Bionic, p.8
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       Bionic, p.8

           Suzanne Weyn
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“Good. Let’s do this thing.”

  When we begin, a narrator in a booth up near the ceiling tells about how I was “snatched from the jaws of death after a hideous collision with a fuel tanker and an SUV last April.”

  Jane then asks Dr. Hector how he accounts for my “astounding recovery.”

  Dr. Hector explains that the copper implant in my head makes it all possible. “The chip communicates wirelessly with all of Miranda’s body systems, encouraging them to work at their optimum capacity,” he says. “The chip, in combination with her state-of-the-art prosthetics and the cable yarn muscle replacement, not only returns her to her former healthy self, but, in fact, enhances her physical performance beyond what she was previously capable of doing.”

  “Dr. Hector,” Jane says, turning to him and tilting her head just so. “Do you foresee a day when healthy people will seek these artificial limbs, cable muscles, and chip implants, not to recover but to improve their bodies?”

  “Yes, it’s happening already. What our study is really about, however, is making a better life for people who have tragically lost limbs either through war, accidents, or disease.”

  “Mira, are you satisfied with the quality of life you have now?”

  “I am,” I say honestly. “It wasn’t easy getting to this point, but in so many ways I’m even stronger now than I was.”

  “Let me tell you,” Dr. Hector cuts in, “this kid is a champion. She has endured so much pain, so many operations, but she keeps her chin up and even jokes around. Everyone at the hospital was crazy about her. She really was at the brink of death last April, but look at her now.”

  “She’s a real role model for all of us,” Jane agrees.

  I sure hope I’m not blushing or that my smile isn’t too wide, because all this praise sure feels great.

  Jane Evans asks us some more questions before the narrator up in the booth ends by saying, “Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Miranda Rains, science’s first bionic girl, is better than all right—she’s super!”

  Emma and I sit on the floor in front of the TV set. Mom and Zack are on the couch behind us. At the end of the nightly news, Emma and I shriek with anticipation as the camera starts showing photos of me as a child. “Did you give them those?” I ask Mom, who nods. The narrator from the booth speaks over the photos in a voice-over. “Seventeen-year-old Miranda Rains, who was snatched from the jaws of death after a hideous collision with a fuel tanker and an SUV last April …”

  Then Jane Evans comes on and the interview part begins. “You look so cute!” Emma says. “I love that dress!”

  “I had to give it back,” I tell her sadly.

  “You should get one just like it.”

  My voice sounds sort of high-pitched, probably because of my nervousness, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with the way I appear. I think I did well.

  As the credits roll, the house phone begins to ring. First it’s my aunt, and then Emma’s parents call to say how wonderful I looked and how impressive they thought Dr. Hector was. Leanna and Elana call my phone, one after the other, to congratulate me.

  I see Niles is trying to break through, so I cut the call with Elana short. “Man, you were awesome! Amazing! You were like a professional actress.”

  My smile is stretched across my face. I’m beaming. “I was not, but thanks.”

  “You were so great. The guys and I were practicing, but we stopped to watch you. We’re all at Matt’s house now. They all want to talk to you. Here …” Niles passes the phone to Tom, and then Matt.

  “Hey, you’re a famous person now, and we know you,” Tom jokes.

  “I am not famous,” I say.

  Then Matt sounds more serious. “Mira, I’ve never said this but … I was driving that day, and I’m like, you know … sorry. Really sorry.”

  “It was an accident, Matt. I don’t blame you.”

  “I blame me.”

  “Well, don’t,” I say.

  I’m only off the phone for a moment when the house phone rings from a number I don’t recognize. I pick up and an unfamiliar voice speaks. “Can I speak to Mira Rains?”

  “That’s me. Who’s calling?”

  “My name is Sylvia Marcus and I represent Snap Girl Cosmetics. We just saw you on TV and we believe you’re just the kind of fresh young face we’re looking for. We would like to talk to you about possibly endorsing Snap Girl.”

  “Is this for real?” I ask, once more suspicious of a prank.

