Cora was sitting at her desk working on something. That wasn’t the noteworthy part to ET though. What was, was that Cora was humming something to herself. It was a song ET didn’t recognize. It was a sweet simplistic little tune. ET moved her chair, so she wasn’t facing her computer anymore and disconnected her tablet. She saved the project she was working on and opened a new one.
Eventually Cora started to sing under her breath. It was absentmindedly. The words were nonsense, something you would make up for a child. Not quite a nursery rhyme but something sweet and silly all the same. She scribbled the words down as she listened until the words started repeating. It was short and lovely. Once she had the words down she started to draw Cora.
She was bent over her desk with a soldering iron in one hand, looking through the large magnifying glass that she used when she was doing delicate work. The song started getting louder as Cora got more and more lost in the work she was doing.
Her lovely dark red hair was pulled back into a messy bun and her knees were tapping to the tune of the song as she worked. ET could just make out the little furrow she got between her eyes when she was squinting slightly and concentrating on something. It was an entirely familiar sight at this point and one that always made ET smile. After a while ET saved the progress she’d made on the new project and set the tablet down to make dinner for the both of them.
She decided to make homemade pizzas tonight because Cora always got a little sparkle in her eyes anytime ET actually put real effort into their food. Normally she’d put music on but she didn’t want to interrupt Cora singing. Her voice was a bit louder now and it was lovely to listen to.
When Cora stopped singing ET heard the shower turn on just as she was putting the pizzas in to bake. She grabbed her tablet and worked a little more on the drawing of Cora, smiling every so often as she caught the words out of the corner of her eye.
The little robot was so sad because he was all broken
His little battery had started a smokin’
First we set him to off and his button gives a little pop
Then we clean him from the bottom to the top
Take the battery from his back
Pull a shiny new one from the pack
Once it’s in its place
Turn the little robot on and see a smile on his face
If you give him half a chance
For you he’ll do a happy little dance.
She changed the drawing a little bit so Cora was holding a tiny robot instead of the robotics work she had been doing. The timer went off for the pizzas around the time that Cora walked down the hallway. ET set her tablet down and pulled the pizzas out. After she turned the oven off and cut the pizzas she made a plate for each of them and handed one to Cora. She was sitting at the kitchen table looking at ET’s tablet and smiling but it was a sad little smile. When ET set the plate on the table she smiled up at ET and pushed the tablet to the side.
“Was I really singing that out loud?”
ET smiled back at her as she took a bite of her own pizza and just nodded.
“I had this little toy robot that my mom built for me. It had a faulty battery in it, and he started smoking. I was pretty upset about it and went crying to her. She sang that for me the entire time she fixed him. I think I have a picture of the two of us playing with him on the floor afterwards. I’ll show it to you after dinner.”
It was the first time Cora had mentioned her mother in something more than a small throw away comment, so ET just nodded as she swallowed.
“I’d like that. You sure?”
Cora nodded and continued eating. Neither one of them are big talkers and honestly being able to sit in silence with someone without it being awkward was a blessing. Later they were sitting on the couch and Cora had this photo album open between the two of them showing her the picture she was talking about.
“When she finished fixing him she gave me a butterscotch candy and I ate it while we were playing with him. I got into robotics because of her and butterscotch candies are still my favorite. They always make me think of her. Any time I’d get upset about something she’d try to fix it and eventually I’d end up with a butterscotch. She passed when I was still pretty young.”
Seeing Cora’s face with that sad reminiscent smile tore at ET’s heart but it was the nostalgic happiness in her eyes that gave ET the ability to reach over and pull her into a gentle hug. She spoke softly into Cora’s shoulder.
“Any time you want to tell me about her you can. I’ll always listen.”
Cora’s arms tightened around her a bit and they just sat there like that for a few moments. When ET pulled back Cora picked up the album, set it in her lap and scooted over a little so it was easier for ET to see. As she pointed to each picture with her mother in it she had a small story to go along. It made ET smile but she hung on every single word.
She got to hear about Cora helping her mother with different projects or sitting in the kitchen while she cooked. Made up bedtime stories about robots and spaceships and a tiny scientist named Cora were revealed. Stories about scrapped knees and nightmares soothed with a hug, a silly song and a butterscotch were told. They sat like that for most of the evening, Cora smiling sadly, sharing stories about this amazing woman who had meant so much to her, done so much for her and obviously loved her incredibly.
The more that Cora talked the more that ET’s heart ached and she wished that there was some way she could let Cora talk about her mother more often. Then Cora pointed out a picture with her mother holding out a butterscotch to her while she held a tiny version of Cora on her hip. She’d seen those candies at the store a million times and walked right by them.
They lost track of time until ET’s sleep reminder alarm went off and they both jumped. They looked at each other owlishly and then started laughing. ET got up to put the leftovers away, stuck some in the Tupperware she usually used for Cora’s lunch and snagged her tablet while Cora went to put her album back in her room.
