'm sorry to have bothered you with it."

"What makes you think I'm bothered? I find you most interesting."

"You're just being polite" she said, "you probably find me weird too."

"My dear, I don't quite think you understand me as well as you claim if you think that. I'm too 'weird' myself to brand that mantle onto others." She sat quietly in her seat, staring down at the table. After a while she looked back up.

"Is it too much to ask if you have a girlfriend?" she suddenly said quickly and uneasily. I flashed her a broad smile.

"Nope, as you say, few are able to understand those like us." In a sudden flurry of emotion, her features glowed as she flashed a toothy smile.

"Is it too much to ask..." she repeated herself shakily but hopeful, "if you'll come back to my apartment tonight?" I momentarily considered the proposal.

"Nothing is 'too much to ask.'"

She gripped my hand tightly as we ascended the flight of stairs leading up to her apartment. She seemed to expect me to lead her to it even though I had no idea where it was. I looked down at her, she was quite shorter then I was, and she blushed.

"Which number?" I asked.

"32" she replied. As luck would have it, we had just entered the 30s section. I waited patiently as she took her keys out of her purse and slipped it into the lock. As she opened the door, the two of us entered the room together. She lead me to a couch where we both sat down next to each other. Silence. "Um, I don't really know what to do now" she suddenly squeaked, "I've never done this before..." I responded by giving her a quick kiss. She lay limp and allowed me to crawl on top of her.

"I think I'll just take the lead then" I replied and she gave a subtle little nod. I ran my arm down the side of her white dress and brushed a bit of leg just under her skirt. She obviously noticed my hands across her fabric.

"I didn't know if it was the right sort of outfit for a job interview" she said, still nervous, "do you like it?"

"I love it" I said before kissing her shoulder. She twitched as I did so.

"Slow down for a second" she said gently. I pulled back and she straightened herself out.

"Anything wrong?" I asked. She chuckled nervously.

"No, no, of course not. It's just that... I want to capture the moment. Savour it. If that makes any sense..."

"Prefect sense" I said, as I gestured for her to cuddle up to my side. "We'll take it nice and slow."

"You seem to have done this before" she said.

"Well, I'm not a virgin you know." She blushed again.

"Well, I am."

"Just you and your computer huh?" I asked. She giggled.

"You dirty man!" she smiled, giving me a hard nudge.

"I was not insinuating anything" I said innocently, "it is just that you are an attractive girl and I find it hard to believe that no one came to fancy you."

"By the time I reached puberty I stopped even trying to meet people by my own energies so no boy even tried to chat me up."

"I spent my adolescence mostly isolated from everyone. I did not quite have the same problem in that regard. Girls did seem to like me but I was never there for a period to allow them actually 'like' me."

"Well, that is their loss" she smiled. I moved my head to face hers.

"Am I allowed to..." I began, but she did the honours for me.

"It was slow enough now yes" she replied, when our mouths parted, before changing the subject. "What do you think of my apartment anyway?" I turned my head around and glimpsed at the darkened apartment. It was a plain and largely unfurnished one room suite not counting a bathroom. On the side opposite the couch there was a desk containing a computer with an LCD monitor. Next to it was a bookshelf containing largely technical books. On the other side there was a table and chair. It was a small room and I was guessing she just slept on the couch rather then hiding a bed somewhere.

"Minimalist decor style" I noted, "but that seems functional."

"I don't have a TV" she began, "because it has never really been able to hold my interest."

"Fair enough, but you don't seem to have a bed."

"The couch was cheaper and I didn't expect to have anyone over for the night anytime soon."

"We'll make do" I smirked, "I'll just have to stay close to you."

"This is not exactly how I expected my first intimate moment to be" she replied.

"I'm sorry" I said, "what's missing?"

"No, I did not mean it like that. I didn't expect someone as 'romantic' as you. We have only just met after all."

"It doesn't feel like that to me. I feel like I've known you for years." She reached out and slid her hand across my cheek.

"I think so too." A silence descended upon the two of us and our bright eyes simply stared into one another from across the darkness. Suddenly she flung herself closer to me. "I've had enough of waiting" she whispered in my ear, before the two of our bodies wrapped around each other.

An hour and a half later we lay beside one another. She let out a little sigh before pulling herself closer to me. I pulled the quilt over our bodies and turned to stare into her face again.

"Was it the way you imagined?" I asked. She closed her eyes and smiled before slowly opening them again.

"I don't think I could have imagined this."

"I love you" I said to her affectionately.

"I love you too" she replied immediately, "you make me feel, for the first time in my life, truly accepted by someone."

"You complete me" I began, "I can't tell you how happy I am to have met you." She softly kissed me.

"Want me to let you in on a little secret?" she asked.

"Sure."

"Once I heard I won I hoped you would want to meet me. I hoped this would happen."

"Hence you suggesting we meet at the cafe..."

"And why I wore that dress. I spent an hour getting myself ready you know."

"But you were almost too nervous to even talk to me" I noted.

"Don't think me a coward" she whimpered.

"I don't, I just think you're cute" I said, as I wrapped my arms around her.

"Goodnight" she called.

"Goodnight darling."

"Good morning" a voice called into my ear as I slowly opened my eyes.

"What?" I called out as the light poured into my eyes.

"It is 10:00 AM, I am getting up" the voice replied.

"Gugghh" I moaned, before sitting myself up.

"I don't know how late you tend to sleep in" she said, "but I like mornings."

"I guess perfect symmetry is impossible" I quipped. She crawled over me and threw me my clothes off the floor before walking over to her wardrobe.

"I'll make you some breakfast and then you'll feel better" she smiled. I dressed myself and noticed for the first time the fridge next to her table.

"I don't imagine you have much room for cooking in here" I replied, "we could go out. I'd pay." She shook her head.

"No, I want to stay in. Besides, what kind of hostess would I be then?" She reached into her fridge-freezer and pulled out some waffles and slung them into a toaster that lay next to the electric frying pan and hot plate on the table.

"You eat in a lot?" I asked, "I thought most people didn't bother with cooking anymore."

"I don't know if you have noticed" she said sarcastically, "but I am self conscious out in public. I prefer to stay here. Besides, waffles is hardly cooking."

"True."

"After breakfast we can get my computer linked up so I can start work."

"Sure, I'll give you an account on the Subversion repository."

"That would be great" she replied.

"Have we discussed pay?" I asked, "I think we might have forgotten about things like that last night."

"Yes" she beamed, "but we had more important matters to talk about."

"And more important things to do" I finished for her and she blushed. The toaster pinged as the waffles were ejected. She placed some down on a plate before turning to ask me whether I wanted any butter and syrup. "Just some syrup thanks." She complied and handed me my plate and fork.

"You should have butter" she said, "build you up a bit. You're skin and bones."

"Well, you're hardly a giant" I contended, goodhearted.

"Girls are allowed to be slight... not that you aren't manly and muscular. After last night I..." she began but stopped again from recent potent memories.

"You should get yourself some waffles" I reminded her. She nodded and did up the other plate and came to sit beside me.

"What project do you want me to work on anyway?" she interjected between bites.

"Oh, this and that. Never feel scared to prototype your own ideas or to suggest your own projects."

"Hmm, really creative shop then?"

"We try to be."

"I look forward to it."

"You'll be an associate member for now. This means your vote is half that of a full member. After a trial run you will should become one and can vote fully."

"Vote?"

"We are a cooperative my dear. We don't have some rigid draconian corporate hierarchy. All of us contributing have a say."

"Very progressive."

"We try to be."

"You said that before."

"Did I?" She leaned forward and kissed me.

"Your mouth is sticky" I noted.

"So is yours" she giggled.

"Symmetry..." I replied.

As darting and anxious she tended to be whilst socializing, she had the most amazing focus when coding. I just sat back and watched as she fervently pounded on the keys of her keyboard. After a while her fast hands ceased and she turned to face me.

"Okay, try it" she commanded.

"Alright" I stood up and leaned over to grab the mouse, before pressing the run key on the integrated development environment. The familiar screens of my real-time strategy engine flashed as I went through the start game menus. With a click, it displayed an icy northern frontier. I ordered a few units to go and gather minerals from a mine to the southwest of my base. To navigate this they would have to walk down a river and over a bridge. To my great cheer they did so flawlessly. She had just saved me from putting in that path-finding override. With a flick of my wrist, I brought my mouse up to the pause button and clicked it. I then audibly applauded her effort.

