Actions

Work Header

The Proposal

Chapter Text

Miranda sat at her kitchen table, cradling a cup of coffee while gazing at the sunrise out her window. Watching deep blacks and purples fade slowly into the pale blues and pinks of day, she pondered the week to come.

She had been up for hours. Since the beginning of her supposed engagement to Andréa four days ago she had hardly slept, and the exhaustion was beginning to take its toll. Miranda was certainly no stranger to bouts of insomnia, but until recently she’d managed to break free from its clutches for quite some time. Nearly two years, in fact.

Last night, at least, her restlessness had served a purpose. She wiled away the hours by packing and repacking their various suitcases, preparing herself for the oncoming week in any little way that she could. Not that there was any way to truly be prepared for spending a week with her in-laws to be. She had burned through three sets now, if she included Kathleen’s parents in the count. None of them had particularly liked her, and she would be lying if she said that the feeling wasn’t mutual.

She doubted that this experience would prove to be much different. Even at the best of times Miranda knew that she wasn’t exactly likeable—and being forced to spend an entire week out of her element while surrounded by strangers most certainly was not Miranda Priestly at her best.

In fact, she had a sinking feeling that this particular meeting would manage be even worse than those with in-laws’ past. It didn’t take a mathematician to notice Miranda was closer in age to Andréa’s parents than she was to Andréa herself. Twenty-three years was no small difference.

Not to mention that they would be in the woods for two days. Miranda still hadn’t come to terms with the fact that tomorrow she would apparently be camping. Try as she might, she couldn’t think of any way to get out of the experience without also losing her engagement to Andréa in the deal.

Instead, she had settled for sending the girl galivanting around Manhattan the last few days, in search of things like three-bedroom tents, portable coffeemakers, and solar-powered charging stations. If she couldn’t get out, she figured, then she might as well get even.

The girls were ecstatic about the whole thing, of course. The two of them had been trying for years to get Miranda to join them on their annual camping trips with their father, to no avail. How she had apparently managed to give birth to two outdoor enthusiasts was beyond her.

Miranda had lived in cities her entire life. Over the course of the last 51 years her interactions with nature had been minimal, and she had hoped to keep it that way. Between her allergies, aversion to dirt, and general fear of all things that crawl, Miranda would much rather keep her feet planted firmly on the concrete.

She heard footsteps and looked up to see Cassidy, fully dressed, trotting into the kitchen.

“When is Andy getting here?” She asked without preamble.

Miranda raised her eyebrows. “Well good morning to you too, dear,” she admonished lightly before glancing at her watch. It was barely 6:00 am. “I’d say we have at least another hour yet. Is Caroline awake?”

“Yup! I woke her up a little while ago. She’s repacking her travel-bag for the car. She changed her mind about a couple of the books she wanted to bring, I think.” Cassidy opened the fridge and grabbed herself a yogurt before moving to sit next to her mother at the kitchen table.

“And what about you?” Miranda asked, “Are you ready?”

“Oh, yeah,” her daughter nodded. Ever the morning person, she continued at top speed, “I’ve been ready for ages. Hey, did you know that Andy has a little niece and nephew? She told us on the phone yesterday. She says that they’re both really cute.” She ate a spoonful of yogurt before continuing. 

“I’ve always wanted cousins. And she said that she has a surprise for us before we get to Ohio. What do you think it is? Did she tell you?” Cassidy looked at her with wide eyes.

Before Miranda could respond, however, a still pajama-clad Caroline padded into the kitchen. “Maybe it’ll be a dog,” her other daughter mused, her voice still groggy with sleep. “She said it’s something that all three of us will really like, and we all really like dogs.” She grabbed a bowl from a nearby cabinet before searching for her cereal.

Cassidy shook her head. “That doesn’t make any sense. If we were gonna take a dog with us to Cincinnati, then why not just take Patricia? Besides, she said we’re bringing her cat Marshmallow home with us.” She paused for a moment, scooting over as Caroline sat down next to her, bowl of cereal in hand. “Maybe she’ll take us to the Lady Gaga concert that’s in Pittsburg tonight. We have to drive through Pennsylvania to get to Ohio anyway. Plus, we all love her.”

