They leave early, before the sun rises, to beat the holiday traffic. On the journey, the girls are sleepy and quiet as classical music plays softly over the speakers. They are careful to time their departure so as to not have to make a stop on the way. Andy feels tense behind the wheel of the Audi as they travel on Route 17 toward the cabin, but Miranda doesn’t seem particularly anxious even when they pass County Road 38. Instead, Miranda reaches out to rub Andy’s shoulder once before settling back in the comfortable seat.
Once they arrive, Andy is pleased to find that the cabin is small but sweet. Andy leaves their bags in the room she will share with Miranda. She tries not to stare at the queen sized bed positioned beneath an enormous picture window. She parts the heavy curtains above it and throws the window open to help air the place out. Miranda has not been here since well before the “incident,” as they now call it. She’s been working, of course, but only part time, after three solid weeks off. And she needed every moment of that time to recover.
So far Miranda’s symptoms have been minor; she’s had some vertigo, and her sleep is often interrupted by nightmares or anxious dreams. For a while Andy handled most of the heavy lifting both at work and at home, since she moved in to the townhouse. At first she said it was just because she was helping Miranda, then she just admitted that it made sense for the both of them. She sleeps in Miranda’s room, but they have not made love, mostly because of Andy’s paranoia. She wants Miranda very badly, but she wants Miranda whole and healthy first. The doctor said that sex was all right after a few weeks, which Andy didn’t believe. During Miranda’s last check up apparently she asked specifically about it, and the doctor assured that it was fine. He actually encouraged her.
“Endorphins,” Miranda had said to Andy in the car on their way home that day. “He says the endorphins will be good for me. So now you have no excuse.”
Andy licks her lips. The waiting has made her incredibly nervous. Although they’ve kissed and cuddled and made out, every time Andy has pulled back. Tonight, she won’t. Glancing at the wall that separates this bedroom from the other one, she hopes that they can stay quiet. Andy is relieved when she notices a lock on the bedroom door. Furtively she tests it out, and sighs when it works. That’s all she’d need—two kids bursting into the bedroom while Andy goes down on their mother for the first time.
Andy shivers at the thought.
She snags a few of the candles out of her luggage and places them on two nightstands. It won’t be totally romantic, but it will be good no matter what happens. Andy has decided this in advance. Every kiss she shares with Miranda is good. In fact, everything seems good these days; during the first weeks after the incident, she experienced life in a kind of sharp relief. It was as if she’d had her own near-death experience; food tasted incredible, the air always smelled sweet, waking each morning had felt like a gift. Those feelings are still with her, but less so now. Although she regrets this, she knows it’s inevitable to return to normal existence, so she doesn’t mind too much.
In the main room, she finds Cassidy and Caroline arguing over who will mash the potatoes they’ll have with Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Miranda does not intervene as she unpacks the supplies they’ve brought in the cooler. Andy joins her and hoists the turkey onto the top rack in the fridge. She’ll put the bird in the oven in the morning so it will be ready by three, which is when her own family has dinner. This year her mother is disappointed that she won’t be joining them, but she understands. Although she and Andy’s father don’t get what’s so great about Miranda, they recognize that Andy is immovable when it comes to the relationship. Her dad is particularly perplexed, but mostly he just doesn’t talk about it, instead focusing on the Bengals and the World Series and Andy’s new job as a copy editor at The Atlantic.
“You can both mash,” Andy finally says, tired of listening to the racket. “I have the perfect recipe, and I’ll tell you exactly what to do.”
“I am not peeling all of those by myself,” Cassidy declares, pointing at the bag of russets on the counter.
Andy rolls her eyes. “There are only four of us, honey, we won’t need more than ten for dinner and leftovers for the weekend. That’s about five minutes of work.”
“For you, maybe,” Cassidy sniffs. “I’m terrible at peeling.”
“You’re just lazy,” Caroline interrupts, and Andy finally snaps.
“Both of you, go unpack your things and get out the twinkly lights. I’ll help you string them around the window, okay?”
The girls stare at her as if they know she just wants to get rid of them, but the lure of twinkly lights is too strong for them to argue. They both skitter into their room and slam the door. Andy exhales, and Miranda just chuckles.
“Ah, parenthood,” Miranda drawls. “It really is the noblest of callings.”
