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All the Way Home

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The wind whips around Andy’s hair, blowing a few flurries up underneath her scarf as soon as she pushes the car door open. November in Minnesota is a lot colder than it is in Manhattan, especially coming up on the week of Thanksgiving. She shivers and turns behind her to check on Miranda only to find her wife still perched in the passenger seat, head back and eyes closed. Andy gives her a moment. She knew this day would be hard ever since they planned the visit.

This trip has been nothing like the family road trips Andy Sachs is used to. There is no license plate game, no jovial road trip sing-alongs, no arguing over who is to choose the next song on the radio. In fact, Miranda has been nearly silent the entire ride, choosing to fidget with her jewelry and stare out the window as the snowy scenery glides by.

By now, Andy knows that this behavior from Miranda is simply indicative of nerves. She knows that if she didn’t love Miranda dearly and if she hadn’t been well versed in the editor’s eccentricities, the tension in the vehicle for the past few hours would have snapped her in two.

“Girls,” Andy says, and redheads immediately snap to attention, “would you mind helping me with the luggage?”

Caroline and Cassidy push open their own doors to help Andy. They didn’t pack much, they’ll only be here for a day or two, less than that if Miranda gives word to leave. Besides, Andy really isn’t so bad. She can actually be pretty cool, especially since she can wrangle most of Miranda’s bad moods into something significantly more pleasant. This alone makes her worlds better than Stephen ever was.

The girls sling their own bags over their shoulders and help Andy lift the Vuitton containing their mom and Andy’s combined clothes out of the trunk. Before it hits the ground, they see that their mother has emerged from the passenger seat. Sharp eyes survey the property as if looking for damage or wear.

This house holds a lot of memories for Miranda but only a handful of them are fond. Still, she’s at least made sure that the small house has been well maintained. There’s no reason her mother should live in squalor.

“Mom?” Caroline asks, “Everything okay?” She takes her mother’s gloved hand into her own.

“Hmm. Yes, of course, Bobbsey,” Miranda says. “Remember–”

“Our manners,” Cassidy says from behind her, “We know.” Her oldest daughter softens her face with a smile towards her mother to show her that there’s no hard feelings. Miranda lets the attitude slide for now. She’s too nervous to reprimand.

Andy whips the handle up from the rolling luggage and at the sound, Miranda snaps to attention. She leads the small pack to the front door of the modest house, her nervous hand still clasped in Caroline’s. After the doorbell chimes, a rattling cough is heard behind the door as they wait a while a moment for it to swing open.

It shocks Miranda how much her mother has aged. She still has her regal bearing about her, something Miranda learned to imitate at a very young age, but fine lines and wrinkles cover just about every inch of her face and hands. Her hair, short and with a style less iconic than Miranda’s is snow white with a tinge of red at the nape of her neck. Andy knows immediately where Miranda’s amazing cheekbones have come from.

Cool grey eyes a few shades lighter than Miranda’s take in the family huddled on the front porch.

“May we come in?” Miranda asks through her teeth. She didn’t come all this way to hellhole Minnesota just to freeze to death on the porch. Although, it might be easier and less painful than dealing with her mother.

Maryanne Princheck steps aside to let the group into her home. As they take their coats off, she helps hang them on the rack by the door. She has a smile on her face as she turns to greet the twins, “My goodness, you two have grown,” Maryanne says to the redheads. She hugs each girl and holds them at arm’s length. A beat of silence passes as she inspects Cassidy and Caroline alike.

It’s strange to meet the woman who they haven’t seen since they were toddlers, especially since they only know her from birthday and Christmas cards sent on holidays. It’s even stranger that she can tell them effortlessly apart. “Caroline, Cassidy, why don’t you two get settled upstairs? Your room is the first one to the left.”

The girls trudge obediently upstairs, not even pausing to look at the pictures that line the staircase to give their mom and her mother some privacy. As soon as they are out of sight, the temperature in the house goes down a few degrees as Maryanne turns her eyes to her only daughter and the young woman she’s brought with her.

