Author : Mur Lafferty, featured writer
“I don’t like heels,” Tina said.
Barry looked at her, his head cocked to one side. “I thought all girls liked heels.”
Tina grimaced. “You’ll think I’m weird.”
Barry grinned. Tina liked the same movies as he did, the same music, and didn’t think he was slurring when he said, “frak.”
Barry was smitten. “Go on, tell me.”
Tina sighed and looked around, but no one sat near them on the park bench. “I have always felt that if something happened to me, like something bad, I’d want the option to be able to run. I didn’t want to be the girl running from the monster in the woods and tripping in her heels. Or the person pulled into the other universe and not be able to run.”
Barry laughed, and Tina turned red. She looked away. Barry choked back his laughter, “No, hey, I’m not laughing at you, I just think that’s awesome.”
Tina sniffed and fiddled with her fingers in her lap. Barry longed to take her hand, but he couldn’t bring himself to reach across the span between then.
She stood up. “I got to go. I’ll see you later, Barry.”
“No, wait, I’m sorry!” Barry said. “Listen, Tina, don’t go.”
But she was gone.
Barry sat down and cradled his head in his hands. Tina was a true geek, a math geek, a scifi geek, and he had embarrassed her. He had driven away the perfect woman. He swore to himself and began the walk home.
By the time he got home, the whole thing had been turned into her fault, her rejection of a perfectly friendly conversation. Barry stomped down to his parents’ basement â€“ he hadn’t yet told Tina that he still lived with them â€“ and unlocked the door to his private room. His steam-powered mechanical suit sat in the corner, gleaming quietly as if waiting for him.
Maybe it was time. Maybe Tina would find out if her decision never to wear heels was a good one or not.
Tina didn’t let her geeky side show much. And when Barry had laughed at her, she stuffed it back down again. He had seemed so nice. Someone she could show her true self to.
Oh well. She guessed men really couldn’t take a smart woman. She’d thought â€“ hoped â€“ it was a clichÃ©, but it was proven to her time and again. She unlocked the door to her apartment and stormed into her spare bedroom.
Professor Barbour had expressed frank astonishment at her desire to build a steam-powered AI. And she had failed, to an extent, but what she was left with was a brass gyroscope centered in a woman-sized hamster ball that drove quite well, crushing everything in its way. She didn’t need heels when she was in her Tiny.
She was tired of men. It was time to go joyriding.