“I beg to differ,” Miranda said weakly. The girls had quickly developed an obsession with the artist upon the release of her new album earlier that year, and insisted upon listening to her music at every available opportunity. Miranda tolerated it for their sake, but to say that she enjoyed it would be a gross exaggeration.

“Whatever, mom. I totally heard you singing along to Bad Romance last week,” Caroline joked, pointing a spoon at her mother in accusation.

“You heard no such thing,” Miranda responded dismissively, standing up. “Now hurry up and eat, girls. I need your help getting the luggage into the trunk before Andréa gets here.”

   ----------------- 

It was a bright and beautiful Sunday morning. The sun was shining, the cars were honking, and Andy was so, so late.

Of course I am, she thought grumpily as she all but leapt down the stairs of her building, lugging her suitcase along behind her.

Every time Andy went on a trip, she made herself the same promise: that this time, things would be different. This time she would pack early. This time she would go to sleep at a reasonable hour the night before, and this time she would wake up early the next day.

And every time, Andy knew damn well that she was lying to herself.

She had the best intentions. She truly did. She knew she’d be busy all week, so she decided to do the bulk of her packing on Saturday night.

And her plan would have gone off without a hitch, too, but there was one little problem: Dani was in desperate need of her help. Due to the holiday, Runway would only be open on Monday and Tuesday next week. But that didn’t change the fact that, not only would the soon-to-be first assistant be alone to man the phones for those two days, but that she would also be busy interviewing candidates for her own replacement. And because Miranda had been sending them both on crazy errands all week long, she hadn’t had any time to prepare.

So, the two of them stayed at the office late into the night, sorting through hundreds of resumes and organizing a list of potential interviewees for Dani to call the following day. Feeling guilty for knowing she was the cause of all her friend’s additional stress, Andy did everything she could to make sure that Dani’s week without her would run as smoothly as possible. By the time she finally got home it was nearly 10:00 pm, and she hadn’t so much as cracked open a suitcase.

She was cutting it close on time, but Andy was an old pro at speed-packing by now. She knew that she could be ready to go within the hour. Then she’d be free to return to the bed she’d been fantasizing about for hours, and would be out like a light before the clock struck twelve. Sure, it wasn’t ideal, but Andy could do it.

Naturally, this had been precisely the moment when her mom had decided to call.

Powerwalking down her street toward the nearest subway station, Andy sighed deeply as she recalled the conversation. The mere memory of it brought back that same sick feeling in her stomach, and she knew she wouldn’t feel any better until she talked it out. Pulling out her phone, she knew just who to call.

Her older sister, Rachel, picked up after only two rings. “I was wondering when you were going to call,” she said by way of greeting.

“Hey Rach,” Andy said apologetically, “Sorry. Things have been kind of insane for me these last few days.”

“No shit. Should I start referring to you as ‘Mrs. Priestly’ now?” her sister joked.

“I’d prefer ‘Priestly-Sachs’, actually,” she said, only half kidding. “I’m gonna go ahead and assume that Mom and Dad told you everything?”

“You would assume correctly. I’d like to hear your take on the events, though. Dad was reasonable enough, but you know how Mom is.”

“Oh my god, do I.” Andy groaned, “That’s the whole reason I’m calling. She called me last night while I was packing.” She adjusted her backpack on her shoulders as she walked.

“Okay. For now I’m going to choose not to comment on your time management skills and move directly to the topic of your Mom management skills.” Rachel snarked, “What’d she say?”

“Basically? Exactly what I expected her to. She did halfway apologize for ‘the way her reaction may have made me feel’, though, so that’s something I guess.”

“Damn, she actually said she was sorry? I think the last time I heard her apologize to anyone was that time she accidentally ran over Ben’s foot with the minivan. Wow. Dad must’ve really guilted her, huh?”

Andy laughed, “Yeah, I guess so. He probably remembers how long it took for me to come back home after Mom’s freak-out my senior year, and wanted to avoid a repeat.”

The final year of high school is a time of change for most teenagers, and Andy’s had been no exception. It had been during this time that she had decided to break up with her long-time girlfriend, Marcie. This alone might have been bad enough—her parents had both really liked Marcie, and were more than a little concerned when Andy ended their relationship seemingly out of the blue.