“I gotta admit, Miranda, I’m surprised you showed up,” she says, raising her hands to her hips.

And so it begins.

Miranda rolls her eyes. At least she’s called her “Miranda” this time. “It’s nice to see you too, Mother.”

Maryanne harrumphs. “Is it?” she asks snidely, “You could have fooled me. I haven’t seen you in nearly a decade.”

Miranda goes quiet at that, knowing that there’s entirely too much that needs to be said, and none of it should be said in the doorway of her childhood home.

Her mother plows on, “And who is this pretty young thing?” Maryanne looks Andy up and down. Her tone is something sharp dipped in honey. Instead of cracking under the pressure like she wants to, Andy summons up a sunny smile.

“It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Princheck. I’m Andy,” she says, offering up a hand to shake. It dangles in the air for a moment before Maryanne Princheck decides to shake it.

“I know who you are,” Maryanne says back quickly, “You’re my daughter’s midlife cri–”

“Mother, that’s enough,” Miranda cuts her off. “I came here so that the girls could spend some time with you,” her voice is as cold as it gets but her mother is nonplussed. “Although heaven only knows why they would want to. I won’t have you insulting those I love.”

Whatever heart-melting feeling was conjuring up inside Andy comes to a halt when
Maryanne breaks in with, “Love?” she gives a rueful little chuckle, “Darling girl, you think this is love?”

With a bitter laugh of her own Miranda says, “As if you’d know.”

“Well,” Maryanne says, as if the dark moment never even happened, “Dinner will be ready in a few. I trust you remember the way to your room.”

Miranda walks gracefully towards the stairs and begins to climb them. Andy follows a little slower, pausing to take in the family photographs hanging along the wall.

“Oh my god, Miranda, you look just like Cassidy in this one,” Andy says, reaching out a slender finger to trace the younger Miranda captured in the photograph. The picture was taken outdoors, and in it Miranda sits sandwiched between two young men who look a few years older than her. They both display identical toothy grins while Miranda’s smile is more of a smirk. She was just as stunning even then, especially with her strawberry blonde hair wrapped around her shoulders like wind.

“Those are my brothers,” Miranda sighs, but she doesn’t look altogether unhappy, “John, and Jeffrey. Identical twins.” She lifts the small photo in its frame off the wall and says with a little smile, “We used to get in so much trouble together.”

“I bet you did,” Andy says, “I didn’t know you have brothers.”

“Had.” Miranda says simply. Andy doesn’t press.

As she carefully hangs the photo back on the wall she throws over her shoulder, “Johnny died in Vietnam at the tail end of the war.”

“And Jeffrey?” Andy dares to ask her wife.

“Premature heart attack. Just like my father.”

“I’m so sorry Miranda,” Andy says as they reach their room where the twins have kindly deposited the suitcase they packed just inside the door.

Miranda grabs Andy’s hand to pull her close, just for a moment. “Me too.”

Andy wraps her arms around Miranda’s neck and kisses her softly. It is not a kiss born out of pity, but one of comfort.

“I would have loved to meet them,” Andy says, not quite ready to let her wife go just yet.

"Well,” Miranda says, “My father always said that as long as I had his nose, he would never die.”

Andy laughs. She places a kiss on the bump at the bridge of Miranda’s nose, a move that the Ice Queen could have never predicted that she would tolerate and enjoy.

Miranda squeezes Andy around the middle, and smoothes at her dark cashmere sweater. “Oh, I’m sure they would have had a lot of fun with you.”

Andy scoffs playfully, “Fun? How?”

"Darling, you blush incredibly easily.”

“I do not!”

Miranda does not take the bait, but instead replies, “I refuse to test that theory anywhere within the state of Minnesota.”

“Fine, fine,” Andy relents. “How about you give me the grand tour?” she says, looking around the room.

Miranda looks around too as if it’s the first time she’s ever been there. In a way it is. She hasn’t called this room hers in decades. It looks the same for the most part, but all of her personal items have gone.

