There aren't words - none I haven't said or expressed before, but an apology is timeless or should be. Should anyone still be reading this after such a long hiatus (hiatus is a much nicer word than breakdown).
I'm still fighting the same demons I mentioned in previous authors' notes - my health, mental and physical, brain-injury caused etc., my struggle with career choice and doing something unfulfilling for the sake of good benefits and larger paycheque - and therefore feeling like a sellout. Albeit a sell-out who just had a root canal that cost $1490 and didn't have to pay for it out of pocket, and whose prescriptions add up to hundreds of dollars a month.
Additionally, a few months ago I lost one of the most important people in my life who I was lucky enough to have until I was 28 years of age. It is a strange feeling to lose one of the people who loved you more than anyone else in the world. It boggles my mind that this kind of grief is something mostly every single person on this Earth will experience and it gives you a feeling of dread at times when you look at those around you who will die before you and not be there anymore when they always, always were. Every time the phone rings, I cringe, because it was almost always the hospital or long-term care home, first for my grandmother, now for my grandfather.
Interestingly enough, I was an Editor for a magazine for a brief period. Please note this was an RV magazine (rolls eyes much like Miranda would) so it was kind of like being EIC for Auto-World. However, strange events occurred because I volunteer in person and doing social media for a local hospice and I was inexplicably thrown under the bus by a girl who feared for her job, which she was terrible at, and lied flawlessly, which she was excellent at...
Back to apologizing. My brain just stopped, for a long time. Then I was working twelve-hour days, then I was unemployed, and now employed again and trying to shake the numbness out of my fool head. Then when I finally went back to it, more than a year later, I re-read my work (all 270K words) and it had lost its sparkle to where I didn't like my own writing. But so many people have commented on this story and offered support, not just for it, but for me as I whinge in the Authors' Notes when I know, looking around at my circumstances, I am one of the lucky ones.
Your support (should you still be reading this and do not resemble a Raiders of the Lost Ark cobweb-covered skeleton) is what pulled me out of my epically long funk as I came across old comments. It is everything, considering my career is decidedly...not doing this. But that's another story, and one you probably don't want to read.
Like I said, I will not ever leave this story unfinished.
Thank you for staying with me, and if you are still with me, tell me if I've still got it or if I've totally missed the mark after so long!
“War”, the word drummed through her pounding head as she made her way home that evening.
All her life had seemingly been battles, won, admittedly they had been won, one after the other, but never quite winning the war it seemed despite fierce, often ruthless, ambition and a scrappy sense of survival that didn’t quite seem to fit the cool, elegant exterior that gave no clue as to her past. But she had used that to her advantage as she’d quickly ascended the ranks of Runway with little thought as to how the world chose to view her beyond the immaculate veneer.
But all thoughts of war and a good measure of the hopelessness that weighed down the slim shoulders slipped from her mind as Miranda entered her home later that evening, and immediately began investigating the sound of whatever abomination it sounded like was taking place in her kitchen. Her mouth had already opened in reprimand, but it stayed open in something like shock as she watched what was going on in front of her.
Some sort of ‘hoedown’ appeared to be going on in the kitchen, and Miranda watched the young woman shimmy across the kitchen floor, her eye automatically going to her denim-clad behind shaking and gyrating to the infectious beat of the music as she sang Shania Twain into a spatula, the twins attempting to follow in her Western boot-clad footsteps with a whisk and a potato masher respectively as their choice of ‘microphone’ each enthusiastically stating that ‘Man, they felt like a woman’.
Miranda hadn’t seen her girls so carefree in months, perhaps years, and she stood silently at the door, , drinking in the happiness of the scene in front of her. This was hers. And yet, even at this moment, she felt she was standing in front of a window, looking in at what she could never have as had been the recurring theme of her childhood.
Her memories took her back to the bitingly cold, wintry streets of a London preparing for Christmas. Suddenly, she was once more that little girl staring into the shop window at the beautifully made toys with newspaper stuffed in her shoes to keep out the snow and slush that seeped in anyway. Then a damp chill set into her feet with a painful lasting ache that she would stoically endure until she could warm them by the fire once she was home.
The soft, dun-coloured velveteen rabbit with soft ears lined with pink satin to match its nose that she longed to stroke and hug to her, the floppy arms and the weight just enough for her to feel as though it were a ‘real’ hug, much as the story suggested.
She had read the book at school and identified with the shabby, worn toy who had been put aside, ridiculed for patches and signs of frequent mending. Although rather than her body, like the rabbit, it was her clothing that bore the telltale signs of poverty. She had thought that if one’s shabbiness had been borne of love and affection, then it wouldn’t be so bad. But that was where their stories differed.
