Dad hadn’t sent her to her room, but she stayed up there anyway.
There was something about being in trouble that shook her to her core. It didn’t even matter that she hadn’t done anything wrong, that the school had changed around her. She just hated being in trouble.
The first thing she did was check the school rule book. It had changed too. It was dog-eared and even had her highlighter marks, but now new things were highlighted, even Infraction 12.
She got out her investigation notebook. She should have taken better notes about the changes in town. She had some notes about the floors and lockers, but she should have been also observing the teachers.
Before the school notes section was her most recent notes about Dad and Alice.
- 1.) Dad is running from the mob.
- 2.) Dad is an international spy.
- 3.) Dad committed a horrible crime.
She’d thought she was slipping into fantasy thinking Dad was a spy. With the stuff that was happening in town, she might have to expand her possibilities. She added:
- 4.) Dad running from alien invasion.
- 5.) Dad is Job from the bible.
- 6.) Dad running from evil wizards.
Despite herself, she smiled. The more she thought about it, her four mysteries might bear looking at together. Alice, the changes in town, Dad, Cindy, maybe they were all connected somehow.
If the town could change, could people change? Could people be created?
The real question was, who was changing things?
She started a new section in her notebook titled EVERYTHING.
Alice called up, “Miranda, dinner!”
They ate in silence. Dad didn’t even seem angry, but she knew something was coming.
It took until they were running over calculus proofs for him to finally say it. He nearly whispered. “We’re going to have to leave Aught.”
She wouldn’t let him see her reaction. She folded her calculus paper carefully and stuck it in her Mathematics folder. There was no point in yelling. Dad would shout her down and she’d fall apart. She started to shake.
Dad put his hand on her shoulder. She startled. He so rarely touched her. Her brain jumped to the new school rule book. Section five, subsection thirty-seven: Teachers weren’t allowed to touch students unless they were disciplining them.
“We can’t leave.” Miranda tried to keep her voice level, but she didn’t think she was able.
Dad took his hand back. “I know you’re upset–“
“I could go to school. I could have friends.” Cindy’s face to mind. Who would help her with her mystery?
The sound of Alice cleaning came from the kitchen. She was always cleaning.
Dad said, “This is the exact kind of thing we can’t have. We have to do what we have to do to keep you safe.”
She leaped up from the couch. “Did you listen to anything I said? The school is changing!”
“We can’t talk about that.” Dad actually backed up, like he was scared.
Her hands balled into fists. She hit the sides of her legs. “What can we talk about. What’s happening is amazing. It’s scary, but nothing in there.” She jabbed her finger at the calculus book. “That says anything like this could possibly happen.”
Dad looked at her, his face set. He looked so sad.
“I’m not crazy! Cindy confirmed–“
The book hit the opposite wall. She hadn’t even seen him hit it.
His face was tight. “You brought that girl into this?”
It was ridiculous, she felt guilty again. “It, we, she noticed! She sees the same things I see.”
Dad got up from the couch. “That settles it. We have to leave tonight.”
She followed him. “What?”
He called into the kitchen. “Alice, start packing.”
Alice called back, “Okay, dear.”
Her folder hit the wall near where Dad had batted the book. “This is insane!”
He started up the stairs. When he turned back to her, he had tears on his face. “I’m so sorry. I wish I could tell you why. I really really do.” He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “I would if I could. It’s just not safe.”
All the yelling went out of her. “Safe from what?”
He took a step upstairs before he looked back. For just a second, he looked like he would tell her. Somehow she knew the whole flood was just on the back of his tongue. “I’m sorry.”
And that was it. She lost the will to fight. She sat on the floor and grabbed a few of her papers that were nearby. “Where will we go?”
Dad didn’t answer at first. The sounds of Alice packing up their few personal items came from the kitchen.
He started back up the stairs. “I’ll have to consult my book.” His book was a little notebook that seemed to have all the answers to why he did everything. He kept it on himself at all times. “It depends on the time of year and when we leave.” His eyes were dry again and he’d gone back to being cagey.
“So there’s a pattern to where we move?”
“Miranda.” The tense edge was back in his voice.
“I’m just curious.”
“Curious is good, be curious about calculus right now.”
She got up and picked up papers.
She thought he was gone, but he said, “You’re … Someone once told me that the more you know about how the world around you works, the less likely it is to knock you over.” She watched his face blush. Sadness crossed it.
Before she could think, she blurted out, “Did mom tell you that?”
“Miranda.” Dad’s voice pitched up in that way that meant not to push it.
She picked up the calculus book.
“Get to your room soon. Make sure to pack up everything you don’t want to leave behind.”