She walks over to the window, gazing out of it as if she’s looking over Manhattan from her office. She steps back a bit and spreads her hands over the sill. “I had a sewing machine here,” she says quietly, “And a dress form mannequin over by the bureau."

Andy’s heart nearly melts from tenderness at the thought of teenage Miranda bent over a sewing machine, creating masterpieces. “The machine was pedal operated, and I worked every spare minute in Macy’s department store to buy it.”

Miranda smiles then, “After a while, I made enough money making custom pieces and doing alterations that I never had to look at a Macy’s ever again.”

Andy comes over to the window, hugging Miranda from behind. “You wanted to be a designer?” She places a kiss on the back of the pale neck she loves so much.

“I did.”

“I could picture that. Why didn’t you?”

“None of the design houses took me on.” Miranda looks over her shoulder at Andy as she says next, “So I got an assistant’s position at Runway.”

“You did not.” Andy spins Miranda around to look into her eyes and make sure Miranda isn’t pulling her leg.

Miranda laughs. “I assure you Andrea, I did. Runway was nothing more than a sinking ship back then.”

“Oh my god,” Andy nearly whispers, like she can’t help it. “I can’t believe I never knew you started as an assistant.”

“I clawed my way to the top, tooth and nail, no matter what my mother said.” Miranda’s face does hard, presumably remembering her mother’s words.

“Miranda,” Andy says, squeezing a small hand in her own, “She loves you."

“She has an odd way of showing it,” Miranda says, not making eye contact.

“I’m sure she wanted what was best for you,” Andy reasons, “All moms do.”

“She wanted what was ordinary,” Miranda says. "She wanted me to meet a nice little man, and settle down, and cook brisket for the rest of my life.”

Miranda looks directly into Andy’s eyes then, “And I refused.”

After a beat Miranda sighs. “Let’s go check on the girls,” she says, “I trust they haven’t yet broken any priceless family heirlooms in the past few minutes.”

Andy figures Miranda has had enough soul-searching for the day and leads the way to the room across the hall. It looks similar to Miranda’s own. Outdated but well maintained wallpaper, antique furniture, Berber carpets Miranda arranged and paid for herself. Instead of the full bed that sits in Miranda’s room, this one has two twin beds on the opposite side of each wall. On one of them, Caroline and Cassidy sit atop it, shaking a magic 8 ball they have found and giggling like mad. A twinge of sadness briefly hits Miranda when she thinks of how much they remind her of her own redheaded brothers.

“And what do we have here?” Andy asks. She plops onto the mattress next to them. Miranda primly sits on the edge and scoots back until she’s comfortable.

“A magic 8 ball!” Caroline says. “Cass is going to marry Johnny Depp. I’m stuck with the guy who is the voice of the sloth in Ice Age.”

Andy chuckles at that and even Miranda has to crack a little smile. “I’m sure you’ll be very happy together,” Andy replies.

Cassidy pipes up, “Let’s see if Caro gets a beagle or a pet llama.” She shakes the little black ball in her hand and waits for the bubbles to clear from the screen. “It says–”

“Dinner is ready,” Maryanne speaks from the doorway. The family looks up from the twin bed, unaware they had been watched.

“Sweet!” The twins say in unison, brushing past their grandmother in the doorway.

“Don’t run,” Miranda calls after them, “And for heaven’s sake use the railing!” She hears footsteps slow as they make their way to the dining room.

The tension is thick in the bedroom, and Andy tries to break it as she stands. “What’s for dinner?” She asks as the adults make their own way to the dinner table.

“Brisket.” Maryanne replies. Andy does not turn to see Miranda’s smirk.

Miranda stops off in the small downstairs washroom to wash her hands and gather her thoughts. She makes a vow not to ruin dinner with harsh words. Or to let her mother do the same. Although, no promises can be made if her mother goes after Andrea a second time. She will not lose her. Not when she’s worked so hard to keep her close.

