Call Me Amma Now

Interlude 3, done. This one has some real spoilers, so for those who care, a little space break:

Interlude: Sometimes Joshua would stay on Kriti, sometimes Sarita – though Sarita usually ended up fighting with her parents when she did. Occasionally, all four adults would go on the run, along with Iniya, now six-turning-seven. Kate fretted on those trips, but Kate always fretted. That was just what she did.

Decades later, Amara would try to remember that day, concentrating until her head ached. It changed the path of her life, took her from ship-child to planet-bound groundling, yet all she could ever remember was the clinic, stark in black and white, pen-and-ink.

She’d finished another super-boring treatment, too many hours lying in the machine while a holo story played out around her. The story was all right, set on Old Earth – it did have unicorns, which were almost as good as the silken kris-deer that inhabited Kriti’s far hills, and a fierce fiery red bull that made her think of Mama Sarita in one of her bad moods. It was just hard for an eight-year-old to lie still.

Now Amara was supposed to do her exercises, strengthening muscles so they’d learn to walk properly again. She was having a hard time concentrating on them, because Mama Kate was coming to pick her up from the hospital’s creche today! The Grains of Sand had been due back through the Jumpgate in the early morning; by now, it would be coasting into dock high above.

Then a shuttle down, and the crew would start unloading, because time is money and the faster they moved the cargo, the bigger the bonus. But Mama Kate would leave them to it and come for her. She’d probably bicycle from the shuttleport, because it wasn’t far, and money spent on a flyer meant fewer presents for Amara and Iniya – after almost two years, Amara had been through the ritual enough times, she knew the drill. None of that mattered, though, not as long as she got to throw herself into Mama Kate’s strong arms at the end of the day. She’d show her just how well she could walk now! Amara bent to her exercises with fresh determination.

The walls of the clinic were painted cool blue, and tall windows opened out onto the gardens, lushly green under the protection of the capital city’s dome, with dozens of rose bushes laid out in intricate patterns, a braided walkway for convalescent patients. All that vibrant color washed away when Amara saw the figure coming down the path, shoulders hunched, looking like an old lady.

“Uma Aunty?” Amara asked uncertainly.

The woman rushed forward then, enveloping Amara in a cloud of sari fabric, the scent of the afternoon’s onion-frying clinging to the fabric. Amara liked onions, but at that moment, the scent made her want to vomit.

“Kunju. Darling girl. You must call me Amma now.”

*****

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