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Sick Day

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As a reporter Andy Sachs was used to having her phone on her at all times and for all manner of strangers getting in touch with her. So when her phone went off in the newsroom she answered it without even thinking; one missed phone call could cost her a career making story.

“Sachs.”

“Ms Sachs? Andrea Sachs?”

“Speaking.”

“Kate Easton here. I’m the school nurse here at Dalton. I have you on record as an emergency contact for Caroline and Cassidy Priestly.”

Andy’s first thought was to be annoyed at Miranda for doing something like that without telling her, even though that was exactly the kind of thing Miranda did. However any annoyance she felt was quickly overtaken by sheer unadulterated panic that something had happened to one of the twins.

She choked back the fear in her throat and tried to put her best professional voice on. “That’s right. Is something wrong with one of the girls?”

Apparently Ms Easton could hear the worry in Andy’s voice because she moved immediately to reassure her. “Nothing serious I promise. Caroline has been sick at school and regulations require her to be at home for a minimum for forty-eight hours afterwards. We tried to contact Ms Priestly but there was no answer. Can you come pick Caroline up?”

Andy glanced at her watch and tried to remember exactly what everyone in her life was meant to be doing at this time of day. She was pretty sure Miranda was meant to be micromanaging a reshoot of some spread or other which was why she was put of contact. Andy had a deadline to make later that day but it had been bumped to second place in her priorities; she’d make it work somehow. “Sure,” she said after a moment’s thought. “I’ll be there as soon as I can. Is there somewhere Caroline can wait in the meantime?”

“She’ll be in the nurse’s office. Thank you Ms Sachs,” said Ms Easton and hung up.

Andy blew out a breath, releasing the tension brought on by the phone call. She gathered up the things she’d need to finish her story and shut everything else down before knocking on her editor’s office door.

“Andy, what’s up?”

“Hey Greg, I’m gonna need to shoot off and I won’t be back in the rest of the afternoon. Just wanted to check it was okay with you.”

Greg frowned. “Nothing wrong is there?”

Andy shifted nervously. “My kid’s sick and needs picking up from school.”

He looked surprised at that. “Didn’t know you had kids, Sachs.”

“Stepkids,” Andy said, hoping that would be enough. She didn’t talk much about her personal life and Greg didn’t ask; that’s the way she liked it. He looked like he wanted to ask more questions but just grunted and waved his hand in assent. “Thanks Greg. I should be good to make my deadline tonight but if you could avoid sending me new stuff today I’d be grateful. I’ll be in touch about tomorrow.”

Greg told her to get out of his office and go pick her kid up, so she did. As she strode through the newsroom she put in a call to Roy, who picked up after the second ring.

“Please tell me you’re free to come get me.” Her voice was more desperate than she thought it would be and she knew Roy would be able to pick up on that.

“Sure I am,” he said, and Andy sighed in relief. “I’m not expecting Miranda to need me for another hour or so. You at the office?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll be there in ten.” Roy hung up without asking what’s wrong even though he’d be able to tell something is; Andy had always been terrible at hiding her feelings and she can count on one hand the number of times she’s had Roy pick her up at work. Having a chauffeured town car turn up outside
the Mirror offices for a junior reporter on a regular basis would go against this whole discretion thing she and Miranda have been trying to do. Today she was just glad she didn’t have to bundle Caroline into a taxi to get her home.

Roy was outside the Mirror offices in less than the promised ten minutes and Andy climbed in the front so that her ride seemed less conspicuous.

“Where to?”

“Dalton.” Roy raised his eyebrows and Andy knew that he could tell something was wrong. “Caroline’s sick,” she said by way of explanation.

Roy made a sympathetic face as he pulled away from the kerb. “We’ll get her home, don’t worry.”

Andy’s gut was still twisted with worry but she knew there wasn’t anything she could do now until she got to the school. She tried to relax in the front seat, letting the familiar smell of leather seats and Roy’s presence reassure her. After a few minutes she was calm enough to think about telling Miranda what was going on.

BORROWED ROY SO I CAN PICK CAROLINE UP FROM SCHOOL, SHE’S NOT FEELING WELL. WILL TALK TO YOU LATER. LOVE YOU XXX

She sent the message to Miranda’s cell knowing that she wouldn’t want to be pulled out of that photo shoot for anything less than life threatening. A few moments later her phone buzzed.

THANK YOU. GIVE BOBBSEY A KISS FROM ME, M XX

WILL DO XXX

By the time she’d sent the second text Roy was pulling up outside the school. The receptionist was very helpful and within minutes of arriving Andy was striding into the nurse’s office. Barely half an hour had passed since she’d received the phone call.

