Chirp waited until the sun rose, then stood up clumsily and headed out to water the flowers. He made the rounds starting from the roof and working his way down. Some of the beds were getting weeds and he pulled them and tossed them outside the building carefully. He paid special attention to the purple flower growing in a car on the first floor. Ellie liked that flower, she said it was her favorite. A memory clicked on, of the first time they’d met. The wolves had never returned to the building. Another memory clicked on, their adventures in the ruins of the city, the building full of dead machines. Chirp clicked sadly and shut the memories off for a while. The sun shone brightly outside, and that cheered him enough to turn the memories back on. Ellie would be spending time with Darvin today. Chirp remembered a similar situation from a long time ago. A little girl who lived in the building he watched, her name was Dora. She married the boy who pulled her hair, and they moved away. She had given Chirp a name before leaving, but he couldn’t remember it now.
A bird landed nearby and Chirp froze. He knew it would fly away if he moved and didn’t want to scare it. It pecked around in the grass and fluttered a few times in the morning dew before flying away again. Chirp hoped more birds would be drawn to his gardens, people liked birds. Another memory started playing, of the time he’d been lost in the abandoned subway tunnels. There were flying things there too, but not birds. Based on Ellie’s reaction, people did not like them. Chirp paused and tried to identify the things in his memory again, but a lot of his memory was missing or corrupted. He brought his watering can back to the room, setting it where he’d calculated the highest water flow. Sometimes there was no water, and he had to walk to a nearby pond to get some. The pond had lilies in it, but lilies were incompatible with his gardens. He had shown Ellie the pond once, but she had lost a shoe near the shore and it took him a half hour to find it in the mud. His leg had locked in place and Ellie had to hit it with a rock so he could walk again. Chirp looked down at his leg. There was no more regular maintenance, he had gotten rusty over the decades. A memory of an angry man shouting and pointing a weapon at him resurfaced but he stopped it and moved on to the next project. Ellie had made him a broom once and he swept the doorway to the building. It would be dirty again the next day, but he didn’t mind. He looked up at the sun, and calculated how long it had been since she last came by. It was over a week since she came and showed him a picture of her and Darvin at a fair. They had raised a champion steer together, and the picture was them holding the blue ribbon. Chirp had congratulated her as best as he could with his voice box damaged. He stopped sweeping, carefully tucked the broom away, and headed back up to the room. The sun crept over the top of the building and Chirp made his way to the roof to survey the area. There was no traffic these days, a safer route around the ruins had become popular. He went back inside, sat in his corner in the little room, and powered off for the day.
Ellie finally visited a week later, bringing a gift for Chirp.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been visiting much, Chirp. There’s been a lot going on lately,” She put the bag she had brought for him down beside the purple flower, leaning down to smell it. She hadn’t been able to fit into the little room since a growth spurt seven years ago, “But I managed to save up a bit and get you some gardening tools. That way you can move flowers around like you want and it’ll be easier to weed.” Chirp inspected the tools and chirped happily. She smiled and walked around the floor, looking at his work, “I wish I could do this well in my own garden. The groundhogs got at my vegetables again.” Chirp thought for a second and went outside to look around in the brush. He knew of a local plant that deterred groundhogs, but he never needed it inside. He found one a little way from the back of the building and pointed it out to Ellie, who had followed him out of curiosity. He chirped at it enthusiastically, hoping she would understand. She bent down and looked at it, then back at him.
“This will help with the groundhogs?” Chirp nodded and she laughed, “Let’s get your tools and dig it up. I’ll take it home with me and try it out.” Chirp went back for the tools and Ellie followed him, talking about her new house and the garden. Her parents had given her a little starter home on their land, far enough away that she could be on her own. Darvin had helped her fix it up and start the garden, and she was debating asking him to move in, but didn’t want to be too forward. Chirp found something to put the plant in and dug it up carefully, handing it to Ellie. She took it and helped him fill in the hole again. They placed some debris over it, just in case someone came by, and headed back inside. Chirp hid the tools in his room and came back out to sit beside her on the wall. She sat quietly, enjoying the bit of sunlight on her back for a while. Chirp looked out at the floor; he could remember when the overgrown metal husks had carried people everywhere. His carefully tended gardens spread out even in the shaded parts. A hole had opened up when part of the roof collapsed last spring, and more light flowed in the center now. He thought about planting some flowering bushes there, to see if they would grow, and clicked thoughtfully. Ellie looked over at him and smiled a little sadly, she stood at eye level to the metal creature now. He was slightly more rusted and dented then when she met him, but otherwise she was looking at the same unchanging and ever loyal Chirp.
“I wish I could show you to Darvin… I could visit you more often if it didn’t have to be secret.” Chirp waved his hand dismissing the idea and chirped. “You must get lonely though.” Chirp stood up and gestured to the plants, trying to make his chirps clear. “Alright, alright, you have your beautiful gardens.” Ellie smiled and stood up. She looked out the side of the building and up at the sun, which was heading back down. “I hate to say it, but I should head back home. The new house is further away.” She held Chirp’s hand for a second then let it go. Chirp waved and she made her way out of the building and down the path. Chirp went to watch her from the roof, and then retired to his room to power off for the night.