It wasn’t long after that Andy also decided to attend Northwestern University for journalism. This posed a serious issue as well, because the expectation of her parents—both lawyers themselves—had always been that she would attend Stanford Law. Neither of Andy’s older siblings had opted to become lawyers, so the assumption had always been that Andy would. After all, someone needed to carry on the legacy of the Sachs’ family firm.

Neither of Andy’s parents had been particularly thrilled with her decision-making at the time, but her mother had taken it the hardest. Andy could remember the arguments clear as day. Her mom insisting that she was ‘throwing away her potential’ for some ‘stupid daydream,’ listing off for her daughter all the reasons why she was apparently making the ‘worst mistake of her life.

Her mother spent weeks belittling her youngest child and her ambitions, seeming to believe that making Andy feel like shit would somehow magically change her mind. All she managed to do, however, was chase Andy away. She didn’t come home even one time during her entire first semester of college.

“Yeah, true. I almost forgot about that,” Rachel responded quietly, pulling Andy back to the present with her words. “Was that all she said?”

“Pretty much.” Andy rolled her eyes, “All that was worth mentioning, anyway. It was just a bunch of really uncomfortable small talk after that. I know that wasn’t the end of it, though. She was only worried that we wouldn’t come if she didn’t say something. I bet she wouldn’t even have called if Dad hadn’t told her to.”

“Nope, probably not,” came her sister’s blunt response. “Thank god for Dad I guess, right? I’m sure that the promise of built-in grandkids didn’t hurt your chances, either. Did she say anything about that?”

“Not much, actually. The most she really did was ask how old the girls are, and what gifts I thought she should get them come Christmastime. I told her to just let Grandma Clara knit them some scarves,” she snorted. “Miranda oughta love that.”

Rachel laughed, “Sounds like—” she was interrupted by a loud crashing noise. “—shit. Madison Grace, what are you doing up there?” Andy heard the unmistakable peal of her niece’s laughter and couldn’t help but smile.

“Gotta go, Andy. Talk to you later.” Her sister said quickly before shouting again, “Get back here, Maddie. That is not funny—” The line went dead.

Still smiling, Andy shook her head as she descended the stairs into the subway. There was so much about this week that could (and likely would) go wrong, but Andy couldn’t help but look forward to it regardless. Getting to introduce her family to the woman she loved and her family was a shit show waiting to happen, and yet still Andy found that she couldn’t wait for it to begin.

Realizing what she’d just thought, Andy froze. No, she reprimanded herself silently. No, you don’t love her. You have a crush, sure, but who doesn’t? That’s totally different.

Andy couldn’t love Miranda Priestly. She wouldn’t. Because falling for her boss was a disaster waiting to happen—one that Andy wasn’t sure that her heart could ever recover from.

  -----------------  

Miranda sighed, looking at her watch for what was likely the twentieth time in the last ten minutes as she paced the expanse of her foyer. Andréa had said she would be to the townhouse at 7:15, so naturally, Miranda assumed she would arrive by at least 7:00. It was now 7:12, and she was beginning to grow restless.

Against her will, Miranda’s mind conjured up endless potential reasons for the younger woman’s absence. Was there some sort of delay with the subways? Was there a crash, perhaps? Or maybe a freak accident? She felt the beginnings of anxiety bubbling up in her stomach. After all, if anyone were going to be caught in some awful, one-in-a million scenario, it would almost certainly be Andréa.

She rolled her eyes at herself, all too aware of how ridiculous she was being. Likely the girl had simply overslept. Despite what she would have Miranda believe she knew that Andréa was not, in fact, invincible.

Forcing herself to stop her pacing, Miranda decided that she needed a distraction. She headed toward the basement, where lay the entrance to the garage. As she approached, she could hear the unmistakable sounds of her daughters’ laughter.

Leaning against the doorway, she called out to Caroline and Cassidy, “You are aware that we’re going to be spending the entire day in the car, aren’t you? There’s no reason to subject yourselves to the backseat any more than necessary.” In their excitement to get going, the two had opted to wait in the Mercedes.

