A Human For a Heart II
Lilah was a loner. She often found people strange. They made her feel different, frustrated. Always.
Sure, there were problems in the world – viruses, droughts, but in cities like hers, most neighbourhoods were obsessed with the monsters. News headlines shouted! The angry grumbled! People were outraged, serious! She had no idea why? Word was, monsters appeared rarely.
One, so people said, took whatever form you feared. If a fisherman looked, it became a giant squid! A Goth, ZOINK, it became a diamond-hard gargoyle. If the police shot at it, the beast became mist. Very hard to fight.
Lilah thought that was a horrible lack of imagination!
“What if you feared disco music?” she wondered.” The monster would either dance, or appear as a giant Mp3 player.”
That would be easy to defeat. She lost her Mp3 player all the time.
Lilah gave a little laugh at her own thoughts – another reason people told her she was crazy. Truth to tell, though, she had never seen a monster and, never expected to.
Lilah walked through her town. It often felt more like a machine. Every house a tin factory, churning out tin people, who’s gears and cogs made them grunt, or say “How’s the weather!” and “Have a nice day!” If you were like them. And if you weren’t, well, life could be hard.
“Don’t you want something more?” Lilah asked, with a whisper, into the waterspout.
Lilah loved that spout! It connected to all the waterspouts, that connected to the plumbing that filled the whole apartment block. From it she could hear the voices inside via every sink, every laundry tap, every bath drain. And they could hear her.
It drove people mad!
“Stop complaining!” someone’s voice demanded.
“Shut up!” someone else barked.
“Don’t make me think!”
“Get out of my bath!”
They never asked questions;
“Is that a mermaid?”
“Are you a ghost?”
That would have been a good one. Lilah had no idea. She just wanted more.
Lilah walked down the street, in all its shades of grey.
“We’re one down, come play football!” one of Tyrone’s gang barked.
“That loser?” Tyrone called.
Some kids laughed because they thought it was funny, others because Tyrone was, like, the boss!
Lilah didn’t like sports, or computer games. The music that made her dance weaved, it was quirky and played by gypsies. She just couldn’t figure out why that made her a loser? Why kids had to be so mean?
“I…” she started, but nothing more came out.
“What a freak!” Tyrone taunted.
Instead, Lilah went and lay on the pond edge, her fingers dangling, drawing lazy circles around a goldfish. It was delicate and curious and wonderful. She wondered if, indeed, a mermaid could live in a place so small and far from the wilderness.
But, if it could…? If a mermaid did…
What would it sing?
What would it say?
If it had a tea party, what music would it play?
These were important questions!
“Check it out!” a voice trampled over Lilah’s thoughts.
There was a small kid pointing to his bubble visor, talking to her.
Bubble visors were the latest! They were plastic, like those on police helmets, curving around in front of your face. Cheap and simple and showing your favourite movies and music clips on its inside. Yet, if you focused, you could see through them. Everybody was getting one, it was like the world was a movie screen.
“Is that you, Gustavo?” Lilah asked.
Bubble visors made everybody look the same.
“What are you doing?” the little boy asked.
“Dreaming…” she replied. “You?”
“I’m watching Pow Pow Bang! Everybody is. What a great movie!”
“I’m not,” said Lilah.
“Then what will you talk about?” Gustavo wondered.
‘Whatever I want,” Lilah replied, dreamily.
“Oh, people won’t like that,” Gustavo frowned.
Walking home was kind of depressing for Lilah. Nobody said hello, nobody smiled – they were busy, working hard, getting by. Complaining. All wearing the grey light of a nothing sky on their visors.
Lilah saw a flower growing out of the footpath. It fascinated her! So small, white and yellow. So frail!
She formed a simple plan; watch it, wait. Soon, a bee would come along. Then, she could follow the bee to more flowers, and more bees, and more flowers! There would be a beehive. A tree. A breeze. What a beautiful plan!
STOMP, went Tyrone’s foot!
“Are you serious!” Lilah moaned, looking at a smelly old boot where her flower had been. Worse, a second-hand hovo boot, that didn’t even hovo anymore.
He just grinned a dumb grin through his bubble visor. Pow Pow Bang didn’t wait for anyone.
“At least get a phone implant!” he boomed.
“I hated them, too,” Lilah said.
“I know,” he laughed, walking away. “You can’t even be yesterday.”
There was something big in the back yard when Lilah got home.
“It’s for you,” Mum said. “For your birthday.”
