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At Last

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At Last

 

Winter in New York City arrived early. Snow had fallen the day after Thanksgiving and by Christmas the city had seen multiple storms that left 48 inches of white. By the time winter break arrived, most people with means were heading to the southern hemisphere to recharge with some sun.  

This final year of high school for Caroline and Cassidy Priestly was different. Instead of the exodus towards paradise, the girls had decided to remain in the winter wonderland of the northeast. Many of their winter trips in the past had led them to the west in a search for decent skiing. This year the best skiing was in their own back yard. The choice was easy; the execution was a bit more difficult. 

“Mom, you knew dad wasn’t going to be around this year. He told you in August that he would be in Italy. If it’s such a big deal for you to get out of work, Cass and I can go ourselves.” 

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Miranda Priestly shrugged into her coat and turned to face her daughter’s outrage. 

“It isn’t like we’re kids anymore. We’re eighteen. Legally we’re adults. We can handle a week in New Hampshire without a chaperone.” 

“Caroline, I will not have the two of you traipsing around New Hampshire on your own. We will go; however, we have to leave a day later than you planned. It is only one more day.” 

“Fine. Can we at least fly instead of driving? It’s practically a whole day in the car.” 

“Yes. I will have Genevieve arrange it today. You and Cassidy will be on the slopes next Monday. Now I must be off. I will see you for dinner.” 

“Ok. Have a good day, mom.” 

“Thank you darling.” 

The front door closed softly on the first battle in Miranda’s day.  If the rest of her day went as smoothly, she would crown it victorious. 

 

From sixteen thousand feet in the air, New Hampshire looked warm and inviting, like a white downy hand sewn quilt.  In reality it was bitterly cold with a sharp wind that easily slipped past the faux fur collar of Miranda’s woolen travel jacket. An alpaca wool scarf wrapped swiftly around her exposed skin stopped Jack Frost’s icy fingers from crawling down her back. 

The warmth of the car’s interior tugged a sigh of relief from Miranda’s lips. Her twin daughters clambered in on either side of her effectively trapping her and forcing her to be middleman to their excited conversation. 

“This is awesome, Caro.  This cold is going to keep the slopes in prime condition.  We’ll be skiing all week. Isn’t that great mom?” 

“Hmm? Oh, yes, Cassidy. Great.” 

“Your enthusiasm is underwhelming, mom.” 

“Well Caroline, I believe the ski trip was your idea. If I recall correctly, I voted for St. Thomas.” 

“Come on mom, this is going to be great. The skiing will be amazing.” 

“Yes, well, I don’t expect I’ll be doing any skiing. That endeavor will be yours alone. I plan to indulge in the more civilized offerings at this inn; a massage, manicure, facial, and perhaps a wrap.” 

“You won’t hit the slopes at all?” 

“No Cassidy, I was never one to enjoy a day out in the freezing cold. That was always your father’s domain. I prefer my time spent in comfort. But that does not mean the two of you can’t go out as often as you like. As long as you’re careful, you can stay out on that mountain all night. Only, check in with me every once in a while.” 

 

After checking in at the front desk, Miranda was able to contain the girls’ enthusiasm long enough for them to unpack their bags before they ran off for their first shot at the double diamond run. Miranda stretched out on her bed with her arms spread wide and let herself drift, releasing the tension from her life’s responsibilities. 

“Mom? Mom, wake up. It’s time for dinner.” 

“hmmmm. What? Cassidy? What time is it?” 

“It’s 6:30. Did you sleep all afternoon?” 

“Apparently.  Surprisingly.  Give me five minutes and I’ll be ready.” 

The Priestly women filed into the hotel restaurant ten minutes before their reservation. Miranda used the extra time to procure herself a scotch from the bar. Despite being multiple state borders away from New York, Miranda still created the usual drop in the room’s barometric pressure.  A hush settled over the dining room and all eyes turned to witness the presence of royalty. 

Dinner was a quiet affair once everyone returned to their own lives. Miranda listened intently as the girls described every one of their runs. Each story became grander as they attempted to one up each other. By the final story even the girls were giggling at their absurd behavior.   

After their meal Miranda excused herself to retire to bed. Despite having slept the afternoon away, she was still exhausted.

The girls chose to remain in the lounge to enjoy the large fire and Ghirardelli hot chocolates.  

As the night wore on, the lounge area became more deserted. Cassidy was describing her accuracy in the third turn of the double diamond when Caroline became obviously distracted. Cassidy checked over her shoulder to see what held Caroline’s attention and her eyebrows shot up in surprise.

Walking towards them was a tall chestnut haired, dark chocolate eyed beauty dressed in the wait staff uniform of white blouse and black slacks. Each of the girls watched in stunned silence as the woman approached them. 

“Good evening ladies. I just wanted to inform you the kitchen is closing. Is there anything else I can get for you tonight?” 

“No. No thank you.” Cassidy sputtered. “We’re good.” 

“All right then. You ladies have a lovely night.” 

“Wait”, Caroline implored, “Do we know you?” 

The woman turned to appraise the young women. Instead of the usual brush off, this woman actually took the time to look deeply into the girls’ eyes, studying, racking her brain for a spark of recognition. The light turned on. 

“Oh my god.  Caroline? Cassidy?” 

“Andy Sachs.” Caroline beamed. “I cannot believe this. What the hell are you doing here?” 

“Just doing my winter stint as a bartender for friends of mine. And you?” 

“School vacation. Ski trip.” Cassidy offered. 

“School vacation. So what class are you in now? Let me see…” Andy rapidly did the math. “Dear lord you two are seniors. Time is flying by way too fast.” She smiled. “Well, I guess I should finish closing up. You two enjoy your vacation. Ski safely.” 

“Wait a second.” Caroline demanded. “Aren’t you going to ask about mom?” 

Andy turned back to face the girls. Arching an eyebrow in a manner eerily similar to Miranda, she asked, “How is your mother?” 

“Wow. Bitter much?” Caroline tossed back. 

“Not at all. As with the rest of the world, it is almost difficult for me not to know the latest on Miranda Priestly. But it is true I only know what the press reports. So, how is she?” 

“Why don’t you ask her yourself?” Caroline’s own bitterness was pushing her to fight.  

“I would but she doesn’t speak to me. I’m not exactly in your mom’s social radius.” 

“Well if you have the guts you can ask her tomorrow. She’s here with us.” 

“Really? Miranda is here? In New Hampshire? How did that happen?” 

Cassidy laughed at Andy’s question. “Right? Mom in a winter state? Who knew?” 

Andy smiled in response. 

“Mom’s here because dad’s in Italy. And for some reason she didn’t trust us to come here alone. Go figure.” 

Andy finally offered a real grin at that explanation. “Cassidy, you are so right. Your mom and winter do not mix. I’m kind of surprised she didn’t send Cara here with you instead.” 

Even Caroline had to laugh at that. “She tried. Cara had plans” she said. 

They all broke down laughing over that piece of information. Andy recovered first and returned to her reality. 

“Ok. Well, I best be finishing up here.  Tell your mom I said hello. If I run into her, I will ask her myself.” she leveled a pseudo-glare at Caroline. “You two have a nice vacation. I expect I’ll see you around.” 

“Goodnight Andy.” Cass called after her. 

Andy waved over her shoulder as she walked away. 

“Wow. I can’t believe she actually remembered us.” Cassidy mused. 

“Seriously? Just how many ginger twins do you think she knows?” 

“True.” 

“I’m more surprised that we remembered her.” 

“Why do you say that Caro?” 

“She was one of mom’s assistants. She’s nobody to us. Not only that, but it has been years since we’ve laid eyes on her. We were ten when she worked for mom. And we saw her, what, twenty times? And can you remember the names of any of the other girls? Even the one she let go just last month?” 

“No, I can’t remember the others, but Andy was special.” 

“What are you talking about?” 

“She’s easily remembered because she was special. She stood out from the crowd. She was different. She never ratted us out to mom, no matter what we did to her. She always came through for us, getting us whatever mom told her to. Remember? She even got us the Harry Potter manuscript before it was available to anyone else.” 

“Yeah, but admit it, we’re spoiled rotten. We’re used to getting everything. Why would she stand out for that after all this time?” 

“Maybe because she was special to mom.” 

“What? Cass, mom can’t stand her assistants. She can barely keep anyone on for more than six months.” 

“Yeah, but that has only been since Andy left.  Mom used to keep her assistants for at least two years and then send them off with a letter of recommendation.  Since Andy, no one has lasted. And Mom sort of changed too.” 

“Your nuts.” Caroline finished off her cocoa and stood to leave. “Come on. Let’s go to bed so we can hit the slopes early.” 

Cassidy rose to follow but she wasn’t done dissecting her memories. She walked slowly, effectively keeping her sister back to match her pace. 

“Think about it, Caro. While Andy was working mom was home more often. She was less irritable. She even stayed home at least one day on the weekends. Andy was so good, mom didn’t have to stress as much. You can’t say that didn’t make our lives better.” 

“She might have been good, but I still wouldn’t say she was special.” 

“I don’t know. Mom was pretty upset after she left. And that’s when the assistants started dropping like flies.” 

“Mom was upset because of the divorce from douche bag.” 

“I don’t think so. I think she was relieved when he moved out. Work started to affect her again. And she was always pissed right after the book was dropped off, even before she opened it. I think it was a direct result of Andy walking.” 

“Whatever.  I’m sure your theories have major holes, but I’m not going to point them out to you. If you want Andy to be special, she’s special. Now stop arguing or you’ll wake mom up.” 

Caroline unlocked the door and opened it carefully, unsure if her mother had actually gone to bed.  The suite was quiet, and the lights turned down.

The girls quietly got ready for bed and once snuggled under their bed covers Cassidy started up again. 

“I’m telling you Caro, you might not remember it clearly, but Andy made a difference in our lives. That’s why we remember her.” 

“Fine Cass. Go to sleep.” 

“Should we tell mom?” 

“Tell her what?” 

“That Andy’s here, jerk.” 

“I wouldn’t. If you, by some miracle are right, Mom will probably be beyond pissed to find out her greatest disappointment is here. And if you’re wrong, she’d just get embarrassed that she doesn’t remember the chick. Just leave it alone.” 

“Maybe your right. Ok. Good night.” 

“Night.” 

 

 

Wednesday arrived clear and cold, perfect for keeping the slopes primed. The girls ate breakfast in their snow pants and were out the door before Miranda ordered her second coffee. Although the twins had again implored Miranda to join them, she remained steadfast. Miranda did not enjoy the cold and sliding down a hill on a pair of toothpicks in the cold was the last thing she ever wanted to do.  

Left to her own devices, Miranda collected a book she had brought and made her way to the lounge to camp out in front of the well tended fire. An oversized well worn leather chair with a bright afghan over the back beckoned to her. Off to the side of the fire and turned at an angle, the placement created an air of privacy.  

The wait staff at the hotel was never off. If they had shifts, there was a definite overlap, because no one went without. Through the morning, Miranda sipped mostly on mineral water. By eleven, she was curled under the afghan with her feet tucked up on the chair and ready for something warmer.  A cup of tea was in order. She glanced up and easily found the help she required. A young perky blond scampered off with the promise of procuring a hot cup of tea. 

 

Andy wandered out of the kitchen just as Jen was bustling in. Jen stopped in her tracks and turned to Andy with a pleading grin.  

“Andy. Can you please get a cup of tea? A woman in the lounge asked but I really need to use the restroom. Help.” 

“Sure. No problem.” 

“Oh, be sure it’s like super hot. This woman looks like she would throw it at you if it isn’t hot enough.” 

Jen ran off and Andy, curious, stepped over to the doorway to the lounge. Peeking around the door jamb she smiled, having confirmed her suspicion. She returned to the kitchen to put a kettle on to boil then ran to her own room to get her supplies. 

The cup was placed almost silently on the end table at Miranda’s elbow. Without shifting her eyes from her novel, she reached for the drink. A very slight quirk at the corner of her mouth betrayed her surprise at the heat emanating from the china. She lifted the cup and paused to inhale, her eyes closing from the pleasurable aroma. Without opening her eyes again, she brought the rim to her lips and took a sip. The sigh that escaped was not lost on the woman waiting at her shoulder. 

Miranda turned slowly, her eyes hard but cloudy with confusion.  

“Excuse me, Jen is it? Is Masala chai always your first choice when asked for a cup of tea?” 

“Um, no ma’am.” 

“Is it ever an option offered to guests?” Miranda’s eyes had turned to ice. 

“No?” Jen began to waver from the sudden fear creeping up her spine. 

“ ‘No?’ Do you not know the answer or are you simply guessing?” 

“No ma’am. We don’t normally carry chai tea.”  

“So why, may I ask, did you fix this for me?” Miranda’s voice had become soft and coy. 

Jen gulped and panicked. “I didn’t fix it. The bartender made it for you. I needed to use the restroom and asked her to make you a tea. I’m sorry. Would you like me to change it?” 

“Change it? Do you have the magical ability to change my tea? And to what would you change it?” 

“Ummm…” 

“Miranda, knock it off.”  

The disembodied voice; solid, powerful, mature was not immediately identifiable. Miranda turned in her seat to confront the new opponent. When she spied the ghost from her past, she froze.  

Jen glanced back and forth between the two women, ducked her head and ran from the lounge.  

Andy stepped forward, grabbed the arm of a nearby chair and dragged it around to face Miranda. She sat back into the cushions, intentionally refusing to fall into the straight backed at attention posture she was so familiar with in front of La Priestly. She allowed her eyes to slowly scan over Miranda, taking inventory of the few new frown lines around the eyes and a deepened worry line at the edge of the woman’s mouth.  

“You look good.” No sarcasm or irony. There was honesty behind her words. 

“You…” The storm raging in Miranda’s eyes was near palpable. The shock of her suspicion turned into reality had Miranda struggling to catch up. “You knew I was here.” 

“I did.” 

“How are you here?” 

“I work here. In January anyway. A friend owns the place and I started helping out when they first started. Now I just pop in to visit. A touchstone of sorts.” 

“The tea?” 

“After fixing it for you so many times I developed a taste for it myself. Masala chai, hot, steeped exactly four minutes, a drop of cream and a dot of honey.” 

“You drink my tea?” 

“Yes, I do. I didn’t think you had a patent on it. Should I expect a law suit?” 

“Don’t be impertinent. I have not missed that about you.” 

Silence reigned as the women processed facing each other. Andy broke the silence with a question that sounded almost hopeful. 

“Do you miss something about me?” 

Miranda stood abruptly and turned away. “I will not have you patronize me. Good day.” 

Andy sunk into her chair and her breath escaped with a sad sigh as Miranda escaped the room. Some things never change. 

 

Miranda opened the door without checking the identity of the person knocking. She stood to the side and pulled the door open wide. 

“Come in Andréa.” 

Andy walked past without hesitation, carrying a small tray with twin cups balanced on it.  

“Two cups?” Miranda queried, as she followed Andy into the sitting area.  

“I brewed you a fresh one. Your first was cooling.” 

“But why two?” 

“I didn’t want the first to go to waste and I, unlike you, am willing to drink it at room temperature or reheated in a microwave for that matter.” Andy sat in an overstuffed arm chair and offered Miranda a cup. 

“You are entirely uncivilized.” Miranda quipped as she accepted the offered teacup and sat in a straight backed desk chair across from Andy. 

“I know. I’m a total barbarian. Care to check out my fur loin cloth?” 

“Must you degrade every conversation?” 

“Degrade? Not at all. Just trying to offer some levity. You seem excessively tense. I mean, considering you’re supposed to be on vacation and all.” 

Miranda opted to sip her tea as opposed to rising to the challenge of the words. 

Andy mirrored Miranda and swallowed the spicy concoction. A remarkably comfortable silence settled between the women, despite their explosive history and the numerous years gone by. Andy could not maintain the silence for long. 

“So,” she paused until Miranda met her eyes. “CEO. You decided to slip into your big girl panties.” 

Miranda predictably rolled her eyes in exasperation.  

“How is it exactly you became an award winning writer?” 

Andy grinned. “Thesaurus, baby. It has saved many a writer’s ass.” 

The corner of Miranda’s mouth twitched in an amused smirk that ignited a thousand watt grin across Andy’s face. 

Having officially broken the ice, Andy continued her original question. “Really Miranda, CEO? That’s quite a change.” 

“True. However, when Irv was asked to step down there were two other individuals in the running to fill the void. Neither was suitable, really. I was also at a point where I was feeling rather uninspired. It seemed the logical decision at the time.” 

“And now?” 

“Mmmmm, now.” Miranda appeared pensive. “Now is a different time. We shall see.” 

“Cryptic.” 

“And what of you, Ms. Sachs? What have you been doing since disappearing from the venerable by-line status?” 

Andy smirked at Miranda’s evaluation. “I’m pretty sure you already know the answer to that. I’ve been travelling. A travel writer has unequal freedom. I get paid to vacation all over the world and all I have to do is write about my experiences. What could be better?” 

Miranda’s eyes locked onto Andy’s with laser focus. She refused to accept such a silly, pithy explanation. “Why did you give up on your investigative journalism?” she pressed. 

Andy glanced away, swallowed the last of her chilled tea and stood to leave. “Sometimes investigations uncover events that shouldn’t be exposed.” She offered softly, “I’ll see myself out.” 

“Andréa…” Miranda called in a near panic. 

Andy turned with her hand on the door knob and gazed sadly back at Miranda. 

“Thank you.” Miranda stated solemnly. “For the tea.” 

“My pleasure.” Andy grinned, her mood changed in a heartbeat. With a wink she slipped out the door leaving Miranda to puzzle over their conversation. 

 

The twins returned from a long day spent in the snow. When Miranda asked how the day went, she opened herself to a double barreled barrage of information. Caroline and Cassidy launched into an entertaining and animated performance of their day’s reenactment. By the time they headed to dinner Miranda was cured of the melancholy that had seeped into her heart after Andy’s visit. 

During dinner, Caroline announced a change in their plans. “Mom, we’re only going to have one more good day for skiing. Apparently, a warm weather front is moving in bringing a lot of rain through the weekend. Cass and I will be ready to leave tomorrow evening or Friday morning, whichever works”. 

“Oh. I see. Well that is too bad. I’m sorry your vacation will be cut short. Isn’t there anything else you can do while you’re here?” 

“Nah.” Cassidy chimed in. “There isn’t much here unless you want to go antique shopping.” 

Miranda felt a tightness in her throat that confused her. “Alright then, I will make arrangements for Friday morning.” 

The dinner plates were removed from the table and before the women had decided their next course their waitress returned with a tray. The twins were presented with plates of fruit and cheeses and cups of mocha. In front of Miranda was placed a small scoop of lemon sherbet on a saucer and a steaming hot cup of coffee with a tiny squirt of whipped cream. 

“Excuse me,” Miranda demanded. “We did not order this.” 

Her argument was moot since the girls had happily begun to nibble on their treat. 

“I understand, Ms. Priestly. They were sent to you from the bar.” Her server explained before moving away. 

Miranda had been offered many a drink in her time, but no one had ever tried to impress her with a serving of sherbet and coffee.  Searching the shadows of the dimly lit bar room she tried to find their benefactor. There were only a few patrons and not one was showing any interest in their table.  Her scan finally brought her attention behind the bar where she spied a familiar grin. She nodded to Andy in appreciation and turned back to her girls. 

The lemon sherbet was a perfect finish to her meal. It effectively cleansed her palate from any remaining taste of sole and cooled her tongue of the spices that had been liberally used. When she reached for her coffee, she noticed a paper napkin with a note scratched on it in a familiar scrawl.  ‘An African Queen for a Queen. Shot of Amaretto and triple sec. Enjoy.’    

Miranda glanced back to the bar and received a conspiratorial wink and smile for her curiosity.  She responded with a regal arch of an eyebrow which only made Andy’s smile stretch wider.  

The twins had wandered off, leaving Miranda to linger over her coffee. Despite the last of the cup having cooled to room temperature, Miranda remained at her table, waiting. After fifteen minutes of playing with an empty mug Miranda retired to her room. The bar had simply gotten too busy for Andy to break away. 

 

The morning sun woke Miranda to an empty suite. The twins had escaped to spend the last good day on the mountain. After dressing to head out for a light breakfast Miranda found two notes slipped under her door. One was from Cassidy reminding her of their plans, the second was from Andy. After a quick scan of the deliberate handwriting Miranda sat heavily on the same chair she had perched on when Andy was in the room with her. 

 

Miranda, 

It was wonderful seeing you again. I’m thrilled for the changes in your life- professional and personal. 

Enjoy your time with Caroline and Cassidy. I can’t believe they are so close to flying from the nest. You did a superb job with them. 

Perhaps we will meet again and spend more time sharing and less time squabbling.  

It truly has been my pleasure.  

Always, 

Andréa 

 

Miranda stalked down the hallway with the single focus of locating Andréa Sachs. She approached the front desk, a simmering rage just barely in check.  A handsome, affable man was stationed at the counter and on spying Miranda’s scowl, his body stiffened in preparation of the coming assault. 

“Good morning Ms. Priestly, how may I help you?” 

Eyeing his name tag Miranda replied, “Douglas, I was wondering if you might be able to tell me where I can find Andréa Sachs.” 

“Oh, I am sorry. Andy left early this morning to catch a flight.” 

“A flight.” Miranda stated flatly. “Would you have any idea to where she is flying?” 

“I believe she said she was headed to Cuba.” 

“Cuba?! Why on earth is she going to Cuba?” Miranda was exasperated, confused, and surprisingly worried. 

“She’s headed down there for work. A travel writer never stays still for long. Although I sometimes wish she would.” 

Miranda easily detected the emotion under this man’s words. Curious she inquired, “Douglas, do I know you? You seem very familiar to me.” 

Doug smiled sheepishly. “I met you once. Back when Andy was working for you. I stopped by your office to drop off some dinner for her one night.  Technically, we didn’t ‘meet’. We weren’t introduced. But you had stepped out of your office, saw me and told Andy to get some file from the art department. That was the only time we ‘met’.” 

“Ah. I see.  Well, I do apologize for my rudeness at the time. I hope you won’t hold it against me.” 

Doug’s face scrunched a little in surprised amusement. “No harm, no foul. It’s all good.” 

“Thank you.” Miranda had shifted easily from angry dragon to charming coquette.  “Would you mind sharing Andréa’s phone number with me? I need to speak with her.” 

“I’m sorry.” Doug’s protective nature jumped to the forefront. “I can’t give out Andy’s personal information. I hope you understand. I can get a message to her; see if she wouldn’t mind…” 

“That would be acceptable. Do you mind?” 

“Not at all. I’ll shoot her a text. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear back.” 

“Thank you. I appreciate your kindness.” 

Miranda wandered off to update her own travel arrangements and prepare to leave. 

Miranda was on a call with her office when a soft knock sounded at the door. She opened the door to Doug’s smiling face.  Without removing the phone from her ear, she arched an eyebrow in question. A note was passed to her without a word and Doug walked away, passing the twins on the way down the hall. Miranda waited in the doorway for the girls and received a peck on the cheek from each. Turning to follow the girls, Miranda disconnected her call to concentrate on the latest narration of a day in the cold. 

 

It was after midnight by the time Miranda utilized the note Doug had delivered.  Although late, the phone was answered immediately. 

“Andy Sachs.” 

“Cuba, Andréa?” 

“I love how you do that.” Andy responded with a light chuckle. 

“Do what, exactly?” 

“Pronounce words accurately; not with the Americanized accent.” 

“I believe it is respectful.” 

“Why are you calling me, Miranda?” Andy’s voice lost all traces of amusement. 

“I… I feel we did not finish our earlier conversation.” 

“A little late for a ‘let’s catch up’ chat, don’t you think?” 

“Late?” 

“Its 12:45 Miranda. That’s a little late.” 

“Oh, yes, well… Perhaps we can arrange a better time when you return from Cuba.” 

“I’m heading to Chile after Cuba.” 

“Well, when will you be back?” Miranda was quickly leaving her uncharacteristic tentative curiosity for the more familiar impatient irritation. 

“Probably not until the end of March.” 

“March?! That is ridiculous.  What could possibly take so long? Is it really that difficult to write some fluff piece about the latest trending vacation spot?” 

“Goodbye, Miranda.” 

Miranda stared at her phone after the abrupt disconnect. Blowing out a frustrated breath, she redialed. 

“Don’t ever do that again.”  Andy’s voice was hard and unyielding. “Don’t you ever try to belittle or disparage my work.” 

“I apologize, Andréa. I did not mean to dismiss your work.” 

“Right. Part of that conversation you want to finish, which I am not going to do right now. My flight is boarding.” 

“Andréa”, Miranda suddenly sounded distressed “Keep me informed while you are away.” 

“What?” 

“Please call or text me while you are out of the country.” Miranda’s voice sounded constricted. 

“You want me to check in with you? What, like text you every day?”  

“If that isn’t too much to ask.” 

“No offense, but you are so not my mother.” 

“Please, Andréa.” 

The haunted, almost desperate sound of Miranda’s voice broke through the wall Andy had constructed over the years. She felt as if she had stepped through a wormhole and emerged in some alternate universe. Her past was colliding with her present and the only connection to reality was this tenuous irrational link to Miranda Priestly, the ice queen of fashion, the Devil in Prada. Swallowing her pride and any good sense she had left she agreed. 

“Fine. I’ll text you. But don’t call in the military if you don’t hear from me for a few days. I might get busy.” 

“How long, then?” Miranda’s relief was palpable through the phone. 

“I’m sorry?” 

“How long do I wait before calling in the army?” 

“One week.” Andy snorted.  

“Very well then.  I will expect you by the thirty-first of March.” 

“It’s a date. Bye, Miranda.” 

“Goodbye, Andréa.” 