"You like it?" she grinned.

"Yes, I think you will be a great help."

"So then" she began, "starting today I have a job, respect and a lover."

"Indeed. It is your lucky day!" I exclaimed before leaning upward and kissing her forehead.

"Thank you... for everything!" I smiled back up at her before checking my watch.

"1:00 PM" I began, "I'm afraid I should really get home." She frowned.

"Alright, but promise to phone later."

"I think I can just about manage that" I smiled before kissing her farewell.

It was not often that the board all met in person, as digital communications often rendered the need for conventional face-to-face communication nullified. It was not every day however that it voted to induct a new member. That is not to say that it was all that formal though. The technical director, BDFL (benevolent dictator for life - a tongue-in-cheek moniker for organizer and tie-breaker), multimedia consultant (still had voting rights but was technically independent for other reasons) and presently associate deputy coder sat around a table spread with cheap cafe food - a cafe very familiar to at least two of those present. The technical director began the proceedings proper.

"As we are all aware" he said, "our deputy coder has served for over six months and according to the cooperative charter it is now up to the board to decide whether or not to grant her full voting status or to defer the decision again to an additional maximum six month period." The BDFL nodded.

"Due to our talent seeking contest she already displayed ability to us through her entry. The period of associate membership thus seems more a mere formality" he said. The technical director flashed a short smile in the direction of the deputy coder and she smiled back at me. Switching tense and character obfuscation irritating much? Anyways...

"During her tenure here" I began, "she has served well as supplementary coder and has greatly reduced the amount of tedious debugging and repetitions involved towards my side of projects. As a feature set implementer she has also proven to be invaluable."

"Does the inductee have anything to add?" the BDFL interjected. She shifted nervously upon having been so directly addressed to.

"Um... only that I have enjoyed working with all of you and hope you will look kindly upon my input."

"Okay then" I cut in, "with the permission of all assembled, perhaps we should get the formality of the vote over with." The BDFL nodded.

"Alright, all in favour of making our deputy coder a full member of the cooperative raise their hands." All assembled, save the inductee, raised their hands. Rather pointlessly, the BDFL glanced over in a count of hands before clearing his voice. "Alright, motion passed unopposed - welcome to the board." She nodded in a little bow to a call of applause. Under the table I reached and held her hand.

"Okay, any other issues?" I asked. The BDFL checked the memorandum and then shook his head. I nodded. "Alright then, a toast to our deputy coder and to the organization?"

"Present company" the BDFL subtly punned as we raised our glasses. Formalities aside, we then proceeded to have a friendly meal.

A few weeks later I found myself casually knocking on the door to her apartment. I heard shuffling from behind the door and then approaching footsteps before, with a creak, a face peaked through.

"Yes?" she inquired shyly before noticing who was there. "Oh it's you! Come in!" she smiled. I nodded and stepped through the threshold.

"I was in town anyway and so not visiting you would be a waste of gasoline" I lied, as in truth I had a more weightier reason.

"I'm glad you came" she began, "I was not having a good evening."

"Oh?" I asked. She giggled.

"Nothing as serious as that. Just I'm feeling a little under the weather."

"Ah, well I'll try and cheer you up then - they say that is the best medicine."

"Who's they?" she inquired smiling.

"I don't know" I replied, "the Freemasons?"

"I doubt it" she responded, as the two of us fell into our customary position on her couch.

"Have you had anything to eat?" I asked her. She shook her head.

"No, I've just been trying to do some bug crushing. You gave me quite a tangle in the last update."

"Hey, I will have you know I was running on pure caffeine and four hours of sleep when I wrote that" I replied.

"You don't do your body any favours the way you sleep" she noted.

"What about the way you eat? A woman your age needs some meat on her."

"What's wrong with being skinny?" she protested.

"It atrophies certain... um... feminine attributes." She looked down her torso and back again before growing an impish smirk.

"Alright, I get your point" she said, "but surely you did not just come here to argue with me."

"I was trying to ask you out before you attacked my code" I replied lightly.

"No need" she said, "I've been keeping something in the fridge-freezer for your next visit."

"TV dinner?" I quipped.

"No, I want to make you a soup. You say you like them."

"Well, they are the perfect working class food - massive, economical and easy."

"I also have been keeping something in the freezer for dessert" she added, whilst mixing items into a pot atop the hot plate.

"Did you cook so much before you met me?" I asked. She turned away from her work to glance at me.

"Actually yes, next to coding it has always seemed a good way to occupy my time."

"Then you really do need a better kitchen" I noted, growing a small sly smile. Little did I know at the time, that she too grew one similar. After that, she seemed more focused on stirring her soup and adding in salts and spices, so I walked up and accessed her computer. Indeed, the Gambas IDE was loaded and set to the latest module I sent her to look over. I switched work-spaces, one the best features of the modern GNU/Linux desktops, and saw that a text editor was open. I read through what was on there with great interest.

"I didn't know you wrote a poem about me" I said. She turned mortified and ran up and shut down her monitor.

"That was supposed to be a surprise" she moaned, "mind your own affairs!" With a huff, she stomped back to the hot plate.

"Well, I liked it" I replied. She stopped stirring again.

"Well good, but I still would rather have shown it to you my way."

"What got you to start trying to write things?" I asked.

"I was reading over what you have done and figured why not?" she said, "And I wanted to express how I feel."

"The bits about the crushing loneliness seem a little exaggerated" I noted. She looked at me with a straight serious expression.

"No, they weren't. Before I met you." I quietly approached and wrapped my arms around her waist and kissed her on the neck.

"You really are quite remarkable" I said into her ear, "I would have thought a girl with technical skills could easily find a man. There aren't a lot of you."

"People aren't like you in the real world" she replied, "people don't appreciate minds like ours."

"The decline of civilization..." I muttered, "when you are not idolized."

"Mm hm" she said simply, before testing a sample of soup water. I tightened my grasp around her and leaned down to rest my head on her shoulder, and she continued cooking. After a while she started humming to herself. Finally she dipped a spoon into the pot and raised the red and brown tinted liquid up to my mouth. "Taste" she commanded and I sipped from the spoon.

"Seems good" I said, "is the pasta softened?" She dipped her spatula in and fished one up.

"Looks like it" she replied, "I'll go and get out some bowls." As normal we sat together slurping and chewing our food upon her couch.

"You can certainly make soup" I complimented her.

"Thanks" she said, "but I think the store bought dessert will outdo it."

"Oh yes" I replied remembering, "dessert." She smiled to herself.

"How are things back on the ranch?" she asked suddenly.

"Oh, you know. The fences are still up."

"Good" she replied, "good."

"What did you think of it? When you visited?"

"The air was nice and clean" she said, "you don't get that here."

"Knowing you, I assume you wouldn't mind the isolation out there - given your experiences prior anyway."

"I think I could get used to it" she winked, putting down her empty bowl. After doing the same, I decided now would be a good time to bring up my ulterior motive.

"Darling..." I began, "we've known each other awhile now and I think it is about time we talked about..." She raised a hand to her mouth to shush me.

"Let me bring out dessert first." I nodded, still somewhat confused as to what significance she was conferring upon a frozen treat. With a thunk, she opened her freezer door and brought out a small white cake wrapped in a plastic casing. She slid it down onto the table and gestured for me to come and stand beside her. Looking down at the cake, I noticed a singular feature.

"Can I move in with you?" it read. I turned and pulled her into an embrace.

"I was just about to ask you if you wanted to come live with me!" I exclaimed, "We truly are of one mind now!"

"So you're telling me the extra three dollar charge for custom labelling was pointless?" she chuckled.

"No, it was a nice gesture" I replied before kissing her.

The sun shone in my eyes as I turned back to unload another set of her possessions from my truck. Given how under-furnished her apartment was, it was quite an easy job to bring it all out here. She stood and watched me, as I picked up her block computer and started back for the house.

"You know" she commented, "I could never easily lift that."

"But you are a wee slip of a girl" I replied kindheartedly, "you can leave such lifting to me."

"Well, it is not as if there is anything substantial left is there" she said. I started up the stairs of my deck as she walked over to my truck and picked up some of her computer peripherals. She lay them down on the ground for a second, to close the back of the truck, before picking them up again and following me inside.