  Sylvia Marcus laughs. “I assure you this is a genuine offer. We’d pay for your endorsement, of course.”

  I’m stunned, still a little suspicious that it’s not real.

  We make an appointment to meet at her office in New York City. Mom comes in and I tell her. She’s excited. “This is a whole new beginning for you,” she says.

  Sylvia Marcus comes out to the lobby to greet Mom and me. Her walk is so smooth she seems to glide. Her honey-blond hair shines and her voice is silky as she clasps my bionic hand. “I can’t tell you how moved I was by your story. I called our head of marketing immediately from my apartment. I told him, ‘I have found our Snap Girl.’ I am so delighted to meet you.”

  She turns to Mom. “Thrilled to meet the heroic mother of this inspiring survivor.”

  When we get to Sylvia Marcus’s spacious office, we meet a lawyer with a stack of papers for Mom to read. “These are just preliminary one-time-only contracts and releases,” she says. “If the first commercial goes well and all parties are in agreement, we’ll sign a more permanent deal.”

  “I’d like to read these over before I sign anything,” Mom replies.

  “Why don’t you take Mrs. Rains to your office so you can answer any questions she might have, while I show Mira around,” Sylvia Marcus suggests to the lawyer.

  The photography studio is filled with glamorous-looking photographers and models. Sylvia Marcus shows me their complete line of Snap Girl makeup and hair products.

  “You simply have that wholesome prettiness we’ve been searching for,” she tells me. “Your face says old-fashioned American beauty, but your arm and leg tell your story of strength and grit. The arm especially says that you’re the girl of tomorrow.”

  “Wow,” I say quietly, not really sure how to respond to all this.

  “Absolutely,” she says. “You have one foot in the past and the other in the future. And that’s what Snap Girl is all about.”

  Later that afternoon, Mom and I drive back home. I feel strangely drained of energy, especially considering that I haven’t done very much. It must be from seeing so many new people and places. I worry that if I become the Snap Girl representative, I won’t even know what I’m talking about.

  “You’re quiet,” Mom comments.

  “I’m just thinking. You know, I’ve never really worn a lot of makeup. I don’t even know what brand the lip gloss in my bag is.”

  “No one thinks the actors who make these commercials mean what they say,” she assures me. “Everyone knows you’re being paid to speak the lines that are given to you. It’s just a commercial. Do you think all those celebrities in magazine ads really wear the drugstore makeup brands they’re modeling for?”

  I guess she’s right. I’ve never stopped to think about it before this. “But isn’t it still lying?” I say.

  “You could think of it as playing a part in a movie. Everyone knows the actors are just speaking lines.”

  “That’s true, but if you endorse something isn’t that lie saying you use the product and like it?”

  “I have an idea,” Mom says. “I’m going to call our lawyer to look over these papers. Meanwhile, they gave you a bag of products. Why don’t you go home and use them. Maybe you’ll like them.”

  “Good idea,” I say. I sure hope I like them because I’d love to be the face of Snap Girl.

  I’m not sure that I love Snap Girl makeup and hair products. They’re all right. No big deal. But I make sure to use them and wear the makeup every day. This way I won’t
have any conflict in my head when I shoot my first commercial. It’s a good thing that I get more made up and look more presentable than usual, because I’ve become sort of a celeb around school.

  I don’t know whether it’s because of my TV appearances on the news shows or because word has gotten around that I’m sort of the new swim champ. The swim invitationals, which usually only have a smattering of parents in the audience, are now completely packed with people wanting to see—let’s face it—me.

  I win almost every competition in every category. To make things more fair, I offer to use no fake leg at all, letting my leg end at the stump of my knee. It only reduces my time, but I still win. I wonder, though, if I’m pushing a little too hard. At the last practice I swam without my prosthetic and my half leg cramped so painfully that I gasped in pain and swallowed a mouthful of water. Luckily, I was able to pull myself out of the pool, coughing. As I sat rubbing my leg and taking deep breaths, Mrs. Patrick came to my side, concerned. She told me to skip the next practice to rest. I told her I didn’t need to. I don’t want her thinking I can’t keep up with the schedule.

