DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To emeraldorchids[at]outlook.com

By emeraldorchids



The first three months weren't perfect, but nevertheless, Miranda was happier than she had been in a long time. After the first week or so, her anxiety waned and she thoroughly enjoyed spending her days with her newborns.

In September, when the babies were just eight weeks old, Andrea started her job at the Mirror. She loved the work, but hated leaving Miranda and the babies at home. Cassidy and Caroline returned to school, and resumed spending every other weekend at James' home. Miranda hired a nanny—Karen, the sister of her midwife Alice—and she helped with the babies' laundry and helped out during feedings. For the most part, Miranda was able to do it herself, but it was nice to have an extra pair of hands around, especially since Miranda would eventually have to go back to work.

"Hello, I'm home," Andrea said, closing the door behind her.

"Thank god," Caroline said. "Andy, I have to write a character analysis for English and I need help. Mom said she didn't know what a character foil was. Seriously, she doesn't know anything anymore."

"It's because I spend all my day with two twelve-week-old babies," Miranda said, walking over and giving Andrea a kiss. "How was your day? Did you have a chance to talk with John?"

Andrea smiled. "Care, I'll take a look at your English assignment after dinner. Do your other homework first." She turned back to Miranda and kissed the baby in her arms. "I had my one-on-one with John just before I left. He liked that online project, and said he'd talk to the publishing team about it next week."

"That's wonderful, darling. Soon you'll be running the company," she said.

"Hardly. I've been there four weeks, Miranda. Did you call Irv?"

Miranda took a deep breath. "Yes. Nigel came by for lunch, and I discussed it with him. I won't return until the first of the year."

"And Irv was okay with that?"

"Well, he wasn't thrilled. I told him I was dealing with some postpartum depression and struggling to get back to my pre-pregnancy body. At least that last part is true."

"Oh stop," Andrea said, wrapping her arms around her and gently nuzzling her neck. "You are absolutely gorgeous."

"Mooom, Callie needs her diaper changed!" Cassidy called from the living room.

Miranda rolled her eyes. "Remind me why they're incapable of changing diapers?"

"I believe the word was 'icky,'" Andrea said, taking Catherine from her arms. "Come here, Cate, did you have a good day with Mommy?" she asked. Andrea carried her to the dining room where Cara was setting the table.

"Hi, Andy. Dinner in about twenty minutes—turkey tacos, black beans, and maybe even some margaritas if Miranda wants," Cara said.

"Sounds delicious. I'll talk her into one if you promise not to make hers too strong," she said.

Andrea joined Miranda and Cassidy in the living room as Miranda was finishing changing Callie's diaper.

"Might as well change Cate's, too," Miranda said, reaching out for her little one.

"Are the babies going to eat with us again?" Cassidy asked. "Well, you know, not eat eat, but like, sit in their high chairs again while we eat?"

"I think so, what do you say, Miranda?"

"Yes. Karen and I had them in the chairs this afternoon again and they're doing really well—reclined, of course. Callie still has a tendency to fall forward, so we'll just have to keep a close eye on her."

"Can I put her in her chair now?" Cassidy asked.

"Only if you are going to sit in there with her," Andrea said.

"Have Cara help you, Bobbsey," Miranda said. She finished changing Cate's diaper and Cara came and got her, taking her to the dining room, too.

Andrea whispered something into Miranda's ear as she led her towards the stairs. "We'll be down in a minute. Don't eat without us!" Andrea called. "Caroline? Please come down and sit with your sisters at the table."

Once upstairs in their bedroom, Miranda unbuttoned her blouse and sat on the edge of the chaise, scooting the small tray table with the breast pump closer. She carefully attached the cups and leaned back against Andrea. The young woman pressed a gentle kiss to her shoulder and slipped her hands around so she was gently massaging her left breast. Miranda reached down and applied compression to her right, sighing softly as she tilted her head back against Andrea's shoulder.

"Irv wants to publish a photo of the babies," Miranda said quietly. "Of course, I told him we would have to talk it over."

"I would prefer we didn't, but I guess better to be Runway than People or Entertainment Weekly," Andrea said.

"How would you feel about a family photo?"

"You mean you and all four girls?"

"And you, naturally," Miranda said. "The magazine is falling short against its fourth quarter projections, and that will mean lowering the rate base for next year. He was hoping for some catchy story to drive sales, and apparently our editorial staff is so uninspired, they've decided to sell personal photos of the editor instead."

"We don't have to do it," Andrea said. "Do we?"

"No, it's a choice. And I think it's one we have been too reluctant to make. I could write the December/January Holiday Issue editor's letter and maybe you can help. Rachel could see when Patrick or Annie is free to come here and shoot the photo, but it would have to be no later than November 1." She gave her breasts a quick squeeze and disengaged the pumps. "Would that work?" she asked as she began to button her blouse back up.

"Ok." Andrea took the bottles and set them in the small refrigerator they had setup in the bedroom, along with a small microwave. That way, if Andrea needed to help with a feeding in the middle of the night, they didn't have to leave the room. "What do you think about including everyone? Helen, James, my parents?"

"Let's ask the girls. Come on," Miranda said, tugging Andrea towards the dining room. "I believe there is a margarita awaiting me downstairs."

Miranda thanked Cara for the margarita, and also for making Caroline and Cassidy some frozen lemon-lime slushes. They began eating in the dining room a few months ago when they realized the kitchen just wasn't big enough anymore. The table comfortably sat four without the leaf, and with the leaf in, there wasn't room for the highchairs. Now, the girls and Andrea were able to spread their work out on the kitchen table.

"Girls, I wanted to wait until Andrea was home to tell you—"

"You're having another baby?" Caroline asked.

"Caroline," Miranda said, glaring. "That is not even funny." She looked over at Andrea who was staring down at her plate, trying not to laugh. "Cut it out," she said, softly kicking the brunette under the table.