“We wanna be ready when Andy gets here!” Cassidy giggled. “Where is she? We’ve been waiting for hours.”

“It isn’t Andréa’s fault that you woke up at four in the morning,” Miranda pointed out. “Don’t be dramatic, darling.”

“It is too her fault! She should know that I can never rest when there’s a mystery to be solved,” there was a flash of red hair as she popped her head out the window, “And a surprise is one of the best mysteries ever. So, it’s totally her fault.”

“You’re such a nerd,” Caroline laughed, throwing one of the many pillows amassed in the backseat at her sister’s head.

Before Cassidy could retaliate in kind, there came a voice over Miranda’s shoulder.

“Talking about me, I see.” Miranda turned around to see a very flushed looking Andréa, cheeks rosy and eyes glowing.  She nearly had to bite her lip to keep herself from grinning at the sight.

“For the record: totally not my fault.” Andréa continued cheerily, heading towards the already open trunk.

“You’re late.” Caroline complained, climbing out of the car to assist the brunette and grabbing her backpack for her. “You were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago.”

“Wow, has anyone ever told you that you sound exactly like your mom when you’re pointing out the failures of others? It’s uncanny,” Andréa joked. “But by the rest of the world’s standards, I’m only five minutes late.”

Miranda scoffed at the slight, but was interrupted before she could respond.

“Oh my god, how much stuff did you shove in here?” Andréa exclaimed upon peering into the trunk and seeing it already packed full.

Miranda narrowed her eyes at the other woman’s choice of words. “As much as we needed,” she answered elusively. “There’s plenty of room for your things,” she waved vaguely toward the tiny spot at the far corner of the trunk that was still vacant.

Andréa rolled her eyes. “Gee, thanks. I’m glad I decided only to bring my backpack and suitcase. I’d considered bringing a purse or something, but that obviously would’ve been pushing it. Maybe I’ll be able to squeeze my stuff in between one of the hammocks and the… is that a table?”

“Perhaps if you had shown up on time, you could have arranged the luggage to your liking,” Miranda bristled. She was not in the mood to be mocked, no matter how funny Andréa seemed to think she was being.

“Alright, point taken,” Andréa raised her hands as if in surrender. “It’s too early to argue. Sorry, Tetris-Mistress.” With that, she began maneuvering her own suitcase into the trunk. Miranda returned into the house to ensure that everything was in order before locking the doors and turning on the home security system.

Upon her return the garage was open, and three sets of eyes were watching her from inside of the now waiting car.

Settling into the passenger seat and noticing that Andréa had finally removed her coat, Miranda inspected her outfit. A ratty grey Northwestern hoodie, blue jeans, and a pair of those horrible Tom shoes. She narrowed her eyes.

“Give me a break,” Andréa said defensively, apparently noticing her look. “I’m about to spend the better part of the next twelve hours driving. Not all of us want to be uncomfortable for the entire car ride,” She eyed Miranda’s own plum wrap dress and heels with suspicion.

“My outfit is perfectly functional, thank you. Julepér is known for his casualwear.”

“Can’t you two bicker and drive?” Came Cassidy’s voice from the backseat.

Miranda opened her mouth to chastise her daughter’s whining, but Andréa merely hummed in assent as she put the car into reverse and backed into the quiet street.

Watching her home disappear in the distance, Miranda closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She had no idea what to expect from this week, but she couldn’t help but suspect that nothing would ever be the same again.

  ----------------- 

Andy sat behind the wheel of Miranda’s silver Mercedes as she gave a small, contented sigh. They’d been driving for over an hour now, and so far, so good. The four of them were listening to one of several playlists that she had procured for the trip (this one was created specifically with the twins in mind, with mostly pop music and a healthy dose of Gaga), while Caroline and Cassidy chattered quietly in the backseat. Andy had introduced them to The Alphabet Game only a few minutes into their drive, and the two of them had been at it ever since.

They were driving past one of many cornfields when Andy heard Caroline gasp from the backseat. “You didn’t tell us you brought snacks!”

“Ooh, lemme see,” came Cassidy’s voice. Suspicious crinkling sounds filled the air.