"I'll go show you where we are setting this up" I called to her, and she turned a corner down a hallway after me. The bedroom was once occupied by my parents before they moved out to my grandparent's old trailer in a small town east of here and, although it was hardly the biggest, it still had the all important double water bed. I placed down her computer on the bed next to her LCD display and turned to go and retrieve the desk I would be putting opposite the room from mine. She turned the corner just then and we suddenly were face-to-face.

"Hi" she chimed.

"Hi" I replied, before leaning down and kissing her. I looked behind me and then faced her again. "You may pass milady" I quipped.

"No, no. You can go first."

"Ladies before gentleman" I protested. She shrugged, kissed me on the cheek, and slid past me with her keyboard clutched in her arms. Meanwhile, I went out and pulled the spare desk out of the next room and hauled it out into our new bedroom. She was standing over the bed where her other components lay. With a clunk, I slid the desk into position and turned to pick up the LCD monitor and carefully lay it down on the desk. Before I could even turn around, she handed me her keyboard and mouse, which I put into position and wired the cables down the back of the foundation. She placed her computer down under the desk with a heave, and then stood up breathless.

"Hmm" she panted, "I guess I can move it."

"Power cable please" I requested, and she handed it to me. I crouched down and arranged all the cables, and plugged them all into the UPS already in position. I turned to face her again. "Ready for the power-up?" I asked.

"What?" she giggled, "Does it have religious significance to you?" I looked back at the case and pressed the power button.

"Arise spirit!" I called out, "Arise!" This was followed from her by a sequence of further giggles. I rolled over her computer chair, sat down and got ready to configure the 'spirit arisen.' As I did so, I heard a car drive in and park outside near the garage.

"I think your brother's home" she noted.

"You go out and greet him" I replied, "and I'll manage things here." As she turned, I noticed how the ends of her skirt fluttered across her legs. It was the same white dress she was wearing when we had first met. She had obviously wanted her house-moving to be symbolic of our relationship. I typed at the various dialogs that came up and got the machine used to the new power configuration and Internet connection, before she and my brother returned back into the house.

"...And he was so strong moving all my furniture and..." I heard her gushing to my brother as they approached. I hoped he would not find her presence annoying.

"I have gotten it configured" I called out and the two entered the room.

"So it's ready for me?" she asked, as she rushed to stand over me - the only time her head was ever above mine.

"Sure" I replied sitting up, "I'll let you see to it yourself." I got up and my brother followed me out of the room.

"She seems to have made herself at home" my brother, the BDFL, commented.

"Well, that seems alright to me" I replied, "are you having second thoughts about letting me bring her here?" He glanced over at her arching over the keyboard.

"No" he replied finally, "it will be nice to have that feminine touch around here."

"Not to mention the fact that she is a part of the group" I replied, "facilitated communication or whatever the suits would call it." He nodded.

"Yeah" he replied turning, "not to mention she is hardly bad on the eyes..." With a little wink he turned the corner and was out of my sight.

Headphones wrapped around our heads like ritual ornaments, we sat typing in a clatter of keystrokes. It was not that we had radically different tastes in music or anything like that. It was simply that we both agreed we could focus better on our work wearing them. I do not know about her, but for me this was particularly important with me knowing that she was sitting only across the room from me. At all times a part of me yearned to stand up and come to her. Another part of me was also worried that I would look foolish as I twitched and cursed at my machine.

Still, pushing all of these thoughts to the back of my mind, I was getting good work done on my latest programming endeavour. I was fundamentally revising the way the three dimensional rendering worked in our first-person engine, and this was no easy task. At the other side of the room, she was, once again, coding in additional functions and fail safes into my real-time strategy engine. In the quiet lull my ears experienced between song tracks, I heard the click of her mouse pressing the execute button and saw in the corner of my eye the red glow of an error message appear on her screen. She cursed to herself.

She never swore, but she did have a vocal reaction - but to me it was always closer to an exasperated moan rather then a angry exclamation. She sat glumly back against the body rest of the chair. Seeing the expression on her face, I decided that I would try out a little trick I had thought of a few hours earlier. With a quick succession of clicks, I brought up my instant messaging application and saw that indeed she too had logged herself in - though given I was still her primary contact this was usually simply a, still somewhat bitter, gesture to the world as to the fact she was not a "loner by nature." I clicked on her name and typed the following into the text box that was presented to me.

"Hello, my pretty." She shook when she saw the message appear on her screen, as she had not expected such a display. I was, after all, already with her. She started to turn her head so I typed hurriedly. "No, no, don't look" it read, "don't ruin the immersion." From the corner of my eye, I saw a small smile creep across her lips.

"Alright mister" she typed, "what do you want with a girl like me?"

"Simple" I relayed, "what makes a woman like you suddenly so glum?" A pause. Then another succession of taps.

"The unit bordering system keeps crashing" she stated.

"What did you do to it?"

"I was trying to give it a colour for each faction" she replied, "that's all."

"Well, it is getting late" I said glancing at the clock as it turned midnight, "maybe you should get some sleep little missie." She frowned thoughtfully.

"Alright. Well then, farewell stranger."

"Sure love, perhaps we may meet again... ;-)" A few seconds after I typed this, her name vanished and she turned off her computer. She sauntered over to the water bed and let herself fall hard against it, with a gush noise from the liquid beneath the plastic cover. As I continued do some last minute coding, she simply lay there flat on her back against the waterbed, with her thin pretty legs hanging out of her white dress. The clock now read 12:08 AM. I sighed and closed the IDE and set my computer to shut down. As I sat up out of my chair she smiled. "Are you just intending to lie like that all night?" I asked. Her lips parted as she showed some teeth.

"No" she grinned, "I was simply waiting for you."

"Oh" I replied, "I see. Anything special?"

"You might say that" she said, "we do have a housewarming to celebrate." The moment I sat down on the opposite side of the bed, she crawled up and wrapped her arms around me. Before I could even try and turn around, she passionately kissed my neck and shoulders. With one swift powerful movement, I rotated myself and flung down on top of her. She let out an excited little shriek as our bodies stiffened on top of each other. Our lips met again and we closed our eyes.

"I love you" I whispered into her ears. She smiled.

"I love you too" she replied, "thanks for inviting me out here." With that, there was nothing more that could be said with words that was not better spoken by motions. The last thing I remember before my passions simply took over was running my arm under her skirt and down her leg, like I once did back at her apartment...

The sun crept into my eyes once again with a horrible sudden glare, but I still opened them slowly at my own pace as a slight to mother nature. When I did I was not disappointed though. She lay on her side next to me staring down.

"Good morning" she cooed as I sat up.

"Morning" I replied, as I was not willing to call it a 'good' morning. Despite my sarcasm, she gave me a wakening kiss all the same. She had the blanket wrapped around her body modestly, with one end tucked under her shoulder, and I did my best not to affront her sense of cover by rattling the covers too much. I sat on the other side of the bed and started dressing. "Did you sleep well here?" I asked, as I pulled up my pants.

"Um hm" she hummed.

"Good" I replied simply. Finally she 'unwrapped' herself, and started dressing herself in jeans and a blouse. Suddenly the door opened and my brother rushed in. In response, she held the blouse over her chest to hide the fact she was still just in her bra.

"What are you doing?" she blushed. He turned to her for a brief second, dismissed her, and then turned to me.

"The cow is calving" he said, "and there are a few complications." I sighed.

"Alright" I said sitting up, "get the calving chains." As he turned and headed out to find them, I walked up to give her instructions. "Once you are dressed" I said, as she was still clutching the blouse to her torso, "you meet us out there. I don't expect you to help yet but you should watch." She nodded and I headed out the door. It was, after all, a matter of some urgency.

Wearing gloves and gum (rubber) boots, my brother and I reached the lean-to where the cow in question stood and exerted, a pair of hind-legs jutting out of her behind. The cow gave another heave, and the legs extended a little further out, but it was quite clear that assistance would be appreciated. I grabbed the chains from the bucket and affixed it as sturdily, but as non-harmfully, as I could. As I did so, I heard her approach behind me in her brand new pair of boots.

"What exactly is going on?" she asked curiously.

"I assume I don't have to explain the 'birds and the bees'?" my brother muttered sarcastically. I rolled my eyes.

