Deletable Love

Mom and dad are outside the room, watching me on the view screen. I grip the small holoroom remote in my hand. Pixels swirl around me, transforming into a park. As soon as I see Ava on a bench reading my mouth is dry and there’s tears in my eyes.

I don’t even know what to say or how to say it. My parents want me to delete my girlfriend.

Ava looks up from her book and smiles, but it slides away. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“My parents want me to erase the program,” I say. I can’t believe I blurt it out like that. The horrible look on her face twists my guts. “I’m sorry.”

“Why?” Her voice is barely a whisper.

Hot tears drench my face. I clench my teeth and take an unsteady breath through my nose. “Mom and dad don’t think we’re legit. They think it’s wrong for us to be together.”

Her dark eyes meet mine. There’s tears there, but I can tell she’s more angry than anything.

“What’s wrong with what we have? Why do they get to decide who you love?”

They shouldn’t be able to. I tried to tell my parents that when we argued. But I live in their house. Their rules. Either I delete Ava and get a real girlfriend or they will. What other choice did I have?

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” I say. “You’ve been my everything for the last six months. I love you.”

“Yeah, I can see that. And what’s in your hand. Is that it? The remote. You’re going to do it aren’t you, you’re going to kill me?”

She sounds so hurt and my heart feels like it’s gonna burst. I hadn’t even thought about it like that. But she’s right. Deletion will do more than end her program. It will erase her forever.

I don’t know what to say. All I can do is stare at the beautiful girl in front of me and wonder what the hell is so wrong with loving her. Ava is every bit as real to me as anyone else I’ve ever known. She’s more than a program.

She takes a deep breath, wipes the tears from her face, and sets her jaw. “Just do it,” she says, voice steady. It’s amazing how strong she is. How brave. I love her so much.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want be the one to do it, but I wanted to say goodbye. I love you.” I take a few steps toward her.

I feel like I’m gonna puke. I raise the remote and I’m about to do it when she says my name.

“I know it’s not your fault. I love you too. Keep me right here,” she says and she points to my heart.

I press two buttons. Ava fragments and the world around us crumbles. Her small body fades as pixels drop and dissipate. The last piece of her to go is her bright, toothy smile.

I’m alone in the empty holoroom. It wasn’t how I wanted my goodbye to go, but my parents were watching. I had to make them believe I’d done it. Before I deleted, I saved a copy. I doubt they’ll verify the files are gone. It’ll be some time before I’ll risk seeing her again. I’ll have to sneak visits when my parents aren’t around. But I love Ava with all of my heart, and I refuse to let my parents tell me that I can’t love a hologram.

Eric Fomley’s stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction, and Galaxy’s Edge. You can read more of his stories on his website

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