Unreal - Page 6

The stranger was handsome enough, Shelly thought, but fright lent an unpleasant cast to his otherwise pleasant features as he startled away from her. “You're . . . you'd be . . . Shelly, right?”

Shelly nodded in agreement. “Yes.” She paused as a thought struck her. “Am I ugly?” she asked. “Did father lie about that as well? Is that why you are afraid of me?”

“No!” the stranger protested, but even he could tell that he did so too quickly. “No,” he repeated more firmly as his initial startle at her lack of clothing began to war with his enthrallment.

Shelly considered his reaction the way a cat might consider a wounded bird. “I thought not,” she said at last. “I saw many pictures of girls who looked like me on father's computer, so I thought that, at least, must have been true.”

“Yes,” the stranger said in a tone that was supposed to be both soothing and placating. “You are pretty . . . so pretty it's almost unreal.”

Shelly tilted her head left and right before observing, “But I am unreal, am I not? That is what you and my father were quarreling about.”

The stranger couldn't seem to find anything he wanted to say to that.

“You are afraid of me,” Shelly observed, her tone neither pleased nor displeased, merely matter of fact. “Afraid that I am going to react badly if you agree with me, even though it would be silly to react badly to something that is true. I am unreal, my father kept rather extensive notes on my creation, you know.”

“I'm . . . sorry,” was the only thing the stranger could think to say.

“Why?” Shelly wanted to know. “Because I live? Because I know the truth? Because I am not sorry about either of those things.”

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