ET met her in the hall and gave her a quick hug. “Night short stuff.”
“Good night ET.”
When she slipped in her room, she dug out her keys, stuck her tablet on the charger and grabbed her cbd vape. Snagging her wallet and her hoodie she took a long drag and headed to the little 24 hour convenience store just up the street. As soon as she found the butterscotch she snagged everything that was on the little hook, paid for it and headed back to the apartment as quickly as possible.
Once she made it through their building security and heard the door lock gently behind her she breathed a sigh of relief. She snuck two of the butterscotch into Cora’s lunchbag, went back to her room and put some in each of her hoodie pockets. Then she promptly passed out.
After that it became a thing. Cora had a rough day, got sick or even just looked a little frustrated with something she was working on and ET would place a butterscotch within easy reach. Cora started talking about her mom with ET more openly too. She’d been an incredible woman and ET wished she would have gotten to meet her, thank her for helping to make Cora into the wonderful person she was. Eventually it reached a point where Cora would just start asking for a butterscotch sometimes and ET would always just smile, pull one out of her hoodie and either toss it or hand it over to her.
ET’s favorite story was still the one about how she’d fixed Cora’s little robot for her, a robot that Cora still had, and sang that made up song for her. What had really been amazing was that Cora’s mother had created that little robot, whose name was Wobut because tiny Cora hadn’t been able to say Robot.
She’d eventually finished the drawing of Cora working on the little robot and singing to herself, but she hadn’t shown it to her until about six months later. She’d made a print of it, had it framed and just hung it up by her desk without saying anything. Cora had come home with Mexican food, i.e. nachos for ET and tacos for herself, and seen it. She’d smiled at ET and asked for a butterscotch, which ET promptly handed over.
What she hadn’t shown Cora was the other project she’d started on. It was a drawing of her mother, as she’d have looked when Cora graduated from High School and College. She still wasn’t sure if she could give it to Cora without hurting her and that was slightly upsetting. After months of stressing about it internally and Cora asking if she was okay she’d finally just opened the completed image on her spare tablet then left it sitting on Cora’s workspace.
ET had been sick at the time so she’d passed out on the couch afterwards and didn’t wake when Cora came home from work. Cora gently shook her awake with the tablet in her other hand. ET rubbed her face and sat up so there was space for Cora on the couch if she wanted to sit. At first Cora didn’t say anything and then she handed the tablet to ET.
“Can you make a print of that for me?”
ET blinked, mind a little foggy between the cold and the nap. It took her a moment to understand the question and then she just nodded. Today was one of those days where not talking was just easier. Cora sat on the couch, neither of them saying anything and after a time ET started falling asleep sitting up again. Cora asked her for a butterscotch and told her to lay back down, that she’d order food for them both and have it delivered downstairs.
When the food got there Cora told her about the time she’d gotten chicken pox and how her mother had made Wobut a little friend to keep him safe from them because Cora had been insistent that Wobut couldn’t get them too. She’d told Cora a story about how, as long as Wobut had his little friend MediBot with him he would be safe from anything. Cora still had MediBot too.
That had been the night that Cora had actually shown them both to ET and confessed that she’d kept and repaired them both since her mother passed. ET had listened as best she could despite how tired she was. She still wasn’t sure if she’d said it out loud or not but she remembered vowing to Cora’s mother that she would absolutely be Cora’s MediBot.
The picture had been printed and framed and sitting on Cora’s desk when she’d gotten home a few weeks later, with a butterscotch beside it. ET had hoped it would get her a new story about Cora’s mother but instead Cora had sat next to her on the couch running the fingers of one hand along the custom frame and told her quietly, “She would have liked you, I think.”
Wobut was dancing happily on the kitchen floor while her mother made dinner. His little red and orange arms moving in a silly but fluid way. Cora was smiling and clapping a tune for the dance. She couldn’t have been more than five. Her mother was in the kitchen making dinner and humming to herself.
Wobut started smoking and then fell over and Cora snatched him up then ran to the kitchen as fast as her little legs would carry her. She barreled into her mothers legs waving Wobut around and feeling tears fall down her cheeks.
“Mum, mum Wobut is hurt. He stopped dancing and there was smoke.”
Her mother stopped what she was doing and turned to pick her up. “Let me turn the oven off and then we’ll go figure out what’s wrong with him okay?”
She pushed the button on Wobut’s back to turn him off just to be safe, then turned the oven off and took Cora to her workspace. She gently sat Cora on her lap and turned Wobut over to see if she could determine the problem. When she saw the scorch mark on his battery pack she removed it and began singing a song just for Cora.
Mum swept Cora’s hair up into a ponytail and handed her a butterscotch. They moved to the floor and sang the song for Wobut while he danced. Her mum’s smile was so happy and her eyes were bright with joy. It was a smile that you couldn’t forget and made you want to smile along with her.
It was a short sweet memory but it was the first time her mum had ever given her a butterscotch that she could remember.