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Mahogany and Old Lace

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Roy pulled the Mercedes up the curb outside Andy's shop.  Miranda got out and looked around as Caroline ran to the door.  It had been twilight when she visited before, and she hadn't paid attention.  The area is... not bad.  Looks like many new businesses moving in. Even on a Saturday, people were out and about and the area had a pleasant, almost old-fashioned city feeling to it. 

"Roy, we'll probably be at least an hour.  I'll text when we are ready."

"Yes, Miranda.  I'll find a place to wait.  Want coffee when I pick you up?"

"Possibly.  We can stop on the way home."  Miranda nodded at Roy's wave, then turned to walk to the door.  Caroline was knocking again, pressing her face to the glass.  She checked her watch — 7:45.  I guess she's running late.

Inside the shop, Andy looked up from sorting stacks of birdhouse parts.  She grinned seeing the face, framed by bright red hair, pressed to the glass and got up to let them in.

"Good morning, Caroline.  Miranda.  Sorry the door was locked — you're a little early.  I wasn't expecting you until eight."  Looking behind Miranda, she realized the two were alone.  "Is everything ok with Cassidy?"

"Yeah, she didn't wanna come so mom let her stay home with Linda," answered Caroline.

"Caroline — diction, please!" said Miranda.

"Sorry, Mom.  What I meant, Andy, is that Cassidy didn't want to come.  She stayed home this morning."

Andy smiled and winked at Caroline.  "That's ok.  That just means you get your mom — and me — all to yourselves.";

Caroline giggled.  "So, we are building birdhouses today?" she asked as she grabbed Andy's hand and dragged her to the back of the shop.

"Yep.  I was just setting the parts up when you got here."  She showed Caroline to a workbench.  "Here's yours.  There will only be two or three other girls here, so it should be fairly low key.  I've had as many as ten, and that gets a little crazy!"

Miranda was looking with interest at all the tools and other items on the walls of the shop.  Besides a nice sign with 'Sachs Fine Furniture' carved in relief, there were several antique signs including a 'Measure Twice, Cut Once' admonition and a...  "'Horse Shoeing for Cash Only', Andréa?  I didn't realize you were branching out."

Andy rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue out at Miranda. Oh, god.  Real mature, Andy.  Why did you do that?  "It's traditional, Miranda.  Besides, it belonged to my grandfather — it's almost the only thing I have left from him now.  He’s the one that taught me how to work with my hands."

Miranda’s lips began to purse but changed into a barely-discernible smile.  "I'm sorry, Andréa.  I didn't intend to come across as critical of your decorating choices."

Caroline blinked.  First Mom teased her and then smiled when Andy stuck her tongue out, and now she actually apologized?  This is weird — I wish Cass was here.  I'll have to tell her later.  "Andy, what are those pictures?"  She pointed to some drawings framed and hung below the Sachs Fine Furniture sign.  One in crayon showed a brown-haired girl holding up a drill and a saw with a table in front of her.  A second drawing in pencil was clearly Andy, leaning over a workbench sawing a board.

Andy swallowed and looked away for a moment.  "Those are from my baby sister.  When she was little, she would sometimes sit in our garage while I worked.  The pencil drawing was after I'd gone off to college.  She was only eleven when she drew it, but she was really good."

"Does she still draw?"  

Andy turned away and looked out the front window of the shop.  "I don't know, really.  I haven't talked to her in a long, long time," Andy answered softly.  She pinched her nose to wipe away tears, then turned back.  "C'mon.  You can help me get ready for the other girls."  She pointed out the stacks of parts to Caroline, and they quickly distributed them to the other benches and laid out the tools.

Miranda continued to look around the shop, but kept an eye on Andy and Caroline as they worked and chatted.  I wonder what's going on between Andréa and her sister?  She hid it well, but she's obviously upset.  She does get along well with Caroline, though, and Cassidy seems to have taken a liking to her as well. A lot more than they ever did with Stephen.  She pursed her lips at the thought of her ex-husband.

