"I'm glad you're here." he said, lifting his legs onto the couch and stretching out. They stayed like that for a few minutes, neither saying a word. Toby closed his eyes, wishing he could feel this comfortable no matter where he was. Hell, he could have had a much better evening if he'd been this relaxed. Of course, that might have meant switching Ariel in for Lapis during the date, but still that would be—

And then a thought came to Toby. Opening his eyes and sitting up, Toby said, "Hey, how about I skip school tomorrow and we go on a date?"

"A date?" Ariel repeated.

"Yeah, you and me." said Toby, excited. "We go out, have a good time. Go to the park, see a movie, whatever we want to do. How about it?"

"Okay then." said Ariel, smiling. "We will go on a date tomorrow."

Toby was so happy, he couldn't stop himself. He leaned forward and kissed her. As always, she kissed him back, matching his rhythm with hers, but this time there was something different about this kiss, something...deeper, he guessed.

When he drew back, Toby felt exhilarated. Ariel smiled radiantly at him. He wanted to kiss her again.

And then his stomach growled. Toby looked down at his middle, startled. He'd forgotten that he had missed dinner. He looked at Ariel, who glanced up from his stomach at the same time he did. Toby started laughing, and Ariel joined him, her laughter sounding as real and as sweet as any he'd ever heard.

"Would you like me to warm something up, Toby?" asked Ariel, standing up.

"Yeah, I'd like that." Toby took her hand and she led him to the kitchen, where she started pulling leftover lasagna out of the fridge. Toby watched her, thinking she looked very pretty in an apron. He wondered what she would wear for their date tomorrow, and couldn't wait to see it.



Toby couldn't remember being this happy in a long, long time.

The sun kept peeking in and out from behind the clouds as Toby walked hand in hand with Ariel through Gonzales Park, a three-dimensional park that was shaped like a multilayered wedding cake. At the moment they were strolling along on the fourth layer, home to scenic trails and lakes that sparkled in the midday light. As it was a Monday, most of the layers were devoid of people. Those people they ran into though—an elderly couple sitting on a bench, a young family having a picnic with their twin boys, two neo-hipster men with colorfully-braided beards pedaling on a double-bike—glanced their way and stared for several seconds. The elderly couple glanced at each other as if remembering fond times, the husband gestured his head in Toby and Ariel's direction and said something to his wife, and the man on the front seat shouted something to his partner, who laughed.

Toby had a feeling what they were saying. We were just like that when we were young, and I remember when we came through this park like that and maybe Hey, that's the straight version of us, hon. And he knew they were saying it because he was with Ariel, who had put on a pink shirt, a short khaki jacket, and a blue knee length skirt with sequins studded along the hem. To finish the stunning picture she made, her hair had been tied back in a ponytail with a feathery scrunchie. To Toby, she looked prettier than she had ever looked before, and he was proud that he was holding hands with her. But even more importantly, he was grateful that he could have a girl as beautiful as Ariel with him. Like a dream come true, almost.

They walked a bit farther along the trails, a break in the clouds bathing them in warm sunlight. As they turned the corner around a copse of trees, Ariel said, "Toby, it is the Capitol." She pointed beyond the layer's balcony towards what looked like a long, white needle poking out of the ground towards the sky. It was the Washington Monument. Toby glanced from the needle to Ariel, wonder on her face. He realized it was her first time seeing it—her first time seeing anything outside of the house, now that he thought about it—and smiled. Even a gynoid...even Ariel could appreciate some of the amazing things life brought you. He smiled. Her childlike wonder was cute.

GynoidWhere stories live. Discover now