The short woman pushed some dark hair out of her eyes and looked up to see Serena standing in front of her desk. “Oh, hello.” She hoped the Brazilian would be a little talkative today, Bethany loved listening to all the accents around here.
“Where is Emily?”
The assistant was about to respond when Miranda's soft voice floated out of her office.
Bethany, sighed and watched as the tall woman moved gracefully into Miranda's office. So much for listening to her talk... She could only barely hear the woman greet their boss.
“Look at these and tell me what you think.” She handed the photos that Nigel had left for her over to the make-up artist.
“Oh, for the law enforcement tribute...” Serena nodded and studied the pictures thoughtfully. “They are all quite beautiful.”
“Indeed.” Miranda tilted her head. “But I only need five of them, including this one, she tapped the head shot of Jo.”
Nodding, Serena took Jo's photo out of the pile, setting it aside as a sure thing for the article, then continued to study the others. Taking a chance she asked. “Why are you...um...” she nearly said 'asking', “...allowing me to do this?” Miranda normally made all the decisions regarding Runway content. Of course, there was nothing to say that any suggestion Serena made would be taken.
“I am well prepared to decide what photos or layouts best show off the fashions. This is a slightly different kind of evaluation and I decided that you as the artist who will have to do their make-up should be consulted.” Miranda watched Serena's eyes almost flutter and nodded at the unspoken, yet clear thought. “Yes, I did just explain my thought process to you,” Miranda smiled, “and no, neither of us are going insane.” A new voice from the doorway made Miranda's smile wider.
“Speak for yourself lady, I'm crazy about you.” Andy laughed and apologized as a faint blush touched Serena's cheeks. “Sorry, Serena.”
The tall woman smiled. “It's okay, Andy.” Her eyes darted to the door, and beyond. “Some of us would give anything to tell someone we feel that way, about them.”
Nodding in sympathy, Andy assured the woman. “It's easier than you think.”
“Mmmm....” Miranda shut down her computer and stood as she spoke. “Yes, all it takes is...what, Andrea? A crazy stalker, a large amount of illegally administered drugs, and...a death threat or two??”
Andy found herself chuckling at the bland sarcasm in Miranda's voice. “Yeah, something like that.”
Winking at her fiancee, Miranda changed the subject as she tidied her desk. “How are the party plans progressing?”
With a burst of laughter, Andy moved to wrap her arms around Miranda's waist, “You do alliteration so well...” At the twinkle in Miranda's eye, Andy relented. “Plans are going well. I've..uh.. asked Emily to start meeting me in the park, in the morning so we can go over things. It's going to be so hectic from now on, that is really the only time I know I have free.”
Nodding, Miranda wrapped her arm around Andrea's waist as well. “Good idea.”
“You run every morning?” Serena was enthralled at the closeness Andy and Miranda seemed to exhibit so easily.
“Yeah,” Andy narrowed her eyes at the question, “Why?”
“I too run, every day, but I go to a gym, on a treadmill.” Serena hesitated, then went for it. “Do you think it would be possible to run together?”
Flashing her dazzling smile at both women, Andy laughed, “That would be great!” Then her face fell and she took a long look at the woman she was supposed to run with, starting at her feet going up up up her long legs. “Uh... I hope I can keep up... you have to have a huge stride.”
Serena laughed, “I think we can probably work it out.”
“I run early in the morning...”
“Perfect,” Serena handed the folder in her hands over to Miranda. “The five on top are my picks.” She nodded once to Andy. “See you tomorrow morning?”
“I'll be there.” Serena began to walk out of the office.
Andy caught up to her between the assistant's desks. “Um... there will probably be photographers at the house. They've stopped running with me, but they're usually there at the beginning and end.”
With a deep breath, Serena nodded and with barely a glance at Emily, she smiled at Andy, “Completely worth it, I think.”
Miranda caught up with them, again sliding her arm around Andrea's waist. “Ready?”
“You bet.” Andy winked at Serena and walked out of the office with Miranda.
“You're going to start running with Andrea?” Emily looked up at her longtime friend, unsure what that revelation was making her feel.
“Yes,” Serena smiled, “So I will see you in the morning, as well as at lunch.” She turned and walked out of the office.