Soon the other girls had arrived, and Andy got them started with a safety talk.  "Don't point anything sharp at yourself or anyone else, and always make sure you know what's behind you.  When you drill or hammer, you also have to make sure you know what's under the board you are working on so you don't end up with a hole where it doesn't belong.  Biggest safety rule of them all is this:  ask questions.  If you don't know how to do something or aren't sure, just ask.  I promise no one will make fun of you!"

With that, the girls split off to their benches and started to work.  Andy got each of them going, finishing with Caroline.  Miranda was hovering nearby, watching closely.  

"Miranda?  Would you like to build one?  I've got an extra since Cassidy didn't come."


Andy grinned at Miranda.  "You never know, you might like it."  Miranda snorted elegantly, but reached for the stack of parts next to Caroline.

"You need to start by drilling pilot holes for the nails.  This pine is brittle enough that it will split when you nail it together without them."  She handed Miranda an eggbeater drill.

Miranda took it gingerly and tried to drill where Andy had marked, but didn't make much headway.  Andy smiled, and placed her hands over Miranda's.  As they touched, a thrill went up her spine and she heard Miranda inhale sharply.  "You're turning it backwards.  Try this way, and make sure the drill is straight up and down."

Once the drill bit was making progress, Andy let go and moved to check on Caroline.  She could still feel the warmth and softness of Miranda's skin as she wiped her palms on her shop apron.  "How's it going, Caroline?"

"Pretty good.  I think I'm ready to drill the hole for the door."

"OK, use the brace and auger for that.  Put a sacrificial board underneath yours and clamp it down.  Now put the point of the bit in the center of the circle, push down, and turn the brace.  It should take about 10 or 12 turns to get through."

"Got it, Andy."

After watching Caroline for a minute, Andy moved to check on the other girls.  She corrected a few things, and then came back to Miranda.  She was also struggling with the brace.  The brace itself was turning, but the bit wasn't.  "Hang on, Miranda.  I think you need to tighten the chuck."  She took the tool from Miranda's hands and turned the chuck a few times until it was tight around the shank of the bit.  "That should do it.  Sorry I didn't have it set up right for you."

Miranda took the brace back silently and tried again.  The bit turned, but didn't seem to bite into the wood.

"You need a little more pressure on the head, I think."  Andy placed her hand on top of Miranda's and pushed down.  Another thrill went through her but was short-circuited when Miranda shook her off.

"I'm perfectly capable of doing this myself, Andréa!" snapped Miranda.  The spots of color on both cheeks were back.

Andy let go and responded in a carefully neutral voice.  "I'm sorry, Miranda.  I'll be more careful.”  She turned away.  “Caroline, how are you doing?"

"Almost done, Andy.  How does it look?"

Andy examined the birdhouse, complete except for the perch underneath the door.  "Looks pretty good!  You did a good job nailing the roof on, and it looks like the screws for the removable bottom are nice and tight.  Here's the quarter inch bit for the perch."  She handed the bit to Caroline, then watched as she puzzled out how to swap it for the smaller one used to drill pilot holes with the eggbeater drill.

After a few moments, she held the drill up in triumph.  "Got it!"

"Good work, Caroline.  Drill that hole and put the perch in with a little glue, and you're all set.  I'll check on the others."  The other girls were also finishing up, and chattering loudly.  Andy helped them pack up their birdhouses and gave them each a small brush and jar of paint to finish when they got home.

She was about to return and help Caroline and Miranda when the bell on the shop door sounded.  When Andy recognized the woman entering the shop, she rolled her eyes to the ceiling and groaned.  "Heather, now is not the time!"

"What's wrong, Andy?  Why haven't you called?  We haven't been out in weeks!" returned the long-haired blonde.

"That's because I've been too busy working, and too tired when I'm not."

Heather laughed.  "Haven't you heard?  All work and no play makes Andy a dull girl!"

