Miranda and Andréa sat at a little table in the sunlight, sharing a soft pretzel and quietly watching the passerby. Generally, sitting in silence with others filled Miranda with unease. It was part of the reason she preferred to ride in elevators alone. She hated silence, mostly because she hated the meaningless chatter that others insisted upon filling it with.
But at some point in their working relationship, Miranda had become quite comfortable sharing silence with Andréa. There was no awkwardness, no anxiety over whether to expect forced conversation. The two of them were able to sit quietly together and just… be. This was something that Miranda rarely experienced with anyone, and therefore something about her relationship with Andréa which she had come to truly cherish.
Initially, Andréa had been apprehensive to eating anything at all. She failed to understand how food could possibly relieve her nausea, and feared it would only make matters worse. But eventually, upon Miranda’s insistence, (and after bullying Miranda into eating some as well), she agreed. She began slowly, barely picking off anything at all. Now, though, the pretzel was all but gone, with Miranda having had little of it herself.
Andréa took a final swig of her ginger ale, a small smile on her face. “I’m feeling better now. Thanks, Miranda.” She gave Miranda a questioning look, “How did you know that would help?”
“My pregnancy with the girls was rather hard on me,” she admitted with a small shrug. “When you spend the better part of eight months feeling ill, you learn a few tricks.” She waved a hand at the food in front of them.
Andréa nodded. There were a few more minutes of quiet people-watching before either of them spoke again.
“So. How do you feel about carnival-style games?” Andréa asked.
“I can’t say I’ve given them enough thought to have any feelings on them, truthfully.”
“Well how do you feel about trying some out, then?” Excitement lit up Andréa’s face, and Miranda felt there was very little she wouldn’t do to ensure that the look stayed there.
She wondered vaguely if she was going to regret it as she answered almost immediately, “I don’t see why not.”
But then Andréa smiled hugely, and Miranda forgot about her other concerns for a moment.
“Awesome,” she said, hopping up. “Let’s try it out, then.”
As it turned out, neither of them were exceptionally good at any of the games they attempted. And they tried several— including ring toss (a complete failure for them both), balloon darts (yet another failure), and the strength tester (which, to the astonishment of both of them, Andréa had come quite close to winning).
It wasn’t until they decided to give plate breaking a go that they experienced any measure of success. Miranda lobbed the last of her balls, breaking yet another plate with the motion. Miranda couldn’t help but grin as Andréa cheered loudly beside her.
“What prize can I get ya?” asked the man behind the counter.
Not having bothered looking at the prizes before, Miranda glanced over her options. Before her was a wide array of cheaply made stuffed animals: a few fuzzy pink monkeys, an assortment of differently colored teddy bears, some of those abominable Minion characters, and… Miranda nearly laughed out loud. It was just too perfect.
She nodded toward her choice, and the man handed her the last of the small stuffed dragons on display. With scales bright green and wings blue and shiny, it was one of the tackiest things Miranda had ever laid eyes upon. No sooner had the man put it in her hands, Miranda held it out toward Andréa, eyes sparkling with amusement.
Andréa raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Oh. It’s for me? Are you sure? One of the girls might like it.”
Miranda gave her a flabbergasted look. “Caroline and Cassidy have plenty of toys, Andréa. Don’t be ridiculous.” She placed it in Andréa’s waiting hands and looked her over before smirking. “How appropriate.”
Andréa, now clutching her gift, cocked her head. “Appropriate? How’s that?”
“They call you the Dragon Tamer, do they not?”
“I—they—” Andréa’s eyes went wide with shock as she stuttered, and Miranda’s smirk grew all the wider. “I didn’t realize you knew about that,” Andréa said finally, face on fire.
“You’ll find that very little occurs in the halls of Runway which I’m unaware of. As you’re so fond of saying, ‘it’s my job’.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Andréa's voice was growing frantic, “I’ve been telling them to stop calling me that for ages. It’s embarrassing, and so inappropriate—”
“I found it rather amusing, actually,” Miranda interrupted, fighting the urge to chuckle at Andréa’s apparent horror.
“Amusing.” Andréa stared at her in disbelief, mouth agape. “You’re not angry?”
“Tell me, do I often fail to make my displeasure known?” she gave her a pointed look.
Andréa shook her head slowly, shock still written plainly on her features. She cleared her throat, checking her phone for the time before looking back at Miranda.
“Well… we’ve got a little time before we need to meet the girls,” she was now looking anywhere but at Miranda, cheeks still pink with embarrassment. “Is there anything you want to do while we’re still here? Any rides you’d like to try out, maybe?”
Miranda surveyed their surroundings. “Roller coasters are obviously out of the question,” she nodded toward her choice, “But what of ferris wheels?”
Andréa moved her hand to her stomach, looking thoughtful. “Ferris wheels are doable, I think.”
