by Walter Jon Williams
Darien was making another annotation to his lengthy commentary on theTenjou Cycle when
his Marshal reminded him that his anniversary would soon be upon him. This was the thousandth
anniversary--a full millennium with Clarisse!--and he knew the celebration would have to be a
He finished his annotation, saved the work, and then de-slotted the savant brain that
contained the cross-referenced database that allowed him to do his work. In its place he slotted
the brain labeled Clarisse/Passion, the brain that contained memories of his time with his wife.
Not all memories, however: the contents had been carefully purged of any of the last thousand
years' disagreements, arguments, disappointments, infidelities, and misconnections . . . The
memories were only those of love, ardor, obsession, passion, and release, all the most intense and
glorious moments of their thousand years together, all the times when Darien was drunk on
Clarisse, intoxicated with her scent, her brilliance, her wit.
The other moments, the less-than-perfect ones, he had stored elsewhere, in one brain or
another, but he rarely reviewed them. Darien saw no reason why his mind should contain
anything that was less than perfect.
Flush with the sensations that now poured through his mind, overwhelmed by the delirium of
love, Darien began to work on his present for his wife.
When the day came, Darien and Clarisse met in an environment that she had designed. This
was an arrangement that had existed for centuries, ever since they both realized that Clarisse's
sense of spacial relationships was better than his. The environment was a masterpiece, an
apartment built on several levels, like little terraces, that broke the space up into smaller areas
that created intimacy without sacrificing spaciousness. All of the furniture was designed for no
more than two people. Darien recognized on the wall a picture he'd given Clarisse on her four
hundredth birthday, an elaborate, antique dial telephone from their honeymoon apartment in
Paris, and a Japanese paper doll of a woman in an antique kimono, a present he had given her
early in their acquaintance, when they'd haunted antique stores together.
It was Darien's task to complete the arrangement. He added an abstract bronze sculpture of a
horse and jockey that Clarisse had given him for his birthday, a puzzle made of wire and butter-smooth old wood, and a view from the terrace, a view of Rio de Janeiro at night. Because his
sense of taste and smell were more subtle than Clarisse's, he, by standing arrangement, populated
the apartment with scents: lilac for the parlor, sweet magnolia and bracing cypress on the terrace,
a combination of sandalwood and spice for the bedroom, and a mixture of vanilla and cardamom
for the dining room, a scent subtle enough that it wouldn't interfere with the meal.
When Clarisse entered he was dressed in a tailcoat, white tie, waistcoat, and diamond studs.
She had matched his period élan with a Worth gown of shining blue satin, tiny boots that
buttoned up the ankles, and a dashing fall of silk about her throat. Her tawny hair was pinned up,
inviting him to kiss the nape of her neck, an indulgence which he permitted himself almost
Darien seated Clarisse on the cushions, and mixed cocktails. He asked her about her work: a
duplicate of one of her brains was on the mission to 55 Cancri, sharing piloting missions with
other duplicates. If a habitable planet was discovered, then a new Clarisse would be built on site
to pioneer the new world.
Darien had created the meal in consultation with Clarisse's Marshal. They began with
mussels steamed open in white wine and herbs, then went on to a salad of fennel, orange, and red
cranberry. Next came roasted green beans served alongside a chicken cooked simply in the oven,
then served in a creamy port wine reduction sauce. And at the end was a raspberry Bavarian
cream. Each dish was one that Darien had experienced at another time in his long life, considered
perfect, stored in one brain or another, and re-created down to the last scent and sensation.
After coffee and conversation on the terrace, Clarisse led Darien to the bedroom. He enjoyed
kneeling at her feet and unfastening every single button of those boots. His heart brimmed with
passion and lust, and he rose from his knees to embrace her. Wrapped in the sandalwood-scented
silence of their suite, they feasted till dawn on one another's flesh.
Their life together, Darien reflected, was perfection itself: one enchanted jewel after another,
hanging side-by-side on a thousand-year string
After juice and shirred eggs in the morning, Darien kissed the inside of Clarisse's wrist, then
checked to make sure that his brain had recorded every single instant of their time together.
And then he de-slotted Clarisse/Passion, and put it on the shelf for another year.