This is a short story that was submitted in 2017 as an entry to the FortFamily Readers Event District (F.R.E.D.) holiday writing event. A little back story: it is along the theme used when writing my story “Sentenced to Life” in which the main character and many others are androids. It can be found at https://events.csuproductions.com/ by looking for the author Jeff P. Happy Holidays and enjoy the read!
“Just sign here.” The man who was driving the truck roughly said with a voice that sounded impatient. After a little bit of shuffling, the rear door opened and the man grabbed my arm. “These things creep me out.” He said as he shoved me toward the waiting man and woman. “All yours. Merry Christmas.” He barked and then slammed the door shut.
“Oh, he’s going to love him.” The woman exclaimed with a bounce in her voice. “He looks so real.” She continued as she messed with my hair and clothing. Not having a coat on in the winter night air I began to shiver, which pleased her even more. “Look, he even looks cold. They thought of everything.”
“I am cold Ma’am.” I weakly said as I put my hands in my pockets and attempted to calm the shivering, which was getting worse.
“You really feel the cold?” She asked with wonder. “I’m so sorry sweetie. Let’s get you inside.” She said, wrapping her arms around me protectively. “George, does he come with a manual or something?”
“It’s like a boy they said.” The man replied as he rushed and opened the door. “They said to take care of him like a real boy and if anything goes wrong, we just call the hotline and they send a technician.”
“Do you eat honey?” The woman asked as she brought me over to a fireplace to warm up.
“I do ma’am but, I’m not really hungry right now. Do you have something hot I can drink?” I asked, the shivering finally subsiding.
“Hot chocolate?” She asked with a huge smile. “Would that be okay?”
“That’d be awesome,” I replied with a smile which really seemed to make her happy. “Is this your son?” I ask looking at the pictures on the mantle.
“That’s our boy, his name is Jeremy.” The man said with what looked like a sad expression.
“Will I get to meet him?” I ask as I watch the man pick up the picture, look at it and with a sigh, set it back on the mantle. “You will but how you react to him will determine if you stay or not.” He said with a leer as he crossed the room and sat down. “Jeremy catches quite a bit of flak from other kids, and I don’t want him to have to deal with that at home too.”
“I don’t understand. Why would I give him…um…”
“Flak.” He reminded.
“Yeah, why would I?” I ask as the woman hurried in with my hot chocolate. “Oh, thank you so much.”
“Oh George, do we have to talk about this right now? He just got here.” The woman asked as she hugged me from behind protectively again.
“He’s going to meet him and if he isn’t prepared he may hurt Jeremy’s feelings and that’s NOT what I bought him for.” The man huffed.
I took a sip of my hot chocolate, which was really, really good by the way; as he picked up a framed picture off the table next to his chair and offered it to me. “What’s this?” I ask before looking at the picture, not needing an answer when I did. It was a picture of their son, who in this picture was trying to hide a huge series of scars down the left side of his face, from his temple to the corner of his mouth. “Oh.”
“Yeah.” The man sighed. “There was a car accident nine months ago. It looks a little better now but, kids are so friggin mean.”
“You’re afraid I’ll pick on him?” I ask with a sour taste in my mouth. “Mister, I’d never…”
“If you do, you’re out of here.” He said as his wife hugged me tighter.
“George, let’s not judge the little robot before we give him a chance.” She said, making me grin.
“Android.” I corrected as I sipped from my mug.
“There’s a difference?” she asked, making me laugh.
“Sure. A robot is all mechanical. I’m biologically a boy with a positronic brain and an almost unbreakable skeleton.”
“Okay, sweetie.” She replied as she mussed my hair. “I think everything will be fine George. This one seems really kind. Maybe Jeremy will like him.”
“I hope so.” He said as he stood up and took the picture back from me. “Well, we need to get the shopping done before Jeremy gets back from your sister’s in the morning. Are you able to entertain yourself here alone until we get back?”
“Sure, I’ll be fine,” I replied as the woman finally released me. “I can watch TV or something unless you’d like me to do something specific.”
“Oh no dear, nothing specific. We’ll be gone for a few hours and we don’t want you to get bored. We have to get our shopping done and since it’s Christmas Eve, we go over to my older sister’s house to wrap the rest of the gifts and have dinner, while Jeremy spends the night at my younger sister’s house. It’s been tradition ever since Jeremy started walking.” She said with a smile as she held my shoulders and looked me over once again. “Too bad we couldn’t wrap you.” She giggled.
“I’ll wear a bow if you want.” I smiled and then turned toward the man. “I’ll be fine, honestly.”
“Food in the fridge if you get hungry.” The man said as he put on his coat.
“Sweetie, what’s your name?” The woman asked as her husband held her coat open for her to slip into.
“I don’t have one yet,” I replied honestly. “You guys need to name me if you decide to keep me,” I said with a shrug. “I’m a M.A.R.C. series android so if you need to call me anything until you name me, you can use that. I wouldn’t want to stick with it though. None of us do.”
“Why not? Marc isn’t a bad name.” The woman questioned.