And doable it was. The two sat across from one another, enjoying the view as their cart climbed slowly higher. The ride wasn’t especially tall—but then again, the park wasn’t especially large. As they neared the top, Miranda could see much of the park below.
Miranda tried unsuccessfully to distract herself with the sights. The cart was much smaller than she anticipated, causing her to be so close to Andréa that their legs nearly touched. Hyperaware of her every movement, Miranda avoided the all-too-familiar warmth she felt every time their skin so much as brushed.
Perhaps this wasn’t the best idea, she thought anxiously.
“Look, the girls!” Andréa exclaimed, pointing down animatedly. Miranda followed Andréa’s gaze and found that she was right—there they were, side by side, walking out of Lightning Racer, the coaster next door.
“Here, hold this for me.” Quickly, Andréa placed the dragon into Miranda’s lap. In a blur of motion she pulled out her phone and leaned her torso out of the cart, snapping several photos in rapid succession.
While Miranda was busy being astonished at her for risking life and limb for a simple photo, Andréa turned and snapped a picture of Miranda as well. The flurry of movement paused as Andréa inspected her handiwork—a silly, crooked little grin plastered on her face.
Miranda held out her hand. “Let me see.”
“Nope.” Andréa didn’t look up from her screen.
Miranda huffed impatiently, plucking the phone from Andréa’s hands. Ignoring her protestations, she gave a cursory glance at the snapshots of Caroline and Cassidy before inspecting the photo of herself.
It wasn’t half bad. The sun shone on Miranda’s hair, giving her a sort of glow that contrasted with the silliness of the toy dragon she held in her lap. Satisfied, she handed the phone back to Andréa.
“What on Earth are you doing with them?” Miranda asked.
“I’m sending them to the girls,” she answered, “Maybe they can guess where we are.”
Miranda couldn’t help but smile at that. She had given Andréa’s number to Cassidy and Caroline ages ago. It was for emergencies—her assistants were often better about answering their phones than Miranda herself. (That she hadn’t done this with any previous assistant was not relevant in the slightest).
It was obvious the twins had begun to use Andréa’s number for more than just emergencies, however. Miranda couldn’t say that she minded—and it didn’t seem that Andréa did, either.
The irony of her situation did not escape Miranda. Attempting to forge a bond between her daughters and Stephen—whom she had married for the express purpose of providing a normal family, a father figure they saw more than twice a week—had been a monumental failure.
And yet they had no problem whatsoever when it came to bonding with Andréa.
Andréa, with whom Miranda’s relationship had never been anything even approaching normal. Andréa, who was supposed to be the exact opposite of what their little family needed. Andréa, whose presence was, Miranda reminded herself, painfully temporary.
“Is something wrong?”
Pulled out of her reverie, Miranda realized too late that she had been staring at Andréa while lost in thought. Unsure of what to say, she instead answered with another question. “Why did you do this?”
“Do what?” Where before there was concern, Andréa’s voice was now tinged with defensiveness.
“This.” Miranda gestured vaguely around them. “All of this. Bringing us to a place you knew we would all enjoy. Putting so much effort into planning a surprise for us—for the girls.”
Andréa furrowed her brow. “I’m confused. Are you… are you seriously angry at me for doing something thoughtful?”
“I’m not angry,” Miranda rolled her eyes. “I’m perplexed. By all accounts you should be doing your best to make this trip as miserable as possible.” It’s what I would have done.
The cart swayed gently in the breeze. Miranda could hear the sounds of the park as they drifted up from below: the mechanical clicks and rattles of surrounding attractions, children laughing, the chorus of high-pitched screams from the coaster next door.
“Even if I wanted to make you miserable…” Andréa said finally, “There’s no reason to punish Cassidy and Caroline.” She ran a hand through her windblown hair as she stared at the park below. “But I don’t want you to be miserable, Miranda. That’s the last thing I want.”
Miranda tilted her head as she studied her. “And what do you want, Andréa?”
Slowly, she turned her gaze to meet Miranda’s once more. Rosy lips parted to respond, “I—”
Miranda’s bag began to chirp, and for one mad second she considered it tossing onto the ground below for daring to interrupt. Gritting her teeth, she dug out her phone from where it lay hidden at the bottom of her purse. A glance at the screen told her that it was Caroline calling.
“Hello, Bobbsey.” Miranda tried to sound as cheery as possible as she answered.
“Where are you?” Caroline demanded, voice hard in a way that it only became when she was pretending not to be upset. “We were supposed to meet five minutes ago.”
Next, she heard Cassidy, not bothering to hide her panic, “Did something happen? Is Andy still sick?”
Disbelieving, Miranda checked her watch only to see that her daughters were correct: it was now 12:36.
“One question at a time, darlings,” she reassured them, “Everything is fine—Andréa feels much better now.”