“You’re right, I didn’t.” Andy looked at Caroline in the rearview mirror, “So the only way you would know that is if you were snooping.” She narrowed her eyes.

The twins continued rummaging through her backpack, not an ounce of remorse on their faces.

“Can I have some Cheetos?” Cassidy pleaded, holding up a bag for Andy to see. “Please? They’re my favorite.”

Caroline continued digging through the bag, a look of concentration on her face. “Ah-ha!” She exclaimed, “Cool Ranch Doritos! Lemme have some. Pretty please? With sugar on top?”

Andy rolled her eyes. “You’re laying it on a little thick, there.”

“Girls, you already ate. There’s no need to eat that rubbish,” Miranda admonished, “Leave Andréa’s things alone.”

“Hey! It’s not all rubbish. There’s apples and stuff in there, too,” she said. “…Somewhere. But no road trip is complete without junk food.”

“All the more reason to have flown, then.”

“She packed your favorite too, mom.” Cassidy said excitedly, “Sea salt and vinegar! You did this on purpose, didn’t you, Andy? How did you know?”

Andy’s standard response to such questions, ‘It’s my job,’ was on the tip of her tongue. Before she could get the words out, however, she was interrupted by Caroline, talking around a large mouthful of Doritos.

“Duh. She’s our new step mom. She loooves us,” her arms waved around dramatically, apparently for emphasis. “Right, Andy?”

A blush creeped up her neck as Andy felt herself being pierced by Miranda’s icy blue stare at her daughter’s words. The question had been meant as a rhetorical one, but Andy decided that it needed answering, regardless.

She cleared her throat before rasping quietly, “Well… yeah. Of course I love you guys, Caroline.” Isn’t it obvious? “What’s not to love?”

Chancing a glance at Miranda, Andy found the other woman watching her intently, studying her face as if seeing it for the very first time. Their gazes caught, and Andy didn’t bother trying to hide the way that she felt.

The girls, both hyper with the excitement for the day to come, didn’t seem to have heard her reply as they began another cutthroat round of The Alphabet Game. Andy didn’t mind, though, because the person that the words had truly been meant for had heard them just fine.

 -----------------  

Miranda stared out her window, watching as fields full of grazing cattle sped by. Flat plains were slowly giving way to rolling hills, the trees atop them bursting with the yellows and oranges of autumn. The sun still shone brightly overhead, becoming dappled by the beginnings of gray clouds decorating the skies. She watched all this, but she saw nothing. Her mind was still preoccupied with the conversation between Andréa and her daughters from nearly two hours ago.

Of course I love you guys, Caroline,’ Andréa had all but whispered next to her, ‘What’s not to love?’

Miranda had looked for a hint of trickery, listened intently for any note of falsehood. As she searched the other woman’s face, however, she found naught but sincerity. Miranda gazed into entrancing brown eyes and expected to find there only guilt, the sort that came from giving a kind lie to an unknowing child.

She had expected this, and therefore was astonished to find only sincerity. Andréa’s eyes glowed with affection, and the sight had filled Miranda with warmth to see it—starting somewhere deep in her belly, and spreading slowly, until she felt its pleasant tingle in even the tips of her toes. Her heart clenched at the mere memory, though whether from pain or from pleasure she still wasn’t quite sure.

She’s simply fond of them, Miranda reasoned. They did spend an entire week together this summer, after all. And as Andréa said, what’s not to love?

Yes, that was all it was. What Miranda had seen in the younger woman’s eyes was simple affection for Caroline and Cassidy. Nothing more, nothing less. Not some deep seeded desire to truly be a part of their little family, and certainly not any sort of feelings for Miranda herself.

She shook her head at herself for so much as entertaining the thought. She reminded herself that this was, first and foremost, a business deal. One which would keep Miranda right where she belonged: by her daughters’ sides, while continuing to be the most successful Editor in Chief in Runway’s history.

And hadn’t Andréa made it clear that the reward she expected was to be rid of Runway, and therefore rid of the editor herself, entirely?  Feelings had nothing to do with their little arrangement, and she would do well to remember that. 

