Like Love – Part 7
Andy walked up the steps to the townhouse, ignoring the reporters yelling questions at her back. Well the kids are gonna have fun wading through that mess. The urge to call Jo was strong, but she hated the idea of having the police force on call. It was nice, but it was starting to seem like she was taking advantage of her friendship with Jo. Andy wondered if she should ask Jo or even Jeff for some names of police officers who might want to earn a few extra dollars as a security detail in their off time, to escort their guests through the horde from time to time. If this kind of thing was going to continue, they might just need that kind of help.
Entering the house, Andy quickly went up to the sun room and started her laptop then went to find Peggy. This time of day the woman was normally in the kitchen. “Hello, Peggy.”
“Hi, Andy.” The housekeeper smiled. “Good day?”
“Yeah,” The brunette smiled. “I talked to my Gram and after that to my Ma for a minute. They’re gonna come stay for a few days next weekend, to help with some of the decisions I need to make for the wedding.”
“That’s great! I’ll be sure and have the guest rooms all spiffed up.”
“Yeah, I’ll be glad of the help making some of the decisions…” Andy rolled her eyes. “…especially the dress. It’s weird not being able to ask Miranda about something so important I need to wear!”
Peggy chuckled. “It depends on if your tastes run the same or not… don’t want you to be at odds over the decisions to make.”
“Nah…” Andy was confident on that point. “They’re mostly gonna be for moral support, I’ll make the decisions.”
“Good for you.” Peggy encouraged. “It’s your day. Make it the way you want.”
“My day…” Andy mumbled almost to herself and thought, not entirely. “Well right now we need to concentrate on the girls. Their study group is coming over so I think snacks are in order.”
Peggy nodded. “I can do a veggie tray, and a fruit tray,” She opened the fridge to gather the named items. “You know though, kids… would probably want chips and dip too.”
Andy sighed and reluctantly moved to the corner cabinet. She opened the door and moving aside a large cookie sheet, retrieved three bags; tortilla chips, Ruffles and some nacho flavored Doritos. She looked at Peggy’s wry grin and chuckled. “The things I do for these kids, I swear.”
“Good thing Miranda hasn’t found your stash…” Peggy laughed. “Then you’d be in for it.”
Rolling her eyes at that, Andy hid her blush. It wasn’t that Miranda cared so much what she ate, because with the running and other exercise she did, Andy remained fit. And in fact when Andy had brought up the subject of losing a bit to prepare for the wedding gown search, Miranda had been, well, appalled was the only word that fit. Andy had been told in no uncertain terms that she was perfect the way she was and losing even one pound would be tantamount to a sin. The concern was for the girls and Miranda didn’t want them to have access to the salty, bad-for-you snacks on a regular basis. Once in a while, though, like today for the gathering was fine.
Andy also knew they were a weakness of Miranda’s but she didn’t tell Peggy that. Miranda had caught her once, at the beginning of their relationship, eating Cheese Doodles and the fashion queen had ‘helped’ her finish the entire bag. It was an eye opening experience and Miranda had informed her in no uncertain terms that that particular snack was not to be introduced into this house again.
“I’m just going to get these trays ready.” Peggy began peeling and washing the vegetables.
“You want me to help?” Andy wasn’t that great a cook, but she could peel veggies and cut up fruit.
“Nah… this is my job after all.” She shooed the young woman away. “Why don’t you go on and do yours?”
Snagging a small carrot, Andy crunched down on the sweet bite and laughed. “Yes ma’am.”
Peggy chuckled as Andy grabbed an apple and left the kitchen quickly. Peggy was right, she had work to do.
Dorothy widened her eyes and almost laughed until she realized he was serious. She repeated the relevant word. “Can’t?”
“You can’t go.” Richard set his jaw and crossed his arms. “I won’t let you go.”
Incredulous now, Dorothy blinked. “Won’t let me?” The man was often controlling, but this was just too much.
“That’s right.” The muscles in his jaw tensed for a second. “I forbid it.”
Dorothy licked through her pursed lips and was now on the verge of anger as she repeated the latest infuriating word. “Forbid...”
“She’s my daughter, Richard!” Dorothy used her sternest 'teacher' tones to press her statement home. “I am going to be a part of her wedding.”
Richard still felt his stomach turn at the thought of his daughter and another woman together. “It’s not right, you shouldn’t approve of it. You shouldn’t help…”
“I shouldn’t approve of my daughter being happy with the person she loves?” Dorothy frowned. “What is wrong with you?”
“Wrong with me?!” The man almost laughed and ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m not the one…” He stopped himself, barely, from saying something about his own daughter that he couldn’t take back. “I don’t understand it, her…” He swallowed his revulsion. “…them.”
