settled down in the waiting room in the hope of learning something
from the pediatrician, after he'd examined little Needles,
I started to fidget. I was uncomfortable because I really
wanted to be on my way. At the same time I knew that I'd feel
like a real heel if I insisted on leaving. For all that I
knew little Needles was not our responsibility, I found myself
wanting to be sure she was going to be all right. Besides,
we couldn't leave even if we wanted to since our bags were
locked in Miranda's house.
The doctor arrived, nodded to us, and ducked right past the
barrier, heading towards the examining room. I breathed a
sigh of relief once he was on the scene, but I noticed that
Anita looked very grave. She saw me looking at her and shook
her head. I knew better than to say anything. Miranda's chair
was off to the side and Morris was whispering earnestly to
her. I couldn't make out what he was saying, but unless I
wanted to huddle and whisper with Anita, I was convinced that
they'd be able to hear us.
I looked at my watch and was startled to see that it was after
nine. I hadn't eaten dinner, but wasn't hungry. I did need
to phone Betsy though before it got much later. I considered
borrowing Mrs. P.'s cellular phone from Anita but thought
better of it. Instead I stood up.
"I'm going to find a pay phone and call Betsy,"
I said to Anita, who nodded but didn't reply.
I assumed there was a pay phone somewhere in the building,
and I was right. The young man who'd taken Cheryl's place
behind the barrier directed me around a corner and up a ramp
to the rest rooms. "It's on a wall between the ladies
and gents," he informed me. "No one uses it anymore
since everyone has a cell phone." He looked at me expectantly
as if it was my turn to explain why I didn't. Instead I thanked
him and went of to find the phone.
I was anxious enough about Needles, and the failure of anyone
to pick up at home didn't make me feel any better. "Come
on, come on, Betsy, Maggie, somebody!" I kept mumbling,
but after I'd redialed twice, just in case I'd misdialed the
first times, and let the phone ring twenty-five times on the
last attempt, I gave up and returned to the waiting room where
Anita had joined Morris and Miranda.
"I'm glad the fever is down," Morris said, but from
the expression on his face I could tell that not all the news
from the doctor was good.
"What happened?" I blurted, as I sat down next to
Anita. It was Miranda, looking very pale, who answered.
"The pediatrician said the fever broke, but he's concerned
about her eyes. He thinks they may have been affected."
I didn't know what to say, so I just put my hand on her arm
for a second.
"I could just kill Kevin," she said. "Not allowing
her to be vaccinated. I told Ellen several times that the
child would need to be vaccinated to start school and she
might as well get it over with sooner rather than later, but
she went on about Kevin wanting to home school." She
sniffed. "Kevin couldn't home school a moth," she
continued. "And neither could Ellen. Of all the ridiculous
" She just shook her head. "Well, I hope
they both learn something from this, that's all."
Morris put his arm around her, but she shook him off. "Please,"
she said, "I don't want comforting. I just need to be
angry right now or I'll fall apart."
About twenty minutes later Cheryl and the doctor emerged from
behind the door leading to the examining rooms. The doctor
just nodded again, waved, and left the building, but Cheryl
came over to us.
"Ellen and Kevin are going to take her home," she
said to Miranda. "They said to tell you that they'd be
in touch." She shook her head. "I'm not sure they
were really paying much attention to what the doctor was telling
them, so I wrote down his instructions and gave them a copy."
She patted Miranda's arm and returned to her place behind
"We need to take you home," Anita said, standing
"I can do that," Morris offered.
"We left our things at her house," I explained,
"so the wheelchair would fit in the car. We have to go
Morris shrugged. "I will follow you then. I do not want
to be alone at my place right now." He shook his head.
"The poor child!"
The ride back to Miranda's seemed much faster than the ride
to the medical building had been, but maybe that's just because
I drove this time. Morris followed in his ancient, but immaculate
car. It was a Volvo from the sixties, and it looked as if
it should have belonged to an automobile collector. He pulled
in behind us and was helping Miranda out of my car before
I had a chance to put on the parking brake.
"You will stay overnight, won't you?" Miranda invited
us. "It is too late to be on your way, and I'd be grateful
for the company."
I was grateful not to have to hunt for a motel or beg Mrs.
P. for a bed for the night, so I didn't object when Anita
accepted for us.
Morris obviously knew his way around Miranda's house. As soon
as she was settled in the room where we'd spent the afternoon,
he headed to the kitchen to make coffee and sandwiches. I
was restless, worried about Betsy, and too tired to make conversation.