Andrea took a deep breath and a sip of her margarita. "What your mom was trying to tell you is that she's not officially going back to work until January 1st," Andrea said.

"Uh-oh. 'Officially?'" Cassidy asked.

"Well, I'm certainly not going back to the office until then, but I agreed to help out with Runway's Holiday issue. Nigel will be very busy with Paris Fashion week, so I will be writing the Editor's Note, and thanking everyone for making 2007 such an incredible year," Miranda explained before taking a bite of her taco.

"But you weren't even working there for half the year," Caroline said.

"Right, and that's why everyone thinks it's important for your mom to show that she's still here and that Runway is as valuable as ever," Andrea said.

"I want to include a family picture with this note," Miranda said. "Are you girls okay with that?"

Andrea was surprised she asked them. She was under the impression that Miranda had already made her decision.

"Sure. Like, are you just going to pick a photo from an album or something?"

"No, Bobbsey, we'll have a photographer come here to our home and do a very small photo shoot."

"Will Mr. Patrick come again? I still remember how he told me to jump," Cassidy said excitedly.

Miranda smiled. "We haven't decided yet, but I will definitely ask Patrick, and I'm sure if he is available he would love to come back," she said. "Who do you think should be in the photo?"

Andrea observed this conversation with amazement. This was why Miranda was so good at her job. She could anticipate others' objections, and knew how to steer the conversation so they thought it was their idea, when in reality, it was her plan all along.

"Well, you, me, Cass, Cate, Callie, and Andy, obviously," Caroline said.

"And what about Dad and Grandma and Grandpa?" Cassidy said.

"Grandma Helen and Grandpa George or Grandma Mary Ann and Grandpa Rich?" Caroline asked.

"Both, right?"

"Yeah. Oh, and Patricia," Caroline said.

"Of course. I almost forgot about her, how is she doing?" Miranda asked, casually looking across the table and smiling at Andrea as she traced her toe up the woman's ankle.

"Good. Dad just took her to the vet and he said she's healthy as a horse," Cassidy said, causing both girls to erupt in laughter.

Miranda smiled and sat back. The girls were laughing, Andrea was wiping drool off her chin, and Catherine was smiling as she reached for her own toes. A single tear escaped her eye, and of course, Andrea noticed, softly brushing her shin under the table.

She looked up and met her eyes. Are you okay? they asked.

Miranda smiled and nodded, taking a sip of her margarita. "I have an idea," she announced. "For this photo, how about everyone picks out their own outfit? Girls, you can decide what Cate and Callie will wear."

Everyone stopped eating and stared at Miranda.

"Are you feeling okay, Mom?"

"Did I hear you right?"

"You're kidding."

Miranda chuckled and shook her head. "We've taken so many photos where everyone dresses in the same cream sweaters and we're all posed and perfect. That's too…I don't know, fake. Anyone can fake a photo, but you all are perfect just the way you are. I want everyone to see that. I want them to see what makes me so happy each and every day."

"So does this mean Andy can wear that Northwestern hoodie?" Caroline asked with a snicker.

Miranda rolled her eyes. "I would hope she would select something more appropriate for publication, but if she so chooses, yes, she may wear it," she said.

"As much as I like my sweatshirt, I wouldn't really want to be seen outside the house in it. There's mascara stains on the sleeve, and now spit up stains on the shoulder," Andrea said. "I only wear that when we go to bed," she added with a wink.

"Oh my god, you guys—gross!" Caroline said.

Miranda bit her lip. "Girls, if you remember, there are two four-month-olds that sleep between us in bed, so I don't know what you're implying is so gross."

Caroline made a face and continued eating her taco.

After dinner, Caroline went to do her homework while Cassidy went to sit with Andrea. Miranda was upstairs getting the bath ready for Cate and Callie.

"What's up, Cass?" she asked.

"Um, I just want to say thank you," she said, climbing up into Andrea's lap.

"For what, sweetie?"

"Making Mom happy."

"Oh, Cass, you and your sister make your mom very happy, too. It's not me," Andrea said, hugging her gently.

"No. I mean, I know we make her happy and all, but since you've been here, she's been really happy. Like, really-extra-super happy."

"Sweetie, Cate and Callie make your mom happy, too."

"No, Andy, you don't get it. You didn't see her before—with Stephen. She hardly smiled, she was always reading something, she never laughed. We had dinner together—all of us—maybe once a month. Maybe."

Andrea opened her mouth once again to protest, but Cassidy quickly continued. "See, just this. Mom usually hates when people talk so much and keep disagreeing. But when you do it, she gets all smiley and lets it go. Andy, when we were in Mexico for Christmas, I heard Mom call you and say she missed you."

"I thought you two were sleeping?"

"Caro was. I was watching Mom on the balcony. Her whole face looked happy when she was talking to you. And that was before the babies."

Andrea shrugged. "I suppose you're right, then. Your mom makes me happy, too. You all do."

Cassidy hugged her tightly and stayed like that for a few minutes. "Andy, if you and mom fight, and you move out, can we come spend weekends with you like we do with dad?"

Andrea leaned back and gently tilted the young girl's chin upwards so she could look in her eye. "Darling, I'm never moving out."

She shrugged. "Stephen said that, too, when we first met him."

Andrea looked up and Caroline was leaning against the doorway. "Come here," she said, patting the couch next to her. She wrapped her arms around both girls. "Listen, your mom and I love each other very much and we're going to spend the rest of our lives together. That doesn't mean we will never fight—that's natural, people are going to disagree at some point or another. I will never walk away from you. And if—if, if, if—your mother decides she no longer wants me around, she better be prepared because I will put up one heck of a fight for you four girls."

"Do you mean it?"