"She is giving birth but, to lay the physics bare, it is somewhat stuck" I stated. Though my sight was aimed at bovine posterior, I caught her nod in my peripheral vision.

"So what do we do about it?" she inquired.

"We attach the chains and get it out" my brother replied simply, as he approached and grabbed another part of chain.

"You just stay back and watch" I said. "Oh, and keep the dogs back" I added as I saw the pack approach. She did as instructed and my brother and I coordinated ourselves, and then with a heave started, as gently as possible, to tug the calf out. Nothing much happened. It was quite stuck this time.

"Alright" my brother exclaimed, "we should try and sync with her contractions." I nodded in agreement.

"Look!" she called, "Now!" She was indeed correct, as the cow was giving it another go. With almost telepathic connection, my twin brother and I synced movements and, along with the cow's own force, gave it a good pull. In the meantime, she was shaking nervously as the drama unfolded before her. It started with hips, then a stomach, then a chest, then two front legs and finally a little head. Despite my mind imagining a more cartoonish 'pop' sound, the calf emerged with a mere slosh. The force of the expulsion slid the two of us back down on the ground, and the newborn calf writhed out of of the chains with encouraging strength.

"Well" I commented, "it does not seem too adversely affected..." She ran up and helped the two of us, though me most tenderly, to our feet.

"Isn't it wonderful?" she beamed, as she looked the new arrival over, "I've never seen something born before!"

"Just let me give it a look over" I replied, and did so. Despite some slight birth trauma, it looked alright. "Okay, I think we should let mother and baby get acquainted" I concluded, "and we can check on them later." As the three of us headed back for the farmhouse, she posed a question.

"Umm" she began, "how often does this happen?"

"Getting stuck? Not often. Most cows can manage the birthing on their own. Most times, one check there is no calf and the next there is" I explained.

"That's good" she replied, "anyways, what do you want for breakfast?" The two of us stood and frowned. "What?" she asked quizzically.

"We don't tend to eat a breakfast" my brother replied.

"That is because, without me, you tend to stay in bed 'till noon" she chuckled, "but I will make you both a good morning meal." I turned to my brother and we just shrugged. Well, she did want to come here simply to get a bigger kitchen. As we stepped towards the decks, I leaned my head towards her ear.

"Glad to see you kept your cool" I whispered to her, "we'll make a cowgirl out of you yet..." She turned her eyes towards me and grinned.

I turned the steering wheel and so turned my truck down another street. As the amount of traffic died down, I raised a hand up and readjusted the hat on my head. It had been her idea to wear the cowboy hat and go the full 'rustic' look. She said she wanted to give the right impression of me to her parents, and so show them that I was "the real deal." She, on the other hand, was defying that by wearing a green summer dress. I guess she wanted to contrast herself to me and show them that she was still their little girl. I was about to ask her to check the map again, before she exclaimed that I was to turn left. I did so and soon was face to face with a small but homey complex, consisting of a blue trailer and even a modest yard.

"Pull over there" she said and I turned the truck again. As I set the ignition off, she unbuckled herself and stretched her legs against the upholstery.

"How important would you say first impressions are in this case?" I asked her. She smiled and shook her head.

"Don't worry about it." I nodded assuredly and unsnapped myself. Together, we opened our opposing doors, and emerged out into the afternoon heat. We walked up towards the small attached deck, when a late middle aged woman stepped out the door and smiled at her daughter.

"Come in" she said, "come in." I climbed up to the deck and nodded at the woman politely.

"Good afternoon" I said, before tipping my hat. I got the impression she still did not know what to make of me. Her father sat around a kitchen table idly playing a game of solitaire with a beaten up pack of cards. He raised his head and smiled.

"Darling" he said to her.

"Hey dad" she replied with a similar level of affection.

"And I suppose you must be her 'fellow' then?" he continued.

"That's right" I said, "a pleasure to meet you sir." He chuckled.

"Formalities aside" he said, "I'm just happy she has finally found... somebody." I was a little off put by that comment. Her mother chimed in suddenly.

"What exactly is it you do then?" It seemed more like a demand than a question. I guessed it was important to them and so complied promptly.

"I'm a computer programmer" I replied, "and a rancher, though there is no real money in that."

"Hence the hat" she exclaimed, standing beside me. Her mother was still not convinced that I was "the real deal" it seemed.

"How is programming then?" she asked. Prospects, prospects, prospects...

"Good at the moment. Our latest computer game, for example, was nominated for a few awards."

"Oh" her mother replied, "you make games?" I sensed she was somewhat disappointed.

"Mostly" I admitted, "though we are not adverse to a little utility development." Suddenly her father cut in.

"See dear" he said to his wife, "her gaming did pay off in the end..." The look on her mother's face did not seem to agree with that statement.

"Well, I am glad you have finally found... somebody" her mother said, repeating their shared meme. I felt a little offended.

"And what exactly do you mean by 'somebody'?" I asked. The atmosphere of the entire room thickened.

"Well" her mother stammered, "its just that as a child, for example, she could never seem to get along with anyone."

"Not my fault mother..." she moaned.

"It was just not normal for a girl her age to not have a best friend and..." she continued.

"We are just happy to see she won't spend her life alone after all" her father finished, with more care and discretion.

"Well then, we are all agreed" I said through gritted teeth. The adverse atmosphere started to disperse however.

"It's just that instead of having friends or, later, seeing boys she would just sit by that blasted computer all day..." her mother cut in again. Thickening air...

"Blasted computer?!" I turned, "I met her to hire her as a coder! We were bonded by that 'blasted computer'!"

"True" her father cut in, still trying to clear the air. In the end, her mother threw up her hands and relented. "So then" the greying man continued, "is dinner ready?"

"Soon" her mother muttered back, "soon."

"Not great a start" I thought "but could be worse..."

Dinner consisted of a meat-loaf with a side of mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes. Whilst eating, my eyes tended to dart around to those sharing the table with me. First, I always glanced in her direction to try and gauge what she was thinking. Despite the tension earlier, she did not seem very anxious, though maybe she was just happy to see her parents again no matter what the circumstances. From there, I would glance towards her father and then her mother. Her father I sensed had actually taken a subtle liking to me, which her mother evidently did not share. I would hate to become a matter of contention in a presumably longstanding marriage...

"Mother" she began, "what do you think of him then?" She said this gesturing to me. I, as well as the woman directed, both seemed surprised she asked this now out in the open. What was she up to?

"Um..." her mother stammered, "you're fine, I guess..." She said this in my direction. Hmm, not exactly the most savoury of personal reviews.

"Mother" she said again, "what do you really think of him?" We both shifted uncomfortably in our seats, this persistence of her's most grating.

"What do you want me to say?" her mother demanded awkwardly. She just smiled.

"The truth mother." I slunk further into the back of my chair, wary of the chance of being caught further into this.

"Alright" she muttered, "why couldn't you have found someone... more... normal?" Though intended as something of an insult, the thought occurred that the pronouncement suited me. After that, she remembered that I was very much able to hear what she had just said and she stood with a hand to her face embarrassed.

"Ah..." I exclaimed unsure.

"Clarify mother" she continued mercilessly.

"Well... well..." her mother gulped, "I guess it is just he is rather different is all..."

"How so?" she asked again. Her mother was losing patience again.

"What do you want?" her mother threw up her hands. Seeing the cornered desperation in that confused aging woman's eyes, I pushed back and leapt from my chair.

"Darling enough!" I exclaimed, "You've made your point. Don't make a vendetta of it. Please..."

"Sure dear" she smiled calmly and complacently, "I'll drop it for you..." Her mother's face had still not reset.

"Why?" her mother mouthed.

"Well, I hardly think either of us were enjoying that" I replied, "besides, you can think what you want of me. I don't care. That does not mean I want her to pressure you..." Her mother steadied herself and sat down in her seat again.

"Say thank you mother" she, the 'daughter of ill intent', suddenly quipped from beside me.

"Sweetheart please..." I pleaded.

"Thank you..." her mother quickly breathed. After that, the entire table descended into silence. We had all just started returning to our meals when she doubled back in a fit of laughter.

"I knew I could get you two to get along!" she cackled. Both I and her mother looked at her puzzled.

"My dear sweet man who will always stand up for a lady... any lady... and my dear old mother who would judge one and so be surprised when decency overcomes" she paragraphed though chuckles and giggles.

