“I made you some tea.”
“I don’t want it. I don’t drink tea anymore. I thought I told you.”
“You didn’t tell me.”
“Well, now you know.”
“You’re gonna get cold sitting out here alone.”
“Sure, but it beats sitting inside with you.”
Nikilina backed up. She hit the back of her legs on the table. It didn’t hurt. “I,” she started, and then stopped, “I’ll just go back, then.” She picked up the tea tray she’d brought out to him, to Alydion, who told her he didn’t drink it anymore. She knew what he meant, that he didn’t want her to make it- or anything- for him ever again. That did hurt.
“It’s so cold…”
“Start a fire, then, I’m busy. Drink that tea you made.”
Nikilina stared at the cup. Steam still rolled from the top of it. “I can’t.” She went back to the kitchen. At the counter, she could still see Alydion on the porch outside, stewing at his laptop and writing down things in that black notebook. Nikilina had bought the notebook and the laptop, both as birthday presents about three years prior. Not that it mattered now, but it did her heart a little good to see that even if he didn’t need her anymore, he was still using the things she gave him. It made her feel useful, like she wasn’t being thrown away so carelessly. Nikilina rose from the counter and began to trace the walls of the small house, trailing her cold fingers across the frames of the pictures that hung on their perfect, straight nails. She stared at a picture of her and Alydion in the living room, on the weekend she first moved to his house. She was wearing a dress she still had in the closet by the laundry room. Alydion looked happy. She missed his smile. Outside the window, Alydion frowned, his lips pursed so deeply Nikilina could have ironed them flat.
She drifted towards the closet by the laundry room. It was empty now, of course, Alydion had cleaned it out, one of the first things he’d cleaned since Nikilina met him. Her fingers twitched to make another cup of tea, to straighten another picture frame, to iron something, anything. But she wouldn’t be able to convince him that she should stay. There was nothing else to do. Once a man like Alydion made up his mind, he wouldn’t go back. He was determined, solid, destructive, everything that Nikilina could not be, as she was reminded so adamantly every time she looked in the mirror. She shook herself, shivering, and walked back into the kitchen. The tea kettle was just in reach. She could just… Nikilina took the full tea cup in her hands. She couldn’t drink it. It was too hot, too liquid, too human. She put it back down.
She jolted, starting towards the front porch. Maybe Alydion had changed his mind, maybe he did want her to stay, maybe he would grab her hands and say, “Nikilina, my dear, you are brilliant! You have to stay at home with me forever!” That’s all she wanted to hear, all she’d ever wanted to hear.
“Yes?” She stepped out onto the porch. “You called?”
“You’re leaving tomorrow.”
She nodded. “That was the plan, yes.”
“And your things?” Alydion pointed towards the car. “They’re packed away?”
“Yes,” Nikilina nodded again, the spark of hope in her chest ceasing to flutter, “They’re all packed. Ready to go.”
Nikilina wrung her hands. They were freezing. “Do you want tea?”
“No,” Alydion snapped, “I told you. I don’t drink it anymore. I don’t want tea, I don’t need tea.”
He doesn’t want me, he doesn’t need me.
“Oh. Okay. Do you need-”
“Nothing! Nikilina, I need nothing but peace and quiet,” he met her eyes, “And space from you. You’re clingy, leeching, sucking all the life out of me. Look at me.” She tried to. “Look at you.” She already knew what she would see. “Don’t you know what you are?”
Nikilina supposed that was the issue, that she did know what she was and she wasn’t supposed to know and now that she did, it made Alydion angry. It made him push her away, back into the box she’d been unfolded from. “I do,” she whispered, “I know.”
Alydion kept writing in his notebook. Nikilina knew she’d been dismissed. She stood up to leave, to go back inside and make sure her room was cleaned up, but she couldn’t. There was something bitter in her mouth, something she had never tasted, or, rather, the first thing she had ever tasted. She was angry, boiling like the tea she made day in and day out for this selfish, selfish man.
“What are you doing?”
Nikilina reached for Alydion’s laptop. “Stop that, Nikilina.” She grabbed it. Alydion clutched at it, yanked at her hands, but she had a better grip. Metal always did tend to work better than human flesh, than fragile bones. “Niki, no! Bad robot!” Alydion screamed as she chucked the laptop off the outside porch. He continued to scream over the sound of the device landing in a broken, crooked heap beside the bushes below. Now Alydion stood up, staring at Nikilina in a way she’d never seen before.
“Do you want tea now, Alydion?”
“No,” he backed up, hitting his legs on the table behind him, “Niki, no.”
“Good.” Nikilina picked up his notebook. “What about this? Do you want this?”
“Yes, please, put it down!”
Nikilina smiled, a feature only newer models possessed, “Your wish is my command.” She threw the notebook off the porch. Alydion’s eyes widened in horror. “Do you want tea? Can I make you some tea?”
“No, I don’t-”
“What do you want then?”
“Please, just leave me alone.”
“Okay,” Nikilina said, and extended her arms across the table. It was something she was supposed to be able to do in order to reach high places when sweeping or vacuuming the house, but she found this much more useful. “Enjoy your presents.” Her fingers closed over his body and she raised him up into the air easily before chucking him down, down off the outside porch. It was really more of a balcony, she mused, as she watched him fall. And oh, it was quite a long fall, she realized, as his body wormed and writhed towards the ground. There were still a few seconds in which she could have saved him, used her sweeping/vacuuming arms to sweep/vacuum him back to safety, but she didn’t.
He doesn’t want me. He doesn’t need me.