Still, she looked at the stuffed rabbit in the window, at the shining black eyes that seemed to twinkle kindly through the store window as if sensing a kindred spirit.
She looked at the dolls with their perfectly painted porcelain faces, the fine silk and satin of their dresses trimmed with lace though one that caught her eye was in ice blue silk with intricate black piping embroidered on the jacket that was trimmed with soft white fur and even had a muff to match. Her eyes widened further as she saw the miniaturized ice skates on the doll’s feet before she was jostled aside by other children who pointed out the toys they wanted to their parents, toys plural!
Without the distraction of the beautiful toys and the warm light that emanated through the window she was reminded of her sodden, frozen feet. The ache in her feet simply melted into the ache in her chest and throat as she tried to keep back tears. She wouldn’t cry, she wouldn’t grimace and shift her feet trying to get warmth back into them, she herself would be as ice, frozen and without feeling that, if left unchecked and noticed, would see her ridiculed or punished.
Besides, what good would dreaming do? She knew she would be lucky to get a new pair of shoes, or at least some in better condition and without holes, even if they were ugly, leather boys shoes that she could do little to hide from the other children at school.
And yet, if she was good which she tried so hard to be, she couldn’t help imagining a Christmas day where a floppy-eared friend made of soft velveteen and a doll with golden curls and a beautiful dress with a muff and skates.
Even with the music blaring, and in the middle of her dance, Andy felt the mood in the room change subtly, the atmospheric pressure shifted, and she grinned widely before she even turned around to see the source of the atmospheric change.
In the four-inch stilettos that had made up part of her ‘armour’ for the meeting today, the questioning, cool blue gaze was nearly level with Andy’s mischievous brown twinkle as she quickly rearranged her features as the memory faded.
“Nuh-uh”, the denim clad brunette clicked her tongue and shook her head, long ponytail swinging. “Nope. No heels. Cowboy boots or bare feet only, which only leaves you with one option.”
She wrapped her arms around Miranda’s waist, partly in greeting and partly to subtly steady Miranda as she stepped out of the heels, her chin dipping to keep Miranda’s gaze as the older woman ‘shrank’ before her eyes with the loss of her heels.
“What makes you think I don’t own Western boots?”
“We are definitely revisiting that thought later.” Andy muttered, thinking to herself that she’d very much like to see Miranda Priestly in cowboy boots, and preferably nothing else. Except a black Stetson, blue eyes shining underneath the brim with a certain knowing smirk. Lord, yes, she needed to make that fantasy a reality sooner rather than later.
“Since when are you a country music aficionado?”
Andy laughed, “It’s an old love. I got it from my dad. We used to dance around like this when no one else was around, except I would try to dance with my little feet in his big leather cowboy boots. Even though he became a lawyer, he never forgot growing up on Nan and Pop’s farm.”
Andy smiled but Miranda heard the faint note of wistfulness that had infiltrated her tone and the spark in her eyes had dulled a little.
Miranda looked across the kitchen where Patricia lay in her bed, tongue lolling, too old to join in the rollicking fun but enjoying the scene immensely and raised her eyebrow, hoping to raise the mood as she saw the brown eyes she loved so much dim as she remembered her father – then, fondly, and now, with hurt.
“Toto, I do not believe we’re in Kansas anymore.”
“Dorothy,” she nodded at Andy, “Munchkins,” she nodded at the twins and her eyes twinkled slightly.
“And who does that make you?” Caroline questioned.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Miranda gestured to the severe black outfit she was still wearing after her meeting with the Board. “The Wicked Witch of the West.”
“Are you sure you guys aren’t the flying monkeys?” Andy teased, looking at the twins who pretended to be offended.
Andy realized there was one thing she hadn’t done yet though, since Miranda’s entrance, albeit sans broomstick.
“Here’s a twist Oz didn’t see coming,” Andy’s grin was wicked as she moved towards Miranda and kissed her dramatically, bringing the older woman’s face to hers while the ‘munchkins’ in the background covered their eyes.
“I do believe I’m melting,” Miranda said as she let her body mold against the younger woman’s, knowing she would hold her weight.
“Ugh, come on Toto, let’s let the Wicked Witch and Dorothy make out while dinner is cooking.”
With an expression uncannily like her owner’s, Patricia seemed to raise an eyebrow at being called ‘Toto’.
“Allez, cherie,” Miranda murmured to the St. Bernard, still wrapped in Andy’s arms, and the pair of women watched them thunder up the stairs to the media room.
“Thank you for loving them.” Miranda murmured into Andy’s neck as she rested her head against the younger woman’s shoulder, accepting the support of the embrace.