"I absolutely do," Andrea said. "You're my family now. I'm going to watch you graduate from college, find your first apartment, get married, have your own children, and even your children's children if I'm lucky." She leaned over and kissed each of their foreheads. "Let's never have this conversation again, okay? I love you, and I'm not going anywhere."

Both girls nodded and hugged Andrea tightly. Just then, Miranda came downstairs to get the babies for their bath, and paused when she saw Andrea with tears in her eyes, holding her daughters. "What's wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing," the girls said in unison, stepping away from the couch. "Andy's just going to help me with English after the babies have their bath."

Miranda raised her eyebrow as she watched them head back into the kitchen. "What was all that?" she quietly asked.

"I'll tell you upstairs," Andrea said. She turned to the bouncers. "Are you two love bugs ready for a bath?" She unfastened Callie and picked her up as Miranda did the same with Catherine.

Upstairs, Andrea gave Miranda the gist of the conversation, not telling her everything Cassidy said about Stephen and how much happier Miranda was now. Miranda was upset that the girls were even thinking about divorce—as though that's what they expected of people. But on some level, she couldn't blame them. Wasn't that what she expected of people, too? That they would grow tired of her and eventually leave? Sure, Andrea had told her a million times that she was never leaving, but Miranda knew there was always a possibility.

"Hey," Andrea said, bringing her back to the present. "You okay?"

Miranda nodded and resumed bathing Cate while Andrea held onto her. "It's just…I feel quite guilty that the girls are already so disillusioned. They're only ten years old."

Andrea lifted Cate from the tub and wrapped her in a towel. "I think all his are like that now. It's a different world." She softly laid Cate on the bed and applied some baby lotion before putting on her diaper and pajamas. "Okay, back into the bassinet until your sister's finished with her bath," Andrea said, kissing Cate softly on the forehead.

Miranda had already had the bathtub filled with fresh water for Callie. "You're so good with them," she said, "Cass and Care, I mean. They adore you."

"You've been a remarkable mother, Miranda. Don't let anything tell you otherwise. Plenty of women in your position lose sight of their families because they're so work-obsessed. Sure, people think that's who you are—because let's face it, you fit the criteria—but you're not, and you haven't been for at least the past ten and a half years, am I right?"

Miranda lifted Callie from the tub and wrapped her in a towel, kissing her softly on the lips as she carried her to the bed. "You're right that I've changed since the girls were born, but I'm hardly a remarkable mother," she said. She applied some extra lotion to a dry patch of skin on Callie's upper arm before slipping her into her pajamas. She set Callie back in her bassinet, then quickly went to change into her own pajamas and clean up from the bath.

Andrea, too, changed into her cotton nightshirt and pulled the pillows from the bed, carefully smoothing out the fitted sheet and folding back the quilt. Miranda climbed into bed and set one pillow on each side of her. Andrea brought the babies over and handed her one at a time so she could get them situated, then she turned out the light and climbed into bed while Miranda began nursing.

"Miranda, you—"

"Stop. I don't…I just don't want to talk about this now," Miranda said.

Andrea crawled closer and kissed Miranda gently. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

"It's okay. Would you mind running up to check on Caroline and Cassidy? I didn't get to tell them goodnight."

"Of course," Andrea said, climbing out of bed, careful not to disturb the babies. Two minutes later, she quietly led Caroline and Cassidy into the bedroom to tell their mother and sisters goodnight. She followed them back upstairs and promised them she'd make waffles for breakfast in the morning, reminding them that they could sleep in if they wanted because it was Saturday.

When she returned to the bedroom, Miranda was carefully laying Callie down on the bed. Without saying a word, Andrea joined her family in bed.

"Andrea, can you come here for a minute?" Miranda called from the bedroom. Everyone was already downstairs milling about, and the babies were finally awake.

"Patrick is ready for us," Andrea said as she climbed the steps. "What's going on?" she asked as she entered the bedroom. Clothes were strewn everywhere and Miranda was standing in front of her try-fold mirror in a lace push-up bra and underwear, holding a corset in her hand. "That is incredibly sexy, Miranda, but I hope you're going to put something over that for the photo," Andrea said.

"Help me get this on," she said, handing the corset to Andrea.

"Is this one of those weight-loss corsets? You don't need this."

Miranda ripped it out of Andrea's hands. "Yes I do. Just—forget it. Wait for me downstairs."

"No, Miranda, stop. Tell me what's going on," Andrea said as calmly as she could. "I want to help you."

Miranda sat on the edge of the bed and hung her head. "I'm fat, Andrea. I'm already wearing pants two sizes larger than I used to, and my gut is just hanging out there," she said. "Nothing looks good on me. Maybe we can just photoshop my picture in."

Andrea smiled and took Miranda's hand. "Honey, you are beautiful. You've taught me that you don't need to be a size zero to be sexy. I love your body even more now because it nurtured and birthed our beautiful daughters. No one's going to judge you, you just had a baby."

"Ha! Four and a half months ago I had a baby."

Andrea took a deep breath. "Look, wasn't it you who wanted everyone to select their own outfit? You wanted this to look real, not fake. When you walk downstairs and see our family, you won't care what you're wearing, I promise you. James was holding Catherine while my mother was wiping her lipstick off her cheek. Cassidy was showing George photos on the iPad, Helen was playing peek-a-boo with Callie, and my dad was talking with Caroline about the Yankees and Reds game next week. Miranda, it's our family photo. Your eyes will radiate with love and happiness. For once in your life, don't over think the outfit."

Miranda gently dabbed at her eye. "Don't make me cry or I'll have to redo my makeup," she said. "I'll wear the blouse and periwinkle cardigan with the black ankle-length pants. But please, I would feel more comfortable if I had this on."