The object had a sheet over it and a thrift shop tag that said $2. Lilah was confused.
“My birthday was two weeks ago…” she mumbled.
“Well, you know your uncle Bobo, always late,” Dad added, just home from the factory. “At least he thought of you.”
Both of them had their new bubble visors on. Dad was watching wrestling, by the sound of it. Lilah hated the way they never looked at each other.
Lilah observed the object. It must have been ten foot tall! She pulled the sheet off.
“A broken robot?”
“Be happy, dear,” Mum said, in that distant voice of someone always doing something other. Episode 853 of Travel Now was playing, as if just for her. She wasn’t missing it for anything.
“A robot? In our house? Why not just kill me…?” moaned her father.
“Typical Uncle Bobo,” thought Lilah.
The robot had no batteries. It stood still, lifeless, in her little red cart and she groaned and grunted, pulling it down the street.
SLAM, SLAM, SLAM!
Door after door shut furiously as she walked past them. This was far worse than being ignored! Nobody, as in n.o.b.o.d.y, liked Robots!
“It belongs in a factory!” they barked from their windows.
“Suburbs for people!” they yelled through letter slots.
“Rust why don’t ya!”
“Deport both of ya!”
For some reason, the meaner they were, the more Lilah liked her present. She dragged it down to the park, and stared. It looked lonely somehow. Sad. There was an eye cover missing. It had a weird chest plate, with a frame around it.
Lilah found a solar panel under the dust, and wiped it clean as the sun came out.
There was a rattle, a clunk, a few mice ran from gaps in the robot’s armpit.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hello,” it replied, looked at her, gave a sound almost like a sigh, then shut down again.
“Oh,” Lilah pouted.
The robot’s arm has a small compartment, with a jack, some jumper leads and a logbook in it. Lilah leaned against her new, old present, reading for hours.
The robot used to make cars in another country. Was used to break up riots. Was given to villagers to uncover land mines. Sold to pull dredges up and down a channel. Ploughed jagged fields on a rock plateau for decades. Then, one day, it just turned off.
The farmer had given it to the thrift shop Bobo bought miserly presents at.
Lilah read the number on the robot’s arm. 000.
“Is that your name?” she asked. “000 makes it sound like you’re a tummy ache.”
The numbers were made of the thinnest tin. Lilah got out her pocket knife and peeled off two of them.
“I love the number zero, it can be anything,” she insisted, cutting through the side of one, then the other.
The robot turned itself on and watched, curious.
Lilah bent the first number into a 3, twisted the other one into an S. Then stuck them back on the robot’s arm, either side of the one remaining zero.
“3. 0. S… Three Os,” she read aloud. “That’s like, still the same name… but different!”
The machine stared at its arm for the longest time.
“My name is Robot,” said Robot.
“And I’m Lilah, nice to meet you,” the little girl smiled and gave a curtsy. “How can I help?”
Robot was built to serve. It wasn’t ready for that.
‘I. Am. Cold,” it said, and turned itself off again.
The city was crowded, but sometimes Lilah felt very alone. She pulled Robot along in her cart, as door after door shut, and insults, old tennis rackets and food cans flew. “You’d think Robot was one of those nasty monsters,” she thought.
Lilah just didn’t get it – people needed robots! Why was everybody so heartless?
“It’s show-and-tell at school tomorrow. It will be different there,” she decided. “Kids love robots!”
“What an idiot,” sniggered Tyrone.
“Is that piece of junk for real!?” whispered Julie Scree.
Lilah stood in the show-and-tell line with Robot. In front of her was Tommy Tuckers with a pig on a lead, Lucy Tibbits with a small dog, Sergio Piero had some sort of propeller hat. Gustavo was in a deep-sea diver’s suit holding a fish bowl with seahorses.
Lilah was nervous. She had tried everything to activate Robot – poetry readings, tummy rubs, pleading, told it unicorn stories… What more could anyone do?
Finally, it was her turn to speak. The class sniggered. She watched them, bored, picking their noses, schooling plugs in their left ears, learning math while talking humanities. She kicked Robot one more time. Nothing.
“It tells jokes,” she lied, in a soft voice, staring at her shoes. “And is a great dancer…”
But kids always know when another kid is lying.
“That thing’s not even on!” scoffed Sergio Piero.
“Haha! Lilah’s got a prehistoric, broken robot!” they all laughed and teased through their bubble visors. Zam, Whack, Biff was playing. They were all watching.