Still gazing out her window, Miranda was distracted from her reflections as Andréa put on her turn signal, inexplicably heading towards an exit sign that read Hershey, PA.

Turning to look at the younger woman in confusion, she was about to comment on this change of events when she heard Caroline’s voice from the backseat, “Hershey. I keep seeing that name on the signs. Is that like the chocolate?”

“Sure is,” came Andréa’s response, and Miranda could hear the smile in her voice.

As the girls quietly digested this information, they passed yet another sign, this one larger and filled with colorful photos of an assortment of candy. “Hershey World, Only 10 Miles Away!” it read.

As Andréa turned onto the exit, Cassidy whooped loudly, “Ah-ha! That’s our surprise, isn’t it? I’ve always wanted to go to Hershey World!”

“Is that really what it is, Andy?” Caroline asked excitedly, “Please tell me that’s what it is.”

“I have no idea what you guys are talking about,” Andréa replied playfully, and the faux innocence in her tone told them all that they needed to know.

“That’s totally it,” Caroline gushed. “Yes! Five-pound chocolate bars, here I come.”

At that, Miranda turned to look at both of her daughters, her tone serious. “There will be none of that. I want the two of you to enjoy yourselves, but I won’t have you giving yourselves type two diabetes in a fit of chocolate-hazed madness.”

Caroline’s face fell. “You’re not gonna let us have any chocolate? At Hershey World?” She looked positively distraught, as did her sister beside her.

Miranda shook her head. “I didn’t say that, Bobbsey. Don’t be silly. I’m simply saying that we’ll need to practice moderation.”

At that, the grins returned to her daughters’ faces in full force. Miranda couldn’t help but smile, herself. Chocolate was a favorite of all three of the Priestly women. Andréa had certainly chosen her surprise well.

The woman in question shrugged beside her. “I’ve always really wanted to go, and I figured that you guys would probably appreciate it, too. I’ve seen your mom sneak many a chocolate at Runway.”

Miranda’s eyes widened slightly before she could school her expression. She very rarely indulged, and always took the utmost care to ensure that no one was around to see her do so. “I very much doubt that,” she said.

“Uh-huh,” Andréa smirked, “Then how would I know that Mounds is your favorite candy? And that, occasionally, you like to eat two of the little ‘fun-sized’ ones after a particularly stressful day?”

Miranda raised a disdainful eyebrow, but chose not to comment. “And how are we to fit this little excursion into our schedule?” she asked, shamelessly changing the subject. “We still have at least seven hours of driving ahead of us, Andréa.”

Andréa looked at the girls in the rearview mirror. “Cassidy, could you give your mom my backpack?”

Obediently, Cassidy handed it over.

Turning to glance at Miranda, who now held the garish orange bag in her lap, Andréa pointed at the pocket in the very front. “Look in there.”

Inside, Miranda found four tickets, each with the words “Adventure Fast Track Pass” scrolled across the top in bold print.

“With those bad boys, we’ll get sent straight to the front of the line for any five rides we choose,” Andréa proclaimed proudly. “So, we really shouldn’t be there for more than an hour or two. Tops.”

Miranda listened with half an ear as the girls began to chatter excitedly with Andréa about which rides they planned to choose, and wondered to herself if perhaps this trip wouldn’t be so bad, after all.

 -----------------  

The air whooshed past Andy’s face as she felt the rollercoaster slow to a stop. Her stomach bubbled with fresh waves of nausea, and she freed the hand that Caroline had been squeezing tightly in order to better cover her mouth.

“Are you okay, Andy?” came Cassidy’s voice. She and Miranda had been sitting in the cart right behind Caroline and herself, but she sounded much farther away than that.

Andy turned around in her seat to look at her, but stopped suddenly when it set the world spinning around her. Squeezing her eyes shut, she held her head in her hands. Nope, definitely not okay.

That had been what Andy meant to say, but all that came out was a slightly slurred “Nuh—no…”

Unbuckling her seatbelt, Andy stumbled out of her seat and onto the platform of the Wildcat, the huge wooden coaster that had been the twins’ pick for first ride of the day. She squinted her eyes, opening them just enough to see the people around her as she weaved through the crowd.