Bethany watched her go and breathed a 'Wow'. When she looked at Emily she flinched, “Sorry, I mean... I have a boyfriend, but, Serena is really beautiful. Don't you think?”
Straightening in her seat, Emily put on her most haughty expression. “I haven't really thought about it.” Not really, not for more than thirty seconds out of every minute of the day.... She was instantly angry with her co-worker for bringing it up, and with herself for being unable to stop thinking about seeing the tall Brazilian tomorrow morning. She snapped at Bethany. “Just, do your work!”
Andy tried to prepare herself as she opened the door but the tackle still took her off guard. “Oof!” she laughed and wrapped her arms around the girl clinging to her.
“Hey, Munchkin....” Andy grinned down at the child, “Why the octopus impression?”
Nodding, Andy winked and made a quick motion with her head. “She's in the study.”
Releasing her Ma quickly, Caroline practically sprinted to the study. Cassidy was just coming through the door and saw her sister disappear through the study door. “Is she?”
With another nod, Andy grinned as Cassidy took off after her sister, calling back over her shoulder. “Good to see you, Ma.”
Miranda looked up from her seat in the large armchair as Caroline barreled into the room. “Where's the fire?!”
“Can I see it??” Caroline's face fell as her mother frowned. “Sorry,” The girl wrapped her arms around her mom's shoulders and kissed her cheek. “I'm glad to see you, Mom...” Caroline licked her lips, “Can I see it?”
Chuckling, Miranda held out her hand for her daughter to examine the recently acquired ring.
“Oh, wow...” Caroline's eyes glittered, reflecting the diamond bits on the tiny dragon's back. “That is so cool!”
“Let me see!” Cassidy rushed into the room and shoved her sister over so that she could get a better look at the ring. “Oh, it turned out awesome!” She sighed, “Ma was so upset when it was delayed.”
“What?” This was news to Miranda. “When was this?”
Caroline pressed her lips together, but Cassidy spoke. “After the charity thing, when your stuff was...” Her eyes widened and stopped talking quickly.
Andy cleared her throat as she walked up behind the girls. Laying her hand on Cassidy's shoulder, Andy sighed, “Thank you Cassidy, I haven't had a chance to tell Miranda that story yet.”
“Oh...” Cassidy looked up at Andy with her big blue eyes. “Sorry, Ma.”
With a wink and a grin, Andy eased the girl's worry. “S'okay, Sweetie, I was going to tell her. It just hasn't come up.”
Now Miranda was intrigued. “Tell me what, Andrea?”
Waving off the question, Andy assured Miranda. “Later... right now I think the girls have some gifts to open.” With a gesture to the low coffee table, where the two small suitcases were positioned, Andy grinned at the girls. “G'wan.” Andy settled onto the arm of the chair Miranda was seated in and they watched as the girls began to sort through their presents.
Miranda motioned to the figure in the doorway. “Come in, James.” She gestured to the other chair in the room. She wondered for a moment if the man found it strange to be in the company of his ex-wife and her, very female, lover, but then the girls had dug through the layers of trinkets and stuffed animals to find the dresses. Her attention was diverted by their squeals of delight and their chorus of appreciation. “Thanks, Mom!”
“It's beautiful.” “It's great!” They held the dresses up to themselves and nodded as they realized each one was just what they liked.
For a while, as they assumed all twins parents did, they had gotten duplicate outfits. Their father still did that. They figured it was because he had no clue about girl's clothes and simply bought duplicates for them to speed up the process of shopping. Their mother on the other hand had been buying them clothing tailored to their individual personalities for several years, in addition to the occasional duplicate outfit.
Laying the dresses aside they continued looking through the small cases and squealed again as they came to the folded denim at the bottom. Again they spoke simultaneously, “Thanks, Ma!”
“This is awesome!” “So cool!” Again, they held the jeans against them to get an idea of what they'd be like on.
Andy chuckled as Miranda spoke with a slightly petulant tone, “How do you know they aren't from me?”
The looks the girls threw at their mother nearly had Andy falling off the chair, laughing. “They know you too well! No way you'd buy them jeans!”