“Miranda, you never, ever, have to thank me for loving my own children. I’m just glad you forgive me for corrupting their English with an evening of country Western twang.”
“As long as it’s temporary,” Miranda chuckled before letting one hand slip down from Andrea’s back to rest against the ample curve of her bottom clad deliciously in skin tight blue jeans. I admit a lack of exposure in my history that I have willingly continued, but I will say this evening’s events have given me a new appreciation for denim. Perhaps the fashion of the 90’s wasn’t so abhorrent.”
Andy looked aghast. “The nineties were the best.”
“Hmm,” Miranda hummed lightly, soaking in Andy’s warmth like she was that freezing little girl as she ignored the younger woman’s ridiculous statement, “I will say, however, Andrea, that, any ‘man’ aside, you do very much feel like a woman to me.”
Standing there, holding Miranda in the kitchen, Andy was able to put two and two together for the first time in all her years of listing to classic country music as to what the men meant when they sang about the softness of a woman in their arms and the feel of their hands on her waist. And somehow, no matter her size or how she grew over the last 9 months of childbearing, she had always fit in Andy’s arms, the feeling no less sublime at any size.
Andy felt her body tighten with arousal, and she bit her lip, adjusting her gaze to the side as she tried to get control of herself, cursing the inseam of the painted on jeans as it pressed against her core, repressed from its long dormancy, already throbbing with heat, just from her lover walking though the damn door. And doing so looking, there was no other way to describe it, hot as fucking hell in head to toe black couture reminding her of the days of terror and arousal as second assistant to the Editor-in-Chief of Runway magazine...who now happened to be wearing Andy's ring on her finger.
“Darling, why aren’t you looking at me?” Miranda’s heart sank where a moment ago it had felt buoyant for the first time in months. She searched her mind quickly for anything, or any number of things she might have done to cause upset. “Is it…Are you very upset with me for going to the meeting today instead of staying at the hospital?”
Andy’s head whipped around. “Huh? What? No, no, that’s not it at all, Miranda, I promise.
“Urgh, this isn’t going to come out right…”
An involuntary flush painted itself incarnadine across the younger woman’s cheeks as she struggled to find the right words.
“I can’t touch you right now, in the way I’m dying to, and I feel like an insensitive animal for wanting to bend you over that table and push your skirt up right over that beautiful, sexy ass you’re hiding beneath that tight pencil skirt and take you so deeply that I’d swear I’d get you pregnant all over again.
Miranda swallowed convulsively; her mouth suddenly dry. “Ah…Well, we certainly wouldn’t want that.” Miranda said breathlessly, although her arousal shuddered to a halt at the knowledge that many women did find themselves pregnant only weeks or months after giving birth because they were so eager to give their husbands what they wanted, often to simply keep them from straying. She remembered how sore and unattractive she had felt even 3 months after giving birth to the girls, and reluctantly agreeing to sex because technically it had been 6 weeks plus a month. Never mind the fact that her body still felt wrecked.
Her memory brought her unwillingly back for the second time that evening to growing up in the poorer neighbourhoods of east London. Miranda remembered the flocks of children in each household that would have struggled to feed one. That gaunt, drained look of women who stood in their doorways, a baby balanced on their hips and the bulge of another unwanted child beneath their skirts. Their husbands came home, ate, fucked their sore, tired wives and went to sleep. Often women had had to seek out the horror and humiliation of a back alley termination of their pregnancies because it was the only way to ensure their other children were able to eat, and if not thrive, at least survive.
“Don’t be so surprised, sweetheart. You must know, you have to know how beautiful I find you. Truly, Miranda, there is nobody, literally no body in the world I would want in place of yours. I want your breasts, always, in any shape or form. Right now so sensitive and so full that they can produce enough milk to feed our babies. I want your waist to wrap my arms around just like this, because you are still a perfect fit.
You have to believe me when I say I want to feel how deliciously soft the skin on your stomach is because I have only known it full and tight with pregnancy, and because of that it is a reminder that you carried two babies, four babies really, for 9 months under your heart. I want to fill my hands with the curve of your hips that has deepened and tells me the story of every one of our children that have grown in you and passed through you into the world, and into my life, making me a mother as well. I worship your body, Miranda. I swear to you I crave it; I dream of it, I revere it.”
Miranda looked down and sucked in a breath as her suspicions were confirmed, her cheeks reddening. As she had listened to Andy’ sensual census of her body, the heat that had started deep in her core had spread like wildfire and also caused her whole body to flush and her breasts to leak.
A shudder originating from her core rolled through her body and caused her to shiver as she clutched Andrea’s arms as her knees weakened “Did I really almost make you come?”