“It isn’t but to us, there is really only one Marc and he’s the original,” I said with a smile. “Actually, if Jeremy is my new owner, maybe he’ll come up with a new one for me.”
“We’ll see.” The man sighed. “Let’s get moving honey.”
I watched as they went out to their car. The man was so nice to his wife as he opened the door for her and made sure she got in without slipping. “He’s worried about his son,” I said to myself as I watched them pull out of the driveway. After they were gone, I went over to his chair with my hot chocolate and looked at the picture of their son again. “They bought me to be a friend to him,” I said looking at the kid’s marred face. “I’m his Christmas Present,” I said as I memorized the expression on the kid’s face. “A friend for Christmas, I can be that. Sure.” I said with a smile as I finished off my hot chocolate.
Bringing my cup into the kitchen, I decided to wash it and the few dishes that were sitting in the sink. Humming to myself, I didn’t hear the front door open and almost broke a glass as a voice broke the silence in the house.
“Mom?” He loudly called out as he came into the kitchen, freezing as I turned to face him. “Who are you?” He gasped as he pulled his scarf up to cover his face.
“I’m…um…well… Oh god.” I tried to respond knowing that any surprise the boy’s parents were hoping for was now ruined. “I’m a friend.”
“Really.” He replied sarcastically. “A friend of who’s?”
I didn’t know what to say. Do I try to lie to the kid and begin what I want to be a real friendship on a lie? Do I tell the kid the truth and ruin the surprise? How do I do one without someone getting hurt? “A friend of yours?” I replied, unintentionally sounding as if it was a question.
“Wait, what?” He shook his head as he continued to hide his face from his eyes down with his scarf. “I don’t even know your name, how could you be a friend of mine?” He snorted. “Besides, all my supposed ‘friends’ can’t even look at me anymore, no one can.
“Well,” I took a deep breath and leaned on the counter, “Honestly, your father bought me. I’m an android.” I paused, attempting to judge how he received my announcement. When he didn’t seem freaked I continued, “Your father is worried that your friends are all being…”
“Dicks.” He injected.
“Yeah. It bothers him. He loves you an awful lot you know.” I said as he sat down at the table and I joined him.
“But how do I know that you aren’t going to freak out once you see what happened to my face like everyone else?” He asked and I could see a combination of anger and deep hurt in his eyes.
My heart broke for him. How cruel these other kids were. I found myself wanting to fix the world for this boy that I didn’t even know yet and I didn’t even really know why. Is it my programming? Who cares? I don’t. This boy may be my new owner, my new family. I want him to like me, I think that comes from me, not from some clever coding; and that’s all that matters. “Because I don’t expect you to be any more than you are.” I replied simply.
“Why not?” He asked and his scarf drooped a bit, showing the bridge of his nose. “My own aunt can’t even look at me without crying anymore. I look like a freak!”
“Because I was brought here for you,” I replied, hoping the truth wouldn’t make him feel like I was cheapening his worth. “I have no history. I’m a blank.” I stated and when I saw confusion in his glare I continued, “More expensive models have a programmed history. They have a view of the world already and they have expectations. Pre-determined likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests. I don’t. My world started yesterday for me. I have no friends, no family, and no past. Just a programmed personality and nothing else. You may be my new owner. You may be the person who gives me my forever name and a life worth living, that’s a big deal to a blank. I don’t care what you look like. I just hope that you are a nice guy and that you’ll like me.”
The silence in the kitchen made me nervous. I hope what I said helped. I mean, why wouldn’t it? I was honest. I could see that he was thinking but, thinking what? Oh god, what if he thinks I said all of that just because I want a family? What if he gets mad because his father thought he had to buy him a friend? What if…
Then he broke my train of thought as he slowly took the scarf away from his face. “Well?”
I smiled, stood up and went to the refrigerator. “You hungry?”
“That’s all you have to say?” He asked now taking off his coat. “No, ‘Oh my god! How horrible! Ew!’ or anything?”
“Would that make you happy?” I asked with a giggle. Getting a good look at him close up, he was actually really cute. His eyes. Oh, my god, his eyes were like the color of ice. Gray with blue outer rings. I actually think I may have blushed cause my face felt hot. “Or I could run out the front door screaming in utter horror.” I got out with a giggle. He smiled.
We ate and talked for an hour or so before we ended out in the living room in front of the television. Knowing that his parents never rushed home on Christmas Eve, we watched a movie titled “It’s a Wonderful Life” which was my first movie ever and would always be my favorite from then on. Time went by and my new friend Jeremy turned out to be the sweetest person on the planet, in my opinion of course. Since I only knew like five people total at that point, I just felt better that he liked me and I liked him, which was awesome.
Later that evening, he fell asleep with his head in my lap as we watched the glittering lights on the tree. As he slept, I memorized everything I could see, hear, and feel. This was going to be okay after all. The door opened and his parents froze when they saw us. I put my finger to my lips and smiled as I shushed them.
“Everything went okay?” His father whispered as his mother cried tears of joy at the sight of her son and me on the couch together.
“Better than okay,” I whispered back, looking over at the face of the sleeping angel I had taken watch over. “My name is Chris.”
~ The End ~