Lucky Girls pt 1
“Dammit...” Andy gripped the steering wheel tighter and tried to ignore the rhythm of the windshield wipers. The snow was beginning to mix with ice and was coming down even harder now. She could feel the tires starting to slip every so often. This drive had turned into a never ending thing, stretching far past its normal duration into the ridiculous. The storm had slowed her progress so much that darkness had fallen around her when she should have already been home.
Part of that extra time was the route she'd taken. Sighing to herself at her own stupidity, she concentrated on the road. The slick, black, road. She imagined this would be a beautiful drive, in the light of day, in good weather. It had been interesting when she had looked up the directions to and from the interview to see this road's name on her route. She knew that Miranda's family had an estate along this road somewhere, she couldn't remember the exact address she'd seen when she'd worked for the woman, but remembered the road name for sure. It didn't surprise her though, Miranda had great taste in homes and the huge estates along this stretch of road would be amazing all lit up. Now all the ones she could see through the snow and darkness had black windows and even the outside lights, that often spotlit and displayed houses of this size, were dark. “Of course,” she muttered, “Why would the rich and infamous want to deal with this, kind of weather? They probably all heard the forecast and jumped on their private planes to Florida or Tahiti.. or the south of France...”
That thought made her sigh, as anything that reminded her of France always did. Her last time in Paris had ended unhappily with her walking away from a horrible job and the the most infuriating, most annoying, most fascinating, most ridiculously sexy, woman on the planet. “Get over it, Sachs...” she told herself, “That was over a year ago...” It was, in fact, approximately a year and a half ago. She knew that the January Fashion Week in Paris, to promote the Spring/Summer lines, had just ended a few days ago. So even if she'd been able to remember exactly where Miranda's house was, and was foolish enough to drive past for whatever weird reason her mind could come up with, Miranda wouldn't be there anyway. She was most likely ensconced in the Runway offices poring over all the photos and designs she'd discovered in Paris.
A flash of motion at the side of the road and two yellow eyes caught in the car's headlights made her gasp. She automatically hit the brakes and the car began to slide, gliding toward the trees lining the road. “Shit... shit.. shit.. shit...” The litany ended when the car slammed into a tree and the airbags deployed. The deer paused to look at the large object that had just careened past then continued on her way.
Andy groaned and absently wondered what her cheek was pressed against. She suddenly realized what it was and froze. Airbags. Oh... She remembered then about trying to avoid the deer. Moving slowly she assessed the damage to herself and cursed her luck. Wiggling her fingers worked painlessly and she thought she was moving her toes, hands, elbows, shoulders, so far so good. Her head still seemed attached to her body and her upper back only hurt a little, her chest hurt a little more. Slowly, she sat upright and gently tilted her head from side to side. “Okay,” she told herself, “You're okay.” Licking her lips, she tasted blood. “Whoops, what's up with that?” She picked the rear view mirror up off the seat next to her and looked at her mouth. “Busted lip...” She told herself as she gingerly touched the small cut on her lower lip. “Could have been a lot worse.”
Unbuckling her seatbelt, Andy reached for the phone in her jacket pocket. She stared at the cracked, dark, screen for a moment before she carefully tucked it back into her pocket. “Okay, no phone. What now?”
The layer of snow that had accumulated on the car was worrisome. She hoped it was because the stuff was coming down so fast and not a sign that she'd been unconscious for very long. It was starting to get cold in the car though and she knew an important thing that she needed to do. “Gotta find someplace to warm up.” She looked for her gloves but didn't see them anywhere.
Through the cracked windshield she saw an enormous house on the other side of the immaculately landscaped, football field sized, lawn that she'd ended up in. Most of the windows were dark, but there was flickering light in two of them, and more importantly, smoke rising from the chimney. Her teeth were beginning to chatter as she exited the car. She hoped someone was actually home. A brisk wind whipped her hair around, easily sending icy blasts through her long jacket and Andy knew that it wouldn't matter if anyone was home or not. She hunched over a bit, realizing that she'd rather be busted for breaking and entering than she would like to freeze to death. So, she tightened the hood around her head and shoved her hands deep into her pockets before she began trudging across the huge lawn, through the ever deepening snow.