"Yeah, yeah, well, I'm pretty dull anyway.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some folks I need to help finish up." Andy walked around the counter and led the woman to the door.

"Fine.  You can't ignore me forever, Andy Sachs."  The blonde threw her arms around Andy and planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek.  "I'll call you," she said as she flounced out.

Andy shook her head and wiped her cheek as she walked back to Caroline and Miranda, who had observed the whole exchange.  "Sorry you had to see that.  I've asked her not to come by the shop, but she doesn't take 'No' for an answer very well."

"Is that your girlfriend, Andy?" asked Caroline.

"What?  No!  I mean, I think she really wants to be, but she's not my type."

"You mean because she's a girl, or because she's rude?"

Andy's shoulders tensed.

"Caroline Ann Priestly!" scolded Miranda.  "You apologize for that right now — you really shouldn't pry into Andréa's personal life."

"It's ok, Miranda. It just surprised me, that's all." She forced herself to relax. "Caroline, it's definitely the fact that she's rude, and many other things, not because she's a girl. "  She looked down at the floor and sighed.  Looking up into Miranda's blue eyes, she took a deep breath.  "I hope that's not a problem."

Miranda shook her head.  "Andréa, I work in the fashion industry.  It's actually more likely to be a problem for some in my industry if you only prefer men!"

"Yeah, Cass and I have several friends at school that have two moms or two dads.  I was just curious — I'm sorry if I was rude."

Andy let out the breath she didn't know she had been holding.  "It's okay.  Thank you both for understanding.  In my business I never know who I'm going to run into and what they will say, so I try to keep my private life out of the shop as much as possible.  I get the old 'you just haven't met the right man yet' spiel a lot."

Miranda rolled her eyes.  "I'd thought we were past such idiocies."

Andy shook her head.  "Not in my business, anyway.  I used to have to get really harsh with guys on job sites until word got around that I was competent and knew what I was doing.  The foremen just want to get the job done, so they keep the cra— cracks down.  It’s mostly just harmless comments that I laugh off these days."  She moved to the bench and packed up the birdhouses.  "Here, let me help you get these out to your car.  The paint and brushes are in this bag, and it's water based, so cleanup should be easy."

As they got into the car, Andy stopped Miranda.  "Did you ever figure out what my other superpower was?"  She grinned.

Miranda shook her head.  "No.  Are you going to tell me now?"

"It's easy," Andy said.  "I turn wood—" she knocked on a board in her hand "—into things."  She knocked again, this time on the birdhouse Miranda was carrying.   Her cheeky grin was transformed into a broad smile as Miranda laughed.


Caroline waved at Andy, then rolled up the window and turned to her mom.  "Mom, do you think Andy is sad or lonely?"

"What, Bobbsey?  Where did you get that idea?"

"Well, when I asked about those pictures, the ones she said her sister did, she sounded a little like she was crying.  And after that blonde lady left, she just looked lonely to me."

"I don't know, Caroline.  It can be hard being a single young woman in New York City.  I agree with you that there's something sad about her sister.  She teared up talking about the pictures."

"Do you think she died, Mom?  I can't imagine not talking to Cassidy for a really long time."

"I can't imagine it, either, Bobbsey.  I wouldn't bother her about it if you see her again, though.  She'll say something if she wants to."

Caroline nodded and turned back to the window. The two were silent the rest of the way home, each lost in their thoughts about the chestnut-haired woman and her shop.


After returning Caroline's wave as they pulled away, Andy walked back into her shop, turned the sign to read Closed, and locked the door.  She sat down at the counter.  I don't know why it matters, but I'm really glad Miranda and Caroline were ok with me being a le... with me liking girls.   She snorted.  Even after ten years, I still have a hard time even thinking the 'L' word and applying it to myself after what my parents said. Rubbing her face, she sighed dreamily. I know Miranda's been married at least twice, but I wonder if she's ever been interested in a woman?  Andy shook herself out of her daydreams.  Let's not go down that path.  She's going to pay you a lot of money to build a table.  You better deliver.