Mrs Wattinger pretended to be engrossed in the latest issue of Home Instyle, but her eyes scanned the article on page fifty-six without seeing it. Her full attention was on Rita.
Rita’s full attention was on Mrs Wattinger’s kitchen. She glided across the Italian marble flooring with the grace of a figure skater, spray bottle in one hand, dust cloth in the other. Every now and then she would give a dainty little squirt and pause to wipe at the granite bench top in an efficient circular motion. Rita hummed as she went about her work. Mrs Wattinger recognised the tune as one of Dr Wattinger’s favourites. She ground her teeth as she sipped at the tea Rita had made for her.
“He likes me better than you.”
Mrs Wattinger jolted so forcefully her tea spilled from the bone china cup and burned her hand. “What? What did you just say?”
Rita turned surprised eyes in her direction. “Why, nothing, Mrs Wattinger. Oh, you’ve spilled your tea. Let me clear that up for you.” She hurried around the bench and dabbed at the brown liquid with her cloth.
As she did so, her cascade of strawberry blonde hair brushed Mrs Wattinger’s shoulder. ‘Fuck me’ hair, that’s what it was. Of all the hairstyles Rita could have come with, Dr Wattinger had selected the strumpet’s mane. He’d even named her after his starlet crush, Rita Hayworth. Foolish old man.
“Oh no, you’ve hurt your hand.” Rita’s voice oozed concern. She reached for Mrs Wattinger’s hand to inspect the red bloom the hot tea had made. Mrs Wattinger couldn’t help but notice the contrast: Rita’s hands were milky and unblemished whereas her skin was mottled with the faded beginnings of liver spots.
“Just leave it.” Mrs Wattinger snapped. She wrenched her hand free, shuddering at the grotesquely human feel of Rita’s latex skin. “I’m going upstairs for a lie down.” Mrs Wattinger whirled from the room. As she strode up the stairs she was sure she heard a sly titter from the kitchen below.
In the coolness of her bedroom, Mrs Wattinger dabbed a blend of peppermint and lavender oil at her temples. She inspected her face for a long time in the mirror, then lay down on the crisp cotton and drew the netted curtain around the bed. She reflected on what she had heard (imagined) Rita say. It was her own silly fault, she supposed. She had nagged Dr Wattinger for an iMaid for the better part of a month. Initially he had balked not only at the exorbitant price tag, but also at the sheer indulgence of the idea.
“Why must you always be so ostentatious?” he asked, shaking his head at the online catalogue as Mrs Wattinger tapped petulantly at the monitor with a lacquered nail.
“It’s nothing of the kind,” she had huffed. “Besides, Violetta Strachan has one and—”
“Of course. One wouldn’t want to be outdone by the Strachans.”
Mrs Wattinger had ramped it up a notch then. She sulked and raged and tearfully accused Dr Wattinger of being a neglectful husband. When that didn’t work she tried a week of silence peppered with icy stares. Finally, she resorted to the old adage of catching more flies with honey than vinegar. She rose early to cook breakfast. She greeted him with perfumed smiles and dutifully asked about his day. She even did that thing that he liked in bed. When she raised the subject of the iMaid again, she did it playfully and coquettishly, and even suggested he could design his own model. Dr Wattinger had buckled and thirteen days later Rita had arrived.
Mrs Wattinger had tired of her quickly. After all, their apartment was only small, and there was only so much housework to be done (as Dr Wattinger had pointed out, Mrs Wattinger reflected with a pang).
Dr Wattinger however was delighted with Rita. The iMaid was always irritatingly cheerful. She encouraged his jokes with tinkling laughter that made her hair and latex bosom bounce. She fawned over him at dinner time and searched her programming for all his favourite meals. Mrs Wattinger would often find them chatting together animatedly at the breakfast table when she came down stairs. Sometimes their talk would dry up when she entered the room and Rita would jump up from her seat and busy herself with the breakfast plates. Dr Wattinger would shake his newspaper and smile at Mrs Wattinger sheepishly. When Mrs Wattinger took her seat and poured her juice she could feel the ice-blue stare of the iMaid’s synthetic eyes boring into her back.
Yes, Rita would have to go. Once Mrs Wattinger had made her mind up she felt a little better. When she woke from her nap, she would dig out the warranty papers that accompanied the iMaid and see what she could do about getting her returned. With this thought on her mind she closed her eyes.
Rita brushed the net curtain aside and looked at Mrs Wattinger for a long time. Finally she bent down and placed a hand over Mrs Wattinger’s mouth and pinched her nostrils together. Her automated face was expressionless as she applied the maximum force her programming afforded.
Mrs Wattinger’s eyes flew open in horror. Her hands formed claws that clutched and raked futilely at the iMaid’s skin.
“Don’t hate me ‘cause I’m beautiful,” Rita whispered. She watched as the life eventually drained from Mrs Wattinger’s face and her feet ceased beating their drum like rhythm on the counterpane.
Rita then removed her apron and floral housedress. She opened Mrs Wattinger’s underwear drawer and rifled through the garments. After consideration, she selected a filmy baby blue negligee and slipped it over her head. It hugged her latex breasts and genitalia exquisitely.
Rita walked downstairs and positioned herself seductively in Dr Wattinger’s armchair. The clock on the kitchen wall ticked away the hours as she waited for him to arrive home.
Originally published in FutureCycle Anthology 2012 (FutureCycle Press)
Rebecca Fraser is an award-nominated Australian author whose short stories, flash fiction, and poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, magazines, and journals. Her first novel Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean was released in 2018, and her collection Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract is due for release in 2021, both through IFWG Publishing Australia. Rebecca holds a MA in Creative Writing, and a Certificate of Publishing (Copy Editing & Proofreading). To provide her muse with life’s essentials Rebecca copywrites and edits in a freelance capacity and operates StoryCraft Creative Writing Workshops for aspiring authors of every age and ability…however her true passion is storytelling. Say G’day at writingandmoonlighting.comor Twitter and Instagram @becksmuse.