Andrea nodded and helped Miranda into the corset. Then, Miranda quickly dressed and slipped on a pair of plain black Prada pumps and headed downstairs to join the others.

"I can't believe you said we should photoshop you into this picture," Andrea said with a chuckle.

Miranda smiled and took Catherine from James' arms. "Darling, grab Callie," she said.

"Miranda, we have the lighting arranged in the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen. I'm thinking I'll just snap a bunch of shots of you all in action for the next ten minutes, then we can review and see if anything stands out to us, will that work?" Patrick asked.

"That's fine. I trust you," she said.

They milled around for the next few minutes, and the house was filled with laughter as the quiet snapping of the camera was heard.

"Andy, come see this," Patrick said, calling the brunette over. He showed her a few shots of Miranda and Catherine he just snapped.

"Patrick, I think we're definitely going to want an album of all of these shots. Think you can have that in time for Christmas?" Andrea asked.

"You bet. Why don't you try and get everyone to gather around the couch?"

Andrea nodded and once everyone was in the general vicinity, pieces just fell into place. Patricia at Miranda's feet. Helen standing behind her with her hand on her shoulder. Cassidy tugging James back towards the group. Andrea sitting next to Miranda, making faces at Caroline. Andrea's mother wiping drool from Callie's chin. George with his arm around Helen. Andrea's father picking Cassidy up.

After a few snaps, Patrick clapped his hands together, quieting everyone down. "Let's try a few shots with everyone looking at the camera," he said. "Then, I want you to play musical chairs and rearrange yourselves and pass the babies around. But Miranda, I want you standing behind the couch."

He took a few more shots, then gestured for everyone to get up. Helen eagerly took the baby from Andrea's arms, and Andrea's father reached for Catherine. Caroline sat on the arm of the couch, and James sat next to his mother. Andrea ended up next to Miranda, both with their hands on the back of the couch.

Andrea's pinky finger grazed Miranda's and their eyes met. Catherine started to fuss, so Richard handed her up and over to Miranda, where she instantly calmed. Miranda held her hand and kissed her nose several times, making her smile happily.

Before they knew it, Patrick explained that they were finished and called Miranda over to review the shots.

"Oh my god," she gasped, looking at the screen. "It's chaos."

Patrick bit his lip, waiting for Miranda to tell him to redo everything.

"And it's absolutely perfect. Can you get me the proofs by the end of the day Monday? I don't expect there will be much retouching," she said.

He heaved a sigh of relief. "Miranda, darling, don't scare me like that. I'll have them sent over first thing Monday morning."

Miranda said goodbye to Patrick and his assistants, who had already taken down the lighting. She returned to the living room where her family was busy with their own conversations. "Who's ready for lunch?" she asked. "Ladies, if you'll help me in the kitchen. Boys, can you manage to take the girls upstairs and change two diapers?"

"Of course," Richard said, cuddling his granddaughter. "Jim, do you have the other one?"

"Sure do," James said.

"I'll lead the way," George said, marching up the staircase.

Helen watched them and shook her head. "You made a good choice, Miranda," she said quietly. Andrea and her mother were already in the kitchen, taking the salads out of the refrigerator while Cassidy and Caroline set the table. "Andrea fits you much better than James, though I'm awfully grateful that he brought us together."

Miranda smiled. It was such an odd thing to say, she thought, but it was true. "I'm just thankful for such an incredible family," she said.

The photos turned out perfect. Instead of choosing one where everyone was smiling at the camera, she chose one of the last photos Patrick snapped. Catherine was in her arms and she was kissing her nose. She and Andrea spent the following week finishing the accompanying Editor's Note, and on the eve of Thanksgiving, the Holiday issue went to print. There was no turning back.

Miranda enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving at the townhouse with her immediate family. Since James' parents and Andrea's parents were just in town the week prior, it didn't make sense to travel again so soon. They had tentative plans to visit Boston and Cincinnati over the Christmas holiday.

"I was going to say this at dinner, but I was afraid I wouldn't make it through," Miranda said as she slipped out of her clothes and headed for the shower. The babies were sleeping in their bassinets. James came to pick up Caroline and Cassidy for the weekend after they had dinner. They were alone in the house.

"What were you going to say?" Andrea asked.

"That I'm thankful for you," Miranda said, tears threatening to fall.

Andrea hugged her tightly. "You make me feel so special, so loved, Miranda. Some days I wake up and can't believe that you chose me."

"Andrea, make love to me," she whispered.

The young woman's eyes darted towards the door, the only thing separating them from their sleeping children.

"They'll be fine for at least another hour," Miranda said.

Andrea finished taking her clothes off, then put on a robe and handed the other to Miranda. "Come with me," she said, taking her hand.

Miranda allowed herself to be led out of the bathroom, out of the bedroom, and downstairs into the dining room. "Where are we going?" she finally asked.

Andrea dimmed the lights and pulled the curtains shut. "Indulge me in this one fantasy, Miranda," she whispered. The older woman nodded, and Andrea gently lifted her up so she was sitting on the edge of the dining room table. "I've been wanting to make love here in the dining room for months, but we were never alone," she whispered as she began to trail kisses along Miranda's jaw. She could already smell Miranda's arousal and knew it wouldn't take much tonight, so she savored what she could.

Andrea gently pushed Miranda's robe off her shoulder, letting it fall back, exposing her breasts. She trailed her hands along Miranda's ribcage, causing the woman to arch her back and let out a moan. Andrea untied the sash and sat in the chair at the head of the table.

Miranda spread her legs, resting her feet on the chair's arm rests. Andrea continued moving her hands over the woman's body, pausing only to lick the trail of milk that was seeping from Miranda's right breast.

Andrea raked her tongue downward along her stomach as she stilled Miranda's hips, holding them in place. She gently licked the woman's folds, causing her to fall backwards against the table. "Miranda, sit up," she said. "I want you to watch me."