“I have nothing against blue jeans.” Miranda sighed, “I just don't tend to frequent places that deem them, appropriate.”
James chuckled, “I can't imagine you in jeans, Mira.”
Andy's hand dropped to the white hair, running her fingers through it gently. Partially because she'd seen the bristle at the nickname, and partially because Andy loved the feel of it. She grinned as her fiancee looked up at her, “It is a sight to behold.”
“You,” James' eyes widened, “Wore a pair of jeans... in public?”
“Semi-public,” Miranda smiled up at the love of her life then focused on their guest, “It was a backyard, in Cincinnati. A backyard cookout seemed an appropriate place for jeans.” At the man's confused look, Miranda spelled it out for him. “We went to visit Andrea's family, the gathering was for her birthday.”
“You, wore jeans... to a backyard barbecue?!” James looked at Andy, with anxious eyes. “Please, God, tell me you got pictures.”
Andy grinned and winked at James, then schooled her features blank as Miranda looked up at her. She winced as the blue eyes narrowed in suspicion and Andy smiled weakly. “Uh...” she offered, “I love you?” She smiled wider as Miranda burst out laughing.
“You are so ridiculous sometimes.”
“Can we go try our stuff on?” While their parents had been talking, they'd repacked their cases and were now ready to take their haul up to their rooms.
Stuff, Miranda sighed, “Of course,” She watched her children leave, talking excitedly between themselves. From the corner of her eyes she saw a wistful look on Andrea's face as she too watched the girls leaving. We'll have to have that talk soon.
“So,” James studied the pair. “I take it you had a good time in London?”
Miranda nodded. “It was enlightening.” In some ways, not enough in others.
“It was amazing!” Andy grinned. “We're gonna take the girls back one of these days.”
“They've always liked traveling,” James smiled. “You should go for more than a few days, there is a lot to explore in England, not just London.”
Miranda agreed, “Yes, but this trip was for a specific purpose.”
James licked his lips and spoke quietly, “So, you actually got to meet the family?” He had never met them, but he had heard their names on occasion.
Andy nodded slowly, “Yeah, the girls have some new little cousins...”
James looked shocked and Miranda clarified. “Natalie's girl, Dinah, gave birth twins recently.”
“Ah,” James exhaled noisily and pushed up out of the seat, “Well, I should be going...”
“You could stay...” Miranda offered. “I'm sure the girls would like it if you joined us for lunch.”
“Oh,” He shook his head, “I appreciate the offer, but I need to be getting back.” He hesitated then sighed, “Candice has Lamaze class this afternoon, I um...” he winced and tried not to look at Miranda, “I told her I'd be there.”
Andy felt the air in the room chill and she stood as Miranda did.
“Very well.” Miranda pressed her lips together, then nodded once, “I'll just go get the girls so they can say goodbye.” She walked out of the room quickly.
James started after her, “Mira...” He found himself stopped by strong hands gripping his arm. Swinging around brought him face to face with dark, unsympathetic eyes.
“I'll take care of her,” She told him in no uncertain terms. Something had just happened that hurt Miranda and Andy meant to keep it from happening again. “It would be best for you to just leave after you say goodbye to the girls.”
“I didn't mean to upset her...”
Nodding, Andy patted his arm and took control of herself, a bit of warmth seeping back into her eyes. She did actually like the man, and the girls loved him. “I'll calm her down... we'll talk later.”
“Good luck.” He vividly recalled Miranda's moods and wouldn't want to be in Andy's shoes for anything right now. The girls rushing down the stairs drew his attention and he started his goodbyes as Andy walked up the stairs to find the irate woman.
Andy moved into the sunroom slowly. She settled into the chair next to the one Miranda was rocking in. She didn't speak, she just sat and looked out at the blue sky with the fluffy clouds drifting past. They sat for a long moment in silence before the girls found them.
“Dad left...” Caroline sat on the arm of the chair Andy was in. “... can we watch some TV?”
Andy glanced at Miranda, sitting with Cassidy snuggling in by her side. “I dunno, I was thinking maybe a movie. You guys wanna go pick one out?”
Caroline whispered, “Is Mom sad?”
“I dunno, Munchkin...” Andy sighed, “Give us a minute and I'll try to find out.”
