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You Can't Lose Me

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Placing The Book onto the flower laden table Andrea is finally able to breathe. The door directly behind her opened and she held her breath. An old habit from the first time delivering the book. It was legendary at Runway. 

 

Disaster assistant, screws up and lives to tell the tale. 

 

Breathing comes easier when the open door reveals Caroline. Either twin was preferred to the likes of Stephen ever breathing in her presence. Though he and Miranda were only just now freshly divorced. He did attempt to re-enter her life. Which Miranda rebuffed thanks to her twins telling her how they really felt about him. That man pissed Andrea off on an entirely unforeseen level. Only one other person on this planet could do that so unequivocally well and she lived in Boston now.

 

“Hi, Sweetie, just dropping off The Book.” 

 

The girl nods sadly. “Thank you for coming to my play.” 

 

“Of course. I wouldn’t miss it.” Andy cannot help but notice the melancholy behind blue eyes suspiciously lined in red. Ones that generally held wit, wonder, and a hint of mischievousness. “Is everything okay?” 

 

Quickly her eyes dart around the room before she pulls Andy into the library. “What makes you think something is wrong?” 

 

“I know my Priestly ladies. I can read nearly any expression on your face within 2.5 seconds. It comes in handy.”

 

“You’re the best assistant mom’s ever had.” 

 

It is impossible to fight the megawatt smile that consumes her lips. “What is it, Carebear?” 

 

Caroline blinks a few times before tears fight their way to exposure but not falling. “How is it you make it to every single show, and soccer game? I know Runway isn’t paying you.”

 

“I’m there for the simple reason that either you or Cassidy want me there. The same reason as your mom.” 

 

“We’re not even your kids,” Caroline utters quietly.

 

“You’re both special to me.” 

 

Again, Caroline sniffles. “Since you’ve been around, mom doesn’t miss our stuff. With Emily, she missed our events all the time.”

 

“When I lost connection with everyone; my friends, my family back in the Midwest, my relationship if you can call it that… Runway was there for me. Being at your games, and plays, even if I have to be off to the side and out of the way… it helped me through a lot. Being useful gives me purpose.” 

 

A fierce look flashes through young eyes but calms at the still wide smile on Andrea’s lips. “You’re amazing though.” 

 

“You’re pretty great too, Care.” 

 

“Mom would have a stroke if she heard you shorten my name.” 

 

“Your mom would fly through a hurricane to get to you. Believe me, she's tried." Andy laughs now at the not-so-distant past. “She told me it was drizzling.” 

 

"People she loves never last long. She left our dad and Stephen left her. People she supposedly loved for a lifetime.”

 

Andy quiets. "Don't you know how precious her Bobbseys are?" Andy asks, brushing tears back from the redhead's face. "She carried you inside of her body. There is no one she loves more than her twins. Yes, she can walk away from a lot of things. Husbands, romantic partners, even Runway. She would still never in a million years willingly leave you or Cassidy. Never.”

 

"You forgot assistants," Caroline mutters. 

 

"How silly of me."

 

Caroline quiets. "You can't leave us. "

 

Andy snuggles the girl close. "I may leave Runway someday but I will not leave you. Plus, you have my number."

 

Caroline nods into her chest and Andy does not let go until the girl does. “I’ll try not to bother you too much.” 

 

“You cannot bother the willing, little Ms. Priestly.” Pulling Caroline into another squeeze, Andrea presses a kiss on the top of her head. Andrea stays in place until Caroline begins to release her. “Your mom is scheduled to be home at six tomorrow. How does an early dinner sound?” 

 

“Perfect. Thank you.” 

 

She makes it to the door before Caroline calls out. “I didn’t catch that.” 

 

The earlier nervousness returns. She fiddles with her fingers and her blue eyes drop uncharacteristically to the ground. “Text me when you get home. Mom says the subway is dangerous.” 

 

“You’re a sweetheart. Okay, I better go before your mom kills me, then you, then me again.”

 

“I won’t let her.”

 

Andrea still backs out of the room and exits the townhouse. Today took a lot out of her for some reason. So much so that a short while later, long after the twins should have been fast asleep, she misses an incoming message.  



OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Before her eyes fully open, Andrea already has Miranda’s coffee order placed. This always forces her to get up and begin the morning routine, most of which she does through half-lidded eyes as she fumbles around her tiny apartment. As she brushes her teeth, she finally manages to get both eyes open. 

 

A missed message from Caroline.

 

I couldn’t tell you when you were looking at me. 

 

That thing you didn’t hear all the way. 

 

I think I’m gay.

 

Don’t tell mom.

 

Andrea sits with this knowledge for a moment. A familiar fear wraps its claw hands into her heart, so much so that she’s dropped her phone into the running water. As shaky as she is, she quickly dries the device. 

 

Everything still functions. 

 

Taking a steadying breath her fingers fly over the keys. I won’t. <3 A



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Miranda is in rare form this morning. 

 

Oddly, not directing at Andrea in particular but rather around her. It was as if Andy exists in a cone of protection. Then those cool blue eyes land on her and she feels her blood pressure rising. “Office. Now.” 

 

“Yes, Miranda.” 

 

“Close the door.” Miranda takes her place at the desk as Andrea follows her instructions. “You are now the first assistant.” 

 

Blinking heavily. “Okay.” 

 

“Effective Monday, Emily is stepping into the art department.” Andrea’s eyes grow large as Miranda leans forward as though sharing a secret. “Nigel is moving over to begin Men’s Runway.” 

 

The breath she holds releases in a woosh. This was the loyalty Nigel knew so certainly even through a disemboweling level of disappointment. Under her breath, Andrea releases, “Thank heavens.” 

 

“You will join me in Paris again this year. A little less dramatic this time around, yes?” 

 

“Yes, Miranda.” 

 

“You will keep what is gifted to you.” Blue eyes narrow as the words escape thin lips. 

 

“Alright.” 

 

“I was told to save you a seat at Saturday’s soccer game. Your ticket will be at the front awaiting you. That’s all.” 

 

A smile plays at Andrea’s lips as she turns. There is no use arguing over the cost of admission to a child's soccer game. 

 

 No, this definitely was not it at all. 

 

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The townhouse is alive with noise as Andrea arrives. Cara is making her way home for the evening and gives her a courteous nod. Carol—no, Cassidy is talking a mile a minute about something, and whatever she is saying makes Miranda’s laughter filter through to the foyer. 

 

Truth is no one can do what I do. 

 

How true Andrea finds that of the melodic laughter floating her way. Basking in the moment a bit longer than is polite, given Emily’s instructions nearly a year ago now,she breathes easy knowing Miranda has one place in this world to rest. At home, with the ones who never walk out. 

 

Miranda’s dry cleaning goes into the closet across from the stairs. Andrea takes in the fullness of a place that feels more like home than she experiences these days. The sound of shuffling heads her way and puts Andrea’s body in motion towards the door. Before she makes it, small arms surround her from behind. Turning around she comes face-to-face with Caroline. 

 

“Hey there.” Andrea speaks softly, allowing Caroline to keep a firm hold on her. 

 

“Are you coming to our game?” 

 

“You know I wouldn’t miss it.”  

 

“Thank you. For that and the other…thing.” 

 

“I’m only a text away.” 

 

This earns a quick Caroline smile. “Night Andy. I’ll see you Saturday.” 

 

“Goodnight, sweetheart.” 

 

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The following days pass in a blur of activity. Whatever cone of protection Andrea lives in courtesy of the dragon lady herself remains. Everyone else faces biting criticism one after another. Up to and including being labeled as ‘useless’. 

 

Then those frightfully blue eyes turn back to Andrea. The emotion behind them warms up as Miranda’s mouth opens. “I need you to stop by the townhouse this evening. The girls would like to present you with something. They won’t tell me what it is or why. ” 

 

Andrea’s confusion passes quickly and she merely nods. “Alrighty. I’ll stop by. Is there anything else I can get you?” 

 

The dragon leans back. “My girls are rather protective of ‘their Andy’.”

 

Leaning against her desk Andrea beams. “Harry Potter changed everything.” 

 

“Let’s not fool ourselves, Andrea. It is you who changes everything.” 

 

A giddy Andrea Sachs turns on her heel and marches from the office. Blinding Emily and Nigel with her smile. And worrying them a bit with the tears in her eyes. 

 

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"Mother’s Day is coming up. I know Andrea and her mother were close once. Now with Miranda… Andrea’s...close," Emily says to Nigel while preparing her afternoon tea in the break room. “Do you think that’s why Andrea was so emotional earlier?”

 

Nigel snorts. "Em, Andrea is not upset because she views Miranda as her mother's substitute."

 

"No?"

 

"No." He fights against a laugh, lowering his voice to make it hard to hear. "Certainly not. You were there when she was drunk on tequila."

 

"What does that have to do with Miran- Oh! Oh! " Emily’s face immediately animates in horror, hands barely holding her upright against the countertop. "All those things she hints about longing to do?"

 

"Every last one."

 

"Miranda has no idea?" Emily fingers unnecessarily tap harder on the keyboard.

 

"What do you think?"

 

"Damn. Those fantasies were hot. Now I find out it's about Andrea's fat arse and our boss." A brief head shake and sip of tea later. The bit of silence is broken several seconds later. "Upon reflection. Still hot."

 

“Our dear Six has it bad. For all we know Miranda gave her two things; an attagirl, just to see her beaming smile. Or, another mission impossible to make herself smile.”

 

“Now that, I would prefer.”



OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

The door is open before Andrea reaches it and a smiling Miranda is there to greet her. Two somewhat shy air kisses accompany the greeting and force Andrea to attempt breathing regulation to control her blushing. 

 

“The twins await us in the den. Wine, a bottle of water?” 

 

“I’d love a glass.” Andrea stores her coat and bag in the hallway closet. “Any idea what all the fuss is about?”

 

“I am not in possession of that information. They were rather insistent and obtuse about the subject.” 

 

“Where ever could they have learned that.” Andrea teases, prompting a smirk from Miranda. 

 

“Mo-ommmmmmmmmm, is Andy here yet?” 

 

Andrea is pretty sure it’s Caroline asking. Cassidy is rather soft spoken, mimicking Miranda in that sense. If one converses with the girl, they are forced to listen closely. Occasionally, Andrea still finds herself on the end of an eye roll but otherwise Cassidy opts to remain in the world of her latest book. 

 

Or several. 

 

“She only just arrived, my little banshee.” Miranda retorts easily, shaking her head. “You can lower your voice.”

 

Caroline nods before issuing a directive. “Andy, follow me.” 

 

“Yep, definitely your daughter.”  Andrea smiles and it appears to put Miranda at ease. “Yes, Caroline.” 

 

Blue eyes shine back at Andrea, and Caroline grabs Andy's hand tugging her toward the den faster than a long day at Runway wishes to allow. Stepping around the corner and into the den to find Cassidy propped up near the window, book in hand. A brief smile at their visitor and she returns to the world inside her reading. 

 

“We have a guest.” Miranda makes a show of announcing. 

 

“Hi Andy.” Cassidy says quietly. Then tilts the cover as Andrea crosses into the room. 