  The cramping didn’t happen again and, mostly, I win and win and win. This makes me extremely popular with my teammates.

  Tonight, Elana invites me to a party at her mini mansion, which is in a development of other mini mansions. I see Niles across the room talking to some guys I don’t know. He’s still leaning heavily on that cane. Why isn’t he getting better?

  “Wow! Mira!” he says when I approach. “You look awesome.”

  “Thanks.” I want to ask if he’s gotten taller since I last saw him. Even though he’s bent from leaning on the cane, he looks like he’s grown. I don’t want to embarrass him by asking. “You look good, too,” I say.

  He blushes. “Thanks.”

  His friends drift away, leaving us alone.

  “Are you still using the 3-D printer at school?” I ask.

  “I’m in that lab every second I get,” he replies, nodding. “It’s the coolest thing, Mira.”

  I’m wearing tights under a blue wool dress that comes just below my knee, with over-the-knee boots. When I’m dressed like this you can hardly tell there’s anything different with my legs at all. But I tap my right knee. “This knee was made with a 3-D printer,” I tell him.

  Niles drops onto the couch beside me. “Can I touch it?”

  I nod.

  He puts his hand on my knee. It’s unexpectedly thrilling.

  “Feels just like a real knee,” he remarks, looking up at me.

  “I know,” I say, sitting beside him.

  “The printer is unbelievable,” Niles says. “I’ve built a whole model city of the future just by entering my designs into the computer. If I ever run out of picks for my guitar, I just print out more of them.”

  The mention of guitar picks reminds me of Electric Storm. “Any interesting gigs lately?”

  “Things have kind of trailed off,” he says. “We just don’t sound as good without you.”

  I kiss him playfully on the cheek with an exaggerated mwah sound. “You say the sweetest things,” I joke.

  “I mean it. You have to come back.”

  “What is that smell?” I ask. He’s wearing something that smells woodsy. A cologne or soap? “It’s nice.”

  “I must be sweating,” he says with a smile. “I exude woodland freshness.”

  I arch my eyebrow skeptically.

  “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But returning to the subject of Electric Storm … How about giving it another try?”

  “You heard me last time,” I remind him. “My voice sucked and I couldn’t remember the words.”

  “Nuh-uh,” Niles says. “You can’t fool me. I saw your story on TV, remember? You’ve had work done since then. I can hear it just talking to you now. Your voice is a lot stronger. A lot! It sounds fuller.”

  I have sort of noticed it.

  For a moment I consider the offer. I’ve missed the band. I decide it’s not the best idea, though. “If I’m going to play lacrosse this season, I’d better stay focused on that. Plus, swim team. The Fordham lacrosse scout is very interested, and if I play as well as I’ve been swimming, I’m sure to score that scholarship.”

  “Don’t you make enough from that commercial?”

  “Not enough for four years of college. They’re not telling me how long it will run, either. As soon as it stops the payments stop.”

  “They’ll make another,” Niles says.

  “Maybe, maybe not.”

  “They will,” he assures me.

  A song we both like comes on. “Want to dance?” Niles asks.

  “Can you,” I ask, “with your cane and all?”

  “I can bob around,” he says, and he begins to move. I join him and it’s almost like before, when we danced around together on the stage, as though the last seven months haven’t happened.

  At least, it’s like that for me. I’m perfectly balanced. I have to consciously control the spring in my step. It’s strangely ironic that Niles, who didn’t seem to be hurt all that badly, can only sway while I, who was smashed into mashed potatoes, am doing so well.

  Next, we dance to a slow song. He leans on his cane and we sway in place. He’s definitely grown because I can now rest my head against his shoulder, and I’m even a little taller than I was, since the cable muscles give me perfect posture.

  Thinking about the cable muscles suddenly worries me. I lift my head and pull back. “Niles, is it strange touching me?”


  “Do I feel … artificial?”

