When Mira sees the library for the first time, it is exactly as she remembers it.
It’s not much to look at, but it’s still nice that this facility has one. Mira’s second facility had a dance studio and the first one had a greenhouse, but this is her first with a library.
Most of the chairs in the room are by the windows offering a glimpse of the garden where the first of the corn has begun to ripen. Mira lies between the shelves because this is where she will be when she meets Cy. She reads the first chapters of books and then draws pictures in them, composing landscapes above titles and leaving flowers in the margins.
She draws and waits for Cy to arrive and then she does and Mira remembers all the parts of Cy she had forgotten.
Cy spreads herself out into a room, and it gladly accommodates her, her low tuneless hum embedding itself in the floorboards and her heavy step imprinting in the rafters.
“Hello,” she says, and Mira looks up. Cy’s face is soft, rounded and fuzzy around the edges. It is a face designed to be touched.
She cranes her neck to look at the picture Mira has drawn: a cabin surrounded by tall pines.
“Huh,” she says. She kneels on the floor to get a better look. “Are you defacing books?” she asks.
Speech has always come to Mira slowly. She does not find an answer before Cy’s body lurches fiercely to the left.
“Oh,” she says and disappears.
This is not unexpected. Mira crawls into the space Cy abandoned and pulls over her book to finish her picture.
It was supposed to be a secret, but everyone could see who returned the orange form at the beginning of the term and who didn’t. So everyone in Mira’s class knew about Clarissa’s and Violet’s oddities. There was considerable speculation about what they could do. A girl in the grade ahead of them could change the color and shape of almost anything. Tomas’s sister could create light.
Clarissa made it snow on a warm afternoon in October.
When she came back to school, Hannah Rios asked her what it felt like.
Clarissa shrugged. “Nothing,” she said.
Mira found this answer disappointing. It should have felt like someone grabbing her head with both hands and wrenching it around.
But perhaps seeing the future was different from creating weather.
Mira’s oddity had developed in the spring. It began with three second glimpses: a bird taking flight, a pencil dropping, a door closing once and then again. The visions slowly grew in duration.
Mira thought about telling her mom, but when her mom came home from work, her body was always a long, drooping line, so Mira said nothing.
In August, when she brought home the orange form, she folded it into a swan, and gave it to her mom who put it on the kitchen counter. Her mom made a sign and taped it next to the fragile paper bird. It read, “Swan in Orange by Miranda.”
“Now everyone will know that it’s art,” she said.
Two weeks later, Violet turned her desk into a block of ice.
Mira told her mom about it, describing how the ice grew, thickening rapidly as it sped down the sides of the desk. Within fifteen minutes, the creation was complete. Once Violet was removed, the desk began to drip, the ice fracturing under the sunlight.
Her mom shivered and then reached out to hold Mira close. “Isn’t it good,” she said, “not to have to worry about any of that?”
In the library, a stack of books waits for Mira. A note hides inside the book on the top of the stack. Cy has written “if you are going to deface books, at least choose ones that no one (beside me) will read.”
This gift deserves acknowledgement. She spends her days a satellite in Cy’s orbit and plans the words she will say, rolling the shape of them across her tongue.
Late in the afternoon on a Tuesday, they are outside in the garden picking corn, moving slowly through the rows, bound by the humidity and heat.
Cy says, “Did I scare you? Some people really don’t know how to take it. My disappearing act.”
Mira shakes her head.
“Okay. That’s good.” She reaches for the next stalk. “So, I was reading a book, and I found one of your pictures. I’d like to find more. So, I figured if I knew where to look—” She glances at Mira. “But you don’t have to use them. The books. Unless you want.”
“I do,” Mira says. “It’s good. Thank you.” These words are feeble. They are not the ones she had planned.
Cy nods. “Yeah. Okay,” she says. “You’re welcome.”