 

“Ah! I remember those.” Plopping unceremoniously next to the girl, Andrea cannot keep her beaming smile to herself. She sneaks a glance to Miranda whose attention is on her other daughter. Still the upturn at the corner of her boss's mouth does not escape Andrea. 

 

“I still cannot believe you made it to the train station in time. You did well.”

 

“Why thank you.” Andrea takes a bow, earning herself an incredulous look from Cassidy. 

 

“Cass, you ready?” Caroline holds a bag between her fingers and her sister joins her with a little more enthusiasm. “You’re still coming Saturday, right? You promised.” 

 

“Yes, Caroline. I will be there.” 

 

Taking hold of the other handle they allow Andrea to reach into the nondescript bag. What she pulls out makes her heart soar and the smile that exists to shine as the sun reigns supreme. A white and royal blue jersey with a Dalton Tiger on the front. Beneath the jersey was one more item: a new Northwestern hoodie.

 

“You’re always taking care of mom. A lot of the time that means us too. We wanted to get you something special.” 

 

Everything she felt inside came through in one beaming smile from Andrea. Both twins are gathering in Andrea’s arms. “You are both so special to me. So kind, and thoughtful. Thank you. I will cherish them both.” 

 

“Will you wear the jersey?” They ask in surround sound. 

 

“Every game day.” 

 

“At Runway?” Cassidy’s mouth hangs open as her eyes flit between Miranda and Andrea. 

 

“Let’s not get crazy. I exist to make your mom’s life easier. Not slip back into the girl who went to hideous skirt conventions and bought cerulean sweaters from the clearance bins.” 

 

“I’ve heard of those.” Whispers Caroline to her sister. 

 

“You just needed to meet mom to live up to your potential.” 

 

Another, softer smile forms on Andrea’s lips and she glances at her boss. “She’s shown me a lot.”

 

“If we promise not to argue about bedtime, can Andy stay and eat pizza with us?” Caroline and Cassidy flank the silver-haired woman and bat their eyelashes. 

 

“Yeah, mom. Can she? You can go work on the book and we’ll keep her entertained.” Cassidy does not withhold her own scrutinizing look. 

 

“Girls, I’m sure Andrea has things she may like to do this evening. A little break before she has to see me again in the morning might be on that list.” 

 

Caroline snorts. “Andy just said you taught her a lot. It doesn’t sound like she wants to get away.” 

 

Three sets of blue eyes put Andrea in their crosshairs. 

 

“I don’t wish to intrude.” 

 

The twins hit her with their version of Miranda’s narrowed gaze. “You haven’t even finished your wine.” 

 

Brown eyes quickly dart to Miranda. “If it’s alright with you. I’d be happy to sit with the 

girls while you finish work. I’ll even phone in something special for you.” 

 

Caroline nudges Cassidy as they observe the exchange. Both their mom and Andrea are blushing. 

 

“If it isn’t too much trouble.” 

 

“Yes!” The girls frantically hug Miranda. “C’mon, come play a game with us.” 

 

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When no game materializes Andrea quickly comes to the conclusion she’s been had. 

 

Both of them jump on Caroline’s bed. Cassidy with her Harry Potter manuscript, its  pages worn from reading, and re-reading. Caroline with a tablet, all too pleased to play another online game. The latter glances up at Andrea and makes room for her to sit and enjoy her wine. 

 

“Do you really like your gifts?” Caroline asks in a small voice. 

 

“It reminds me of home.” Her fingers run over the material of the Dalton jersey. “I played a little before college but chickened out of trying for the team.” 

 

“That’s great. Mom needs all the help she can get to understand what’s going on. Now you’ll be there.” Cassidy throws in. 

 

Her fingers glide over the latest and greatest hoodie. “Why the Northwestern hoodie?” 

 

“Your old one has a hole in the armpit.” Caroline tosses Andrea’s way. 

 

Cassidy adds. “There’s also a stain.”

 

“Those are called history.” But still a smile fights its way onto Andreas lips. Pulling them upward. A pillow lands alongside her thigh and Caroline uses the opportunity to rest against the young woman. 

 

“I’m glad you’ll be at our game that way mommy doesn’t have to sit alone again.” 

 

“Won’t your dad be there?” Andrea follows-up, watching as Caroline focuses harder on her tablet. 

 

“Dad is busy. Like Mom used to be before you.” 

 

Andrea runs her fingers through red hair, feeling Caroline lean into the gesture. “When I first began working for her, your mother always spoke of how important you both were. It seemed like it was up to me to ensure she gets that time.” 

 

“What did she say?”

 

Lithe fingers put Caroline at ease before Cassidy throws a pillow along her other leg and both girls pin her in place. “You get eighteen summers Andrea.” 

 

They peer up at her from underneath. “What?” 

 

“Before they’re all grown up is what she means. As you grow, your relationship with your mother changes. The memories from when you were little to now and from now to then, you’ll be young women going out into the world creating your own lives.” 

 

“Like you and your mom.” 

 

Drinking deeply from her glass, Andrea caresses Cassidy’s cheek in lieu of answer. 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Upstairs is not at all what Miranda imagines when she creeps up at a little past ten p.m. Both girls flanking Andrea’s side. Cassidy facing away but holding the brunette’s hand and Caroline draping over the woman sleeping in a Gucci dress. Heels neatly tucked under the bed, wine glass long since empty. 

 

Quickly she snaps a photograph. 

 

This is a moment Miranda never wishes to release. The three of them are so comfortably sleeping in the oversized bed. More than any single desire, Miranda wishes to join them. To maneuver Cassidy and slip into the place in Andrea’s outstretched arm. Then curl around one of her twins and rest peacefully.  

 

It is with a heavy heart that she moves to wake the brunette. Pausing beside the bed with her three sleeping beauties. A moment of weakness overcomes her and she places the softest, soundless kiss to Andrea’s plump lips. Her heart hammers beneath its bone prison. 

 

This isn’t right. To touch her so freely.

 

Still, her body betrays her lingering a breath away from the person of her affections. Feeling the soft, steady breath escaping Andrea they were so close. As close as they can be given their circumstances. Backing away a smile barely paints the corners of her mouth as Andrea gives a dreamy sigh. 

 

On her lips is a gentler smile. Miranda’s fingertips touch her own lips knowing it must tide her over. 

 

It has to. 

 

“Andrea,” She says and the sleeping woman barely stirs. Her lips twitch but that is the most that occurs. Leaning lower, her tone going to ice. “Miss Sachs.” 

 

“Priestly.” 

 

This utterance warms her heart. Trying a different tactic she allows her hand to stroke Andrea’s cheek. Yes, I can see you being a Priestly. “Darling?” 

 

Brown eyes flutter open. A gentle smile reflects on plump lips.

 

They are the only ones in the room momentarily until Andrea lifts herself from the fog of sleep. The twins have effectively pinned her in bed. Skillfully, she slides her arm from beneath Cassidy. A little less skillfully from Caroline but she manages without waking either of them. 

 

“How long was I out?”

 

“For some time it appears.” Miranda’s tone betrays nothing save the gentle smile she casts to her daughters. “Let me show you to a guest room. It is far too late to allow you to ride the subway.” 

 

“It’s oka-” 

 

“Follow me.” Follow the girl after remembering her gift bag, right to the room next to Miranda’s. “Use any of the toiletries that you require. I shall fetch you something suitable to wear.” 

 

“I’m sorry if I’ve overstayed my welcome.” 

 

“It rather appears that my daughters gave you no other option but to surrender. I’ll be right back.” 

 

Closing her own bedroom door, Miranda leans back against it breathing shakily. Kicking away from it to select pajamas for Andrea. Improper thoughts dance along her mind. Her mouth watering at the prospect of silk draping over Andrea’s body. Silk that Miranda wears herself. 

 

Even more than that, pajamas which she would wear afterward. Absorbing all that Andrea was in whatever greedy way to have her. Drowning in the scent. The knack for torturing others was nothing in comparison to the torture Miranda inflicts upon herself. 

 

A La Perla short chemise will serve this purpose well. Selecting French Blue comes easily enough. Right before the realization that Andrea is going to wear a nightgown Miranda selects for her. 

 

Be still my idiot heart. 

 

The bathroom door remains open as Andrea brushes her teeth, beaming a grateful smile at the silver-haired woman. Rinsing her mouth, and the sink she exits to accept the chemise. “I’ll return this with your dry cleaning tomorrow.” 

 

“Nonsense, Cara will tend to it. There’s a basket behind the door for used linens.” Miranda stands rooted to the spot with her assistant and her both holding the clothing in question. 

 

“What shade of blue is this?” Andrea asks quietly, brow arched mischievously. 

 

“French blue.” 

 

Andrea’s thumbs trace the silky material. “Thank you.” 

 

“Did you have some other preference I was unaware of?” 

 

“Not at all. I promised myself that I would learn everything I can from you in the time we share. I’d hate to mistake it for cerulean.” 

 

“Don’t be ridiculous, Andrea.” 

 

“Inside I know you’re smiling.” Full lips certainly tilt upward at least until a yawn forces its way between them. 

 

“Sweet dreams.” 

 

“Goodnight, Miranda.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Both girls are downstairs with Cara preparing to consume French toast, eggs and bacon when Miranda slips from her room and into the guest room. Behind the bathroom door is the basket that holds the most delicate item at the moment. The unwashed French blue chemise Andrea wore the night before. 

 

There are about a hundred reasons Miranda needs to let this asinine idea of Andrea go. 

 

None of which hold up when she presses the chemise to her face. Sure, there is the scent of the townhouse present. However on deeper inhalation there is another scent. Or scents, rather. Sandalwood, amber, vetiver, all combining beautifully for a rich blend of woods laced with sensuality. 

 

Placing the item delicately at the foot of her bed, on a hanger Miranda muses quietly about having Andrea in bed with her this evening. Flush against her skin. The scent of her floating in the room. One thing is on Miranda’s mind as she lightly smooths the chemise nightgown. 

 

One day.

 

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Saturday Soccer Game: 



Prepped and ready in her Dalton Tigers jersey, and royal blue activewear capri’s Andrea picks up the aforementioned awaiting ticket at the box office. Even in what constitutes street clothes Andrea picks Miranda out from the crowd. She sat off to the side, all on her own. Breaking a tiny sliver from Andrea’s heart. The other parents carried on in their cliques. 

 

“I’m glad you’ll be at our game that way mommy doesn’t have to sit alone again.” Caroline's words float back into her train of consciousness. 

 

She spots the girls going through their drills dutifully. Cassidy half-heartedly, Caroline with the intentionality of excellence. Two mini-Miranda’s biding their time. One for post-game desert and one where anything short of victory was sure to prompt sulking. Though Caroline was loath to admit it. 

 

A black and white ball is kicked a little too hard in their direction before Cassidy chases after it. Without any attempt to cover the act she runs to give Andrea a big hug. “You did wear it!” 

 

“My two favorite players of all time gifted it to me.” 

 

Big blue eyes are still adorable when they roll at Andrea’s expense. “We’re the only two you know.” 

 

“Semantics.” Still a beaming brunette smile is returned in kind by the freckling redhead. Reaching into her backpack Andrea pulls out two Gatorades. “For my girls.” 