Andy was glad it hadn’t taken long to get there, at least not by New York standards, because Caroline looked absolutely miserable. She was pale, shaky and her bangs were plastered to her forehead with sweat. There were dark circles under Caroline’s eyes and it wasn’t clear whether they were from exhaustion or bruises from vomiting. Clearly being sick was the least of the problem and Andy felt guilty for not noticing she was ill sooner; she certainly hadn’t looked like that this morning. But then, both girls were adept at hiding things they didn’t want other people to see. They took after Miranda like that.

“Oh sweetheart,” said Andy, her heart breaking. She opened arms and Caroline ran to her, burying her face in Andy’s sweater. Andy squeezed her tight, as though whatever ailed her could be driven out just by hugging. “Does Cassidy know you’re coming home?”

Caroline nodded. “Yeah, I texted her,” she croaked. Apparently speaking was a little too much for her because it set off a coughing fit. All Andy could do was hold her close and make soothing noises until it passed.

“Oh my love. Was it the coughing that made you sick?” Caroline nodded, clearly unwilling to risk talking again. “Let’s get you home.”

Caroline fell asleep in the back of the town car, practically curled up in Andy’s lap. She looked so peaceful and was clearly exhausted, Andy almost didn’t have the heart to wake her. But the alternative was having Roy carry her upstairs to bed and both she and Cassidy were at the age where they were very sensitive to being treated like children, so Andy woke her up.

“Caroline, sweetheart, we’re home. Time to wake up.” Caroline was groggy and disoriented but Andy managed to get her into the townhouse without having to carry her. She thanked Roy for coming to get her and let him get back to driving Miranda around.

“Do you want to go to bed?” Caroline shook her head, even though she could probably do with a few hour’s sleep. Andy knew better than to push. “Okay then, if you go get into your pyjamas I’ll get us set up so we can spend the rest of the day curled up in front of the tv with blankets, how’s that sound?”

“That sounds great, Andy,” said Caroline hoarsely, looking so incredibly grateful Andy thought she might cry. She managed to keep her eyes dry and be strong for Caroline.

Less than ten minutes later they were both curled up under a blanket in their pyjamas on the sofa with an impressive array of tissues, drinks and snacks spread out on the coffee table. Andy had managed to get Caroline to take some Tylenol and there was a big pan of chicken soup simmering gently on the stove. In a throwback to her own childhood sick days Andy had put Mary Poppins on the tv and was planning to follow that with an impressive selection of Disney movies.

Caroline ate two bowls of chicken soup and managed to keep them down, much to Andy’s relief. She spent the afternoon curled up in Andy’s lap, enjoying the movies far more than she let on and being plied with fluids, cough medicine and Tylenol at regular intervals. She fell asleep part way through the Sword in the Stone and Andy used the opportunity to finish off the story she owed her editor.

When Cassidy got home she checked in on her twin (who was still fast asleep) before heading upstairs to put her own nightwear on. Without saying a word she settled in to watch the movie, snuggling into Andy’s side.

The three of them were still sat like that, watching Robin Hood when Miranda got home at seven, though Caroline had been woken up by Andy half an hour before then for some dinner and more drugs. Miranda leaned over the back of the sofa to rest a hand on Caroline’s forehead and give her a kiss.

“How’s my Bobbsey?” she asked quietly.

“I’m okay Mom. Andy’s been taking care of me.”

“I can see that,” she said, giving her other daughter a kiss before turning her attention to her partner. Andy could see the gratitude in Miranda’s eyes as she leaned in for a kiss. “Thank you for looking after Caroline today.”

“Hey that’s no problem, we had fun, didn’t we kiddo?” Caroline grunted; neither agreeing nor disagreeing. “Well, as much fun as you can have when you’re drowning in your own mucus.” Andy grinned as all three Priestly women pulled a face at that.

“Charming,” said Miranda, pursing her lips. There was a humorous twinkle in her eyes though, so Andy didn’t feel too bad about it.

“There’s chilli for dinner if you want it.” Miranda nodded, looking grateful. “I’ll come with you. Will you girls be alright on your own for a bit? Only, I want to do kissy stuff with your mom and Caro’s already been sick once today,” Andy said with a grin. Miranda looked less than amused.

“We’ll be fine Andy,” said Cassidy, cutting off whatever disapproving comment her mom had been intending to make.

Andy extricated herself from under the blanket and accompanying pile of limbs before dragging Miranda away by the hand. As soon as they were in the kitchen Miranda’s shoulders slumped, her worry breaking through the façade of the cool, collected editor and mother. Having anticipated that this would happen, Andy wrapped her arms around her and held her close, just being the support she needed. Andy breathed in the familiar scent of Miranda’s perfume and felt the last knot of concern loosen in her chest; Miranda was home, Caroline was feeling better, everything was going to be okay.