She tosses an ear of corn down into the basket, and Mira leans into her, close enough to see her freckles and the soft dark hair on her cheeks and the beads of sweat at her temples. Cy doesn’t move away. She closes her eyes and waits. A strand of hair is sticking to her forehead. Mira takes the hair between two fingers and tucks it into her braid. Before she can lower her hand, Cy claims it. She squeezes once and leads Mira on to the next row.
Unexpectedly, Mira’s mom died.
Mira went to live with Amelia, her mom’s best friend. Amelia lived in the country. She had land and a two-story house and a garden and chickens and bees.
Mira was welcome to help with the chickens and the garden if she wanted or to wander around the property if she wanted or stay in her room if she wanted. She did not have to eat or sleep or talk and if all she wanted to do was watch TV or sit outside in the grass and do nothing that was okay.
Mira did not want to do anything for a long time.
On Thursdays, Amelia’s neighbor Martin came for dinner. He always brought a jar of jam which Amelia spooned out into a glass dish and placed on the table. Their conversation plodded comfortably in familiar quiet circles. When new material entered, it was handled carefully, talked around rather than through.
“They finished that facility,” Martin said. “The one for the girls—the odd ones.”
“Well, they’ve been working on it for a while,” Amelia said.
“I guess they don’t have to go to Texas anymore,” Martin said.
“I guess not,” Amelia said.
“Lita’s oldest asked to go,” Martin said. “They never did find where she sent that TV.”
Amelia nodded. “I guess she figures they can help.”
“Maybe they can,” Martin said.
“Maybe,” Amelia said. “And maybe she doesn’t need help.”
“Maybe so,” Martin said.
Amelia didn’t know about Mira’s oddity. So, Mira told her.
“Okay,” Amelia said. “Have you thought about what you would like for dinner?”
In the waning days of the summer, Amelia taught her how to repot a plant, and Martin taught her how to make jam. Mira went back to school and learned that she was both ahead of and behind her classmates. To help, Amelia brought home books from the library. Mira didn’t read them, but she liked to see the stack of them next to her bed.
She liked the farm and she liked Amelia and she liked Martin, but she kept seeing visions of herself in a small, sparsely furnished blue room.
In December, Amelia took her to the facility.
“If you want to come back, you just have to call,” she said.
She would not come back to Amelia’s house again, but there was no reason to tell Amelia this. The choice was made, and it couldn’t be undone.
The little blue room was exactly as she had seen it.
Mira’s yellow rain jacket is old and heavy, and she is already sweating by the time she reaches the dining hall.
Cy is sitting at a table by the door. When Mira drops into a seat next to her, she laughs.
“What’s this?” she asks, her hands plucking at the jacket. “You know something I don’t?”
Mira could answer yes, but Cy will ask questions, and that isn’t the way this is supposed to go. They won’t talk until after, and in-between there will be a long period where they don’t talk at all.
“It’s too big for you,” Cy says. She places one of Mira’s arms on the table and begins rolling up the sleeve. Mira remembers watching Cy’s hands fold the fabric over and over, so she knows to wrap her fingers tight around Cy’s when Cy’s body jerks away from her.
They disappear, and it is easy, like slipping out of one room and into another.
In the new place, it is raining like Mira knew it would be. She takes off her jacket and tries to give it to Cy. She doesn’t take it. She says, “We have to get back. And you should put your coat back on. You’re getting soaked.”
Mira lets the jacket hang off the ends of her fingers. Cy turns and walks up the street. Mira follows. She tries to drape the jacket over Cy’s shoulders. Cy bats her away.
“You should have asked,” Cy says, “if you could come.”
Mira doesn’t know how to explain that she couldn’t have asked, but it doesn’t matter anyway because Cy isn’t listening, and the ugly part is coming.
“You just invaded,” Cy says. “Like you belonged.” Her expression twists, and the knowable grooves and planes of her face become frightening in their unfamiliarity. “You don’t belong here, and you shouldn’t have come.”