“Useless!” they called.
“Pathetic!” they goaded.
Just like they did that time she adopted a three-legged dog. Or when she said she saw fairies behind the old blackwood. Her classmates made her just want to run and run and hide.
Lilah hurried down the street dragging Robot, the cart, and little-girl-tears behind her. Even then, she imagined wonderful things;
What if each tear grew into a vine, with Japanese flowers?
What if the tears burnt small holes in the pavement, so other dreamers could follow?
What if a boy came across one, and went on a quest to find its owner?
But there were no Japanese flowers, or dreamers, or boys with imagination. Just a scrap metal yard, down behind the creek, full of rusted cars, broken washing machines, half-sunken dead robots, and soft, yellow long-grass.
“None of the other kids ever come here,” Lilah insisted. “It hasn’t been used for years, nobody will recycle you.”
Finally, she stopped and looked at her unmoving birthday present.
“I feel cold, too,” she said, and curled up inside its chest plate.
It was warm in there.
The framing kept the breeze away.
Lilah fell asleep and dreamed of being tall enough to eat fruit from the old overgrown orchid.
It was a beautiful dream, simple. Her arms would stretch and stretch and pluck the softest fruit. Pick the very best apples, pears, and oranges…
Lilah woke with a start. The sun was setting. She sat up in Robot’s chest plate, confused, getting her bearings. Surrounded by… apples?
“I… What…!?” Gah! It’s late!” she stressed.
Fruit tumbled off Lilah as she hurriedly dusted herself off and started to leave.
“Don’t. Go. I’ll. Be. Cold. Again,” said Robot.
Lilah and Robot started hanging out after that. She would cling to the back of its head, looking up close at the awkward, wobbly dance of butterflies. Catch the shifting sun while having he most lazy, stupid conversations.
“I know I’m a bit of a loner, but I wish there were two of me,” she would dream aloud. “Each morning we could rock, scissors, paper to see who goes to school, and who gets to laze around the creek all day. Imagine that! Between the three of us we could trap rainbows.”
“Four… I. Could. Probably. Built. Another. One. Of Me,” Robot would tell her.
“Do you use your eyes, or are they just to make you look more human? Could we put goldfish in them?” Lilah would ask.
“I. Might. Get. A. Two. Second. Memory,” Robot would tell her.
One day, lying in the long grass, drawing doodles in Robot’s tin notebook, Lilah simply asked; “Why did you stop ploughing fields? They could have scrapped you.”
“I. Wanted. Something. More…” it told her.
The other kids just didn’t get it. Lilah sat on Robot’s shoulders in the playground to be above their hand-waving and anger.
“It has to DO something!” they insisted from behind their bubble visors.
“Teach it to fight dinosaurs!”
“Or pick on bullies!”
“Do your homework for you!”
It was heartbreaking. Often spiteful. They were so predictable.
“We talk about stuff…” Lilah told them.
“Leave her alone!” said Gustavo. Then hid. Braveness wasn’t his specialty.
Lilah watched him in his deep-sea diving suit. He wore it nearly every day now. She just knew he wanted more… but probably didn’t know how to find it.
That so many of them probably wanted more, and would look for it, if they let themselves.
“USE IT FOR PARTS!” Tyrone shouted.
“Now, don’t…” Lilah started.
“Parts!” boomed the kids.
There was an ad break on during their movie, they were feeling particularly nasty.
“Please, could you just-“
“PARTS! PARTS! PARTS!”
Some of them even started graffitiing the word on Robot’s legs.
“PARTS! PARTS! PARTS!” their voices echoed.
“Robot, can you take us away?” Lilah whispered, and stood in the frame of her friend’s chest plate as it took long, fast robot strides down the street, school kids chasing, shouting, laughing, shaking their fists behind them. They gave up pretty quick, though. The ads were over in their bubble visors.
Robot lay in the long grass, Lilah curled up in its chest plate, warm again, almost purring. She drifted to sleep, and dreamed and dreamed of the most wondrous things!
Of grasshoppers that blew kisses.
Of small, intricate cog-and-gear objects in glass bottles that served no purpose.
Of Robot standing under the city, in a nexus of storm tunnels, playing the violin. Of how its soothing sound drifted up through every drain mouth, and filled every letterbox.
She dreamed of fixing some of Robot’s inner contraptions – like its paranormal binoculars that poked out of a head compartment. Or its translation megaphone, that could help them speak to owls and fireflies.
