Jam Pudding

Her name was Hazel, and even in an apron and hairnet she was the most beautiful woman Blake had ever seen. Always polite and always friendly, her rich laugh often filled the lunch line at the cafeteria.

“What’ll it be today, Blake?” She’d always ask when he came up to get his dessert.

“Jam Pudding, please.” He’d reply, licking his lips as a slice of steamed sponge drizzled with raspberry jam was put on his plate. “Can’t beat a nice bit of stodge.” He always added that comment. “How’s the kids doing?”

The reply to that one always shifted over the course of the year. Today’s reply from Hazel was: “Katie’s got her mock GCSEs coming up, so she’s stressing about them. Custard?”

“Please.” A ladle covered Blake’s pudding in creamy yellow vanilla custard. With a cheeky wink she’d always add a ladle and a half for him. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed for her.”

“How’s yours?” She’d ask as she passed the tray back.

There was no one behind him in the queue today, which meant he could go into a little more detail. “I’ve got the boys this weekend, saved up enough to take them to the cinema tomorrow.”

“Oh, it’s ever so expensive now.” Hazel said with a shake of her head. Dipping into her apron pocket, she took a couple of coins out as she moved over to ring Blake up. Dropping the coins into the till along with his cash, she grabbed a couple of Freddo bars from the small basket and put them on his tray. “A little treat for them both from me.”

Sometimes it was a finger of Fudge, or a pack of Jelly Tots that she’d buy for his two kids. They’d always bicker over the price, him insisting on paying and her adamant it was a present from ‘Aunt Hazel’, as the boys knew of her.

“Fine, fine.” Blake admitted defeat. “Thanks.”

“Now, you go and have your afters.” Hazel smiled. “Before it cools off.”

With a nod he walked off towards one of the smaller tables in the cafeteria to linger over his dessert as Hazel wiped the counters down and rotated the stock. One day, he would finally muster up the courage to ask her out.

Until then, he always had one and a half ladles of vanilla custard over jam pudding.


Cooking for the One You Love

Everything had to go perfectly that evening. The table was set with the best tablecloth, the finest plates and cutlery, an ornate candle holder with a beeswax candle ready to be lit, and a dainty vase filled to bursting with beautiful flowers.

He laboured hard in the kitchen, giving each dish a a touch of flare. All the ingredients were treated with equal importance, picking the best of the best for use in the cooking of a favourite dish.

As he arrived at the table with the food, artfully arranged and smelling divine, he glanced across the table and smiled warmly. Taking his seat, he ate with deliberate slowness, savouring each bite as he gazed over into his eyes. He looked so happy, so content and so at peace with the world.

A glass was raised in toast to his reflection. When it came to cooking for the one you love, he pulled out all the stops. He was worth it, after all.

Asking Out

The loading bay was a hub of activity, taking in new stock always brought the workers out in mass to get everything moved off the delivery trucks and into their sections, ready to be dolled out piece by piece in the creation of something greater. Something greater, in this case, were spatial compression coils for civilian and commercial space cruisers.

Raw materials and pre-constructed parts were delivered to one end of the manufactory complex. As it passed through humanoid and robot hands, as well as the larger mechanical claws and precision operating tools of the construction systems, it gradually became the necessary part that emerged at the other end of the complex. Drastically shorter space travel was a necessity, so they always sold well.

“Lydia, hello.” A voice shouted over the cacophony of activity at a young woman slotting mass calculator cases into a dispersal unit. The woman’s purple hair was tied up and out of the way, covered in a fine gauze to prevent any loose strands from falling away. She turned, her mouth breaking into a smile as she laid her big blue eyes on him.

“Sevenson!” She exclaimed, reaching over to pat the android on his arm. Neil Sevenson was a Sevtek Heavy Labour Concern machine, designed for moving large, heavy objects around industrial zones. Standing at just over eight foot tall, his large frame was sturdy enough to withstand the stresses of his work, with support structures in place for secure and stable lifting.

“Do you need a hand with that?” He asked, pointing a thick and solid finger at the box. His shape was humanoid, but instead of the synthetic skin that service sector robots had, he had a sleek, impact-resistant chassis and a face firmly away from the uncanny valley that had troubled earlier service robots.

“I’m fine, thanks for the offer though.” Lydia smiled, giving a shake of her head as her arms worked automatically to load the cases in. “What brings you over here?”

“Well, I have a little while before the trucks are shipping out, and I wanted to ask you something.” Neil paused, his targeting units adjusting with slight whirrs and clicks as he focused on her, carefully thinking over his next words. “Are you doing anything this weekend?”

She blinked. “Um, no, I don’t have plans. Why do you ask?” Lydia had a fair idea why he asked. It was impossible not to see the adverts clustering every form of digital media.

“It’s Valentine’s Day on Saturday, and I was curious as to if you would like to go out with me for the evening?” He asked, his digitized voice sounding a little timid.

Doing her best to ignore the gazes from her human and alien colleagues, Lydia’s teeth sunk into her lower lip. It wasn’t unusual to be asked out by a robot, but then again it wasn’t usual either. In fact, this was the first time she’d ever been propositioned by one for an evening of entertainment.

“If you have something else planned, that’s no worry.” Neil added quickly, turning this way and that as he processed the best way to retreat. Part of her wanted to laugh at his discomfort, but only a very small part.

The truth was, she didn’t have anything else planned. No one had asked her, she hadn’t planned on asking anyone. If it was anything like last year, she’d be at home with a meal for one and a galaxy of entertainment available to browse. Pretty much like any other day.

He was turning to leave when she reached out to take a hand. “Sevenson, wait.”

Neil paused immediately, turning slightly to look at her. “Yes, Lydia?”

“I’ve got nothing planned this year, and I had nothing planned last year. A night out might be fun. Did you have anything in mind?”

It took him a while to reply. “Not a clue, to be honest.” The lowering of his light spectrum sensor panels gave his face an almost bashful look.

“Well, my supervisor is currently giving me the old black hole stare, so I need to get back to work, but I’ve added you on my social feed, maybe later on we can chatconnect?” She asked, before laughing softly. “In fact, I wonder why you didn’t just ask me on there to begin with.”

Nudging her back towards her work, Neil brought a hand up to rest on top of his domed head. “Well… it did not seem proper?” He said with a shrug.

Her hands working at double time to get the cases loaded, she flashed a smile up at him. “Fair enough. I’ll let you get on with work, and we’ll talk later… okay?”

“Okay.” He nodded, turning and starting to amble off. “Goodbye, Lydia. Until later.”

Glancing back, she caught the disbelieving shake of his head, and even the slight fist pump motion of his arm and couldn’t help but smile. This must be what my horoscope was talking about when it said ‘expect the unexpected’ today…