"You did that deliberately?" I asked, "For that reason?" She looked me straight in the eye.

"Well, what did you think I was doing?" Her mother did not say a word, and though I was sure she had changed her mind about me, I got the feeling she was reconsidering the personality of her daughter as well... and this from the girl who never had any friends and could never attract a boy! Her father, meanwhile, just watched with a small grin. He had been witnessing the whole scene with quiet amusement, though neither I nor her mother had bothered to notice. Perhaps that moment when the both of them vanished and then returned had been more purposeful then either of us had realized.

"Just a warning" I typed into the laptop in front of me, "but I might lose connection." As I typed this, I heard the passenger plane begin its engine ignition. It was not long though before my attention was brought to the screen before me again.

"Okay darling" she said through the textual medium of instant messaging, "I'll talk to you later."

"Farewell sweetheart" I typed back affectionately. Momentarily her response came: merely a 'kiss' emoticon this time. I smiled and returned the favour with a quick keystroke. I wonder if she realized that this particular emoticon had something of a unique resonance with me. Back during my lonely isolated past, I had often considered what it would be like to even be in such an Internet relegated romantic relationship as to make it useful. Something in the way she tended to utilize it made me suspect that she did understand and very possibly had experienced something similar, two drifting souls now united and all that. As I considered this, her avatar darkened as she signed off. Before long, the plane took off, and I lost all connectivity.

The very fact that I was losing technology was ironic in that I was travelling in the name of technology. As I had imparted to my dear old would be mother-in-law, several of our recent games had been nominated for awards. The strongest contender was a game I had designed and mostly implemented, and thus it was decided that I would be the one who would travel out and be ready to receive it in the event that we were selected. That said, I had made it quite clear that I would make a deal of accepting it on behalf of the entire cooperative and not just for my own artistic ego. At least that was my pretense.

It would be a long flight and, though my computer would probably be able to connect again once the plane settled, I decided that some rest was long overdue. Despite initially being something of a distraction I admit, the bond between the two of us had now became more of a creative catalyst. It was not that I desired her personally any less, but it was just that we had slowly connected on an even deeper level. Many a night the two of us stayed up to a late hour and coded and pondered and coalesced into a single gestalt intelligence. This also represented something of a dynamic of compromise arising between the two of us. I was a night person, while she admired the morning. So now we stayed up late but still awoke just a few hours few later in order to both enjoy each other at our alternate bests. Though of course, that was now why I was so tired, despite an increasing number of shared afternoon naps. I closed my eyes as my groggy mind drifted off into considerations of computer code, wide fields and a tender girl in a white dress.

It was a most admirable setup I had to admit. A perfect area of attendance for such an event. The award ceremony was hosted in a large amphitheatre. At the far end was a stage from which the master of ceremonies would announce the winners, and where the sainted developers would step up to receive their awards. Out for a wide area in front of it was row after row of computers. Each loaded and ready for a world of games, programming and general techie fervour. Whatever innate ambience the room produced was being overpowered by the artificial clatter of keystrokes, mouse clicks and operating system and game sound effects. About the spectacle before me, I had mixed emotions. On the one hand, from a purely technical perspective, the effort and organization in it all was impressive, but even among "my own kind": the crowds of gamers - sadly still a male majority though thankfully this was changing - I felt somewhat fenced in. This was also partly influenced by my more closer connections to the wide open of rural life. Still, despite any such reservations, I made it to the one terminal specially set up for me and started connecting with 'the hive.'

Before the deliberations, a LAN party was in full swing wherein, among the many computers, gamers were going head-to-head. This was also a surprising hub of diversity in the amount of challenges being offered. Strategy buffs lead competing armies in both turn-based and real-time variants. Virtual warriors chased each other through 3D virtual worlds with katanas or rocket launchers. Finally, coders competed wit-to-wit in a variety of 'programming games', wherein the speed and efficiency of an algorithm designed was everything. I am not a competitive person by nature and so I did not throw in my skill set into any of the frays. Instead, I had volunteered to help the network crew in monitoring the servers and keeping everything running smoothly through this time of great stress. Some might think of this as an attempt to win favour with the organization offering up the awards, and in retrospect I have to admit it seems somewhat suspicious. Nevertheless, I sat in front of my terminal monitoring network read outs and pointed any possible problems via instant messaging over to the troubleshooting team.

System or network administration is a very different art from programming. When keeping a system in check it is always a matter of balance and equilibrium. Unlike programming, it is not a creative act but one that still requires a high amount of diligence. Also, when trouble arises, a sensitivity to the workings of the system and an encyclopedic knowledge of tweaks and commands are essential. I am not an administrator by nature either. I am not suggesting that I can not handle it, it is just that at the end of the day I much prefer to create my own new system rather then maintain an old one. That might just explain why my political views tend to be somewhat revolutionary, which leads right down to our "cooperative" system for our development team, in stark contrast to the traditional corporate hierarchy. Monitoring the network usage rates for the event was not as demanding a task as I might have anticipated, since times had been good. Apparently within the last year they were able to use funds from the entry tolls of gamers, coming to watch the handouts and engage in the LAN party, to purchase some more servers to handle the load. As such, I had plenty of time for consideration.

My entry into it all was another example of my more esoteric streak when it comes to programming and game design. It started out as a parody of graphical programming and projection. Classically, games existed on a two dimensional plain and could move left, right, up and down. Later, first 2.5D, and later fully 3D, games either faked or mathematically simulated the third dimension, allowing players to move forward and backwards as well. This had given some coders the idea to play around with this idea further. The first examples I have heard of are one dimensional games such as 1D Tetris: the game of "meditative inaction" due to the almost deterministic factor of not being able to move the blocks left or right. Another noted example was Wolfenstein 1D, a parody of the seminal 2.5D game from id Software that was a purest by making all the action occur on a single pixel line and so be as 'truly 1D' as realistically possible. I had already in my own devising come up with a concept trumping this, on the mathematical side if not so much on the play side, with my zero dimensional game occurring on a single pixel. Within it, the player has to compete with the computer by quickly registering the current colour of said single pixel. A real test of the eyes by the way...

This zeal towards weird dimensional gaming has also been shared by the creators of 4D games: either in the binding or interconnected sort modelled by the tesseract/hyper-cube shape or within the fourth 'temporal' dimension. In the latter, the player had the ability to zoom backwards in time and reverse past events or then re-cause them. Some had even extended this to using stochastic calculations to predict at very least the computer's future actions and so add a forward movement to this added dimension. I had decided to enter this arena again myself with my latest concept: the multiversal game! The concept of the probability axis and dimension has been quite popular in science fiction for the past few decades and has been slowly vindicated in modern physics with the concept of an infinite multiverse enacting all possibilities in different realities. I took this concept and built an engine around it that confines the player's options into a reasonable calculable sum and then allowing the player to scroll through past, present and future options in a similar, though more expansive, vein as the temporal games. The rest of the team took this and, adding a winding and twisting multidimensional science fiction story-line around it, created our present candidate.

It had been her idea to submit it to the contest. She had always found the concept fascinating, and told me it revealed something about the inner workings of my mind that I would come up with it. I simply replied by saying that all it took was a basic understanding of modern physics. Nevertheless, the game had picked up some considerable amount of attention and so was nominated for mention in their "novelty" category. Part of the reason I would not like to claim sole credit though was part of what was making it successful was the story-line and polish around it. It had impressed the nomination judges to see a game proffering up such unique game-play being extended and realized far beyond the technical demo stage. It had been my brother who had contributed most to the campaigns and the plots, my other brother, "the contractor", which had brought the world to life with graphics and music; all of us together had brought the characters to life through voice work.

We had never had the funds to get professional voice actors, so instead we had worked on our own oral and editing skills. She, on the other hand, had proven to be a natural and had without effort been able to give her character the perfect inflections, pitch and tone. That and, of course, whenever there was a problem in the calculation and rendering engine behind it all she was always around to utilize her keen sense towards trouble shooting and 'grunt coding.' Her involvement in this project and others has shown to me that sometimes picking the pretty girl can turn out to be an incredibly smart move. She may not be nearly as 'creative' in coding and game design as the rest of us, but as an implementer she is a genius. It occurs to me that this may be part of the reason she had so much trouble socially. Socialization is a game of subtle psychological suggestion and manipulation and so requires a certain amount of creativity. This hypothesis also explains her skill when the idea is introduced to her such as her and her father's 'scheme' to get my 'mother-in-law's' approval.