 

A whistle blows and Cassidy mutters. “Crap.” 

 

“Language.” Miranda chides as the Coach raises his hands. 

 

“Priestly! Huddle.” 

 

Quickly Andrea passes the girl her soccer ball from drill and watches as she dribbles it over to where the team awaits. Dropping to a knee. Left with her boss and an empty chair she turns that bright smile on the woman. “I guess no one ever taught him you don’t have to yell to have everyone in the vicinity's attention.” 

 

Piercing blue eyes reveal themselves when Miranda folds her Prada sunglasses. “From what I gather the girls really enjoy working with him and his staff. He is good at what he does.” 

 

Several sets of eyes from the stands drift their direction. Andrea shoots a disarming smile and even gives a wave to a woman that cannot look away. She snickers and Miranda tears her eyes away from the beginnings of the game to shoot her an icy look. Andrea mutters, “I cannot believe these people. Take a picture, it'll last longer.” 

 

“Truly Andrea? Why do you bother with the vultures?”  

 

It is the way brown eyes zero in on blue so quickly giving her a reading. “The girls.” 

 

And you. 

 

It goes unsaid. Like so many thoughts circling her mind at all times of the day. All 24 hours of each day are devoted to the Priestly women. Miranda stares at her as though she has a third head. 

 

“The girls,” Miranda repeats, slipping her sunglasses on.

 

Both of the Priestly children were currently on the field. Playing wonderfully off one another with nary a word exchanged. One look is all it takes and they easily outmaneuver the children on the opposing team. Caroline begins working the ball down the side of the field closest to her mom and Andrea. 

 

The brunette rises, startling Miranda as she runs alongside the girl. “You got this Care. Go, go, go!” 

 

Caroline nearly makes it when a defender attempts a slide tackle from out of her peripheral view, taking them both down. There is a flag on the play. Miranda comes out of her seat as Caroline grabs her ankle. Both girls are quickly examined and when Caroline checks out okay and is assisted off the field by her own strength the crowd begins to clap. 

 

The opponent does not appear so fortunate and for that is taken by stretcher. 

 

“I’ll check on her.” Andrea sprints to where the twins rest. Cassidy comes to kneel by her sister. “What’s the word hummingbird?” 

 

“It’s okay. More surprising than anything. I have to ice it for now but I might be able to go back in.” Caroline answers matter-of-factly. 

 

“Hey, you are doing on the field what your mom has to do with the board at Elias-Clark.” Both girls snicker hard when she adds. “In stilettos.” 

 

“Do you think we can have pizza if I’m in pain?” 

 

“Care- always an angle with you munchkins. I’ll speak with her. Are you sure you’re good?”

 

“Never let them see you bleed.” 

 

“If you bleed, someone's getting sued.” Andy chips in to dual eye rolls. 

 

“Page Six, here we come.” Mumbles Cassidy. 

 

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Returning to her seat beside Miranda, Andrea updates her. 

 

“Thank you.” 

 

“You’re welcome. Caroline is tough. She’ll be back in this before it’s over.”

 

“She cares about this more than Cassidy.” 

 

“It’s her Runway.” Andrea speaks softly, keeping her eyes across the field and trained on the injured twin. 

 

“That it is.” 

 

Cassidy gets some solid playing time with her other teammates. The ball is passed to her and she takes a wide-open shot. For the other team the goalie does her best to cross the space but cannot seem to take big enough strides in successfully blocking the shot. 

 

Surrounded by her teammates the girl beams. Looking over to Andrea and Miranda with did-you-see-that-look. If either girl was hoping for a quiet celebration they were wrong. Andrea reaches into her bag and sounds an air horn. Even though Miranda looks mortified she claps heartily. 

 

After the teams huddle at the halfway point Andrea catches Miranda staring. “Am I fired for the air horn?” 

 

“No. Though my ears would appreciate a bit of warning.” 

 

“Can do. Have I displeased you?” 

 

“I should rather think the opposite is true. The girls, they’re not used to such enthusiastic support.” 

 

“They were sad but not surprised when James was ‘busy’. My parents were always boisterous in their celebration of me. Win, lose, or draw. I know you don’t often show your excitement in such ways but thank you for letting me be a part of this.” 

 

Miranda traces her index finger over her own lips. “You make them happy.” 

 

“Happy Priestley's are my life's ambition.”  

 

Heading into the back half of the match, Caroline returns to the field. She and Cassidy share dual expressions of mischief. Working with their teammates well the younger by two minutes twin, Cassidy receives the ball. Making their way towards the goal with careful footwork she prepares to take aim. As she connects with the ball rather than making a beeline for the goalie it gets passed to Caroline. The goalie was mid flight in the direction she thought the ball would go. 

 

On the sidelines Andrea and other Dalton parents are on their feet.  Miranda has a hold of Andrea’s forearm and rises with the suspense in the air. As Cassidy did previously, Caroline draws her leg back and the soccer ball screams its way into the back of the net. 

 

2-1. Dalton wins!

 

The sound of various noise makers erupt along with fierce cheers. Checking the distance between Miranda and herself, Andrea gave the Editor-In-Chief a cheeky grin before pulling out the stops for a standing backflip. Both she and the girls raced to one another. When Andrea reached them they were enveloped in the warmest of hugs and a series of fist bumps were exchanged. 

 

However, Andrea quickly sent them off to rejoin their celebrating teammates. Jogging back to Miranda with nothing short of joy in her eyes. Fingers flying over the keyboard on her phone. “Our girls want pizza. Are you good with that?” 

 

Blinking several times with a smile frozen in place Miranda marvels at Andrea. “It’s clear our Andrea has decided the answer is yes.” 

 

“I can have something else delivered. Whatever you want.” 

 

“Pizza will be fine. Winner's choice.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

  1. Priestly: Why didn’t you tell my mom?

 

A: You asked me not to. 

 

C: Cara is taking Cass and I to Central Park. I’ll buy ice cream. 

 

A: A perfect way to break up a run. I’ll see you all there. 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Miranda’s never-ending task list keeps Andrea busy well into the evening on Friday. By the time Saturday morning rolls around the last thing the brunette wants is to proceed with a run. Instead, she wears a simple blue jean and white blouse outfit for her journey to Central Park. 

 

The nearer she draws to the park her feelings from the morning of Caroline’s message present themselves again. Her throat is terribly dry, the way her hands shake, and her stomach begins feeling like a knot. Still, Andy soldiers on. Caroline texts but talk of her secret is nonexistent. 

 

When she sees them with Cara, Andy observes that Caroline looks about anxiously. Something she rarely does. Then their eyes link and she takes off at a trot in Andy’s direction. “Hey Carebear.” 

 

“You made it.” Her features grow serious. It was like being in her mother’s presence. The scary way she could close off and open parts of herself at will. “Thank you.” 

 

“You don’t need to thank me. I needed some fresh air.” They walk side-by-side, Caroline linking their arms. “Is everything okay at home?” 

 

“Mhmm.” She’s tucked under Andy’s arm now, walking slowly towards her sister and caretaker. “Cassidy knows.” 

 

“How did she take it?” A teenaged shrug rises to answer instead of Caroline’s voice. “Me, your mom, and Cassidy love you, you know? We just want you to be happy.” 

 

Then comes the light scoff that makes Andy picture a young Miranda tucked beneath her arm. “I’m not sure I know how.” 

 

“It has its days that much is certain.” 

 

A small smile peers up as Andy looks down. “No matter what task mom throws your way you just always seem so happy. Like none of her impossible challenges scare you.” 

 

“It may look that way but that’s not always true. We all have darkness. The only way I survived was to discover the things that gave me hope.” 

 

“Like what?” 

 

“You guys, your mom, even Runway.” 

 

“So recently dark places?” 

 

Taking several steps debating how much is too much information before she responds, “It’s been better since Natalie and I broke up last year.” 

 

“The chef chick?” 

 

“Yes.” 

 

“In the movies they drown sorrow in ice cream.” 



OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Drowning sorrows in Sea Salt Caramel Gelato is precisely what Andrea needs. 

 

Though she is a far cry from sorrowful in the presence of the Priestly twins. The same ones negotiating with Cara that she can leave with Andrea on the scene. She is reluctant but ultimately grateful for a bit of free time. 

 

Caroline works on her foot control with the soccer ball she brought along for their walk. It is not until Cassidy flanks the other side and the gelato is gone does Andrea get the distinct feeling something is up. Both of them give the gift of a Priestly smirk further confusing the young brunette. 

 

“Will you play with us?” Caroline asks as they nod to indicate an opening off the path and on a grassy plain. A soccer ball in the bag Cara left with them. 

 

There is such sadness in Cassidy’s eyes when she follows her elder sister. “Mom tries when we’re at home. I don’t think she likes it.” 

 

“But we really think it’s because she’s not the best at it.” 

 

After a pause Andrea follows their proclamations with, “I’d love to.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

How quickly an hour passes and Andrea rings Roy. Without a doubt Miranda would fire, blacklist, and possibly use the dark web to have Andrea properly punished if she so much as glanced at the subway to return the twins home. Though both girls tried to persuade her. 

 

“Should I be fired, it will be my own sins. Not manipulation, thank you very much!” 

 

“I doubt mom would fire the only competent assistant she’s ever had.” 

 

“Emily is competent.” The girls make a face but refrain from commenting. “Did you know she came to New York specifically to work for your mother?” 

 

Cassidy shrugs. “So?” 

 

“Her family, they really kind of suck letting Emily move a world away. They don’t get it. It’s just ‘fashion’.”

 

Two sets of wide eyes swivel Andrea’s direction. “Billions of dollars.” 

 

“I know. I know.” Andrea shakes her head. “Emily is a bit prickly. You spend your childhood being told you can be whatever you want. Then you spend your adolescent years being told to sit down, shut-up, do what you’re told. I promise, Em is good people.” 

 

“She’s scared of us.” Caroline follows boredly. 

 

“Only child.” Andrea supplies.

 

“Still not our favorite.” 

 

The door to the townhouse is open and Miranda rests against the doorframe. Andrea jumps out of the Mercedes after them. Delivering them to the front steps. Turning, Caroline gives Andrea a full-bodied hug. 

 

“Oh-hey, I’ll see you Thursday night?” Andrea murmurs into red hair as Cassidy slides under her other arm to join in. 

 

“That’s so far away.” Cassidy mumbles. 

 

“You have all my numbers.” 

 

Dual baby dragon glares prompt Andrea’s chuckle. “Will you play games with us when you drop off the book? Mom will have eaten dinner with us and needs to resume working.” 

 

Three sets of eyes rise to Miranda who remains in the still open doorway. “We should respect Andrea’s limited free time.” 

 

The pouts catch Andrea by surprise. “Barring any complications with The Book, I’ll do everything I can to make sure your mother gets home plenty early enough for dinner.” 

 

“I wish you could have dinner with us.” Cassidy huffs. 

 

“We’ll get creative.” 

 

“So like a snack?” 

 

Andrea shoots her a wink. “We can do that. Your mom wants all the time she can get with you. I’m not about to get in between that.” 

 

“Besides mom, you’re our favorite person.” 

 

“I like Cara too!” Cassidy supplies, and Andrea keeps an arm around each child. 

