Alice smiled, like she was waiting for Miranda’s next question.
It was like Officer Lidbeck snapped out of a trance. She hopped up. “I think we’re done here.”
There was still the question Miranda didn’t want to ask, but had to ask. She put her hand out. “One more second.”
Before Officer Lidbeck could say anything, Miranda went to the bars. “Alice, I don’t understand. How can you love Dad and hurt him.”
Alice cocked her head like a dog. For the first time since Miranda had met her, Alice’s smile cracked. Her face fell into a horrible mask of pain mixed with that same forced smile Miranda was used to. “It’s all a little confused.”
Alice reached up and readjusted her eyebrows with her hands. She pushed up the edges of her mouth. Her face stuck in the smile-mask she’d made.
“Sometimes … many things are true at the same time. Your father needed someone to take care of him.” She got up from the bunk.
Officer Lidbeck dropped her hand on her gun. “Ma’am.” She reached out to grab Miranda.
Alice took a step toward the bars and Officer Lidbeck rang behind Miranda. “Ma’am, step back from the bars!” Her voice cracked.
It was all moving in slow motion and Miranda couldn’t get herself to move.
Alice took another step. “At first he needed help with you. You needed a mother. He needed someone to take care of the house while he worked all the time. While he worked with you.” Another step.
Officer Lidbeck unclipped the gun. “I need you to take two steps back, ma’am. Now!”
Alice reached out to Miranda. Miranda felt frozen by Alice’s eyes.
Officer Lidbeck’s hand dug into Miranda’s shoulder.
“When I met your father, you needed one thing. Then you changed, and I changed. And then you didn’t like me, so I changed again. Your father needed to rest. I helped him rest, didn’t I?” Alice reached through the bars and put her hand on Miranda’s cheek. “You look so tired. Do you need help?”
Officer Lidbeck’s gun passed by Miranda’s face. She jerked on Miranda’s shoulder and Miranda fell backwards. “I’m not going to tell you again! Step back!”
Alice shook her head, like she just noticed Officer Lidbeck for the first time. “Oh, of course, dear.”
She turned perfectly on point, like a ballerina. In two graceful steps, she was back by the bunk. She paused to smooth her skirt before she sat.
Miranda grabbed the bench and pushed herself up from the floor.
Alice tilted her head down. “Don’t rip your clothes, dear.”
Officer Lidbeck pulled Miranda to her feet. “Okay, let’s go.”
Alice lifted her hand. Her wave was gentle. “Talk to you later.”
Miranda automatically started to wave back. Halfway through, she lowered her hand. “Bye, Alice.”
“Call me Mother, dear.”