My thoughts were interrupted by a tap on my shoulder. A slight Asian girl looked up at me quizzically, having finished her participation in the great LAN match.

"You're a nominee aren't you?" she asked.

"That's right" I replied simply.

"Then you should start paying attention, they are going to announce the winners soon." I smiled in dumbfounded amusement, too much focus strikes again...

"Yes, I should" I replied to my companion opposite, "thank you." She nodded, swivelled her chair and returned her gaze to the stage. I too followed suit and began to listen to the speech being made in front of the central microphone. The man was describing various 'victories' those involved in game design had accomplished in the last year towards the 'art' getting official recognition as such. Even today, there was certain stiff resistance to these 'frivolities' being considered a genuinely proper form of human expression... philistines. He finished in closing by saying that today's nominees are also involved in this debate by producing the fine examples of ingenuity or refinement in the craft that will allow notice and commendation from even the most skeptical mainstream commentators.

"Only if those seeing mine are mathematicians" I thought to myself. The man on stage was seemingly not secretly telepathically gifted and so finished undisturbed by me, and announced the first category: Best Strategy Title. It went to one of those 'temporal' strategy games I had been musing upon earlier. It seemed like good luck if that was the sort of thing the judges today were interested in. After each announcement, a projection behind the central microphone showed off game-play and representative videos of the game in question before fading out into the game's logo. Those accepting the awards were also given a short time to make any small comments before the next category was announced. Some would say I have an above average, if not sometimes compulsive, attention span but even I must admit that I was starting to tire of the monotony of it all, no offence of course towards everyone else nominated alongside me or those in charge of presentation of course. Independent game development had refined itself to the point of being a serious challenger to the mainstream dominated by large publishing companies, and a good thing too: with more creativity, more developer respect and greater cross-platform and free source support.

It was thus with a sudden surge of adrenaline that I realized that they had reached the novelty category. The presenter on stage introduced the category by mentioning how this was one of the most prominent categories in the entire event and discussed how the interactive medium allowed for a level of flexibility somewhat unknown in all others. Given this, the judges always have difficulty on deliberating this point. A game does not get selected for simply being weird but genuinely novel. He then listed the nominees in this category, and I could not help sprouting an aside smirk. In my humble opinion, my competition was luckily not too steep. My stomach clenched as the time of selection approached. In typical showman fashion, the man on stage toyed with the emotions of both nominees and observers alike with dramatic pauses, turns of phrase and any other technique to raise tension. In some respects this is cruel, as for those defeated it quite possibly extends the bitter taste, but for those selected it might well enhance the celebration of winning. I guessed I could be just about to find out.

"And the winner in this years novelty category is..." the announcer said, "Possibilities Eternal." A shock-wave of emotions flooded through me: that was our game! It was a strange thing to achieve the aim desired from a lifetime's work. Whilst certainly not the primary motivation of the artist, at some level we all wish someone to speak kindly of our work and validate it. After all, it is a matter of expression and if no one appreciates the message the simple fact one enjoyed expressing it is somehow lessened. Thus from that moment on at least one part of my life was complete - I had made an award winning game. I was no longer just a somewhat anonymous game developer and coder but one with credentials. Still, no time to be complacent, my mind reminded itself, as I still had to go up to the stage and accept our prize.

So, with a sudden start, I pushed myself out of my chair and used my long strong legs to stroll over and up to the central microphone. I had a basic draft in my head towards an acceptance speech, but all in all I had intended to simply wing it and thus give it a certain greater authenticity. I accepted the certificate handed to me, laid it down on the surface in front of the mike and began.

"It may sound like something of a cliche" I began, "but with games especially it must be said that this is a collaborative art. I will admit I devised and laid out the basis for this game but it would have been nothing without the support and extension from our entire team. I have had the privilege of being a member of a multitalented family and utilizing that strength, as well as those of our bright recruits, including the love of my life, allowed us to create the experience we are most grateful to have rewarded. We work as a team and we thank you, the judges and the gamers, for your kind words and your diligent observance to our particular craft. Simply, thank you." I bowed my head to signal I was finished and attempted to accept the polite applause graciously. I then shook the hand of the announcer and set off back to my seat and let the man get on with the few outstanding categories left. Still, I could not but help but feel I was missing something, or someone, at that moment of triumph...

I opened the door to my hotel wearily, and flopped down onto the bed. It had been a long and tiring, though rewarding, day, and all I had wanted to do was stop and rest. It was then I noticed the sound of rushing water. My body stiffened as I realized the possible implications of that noise: was I in the wrong room? Should I leave now on uncertain evidence or risk the embarrassment? I glanced towards the door and read out the room code and saw it matched the one on my ticket. Hmm, perhaps I was not the one in error. I decided to stay there and wait to see how this developed. I looked over and noticed the bathroom door was open and a darkened figure was in the shower. With a start, I realized the figure was female by the shape. Perhaps I should leave after all? Even if I was in the right I would not want to cause trouble for a woman. All in all, it seemed downright un-chivalrous. Before I had a chance to seriously consider this, I heard the door to the shower open and I quickly turned away as to not be caught as a peeping tom. I heard the movement of a towel, footsteps and, to my surprise, a friendly voice.

"Ah, so I did get the right room" the woman's voice said. I turned back to where I had been previously facing and saw a young, short, wet woman before me in a green towel. She had a large grin on her face. I involuntarily gaped. "Aren't you happy to see me?" she asked amusedly.

"Where did you? How did you?" I stuttered.

"I missed you" she said, "so I caught a plane."

"Elaborate" I replied, "but how did you get in?"

"Would you believe that I just asked?" she replied, "They are awfully trusting."

"Clearly" I agreed, "I suppose you heard we won."

"Yes" she replied, "and I am very happy for you."

"Heh, didn't you hear my speech?" I asked. She grinned again.

"Indeed, by video feed. So I am really the 'love of your life'? Or was that just to make a better speech?" I grinned back at her.

"You know the truth" I noted, "at least you should." She gestured for me to stand beside her and she kissed me.

"Should I get dressed?" she asked, "Or..." She grew a sultry smirk.

"Not that right now thanks" I said, "somewhat fatigued."

"Alright" she replied, "in that case you don't get to look." I closed my eyes as instructed as she slipped into... her white dress.

"Ceremonial robe now?" I asked sarcastically. She frowned.

"I thought you liked it..." The two of us then laughed, breaking the tension. We both crawled onto the bed and she slid herself onto my side.

"I'm glad you came" I said, "the whole thing seemed kind of empty without you."

"I'm glad you think so" she somewhat parroted. I kissed her again.

"Love of my life..." I chimed.

"Love of your life..." she chimed back. I rolled on top of her and we embraced and slid around the bedspread.

"Any different being with an 'award' winning game programmer?" I asked.

"Don't let it get the best of you" she parodied, "still, I must admit it gives me some ideas..."

"Oh?" I asked.

"It occurred to me that you winning an award is a good thing to tell mother."

"Hmm, I guess so."

"It would be a good justification for the two of us to... become closer than we are..." I smiled at her.

"You're not suggesting..."

"I'm not suggesting anything" she replied, "tradition says it is your job to ask me." As she said this, her hand reached down the side of the bed and I heard the rustling of her hand within her travel bag. She reached her arm back and slid a small velvet-covered box to me. "If you would do the honours... if you really want too that is..." I recognized the box quite clearly and was rather surprised to see it here. I had bought the ring a few weeks back because the idea of marriage had started to cross my mind - was finding it what made her come here? Anyways, I had work to do. I slid off the bed and landed in a crouch which I quickly corrected into a kneel.

"Now then" I mused, "what are the words again?" She giggled.

"You know what they are" she protested, "be serious here..."

"Alright milady..." I said, "will you marry me, darling?" With one hurried gesture I lifted the cap of the box open showing a gold ring. To my surprise, she simply sat down and stared down at me in quiet contemplation and thought. Why did she need to think? Surely she did not set this up only for her to still consider it possibly an elaborate way to turn me down? That, and the strain caused my position, started my knee wobbling a bit. She burst out laughing.

"You know I will" she shouted, "you're so cute!" I smiled back at her.

"You're a witch" I chuckled, "you really are."