 

“You can like all three of us. Your mom, she’s pretty special. All of this, it’s for you.” 

 

“That’s what she said.” 

 

“Smart aleck.” When Andrea glances up from beneath her bangs, Miranda boasts an unreadable expression. “See you at the office?” 

 

“Roy will take you home. That’s all.” 

 

The girls unwillingly unfold from Andrea. “Bye Andy.”

 

“Bye ladies.” 

 

Unceremoniously the door to the townhouse closes. In the few steps back to the Mercedes, Andrea feels a tug at her heart.  Glancing back to the townhouse she sees Caroline give her a small wave from the window. Bolstering her weary bones, Andrea gives her a gentle smile and returns the gesture. 

 

Sliding into the backseat as the girl disappears, Roy peers at her via the rearview mirror. “Homeward bound?” 

 

“Yes, please.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

“Mom?” Caroline pushes into Miranda’s home office only after hearing the front door open signaling Andrea’s arrival. The brunette turns a tired but warm smile in her direction. Quickly crossing the space, Caroline absorbs the warmth in the form of a hug. 

 

“Yes, my darling?” 

 

Peering up beneath Andrea’s chin, Caroline gathers her courage. “Can I see you at Runway sometime?” 

 

She sees the tilt in her mother’s head, the pinch of her inquiring eyes. “Of course. Might I ask why the sudden interest?”

 

“When you aren’t with Cass and me, it’s Runway.” 

 

Seconds tick by before Miranda grants a single nod. “Andrea, our schedule?” 

 

Quickly acquiring her cell phone, Andrea flips through the events. “We’ll be free around mid-morning.”

 

“Be ready for Roy to pick you up at 10:30.” Miranda fills in to Caroline’s quick flash of a smile.

 

She rounds her mother’s desk pressing a kiss to Miranda’s cheek. The sweet gesture seems to placate her mother. “Night mom. Night Andy.”

 

“Goodnight, sweetheart.” Andrea answers in kind. 

 

The door shuts behind Caroline. 

 

“Honestly, that child is up to something but I cannot for the life of me suss out what it is.” 

 

“She’s growing up. The only constants in her life are Runway, and you. Maybe she just wants to see you in action.” Andrea stares wistfully at Miranda's direction. 

 

“I sense an ‘or’ following that statement.” 

 

“Or she wants to torture Emily. No one is ever safe where the twins are concerned.” 

 

Blue eyes cut Andrea to the core. “No one aside from, Their Andy.” 

 

A text message lights up Andrea’s phone. “We all fall prey to their hijinks, believe it or not.” 

 

“You’re free to go.” Miranda begins poring over the first page of their sacred texts when her phone lights up. She gives it a passing glance before turning back to The Book.  

 

“Goodnight, Miranda.” 

 

Peeking at the text message reveals a fresh wave of fear for the young teenager upstairs. What if I embarrass her?

 

Andrea: An embarrassment you could never be. 

 

I’m already- you know. 

 

Before she can stop herself Andrea feels tears prick her eyes as she ascends Miranda’s stairs leading to Caroline’s room. The girl is sniffling, Cassidy flanking her with a despondent look upon her face. Andrea gathers Caroline to her. “Didn’t you hear me when I said never?” 

 

“It was a text message so no. Andy?” Caroline holds onto her as though her life relies on the safety and security of her arms. “I hope you heal from the things you don’t talk about.” 

 

A snort escapes Andrea’s control. “I’ve gotta block you from some of my drunken posts.” 

 

“We’re friends though, right?” 

 

“Right.” Providing a bit more pressure in their hug, Andrea rests her head atop Caroline’s.

 

“Text me when you get home?” 

 

“Sure thing, Carebear.” 

 

Like mother, like daughter. 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Once Emily is informed of their pending arrival, Andrea notes how much more pep there is to her step. With the rising anxiety of the redhead she interrupts the pacing ritual to provide encouragement. “Breathe, Em. It’s gonna be fine.” 

 

“Two Priestley's, two assistants. Obviously, you’ll take Caroline.” Digging through a drawer in her desk. “Blast. I drank the last of my post-work stash a while ago.” 

 

“Gladly.” Andrea says, grinning from ear to ear at the utter confusion that flashed in Emily’s eyes. The smile grows as a notification is received. “Alright, I’ll be back in eight minutes!” 

 

“Andrea- where?” But the hurrying form of the brunette disappears into the elevator. “Unbelievable.” 

 

Fighting to keep herself neutral, it fails the instant Caroline comes into view in the lobby. She honest-to-god pauses a few paces away at the young woman before her. Dressed in skinny jeans, ankle boots, and the latest Tom Ford silk blouse. She certainly is the daughter of a fashion icon. “Good morning, Caroline.” 

 

Her greeting brings forth a smile from Caroline's direction. “I’m nervous.” 

 

“Not as nervous as Emily.” Andrea whispers as though sharing a secret.

 

It is just the tidbit of information to draw out a smirk from the girl. “I want to torture her but I’m trying to amend my evil ways.” 

 

“But first,” Andrea accepts the delivery headed their way by a Dasher and turns with Caroline’s frappuccino. Her free hand boasts a latte as hot as the sun. “Caramel Ribbon Crunch?” 

 

Blue eyes come alive. “You so need a raise.” 

 

“C’mon. Your mom is in a meeting but that doesn’t mean we cannot terrorize the other minions.” 

 

A delighted sip takes place and there is a hint of Caroline relaxing. “We’re saving Emily for last.” 

 

“Deal.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Emily stands nearby with her notebook at the ready as she exits the elevator. “Good Morning, Miss Priestly.” 

 

“Caroline is fine.” Stepping onto the Runway floor was a rare treat. There is doubt as to how many times this happened. Perhaps less than a handful, if that.  She studies every detail. 

 

Taking in the silver backlit letters that spell out the titan of fashion’s name. 

 

“As you wish.” 

 

A teenage brow rises. “We’ll both get through this day easier if you treat me like a normal person. Andrea does.” 

 

Emily’s mouth opens and closes a few times. “Right. I’ll leave Andrea to it then.” 

 

“Follow me.” Andrea says, leading Caroline around the receptionist desk and into the hallways leading toward her and Emily’s desks. “I thought you said you were saving her for last?” 

 

“That was before I remembered she can be a total basket case! She’s going to drive herself crazy..”

 

“One second, kiddo.” The phone rings and Emily is suspiciously away from their desk area. Caroline does not pause to stay with her, instead moving into her mother’s open office. 

 

The desk and chairs are plain. 

 

Four other magazines are spread neatly. To the left is her phone and a vase of her favorite white roses. In the upper right corner are two separate photos. One is Cassidy and the other herself. Closing her eyes she can still catch the scent that is handcrafted for her mother. 

 

The same one she wears and has, for every year Caroline can recall. Unlike the Queen of Fashion, it is nameless. Yet the emotion it evokes in this moment purses thin lips. Until the first tear falls, landing over the pages of her mother’s notebook, Caroline is unaware her eyes gave way to the maelstrom raging inside. 

 

What she does not hear is Andrea coming into the room, nor her taking the space beside her. Gently steering her back out and into the breakroom behind her desk with a hand on her back. Blocking Caroline’s body with her own from any eyes that may head their way. 

 

“I’m an embarrassment.” She utters so quietly Andrea nearly misses it. 

 

“No, Care- Don’t say things like that.”

 

The despair hiding behind blue eyes is a shot to Andreas' chest. A direct hit from years gone by. Caroline swallows but nods. “You can’t understand.” 

 

“I understand more than you think.” 

 

“How could you? You’re not- like me.” 

 

Tilting up Caroline’s chin and dabbing at her eyes with a kleenex retrieved from the left desk drawer, Andrea clears away evidence of the tears. The pain, that is going to be trickier to navigate. Thus, she throws on her biggest and warmest smile. “When I was about your age I began to realize the same thing. You’re right. It is scary. I was a little too smart for my own good. Like this girl I know. Only, I came to the opposite conclusion she did about my parents’ future reactions.” 

 

Caroline swallows thickly. “I can’t lose her, Andy.” 

 

“Know this, your mother loves you. I know to the world she is only seen as cruel, and cutting but her mentorship is really the reason why those that come to work for her for so little time go on to make bigger splashes.” 

 

“I can’t be left with my dad.” 

 

“You’ll have me, and Cassidy in your corner too.” 

 

"You're helping me with... that thing. Maybe I can help you."

 

A sadder smile takes over Andrea’s face. Tears escape her iron control. "I appreciate the offer but I'm a big girl."

 

"You're crying at work and smearing your mascara. Maybe I am my mother's daughter after all." Teenage arms cross over her chest.

 

"Low-blow, Priestly."

 

"Fix your make-up. Mom doesn't do Second Assistant tears unless she’s using them for meal replacements." Still, the girl takes inventory around them in the small break-room before finding something to help Andrea fix her make-up.

 

"Tell me about it."

 

The cadence of heels cease behind them just as Andrea cleans evidence of their tearful encounter. Turning, she anticipates Emily but is floored into stillness by the sight of Miranda narrowly eyeing her. “Of course I’d find you in the room with snacks. I’ve been screaming your name. Though I imagine it’d be difficult to hear over the sound of that big mouth chewing.” 

 

Andrea blocks Caroline’s body with her own. “I’m sorry, Miranda.” 

 

A barely heard gasp reveals that Miranda did not realize that Caroline is behind her assistant. 

 

Caroline goes to speak. “It was my-” 

 

“I won’t let it happen again.” Andrea forces a smile never reaching her eyes. 

 

“Coffee.” 

 

“Yes, Miranda.” Andrea scurries to her desk to retrieve the necessary items. 

 

Hot on her heels is Caroline.

 

“Darling? I have a run-through scheduled for your time here.” Miranda’s tone softens considerably. Her volume was lower than usual. 

 

“We’ll be back in a jiff.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

At day's end Andrea escorts the Priestley's down to the Mercedes where Roy awaits them. What Miranda sees when she turns back is Caroline embracing Andrea in her Navy dress. Wide brown eyes tired, as Miranda’s so often are, but her smile is anything but.  There is rarely a time that Andrea seems to run out of the genuine girl-next-door charm. 

 

“WE love you, Andy.” 

 

“Love you too, Care-o-line.” As Andrea and Miranda’s eyes meet, brown falls to the sidewalk beneath her feet. Suddenly more interesting than either Priestly lady.

 

Both Caroline and Miranda enter as Roy shuts the door. When the wheels begin rolling the privacy screen slides upward and into place. 

 

“Thoughts?” Miranda inquires, and for once all of her devices are away. The fullness of her attention is on one of her daughters. 

 

“Do you remember when I was seven and Dalton called you to pick us up?” 

 

“Yes.” 

 

“You told Cass and I that it was important to be kind to our classmates. Not everyone has the same opportunities as us.” 

 

“Your teacher was quite adamant.” 

 

Caroline blows a piece of her bangs out of her face. “It was the first lesson you ever taught me that I actually remember hearing. Do you remember why we were in trouble?” 

 

“You told one of your classmates that she stunk.” 

 

“Technically, Cassidy did. I remember the tears burning my eyes when you told me to apologize.” 

