Madness and Anger
Lilah floated in and out of consciousness in a sort of exhaustion-and-stress-induced delirium. Her body was curled tightly on her unmade bed, facing away from the door. Having at last quieted after hours of weeping, her clothes felt heavy and her Doc Marten oxfords were like two huge iron boats tied to her feet. Pushing one shoe off with the other, she heard them thud to the ground as if they had fallen into a large, empty steel drum. She trembled, partly from lack of sleep but mostly due to not having eaten in a very long while. The last few bites of cereal had to have been more than twenty-four hours before. A shuffling sound from the other side of her bedroom door danced around the room as Patrick Reed stood up in the hallway. She thought she could hear him press against the door, listening for her cries. When he heard none, he stepped away slowly down the hall.
Lilah scoffed. “How could he be in love with me? When have I ever shown him a hint of affection?”
“Why wouldn’t he be? You’re w-w-wonderful!” Rabbit crowed. He was seated on the edge of her bed. The dim blue light cast from her alarm clock reflected off of his face and the goggles strapped to his hat as he smiled on her.
“Am not,” she argued back. “All I do is hang around with robots. Deelie called it. It’s true. I didn’t even think to be interested in him. For all the time I spent with you, for all I know, maybe I was in love with you!”
He laughed at this as if tickled pink. “Oh, no, Miss Lilah, you weren’t in love with me! That’s silly! I’m just a robut, you know that. And you’re so young. You’ll meet a nice guy one day who you’ll care for as much as he cares for you. Just ‘cause that guy wasn’t Mista Reed doesn’t make you a bad person!”
“I know, I…” She looked away from his crooked smile in shame. “I wish I could have protected you. If I’d been more social, maybe I would have been closer to the stage, or even on it!”
“Well, now, Miss Delilah, that’s putting an awful lot on your shoulders,” The Spine’s baritone said softly. “You couldn't have known what would happen, or prevented it yourself. We had Mr. Reed and Lenny there and still this happened. If you’d been any different than you are, maybe you wouldn’t have taken such good care of us. For example, I know a certain robot who would be in terrible shape if it wasn’t for you. Besides, if you’d been closer,” he said, his brows arching, “perhaps you’d have been hurt much worse than you were.”
Lilah pouted. “If I’d been a better assistant like Dad wants me to be, I wouldn’t have been there at all.”
“Now,” The Spine scolded. “You are not Alex. Thankfully,” he added under his breath. “You are you.”
“Oh,” she said drawing a breath and raising her voice. “Oh, I know. I am reminded of that every day. Just being Delilah isn’t good enough for anyone. Dad wants me to be his clone, my brother wants me to be his role model, my mother wants me to be her little girl, my sister wants me to be her best friend and Pat wants me to be his girlfriend and for some reason I can’t be any of those things! I miss you guys,” she said, sobbing again. “I want to be with you…”
“No you don’t,” The Jon said softly. “Life is so wonderful, Lilah! You should keep on living it.”
“But it seems like every day, even before this, I kept having to explain myself to people--the people who supposedly love me. I’m always being asked to shoehorn myself into their idea of who I should be. I wish I could just go away.”
“So go to Kazooland!” the gold-faced robot chimed. He spread his arms out wide as if he were advertising the place.
She hiccupped a little and laughed softly. “Would if I could.”
“You can go today, if you like.” The Jon leaned a bit closer and whispered, “Don’t tell Alex. There’s an open portal behind the mirror in my room. But take care! It opens into a different location every time it’s used. Stick your head in first and make sure there’s a clean landing and there are friendly people around. You don’t want to pop out somewhere in the middle of Lotsasand with nothing but desert as far as the eye can see,” he said, grimacing.
“Ok…” Lilah blinked at him. “Then how do I get back?”
“Minister of Portals, Biscuit Town. Tell him I sent you.” The Jon winked and she laughed again, softly, sadly.
“I miss you guys so much,” she said, rubbing her eyes slowly. “You were the only ones who never wanted me to be someone other than who I was… my only friends… and you’re dead.”
When she opened her eyes again, she knew they were gone. They were never there. They were always there. She wasn’t sure. “Jon, Spine,” Lilah whispered as sleep finally overtook her. “Rabbit. I miss you. I’m sorry.”
Patrick Reed trudged down to the kitchen after he was certain he’d heard Lilah slough off her shoes and stop crying, at least, loudly. About three hours had passed since he deposited her on her bed and had tried one last time to reach out to her, but she pushed him away once more. Dejected, he entered the kitchen and sank into a chair at the table. Moments later, Alex joined him, taking two cans of Coors from the refrigerator and placing one before his assistant and cracking one open for himself. Reed nodded and followed suit.
“How is she?” Alex asked after taking a draught of beer.
“Dunno. Won’t talk to me.”
“Is it?” he asked, irritated.
“She usually runs her mouth a blue streak about… things,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “No matter. She’ll get over it.”
“Will she? Are you really that blind, Alex?”
He sat up straighter and frowned at Reed. “Pardon me?”
“Sir,” Reed said, playing with the beer can tab. “Your daughter is an incredibly emotional girl. She took their loss so hard she nearly starved herself to death and she’s cried for the last three or four hours straight. Get over it? Not likely.”
“Well,” Alex said resting the can on the table. “I think you don’t give her enough credit. She’s a Moreau-Walter. She knows what is expected of her.”
Reed laughed darkly. “Yeah. She knows, alright.”
“And just what are you insinuating, Mr. Reed?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all,” he said, brought the can to his lips and took a long pull. “Where’s Pete?”
Alex was in a bit of a snit and for a moment he debated whether he wanted to continue the conversation before answering. “With his mother and sister. They are on a congratulatory trip to the ice cream parlor.”
Alex slapped the table, causing his can to jump slightly. “Your tone is downright annoying, Reed! I wish you’d be straight with me!”
“Alex, I’m pissed off,” he admitted and brought the half-empty can down heavily. “You have no damned clue how much your stoicism hurts your family and because Lilah is up there right now inconsolably screaming with grief I sort of blame you for it.”
Alex narrowed his eyes. “I see. Because she doesn’t care for you one whit somehow my failing as a father is to blame?”
Reed rolled his head to the left and his eyes with it. “Now I…”
“Now you listen to me, Reed,” Alex said, leaned toward him and whispered urgently. “I never wanted any damned children. I never wanted a family. I was content to work and create and accomplish my goals without a care in the world but my parents insisted I marry. Then my addle-pated wife insisted we breed and I rather foolishly caved to her whim. She assured me (well before it was clear that her grip on sanity was tenuous at best) that I would have nothing to worry about. She would raise them and it wouldn’t matter if I wanted them or not, I would grow to love them and though I do, indeed, love them (or at least I think I do when my heart twists to see them suffer as they do) I will not, nay, cannot raise them! I am a genius scientist and a failure of a father and don’t you think for one moment that isn’t thrown in my face every single day of my life.”
When Alex had finished hissing angrily at Reed, the younger man blinked at him and sank a little lower in his seat.
“So if you’re going to be angry, be angry. But for the love of God don’t be angry with me.” Alex folded his hands over his Coors. “I have that quite covered, thank you very much.”