Miranda sat in bed, still in her pyjamas, with a photo album in her lap and a weight in her chest. Why she had chosen his day to stare at photos of her childhood remained a mystery to her; the memories of her joyful past making her feel sad instead of happily nostalgic. The images of her parents, of her brothers and all of them together made her throat close and she snapped the album closed. If she didn’t hurry, she would arrive late for her morning class for the third time in a week. Since classes had started the week before, that might not be a very good thing.
Putting the album back on the shelf, right beside some dusty music books, she focused on getting ready. Finding a pair of jeans under all the clothes on her chair wasn’t an easy task but she managed; she always did. Still, it took her more time than it should have and, when Miranda left the apartment, she was already late to catch the bus. She let the door bang behind her, flinching at the thought of what her roommates were going to tell her when she got home later.
The bus was about to leave the stop when Miranda turned the corner, but as she ran the last few meters, the driver must have seen her, because the bus stopped. Panting, she climbed the steps and showed her bus pass.
“Next time you’ll walk, miss.”
Miranda nodded at the driver and found the first empty sit, leaning back with a sigh. However, as she was about to close her eyes, she widened them instead. Standing on the sidewalk, right there, beside her, stood her mother. No, it couldn’t be her! The memory of her parents’ funeral was etched in her mind and, as much as that woman looked exactly like her mother would if she had reached her mid forties, it wasn’t her. For a moment she almost got up and told the driver to let her out, but the bus drove away before she could say anything or stare at the woman any longer.
That was for the best. Such a ridiculous thought. The woman probably supposed she had something on her face for Miranda to stare at her like that. Shaking her head, she turned to the front of the bus, ready to press the stop button once she saw her destination. They were still quite far when there was a loud crash and she felt herself be thrown forward. It took her a while to understand what had happened or why she felt a sharp pain right above her right eyebrow but, when she took her hand to it, it came back moist with blood. Oh, great!
Before she could say or do anything she heard a woman beside her saying: “This girl is hurt!” As much as Miranda tried to tell everyone that it wasn’t a serious injury, that she didn’t need stitches, she found herself in a taxi. As the bus driver and the cabbie spoke, she finally could see what had happened for her to hit her head like that: some car must have stopped suddenly, because the bus had crashed into it. Everyone seemed to be unscathed and, honestly, she found ridiculous she had to go to the hospital. It was a simple small cut; that area just bled a lot. Pressing a paper tissue against her eyebrow, she could feel the warm blood wetting it as the taxi made its way through the city streets in the direction of the hospital.
Of course, as she expected, when she got there she was told to sit and wait for a while. Only after half an hour later, when the blood had stopped gushing out, did someone call Miranda and made her sit in a stretcher on one of the hallways. A doctor examined her swiftly and gave a nurse some instructions, which started by telling him to clean and sterilize the wound and give her a tetanus shot. Cleaning the wound was easy, sterilizing, stingy. As for the shot… they told her to wait, and there she sat. Minutes ticked by and she looked at her phone. Her second morning class had just been dismissed for sure and she couldn’t make it to her last and third now, could she? She sighed with frustration. Could this day get any worse?
No. Please, no. It was just a rhetorical question!
She lifted her eyes to see a pair of blue eyes, identical to hers, canvassing her face with worry.
“What are you doing here? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I just felt like visiting the hospital. Such a welcoming and charming place.”
Philip ignored her sarcasm and held her face, running a finger over the flesh above the wound. Miranda watched her brother’s face, the young nurse’s blond bangs falling over his eyes and she tried not to think about the last time she had met him. Philip had arranged a family reunion at a nice café over a year earlier and at first things had been peaceful. They had sat, made their orders, joked about Miranda’s predictable order of chocolate milkshake… and then things had gone downhill from there. Sarcastic sentences, insults in low voices and Miranda felt her palms grow sweaty as she recalled the surge of power that had arisen from the three of them. She had almost run out of there, not wanting to see Richard or Philip ever again.
No such luck it seemed and Philip made sure to remind her who she was with by making an unsurprising question: “How did you do this? Did you fall?”
Miranda wanted to shake her head, but Philip still held her face. Instead she quickly summarized the bus incident and her brother nodded.
“I see. Come here for a moment.”
Following him, she found herself in an examination room. Philip turned to her and touched her eyebrow, but this time Miranda could see a faint blue light coming from his fingers and, even though she couldn’t see it or actually feel it, she knew her wound had closed under Philip’s healing powers.
“Done. You’ll have a scar though.”
Miranda touched the spot and, as she thought, there was no open wound or even a scab. She had envied this power of his ever since they were children, mainly because she could be so clumsy and accident prone.
“The doctor also said I should take a tetanus shot,” she said instead of a thank you.
Philip nodded and without much more to say, he told her to return to the hallway that he would find the nurse who had taken care of her at first. In the end Miranda found out that, since she had had a tetanus shot the year before, she didn’t need that one. She pursed her lips with irritation as she was told this. This day just kept getting better and better.
“Alright, thank you.”
The nurse could only smile at her as she grunted her way out, ready to pay at the reception and just leave. However, as she was handed her receipt, she heard the last voice she wanted to hear for the second time that morning.
“Miranda, wait.” Didn’t Philip ever give up? She turned only to see him already by the exit and she joined him, mainly because she had to go through him anyway. “It’s my break; do you want to grab a cup of coffee?”
“I can’t. I’m more than late for classes already.”
“Okay. Still, how have you been?”
“Have you spoken with Rick recently?”
“You know perfectly well I haven’t.”
“I worry about the two of you.”
