GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER ...
"I still can't believe it, Frank's bringing his fiancee for dinner tonight." Shanice said.
Sean, her husband put his LCD-newsreader down and looked up at her.
"I wish you had told me earlier that he was seeing someone. I'm usually the last one informed about anything concerning the family, except perhaps for some guy in Outer Mongolia."
"Stop being so annoying, I didn't know it either."
"He told you about a month ago !"
"Two weeks at most !" Shanice snapped back. "Besides,
you'd better get dressed, they'll be here soon."
Later that evening, Sean heard the doorbell ring and walked to the door. He adjusted his clothes and opened the door. Seeing his son's smiling face made him feel good until he caught sight of the person behind him.
"Good to see you dad !" Frank said, grabbing his father's hand. He noticed his handshake was not as firm as usual. Sean forced himself not to look at the other person and instead concentrated on his son. "Good to see you too !"
"Dad, this is Sabrina, I already told you and mum about."
"Great... I'll tell your mom you're... here."
Shanice walked out of the kitchen and noticed her father coming towards her. She instantly saw something in his eyes that wasn't right.
"Something wrong ?" She asked, trying to look behind the corner to the front door.
"I need a drink !" He said going straight for a bottle in the fridge.
Shanice ignored her husband and rounded the corner and came face to face to Frank and Sabrina. She paused to swallow a lump and forced herself to smile.
"Mom !" Frank's eyes sparked with joy. He grabbed and hugged her. But Shanice kept staring with her mouth half open at Sabrina still standing in the doorway.
He let her go and looked behind him at Sabrina.
"Pleased to meet you Mrs Roberts." She said.
Shanice nodded nervously. "Pleased to meet you." Words struggled
to leave her mouth. "I've... got to check... on the dinner."
"They don't like me." Sabrina said.
"Don't worry, my parents will understand, I mean, I told you my
mother was African American." Frank hushed her.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, Sean sat before his bottle and glass, while Shanice walked in.
"This is even worse than I expected." She said.
"What did you expect ?" Sean asked nervously.
"When I asked her how she looked, he avoided my questions."
"Look we can't turn this into some sinister farce. We've got to go out there and face them."
"I can't, when I look at her, I..."
"They have rights too ! They can marry and all."
"But they only marry within their kind."
"I know !"
"Who are you trying to convince, you or me ?"
"I really don't know ?"
Sean took a deep breath. "I'll go first, you finish the dinner."
He opened the door of the kitchen and walked into the living room.
"I've got a few drinks."
Frank showed Sabrina the couch and sat down.
"You've got a new set !" He said while rubbing the fabric.
"Yeah, the old set was so worn, it was such a shame."
"Can I offer you anything, Sabrina ?" Sean struggled to look at her and forced himself to smile.
"Sure, what have you got ?"
"I've got scotch, brandy and vodka."
"I'll have a scotch on the rocks." She answered while tugging at the sleeves of her white lace blouse.
Sean crashed into his chair and felt the ominous weight of silence hang over the room. Every second stretched into an infinity of uncomfortable time.
"So, where... did you meet ?"
"We met at work, she's with the environmental research team. She's the assistant for the team." Frank smiled at her.
Sean nodded and kept nodding, trying to stretch the conversation. "So you're an assistant ?"
"Yes..." Sabrina said nervously.
"When did you meet ?" Sean hoped a bomb would fall on the house and kill them all ending the conversation in a convenient manner.
"About six months ago... She was assigned to our team as an assistant." Frank began noticing his father's nervousness.
"Great, and you two have been seeing each other since..."
"Yes, we discovered that we had a lot in common, like books and movies."
"So, you go to movies ? I mean, I know you can go to movies, but ..."
"But what ?" She asked.
Sean bit his lip and hesitated. "You enjoy them ?"
"Why not ?" Frank asked. "What's the problem ?"
"No problem at all." Sean said, holding up his hands to calm his son.
