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To Begin Again

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The study, which is essentially an extension of Miranda's office, lets her review the Book without her idiot staff bothering her. Jane, the current first assistant, delivered it an hour or so ago, which was when her daughters--who very rarely enter her study, let alone spend time in it--joined her.

She is, however, acutely aware of their reason, which stems from their apprehension: Andrea left eight days ago for work with the promise to call every night at 9 to say goodnight--which she did, without fail, until two nights ago. That night, the phone didn't ring.

Miranda, who made it a point to be present for each phone call, watched as her daughters' faces fell, and along with them, so did her heart.

"Andrea is probably busy; she'll call tomorrow. Go and get ready for bed."

They shuffled out of her study with a sullen "goodnight," their disappointment showing vividly. It made her fist clench.

Tonight, at exactly 8:45 P.M., they entered her study, trying to mask their hopeful looks with nonchalance, to which her heart skipped a beat because she could see right through their little act and, more importantly, because she herself hadn't heard from Andrea in the past 24 hours. If she was being honest, she didn't want to think about it.

Until that moment.

"Bobbseys..." They simply looked at her, Cassidy settling on the couch with a book and Caroline on the floor with her laptop. And that was all she said. They didn't push.

At 10:47 P.M., though, Miranda feels herself beginning to lose control. The red pen in her hand cuts vigorously through a page of the Book and Cassidy looks about ready to cry; which, of course, only fuels the fire raging within her. However, it's Caroline's softly spoken words that have her finally reaching for her phone. "She's not gonna call. She's forgotten about us."

It's not going to be a pleasant conversation. Miranda knows that much, and grits her teeth.

"Don't be stupid!" Cassidy snaps. "Andy loves us." Miranda tries to ignore the hesitation, the question in her daughter's small voice. She's about to reply when--

"You're damn right she does!"

She feels her entire body start to shake involuntarily, but forces herself to look up as Andrea stumbles (never graceful; always resembling a baby elephant finding its feet) into the study, looking real--as real as it can get--and... tired. And, quite frankly, in need of a good shower. But, she's there! She's standing a mere ten feet away from Miranda and she's whole and she's real and... how?

The "how"s and "why"s can wait, Miranda decides. She can feel the hand holding her phone shake some more while her daughters, her precious Bobbseys, charge toward Andrea with enough force that almost has her worried for the woman's safety.

Andrea, however, happily lowers herself to her knees as the girls barrel into her, questions and accusations rushing out of their mouths at once. Miranda has to give Andrea credit: she handles both of them like a pro with a hand brushing through Cassidy's hair, soothing and reassuring, while having a firm grip on Caroline's shoulder; grounding and comforting all at the same time. The twins may be identical on the outside, but they very much possess their own individual and unique personalities--each bringing with it its own needs, which Andrea tends to expertly, much to Miranda's pleased surprise.

"Okay, you two, go get your gifts--side pocket," Andrea says, pulling Miranda out of her thoughts. In a raised voice, as the kids run off into the hallway with the same elegance and grace Andrea possesses, she adds, "But don't open them till you come back here!"

Miranda wants to be angry with her, and in a way she is--for failing to call, for making her worry, for letting her girls down--but then this is Andrea: she doesn't do hurtful, not on purpose, and Miranda is certain there is a very good reason she didn't call. She'll give her the benefit of the doubt--Andrea deserves at least that much from her.

So, she stands, straightens her skirt, and walks toward the woman she has long trusted with her heart.

"You're late," she states and can't help the accusing note to her tone. She has to give Andrea credit, again: she looks guilty. But there's also something off. Andrea is trying very hard to conceal a smile--and doing a very poor job because Miranda can see right through it.

Biting her bottom lip in another futile attempt, she takes a step to close the gap between them. "I know. I'm sorry," she breathes and Miranda thinks that if it wasn't for the girls, she'd be half-naked, bent over her desk, and begging to a God she no longer believes in.

Speaking of the girls; there's a sudden ruckus of noise coming from the hall and then two excited squeals as both kids come bouncing back into the room, each carrying a small, silver wrapped package.

Standing on either side of Andrea, Caroline and Cassidy are both smiling their identical smiles, their eyes darting enthusiastically from each other to Miranda to Andrea and back again. Miranda watches, puzzled, as Andrea tells them to open their gifts and silver wrapping gets torn away to reveal matching, blue, velvet boxes. Both girls look up: at each other and then at Andrea, who simply nods, smiling, indicating that they should open the boxes. However, Miranda can see from where she's leaning against her desk that Andrea is not only excited--she's nervous.

As the girls eagerly open their boxes, Miranda's attention shifts from Andrea to them, watching as Cassidy's eyes widen and a small gasp is emitted and as Caroline, with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer, declares, "Shit! Oh, my God!" (Miranda sourly thinks that she's beginning to take on one too many of Andrea's bad habits.)

She's about to say something as she brings her attention back to Andrea, only to be rendered speechless. Andrea, the girl who walks into walls and doors and falls over nothing on a daily basis, is gracefully lowering herself to one knee as she pulls another blue, velvet box from her jacket pocket--the brown, leather jacket Miranda is so very fond of--and opens it. Miranda freezes.

She can see the ring. It's beautiful. It's not something she would have chosen (for her previous engagments, it was her who picked out the rings, as well as suggested marriage in the first place, like a contract as opposed to a proposal to a life of shared love and intimacy). No, this ring is different, everything occuring here is different--so very different and she's not quite sure how to handle it, the ring-- oh, God, it's them. Her and Andrea.

Her heart stops.

Andrea starts to speak, addressing all three of them, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry I didn't call when I said I would. It was just... it was a shi-- I mean, it was crazy, and I know that's no excuse, but I just wanted to be done; I wanted to come home. So I jumped on the next flight I could find. Please don't hate me."

With pleading eyes and a tremulous smile, she goes on, "You're my family. The love of my life." Her eyes rise to meet Miranda's; sparkling and deep and so incredibly captivating that Miranda's heart squeezes painfully in her chest. Her smile widening, Andrea finishes, "Caroline, Cassidy, Miranda Priestly... will you marry me?"

Miranda can't breath. She watches, as if in a dream, as Caroline and Cassidy remove their respective silver bands from the boxes, as Andrea clasps them onto each of their wrists. She watches as all three of them hug, tears in their eyes ('Really,' she scoffs, 'it's like something out of a Jane Austen novel'), and she straightens up and clears her throat (when did it get so choked up?).

Andrea and her--their?--daughters turn to face her, and, taking a breath she didn't know she was holding, her eyes follow Andrea's movements as she steps toward her again, only this time it's different: this time, it's the rest of her life coming toward her, and all she wants to do is fall headfirst into it.