The sun teased at her eyes and for at least a minute Miranda was convinced the entire night before was a dream. Then she was disoriented. Then it settled in. Dad was in the hospital. Alice was in jail.
From the light outside, it was about five in the morning. Before they fell asleep last night, Cindy had offered to set up on the floor next to Miranda, which sounded nice, but Miranda had said no.
Cindy’s bed was a big twisted clump of blankets. Cindy looked like the victim of an octopus attack. Miranda fought the urge to straighten her and the blankets out.
Cindy stirred a little when Miranda got up, and again when she came back from dressing the bathroom. Cindy murmured to herself while Miranda pulled on her shoes. Miranda was worried she woke her as she closed the bedroom door, but after she stood there a minute Cindy still didn’t wake.
The living room was darker than Cindy’s room because the curtains were closed. Light bled through, landing right on the golden cage. It glinted in her peripheral vision. She made a point of only looking at the front door. She was afraid if she looked at the cage too closely, she’d see all the bird-dads staring at her and she needed some time alone. It was weird how quickly she’d adapted to the idea of Cindy’s dads sleeping as birds. When she clicked the front door shut, she thought she heard birds titter inside.
She rubbed her arms against the cold morning air. She’d forgotten her coat at school when she was suspended.
The sun just peaked over the rooftops as she walked up Huntington toward the hospital. Hopefully they wouldn’t turn her away. Maybe with police cases the security was tighter. She didn’t know.
The walk up Huntington warmed her a little, but she still missed the coat. As she moved into downtown she saw people milling in the grocery store, setting up for the day. The wind picked up again and she shivered.
She wished she had her investigation notebook. How much in that had changed? She’d have to work out an ever better system for remembering things if her notes were going to change on her.
As she turned onto Oliver street, only about a quarter mile from the hospital. She refused to think about how Dad was doing till she saw him. It was best to stick with facts.
But what constituted a fact when everything kept changing?
That reminded her of an earlier note. Who was changing things?
The wind built into a flurry and she had to bend her head against it. A piece of paper struck her shoulder and flew off.
When she looked up, she saw the air was full of flying papers, twisting into vortexes and blowing out like birds breaking from their flock. Papers whipped past her head and she batted at them.
The papers coalesced into a cloud around her, blocking out everything else. She ran forward, her arms out for balance. A paper hit her hand and she clamped down on it.
Suddenly she was alone. Shivering on Oliver street. The wind was gone and she was still clutching the single piece of paper. No one else was around, but she retreated next to the porch of a empty house with a FOR SALE sign in the yard.
It took five minutes before her breath went back to normal. Her watch showed it was 5:45 am.
She was about to throw the paper away, but glanced at it. Seeing her Dad’s name made her read on.
The flowing script read:
His name will be Alistair McGee, for I love him more than anyone has ever loved before. I altered his bank card so the machine spat out loaves. I turned his car into a baby dragon, a unicorn dragon. When he shaved, his razor always cut him and his skin bled tiny glass figurines. Oh me, I do love him so.
His name wasn’t always Alistair, or McGee, but he needed fixing and the old name just wouldn’t do. The old body wouldn’t do for I switched it when I decided I loved him so. He was a boring old accountant, so I changed him into a fireman, though not a very good one.
He had someone special and they were so pretty. They had hair that looked like sand does twice a day. They were very nice, but they loved Alistair and that just would not do.