“You promised me you’d run,” I say to him as he takes my hands in his big android palms.
“Never been much for running, now have I?” he shakes his head. “Funny thing is, you believed me.”
I look up and at his mean face, his hollow eyes staring back at me. “Gotta be able to trust someone in this world. I thought that was you,” I say.
“You know it is me, and that’s why I’m still here. Sometimes I listen, but I know when not to. I may be artificial, but I know what’s right.”
A grin’s creeping across his face and I can’t help myself as one starts to come across mine. He’s right and I know it. He’s always been there for me; he’s always done the right thing by me, that weird loyalty towards me that he has because of my dad.
“I want you to have a chance at your own life. I know it’s hard for your kind, but there’ll be something out there,” I say as I watch his eyes balling up, the soft purple hue of the sunset in the background reflected in the artificial tears building in his eyes.
“After what your father did for me, this is my life. This is enough,” he says, lifting one of his big war-torn hands up, rubbing the tears away. “You’ve said all along you don’t need a protector, you don’t need someone watching your back, and I guess you’re probably right, but what choice do I have?”
I shake my head. “You’ve got all the choices you need, old man. You’re not stuck here. You’re not bound to me by anything other than this loyalty you’ve got for my dad. Jesus, yeah, he saved your life and lost his own, self-sacrifice, right? And you’ve thought since that day that because of what he did, you’ve got to make sure I make it through, try and give me some sort of protection, and I wouldn’t say you’re wrong, but you know, I think if my dad would have wanted anything, he would have wanted for you to have some sort of life, you know?”
“Watching over you is life enough.”
“Horse, you have to let it go. It’s time. I’ve got myself this far with a little help from you, time I went under my own steam now, 100 percent. You walk that way, I walk this way, and we don’t look back. You know you’ve done a job that would have made my father proud. I know that you’ve still got a few good years in you that you might find some peace in this life.”
“Cherry…” He looks down at the floor. There’s a silence as the dust turns quietly around us, the sun’s slowly setting, and the desert echoes a million stories just like ours.
“Look up at me, Horse. Look me in the eye and say to me you think you’ve not done enough. Say to me you still owe my father something and believe it.”
Just silence and the desert around us.
“I’ve never known you to be afraid of anything, Horse. Don’t be afraid of letting me go. I’ve got this.”
“I know you have, Cherry. I know you have.” He finally lets my hands go and that big smile of his crawls back across his old battered face and I know he knows. He’s done a good job, and it’s time we walk away.