 

            Miranda poured herself a glass of wine and dug her phone out of her purse to power it up. She had been inundated at work with returning calls and putting out fires and had turned her mobile off on the ride home in order to breath. When she arrived home, she enjoyed her first glass of pinot gris with a steaming bubble bath. On her second glass she recorked the bottle as the ever present cellular device pinged to life.  Glancing through the text alerts she froze with the glass an inch from her lips when she saw Andy’s. 

“Arrived” 

One word. One single word. That was all Andy gave her. The promised text was barely an afterthought. And yet, it filled Miranda with a rush of energy more potent than a double shot espresso. The satisfied grin was still fixed in place when Cassidy wandered into the kitchen looking for a late night snack. 

“Hey mom.” Cassidy did a double take. “What did you do? Fire the entire staff of Runway?” 

“What are you talking about Cassidy?”  

“You” Cass replied. “You look like the tiger that ate the missionary.” 

“Don’t you mean the cat and canary?” 

“Well yeah, but you have never been an ordinary house cat.” Cassidy deadpanned. 

“Yes, well, I have done nothing.” 

“So why the evil smile?” 

“I have no idea what you mean.” 

“Whatever.  By the way, Caro and I sent out the last batch of applications.  Did you come up with any other colleges we just have to apply for?” 

“No.  And for the life of me I cannot understand why you insisted on applying to so many small schools.” 

“Mom, I told you. I actually like the smaller campuses. They aren’t as overwhelming. Besides, I think you get professors who really want to teach, not just the ‘publish or perish’ crowd.” 

“I know you will make the right decision for you, and I will support you in your choice.” 

“Thanks mom.” Cassidy headed for the stairs. “Goodnight mom.” 

“Goodnight sweetheart. Don’t get crumbs in your bed.” 

“Brownie’s already gone. See you tomorrow.” 

Miranda rinsed her glass and headed to bed, turning off the lights as she went.  Once behind closed bedroom doors she shot off a text reply, the smirk still on her lips. 

“Confirmed.” 

 

 

Miranda scheduled a lunch date with her old friend and current editor in chief of Runway, Nigel Kipling.  After a week of single word text “conversations” with Andréa, she was going into a business meeting with ulterior motives.  Having dispensed with mutual pleasantries and magazine business, Miranda focused on her covert objective with casual aplomb. 

“Nigel, do you remember my old assistant Andréa Sachs?” 

“Andy? Of course, I do. We get together whenever she’s in town.” 

“Oh? So, you remained friendly?” 

“Absolutely. She has slept off a number of our reunions on my couch. You could definitely label us friends. Why do you ask?” 

“We crossed paths recently.” 

Nigel thought quickly as timelines blended. “Ahhh. New Hampshire.” 

“Yes. We enjoyed a very brief tete a tete before she literally flew off to Cuba.” 

“Right. Cuba.  Her latest assignment. And then I believe she’s off to Chile for vacation.” 

“Whatever has she been doing since Runway?” 

“Well, she stayed at that newspaper for a few years then she worked at the Times for about nine months. “ 

“The New York Times?”  Miranda queried with a tone of disbelief. 

“Yes, Miranda, she is that good.” Nigel defended sardonically for which he received an icy glare. “She left the Times about three months before her first novel was published.” 

“A novel?!” Miranda interrupted. “What novel?” 

“Miranda, I find it difficult to believe you are so far out of the loop.” 

“Why would I know any of this? I was never prone to stalking my ex-employees.” 

Nigel smirked into his glass of scotch. After a slow, thoughtful sip he continued his narration.  

“She publishes under the pen name A.R Mason, her mother’s maiden name.” 

“A.R. Mason? She writes that time traveler series?” 

“So, you’re familiar.” Nigel accused. 

“The girls were as excited for that series as they were for Harry Potter. I tried the first to see what they were on about.” 

“And you discovered something special.” 

“Indeed. She has a wonderful gift. Despite the anemic premise, she effectively transports the reader with her protagonist. You actually feel as if you are there.” 

“It’s a sneaky gift, too.  She’s basically writing text books that students don’t mind reading. You get so swept up with her characters you don’t realize you’re learning about World history. Hell, I learn more from her books than I ever got out of school.” 

“Why is she wasting her talent on travel books?” 

“She loves it. She loves travelling and sharing her stories. You should give one of her travel logs a read. You’d be surprised. She writes them with the same flare and passion of her novels. The girl creates a best seller every time pen touches paper.  She’s won a Hugo and a Nebula award for the series, as well as a number of awards for the essays.” 

“Essays?” 

“Oh, right. She released a collection of essays a few years back. I think you would find them very interesting. The book is The Art of Lonesome under the name Rachel Ardean.” 

“Racheal…?” 

“Middle name and Andrea scrambled.” 

“It sounds like it would be reading a teenager’s diary.” 

“It is anything but. I strongly recommend you read it. I would even go so far to say you will find it enlightening.” 

“I’ll make a note of it.” 

Their lunch date ended with promises of a repeat in the near future. Miranda sent her assistant to the nearest bookstore as soon as she returned to her office. Her Friday night was going to be filled with the thoughts and musings of Andréa Sachs, single word text interactions be damned. 

 

 Nigel was correct, the essays were enlightening. Miranda discovered Andy had a deep dislike of being constantly connected to technology. She disliked social media, tweeting, texting and all other forms of technology that only served to separate people, isolating individuals from human connections.  It also came to light that Andy maintained a steadfast respect and admiration for Miranda.  There were twenty essays wrapped into the book and Miranda was fascinated to learn so much of Andy that the girl had laid bare.  

Miranda read essays that to a stranger would seem mere observation and opinion. To someone with an intimate understanding of the author, however, they proved to be an open and translucent glimpse into the psyche of Andréa Sachs. There were nuances woven in that could only be detected and comprehended by those who knew the woman behind the prose. Objective observations were influenced by Andréa’s positive, hopeful demeanor. Reading the younger woman’s innermost thoughts made Miranda feel deeply happy and at peace. 

Miranda had just retired to bed for the night, her restless mind ruminating on the intimate exposition of Andy’s writing when her mobile phone pinged.  She grabbed the phone, eager to see the word sent just to her. A grin broke the tension of her face. Progress. There were three words tonight. 

“Good night, Miranda.” 

Fingers moving without thought, Miranda hit send and tossed the phone to the bed table. Andy would read the words and would know something was different, but Miranda didn’t care. Change was always. Just as Andréa had signed the note in New Hampshire, Miranda knew that they were destined to be always. So, she allowed personal emotion to seep into her words sent across the expanse between them. “Sleep well, Andréa.” 

 

In for a penny, in for a pound.  Once Andy opened up and meted out a multi word text, the floodgates opened.  The days following the initial verbose text Miranda received multiple updates, each one progressively wordy. There were critiques on various roadside dives with the best food ever, colorful descriptions of architecture, and insightful portrayals of all the people Andy met. 

For three weeks Miranda enjoyed this unconventional virtual relationship. Surprisingly, it proved to be the most satisfying relationship she’d had in years. Her partner proved to be committed, loyal, intelligent, and engaging. Besides her girls Andréa was the only person whose conversation truly interested Miranda.  Although the texting exchanges were succinct, they opened a doorway into a world of wonder. Miranda found herself at times to be giddy with anticipation for the latest summary of Andréa’s travels. 

The second week in February brought a deep freeze to New York City and an abrupt turn about to Miranda’s life.  The transitional text arrived at 11:45pm on a frigid Friday. 

“Arrived in Punta Arenas. Will be offline for six weeks. Hiking through Parque Nacional Torres del Paine with friends. See you in NY.” 

“SIX WEEKS !!” Miranda did not intend to voice her surprise and she absolutely did not intend to vent so loudly. 

Caroline was at the head of the stairs when she heard her mother cry out. She knocked on the door as she was pushing it open.  “Mom? Are you alright?” 

“Oh, Caroline. Honey, I’m sorry. I’m fine. I just had a little shock, but I’m fine.” 

“Really? Fine? Since when do you repeat yourself?” she answered her own question sarcastically. “Never is when. What happened?” 

“Nothing really, Bobsie.” Miranda contritely explained. “I was just informed that Andréa will be out of touch for six weeks.” 

“That’s it? Mom, what is going on with you? You just screamed like you found out I was pregnant or something? And all because Andy is ‘out of touch’?” 

After a deep breath Miranda looked her daughter squarely in the eyes and said simply “I don’t know. I am just concerned for someone I care about.” 

“Mom” Caroline began a little hesitantly, “you know Cass and I love you no matter what, right?” 

“Of course, Bobsie.” 

“Is there something you need to tell us?” 

“What?...Caroline…Oh for the…No. I have nothing to tell you.  I am simply tired. And I am worried about a friend of mine.  I am also now a bit concerned for my daughter’s ability to process information and jump to outrageous conclusions.” 

An amused grin spread across Caroline’s face. Now that her mother was sounding more like herself, she could relax. “Well I do have a very active imagination. You’ve said so yourself a million times.” 

“Yes, you do.” Miranda stood from her perch on the edge of the bed and wrapped her arms around her child. 

Unable to let her curiosity drop Caroline pressed. “You know, mom, if there was something going on it would be cool with us.” 

Miranda shoved Caroline towards the door. “Get out of here you, before I decide to sell you to the gypsies.” 

“Good night, mom.” 

“Good night, darling. Sleep well.” 

Miranda grabbed her phone and quickly sent a reply. “Unaccepatable.”  Moments later her phone pinged again. 

“No electricity. Need to conserve just in case. Expect to be away from civilization the entire time. Will contact you again ASAP. Don’t worry.” 

“We are beyond ‘don’t worry’. I am not happy with this, Andréa.” 

“Sorry ‘mom’. Still going. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. We have a very experienced guide.  Gotta go. Ciao.” 

“Be careful.” 

“I will.” 

“I insist, Andréa. You will come home.” 

“Yes, Miranda.” 

And there is was; the answer that Andy always fell back on to extinguish the fire of the dragon, the two words that so often overcame the rising ire of a peerless woman, a powerhouse. And once again, it worked. Miranda read those words and immediately understood that everything would be ok. Andréa had it under control. Just like that, Miranda was declawed. 

“Alright then. Have fun.” 

 

Caroline found her sister in the den finishing yet another last minute admission essay. Dropping onto the couch next to Cassidy, Caroline filled her twin in on all things Andréa related. 

“Mom actually screamed?” 

“I’m telling you Cass, there is something going on. And I don’t think mom is even aware of it.” 

“What are you thinking, Caro?” 

“I think mom might have fallen for Andy.” 

“Seriously? Are you nuts?” 

“Hey. You’re the one who insisted Andy was ‘special’.” 

“Well, I know, but I was just talking about how great she was as an assistant and that mom really appreciated her capabilities.” 

“Well, I think there might be more.” 

“And she didn’t go all dragon when you suggested it?” 

“Nope. She actually paused long enough to consider it.” 

“Wow.” 

“Right?” 

“Do you think Andy knows? Or do you think she has feelings for mom?” Cassidy’s excitement was growing as she considered possibilities. 

“Who knows? I do know that they have been texting every single day.” 

“Really? Every day?” 

“Every day. And multiple times a day. And you know mom has been different since New Hampshire.” 

“Yeah, but…” 

“Cass, I’m telling you, there is something there. I don’t know what, but something.” 

 

 

March was proving to be tempestuous. Spring and winter were battling for control on a daily basis. By the 28th of March the Priestly twins each had weathered a bout of the flu and Miranda was actively fighting a case of bronchitis. Attempting to keep up with the demands of the job while trying not to talk and trigger a coughing fit was proving a living hell for Miranda.  She was ready to quit by five o’clock but had at least an hour’s worth of emails to catch up on. 

Six thirty and Miranda was still at her desk. There was no demanding reason to remain and her assistant had checked on her three times since the hour, obviously anxious to escape for the night. Miranda buzzed the girl in to wrap up the day.  

“Genevieve, I’m done. Anything more can wait until Monday.” 

“Yes Miranda. But before you leave, Nigel sent someone up here to see you.” 

“He sent someone?” Miranda’s voice was almost a whisper in her attempt to avoid coughing, but there was no mistaking the irritation burning in her eyes. Believing there was an issue at Runway that Nigel was trying to avoid she decided, “Send the sacrificial lamb in.” 

Genevieve stepped out and eight seconds later Andréa Sachs blew into the office. Miranda silently scanned the vision before her, taking exact inventory of everything Andy; blotchy skin, thinner than usual, and a generally haggard appearance.  Miranda summed her inspection up with a blunt assessment. “You look like hell.”  

“You sound like hell.” Andy beamed, taking a seat across the desk from Miranda. “It’s a match.” 

“Yes well, I am recovering from a touch of bronchitis.” 

“Touch of exposure for me; a little sunburn, a little frostbite. Nothing that won’t heal.” 

“You’re too thin.” Miranda pushed. 

“Less fat, more muscle.” Andy countered. 

“You cut your hair.” Miranda said more in wonder than accusation. 

“I did.” Andy brightened, happy with her decision. “I had it chopped off in Havana. It was way too hot. This” she shook her hair loose, “is ten weeks of growth.”  Long bangs blended into a bob that was brushing the tops of her shoulders. 

Miranda approved. “It suits you. Do you have any photographs?” 

“What, of me?”  

“Yes, of you. Is there any record of your appearance when it was initially shorn?” 

“Nothing from Cuba. You’d have to ask my hiking buddies for anything in Chile. I’m not into the selfie craze.” 

“Yes, I discovered that about you.” 

Andy tilted her head reflexively, pondering that statement. “Discovered? Have you been investigating me?” she challenged.  

“Just reading.” 

“You’ve been reading about me?” 

“I’ve been reading you.” Miranda stressed. At Andy’s puzzled expression she clarified. “The Art of Lonesome.” 

Andy’s face hardened, and her eyes closed to slits. “Nigel.” She seethed. “I’ll kill him.” 

“It is very good, Andréa.” Miranda offered. “You are very good.” 

“Thank you” Andy muttered feeling both embarrassed and proud. 

“Dancing for the Devil?” Miranda twisted the emotional dagger with an impish smile. 

“It’s a view of fashion culture, not you.” Andy defended with a tight voice. 

“I am aware. I did read it. I never thought for a moment…” 

“Liar.” Andy interrupted, ready once again to spar. 

“I will admit the title caught my attention.” Miranda confessed. “Do you really feel so apart from that life style?” 

“I learned a great deal about fashion, the good and the bad. As a business culture I do see it as hellish. The sycophants torturing themselves to keep up and fit in… I would never last, obviously. I felt I had to leave.” 

“But what of the beauty, the art?” 

“I don’t deny the artistic expression. Nor will I deny that clothes can ‘make the man’. Whether it’s a power suit or a gorgeous gown or even a casual weekend ensemble, the outfit can make a person feel elevated, just a little bit better. But there can be a cost, a piece of your soul traded.” 

Miranda pushed back from her desk, stood and right before Andy’s eyes transformed from the imposing CEO of a multi billion dollar company to the charming, affable, motherly woman only her inner circle were privy to. “Would you care to continue this over a drink?” 

Andy agreed without hesitation. “I thought you’d never ask.” 

Miranda ushered Andy from the office, accepted her coat and bag from Genevieve without slowing her stride and led the way to the elevators. In the relative quiet of the town car, Miranda broached the subject of Andy’s current project.  

“Tell me Andréa, how is your Cuba edition progressing?” 

“I think you already know the answer to that. I pretty much texted you all my notes.” 

“I was not certain.” 

“Other than some colorful filler you got all my insights.” 

“Another award winner?” 

“You sound a bit blasé there, Priestly. Something you want to say?” 

Eyes twinkled in merriment with her response. “As Nigel said, best seller whenever pen meets paper.” 

An easy quiet settled between the women as the car rolled through light traffic. It wasn’t until the car came to a stop at the curb that Andy realized they weren’t going out but had rather arrived at Miranda’s house. With the car door open and one foot on the curb Miranda asked over her shoulder, “Are you coming?” 

“Oh, right. Yes, right behind you.” Andy followed up the front steps thinking ‘Never give home advantage to the dragon.’ 

The house was a warm welcome against the falling March night temperature. It was quiet and smelled faintly of lavender and vanilla. Lights were on but dimmed, offering a soft inviting glow. Miranda paused to hang their coats then led the way to the kitchen. She stepped around the island and blithely offered, “Wine?” 

Receiving a nod of approval, she presented two bottles. “White or red?” 

“Red, please.” 

With a satisfied smile ghosting across her lips, Miranda uncorked a bottle of Apothic red blend. 

“Apothic?” Andy questioned with surprise. 

“Is this alright?” 

“It’s great. I have to admit I was expecting something a bit more ‘high end’. I actually drink this myself.” 

“A drinkable wine does not require an exorbitant price tag Andréa. A bit of advice from my life of experience; spend your wealth wisely.” 

“Will do.” Andy raised her glass to salute Miranda. “Cheers.” 

After touching glasses, Miranda carried glass and bottle and led Andy to the study. Gas fireplace lit and seated in opposing chairs, their evening was set to begin. 

 

“Tell me about the Chile trip that kept you incommunicado.” Miranda whispered, still trying to manage the bronchitis cough reflex. 

“Oh my God. It was so much fun.” 

“Fun? That is the best you can do?” 

Andy grinned, remembering the chastising remarks over her use of the benign word ‘stuff’ so many years ago. To avoid a repeat of that experience she quickly embellished her initial statement. 

“Right, fun, as in majestic, adventurous, glorious, difficult, challenging, freezing, near catastrophic, heart breaking, life affirming, celebratory…fun.” 

“An intriguing string of adjectives.  Care to expound?” 

“I need time.” Andy cast her eyes to the fireplace. “There is so much I want to express but I need the time to organize my thoughts, to create the picture accurately and honestly.” Eyes returning to Miranda she added, “Do you understand?” 

“I do. Will you be publishing this experience?” 

“I already have it blocked.” 

“Then I shall wait.” 

Andy smiled ruefully. “I expect with this, Cuba, and the next chapter of the Chronos Correspondent I will be working through the summer.” 

“Where do you work? Here in the city?” 

“Not usually. Mostly I work from my house.” 

“You don’t live here?” 

“I share an apartment with Doug here. We both use it as a base. But I actually live in New Hampshire. I have a house on Lake Ossipee.” 

Miranda was losing the control over her cough. Their conversation had pushed her to her limit and the tickle in her chest was insuppressible.  This latest coughing fit was a cause of concern not only for Andy but also Miranda’s daughters.  The study door was tossed open by the girls rushing in. 

“Mom? Are you… Andy? You’re here!” Cassidy pulled up short on seeing Andy standing over her mother. 

“Hi Cass. Caroline.”  

The surprise of finding Andy in the study tore their attention from their mother’s suffering. 

“When did you get back?” 

“I got in this morning.” Andy answered while absently rubbing Miranda's back. 

“And you’re here tonight?” Caroline asked, incredulous. 

“Yeah. I figured your mom was probably worried, so I stopped by to let her know I survived.” 

“Probably?” Cassidy piped up. “She was beside herself.  If you had been a day late, she would have sent out the National Guard.” 

“Right?” Caroline added. “We were considering having her committed for her own safety.” 

Miranda couldn’t catch her breath to voice a defense and the girls were more than happy to tease her in her helplessness. 

“Well, although it is strangely comforting to learn I was missed, I think I best take my leave so someone can recover her pride.” Andy grinned into the storm of ice from Miranda’s eyes.  “I know” she laughed, “I’m so dead.” 

Miranda struggled to suck in a steady breath and squeaked out a hoarse reply. “You will not leave New York. I still want to talk with you.” 

“Tell you what, Miranda. I’ll leave you all my contact information. When you’re better, call me.  Yes, you can call, you don’t have to text. But even if I’m out of town, we can arrange something. OK?” 

“Acceptable” she wheezed. 

“Right. Goodnight ladies. Thank you for a wonderful home coming. I will see you all again soon. And don’t worry, I’ll show myself out.” 

There was silence in the study until the sound of the front door closing snapped the Priestly women back to the present. 

"Mom, if you told us Andy was coming over, we would have gone out." Caroline started. 

“I was uninformed of her plans. It was as much a surprise to me as you.” Miranda's voice was returning to a normal whisper. 

“So, what did she talk about?” Cassidy questioned. 

“She spoke of her trip and her upcoming work schedule.” 

 “Why did she say she might be out of town? Is she leaving again?” 

“Caroline why does that distress you?” 

“I’m not distressed.” Caroline argued “I'm just curious.” 

“And that is why you sound near hysterics?” Miranda locked eyes with each girl in turn. “I don’t know what you two are up to, but I do not want to be on the receiving end of some ridiculous scheme you have contrived, is that clear?” 

“We aren’t up to anything, mom. Honest.” Cassidy promised. 

“Very well. How was your day?” Miranda shut down the Andy topic and directed her daughters to safer territory.   

 

 

Miranda wandered the empty house, leaving the lights off. After the coughing incident the twins left to meet up with friends for a last minute overnight party. Left alone to her own devices, Miranda poured the last of the wine and aimlessly roamed. For once her agitated state had nothing to do with work. Instead of the usual issues pressing on her she was working on the puzzle known as Andréa Sachs. 

The emotional tempest that had taken control of her evening was slowly calming to a gentle breeze. Andy's abrupt and unexpected arrival in her office had admittedly knocked her off balance. The evening's conversation had helped stabilize her equilibrium but created more questions than answers. She had no idea what Andréa had experienced in Chile. She wasn’t sure where she stood in Andy's life, if she was even considered inner circle. After learning about Andy through the woman's published work, Miranda wasn’t sure she knew this creature at all. She was sailing through an ocean of assumptions and getting sea sick. 

An idea presented itself while Miranda mused over their recent history since reconnection. She needed an insider who knew Andy, someone who could answer a few questions. Someone trusted to keep secrets. She needed Nigel. 

“Hola mi Amiga. Como esta?” 

“Nigel, are you available for lunch this week?” 

“For you, anything. Except Thursday. Thursday is horrible.” 

“Friday at Pastis?” 

“Done.” 

“Wonderful. See you then.” 

With an acceptable plan in motion, Miranda was calmed enough to head to bed. Once her end of day rituals were completed, she settled back against the head board of her bed with Andy's essays open once again. At 11:30 her phone pinged. She grabbed it from the side table, irritated at the disruption. Checking the text her irritation and all her unease washed away. There on the screen were three words that had the power at that moment to set her world right. “Good night, Miranda.” 

A relaxed satisfied smile pulled at the corners of her mouth as she quickly responded. “Sleep well, Andréa.” 

 

 

“Miranda, I have to admit I was surprised at the urgency for lunch. Is there a problem?” Nigel was almost giddy in his sarcasm. 

“No, no. No emergency. I was just thinking it had been a few months since I've had the pleasure of your company. However, I am beginning to think I may have erred in my actions.” Miranda quipped with good humor. 

Air kisses and greetings dispensed with, the pair settled in for a friend's luncheon. Drinks and food were ordered and Nigel dove into the office of best friend. 

“So what news is new?” Nigel wondered aloud. 

Miranda directed the conversation stealthily, keeping to the safe topics of children, gossip and work. She had planned this luncheon to grill Nigel for information on Andréa, but when she saw him enter the restaurant, she had a change of heart. She suddenly felt exposed and vulnerable. She did not want anyone to have anything to hold over her. She would figure out the Andréa situation on her own. 

 

Two weeks after Andy’s return Miranda's cough finally dissipated. She was back to conversational prowess and itching to have the long awaited chat with the globetrotting Ms. Sachs. They had fallen back to texting on a daily basis. Not only did it allow a comfortable connection, but it helped Miranda to recover more quickly.  Eager to hear Andréa's voice Miranda hit the green send icon as soon as she stepped out of the elevator. 

“Hey, you’re actually calling.” Andy's voice sounded light and happy. 

“I was hoping, now that I can speak without a lung collapsing, you might be free this weekend.” 

“Not only am I free but I’m in your neighborhood.” 

“You’re at my home?” 

“Technically, I am two and a half blocks from you, but close enough.” 

“I am getting in the car now. I will see you in fifteen minutes.” Miranda inadvertently slipped into her dragon persona. 

“Yes ma'am,” an amused Andy responded and disconnected without another word. 

Miranda rolled her eyes, exasperated with herself. 

Andy stood to greet Miranda as the car pulled to the curb. Heavy Friday traffic slowed Miranda's progress and Andy had waited ten minutes on the front steps. 

“Did you wait long?” Miranda asked while turning the key in the lock. 

“Just a few minutes. I brought you a present.” She added, presenting a bottle of Chilean pinot noir. “I thought it would go well with dinner.” 

“I was not aware we are having dinner.” 

“Of course, we are.” Andy asserted confidently. “Why do you think I have two bags?” Andy headed towards the kitchen. “It’ll take about an hour. Do you want to grab a shower?” 

“Good lord, are you always this forward?” Miranda quipped. 

“Only when I feel like I’m falling behind and need to get caught up.” Andy offered over her shoulder as she disappeared into the kitchen. 

Miranda stared after the woman, amused and once again confused. She felt the emotional roller coaster climbing the first hill of the evening and had the feeling it was going to be a doozy. Shaking her head to dismiss the concern creeping into her brain, she climbed the stairs intending to use the time in the shower to get her thoughts organized and her lines of interrogation enumerated. 

Miranda returned to find an orderly kitchen suffused with the aroma of simmering tomato sauce, Andy tossing a salad and swaying her hips to the sultry jazz softly emanating from a small bluetooth speaker on the island counter, and a glass of the proffered red wine waiting across from its twin at Andy's elbow. 

              “I had no idea you were so accomplished in the culinary arts.” 

“I know my way around a great lasagna. Beyond that, I normally stick to peanut butter and jelly.” 

Miranda lightly snorted a laugh at that. “I doubt that is true.” 

Andy grinned. “Did you just snort? That is absolutely adorable.” 

Miranda blushed and grabbed her wine to hide. 

