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Designer Baby

 Janet Olearski

Janet Olearski is a London-born author, based in Abu Dhabi. Her short fiction and poems have appeared in various publications including Wasafiri, The Commonline Journal, Far Off Places, Bare Fiction, and Beautiful Scruffiness. She has authored several children’s books, among them The Sunbird Mystery, Twins, and Mr Football. Her second novel, Foreigner, was shortlisted  for the Telegraph Harvill Secker Crime Writing Prize 2014. Janet is a graduate of the Manchester Writing School and the founder of the Abu Dhabi Writers’ Workshop.

The interview had gone rather well, she thought. She had sent Taylor the link and, within a short arc of time, he had called her.

     ‘I loved it,’ he said. ‘When will the program go out?’

     ‘We haven’t scheduled it yet, but we have an editorial meeting on Friday. That’s when I’ll be pulling it out of the hat. It’s going to knock their socks off.’


     ‘Don’t be surprised. It’s not every day we find someone like you.’

     ‘How do you mean?’

     ‘Honestly, Taylor, do you want me to spell it out for you?’

     ‘Yes. Yes, well why not?’

     She laughed.

     He laughed. ‘Go on,’ he said.

     ‘You’re perfect,’ she said. ‘And dare I say it …? Every woman’s dream.’

     ‘I’m blushing,’ he said.

     ‘No, you’re not. Designer babies don’t blush. I’m sure they don’t.’

     ‘So, you think I’m perfect. How about you come round and check me out?’

     She laughed, a little uncomfortably this time. ‘Well, I just want to say thank you again for doing the interview, Taylor.’

     ‘No, seriously,’ he said. ‘Come over. It’s an invitation. I’m cooking.’


     It was a double whammy for Cassie. Not just the interview, but also a date. Admittedly, as far as the interview was concerned, she’d had some reservations. The whole idea of editing genes to produce perfect or designer babies seemed to her to be fraught with dangers. Her background research had confirmed this and she had said as much in her introduction to the piece. What were the chances of something going wrong? What about the parents who, for a massive payment, could prescribe the type of child they wanted?  And what about the parents who could not? Was that fair? Was the whole business ethical anyway? And did the public know that the editing of genes had already been going on for many years … since she herself was a child? No, she assumed they didn’t. She had no idea that while she was growing up as a normally-conceived child, the likes of Taylor was growing up in his perfect self – with those gleaming white teeth, that miraculous physique, that remarkable brain, but also that enchanting personality of his. She was almost envious of him herself. In fact she was envious. And now,  added to all of that … the date.

     And here she was in his penthouse apartment, chopping parsley and sipping white wine while he busied himself in his designer kitchen, preparing a romantic dinner for the two of them.

     ‘So, editorial meeting on Friday?’ said Taylor. ‘You think they’ll go for it?


     ‘Is this all your own work?’

     Cassie laughed. ‘It is indeed. I tracked you down,’ she said, ‘and I came up with the idea for the program. I wanted to gazumph them all. It’s not easy in this business. It takes something really big to get their attention.’ She waved her chopping knife in the air in a triumphant gesture.

     Taylor moved close to her and grasped her wrist. ‘Careful,’ he said and she felt his warm breath on her face as he leaned in to kiss her. The knife fell from her hand. Taylor stooped to retrieve it. ‘No worries,’ he said, stepping back to his work. ‘I guess I’m something really big then.’

     ‘You will be when the show’s released.’


     ‘Program. Show. Whatever,’ said Cassie.

     ‘I was just a little bit worried about what you said about the engineering not being a good idea. Do you think I’m not a good idea?’ He continued preparing the food as he spoke.

     ‘I think you’re a very good idea,’ said Cassie.

     ‘Mmm..,’ he said.

     Cassie slipped into place on one of Taylor’s tall chrome and Perspex kitchen chairs. She crossed her legs and raised her glass to her lips. Taylor glanced at her legs then, smiling, returned his focus to the food.

     ‘One thing I never got to find out..,’ said Cassie. ‘Do you actually know who your father was? You sort of avoided that question in the interview.’

     Taylor was silent.

     Cassie gave a little cough and looked at him.

     ‘Yes,’ he said.


     ‘You have to understand that mine was one of the first cases. It was experimental.’ He took hold of a knife and began to chop vegetables expertly on a block. He looked up for a moment. ‘Can you get a couple of small pans out of there for me?’ He nodded his head towards the row of pristine silver-surfaced cupboards.

     She followed his instructions. ‘These?’ she said, holding the pans up for his approval.

     ‘You got it,’ he said. ‘And there’s some cream in the fridge.’

     She opened the voluminous fridge and looked for the cream. What she noticed were two bottles of champagne on ice. She took out the carton of cream, a great sense of satisfaction warming her heart.

     ‘So?’ she said. ‘Are you going to tell me?’

     ‘What?’ His smile was so sweet, so warm.

     ‘Your father?’ She punched him playfully on the arm.

     ‘He was a PhD.’

     ‘Ah,’ she said.

     ‘In the Ohio State Prison.’

     ‘No, really? What did he do there?’

     Taylor had his head down as he arranged slivers of fig on a plate. ‘He was an inmate. Death Row.’ He looked up and smiled at her.

     Cassie blinked. ‘Wow,’ she said, and took a sip of her wine. She swallowed. ‘Wow,’ she said again.

     ‘Cassie, darling,’ he said, ‘could you go fetch the meat? It’s in the fridge.’ He leaned towards her and gave her a peck on the cheek.

     Cassie walked back to the fridge and pulled open the door. She scanned the contents. Vegetables, cheeses, sauces… the champagne, of course.

     ‘I don’t see the meat,’ she said. She turned. Taylor was there in front of her, still smiling.

     He raised the carving knife and twirled it in front of her face. ‘The meat?’ he said. ‘You’re it.’

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