 

A tilt of Miranda’s head before she recalls how Caroline responded with,  “But it’s true, mommy.” 

 

“We did apologize with our fingers crossed behind our backs.” 

 

A mild amusement played across Miranda’s features. “You were so upset with me.” 

 

“Later, you told us the story of Miriam. Washing was a luxury and everyone had to conserve the water because it was too heavy for her to fetch on her own. How her schoolmates made fun of her. How much that hurt her.” 

 

“You recall all that?” Miranda’s eyes are warm, and she grasps her daughter’s hands. 

 

“I know I felt shame for the first time. Then, anger.” 

 

“Something today reminded you of that lesson. What is it?” 

 

“You were not kind to Andrea.” 

 

“She is my employee.” 

 

“That doesn’t make it right.” Caroline’s pursed lips remind Miranda of her own in such a state. 

 

“That is not fair.” 

 

“Neither was that mean thing you said. She is not fat!”

 

Sitting back, Miranda gives her not so little girl a single nod. “She’s a healthy girl.”

 

"Cass and I, we love her. We want her to keep coming around. But she won't if-" a million unsaid endings to that phrase float between them. They ride in silence for several tense moments. That is, until Caroline sniffles. "I won't let you hurt her mommy."

 

"I'm not-" Miranda stops as her daughter nails her with a mini dragoness version of herself at that age. Stunning her into silence.

 

“Remember Miriam.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

“Sit.” 

 

Dropping into the seat across from Miranda’s desk, Andrea props her notebook against her thigh. Ready to take down rapidly rattled, vague instructions. Even more so to do the other woman’s bidding. Blue eyes proceed with a second, slower assessment than this morning allowed. “Yes?” 

 

“My daughters have informed me that I need to work on my manners. Caroline suggested that I begin with you.” 

 

“Oh-kay.” 

 

The tip of Miranda’s glasses caresses against her lips. “I should think a kiss might be acceptable. To your cheek with your permission of course.” 

 

Wide brown eyes meet her words. “Of course.” 

 

“So you’re in agreement?” 

 

“Yes.” 

 

“This will occur upon your arrival and again at your departure. As you may know, the girls are fond of spying. With no one else in the home besides us and Cara it is my belief they will be paying particular attention to our interactions. As Caroline did yesterday.” 

 

“Oh. Miranda, you don’t have to-”

 

“Their affinity for you grows by the day.” Our. Our affinity.

 

“As does mine for them.”

 

Her dismissal comes in the form of Miranda’s nod and, “That’s all.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Even as perfectly as Emily and herself managed Miranda’s schedule they rarely got out early enough to enjoy drinks on Friday evenings. Bickering like sisters got them through their work week. One of their last working in one another’s immediate vicinity. 

 

Ordering two shots, Andrea is certain that a celebration is in order. 

 

Emily accepts the liquid eagerly. “Nigel won’t be here until later.” 

 

“Queens are never late, everyone else is simply early.” Andrea says to a redheaded woman’s smirk. 

 

“To what are we toasting?” 

 

“Your promotion to the art department. Next up, Editor-In-Chief!” They clink glasses before swallowing them down. 

 

“I was going to suggest your promotion to first assistant.” Emily sniffs in the way that tells Andrea she most certainly was not. 

 

The music pulses through their veins as they weave through the club. By the time Nigel arrives, the brunette and redhead are surely working their way towards the high end of tipsy and bleeding over into drunk land. 

 

“Nige!” Andrea spots him first, pulling him into their former party of two dance-a-thon. “Tell Emily that the woman near the bar in that sexy keyhole dress IS NOT checking me out.” 

 

A glance over his shoulder answers her question. His grin makes Andrea’s grow.  “The slightly older female? She is not checking you out.” 

 

“Ha!” Andrea whirls on her, outstretched

 

“Unbelieveabl-” Emily goes to shove her former peer away.

 

“That woman is undressing you with her eyes.” He sips his cocktail as Emily uncharacteristically snorts. “And, now she’s coming this way.” 

 

Without further explanation Nigel immediately falls into step with Emily who did nothing to conceal her nosiness. She pointedly watches the entire exchange as introductions occur and the two women dance while making small talk. Over the next few dances, she introduced herself to Emily and Nigel. 

 

When she whispered something to Andrea before stepping away briefly the other two stared at her pointedly. “Well, my dear?” Nigel unashamedly inquires. 

 

“Bathroom.” Andrea grins around the shot Emily acquired for all of them. “Nigel, you’re the most sober. Is she…?” 

 

“Dressed well, good taste in music, old enough to know better but young enough not to care. Go get her, Six.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Only, Andrea did not go get the woman. As interesting as Cheryl is, she is not Miranda. The promise of kisses to come is enough to stay Andrea’s faulty decision making in the heat of the moment. 

 

Awakening is brutal. 

 

The sheer amount of light entering her bedroom window takes Andrea’s headache from a dull ache to a dehydrated migraine in an instant. A grumble escapes. Turning over a second grumble accompanies the first, and Andrea’s eyes shoot open to find a fussy Emily.

 

“Christ, Andrea. Do you ever sit still?” The Brit complains. 

 

Andrea’s breath forces its way through her nose. Pulling the blanket overhead. “Oh, thank God.” 

 

“Not who you were expecting?” 

 

Rolling back over, Andrea reaches into the nightstand for her bottle of Tylenol. Somehow finding the willpower to pull herself from bed to fetch bottles of water to chase it down. Padding back into her bedroom. “Here,” Two Tylenol, and a bottle of water are given to Emily. “You were groaning in your sleep.” 

 

Emily’s head braces itself back against the pillow. “Wow. Last night was…” 

 

“Unwise but necessary?” Andrea teases, as they medicate their hangovers. 

 

Blue eyes swing Andrea’s way. “I don’t mean to overstay my welcome.” 

 

This prompts a bark of regrettable laughter from the brunette. “You’ve never experienced a Mid-Western goodbye. It’s almost like the levels of grief, just when you think you are done…bam something else pulls you back in.” 

 

“That sounds exhausting.” 

 

“Oh, it is.” Andrea beams, taking the place beside Emily. “Do you want to hear the best part?” 

 

“No.” 

 

“I saw Nigel making breakfast.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Come Monday, Andrea feels melancholy to see that Emily’s desk now sits vacant. The task she dreads speeding towards her in high definition. Replacing herself. Still, when the calls come through signaling Miranda’s arrival she is hyper aware that even her capabilities have limits. 

 

In the span of twenty feet, at least that many directions were hurled her way as she assisted Miranda from her coat and lifted the Starbucks into view. “The girls want you at dinner.” 

 

A brief pause overcomes Andrea. “Is six too early?” 

 

“Perfect,” Miranda breathes airily to a slow-blooming smile from Andrea.

 

“Wonderful. In that case, we should get to it.” 

 

“Send word to HR. Find our new Emily.” 

 

“I’m pretty sure no one is as neurotic as Emily.” 

 

In the entryway to her office Miranda smirks at the corner of her mouth. “On that we can agree.” 

 

“Shit,” mutters Andrea. 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO



What greets her at the townhouse is unlike anything else. First, Miranda honest-to-God smiles at her as the door opens. Then there is a stiff hug. Barely enough that Andrea feels the cashmere of Miranda’s sweater beneath her fingertips. But what truly throws Andrea down the wormhole is the kiss Miranda mentioned. That she absolutely did not obsess about since the impromptu ‘my daughters want me to work on my manners’ that short-circuited every brain cell in her possession. 

 

Though the kiss is placed against the plump of her right cheek, it manages to invade Andrea cell by cell. 

 

Don’t tell her that her lips are soft. 

 

No instead, Andrea’s face explodes in color she hopes to hide by placing her jacket in the hall closet. Keeping herself firmly affixed in that direction until Miranda’s question follows. “The girls are setting the table. Wine?” 

 

“Red. Please.” 

 

“This way.” Miranda intones heading toward where the girls are hard at work. An additional two sets of eyes rise and form grins. Andrea is not yet all the way into the dining room when they drop the silverware onto the table settings and rocket toward her. 

 

“You wore it!” They shout, with matching grins. 

 

Holding out two shopping bags of her own, Andrea returns the giddiness. “It’s really warm. Even better than the old one. I come bearing gifts.” 

 

Tearing eagerly into the plastic sacks, each child see’s a litany of gently used books. Cassidy quickly removes hers, setting some on the kitchen tabletop. Then she peers into her sisters as she works on bringing out her own selection. 

 

Define “Normal”

Keeping You a Secret

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

The Queen of Everything

 

“What do we say?” Their mother’s voice rings over exciting chatter. 

 

“Thank you!”

 

“I know it can’t top an unpublished manuscript-” Andrea is immediately tackled-hugged by the growing girls. “Oof!”

 

“You’re the only one besides Mom who ever gets us different things. Things just for each of us AND things to share.” Cassidy says, trying to sneak in a few pages of reading already. 

 

Pressing a kiss to the red headed daughter closest to her Miranda says, “You have until I return, then books away until dinner is over.” 

 

“But-” 

 

A silver brow barely raises and Cassidy nods even to her mother’s retreating back. Immediately falling back into her novel. Caroline flips her books over to peruse the summaries before placing each one back in the sack they came in. 

 

“Thank you,” she says quietly. 

 

Andrea wraps an arm around her shoulder. “Reading was my escape. I know it’s more your sister's thing than yours. I hope these will help.”

 

“What did you need to-” 

 

A beautiful lasagna is placed in the center of the table. “Andrea, I must warn you that Cara enjoys a little red pepper flake in her famous dish. Her sister suggested it. We’ve enjoyed it that way ever since.” 

 

“It sounds delicious.” 

 

By the time dinner wraps up, Andrea cannot recall the last time a lasagna exploded across her tongue. Just the right amount of heat came via those delightfully tucked away red pepper flakes. It gave everything she grew up eating a run for its money. 

 

“We have one more thing!” Caroline darts off in the direction of the kitchen. 

 

“Should I be worried?” Andrea asks over her glass of wine. 

 

“On the contrary.” Miranda hums. 

 

Cassidy abruptly stands, going into the swinging door. Whatever shenanigans they host are not to be spoiled by prematurely seeing the surprise heading their way. Andrea quirks an eyebrow at the three Priestly ladies. 

 

A lit cupcake headed Andrea’s way. Both girls speak at the same time. “Happy Birthday, Andy.” 

 

If the world thinks Andrea’s usual smile is bright, they should be near this one. Her eyes shine brightly as the twins rejoin her and their mother. Presenting the cupcake to the brunette on a saucer. 

 

“I remember when you brought us a bunch for our birthday because we complained about never getting to try all the kinds. You said Salted Caramel and Strawberry cheesecake were yours.” Caroline holds out the lit cupcake with a bright smile.

 

“That is very thoughtful. Thank you sweetie.” Andrea pulls her into a side hug before grinning at the other two Priestlys. 

 

Caroline grows impatient. “Make a wish.” 

 

Andrea’s mouth opens and closes, as her gaze shifts between the three of them. Her smile drops for a nanosecond before it grows stronger. “I cannot imagine what is better than this.” 

 

“Unlimited books.” Cassidy readily replies. 