By the time Miranda makes her way to the round dining room table, everyone is seated. She takes the one seat left beside Andy and across from the twins. Maryanne sits regally at the head. A large roast is the main event in the center, nestled with carrots and potatoes, steaming and delicious. A bowl of peas and plate of rolls flank its sides. As much as she hates to admit it, the one thing Miranda misses about her mother is her cooking.

“Let us all bow our heads for grace,” Maryanne says. The table guests follow suit as though praying before the meal is a Priestly standard.

“Gracious and heavenly father, we thank you for this food,” Maryanne begins. The mood is not quite somber but it is respectful and quiet. She finishes up the prayer with, “and finally thank you for bringing my grandbabies to come see me, and for family and friends. Amen.” She makes the sign of the cross.

Miranda lifts her head, surprised to hear nothing of abominations and eternal flames. Perhaps this will not be as painful as she thought. Food is doled out in hearty proportion and the group begins to eat.

After a mouthful of bread Caroline says, “Thanks for making dinner for us, Gram.”

Cassidy, mouth still full, simply nods her head in agreement. Maryanne smiles at the girls.

“It really is delicious,” Andy says as well after wiping her mouth with a napkin. Maryanne’s smile dims, but she has the social grace not to let it fade completely.

“So, girls,” Maryanne says casually, “Tell me about school.” She delicately eats a forkful of peas.

“Well,” Cassidy says back, “So far seventh grade is pretty boring.”

Caroline pipes up from beside her, “Yeah. And the boys smell worse.”

A hearty laugh comes from the adults at the table as they all continue to eat. “Hopefully they’ll still smell until you’re thirty,” Miranda offers from across the table. Twin redheads roll their eyes.

“Why don’t you tell your grandma about your recitals last month, girls?” Andy says.

“I am getting more into the violin,” Cassidy explains, “But Caro’s really good on the piano. She got to play Rachmaninov at our last recital.”

Caroline only blushes a little. Instead of acknowledging the praise she plows on. “We want to play volleyball but Mom says it’s too dangerous,” Caroline sighs, “And the shorts are too short.”

Cassidy makes a similar noise of agreed discontent. “For now I guess we’ll just stick with tennis.”

“Well that’s not so bad,” Maryanne replies, “Your uncles played tennis.

“Cool,” Cassidy says, “Were they any good? Do you have any pictures?”

“I’m sure I’ve got some around here somewhere,” Maryanne replies, delicately wiping the corner of her lips with a napkin, “We can look tomorrow. It’s getting late.”

Miranda glances over at the wall clock and nods in agreement. The meal has passed relatively easily, but she has a feeling that this was just the calm before the storm.

When they are finished eating, Andy helps Maryanne take the dishes to the sink and starts to run water over them. The girls climb the steps with talk of showers and ask to hang out a few minutes before bed. “Not too late, Bobbseys,” Miranda warns, “I’ll be in to kiss you goodnight.”

“Andy too?” Caroline calls out in the direction of the kitchen.

“You bet,” Andy calls back, “Be up soon.”

Andy senses that the conversation about to take place between Miranda and her mother is one she shouldn’t be present for, and tries to wash the dishes as quickly as she can. Over the running water she can’t hear any words being exchanged, and hopes the two stubborn women won’t just stare bitterly at one another all night. After the last plate is cleaned, she sets it in the rack to dry and climbs the stairs to Miranda’s room.

“I see you got yourself a nice trophy.” Maryanne says when Andy is out of earshot. “She’s very pretty."

“Honestly, Mother,” Miranda puts an elbow on the table and a hand to the bridge of her nose, massaging the pressure headache that’s building there. “I had enough of your criticism as a child. I do not need it now.”

“It obviously had no effect, Miriam,” her mother sneers out her given name like an insult, “I was only trying to keep you from making foolish mistakes.”

“You think my life is made of foolish mistakes?” Miranda rages is disbelief. “Those foolish mistakes have kept this roof from caving in on your head!”

“I never asked you to take care of me.” Maryanne’s anger burns as quietly as Miranda’s.