“I admit I’ve learned a few things along the way. I can promise you won’t starve with me.” 

Miranda swallowed hard. Her time in the shower was lost and forgotten. In just two sentences Andréa had her confused, hopeful, worried, and thrilled. Miranda closed her eyes not at all sure she would be able to keep up with this intriguing, infuriating, honest woman.  

Andy had no clue her innocent jesting was causing such a tumultuous reaction in Miranda. There was no hidden agenda, she was merely following along. 

Miranda tried valiantly to get control of the conversation. “Have you organized your thoughts enough to share some of Chile with me?” 

Andy pushed the salad aside, lifted her glass and, with a smirk, challenged Miranda. “What would you like to know?” 

“When we last spoke, you used some curious adjectives and I was hoping you might explain more.”  

“Any one in particular?” 

“Start with ‘near catastrophic’.” 

“That one caught your attention, did it? Ok. We were two weeks out and pushing ourselves to reach the camp for the night. It was a drop site that had necessary supplies. Just before sundown, Joseph Li lost his footing on a ledge and tumbled about twenty-five feet into a ravine. He ended up with a decent ankle sprain and we had to haul him the last mile or so to camp. Then, when we arrived in camp, there were no supplies. Now we were looking at one week forward or two weeks back with an injury and no food. This was near catastrophic. We spent the night huddled around a fire drinking hot water and eating the few rations we each had left. Basically a few protein bars and high energy gels. Gabriel used the sat phone and found out the food drop was 2 days out. We were stuck. So, for two days we drank boiled water. I was never so happy to see a llama in my life when they finally came down the trail with our supplies.” 

 Miranda was silent. No sarcastic quip, no biting observation.  

Andy looked closely and realized the woman had gone white, whiter than her usual smooth porcelain skin. She looked like she might faint. Andy took the wine from trembling fingers and guided Miranda to the nearest chair.  

“You could have died” Miranda accused with a strained voice. Then, in a voice strengthened in anger “God damn it, Andréa. You could have died.” 

Andy crouched down to make eye contact, smiling to offer understanding. “You know, this is kind of like seeing the end of the movie or reading the final page first. You know how it ends. I’m right here with you, Miranda. I’m alive and well. Lived to tell the tale. No need to be scared or get upset. I’m right here.” 

Miranda offered a halfhearted glare in response. “I am reacting this way because I know you. Despite a near death experience, you are just going to go out and do it again. Risk your life for some thrill. And then what? Where will I be when you are not here in the flesh, not here to tell the tale?” 

Andy lost her balance and fell back on her ass from the weight of those words. She stared at Miranda, her mouth agape for a good 30 seconds. Finally, she cleared her throat and confessed, “Well we won't have to worry about that scenario. Cuba was my last travel log and I'm planning on staying home now.” 

“Don’t lie to mollify me.” 

“No lie, Miranda. I'm done searching. I’m done travelling. Well, except for vacations like a Caribbean cruise or a week in Paris. I’m packing it in.” 

Andy pushed herself off the floor and returned to the stove. “Think you’re up to dinner?” she asked softly. 

“I believe I could eat a bite.” Miranda stood and straightened her blouse. “Let me just freshen up” she whispered as she moved towards the doorway. 

“Sure. I’ll just get it plated. See you in the dining room.” 

 

Miranda was able to get herself back together and enjoyed her dinner with Andréa. By a mutual silent agreement, they avoided conversation about Chile. Instead they maneuvered through the safer topics of family, current projects, and houses. 

“You mentioned last time you have a house in New Hampshire?” Miranda prodded, trying to get some concrete Information on Andy. 

“That is correct. I bought the property after the third book. It was originally a little three season cabin. I had it razed and put in a prefab. It’s a great get away. You should come up sometime.” 

“Do you live there year round now?” 

“For the most part. Initially, I was travelling so much I just rented it out for the summers. The rentals pretty much paid for the whole thing. I have yet to spend an entire summer there. This will be my first.” 

“You’re leaving New York?” Miranda asked with a touch of panic creeping into her voice. 

“Makes sense to live in the house you own, don’t you think? Besides, I get more work done there. Here in the city I have too many distractions.” 

“What distractions?” 

“The theatre, the museums, the clubs, the restaurants. There is always a reason to go out. And Nigel is the biggest threat. He is always coaxing me out to the parties.” 

“When will you be leaving?” 

“Well, that’s why I called on you today. I’m hitting the road tomorrow.” 

Miranda took a healthy swallow of her wine. Refusing to get derailed by her emotions she pushed on. “You’re driving?” 

“I am. For me it’s an enjoyable drive.  Doug and Nigel both hate it. Neither one of them is good at relaxing.” 

“How long does it take you?” 

“With good traffic, about six hours.” 

“I think it took that much time flying, what with getting through security and everything.” 

“That’s what I tell them every time.” 

They made it through the evening. Dinner survived Miranda’s momentary melt down. Conversation flowed as easily as the wine and the two women found a rhythm; push a little into the personal topics then back off to the safety of work or current events. 

It was getting late and time for Andy to bid farewell. At the front door she turned to face Miranda fully. “Thank you, Miranda.” 

“Whatever for? You did everything tonight.” 

“For caring.” Andy spoke simply and directly. “I would love to have you and the girls come up this summer.” 

“That would be lovely.” Miranda replied in a vacant tone. 

“Don’t just humor me.” Andy sounded rankled.  “If you don’t want to come up just say so.” 

“Andréa, it isn’t that I don’t want to…” 

“But it just isn’t going to happen.” Andy deflated. 

“It may.” Miranda countered 

“OK. How about Memorial Day weekend? I know you take the long weekend with the girls from school. Come up then. Leave on Friday and stay the weekend.” 

Miranda was irritated. She hated being boxed in in any situation. But out of stubborn pride she capitulated. “Alright we will. Memorial Day weekend.” 

The grin that broke across Andy’s face was worth losing the point.  

“Great. I’ll see you then.” 

Andy broke all of Miranda’s rules of social etiquette and wrapped the older woman in a full embrace. “Thank you again,” she whispered in Miranda’s ear before letting her go.  

Before Miranda could recover from the physicality and respond, Andy was out the door. Miranda watched Andy as she strode down the street. A bemused smile pulled at the corners of her mouth until the younger woman was out of sight and Miranda replayed their parting agreement in her head.  She leaned back against her now closed front door and a frown creased her brow. 

“Memorial Day? That’s weeks away.”  She pushed herself away from the door and went in search of her phone.  

Andy’s cell phone must have been in a pocket since it rang four times before she answered with an amused voice. 

“Did I forget something?”  

“Six weeks is entirely unacceptable.” 

“I’m sorry? Six weeks for what?” 

“Until I see you again.”

“Well you can come up sooner if you’d like. But I have a lot of work to get done and I am most effective at home. Besides, aren’t you usually super busy leading up to the June fashion bonanza in Europe?” 

“I am not nearly busy enough. I am no longer that involved. I do attend but it’s mostly for my own curiosity. You have just been out of the country for months. I see you twice and now you expect me to wait two more months?” 

“Um…Miranda, don’t take this the wrong way, but this conversation sounds a little strange. We haven’t seen each other for eight years. I run into you out of the blue and now I am somehow expected to be under your thumb? You do remember I don’t work for you anymore, right? I’m not your assistant.” 

“Oh, for the…” 

“Hello?  Miranda?  Here we go again.”  

 

Miranda was sitting in a dark study when Cassidy walked in looking for her. 

“Mom? Why are you here in the dark?” she asked, eyeing the empty rocks glass. 

“I was just contemplating life, Cassidy.” 

“Have you been contemplating with a bottle?” 

Miranda glared at her daughter. “No. You act as if I am a lush. I’ve had one scotch. On the rocks at that. I am not inebriated.” 

“Then why are you in the dark?” 

“Sometimes I think better in the dark.” 

Cassidy sat on the sofa close enough to Miranda that their thighs touched. “Mom, are you ok? Did something happen?” 

“Nothing of great importance, Bobsie.” Miranda answered, wrapping an arm around her daughter to pull her close. There was no resistance, so she leaned back, pulling Cassidy with her to snuggle into the sofa. “I feel I am heading into a new phase in my life.  I am evaluating certain aspects and considering my options.” 

“Who is it?” 

“Excuse me?” 

“Who is it? Who do you have your heart set on now? I wasn’t aware there was anyone new.” 

Miranda pinched Cassidy’s arm. “It is not someone. I am contemplating work.” 

“Work? Are you sure it isn’t a certain someone? There isn’t anything left for you to do with work. You are at the top.” 

“Yes. At the top. Perhaps it is time to jump.” 

“What does that mean?” 

“Maybe it is time to step back. Slow down. Take a break.” 

“Are you talking retirement?” 

“Not exactly. I am thinking of a change that would allow me more freedom. I would remain active, but not tied in place.” 

“So, give up CEO and sell Tupperware?” 

That earned Cassidy an even harder pinch. “Ow.” 

Miranda grinned at her youngest by twelve minutes daughter.  “What should we do for dinner?” Miranda asked, ending the conversation. 

“Caroline is out with Rory. How about we go for sushi?” 

“Wonderful.” 

 

 

Miranda’s world was in a state of flux. She accepted change, it was inevitable. But still, some of the changes she was experiencing were a bit disconcerting.  There had been total transmission silence with Andrea since their last phone call.  Not even a single word text for three weeks. But even more perplexing to Miranda was the fact she found herself making a selection from her contact favorites list and hitting that damn green send icon. 

“Hello?” 

“Might I be allowed in from the dog house?” 

“Miranda?” 

“Has it been so long you no longer recognize my voice?” 

“I’m sorry. There’s a bit of background noise here. It’s hard to hear you. Hold on a second.” 

Miranda waited with her usual amount of patience. 

“OK, this should be better. I was in the diner.” Andy easily explained. “Are you ok? Did something happen?” 

“No, nothing happened. I am fine. Why would you assume there is a problem?” 

“Because you’re calling me after we hadn’t been speaking.” 

“Have we been on unspeaking terms? I had assumed you were simply too busy, what with all the projects you have going on.” 

“Why are you calling, Miranda?” Andy pushed. 

“Is it really so inconceivable I would call simply to hear your voice, to speak with you?” 

“Yes.” 

“Would it be too much to ask for us to return to speaking terms?” 

“No, it wouldn’t.” Andy softened at the question. 

“May I ask you what it was I did to make you disappear?” 

“The last time we spoke you slipped back into boss mode with me, ordering me to be available to you at your convenience. I can’t do that, Miranda.  I cannot be that for you.” 

“I will admit I may have over reacted to the situation, but was it fair to cut me off completely from your company and friendship simply because I want you in my life?” 

“I might have over reacted a little too.” Andy admitted.  

“So, will you keep in touch from now on?” 

“Yes, Miranda, I will keep in touch.” 

“Thank you.” 

“Was there anything else you needed, Miranda? I have to get back to my breakfast.” 

“Are we still invited for the holiday weekend?” 

“If you want to come up, you are more than welcome. I would love to have you.” 

“Very well. I will see you in three weeks.” 

“Great. See you then.” 

“Goodbye, Andréa.” 

“Bye, Miranda.” Andy rang off in shock. Miranda actually ended the call civilly.  

 

 

The back door to the SUV slammed shut. Miranda winced at the sound but chose not to challenge the action. She put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb. 

“I still don’t know why we have to leave at the butt crack of dawn.” Caroline pouted. 

“I don’t understand why this is such an issue for the two of you.” Miranda tried to keep a lid on her temper. “Neither one of you is driving. You both can just sleep. You have blankets and pillows. So why must you carry on?” 

“Probably because we’re over tired teenagers.” Caroline pointed out. 

Miranda had to smile at her daughter’s valid observation. “Yes, well, get comfortable and go to sleep. It’s going to be a long drive. With luck I will be well into Massachusetts before rush hour traffic.” 

Caroline yielded to a saner argument and arranged a pillow and blanket into a nest and was asleep before Miranda hit the FDR drive. 

With two coffee stops and one rest stop the Priestlys completed the drive north in just under seven hours. Gravel crunched under tires as Miranda rolled slowly up the drive, unsure if she was at the correct address. She had been expecting a small quaint cottage. What loomed before her was a gorgeous two story structure on a huge lot.  

The home stood tall with a peak high above an inviting front porch. The grounds sloped down towards the lake which allowed a full walk out basement in the back. The car came to a stop on the loop of gravel that skirted up to the front steps and the three women emerged in awe. Miranda stood rooted in place flanked by the girls and they all marveled at the unexpected.  

The front door suddenly opened and Andy bounded down the steps. “You made it! And amazingly early at that. Luggage in the boot?” 

“I’m sorry?” Miranda questioned as she was snapped out of her reverie by Andy’s movement towards the back of the SUV. 

“Luggage? Back here?” she pointed.  

“Oh, yes.”  

Miranda’s stepping to follow Andy jogged the girls back to the present moment. Miranda nudged them into action to help with the bags. 

Andy hauled Miranda’s bags to the steps and dropped them to assist the girls. Once there was a complete pile at the bottom of the porch Andy turned to the family and spread her arms wide.  

“OK. Who’s going to be first? We give real family greetings around here.” 

Cassidy was first to snap out of her surprise at the offer of a hug and stepped forward to be grabbed up into Andy’s arms. Caroline followed without argument. Both stared in shock when they witnessed their mother voluntarily step into Andy’s arms and actually hug back. Andy did not give hugs like the girls were used to from friends and acquaintances. Andy gave full body bear hugs. 

With the initial greeting over Andy again collected Miranda’s things and started up the steps. “Right then. Let’s go in. You two grab your own. I’m not a paid lackey, ya know.” She shared her infectious grin to take any sting out of the teasing. “Come right this way.” 

Miranda and the girls followed docilely, taking in the modest grandeur of the home. In the foyer Andy directed the girls up the stairway. “You two are upstairs. Go ahead and choose a room. You’ll have to share though. Doug is coming for the weekend too.” 

The girls scampered up and Andy directed Miranda further down the front hall. Stopping at the second door on the left, Andy waited for Miranda to open the door then led her in. “This room’s for you.” 

A quick glance and Miranda knew she was in the master suite. The soft gray color palette, furniture layout, arm chair by the gas fireplace, and a back wall of windows and French doors immediately brought a sense of calm. Miranda could feel the tension draining from her body. Offering her signature arched eyebrow glare Miranda queried, “And where are you going to sleep?” 

“Upstairs in my office. I have a comfy day bed to crash in. I sleep up there fairly frequently when I’m engrossed with a project. No worries. I haven’t been kicked to the curb.” Changing the subject Andy offered, “The bath is through there. Closet over here if you need to hang anything and the tall dresser is half empty. Do you need to take some time to unpack and freshen up? You can grab a shower if you want.” 

“That would be lovely. You don’t mind?” 

“Hell no. A hot shower after a long drive is a necessity. I’ll check the girls and make sure they’re squared away. Do you need anything? Towels and all are in there. Easy to find.” 

“I believe I will survive. Give me thirty minutes?” 

“Take all the time you want. You’re here all weekend. You can even take a nap if you’re tired.” 

“Thank you, Andréa. That is very kind.” 

Andy smiled and backed to the doorway. “OK. See you in a bit.” She turned on her heel and was about to close the door when Caroline slid into view.  

“Wow Andy! This house is so cool. Is it ok that we took the green room?” 

“Of course, Caroline. I told you to choose.” 

From the hallway Miranda heard Cassidy exclaim, “Whoa, Andy. Your entire back wall is windows.” 

“Yeah, I know. I live here, remember?” Andy snickered. 

“Holy… Look at that deck! Caro check this out. Hey Andy, can we go out?” 

“Go ahead. Mi casa es su casa. You have the run of the place. Only rule, if you haven’t taken a boating certification class there’s no driving any power boat. Oh, and always wear a life jacket when out on the water, no matter how good a swimmer you are. OK?’ 

“OK” The girls answered in unison. 

“Cool. So, you really want to go out now, or do you want some food?” 

“Food.” Caroline beamed. “Mom was cruel and wouldn’t stop for us. She just mainlined coffee to get us here. We’re starving.” 

“Miranda, how could you?” Andy glared. 

“Easily” Miranda smirked.  

“Well, let’s see what we can dig up.” Andy led them back towards the kitchen. “Miranda, while we are foraging why don’t you go jump in the shower and get settled a bit?” 

“Thank you. I believe I will.” 

“You have a cat!” Caroline squealed. Stopping by the sofa to pet the cat she asked, “What’s his name?” 

The gray cat in question stretched out on the couch, enjoying the attention he was getting. 

“His name is Kenny. Like the kid from South Park. He likes to stretch out in the oddest positions when he’s sleeping. It looks like he’s dead. So, I used to see him and yell ‘They killed Kenny’ and the name stuck.” 

“We never got to have a cat. Mom’s allergic.” Cassidy lamented. 

Before Andy thought she responded, “She’s not allergic to cats, just to cat hair covering her haute couture. If she was allergic, she’d have been affected as soon as she came in the house.” She looked up from scrounging in the refrigerator to see two sets of heated eyes staring at her. “What?” 

“Is that true?” Caroline demanded. 

“Um…yes? But hey”, Andy hurried on “don’t hold it against her. Those clothes are…just…” The eyes were staring her down. 

“Don’t make excuses for her. She allowed the dog.” 

“Well that was Stephen’s dog, Cass. And he already had it when they got together.” 

“Let it go, Andy. We are so using this against her.” Caroline laughed. 

 

No sooner did the girls get some bacon started then the front door banged open and Doug yelled through the house. “There is a stranger’s car out front. That means new people. No one better be in my room.” 

Andy laughed and yelled back, “You’re too late. The girls took the green room. You and Colin are blue for the weekend.” 

“Foul! Unfair! I demand a recount.” Doug emerged from the hallway and stopped in his tracks. “Well, if you’re going to ply me with brunch, I may reconsider my argument.” 

“Once again, food wins.” Andy laughed as she gave Doug a welcome hug. “Where’s Colin?” 

“He’s bringing in the bags. He told me I whined too much while packing and he didn’t want to hear it again. So, who are these delightful young things you have slaving in your kitchen? New hires?” 

“I’m Caroline.”  

“And I’m Cassidy. You met us in January at your hotel.” 

“Well of course I did. But you weren’t family friends then. Now I get full teasing allowance.” 

“That’s fine Doug” Andy warned, “Just remember, they get to tease back.” 

“Forewarned is forearmed. To battle. Oh, I like my bacon crispy.” 

 

Miranda emerged to a house filled with raucous laughter. She paused just out of sight to observe the scene objectively. The teasing and foolishness made her smile warmly. She was about to announce herself when a deep husky voice whispered in her ear. “They are like this all the time. I usually have to escape on a kayak for some peace.”  

 Miranda jumped in surprise and turned to glare at this intruder. She came face to face with a ruggedly handsome man. Dark hair and green eyes alit with humor. “And you would be?” 

“Colin McMaster, and you?” 

“Miranda Priestly.” 

“Wonderful to meet you, Miranda Priestly. Care to join the others for brunch?” 

Colin led Miranda into the open room and announced their presence. Andy squealed and ran to grab him in a huge hug. 

“Collie Mac you look fabulous.” 

“Andy Panda, you look pretty hot yourself.” 

Introductions were made, and Miranda felt a wave of relief in discovering Colin was Doug’s partner. She relaxed enough to join in the banter and delighted the men with her wicked sense of humor. The twins were thrilled that their mom was willing to be playful and not pull away as she had so many times before. 

 

Brunch was finished and the girls, after cleaning up, headed out doors with Doug and Colin. Miranda reclined on the sofa with Kenny stretched across her lap. She accepted a fresh coffee and motioned for Andy to sit with her.  

“So, not exactly what you were expecting is it?” Andy began. 

“I must admit, I was not expecting something so contemporary.” Miranda confessed. 

“Oh please. You were expecting a tiny shack, not a three bedroom house.” Andy needled. 

“I was a bit surprised. This feels like a family home, not a single woman’s abode.”  

“Well it’s my home. I plan to be here for the long haul, so why not have something comfortable and comforting? You feel it too, don’t you? That immediate release of all the hassle and stress of the big bad world. Makes you want to kick off your shoes and stay.” 

Miranda nodded assent. “And this is where you do your best work?” 

“It is. Want to see my office?” Andy stood and reached out a hand to assist Miranda off the sofa. “Come on. You know you do.” 

Miranda followed Andy through the house and up the stairs with Kenny running ahead of them. Miranda noted there were two bedrooms on the second floor, one on either side of the house. Through the middle a wide hallway merged into a lounge area set up with a love seat and two very comfy looking oversized lounge chairs. At the back of the lounge was a double door that opened to an amazingly spacious office highlighted by yet another wall of glass looking out over the lake.  

Kenny hauled himself to the top of a cat tree in a back corner and watched the women.  

Miranda aimlessly wandered through the room. The office was directly above the living room and shared the same footprint. There was a desk similar to the one she had at Runway that drew a smirk from Miranda. There was also an old weathered drafting table, a few wooden file cabinets, the previously mentioned day bed with a companion arm chair, and a piano keyboard. “Do you play?” Miranda inquired. 

“A little.” 

“Are you any good?” Miranda joked. 

“I hold my own with the Christmas carols. I studied from the time I was four until I left for college. Mr. Gavin, my piano teacher was heartbroken that I would not be attending Julliard. I was no protégé, but I was diligent with practice. So, I can still play a tune.” 

“I would love for you to play for me sometime.”  

“After a few gin and tonics that becomes a distinct probability.” Andy grinned. 

Miranda’s attention turned back to the work desk. “No computer?” 

“I prefer the flexibility of my laptop. I have a number of external storage devices to back up my work, but no PC.” 

“And the drafting table?” 

“That belonged to my mom. She worked in architectural drafting until computer programs replaced her skills. She considered returning to school for design but opted to take a teaching position at a community college. But it’s a beautiful piece of furniture so I stole it. I really do use it quite a bit. I like to block my stories in longhand and this is a great surface to work.” 

“What are you working on now?” Miranda reached out to leaf through a pile of papers strewn across the desk top, sneaking a peek at Andy’s handwriting.  

“I’m well into the next Chronos Correspondent installment. I already completed the Cuban travel log and I’m in a limited hard copy release of my latest essays. I should be done with Chronos by end of summer.” 

“And then you will be off on a new travel assignment I suppose.” 

“Nope. I told you the last time I saw you I wouldn’t be travelling anymore. I aim to be a home body now.” 

“I thought you were in love with the free and easy life style.” 

“I was, at the time. Now I have no reason to wander. I’ve seen and done what I’ve always wanted to, so I’m finished. Now there are new horizons closer to home for me to explore.  Hey, look out here.” Andy motioned out the back windows. “The girls are out with the boys on the sea-doos.” 

Miranda moved to stand next to Andy at the windows and they watched together as the foursome cavorted out on the water. Seconds ticked by and Miranda’s focus turned back to the woman beside her. She smiled at Andy’s amused expression and chuckled at Andy’s bark of laughter when Doug and Cassidy got pitched into the lake. 

“We should probably go check on them.” Andy laughed. 

“What?” Miranda was yanked out of a moment of pleasurable reflection. “Oh, yes” she covered, falling in step behind Andy. “I’m sure there were no injuries.” 

 

The afternoon morphed into an impromptu beach party. A spirited round of horseshoes kept the girls out of the water long enough for their lunches to digest, then they were back in the water. Kayak races, paddle board tug of war, and diving competitions kept the party going until sundown. A camp fire fueled the revelry until after midnight. Miranda could not remember when she had had such an enjoyable time. Watching her daughters drag themselves off to bed she was filled with both pride and dread.  

As if reading her mind Andy stopped in passing and offered, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you have done a marvelous job with those two. You have a lot to be proud of, including their college futures. I mean really? Bowdoin and Cornell? Girlfriend, you passed on the right stuff in those genes.” 

Miranda grinned at the roundabout compliment. “They are very special” she murmured. 

“Special is as special does, my mama says.” 

A swat on the arm sent Andy off to bed laughing. 

 

Miranda made her way out to the kitchen at 7 AM to find Andy working on a fresh cup of coffee and the morning crossword. “What do I have to do to get a cup?” she teased. 

“Hey. Good morning.” Andy rose from her seat and headed to the coffee bar. “Do you prefer from the steamer or an aeropress?” 

“Whichever is more expedient.” 

“Coming up.” 

Miranda stole Andy’s seat and puzzle while waiting for her coffee.  

“Did you sleep well?” Andy inquired. 

“Very well, thank you. You seem to be extremely awake. How long have you been up?” 

“Since five.” 

“Oh, to be young…” 

“Youth has nothing to do with it. Your daughters are still sound asleep.” 

“Teenagers are no bellwether. Much like cats, they would sleep twenty-two hours a day if left to their own devices.” 

“Speak of the devil…” Andy smirked at the sound of feet pounding down the stairs. Eyeing the herd as they shoved each other through the hallway Andy chastised, “Really? The four of you are now conjoined? Somehow that does not surprise me.” 

“You’re just jealous because they like us better than you.” Doug needled. 

“I’m sure that’s it. You have breakfast duty today. And no cheating with bagels.” 

 

The day progressed much as the day before; games, fun, laughter, and a lot of water. Unlike the previous day a thunderstorm chased them indoors just before nightfall. No one was ready to retire for the night, so Doug and Colin came up with a plan; drinks and a competitive round of Karaoke Crack-up. 

“What exactly is karaoke crack-up?” Miranda wondered with a heavy accent of concern. 

“It’s a game we created” Doug offered. “It’s basically a sing off, but there are rules. First, we pull names from a hat to select the order of performance. Then for each round we draw a genre; rock, pop, hip hop, folk… Each singer is allowed a single pass.  There’s also the ‘Spin Master Special’ serenade. The singer must serenade a subject chosen by a spin the bottle and the song is pulled from the hat. The winner is chosen by a vote of peers at the end if we ever make it that far. Usually our contest ends with one or more of us laughing uncontrollably or getting too drunk to sing.” 