“Where are you?” Caroline repeated, “We got the weirdo pictures Andy sent us. Are you on the ferris wheel or something?”
“Yes. We are…” Miranda looked around for confirmation, “Approximately three-fourths of the way around, now.”
“Oh… okay,” Caroline’s voice was apprehensive, “So nothing’s wrong?”
“No, nothing is wrong. I must have just lost track of the time.”
“…right.” Cassidy sounded just as skeptical as her sister.
Miranda couldn’t blame them. She was surprised, herself. In recent years she had become rather good at keeping her word to her children. Even before, however—when she was scarce present at all—Miranda was never late to see them because she had ‘lost track of time’. It simply wasn’t something that she did.
Exiting the ferris wheel a few minutes later, Cassidy and Caroline met them at the exit, giggling quietly while hunched over a scrap of paper.
“What’s so funny?” Miranda asked, eyeing them with a smile. Cassidy handed her the paper in question, and Miranda’s eyes widened. “Oh, no,” she said seriously. “That won’t do at all.”
It was a photo snapped of the four of them while on Skyrush—the very first coaster they rode together that morning. It was horrid. In the forefront was Andréa, face green and squished tight as Caroline squeezed her hand next to her, mouth open mid-scream.
Worse, though, was what lay behind them. Cassidy looked fine—the only one who managed to spot the camera, she wore a smug grin. No wonder she decided to buy it, Miranda thought. No, the true disaster was sitting next to her.
Hair awhirl about her head, Miranda wore a grimace. The picture was less flattering than even the worst of Page Six. She heard Andréa cackle behind her as she finally caught sight of it. Miranda handed the photo back to Cassidy begrudgingly, wishing instead to throw it away.
Eyes roving the park around her, Miranda found an employee. Glaring impatiently until he took notice, eventually he came their way. “How can I—” the boy started brightly, but Miranda cut him off.
“Where are those people? The ones who harassed us as soon as we stepped foot in this place?” she asked.
His eyes widened in alarm, “Harassed? Who hara—”
She rolled her eyes, “With the cameras.” She would not deign to call them photographers.
“Oh, you mean the Ginger Snappers?” he said brightly, “They’re at the main entrance. The quickest way would be through the Pioneer Frontier and just past the…” seeing the look on Miranda’s face, he faltered. “Or… I could go get one for you?”
Miranda gave a single nod, and with that, the boy ran off. Andréa raised her eyebrows. “Really, Miranda?”
“Really,” she said seriously.
Caroline and Cassidy only sighed in resignation, quite used to this sort of thing by now.
Not five minutes later the boy returned, winded, with two rather irritated-looking ‘Ginger Snappers’ in tow. They tried many different poses, Miranda checking every photo until at last she found one that was acceptable.
Ticket in hand, Miranda led them toward the nearest gift shop. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Andréa slipping the employees a tip before following behind.
Miranda entered the little shop intending to buy only her photo. Her children had other plans, however. When they left—quite some time later—each of them had a trinket of some kind.
For Caroline, a necklace with a small silver Kiss attached. Cassidy picked out a phone charm with a Tootsie Roll dangling from its chain and, after much pouting and convincing on her part, a miniature frame to display the awful Skyrush photo that had started this mess in the first place.
Even Andréa picked something out, buying herself the most hideous sweatshirt that Miranda had ever laid eyes upon. Bright cerulean, with various anthropomorphic candies surrounding the Hershey World logo, Andréa laughed at Miranda’s sneer upon seeing it.
For herself, Miranda bought only the photo. The family photo, she caught herself thinking more than once. She kept it wrapped safely in its packaging, tucked away in her bag.
By now Miranda was more than ready to leave the park, and could see from Andréa’s sluggish movements that she was, as well. The girls clearly weren’t, however—so she indulged them by agreeing to one more ride before getting back on the road.
After much deliberation, they were able to agree upon the merry-go-round. The girls argued that the ride was for babies, but acquiesced after seeing how green every other suggestion made Andréa.
Perched upon a camel, Miranda watched in amusement as Cassidy attempted unsuccessfully to capture a selfie with Caroline on the zebra beside her. She felt a pleasant sort of drowsiness pull at her eyelids as she watched the world spin slowly around her, allowed them to close for a moment as she listened to the ride music as it mingled with her daughter’s chattering.
Miranda’s eyes opened to see Andréa was watching her from the horse on her left. Brown eyes were flecked with gold in the sunlight, and for a moment Miranda was mesmerized. “You never told me what it is that you want,” she said, not looking away for an instant.
“What I…?” Andréa’s head tilted to the side as she remembered back to their conversation on the ferris wheel. “Oh,” she said, eyes never leaving hers. “I just want you to be happy, Miranda. That’s all.”
Miranda closed her eyes once more, and felt as her face stretched into a grin. Happy.