Andy feels a warmth settle in her stomach at the idea of parenthood. Cassidy and Caroline are more than a handful, but they’re also loyal, caring, and fiercely protective of Andy when it comes to the outside world. Andy and Miranda both got hammered by the press when word of their affair (which seems like a funny term for it, considering the lack of sex) got out. She’s surprised that Irv didn’t try and find a way to oust Miranda from the magazine, but Miranda explained that it was very much counter to his interests to force out the subject of Runway’s best publicity run in at least 15 years. People couldn’t stop talking about Miranda; her brush with death, her younger female lover, her recovery that appeared far quicker than it really was. Almost no one noticed the minor changes in her hairstyle, or the dark circles from sleepless nights, or the occasional bouts with missing words or dizziness. Nigel did, of course, as well as those closest to Miranda at work, but they’d also become incredibly protective of their boss. Andy is grateful for that, now that she’s gone.
It had been a hard transition for both of them, but she’s gotten used to life at The Atlantic, and she loves her boss. No one asks her about Miranda at work, which was one of the requirements of her accepting the job. She talks about her now and then, but only with her boss, Stewart, and her closest co-worker, Jenny. Other than that, she keeps her mouth shut, but she’s less anxious about it now that she’s been there for a little while.
“Do you need to call your parents?” Miranda asks, placing a warm hand on the small of Andy’s back.
“Maybe in a few minutes, just to let them know we made it.”
“All right. Tell them I say hello.”
Andy smiles at her, and kisses her softly. “Okay.”
The girls come bustling back into the room, and they step away from each other, but Andy feels the tension sizzle between them anyway.
Dinner is simple but delicious minestrone soup Andrea made at home and brought with them. She is a wonderful cook, which surprised Miranda at first. But then she realized that Andrea is good at everything she tries, whether it’s cooking, or playing silly video games with her children, or sports, or Scrabble. And especially, she is good at making Miranda happy. All she has to do is be in the room, and Miranda is content. Miranda is almost ashamed at how much she loves her, because she realizes how little she knew about love before now. She hopes her ex-husbands never felt this way about her, because she’d have a hard time forgiving herself for breaking their hearts the way hers would break if Andrea ever walked away.
After supper, the girls demand to watch a movie, which disappoints Miranda, even though she didn’t expect them to disappear into their rooms at 7:30pm. While they rummage through their collection of DVDs, Andrea washes the dishes, and Miranda dries. As they stand together in the kitchen, Miranda can feel the heat between them. Andrea deliberately doesn’t look at her, but Miranda knows what she’s thinking. It’s going to be a long night before they are able to be alone.
Once the dishes are done and everything is prepared for tomorrow, Miranda settles next to Andy on the sofa. The kooky red pepper lights shine down on them from the window, casting a pleasant glow on the room. Miranda can hardly bear the feeling of pleasure it brings to have Andrea here, in her childhood home, but from the way Andrea’s hand clutches hers, she feels the same.
Finally, finally, the girls yawn a few times, and once the movie ends, they reluctantly shuffle off to their room. Andrea helps them get ready as she so often does now, promising once again to help them peel the potatoes the next morning. It makes Miranda smile to think that this is their greatest worry about tomorrow; there are no concerns about drunken husbands, or raging fights over the dinner table, or awkward conversations with unwelcome guests who had to be invited just for show. Tomorrow will be for them, with delicious food, and good company, and games and movies and whatever else strikes them. Maybe they’ll take a walk by the lake, gathering pine cones, or perhaps Miranda will show them how to fly-fish even though it’s cold. Andrea is eager to learn too, and Miranda has no doubt that she will become an expert by the time they leave on Sunday.
She cleans up the few things left around the main room, picking up socks and shoes and leaving them in the girls’ room before she kisses her daughters goodnight. They each hug her tightly; Miranda wonders if they think about what it would have been like this holiday if she really had died that day not so long ago. Miranda has thought of little else since they left New York this morning; the journey north was so familiar and unsettling that she didn’t want to discuss it. But once they arrived, the memories eased, and now she simply feels good, and healthy, as though she is almost back to normal. The scars at the back of her head don’t hurt to the touch, and her vision is fine, as is her hearing. She would like it if she had fewer bad dreams, but they occur less often now. Her therapist, Dr. Schiff, may be the person she can thank for that. Dr. Schiff is not someone she likes very much, but that’s probably because during every visit, Miranda cries for almost the entire hour. Talking about “the incident” is not pleasant, but she has to do it, for the sake of herself, and her children, and Andrea.
Tonight, there is no Dr. Schiff. Tonight, it’s just Andrea and Cassidy and Caroline, who take care of her, and love her more than anyone else in her life. And in a few minutes, it will only be Andrea, and they’ll be together for the first time. The build up has been so long that Miranda has abandoned expectation; she knows that whatever happens will be wonderful.
