Chapter 23:


Grime in the Gears: Create, Read, Update, Delete

The dress was black, the shoes were black, the shawl was black. She considered wearing a hat and a veil, but thought that would seem a bit too melodramatic. She looked at the time. The funeral would be in a few hours. 

She didn't want to arrive too early, and sit around, and have everybody come up to her and say, "I'm so sorry, it must be so difficult, is there anything I can do?" She calculated the time it would take to get to the funeral home, and if she had to sit there in her apartment and do nothing until it was time to leave to get there just a smidge early, she would. 

She sat. She did nothing, and every once in a while, she'd look at the clock.

"Oh, Frank," she said. "What I'd give just to see you one more time."

Her phone chirped. She thought it might be Cat or Dolores or someone sending some simple platitude or asking if she needed a ride or a shoulder to cry on or a casserole or something. She didn't even want to look.

But she did anyway. Her eyebrows went up. It was another phantom message from Frank. However, this one was different. "Open the door."

She was about to just dismiss it as another bug in the system when another message appeared. "Please?"

She looked at the door. "Frank?" she said.

She closed her eyes. She was being ridiculous. Maybe someone was spoofing Frank's number and having a bit of macabre fun at her expense. She briefly wondered how much of a pain it would be to change her number.

"Gloria?" said a voice from beyond her door.

She sat up. "Frank?" she said again. She got up from her couch and walked cautiously toward her door. She looked out through the peephole. She gasped at what she saw. It was Frank, standing just outside her door.

Her hand hovered over the door release. But she stopped. What if it was a trick. She had no idea what sort of trick it could be, but had heard about a bunch of different identity scams, and put two and two together to come up with four. And wasn't four the same word as death in Japanese? She had a feeling that if she opened this door, she'd face death.

"Gloria?" said Frank.

She kept peering through the peephole. "Is that really you, Frank?" she asked.

"Gloria!" he said. "Yeah! It's me! Can you open the door?"

"Why can't you open it?" she asked.

"It's complicated," he said. "I'll explain when I'm inside."

"Frank," she said. "You're really weirding me out. You're supposed to be dead and now you're waiting outside my door asking me if I'll let you in like you're some sort of ghost or something."

"Please, Gloria," he said. "Just let me in."

"No," she said. "If you want to come in, you have to prove to me you're Frank and not some weird scammer or something."

Frank closed his eyes. "How can I prove it's me?" he said.

"I don't know," she said. "Tell me something only Frank would know."

Frank began to tell Gloria her full name, date and place of birth, parents' names. 

Before he got to childhood pet's name, she interrupted him. "Anybody can figure that stuff out," she said. "Tell me something only the real Frank would know."

Frank took a breath. Then he spoke: "To keep your marriage brimming With love in the loving cup, Whenever you're wrong, admit it; Whenever you're right, shut up."

Gloria opened the door. Frank stood there, looking forlorn but his face brightened when he saw Gloria standing there. "Oh, Frank," she said. She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a big kiss. Except, she didn't exactly do that, since Frank was a hologram. She passed right through him, and crashed on the hall floor.

She rolled over and looked up at Frank. He was grinning, trying not to laugh. "I'd offer to help you up," he said, "but I'm at a little bit of a physical disadvantage right now."

Gloria sat up before getting back onto her feet. She shooed Frank into the apartment before closing the door.

"Frank," she said. "What happened? You're dead and now you're here."

Frank motioned for the couch. "You might want to sit down," he said. 

She sat there and he sat down next to her, though he didn't leave an imprint on the cushion.

He took a deep breath. "Yes," he said. "I am dead. But I made a backup."

"Conor said that the backup failed," she interjected.

"Yeah," said Frank. "It was corrupted. I don't remember the last few hours of my life. I've only been able to fill in the blanks with what happened from other people. You know?"

She nodded.

"But they put me into some sort of debtor's prison where I had to handle phone calls to try to work down my debt. Fortunately, I was able to escape. Cammy got me this new body, and now, here I am."

Gloria wiped a tear from her eye. "Won't they come looking for you?" she said.

Frank shrugged. "They might. But if I can pay off the debt, they'll have to go away. Right?"

Gloria shrugged. "Oh, Frank," she said. She leaned forward to hug him, but stopped. "Oh, right," she said. She took a few breaths. "There's something I want to tell you," she said.

Frank sat up. "What is it?" He grinned. "You didn't find someone else, did you?"

She laughed, and started to cry a little. "Oh, no, not that," she said. "It's just that, well Frank, I wanted to tell you that you're going to be a father."

Frank's smile widened. "As long as you're the mother, I'm fine with that."

She slapped him on the shoulder, her hand passing through his hologram. 

"Well, I guess I'd better learn how to shut up," he said. He got up off the couch and kneeled on the floor. "Gloria Tyrdagr," he said, materializing a box in his hand. "Will you fill my loving cup?"

Gloria's eyes filled with tears. She was about to pounce on Frank and kiss him to death, but she stopped herself, remembering the incident in the hallway. "Oh, Frank, if you're asking me to marry you, then yes."

He popped open the ring box. It was empty. "Well," he said. "I'll get you a good ring, I promise. This one would have just been a hologram anyway." He tossed it over his shoulder where it promptly vanished. "How do you think it works, a gal marrying a hologram?"

Gloria giggled. "I'm sure we can figure it out," she said. 

Frank blew her a kiss, and she blew one right back at him. Then she looked at the clock. "Oh, Helfrost," she said.

"What?" said Frank.

"We're late for your funeral."

Frank grinned. "That's the best way to be for your funeral." He held out his arm for her to take. She stood and placed her own arm through the crook of his, and after a few missteps, started walking, arm-in-arm out the door and toward the elevator.

Though she knew that the slightest shift would send her arm through his, she still almost felt like he was actually standing there right next to her.

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