“Do be quiet, Andrea. You realize this is the first La Perla I’ve worn in months, and you’ve ruined it.”
“Hoo-eee, I’m good.” Andy congratulated herself, slipping back into her Western persona.
Glancing up at the stairs quickly to make sure the girl weren’t about to come down, Andy quickly sunk to her knees in front of Miranda and skimmed her fingers over the stockinged calves and over bare thighs to tug Miranda’s underwear down from her hips, helping her to step out of it before bunching it up in her hand and stuffing it in the back pocket of her jeans. “Ruined? Hardly. I would say improved.”
She pulled Miranda gently against her once more, loving the feel of their bodies molded into one entity. “And know this. I’m going to buy you the most beautiful cowboy boots you’ve ever seen, and then, wearing nothing but those boots I will ravish you until you are writhing on the bed, soaked and thrashing and begging me."
Miranda shuddered, her hand still pressed to her abdomen to control the muscles that spasmed at Andrea’s words.
Even before she was showing, even when she was 8 months pregnant, and now, even with the remaining baby weight, Miranda fit perfectly in her arms whether they were standing like this or lying in bed at night with Andy as the big spoon, Miranda willingly almost wantonly pressed against her warmth.
“I still can’t believe you find me desirable,” came the soft murmur below her chin.
“That’s not even close, Miranda. You are not just desirable…you are vital.” Andy’s voice cracked with emotion on the last word before shaking her head and smiling to get a hold of herself again.
“Before those beautiful blue eyes begin to narrow at me, I’m using Nate as a comparison only because prior to now he is the most serious relationship I’ve ever been in, and by far the longest. But even in the beginning when we were supposedly ‘crazy about each other’ – I could go an entire day without thinking about Nate until I went back to our place and saw him. But from the moment I stepped into your office in those what I will now admit were God awful though highly comfortable orthopedic loafers and that ‘lumpy blue sweater’, not an hour has passed that you didn’t cross my mind, even after I didn’t work for you anymore. You know, for a long time I thought that made me weak, but with you I am stronger than I ever believed I could be. More than I thought, more than my parents, or friends, or Nate…”
“Andrea, I assure you, even from the moment you stepped into my office in those ‘God-awful but comfortable orthopedic loafers, you have always been the strong one…even in your choice to leave” A timer or some sort of cooking alarm went off and a soft kiss landed on Miranda's lips before the young woman let her hands slide from Miranda's waist to her hips and turned her head to call for the girl's without yelling in Miranda's ear.
“Guys, is dinner ready yet or are you still being gross?” A voice rang down from upstairs and Andy snorted as Miranda rolled her eyes delicately towards the ceiling in mild exasperation.
“To take on all of this darling, there can be no doubt that in this pairing you are the strong one.”
Andy glanced at the stairs to make sure no thundering feet were descending before taking Miranda’s lips again. “Sweet talker.”
Suddenly, the exhaustion returned to the older woman’s face, weary beyond belief in mind, body and spirit. “Tell that to the Elias Clarke board.”
“I’m having a hard time not doing it right now after seeing what they pulled today. But we’ll save that for late - after the ravenous munchkins have been sated and we check in with Dr. Jansen for an update on Chris’ status I want to hear aaa-ll about it.”
The brunette's smile as she turned to reclaim her spatula-turned-microphone-turned-spatula now that it was needed to serve dinner was like the bells of the toy shop opening, the warmth enveloping her in a much-needed embrace, as much at 50 as at that 8 year-old letting the bitter cold claim her heart. That would not happen again, not so long as Andrea remained in her life.
Gracious, the young woman had said that she, Miranda, was vital. And perhaps, to her, and only her, it was true. But Andrea, her Andrea was so much more, she was every toy Miriam had ever dreamed of, every wish, prayer and desire she had ever had as an adult who could buy anything she wanted. Anyone, even. Little felt like a gift anymore, such was the curse of fortune. But her fortune by far was enriched by Andrea's presence
This girl, no, woman, was the Breath of Life itself with infinite love and patience abounding, for whoever lived with her would need it. An angel, a miracle, a resurrection...and she was hers, just as the converse was true.
War would wait - she was its commander, was she not? No decisions would be made tonight, no strategy or scheming. Today she would hold her children close, those she could, and give thanks for the miracles that were the two babies in the NICU, one having undergone another sort of miracle today and coming through it with the promise of a full life. Then she would celebrate life in a different way with Andrea once they had gone to bed even though little could happen but hold each other. It was enough
Besides, she thought, shaking her head with a faint chuckle as she heard thunderous feet on the stairs, it was time for supper.