“Oh I’m sorry,” Miranda gives a bitter little sarcastic chuckle, “Would you have preferred that I marry that butcher’s son, what was is name? Then I could have been Miriam Dunfrey, and the roof could have caved in on both of us–”

“Goddamn it, Miriam, there’s nothing wrong with being a housewife!” Maryanne cuts her off.

“But it was never right for me!” Miranda yells without realizing it.

“You will lower your voice immediately,” Maryanne says to her daughter. “I just want you to see reason,” she continues, “Look at yourself.”

Miranda scoffs, but does not interrupt her mother, too angry to retort.

“You are fifty years old, you’ve had two very public divorces, there’s a woman half your age flouncing around on your arm,” Maryanne softens her voice, “Think of your girls, darling. Think of your reputation. It’s embarrassing.”

Miranda looks stricken, as if the words themselves have slapped across her cheek. If her mother notices, she doesn’t react.

“Where will you be when she leaves you, my dear?” Maryanne caresses the side of her daughter’s face, her fingers ghosting over the sharp nose, the bone structure that she sees in her own reflection. Miranda can’t feel her mother’s fingers. From those words her body has gone numb.

“Must you assume she will leave?” Miranda says back, all the ferocity previously found in her voice has melted out of it.

“I’m just saying there’s a pattern in your relationships,” Maryanne replies, “And you two did get married awfully quick.”

“I love her.” Miranda says, embarrassed at the pathetic tone her voice has taken, “She loves me.”

“I don’t doubt that she does,” Maryanne rises from the table, the bone in her left knee crackling as the joint flexes out. “I just hope for your sake it’s a love that will last.” Maryanne kisses the top of her daughter’s white haired head.

“Goodnight, darling.”

Miranda doesn’t immediately rise from the table. She waits a moment to collect herself. Her mother’s words have no ground to stand upon, her mother knows nothing of what’s between Andrea and herself. Nothing. Miranda concedes that there are some things that Maryanne Princheck will just never understand. She tries hard in this moment not to miss her father.

Before heading to her bedroom, Miranda stops to check in on the girls. The lights are out, and clothes are laid out for the next say, which means that Andrea has already been in to say goodnight. She places a kiss on the forehead of each sleepy girl and bids them sweet dreams.

Back in her room, Miranda crosses the threshold and sits heavily upon her bed.

“Honey?” Andy asks over her shoulder still bent over to dig through the suitcase. When she gets no reply, Andy stands up to ask, “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” Miranda says with finality, almost as if to convince herself. “My mother just has a particular flare for getting under my skin.”

“Don’t they all?” Andy says, and Miranda cracks a smirk at that.

“I don’t know why I came here,” Miranda says quietly. Andy sits down next to her, picking up one of the hands placed delicately in her wife’s lap.

“It’s okay to want to see your mom, Miranda,” Andy says, kissing the back of a smooth pale hand, “Even if you don’t particularly like her company very much.”

Miranda sighs, but Andy continues on, determined to raise Miranda’s spirits just a little, “Even if she frustrates you, or makes you sad, or hates my guts entirely.”

Miranda lets out a reluctant little chuckle at Andy’s words. “She doesn’t hate you,” Miranda replies, “She doesn’t trust you. It’s different.”

“That’s true,” Andy concedes, “But I should probably warn her that she can’t get rid of me.”

“No?” Miranda questions.

“Not a chance, sweetheart,” Andy says back. She places a chaste, comforting kiss on the lips she loves. “Have you seen my wife?” Andy says incredulously, “She’s the hottest woman alive.”

Miranda snorts. “Is that right?”

“Yep,” Andy playfully says, “And she’s great in bed.”

Miranda can’t help the small laugh that escapes her throat, masking the tears that want so badly to break through. “Well I suppose your hands are tied.”

“They really are.”

“Thank you, Andrea,” Miranda says seriously, “For making me feel better.” She squeezes Andy’s hand. Andy kisses Miranda’s temple.

“You about ready for bed?” Andy asks, standing and shucking off her jeans and stylishly practical brown boots.

“You have no idea,” Miranda stands as well, unbuttoning her blouse and pulling down the zipper on her Versace skirt.