“That sounds awesome.” Caroline cheered. 

A stern eye from Miranda staunched the excitement a bit. 

“The karaoke, not the drinking.” Caroline conceded. 

All eyes turned expectantly to Miranda. Her lips pursed slightly in consideration. “I believe I am of a mind to win.” Shouts and applause erupted.  

Colin was official spin master for the music since he was completely tone deaf. Cassidy was drawn first followed by Doug, Caroline, Miranda and Andy. First genre was rock. The initial song list was: Cassidy; Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones, Doug; Hotel California by the Eagles, Caroline; Bring Me to Life by Evanecence, Miranda; Barracuda by Heart, and Andy; Piece of My Heart by Janis Joplin.  Unanimous vote placed Caroline as the first round winner. 

For the second genre Colin pulled Hip Hop. The playlist pulled was: Cass; Work by Rhianna, Doug; Why You Always Hatin? By YG, Caroline; Too Good by Drake, Miranda, unwilling and not drunk enough to show off her hip hop skills opted to pass, and Andy caught Starboy by The Weekend.  Doug eked out a win with Caroline a close second. 

Third round and a good four drinks in for the drinkers was folk music. Cass and Caroline pulled out, insisting they didn’t know any of those old stodgy songs. Doug did a decent job carrying a tune while a bit tipsy on his cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain. Miranda was in her element with Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, and Andy lost her mojo when she pulled If I Had a Hammer by Peter, Paul and Mary.  The only ones to cast votes were the twins and they both put their mom up first. 

It was getting late and there was no clear winner yet, so Colin called for last round. “All right, all right, it’s getting late, children are sleepy, and adults are drunk. So, final round, winner takes all. Spin Master Special people. It is time to serenade your independently chosen victim.  Cassidy, spin that bottle.”  

Cass spun, and the bottle pointed to Doug. Her mouth dropped open in a moment of shock, but she gamely moved on. “Ok, what’s my song?” 

“Drum roll, please.” Colin stuck his hand in the hat and pulled the slip of paper out with great care. An evil grin crossed his face and he announced. “You, dear Cassidy will be singing the Boyz to Men hot hit ‘I’ll Make Love to You’. Maestro…” 

A loud groan was drowned out by peals of laughter filling the living room before the first strains of music played. But, being a competitive monster, Cassidy cleared her throat and sang dutifully, if not emotionally to Doug. As she finished there was applause, laughter, and cat calls from the round. 

Paybacks can be harsh when nature rules. Doug was next, and he spun to Miranda and had to sing Dreamlover by Mariah Carey. If there was a shepherd’s crook in the house, he would have been hooked off the stage. Miranda fought desperately but gave up in a fit of laughter.  Colin cut the music and Doug was led back to his seat by a grinning Cassidy. 

Caroline lucked out and spun the bottle to her sister. Her song was pulled, and she jumped up to grab the mic and sing I Choose You by Sara Bareilles. She out sang the calls of “Cheat”, “Foul”, and “Unfair” from the other contestants. When she took her bow, Colin announced her as current first place holder with two more opportunities to be knocked off the pedestal. 

Miranda, having already used her pass option, eyed the bottle warily. She reached out and spun, holding her breath as the bottle slowed. It came to a stop with the neck pointing directly at Andy. Glancing up she noted Andy’s wide frightened eyes and slight head shake.  Locking into Andy’s eyes with her own Miranda near demanded “Song?” 

Colin grabbed for the hat and pulled a folded slip of parchment from its depths. Carefully fingering the paper, he announced in a low nervous voice, “Please Don’t Leave Me by Pink.” 

Andy’s head shake became much more pronounced. “No” she whispered. “You don’t have to…” 

Miranda rose to her feet and took the microphone from Caroline. Glancing at Colin she said simply, “If you please.” 

The music began, Andy froze, and Miranda’s evil rogue persona emerged. She absolutely tortured Andy. While everyone else had simply stood in front of their captive audience Miranda moved. She acted. She reached out. She came so close to touching. At the end she was on her knees, an actual tear tracking down her cheek, holding Andy in her spell like a deer in the headlights. With the final musical note she stood and with a flourish, dropped the mic and strode purposefully from the room.  

Silence reigned for a good twenty seconds until Caroline sputtered, “Holy shit.” Andy bolted, escaping up the stairs, Cassidy stared open mouthed after her, and Doug turned to Colin and said “See? That’s what I’ve been talking about.” 

 

Miranda was surprised to find Doug in the kitchen at 7AM. After an exchange of morning greetings, she asked innocently “Where is everyone?” 

“Your girls haven’t made a peep, Colin ran to the store, and Andy is out on the dock.” 

Miranda moved to the back windows to confirm the younger woman’s location. She spotted Andy stretched out recumbent on the boat dock with a gray ball of fur curled under her arm. “What is she doing out there?”  

“She’s honoring the dead.” 

“Excuse me?” 

“Every Memorial Day weekend she goes out at sunrise. She incorporates a moving meditation into her yoga routine contemplating the history of war. Afterwards, she decorates a wooden model boat with the standards of all our military forces, torches it and sends it adrift on the lake to honor our dead and lost with an effigial Viking funeral.” 

“How wonderful.”  

“Yup. That’s our Andy. Truly wonderful in every way.” 

“Yes, she is.” Miranda didn’t even try to mask the wistfulness in her voice. She left her observation position and went about making her coffee. Several minutes later she headed out the back door with two steaming cups in hand. 

Stepping lightly onto the dock, Miranda couldn’t take her eyes off Andy’s obviously sleeping form. The lithe woman was dressed in an old college tee shirt and basketball shorts. Her features in full repose, eyes closed and lips parted slightly, captivated Miranda. Never in her life had the fashion magazine ex-editor in chief ever beheld such pure and natural beauty. After a selfish moment of blatant appreciation Miranda nudged Andy’s hip with her toes. “Andréa.” 

“Hmmm,”  Andy moaned at the intrusion. 

Another harder nudge, “Andréa, it’s time to wake up now.” 

“Hmm, what?” Brown eyes squinted open in the sunlight. “Oh. Hey.” Andy smiled up from her sunny spot without moving. “Good morning. How are you?” 

“Very well” Miranda smirked. “How are you?” 

“Apparently sleepy.” The smile turned into a grin. 

“Yes, well, here. I’ve brought you the drink of the gods.” 

Andy sat up and gratefully accepted the offering. “Thank you.” Taking a sip, she hummed. “Mmmm, this is good.” 

Miranda smiled conspiratorially, “I assumed since you drink my tea you most likely drink my coffee.” 

“Made life easier at one time.” Andy confessed. 

Miranda lowered herself to sit by Andy’s feet to face her. 

“Why are you out here with your cat?” Miranda wondered aloud 

“Kenny likes to do yoga with me. We were out on the paddle board this morning. Lucky for him I didn’t capsize this time.”  

“Am I too late for the funeral pyre?”  

A quizzical look from Andy prodded Miranda to explain. “Douglas told me of your memorial ritual.” 

“Ah. Yes, you missed the boat launch. I must admit it was a beautiful sight.” 

“You sound a bit melancholic. Is there someone close to you whom you memorialize?” 

“Not really. An uncle I never met. My dad’s younger brother was lost in Vietnam.” 

“I’m sorry.” Miranda, watching Andy closely attempted to reopen an old conversation. “Why did you quit?” 

“I’m sorry?” Andy choked out after a large swallow of coffee. 

“Why did you walk away from the investigative journalism you so prized?” 

Miranda noted the flash of pain in Andy’s eyes. She thought briefly that Andy would shut her out again, but the woman surprised her. 

“It was my last piece, my last published piece. I was digging into a history of sexual abuse in the church. I found a hesitant victim. A young man greatly concerned with personal exposure but willing to help with the story in order to help other victims… potential victims.  He was from a very devout catholic family. He was eight when he says he first heard the call from god. He wanted nothing more than to grow up and be like Jesus, leading his own little flock.  The abuse began when he was ten.  He was warned that if he told anyone God would punish him and his parents. It stopped when he was twelve… when he hit puberty. He lost everything. He lost his trust, his faith, his will to live. No surprise drugs became a problem by sixteen. When I found him, he was twenty two and living in a halfway house. During my investigation I kept him in the loop. I let him know whenever I found another boy like him. I promised we would get some justice here on earth, we would find a way for him to heal. I let him know when the article would be published.  The day before the print edition he tried to call me. He only had my office number. When I returned after a day of chasing down interviews for my next project, I saw I had messages. It was late and I presumed anything important would have come through my mobile. I figured I’d check the queue in the morning and went home. My story was in the morning edition. He was found around 11 AM hanging from a rafter over the chancel. The messages he left were all begging me to not print. He was convinced everyone would know he was the primary source. He desperately did not want to be outed, still afraid for his family.”  

Miranda waited silently as liquid chocolate eyes glanced up to meet hers and quickly turned away. 

“That look of horror in your eyes right now is what I saw in the mirror every morning getting ready for work. Always wondering whose life I was going to destroy next. What scab, with my ‘investigative journalism’ was I going to pick off causing someone to bleed to death. I just couldn’t continue, so I made a change. Carefree, irresponsible, adventurous. No ties. No one else to answer to. I’d accept a project and go off on a paid vacation, submit a journal of my adventure, and bam, job done. No one else got hurt.” 

“Andréa…” 

“No. I know. I do really. I understand it was not my fault. Logically, I do know I was not responsible, directly. But logic does not control our hearts. I have forgiven myself, but I will never forget. And yes, he is one of the souls I remember and honor with my memorial every year.” 

There were no words. Miranda knew there was not a thing she could say to relieve Andréa of her pain. Silent acceptance was all she had to offer. She reached out and laid a hand on Andy’s knee, offering herself as a friend and trusted confidant.  

They remained quietly gazing out over the water, each lost in her thoughts. Andy was the first to recover and moved to stand. She rose effortlessly to her feet drawing a look of admiration from Miranda. Andy assisted Miranda to stand and then foisted her cup off to Miranda. ‘Here, will you hold this a second?” She bent over to peel Kenny off the sun warmed boards and cradled him in an arm. The cat never opened his eyes through the entire procedure.  

Accepting her coffee back Andy giggled, “Oh my God, they killed Kenny.” 

The women returned to the house chatting amiably about safer subjects like lazy cats, yoga mats, and work out wear. The mutual decision to not discuss the previous evening’s musical events was tacitly agreed upon.  

 

“Caroline! Cassidy!” Andy yelled up the stairwell. “Come on. We have a boat to decorate.” 

“Must you holler?” Miranda queried. 

“Only because I don’t really want to climb the stairs right now.” Andy shot back. “Come on you two. If you don’t help, you don’t parade.” 

“Alright!” Cassidy shouted as she and Caroline pounded down the stairs. “God Andy, I thought this was supposed to be a vacation weekend. We haven’t been able to sleep in at all.” 

“Aww, poor baby” Andy ruffled Cassidy’s hair. “Your teen years are ending dear heart. Get used to unyielding schedules. Adulting sucks.” 

“You suck.” Caroline taunted. 

“Ooh, attitude. Awesome. Well work that right out of you. To the party barge. March.” 

“Aw man. Don’t we get breakfast?” 

“Now just who do you think I am, Cass? Bagels and juice are on the boat. Let’s go.” 

“Andréa, what are you doing?” Miranda asked from the comfort of the couch. 

“We are going out to decorate the party barge for the lake’s boat parade this afternoon.” 

“The ‘party barge’?” 

“The pontoon boat. Wanna help?” 

“No, thank you. I’ll remain here with Kenny. He needs to experience some semblance of normal.” 

“Your loss.” 

The three women skipped out the back door to join the men at the boat. Miranda leaned back into the couch and closed her eyes, relishing the quiet of the house. The girls complained about not getting sleep but Miranda felt she was getting more than enough. She had not slept past 4:30 AM for over thirty years, yet in Andréa’s home she had not been awake before 6 at the earliest. Andréa had been correct about feeling the effect of the home. She felt rested, relaxed, and, best of all, free from responsibility. This was all causing her to drop her walls. She didn’t mind being seen as a mere human by Andréa and her friends. She felt no reason to maintain airs. Basically, she was comfortable. It was comfort that disturbingly allowed her to drop pretense and allow truth to come into her serenade performance. Whether the song was truly chosen by chance she would never know, but it was a song that she knew said more than she would have in any other situation. Andréa’s avoidance to speaking of it was a relief. It was not the time. Miranda was not ready. 

“Miranda.” Andy’s voice sounded distant. “Miranda, are you ok?” 

Heavy eyelids struggled to open. Miranda gazed about trying to focus. “I’m sorry, what?” 

“Are you ok? You weren’t responding.” Andy’s voice sounded thick with concern. 

“Yes, I’m fine.” Miranda answered in a strong voice to alleviate Andy’s worry. “I guess I was deeply asleep. Is there a problem?” 

“No, no problem. Just checking in to see if you were ready for the party. The bar is open and some of the guests are here.” 

“Oh. I had no idea it was so late. Have you not been in since the decorating?” 

“We’ve been running in and out, but you were lying here soundly sleeping with Kenny, we figured you needed some rest.” 

Miranda pushed herself off the couch and stood tall. “I suppose I shall make my entrance now. How do I look?” 

“Amazing, as always.” Andy replied without missing a beat. 

“Thank you. Shall we?” Miranda directed with a turn of her hand.  

“By all means.” Andy stepped aside to allow Miranda to pass.  

“Come along, Andréa,” Miranda slipped into her dragon voice for effect, “our fans await.” 

Miranda emerged from the house to find the back yard full of activity. The horseshoe pits were in use, a volleyball net had been put up, and Doug and Colin had created a Tiki bar out of folding tables, crepe paper, and Tiki torches.  

Miranda was led through the small gathering with Andy offering names to match the new faces. Their greeting path miraculously ended in front of the Tiki bar and Colin was waiting for Miranda with a double scotch on the rocks. “Bless you” she whispered after her first long pull. She received a wink and a nod in return, confirming that there would be more when required. 

“Andréa, who is that with my girls?” 

Andy followed Miranda’s line of sight and spied the young man in question. “Don’t get concerned. That’s just my neighbor’s son Taylor.” 

“And I should be unconcerned why?” 

“Because he’s only fourteen and your girls are way too…everything. He’ll be in love with them both by the end of the day.” Andy shared that infectious grin that always deflated Miranda’s ire. 

The party turned out to be a painless affair for Miranda. Through games, contests, and conversations she discovered Andy had created a sound circle of friends outside of New York. She also discovered she didn’t need another scotch. Unlike the usual guests at parties in New York, Andy’s friends were people of intellectual substance. They were interesting and capable of conversing and debating. No one here was concerned about Miranda Priestly the Devil in Prada, they were happy to meet and interact with Andy’s friend Miranda. Here she found herself on equal footing with everyone. A place she had not been in a very long time. 

Miranda joined Andy, her girls and Taylor on the ‘party barge’ for the boat parade. Although she could not force herself to join in on the good natured heckling with the other boaters, she had no problem whispering cutting insults into Caroline’s ear for her to verbally eviscerate their competition. Despite Andy’s boat being colorful and thematic in its decorations, it only earned an honorable mention at the awards ceremony which was held in the middle of the lake. 

The intrepid sailors returned to a hero’s welcome. Cheers, beers, and a clam bake. They feasted on clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, lobster, and fish chowder. There were also steaks for those who preferred turf over surf. The sun set and a bon fire was created. By the time the fire had burnt down to embers the guests had all dispersed, Cassidy and Caroline had crept off to bed and Andy had passed out in an Adirondack chair. Colin extinguished the last of the fire, dousing the ashes in a puddle of water and then covering the pit with sand. Doug closed up the Tiki bar and finished clearing the remains of the feast, and Miranda tended to Andy. 

Miranda sat on the edge of the chair and simply observed for a few moments. She studied Andy’s face and lost herself in the cadence of Andy’s breathing. She fought the temptation to wake the woman with a kiss. Reaching out, she stroked Andy’s cheek and then dragged her fingers through chestnut tresses.  

“Andréa,” she whispered. “Darling, you need to go in to bed. Come along now, wake up for me.” 

Andy squirmed under the touch. A deep breath was released in a sigh. She turned her face into the fingers that were brushing along her jaw. When she opened her eyes there was no sleepy confusion. Her eyes were dark and intense, capturing Miranda’s with a smoldering challenge. In that brief moment hearts were exposed and truths were unveiled.  

“Mir…” Andy started 

“Shhh.” Miranda interrupted. “Come on now, we have to go in. You’ll be eaten alive by mosquitoes.”  

Miranda stood and offered a hand to assist. Andy accepted and Miranda allowed their clasped hands to remain entwined on their way to the house. At the door to her bedroom Miranda turned to Andy, squeezed her hand and released it, sending Andy on her way upstairs. “Goodnight, Andréa.” 

“Goodnight Miranda.” 

 

Monday morning threatened rain showers for the drive back to New York. Doug and Colin had made their escape right after an early breakfast, so they could drive into Boston before traffic got bad. Andy helped the Priestly women pack the car, so they could also hit the road. Caroline and Cassidy ambushed Andy with a group hug.  

Laughing Andy allowed, “That’s right. You guys just bail on me. Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll only take me the rest of the week to clean up after this weekend’s chaos.” 

“I guess that was poor planning on your part.” Cassidy ribbed her. “You should have had the party Saturday and then we could have helped clean on Sunday.” 

“Yeah, yeah. I see you have excellent 20-20 hindsight.” She playfully shoved the girls towards the car. “Get out of here before I change my mind and put you under house arrest.” 

Miranda stepped forward from the back of the car, eyeing Andy carefully. A warm smile and open arms tugged her by her heartstrings into a tight embrace.  

“Miranda, thank you.” Andy’s warm breath caressed Miranda’s neck. 

“No, thank you, Andréa. Thank you for having us. We had a wonderful time.” 

Andy pulled back, but Miranda held her forearms to maintain contact. 

“I meant thank you for yesterday. Our conversation.” 

“I know.” Her hands squeezed Andy’s arms for emphasis. “Any time you want to talk, I will be available.” 

“That’s… wow. Thanks.” Andy’s grin returned. 

“Of course.” Miranda pulled Andy close and placed a kiss to her cheek. Releasing her grip, she moved to enter the car but paused. Glancing into sparkling brown orbs she added, “That’s what friends are for. See you soon.” The door closed with a solid thunk and Miranda and the girls pulled away from Andy’s home. 

 

With the back seat to herself, Caroline stretched out with her headphones on, ignoring her mother and sister in the front seats.

Cassidy was more interested in passing the time more efficiently by revisiting the weekend with her mother.  “I can’t believe Andy was still on her feet.” 

“Why? Was she ill?” Miranda’s concern bled into her voice. 

“No. She just never slept. I mean we were up past midnight every night and she got up at five every morning to exercise.” 

“She exercised every morning?” This was news to Miranda. 

“Yeah. Didn’t you ever go into the basement? She has an entire gym down there.” 

“A gymnasium?” still surprised. 

“Yoga mats, weight machine, treadmill, rowing machine. She runs half an hour a day and then whatever else depending on what day it is. She’s religious about it. Didn’t you know?” 

“No” Miranda was mildly flustered. “I had no idea. Had I known, I would have utilized some of the equipment myself.” 

“Ha. Next time you’ll have to get a better tour.” 

“Yes, next time.” 

A few miles passed in contemplative silence until Cassidy decided to jump into the thick of it. “I gotta say, you really rocked at karaoke. I mean, I knew you could sing, but…wow.” 

Miranda shifted uncomfortably in her seat. A quick sideways glance confirmed that Cassidy was watching her closely, waiting for response. Miranda cleared her throat and meekly offered, “Hm, yes. Who knew?” 

“I know you passed hip hop ‘cause you aren’t very familiar with the genre, but that really set you up for the final serenade. But you sure showed them.” 

“What exactly did I show them?” 

“You showed them that no one messes with Miranda Priestly. You kick ass any time, any place.” 

“Is that what I did? I thought I sang a song.” 

“That wasn’t just singing. You killed that performance. Everyone was stunned. You should have seen Andy’s face.” 

“That’s enough Cassidy.” Miranda tersely warned her daughter off in defense of Andréa. She was always willing to allow her daughters free opinions and criticism of her actions, but she responded out of an innate protectiveness for Andy. “Don’t mock someone who is not present to defend herself.” 

“I’m just saying you won in a big way.” Cassidy smiled triumphantly out the window at the passing scenery. She had her answer. Moving on she changed the subject to a more neutral topic. “Doug and Colin are wicked fun. Caro and I had a blast with them. I hope we get to visit with them again.” 

Miranda was distracted with her thoughts, picturing Andy during her serenade. Her answers drifted off to hums and grunts as Cassidy wittered on.  

After the first coffee stop Cassidy and Caroline switched places. Once back on the road Miranda glanced at her second daughter with a 60 watt glare. “Are you going to try to interrogate me too?”  

“What?” Caroline defensively retorted.  “I didn’t say anything.” 

“Let’s keep it that way.” Miranda forfended. 

Caroline turned the sound system on to a soft jazz station, glaring at her mother as she turned the volume up. She sat back and closed her eyes to let the strains of Pennies From Heaven covered by Stan Getz smooth out the charged air in the car. The rest of the drive was silent, except for the music. Each woman lost in her own thoughts. A telepath would have been intrigued that all thoughts were in some way focused on Andréa Sachs. 

Later that evening after everyone was back into their routine, Miranda was preparing for bed when she heard her phone ping. Once she finished her ablutions, she took the phone to her bed with her and checked the message from the comfort of goose down. 

“Miranda thank you for coming this weekend. I hope I will be able to get you to return. I choose to assume your drive home was uneventful. Goodnight.” 

Reading the text, Miranda could hear Andréa’s voice. She reread three times before replying.  “I too hope to return. Uneventful can have a very subjective interpretation. I can say the drive was not too long. Thank you for having us. Until I see you again. Sleep well.” 

 

 

June was out of control. Miranda had a hectic event calendar and Andy was racing to get her latest Chronos Correspondent entry completed. With the work and social demands closing in, both women thought the summer might fly by without another chance to meet.  

Europe’s fashion month came and went. For two full weeks Miranda attended all the top end shows, dinners, and parties. By the time she arrived home she had made a decision. She was tired. She was tired of the travel and demands. She was tired of being away from home. She was tired of not having time. 

Miranda returned to her office on the twenty ninth of June and on the thirtieth, she turned in her letter of resignation. New York’s Queen of Fashion, haute couture’s Devil in Prada, the venerable Dragon Lady had tucked her tail, extinguished her fire and returned to her cave. By summer’s end she would hence be known as Miranda Priestly the woman who had reigned. But what a reign it was. 

Independence Day fell on a Tuesday so many public and private celebrations were taking place the weekend before the holiday. By Sunday Miranda was barely recovered from Europe and begged out of joining the girls on an afternoon party that would end after dark with fireworks in the park. The ringing of her front doorbell had her descending the stairs while tugging a peignoir around her shoulders. She opened the door to a pleasant surprise. 

“Andréa! What are you doing here?” 

“I was at Nigel’s bacchanalia but I wasn’t feeling it tonight, so I thought I’d stop by.” Andy took a single step back, uncertain. “But you look to be ready for bed, so I’ll just go.” 

“Miranda? Who’s there?” A man’s voice sounded from above.  

The shocked look on Andy’s face almost made Miranda laugh. Before Andy could bolt from the stoop, Miranda grabbed her arm and hastily whispered as she pulled. “That is James. He’s here visiting the girls for the holiday weekend. Do not go there with your evil little thoughts.” she teased gently. Over her shoulder she allowed, “It’s my friend, Andréa. She stopped by to drop off a gift.” Miranda’s comment of the gift reminded Andy of the package in her hands. 

Miranda dragged Andy into the house. “Come in. Would you care for a cup of tea? I’m sure you had enough alcohol already.” 

“Sure. That would be great.” 

Miranda did not release her hold on Andy until she was safely ensconced in the kitchen without an easy escape. “I can see you are nervous and are about to jump out of your shoes, but you really must stay to say hello to the girls. They would be inconsolable if they miss you.” 

“Where are they?” 

“On their way home from the fireworks. Or so I am told.” 

“Why didn’t you and James go for the display?” 

Miranda gave her a side long knowing look at the weak interrogation but answered amiably, “They wanted a last hurrah with ‘just their friends’ before they leave for college. Mother and father would have been far too tedious.” 

James wandered into the kitchen dressed more appropriately than Miranda for accepting guests in slacks and a polo shirt. “Hello Andrea, I have heard a great deal about you from the girls. So much I feel I’ve known you for years. James,” his hand reached out for Andy to take. “Pleased to meet you.” 

“And you, James.” Andy managed, barely covering her jealousy. 

Small talk was almost painful until the sound of the door slamming offered palpable relief. 

“Girls, we’re in the kitchen.” Miranda called. 

“Hey, what’s going…Andy!” Caroline cried out.  

Andy was tackled by the squealing duo, two voices at once demanding to be heard. “How are you?” “When did you get here?”  “Did you finish the book?” “How’s Kenny?” 

“How’s Kenny? Really? That’s what you ask me after a month’s absence?” Andy laughed. 

“It isn’t like we haven’t been in contact all that time.” Caroline snipped. 

“True. But really? Kenny?...He’s fine. Taylor is watching him. They’re probably drunk on Netflix by now.” 

“So, what about the book?” Cassidy persisted. 

Andy solemnly looked at each of the girls, as if determining whether they could handle the answer. Finally, that damn infectious grin broke out. “Finished. Sent it out two days ago. My work here is done.” She bantered. 

“That’s awesome! When do we get a copy?” Cassidy implored. 

“Why, whatever do you mean? Is it possible you actually have desires to read Chronos Correspondent: The Final Commentary?” 