Andrea joins her in the bedroom with a shy smile. Briefly Miranda considers pretending that she wants to get ready for bed, and that nothing special is about to happen. Instead, she meets Andrea near the door and presses her against it, holding Andrea’s head between her hands as she kisses her. It’s a decadent kiss, filled with intention, and Andrea responds in kind. She gets lost in it until she feels Andrea’s hands grip her ass, feels her tongue flick against her upper lip. Reaching down to lock the door, Miranda finds that Andrea has already done so, and their eyes meet in understanding.
Just as Miranda is about to pull the warm cardigan from Andrea’s shoulders, she slips away toward the bed, pulling matches from her pocket. Quickly she lights candles Miranda doesn’t recognize from her own collection, and puts on soft music from an mp3 player hooked up to portable speakers. It’s not loud enough to disturb the girls, or to mask noise, but it adds to the ambiance, especially when Andrea shuts off the bedside light. She’s illuminated only by the two candles, while a sultry voice from the speakers lures her closer.
“I’m nervous,” Andrea says, hands clasped tightly. “As I’m sure you know.”
“I am too,” Miranda admits. “I blame you for making us wait.”
Andrea cracks a smile, laughing softly. “I know. I just wanted to be sure.”
“We won’t be sure until we do it. If I get a headache, I promise to tell you, but I’m not going to the hospital. The doctor said it might happen. I’ll live.” All this is true. And no little headache is going to drag her away from this bed tonight. Her brain will have to explode to cause anything more than a shrug. “So come along, darling. I want this, all right?” She’s dying for it, really. She hasn’t had sex with another person since Stephen; there was rarely time, or inclination, or even opportunity. Orgasms she’s handled on her own, but intimacy has been sorely absent. There could have been men here and there, but fashion is an awfully gay industry, so the chances were few. This makes her laugh, considering she’s staring into the eyes of the absolutely gorgeous woman she’s about to make love to.
“What’s so funny?” Andrea asks.
“Nothing. Nothing at all.” She stalks toward Andrea and doesn’t hesitate to pull her into her arms. They’re kissing again, and Miranda pulls Andrea’s shirt up and over her head, taking the cardigan with it. Her bra is delicate, lacy, and Miranda longs to kiss the soft skin of her breasts, but there are so many clothes to consider—
But now Andrea is in a hurry to get her own clothes off. She rips open her jeans and shoves them down, forgetting her sneakers, and she ends up on the bed wrestling them all off at once. Miranda’s trousers are far less difficult, and Miranda simply unhooks them and they fall to the floor. Her sweater lands next to them and then she is with Andrea on the bed, skin to skin. Andrea looks breathless; Miranda believes anxiety tempers her desire, and that has to stop. At once she unhooks the front close of Andrea’s bra and takes a tight nipple between her teeth, and Andrea arches. “Fuck,” she whispers. “Gotta be quiet, but oh my god, Miranda, that’s so good.”
Miranda settles in then, as Andrea avoids grabbing her hair or her head, instead clutching her shoulders and panting through her nose. Andrea’s long legs spread around her, and though Miranda can’t get her underwear all the way down in this position, she doesn’t really care. She nudges a hand between their bodies and beneath Andrea’s panties, which are soaked through. Andrea nearly bucks her off, and through laughter Miranda hangs on and rubs until Andrea joins her rhythm. Her hips move at the pace Miranda sets until she dips her fingers in just a little, then a little more, until Andrea grits her teeth and pleads, “Inside.”
Miranda follows directions and slides two fingers in, giving all her attention to Andrea’s thousand expressions as she climbs higher. Her amber eyes open to meet Miranda’s, and she bites her lip while Miranda uses her thumb to find her clit. Andrea’s legs spread wider and her mouth goes slack; she’s nodding, so Miranda keeps going until her whole body stills except the muscles around Miranda’s fingers, which clench over and over. She trembles, jaw clamped shut until she finally breathes out in a whimpery sigh, collapsing on the bed.
Licking her lips, Miranda slips her hand free, trailing wetness up Andrea’s belly, across her breast. She leans down for a taste, humming deliciously. She can feel the thud of Andrea’s pounding heart between her ribs; it’s a thrilling, visceral reminder of their shared pleasure.
“Come here,” Andrea says, her voice gravelly.
Miranda glances up. “Where?” She appreciates the smile of her lover, now satisfied and glowing.
“Here,” Andrea says, pointing to her generous mouth.
“Which part of me?” Miranda jokes.
