Jorge sat down at the breakfast table. He was feeling good; he had slept through the whole night, and woken to gentle rays of morning sun curling their fingers around the window curtains. A bird sang in the distance, and even though it had been programmed to sing this song, he found the rising ditty cheery.
Lara was already up. Normally Jorge was up first, in the dank hour before dawn, to make coffee. But Lara set a large mug in front of him, brimming with deep brown liquid, and he closed his eyes and breathed in the burnt caramel aroma.
He felt her hand on his, and opened his eyes to see her, sitting next to him. He reached up and brushed a lock of black hair from out of her eyes, and she smiled. For a moment they just sat there, and he knew she was thinking the same thing he was thinking: maybe we could spend the whole day not talking. Just be together.
But then, inevitably, the Watch on his wrist buzzed, like a pompous, angry beetle.
Lara squeezed his hand tight. He could hear the dull buzz of her Watch too. They looked at each other, not at their Watches, both wanting a few more precious seconds of bliss.
It didn’t last long. It couldn’t, and they knew it. The buzzing of Jorge’s Watch, and Lara’s, grew more insistent. Painful. Jorge gritted his teeth. Lara gasped and jerked her hand away.
At the same time, they both looked at their Watches.
CRITICIZE, read Jorge’s Watch.
He sighed. Why couldn’t it have read “COMPLEMENT”? Or “MAKE SMALL TALK”? Or even “KISS”?
“Well,” he began, then stopped.
A small electric shock ran from his Watch and into his arm. He cried out, and Lara started to reach to him. But then she looked again at her Watch, and, slowly, sadly, withdrew her hand.
Jorge raised the coffee to his lips. He took a sip. It was thick, almost syrupy, but without grounds, the way he liked it. Lara had added just a bit of sugar, to take the edge off the bitterness. As soon as it hit his tongue the caffeine jolted his nerves, made the gears of his brain whir.
They whirred with resentment.
He grunted. “I…I’ve had better.”
Lara raised her head. Jorge tried to turn his head to the side, the slightest of shakes, to indicate he didn’t mean what he said. But the Watch caught the movement–it always did–and zapped Jorge again, causing him to spill some of the coffee.
He rubbed his arm and shoulder. He’d heard tales of people who had died, refusing the orders of their Watches. It had to have been a painful death and required the utmost determination. He wished he was that brave. He wished he loved Lara enough to resist that much. But, he supposed, that very point was the issue the Watch wished to prove to him: how very frail and fallible Jorge, and Jorge’s love for Lara, was.
He put down the coffee.
“I guess I don’t feel like coffee,” he said softly. His Watch blinked at him: CRITICIZE. He sighed and said, loudly, “The coffee doesn’t taste good, okay?”
Lara cleared her throat. He couldn’t look at her. He didn’t want to see the tears forming in the corners of her eyes. He just hung his head down. It had looked like a beautiful day, and now he felt like shit.
“Ooh, so the coffee isn’t good enough for you, is it?” said Lara. Her voice was very quiet at first, but then, after a little Watch-induced yelp, she spoke louder. “Or perhaps you would have preferred to have been served in bed? Your majesty?”
Now Jorge raised his head. He didn’t bother trying to read Lara’s Watch–you never could quite make out someone else’s directions–but he could guess this one. MOCK, or perhaps BE SARCASTIC. The left edge of his mouth curled up in a bit of a smile. Well, she certainly had hit that one on the nose.
And he caught her smiling back at him.
His Watch buzzed. Jorge looked at it. GET ANGRY, it said.
“So!” he suddenly shouted. “Are you mocking me? Or being sarcastic at me?” He shouted so loud that Lara shrank back in her chair. Fucking Watch, Jorge thought, and said aloud, “I’m very angry! Very angry indeed!” He paused, thoughts coursing around and around his caffeine-greased nerves, then said, “And to prove it, I’m–”
And with the tip of his forefinger, he pushed over the coffee cup, spilling it on the table.
Lara leapt up, stared at the brown liquid soaking into the tablecloth. Then she turned to Jorge, who crossed his arms, and muttered, “Yes, very angry, very angry indeed.”
And she burst out laughing.