She pushed herself up onto her elbows and gazed down her body, locking eyes with the brunette between her legs. "I love you," she said, licking her folds again. "And I'm thankful for you," she said, sucking her clit out of its hood. As Miranda writhed and moaned on the table, Andrea slipped two fingers inside, curling them upwards.

"Oh god, Andrea!" Miranda screamed. She reached her hands out to the sides, gripping the edges of the table. "Oh, please…please, please, please," she moaned.

"Please what, darling?"

"Ohhh…harder, Andy! Fuck! Uh—uh—uh—ash!" she cried out as her muscles clenched around Andrea's fingers. She didn't want to say anything, but it certainly seemed like all those exercises to strengthen her pelvic floor had paid off.

Without moving her hand, Andrea carefully climbed up onto the table. Miranda's breasts were squirting milk as the aftershocks rolled through her body. Once she seemed to settle, Andrea slipped her fingers from her warm center and slowly licked them, savoring Miranda's taste.

Miranda slowly opened her eyes and gazed glassy-eyed at Andrea. "I've never—I mean—" she panted.

Andrea gently kissed her on the lips as she lowered her body to rest against Miranda's. "I guess that was the last five weeks' worth of arousal building," she said.

"Has it been that long?" Miranda asked, wrapping her arms around Andrea.

"Mm-hmm, it was the week before Halloween, remember? The girls went to a costume party and slept over."

"You're right," she said. "I'm sorry, it won't be that long until our next time," Miranda said.

"You know that doesn't matter to me, Miranda. I don't need to orgasm to feel your love."

Miranda smiled and kissed her on the cheek. "Do you hear what I hear?" Andrea nodded and turned to her side, slowly crawling off the table. "Next time, you're my dessert," Miranda said, grinning as she slipped her robe back on.

"Sounds like they're both awake," Andrea said.

"Of course," she said, quickly running up the stairs.

"Why don't you feed Callie, and I'll bring Catherine into the bathroom while I take a quick shower?" Andrea offered. "Then, once Callie's finished nursing, you can shower and we'll all be waiting for you in bed."

Miranda smiled. "Catherine does like to fall asleep while she's nursing," she said, chuckling. "Thank you."

"Are you sure you won't need me tonight, Miranda?" Cara asked. "With Karen gone and Andrea at work—"

"Thank you, but I will be fine. Andrea is meeting us tonight. I'm going to pack all the girls into the car in a few minutes," Miranda said. "Remember, I don't want to see you until Monday. Rest up, you'll need it."

This weekend was Miranda's last weekend on maternity leave. She was planning to surprise Andrea with dinner tonight and a special gift to mark their anniversary. They never discussed when they would actually celebrate, but she was sure Andrea shared the same fond memories of their first kiss.

Not long after Cara left, Emily and Serena showed up. "Thank you so much for doing this," Miranda said, hugging each of them.

"Of course, that's what we're here for," Emily said.

"You're looking great, Miranda. Is it true you'll be back on Monday?" Serena asked. It had been months since she saw the editor.

Miranda's lip curled up in a grin as she silently answered the question. "But I won't be in for the full day. It's my first real day away from my babies, and, well, you know…" she said. "Anyway, there are ingredients in the refrigerator for homemade pizzas, and there is ice cream in the freezer. I'm not sure if they'll want to stay up until midnight or not—they'll probably just fall asleep on the couch and ask you to wake them a few minutes before. There's enough bottles in the fridge to last you through tomorrow, and I'll quick feed them before I leave. If for some reason, you run out, there is additional stored in the freezer in the garage."

"That's fine. We'll figure it out. Anything special to get the girls to sleep?" Emily asked.

"Well, it's up to you. We were going to have them start sleeping in their own cribs in the nursery, but I don't want them to keep you up all night. If you can try getting them used to the cribs, that would be wonderful, but don't worry too much about it," Miranda said.

"So, they'll sleep in the bassinets, then?"

"No. They sleep in bed with us. They're very good, and you can feed them right there without getting up. Of course, each of you has to sleep on the outside, so they don't roll out of bed."

Emily's eyes widened. "Y-your bed?"

"Don't worry. The sheets are clean," Miranda said, rolling her eyes. "Girls, why don't you come down and say hello to Emily and Serena?" she called up the stairs. "I'm going to go wake the girls up and feed them once more before I leave. Make yourselves at home."

A few hours later, Miranda was gazing out the window at the preparations in Times Square below. This year, she had the penthouse at the Renaissance Marriott, a stunning suite with a 270-degree view of the city. She was dressed and waiting, sitting on the edge of the couch, sipping a glass of wine. Their table at the restaurant in the hotel was reserved for the entire night, but she was hoping Andrea didn't get held up at work.

Her phone's buzz jolted her from her thoughts. Roy just picked me up—he won't tell me where he's taking me. ???

Miranda smiled and replied: Close your eyes and relax for a little while. I will see you soon, darling. xx

Finishing her glass of wine, she smoothed out her dress and headed down to the restaurant where the maitre'd led her to the isolated booth in the corner. She sent Emily a quick text checking on the four girls, and once she confirmed everyone was doing fine, she ordered a bottle of Veuve for the table. She reached into her bag and pulled out a flat jewelry box. Taking a deep breath, she set it on the table and anxiously awaited Andrea's arrival.

Not long afterwards, the maitre'd led Andrea to her table. She quickly took a seat next to Miranda and kissed her softly on the cheek.

After the Holiday issue of Runway, the press went into a frenzy over the couple's relationship. But now, things died down a little and they were comfortable leaving the house. Still, Andrea saved her kisses for their private moments.

"Happy Anniversary, darling," Miranda said as she handed her a glass of champagne.

She smiled brightly as she gently clinked their glasses. "Where are the girls?" she asked, sipping on the champagne.

