Cindy suggested they have lunch in back of the school. A good change was the Thai place on the main strip. They bought a red curry to split. Cindy wanted it hot, but she got it mild for Miranda’s sake. They barely said a word to each other since the hospital.
They were going to sit on the swings in back, but the playground was now a big expanse of dirt and a maintenance shed next to tennis courts.
Not that there had been tennis courts yesterday. The painted lines looked fresh. The blacktop looked unused. The chain link shined.
They sat on the ground and ate silently for bit. The back door of the school opened and Penny Mosley came out. She looked left and right, like she was about to sneak away. She saw Miranda and Cindy and jumped. For a second, it looked like Penny was going to run back inside. Instead she stuck something in the door and sneaked over toward them. “What are you doing back here?”
Miranda couldn’t remember what day it was. She’d assumed everyone in the school knew she’d been absent for awhile. “We’re having lunch.”
Penny usually wore one of her cheerleader outfits around the school. Now she was wearing a new-looking green wool skirt and a white top. The blouse looked like scratchy polyester. It still had crease lines from its package. The skirt was below her knees.
She looked in horror down at Miranda’s legs. “You’re wearing pants!”
“I always wear pants.” Miranda was having trouble keeping up with all the changes.
Penny looked behind her, like someone might be listening. “It’s the new rules. Didn’t you get the flyer?”
For all Miranda knew, the flyer was in the mailbox at her house. Cindy looked at the skirt with disdain. “It’s been a busy couple of days.”
Miranda shook her head. Had people somehow missed what happened to her dad?
“They sent a reminder yesterday. It was about boy colors and girl colors.” Penny looked back at the school. “You can’t be out here.”
Cindy looked annoyed. “Why are you out here?”
Penny backed away from them. “Don’t tell anyone!” She turned and ran back inside.
The door slammed.
Miranda tried to think if she even owned a skirt. She was pretty sure she didn’t. She wiped her hands on her pants. “Pretty soon we won’t be able to go to school at all.”
“We should get out of here when your dad is better.” Cindy looked back in the direction of their houses. “All of us.”
They hadn’t talked about Miranda’s promise to say goodbye to Cindy. She wasn’t even sure if Cindy and her dads could leave town. What if they disappeared?
Her teeth hurt from her grinding them together. She wasn’t going to let that happen. “Cindy, we’re going to fix things.”