"But I'm your witch" she giggled, "now come on back up here... fiancé..." I complied and again we enveloped each other into a warm embrace. It only seemed appropriate to cast off two ages of my life at once: that of the apprentice and of the bachelor. A creatively established married man seemed to be the prefect direction to go from here, and I knew that I would not regret it. I had known her for more than a year and half since that, same-dressed, meeting in the restaurant where she had seemed so nervous and scared, and now she was playing emotional jokes on me! She had changed and I guessed I had changed as well. We had both become more then we were. I wondered where we had to go from here and had the sense that I would certainly enjoy finding out. I looked into her passionate eyes and knew that I would never turn back.

As I reclined in a chair in my living room, I watched with some amusement as she paced back and forth excitedly as we discussed ideas for our wedding. After notching her rub her hands together for what amounts to the sixtieth time, I finally decided to inquire upon it.

"You are not wanting a big wedding are you?" I asked amused, "Or just a new carpet?" She stopped in her tracks and looked back at me surprised.

"No" she blushed, "it is not as if I have anyone much to invite is there?" I considered her reply for a second.

"Yeah, me neither. A few colleagues and associates, but other than that just family."

"Which means we have a little more freedom in other areas" she suddenly cut in with a smirk, "given the reduced need for habitation and catering."

"What do you have in mind?" I asked.

"Well..." she replied, "I think it would be nice to make this wedding as 'unique' as we are..."

"I wholeheartedly agree, throw tradition to the wind. But what exactly are you thinking of my dear?" I gestured for her sit beside me and she complied. I leaned forward to kiss her cheek, but before I could get to that she wrapped her arms around my neck and brought my face to hers in a far stronger communion. When she finally let us split up, she had regained that small smirk.

"Okay" she whispered into my ear, "here is what I am thinking..." With that the brainstorming, the planning and the preparations began in earnest, and so the weeks that followed were busy. Not just with of our coming union, but also permeated through by yet another decisive time of 'crunch mode' as the now award-winning team set out to unleash its latest creation. She made no secret of her plans for the wedding, and kept on talking about it incessantly. Had it been anyone else, I would think my brothers and associates would have gotten sick of her by then. Out of respect for me, or maybe out of affection for her, they kept quiet and just kept to themselves their thoughts on the coming spectacle. Even though she had decided for something more unusual, we had both decided on nothing too expensive, as that would hardly be befitting our regular lives of thrift. This was not to be a wedding purchased, but a reflection of our creative minds, or rather more so in this case her own. The one point where she had demanded tradition for was her wedding dress, though at the same time she wanted me to wear a rancher's hat and work clothes rather than a suit, a point that I agreed with rather easily.

"You're the practical one" she would keep saying to me.

"Are you saying you are not?" I would reply.

"No, that is why I am wearing a dress."

"Well, I'm glad you don't want me too." Even after about the third time I pulled this one in various forms, it still at least managed to illicit a smile. Another point that we were very clear on is that we had wanted a spring wedding. First of all because we had gotten engaged in the winter and the winter is hardly a good time of year for such a thing, but also because it seemed to fit well with the folk tradition of spring being the time of rebirth, renewal and new beginnings. My twin brother, the BDFL, had of course been my choice as best man but we realized about midway through planning that we were still missing a maid of honour. She had no one from her childhood or adolescent years she wanted to be given that sort of recognition, and this gave us something of a problem. In the end she had decided that she had bonded enough with my second eldest brother's new girlfriend and decided to give her the offer. It seemed appropriate enough.

After all the fervent activity, it was almost feeling anti-climatic as I got up on the morning our wedding was scheduled. We had both agreed not to see each other until the ceremony began, as to somehow heighten the experience. With neither of us being religious, the ceremony was to take place in a hired event hall. I can safely say that I felt no nervousness or cold feet that morning, as I knew that marrying her was all I wanted to do. To tell you the truth, I was feeling bored and somewhat impatient. Her incessant planning and organizing had left me rather anxious to see how she was going to pull this off, and the constant talk had partly just made me want her to be my wife as soon as possible and have it over with. We both had lunch, at separate places, before heading out to the hall parking lot. Even this we had arranged as to miss each other. When I walked in, I must admit I was somewhat stunned.

In the front of the hall was a rise of sorts from where the actual marriage would occur, not by a priest, but by an associate of my parents' who had the legal power to wed. Somehow that idea sounded far more communal and friendly than some random faith figure, though that would depend on the relationship one had with their minister I suppose. In front of this were a few rows of chairs, you could tell blatantly that this was not intended to be focused on a wide turnout. There was room for my family, her family and a choice selection of other guests. The hall was not even that big, and so provided a rather intimate aura to the event. This, of course, was not what I was so stunned about. On a small array of desks on each corner there were some old computers up and displaying menus, offering people the ability to play our creations; beside of which were stacks of disks encouraging people to take them home. It did not end there. On one corner of the stage was a stack of decorative straw bales and a sampling of other ranching accoutrements.

The catering table served a variety of farm raised produce, from either our own or related farms, as well as a selection of our favourite coding snacks. She had also put in a bookshelf against one wall and had put together some of our favourite books, with a sign humourously encouraging people to take them out and read them "Should you tire of the main service." It was eccentric certainly. It was as if she wanted to share with the world the life she was securing for herself with this marriage. She hoped for it to be a life of technical pursuits, a life of farming and a life of thinking. Still, least the more conventional should shy away, there was still the usual white drapery and floral arrangements. As I looked over it all, I was tapped on the shoulder and spun to see my best man standing beside me, who had also forgone the traditional suit and tie for a more proletarian alternative.

"You certainly can't fault her with regards to creativity" he said to me.

"As long as people don't think we are using this for advertising purposes" I said, gesturing casually to the stacks of disks.

"A wedding is meant to be somewhat self-serving" he replied, "besides, they should just think of it as an inverted wedding gift." I nodded thoughtfully.

"How is she doing?" I asked. He smirked and raised a hand to his lips.

"She is with her parents. Besides, you two agreed to keep all that a secret for now."

"She said she was going to be traditional herself" I noted, "though what she has done here makes one wonder."

"I don't think she has quite the social resolve to do anything that would make her the centre of attention."

"True enough" I replied, thinking back to the shy flighty woman I had first met in that cafe.

"You're not having any second thoughts are you?" he suddenly asked and, surprised, I gave him a stern look.

"No, of course not. What kind of question is that?"

"The sort of question one may expect me to ask" he replied calmly, "as your best man after all."

"I guess so" I replied simply. Just then, the doors opened and I heard the clatter of footfalls approaching. My second eldest brother, our multimedia consultant, walked towards us with the bridesmaid in tow. She was wearing the white dress that the bride she was representing was wearing when we had first met - plus a few additions to fancy it up a bit. I smiled to myself - she really had thought of everything.

"All okay?" my other brother asked. I turned to face him wearing a grin.

"Perfectly" I said, before turning to the woman on his arm, "you look a picture."

"Watch it" my brother joked, "even if the bride does not show up I am not letting you marry the bridesmaid."

"She'll show" I winked, "she'll show."

"When is this supposed to begin anyway?" the bridesmaid said nervously, having tried to keep out of our 'banter'.

"In about half an hour" my best man said as he checked his watch, "the guests should start arriving soon." My other brother then gestured for attention.

"If anyone needs me I'll be over there playing a round of Possibilities Eternal" he said, before heading off to one of the desks.

The crowd did not seem all that phased by the decor of the room as they flocked in. Then again, she had been telling people to expect the unexpected and the short and comfortable guest list meant that they all by now should at least have encountered a taste of our collective eccentricity. I stood near the acting altar by myself, waiting more and more pensively for her to arrive and for things to be set in motion. The man who was to be marrying us stood not far behind me, having commented that this was one of the more interesting services he had done. Per the course of his selection, he seemed to find it most invigorating. I am not a social person, as I think I have made perfectly clear, but I did not feel that much at odds this time. I was more nervous about what was going to happen when she arrived and her parents saw how she had organized it. More specifically, my mind was more focused on how her mother was going to take it. I was still not that sure on what she thought of us getting married at all.

