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Losing Miranda

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Miranda wakes up slowly, grudgingly. A quick glance at the drapes which haven't been closed properly confirm that the sun is already high, meaning a good portion of the morning has already passed her by. It won't be the first time. Reaching blindly for the nightstand, her fingers brush the clammy surface of a drinking glass, then the small, plastic-coated pills next to it. Miranda grasps the pills, depositing them on her tongue before washing them down with lukewarm water. It's a long way from the sparkling San Pellegrino that she would insist on every morning, the bubbles still popping as she sat at her desk to begin the day.

 

That's the last thought she has before sleep reclaims her, pulling her into dark dreams she won't remember.

 

*

 

She next awakes when a small bundle of activity collides with her left side. Opening one eye, Miranda confirms that Cassidy is her visitor, the younger of the twins by seven minutes and by far the most expressive; something she must have inherited from her father.

 

"Mom?"

 

"Yes, Bobbsey?"

 

"Are you feeling better yet?'

 

Miranda falls back against the pillows with a sigh, acutely aware of her unstyled hair and pillow-creased skin. She isn't the paragon of glamor that she likes to present to the outside world, the one she'd prefer her daughters remember too.

 

"Almost. Why don't you go outside and play with your sister?"

 

"It's raining," Cassidy replies with a pout, because she hears the rejection that Miranda is trying so desperately to conceal. No mother wants to tell her child she doesn't have the energy to spend time with her, but Miranda is perilously close.

 

She's saved by a sudden stampede of footsteps in the hallway outside the bedroom-- Caroline in search of her sister. Caroline doesn't enter the room, she won't unless cajoled into it by Stephen. Mercifully, he doesn't appear to be around. Cassidy takes one last appraising look at her mother, before scurrying out to occupy herself with something more fun.

 

It's for the best, Miranda tells herself, but that doesn't make it sting any less.

 

*

 

Eventually, she drags herself out from under the comforter and into the bathroom. Her right leg protests at the unexpected weight on it after hours of rest, but eventually the joints begin cooperating again. Miranda relieves herself and brushes her teeth, but she can’t bear to look in the mirror. The scarring is minimal - she received care from the finest surgeons on the East Coast after all -but looking at it is a challenge for later in the day.

 

It takes an eternity to run a bath; years and tens of thousands of dollars of improvements to the property haven't completely overcome the ancient plumbing, and Miranda finds herself sitting listlessly on the edge of the tub, humming some tune she barely recognizes.

 

When the warm water is suitably deep Miranda strips her wrinkled nightgown from her clammy skin and sinks gratefully into the welcoming tub. For the first time in days, she can feel the mental fog lifting. Her skin reacts gleefully to the warmth and soothing bubbles (no oils, she can’t risk slipping), and when she steps out almost an hour later, Miranda feels much more like herself.

 

Standing in front of the oversized bathroom mirror, Miranda can finally bear to survey the damage. The dark circles under her eyes persist despite the hours upon hours of sleep that she's racked up since leaving Manhattan. Her hair is a disaster zone, curled and damp from the bath water, it sticks to her forehead and scalp, looking nothing like her signature bob. The towel knotted around her chest remains in place, but there's no denying the weight loss that shows in her cheeks and her arms. The scars that she’s been so carefully avoiding glow pinkly against her pale face, the lingering damage from shattered glass and tremendous impact.

 

Not good enough, Priestly.

 

Padding back into the bedroom that has become a sort of prison, Miranda reaches once more for the medication that waits on the nightstand. She doesn't question who comes in to set out the correct doses in between her extended naps, some member of staff or other no doubt. In fact, she's so used to having everything done for her that Miranda usually forgets to notice anything of the kind.

 

She wants to see her daughters, and so Miranda selects casual clothes from the drawers and closets that line her dressing room. Brushing her hair back, she opts for a blue headscarf to pull it back from her face and hide its lackluster condition. By the time her light sweater and linen pants are in place, the outfit looks quite passable. The thought of make-up is exhausting, but Miranda sweeps the basics into place with a practiced hand. Before she can think better of it, she turns the door handle and steps out into the deserted hallway, squeezing the thick pile of the carpet beneath her bare feet.

 

A cursory exploration reveals that the girls are in neither of their bedrooms nor the playroom. Already beginning to feel the pinch from activity that she's become unused to, Miranda continues downstairs and finds that the house is unoccupied. She shudders at the unexpected loneliness, feeling very much like the ghost at an abandoned feast. There are signs of life continuing without her everywhere she looks, from the abandoned glasses in the sink to the open magazine on the kitchen counter.

 

She notices the elegant cane, some highly polished wood, propped against the kitchen table. There are similar ones, not to mention crutches and the banished wheelchair, all over the house. It’s sheer defiance that makes her not reach for the assistance, leaning against the table instead while she considers her options.

 

Forcing herself to remain out in the world, Miranda grabs the copy of Vogue with a sneer and a glass bottle of mineral water from the fridge. Whether from some misguided sense of rebellion, or simply not caring, Miranda doesn't bother to collect a glass, sipping straight from the green glass bottle as she makes her way out to the porch.

 

Her sunglasses are where she left them a few days ago, on the cushion of the swing that affords her the best vantage point over the grounds. From here, she’s shielded by the slender white posts of the porch, but can see almost all the way down to the gate at the bottom of the long driveway.

 

There's a shooting pain as Miranda folds herself down into the gently rocking seat, and she stands straight again with a muttered curse. These damn injuries are so easy to forget when she takes the painkillers, it's only when she really wrenches something that the memory of how damaged she is comes flooding back. More carefully, she sits, and tries to lose herself in an internal critique of her rival publication.

 

Having mentally dismissed an insipid Armani spread, Miranda's focus is pulled from the pages by the distinctive sound of car wheels on the gravel road leading up to the house. She tries not too look overly eager for company, but she's been missing the girls terribly since they all left the city. Up here, there are a thousand activities to occupy them, and Miranda's waking hours have been greatly diminished. She pretends to study the page in front of her, but finds herself holding her breath until the first car door opens and then slams shut.

 

She's a little surprised, not to mention offended, that there are no running footsteps coming towards her. Looking up, Miranda sees some commotion at the back of the car, as Stephen retrieves bags from the trunk. It’s only when Miranda realizes that the girls aren’t in the car that she thinks to notice the newcomer stepping out of the passenger side.