"We have babysitters tonight," Miranda said, grinning.

"Em and Serena?"

Miranda nodded.

"All night?"

Miranda nodded again. "We have the penthouse suite here tonight."

Andrea threw her arms around Miranda's neck and hugged her, pressing kisses along her neck and collarbone. "Can we skip dinner?" she whispered.

Miranda gently pushed her away. "It's still early. We have all night, my darling. Plus, I've already ordered for us."

Andrea scrunched her nose up and made a face.

"They don't have chicken fingers, Andrea, but I think I managed to order something you'll enjoy," she said, gesturing at the server carrying their plates.

He placed Miranda's steak and steamed asparagus down before her, then placed a bowl of penne pasta with a cream sauce in front of Andrea. She looked down at the plate. "What is it?" she asked.

"Taste it," Miranda said, poking a few noodles with her fork and holding it up to Andrea's mouth.

Andrea smiled as she allowed the other woman to feed her, and once she realized what she was eating, she was torn between wanting to devour the woman next to her and wanting to devour her plate. "Mac and cheese," she said, matter-of-factly.

"As I said, they couldn't do chicken fingers," Miranda said with a smirk.

They ate in companionable silence, stealing glances here and there, offering each other bites of their food. As it turns out, Miranda likes macaroni and cheese, too. Once the server took their plates, Miranda asked that he have their dessert sent up to the room.

"Before we go upstairs," she said quietly. "I want to give you this." She gently pushed the red box towards the young woman.

Andrea set down her champagne flute and looked up. Miranda nodded softly, and Andrea opened the box.

"Oh my god!" she exclaimed, clasping her hand over her mouth as she realized she probably spoke a bit too loudly for the intimate restaurant. "Miranda—this—it's—oh my god. It's gorgeous."

Miranda took the necklace out of the box as Andrea swept her hair up and out of the way. After fastening it around her neck, she gently held her hand there, admiring its beauty. "It's my gift to you—one of many to come," Miranda said.

"But—this is too much. I mean," Andrea stammered. "I don't want to know what something like this would cost. It looks vintage."

"I acquired it through a business deal and the previous owner suggested it would look stunning on you. I don't often agree with her, but she was right."

"In what kind of business deal is a diamond necklace acceptable currency? Who did it belong to?" she asked.

"I wasn't going to tell you, but I suppose you'll keep nagging me until I do," Miranda said with a sigh. "In July, Adam Moss sent a package for me to Runway. What's-her-name knew better than to bother me with it. About a month ago, our Emily got curious and opened it—it was a gift from Adam Moss and Daniel Kaizer. The card simply read 'Congratulations,' and inside the box were eight caftans. They were very high-quality and looked to be of Indian silk. The gesture was thoughtful, but I had no use for them. They were large enough to cover a horse."

"So you traded them. With whom?"

Miranda smiled. "My dear old friend Elizabeth. I hadn't spoken to her in years, but when I contacted her, she was very anxious for the garments. I didn't ask for anything in return, but she admitted that she had seen the tabloids and thought you looked like quite a lovely young woman. She teased me about dating a child, and I tried to explain that you were hardly a child, but, she has this way of not listening to what others have to say. She again thanked me for sending the caftans, and that was the end of it. Two weeks later, this arrived. With a note."

"What did it say?" Andrea asked.

Miranda gently lifted the crushed velvet lining of the box and pulled out a notecard, sliding it across the table to Andrea.

Andrea gasped as she read it: This will be perfect for her. Big girls need big diamonds. xx, Elizabeth. "Miranda, this is—this stationery—Elizabeth Taylor?"

"She apparently didn't need it anymore," Miranda said with a shrug as she tried to disguise her smile.

"I can't accept—"

"It's yours. She won't take it back," Miranda said. "It would be rude to even think such things."

"Where will I ever wear it? I'm afraid I'll lose it, or it will get stolen."

"Darling, you definitely can't wear this on the subway," she said, softly cupping her cheek. "But you can wear it when you're with me. Laying in bed on a Sunday morning or maybe even at the Met Gala this spring. Do you like it?"

"Of course. It's gorgeous. Oh my god, I never even said thank you," she said as tears started to stream down her face. "Thank you," she said, leaning closer and kissing Miranda.

"Let's head upstairs," she whispered.

Once they were in the elevator, Andrea turned to her. "Will you tell me what it's worth?"

Miranda's eyebrow quirked up. "You know, there's a reason people remove price tags before giving gifts."

"Oh, and you're now considering yourself amongst 'people?'"

Miranda smiled. "It's worth more than your handbag, but less than your engagement ring," she said as she wrapped her arms around the young woman. "If it makes you feel any better," Miranda said, "think of it as payment for everything you've done this past year."

"What? You don't—"

"It's not. I mean, I'm not trying to offer compensation, but you really did do so much for me and for my daughters. You've given me the greatest gifts—more than I could ever imagine."

"But Miranda, you already got me this enormous ring," she said, flashing her ring finger. "Remember?"

"I know," she said. "I can't help it if I just enjoy buying you gifts. Can we please stop talking about money and just enjoy our evening? It would be such a shame to waste all of this time alone arguing."

"Agreed. I love you so much," Andrea said, taking Miranda's hand and following her to the bedroom.

Saturday afternoon, they returned to the townhouse. Emily and Serena reassured them that the babies were perfect angels, and hurried on their way. Miranda curled up on the couch with her babies in her arms, hugging and kissing them. Andrea wrapped her arms around Cassidy and Caroline and asked what they did with Em and Serena.

"We got a new TV!" Cassidy said excitedly.

"You did?" Andrea asked.

"Yeah, well, it's the one Mom bought for her office and never used. Come on, let's show you!" she said, taking Andrea's hand and dragging her up the stairs.

