They didn’t speak for the rest of dinner, but while Miranda was cleaning the dishes Dad came and put his hands on her shoulders. “We need to meditate later.”
That was it. Same as always, no explanation, no apology.
She didn’t want to speak to him, but she nodded. He just stood there till she turned. He looked distracted.
She thought about the ripped up card in the garbage. She almost blurted out about the bird and Cindy, just to blow his mind.
Dad had told Alice to put the garbage out in the can in the backyard, even though it was mostly empty. Miranda made a mental note to sneak out later to get it. Why was Dad against her using her brain? He hated his job with the grocery store. She didn’t understand why he didn’t just get a job that used his brains.
“Come on.” He patted her shoulder and left.
She dried her hands. Dad said, “Alice, could you finish the dishes?”
“Of course dear.”
Miranda hadn’t quite worked out her feelings on feminism, but still, Alice’s complacence sometimes set her teeth on edge.
Dad was already on the couch in the living room. He’d turned off the TV and the overhead fan, so Alice’s dish-washing noises were clear. Miranda wasn’t sure why Alice didn’t need to meditate, but Dad never invited her. Alice seemed happy all the time anyway. Maybe dumb people didn’t need to clear their heads.
Miranda felt guilty for thinking that.
Dad said, “You’re frowning. Come sit down and clear your head.”
“Sorry.” She wasn’t sorry, but she sat next to him anyway. She quickly realized she was forcing her eyes shut, so she relaxed her face.
Clearing your head was easier said than done. Her mind was awash with thoughts about Cindy and her too-many dads and the possibility of magic. What was a logical explanation? Did they have a projector? Was it a trick?
Dad grunted, and Miranda took a deep breath. When she set all that aside, her head flooded with how she needed to plan for the next week. Alice’s volunteer group was having a day off next Wednesday and Miranda might have to skip school to keep an eye on her. At least her dad would be at work–
“Clear your head, Miranda.”
Crap. She took another deep breath and thought about a candle. Dad had said imagining a candle flame gave her brain something to do while she relaxed. She liked to imagine a big white taper candle, like the kind dad had plunged into her fifth birthday cake. They had been on the road and he couldn’t find real birthday candles, but she liked the single big one better anyway. She forced herself not to smile.
Apparently her face looked relaxed enough, because Dad finally started his meditation routine. “Okay, as you breathe, imagine a cube. What is the cube made of?”
She had to come up with a new material each time he asked this, anything she wanted as long as it was a real substance. “Glass.”
“What kind of glass?”
She’d been researching and making lists of materials since they started this meditation. “Pyrex.”
“Which is?” She knew Dad knew, but he always wanted her to be specific.
“Borosilicate glass.” She smiled.
“Clear your head.” Dad sounded stern, but pleased. “What are the dimensions of the cube?”
“Three by three by three.” Three cubed, the perfect cube.
She swore she could hear the smile in Dad’s voice. “Good. Maintain your breathing, in slow calm words, describe the qualities of this cube.”
The image of Cindy Bauteil’s dad turning into a bird flooded her head again, but she relaxed into her breathing. “The density of borosilicate glass at these dimensions is…” It took a moment to remember the density of the material and calculate for the size. “Two point two grams.”
“Keep breathing.” She heard Dad tap into his laptop to check her answer.
They did physics every two days, math every other day, biology three times a week. He often used their meditation sessions to review what they’d learned.
“Okay, I’m going to count down from ten, breathe with each number, and then we’re done for tonight.”
She had to admit. Doing these meditations made her feel closer to Dad. It was the most relaxed she ever felt. Learning new things was fun, but she wondered what the point of it all was. She was years ahead of everyone else in her school and yet Dad freaked out at her looking at college.
“Ten … Nine …” Dad was breathing steadily with her. His cheat book rustled. “What would you use three by three blocks of Borosilicate glass for?”
That threw her. Dad usually just made her memorize things, not do things with them. “Um, you could build a flame retardant wall out of them.”
“Eight … Seven …” Sometimes he snuck in a surprise question.
She imagined the wall of blocks. “They’d make good toys.”
She swore she heard Dad smile. “Good. Visualize a glass cube in your head. Think about how it would feel in your hand.”
She could. She started thinking about how various intersects would cut the shape and what the resulting shapes would be. Quadrilateral. Pentagon. Pyramid.
Dad would be angry if he knew she was playing with the shape in her head, so she stopped.
Later, after Dad and Alice went to bed, Miranda found half of the card in the garbage outside and half in the garbage in the garage. She was exhausted, but before she went to sleep, she meticulously taped the card back together and hid it in her secret drawer.