“You should go and visit them.” Dorothy almost pleaded with her husband. “She’s so happy Richard, she’s so much in love.”
“She can’t be! Not with a woman, not like that!” He crossed his arms stubbornly. “I won’t believe it.”
“You would.” Dorothy sighed, “If you’d just open your eyes and see.”
Shaking his head, Richard spoke through clenched teeth, “Never.”
Exhaling in frustration, Dorothy just shook her head and left the room. There was no use in trying to convince the man, she knew when he’d dug in to an idea like this it was best to just let him think about it for a while. He wasn’t going to stop her from helping Andy with her big day though.
She had given Richard a lot of leeway over the years because of their marriage and the fact that she loved him, but he had no right to stop her from participating in her daughter’s wedding, that she wouldn’t allow.
Andy took a deep breath and stepped out of the townhouse’s front door. Immediately the reporter’s pounced, a thousand flashes went off and it took at least a minute to calm them down. Finally Andy’s voice could be heard over the cacophony. “Miranda and I have already spoken to a reporter from the Times. Mr. Thompson also gave his statement. The story will appear in tomorrow’s paper. I would respectfully ask that you leave now.” She sighed as none of the people gathered moved an inch. “If you do decide to remain, I ask that you leave the children arriving this afternoon alone. They have nothing to do with this situation. Miranda’s request remains in effect, the girls, and their friends, are off limits.” A surprise question reached her.
“How are the wedding plans coming along?”
Despite herself, Andy smiled. “Plans are going well, thank you.”
“Are any of the press going to be invited?”
Andy responded truthfully. “Miranda and I have not discussed that yet.” She allowed for the possibility. “Most likely there will be a few representatives of the press at the reception.” At least some of the fashion reporters from the larger magazines… She thought, and maybe…
“Have you set a date?”
Grinning at the questioner, Andy nodded. “Yes, we have.” She held up her hands as a barrage of questions were flung at her. “I really need to get some things finished. Again, there is no need for you to stay, but if you do, please leave our guests alone. Thank you.” Without another word, Andy turned and re-entered the house.
“This is so cool!”
Roy grinned at the comment from the backseat and he glanced in the rear view mirror in time to see Caroline roll her eyes just like he’d seen Miranda do a million times before. Unlike her mother, however, the girl was crammed into the back of the car with three of her giggling friends. And he grinned at the boy sitting next to him up front as Caroline jostled her cohorts around.
“It’s usually a lot less crowded!”
There was some more jostling and laughing as the kids teased Caroline about being chauffeured, “like someone important”.
Roy knew that some of the kids who went to Dalton were on the same social level as Caroline and Cassidy, but the ones in the car with them now didn’t seem to be quite up to that level. They had to be a little well off though to even be attending the elite private school, just possibly not quite as well off as Miranda and the girls’ father were. Speaking quietly to Caroline, Roy gave her a head’s up. “The reporters were back this morning, after you left.”
“Really?” The girl’s eyes widened as the rest of the car went silent. “Why?”
Clearing his throat, Roy gripped the steering wheel tighter. “You might want to ask Andy that.” He winced a little and told the child. “Someone is saying some fairly unkind things about her, and your mom.”
“Oh,” Caroline thought about that. “Does Mom know who?”
“Yes,” Roy made a turn as he nodded. “I believe she does.”
Watching the passing buildings pensively, Caroline sighed. “They’re toast then.”
“Yeah,” Roy grinned at the girl. “That would be my guess too.”
Caroline pulled out her cell phone and called her sister’s number. “The losers are back.”
“No way!” Cassidy looked around the car she was riding in, settling her gaze on the driver, their faculty adviser, Ms. Bax, but continued her conversation with her sister. “Why?”
Caroline answered with a scoff. “Doesn’t matter right now. We can talk to Andy about it when we get home.”
“Okay, Caroline.” Cassidy gave a long exhale and closed her phone. She just hoped the reporters would leave their friends alone.
Mark, sitting next to Roy, was the oldest of their group and usually the quietest. He turned and asked Caroline. “Andy’s going to be there?!”
Caroline rolled her eyes again. “Of course she is, she lives there, duh!” Then her eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“Why?! Duh! I’ve seen pictures of her, she’s hot!” The boy ran his fingers through his short dark hair even as his red headed friend wrinkled her nose.
“What?!” Mark grinned, his vivid blue eyes twinkled. “She is!” He looked to the other male in the car. “She is! Right Roy?”
The driver chuckled and shook his head. “Oh no, don’t drag me into this conversation.”
One of the other girls in the backseat reached up to smack the boy in the back of the head. “Dude, she’s like…Ro’s Mom!”
That thought deflated him a bit. “Oh, right.” He smiled weakly. “Sorry, Ro.”
