“I’ve booked everything for dad’s birthday. We’re flying out of Stansted at 16:40 the evening before, getting into Malaga at 17:50. And when we get there I’ve booked a car.”
“With you as driver as me.”
“Neither. I ordered self-drive.”
“You know I don’t do self-drive.”
“Don’t you? I forgot. Mind you, you’ve always been a control freak haven’t you? I thought it best what with it being on the other side of the road and all. Anyway, it’s booked now so you’ll have to bear it. Oh yes, and you owe me €846.33 exactly so please credit my account as soon as you can.”
It was dad’s birthday, his eightieth, so we were all off to his villa in Spain to celebrate, Jenny and her partner Mark and their kids; I with Sue plus Stacy who was none too impressed at the idea of being dragged away from her boyfriend to some small Andalusian village for a week. Tough. Eightieth birthdays don’t come along very often and who knows how many more he’ll have?
The car whirred its way through the winding streets of Ojén up to dad’s villa. I’ve never got used to these self-driving machines even if the rest of the world seems to have fallen in love with them; much as I hate to admit it, Jenny was right, I like being in control. As we approached the gates opened and up the drive we purred, coming to a gentle halt by the door. This opened and out strode dad, tanned, healthy and looking good for a guy about to turn eighty. It was not him, however, that caught my attentions – nor, I suspect, those of all the others – but instead the figure who followed him out into the Spanish sunshine. The female figure. The young and exceedingly pretty female figure.
“Hello! Hello! So great to see you all! How was your journey? Jake, my, how you’ve grown! Stacy too! And you little Alisha! Come on in! Come in! But before you do, please, let me introduce Eve.”
Eve smiled. “Nice to meet you,” she said. I looked at my sister.
“Another glass?” Dad gestured to the wine bottle. I shook my head and glanced at Jenny. The others had all gone out for a walk, Eve too. Both Mark and Sue had realised that Jenny and I needed some time alone with our father.
It was Jenny who broached the subject. “Dad, Martin and I, we want to have a little chat with you about Eve.”
“It’s not what you think you know.”
“And what do we think, dad?”
“That she’s some young floozy just after my money; that you’ll lose your inheritance and she’s only with me for what she can get.”
“Dad, we don’t think…”
“Yes, you do. Aren’t I right, Martin?”
“Well, if you ask like that dad, then yes, that’s exactly what we think. It’s ridiculous: you’re eighty tomorrow and she’s twenty-five if that. It’s embarrassing dad, you’re making yourself look stupid.”
“She’s younger than twenty-five, Martin.”
“Twenty-five, twenty-one, eighteen, does it matter? She’s less than half your age; hell, she’s less than half my age! Dad, it’s fucking wrong!”
“No, Martin, there you’re wrong! It’s not wrong at all, it’s right, very right! Eve is the most right that any woman ever could be! She understands me, she was made to be with me. She gets me better than any woman has, or any man for that matter, including you two!”
“Now, come on dad, that’s not fair, we…”
“No, it’s true, a hundred percent. When was the last time that you took an interest in me and anything that I do? You’ve never once tried to understand my life and my work.”
“Dad, you know we’re not into computers, programming and all that technological stuff. Mine and Martin’s interests lie in different fields.”
“Yes, I know that and I’ve always accepted it. But Eve does understand; she understands my work, she shares my soul.”
“And your money no doubt!”
“Eve is not after my money! If only you knew just how wrong you are!”
“Oh yeah, then why the fuck else is she with a guy three times her age. Come on dad, she’s counting down the days!”
“Martin, I warn you…”
Jenny intervened. “Martin shouldn’t say things like that, but he’s worried for you, we both are. I was talking to Eve in the kitchen earlier and whilst she’s polite and pleasant enough, there’s something I don’t trust about her dad; she’s dry, doesn’t have much of a sense of humour. Dad, admit it, she’s a bit weird and, well, we just don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“The only thing that’s hurting me at the moment is you two!”
“Where did you meet her dad?”
“Sure it wasn’t some dating site like www.findyourselfasugardaddy.com…?”
“Martin, one more comment like that and you can leave this house! I love Eve very much, she is the most special woman in the world and insulting her is the same as insulting me. If she is weird then so must I be. She is not after my money or indeed anything else. We are together because it makes us happy and that is that!”
“I’m sure it does, an old coot like you getting his wicked way with a young stunner like her. I must admit dad, you chose well in that regard…”
“Yes dad, you are taking precautions, aren’t you? If she were to get pregnant then…”
“Eve will not be getting pregnant Jenny since we are not in that kind of relationship.”
“What do you mean? She’s not even letting you screw her despite…”
Jenny frowned at me. “Martin, shut it, that’s enough!”
“No Jen, it isn’t! She’s shacked up here, eating and drinking dad’s food and wine and he’s not even getting a lay out of it! Fuck me dad, you’re more gullible than I thought!”
“And you Martin, have sunk to a level that surpasses even your usual. When the others return you will pack your bags and leave this house! I’d looked forward to spending my birthday with my family but the fact is that you’ve only come here to judge and to criticise, both of you. So, you will go and leave Eve and I in peace. Thank you very much for spoiling my birthday even before it’s begun!”
When I received the phone call some three months and twenty-one days after dad’s birthday, I was stunned. It was the Hospital Civil in Malaga and they regretted to inform me that Dr. Adam Nolan had died in one of their beds at 04:29 that morning.
“What? Did he have an accident?”
“No Señor Nolan, it was the cancer.”
“He did not tell you? He was suffering from the cancer for more than six months. He knew last year that it had been discovered too late and he had only months left to live.”