 

“Mom home more.” 

 

It strikes Miranda but her expression never changes as she sips her wine. Then to ease the distress growing on Caroline’s face.  “I’d like that too.” 

 

“Those are good wishes.” Andrea seconds.

 

“Isn’t there anything you want for yourself?” Caroline asks, and misses the way Andrea’s eyes dance toward her mother. 

 

“What makes you think I don’t want anything for myself?” 

 

The teen shrugs. “You never ask for anything.”

 

Setting down her wine glass, Andrea runs her hands along her skinny jeans. “That isn’t true. I asked your mom to forgive me last year.” 

 

“Did she?” 

 

“I’m still here.” A softer smile brings her lips upward once more. “Let’s dig in!”

 

Miranda sneaks away and returns with a small box that has one each for the girls and a smaller version for herself. “To another banner year.” 

 

The mini celebration nearly comes to a halt when Andrea severs her cupcake in half, flipping the salted caramel topping and icing to turn it into a sandwich. With all eyes on her she laughs. “It’s so you can eat it and not get the icing up your nose.” 

 

After her first bite is a success, both girls copy Andrea. Making delighted sounds of wonder at the simplicity of the movement. Miranda smiles. 

 

All hum happily into their treats. 

 

When it was time for Andrea to depart, the girls began to pout ever so slightly. Following her to the door with their mother floating behind them in tow. Andrea grabs her coat and purse, turning to find Miranda is nearer now than on the trip to the door. The girls surrounding her in a dual-hug. Only when they step away, Miranda is there to press a kiss and a warmer hug than earlier in the evening to Andrea herself. 

 

“Happy birthday, Andrea.” 

 

She remains still as can be, eyes blinking slowly as an even bigger smile overcomes her lips. “I-yeah. G-night!” 

 

When the door to the townhouse closes behind her, Andrea smiles wildly into the night. 



Happy birthday indeed.



OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Cassidy goes to her bedroom first but Miranda leaves her to read after quickly tucking her in. When she makes it to Caroline’s room, there is a book in her hand that she turns down on her comforter before giving her mother all the attention. 

 

“Mom?” 

 

“Yes, darling?” Miranda smooths some flyaway from her mini-me’s face, booping her on the nose playfully to an ‘I’m too grown up for this smile’. 

 

“Thank you for listening to me.” 

 

A soft smile plays on thin lips. “I’m always listening. I may not execute it exactly as you wish but I do hear you.”

 

 “Could we have lunch together on Fridays?” 

 

“I’ll let Andrea know. Some weeks we may have to change it around but I would love to have lunch with you and-”

 

“Just us?” Caroline looks so small and uncertain. 

 

“How about you and I have Fridays, and Cassidy and I have Wednesday or so?” 

 

She nods. “That sounds good.” 

 

Miranda strokes her still girlish cheek. “It makes me happy that you want to spend time together with just us. I love you. So much.” 

 

“Me too.” Caroline scoots into Miranda’s arms. 

 

Her fingers play with the end of the bow on her mother’s robe. Pressing her face into her shoulder to hide the formation of tears. Caroline is not ready to explain. Nor does she possess the answers. So she is left with this. 

 

Holding on. 

 

Breathing in perfume mingled with the scent of home. Tears well in her eyes. Coupling with growing daily anxiety. The anxiety that Andrea texts her through. Always, kind. Forever reassuring. No matter how many times she probably rolls her eyes skyward. How Caroline’s heart aches with unspoken fear.

 

When Caroline dares to look up, her mother has succumbed to sleep. She carefully unfurls from around her to get up and shut off the light. Then settles back in next to her mother. 

 

In the darkness, Miranda’s arms feel like strength.

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Miranda awakens a short time later with the most uncomfortable kink in her neck. For her part, Caroline faces away and is curling around her body pillow. This grants Miranda the opportunity to scurry off to her own room. Once there, she smiles at the chemise awaiting her. 

 

The very one Andrea wore once. 

 

A thrill shoots through her veins as she undresses. Quickly washing her face so that for a few hours until the alarm rings, Miranda can live in a world of imagination. One in which Andrea is gone on assignment thus leaving Miranda with her chemise to keep warm.Though the weariness renews itself as she slips into the French blue chemise, peace is quick to follow. 

 

As is sleep. 

 

In the light of morning Miranda wakes with her internal alarm clock to find her darling daughter as a lump next to her in bed. She smiles as realization that at some point in the evening Caroline crawled into bed next to her. Kissing her forehead, Miranda gets up determined as ever to begin the day. 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Across town Andrea lies awake.

 

When she arrived back at the office, Miranda was ever present as Elias-Clark itself. Tears of anguish long-since evaporated and Andrea busied herself confirming appointments. 

 

“Andrea?” Miranda’s voice carries like a shout through the silent offices. “Join me.” 

 

When the young woman does just that, she is greeted by a lowball glass and whiskey. Knowing Miranda preferred everyone to cry on the inside like a winner, Andrea knew something else gave her away. “Thank you.” 

 

Miranda drinks first. “It doesn’t get easier.” 

 

She scoffs before responding. “You have the girls.”

 

“They do appear to keep us both rather busy.” 

 

“I’m incapable of telling them no.” Another slow, delicate sip helps along with the impending heat of the whiskey in her belly.

 

“They rarely ask for things beyond time given. I suppose I should thank my lucky stars.” 

 

Andrea’s head falls back onto the couch. “They’re great kids. Any parent would be lucky.”

 

“As I am certain yours are.” The words unintentionally cause Andrea to tighten her eyes and Miranda realizes the compliment is not nearly as she anticipated. “Let me guess…they don’t want you in New York.” 

 

“Good guess.” Andrea greedily devours her glass. “Did your parents want you here?”

 

“They’ve since gone on. Suffice it to say they nor anyone else could have stopped me.” 

 

Andrea’s head tilts and she turns to face Miranda more fully. “What’s next?” 

 

“It’s this and my girls for me. Though they will no doubt take the lessons I’ve instilled and I fear that shall take them far away from home.” 

 

“They can always come back.” 

 

Miranda breathes a little shakily as she pours Andrea another glass. “You don’t get these years back.” 

 

A warm hand covers Miranda’s free one resting above her thigh. “No. You get to make way cooler memories where they take everything you teach them and learn a few more things the hard way. Who knows, maybe they’ll be teaching you a few new things.” 

 

“Do you believe I love my daughters?” 

 

Her hand is released as Andy cups the lowball glass on her own. “Of course, I do.” 

 

Scotch swirls in Miranda’s glass. “I’d do anything they asked me too.” 

 

“And they know it.” Andrea’s smile radiates warmth, shining it on Miranda.

 

“How is your relationship with your mother?” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

“What’s eating you?” Emily asks over her salad, stabbing greedily at the little sustenance it provides. 

 

Andrea shakes her head, but recoils when Emily’s fork is tossed into the bowl and she dabs elegantly at her lips. “Nothing.” 

 

“Bullshit. Out with it.” 

 

“I’d rather not.” An annoyed brow quirks her direction. “No.” 

 

“Woman troubles?” 

 

“God-no!” 

 

Emily scrunches her nose up and Andrea shakes her head. “Good. Biological clock? Give me something Andrea!” 

 

A plump lower lip trembles. “I’m helping a friend through some things and it’s making me re-evaluate my own struggles during that particular time in my life. I’m sad.”

 

“Bloody hell.” Emily shakes her head but her features play out softer than the harsh make-up she designed this morning. “I suppose you’ll need something to feel better?” 

 

This brightened the brunette. “Only if you’re willing.” 

 

“Yes, yes. Right, let’s get on with it.” Emily rises from her barstool, opening her arms as she is engulfed in the famous hug of Andrea’s. The kind where a long arm wraps just above the small of her waist and Andrea’s other arm comes across her upper back. Today it just so happens that her hand brushes hair from the nape of Emily’s neck and rests against the cool skin there.  

 

They rest there. In the space between heartbeats and breath. 

 

Not a care in the world. 

 

“Me next.” Serena’s voice floats through the ambiance and Andrea pulls away, squeezing the tips of Emily’s fingers as they seperate. 

 

“Emily’s getting really good.” She offers a huge, scheming grin on her lips. Near hyperventilating occurs, as Serena steps into Emily's space. Stepping around behind the panicking woman, Andrea gets her into position. “I’ll leave you to it. Science recommends twenty seconds! Bye Em, you’re the best.” 

 

“I’m going to kill her.” Mutters Emily, but Serena only laughs. 

 

“Andrea is onto something. You are really good at this.” 

 

“I should be. She bloody well forces me to hug her everytime we cross paths.” 

 

Serena’s lips dip toward Emily’s ear. “It makes me curious what else you’re really good at.” 

 

“Oh..um, right.” Emily abruptly steps back a furious blush painting her chest. “I-er’.” 

 

With that she is gone. Leaving a wildly grinning Serena in her wake.

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Caroline: If I ever needed to could I come stay with you? At least until I finish high school. I’ve saved about $300 in allowance for now with more to come. I could get a job and do chores. I promise to stay out of the way.

 

Andrea first sees the message on her watch mid-run through. Keeping her face still as possible she begins the painstaking process of responding via the watch keyboard. 

 

Andrea: Honey, I know that you’re scared. What I can promise you is this, you will never, ever, EVER, be without a place to go. Whenever you feel ready to tell your mom, I will be here.

 

You are not alone, Caroline.

 

The level of incompetence comes across at an all time high. Miranda’s lips purse spelling disaster for everyone not named Nigel or Andrea. The silver-haired dragon pauses over the submission from the art department, her blue eyes rise to find Emily wringing her hands. “Your first outing in the art department. Acceptable.” 

 

“Thank you, Miranda.” Emily preens quietly in her seat. 

 

“Dismissed.” 

 

Happily, Andrea shoots up from her seat. She is ready to dial Caroline when Miranda turns on her, glancing between her phone and Andrea. The brunette falters a bit in the midst of their sudden stop. “Yes, Miranda?”

 

“Follow me.” 

 

With no other choice Andrea does so. Internally facepalming that she is so obvious that Miranda took her jumping up from the meeting as disrespect or some such thing. All Andrea wanted was to give Caroline a quick little call. Figure out where her head is, and put her at rest so she can complete her school day. 

 

Going down the hall and entering Miranda’s office, Miranda closes the doors behind them when Andrea asks. “You wanted to see me?” 

 

Then Miranda falls to distraction. Her eyes stuck on something Andrea cannot see on her cell phone. The blueness of Miranda’s eyes piercing as ever taking Andrea in. How her hands flex open and close. Then an index finger runs over her lips. 

 

“I love my girls.” Miranda says, and her eyes fall back to her phone. 

 

Andrea reaffirms this with a nod and what she hopes is encouraging. “I know.” 

 

“Do they know?” Rising, Miranda moves to the window overlooking New York City. Her fingertips resting along the windowsill. 

 

“Of course they know. You’re working on being more kind because of whatever Caroline said during her visit. You have lunch with them at school at least once a week. They get one-on-one time like they asked.” 