“What?!” Another stereo scream. “The Final Commentary?” Cassidy looked totally pissed off. 

“You can’t be finished, Andy.” Caroline contested. “There’s so much more…” 

“Hey. I had a good run. This is the sixth book. I’m kind of at my end. The characters could continue, but I don’t want to.” The girls were still looking unforgiving. “I’m not saying never.” Andy acquiesced. “A year or two away, I might want to return. It’s not like I killed everyone off…” 

“Whatever.” Cassidy pouted. “When do we get a copy?” 

“Might you be willing to forgive my early retirement if I say now?” 

“Really?” Twin cherubic faces lit up.  

“Yes, really.” Andy opened the package she had been carrying and extracted two copies of her manuscript. “I just printed these out at Staples. Not exactly professionally bound, but you should be used to that from me.” She offered an evil smile. 

“Thank you.” Cassidy gave her a tight hug. “For the Harry Potter, too.” 

“You’re welcome, sweetie. Hope you like it.” 

Caroline took her turn for a hug. “Thank you, Andy. I understand if you need a break. But I do hope you come back.” 

“No promises, but I’ll consider it.” 

“Girls, it’s late. Why don’t you go get showered and ready for bed?” 

“Will you hang out a while, Andy?” Caroline asked. 

“For a little bit. I have to get up early tomorrow.”  

“If we hurry?” Cassidy pled. 

“Hurry.” Andy offered simply. The girls bolted from the room, feet pounding up the stairs. 

“Damn. I wish I had that control over those two.” James joked. “If you’ll both excuse me, I think I’ll head off to bed. Tomorrow’s my day with the girls. Need to rest up.” 

“It was nice to finally meet you, James.” 

“You too, Andy. Take care.” 

Peace enveloped the kitchen. Miranda silently observed Andy, perceiving each transition in Andy’s mind as the woman processed the exchange with the girls. “Are you alright?” she softly questioned. 

“Yeah. I’m fine. I just hate to disappoint the girls.” 

“They’ll survive.” 

“I know. But still…” 

“Yes. Still.” 

Andy glanced up and her eyes were caught by blue ice. Miranda’s soul was open and shining through her eyes. The power of such raw emotion knocked the breath from Andy. The women measured each other for a spell, their scrutiny broken by the sound of a door slamming upstairs. The noise made Andy jump and Miranda clear her throat. 

“Oh. Before I forget,” Andy recovered. “This is for you.” 

Miranda took the offered book that Andy extracted from the package. Turning it in her hand she read aloud “Singing at the End of the World. Intriguing.” 

“I hope it…” Andy struggled for the right words. 

“Yes. I’m sure it will.” 

The air was thick between them. Miranda searched for something safe, something solid to hold onto. “So, what important event has you getting up early tomorrow?” 

“Oh. Um… I have to catch a flight.” 

“A flight? Where to?” Miranda tried to keep her tone light and unaffected. 

“California. I’m off to Hollywood. I have entered negotiations to create films from my books.” 

“Andréa, that’s wonderful. You need a lawyer.” Miranda went from giddy to deadly serious in a heartbeat. 

“I have one.” Andy smiled wistfully in response to Miranda’s protectiveness. “Colin hooked me up with a classmate of his. Her name is Gloria DeJesus. She’s a star in entertainment law. Who knew there was such a thing? She writes a contract stronger than Fort Knox, or so I’m told. Colin says she is highly sought after by everyone working in the New York scene.” 

“Ah. Will you be meeting her there?” Miranda’s voice began to cool. 

“Travelling with her, actually. Since she’s based here in New York we figured to travel together to discuss my side of the deal.” 

“That is rather generous of her to leave her family to assist you.” 

“Her family is in Florida. No one here but her cat, and she has a neighbor willing to handle litter box duty.” 

“Hmph.” 

“I really need to be heading out. Will the girls be much longer?” 

“Wait here a moment. I’ll go check on their status.” 

“Thank you.” 

“Of course.” 

Miranda left the kitchen in search of her girls and some control over her emotions. Talking to herself as she climbed the stairs, she tried to convince herself that there was no reason to be jealous. Andy was simply going on a business trip with a business associate, just because said associate was a single woman whom Colin just happened to know did not mean anything. She insisted she would be supportive of Andy’s new opportunity and respectful of Andy’s business decisions. The woman was an adult after all. 

Finding the girls in their rooms, Miranda let them know Andy had to leave. They raced past Miranda on the stairway and stormed into the kitchen to find Andy rinsing out her teacup. 

“Mom said you have to go.” Caroline announced. 

“Yeah. I have to catch a plane tomorrow. Your mom can fill you in.” Andy paused on her way through. Opening her arms, she gave both of the girls a huge hug. “I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to see you before you go but have fun at university. And Cass, if you ever want to get away from Bowdoin for a weekend, just give a shout. I’m pretty sure I can spare a room.” 

“What about me?” Caroline scowled. 

“Absolutely. Any time Caro. I just figured Cornell was a bit of a commute.” 

“Yeah, well I’ll probably be too busy partying to make it.” 

“Ahem.” 

“Just kidding, mom. I’m sure I’ll be too busy studying.” 

“I expect so, little miss ‘I want to double major in computer programming and civil engineering.’” 

Andy smiled in relief and fondness. Without knowing or trying, Caroline was able to distract her mother from raw emotions and allowed Andy a painless exit.  

Miranda escorted Andy to the door, the girls having the presence of mind to give them privacy.

Andy turned at the door to face Miranda, a cheerless smile on her lips.  

Miranda took both of Andy’s wrists in her hands and pulled her close. Cool lips brushed Andy’s cheek, lingering for just a moment. Leaning back, Miranda smiled brightly. “Now, don’t let them get the upper hand. Stay firm and keep control of everything. Insist on final approval of every aspect from choosing directors to artistic license. Maintain final veto option. Do not let them ruin your work. Any movie portrayal of your universe should be as wonderful and beautiful as what you created.” 

“I promise.” Andy’s smile was bright with gratitude and pride. Miranda had just placed her seal of approval on Andy’s work. With that in her pocket, Andy would rule Tinsel Town. 

Miranda reached behind Andy and pulled the door open, releasing her to the world. Once again Andy was leaving her to take on the world, only this time she had Miranda’s full support. Miranda watched as Andy descended the steps and entered the Lyft car she had hailed. Closing the door against the red tail lights, Miranda shut off the lights and slowly made her way up to her room, a new book her only companion. 

   

 

Miranda was in a foul mood. She had stayed up until 2:30 re-reading Andréa’s latest essays. She had finance meetings scheduled through the day. She had to take Nigel to task over pushing the budget on the latest issue of Runway. And she could not get the image of Andréa travelling with some woman out of her mind. Everything was converging into a tension headache that was threatening to make her head explode. Before she fired anyone from her support staff, she made an escape. Around 4:30pm she walked out of her office and disappeared. A brisk walk and a cup of coffee would hopefully set most things right. 

Walking slowly back towards the Elias-Clarke building Miranda heard her phone ping. She was tempted to ignore it since it was most likely some absurd emergency at the office. Curiosity won out and she pulled the phone from her bag. Relief flooded through her body when she saw the text.  

“Arrived. It’s freaking hot out here. No time to shower. Meeting in 40 min. Call you later.” 

Miranda couldn’t remove the smile from her face. Marching past her assistants while trying to maintain an authoritarian air failed completely. When the door to her office closed behind her, Genevieve muttered “If I didn’t know better, I’d think she just went out and got laid.” 

In the safety and comfort of the familiar environs, Miranda responded to the message. 

“Thank you. I hadn’t realized I was worried until I received your message. I am relieved you arrived safely. I look forward to hearing from you this evening. Good luck." 

Miranda was home early after giving up on the work that remained on her desk. She couldn’t recall ever leaving work incomplete, but she found she really just did not care. She settled in her den with a glass of wine and Andy’s essays. Singing at the End of the World was captivating and poignant. Every read through illuminated some new facet of Andréa’s essence. Andy may have left investigative journalism, but she picked into her own psyche with the relentless doggedness she had honed in the field.  

The phone rang causing Miranda to jump, almost spilling her wine. She answered abruptly. “Yes.” 

“Hey. Am I interrupting anything?” 

“No. Not at all. I was just startled by the phone, it was so quiet.” 

“Quiet? Since when is it quiet at work?” 

“I am at home.” 

“Home? Already? Are you ok?” 

“Perfectly well, thank you. Enough of me, how did it go?” 

“Great!” 

Miranda could see Andréa’s grin from California. 

“We made a lot of headway, very little debating happening. They are all on the same page with me and my vision. There haven’t been any disagreements over contract points, either.” 

“I assume they are desperate to get this project.” 

“It turns out they are backed by the Disney company. And apparently Disney does not want to lose out on the next ‘Harry Potter’ phenomenon. There was a momentary issue with ownership of rights. I got up to walk and they backed down. So now Gloria will write up her version of the contract. They’ll float it through their legal department. And if we can agree, it’ll be a go.” 

“Andréa, that is wonderful. I am so happy for you.” 

“I can’t wait to tell the girls.” 

“My girls?” 

“Well, yeah. They were so excited. I want to let them know it’s going to happen.” 

Miranda was flabbergasted. Not one of her past husbands wanted to share with her children. Even their own father was reticent about sharing anything in his life. She struggled to control her emotions. 

“Will you call them?” 

“I’d like to tell them in person. Can you keep the secret until I get back?” 

“Mum’s the word.” 

“Excellent. So, why are you home so early?” 

Miranda was close to tears. Andréa had managed to effortlessly get under her skin. Despite the younger woman’s own exciting eventful life, she still put others before her. Miranda had only ever been at the receiving end of this kind of selfless consideration when Andy worked for her.  

“I had an exhausting day and decided I had earned a little time for myself.” 

“Well, imagine that. Finally. I am so glad you are looking out for yourself.” 

“So, how long do you expect to be out there?” Miranda changed the subject, unwilling to be the focus of attention. 

“I hope to be on a plane out of here by Friday. Are Caro and Cass home this weekend?” 

“Indeed, they are.” 

“If I do get out of here, any chance I can stop in after I get back?” 

“I believe that would be acceptable.” 

“Good. I’ll plan on that. Oh, hold on a second.”  Miranda heard some background noise and then Andy was back. “I have to get ready to go to dinner. We are being taken out by the proposed producer. These work dinners are a real thing for me now.” 

“Yes. Just remember to go slow on the alcohol.” Miranda advised. 

“You got it. Talk to you later.” 

“Very well. Goodnight, Andréa.” 

“Goodnight, Miranda. Sleep well.” 

Miranda hung the phone up feeling lighter. She was no longer troubled by the idea of Gloria DeJesus. She was no longer concerned with the thoughts of nimble Hollywood goddesses. She had felt the honest concern of Andréa Sachs across the miles. This woman, even if she was unaware herself, had a tangible attachment to Miranda and the twins. She had entangled herself into the lives of the Priestly women and Miranda had no intention of releasing her without a fight.  

Change. The universe was shifting again, only this time Miranda was willing it into a specific direction. 

 

The rest of the week flew by. No work disaster or office conundrum could push Miranda off course. She had a goal to focus on and there was nothing that would deter her from forward progress. It would be a slow evolution, but Miranda knew she would achieve the desired outcome. 

When the doorbell sounded Miranda was bogged down in the kitchen whisking a balsamic sauce for the dinner she had prepared. She was about to call for the girls when she heard feet pounding towards the front door. Raised voices filtered through the house and then Andy was being dragged and pushed into the kitchen by Caroline and Cassidy respectfully. 

“Ok, ok.” Andy laughed off her escorts. “I’m not going to run away. Jeez I just got here.” 

“Andréa,” Miranda voiced in her cool, unflustered voice. “Lovely to see you again.” 

“Hello, Miranda. I brought a bottle, but Cassidy relieved me of it.”  

“I didn’t throw it out. It’s right here.” 

“Thank you, Andréa. That will go nicely with dinner, which is ready to serve. Do you mind skipping cocktails?” 

“Yeah, sure. I wasn’t expecting anything formal. I figured we would end up going out, so this is great. Do you need any help?” 

“Oh, no. That’s what I have children for. If you would care to have a seat…” 

Dinner was plated and presented in record time while Caroline poured the wine all around. To Andy’s raised eyebrow Caroline assured permission. “Mom has been letting us try a glass of wine with dinner. She thinks if we are exposed to alcohol under her guidance, we won’t go crazy at school. Hate to tell her she’s wrong.” Caroline grinned. 

Dinner was a slow affair considering the conversation that monopolized the time. Andy’s plate was the last cleaned since she was doing most of the talking, describing her week in Hollywood. The girls hearing the news squealed in delight. Andy was set to be the next J.K. Rowling and they knew her when.  

Over dessert Andy turned tables and began interrogating the girls about college preparations and plans. She offered a few hints and gems of advice but told them their experiences would be unique, so their college years were a complete blank sheet for them to create the greatest memories they could. 

The evening wore on and soon Andy was repeatedly yawning. “Wow, I guess I’m a bit jet lagged or just plain tired. I better call it a night.” 

“Are you staying in the city for a while?” Cassidy asked. 

“Yeah. I’m planning to hang around a week or so. Need to catch up with Nigel and some other friends.” 

“Are you going to come over again before you go?” Caroline prodded. 

“Sure, if it works out. I know you all are busy with, you know, your lives.” She grinned. “But, yeah. I can stop by again.” 

“That is wonderful news, Andréa.” Miranda sent a low wattage glare at her girls. “Why don’t the two of you start to clean this up?” 

“Ok. G’night, Andy. Thanks for coming by.” Cassidy squeezed Andy in a quick hug. 

“See you next week probably.” Caroline added.  

“Yes, you will.” Andy followed Miranda from the dining room. “Those two are the best.” 

“Do you really think so?” Miranda was surprised to hear an ex-assistant praise her children. 

“Yes, I think so.” At the door she stood rigidly, refusing to leave yet. “So, when shall we get together again?” 

“What does your schedule look like?” 

“I’m free whenever you ask.” Andy stated simply. 

“Would you be available for Sunday afternoon?” 

“Most definitely. What time?” 

“Let’s say 1 o’clock.” 

“Done. I will see you at one.” Andy’s smile shone from her eyes. Leaning forward she kissed Miranda on each cheek. “See you Sunday.” she whispered into the shell of an ear close to her lips. A tingle shot down Miranda’s spine causing her to shiver. 

“Goodnight, Andréa.” Glancing out the open doorway Miranda wondered, “Did you arrange a ride?” 

“Nah.” Andy shot back in a cavalier manner. “I thought I’d walk a bit, take the subway.” 

“Be careful. You know I do not approve of subway travel.” 

“I know. See you Sunday.” Andy called over her shoulder as she strode away from the house.   

 

Miranda opened the front door the moment Andy’s finger depressed the call button. “Hello Andréa.” She quickly brushed her lips against Andy’s cheek. “You look lovely today. Are you ready to go?” She slipped one of the coffees from the carrier Andy had balanced on her hand, paused a moment to call to her girls, “Let’s go Bobsies,” and then continued with her forward motion, pulling Andy along with her in her wake. Her heel touched the bottom step as the town car eased to a stop at the curb. 

“Where are we going?” Andy squeaked out, close on Miranda’s heels. 

“We’re going to the theater” Caroline replied as she squeezed past Andy and slid into the back seat. 

“I’ll take shotgun.” Cassidy called while locking the front door. 

“Andréa,” Miranda’s cool voice penetrated the cloud of confusion around Andy’s head. “Are you coming?” 

“Oh. Right.” Andy joined the women in the air conditioned car, sat back against the seat and momentarily pondered the actions of Miranda Priestly. 

“I know this is a bit last minute, but these tickets were offered to me just this morning. James was planning on surprising the girls, but summer flu has infected his household.” Miranda took a curious sip from the steaming cup in her hand. Her eyes closed briefly in grateful appreciation. “Thank you, Andréa. This was unexpected.” 

“What play are we going to see?” 

“Kinky Boots” Caroline exclaimed. 

“Obviously a welcome gift.” Andy teased. 

“Oh yeah. I’ve been hoping to see this for years, but mom kept saying I was too young.” 

Miranda sniffed, dismissing Caroline’s complaint. 

“It’s true. You and dad kept putting me off for years. I’m just glad it’s still playing.” Caroline looked to Andy to back her up and noticed the tray of coffees in Andy’s lap. “Hey, is one of those for me?” 

“Oh, Yeah. Here.” Andy handed a cup off to Caroline and then passed one up to Cassidy in the front seat.” Sorry Roy. I had no idea I’d be seeing you this afternoon.” She grinned. 

“No problem, Andy. I’m good.” 

“Any news from Hollywood?” Miranda queried. 

“Nah. I don’t expect to hear anything for a few weeks. We left everything green lighted, so I expect I won’t hear from them until they have a director and maybe a cast proposal.” 

 

The musical was a hit with all the women.  Dinner at Per Se was fueled with lively conversation and laughter.  On the sidewalk waiting for the car Andy made her bid for her escape speaking softly to Miranda while the girls argued over seat positions. 

“I’m going to leave you here tonight. I’m already near my neighborhood and I have some things I need to get done before I head out of town,” 

Valiantly repressing her disappointment Miranda responded in similar volume. “I assumed you would return with us since you most likely will not see the girls again before they go off to college.” 

Losing her resolve but really not in the mood to trek back and forth across town Andy offered, “Would you like to come to my place for a night cap?” 

“That would be acceptable.” 

“Great.” Andy slipped past Miranda to open the car door for her. 

“Thank you, Andréa.” 

“Of course, Miranda.” Andy turned to the girls to quash their bickering. “You two just get in the back with your mother. I’ll ride in front.” Sliding onto the cool leather Andy smiled at Roy and requested. “Still remember where I live?” 

“Sure do.” 

“Well then, ‘home James’.” 

 

Andy opened the door to a comparatively small but light and airy apartment.  Bustling the Priestly women in she graciously offered, “Powder room is the first door on the left down the hall” and continued in through the living room. “Anyone care for a drink? Water, juice, wine, or something stronger?” 

“Water” “Juice” “Stronger” were the replies from Cassidy, Caroline, and Miranda respectively. 

Andy delivered drinks around, handing a double scotch to Miranda for her stronger request. Returning with her own glass of wine, Andy found that a spot on the couch next to Miranda was the only space available. 

“When are you going to be going back to New Hampshire, Andy?” 

“Funny you should ask, Cass.” Andy glanced accusingly aside at Miranda.  “I’ll be leaving Tuesday.” 

“This Tuesday?!” 

“Yes Caroline, this Tuesday. I have a few meetings tomorrow and then I’m off.” 

“When will you be back?” 

“I’m not sure. I have no plans to return any time soon.” 

“You won’t be here to see us off?” 

“Aw man, if I knew you guys were going to get all maudlin on me, I would have snuck out the back door of the restaurant.” 

“Well Andréa, you must admit you are prone to unexpected appearances and sudden departures. You leave a person breathless.” Miranda’s soft voice managed to neutralize the girls’ pending emotional explosion. 

“Do I?” Andy wondered. After a moment’s thought she capitulated. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I do tend to act spontaneously. Sorry.” 

“Do you have a known schedule that you will be following the next few months?” 

“Let me think… I’ll be home for the rest of this week then I’m on a tri city book tour through the second week of August and home again until the first week of October.  That good enough?” 

“That will do.” 

“Hey Andy, do you have any games?” Cassidy spoke up to cut the tension that was getting too heavy. 

“I have a deck of cards.” Andy offered helpfully. 

“Great. Let’s play poker.” 

“How about we play gin rummy.” Andy recommended to avoid any issues with Miranda’s potential views on her daughters gambling. 

“OK” 

 

The rest of the evening passed without any offenses. By ten o’clock everyone was getting blurry eyed and agreed to call it a night. At the door Andy gave each of the girls her usual bear hug but lingered a little longer than usual.  

“You two are going to love college. You both have my number so use it. If you need anything or just want to talk, give me a call. I’m just a ringtone away.” 

“Does that mean I can call you for money?” Caroline joked. 

“Cash, no. But you can call me if you ever need bail money.” 

“Excuse me?” Miranda interrupted their teasing. 

“Just kidding.” Andy squeaked. 

“Mm hmm. Girls, will you please go on ahead. I would like to speak with Andréa for a moment.” 

Goodbyes were called out as the twins headed off to the elevators. 

“Is there a problem?” Andy asked in a voice thick with concern. 

“No. No problem. I understand you were joking with the girls, but I want you to know I also realize just how serious you are with your offers. Andréa, I am extremely grateful that you care as much as you do. They both, for some unfathomable reason, think the world of you. All I ask is that you do not break their hearts.” 

“Miranda, I would never…” 

“No, you wouldn’t. However, I did at one time believe I could count on you implicitly and you inadvertently broke that trust…” 

“Miranda…” 

“No, Andréa. It is the past. I have obviously forgiven any slight. I am just asking you to be careful. Please, do not promise them anything you cannot follow through with. Their father does that enough.” 

“OK. I promise. Honestly, Miranda. I promise I will not make any promises I can’t keep. I love those two brats. I would not ever intentionally hurt them, and I will do everything in my power to not unintentionally hurt them either. Alright?” 

“Yes. Thank you. I only wanted you to be aware.” 

“Got it. That promise goes for you too, you know. I will not ever intentionally hurt you and I will try to remain aware to not hurt you unintentionally either.” 

Miranda smirked and nodded agreement. “Thank you. Now, I must be off. The girls are waiting.” 

Andy’s fingers wrapped lightly around Miranda’s wrist arresting her movement. In response to a questioning eyebrow, Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda’s slim frame and held her gently. A full body hug, but not a crushing bear hug. Lips brushed against Miranda’s cheek and then a soft “good night” was whispered in her ear before Andy released her into the night. 

 

 

 

The third week of August arrived sooner than anyone was ready. James was only available over a weekend to assist moving the girls to school, so it was going to turn into a whirlwind schedule.  Caroline would be delivered into the wilds of Cornell on the Saturday and Cassidy would then be escorted across state borders to Bowdoin in Maine. They would have to take two cars in order to travel a circuitous route. After an evening of bargaining, Miranda convinced the girls to ride with their father since they rarely spent time with him.  

The drive to Cornell took five hours with a lunch stop. Moving in did not take much time because Caroline insisted on bringing only clothes, toiletries, and her laptop. There would be no childish toys or mementoes.    

Once Caroline’s room was organized the Priestly family toured the campus and stopped at the bookstore to obtain the required reading material for the fall semester. After a light dinner from a neighborhood restaurant, Caroline insisted on being dropped off in front of her dorm. She was chomping at the bit to experience freshman freedom.  

Miranda exited the car since she had to get back into her own vehicle for the next leg of their trip. She waited patiently while Caroline hugged her sister farewell and refused to smile when her oldest daughter finally slid from the back seat with tears sparkling in her eyes. Wordlessly, Miranda put an arm around Caroline’s shoulders and walked her to the front door. 

“I don’t want to sound overprotective, but we are all only a phone call away. Your visa card should last the semester but let me know if you need anything extra. I know you will be in constant contact with your sister, but I would appreciate a word once in a while. And if you do get arrested, call Andréa.” 

Miranda’s words worked their magic. Caroline was laughing as she hugged her mom and was still laughing when she turned away and headed off towards independence. 

Miranda sat a few moments in the solitude of her car. One down, one to go. She wiped a single tear from her cheek and started the engine. Currently her pride for her girls was stronger than her fears. She would make it through delivering Cassidy to Bowdoin, but then all bets were off. 

The trip to Maine was broken up by a night stay at the Albany Fairfield Inn and Suites.  Unloading Miranda’s SUV of Cassidy’s life took a bit longer than Caroline’s exit. Unlike her older sister, Cassidy wanted to hold onto her childhood memories. She had boxes of books, framed photographs, knickknacks, and even Eeyore, her first stuffed animal. As with Caroline, Miranda and James helped Cassidy get her dorm room organized. It was after five when Cassidy was settled and ready to bid her parents adieu.  

James gave Cassidy a big hug and slipped her some extra cash. “Call me if you need me, pumpkin.” 

“Ok, dad. Thanks.” 

“You bet kiddo. We’ll see you at Thanksgiving.” 

“Yup. Turkey day. Drive home carefully.” 

A last hug and James slipped from the room, allowing Miranda some privacy with her daughter. 

Miranda held back a moment, sizing up her little girl. A week, watery smile broke Miranda’s resolve and she grabbed her baby up in a strong embrace, fighting the urge to break into sobs. She whispered fiercely into Cassidy’s ear, “You call me for anything. Anything at all. Your sister isn’t the only one who knows you. I am always available for you.” 

“I know, mom.” 

“If you have an emergency Andréa is the closest. You can call her too.” 

“I know.” 

Finally pulling back, Miranda offered a damp smile. “I’m going to miss you, Cassidy.” 

“Me too.”  

“Is there anything you need before I go?” 

“Nah. I’ll be ok, mom. I have some things here to finish up with. I think one of my suite mates is already here and the other girl is due tomorrow.” 

“As I told your sister, your visa should last the semester, but if you need any more money you call me. I know your father gave you some cash. Try not to spend it all in one place.” 

Cassidy grinned at her mom. “I’m not that bad, mom. You do exaggerate my spending habits.” 

“I know. What can I say? It amuses me.”  

A shared chuckle allowed them the emotional space to break away.  

“I’ll go now, Bobsie. Have fun but try to learn something useful while you’re here.” 

“Yes ma’am” Cassidy responded with a laugh.  

Cassidy escorted Miranda down to the front entrance. One last hug and Miranda walked away, leaving behind a huge piece of her soul. 

James was waiting at the cars. When Miranda approached, he opened his arms in an offer of solace. Miranda gratefully accepted and wilted a little when his arms closed around her.  

“We knew this would happen one day. When they first arrived, we knew we would be seeing them off.” 

“I am aware, James. But the knowing does not lessen the pain.” 