Under the covers in this small bed, Miranda’s arms wrap around the woman who holds her heart. Andy places her lips on Miranda’s, the thrill of kissing her even after a year of marriage has still not worn off. The kisses could escalate into something more, but Andy will not push. She lets Miranda lead the way tonight; especially after the day she’s had. So many people demand so many things from Miranda every day, and she will not be another one of them.

Miranda’s lips ghost over Andy’s cheeks, sharp teeth make their way over to nip at a sensitive earlobe. Andy lets out a warm breath, letting the heat build low in her belly. She palms Miranda’s breasts through her nightgown, running her thumbs over sensitive nipples through the fabric. Miranda shifts so she straddles a leg, pushing her own thigh in between Andy’s.

“All I need is this,” Miranda whispers into Andy’s neck. She places a kiss there as she speaks, “Just this. Just you.”

Andy lets out a little moan, but tries her best to keep quiet. It’s hard to do with Miranda’s thigh rubbing her just right, and with her hands full of the most enticing chest she’s ever known. “You have me, sweetheart,” Andy promises.

She shifts one hand up to guide soft lips back to her own. Miranda’s tongue meets hers, and the heat in Andy’s belly ratchets up a notch.

Miranda breaks away to gaze into her eyes, “Will I always?”

The insecurity in Miranda’s voice gives Andy pause. Miranda’s leg still shifts between Andy’s making it hard to concentrate. “Forever,” she sighs.

Miranda begins to move in earnest then, grinding herself onto Andy’s thigh. Andy can feel the wet hat heat of Miranda’s center, and as much as the erotic display is driving her wild, she wants more. Andy brings her hand down and slips it into Miranda’s underwear, shocked at the desperate wetness.

Miranda’s head falls down to rest on Andy’s shoulder as she tries to keep quiet. She guides her own hand into Andy, mimicking the motion, wanting to bring Andy to the same release. It won’t take much, she’s had a bad day and this, by contrast, is so, so good.

“Oh, almost,” Andy says absently, lost in pleasure. Miranda keeps up the motion of her hand, moving her body against Andy’s.

The mutual release is as strong and sweet as the day was long. “Hmm,” Miranda lets out quietly, stilling her motion. Andy’s lips meet hers in a kiss that is messy and long. When their tongues meet, Miranda contemplates going for another round but knows that the girls will probably be up at the crack of dawn.

Andy must read her thoughts because when she pulls away, she says to Miranda, “Come on, lie down. I’ll be the big spoon.”

Miranda rolls her eyes even in the dark at the phrase but does not object. Andy chuckles picturing the look that she knows is on Miranda’s face. When they are settled in their positions, Miranda’s body finally relaxes. She is sleepy from the stress of the day, and the good sex, and the way that Andy’s hand rubs gentle circles on her back.

“I love you so much,” a quiet voice calls out.

A little teary, one says back, “I love you too.”

 

___________________________________________

 

The next morning Miranda wakes to sunlight streaming through the curtains and the smell of real bacon. Her back protests a little from the strange unfamiliar bed, smaller and older than the one she shares with Andy, but otherwise her rest was peaceful.

A note has been placed on the pillow beside her, and Miranda would know the messy handwriting anywhere. Sleep in, pretty lady. Gone sledding out back with the girls. Be back in soon. There’s a heart at the bottom beside Andy’s name, which makes Miranda smile before she realizes that this means she has been left in the house alone with her mother.

She’s tempted to hide out in her bedroom until Andy texts her back but by now she can smell coffee too, which is what actually pulls her out of bed more than anything. Miranda takes her time in the shower, lathering her body with Andy’s soap, and letting the conditioner work through her hair. When she can’t stall anymore, she makes her way fully dressed into the kitchen.

Her mother sits at the kitchen table, watching the morning news on the TV that sits next to the toaster. She’s dressed casually in khaki trousers and a buttoned blouse but wears the same tatty bedroom slippers Miranda remembers from years ago.

“Morning,” Maryanne says.