 

The forelock of silver bobs with Miranda’s nod. Her phone rests in her right hand as her eyes scan the screen.  It is not until her voice cracks on the word, “Caroline.” Andrea holds her breath. “She's been sneaking into bed with me lately. Last night, I woke up and could hardly move. Both girls were with me.” 

 

Andrea smiles. “You’re their safe space.” 

 

“I know the secret Caroline is afraid to tell me.” Miranda pauses, turning to face her and Andrea wonders when her heart began to hammer so hard against her chest. “I didn’t know how to bring it up. The truth is, I wanted to give her time and space to see how she feels. I thought that’s what she needs from me.” 

 

When Miranda stares at her pointedly Andrea comes back into the moment. “What are you asking me?”

 

“Help me.” 

 

“How?” Andrea asks, there is nothing more in the universe that she wants than to help. 

 

“Oh, Andrea. Stop being obtuse. I’m fully aware you know about Caroline. Her fears about losing me. Losing her home. When I gave the girls phones we had an in-depth discussion about my having parental access.”

 

“Oh.” Andrea’s hands shake and Miranda summons her to the couch out of view of the exterior offices. Softness becomes Miranda when the girls are the topic. 

“You’re afraid.” Miranda plays with her necklace, swallowing before her eyes meet curious brown ones. “I don’t know how to help Caroline with this. Not because I don’t understand. Because I do understand what she is going through. I’m going through the same revelation albeit two failed marriages in. Perhaps...I was the problem that needed fixing.” 

"No!" Andrea's eyes blaze. She comes back to herself in a few deep breathes. Brown eyes softening but intense. "You don't...you aren't broken nor do you need fixing. Sure you're realizing it later than Caroline. That has to be disorienting but it can also be so liberating. Like you can finally breathe now that you understand what it was you truly wanted all along." 

"I-" Miranda blinks vacantly.

Andrea gently takes one of her hands, caressing over the smooth knuckles. "I'm not afraid, but I understand that you must be. I have a pretty good handle on you. You love your girls.” 

 

“And yet, my dearest of all worries she is not enough just as she is to be worthy of her mother. What does that say about me?” 

 

“Miranda, all Caroline needs is you. That is all she wants.” 

 

Blue eyes sparkle and Miranda turns her face away. "Thank you for being a safe place for my daughter to land when she was too scared to talk to her mother."

 

"I told her she could trust you."

 

"I know." Miranda unleashes a real smile Andrea’s way.

 

“Where do we go from here?” 

 

“I have an idea…Let me get Nigel.” Miranda steps to her desk and dials his extension. 

 

“Oh-kay.” 

 

“Thank you, Andrea. That’s all.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

The girls are gathered on the 17th floor of Elias-Clark, as are Nigel and Andrea. The gang is gathered in the conference room that serves the magazine during run-throughs. Today, it serves a grander purpose. Bridging the distance between a mother and her coming-of-age daughters. 

 

“Cassidy, do you remember our lessons with Miriam?” Miranda asks, thumbing through a box of old photographs. 

 

“We haven’t been pranking or rude to ANYONE lately.” She swears, clearly preparing a mental defense.

 

She smiles. “I know, darling. Would you like to see a photograph of her?”

 

“Miriam a real person?” 

 

“She is.” Miranda places an old black and white photograph on the table. It shows a girl in a rough looking dress, with dirt on her face, arms, and feet standing in front of a shanty house. Her eyes are sharp, and cutting in spite of her youth. 

 

Both girls lean over the photograph with Caroline noting. “She looks pissed!”

 

Another photo goes overtop of the first. With this one the young girl remains slender, slightly less dirty but not much. The fire in her first photographs carries into this one well. Cassidy nudges Caroline and a few seconds of silence pass between them before remembering there are others in the room. 

 

When a third unrelated photo joins the group it distracts from their silent conversation. 

 

“Is that?!” The girls look at one another. “Dad.” 

 

Miranda swats Nigel who is doing his level best to hide the snickering off to the side of the table. “An accident, Mira!”

 

This brings Andrea out of her seat as she joins in the girl's laughter. “Some accident.”

 

“Is that a big secret? That Dad likes Uncle Nigel a bit more than you?” Caroline asks. 

 

Followed by Cassidy’s, “Is that why you got divorced?” 

 

Taking a seat where she can easily access the photographs and see both girls, Miranda slowly begins her answer. “Your father and I, we were young when we wed. We thought surely it wasn’t as hard as our parents made it out to be. He knew I was not to be distracted from my career so we put off trying for children until I was ready. Until the two of you, Runway in one form or the other was my only purpose. I can admit now that it consumes me. It took me away from where I needed to be and I allowed it because…” 

 

Cutting in quickly Caroline asserts, “Dad said it was because he cheated on you with his second wife.” 

 

“We both made mistakes. It doesn’t mean we do not love you.” Miranda pats a hand on each of her girls. “Nor would we ever stop.”

 

“We know.” Cassidy groans, eagerly looking at the secretive photo box. “Do you have any more of Miriam?”

 

Another photo comes from the box. This time Miriam is about the age the girls are now. Her eyes are sharp as ever but her skin is scrubbed clean and her hair styled in with the times. The ever-present discontent darkening youth.

 

“Is Miriam you , mom?” Caroline asks, studying the picture intently with her twin doing the same. 

 

“Yes.” 

 

“Oh wow.” 

 

“I understand how you both must feel about my hiding this from you.” 

 

“Why did you lie?” 

 

Taking a big breath, Miranda prepares to go back into the lion’s den. “I was and sometimes still feel the shame of being Miriam Princheck. I hated every second of it. What I’ve learned with your help, and the support of Andrea is that no one should ever feel ashamed of who they’ve been or had to be to get where they are.” 

 

The girls nod but flip back through the photographs to the five or six year old Miriam. “We really are your mini’s!”

 

From there the afternoon is filled with laughs as they go through Miranda and Nigel’s fashion icon moments. Miranda is so young and carefree in several of them. The subway one brings twin sets of eyes up to her. 

 

“We want to ride one time!” They assert. 

 

“I’ll think about it.” Replies Miranda cooly. 

 

Another where Miranda is clearly done with whatever is happening off-camera serves as a twenty-six-year-old dragoness forming her icy glare. Andrea lightly touches the edges of that one and smiles. 

 

“Your hair is so long.” She whispers.

 

“New name, new hair to match.” 

 

Nigel is leaning over Caroline who asks, “What are you two wearing?”

 

“In hindsight not our most daring look.” Nigel smiles toward his longtime friend. 

 

 Attention restored to the twins, Miranda’s lips quirk at the photograph. “It was ahead of its time if you can believe that or not.” 

 

“You with the hair,” Andrea prods friend and mentor. “Never thought I’d live to see it.” 

 

“Don’t make me snap my fingers and put you right back into that cerulean monstrosity receiving a dressing down from the dragon, Six.” 

 

“Armed with everything I know now, I think I could pull it off. A few accessories and it’ll be good as new.”

 

With a tilt of his head, Nigel’s hand goes out. “You’re on!”

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

As insane as the past several weeks have been, today is the day Andrea dreads. Stepping into Miranda’s office after being sent on what felt eerily like an interview with The New York Times. “Make yourself comfortable.” Miranda says, reading away on her laptop. 

 

“Is there anything-?”

 

“No.” It is deathly quiet. When Andrea finds herself the focus of Miranda’s gaze, there is but a small uptick in the right corner of the woman’s mouth. “You spoke with Jon as I requested?” 

 

“Yes. He said someone from Runway sent over my articles.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

“Including one I wrote at your behest for Runway.” 

 

Miranda’s lips purse. “When we return from Paris, it will be time for the training wheels to come off of those two lovely assistants you’ve trained. Your time at Runway will be finished.” 

 

“Finished? Miranda, no.” Andrea’s chest feels on the verge of collapse. 

 

“Yes.” 

 

“Why? Just tell me why you’re making me leave you?” 

 

“You have served two years in a role you’ve outgrown. Your successors are trained. This new role is what you came to New York to do all along. I shall see you in it upon our return. Don’t be dramatic. You cannot want to fetch me coffee, scarves, and be at all of my children’s games forever.” 

 

“Don’t bring the girls into this, please. I do want to be there for them.” Andrea’s lips quiver. And for you.

 

“Stiffen that upper lip. Your future through two years of toiling in the dirt is nearly upon you. I expected something dramatic but more along the lines of gratitude.” Miranda’s glasses arm rests against her lip. 

 

Swallowing over the news, Andrea shakes herself out of the emotional toll for now. “I am grateful. I don’t want to lose you and the girls.”

 

Miranda softens ever so slightly. “Honestly, you’d think that you were moving back home to the corn versus a few blocks over.” 

 

“Can I still spend time with them?” 

 

“Yes.” Miranda slides over paperwork with Andrea’s name on it. “Read this over then speak with me. Do not sign it.” 

 

“Yes, Miranda.” She stands, and just as she clears the chair she was sitting in Andrea turns back to her catching a flicker of sadness and something else dancing in blue eyes. Something just out of reach to the both of them. 

 

The words lodged somewhere between her head and her heart freeze. 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

During Miranda’s scheduled lunch with Caroline, Andrea is texted to join them in Central Park. A picnic lunch is what Andrea arrives at. One in which mother and daughter sport large grins as she makes her way to them.

 

“Good afternoon, La Priestlys.” 

 

Jumping up from her position on the blanket, Caroline throws her arms around Andrea. A hug warmly returns. Caroline pulled Andrea to her mother at a quick pace. Both Priestlys smiling. Miranda’s reaching her eyes as she takes in her daughter’s actions. 

“Hello, Andrea. Thank you for joining us.” 

 

“Of course. What’s going on?” 

 

Deferring to Caroline, Miranda gives her a tilt of the head to indicate she has the floor. “I told mom. She already knew but swore that it wasn’t you that told her. “

 

Grabbing the girl in another hug, Andrea’s own smile returns. “Your mom doesn’t miss much.” 

 

“She doesn’t.” Caroline says, picking grass from just beyond the border of the blanket and fiddling with it. Her eyes flicker up to Andrea. “I’m really sad you leave after Paris.” 

 

“Yeah. Me too. Turns out the thought of losing my Priestley's kept me pretty paralyzed.” Even as the brunette utters her confession she puts up a brave face. 

 

“Can we still have dinner sometimes?” 

 

“You think I’d miss out on free food and my three favorite ladies?” 

 

This brightens Caroline’s eyes back up. “We could do it after your first week or two. Then you’ll have lots to tell us!”

 

“Sounds good. Am I still invited to all your games?” She inquires and the face-splitting grin Caroline boasts is all the answer she requires. 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Paris

 

Here they were. 

 

Right back in the very spot Andrea recognized her feelings for what they were. Miranda’s hotel suite. Everything arranged the exact same as the previous year when the news of Stephen came through. Without him to worry about Andrea soaks day one of five in. The last where her priority is to keep Miranda in sight, in the know of anyone who is anyone.

 

Andrea hesitates to call it love but that was only aloud. In the privacy of her thoughts there is no such pause. They leave no room for doubt.

 

 No amount of internal warring that changes that she is in love with Miranda Priestly. 

 

More than that, with all her various degrees of aloofness, and calculating. Of course, Miranda chose that exact moment to pause in her overview to look up and see it written plainly in big brown eyes. “Come, sit.” 