Nodding Caroline, climbed down off the chair and gestured to her sister. “C'mon, Cass... Let's go pick out a movie.”
Cassidy protested, but went with her sister.
Alone again, Andy asked quietly. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Nodding, Andy pressed her lips together and smiled before responding, “Okay.” Silence again occupied the space between them broken by the rhythmic sound of Miranda rocking in the chair and an occasional overly loud exhale. When Miranda finally spoke, it was so quiet, Andy wasn't sure if she was supposed to hear it or not.
“I begged him.”
Swallowing hard, Andy held her lips together with her fingers, not wanting to interrupt Miranda.
Glancing over at her companion, Miranda appreciated the effort the woman was making to stay silent. “When I was pregnant with the girls, I... begged, James to go to those classes with me.”
“And he didn't??”
Andy was appalled, How could he do that? “I'm so sorry, Miranda.” I would have been there for you. Andy watched as Miranda seemed to struggle with herself then found herself astonished at Miranda's next statement.
“I would be there for you,” Blue eyes turned to the young woman next to her, darting quickly to her flat stomach before refocusing on wide dark eyes. “If you were to ever...want...” Another quick glance at Andrea's stomach was all Miranda could take before she looked completely away. Andrea filled in the last words in a high pitched squeak.
“A baby?” Andy blinked as Miranda nodded, still unable to look her direction. Andy moved out of her seat, dropping to her knees in front of Miranda's chair. Reaching up, she gently forced the woman's attention to her. “What makes you think I want a baby?”
“I...” Miranda took a deep breath, trying not to get lost in the dark eyes studying her. “I saw you with Dinah's babies in London.” She felt her heart clench at the memory. I do not want another child. Miranda had realized that in London. She thought her current situation was as close to perfect as she could ever expect to achieve. That life, however, included Andrea and Miranda knew in her heart that she would and could, support Andrea in any decision the young woman made. If Andrea chose to have a child, Miranda would live with it, she would have to, because living without Andrea, if that was even possible, would only be surviving, not living at all. “Even Asher could see the softness in your face as you looked at the infant in your arms...”
“Miranda...” Andy shifted again, sitting on the arm of the overstuffed rocking chair, “You saw the look on my face and thought I wanted a baby of my own?” She waited for Miranda to confirm the yes answer with a nod. “Oh, Miranda...”
“It's only natural, Andrea. You're young, the desire to have children is perfectly normal, especially when confronted with two such cute infants.” Miranda closed her eyes as Andrea's arms slid around her shoulders. “It's just... I didn't know if I...”
“Shhh...” Andy kissed the top of Miranda's head and rested her cheek there. “My turn to talk.” She smiled as Miranda remained silent. “The look you saw was, in fact, me wishing that I could have babies of my own...the problem you see, is that I don't want to have babies with anyone other than you.”
“Shhh...” Andy pressed her fingers gently against Miranda's lips. “Still me talking.” She smiled softly and repeated, “I only want children with you and in case you haven't noticed... We already have children. What you saw was me wishing that I had been there when Caroline and Cassidy were small.” She sighed and felt her eyes tearing up. “I've missed so much of their lives Miranda.... their first smiles, their first laughs... first steps... potty training... the first time they tried strained peas... the first time they went to a real restaurant...their first piano recital...” Andy took a deep breath, “I love them so much, and I've missed everything...”
Miranda shifted, pulling Andrea down from the arm of the chair until the young woman wasn't exactly sitting on her lap, but it was very close. The dark head rested on her shoulders. “I missed all those things too.” I was too busy with work. She held the upset woman close. “But it doesn't mean I don't love them any less, or that they don't love me.” One arm dropped to hold the legs draped over hers in place. “There will be many more 'firsts' to deal with.” She recalled something from just a few days ago, “You've already helped Cassidy with her first crush.”
“Well, not exactly helped...” Andy had told Miranda about the teacher worship Cassidy was exhibiting toward Ms. Bax, but only after she'd checked the woman out and found absolutely nothing to be concerned over as her initial instinct had told her.
“She will move on to someone else eventually, crushes come and go.” Miranda turned to direct her focus on Andy, “Love is forever.”
