Saturday, October 21, 2006


“Tell me a secret,” Miranda said to Derek. With the town in the distance behind them, the stars replaced the streetlight glow. The pair lay between two blankets on the hood of a car. Their faces poked out from beneath the covers, gazing up at the evening sky. The chill night air slithered in under the covers and swirled around their heads, whispering, convincing the two to inch closer to each other for warmth.

“A secret?”

Miranda turned to look at Derek’s face. Her back brace limited her movement, but she craned her neck enough to see the stars reflecting in his eyes. “Yeah, a secret that no one else knows.”

Still so young and nervous, Derek could not look at her. The young woman’s proximity excited and scared him. He breathed heavily and tried hard to look calmly up at the giggling stars. “I don’t think I have a secret.”

“Everyone has a secret.”

“Well, you go first.”

Miranda looked back up at the stars. She knew the secret she wanted to tell. She had wanted to tell it for a year. But it kept burrowing itself deeper inside her. Sometimes it ached hot and swollen. Other times it dwindled to a nagging itch, but it was always there, ever present and uncomfortable. “My secret is…” Miranda faltered. It wouldn’t come out. Something similar and related poured out instead.

“I used to have this doctor. He came up with this new procedure. He said he could cure me; he had some new treatment.” Miranda shifted again, to move the uncomfortable back brace and to move closer to Derek. “After he started his new therapy, he asked me if he could … touch me.” Derek looked sideways at her. Miranda’s gaze was fixed fast on the sky. “First, it was just on the thigh, under the gown. I was nervous, but he said it was all right. He said he was doing me a favor by curing me, so I should do him a favor.” Derek turned completely toward her. “Then he would touch me … my chest. I’m not that … developed … or anything.” She stopped. Her tongue seemed to swell in the back of her throat.

Derek asked, “What did you do?”

“I let him.” Miranda breathed deep and sighed. “I thought he was right. I mean, he was saving my life, the least I could do was…”


“I know. I know it now; that he was just taking advantage of me. But at the time, I thought I owed it to him.”

“So, you never told anyone?”

“Well, no, but my mom did find out. She walked in one time when he was touching me down, between my legs. He was arrested, got out on bail, but then he disappeared.”

Both teens sat in uncomfortable silence. Why did I do that? Miranda thought. I finally find a guy interested in me despite that stupid cane and this stupid back brace, and what do I do? I talk about being molested on our first date. I’m so stupid. She sighed. She was about to slide off the hood.

“When my mom died.” Derek cleared his throat. “I didn’t cry.”

Miranda became still. “But I remember going to the funeral. I thought saw you cry there.”

“Well, I guess technically I cried. But I only did it because I thought people wanted me to. It was fake.”

Miranda didn’t know what to say.

“I just never felt like crying. People thought there was something wrong with me. They said, ‘It’s all right to cry. Cry and let it all out.’ But there was nothing to let out. I never could cry. Not really. So, I started pretending to cry. To make people feel better.”

“Why couldn’t you cry?”

“I don’t know. I mean, I love my mom, loved her. And since then, I’ve cried when I missed her. But at the time, it just felt right that she was gone. I mean, she was so weak from the chemo, and in so much pain, but she still smiled. I think she was ready to die, and I think I was ready, too. I didn’t really feel sad. I felt relieved. But I didn’t think anyone would understand that, especially not from a ten-year-old. So, I pretended to cry.”

Silence again. It was a long comfortable silence, this time. The silence that binds hearts together and salves wounds. The moment slid by like honey. Miranda began to giggle. Derek looked at her, her face inches from his. “Fuck it,” she said. He was startled, careless cursing was uncharacteristic of the petite young woman. “Can I tell you another secret?” she said, relieved already, though she hadn’t yet confessed.


“That doctor. He actually did cure me.”

“What do you mean?”

Miranda laughed again. “It’s all an act. The cane, the back brace, the weakness, it’s all pretend. I’ve been cured for almost a year now.”

Derek thought back. Ever since grade school, Miranda had worn a back brace. She had, and still, walked around slowly and with a cane. Was this a joke? Was she trying to lighten the mood? Miranda saw the confusion on his face. She sat up, straight up and fast. She wasn’t hunched over.

Derek thought about tonight, how he’d helped her into and out of the passenger side of his old red Dodge Spirit. He remembered how he’d had to pick her up and place her on top of the blanket on the still-warm hood.

He seemed unconvinced. Miranda slid off the hood of the car gracefully and stood before him. She spun in a circle and threw her hands in the air. She was laughing. She began to hop around, gleefully. Then she stopped and stared at Derek. “I’m cured. I’m not…” She started laughing again. She laughed so hard she fell onto the hood of the car.

Her laughter was contagious. Derek chuckled out of confusion. “But how?”

“He cured me. Doctor Kammerich cured me!”

“But why do you pretend not to be cured?”

Miranda’s laughter trailed off. Her smile faded when she said, “After I let him do something so evil to me, he didn’t deserve to do something good.” She looked up at Derek. His face was sad and concerned. She stood up. “You can’t tell anyone, OK?” He nodded affirmation. Then Miranda reached up, undid the fasteners on her back brace, and let it fall to the ground. She felt naked there in front of him. He looked at her, amazed, as if she was. She smiled back at him.

Derek stood up and brushed some stray hair out of Miranda’s face. She looked up into his eyes, took his face in her hands, stood on her toes, and kissed him. He touched the small of her back gently, and she shivered to feel warmth instead of cold metal.

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