“I know.” Releasing Miranda, James offered, “Care to stop for a drink?” 

“As appealing as that is, I have other errands I must run. I will leave you from here.” 

“Errands? In Maine?” 

“No. In New Hampshire, actually. So, I won’t be travelling with you to New York.” 

“Oh. Ok. I guess this is good bye then.” 

“Yes. Drive carefully.” 

“You too. See you later.” 

“Bye, James.” 

 

Miranda climbed the front steps just after sunset. The house was aglow from within, but the porch lights were extinguished. Miranda stood tall and took a deep breath before pressing the doorbell. In seconds she heard a voice approaching from within. The porch was flooded with light by the flick of a switch and the front door was pulled open. 

“Miranda!...Hi.” 

Andy’s thousand watt grin lit Miranda’s heart, pushing the creeping darkness out of her soul as effectively as the porch lights pushed back the encroaching twilight. 

“What are you doing here?”  

Andy’s arms were wrapped around Miranda’s shoulders, holding her tightly, warming her against the evening chill that was setting in.  

“God, it is good to see you. Come on in.” Andy pulled Miranda along. “Oh. Excuse me just one moment.” 

Andy half turned away from Miranda but still held her hand firmly. 

“Sorry Gloria. Are we good?.... Yeah, I’ll sign off on them when I see them….OK. You too. I’ll talk with you later, Bye.” 

Miranda stood patiently while Andy finished the call. When Andy pulled the Bluetooth headset from her ear, Miranda slumped. Andy’s arms were around her instantly and she sagged into the strength and heat of the younger woman. 

“Hey. What’s going on? Miranda, what’s wrong?” 

Miranda held on. Her arms around Andy’s neck and her face buried against Andy’s shoulder. Her heart ached. She wanted to cry but no tears would fall. Finally, she pulled herself up and released her death grip on Andy. She grasped Andy’s hand again and led her into the livingroom. Sitting on the couch she confessed. 

“I’ve left my babies.” 

“Ohhh. Released them into the wilds of campus life. I forgot that was this weekend. Can I get you anything? Glass of water? Fifth of scotch?” 

Leaning back into the couch Miranda requested, “Perhaps a glass of wine?” 

“Sure thing. I just opened a Riesling tonight. Will that be acceptable?” 

“Yes, fine.” 

A comfortable silence descended while Andy poured the wine. Miranda accepted the offered glass and closed her eyes with the first sip. Eyelids still shut Miranda sighed. “I don’t know why I am here. I did not plan to come.” 

“It’s a calling. The lake effect.” Andy supplied as a good excuse. 

“No, I don’t think that’s it.” Miranda countered, eyes now open and locked with Andy’s. 

“Do you need to talk about the girls?” 

“There is not much more to say. I left them. They are now independent. They don’t need me anymore.” 

“Now that is silly.” 

“Humor me.” 

“Ok.” 

“So, I shall come to terms with my little girls now becoming full-fledged adults. It will be painful for a while, but I must be strong. They will need my strength to complete this voyage into maturity. I have done all I can, now it is up to them. See? I’m getting over it already.” 

“Well that was easy.” 

“I am a very good actor. Don’t believe everything you see.” 

“Are you hungry?” 

“Not terribly.” 

“I was just about to have a salad with some grilled chicken. Care to join me?” 

“Well, if it’s no trouble.” 

“Oh please. Come on.” 

 

Dinner was an easy affair. Miranda was not pestered with a myriad of questions. She was not handled. She was simply just allowed to be. She helped to clean up from dinner and then settled back on the couch with a fresh glass of wine. Kenny joined her and was allowed lap space for a nap. 

Andy settled in an adjacent chair and allowed a few moments of peaceful silence before asking, “Do you have a bag?’ 

“A bag?” 

“Luggage? If you weren’t planning to stop, I would expect you don’t, but…” 

“In truth, I do not.” 

“Will you stay? I don’t want you trying to drive home tonight.” 

“If you’ll have me.” 

“Of course. I’ll even scrounge up something for you to sleep in.” 

“That is very kind.” 

“You know me… Nothing if not kind.”  

A smile from Miranda gave Andy permission to continue. 

“I believe I even have a new toothbrush you can use.” 

“That would be lifesaving. May I impose on you to gather those now? I find I am quite exhausted.” 

“Oh. Of course. I’ll set you up in my room again. Come on.” Andy reached for Miranda, offering a hand up from the sofa. 

“Thank you, Andréa.” 

A gentle smile was Andy’s response as she led Miranda to a welcome night’s rest. 

 

The morning sun was harassing Miranda by six AM. She remained in bed for fifteen minutes before her bladder joined the sun and prodded her to get up. Finding a bathrobe hanging on the door in the bathroom, Miranda wandered into the kitchen in search of a caffeine fix. She found Andy at the kitchen island preparing a fruit salad. 

“Good morning sunshine. Did you sleep well?” 

“Are you always so chipper in the mornings?” Miranda grumbled. 

“I try to be. Happy morning drives a happy day. Coffee is set up. Just turn it on.” 

“Bless you.” 

Andy’s amused grin was brighter than the glaring sun.  

Half a cup of coffee down and Miranda was finally feeling alive. Leaning against the counter top next to Andy she decided to face off with the elephant in the room. 

“So, Andréa.” 

“Yes?”  

Singing at the End of the World?” 

“Yes?” 

“Care to expound on a few points?” 

“No?” 

Miranda came alive in her element. She had Andy backed into a corner, literally. Large espresso eyes were scanning for an escape route. Miranda positioned herself to cut Andy off in any direction. 

“Andréa,” Miranda purred “I believe you were quite brave in your writing, but you stopped just short of attaining closure.” 

“I have no idea what you are referring to.” 

“You expect me to believe that? Allow me to present as evidence the following, and I quote, ‘I had been searching for that which I had already found. Desperately attempting to replace the prize I coveted but could never realize. Now is the time to stop. Stop running. Stop searching. Stop lying to myself.’” 

Andy said nothing. She stared at Miranda, unable to cover the fear in her eyes shaking her head slowly in denial. 

“Andréa, what were you looking for?” 

“No.” Andy whispered. “Please, don’t.” 

“You are so self-defeating. You have been living under an erroneous assumption for far too long. You never even asked the question.” 

“Miranda,” Andy’s voice was thick with warning as she pushed passed her interrogator. “Do you really want to do this?” 

“I think we need to. I fear there are too many misunderstandings polluting our past. We owe it to ourselves and each other to clear the air.” 

“You said you had forgiven that error in judgement. You claimed to have let it go.” 

“Well obviously I forgave that childish act. I gave you my blessing with your next employer, did I not?” 

“You did. But why did you? Obviously, you know everything…knew everything. In Paris, you were twelve moves ahead in the game the entire time, like a freakin’ master chess player. You knew about Irv, and Christian, and Jacqueline…everything. You already had a plan for Nigel. Did you know I would walk?” 

“Of course, I knew. Although I admit I did not foresee you leaving at that precise moment. I expected you would resign once we returned to New York.” 

“How could… You manipu….you plan…you pushed me away. Intentionally. But why?” 

“You tell me. Use that investigative brain of yours and work it out. Perhaps you will also find the answer to your unasked question.” 

Andy glared at Miranda across the kitchen island but did not back down from the challenge. She pulled a chair from the dining table and sat heavily. Leaning on her elbows and chewing on a thumbnail, she focused on the events of years ago.  

“You wanted me in Paris with you. You chose me before Emily’s accident. You specifically wanted me there. So why push me away? If I was better than Emily…more efficient? The night before… It was the night before. In your hotel room. ‘Do your job’, that’s what you said to me. As if I hadn’t been. I stepped out of bounds… broke the rules.”  

Eyes wide Andy glanced up at Miranda. “I broke the rules. I got personal. I showed you I actually cared about you.”  

An emotionless nod from Miranda prodded Andy to continue with the puzzle. Staring at the table top again she pondered, “My caring wouldn’t have made a difference. It made me do my job better and you knew that. So….” 

Disbelief flooded her eyes when she looked up for confirmation. “Holy shit. It wasn’t that I cared about you. You cared about me!” The absence of a denial goaded Andy on. 

“You cared! I believed you hated me. But then the recommendation… I thought I was dead in New York, but you sent that recommendation that clinched my position. You cared, and you pushed me away….” Brown eyes once again rose to seek out icy blue. “Just how much did you care?”   

Miranda’s lips twitched at the corner of her mouth. Her eyes darkened a shade. But she held Andy’s accusatory glare.  

“No!” Andy exploded. “There is no way...” 

“I could not possibly bare my soul at the time.” 

“Jesus, Miranda. You were in love with me?!” 

“As I said, you have been living on false assumptions.” 

“How do you not tell someone something like that?” 

“You mean like you told me?”  

Anger, frustration, fear, and love were at war as the women stared into each other, reading the truths behind torn veils. 

“Touché.” 

“I could not expose myself to a sexual harassment lawsuit, especially after what I had just gone through to save my job. I was still married. Granted, that was not much of an issue any longer, but it was still an issue. Married with two young children. And you would expect me to out myself to my assistant? My much younger, female assistant? Talk about a dirty bomb. I know fashion operates under much looser mores than most other professions, but still…” 

 “I expected nothing. You pushed my buttons. I walked. I was convinced we were nothing more to each other but a memory.” 

“Just how long, exactly, have you been looking for my replacement? And might I say, this was a futile exercise to say the least.” Miranda teased. “You of all people know I'm irreplaceable.” 

 Andy had to laugh at that. “About five years. Once I figured out why I was always out of sorts. I went searching, literally around the world to no avail.” 

“And we come full circle. Singing at the End of the World? That was…?” 

“The end of an era. I knew the moment I saw you at the inn. You are irreplaceable. I knew I had to either let you go or go after you. Living half a life wasn’t going to work any longer.” 

Miranda had inched her way closer during Andy’s contemplation. She hooked a chair with her foot and dragged it near to sit by Andy’s side. 

“So. Here we are.” 

Andy glanced up and offered a watery smile. 

“You have managed to recapture my attention and my heart.” Miranda placed her hand over Andy’s, grasping firmly. “Now, what do you plan to do?” 

Andy’s smile grew. “Really? Your heart?” 

“Yes, Andréa, really.” 

Andy sat up straight and reached for Miranda’s other hand. Hands clasped, Andy locked eyes with Miranda and spoke with emotion. “Miranda, will you be my girlfriend?” 

Miranda gifted Andy with a laugh. “Oh goodness….’girlfriends’? Is that the best you can do?” 

“What would you prefer? Paramour, concubine, partner, mistress, inamorata…?” 

“Any and all.” Miranda leaned forward, closing the minimal space between them. Whispering against Andy’s lips, “Call me what you will, as long as it means we can stop wasting time.” 

Andy’s lips crushed against Miranda’s.  The smoldering flames of passion that had been safely banked despite their immense heat exploded. Love, gentleness, mutual adoration, and reverence would have to momentarily take a back seat as years of longing desire demanded liberation. 

 

The late morning sun filtered through the gauzy curtains. The ceiling fan lazily moved cooled air throughout the room.  Miranda stared mesmerized at the blades, counting the revolutions until a soft sigh sounded against her shoulder. She pressed Andy’s body tighter against her own and ran the fingers of her free hand through Andy’s long tresses, eliciting a pleasurable hum. 

“Mmmmm. That feels nice.” 

“Did you have a pleasant nap?” Miranda teased. 

“In fact, I did. How about you?” 

“I did not sleep.” 

Andy pushed herself up onto an elbow and peered down at Miranda. 

“Are you ok?”  

“I am beyond ‘ok’. I feel wonderful.” 

“So, we’re good?” 

Miranda laughed and pulled Andy back down to lie against her side. “Oh darling, we are perfectly fine. Please do not worry. I meant what I said. I do want this. I want ‘us’.” 

Andy’s stomach rumbled, unhappy with its lack of food. 

“Perhaps we should get some nourishment before I lose you to starvation.” Miranda chuckled. She released her hold of Andy and sat up with the bed sheets dropping to her waist.  

Andy froze at the sight of Miranda sans clothing sitting comfortably in her bed. “Wow” she breathed. 

“Wow, yourself.” Miranda grinned. She slipped into her blouse and shimmied into Andy’s pajama boxers, then tossed the bathrobe at Andy. “Come along, darling, mustn’t keep your stomach waiting.” 

Andy stumbled out after Miranda, entranced by the sight of a half-dressed Miranda Priestly sauntering out the door. 

The women easily developed a rhythm working in the kitchen preparing a meal. Miranda agreed to the fruit salad prepared earlier, but due to their passionate exercise she requested some protein. Denver omelets were created with gusto. While Andy slaved over the stove Miranda busied herself at the coffee bar. 

Andy loaded a tray with their gastronomic creations and led Miranda out to the deck to enjoy the heat of the sun. They ate in companionable serenity; the sound of birds was their mood music. Andy’s usual energy finally bubbled over and she had to speak. 

“So, we’re officially in a relationship now?” 

Miranda’s amused laughter drew a shy smile from Andy. 

“I would say so. Despite what the tabloids print, I am not free and easy. I don’t jump into bed with just anyone.” Reaching to grasp Andy’s hand to complete the connection she continued. “Andréa, we have been engaged in this relationship for months. It is about time we brought it to light and were honest with ourselves.  You, if your writing can be taken literally, have wanted this for years. As for me, I can say I was enlightened to the depth of my feelings when we collided in January. Do you agree?” 

“Yeah. No doubt.” 

“Then relax and enjoy. We are officially ‘together’.” 

“It’s just feels so new and fragile; a dream that will dissipate when I wake.” 

“You are no longer asleep, darling. I think we can say we have both finally awakened.” 

Hands still clasped, Miranda leaned back with her coffee, eyeing Andy over the rim. Sure enough, the younger woman started up again. 

“So, how do we proceed? I expect you need to get back to the city for work. Is this going to be a long distance affair?” 

“No.” Miranda’s voice came out a bit sterner than she planned. “This is not an ‘affair’.” After a deep breath to control her ire she continued in a gentler tone. “It’s not just an affair. And no, I do not need to return. As of Friday, I am retired. The reins have been stripped from my hands. I am a free agent.” 

“You retired?! When did you decide on that?”  

“This past spring. About the same time I knew I wanted to be with you in a capacity more than friends. I realized long distance would not work for us. I also realized, after some time, that you would not leave this place to make New York your permanent home. I am at the end of my career while you are blossoming into the heyday of yours. After that observation, the decision was easy.” 

“Wow. What are you going to do with yourself?” 

“I will continue to work. I have agreed to continue on with Runway as an editor at large. The fashion world still needs my hand in it, and in this manner, I can be completely honest in my opinion.” 

Andy stood and moved to stand over Miranda, straddling her lap. Placing her hands on the arms of Miranda’s chair she leaned down and smiled wickedly. “So, you’re free to join me for a repeat performance?” she asked, her voice dipping into a sultry timbre. 

“I had hoped your more youthful exuberance would work to my favor.” Miranda replied, her hands running up the backs of Andy’s thighs. 

Their lips met in a tender devotion that swiftly stoked the glowing embers. Deserting the remains of their meal they returned to their bedroom for another attempt at making up for lost time. 

   

“So, how long will I be able to keep you here?” 

Andy was reclining across the bed with her head in Miranda’s lap, enjoying the feel of Miranda’s fingers playing through her hair. 

“How long would you like to keep me here?” 

“Forever.” 

“Hmmm. I believe that could be arranged. I will need to return to the city periodically, and initially I would like to retrieve some of my belongings. But if you truly want me here, I have no objection to relocating.” 

Miranda smirked when Andy sat up abruptly to challenge her statement. 

“Seriously? You would stay? As in move in permanently stay?” 

“Andréa, how many times must I remind you I mean what I say?  I would not be averse to moving in with you.  I will maintain the house in the city and I will stay there on occasion. That said, if you would prefer to retain this location as our permanent residence, I am agreeable.” 

“You don’t think we’re moving too fast?” 

“I would not think waiting eight years to act is considered too fast.” 

 

 

The pairing of Miranda Priestly with Andrea Sachs never made the public forum. They spent their together time in New Hampshire while their professional lives remained singular. After the official announcement of Miranda’s retirement, her move out of town remained under the radar.  Anyone who saw the luggage loaded SUV pull away from the house assumed a vacation was well earned.  No one realized she was rehomed out of state since she continued to make fashion related appearances. 

 Meanwhile, Andy’s Hollywood schedule kept her busy and bowing out of New York trips. But with numerous separations came as many reunions.  

 This year the Milan fashion week felt like a vacation to Miranda. There were no required appearances or must do parties, only shows she wanted to see and gatherings she chose to attend. She was finally able to simply do what she wanted. It was the closest to a perfect working vacation as she had ever achieved. Perfect would have been if Andréa had joined her. 

Climbing the front steps to the lake house on her return, Miranda truly felt she was home. An amused smile tugged at her lips as she slid the newly minted key into the lock. The snick of the lock sliding open was a relief to momentary doubt. 

 Miranda pushed the door open to find Andrea sliding in stocking feet into the front hall from the kitchen, a joyful grin plastered across her face. Miranda released the handle of her suitcase and braced herself in time to catch Andy in mid slide. A passionate welcome home kiss was her reward. 

“Hi. Welcome home. Did you have fun?” 

“Indeed, I did. From this greeting I am prone to believe you missed me.” 

A second lingering kiss affirmed the answer. “You have no idea.”  

Miranda was led eagerly down the hall to the bedroom. A split second before being dragged through the doorway, Miranda caught a glimpse of something familiar in the living room. Putting on the brakes she chanced a better look. Turning back to Andy with raised eyebrow she wondered aloud, “Why is Cassidy sleeping on the couch?” 

“Because she was tired.” 

“I mean, why is she here and not at school?” 

“Come in here and I’ll explain.” Andy dragged Miranda into the bedroom and to the leisure chair, gently pushed her into it and then sank to the floor by her feet. 

“She’s here because she called me on Thursday and asked if she could escape for the weekend. And, as I had promised, I picked her up Friday after classes.” 

“Is there an issue we need to address? Is she having some difficulty?” 

“Nah, nothing but a little home sickness.” 

“Why do I have the feeling you are omitting something?” 

“Well… there might have been a small incident that may have included a visit to the police station under escort.” 

Miranda’s face morphed before Andy’s eyes. Before the woman exploded Andy rushed to continue. 

“It was mostly a misunderstanding.” 

“A misunderstanding does not usually equate to a trip to the pokey. What happened?” 

“Well, as Cassidy tells it, some young man at a party misunderstood her when she said no…three times. To get her point across, she… sort of… decked him. One roundhouse punch to a glass jaw, he apparently dropped like a stone.” 

“My daughter was attacked?” Miranda’s complexion had gone ashen, but her eyes had turned to ice fire. 

“No! No, Miranda. She’s ok. There was no physical attack or misconduct…on the young man’s part, anyway.” 

“Then what…?” 

“He wouldn’t take no for an answer when trying to get her to drink.” 

“My daughter resorted to violence because he was a boor?” 

“Pretty much. “ 

“That is… unacceptable.” 

“Yeah, I know.  Her stay here is for the week. There’s a suspension included.” 

“Oh, for the…” 

“I took the lead and covered the lecture of all the reasons we don’t react in a physical fashion under those situations. She apologized as soon as it happened. She even took him to the infirmary. The police didn’t get involved until his parents filed a complaint. Anyway, we have our girl for the week. Do you want to stay or run off to New York?” 

“Don’t be absurd.” Miranda smacked Andy’s shoulder, but she was smiling again. “A week with my daughter will be lovely. I do miss them.” Miranda traced a finger down Andy’s cheek. “I’ve missed you, too.” 

With the serious conversation momentarily tabled, Andy slithered her way onto Miranda’s lap. Her lips brushing along Miranda’s earlobe Andy seductively asked, “Want to show me how much you missed me?” 

Miranda gamely pulled Andy into a wanton embrace. Lips crushed together, and hands began to wander. At the sound of a whimper, Miranda pushed Andy back and smiled evilly. “I think we should put a pin in this until later tonight. Perhaps I should check on Cassidy?” 

“Fine. Whatever.” Andy pouted but rose from Miranda’s lap and offered a hand assist. 

Once on two feet, Miranda traced fingers along Andy’s jaw, leaned in for a soft kiss and whispered against swollen lips, “We will definitely revisit this tonight.” 

Andy offered a pout in response. “Guess we’ll have to keep it down.” 

Miranda left the room laughing heartily. 

 

Miranda sat on the couch, pulling Cassidy’s feet onto her lap. She began to massage the girl’s legs through her jeans until a familiar voice questioned. “Hey mom, what are you doing here?” 

“Hello Cassidy. I hear you have been creating stories to tell your grandchildren.” 

“Aw man, Andy told you?” 

“Did you expect anything less?” 

“No. Not really. Are you mad?” 

“I must admit, my initial reaction was not all warm and fuzzy. But, just as Andréa told me your story, she also explained the silliness of the situation. I’m sure you have learned some lesson here.” 

“Yeah. Never go to a frat party.” 

“Yes. That is exactly the lesson I want you to take from this.” Miranda pinched a toe. 

“Ow. Just kidding. I know I need to control my temper and sit on my hands.” 

“Very well.  Are you hungry?” 

“Yeah, starved.” 

“Hmm. I believe Andréa is grilling some steaks. Perhaps you can see about a salad?” 

“Yeah, sure.” 

Cassidy jumped up to do her mother’s bidding but paused before passing. “Thank you, mom.” Cassidy dropped a quick kiss to Miranda’s cheek and went to ransack the refrigerator. 

 

Dinner was halfway done when Cassidy looked quizzically at the two older women and posed a question. “Mom, did you come up just because I got in trouble?” 

Miranda glanced at Andy before answering. “No, dear, I was coming here anyway.” 

“Why?” 

“I live here now.” Miranda answered while leaving off the implied “obviously”. 

“What?!  What do you mean you live here?” 

With a sigh Miranda straightened in her chair and leveled her eyes on Cassidy. “Bobsie, we were planning on telling you and your sister over Thanksgiving break. And before you go off, we were waiting because this is all so new, and we are adapting.” 

“Holy shit! You two finally got together?!” 

“Hey, language.” Andy corrected 

“Yes sweetheart, we ‘finally got together’.” Miranda confessed with a grin at her daughter’s enthusiasm. 

“That’s awesome. I gotta call Caro.” She exclaimed as she pushed herself away from the table. “She owes me twenty bucks.” 

“What?!” Miranda and Andy exclaimed in unison. 

“Cassidy, what are you talking about?” Miranda asked, restraining her daughter from leaving the room. 

“I bet you’d get together before Halloween. Caro said not until Christmas. I win.” 

“The two of you were betting on us?” 

“Yeah.” 

“So, it doesn’t bother you?” Miranda wondered. 

“Not a bit. Frankly, we were kind of getting pissed that you two were dragging your feet so long.” 

Cassidy ran to her room to call Caroline, leaving two amazed and amused women behind. 

“Well, what do you know?”  Andy murmured. “Maybe we don’t have to be quiet after all.” 

 

Life at the lake house easily transformed from a single’s pad to a family home. Even with just the two women sharing the home, the feeling of family pervaded. Constant calls and texts with the girls checking in interrupted the usual new relationship twosome bliss. Outside of the foursome family no one was the wiser. There was no announcement or declaration. Without discussing it, there was a tacit agreement that the family would acclimate to the new symmetry before expanding. 

Miranda had completed the transition to rural “country bumpkin” in her usual fashion. With no daily need of professional couture, she elected to wear weekend casual. For her, that usually meant fashionable slacks and a blouse. Occasionally she would don a casual dress, but her heels never exceeded three inches. 

There were no arguments regarding house furnishings or decorations. Miranda was pleased with Andréa’s choices and did not feel a need to make any changes. The only additions were to Andréa’s office space. Having the same footprint of the living room, there was more than enough space to share with Miranda. A new desk and chair were introduced the first part of October. 

One afternoon late in October Miranda received a typical call from Nigel. There was a fund-raising dinner scheduled in January that he insisted she needed to attend. Miranda wandered into the office with her phone to her ear, listening as Nigel wittered on. She rolled her eyes in exasperation, her focus falling on Andrea. 

Andy was sitting at her desk dressed in a tank top and Star Wars pajama pants. Her hair was tied back in a sloppy bun with loose tendrils framing her face. She had one pencil tucked behind an ear and a second clamped in her teeth, her face was a scowl of concentration as she perused the latest incarnation of a working script. 

Miranda felt a small explosion from her heart and a glowing warmth infuse her soul. Distracted, she murmured, “Nigel, hold on a moment.” and pulled the phone away from her ear, ignoring the muffled sound of Nigel’s complaints. 

“Andréa, dear….” 

“Hmm? Yes?” Andy, engrossed in her project answered airily. 

Miranda waited. Dark, soulful eyes eventually glanced up to lock with hers.  Miranda felt her heart stop until a beatific smile of expectation kick started her life. 

“Andréa, will you marry me?” 

Andy jumped out of her chair as if she had been bitten. Pulling the pencil from her mouth she grinned and answered heartily, “Absolutely!”. 

A distant voice screamed through an ear piece. “What?! What just happened?! Miranda, did you just propose?!” 

Andy scrambled from behind the desk and collided with Miranda, engulfing her in a crushing embrace. 

Miranda offered with a grin, “The girls will be off for winter vacation. Should we be cliché and wed on New Year’s Day?” 

“Why not? You know how I love cliché.” 

With a grin frozen on her face, Miranda returned to the call. “Nigel, I won’t be available for this dinner since I will be on my honeymoon. Thank you for thinking of me though.” 

She thumbed the disconnect, dropped the phone and wrapped both arms around her new fiancé. Lips met in a heated exchange, sealing the contract with a lover’s kiss. 