He’d never told us! Of course, after our row he’d told us very little at all. We had stayed for the party for the sake of the others and after we’d all calmed down, I’d apologised to him, but even so, it was hardly the same as before. Eve had smiled and chatted; Jenny, Mark, Sue and the kids had smiled and chatted, but what was left unsaid had been louder. So, he hadn’t told us that he was dying and now he never could.
“Your father arranged that after he passed away his body was to be flown to the United Kingdom for the funeral. He informed us that you and your sister as well as a Prof. John Green whose details I have here will be in charge of the arrangements.”
“What about his partner?”
“Yes, Eve… I forget her surname.”
“He never mentioned any partner, Señor Nolan, only you three…”
The funeral was beautiful. Hundreds attended and John Green, an old colleague, delivered the eulogy. I’d always known that dad had been big in the world of computer programming and robotics but I’d never realised just how much of a genius and pioneer he’d been. I felt like I hardly knew the man who’d raised me and that shamed me.
That and the manner in which we parted.
In addition to being shamed though, I was also puzzled. Eve had not turned up to the funeral and when we read the will she didn’t get a mention. So, she hadn’t got his money after all. Everything was split between Jenny and me with the grandchildren each getting €100,000 and John Green getting all of his research papers and a small wooden box. He opened this in the solicitor’s office and found that it contained an electronic pass key and a handwritten note. Green read it and chuckled. “It’s a reference to an old film that we both enjoyed,” was all that he said by way of explanation.
It was a balmy, Spanish, July evening and on the balcony of dad’s villa Jenny and I were sipping sangria. We’d spent all day – and the three previous – sorting through dad’s stuff and we were both exhausted.
“I just don’t get it, I really don’t,” said Jenny. “She’s an enigma!”
“Eve. There’s nothing of hers here, not a single inkling of any female presence in this house. Nor too have we heard of or from her. Tell me, did you meet her as well or did I imagine it all?”
“No, I saw her alright. Besides, she’s in some of his photos.”
“Not many. I mean, for a woman whom he was living with and whom he obviously loved very much, there’s very little evidence to show for it.”
“And why have we heard nothing from her? You would have thought that she’d have been in touch.”
“Perhaps he told her about the row?”
“Even so, I think we should search for her, check social media sites and that.”
“How? We don’t even know her surname. All we know is ‘Eve’. Is she Eve, Evelyn, Evelina, Eva or maybe ‘Eve’ is not even her real name?”
“You could ask in Ojén. The local gossips are bound to know something.”
“Already tried that when I went shopping yesterday. They all knew him and knew he had a woman up here but none of them knew anything about her.”
“He said he met her at work.”
“He was eighty. He hadn’t been to work for three decades.”
“Not true. After he moved out here he had a lot to go with a group called MAPIR who’re based at Malaga University. I remember him mentioning it on several occasions.”
“You know what, it was only at his funeral that I realised just what an impact he’d had on the world of programming and robotics. He was a genius!”
“Our father was a genius and we never appreciated it. That’s the reason he gave for liking Eve so much: she got his work.”
“Say, if she was so up in all that, perhaps she had something to do with that MAPIR group? Let’s take a break from all this tomorrow and head down there. Even if we learn nothing about her, it’d be respectful to him…”
MAPIR was housed in a nondescript building on the campus of the University of Malaga. When we presented ourselves at the reception we were immediately shown to someone we knew: not Eve but John Green. He greeted us warmly, lamented the loss of dad and then asked why we’d come.
“Two questions really. At the funeral we both became aware of how little we knew about dad’s work and we know that he came down here regularly so we wanted to have a chat about what he achieved, to learn exactly who our father really was.”
“And the second reason?”
“Well, also the last time we saw him he’d got a girlfriend living with him, a young lady named Eve, yet we haven’t seen her since his death nor do we have any way of getting in touch with her. He said he’d met her at work so we thought maybe she works here.”
“Your father had a girlfriend you say; now that is strange!”
“I know, we thought the same. After mum left him he seemed to lose all interest – and trust – in women and seemed content, happy even, on his own. But then this young bombshell appears on the scene.”
“And she was his girlfriend you say?”
“Well, she was sleeping at his house which suggests…”
“…suggests different things to you than me. Yes indeed, I know Eve, she works here, indeed, she’s here now. Do you want to meet her?”
“Well, if she’s got time…”
“She has. Come with me.” Prof. Green led us out of his office, down some corridors and into a laboratory filled with computers and all manner of equipment. He led us to a large steel door at the far end that required a pass card to enter. “Your father’s gift to me,” he said, producing the electronic pass card from the box at the solicitor’s which he then placed over the reader. The door slid open to reveal a small chamber, no larger than a toilet cubicle. In the middle, on a chair, in the pitch black, seemingly asleep, sat Eve.
“You need to wake her up,” said Green.
Jenny stepped forward and tapped her on the shoulder. She didn’t move.
“No, not like that. Use the words that he gave me. Here they are.”
Mystified, I read out the words on the paper. “Are you enjoying the time of Eve?” Immediately her eyes opened and she smiled. “Martin, how nice to see you again. Jenny too, and you as always John.”
A lightbulb switched on in my head. “She’s a robot!”
She smiled again. “Yes, I am. Your dad created me together with John. That’s why we understood each other so well. He taught me everything he knew so that I could continue his work after his death.”
“Now do you understand?” said Green. “Your dad was not just a genius, he was the da Vinci of his day. On the market now there are AI robots but nothing in Eve’s league. She is decades ahead. He did the programming side, I did the aesthetics and movement, and by all accounts they are damn good since none of you ever guessed she wasn’t human. By the way, he wasn’t really upset about your little altercation regarding sugar daddies and trophy girlfriends. In fact, he found it all rather funny.”
I looked at Jenny. We both felt pretty stupid.
“Anyway, I’ll leave you two alone to meet your sister properly and to begin learning the answers to your other question: who exactly was your father…?
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