Teddy Spenser Isn't Looking for Love by Kim Fielding

            “You didn’t tell me it would be this big.”

            Romeo blew a puff of air. “I did my best. I can’t bend the laws of physics.”

            “Scale it down, then. Get rid of some of the bells and whistles.”

            “Which bells and whistles would those be? The ones that give it power? The ones that make it think? The ones that provide input from the flowers, which is the entire raison d’être for the unit in the first place?” For once, Romeo’s voice was raised.

            Well, Teddy was pissed off too. “Your unit is fugly! Who’s going to want to buy a vase that looks like ass? And not good ass either.”

            “Find a way to camouflage it.”

            Teddy growled. “Find a way to camouflage it. Do you think I have a magic wand? Good design takes time, Romeo, and you can’t just throw stuff together on the fly. God, and we almost have the specs worked out on production costs. But if I start adding more pieces, Imani will eviscerate me. Slowly.”

            “I can’t help any of that.” Romeo took the tablet and moved back toward his chair. “This is what we’re going to need to make the software operate.” His jaw was set and his eyes flinty.

            Teddy opened his mouth to argue but couldn’t think of anything convincing. He didn’t know squat about programming or about the hardware needed to make gizmos run properly. He designed and marketed, making things look pretty and convincing people they couldn’t live without them, all without blowing the company’s budget. He had no idea how to work that now.

            Through gritted teeth he managed “Send me those files,” before marching out of Romeo’s office and into the cubicle area. His imaginary upbeat show tune had been replaced by a wailing lament. Crap.

            Time to find some lunch.

                     Chapter Two

            “Jennifer Murray had another baby. I saw it on the Facebook. Very cute little girl.”

            Teddy slumped a little deeper into his couch and considered switching to speakerphone. If he did, would his grandmother hear the crinkle of waxed paper as he snacked? “That’s great, Gram. I’m happy for her.”

            “Do you remember Jennifer Murray? You used to play with her when you came to visit. She had strawberry-blond pigtails, but now I see in the photos that she dyes it auburn.”

            What Teddy mostly remembered about Jennifer Murray was an altercation at the playground, during which she’d demanded that he relinquish the swing. When he’d refused, she’d punched him so hard in the stomach that he’d fallen, skinned his knees, and ended up with bark splinters embedded in the palms of his hands. For the remainder of his two-week stay at his grandmother’s, she’d called him Dead Ted.

            Instead of reminding his grandmother about that unpleasant summer, he used his free hand to pull another Ritz cracker out of its sleeve. He’d munched through the better part of a package during this call, and when he was done, he was going to need to vacuum away the crumbs.

            “Maybe her hair has changed shades naturally,” he offered.

            “No, it’s dyed. I can tell. It’s a good dye job, though. She probably has it done at a salon. Although now with two little ones at home, I don’t know if she’ll have the time for that.”

            “Hmm.” He nibbled the cracker as quietly as possible.

            “I think it’s a good idea to have your children as close in age as possible. I had three boys in four years, you know. It wasn’t easy, but I’d rather that than have one in diapers and one learning to drive.”