Caroline waved off the apology. She knew that most people found Andy attractive. It was something she and Cassidy had to deal with and so long as Andy didn’t act on any of the offers she got, the girls were okay with it. It was kind of cool really. Caroline liked that so many people thought Andy was beautiful, or hot, or whatever because whatever people thought Andy was, Caroline knew, Andy’s ours. She smiled a little, knowing her mother felt the same way and better yet, Andy did too.
Instead of dwelling on Mark’s insanely inappropriate remark, Caroline decided to give her friends a little tutorial on how to deal with the reporters when they got to the house. She was fairly sure Cassidy was giving the rest of their group, in the other car, the same instructions.
Andy was waiting for them at the door. She was glad that the reporters had thinned out and the ones that were left didn’t say a word to the kids as they walked up the sidewalk. A couple of pictures were taken though when one of the girls stopped and posed for the cameras. “Hey guys! Welcome.” She’d changed into some not quite tight faded jeans and fairly form fitting brown t-shirt with the breast cancer slogan ‘Fight like a girl’ in pink lettering across the front. She looked very casual, much more so than the girls had seen her ever be in front of company. Of course, company didn’t usually comprise six kids their own age and one adult advisor from school. In fact, they rarely had company at all.
Caroline’s lips pressed together so very much like Miranda’s that Andy almost laughed. Smiling, she brushed the girl’s cheek with her fingertips and winked. “It’s okay to be casual every once in a while.”
“I guess.” Caroline looked dubious.
“Even your mom wore jeans to my birthday party.” Andy reminded her.
“True.” The girl’s eyes appraised the tall woman again. “And I guess they are designer jeans…”
laughed at the appraisal, eerily similar to Miranda’s, and
tapped the child on the nose. “You bet they are, Munchkin.”
She grinned. “Miranda wouldn’t have it any other way.
Dropping the subject, Caroline gestured back toward the door. “Cassidy and the others will be here soon. She decided to ride with Ms. Bax, in case she couldn’t find the house.”
Nodding, Andy smiled at the kids present. “Why don’t you go ahead and introduce me to these guys and Cassidy can do the honors with the others.”
“Sure.” Caroline turned to see her friends all lined up in the hallway. Turning her eyes skyward for a moment, she began to name off the kids. “That’s Mark, Heather, Amber and Allison.” She gestured to Andy. “Guys, this is my Andy.”
“'Your' Andy?” Mark grinned at his friend then blinked as Andy wrapped her arms around the girl’s shoulders. Caroline smiled and laughed at the jostling.
“Yeah, there are a lot of Andy’s in the world, this one is mine.” Caroline tilted her head to listen as Andy whispered in her ear, she wrinkled her nose when the tall woman was finished speaking. “Ewwww…”
Laughing at that, Andy released the girl’s shoulders with a final pat. “You guys can go on upstairs if you want.”
“Yeah,” Caroline gestured for them to follow her. “C’mon guys.”
Andy watched them go and wondered if she would be able to remember their names. She suddenly understood at least superficially, why Miranda found it so easy to just call everyone Emily. She started into the kitchen when her phone rang. Knowing from the ringtone who it was, Andy answered with a smile. “Hey, Sweetie.”
“Ma, we’re pulling up in front of the house.” Cassidy asked. “Are the others here yet?”
“Yeah, they got here a few minutes ago.”
“Great!” Cassidy pulled the phone away and spoke to the woman driving. “You can park here, the other car has already gone.” She spoke to Andy again. “We’ll be right in.”
Andy put her phone away and went to the door, opening it for the second wave of kids. “Welcome!” She gestured the kids and the older woman inside without any interference from the remaining reporters. Sparing a glance at the people gathered in front of the house, she pressed her hands together in front of her and bowed slightly. “Thanks guys.” The reporters smiled and some of them waved before she closed the door. Turning to the new arrivals she grinned at Cassidy. “Care to introduce me?”
“Sure.” The girl pointed to the kids with her. “This is Sarah, Devon, Hunter and Ms. Bax.” She moved to Andy’s side, wrapping her arms around the tall brunette’s waist, and looked at her friends. “This is Andy.”
“Hey guys.” Andy grinned at the kids. “Caroline and the others are already upstairs.”
Ms. Bax moved forward keeping her features carefully professional. “Ms. Sachs, it’s so nice to finally meet you.” She extended her hand to shake with Andy. “Cassidy and Caroline have told me so much about you.”
“Andy, please. They talk about me? Really?” Andy returned the shorter woman’s firm handshake, absently noting how different the teacher’s hand was compared to Miranda’s. She chuckled. “They don’t talk much about school when they’re home.”
Jostling Cassidy’s shoulder, Andy suggested. “Why don’t you take your friends upstairs? I’ll bring up some snacks.”
“I’ll help.” Ms. Bax smiled.
