Miranda walks everywhere she goes, and the whole while she holds her left arm out in front of her and across her face. Strapped to her wrist is a pepper spray atomizer. She doesn't put her arm down if she can help it -- no matter how many miles she needs to go.
The hardest part of writing stories about violence is interviewing the victims and knowing that there's nothing anyone can do to change the past.
The second hardest thing is picking the fake names.
I chose Miranda's name because of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Miranda's dad wanted to protect her from the harm that too often finds ordinary people. After a wild course of events, Miranda and her dad are marooned on an island. To the dad, the upside of their isolation is that Miranda seems safe from harm.
My Miranda has developmental delays. She's possibly the sweetest most darling fiftyish woman on the planet. If you believe in God -- and Miranda believes in him with all her heart -- then the argument could be made that Miranda's heavenly father isolated her from ordinary folks by marooning her on an intellectual island. She's permanently middle school-aged.
Miranda was a good kid both as a child and as an adult. She knew right from wrong, obeyed her parents and treated folks in a loving manner. The problem with the guiltless is that they don't always understand the guilty. Miranda became friends with Brutus, a boy younger in years but aged by cunning and venom.
Miranda believed that Brutus loved her right up until the day that he nearly beat her to death.
Miranda and Brutus met at work. She never thought her job was tedious. She liked packing boxes and getting them ready for shipment and her contentment with these mundane tasks gave her something many ordinary folks didn't have: a job with benefits. She even had health insurance and a savings account.
Brutus was an ex-con when he met Miranda. Miranda didn't know. She didn't ask him what he'd done in the past. And anyway, if she had wondered where he'd been all those years before they met he might have lied -- but the truth remained -- Brutus had been in and out of prison for beating women.
Brutus first attacked Miranda when they were at the car wash. A few months earlier Miranda had purchased the car and given it to him. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Brutus began choking her. He told her that he intended to kill her.
Something made him stop. Miranda doesn't remember what it was, but the car wash was a public place and now that she thinks back she thinks that he must've been afraid of being caught.
They returned to Brutus Mom's house where he lived. During my interview with Miranda, she tried to apologize for going back there with him. She explained that she "cared deeply" for him. And she certainly didn't expect to wake up the next day -- lying in bed with him -- with him slamming his fist into her face.
The beating coincided to the sound of the alarm clock ringing. So Miranda knew that Brutus started punching the left side of her face at exactly 6:15 a.m.
He started punching at 6:15 and didn't stop until he'd fractured her cheekbone. Miranda remembers vividly that he wanted her to stop screaming. To get her to stop Brutus pulled her up, got behind her and cupped her mouth and nose in the inside of his elbow. She thought he was trying to smother her. She dug her fingernails into his skin as hard as she could.
He let go and childlike Miranda, worried that she'd be late, washed her face and got ready for work.
Miranda's beating left her so dizzy she was barely able to walk. Brutus drove her to work and dropped her off. Within moments of punching the time clock, her floor manager told another employee to take Miranda to the emergency room. An hour later she was transported to nearest hospital with a head trauma unit.
Miranda was brave. She testified against her attacker in open court. Brutus received three years for the beating that permanently damaged her face. Miranda felt good about standing up for herself, and she didn't live in fear. Not until she saw Brutus on the street -- out on early release -- but no one had told Miranda.
That's when she got the pepper spray. When she knew that she couldn't trust the system any more than she could trust Brutus.