Miranda walks over to the coffee pot and pours a mug. The brew isn’t Starbucks, but it’s strong and hot just the way Miranda likes it.

“Good morning,” she says after her first sip. It burns all the way down.

“The bacon in the pan is still hot, and there’s bread for toast if you want it. Eggs in the fridge,” Maryanne states, shifting her eyes back to the television.

Miranda shakes two slices of bread out of the package and drops them into the toaster. She takes a deep breath, trying to fill the awkward silence.

After a beat, Maryanne speaks up, “You know, I never meant for it to be like this.”

Miranda sets her mug of coffee on the counter, facing her mother in preparation for the conversation that she was hoping to avoid. “This may be a foreign concept to you, Mother,” she spins around with a bitter laugh, “But I am actually happy. For the first time in my adult life, I don’t feel like constantly I am about to scream.”

“It actually is hard for me to understand,” Maryanne speaks up, “Even growing up, you were always so miserable.”

“I was not miserable. I simply was not where I wanted to be.” Miranda sighs. “So I left.”

“You couldn’t have been alright here? With us?” Maryanne crosses one leg over the other and slumps in her chair a little. She looks worn this morning. Older.

“I could have been alright here, Mother, but I wanted to be exceptional,” Miranda explains.

"And you are now?” Maryanne asks, “You got everything you wanted? You’re really happy?"

Miranda hesitates before answering, "I have to admit, it's taken a while, but I am."

"You don't want a husband?" Maryanne looks skeptical, as if happiness cannot possibly occur without a marriage involving a man.

"I've had a husband,” Miranda replies, "I had two."

"And they couldn't have done what this woman does? Have you always been this way?” Miranda takes a little pity on her mother who looks distraught.

"I don't know if I have always been this way,” Miranda picks up her mug to sit at the kitchen table across from her mother. "Honestly I don't. It didn't even cross my mind until Andrea."

"What is it about her?” Maryanne asks, more confused than disbelieving.

Miranda smiles a little then, almost against her will. "It’s everything about her, Mother. It's the way she cares about the girls, the way she is a horrible cook but can make a grilled cheese that will change your life. It's the way she loves me. She looks at me as if I hang the moon myself each night."

"So it's because she loves you that you love her?” Maryanne counters, trying to understand.

Miranda sighs. She feels like she’s done nothing else in the state of Minnesota but sigh. "No. It's because she is the moon for me. Everything else around me has always been so... dark.” Miranda admits this as if she has just now realized it for herself. "She's casted such a brilliant light on my whole life. Do you know how magnificent that is? Can you possibly imagine?"

"Of course I can," Maryanne reluctantly smiles. "It's how I felt about your father."

Miranda misses him terribly in this instant; simply because of the way the comparison finally makes her mother understand. The heartache she feels is one that she still has yet to find a cure for, even if it has dimmed after all these years. Maryanne takes her daughter’s soft hand in her own and pats it gently with a sad smile.

“I didn’t see it before, but I do now.” She looks remorseful. “I’m sorry for the things I said last night, darling. I was out of line.”

Miranda looks into her mother’s blue grey eyes, shocked. She can count on one hand the times she’s heard an apology from this woman, a trait that is apparently hereditary. As much as she wants to hold a grudge, her mother’s comforting hand feels too warm and good in her own.

“Would you like to come to New York for Christmas Eve?” Falls out of Miranda’s mouth, the words startling them both. “The girls are with their father for Thanksgiving, but they’ll be back with me for Christmas.”

“I,” Maryanne stutters, “I mean, I’d love to. But I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“Nonsense. It’s settled,” Miranda says with a voice that is decidedly more sure than she feels.

“Well.” Maryanne itches to change the subject before Miranda can recant her invitation. “How about we make something warm for your girls when they come in from the snow?”

“I’m sorry to say that I am quite terrible in the kitchen,” Miranda admits.

Maryanne actually laughs at that, not surprised in the least. “It’s not hard, darling girl. I will teach you.”