Finally, Andy found what she was looking for: a bench. She slumped down on the seat, putting her head between her knees. Is this what getting old feels like? she wondered miserably. Riding rollercoasters used to be fun, however the way she felt now was anything but. She stayed in this position until she heard Miranda’s voice heading towards her.

“Andréa?” there was an unmistakable note of concern in the other woman’s tone. Had Andy felt less dreadful, she might have been touched.

“M’okay,” she mumbled, head still between her knees.

“Yes, you’re quite the picture of good health.” Miranda said tightly.

Slowly, Andy lifted her head up. Swallowing the bile that rose in her throat at the movement, she tried again. “Really. I’m fine. I just…” she held back a gag, “Apparently can’t ride rollercoasters like I used to. No big deal.”

Miranda hummed quietly. “No big deal. Considering those are the exact words you used as your appendix burst at your desk, forgive me if I no longer trust your judgment on such things.”

“Are you gonna puke?” Caroline asked, eyes wide. “You’re totally gonna puke. Thanks for not doing it on me, I guess. Gross.” She wrinkled her nose.

“Please don’t use the ‘p’ word.” Andy could feel herself blanch, and there was no holding back her gag this time. “You three go on and enjoy the rides. I’ll be fine right here, don’t you worry.”

Miranda checked her watch, ignoring Andy’s statement entirely. “Girls,” she said, looking up at Caroline and Cassidy. “Mommy is going to stay here with Andréa. You have…” she glanced back down at her watch once more, “Seventy minutes to ride as many rides as you like, but I expect to meet you back here at one o’clock. Not a moment later.”

Both twins looked as stunned as Andy felt. Notoriously overprotective Miranda, letting her darling daughters out of her sight for over an hour? And at an amusement park, of all places?

Seeing their astonishment, Miranda continued, “Are you not the same two children who, only a week ago, complained of a lack of independence?” she studied each of their faces in turn, finger tapping gently at her lip.

“If the idea makes you uncomfortable, Bobbseys, then of course I’ll go with you. I simply thought that you might enjoy a bit of freedom,” she said gently, before waving a hand in Andy’s direction. “And of course I don’t want to leave our Andréa alone in this state.”

There it was again. Our Andréa. She felt some color return to her cheeks at the words, and the same warmth bubbled up inside as she had felt earlier that week in Irv’s office, when Miranda had so decisively called Andy hers. Had it really only been four days since this all began?

Apparently coming to their senses, both girls shook their heads.

“No, we’re not uncomfortable,” Cassidy amended quickly, “Just surprised.”

“Yeah,” Caroline added, “I remember when you yelled at us at Disneyland Paris because you thought you lost us. That was scary.” Her eyes went wide at the memory.

Andy very seriously doubted that Miranda had truly yelled at anyone, let alone her children. The experience must have left quite the impression, though, for the girls to still remember it. The Priestleys hadn’t vacationed in Paris since before Andy had been at Runway.

“Yes, well.” Miranda sniffed, “That was nearly five years ago. You’re much older now. Not to mention, this park is a fraction of the size of Disney.” She paused for a moment, expression thoughtful. “I expect a text from one of you every fifteen minutes until we meet again, letting me know where you are. Understood?”

Both girls nodded, faces clearly torn between excitement and nervousness.

Miranda gave her daughters a small smile. “Excellent. We’ll see you here at 12:30, then. Call one of us if you need anything at all. We won’t be far.”

What does she have up her sleeve? she wondered as Miranda turned her smile towards Andy, and Cassidy and Caroline wandered away. She offered Andy a hand.

“Shall we?”

Andy studied her hand for a moment before accepting the help up. “I guess so,” she said warily, “Thanks.”

Miranda didn’t immediately let go of her hand. Andy could feel the other woman studying her under Chanel sunglasses, and she looked away awkwardly, not sure what to do with the twins no longer there as a buffer. She grasped at her stomach with her free hand, her body protesting to its new, upright position.

She felt a sense of loss as Miranda finally released her hand. The other woman jerked her head toward a food stand nearby. “I think I have just the thing for that.” She turned on her heel and headed toward the stand in question, and Andy silently followed.