 

After an afternoon of celebrating their intended matrimony, Miranda and Andy found themselves lounging comfortably in bed discussing a general plan of action. 

“I guess I need to make some phone calls now.” Andy almost pouted. 

“What calls, darling?” 

“Need to call my family. Let them know we’re together and getting married.” 

“You haven’t told them about us yet?” 

“Nope. Been keeping you all to myself.  But I guess now I’ll have to share.” 

“Are you worried?” 

“No. Yes. Maybe?” 

“Would you like me to be with you, or would you prefer to be alone?” 

“With me…. Please.” 

“Have you told Douglas and Colin?” 

“Nope. But that’ll be easy. They’ve been pushing me towards you forever.” 

“Forever?” 

“Since I left Runway. Doug has always been bugging me to ‘storm the castle and rescue my maiden fair’.” 

“Douglas is going to be my best man.” 

“Ha!  He’ll love that.” 

“When will you call?” 

Andy sat up with a groan. “No time like the present. Care to join me upstairs? We can speaker phone. But, can you not say anything? Even if my parents get rude?” 

“I promise. Like a church mouse.” 

 

Sitting on the day bed, Miranda’s hand was held in a vice grip as the speaker phone chirped seeking connection. A distinctive click made Andy jump, and then a woman’s dulcet voice broke the silence. 

“Hello?” 

“Hi Mom.”  

“Andy! How are you sweetheart?” 

“Great mom. Actually, I’m calling with some news.” 

“Good news, I hope.” 

“Yeah, I’d say so. Real good. The best. I’m getting married.” 

“What?! To whom?” Excessive shock and disbelief changed the tone of voice.  

“Mom!...” 

“I’m sorry dear, but honestly…you haven’t even dated anyone for like 5 years.”  

“Well, I sort of reconnected with someone from my past. I was keeping it quiet because I wasn’t sure where we were going… but now…” 

“Reconnected? It can’t be Nate. He’s already married.” 

“Yeah, I know. Although, funny you should go to that period of my life…” 

“Who else could it be from then? You never had time to connect with anyone. The only person you ever spoke of back then was Miranda Priestly.” 

“Yup.” 

“Yup?... Wait. What? Are you trying to tell me you ‘reconnected’ with Miranda Priestly?” 

“You could say that.” 

“I did say that. Is it true?” 

Miranda’s hand squeezing her own gave Andy the courage to continue. “Yes mom. That is exactly what I’m saying.”  

“Is this a joke? Did Douglas put you up to this?” 

“No mom. It’s true. Miranda and I are together and we’re getting married…Mom?” 

“Just a minute, honey. This is a lot to take in. You’ve been single for I don’t know how long. Then you call me out of the blue to come out of the closet with Miranda Priestly. And you want me to be happy about your wedding?” 

“I know. We didn’t plan this. It just happened.” 

“OK. I’m going to need a little time to get my head around this. I will call you back tonight.” 

“Um, mom? Do you want to tell dad or shall I?” 

“I’ll let you know that later too.” 

“OK. “ 

“Don’t fret sweetheart. I just need to process. I’ll call you tonight. I promise.” 

“Thanks mom. I love you.” 

“I love you too. Bye for now.” 

“Bye.” 

 

“That went well.” Miranda dead panned. 

“It kind of did.”  Andy agreed.  

“Why would your mother tell your father?” 

“Mom has always been the one to handle and process news. Then she decides if she should handle dad. He doesn’t always take things calmly and he occasionally will say things he later regrets. Like when I decided to not follow him into law and opted for journalism. Or when Daniel and Jenny found out they were having their first baby out of wedlock.  Of course, Danny fixed everything by marrying Jenny and finishing law school.” 

Taking a deep breath Andy forged on. “Ok, I think I’ll call Danny now. Do you want in on this one too?” 

“What better way to meet my soon to be brother in-law?” 

Miranda relaxed against a pile of pillows now that Andy’s stress had receded. The phone burred once more and was answered on the third ring. 

“Hey Panda. What’s happening?” 

“Hi Dan. Just calling with some news before mom calls you.” 

“Crap. Whose dead?” 

“Nobody. Why would you ask that?” 

“What other news would mom call me about?” 

“You’re being invited to my wedding.” 

“Oh cool…What?! What wedding? Who…?” 

“Well, that’s the real news. I’m marrying Miranda.” 

“Miranda freaking Priestly?! Holy crap! That’s awesome! Do I get to be the best man? When did you hook up?” 

“Well, we reconnected last January.” 

“Oh, hey… I’m on speaker phone. You have someone with you. Hey Miranda, good to meet you, sort of.” 

“Intelligent young man.” Miranda acknowledged. 

“Danny!” 

“What? You always do that. When you have news, big news, you get someone to stand by as a witness. Or to soften a counter blow. So, Miranda, is there something I should know about? Some reason you need to marry my sister?” 

“She is not pregnant, if that’s what you are asking.” Miranda had to smile at Danny’s affable personality. 

“Excellent.  Welcome to the family. You guys coming home for Christmas?” 

“Not sure, Dan. The wedding will be here Jan 1st.” 

“Right. So, Christmas at your place? Never mind. That won’t work. Well, let me know. Tell Doug he owes me ten bucks.” 

“Why does he owe you…? Oh, you didn’t.” 

“Easy pickings.” 

“You suck, Dan.” 

“But I’m ten dollars richer. Life is good. Ciao Panda.” 

“By Dan. Love you” 

“You too.” 

The phone disconnected with a buzz. Miranda arched an eyebrow at Andy. 

“Ten dollars?” 

“They bet on my coming out.” 

“I am detecting a certain theme developing. Why do you suppose so many people bet on you?” 

“One of life’s mysteries.” 

 

Andy’s mobile phone rang after dinner interrupting a quiet evening by the fire pit. Andy answered with hesitation, hitting the speaker so Miranda could hear. 

“Hi Mom.” 

“Hello Andy.”  

“So, am I still a part of the family?” 

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. You will always be my baby girl. No matter what. Granted, you threw a number of ‘whats’ at me today, but we’ll survive.” 

“I guess that’s good.” 

“I spoke to your father.” 

“Oh.” 

“I found arguing with him helped me see everything more clearly. Daniel also spoke to him” 

“Oh, no.” 

“Don’t panic. He actually helped. I’m not sure your father is going to easily get over being called a ‘narrow minded conservative hypocrite’ any time soon, but it did work. He stopped his ranting and has been rather docile. He’s currently pouting in his man cave.” 

“Did he threaten to disown me?” 

“Danny straightened him out on that point, too.  He told your father all access to his grandchildren would be terminated.” 

“So, where are we?” 

“We are fine. But I won’t lie to you, Andy, I do have a few concerns. I realize the portrait you painted while you worked at Runway was extremely one sided and quite a bit biased from an employee’s view. I believe I can wipe the slate clean of any prejudice against Miranda.  But I worry there may be issues regarding the age difference, and her children, and the public access to her personal life.” 

“Well, I can tell you as fact that her children love and accept me. I can also report the public access has been greatly reduced since she retired from Runway. As for the age difference, all I can say is if Miranda were a man, and I thank god she isn’t, there wouldn’t be an issue.” 

“Perhaps not with the world, but with me, there would. But I will get used to it. Much like I will get used to the fact that my daughter is marrying a woman. Slowly.” 

“Well don’t take too long. I would like you to come for the wedding and it’s going to be January 1st.” 

“I will do my best. And Miranda, thank you for being there for Andy during these phone calls. I appreciate you supporting her.” 

“It has been my pleasure.” Miranda smirked as Andy’s plan of secret silent support was once again spotlighted. 

“As pleasurable as it can be, I’m sure. Ok Andy. Anything else you need to tell me?” 

“No. I’m good.” 

“All right then. Have a good night. We’ll talk again.” 

“Ok. Goodnight, mom. Thanks. Love you.” 

“I love you Andy. Bye.” 

Miranda could hear the heavy sigh behind her despite fighting with a log in the fire pit. Retaking her seat, she reached for Andy’s hand and drew the chilled knuckles to her lips. “Are you alright?” 

“Yeah. I guess. Mom processes much better than dad. I’m more concerned that he’ll make an ass of himself if they actually show up.” 

“Shall we send them the wrong address? Perhaps direct them to a venue in New York?” 

Brown eyes glittered with merriment in response to Miranda’s teasing. “You are truly evil. I think I may have to start calling you Cruella.” 

Miranda chuckled. “If you do, I will be forced to skin Kenny and use him as a muff,” 

Andy burst into a fit of laughter after exclaiming “Oh my God. Cruella killed Kenny!” 

Once Andy recovered Miranda suggested calling it a night. “I will extinguish this blaze if you will bring in the tray.” 

“Deal.”  

They each took a quick shower to remove the smell of smoke before sliding into bed and meeting in the middle. A slow, languid kiss ended with Andy rolling away and Miranda wrapping protective arms around her lover, spooning tightly against the worries of the night. 

“We could marry on Christmas and be off on our honeymoon when they arrive for the wedding.” Miranda whispered into Andy’s ear. A slap to her hip negated that plan. “Or not.” 

“So, miss smarty pants, when are we going to inform the girls?” Andy changed the subject. 

“I would like to have them together, so I was thinking Thanksgiving, again.” Miranda murmured against the back of Andy’s neck. 

“Mmm-k.” Andy was already drifting. “We should go to the parade this year.” 

“We always do.” 
“I mean actually go to the parade route and stand in the street. Not hole up in your friends’ apartment observing from the eighth floor.” 

“You are such a rebel. I’m sure the girls would love that.” 

“G’night M’randa” Andy muttered almost asleep. 

“Sleep well darling.” 

 

 

Thanksgiving arrived overcast but warm. The girls readily agreed to front line attendance of the parade. Providentially, the parade route happened to pass directly in front of the Elias-Clarke building on 6th street, so the Priestly family had front row seating without needing to arrive at 6 AM to stake a claim. 

Miranda was more entertained by Andy’s and the girls’ enthusiasm than the parade. They squealed and carried on with every float and band. Every horse team passing by had Andy screaming “ponies!’ at the top of her lungs. And when Santa Clause finally cruised by, the trio were uncontrollable, jumping, waving, and screaming until hoarse. 

Although they arrived by car, they chose to return home on foot. The walk was straight up 6th avenue and then a cut through the park. Miranda chose a clear bench in the park for a rest with ulterior motives. 

“Bobsies, what are your plans for Christmas break?” 

“I was hoping to hang out with you guys at the lake.” Caroline responded first. 

“Cassidy?” 

“Lake sound good to me.” 

“You aren’t planning a trip with your father?” 

The girls shared a curious look before Cassidy answered, “Nah. Not in the cards this year. Dad planned a winter break vacation with Valerie and her evil spawn. Besides, there’s plenty of skiing in New Hampshire. Remember?” 

Miranda cast a mild glare at the teasing. “Well, I’m glad you plan to be around. That will make this much easier.” 

“Make what easier?” Caroline sounded a little worried. 

“Attending our wedding, of course.” 

“Wedding?! Ahhhhhhhh!” Screams of delight filled the air as the twins attacked.

 Andy, who had been standing just to the side of the bench, was taken down in a pig pile.  

“Who popped the question? “When did she ask?” “What are you wearing?” “Does dad know?” 

Questions spilled out, the girls speaking over each other, demanding information. 

“Ugh. If you’d get off of me, we can do all this in a civilized manner.” 

“Oh Andy, don’t be such a baby.” Cassidy clambered over Andy’s prone body to assist Caroline off the ground. 

“Really? You’re just gonna leave me here?” 

“The least you deserve for corrupting our mother.” Caroline offered with a mock glare. 

“Yeah, well you’re wearing a pink taffeta puffy gown at the wedding.” 

“Girls,” Miranda cut in. “Will you please comport yourselves in a slightly more dignified manner?” 

“We don’t really have to wear pink, do we?” Caroline grimaced. 

“No dear. That will be Douglas. You two will be wearing lovely shades of blue.” 

“So where and when?” Cassidy inquired. 

“The wedding and reception will be at the Inn.” Andy chimed in. “Very small, intimate gathering. Family only.  Honeymoon in Bali. You two are not coming.” 

“As if we want to go with you on your honeymoon. We’ll just stay at home.” 

“You’ll have to babysit Kenny.” 

“Deal.” 

“Well, I must say, that was an extremely easy conversation.” Miranda quipped. “If there are no more questions, I suggest we continue homeward.” 

The rest of the walk home was filled with teasing banter between Andy and the girls. Miranda was amused and delighted. Her girls’ open absolute acceptance of Andrea filled her with love. She dreamily wore an affectionate smile the rest of the way home. 

Once they returned to the town house the girls jumped in to assist Andy with the dinner preparations. Andy had spent the previous day chopping, mixing, blending, and spicing. All that remained was putting dishes into the oven at specific times so everything would be ready at the same time. The traditional turkey was already roasting thanks to Nigel volunteering to forgo the live parade for the honor of “keeping the house from burning down” as Miranda had worded the request. 

“Hey Nigel, care to pop the cork on that bottle you brought?” Andy voiced as she sauntered into the living room to rejoin the family. 

“Already done, mon chéri.” Nigel held a glass out to her. 

“Merci. Where did Thomas go?” 

“He went to gather Emily and Serena.” 

“Ever the gallant gentleman. Obvious what you see in him.” 

“Oh, shut up.” 

When Nigel’s partner Thomas returned with the women in tow the party, as they say, finally started. Miranda’s well stocked bar was open, and the alcohol was free flowing. The twins, although not partaking in the drinking, were thoroughly enjoying being included in “grown up” party talk. Stories were being told out of school and laughter rocked the halls. 

Andy’s well planned dinner schedule went off without a hitch, with the help of the sober girls. Caroline and Cassidy happily managed kitchen duty, presenting a picture perfect dinner to the dining guests. Norman Rockwell had never painted a more perfect painting for the Saturday Evening Post.  Dinner was progressing quite decorously when Serena made the innocent request for a dinner roll. Andy was closest, so she simply grabbed a roll and pitched it across the table.  

The shock on Miranda’s face froze time. When she reached for the knife, sliced a pad of butter from the stick and shot the yellow square onto Serena’s plate, the dining room exploded into bedlam. Guffaws, snorts, and peals of laughter filled the room. Andy literally fell off her chair laughing while Miranda sat regally at the head of the table as if nothing had occurred. 

“Well that isn’t something we see every day.” Cassidy observed. 

“Guess we’ll be putting this lot into taxis tonight.” Caroline shot back. 

By dessert, the tomfoolery had waned, and the guests were drifting into food comas.  Cassidy put the strong coffee on while Caroline sliced the pies. With the assembly quieted, Miranda decided to make her announcement. 

“If I may have your attention, as best you can attend… I would like to make a toast. First, I thank you all for joining my family for this holiday. You are my inner circle, my chosen family. I appreciate all you have done for me over the years. And you should know, I cherish you all.” 

“Dear God,” Emily’s eyes grew to saucers. “You’re dying.” 

“I am not dying. And do not interrupt. As I was saying, most of you I cherish. Now, I would like to take this moment to invite you all to my upcoming nuptials. Nigel, you are already aware, since you were actually a witness to the proposal. Emily and Serena, it is time you know that I have asked Andréa to wed and she has most graciously accepted. Emily, please close your mouth. We will be exchanging vows on the first of January in New Hampshire at the Hearthstone Inn. Our colors will be white and blue, so I expect you not to clash. No wedding gifts will be accepted so do not bring anything but your happy little smiles. May the blessings of the season keep you prosperous and healthy. That’s all. Happy Thanksgiving.” 

“Happy Thanksgiving” was returned by everyone, even Emily. 

 

Caroline’s feet padded softly across the hardwood floor and onto the cool tiles of the kitchen. She pulled the refrigerator open and jumped at the sound of a throat clearing behind her. The light from the open appliance reveled Miranda sitting at the end of the island. 

“Hey mom. Didn’t see you there.” 

“I gathered.” 

“You ok?” 

“I’m fine, Bobsie. I just needed a glass of water. And you?” 

“Me too. Water.” Filling a glass from the filtered pitcher, Caroline settled next to her mother. “So, have you told dad yet?” 

A mischievous smirk tugged at Miranda’s lips. “I have not. I have been trying to decide the best way to inform him.” 

“Mom, he won’t admit it, but it’ll hurt him. Just be nice and tell him straight.” 

“You think it will hurt him?” Miranda was surprised by her daughter’s perspective. 

“Yeah. Despite all the time and everything, he still loves you.” 

“My last marriage did not seem to concern him.” 

“That’s because Stephen didn’t matter.” 

“Didn’t matter?” 

“Mom, everyone knew you never loved Stephen. Even Cass and I knew. That’s why we never invested in him. But Andy’s different. You really love her. From what I can see you love her more than anyone. And that is gonna be one hell of a surprise to dad. And not just because she’s a woman but, because you never loved him like that. So, yeah, it’s gonna hurt.” 

Ice blue eyes opened wide and scrutinized the young woman sipping water.  

“When did you get so smart?” 

“Born this way. I’ve just been hiding it. I didn’t want to make you feel bad about your inadequacies.” 

“Hmmm. Time to pass on the torch.” 

“If the flame burns bright, the bright must rise to the task.” 

“So, why don’t you tell your father?” 

“Because I’m not the one marrying the girl.” 

“Touché” Miranda slid off her stool. “I’m going up. Don’t stay up too late.” Her lips brushed Caroline’s cheek. 

“Night mom. See you tomorrow.” 

“Not if I see you first.” 

Miranda exited to the sound of shocked laughter. 

 

“James, thank you for meeting me.” 

“Of course, Miranda. A lunch invitation does not happen frequently, so I do try to be agreeable when the chance arrives.” 

Conversation flowed easily about their children and James’ alternate family. Miranda broached the reason for their lunch over coffee. 

“James, do you remember my friend Andréa? You met in July.” 

“Yes, of course. Lovely woman. She’s a writer, isn’t she?” 

“Yes. The girls follow her book series.” 

“What about her?” 

“Well…to be blunt…” 

“I’d expect nothing less.” James winked. 

“She and I are to be married on New Year’s.” 

Thankfully she had waited until he swallowed the mouthful of coffee. 

“You’re what?!” 

“Please keep the volume down, James.” 

“You’re getting married?” He ground out through clenched teeth. 

“I understand it’s a bit of a surprise. I must admit, it is a bit of a surprise to me.” 

“I don’t understand, Miranda. You were married to me. You had children with me. Hell, you married Stephen.” 

“What is your point?” 

“She’s a woman! I never would have taken you for being queer.” 

“I understand you are surprised, and apparently angry. But I must insist you do not lower yourself to spewing hatful insults.” 

James sat back and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes to help himself get his temper under control. After a moment he leaned forward and focused on the conversation again.  

“Miranda, is this a midlife crisis?” 

“No, James. This is me being in love.” 

“I thought you were in love with me.” 

“I loved you once. I love you now. But love evolves sometimes. It shifts. You know this. You do not feel for me half of what you felt when we first met.” 

“Did you have an inclination for women back then?” 

Miranda’s amused laughter rang out. “Oh, James… Sometimes you are simply priceless. None of this casts a shadow over you or your manhood. Our past has no bearing on this present. I am marrying Andréa because I love her, because we share in this love. That is our focus. We are not concerned with connections or power. We are not worried about financial inequalities. We are equal and compatible in every way. We are stronger together. You and I were unequal from the word go. Different goals, different interests, different beliefs. That we lasted long enough to bring two amazing, beautiful people into this world is in itself a miracle.  You have moved on from our debacle of a marriage. You now have a new family to find comfort and peace with. You have a wife who does genuinely love you. You have a son. Be happy with your life. Your happiness is not tied to me. I am nothing more than perhaps a wistful memory for you. Not much more than an old college sweetheart. Don’t make any of this more than that.” 

“So why are you even telling me?” 

“Because we do share our daughters so there will always be a connection, however tenuous. We have made great strides since our divorce. I like to believe we have been able to create a friendship. I would hope we can continue in that vein. Your daughters would appreciate that.” 

“Does this mean I’m invited to the wedding?” 

“Oh,” Miranda chuckled “No. I am sorry James, but this is immediate family only. I’m sure you understand.” 

“Yes. Of course.” A slight blush burned across the man’s cheeks. “Perhaps I should send a gift.” 

“Please don’t. We have requested no gifts. Anything sent will be donated. Don’t waste your money. Your blessing would be acceptable.” Eyeing her watch, Miranda slid her chair back from the table. “Oh my, the time. I have an appointment.” 

James stood with her and escorted her out. “Miranda.” He arrested her departure. “I… Congratulations, Miranda. I see you really are happy. I wish you both the best.” 

“Thank you, James.” She stretched up to place a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you. Have a merry Christmas.” 

“You too.” 

He watched while she walked a little way up the street and disappeared into the back of a town car. He stood and watched as the car turned a corner. Finally, after a few more breaths, he headed back to his office.  

 

 

Miranda’s mobile chirped to life with Andy’s ring tone. 

“Hello darling.” 

“Hey. My flight was cancelled due to your storm. I won’t be in until tomorrow afternoon.” 

“That is not ideal, but I think I can survive.” 

“Miss you too. Did you call Doug?” 

“I did. He agreed. He will stand as my witness. I have put Nigel in charge of our ensembles and the reception so he wouldn’t feel left out. I hope you don’t mind.” 

“Hell no. Two more things off our plate. Good call.” 

“Did you get in touch with Lily?” 

“Oh, yeah. We finally connected. She’s not happy.” 

“Oh dear.” 

“Oh, no, she’s happy for us. She’s not happy that she already has travel plans. She’s going to be in Greece with Rafa. But she said she will shower us with a ‘rocking party’ when she returns.” 

“Perhaps we should change our contact information.” 

“Now, now. A party with Lily will not be that bad. Basically, it’s everyone from our extended family getting trashed. A lot like Thanksgiving.” 

“Oh, well, that would be acceptable.” 

“Oops, gotta go. My taxi is here. I’ll see you tomorrow. Have a good night. Love you. 

“And I you. Goodnight Andréa.” 

 

December brought winter temperatures and threatened to produce a white Christmas to the Priestly twins’ delight. Each of the girls beelined it to the lake house as soon as semester finals were finished. Cassidy was free two days before Caroline and borrowed Miranda’s car to pick her sister up. They returned just before midnight and silently crept into the house to not disturb anyone. As the front door whispered closed behind them a girlish giggle broke the silence. Caroline glanced wide eyed at Cassidy. Cassidy rolled her eyes in inflated disgust and led her sister upstairs. “They can’t keep their hands off each other.” Cassidy explained. “They’re worse than teenagers.” 

The following morning Andy was once again the first one up. Caroline found her puttering in the kitchen and decided to try to get a rise out of her soon to be step mom.  

“You and mom sure seemed to be having fun last night.” She baited. 

“Oh, sweetie, you have no idea.” Andy casually threw back. 

Caroline’s jaw was still hanging in shock when Miranda appeared. “Good morning, Caroline.” she offered brightly. Receiving no response, she continued to Andy and after a quick buss to the woman’s cheek asked. “What’s wrong with the chatter box?” 

“She tried to embarrass me and I turned the tables on her. She’ll come around once she gets the image of her mother fooling around out of her head.” 

“Ah. Silly girl. She’ll learn one day to better measure her opponents. What’s for breakfast?” 

“You.” Andy growled and grabbed Miranda in to a tight embrace, attaching her lips to the older woman’s neck. 

“Oh God.” Caroline cried. “Uncle…Uncle. You win. I’m sorry.” 

The women’s laughter heralded Cassidy’s entrance. 

“What’s so funny?” 

“You don’t really want to know.” Caroline offered. “I’ll explain later.” 

 

After a feast of eggs, bacon, and French toast the Family trekked out to find a Christmas tree for their home. Three tree farms and a gallon of hot cocoa into the hunt, they finally all agreed on a Balsam Fir. The tree farm attendant helped them load the tree into the bed of the truck Andy had borrowed from a neighbor and the family headed back towards home. 

Dragging the tree out of the truck Andy asked Miranda, “Now do you see why I borrowed it? A lot easier hauling this out of the bed of a truck than off the top of your car.” 

“Why would we have used my car and not yours?” 

“Because there is no way in hell I’d put a tree on top of my car. Your SUV was designed to get beat up.” 

“I don’t understand why you are so emotionally attached to your car.” 

“You don’t have to understand, just accept.” Andy gave Miranda a quick peck on the lips before dragging the tree up the front steps. 

Caroline and Cassidy had run into the house to “prepare for the raising of the tree”; which translated to making more hot chocolate, piling Christmas cookies onto a plate, and blasting Christmas music from the stereo. 

Andy wrestled the tree into the living room while Miranda followed to close doors, sweep needles, and assist with the tree if asked. Miranda’s assistance equated to watching Andy struggle while trying to stifle a laugh at the un-Christmas like cursing. 

After a few unsuccessful attempts to stand the tree, it was finally balanced and locked into place. Cheers and applause erupted when Andy stepped back and the tree did not topple. Andy spied Kenny creeping from behind the couch and warned with a growl, “Don’t you dare. You touch that tree and you’ll be spending Christmas ice fishing for your dinner.” 

Miranda presented Andy with a full glass of wine. “My hero. How can I ever repay you for your efforts?” 

Accepting the glass Andy leered over the rim, “I’m sure I can think of something…” 

“Get a room.” Cassidy called from the safe distance of the kitchen. 

Andy grinned, shimmied up to Miranda and pulled her in for a deep kiss.  

“Ewww. Gross.” The girls shrieked.  

Andy threatened, “Just how far do you want me to go to make a point.” 

“Stop! Stop!” Cassidy laughed. “We give up. You win.” 

“Damn right.” Andy chuckled. 

“Do you mean to tell me you were just using me?” Miranda exclaimed with mock indignity. 

“Of course not. I offer you only promises; no lies. And if you care to join me, we can continue in the privacy of our room.” 