When Andy and the twins come through the back door with red noses and rosy cheeks they are greeted with a sight they’ve never before seen. Miranda’s dark Armani slacks and blouse are covered with a blue apron and she is turned away from them to pull sugar cookies out of the oven.

The kitchen is warm from the cooking and smells sweet of cocoa simmering on the stove. Andy’s heart is about to burst out of her chest at the tenderness she feels for her wife and the satisfaction she can see on Miranda’s face from a simple job well done.

“Mom? Are those cookies?” Caroline dares to ask.

“Yes Bobbsey, unless you’d rather have meatloaf for an afternoon snack.” Miranda smiles to show no malice.

Cassidy looks over at her sister and shrugs before making her way over to the tray of treats.

“Hey, Cass, take your boots off so you don’t get water all over house,” Andy calls, removing her own boots and scarf.

After cookies and cocoa and warm showers, the group moves to the living room. Maryanne calls out for pizza delivery, a rare treat for the Priestly clan, instead of cooking lunch in order to spend more time with the girls before they leave. Miranda and Andy have decided to catch the eight o’clock flight back to JFK that night to beat another snow fall headed their way. The girls will be cranky when the flight touches down late that night, but at least they will be able to rest all of Sunday before the school week begins.

Cassidy and Caroline spread out on the sofa with photo albums spread out across their laps. Maryanne sits between them, pointing out their relatives and sharing stories behind the captured moments.

Caroline takes a special interest in the uncles she never knew, which is alright because those are Maryanne and Miranda's favorite stories to tell. Cassidy, on the other hand gets a special enjoyment from pointing out her mother in the photos and poking appropriate fun at her.

"Mom, look at this skirt you're wearing," Cassidy giggles, "I love it."

Miranda glances over from her spot on the arm of Andy's chair and squints at the photo in question. She looks at the A-line skirt and tries to remember the last time she wore plaid. Maybe she'll bring the pattern back this season.

"Watch your tone, young lady," Miranda chides back playfully, "I made that skirt."

"You know how to make clothes?" Caroline pipes up from beside her sister.

"Of course she does," Andy replies, content from the way Miranda strokes her hair. "Your mother knows everything," she jokes.

Miranda is about to roll her eyes, but is shocked when Cassidy says, "That's so cool. I want a skirt." Her small finger strokes once again at Miranda's photograph, "Will you make me one, Mom?"

"Oh! Me too," Caroline says.

Miranda reigns in her surprise to reply, "We'll see," which the twins accept to mean that they've gotten their way.

Later Andy helps the twins carry their bags downstairs and to the car. Miranda and her mother have a conversation without words; they've reached a sort of agreement. One that involves more patience and less judgment about life's choices. Before they leave the little worn house to take a plane back to Manhattan, Maryanne tugs Andy back to the kitchen by the sleeve of her red pea coat.

"I owe you an apology. I was incredibly rude," she says remorsefully.

"I understand that I'm nothing that you expected for your daughter," Andy tells her. "And I hate to see her upset. But I accept your apology."

Maryanne smiles a little smile then, and squeezes Andy's forearm where her hand has been resting. "Take good care of my girl."

"We both know she doesn't need it, but I'll do my best," Andy says with a smile.

"Andrea?" Miranda sticks her head in the kitchen, "Are you ready to go?"

Andy follows her wife to the door, letting the twins hug their grandma goodbye before leading them to the car.

Maryanne surprises Miranda by wrapping her in a warm embrace. No words are spoken, none need to be. They’ve said enough for now, and there will be time for more.

“Christmas eve?” Maryanne asks again, to make sure that her daughter had not extended the invitation in a fit of temporary insanity.

“Christmas Eve,” Miranda replies, “I’ll send you your ticket. We’ll pick you up from the airport.”

“I’ll see you soon,” Maryanne says as her daughter gracefully descends the front steps in boots that look far too fashionable to wear in the snow.

“You will,” Miranda calls, looking over her shoulder. She opens the car door and settles herself into the passenger seat.

Andy checks that everyone is settled in with seatbelts. She shifts the car in gear, content to be driving in the direction of home.