The woman made from glass called herself Verona. She had eyes of the palest blue.
"What do you smell like?" said Howie.
"I was made without odor," said the woman made from glass, who had the most charming turn of phrase.
"But in the flesh?" said Howie.
"In the flesh?" she said, considering. Then giggled. The body of a woman but the laugh of a young girl. "In the flesh, I'm a vampire. I live in a coffin, in the dark. I drink blood and eat dogs for breakfast."
"That is serious."
"At least tell me your real name."
"Diana, Princess of Wales," she said.
Then giggled again.
"Come here," he said.
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Male. Sixty years old. Out of work these last three years. I have terminal cancer and a wife with a premature case of Alzheimer's. I'm doing this for money. It helps pay for my colostomy bags."
Again, the giggle. For the woman made from glass, nothing was serious, nothing was sacred. That was one of the things Howie liked about her the best.
"I'll find you," murmured Howie, as he slipped off to sleep. "I'll find you in the flesh."
"Why?" said the woman made from glass, working on him gently with her hands. "You have a thing for sixty-year-old bankers?"
When Howie woke, he was alone in the Immersion Room, and Ron the technician was removing the net from his scalp. It prickled as it came away. Howie's scalp felt, as usual, as if it had been skin to skin with a stainless steel hedgehog.
And Ron was there, waiting to give him his wig.
"You still want it?" said Ron.
"Yeah," said Howie.
"It's harder than I thought," said Ron. "It's going to take longer."
"How much longer?"
"Two weeks. At least. And it's going to cost."
"Do it," said Howie. "I'll pay."
* * *
"Howie," said Cory, "I'd like you to meet my friend here, Glenda. She's a heiress. Glenda â€” Howie."
"I want to get married," said Glenda.
A glossy blonde. A ceramic perfection to her face.
"Yeah, sure," said Howie, knowing one of Cory's jokes when he saw it, but willing to play along for the moment. "You got a driver's license?"
"I want to see how old you are."
She was 22. And she showed him a bank statement as well. She was rich. Very rich. Not like the sleazy fringe people Cory usually hung out with. Something odd was going on here.
"I'm rich," said Glenda proudly.
"So am I," said Howie, amused at the naivety of her pride. "Seriously rich."
"So you're made for each other," said Cory.
"Yes," said Howie. "But we need to see a friend of mine. A doctor."
"Whatever you say," said Glenda.
Face to face with Doctor Jim, Howie specified his requirements.
"Main one is a sex test," he said. "You know, like at the Olympics. Are we talking YY or XY?"
"You have doubts?" said Doctor Jim.
"It's just that I read this story once about this guy who married a, well, a â€” "
"Yeah. So. YY. Check it out. And the usual, uh, disease suite. You know."
"Yes," said Doctor Jim. "But be warned. There's no such thing as absolutely safe sex."
"Hey, we're going to have children. She wants six. You want kids, you got to take off the condom."
"Can't argue with that," said Doctor Jim.
It all checked out, and they got married. Howie's friends congratulatory. Glenda's friends giggling, high, not quite connected to the planet.
* * *
"I've got married," said Howie.
"How very nice for you," said...