Of learning about mermaid culture, to better talk to them.
Lilah dreamed of hugging robots, to say thank you for their friendship. For making her less lonely.
And of robots that hugged her back…
In this particular dream, Robot shed an oil tear, then reached out, arms extending long enough to pluck apples from a tree. They wrapped around her. And hugged. Hugged with so much love, so much thanks, they hurt her ribs a bit.
“Ow!” she said. “Hang on… I’m not dreaming!”
“WAHHHHHHH!” squealed Gustavo, rapping himself around a light pole.
Lilah sat in her friend’s chest plate, rolling her eyes.
“Just let Robot hug you!” she pleaded.
“Nonono…!” he squawked. “You’ve already been eaten by it!”
“Gustavo, please!” she shook with frustration.
“Get it to fight monsters!” Gustavo wailed. “The city’s on high alert! That’s what robots are built for!”
It was true, Lilah had seen more and more news reports of monsters, how the wet season seemed to be bringing them out. She was terrified. What if one broke her amazing robot?
All the more reason this was important!
“Gustavo, it’s just a hug! You have to! If I can’t convince you, how will I convince anyone?” she began to cry.
Gustavo eyed the robot. He watched Lilah’s terrible tears, full of snot and disappointment.
“Stupid news feeds…” she mumbled, in defeat. “Info tablets… Always telling you robots will hurt you… Well, they also say everything causes cancer!”
Gustavo lowered his head in shame. When had a robot actually done him harm? Or anyone in his neighbourhood? Releasing the pole, he scrunched his eyes shut, blurted “Make it quick!”… and let Robot hug him.
“Wow, this actually feels pretty good,” he told Lilah.
Lilah smiled, wiping away the tears.
“Of course,” she said, a little embarrassed. “Now will you please take that stupid bubble visor off!”
“Truth to tell I turned it off two days ago,” Gustavo admitted. “It was stopping me thinking.”
“Then throw it out!” Lilah shouted.
“NO way! If I do that, what will everybody think of me?”
Hugging Tyrone was both harder and easier.
Robot simply walked up and put its arms around him. Tyrone resisted, though, kicking and thrashing! Some of his gang bashed and hit the back of Robot. Others ran screaming.
Robot kept hugging.
Finally, Tyrone ran out of energy. He gave in. Robot even released a warming little sigh as it hugged him. Tyrone instantly felt warm, safe, like a child in its parents arms coming back from a late movie. Until that moment he had never realised how much energy it took him to be miserable.
It was a good hug, nice and long.
“My. Gift. To. You,” Robot said.
“What for?” grunted Tyrone. “What’s the payoff?”
“Nothing,” Robot said. “Everything.”
“Okay, okay,” Tyrone rolled his eyes. And went all in… and hugged it back.
And felt wonderful!
“It’s confusing,” he told his gang, when Robot finally let go.
“I want a turn!” Julie Scree stepped forward.
“Me too!” bounced Sergio Piero.
“O.K. But. First. Take. Off. That. Bubble. Visor,” said Robot.
One-by-one all the kids lined up for a hug, a tickle or belly rub. Some sobbed, some smiled, others just found they suddenly felt glad.
It felt weird the way they were all, without their bubble visors, having different reactions.
Tyrone’s group laughed and played and told fascinating stories and imagined what they might do, for real, for fun, if they had their own robots.
Lilah smiled. There were always colours in the schoolyard, but now they seemed everywhere! Brighter, somehow! She stayed curled up inside Robot, as if she were its heart, as if that was how it knew what her dreams were, how to make them real.
Gustavo climbed onto its shoulder and sat there, looking splendid in his deep-sea diver’s suit.
“This is something special,” he said, to no one.
“Can you please take us for a ride, Robot,” Lilah asked. “For Gustavo?”
“Of. Course,” it answered.
Robot pressed a button within itself and squeaky wheels popped out from its feet. It skated around the schoolyard, then started down the street, weaving in and out of anything and everything – kids, poles, dogs, trees.
“Close your eyes!” Lilah called.
“Why?” Gustavo called back.
Robot put a robot finger in front of each of Gustavo’s eyes.
Suddenly, without sight to distract him, Gustavo could feel the sway of motion just for motion’s sake. Like snow drifted, like waves rolled. Like kids used to cruise on their skateboards without going anywhere at all.