“Oh god,” Andy thought, “We've still got a lot of firsts to go through... first boyfriend...” or girlfriend in Cassidy's case.
Miranda nodded. “First heartache...”
“First time driving...”
“Date?!” Andy wriggled free and stood with her hands on her hips, “Date? When are they going to be allowed to date?”
Miranda laughed, “You were okay with 'first boyfriend' but 'first date' has you upset?”
“You can have a boyfriend,” or girlfriend, “in school, Miranda... someone to walk to class with, sit with in the cafeteria or in the gym at school functions... but a date??” Andy shook her head. “I don't like it.”
Miranda laughed and stood. “They'll have to date at some point Andrea... just the same as any of us. The age James and I have previously agreed upon is sixteen for individual dates. I'm sure there will be group outings before that...” Linking her arm in her fiancee's, Miranda began leading the concerned woman downstairs. “Right now you and I have a movie waiting on us and then I will need to return to the office for a while.”
Nodding, Andy followed Miranda down to the television room, where Caroline and Cassidy already had the movie cued up, and had even sweet talked Peggy into making some popcorn. Munching on a handful of the snackies, Andy curled up on the couch next to Miranda and settled in to watch the movie. Caroline had picked a live action version of Alice in Wonderland this time, Andy wondered if the girls did that on purpose, edging away from the more cartoony shows, but still holding on to the fantasy aspect.
“Andy, wake up!” Caroline shook the sleeping woman's shoulders trying to stay away from the long flailing arms. “Wake up, Ma!”
With a gasp, Andy sat straight up on the couch. “Caroline?” She looked around, “Where's Miranda?” She glanced at the clock, “Oh, she went to the office?”
Nodding Caroline let out a sigh of relief, “Yeah, she left a while ago. She said not to wake you, but I think you were having a nightmare.”
“Oh, yeah, sorry Munchkin... “ She ran her fingers through her hair and tried to recall any of the images that were now fading from her mind. “I wish I could remember...” she sighed, “It's already fading.”
“You don't remember anything?”
Andy wasn't about to tell Caroline about the vague feeling of loss she always had when she woke up from one of these nightmares, the sense that Miranda had not been there with her. A wisp of an image floated through her mind this time though, “I think there was something...about babies.”
“Babies?” Caroline was aghast, “You aren't pregnant are you?”
“No!” Andy laughed at the exaggerated relief Caroline pantomimed. “Your mother and I were talking about babies before the movie...”
“But you're not pregnant.”
“Who's pregnant?” Cassidy walked into the room with a bag of chips and two cokes. She looked at Andy with an expression very close to horror, “Are you pregnant?!”
“No!” Andy laughed, “I am not now, nor do I have any plans to become, pregnant!”
“Oh...” Cassidy rolled her eyes, “Thank God.” Then she froze in place. “Is Mom?”
Covering her eyes, Andy couldn't help but laugh at that. “No,” She managed to speak between the spasms of laughter. “Miranda is not pregnant either.” She took a deep breath and calmed herself. “Do you even know how women get pregnant?”
Cassidy shrugged, “Sure.”
Caroline informed Andy. “We asked Mom once... she told us the most horrible, disgusting story we'd ever heard... I swear, I'm surprised we aren't traumatized by it.”
Cassidy piped up, cheerfully, “We may still be...” She shuddered comically at the memory.
Andy laughed unable to even begin to imagine what Miranda would have told the curious girls. “So when did you find out the truth?”
Caroline shook her head sadly and with barely a glance at her sister, the girl put her hand on Andy's shoulder, solemnly informing her. “Ma... that was the truth.”
Laughing again, Andy pushed herself off the couch and stretched her arms over her head, “You doing another movie?”
“Nah,” Cassidy picked up a game controller. “Video games.”
“Uh huh...” Andy reminded them, “Don't play too long. You have a study group tomorrow, have you read the book you all picked out yet?” She grinned at their exchanged glances and knowing their usual habit of each reading half then filling the other in on the details, asked, “... at least your half of it?”
“We'll read it later, Ma,” Caroline turned to the game and the next two words came out of both girls simultaneously.
To be continued