“It’s not that,” Dex said. “I just love how you have your own personal sense of time.”
“What are you talking about?” Annabelle asked.
“You said ‘early meeting this morning’,” Dex said. “It’s almost three o’clock in the afternoon.”
Annabelle scowled, but couldn’t conceal a slight smile. “You are so linear, Andersson Dexter,” she said. “Clock time — as if that means anything. If it’s the beginning of my workday, it’s morning. How hard is that to understand?”
“Oh, I understand it just fine,” Dex said, following Annabelle to the door of her apartment. “I just think it’s funny, is all.”
“Well, I think you’re funny,” Annabelle countered, as she swiped her left hand over the outside jamb of her door. Dex heard a sharp snick as the lock drove home. “Come on,” she said, taking Dex’s hand in hers. “Let’s try not to argue for the minute and a half it takes to walk to the train, shall we?”
• • •
When Dex got back to his apartment, he was still smiling. He loved the nights when he stayed over at Annabelle’s. He checked himself; they were the mornings, really — now he was doing it, too. When he’d first arrived in Nice, he had been sure that it would never get to this stage. After everything that had happened, he was amazed at Annabelle’s progress. When he’d moved to Nice, Dex had decided that she was worth any sacrifice, and he put an effort into spending all their time together in Marionette City, even though to him the virtual world felt like a shallow facsimile of real life. It still amazed him, on days like this, that they’d ever come this far.
They kept odd hours, hence the three pm ‘mornings,’ but all cities were twenty-four hour propositions, so they had no trouble keeping normal lives even though they lived on a Namerican time schedule in Europa. Annabelle was a programmer for Omnitrack, which ran cross-continent high speed maglev trains, and even though she and her teammates lived in Nice, the firm’s head office was in Toronto, so she and her co-workers were all on a Namerican schedule.
Dex, on the other hand, had managed to leave the working life that the vast majority of people shared, where not only income but health care, housing and security were all tied to employment. People’s employment contracts dictated where and in what conditions they lived and what kind of legal protection they could enjoy. If an employer was unconcerned about a particular issue, people had nowhere to turn for protection or security. Nowhere except to people like Dex.
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