Miranda politely declined tea. “I have to get home.”
Her head spun.
If she looked at her notes, would it say five or four dads? It didn’t matter. She wasn’t crazy, she knew what she remembered. Cindy had talked about her five dads. Miranda had observed five dads.
Cindy said, “I’m going to walk Miranda home.”
Bill-dad smiled. John-dad said, “Okay, hon. Come home right after, though.”
Once they were out on the front porch, Cindy took her arm and walked left toward the corner. “Let’s go around the block.”
The evening air was still a little warm, but Miranda rubbed her arms anyway.
She glanced at her house across the street. Everything looked calm. “Okay.”
Around the corner from Cindy’s was Warren Street. They turned and walked away from both their houses.
Was Cindy still wondering about Miranda mentioning five dads? She chewed over whether to bring it up again. They walked in silence. Up above, stars shined like spotlights in the clear sky. It was a perfect night.
The more she thought about it, more she realized she didn’t want to keep yet another secret from Cindy. She was feeling pretty over secrets in general. “Cindy, I have to tell you something.”
Cindy shook her head. “I know you think you have to leave, but you don’t”
“Dad’s packing right now.” Miranda motioned back toward her house.
“He won’t even tell you why you’re running. You said it yourself. If he’s running from the mob or the government or whatever, you’d do a better job keeping his secret if you knew what kind of thing you need to be careful about.”
That wasn’t the first time Miranda had thought that. “The consistent thing Dad warns me away from is thinking about weird things.”
Cindy sort of tilted her head like a dog. “Why’s that?”
Miranda let out an explosive breath. They’d just passed the corner of Frasier Street. They should have turned left to at any of the streets parallel to theirs but it felt good to be out and walking.
Why did Dad have all these rules. None of it made sense. “It makes me crazy.”
They walked a bit more before Miranda said, “Like we don’t already have the weirdest family ever.” Talking about it made it even more real how impossible her situation was. “I’m worn out trying to keep and eye on Alice.”
Cindy didn’t say anything, but the question was on her face.
Miranda didn’t look at her. This seemed like another crying subject, but she was cried out at the moment. “I have to remember to check the breaks before we go.”
The question was still there. They reached another corner, another opportunity to turn back home. Cindy looked down the street, like she was asking if they should head back. Miranda looked to the corner and then forward, the street lights dotted the street for at least eight more blocks ahead.
“Let me tell you about my homicidal step mom.”
They finally turned on the corner of Gibson Street, many many blocks from her street. With another left turn at Hoover, they could walk back to her house.
“That’s pretty much everything I know about Dad, Alice. My life.”
Cindy looked shaken. “Wow.” The streetlight at Hoover was burned out. Cindy was just an outline in the dark. “Should we get back?”
Miranda pushed the light button on her watch. She was late. “It’s okay. Alice doesn’t have enough time to pull anything, and she thinks I’m up in my room.” This was the least stressed she’d felt in forever. She wasn’t ready to go back to feeling anxious all the time just yet.
But it was getting a little late. “Let’s walk quickly though.”
They walked a few more blocks when she remembered about Cindy’s dads.
“When we talked earlier this week, you had five dads.”
Cindy didn’t say anything. As they came into the light on the corner of the next street, Cindy looked like she was scrunching her face in thought. “What are you saying?”
Miranda didn’t even think about it this time, she took Cindy’s hand. “On Monday you had five dad’s and when I asked you earlier, you said you have four.”
“I do, Bill, John, Tom, and Bob.”
Miranda squeezed her hand. “There was another one.”
“Why are you saying that? There was four.” When Miranda didn’t say anything, Cindy stopped and pulled her hand out of Miranda’s.
Cindy’s voice pitched up. “What’s his name?”
Miranda looked off in the dark. “I don’t know, I never figured it out.”
“See? You’re wrong.”
“Okay, okay. I’m wrong.” She kept walking. After a couple steps, Cindy caught up with her. She had a haunted look on her face.
“You’re wrong.” She said.
Miranda patted her shoulder. “Okay, I’m sorry.”
They walked in silence for awhile. A light flashed up ahead and a horn made a single squawk, like when a firetruck ran a red light.
The whole street flashed with red and blue. The outline of Cindy’s house shimmered like the light was diffracted through water.
Behind her, Cindy said, “That’s not our street, is it?”
Miranda barely understood the words. She ran.
Two blocks passed in a blur and she rounded the corner onto her street.
It was as if the sound had suddenly been turned on.
The town’s three police cars sat in front of her house. An ambulance was parked on the front lawn. The doors to the ambulance closed. Someone shouted something and the ambulance rolled off the lawn. The front door of the house lay ajar and the police cruisers pointed in.
Part of her couldn’t connect any of this as meaning anything to her.
Cindy ran up behind her. She let out a cry.
By then Miranda wasn’t thinking anymore, she was running.