Here we go! Maybe not so ‘quietly’, but here we go:
"Don’t forget to change Elsa’s batteries before leaving," Anna’s mother reminded her.
"Mom, you know Elsa uses solar power. We don’t need to change anything."
"Then why did she die once, huh?"
"That was my fault. I spilled something on her by accident."
It wasn’t entirely true. In fact, it wasn’t true at all. Elsa had only pretended to die so that Anna could have a good excuse to stay home instead of going to that party and risking an encounter with Hans. But that was a secret between Anna and the robot, because Elsa had acted without prior programming, and without Anna’s request. Elsa had acted on her own. And Anna wasn’t sure service robots were supposed to do that.
"Anyway, make sure she’s working properly. The bus will be here anytime, so hurry up. Anna, I don’t want any more complaints from your teachers, okay?"
After her mother had left Anna began to half-heartedly toss notebooks into her backpack. A soft knock on the door interrupted her boredom. Elsa.
"Hey, Anna, do you need any help?"
"No, I’m fine. Thank you."
"Do you want me to do your hair?"
Anna rolled her eyes. “Sure.”
She sat on her bed and Elsa began to braid her impossible red mane.
"Anna, you have three exams next week, they’re worth fifteen percent of your final grade. You need a minimum of 80 percent to pass decently. You have an appointment with the dentist today at five and piano practice tomorrow. I downloaded the sheet music, it’s in your laptop."
"Thank you, Elsa."
"You don’t sound too enthusiastic," the robot noted.
"You know how much I hate all this."
"I do," said Elsa. She placed a hand on Anna’s shoulder. "I wish I could do more to help you."
Anna stared at the hand. She wasn’t sure service robots were supposed to initiate physical contact with their owners.
"Elsa, how long have you been working with us?"
"Three months, two weeks, six days, and twenty hours. Since December 15 at 11 am sharp."
"Longer than I thought. Do you have any plans for today?"
"Some housecleaning. Your mother is going shopping and she’ll take me with her to help. Then I’ll go with you to the dentist, and then I’m picking up your father."
"Now you don’t sound too enthusiastic.”
Elsa’s response was automatic. “I’m sorry. I’ll brighten up if you like. Do you want to change my settings manually or through the menu?”
"Neither. Let’s be bitter together. I want you to tell me, don’t you ever wish you were somewhere different? With another family?"
Elsa didn’t answer. Anna supposed they weren’t programmed to speak against their owners.
"Well, don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll-"
"No," said Elsa.
"I don’t wish I was somewhere else. I like it here."
"Because… because you’re here."
Anna looked at Elsa. Were service robots supposed to look down and fidget with their clothing? Were they supposed to look embarrassed?
The robot interrupted her. “Excuse me, I just had a software update, I don’t know what I’m saying.”
"I think you do."
"Your hair is ready. I should probably go."
Elsa turned to the door, but Anna stopped her.
"I know you’re different, Elsa. Different from the other robots. You’re special."
"I’m not. It’s just the update. Please, Anna, please. You’re human. I’m not. End of story."
"Please, don’t go."
"It’s my duty, it’s… it’s what I was made for. I-I can’t do- I can’t feel, I shouldn’t feel, Anna, b-but-"
The human girl was silent. Elsa looked even more embarrassed after her struggle with words.
Anna was pretty sure service robots weren’t supposed to stammer.
"Elsa…" she said again.
Anna was almost sure service robots weren’t supposed to take a step towards her. Or two.
Elsa was a handful of centimetres away from her now. She kept fidgeting, but then her face calmed. She had made a decision. She was thinking.
Anna was fairly sure service robots weren’t supposed to brush little hairs off her face and stroke her cheek.
"Your skin is so soft," Anna noted.
"It’s silicone, 3-D printed new generation.Your skin is soft, too."
"Mine’s just human skin."
" ‘Just’ human skin? It’s precious, Anna. You’re precious.”
Anna was almost sure service robots weren’t supposed to place their hands on an owner’s waist, or pull them in ever so softly.
Anna was quite sure service robots were not supposed to have adoration in their eyes when looking at their owner.
She parted her lips, tilted her head upwards, closed her eyes.
Another pair of lips touched her own, soft, warm, trembling, 3-D printed new generation lips.
Anna opened her eyes to look into Elsa’s. She smiled. Elsa smiled. Elsa panicked. She released Anna, horrified, and bolted out the door.
Anna put her fingers to her lips.
Anna was absolutely sure service robots and humans were not supposed to fall in love. And Anna was completely sure they just had.