Andrea looked over at Miranda for some sort of confirmation, but the older woman could only shrug as she was nursing the babies. She, clearly, had no idea what Cassidy was talking about, either.

"Here," Cass said, tugging Andrea into the master bedroom. "It's the awesomest TV ever."

"Cass, shut up. 'Awesomest' isn't a word!" Caroline said, punching her in the ribs.

"Hey you two," Andrea said. "None of that. What is so awesome about this TV?"

"So, you can watch regular channels or DVDs or Netflix or whatever. But then, when you press this button," she said, demonstrating, "and it's also the baby monitor."

"But, sweetie, we already have the monitors."

Caroline rolled her eyes. "Andy, we moved the monitors to the cribs in the nursery and connected the feed to this TV. You can still watch it on your iPad, or you can watch it on here. Like, when you and mom are sleeping, you know?"

Andrea's eyes widened as she realized what they were saying. They had been talking about moving the babies to the nursery when Miranda went back to work, and this would make it so much easier. "Oh my gosh, girls, this really is the awesomest TV ever! Whose idea was it?"

"Well, Serena's the one who set it up—"

"And Emily knew about the extra TV in Mom's study. We all kind of helped," Caroline said.

Andrea hugged them again and kissed them each on the forehead. "Your mom will be really happy when she sees this. I think it will make her less stressed about going back to work," she said.

"Doesn't she want to go back?"

"I think she's sad to be leaving the babies at home. And she's sad because she knows she won't be there when you leave for school or when you come home—not in the way she has been for the past six months or so. But I also think she kind of misses work. You know she's really good at her job, and she's super smart, and I think it's starting to drive her crazy—talking to two six-month-olds all day," Andrea said with a chuckle. "But we need to be really nice to her next week, okay? It's going to be hard on her."

"What's going to be hard on me?" Miranda asked, carrying both girls up the stairs.

"Umm…" Andrea stammered.

"Your first day back to work. Everything is probably a mess and you're going to be super busy fixing everything Uncle Nigel did," Caroline said.

Andrea smiled and sighed in relief. Who knew Caroline could cover for her so well?

"Oh, well, then I will just have to fire everyone and hire an entirely new staff," Miranda said with a shrug. "Maybe even demand a new office, no?"

The girls giggled as Miranda handed Callie over to Andrea. "I think they're ready for a nap. Emily and Serena wore them out. Cate was falling asleep as I was feeding her," Miranda said. "Think we can start letting them sleep in their cribs?"

"Emily let Callie take a nap in the crib this morning and she was fine," Cassidy said. "Cate didn't want to."

"Well, she's really tired now, so maybe she'll be more agreeable," Miranda said gently setting her down.

Andrea sat in the rocker with Callie, who was still wide awake. "Girls, show your mom the new monitor setup," she said quietly. After a few minutes of watching the little girl's eyelids droop, she laid Callie in the crib adjacent to her sister, then went to join the other Priestly women.

"Look, you can see them clear as day," Miranda said, pointing at the screen. "I am going to miss having them in bed with us…just a little," she said.

"But now there will be room for me and Care if we have a bad dream or aren't feeling good, right? Andy won't have to come upstairs and sleep with us," Cassidy said.

Miranda kneeled and wrapped her arms around her daughter. "Yes, baby, that's right. And we can all take naps together on lazy afternoons, too," she said. "What do you think you want for dinner?" she asked.

"I'm not hungry yet," Caroline said.

"Let's try to think ahead," Andrea said. "What did Em and Serena make for you?"

"Emily made this spinach salad with chicken and strawberries and nuts last night. Then we had some pizza rolls while we watched a movie," Caroline said.

"And Serena made us some steel-cut oatmeal with tons of berries. Then we had pita pockets with hummus and veggies for lunch before you got home," Cassidy said.

"Well that sounds very healthy," Miranda said, looking over at Andrea. "What do you say we order pizza later tonight?"

Both girls squealed as they hugged Miranda. They were only allowed to order pizza on rare occasions. Generally, they made their own pizzas with Cara's homemade whole wheat dough. This was certainly a treat.

"Tell me, did Emily eat while she was here?" Miranda asked, pulling away a bit.

Cassidy snickered. "We made her taste a pizza roll. She said it was 'scrummy,'" she said, inflecting Emily's accent.

"Darling, that means it was good," Miranda said.

"We know—she had to explain it after we all gave her a funny look," Cassidy said.

"Well, I'm glad she had something to eat," Miranda said.

Andrea reached up and covered her mouth as a yawn took over.

"Andy, didn't you sleep okay at the hotel last night?" Cassidy asked.

"Well," she said, trying to hide her blush, "your Mom and I stayed up pretty late watching all the New Year's festivities, so we didn't get to bed until really late."

"And I'm used to waking up to feed the babies, so we were up pretty early, too," Miranda added. "Hey," she said, sitting back on her heels. "What do you say we all take a nap while the babies are sleeping?"

Again, Miranda's suggestion was met with twin squeals. The girls quickly took her hands and led her to the bed, climbing in on either side of her. Andrea followed suit, taking her usual spot on the left side of the bed, with Cassidy between her and Miranda, Caroline on the opposite side.

"Hey! Not fair," Caroline said, climbing over so she could squeeze between Andrea and her sister.

"Is everyone comfortable?" Miranda asked as she draped her arm over her daughter.

"Yep," Caroline replied. She curled up on her side and tugged Andrea's arm around her.

Miranda smiled and reached for Andrea's hand, gently interlacing their fingers. At times like this, she had no intention of ever returning to Runway.