"You're afraid of her !"
"No, not at all... I only wanted to know..."
"You want to know where the batteries go, when she needs an oil change or when's the warranty gonna run out..." Frank shouted. "I believed that you would understand me. I chose someone different, like you did with mom ! You told me you had it hard, when you were young, even today people stare at you, they sometimes stare at me, I know, but I love Sabrina even if she is a robot !"
"Son, when I first saw her I had to collect my wits." Shanice suddenly intervened. "I mean no offence, but she looks quite..."
"Quite what ?"
"Okay, she's not an animatronics puppet, designed to look like a human, but she does not need to look like one. She works in a laboratory, it's a functional design."
Frank looked at Sabrina. He watched her plastic face and the robotic eyes staring back at him.
"I like her because of her personality, I love her for who she is, not what she looks like."
"Look, you should have told us."
"I tried, but I couldn't, I knew if I only told you, you'd get upset."
"You certainly upset us now... "
"We didn't mean to. I know it's hard to be a robot." Sabrina said. "People sometimes think I'm nothing more than a toaster on legs. They ask me the weirdest questions, prod and poke me. They laugh at me sometimes, but they don't understand that I'm fully sentient. I have emotions and my own thoughts. I'm not just a toy or some strange sexual fantasy. I'm an artificial person, a robot."
There was a silence.
"You see !" Frank was the first to break this silence.
"I understand, but we only want what's best for you. If that's your choice, fine, but think carefully, robots weren't designed to have relations with humans." Frank said.
"That's true, but they have been recognised as individuals with albeit limited rights, but persons nonetheless." Frank said.
"Have you had ..." Asked Shanice.
"Sex ?" Frank asked in disgust "She has no sexual organs, but we sleep together in a bed and express our love physically."
"Frank !" Sabrina lashed out. "I've never seen you like this before."
"I knew we'd have a lot of trouble if we'd show ourselves to them. We should've married and told them later."
"How dare you say that in front of us boy !" Shanice barked. "Do you think we'd never approve ? Do you believe that we could be so bigoted ?"
Suddenly Sabrina got up and ran towards the door. "I'll see you in the car."
"See what you have done !" Frank cried out.
"See what we have done ? Who began to raise his voice in the first place ?"
"I knew you would be against it !"
"Look, son, we were surprised that's all, we barely had time to say a word and you were all over us."
"I'm going to comfort Sabrina !" Frank said, walking away.
"What have done wrong ?" Sean said holding his hands over his face and rubbing them off slowly down to his throat.
"I think our staring was enough." Shanice answered.
"She looked nice, though."
"She barely could put a word in. Frank was like he was on fire."
"I'll go and talk to them." Sean said, while his wife composed herself.
Sean opened the door and walked up the Pontiac Aldebaran 2047. He tapped the window.
"Listen, kids, there's a meal that's gonna be ruined if we don't eat it soon."
Frank looked up at his father and chuckled. "I'm sorry dad, I've been acting our meeting over and over in my head, until I knew you two would disapprove completely. I freaked out that's all."
"Sure, no problem, I guess we were all under some pressure."
"And they got married ?" Sean expressed his surprise.
"Yep, near Canberra, they're like any regular couple." Frank said.
"So we're not the first, actually." Sabrina said.
"All in all, there are about half a dozen couples who married and they estimate about two dozen couples are seeing each other all over the world." Frank added.
"I'm curious child, what do you do as an assistant ?" Shanice asked.
"It's a polite term for a cross between a secretary and a database. I'm a walking, talking know it all."
"She's more of a polyvalent extra person on the team, at least
that's how we see her."
"And then the father is sitting in his chair, taking a glass with the vibrator besides him on the table. And his daughter asks : "What are you doing ?"
And then father answers : "Okay, you're forty-eight and you don't
want to marry. But that doesn't prevent me to have a drink with my son-in-law
!"." Sabrina said and everybody laughed around the table.