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After my attempt to jump off the cliff, we went inside, she put me to bed, and not a word further was exchanged between us. I fell asleep fast as she went to make arrangements. Morning came. I parted my eyes and saw the fuzzy glow of the golden sun coming through my window. Victoria had let me sleep in. It was the first time that I could remember getting up after the sun. A small smile came to my face. Perhaps things really would be different.

My smile turned to a grimace of fear as I opened my eyes further. I was wrong about the golden haze. It wasn’t the sun. It was a lion, and he was staring me directly in the face.   I leap to standing on the bed and pressed myself against the wall. My mind raced. I wondered what this beast was, why it was here. It didn’t move.

As my breath calmed, my wits returned, and I studied the creature. It was not a flesh and blood lion. It’s skin was cast in metal. Its main was a carefully orchestrated pattern of triangles. Soft steam trailed from its nose. Metal struts made up its ribs, and they were moving in and out.

I relaxed my body and dared a step forward. The beast didn’t move. I got down from the bed and stood beside it. Cautiously, I reached out my hand to touch it. I found its surface to be warm to the touch, not cold as I had expected. He was as smooth as he looked. I walked around to the side of him. Just under his legs I could see a network of gears. I leaned in to look closer.

A sudden brush came at my arm. I reeled back, heart pounding once more. The lions head was turned towards me. His irises were an icy blue, with flecks of black. They dilated mechanically as he looked at me. He pushed his head to me again. This time, I allowed it. He nuzzled under my arm. For a moment, I imagined that he was a truly living creature.

So this was what Victoria had planned to ease my loneliness. She had gotten me a companion.