“You need to stay here, Marvu,” Cinnalo told her fuzzy toy firmly. “You’re not old enough to pad without Marmie like I am.” She patted it into place against her pillow just as her marm called to her.
“Girl, you’re beyond old enough to read a clock. It’s long since time for your arnday gather!”
Cinnalo’s eye widened. Bubbles seemed to fill her and lighten her steps. She almost ran – Marmie didn’t like running in the unit – out the dorm. When she got to the doorway, she stopped and took a breath. Slowly, go slowly, Cinnalo. She wanted to look full growed. At least more growed than yesterday. She was only nine arns yesterday. Today she was the magical ten.
Her little fam did a loud hoopla, making her squee like a babe. The gather chamber was decked with pretty color globey floaters. A sign on the fridge said, “Happy 10th Arnday, Cinny!” She blushed like a pink globey floater. Bigbro Pattery grabbed her in a hug that turned into a tickling. Cinnalo giggled like a little girl and pulled away. She patted her hair and straightened her tunic just like she saw the older girls do on digi-telly.
“La la la, so growed! Cinny’s ten arns today and no one to doubt it.” Marmie smiled, bringing out a stack of flappercakes. Cinnalo noticed a bottle of real berry syrup on the table. She clapped as she sat in her chair and held her plate out for a flappercake. She near forgot about padding. The round flappercakes reminded her of the telepads, though. She ate quickquick, wanting to leave already.
“Marmie, will there be flappercakes when I pad back?”
“And no one to doubt it, sweetdrop. Why, are you pressing off now?” Marmie smiled, a twinkle in her eye as she knew her lilgirl so well. Cinnalo nodded hard, her mouth stuffed full of flappercakes so syrup dripped down to her chin. Marmie wiped it off. “Wash and we’ll press off, girl.”
The padding depot was noisy and full of sentients buying padding passes. Marmie waited in line with Cinnalo. When it was their turn at the controls, Marmie let her girl operate it herself. Cinnalo put the card in and dialed her gramarm’s pad depot slick and quick. She nibbled her lip before pressing her finger into the slot to be age-read. The light turned green! Cinnalo stood way up tall, all her ten arns showing.
“Bono bono, girl,” Marmie beamed. She hid a smile when Cinny walked past her outstretched hand, chin held high. Instead, she put her hand on Cinny’s back to guide her through the crowd of sentients aiming for the pad queue.
Cinnalo tried not to eyeful the beings standing around her. Her marm said it’s unkind. She didn’t get it in her mind why. They looked at her a lot. She tried standing even taller and pretending she didn’t have care for it. When she reminded her ten arnday gather she grinned and stood even taller. Nearly there! Two more and then… now! It was her turn. Marmie pointed and pressed on her back. Cinnalo put her finger into the pass-read. It lit up and her eyes went wide.
“Digitell me on the other side, girl,” Marmie smiled.
“Will, Marmie!” Cinnalo said over her shoulder as she went onto the round telepad. She nodded to the padder and clenched her eyes shut. The exciting cold grabbed her and she shot through the padding stream.
Of a sudden, the shooting stopped. Cinnalo opened her eyes, but she wasn’t on a pad. There was a floaty feeling, like she had globey floaters in her belly. She rose in a glisteny world. There were other sentients here, but it was all weirdo. She could vision them, but they were glisteny, too. They were giving her soothey words in her head. They danced and flipped in the glisten, humming tunes in her head. It looked fun, so she tried a tumble. It turned into a twirl that went on and on. In her head, she heard giggles. They played, twirling around each other, pointing for turns.
One waved her to follow and without really thinking it, she floated along. She saw through the glisten into the pad depot. Marmie cried, holding Cinnalo in her arms on a pad. Wait, she was Cinnalo. How could she be down there with Marmie? She wondered why she wasn’t afreak. Shouldn’t she be afreak about it? As she watched, sentients pulled Marmie away and picked the limp girl into a floating compy-doc unit. Marmie rushed behind them and Cinnalo followed from above.
The compy-doc synched with the wall unit. Sentients scurried between the doc and the wall, looking at numbers flashing in red. Cinnalo looked at her glisteny friend. It shrugged and waved her on. With a glance between the being and Marmie, she thought her way down. Hovering over the compy-doc, she peered through the glisten. She knew her body was in there, but she couldn’t see it through the closed panel. Someone whispered, “Springpadded, poor sentient.”
An important one murmured something to Marmie. Her marm suddenly wailed and fell to sobbing on the doc, clawing at the panel. Cinnalo reached out, but her hands went right through her marm. She watched uselessly. Sentients pulled her marm back from the doc. One reached for the latch and the shellcover slid aside. As Marmie’s sobs took on more power, Cinnalo thought herself down quickly. She reached out to shake her own body’s shoulders, to make her body wake up.
As she made contact, she felt herself sucked into a whirly, dragged down so quickquick she couldn’t pull back. She wriggled inside to make herself fit better. The glisten was gone. It was a fighting, but Cinny opened her eyes. As Marmie’s tears fell on Cinny’s face, the Cinnalos became one again.
“No padding,” she forced out. Marmie’s smile wobbled and she touched Cinny’s cheek.
“No more padding, Cinny.”
This piece ended far more happily than it was intended. Cinnalo has a will of iron, though. She refused to cooperate with the story I had in mind and insisted on becoming whole.