The door to the dressing room opened slowly. The woman standing in the doorway was reflected perfectly by the mirror over the dressing table.
“Hello, Adam,” she said quietly to the robot packing up the detritus on the dressing table.
“Hello, Evie,” he replied, not turning around. “I see you got the tickets. Did you enjoy the show?”
“I did, thank you,” she shifted her folded parasol to her other hand and shifted nervously on her feet. “I recognized some of the songs we used to sing together.”
“And your fiancé? What did he think?”
“He’s fascinated by you.” She didn’t smile when she said this. “He’s always been interested in my father’s work but didn’t realize you were so well developed. I think he wants to learn more about you.”
“I’m publishing an autobiography this summer,” Adam snapped one of the many small cases closed and began packing the next one. “I’ll even sign it for him if he wants.”
“I’m not certain that will satisfy him.”
“He’ll have to get in line with the rest of the scientists who want to take me apart and see how I work. Even your father didn’t really understand, in the end. No matter how many times he tried to duplicate what happened with me.”
“He got the animals working, at least.”
Adam turned to her, the last jar of paint in his hand. “The animals were lovely to behold, all copper, brass and steel, but there was something that wasn’t quite right and he knew it. They moved and roared but they didn’t act like animals,” he turned back to his work. “Or maybe they did. Elephants are known to go on rampages when they’re separated from other elephants, maybe he finally got it right with the brass elephant but it was lonely.”
“You think my father’s creations felt something?” Evie shook her head. “They were just robots, Adam, nothing more. My father died in a lab accident, he was not killed by a marauding elephant, brass or otherwise.”
“He loved that elephant, your father did,” Adam told her. “He had a theory about why nothing worked as well as I did. When you left, he became obsessed by it.”
“Yes, he wrote me about his theory. I forgave him long ago for pouring all of his love into his automatons but don’t drag me into his delusions. You are a well-made machine, Adam, made by a brilliant man but you did not work because I loved you. You were a favorite toy for me, nothing more.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed the show, Evie.” Adam turned to her and his mobile metal lips turned up into a smile. “I imagine your fiancé is looking for you. You may tell him I’ll be happy to send him a copy of the autobiography when it’s printed.”
She took the dismissal for what it was and left. The yellow and brown stripes of her dress reminded him of a honeybee in flight, the parasol swinging behind her acting as a stinger. He wondered why he regretted watching her go, wondering again if the professor had programmed him with emotions or just a set of standard responses to stimuli.