"May I use your phone?" I asked Miranda. "I
need to try my wife again. When I phoned from the doctor's
office, there was no answer."
"If you want privacy, there's a telephone in my bedroom,"
she said, indicating the door through which I'd wheeled her
for her nap.
I nodded my thanks and went to try Betsy again. Again there
was no answer.
When I came back into the presence of Anita and Miranda, Morris
had just arrived with a tray of sandwiches and a pot of coffee.
Anita could tell from my face that I was worried.
"No answer?" she asked.
I shook my head.
"That is odd," she said under her breath, "but
it's not necessarily a cause for alarm. I've phoned your place
a couple of times and not gotten an answer even though I knew
Betsy was home. I do wish she hadn't unplugged your answering
I shrugged. "She hates it. Says it hums and drives her
crazy. I'd offered to buy a new one or even hire an answering
service, but she claims it's a waste of money."
Anita laughed. "Sounds like Betsy. She and Maggie may
have decided to turn in early and shut the ringers on the
phones. I've been tempted to do that myself. You can try them
in the morning. Right now though, you'd better eat something.
I'd skip the coffee though if you want to be in shape to drive
I smiled gratefully and took a plate and a sandwich from the
tray. Morris and Miranda were in whispered conversation again,
so I ate and made a point of trying not to overhear them.
It was hard though because their discussion was obviously
escalating into an argument.
Finally Miranda said too loudly for anyone but a deaf person
to miss, "You're right. Of course, you're right! Does
that make you feel better? You've been right all along, but
it's too late now to do anything about it, so just let it
"It's not too late," Morris insisted, struggling
visibly to keep his voice from rising. "I still have
the pages. I could show them to her. She'd see the truth in
her father's own handwriting."
Miranda shook her head. "It's still too late for our
relationship, my friend. Ellen will never forgive me. All
I'd be doing if I allowed you to proceed is taking away the
only parent she ever truly felt she had."
"You are a stubborn woman, Miranda Clegg!" Morris
said loudly, losing his battle to stay calm. "I've always
known that about you. But I've never known you to be so stupid."
I gasped, but Morris continued. "You think it is better
for her to live a lie, but I tell you that you don't have
the right to make that decision. It is a bad decision! It
is wrong! It is
I stared at Anita, uncomprehending.
"He's just called her presumptuous," she explained
I nodded. "I thought it meant something like that."
"Ellen is my daughter," Miranda replied quietly,
but two small red spots on her cheeks glowed even in the semi-darkness
of the room. "I do what I do because I love her."
Morris shook his head. "You have been playing God, Miranda.
And though you are a wise woman in many ways, you not that
wise. Please allow me to show her her father's diary,"
"I wish you'd thrown that thing away when I asked you
to," she said bitterly.
"Only because you don't want to have a choice, Miranda.
But without choice we are not human. Please choose again!"
She sighed. "Let me sleep on it, Morris. I think it's
time you went home. Thank you for making the sandwiches and
Morris stood up and kissed the top of her head. "You
need to rest, Miranda," he said gently. "I'll phone
you tomorrow morning."
"Good night, my friend," she replied. Morris walked
out of the room and I could hear him letting himself out through
the front door. Miranda followed slowly in her wheelchair,
calling out behind herself to us, "I'll be right back.
I just want to lock up."
I wondered for a moment why she didn't ask one of us to lock
up, but I was just as happy to let her do it. When I looked
over at Anita, I was surprised to see her fidgeting with the
pens she'd been examining earlier.
"If Morris had seen those," I said accusingly, "there'd
have been a hell of a lot of explaining to do."
Anita grimaced at me. "For Miranda, yes, if he'd recognized
them or the box. Not for me or for you. I didn't exactly have
a chance to put them away before we left for the medical center."
"Well, whose fault was that?" I complained petulantly.
She took a deep breath. "I think you need to get some
"I'm not sleepy," I contradicted her. "I happen
to be worried about Betsy."
She raised her eyebrows. "Is that why you're trying to
pick a fight?"
"I am not," I snapped.
She grinned. "Are too."
I almost got into it with her, but I caught myself. "I'm
sorry if I've been snapping at you. You're probably right.
I should get to bed. If only I knew where I was supposed to
sleep. I just hope it's not up there in that room where the
box of pens was. It's a spooky place."
Anita smiled at me. "I'm sure that Miranda will understand
if you're afraid to sleep there."
"I'm not afraid," I snapped at her. "It just
gave me the creeps. And when Ellen came in and threw a tantrum
that was the last straw."
"We'll be out of here tomorrow, Bob," Anita said.
I wished that I believed her.