Suddenly, he heard everyday sounds approach and fade. The noise of fruit market barkers. Ghetto blasters by the basketball courts – players shuffling, smack-talking, the ball being bounced, ring rattling. He heard buses taking off, becoming traffic, little girls whining for ice-cream. Factory workers complaining about their bosses. Cheeky kids using their parent’s hovo disks to play on fire escapes. Teenaged bands practicing in garages.
Other robots clicking to each other while they washed cars and did laundry.
When Gustavo was with Robot and Lilah it seemed so simple to find something more. All he had to do was unplug from the grid. All he had to do was find motion.
In the distance, he heard a boom, boom, boom, but was too busy having fun to care.
They made it back to the schoolyard.
“Wowie! That was the BEST!” Gustavo cheered. “It was like… WOWIE!
“Give me a go,” said Tyrone.
“No, me first!” pleaded Julie Scree.
Everybody followed Robot out into the street, where it started giving kids rides, telling stories and tickling workers. Lilah didn’t think she could be this happy! It felt like victory!
“Hey, you can’t do that!” grumbled a foreman. “A monster’s been seen in the area. We’re in lockdown.”
Robot hugged him.
“Awww…” said the foreman.
This was FUN! Suddenly, he didn’t care that he was meant to be telling everybody a monster had been seen. Suddenly, he didn’t care about wars and politics and his mortgage and ghouls and viruses.
All he cared about was dancing!
“I don’t believe in monsters!” he sang and jigged.
“Somebody play some music,” cheered Gustavo.
Robot was built for work, not music, but Lilah found a way around that.
“Everybody think of your own song, and dance to it!” she shouted, totally amazed she now had such courage.
Rock, trance, hip hop, dubstep, r&b, cartoon themes – sure enough, all the kids, and Robot, put their own song in their head, and the footpath filled with laughter and dancing to silence.
“You’re a nut!” cheered Julie Scree.
Lilah just smiled. This time, it was a compliment.
Then, there was the loud BOOM of a falling car landing…
“Monster!” wailed Gustavo, running in little circles.
The smell of smoke filled the air. Lilah turned to see some of the adults putting Robot on a trolley.
“What are you doing!?” she shouted, running after them.
“Mind yourself, Lilah. It’s my robot anyway,” the man told her.
He had an ugly black moustache, really bad comb-over, and horrible, cheap tan leather jacket.
“The government announced each neighbourhood has to fight their own monsters. They can’t be bothered.”
“It’s too expensive,” agreed a neighbour.
“They’re not that bad,” said another.
“I… We…? But…” said Lilah.
But Uncle Bobo just wheeled Robot away, to a waiting pile of used service robots, blenders and vacuum cleaners he got from his garage.
“Robot…?” said Lilah.
“Lilah…” said Robot.
Gustavo stood beside her, the sound of fighting in the distance.
“This is not the good time I imagined,” he said, to nobody.
Lilah sat under the small, barred garage window as night fell, listening to Mum and Dad and Uncle Bobo and several others make plans to be heroes. They wanted War! The city had never seen a monster, but they were sick of them!
Lilah held one of Robot’s finger through the bars.
“We should have run away,” she told it.
“I. Am. Sorry,” Robot replied. “I. Am built. To. Take. Orders.”
“No, I’m sorry,” Lilah told it. “Uncle Bobo just wants to make a name for himself. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing!”
A tear rolled down her cheek. But she stopped it.
“I have a plan…” she added.
A day later, Lilah heard a BOOM and a CRASH! And knew a monster was coming. She’d already worded-up the other kids of the neighbourhood.
“Mum, Dad, I gotta go!” she yelled, running out the front door.
They didn’t hear or care. They were watching Fing Fang Foom on their bubble helmets.
“It’s over here!” Julie Scree called, from her rooftop.
“Perfect, just like we planned,” thought Lilah, as she ran towards her. She could hear steal breaking, cars being thrown, she saw bits of tank landing. Poor Robot! Lilah saw it, a block away, being pushed by Uncle Bobo into a gang of hot-wired toasters, buffing machines and metal detectors.
She ran harder.
“I want more than this…” she muttered, running harder. “I want more, I want more, I want more…”
Monsters, fighting, it was all so predicable!
“This way! This way!” she heard Gustavo and Tyrone yelling at the monster.
The sky was now dark with smoke and ruin. Lilah slid through Uncle Bobo’s feet just as he yelled; “ATTACK!” as if appliances and second hand robots could win anything.
