"Yeah." Maidie sighed, looking out onto the world with a pain in her eyes.
Some time passed before she spoke again, weaving strange patterns into the air with her smoke.
"Were you actually serious about becoming one of the Verisat?" she asked, giving me a piercing look.
"Uh...y-yeah." I replied, feeling the rush of the Devol set in.
"About 'helping orphans'?"
I nodded, finding it hard to form words.
She chuckled, and then she laughed, but her voice hitched and she quickly took another puff of her cigarette.
"How're John and Jane?" Maidie asked after a few more moments.
I furrowed my brows in confusion.
Maidie looked at me incredulously, and I felt something reminiscent of guilt when I realized I hadn't known my parents' first names.
"Good, I guess." I sputtered, "Aside from the fact that their son was kidnapped."
"Answer me honestly," she smiled, "Do you really think they care?"
I opened my mouth to talk but it was a full minute before sound came out.
She drank in my response for a while before continuing.
"And why's that?"
"They never did."
"Were they married?" Maidie asked, being generous enough to steer the conversation away from where it was headed.
"Who even marries anymore?" I asked in reply, "It's a practice that's gone out of practice, except for the people that do it for the novelty of it."
And except for religious weirdos, like Celeste.
"My parents were married." she mused, blowing smoke out into the air.
"They were immigrants from the Soviet Empire, well before the ban. First met at a welfare center. Started a financial firm and had a couple big breaks on the stock market. They married the day before it crashed."
She sighed and took a moment to look at a worn gold band on her finger.
"Do you believe in love, Preston?" she asked, melancholy in her voice.
"No," I said easily, "I don't believe in anything."
"Makes sense." she laughed, "And do you know, my parents had already sold all of their shares that day, on an impulse to have a grand honeymoon! They said it was their love that saved them from starvation."
I wanted to ask what a honeymoon was, but I didn't want to seem stupid.
"And then there was me. My mother actually gave live birth, you know."
Wow. I thought only poor people did that.
"So you don't have any enhancements?"
The lab growth of babies allowed for their genetic manipulation. That could mean getting rid of a disease, but it could just as well mean changing their eye colour or giving them a good metabolism.
"Nope. I'm just a plain old human."