By Laurie Bell
“Beth, you are sad?”
I didn’t look at it, though I knew it was hovering in the doorway. How it got up the stairs I had no idea. A clang rattled the wall all the way to where I slumped against the corner. It’d hit its head against the door frame. Silly robot. “Go away.”
“You are sad.”
No freaking kidding. I scrubbed my eyes with my palms and sniffed mucus back up my nose. “No, I’m not.”
My little hideaway in the roof was my special place. The hatch leading to the stairs was only just big enough for an adult to squeeze through—easy for me, and apparently for the house robot too. I’d have to find another place to be alone.
Heavy thuds approached along with the constant whirring sound that came from deep inside. “May I sit with you?”
I coughed out a laugh and sniffed harder, looking at it through blurry eyes. “You don’t sit, silly. You have no butt.”
LED lights flashed, and then dimmed. “I know.” It shuffled further forward on its three appendages, grinding metal as it lowered into a crouch by my side. Its body froze next to me.
I didn’t say anything. It felt … nice.
“I am a bit sad,” I offered, my voice claggy. I grunted to clear it but still sounded like I’d swallowed syrup. I was being such a baby. I shouldn’t cry over something so stupid. Hot tears filled my eyes. I poked my fingers into the corners to make it stop. “I don’t want her to go.”
“It is her function.”
I tugged my jacket over my fingers and clenched the material, tucking my legs up under my butt.
“She will come back.”
I glared at its dumb, grey metal head. The cylinder rotated so I could only see one LED eye. The other looked back down the hatch. “She’ll be different,” the words caught in my throat.
“All humans must attend the academy. Soldiers are to be trained so that they function effectively.”
“Shut up, just shut up!” I clamped my lips together after my explosion. I’d been so loud. My gaze fell on the open hatch. Had I been too loud? I curled inward and pulled my feet out from under me to wrap my arms around my legs.
“Are you cold?”
“No.” Why wouldn’t it leave me alone? “Go away.”
“I do not understand why you are sad.”
“Because Sanja’s my friend. I’ll miss her.”
Blue eyes dimmed again. “Am I friend?”
I laughed. My tummy ached as if I hadn’t had dinner. I wished I hadn’t eaten before I heard the news. I wanted to throw up now. I turned my head from staring at my knees and examined its still body. Its head had turned so I couldn’t see its face at all. Do robots have feelings? Why did I feel like I’d hurt it? “I guess you’re my only friend now.”
The scent of hot oil drifted to my nose as its head spun around. Its eyes bright enough to light up the whole room. “I am?”
“Sure.” Who else did I have to talk to?
It was silent. I sniffed again and pinched my nose. My butt was numb.
“Are you still sad?”
“What makes you happy?”
“I don’t know.” Sanja. Sanja made me happy.
“You smile and laugh when you dance.”
Music began to play, bright sounds coming from its speakers. Sanja loved this song. Last week we’d held hands and jumped around in circles to the beat, laughing ourselves silly before collapsing from exhaustion on the floor.
My lips twitched. Tears fell from my eyes again. I scrubbed at them feeling angry and opened my mouth to demand it to turn the music off when a crack and a thud beside me drew my gaze to its body. One leg shifted and raised off the ground to wave in my face.
“What are you doing?” It bobbed up and down, raising and lowering its torso and spun in a circle. As I watched I realized there was a rhythm to the jagged movements. Tears filled my eyes again. The appendage reached out and poked my arm then returned to waving in the air.
I let go of my legs and knelt up. The music grew louder. I giggled as it bounced its torso. Grabbing hold of its pincer in my left hand, I jiggled my body in time with the beat.
Its eyes flashed. I laughed as warmth filled my chest. It seems both my friends loved to dance.
I smiled, feeling I wasn’t as alone as I’d once thought. It didn’t change anything or solve my problem. But I felt better.
About Laurie Bell
Laurie Bell is a former teacher who has worked with children of all ages in the literary sphere. She is a science fiction aficionado who is regularly featured by publications such as the Antipodean Science Fiction E-Magazine.
Laurie maintains an active blog of science fiction, fantasy, and flash fiction pieces, and serves as a volunteer in her local theatre company. Discover more about Laurie Bell at https://solothefirst.wordpress.com/.
Her first young adult novel, The Butterfly Stone, is due in 2018 from Wyvern's Peak Publishing.
Heartache is Copyright © 2018, Laurie Bell. Published by Wyvern's Peak Publishing.