“I’m sorry,” Mira says, but Cy has already turned away.
Later, when they are on a bus, Mira falls asleep, and when she wakes, her head is lolling against Cy’s shoulder, and Cy’s fingers are untangling knots from her hair. She is not particularly gentle, but she also hasn’t forgiven Mira yet.
It takes hours to get home. Mira’s scalp aches for two days.
The facility promised control.
“But,” Dr. Davis said, “proper discipline must be applied.”
She handed Mira a small notebook. Inside, the pages were lined with columns. There was a column labeled “Days and Times” and one labeled “Physical Sensations.” The column labeled “Description of Occurrence” included a note: “proper completion of this section might require the assistance of others.”
The other doctor, Dr. Gates, proposed changes to their diets and daily exercise and meditation. He had them study less and spend more hours outside growing flowers and climbing trees. He gave them jobs around the facility and talked to each of them about how they were feeling and asked if they were happy.
Mira wasn’t happy or unhappy. Her visions came when they liked just as they always had. She began seeing herself in a place where it snowed in the winter.
The year she turned eighteen, since she wasn’t showing much progress, Dr. Gates gave her the option to leave. “You can go home,” he said. “Or to another facility. One that isn’t concerned with… resolving your oddity.”
Or, Dr. Davis said, she could stay. She told Mira that she was certain that she could still find a mechanism for control. “So, you won’t have to worry anymore,” she said.
Dr. Gates said, “It’s up to you, Mira.”
It wasn’t, not really, so on the first warm day in spring, Mira went north.
Mira is nearly asleep when Cy comes into her room. Cy stands with her back against the door, and Mira isn’t sure that she is real until she says, “Did you know I was going to disappear?”
Mira sits up. “Yes.”
“Because you knew you would come with me?” Cy asks.
“Yes,” Mira says.
“Do we go anywhere else?” Cy asks.
“Lots of places,” Mira says.
Cy perches on the end of the bed. “Where?”
“I don’t know,” Mira says. “I thought you would know.”
“I never know where I’m going to end up,” Cy says.
“How does it work?” Mira asks.
Cy shrugs. “Sometimes I think of a place, remember a place, and then I’ll be there. Sometimes I can remember without going anywhere.”
Mira moves over closer to the wall, leaving space for Cy. “It’s late,” she says. Cy lays down.
“Why do you come back?” Mira asks.
“Where else would I go?” Cy asks.
“Anywhere,” Mira says.
“Why do you stay?” Cy asks.
“I won’t,” Mira says. “Not for much longer.”
“But you stay here. You came here,” Cy says.
“Yes,” Mira says.
“Why?” Cy asks.
“Because I knew I would meet you here,” Mira says.
“Oh,” Cy says.
“We should sleep,” Mira says.
She doesn’t sleep well. She is too hot and does not have enough space, but, in the morning, Cy is still next to her, soundly asleep, hands fisted in the sheets, and it feels like she’s always been there.
It did snow at the next facility, and the winter was very cold.
Mira arrived in the spring. Her roommate, Sonia, had the bed by the air conditioner. “But you can have it if you want,” she said. Mira declined and took the bed by the door.
Sonia, Mira knew, created heat. It boiled up from under her skin, and once it became unbearable, she stripped down to her underwear and lay on the floor. She kept ice packs in a freezer by her bed. Mira placed them on her forehead, under her arms, and on the back of her neck.
The winter was better. Sonia climbed out the window and curled up in the snow. She was frozen when she came back inside, soaked in water and sweat, and Mira untangled her from her clothing and wrapped her in the extra blanket from the closet.
She asked Mira to come with her when she left. Mira liked Sonia. She liked having someone to take care of.
She also knew she would never go further north than she was.
Mira and Cy travel. Some places they leave quickly and some they linger in. When they return, no one seems to remember that they have been gone.