Caroline watched her mother, resting in the overstuffed chair, for a long moment before she spoke. “Mom?” She touched her mother's hand to get her attention. When the familiar blue eyes opened and the calm gaze landed on her, Caroline's forehead wrinkled slightly, “Do we have enough supplies for the weekend? Before the power went off, the website said the roads might not be cleared until Monday...”
Miranda smiled and reached up to smooth the furrows from her oldest-by-minutes daughter's face. “Of course, Bobbsey, we are perfectly safe here. The kitchen is fully stocked. And even though the electricity is out you know the refrigerator will stay cold for some time. If the power has not been restored by morning, we will simply move the things that need to be kept cold, outside.” She reassured the girl, “The water heater, furnace and stove are all gas powered, and although we have turned the temperature down somewhat to conserve power, you helped me start the generator in the basement that will allow the blower on the furnace to function. It will maintain the furnace for several days if necessary. Plus we have the fire in the fireplace to keep us warm and Arthur has stocked plenty of wood for us to burn.” She hugged the worried girl. “We are safe and warm here. There is no reason to worry about anything.”
Caroline nodded and sighed, “That's what Cassidy said.” She hated it when her twin sister was right. “But what about the phones?”
That was a minor inconvenience that Miranda was actually fretting about, slightly, but she calmly reassured her daughter, “The phones, as with the power, will be restored very soon I'm sure.” All three of them had been using their cell phones quite a bit today. The girls on the drive up here, and she after they'd arrived. Their intention was to put the devices on their respective chargers this evening. “It's no matter. We can survive without phones for a short while, yes?”
“Yeah,” Caroline's eyes twinkled. “Can we make some hot chocolate and sit by the fire?”
“Of course,” Miranda stood, picking up a flickering oil lamp to light her way through the house. “Go find Cassidy and meet me in the kitchen.”
“Great!” Caroline ran out of the room then slowed down somewhat. She fished in her pocket for her little keychain flashlight and went up the stairs as fast as she could. Busting into Cassidy's room without even knocking, Caroline beamed. “C'mon Cass... Mom's gonna make us hot chocolate.”
“Yeah?” Cassidy sat up on her bed. “How'd you manage that?”
Caroline shrugged, “I just asked.” She grinned. “I think Mom is freaking out a little about not having a phone too.”
Nodding at that, Cassidy added, “She usually freaks a little after the Paris trip anyway, at least, she has since...”
“Yeah... I know.” Caroline sighed. They'd both seen a difference in their Mother since that Fashion Week when Stephen was too much of a coward to face her in person and faxed the divorce papers to her. They'd never been a real family anyway, and Caroline didn't know how Cassidy felt about it, but she was glad Stephen was gone. Caroline suspected that it wasn't Stephen's jerkiness that had upset their mother the most though. Something else had happened on that trip.
Miranda had dated a few people since the divorce, but no one seriously, no one Miranda seemed willing to let them be around. It was good in a way, they didn't want to get attached to anyone just to have them leave. But it was also kind of bad. They both loved their mother very much but just like their mother seemed to be missing something personally, the girls knew that deficiency caused them to be missing something in their lives as well. And Caroline knew exactly how Cassidy felt on that subject because they'd discussed it at length several times. Their family was incomplete and they both hoped that one day they'd figure out why. “C'mon... Mom's waiting.”
Nodding, Cassidy closed her Nintendo DS. “Batteries are dying on my game anyway.” She turned the knob on the side of the oil lamp next to her bed to extinguish it and grinned into the darkness. “Lead on, Sis.”
The little flashlight gave them enough light to get down the stairs and they were walking past the living room door when they both heard a shuffle of footsteps on the porch then a soft knock from outside.
“Whoa!” Caroline turned her steps toward the door and looked through the glassed sections. “There's someone out there!”
“What?” Cassidy looked too then warned her sister. “Don't open the door.”
“Stay here.” Caroline resumed their trek toward the kitchen, “I'll go get Mom.”
Cassidy nodded and watched as her sister disappeared into the darkness of the house then looked through the glass again. The hooded figure was shivering then it knocked again and spoke.
“H...h...ello? Is...ss..ss.. an...nn..nyone h...home?”