Miranda sighed, pursing her lips again, feeling like turning around and just leaving without another word. But Philip’s brotherly gaze was on her and it made her stomach turn with guilt.
“Don’t worry about me. Don’t waste your time, okay?”
“It’s not a waste of…”
“Shut up.” Miranda had to gulp, holding back the tears that flooded her eyes now. “You left!”
“What did you want me to do? You and Richard never wanted to talk or seemed to care!”
“You…” Miranda stopped herself and shook her head. “I don’t want to fight again, alright?! My day’s been crappy enough already, I don’t want to hurt you to make it even better.”
She turned to leave, but Philip grabbed her arm with just enough strength to stop her long enough to ask: “You’re losing control more easily, aren’t you?”
“That’s none of your business. Look, I’m really late. I have to go.”
And, with these final words, she had him let go of her and left the hospital.
She had missed all of her morning classes. When she got to the university her last class was twenty minutes from being over and Miranda decided to go straight to the dining hall. Much to her happiness it was virtually empty. Half an hour later it would be a confusion of students elbowing each other, looking for tables and speaking so loudly her eardrums seemed to be about to pop. However, today she ate her meal calmly and in peace and, when she exited to the patio, she felt much better already.
After a stop at the coffee machine, Miranda found her favourite spot by the shade and lit a cigarette. Few things got her in a better mood than the bitter taste of coffee laced with the burn of the cigarette on the back of her throat; smoking and playing music were the two things that never failed to make her relax, no matter what.
“Good afternoon, Miranda.”
Raising her eyes, she could see a dark silhouette against the brightness of the blue sky and she would have been confused, if she hadn’t recognized the voice. She should have heard that voice for one hour and a half first thing in the morning.
“Good morning, professor John. Sorry for missing your class today; my bus had an accident.”
“You could have told me. I gave you my number for a reason.” He smiled, spying the cigarette she smoked. “May I sit? And maybe ask you for a cigarette?”
Miranda handed him the pack and lighter with a smile. “I thought you were trying to quit, professor.”
“It’s a never ending struggle.” He lit a cigarette as well and, for a moment, the two of them stat in silence, smoking. “I’m emailing today’s lecture to everyone. So you can say you’re lucky.”
“Yeah, lucky.” She smirked with his choice of words.
“Is everything alright? You don’t seem very well today.”
“Yeah. My morning was just way more eventful than I expected.”
“Well,” the professor got up, putting his cigarette out, “thanks for the cigarette. And don’t forget about the essay due next Monday.”
“I won’t. Thank you, professor.”
Miranda watched as the man walked away from her and into the nearest building. Sometimes Miranda wondered why she found it so easy to speak with him, but then she remembered that even though she called him professor, John still studied for his master’s and was actually a teaching assistant for one of the mythology professors. Not to mention he must be only three years older than her and he liked music and also knew how to play an instrument. Miranda smiled again, now a bit embarrassed by her line of thought and focused on something else. Her next class started in ten minutes and she didn’t want to miss that one as well.
Taking a last puff of her cigarette she put the bud out in the little bit of coffee on the bottom of the plastic cup, throwing it to the closest trashcan. The cup was midway, when she realized it would miss the target, however she found it easy to redefine the trajectory. Focusing for half a second, she smiled when the cup fell inside the trashcan and she got up, following John’s footsteps. Certainly not as eager as if he was the one teaching her next class. The professor who taught Medieval History did it by personal experience, most students said, and he spoke so slowly and in such a low tone, a lot used it as their afternoon nap period.
Miranda managed to stay awake, but she had her headphones on and only realized the class was over when everyone started to get up. After a quick meal at the university bar, she hurried to catch another bus, this time to get to work. This time, nothing happened during the trip and she even got to work on time. The Oasis, the bar she worked at, was a little place with a lot of regulars and the radio tuned to the same station every single day. Saying she liked it would be false, but the scholarship just covered the basic expenses so the extra money for a beer and a pack of cigarettes here and there was always good.
“Hey, Red, don’t I know you?”
Miranda turned behind the bar to give a sarcastic reply to the patron hitting on her, but both she and the man stood in shock. The man’s friend, sitting beside him, didn’t seem to notice the tension in the air, and he grinned at Miranda, even though she now looked down at the counter.
“C’mon, sweetheart. Throw our buddy Richard a bone here. It’s his birthday.”
However, Richard didn’t seem as excited as his friend and, keeping his eyes on Miranda, he grunted: “Leo, forget it. Let’s go somewhere else.”
“No way, you told us we could pick where we wanted to go! Besides the girl is pretty hot, don’t you wanna meet her?”
“No.” Miranda moved away to the other side of the bar, collecting some dirty glasses and cleaning the wet halos they left behind. She tried to focus on the random song on the radio, but her brother’s voice drilled its way into her mind. “I told you I don’t wanna meet her, Leo. Let’s go.”
“If you’re not interested, I think I’m going to meet her then. Let me tell you, she’s got a nice ass and a…”
“I’d shut up, if I were you.”
The beer glass slipped from Miranda’s hand, shattering on the floor. Even with her back to him, she knew Richard had gotten up and left the bar, followed by his friend. She crouched, picking up the bigger pieces of broken glass, trying not to cut herself, since she could barely see the shards through her tear flooded eyes. The panic started deep in her stomach, climbed up to her throat and made it harder to breathe. Richard had been so close to losing control, she could feel it in her body, and it would have been a disaster if he had. She knew the violence of his powers, of his anger and protection and, even now that he had left and probably sat at another bar, far away from the Oasis, she could feel the tempest that his powers were and she shook almost uncontrollably.