Cy’s stuff moves into Mira’s room. Cy sometimes occupies the side of the bed closest to the wall.
They are alone in the dark quiet before morning when Cy says, “You knew you would meet me. You saw me. You saw us together.”
“Yes,” Mira says.
“So, is that why we’re together? Because you saw me? Is that why you chose me?”
“You chose. I didn’t,” Mira says.
Cy shifts to look at Mira.
“I saw you talk to me in the library. I saw us travel together,” Mira says. “You let me be with you. You chose. I just went to the right place at the right time.”
“What if I hadn’t done any of those things?” Cy asks.
“I wouldn’t have seen them,” Mira says.
“And we never would have met?” Cy asks.
“So, I chose?” Cy says.
“Yes,” Mira says.
Cy rolls on to her back. “But you had to choose me too.”
“I suppose,” Mira says though she never thinks of anything she does as choosing. She does what she sees herself doing, but this is difficult to explain.
Cy wraps her hand loosely around Mira’s wrist, binding Mira to her. After she falls asleep, Mira gently detaches herself.
The morning after Etta moved into Mira’s room, a large flowering plant sprouted up from between the floorboards. The next morning a series of dandelions appeared. It was buttercups after that and then a tall leafy weed. Etta cleaned off her shoes before she came inside, but the plants still came.
“I can’t grow them from nothing,” she said. “The seeds must have already been there. I’m sorry.”
Mira didn’t mind. Before Etta had arrived, Mira had built a little flower box for their window. Together they pulled up whatever had grown in the night and planted it in the dark, fresh soil.
Etta avoided going outside when she could help it, but Mira knew that when she asked, Etta would come out with her. The night she chose was warm and dry. Mira brought a blanket, and they sat in the meadow beyond the facility. Etta fell asleep first. Mira woke to soft colors, the smell of wildness, and Etta’s laughter. She had woven flowers into Mira’s hair in the early hours of morning. “You look awful,” she said. “I did a terrible job.” Mira pulled up long blades of grass and bundles of purple and white flowers and bound them together, placing them into Etta’s arms.
Mira knew Etta would not stay long. She woke up on the first day of September to Etta’s hands tucking a daisy behind her ear. She said, “I have to go home.” Mira nodded. Etta left Mira her address and her phone number and invited her to come and stay for a little while or for longer, but Mira would not call or write or visit.
For the first time, Mira was by herself in the little room. It felt larger and then smaller and then she had visions of a girl with dark hair and freckles who was kind to her.
So, Mira left.
Mira takes only her yellow raincoat on the day of her final departure. Cy sees the coat and immediately packs a small grey bag. It looks heavy. Mira doesn’t ask what’s in it.
Cy holds tight to the bag in her left hand and clings to Mira with her right when they disappear.
It’s not raining when they arrive in the woods, but the air is damp, and it smells like pine.
“There’s a cabin,” Cy says. “Up the path a bit.”
The first of the rain starts to fall once they reach the porch. Cy pulls a key out of her bag and unlocks the door. Inside it is dark and filled with dust, so they leave the door open and sit outside. Cy’s hair curls at the ends. Mira takes off her shoes and settles her feet against the railing.
“You’re going back soon,” Mira says.
“Maybe,” Cy says. “Maybe not.”
This is unexpected. Something small and fragile flutters its paper-thin wings in the cavity between Mira’s heart and lungs. But then she remembers. Cy does not know what Mira knows. Cy can speak as if there are uncertainties. Mira has seen herself in the cabin alone. She has not yet seen how Cy will leave her, but the leaving is inevitable. This is how it always happens.
“You could come with me,” Cy says. “If I do go.”
Mira thinks for a long time. She knows she will not see this option. She knows, and she knows. Yet, still, she curls her fingers around Cy’s wrist.
“Yes,” she says.
The rain lasts almost an hour. They sit outside until the dusk leeches all the color out of the landscape. Then, finally, they go inside.