Cassidy recognized the voice as female and answered, through the door, before she thought about it. “Just wait there, my sister went to get our Mom.” The figure's shoulders dipped a little and she heard the feminine voice again.
“Oh t.tt.thank God...” Andy's teeth chattered together. “Thank y...yo..ou!”
She sounded so pathetic that Cassidy laid her hand on the doorknob and was about to turn it when Caroline returned with Miranda.
“Cassidy!” Miranda admonished her daughter, “You do not open doors for strangers.”
“I know,” Cassidy backed away from the door and studied the floor, “I'm sorry, she just sounded so cold. I could hear her teeth chattering.”
“Her?” Miranda opened the door and blinked at the vision standing there. Bedraggled and freezing, but still an apparition from her past. “You?”
“Oh!” Andy's dark eyes widened, “Mir...r...randa! I... I had n..nn... no id..dd.ea this was y..yo..your ho...om..mme.”
“Come in.” Miranda stepped aside as the young woman shakily entered the house then closed the door behind their unexpected guest quickly. “What are you doing here, Andrea?”
“Mmm..my c...car slid..dd.. off the rr...road..” Andy couldn't stop shivering.
“Enough.” Miranda looked at Cassidy, “Take her into the living room so that she may warm up by the fire. Caroline, come with me.”
Cassidy led their guest to the living room. “You should take off your jacket. It's all wet. Your pants are too.” She watched as Andy threw back her hood and shrugged out of the coat. Their hands brushed when Andy handed it over. “Wow, you're hands are like ice. Where're your gloves?”
Andy sighed as the heat from the fire began to reach her. “They w..were in the passenger seat when I had the accident... I'm not sure where they are now.” She smoothed her palms over her thighs, “My pants aren't too bad, the bottom of the coat protected everything above my knees and my boots kept a lot of my calves protected.” She turned sideways on the hearth so that the fire could begin drying the small area of her pantlegs that were actually soaked.
“Oh.” Cassidy thought the woman seemed familiar. “Mom knows you. She called you Andrea.”
“Andy. I... was her assistant... year or so ago...” Andy didn't expect the girls to remember her.
“Oh...” Cassidy's eyes widened in recognition. “Oh, it's you!” She swallowed hard. “You got us the Harry Potter manuscript...” Cassidy never took her eyes off the brunette's nodding head and whispered, “You left Mom in Paris.”
“That's...” Andy stared at the fire, “complicated.”
Cassidy was about to say something else when Andy's attention was drawn from the fire to Caroline and Miranda entering the room, each carrying two mugs. Andy accepted a mug from Caroline and smiled at the girl. “Thank you, Caroline.”
Miranda handed her second mug to Cassidy then settled into one of the comfy chairs in front of the fire. “Now, Andrea,” Miranda took a sip of her hot chocolate and set it aside, focusing her attention on their unexpected guest. “Enlighten us as to how you've arrived on our doorstep.”
Wrapping her hands around the warm mug, Andy gazed at the mini marshmallows floating on the creamy chocolate surface then began to speak. “I finished an interview with the architect and general contractor for the new resort going up. The weather was clear when I left but about half an hour into my trip back I ran into the storm. I thought I'd drive through it, but it just got worse and worse, until...I nearly hit a deer and slammed into a tree instead.”
“And your car is currently on my front lawn?”
“Yes, Miranda.” Andy shook her head, almost unable to believe the coincidence herself. “I knew your family home was along this road...”
Narrowing her eyes, Miranda's tone immediately became suspicious. “You knew? So you just decided to run your car into a tree on my front lawn.”
“I only remembered the road name, not the actual address.”
“Mmm... there is a reason for that.” Miranda watched Andrea closely. “You most likely never heard the same string of numbers twice when associated with this address.” She explained, “Very few people know the actual address of this house. All others are given decoy addresses' as I was advised to do by my security people, years ago.”
“Ah... well...” Andy shook the mug in her hands and watched the small halo of white form around the floating marshmallows. “I don't believe the tree was damaged too much.” She blew on her drink then took a sip, wincing. “Ow.”
“Are you hurt?” Miranda sat forward, “Andrea?”
“No.” Andy lied and ignored the ache in her chest as she shook her head, “I just forgot about my lip.”
