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A Lesson in Love

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Lesson 1: Smiling

The Golem had what you would call a mouth, but it did not move. It opened to drink water but had no tongue or lips to make speech with. He was not exactly sure how he spoke, but what meant to communicate was heard by others so that’s all that mattered.

Other species had mouths of course, and, being observant, he watched what they did with them. Beaks moved differently than mouths with lips and teeth. Some mouths had no teeth, others lots of sharp ones. Some tongues were very long and forked, others short and whole. One thing that all mouths did was open slightly, lips curled to show teeth, typically accompanied by squinting or closed eyes. They did this when their wearers were happy or trying to be pleasant.

Somali did this a lot. Every time she saw something pretty, or ate something tasty, she showed her teeth and closed her eyes. The Golem wasn’t sure why, but he liked that look and was pleased that it happened so often.

“Dad!” Somali said, running towards a multi-colored bird resting on a tree branch. “Look! It’s so pretty!”

“Indeed, its colors are optimal for mating and indicate it is very healthy,” the Golem replied.

Somali narrowed her eyes a bit. “You talk weird, Dad. Somali just meant that Somali likes looking at it. The colors are so bright!”

“Perhaps, but I was not disagreeing with you. It is very pleasing to look at.”

Somali showed her teeth again, looking at the bird more closely.

“What is that you keep doing with your mouth?” the Golem finally asked.

“What, this?” Somali closed her eyes and spread her lips wider. “It’s called a smile, Somali has heard. Somali does it when Somali is happy!” Her lips returned to normal and her eyes watered. “Do you not like it, Dad?”

“Not at all. It is pleasing to see so often.” The Golem liked the word.

Somali giggled. “Dad likes smiling! Dad likes Somali smiling!” She spun around, smiling very brightly.

After that the Golem paid closer attention to when Somali smiled. He reaffirmed that it happened quite often, but started noticing that she did it as a result of him the most. It pleased him quite a bit.

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Lesson 2: Fauna

Somali seemed to never stay still. Every time she saw something that sparked her interest, which was quite often, she would run up to or after it to get a better look. If it was stationary, like a flower, she would run around it, peering at it from all sorts of angles and giggling; if it moved, like a bunny or butterfly, she would run after it as fast as she could (which wasn’t much). She just loved everything so much and wanted to know everything about everything.

So to no one’s surprise, Somali was also extremely inquisitive.

“Dad, what is this?!” was said so often the Golem was always prepared for it. He had taken to keeping a metaphorical eye on what Somali rushed to in anticipation of the question.

This time it was a particularly flashy species of fish. They were stopped by a stream for a midday rest, with the Golem starting a fire and Somali running faster than her little body seemed capable of.

The Golem approached the fish in question, immediately identifying it. “This is a starry koi, a member of the koi species. It lives in warmer waters and reproduces about once a year. This particular one is a female.”

Somali looked at him in awe. “You know all that just from looking at it?!”

“Of course. Golems are required to know all flora and fauna in their forests. This is one of them.”

“Hmm.” She watched it float in place, moving only when the current did. “Well, Somali wants to name it. Somali likes it and everything deserves to have a name!”

“I do not see the purpose in naming an organism with a given species identifi—”

“Vega!” Somali clapped her hands gleefully (even though she pronounced it like ‘veega’). “Somali remembers seeing a really bright star one night, and Dad telling Somali it was called Vega!” She pointed at the fish again. “She looks bright like Vega!”

The Golem was not expecting this, but he couldn’t say he disliked her happiness. “...That is acceptable.”

But when Somali attempted to pull the fish out of the water, he had to intervene. “Somali. The fish…Vega belongs in her home.” He pulled her back from the river by the arms. “You are permitted to watch, but not to touch.”

The child pouted but obeyed. “Then Somali will watch closely!” She laid down, settling with on her belly with her head resting in her palms and her feet kicking up idly in the air. True to her word, Somali squinted at Vega’s shiny scales with the utmost concentration.

The Golem could not smile, but he had a feeling that if he could he would be doing so at that moment. Somali’s wonder in everything never seemed to dim. He hoped it wouldn’t for a while.

“Exercise caution while close to water. I will continue preparing our midday meal.”

Somali barely grunted in acknowledgement, far too focused on Vega. But that was alright. As long as she was kept occupied she couldn’t run off without the Golem noticing.

And if he observed Somali’s fascination between tasks, and if it just so happened to bring an unfamiliarly warm feeling to his chest, that was alright too.