Andy was quietly amazed as the smile transformed the fairly stern looking teacher into a rather beautiful woman. The corners of her blue eyes crinkled as she peered out from under her dark bangs, and a small dimple appeared in her right cheek.
“Excellent.” Andy laughed and looked at Cassidy. “We’ll be up in a minute.”
Cassidy shook her head. “I’ll help.” She went to the bottom of the stairs and yelled. “CAROLINE!”
“Cassidy!” It was so rare for voices to be raised in the house Andy was momentarily shocked. A voice from above interrupted any response.
“WHAT?” Caroline looked down over the stair railing and saw their friends there. She gestured to the new arrivals. “C’mon up.”
Andy gave Cassidy a gentle nudge toward the kitchen. “Let’s grab those snacks.”
Nodding, Cassidy led the way to the kitchen, giving a gleeful ‘Yay’ when she saw the chip and dip platter. She grabbed the sectioned serving tray and met the adults coming in. “I’ll take this on up.”
Laughing, Andy gestured behind her with her thumb. “G’wan, Ms. Bax and I will get the healthy stuff.”
The girl left the kitchen and Andy chuckled when the teacher commented, “Cassidy is so funny and it’s Nora by the way.”
“They can both be a handful at times.” Andy opened the fridge and pulled the fruit and veggie trays out, setting them on the counter.
“Wow, you went all out.” Nora blinked at the ‘snacks’ arranged on the platters, “Those look great.”
Laughing, Andy ruffled her bangs, “I didn’t, Peggy wouldn’t let me.” At the teacher’s confused look, Andy clarified. “The cook, slash housekeeper.”
“Ah,” Nora slid onto one of the breakfast bar stools, resting her chin on her hand as she watched Andy carefully. “What’s that like? Having servants?”
Shaking her head, Andy began to gather some drinks from the fridge, several different choices of drinks, fruit juices and bottled water. “It’s weird, definitely different, I’m just a middle class girl from Ohio.” She grinned at the woman’s laugh and rolled her eyes self-deprecatingly, admitting, “And it’s strangely easy to get used to.” She chuckled again as her guest looked around curiously. “I sent her home early.”
Nora laughed louder and slid off the stool. “No reason she should be subjected to the pack.” She picked up the platter with the decoratively arranged fruit pieces on it. “Shall we?”
Nodding, Andy balanced the veggie tray on top of the drink tray. “Yep…” she pointed to the back stairs. “Up the stairs, follow the sounds of the explosions...” Picking up the trays she followed the woman, carefully.
Andy’s instructions had been accurate and the women had found half the group avidly watching the other four playing a horribly violent video game on the big screen. It was one Miranda only barely tolerated and that was only because the violence was fantastic in nature, not realistic. Four rounds of the game later and after a heated debate about the influence violent video games had on today's youth, the group was all arranged on cushions around the coffee table that held the remains of the snack trays. They were talking and laughing about school and how glad they were that it was over for the summer so they wouldn’t have to be under the teacher’s rule anymore.
“You know.” Ms. Bax grinned at the kids. “I could take offense at this conversation. Not all the teachers are that bad!”
“’Course not,” Cassidy looked up from her cushion nearly at the teacher’s feet and smiled. “Not you, Ms. Bax.”
Nora laughed and patted the girl’s shoulder. “Thanks, Cass.”
Andy blinked at the nickname. When she saw Cassidy’s smile and the adoration in the girl's eyes, Andy opened her mouth slightly in surprise. Before she could stop it, a sound escaped and she tilted her head in question at Cassidy, her dark eyes alternated quickly between the girl and Ms. Bax. Cassidy’s quick study of the fringe on the pillow she was sitting on and the pink tinge gracing the child’s cheeks confirmed Andy’s guess. Cassidy’s crush was on the teacher!
“You know what?” Andy began to consolidate the remaining snacks, then decided against it and just piled one tray on top of the other. “I could really use a cup of tea.” She turned to the only other adult in the room. “Care to join me?”
Nora smiled. “That sounds lovely.” She unloaded the few unopened bottles of juice and water, then picked up the tray they’d been on, to carry it back downstairs.
Andy informed the kids. “We’ll be in the kitchen if you need anything.” She picked up the decimated snack platters and left.
“Your parents should be arriving soon to pick you up.” Ms. Bax grinned at the group. “I let you slide today because of the newness of the casual format, but you need to pick a book to read and review for the next meeting. You also need to decide whose house you’ll be at next time.”
Cassidy watched her favorite teacher walk out of the room and tried not to be jealous of Andy getting to spend time with the woman. It’s not like anything’s going to happen between them, she told herself, Andy’s totally in love with Mom! Her attention was drawn to the others already talking about which book they wanted to pick for their next meeting.
To be continued