“No, nothing's broken.” Andy assured her, “I just busted my lip. I'll most likely be sore tomorrow... and I'll probably bruise up.” She rubbed her chest lightly, and reluctantly admitted, “I think the airbag got me, a little. But, I tend to sit back away from the steering wheel and the spin pushed me backward into the seat even more so that helped.” She stretched and twisted slightly already feeling the twinges in her muscles, “I think I tensed up too much before the crash though... which is why I'm sure there will be aches to deal with later.” Gesturing to the fire, she smiled and reassured all three of her hostess', “The heat helps.”
“Mmmm...” Miranda studied their guest for a moment. “Cassidy, please escort our guest to the Blue Room.” She sat back in her chair, “I believe it is stocked for guests and there should be a small candle with matches on the nightstand.”
Caroline and Cassidy exchanged glances and then Cassidy shrugged and stood, “Okay.” Cassidy fished a small keychain flashlight from her pocket and waited for Andy to stand. “Follow me.”
“But,” Andy was confused, “I just need to use the phone and call the tow truck.”
“Andrea,” Miranda's amused blue eyes met her former assistant's dark ones and she gestured toward the window. She saw Andrea's shock as the young woman realized that the storm was worse now than it had been ten minutes ago. “No one will come to get your car in this storm. The electricity is out so we cannot recharge our cell phones and the land lines are currently inoperable. It is nearly time for all of us to retire to our rooms as well.” She tilted her head toward the stairs, “Go, take your shower, get some sleep. They should have the power back on by tomorrow, if not the phone lines as well. You may make arrangements for your car then.”
“Oh!” Nodding, Andy blushed, “I didn't realize the phones were down or that the electric was out.”
Miranda watched as their unexpected guest looked around the room, as if just realizing where she was. She had to admit that with the light from the fire and the several strategically placed oil lamps with their mirrored backs it was bright enough in this room to not miss the overhead lighting.
“Mmmm...” Miranda sniffed, “And where is your phone, Andrea?”
Andy pulled the item in question from her pocket and held it out, “It got broken in the crash. It was in my pocket and must have gotten caught between the seatbelt buckle and the middle console.”
“I see.” Miranda stared at the cracked phone for a moment then gestured to her daughter, “Cassidy?”
“Right.” The girl fished her own little flashlight out of her pocket then took Andy's warmed hand. “This way.”
Andy looked around the room Cassidy had led her to and tried to pay attention as the girl explained the amenities.
“This is the bathroom,” Cassidy moved through a door on the other side of the room. Her voice echoed back into the main room, “It's all stocked with shampoo and soap and towels and stuff...” She walked back in to where Andy was waiting and informed their guest, “There's a new toothbrush and some toothpaste in the drawer next to the sink.” Moving to a four drawer dresser, Cassidy opened the top drawer and nodded, “Pajamas are here, they aren't new, but they're clean.”
“Oh!” Andy just realized, “I have an overnight bag...in the trunk of the car.”
Cassidy pointed to the window, “Mom won't let you go back out in the storm to get it. Just wear the pajamas.”
“Okay.” Andy smiled at the girl, “Thank you, Cassidy.” She saw the child's blue eyes light up for a moment.
“Oh,” Cassidy laughed, “You heard Mom call me by name.” She grinned, “For a second, I thought you might be able to tell me and Ro apart.”
Andy chuckled, “What makes you think I can't?”
“Not many people can.” Cassidy shrugged, “We can often switch on our teachers, and Stephen never could tell us apart.”
“Well,” Andy didn't want to think about Stephen. That only led to remembering the scene in Paris, with Miranda in her comfy robe, with no make-up, looking more beautiful than ever. “I guess your teachers don't pay close enough attention. Because you and Caroline aren't exactly identical,” She reached out, but didn't touch her guide's face, “Your noses are slightly different, so are your eyes, and your lips.” She winked at the girl's astonishment. “Thank you for showing me around.”
Cassidy smiled and gestured wildly in the air around her, “Tomorrow when it's light, or if the power comes back on, I'll give you a tour of the whole house!”
“That sounds great.” Andy laughed, “But I may not be here that long... I'll probably get my car towed and be on my way.”
“Right.” Nodding at those plans, Cassidy began to leave the room. “Good night then.”