“All of you,” Andrea says, dragging her up bodily until they’re kissing again, voraciously, and Andrea turns them over. “Want you,” she mumbles against Miranda’s lips, and before a moment goes by, she wriggles down the bed and yanks Miranda’s underwear off. She skips the bra and goes straight between Miranda’s legs, kissing her there without warning. Miranda might have hit the ceiling if Andrea wasn’t there to anchor her to the bed. She is wet, while Andrea’s mouth is soft and hot and relentless. She pushes Miranda’s knees open farther; Miranda can only stare as Andrea’s tongue lashes her clit, sucks it, caresses it until Miranda comes in a long, drawn out orgasm. There is no headache to go along with it, and though she would never admit it, Miranda’s relief is as intense as her bliss. Her breathing is loud and fast as she comes down, and Andrea crawls up to straddle her belly. She rubs against Miranda as they kiss, and Miranda tastes herself, and Andrea, in a seductive combination. Andrea seems more than ready again, so Miranda reaches down to touch her. Andrea rears up with her two hands at the side of Miranda’s head, and she’s going again, riding Miranda’s hand as though she can’t control it. “All of you, Miranda, I want all of you, I love you so much,” she murmurs, leaning down and kissing Miranda for all she’s worth.
Andy can’t believe it; she’s coming again already, with Miranda’s hand driving into her from below. She feels wild as Miranda stares up open-mouthed at her, in something like awe. It’s as good the second time, maybe better, because she knows in advance that it will be amazing. She has no idea what she was worried about. Miranda didn’t pass out, or have a heart attack or stroke during sex—she’s breathing and alive and beautiful as she’s ever been. Andy laughs as she falls into Miranda’s arms, the promised “endorphins” flooding her system.
Miranda kicks one of her legs free to wrap around Andy’s; her foot slides down the back of Andy’s smooth calf. “I should’ve expected you to be greedy,” Miranda says softly. “I can already tell I’m not going to sleep a wink tonight.”
“Nope,” Andy says, lifting her head with a sneaky grin. “Isn’t that just too bad?”
Miranda’s arms drop to the bed, and she stares up at the ceiling as if in surrender. “All right. If you must.”
“Oh, I absolutely must.”
Andy gets right down to business.
A couple of hours later, she glances at the clock, which reads midnight. They really should get some sleep. They’re both dehydrated, and she’s pulled a couple of muscles, but Miranda tastes good and smells good, and she’s waited so long to be with her that it’s tough to stop. Fortunately for both of them, Miranda is exhausted too, so Andy pulls on a robe and sneaks out to get some water from the kitchen. She makes it back to the bedroom without running into a twin and closes the bedroom door as silently as possible. She leaves it unlocked, so if anyone needs them, they’ll be available.
Miranda is already pulling her nightgown on, probably thinking the same thing. The room is fragrant and too-warm, smelling of sex and sweat and cinnamon candles. She cracks a window for some fresh air, and as she pulls on her turkey pajama pants and brown tank, Miranda snorts. “Very stylish.”
“I know,” Andy replies. Once she discovered that Miranda loved her, she made a conscious choice not to neglect her inner-dork just to keep Miranda happy. Oddly, Miranda seems to have embraced that side of her, the one that loves comfy sweatshirts and grilled cheese and college football and late-night ice cream runs. Andy hasn’t gotten Miranda any seasonal PJs yet, but she might be able to convince Donna Karan to make her something fun but chic. That is, if she can get the guts up to ask. Donna would agree, Andy’s sure; they had dinner with her and her much younger boyfriend last week and had a ball.
Miranda joins her in the bathroom, and together they brush their teeth, watching each other in the mirror. Andy feels smug and happy, even when Miranda says, through a mouthful of toothpaste, “I told you so.”
Andy just nods in reply.
Once they’re in bed, she asks Miranda seriously, “So you’re really okay?”
“No headaches. Obviously.” She glares at Andy out of the corner of her eye. “You’re only asking now?”
Andy grins. “Well you didn’t seem too worse for wear in the middle of things.”
Miranda takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. “I was not.” She finds Andy’s hand under the covers. “I adore you, darling. Now please blow out the candles and go to sleep. My daughters will probably tear the door off the hinges at six am, begging you to help them with the potatoes.”
“Yes, dear,” Andy says, hopping out of bed to lock the window too. The room is cooler now, and Andy shivers when she slides back under the covers. “Goodnight, Miranda. And Happy Thanksgiving.”
Even in the darkness, Andy feels Miranda’s eyes on her. A hand reaches out and caresses her cheek. “You make me extraordinarily happy, Andrea. For that, I am thankful.”
Andy puts her arms around Miranda and kisses her. Miranda’s knees bump against her side as they get into their usual position to sleep. “I’m thankful for you.” Thankful you lived, Andy doesn’t add, but she’s sure Miranda is thinking the same thing. “I’m so, so thankful.”