“As tempting as that offer is, I feel we should spend more time with the family. It is the holiday season after all.” 

“Whatever.” Andy pouted. 

“Now don’t pout dear. We can resume later.” Miranda cooed. 

“Mom!” 

“Yes Caroline?” 

“Hello. Your daughters are sitting right here.” 

“Yes Bobsie. I am aware.” 

“Can you keep things G rated, please?” 

“We have barely broken into the PG arena and I believe you are old enough to attend R rated films.” 

“Yeah, but this isn’t a movie. And you’re our mom.” 

“Very well. We will minimize the PDA to protect your sensitive virtue.” Turning back to Andy Miranda added, “I’m sorry, darling. No public room nudity.” 

“Auuugh!” The girls gave up. They had officially lost control of their mother. 

“Come on you two.” Andy laughed. “Let’s get the decorations.” 

That night, while preparing for bed Miranda slipped up behind Andy, wrapped her arms around a slim waist, and whispered, “I found watching you handling that tree to be stimulating.” 

Andy spat out the toothpaste from her mouth and grinned into the mirror. “Did you now?” 

“Mmmm, very stimulating.” Miranda ran a hand low across Andy’s belly. “Coming?” she asked coquettishly, as she stepped towards the door.  

“Not yet, but I’m sure soon.” Andy rinsed and followed. 

 

Christmas morning broke with an answer to the girls’ prayers. Snow had fallen overnight; enough to cover the ground and give them their hoped for “white Christmas”.  Miranda and Andy wandered into the kitchen to the sound of Cassidy and Caroline singing White Christmas at the top of their lungs. Mugs of hot coffee were handed into thankful hands and Caroline directed the women to settle in the livingroom while the twins prepared breakfast. 

The gas fire was lit, the lights on the tree were glowing, and music was softly playing from the stereo; a welcoming environment on all counts. Miranda no sooner had her derriere touching a cushion when Kenny leapt for her lap. 

“Well, good morning, sir. Are you ready for the festivities?” 

A soft purr and head butt were her gifted response.  

Cassidy and Caroline joined them bearing a tray with fresh coffee and cinnamon rolls. The expected arched eyebrow from their mother was placated with a simple “What? It’s Christmas.” 

“Well, since it is Christmas” Miranda grabbed a warm pastry. 

“Who’s Santa this year?” Cassidy asked.” 

“I believe it is Caroline.” 

The holiday officially began. Tasty treats consumed, gifts handed out, laughter bouncing off the walls, and fresh hot coffee created a perfect morning for Miranda. After everything had quieted and the family was settled into stillness, Miranda arose from the couch and disappeared into the bedroom. She soon reappeared with a small package in her hand. She sat close to Andy, facing her, and extended her hand, offering the gift wrapped box to her fiancé. 

“Andréa.”  

“Miranda?” 

“I understand our relationship has been a bit… unique. However, there are certain traditions I find agreeable. Therefore, I would like to offer you this as a token of my intention and commitment.” 

Andy accepted the gift and tore the gilded wrapping away. She lifted the top and froze. “Oh, Miranda… I… wow…this is…wow.” 

“Ah, there’s the award-winning brain in its truest display.” 

A glare from Andy made Miranda grin. “Shut up, you.  Help me…” 

Miranda removed the gift from Andy’s now shaking hands, extracted a ring and slid to her knees on the floor. Taking Andy’s hand, she positioned the ring over the tip of Andy’s finger. 

“Andréa, after a near eternity fate finally threw us at one another. It feels like a whirlwind romance that has been lingering forever. You gave me the honor of accepting my initial proposal and I now wish to make it official. Andréa Sachs, will you marry me?’ 

Andy was speechless. With a silly grin and a tear in her eye she shook her head in the affirmative.  

Miranda slid the ring into place to the cheers and whoops of her daughters.  

After a tempered kiss and embrace, Andy slid past Miranda to show the girls what their mother had bestowed on her. A platinum band held a bright blue topaz nestled between two smaller diamonds. 

“Why didn’t you just get a solitaire diamond?” Caroline wondered. 

“The topaz was the closest I could find to resemble my eyes. And we were just lucky that the two of you were born in April with diamond as your birthstone.” 

“Awwwww” sounded in dolby surround sound as all three of her “girls” gushed in response. 

“Miranda, that is so beautiful. You just can’t do anything like a normal mortal, can you?” 

“We goddesses simply cannot lower our standards.”  

 

December 26 brought a number of special delivery parcels to the lake house. Miranda signed for them and called to Andy when the door closed behind the delivery man.  

“Darling, our wedding gowns have arrived.” 

They hauled the packages into their bedroom and loaded them on the bed. 

“Apparently Nigel decided to allow us final decision. I was not expecting so many options.” 

“So, do we share? Or go with our own?” Andy questioned. “He did label them.” 

“I expect we are to decide separately. Wouldn’t want to bring any bad luck.” 

“That is silly. But I would like to surprise you. Separate it is.” 

“Bathroom or here?” 

“You can stay. I’ll take the bathroom.” Andy hoisted two boxes at once. “No peeking.” she called from behind the bathroom door. 

Forty minutes later they met up by the coffee bar. 

“So?” Andy prompted. 

“Acceptable. You?” 

“Had difficulty between two. But final decision made. I put it in Cassidy’s closet and have sworn her to secrecy.” 

“I shall utilize Caroline’s, then.” 

“We’re really doing this, aren’t we?” 

“Yes, darling. We are really doing this.” 

“The family is due on Friday. Are you sure you’re up to that?” 

“I shall persevere.” 

 

 

Miranda was already in bed relaxing with a book when Andy arrived from dinner with her family. The decision for Andy to handle the first night with her parents alone was an attempt to curtail any potential backlash from her father. The front door not slamming was a good sign. 

“Hey,” Andy whispered, brushing her lips against Miranda’s cheek. 

“How did it go?” Miranda shifted, allowing Andy room to sit on the edge of the mattress, 

“Not bad.” Andy smiled. “Not great, but not bad.” 

“No blood loss?” 

“Nah. I have a feeling you’re in for a battle, but I think it will be moderated. He didn’t seem ill-tempered, just a little uptight. I think he was mostly offended that mom ran interference. You’d think he’d be used to that by now,” Andy laughed. 

“So, the rehearsal dinner should prove to be explosive?” 

“Sparklers at the most. No real fireworks.” 

Miranda leered in response, “There could be fireworks if you weren’t set on remaining apart the eve of our wedding.” 

“Be as suggestive as you want Priestly, we aren’t hooking up. As you once said to me, ‘there are certain traditions I find agreeable.’” 

“You know, you're writing career is coming to a premature end if you need to use my own words against me.” 

“Not worried.” Andy laughed, placing another kiss to Miranda’s cheek before moving from the bed. “I only use your words when they make my winning an argument easy.” 

“I always knew you were lazy.” Miranda sparred. 

“I don’t recall you complaining when I take my ‘lazy’ time sexing you up.” 

Miranda’s delighted laughter followed Andy into the powder room. 

 

 

The wedding party and families were nearly ready to proceed with an initial run though when the first roadblock silenced everyone. 

“Why wouldn’t I walk you down the aisle?” The irate voice of Richard Sachs bounced off the walls. 

Andy’s explanation hissed past clenched teeth. “Because I’m not going to have you ‘give me away’. I’m not chattel. You don’t own me.” 

“Oh, for the…” 

“Richard, stop” Joanna’s fingers dug into her husband’s arm. “Don’t make a thing of this.” 

“This? This is already a thing. It’s a freaking spectacle.” 

With a quick glance to Danny for back up, the Sachs family forcibly maneuvered Richard to the kitchen. Facing his angry wife and offspring, Richard chose to be contrite. “What? Are you going to tell me this is normal?” 

“No, dad, I’m not. That would only be a waste of breath. Besides, that’s kind of the point.” Andy began. After a deep breath she continued, “Dad, you raised me to be my own person. My life has literally taken me all over the world. I expect I have done things that would make you cringe if I told you. Up to now, I have done it all without asking your permission or needing your hand. You did your job. You taught me to be independent, and strong.  Now, as a strong, independent woman, I am giving myself to the woman I love. You have been invited to share in my happiness. I’m not asking for your permission. I’m asking for your respect. If that’s something you can’t give then admit it now and go home.” 

“This is how you speak to me now?”  

“This is how I speak now. To everyone. So, are you going to play by my rules?” 

Silence surrounded the family as they waited for Richard to decide.  He finally grumbled his answer. “Fine. Do what you want.” 

“Thank you, I will.” Andy responded brightly. She stepped into her father’s space and wrapped him in a bear hug. Planting a kiss to his cheek she added, “Now stop being a grouch, you’re ruining the celebration. And be nice to my friends.” 

Joanna linked her hand with Richard’s and towed him along with Danny taking the rear as they followed Andy through the door. 

Andy returned to the dining hall, marched up to Miranda, wrapped her hands around the back of the woman’s neck and drew her in for a firm kiss. Pulling back with a smile she announced, “Alright, let’s rock and roll.” 

Hand in hand the pair strode unwaveringly down the improvised aisle towards the temporary altar and their awaiting support coterie. 

The remainder of the run through transpired without issue.  The rehearsal dinner was an extremely casual affair. There was no assigned seating, no haute cuisine, nor rules of engagement. Instead it was a grab any available seat, eat the roast chicken and visit the bar frequently to survive the evening gathering. 

Preferring to face a challenge head on, Miranda refilled her scotch after dessert and went in search of Andy’s father.  She found him on the expansive front porch contemplating the view over his own tumbler of whiskey.   

“Gloves off?” she challenged, her voice dripping in sarcasm. 

“No one here to protect you.” Richard sneered.  

“I could say the same of you. So, let me have it.”   

Richard didn’t jump into an attack so Miranda tried to prod him. “Is it my age or sex that bothers you most?” 

“You are an evil, conniving, manipulative, predator. I don’t know what your end game is, but Andy won’t stay blind for long. She’ll wake up and send you packing. Mark my words.” 

“I thought it was obvious my ‘end game’ is to put you in an early grave.” 

Richard turned to face his enemy as he spat out, “What gives you the right? Do you think just because you're rich and famous you can do whatever you want, no matter who gets hurt?”  

“What exactly is your issue here, Richard? And who is it that is getting hurt? Besides you, of course?” Before Richard could respond again, Miranda pushed on. “Everyone involved in this particular drama is of the age of consent. No one is being black mailed or held against her will. Your own daughter has expressed to you her views. As to your stated complaints, a predator I am not. It was your daughter who approached me. Manipulative...perhaps. I do recall doing everything I could think of to convince Andréa to keep in touch with me when she chose to run off to Cuba. But I assure you, I was acting primarily out of concern for her wellbeing. And in regards to being evil, I must insist you include specific examples or at least qualify your definition of evil. For if you include lustful thoughts of Andréa, then I must plead guilty. Your daughter does bring out that touch of evil in me.” 

“You think you’re so clever.” 

“I do. In fact, I am clever enough to deduce that we ought to make an honest attempt of getting beyond this impasse for Andréa’s sake.” 

Richard stared angrily at Miranda while he processed her last statement. Finally, he capitulated with a “Hrumph, what do you propose?” 

“I propose you actually explain why you are being so hostile. What specifically is bothering you. Talk it out.” 

Richard paused a moment, then swallowed the remaining whiskey in one gulp and gave in. “Fine. Let’s talk.” 

The unlikely duo returned to the bar for a bottle and then retired to Miranda’s suite for a conversation. Sitting across a small table with the bottle between them, Miranda and Richard entered into treatise negotiations. 

“How am I supposed to be all accepting of you after you treated my daughter so viciously when she was your employee?” 

“That one is easy. I treated every employee equally. They all had jobs to do and I needed them to perform their duties to the very best of their abilities to keep the ship afloat, so to speak. You may feel I was excessively hard on Andréa, but I only pushed her to be the best. I knew her capabilities, I knew her capacity, and I challenged her to exceed her own misguided notions that she wasn’t good enough. And she excelled.” 

“Horse shit. You were down right abusive to her.” 

“How would you know? Seriously. How could you possibly know? You are making that ridiculous accusation based on the emotional complaints of an immature, spoiled brat. Your daughter never really had to work for a single thing in her life. When she came to me, she was expecting a silver spoon. She earned the spoon, but she needed to eat a good amount of humble pie first.” 

“How dare you...” 

“I dare because it is the truth. Andréa is easily the brightest, most talented assistant I ever had working for me. But that talent was being stifled by self-importance. She graduated from university a star. She won all those awards and made editor in chief of the university paper, and yet, she was never truly challenged. It all came so easily for her. She needed to experience failure. She needed to learn that her chosen profession was not as easy and forgiving. She needed to experience life.” 

“So, you decided to beat her down?” 

“Must you be melodramatic?” Miranda asked with an eye roll. “Again, I treated everyone the same way. I did not have time to coddle. And you should be proud how well she rose to the challenge. Yes, I frustrated the girl on a daily basis. And she frustrated me. And somehow, we survived each other. She went on to create amazing successes beyond even my expectations for her. How has she done in your eyes?” 

“She’s my pride and joy.” 

“You’re welcome.” 

“Speaking of self-importance...” 

“Yes, well, I’ve earned it.” 

“Andy is a very bright girl, she is capable. But she has always been gullible. Just what did you do to make her believe she’s in love with you?” 

“What did I do? You can’t be serious. If you could have witnessed our courtship... There was no seduction or witchcraft. We stumbled about like children in kindergarten. We had more misunderstandings and arguments... I would say objectively; our relationship must have looked quite frightful. The only thing I did was fall in love with her. And really, can you blame me? Could you blame anyone for falling for her? Actually, I didn’t fall so much as jump. I willingly jumped into this. She reappeared into my life and I grabbed onto her for all I was worth.” 

“This is all wrong.”  

“One more time, Richard.” Miranda pleaded with her eyes. “What is your argument? Not assumptions, but your reason for refusing your daughter’s wishes?” 

Richard glared angrily at his nemesis. “You could be her mother.” 

“Ah. Is that all.” 

“You are the same age as Joanna’s sister.” 

“That may be. Please don’t tell me you follow the double standard that it’s fine for older men to have young trophy wives, but...” 

“No. I don’t believe that. I believe there are limitations. How can you have anything in common? How can you have meaningful conversations? She’s a child, for God’s sake.” 

“No, she is not.” Miranda’s ire broke past her control. “Andréa is no child. She is a thirty year old woman. A woman of insight, intelligence, and wisdom. She has experienced and lived more in the past eight years than I have in thirty. Have you spoken to your daughter lately? Do you ever try to talk to her? I dare say she would leave your head spinning.”  

Miranda stood, effectively ending their discussion. “This has been an eye opener, Richard. I appreciate your time. I do believe your stubborn refusal to allow your daughter to grow up will one day cause you a dire injury. I do hope you can avoid that. Andréa loves you. She wants to be in your life.  My advice stems from witnessing first hand her reaction to feeling smothered and controlled. She will walk away from you. Trust me when I say, that is the most painful event to experience.” 

Miranda pulled the door open to see Richerd out. “Goodnight, Richard. I do hope you can see your way past this. I would hate to see you lose your daughter over such insignificance.” 

The door closed with a soft click. Miranda returned to her glass. Raising it, she watched as the light reflected in the amber, reminding her of the spark of mischief often found in Andy’s eyes. Returning the heavy glass to the wooden surface, Miranda left the room to rejoin the party. 

 

“Did you have a good talk with my father?” Andy’s amused whisper tickled across Miranda’s ear. 

Leaning back into the warm, solid body of her love, Miranda smiled as arms slipped around her waist. She turned in the embrace and placed her palms on Andy’s cheeks while she searched for everything in guileless eyes. “Are you aware I am the same age as your aunt?” Miranda teased. 

“Really? Is that what he’s upset about? Did he mention her husband is fifteen years her senior?” 

“He may have glossed over that bit of information.” Abruptly derailing the topic of conversation Miranda asked “Have you enjoyed yourself this evening?” 

“Up ‘til now.” 

“And what is wrong now?” 

“Now, the party is over, we’re heading off to bed, and I have to sleep all alone in that huge bed.” 

“Aww, you poor baby. Is there anything we can do for you?” 

Andy nuzzled into Miranda’s neck, breathing in her scent deeply. With a sigh she answered, “There is a lot we can do but nothing you will do. And I want it on the permanent record that I object.” 

Miranda gently held Andy’s earlobe in her teeth and promised, “You will appreciate this decision tomorrow night.”  

“Ahhhh. You never play fair.” 

“But at least I play.” Miranda bit a little harder before releasing Andy. Taking a half step back, Miranda studied Andy’s face a moment before inquiring, “Are you alright?” 

Andy, sensing the serious note to Miranda’s voice answered without hesitation, “I’m great. Just teasing about tonight, but I’m ok. No worries, love. I will be right here tomorrow, waiting on you. Right here, in this spot. 2pm. So, don’t be late.” 

A lingering kiss allowed a release of fears, concerns, and worry. Slowly parting, Miranda smiled peacefully as she watched Andy head for her own room, leaving Miranda to momentarily reconsider her decision to uphold the night separation. 

 

Miranda finished the final touchup to her eyes and stood back from the mirror. 

“Absolutely gorgeous.” Doug confirmed from the bathroom doorway.  

“Is it time?” 

“You have some sort of time piece wired to your brain? Uncanny with your timing.” 

“Years of practice, Douglas. Shall we go?” 

Doug yanked the room door open and stood at attention. “Your future awaits.” 

Pausing in front of Doug, Miranda reached up to pat his cheek. “Thank you, Douglas. For everything.” 

“My pleasure, Miranda.” 

Miranda turned from the staircase and scanned the open room in front of her. The chairs had been rearranged to eliminate the center aisle effectively erasing any illusion of separation between the guests and wedding party alliances. Miranda spied Andy in the corner across the backs of the seats.  

A near eternity passed while the two women evaluated each other. Miranda’s eyes slid over Andy’s frame, appreciating the woman sporting a white Stella McCartney crepe halter neck gown, her hair swept up in a loose updo with a few tendrils framing her face. Miranda, dressed to enthrall in a Roland Moret designed one shoulder wool crepe gown in deep cerulean blue, broke out in a grin when her eyes alit on Andy’s face in time to see her betrothed mouthing the single word “wow”. 

Guided by Doug, Miranda stepped slowly down the side aisle towards the makeshift pulpit, her pace matching Nigel’s as he prodded Andy forward. Neither woman was willing to take her eyes off the other. Turning to face each other at the front, the women strode without aid, clasping hands together as soon as they were in reach. 

“Hello”, Miranda murmured. 

“Hey.” Andy chuckled. “You look amazing.” 

“Not so bad yourself.” Miranda smirked. “Are you ready for this?” 

“Absolutely.” 

Nodding once in acknowledgement, Miranda gave her attention to Colin. “You may begin.” 

“Gee, thanks” Colin laughed. “Right, so... I’d like to thank everyone here for coming to witness this highly anticipated conjoining of souls. Marriage, as most of us are aware, has changed in intent over the centuries.” 

A glare from Miranda warned Colin to not delve into a socio-political diatribe. Clearing his throat, he continued on a safer tangent.  

“This wedding, however, is the epitome of what we have all come to believe marriage should be. We gather here today to offer our love and support to two people who have made the educated and glaringly obvious decision to forge their lives into one. Now, because I am legally obliged to ask; does anyone have any arguments as to why these two should not marry?” 

All eyes turned to glare at Richard Sachs. He wisely shook his head in the negative and lowered his eyes. 

“Good. Now, on to the fun part. Instead of the usual ‘do you so and so’, our lovely hostesses will share their promises to one another.  Ladies, I do believe you have something to say?” 

Andy glared in mock annoyance at Colin before offering Miranda her undivided attention along with the ring Nigel slipped into her open hand. Sliding the ring onto Miranda’s finger Andy began; “Miranda, when I first stood in front of you ten years ago, I was brash, green, and arrogant. I thought I knew everything I needed to know. Then you, a virtual force of nature, plowed over me. You tore me down and rebuilt me. I learned so much from you. I learned to be truly capable and confident, to always be overly prepared and to be brutally honest with everyone, including myself. You realigned me and I had no idea that I had fallen in love with you. When I left, I did not have a real grasp on who I was. I went on a journey away from you. For 8 years I was, in my own words, searching for that which I had already found, but never thought I could hold. When I ran into you a year ago, I knew my journey was over, the search had ended. I am beyond grateful that you had the courage to reach for me, to take the chance. My only regret is that it took so much time for me to come to my senses. I love you Miranda. And I want to share all my tomorrows in a new journey with you.”  

 Miranda smiled with glistening eyes, reaching up to brush fingers across Andy’s cheek to wipe away a falling tear. After a moment of connection, Miranda turned to accept the ring Doug was holding out for her. Turning back to Andy, she proceeded. 

 “Andréa, unlike you I understood what existed between us. I knew exactly what I lost when you walked away and I was desolate. It was simply the wrong time. I believed at the time I had lost you for good. I chose to stop looking to fill that void in my life. I knew I could never replace you and I was unwilling to settle for anyone or anything else. I can never express the sheer power of emotion that swept over me when I saw you here last year. To have one more chance for this joy and peace in life is priceless. Now is our time, Andréa. Now is our place in history. Now we begin.” 

Patiently, they waited for Colin to continue with his part. With a helpful eyebrow arch from Miranda, Colin cleared his throat and picked up his cue. 

 “Right. So, now…by the power vested in me by the great state of New Hampshire, as lead counsel at Marks, Kendrick and Barton, and by Marriage Makers, where you too can get certified to officiate weddings of friends, family, and strangers I now pronounce you: life partners extraordinaire. You may now kiss and make it all official.” 

Dutifully following direction Miranda captured Andy’s lips in a blissful, soulful kiss. Applause, cheers and screams serenaded the women as they embraced. After a few moments, Nigel realized the pair had slipped off to their own little paradise, oblivious to everyone in the room. He placed a hand on each of his friends’ backs and diplomatically whispered, “You think you two can come back to the party for a while? There are some folks waiting to congratulate you. Wouldn’t want to be rude to our guests now, would we?” 

Miranda growled back, “You are lucky I am no longer your boss. You would be so fired right now.” 

The newlyweds left the decorated lounge and moved to the dining room, which was set up to offer a receiving line past the head table. Caroline and Cassidy were the first to approach, rushing in to squash Andy in a sandwich hug. 

“Ugh. Will you let me breathe?” 

“Can I borrow the keys to the car tonight?” Caroline laughed. 

“Is it ok if I have friends over while you’re in Bali?” Cassidy added. 

“You can both start our family life grounded if you don’t let me go.” Andy ground out. 

“Girls,” Miranda laughed. “Let Andréa up for air. I don’t want to spend my wedding night in the ICU.” 

The girls moved on after giving their mother hugs. The line was short and moved quickly. The final well-wisher was Andy’s father.  Engulfing his daughter in a tight embrace he choked past a few tears his words of congratulations. 

“Andy, you are my pride and joy. If this is what makes you truly happy, I repeal all my arguments.” 

“It is, Dad. She is.” 

“Hmpf. I promise to try.” 

“That’s really all I ask. ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’.” 

Richard turned towards Miranda and extended his hand.  

Taking his hand in both of hers, Miranda leaned forward and brushed her lips against his cheek. “Acceptable,” she whispered before pulling back and releasing him.  

 

The official wedding photo shoot and reception followed traditional customs except for the peeling of garters or tossing flower bouquets. In line with everyone’s opinion that it was about time the women managed to get together, the first dance was performed to At Last as sung by Caroline. Miranda allowed Andy to lead, much to the raucous amusement of their guests.  

A number of bottles into the evening Doug tapped sterling to crystal, demanding everyone’s attention. 

“Alright, alright. As is due my position as best man, I must offer up a toast. To my bestie and her girl...” 

“Dougie, are you up to it?” Andy called out. 

“Never you fear. No matter what you might hear, this is a respectable address. Bear with me. Now...  I believe it is safe to say... it’s about damn time. I think everyone in this room has known for years that you two belonged together. But everyone here also knows neither of you can be ‘handled’. If anybody tried to push either of you in the right direction, you would have turned tail and run, locking that door of opportunity forever. So, we all sat back and watched the most grueling game ever. I’m talking, worse than cricket.  

There were a few moments, specifically during this last year that gave us all hope. But then y’all would back off, chicken out. Might Karaoke Crack Up ring a bell? There were more prayers and deals with God happening... Let’s just say; we all have promises to keep. 

So, now, let us all raise our glasses to say thank you for this joy ride of a soap opera and thank God it’s finally over. May you two figure things out a little more expediently in the future now that you’re finally on the same page of the same book. 

Salude.” 

 

The party continued on, eventually turning into a nonsensical rendition of karaoke. With Caroline and Cassidy in the midst of a duet version of Celene Dion’s Because You Loved Me, Miranda slipped her hand into Andy’s and dragged her away. Leaving everything behind, they made their escape and drove home. 

Stretched out across their bed Andy lazily traced designs over Miranda’s back.  

“Do you think they’ll notice we aren’t there?” 

“I think, except for the girls, everyone was too far gone to notice if they weren’t there. Are you regretting sneaking out?” Miranda asked with concern, rolling over to focus on Andy. 

“Nah. This is what I’ve been waiting for; sneaking off with my wife to consummate our marriage. Life can’t get any better.” 

“And this is why I married you; your educated, mature, evolved mind.” 

Andy pushed herself up onto hands and knees and crawled over Miranda’s prone body. 

“And lest you forget, my raging hormones.” 

“Ah yes. Let them rage, my dear. Let them rage.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy’s gown 

https://www.net-a-porter.com/us/en/product/1116983/stella_mccartney/crepe-halterneck-gown 

Miranda’s gown- imagine it in dark cerulean blue. 

https://www.net-a-porter.com/us/en/product/1091666/roland_mouret/lockton-one-shoulder-wool-crepe-gown