“Good night.” Andy watched the girl leave and tried to shake the feeling that she'd disappointed Cassidy in some way when she realized that it was totally dark in the room. Andy recalled, Miranda saying something about a candle on the nightstand so she stumbled over to where she remembered the bed to be. With only a little bit of fumbling, she found the candle and matches and was able to get a bit of light into the room. Still trying to dispel that feeling that she'd disappointed Cassidy, Andy turned her attention to the bathroom door and mumbled to herself, “A hot shower does sound nice.”
The fire downstairs had warmed her somewhat, but she could still feel a bit of cold that hadn't yet been chased from her bones. So she carried the candle into the bathroom and blinked, “Wow.” It was beautifully decorated and spacious, a large shower with several water jets occupied what seemed like a fourth of the room.
Setting the candle in front of the huge mirrors that lined the wall behind the sink, Andy began to strip out of her damp clothes. She looked forward to the hot shower more and more and the idea of clean, dry pajamas didn't sound all that bad either.
Andy again sat on the brick hearth in front of the fire. She tilted her head toward the heat, shaking her hair slightly to evenly receive the flame's warmth and hoped it would dry soon. She couldn't believe she'd been dumb enough to do it, but it had been almost automatic when she'd gotten into the shower to begin the hair washing process. It wasn't until she shut off the water jets that she realized, without electricity, she wasn't going to be able to dry her hair in any reasonable amount of time. So she'd made her way back downstairs hoping the fire would still be going enough to evaporate the dampness that Miranda's extremely fluffy towels refused to absorb. A voice from the darkness made her jump a little.
“Oh,” Andy shielded her eyes from the lamp Miranda held, “Miranda, I'm sorry... did I wake you?”
“No,” Miranda set the lamp she carried on the end table and took a seat in the chair closest to Andrea, “I put the girls to bed and was doing a final check of the house before I retired myself.”
“Ah,” She shrugged, “I don't normally sleep all that well when I'm away from my own bed anyway.” Andy admitted, “Plus... well, I was an idiot and washed my hair when I took my shower.” She informed her former boss, “I can't go to sleep with wet hair, I'll wake up looking like I stuck my finger in a light socket.” Grinning at Miranda's infectious chuckle, Andy insisted, “Really, Miranda, I can't wake up looking like that, I'll scare the girls!”
“Well we certainly wouldn't want that.” Miranda watched her guest continue to dry her hair by the fire for several long moments before speaking again. “If you need to put more wood on to burn, in order to dry your hair, please do so, but I would request that you allow the biggest of the flames to die down, stir the coals somewhat and close the doors on the fireplace before you go to bed. We can rebuild the fire in the morning.” Miranda gestured to the room in general, “I do not want to leave too large a flame unattended.”
“Oh,” Andy nodded, “Sure, I'll wait for it to die down before I go back up to sleep.” She shrugged, “I am tired, but I don't think I can sleep right now anyway.” She sighed, “Every time I close my eyes I feel like I'm back in the car, sliding toward the tree.”
Miranda nodded, “Understandable.” She reached for the lamp she'd arrived with, “Sleep yourself out, we normally rise late when on vacation, so there is no rush to wake.”
Andy wanted to tell Miranda how grateful she was for her hospitality. She wanted to tell Miranda how sorry she was for leaving the way she did in Paris. She wanted to tell Miranda how relieved she was at the recommendation Miranda had given her while searching for a new job. But when Andy opened her mouth all that came out was, “Vacation? I would have thought you'd be busy at Runway with the Fashion Weeks having just ended.”
“Mmm.. yes,” Miranda sniffed slightly, “You wouldn't know, but after fashion week season, after Paris, I normally take a few days off to recoup.”
“Oh,” Andy nodded, agreeing softly, “I wouldn't know that.”
Standing, Miranda nodded once and began to walk toward the door, “Good night, Andrea.”
“Good night, Miranda.” Andy called after her hostess, not knowing if the woman was already out of earshot to hear her next comment. “Sweet dreams.”
