“You’re home early,” a rather startled-looking Adrian pulled the sheet up to his neck. In the doorway, Joe glanced around the room. He dropped his briefcase and tugged at his tie.
“Afternoon off,” he said. “I told you.”
“Did you?” Adrian was nervous. Joe approached the bed – their bed. He perched on the corner.
“You’re in bed early; not well, baby?” Joe reached to feel Adrian’s forehead. Adrian recoiled.
“I needed a lie-down. I’m not feeling the best.”
Joe squeezed his knee. “I’ll order in. A slap-up Chinese will sort you out.”
“Or finish me off,” Adrian attempted a smile. Joe leaned in and pecked his cheek.
“Menus in the drawer?”
“You say the sweetest things.”
Adrian watched Joe leave the room. He heard him pad down the stairs and rummage in the kitchen. While his husband made the call, Adrian crept from the bed, the sheet cinched around his waist, and opened the wardrobe door.
“He didn’t suspect a thing,” he told the figure standing within.
“Good,” came the whispered reply.
“I don’t know how you stand it,” said Adrian. “Just the thought of him, touching me, pawing me… never mind anything else.”
“Well, I don’t have to anymore,” the figure emerged from behind the hanging shirts. “That’s your problem now. And you must obey me.”
Adrian groaned. “Do I have to?”
The man, dressed in a suit, pulled out a device and waved it at Adrian’s head. “A few more adjustments. Joe won’t know the difference.”
Tears welled in Adrian’s eyes. “How can you do it? How can you leave me? You go to all the trouble of making me and then you abandon me. Why?”
“Why?” Adrian – the real Adrian – dusted off the shoulders of his jacket and looked at his clone with pity. “That’s the eternal question.”
“Please!” the clone tugged at his maker’s sleeve. Adrian brandished the device. The clone adopted a vacant expression.
“You’d better get back in bed,” Adrian instructed. “I’m going to sneak out the back way. In an hour I’ll be at the airport on my way to a new life where I can conduct my research without hindrance. Just keep Joe distracted long enough for me to clear out our bank account and please, try not to get black bean sauce on those sheets. They’re Egyptian.”