  “You feel strong,” he says continuing to hold me and sway to the music.

  “Weird strong?” I question.

  “No. Beautiful strong.”

  I smile into his eyes. “Really?”

  “Definitely.” His eyes shine back at me for a moment and he pulls me a little closer.

  Something about him is different. “Your eyes look greener,” I say.

  “They’ve gotten worse, so I have contacts now,” he says, continuing to dance. “Tinted contacts.”

  “I didn’t know you were so vain,” I tease.

  He shrugs it off. “Why not?”

  I lay my head on his shoulder. I’m not thinking about anything. This isn’t like being onstage together. I’ve never danced close with Niles before. It feels nice.

  There’s a notice that I’ve overlooked on the sports bulletin board—a meeting this afternoon of the lacrosse team. It’s to discuss the upcoming year, talk about tryouts, and figure out who will be playing what positions. It will make me a half hour late for swim practice, so I go to ask Mrs. Patrick if that’s all right.

  Mrs. Patrick is in the gym office, reading something at her desk. My approach startles her. “Mira, hi. I’m glad you’re here. I need to talk to you.”

  “Is something wrong?” I drop into a chair across from her.

  “I’ve received a letter from the High School Athletic Association. It’s about you.”


  “It seems that some of the local swim coaches have written to them complaining that your prosthetics give you an unfair advantage.”

  “I took off my swim leg,” I say. “Should I take off my arm?”

  Mrs. Patrick taps her forehead. “It’s the chip.”

  “The chip,” I echo her.

  “And the cable yarn muscle,” she adds. “That TV spot got you a lot of attention, but it also told them about all your surgeries, so they know what sort of advantages you have.”

  “Isn’t it against the law to keep a person with disabilities from playing?” I know I read that somewhere.

  Sighing, she sits back in her chair. “You know this is different. You’re not disabled. You’re extra-abled.”

  “Does this mean I can’t compete?” I ask.

  “They’re going to form a committee to review your case,” Mrs. Patrick tells me.

  “How long will that take?”

bsp; “They don’t say. Until they come to a decision, you can’t compete.”

  Even though I feel like crying, the tears don’t spring forward like they used to. It’s just one of my many improvements, I suppose.

  “I’m sorry, Mira,” Mrs. Patrick says. “Are you all right?”

  “Does this mean I can’t play lacrosse, either?”

  “I’m afraid it does. However, I could use an assistant swim coach,” she says.

  “Thanks, but I have to swim or play lacrosse if I’m going to get a college scholarship. They care about the athletes, not assistant coaches.”

  “I know. I’m sorry.”

  Hot anger rises within me. The schools won’t let me compete in any of the fields that will allow me to win scholarships to continue my schooling—how does that make sense? If I can’t use school sports to my advantage, then why do I even need to stay in school? All of a sudden, I can’t stand the idea of being here another second. “Who do I inform that I’m dropping out?”

  “You don’t want to do that, Mira.”

  “Yes, I do.”

  “You’ve been through a lot. Why don’t you think about it? There’s always community college.”

  “I don’t want to go to community college.”

  “I went.”

  I don’t want to be rude, but she’s not me. Community college isn’t what I had in mind for myself. I was so sure I could earn a lacrosse scholarship.

  “You’re just angry right now, Mira. Wait until you cool down.”

  “Thanks, anyway, Mrs. Patrick,” I say as I leave.

  At the main office I ask for a form to drop out of school, and fill it out in the parking lot, forging Mom’s signature. Leaving it in the office in-box, I collect everything from my locker.

  When I’m outside, I see that Emma has called me. I don’t call her back. I’m not in the mood to talk to anyone.

  Once I’m home, I begin my shower-and-bath ritual, washing my hair, drying off, filling the tub, and curling into the hot water. I’m so upset, though, not even warm running water can calm me down.

  Why should I even finish school? I’m not the girl I once was. I’m about to be the “New Face of Snap Girl Cosmetics.” Mom’s lawyer told her it was okay to sign the contracts and releases. I’m quitting school!

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