Miranda had been exaggerating regarding the Priestly's sleeping habits, even during vacation. The girls were beginning to trend toward sleeping later in the morning, as teens did, but she always rose quite early and was often able to watch the sunrise in peaceful silence. This morning, however, after a restless night, she had slept past the sun's appearance and there was no silence. As she walked toward the kitchen in search of the first coffee of the day, Miranda heard a sound that was rather rare in their home. The girls were laughing, not mere chuckles, not forced laughter, and not even laughter because they were slightly amused at something. This was the deep kind of belly shaking laughter that brought tears to your eyes. Entering the kitchen, Miranda saw her children seated at the preparation island watching Andrea stir a batter mixture and comically imitate what was most likely a popular television personality. The show stopped when Andrea noticed Miranda watching and a million watt smile was turned on her host.
“Good morning, Miranda!” Andy sat down the bowl she'd been working on and wiped her hands on the dishrag next to her work station. “Coffee?”
Miranda took a moment to evaluate Andrea in the light of day. Last night, in front of the fire, the young woman had been beautiful enough to render her speechless for a moment, before she managed to address her guest. Miranda had put that off as an aberration. It had been a long day and she had been tired. Now, Miranda regarded her guest with rested eyes and could only come to the same conclusion she had last night. Dressed in the white, silky pajamas with her hair slightly mussed from sleep and her deep amber eyes shining with amusement, Andrea Sachs was a beautiful woman. Again Miranda found herself at a loss for words so she merely nodded her response and took a seat next to her children.
“Of course, Miranda,” Andy's dark eyes glittered at her former boss, “Right away.” She turned to the coffee maker and reached for one of the mugs she saw through the clear cabinet door above the machine.
“Andy's making us breakfast!” Caroline grinned, “Pancakes!”
“Yeah,” Cassidy wiggled in her seat a bit, “And sausage links...”
“When I woke up this morning the clock next to the bed was flashing twelve, so I knew the power was back on. I picked up the phone receiver but there was no dial tone, yet. But I thought cooking breakfast was the least I could do for all your kindness.” Smiling at the girls, Andy placed a steaming mug of coffee in front of Miranda, “Would you like some eggs this morning Miranda?”
A sip of the coffee loosened the lump in Miranda's throat and she managed to speak to their guest-turned-cook, “Actually, pancakes and sausage sounds quite nice.”
Widening her smile, Andy nodded, “Comin' right up.”
Miranda pushed her half eaten breakfast away from her and smiled at their guest. “I was unaware of your culinary abilities, Andrea.”
Andy laughed, “It's just pancakes and sausage.” Her eyes twinkled at the empty, or half empty, plates in front of the Priestly women. She knew her mother would be insulted that Miranda hadn't finished the entire portion, but Andy was thrilled that Miranda had eaten that much of the carb-loaded breakfast. “But I'm glad you enjoyed it.” Gathering the plates, Andy began to rinse them and load them into the dishwasher.
“Will you make lunch for us too, Andy?” Caroline had loved watching Andy's antics while she was cooking breakfast.
Turning around to face the girl, Andy smiled and opened her mouth to answer yes, when Miranda interrupted.
“It is possible that Andrea won't be with us that long. She informed them, “I too woke to a flashing alarm clock, and my cell phone has been charging during breakfast. I'm sure there will be enough battery life for Andrea to make the calls she requires, to make arrangements for her car.”
Andy was amazed to feel disappointed by the news that she was now able to do the very thing she wanted to do more than anything last night. Her smile faltered but she remained polite, “Thank you, Miranda.” She saw that both girls looked disappointed at the news as well and tried to assure them, “It's possible they won't be able to get here by lunch time, so we'll see okay?”
Nodding, Caroline took a last sip of her milk and slid off her chair. “Yeah, right.”
“Ro,” Cassidy followed her sister quickly. “Ro...”
Andy turned to Miranda, “Did I say something wrong?”
Miranda shook her head slowly, “No, it was, in fact, me who misspoke, several times in the past.” Although she wasn't sure why, she admitted to Andrea. “More often than not, when I have told the girls 'we'll see', the event in question, never happens.”
“Oh!” Andy threaded her fingers through her hair at each temple, pulling it up slightly then letting it fall back to her head. “So, my big mouth gets me into trouble again...” She sighed and finished tidying up the kitchen before facing Miranda again. “I suppose I should make those calls now.”
“Very well.” Miranda stood and gestured to her guest. “Wait in the living room. I will bring the phone to you.”