Short Story: “Just Like Her”

A widower uses an AR filter to make his new girlfriend look exactly like his ex-wife.
man and woman

What’s in an image? © LeaDigszammal /

October 29, 2023 05:27 EDT

Something to consider when reading/listening: Is it possible to have a truthful relationship with someone if your perception of them is totally different to how they perceive themselves? 

At first, it was a way of keeping her with me. That’s all it was. 

I knew they weren’t her. I knew she was gone. But I liked seeing her face, that was all it was. So I added the filter and for a while — not long, a few weeks maybe — every single woman I saw looked exactly like Laurie. 

No, not exactly like her… the likeness was never perfect but, well, it was close enough. I saw my wife in the face of every woman who crossed my path. 

It made me smile. It made me feel like she was still present. I knew she wasn’t. I knew it was just an impression. But I… perhaps I wasn’t ready to see the world as it truly was, at least for a little while. 

Laurie had died very suddenly. We’d just got married in one of those stunning underwater domes in what used to be Canterbury. And we were planning to get a rocket to Australia for our honeymoon when an Amazon delivery drone fell from the sky and landed on Laurie’s head. 

The idea of never seeing her face again it was… well… that was why I added the filter. I wanted her to be with me wherever I went. 

The only person I told was my friend Gary. He’s one of the holdouts who refuses to use any form of augmented reality. He was slightly uncertain… more than slightly uncertain… but he smiled and he said, “Whatever you makes you happy Robbie.”

I was planning to remove it… not planning, I’d decided to remove it, I was about to remove it… when one of them started talking to me. We were sitting next to each other at this play about hairdressing. She asked if we could swap seats because the man in front of her was blocking her view. I said sure but only if she’d let me take her out for dinner after. She agreed. “I’m Rob,” I said. 

“Hi Rob. I’m Laurie.”

After the play, we went ice skating on the river Thames and got a couple of McLab Burgers and I don’t think we stopped laughing all evening.

I knew she wasn’t Laurie, my Laurie. Her voice was different for one thing. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t similarities. She was about the same height and build. She was a fan of Electro-Classical. And she liked me which was one of the original Laurie’s best features.

A few weeks on from our first date we were on our way to Gareth Southgate airport to get a rocket to Sydney.

My mate Gary was physically uncomfortable when I told him her name and he said, “Robbie, you have switched off that filter haven’t you?” I said course I have, course I have.

And I had. I’d turned it off. For every single woman. Except her. 

I altered her voice too, the way the sound waves were processed by my ear. That was only a subtle change and she still sounds different from… from… but I mean, the more time goes by, the harder it is to remember how she… how the original Laurie… sounded.

We had such a good time in Australia. Indoor surfing. Indoor skydiving. There was even a day when it was cool enough for us to go outside.

And not long after we got back, she moved in with me. To the house I used to share with… And less than a year later, we got married.

No, not in an underwater dome like my first wedding. She was pretty adamantly against the idea. We got married in an airship. And remember, for all of my friends and family, she looked and sounded like an entirely different person. The only similarities were the name, height, build and the fact that she, just like Laurie number one, had a bit too much to drink and ended up knocking over the cake.

For that first week after the wedding, I was in such a state of bliss but also… I didn’t want to let her out of my sight. She was the woman I loved and the idea of anything happening to her it…. well, I couldn’t bear to…

“Don’t worry,” she said, “Nothing’s going to happen to me.”

And she was right. She was right.

We’ve been married four years now and life is wonderful.

And last night my friend Gary, he said to me, he said, “You’ve done so well Robbie. After everything you went through with Laurie. The first Laurie. It’s so good to see you happy again.”

And for a moment — not long, mind, no more than half a minute — I had no idea what he was talking about. 

The first Laurie? What does he mean the first Laurie?

Course it all came back to me straightaway. The first Laurie died. I was grieving her and I added a filter to make every woman look just like her. Then I met a woman who had the same name and, for her and her alone, I kept the filter on. And now we’re married. Wonderfully, happily married. But I can’t forget the first Laurie. I won’t forget the first Laurie.

The first Laurie was fun and upbeat and she loved ice skating and electro-classical musical and… and…

But, well, Laurie number two and I… we’ve… we’ve been together now far longer than I was with Laurie number one, so…

So I asked Gary if it was ok with him, if he wouldn’t mind… never mentioning the first Laurie ever again.

He smiled, slightly uncertain, and he said, “Whatever makes you happy, Robbie.”

[Doe Wilmann first released this piece on his short story podcast, Meaningless Problems.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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