I’m not committed to following the Story-a-Day prompts, but so far each prompt has given me an idea. Todays’ prompt is about stealing from yourself. The idea is to go back and revisit a story you’ve told before.
So, I’ve gone back to my first published short story. This ins’t strictly true. I had a story published in college, but that is story is from another time. This story was published in the Internet age. Also, I got paid for it. PAID!
Here is the link to that story, a fairy tale–The Fear of Apples. Fun side note–this story I wrote during my very first Story-a-Day, too. Full circle, everyone!
And so I’ve gone back to Miranda and seen her life now. Here you go.
Miranda juggled six apples. Her beaded costume glittered in the spotlight as she swayed to the music of the brass band. The rhythm of her work, catching, moving, tossing, catching, moving, tossing, catching, moving, tossing, focused her. She forgot about the audience. Her entire universe fit into the arch of the highest, flying apple.
Then the ringmaster’s voice broke through, almost a meteorite knocking objects off their axis. But Miranda didn’t miss a beat. She never did. Stopping her routine, gracefully holing the apples in her arms, she came back to earth. She smiled at the crowd and curtsied. She stepped back into the shadows to make way for the girls who danced on prancing horses. Later Miranda would give each horse an apple. Of everyone she knew, the horses were always the happiest to see her.
But on this night, the pattern changed. She walked away from the circus ring, down the cut through the bleachers. No one in the stands usually took note of her since the girls on the horses were far more interesting. Tonight, however, someone called Miranda’s name.
Hardly anyone called her Miranda anymore. Everyone she knew was part of the circus and everyone part of the circus called her Apples. The fliers that included her image called her the Apple Girl! The ringmaster liked to tell the audience stories about the performers. “Watch Apple Girl!” he cried. “Her mother, a poor lonely woman, wished on every falling star for a child. And being so often hungry, when an old woman gave her an apple, she ate all of it, from stem to seeds. Lo and behold! Nine months later she gave birth to Apple Girl, who smells of apples and is as sweet! And now she supports her dear mother by performing for you!” Though in other cities where the circus set up camp, he’d tell a different story all together. “An old, homeless man once fell asleep under an apple tree. He cried himself to sleep for loneliness, and in the morning when he woke was a beautiful, perfect apple. He sliced the apple open and the most miraculous thing happened, folks! One of the seeds was this baby girl! He raised her and now here she is! And every penny she earns performing on your behalf, she sends to her kind father. Every penny!”
These stories people believed as long as they ate the cotton candy and listened to that brass band. Coins always littered the ring afterwards as well as scraps of paper declaring love and sharing phone numbers.
But this time when Miranda heard her name, it came from a voice she knew. Her name was said with the confidence of someone who had said the name a thousand times before. It was her mother.
Miranda froze, looking at the handrail overhead. She’d been found, and every response to this moment she’d rehearsed in her head flew away.
“Sweetheart,” her mother said. She then turned her attention on how to get out of the stands and through the crowd.
Miranda could run. The circus had many hiding places. But if her mother had traveled this far and searched this long to find her, a few tents and magic cabinets were not likely to hold her back now. This moment was always going to come. She waited for her mother to find her way down to her, and together they walked out of the tent. Miranda set the apples down on the large drum of water used to weight down one of the tent ropes. “Did you like the show?”
Lily gave what might’ve passed for a smile. “You’re no longer afraid?”
“I’ve learned a lot here. You have no idea. This place, this place took me in without question. They listened. And they—”
“Your grandmother’s dead.”
“What?” Though what else had she expected? Miranda pulled the sequined comb from her hair and her black hair half undid itself. Her grandmother had seemed beyond dying. She had escaped death so many times. At some pint, didn’t a person win so much that death gave up? Knowing how nonsensical that sounded didn’t stop her from believing it. Her grandmother always survived. “You’re saying that to make me come home.”
A loud roar came from the main tent. It was time for the lion act.
“She left you something. I promised her I’d get it to you.” She kept her eyes on the hair comb. Miranda set it among the apples. “She told me where you were,” she said.
Miranda waited expectantly. Her costume pinched. Now that she didn’t have her act to distract her, all the little annoyances came to the fore, the pull of the comb in her hair, the pinch of the corset, the sharp smell of the dirt of the circus. “Well, what is it?”
“It’s in the car.” Lily lead the way.
They had to walk by the clowns and little people waiting for their turn in the ring. Miranda caught Lily’s dismayed expression at the clown makeup and costumes. Her mother must’ve thought them fools, jokes, people she’d never invite to dinner. But her circus companions all said hello or nodded or waved. “Apple Girl!” a few shouted. One whistled.
“They seem to like you,” Lily said, digging through her purse for her car keys.
“Miranda, that’s not what I meant.” They reached the car. “I wish you’d come home.” She clicked the button on her key chain. The trunk unlocked. “You could meet someone. Live a normal life. Be safe.”
Miranda reached in front of her mother and flung open the trunk. Even though the gift was wrapped in brown paper, she recognized its shape and size. Her heart flipped. “It’s mine!”
Her mother stepped out of her way. Miranda lifted it. “Thanks for bringing me this.” She moved away from the car. “Tell everyone I said hey.”
A hug was impossible. The gift, large and flat, took up all of Miranda’s arms.
Lily nodded. “You look beautiful, by the way. More beautiful than even your grandmother did when she was young.”
Miranda blushed. She kept a picture of her grandmother, young and proud, in a keepsake box. Her mother said nothing else.
Miranda locked her trailer door and carefully placed the gift, still wrapped in brown paper, on her vanity. It was heavy and it took some adjusting to prop it up just right. She’d think later about how to hang it in the narrow space.
Happiness raced through her and she tore the paper away. The mirror shone. Its surface had not a smudge. Her stomach growled and she idly picked up an apple from the basket she kept by the door. Biting into the apple, Miranda looked into the mirror. She saw exactly what she expected to see.
Thanks for reading!