Miranda pulled back from the hug to press kisses all over Andy’s face. “Thank you for today. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you being there for Caroline.”

“Don’t worry about it, I’m glad to do it. Though I was a little surprised to find out I’m an emergency contact for the girls,” she said with a pointed look.

Miranda didn’t look the least bit sorry. In fact she unrepentantly leaned in for that “kissy stuff” Andy had promised. After several long, delicious kisses she pulled away again. “You said Caroline had been sick?” Miranda asked, completely changing the subject.

“Yeah, cos of the coughing. School regulations still say she has to stay home for the next two days. I can manage tomorrow off to stay with her but after that I’m probably pushing it. Greg gave me a funny look when I told him I had kids in the first place. There’ll probably be questions asked in the near future, you ready for that?”

“I’ll have to be.” Miranda sighed. “If you can stay with her tomorrow I’ll rearrange my schedule for the day after. And of course we’ll have to keep an eye on Cassidy in case she starts showing symptoms.”

Andy could tell Miranda was off trying to plan for every contingency and a distraction was in order. She made her sit down and put a bowl of chilli in front of her, insisting that she eat. Miranda did as she was told, though not without flashing her partner a look that said “I know what you’re doing and it’s only working because I allowed it to work.” Andy would take what she could. She sat across the table from Miranda and chatted happily as she ate, trying to keep up the distraction. It was a sign of how far they’d come that Miranda allowed it.

It was also a sign of how things had changed that Miranda was willing to take a day off when it wasn’t the end of the world. Before they’d gotten together Miranda would never have considered spending a full day away from Runway to be with one of the twins; she’d have called in the nanny or recruited the housekeeper for that. But Miranda was getting better at being part of a family and Andy couldn’t help but think she’d had a hand in that, which delighted her no end.

When Miranda had finished with her food Andy cleared the things away and they went back into the living room. Caroline and Cassidy had put a new film on (Bedknobs and Broomsticks this time) and the adults settled in with them to watch it. Miranda sat down next to Caroline, who immediately snuggled up to her mother. Andy got Cassidy leaning on her shoulder, sighing contentedly, and Miranda holding her hand on the other side.

Both girls were fast asleep well before the end of the movie. Andy was a little sad that they missed her favourite part but she got enough enjoyment out of making Miranda watching it to the end so it wasn’t too bad. She could always rewatch it with Caroline tomorrow. As soon as the credits rolled Miranda was carefully shaking Caroline awake.

“Come on Bobbsey,” she said gently, “time for bed.”

Cassidy was a little easier to wake but both of them only roused enough for the adults to get them to go upstairs, brush their teeth and get into bed. Andy also managed to get some more medicine into Caroline to help her sleep better. After settling the girls into bed Andy and Miranda stood out on the landing just looking at each other.

“Are you staying here tonight?”1 Miranda asked softly.

“Makes sense,” Andy said. “No point going back to the apartment if I’m looking after Caroline again tomorrow.” For all intents and purposes Andy lived at the townhouse but she still paid rent on an apartment across the city. Sometimes they felt the need to be in their own space but otherwise she only visited three times a week to pick up her mail.

Miranda nodded, running an index finger over her lips. “And your boss is okay with you taking another day off?”

“He should be. I’ll email him in the morning but I already warned him it might be a possibility. It’ll be fine.”

The conversation paused as they got themselves ready for bed but as they slid under the sheets Miranda picked up where they’d left off. “You said your editor had questions?” she said as Andy tucked herself into her shoulder.

“Yeah. I had to tell him why I was ducking out of work and he was surprised cos he didn’t know I had kids. I’ll talk to him. I can probably explain the situation without letting slip too many details, don’t worry.” Andy pressed a kiss to Miranda’s shoulder.

“People will find out eventually,” said Miranda with a sigh. “It’s a miracle we’ve kept it quiet this long. Tell your editor whatever you need to, but don’t lie Andrea, I don’t want you to do that.”

“I won’t,” she replied sleepily.

A long moment of quiet passed between them and Andy was almost asleep when Miranda spoke again.

“They are you know,” she said, her voice little more than a low rumble in her chest.

“Hmmm?” Andy murmured, hovering on the edge of consciousness.

“Your children. They’re as much yours as they are mine.”

Andy squeezed Miranda tighter. “I know I feel that way about the girls. I’m glad you do too.”

“So do Caroline and Cassidy.”

“Good. Now go to sleep Miranda.”

“Yes Andrea.” There was a trace of amusement in Miranda’s voice but Andy didn’t have the energy to reply.

She just drifted off to sleep with a smile on her face, surrounded by her family.