Robot took off, as it was instructed, but scooped up Lilah along the way, skating down the street towards the monster.
“This is going to be epic!” said Gustavo.
Lilah finally got a good look at the monster. It was big, maybe 20ft tall, and ugly. Made of mean looks, muscle and glue. Her and Robot wove in and out of abandoned cars and wreckage, racing towards it.
“I can’t look!” said Tyrone.
“Me neither!” said Gustavo.
Uncle Bobo just grinned and made plans to go on television.
Robot came to a stop behind the monster. It was huge compared to them. The fact she and Robot had to fight it did her head in! She wasn’t scared anymore. She was furious! Lilah hated fighting!
“Okay, maybe I’m a little frightened,” she admitted to no-one.
Robot extended its arm, higher and higher, until it tapped on the monsters back.
The monster turned, roaring the stinkiest monster breath, that smelled like roachkill and peanuts.
“Phew!” said Lilah.
Then, Robot pulled the monster down to their height and hugged it.
“What’s going on!?” squawked Gustavo! He had tripped in all the jerry-rigged appliances and couldn’t see anything.
“The monster’s… hugging it back?” gasped Tyrone.
“Fire! Attack! Call the government! Drop bombs!” Uncle Bobo shouted, clearly losing his moment.
Dad and Mum arrived just in time for Dad to kick Bobo square up the bum. It was a good kick, sending him into the air, knocking all the hair off his comb-over.
“Hey, it’s not all about you! My daughter’s in there!” Dad shouted.
He had taken off his bubble visor to do it, and everything.
They watched as the monster wiped away a tear. Robot kept its hands on the monster’s shoulder. Said something more, something gentle.
“I don’t get it,” said Uncle Bobo.
Lilah and Robot waved good-bye to the monster and strolled back to everybody.
“Is it safe?” her mother asked.
“Mum, of course,” Lilah smiled.
“Are you okay?” Dad worried.
“A bit embarrassed,” Lilah admitted. “I judged it before I’d met it. Like people did Robot. The monster was just confused. Everybody shouting and attacking and hating it.”
“Oh,” said Dad.
“Erp,” gulped Mum.
Lilah climbed out from Robot’s chest plate, onto its head, to better watch the monster go. It pulled out a blooming pink dogwood tree, smelled the flowers and sighed, before turning to walk back up the river.
“So that’s where the bees are…” she mumbled to no-one.
Once the monster had gone, Lilah admired the view. The small birds cleaning themselves on a wire, a letterbox made of tin shaped to look like Ned Kelly, an ant on a leaf caught in the wind, that for the briefest moment, looked like an insect flying carpet.
She loved small, fascinating things, always.
“Lilah…” Dad said.
Suddenly, Lilah was super aware the danger gone, that her father about to tell her off in front of everyone. Like that, she felt small again, ready to be laughed at, as awkward as always. She just wasn’t a limelight person.
“Yes, Dad…?” she said, nervously.
“That was WONDERFUL!” he told her.
Some of the neighbourhood agreed. Some didn’t. Some were annoyed as anything that there was no fighting!
“Will you and your robot please dance with me?” Dad asked, arm out, and Robot moved its robot bum left and right and back again.
“WOWIE!” cried Gustavo, throwing off his bubble visor, as the kids and Lilah and her robot danced without music, to the sound of cheers and laughter.
Mum was reluctant to give up her cooking show, but put her bubble visor down and joined in. So did others.
“You know, you look… amazing… without your bubble visor on,” Dad told her.
Someone even went into their house and played real music on an old record player. Clunk, boom, rattle! Robot’s dancing made the vinyl skip and jump a lot, but that just made it more fun and imperfect!
“Party at my place!” Tyrone’s father called, and everybody followed. Only Gustavo stayed where he was, in his deep-sea diver’s suit, as always, watching Lilah and Robot head in the other direction.
Lilah and Robot pushed through the long grass to a wide part of the creek, where Robot floated on its back, Lilah curled inside it. Sometimes she let her fingers dangle in the water, sometimes she watched the clouds above them, as if they were a language, full of stories.
Lilah decided she had nothing against parties. She had nothing against the people who lived around her. She was happy that they were happy. She was just a loner.
As if it could read her thoughts, Robot said; “Thank. You. Lilah. I. Don’t. Feel. So. Cold. Any. More.”
Lilah smiled, and corrected her own thoughts.
She was a loner… sorta.