 

Andrea takes the place beside her to the pursing of Miranda’s lips. Cool blue eyes tilt in the direction in front of her. She slides into place, then and only then does Miranda rest her chin on the brunette’s shoulder. “Crazy.” 

 

“What is?” 

 

“How much we can change in a year.” Miranda says and her voice tickles Andrea’s ear. The girl barely musters a flickering version of a smile. “Do not hate me, Andrea.” 

 

“I don’t.” Andrea pulls Miranda’s arms around her.

 

“We’ll always have Paris.” 

 

The weight of Miranda’s words hit Andrea in the chest. As much as she desires to make it of her own accord, Miranda was correct. At some point, Andrea’s desire to stay in her orbit became her undoing. Andrea’s cessation to attempt to further her career in a self-assigned torture. 

 

Being with the woman she loves every single day but not being with her. That was the worst imaginable. The hardest days are ahead of them. Andrea feels it as surely as she feels Miranda pressed against her back now. She is warm. Incredibly soft by the little Andrea feels. 

 

“Paris is not enough.”  Andrea turns around, pressing a slow kiss to Miranda’s cheek before excusing herself back to the adjacent room.

 

The next five days are the longest of her time with Runway.

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Andrea stands in the middle of Nigel, Serena, and Emily. The true royalty she is reminiscing over every last beautiful, and painful growth that took place under their tutelage. A big, beaming grin worn for hours. 

 

“Wish me luck, Em?” She asks, fluttering long lashes as Emily sniffs and turns up her nose. 

 

“No, shant.” 

 

Andrea wraps her in one of their hugs. “Don’t forget about me when you’re Editor-In-Chief at some fancy fashion magazine.” 

 

“I don’t normally say this to well, anyone I know but I will miss seeing your size six ass strutting about in those Jimmy Choos.” 

 

“Good to know Em. I’ll miss watching your defeat come at the hands of a pudding cup.”

 

“I heard about this actually.” Nigel teases, sipping his martini. “Ladies, would you like an escort home from your Fairy Godfather?” 

 

“Why thank you Nigel.” Emily gives Andrea an unprompted hug before disappearing through the doorway with Serena wrapped around her arm. 

 

Nigel delicately cups her cheek. “I’ve taught you everything I can.” 

 

“Thank you,” Andrea’s eyes shine. 

 

“No, no, no, my dear.” He wipes a stray tear with the pad of his thumb. “I’ll need you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed until after everyone else is gone. Then you can cry in the shower like a big girl.” 

 

“Right.” She wipes at the secondary tear that escapes her control. “Drinks next Friday?” 

 

“You tell me, New York Times Reporter, Andrea Elizabeth Sachs. Will you have time for that kind of stuff with your fancy new role?” 

 

“All the stuff, Nigel. Thank you. For everything you did while I was with Runway.” 

 

“Now your real work begins.” He smiles like a proud Papa of sorts and with one last knowing look between them the end ushers forth. Taking with it the last of the Runway team. 

 

She closes the door behind him, locking it behind the trio.

 

Just as she is about to drop onto the couch there is a knock. Drifting across the space, Andrea opens it and blinks in surprise. Not for anything in the world is she willing to miss Miranda Priestly at her doorstep. “Miranda.” 

 

Wordlessly, Miranda bestows a kiss upon Andrea’s cheek. “May I?” 

 

And Andrea moves to allow her by. Reveling in the scent that belongs only to the silver-haired vixen. Pouring her a glass of chilled champagne, Andrea sends a beaming smile in her direction. “I was hoping I hadn’t seen the last of you.”

 

“Someone wise once told me that true love is sacrifice.” Miranda enjoys her glass of champagne. A gift from Nigel if the taste is anything to go by. 

 

“It is.” Confirms Andrea with a still toothy grin. 

 

“Then why does this feel like sorrow?” 

 

Before Miranda can say more she is wrapped in Andrea’s outstretched arms, and 

Andrea the same. Murmuring, “Shh. Let me hold you.”

 

Swallowing thickly, “I told myself I could let you go.” 

 

Andrea’s fingers caress the short silver hairs at the nape of Miranda’s neck. No words come and she rests her head alongside Miranda’s. Gently playing in her hair. Feeling the steady beating of her heart. “And you have.” 

 

Miranda’s head shakes, she sniffles trying to regain the iron-clad control over herself and her emotions. ”Paris is not enough to get me through the rest of this lifetime.”

 

“As of two days ago you are Miranda Priestly, New York's most eligible bachelorette, Editor-In-Chief of Runway Magazine. A woman who lives on hope, does she not?”

 

“Yes.” Miranda punctuates her words with a nod. 

 

“What does Miranda Priestly think about New York Times up-and-coming Reporter Andrea Elizabeth Sachs asking her out to an intimate dinner?” 

 

“Acceptable. You were right you know? When you said Paris wasn’t enough.” Miranda shakes her head, reaching for where she thinks Andrea is and misses her entirely. “It’ll never be enough for me.” 

 

“You’re drunk.” Andrea says softly. 

 

“I’m thinking more clearly than I have since I first laid eyes on you.” 

 

“Miranda.”

 

"Andrea, do not be condescending. It doesn't suit you. I know what I feel. What I've felt for you for two years. Never knowing...thinking anything could come of it."

 

"And then Paris..." Andrea breathes.

 

"Yes," Miranda whispers. "Tell me I'm not a foolish woman to want this."

 

Andrea grabs her by the hands. “Close your eyes.” 

 

Miranda obeys quickly. Andrea kisses her so softly, so slowly memorizing every breath they share. “Anything but foolish.” 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

Six Months Later

 

Stepping into the townhouse, Andrea is greeted by the lovely sound of laughter. This is the first time she arrives late but Miranda assures her via text message that this will not be the last time.  Then the elder reassures Andrea that she understands. More than most. It still bothers Andrea but with Miranda brushing it off it does make it easier to breathe. 

 

They are still so new at this.

 

Just as Andrea places her coat into the hall closet two arms encompass her waist and Miranda’s nose presses into both dark hair and the back of Andrea’s neck. Breathing her in as Miranda so enjoys. Their breathing falls into step with one another and Andrea cannot help but relax. “I see the girls aren’t the only ones missing me this week.” 

 

“They are never the only ones missing you.” 

 

“Miranda Priestly Editor-In-Charmer.” Andrea turns to receive reverent attention from her girl friend. 

 

“I am quite the charmer when necessary, My Darling Andrea.” There is a flicker of a smile. “What is it?” 

 

“The girls know about us.”

 

“We’ve been careful-” 

 

Andrea arches a brow and smirks. “Miranda, they know me pretty well but they know you even better. Humming at breakfast, smiling at your cell phone, hushed conversations all hours of the night?” Miranda’s lips purse. “For the record, I’ve been tasked with finding out who your mystery paramour is.” 

 

“Who else would my girls go to but Their Andy.” She murmurs, stifling her amusement in Andrea’s shoulder. “What shall we do now?” 

 

“Tell them the truth.” 

 

“That I’m head-over-Prada in love with you?” Miranda teases. 

 

“I’ll leave that part to you as their mother.” 

 

“Lead the way.” 

 

As they cross into the entertainment room both girls look up in delight. Caroline sases. “You really need a better assistant if you’re already starting to be late.” 

 

“I’m in the bullpen girls, there is no assistant.” Andrea jests, observing the two teenagers lounging in their respective bean bag chairs. 

 

“Your new gig kinda sucks.” Proclaims Cassidy. 

 

“It’s different.” Andrea confirms, then she takes a quick glance at Miranda who prepares herself a drink from the corner bar. “Girls, I’ve got some news to share with you.” 

 

Caroline’s big blue eyes stop tracking whatever takes place on her phone and move to meet Andrea’s. The brunette feels the waves of anxiety coming off her and gives what she hopes is a reassuring smile. “Are they sending you away? To another city.” 

 

“No. Nothing like that.” Andrea swallows as two sets of eyes gauge her every movement and ears, her every word. “I’m seeing someone.” 

 

Both screw up their nose at the notion. Caroline fires off, “Since when?” 

 

With Cassidy, “How? You spend all of your time with us.” 

 

“I do. I hope to continue doing so. To answer Caroline, I… this person and I couldn’t be together at first. I was pretty sure she hated me. We worked together to name two big reasons.” 

 

Both girls' jaws drop. Caroline’s nose wrinkles up again. “You’re dating Emily?!”

 

“What?!” Andrea, Cassidy, and Miranda ask at the same time. 

 

“Emily Charlton, from Runway…that’s who…but…” Caroline’s words die off and she sinks further into her seat. “Mom is not going to like this.” 

 

“Well, that’s tough,” Andrea says, earning dual peels of laughter from the girls. The shock of such a statement must surely have pulled it forth. “It isn’t Emily. The woman I’m interested in, we wanted to take our time and see if we could be something more now that I’ve left Runway. It ensures her reputation remains unblemished and that we’re free to use the excellent P.R. representative available to us. It also means we get to tell the two people most important to her that we’re together.” 

 

“Holy shit,” Caroline whispers. 

 

“Caroline, language, please.” Miranda utters. Then her shaking hands are taken into Andrea’s. “Bobbsey’s please do not be angry with Andrea. We didn’t want to hide anything- I’m-” 

 

Two growing bodies collide with their mother, mumbling. “Thank God.” 

 

“You’re happy about this?” Andrea tests, as Cassidy tosses herself the brunette’s way. 

 

“We always hoped it’d be you.”

 

Andrea dries some tears from Cassidy’s face. “What is it?” 

 

The girl sniffs, clearing her throat next before speaking. “Her husbands keep getting worse. But you, you always treated us kindly. Like individuals, right from the start. Then you came to all of the things Mom missed. Then even things she didn’t. You brought us trinkets when you traveled. You took care of Caroline when she became depressed and scared about coming out.” 

 

Tears fill Andrea’s eyes, and she quickly moves to brush them away. “There is nothing I wouldn’t do for the two of you. Including taking the time to get to know your mother before we had a discussion like this. We needed to be sure for both our sakes. So we weren’t bringing you both into something that wouldn’t last.” 

 

Cassidy settles against Andrea’s leg. “Mom always says, you can’t lose me.” 

“She said that a lot when I forgot she could read all my messages on my phone.” Mumbles Caroline.

 

“We love you both so much.” Andrea swallows thickly over her emotions. Happiness, joy, and the fading anxiety catching up with her. She looks over the twins to Miranda. “You can’t lose me. I like it.” 

 

“It’s true.” Miranda is smiling around the girls. Holding Caroline against her gently. 

 

The girls share a glance before Caroline speaks up. “We were thinking, since it’s late you should spend the night.” 

 

Andrea and Miranda’s eyes meet. “I agree with our girls, Andrea. It truly is getting late.” 

 

The twins roll their eyes. “You guys are going to be so gross together, aren’t you?”

 

“Oh absolutely, and Caroline? I expect your friend to join us for dinner sometime this weekend.” 

 

“Mooooom.” Caroline groans. “Can you play nicely?” 

 

“She can be rather charming when she wishes.” Andrea reassures. “After all girls, you can’t lose us.” 





The End