Engrossed with these thoughts, I had barley noticed when the doors of the hall slowly opened and a figure in white had started walking across the floor. Keeping with her vows of having this part traditional, the usual wedding march played from an organ, though it I think it was just through speaker, as her and her father headed down the makeshift aisle. Her mother walked in behind them, stared around at the surroundings a bit surprised, but then took a seat with a look of almost relief on her face – I still wonder what she was expecting? Realizing the importance of this part of the show, I turned my eyes back to the pair approaching me and smiled at her. Behind her veil, she grinned back in a shy way. It was a pretty conventional wedding dress with a few quirks. It was sleeveless and instead of having a skirt that trailed along behind her, she had a simpler one that extended down to her ankles, under which she wore a pair of feminine, but flat heeled, shoes - not entirely unpractical after all. Her father wore a suit and tie, as I had expected, but did not seem at all upset by the esoteric setting. In fact, he was smiling and seemed to honestly be enjoying giving his daughter away.

I tensed a bit as she started ascending up to stand beside me, and faced the person who was going to make our union law. Again, not being religious, we had organized for a different speech for us to go through and had the more unique ritual of signing a marriage form in his presence. We still also maintained the usual staple of the presentation of the wedding ring. Afterwards, it came time for our own expression, as we had decided to write our own vows. It had only seemed natural, as she said, for someone as verbose as me. I had agonized over it for the past two weeks, trying to express what I wanted to say to her exactly, to make it something I would also be willing to say to even a familiar crowd, and, as a rarity to me, to keep it concise enough for public speaking. She had also appeared to have put a lot of work into her own, but that seemed more of a reflection of the effort she had put into this whole thing. Together, we turned to face each other and face the hall.

"My truest love" she said, holding my hand tightly, "you are my inspiration, you allowed me to become all I could be, you showed me what true human kindness and virtue is and you changed my life completely and eternally. Without you, I would be forever lessened. For all you have done for me, I pledge myself to you, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, through all probabilities. I promise loyalty, fidelity and everlasting love and affection for you. Most importantly, I promise to stand by you, to work with you and to offer you the fullest extents of my creativity and ability. I am yours." I raised her hand and kissed it, before deciding to read out my own painstakingly composed tribute.

"My darling" I began, "I have tried to be a man of vision, and have attempted to complete whatever endeavour I set out to do as well as I could. I wished to devote myself to the causes that captivated my mind. Throughout it all, I had forgotten the simple ambitions - of a man finding a wife. You got me to look away from my coding, my writing, my farming - my work - and got me to see that I have a life to live as well. You uplifted my faith in humanity, and you have given me happiness unmatched, as well as, most importantly, much strength and solace. Not only have you made my life more worth living, you have actually made my work more rewarding. For this, I too promise to never sway in my devotion to you. You offered yourself to me, but who am I, with all my frailties, to take you? No, my dear, I am yours instead, and everything I have achieved is yours as well, for you have made everything I have ever done worthwhile." I finished finally, and she smiled up at me.

"Thank you" she said, a small wet tear streaking down her face. I pulled herself towards me, she pulled her veil to one side, and we embraced and locked our mouths together. The audience gave out a round of applause as we held each other. A million emotions ran down through my mind. One of them was honest embarrassment, we had never done this in public before, but this feeling was overshadowed by my genuine exhilaration and unencumbered joy. When we finally broke away, she slid her arm around my waist and clung to me as I turned to face the audience. As we had kissed, I had somewhat sensed a figure stepping up behind me and now saw my best man standing beside me. He first shook my hand and then cleared his throat.

"As per my position, I would wish to express my own thoughts and best wishes to the happy couple" he said.

"Go right ahead" I said to him, as my new wife nodded and clasped her hands together in curious expectation.

"It is not easy for someone like my brother, or for myself, to find someone to cling to. We are, after all, orange monkeys. You see, within this parable, there are greys and the occasional oranges. The orange monkeys, exhibiting such a clear distinction, tend to be persecuted or torn to shred by the greys. I think you can see why we are a bit nervous, with that sort of self image, to leave our backs open to people" he began, to a little laughter. "I first heard of today's lovely bride when the groom, my twin sibling, came to me with the results of our talent pool contest. Of all the samples received, we were surprised to see an entry submitted by a woman. Maybe with somewhat unfair consideration, we tested it first and were duly impressed. The other fine work notwithstanding, I knew that we had someone special on call. I must admit that the prospect seemed appealing to me, but it had been his idea to stage the contest so it was up to him to contact the attractive winner. Well, she had arranged a special cafe meeting and from then on I suspected something would happen. Well, the lesson here is that even us orange monkeys are not alone in this world, and that anyone can overcome social dejection and stratification to find that one dear. Society be damned!" The strangely political tone of the speech came to me as somewhat of a surprise, but to the somewhat stacked audience it too was applauded. Looking into my wife's face, and sensing a certain feeling of wear from being aimed at by friendly though intense eyes, I decided now was the time to conclude our ceremonies and begin our married life proper together. I faced the onlookers.

"Well, that's our self-serving part out of the way" I joked, "now, dear guests, is your turn to be spoiled. The meal is on us!" The audience again laughed and applauded. With that, we stepped down together, with my best man following, to enjoy the celebrations. As we did so, the hungry masses flocked to the catering table. Us two however, decided to take a brief bit of refuge in the corner and wait for a time less crowded. Not to mention, she seemed more interested in pursuits beyond the culinary. An interest she expressed, as discretely as she could manage, through a warm hand and soft lips. We shared a meal together, and, after a little while longer, decided to head out, and let the rest mark our occasion for us in our absence.

I turned the truck down off the road and drove across our dirt driveway. Before I made the final turn, I lifted my foot off of the accelerator to glance into my newlywed wife's face. She noticed and smiled, before gesturing for me to park already so we could go inside together. An hour long drive home is not exactly the most romantic way to return from one's wedding, but does leave some room for thought. Still, a thought that was going through my mind seemed to also be running through her own. As I turned off the ignition, I noticed that she had already unbuckled and so was ready to release me from my own safety belt. I opened the driver's side door and stepped out into the cooling evening sun, and noticed she had flopped down onto the driver's seat. I was a little worried about her, until she lifted her head and grinned up at me.

"I think you are forgetting something" she said. I was genuinely thrown by this remark, and raised an eyebrow down at the cheery face with hair hanging over it. "Pick me up and take me in silly" she giggled, "tradition." I nodded, and slowly slid my arm across her upper back and waist, with at first a somewhat inappropriate miss with my right arm, and brought her up to my chest. She raised her leg a little as she brought her face to meet mine. After we split, she cocked her head to face both the truck and the house. Noticing the driver's side door still open, she moved the leg she had previously raised in feminine posturing and kicked the door shut against her flat purple heel. She sighed and relaxed. She then opened one eye to examine my face, having noticed a small grunt of exertion as she had went limp. "Not too heavy for you am I?" she asked quietly. I smirked.

"I've hauled heavier bales" I replied, "and none as soft and pleasant." She ran her right hand's forefinger in a subtly intense motion across my left arm.

"How long until your brother, I mean, 'the best man' comes back you think?" she asked.

"Hmm" I began, "an hour, an hour and a half, maybe two. Why?"

"Just take me in and I'll show you" she cooed seductively. I moved one shaky step forward and hauled her across the sidewalk and up the stairs. She reached out one hand and turned the doorknob as we entered, and she gestured which direction to head with a broad sweep of her same arm. Through a series of points, which in no way surprised me, we found ourselves in our bedroom. I leaned down and kissed her again.

"Arms tired yet?" she quipped.

"Maybe just a little..." I admitted.

"Well, this is a water bed..." she giggled, "I think you can set me down and relive those strong biceps..." I strengthened my forearms and, as requested, I sent her up in the air and, crying out, she landed with a captured splosh onto the bed. As she fell, she also, with an amazing amount of elegance, tossed both of her shoes off, showing her pretty little feet and a probably immodest amount of leg. She was still screaming and laughing as I took off my shoes and turned to face her smiling up at me again, as she had done earlier from the driver's seat of the truck. I crawled onto the bed beside her and we embraced, except for her one loose arm which grabbed the rancher's hat off of my head and flung it away. I ran one arm across her back, and the other up her leg. We sat back from each other and she started to unbutton my shirt. I in turn started taking off the top layer of her dress, showing her fine form from her shoulders to her ankles. After that, I will simply leave it to your imagination and preserve both our privacy and dignity. Let me just say, this is one loving marriage that was far from unconsummated...

THE END