A police officer gave her hot chocolate spiked with a little coffee. She didn’t drink it, but it made her hands warm.
She sat in a little room with a table and chairs and a framed mirror, just like on TV. Miranda counted the asbestos tiles in the ceiling and then the linoleum tiles on the floor. Anything to not give her brain space to think about anything. Forty-two tiles on the ceiling 195 on the floor, a ratio of .215 ceiling tiles per floor tile, neither primes, obviously. She didn’t notice when the female officer came in or sat in front of her.
The woman said something Miranda didn’t understand. Her nametag read LIDBECK.
The officer said, “Did you understand that, honey?”
Miranda shook her head. “This cup feels warm.”
Officer Lidbeck sat down and set a folder in front of her. She looked Miranda in the eyes. “Okay, I need you to focus for a minute. Okay?”
Miranda’s eyes felt itchy and hot. She nodded.
“Your dad’s in the hospital.” She grimaced and tapped her fist on the table three times. It made a deep drum sound. Boom, boom, boom. “We have your mother in custody. You understand?”
Miranda shook her head no. Officer Lidbeck went out of focus and Miranda had to wipe her eyes. When she looked up again, Officer Lidbeck was holding out a tissue. “We have to figure out the best place to put you. You know, so you’re okay.”
Miranda took the tissue. “When can I see my Dad?”
Officer Lidbeck looked like she was fighting from saying something. “Your father is in surgery.”
Miranda heard the words, but they didn’t entirely register. “When will he be out?”
The officer looked away. “Soon, I’m sure.”
“Why can’t I go see him now?”
“You can eventually, but he needs to rest.” The words sounded reassuring but her voice was tense.
Miranda felt confused. “Where’s … Alice?”
Officer Lidbeck put her had on top of Miranda’s. “Your mother–“
“Oh.” Officer Lidbeck opened the folder in front of her and made a note. “Thanks, sorry. Your stepmother is here at the station. Your dad is safe from her now.”
“I know that, I just … is she okay?” Miranda didn’t quite believe the words were coming out of her mouth. She couldn’t believe she cared.
The officer seemed to be thinking the same thing. “Your stepmother is fine. She’s under observation and we’re trying to determine why she did what she did.”
Miranda looked for something to keep her attention so she wouldn’t have to think. She got a picture of Alice combing her hair. She shook her head.
The room was dirty, like they didn’t have cleaning staff. Maybe it was in constant use.
Alice whipping peanut butter to make it how Miranda liked it.
Alice offering to help Miranda with her first period.
Alice tying Miranda’s hair back with a ribbon.
Her head hurt and she rested it on the table. It was cool against her forehead. She tried counting primes, but she couldn’t think what came after seventeen.
She left and Alice stabbed Dad. She left and Alice stabbed Dad. She couldn’t get her brain to stop.
Then she thought something stupid. “You wont hurt Alice, will you?”
Anger flared on Officer Lidbeck’s face. “No one has ever been wrongly harmed in this station.” Her face shut down again. Dead eyes, cop face, just like on TV.
Miranda hated herself. She was saying everything wrong. “You said you have questions for me?”
The officer looked down at the folder. “Your report says you suspected your stepmother was planning to kill your father.”
“I wondered, yes.”
“And you didn’t do anything about it. You didn’t tell anyone?”
“I …” The words stuck in her throat. It seemed so obvious now that the officer was saying it. Maybe she should have told someone all along. “I wanted to collect enough evidence.”
Officer Lidbeck looked tired. She glanced around the room, at anything but Miranda. She pinched the bridge of her nose.
The door clicked open and a male officer leaned in. “The neighbor is here.”
Officer Lidbeck looked back to Miranda. “Do you know your neighbors, the Bauteils?”
Cindy was here? Miranda nodded.
“Are the Bauteil’s friends with your family?”
That was complicated. Should she answer with how Dad felt or with her friendship to… frankly, she didn’t care what was the correct answer. “Yes.”
Officer Lidbeck looked uncomfortable. The officer in the door scratched the side of his head. “Do you feel safe with them?” She straightened the edges of the papers in the folder. “Normally we aren’t allowed to do this, but with the hour, we’d have to keep you here.”
Miranda practically blurted out. “Tom Bauteil is my godfather. He’s been friends with my dad since high school.”
Officer Lidbeck exchanged a look with the other officer. When she looked back to Miranda she seemed relieved. “Well, then, that works out.”
This had to be another thing that was illegal three days ago. For once she was glad of reality shifting.