The rest of their evening was enjoyable, but considerably subdued. The babies fell into a crying fit when they woke from their nap in a strange room, and it took nearly two hours to calm them down. Miranda quietly fed Catherine in the rocking chair, and then Cassidy and Caroline played with her downstairs. But Callie, on the other hand, was quite resistant. When she kept turning her head and pushing away from Miranda's breast, she simply held her and rocked her for a while, hoping she would calm down. Again, she offered her breast, but this time after a few seconds of sucking, she bit down unexpectedly, causing Miranda to yelp.

Andrea warmed a bottle and handed it to Miranda, but it seemed like Callie didn't want that, either. If her arms reaching up were any indication, she didn't want her mother—she wanted Andrea.

Miranda stood from the chair and switched places with Andrea. It seemed like the instant Callie was in her arms, she calmed. And she was eager to take her bottle, too. Andrea could see the conflicting emotions in Miranda's eyes, and she wanted nothing more than to go to her and reassure her; however, Miranda waved her off and ran out of the room. Hearing the bedroom door slam shut, Andrea gently bent down and kissed Callie on the forehead, quietly whispering how she needed to be nicer to her mommy.

Once the babies were fed and their diapers were changed, the six of them gathered around the kitchen table for a riveting game of UNO, which Serena had apparently introduced them to. When it came time to put the girls down for the night, the six of them gathered in the master bathroom for what was soon becoming their nighttime ritual: bath, clean onesies, bedtime story, and nursing. Except tonight, Miranda made no attempt to feed Callie, instead gesturing for Andrea to give her a bottle.

After laying the sleeping babies in their cribs, the four of them went back downstairs for a rematch at UNO, then Miranda sent the girls up to bed. She and Andrea followed, silently tidying up their bathroom, then taking turns showering and slipping into pajamas.

When Andrea stepped out of the shower, Miranda wasn't in the bedroom. A quick glance to the baby monitor-TV showed silvery-white hair shining next to Callie's crib. Andrea grabbed their pillows and blanket from the bed and pulled their duvet from the closet. Quietly, she stepped into the nursery and shut the door behind her. She tossed the linens on the floor, and Miranda quickly turned around with a curious expression.

"We'll sleep in here tonight," Andrea said. "It'll probably be good for them to hear the familiar murmur of our voices, you know?"

Miranda nodded and crawled over to the other side of the room, pushing the ottoman out of the way so they could spread the duvet. Once their makeshift bed was set, Miranda laid down on her side, facing the cribs. Andrea fell into place behind her, softly kissing the older woman's temple as she snuggled and wrapped her arms around her.

A few minutes of laying in silence and Andrea knew something wasn't right. Miranda's breathing was irregular, and she stiffened under her touch.

"I think Callie is teething," Andrea said quietly. She wanted to reassure Miranda without making it so obvious. "When I gave her a bottle tonight, she was very content just chewing on it, and she was even biting on the washcloth during her bath. The pediatrician did say we could expect teeth as soon as four months—and it's been six—so, we should probably start using all those teething rings and toys in the closet." She heard a sniffle, but didn't say anything.

Miranda gently turned in Andrea's arms. "She was nibbling on my finger a little bit the other day, too. When the girls were babies, I used to put damp washcloths in the freezer and let them gnaw on those," she said.

"We could also try giving her some really cold water in a bottle, not really to drink, but because it will make the nipple cold."

"Have you seen those new mesh feeders?" Miranda asked. "They look like pacifiers, but you can put things like banana or apples in there and let them chew on it. I suppose we should start introducing them to some foods, anyway," she said.

"True. I'm going to go get a bottle with ice water and keep it in this mini-fridge," Andrea said. "Just in case Callie wakes up really upset. Tomorrow, in the daylight, we can check out her gums and maybe give her some Tylenol to help."

As Andrea was standing up, Miranda grasped her wrist firmly. "Thank you," she said. When Andrea didn't respond, she continued, "you know what for."

Andrea simply smiled and squeezed her hand before slipping out of the room and down to the kitchen.

Monday morning, Miranda's alarm sounded at 4:51 A.M. She awoke with a jolt and took a few deep breaths before tapping the "snooze" button. Andrea grumbled and shifted somewhere on the other side of the bed. Less than an hour ago, she was crawling into bed after feeding Catherine.

"I'm not going to last all day," she said quietly.

Andrea pushed aside the comforter and moved closer to the woman. "Good morning," she said, kissing her softly.

"I'm sorry, darling, yes, good morning. I think I'm only going to stay in the office for a half day."

"Let Rachel know now so she can start rearranging your schedule," Andrea said. "Trust me, a little kindness here and there will go a long way."

She smiled back at the young woman. "I will tell her as soon as I get out of bed. Is the breast pump—"

"—already at your office, along with any supplies you may need, and a small Louis Vuitton keepall with a cooler inside for the milk."

"And my laptop—"

"—already packed in your Kors tote, waiting in the foyer for Roy to pick it up."

"I'll need to leave a list of emergency contacts for Karen—"

"—one in every room of the house."

"And Caroline and Cassidy have that science project—"

"—the volcano? It's in the trunk of James' car. He'll deliver it when he takes them to school."

Miranda shook her head. She had no idea when the young woman had time to take care of all this considering she spent the past few days at her side. But, she trusted her, and the thought of her first day back to work suddenly made her less anxious than when her alarm clock rang.

She snuggled next to Andrea and inhaled the woman's comforting scent. "Will you be busy at work today?" she asked. Contrary to public opinion, she was not self-centered.

"Not sure yet. We have a few writers on vacation for the holidays, and if whatever's going on with Congress heats up, I might have to head down to D.C. for a few days. I'll know more when I get in."

"What? I thought you didn't have to travel? Can't you send someone else?" Miranda asked, half sitting up.

"I'm going to talk to John the minute I get in. If I send Ahmed and Liz, then we're short a writer for the local New York city desk."

"Can't you write that?"

"Yes, but I don't know how easily it will be for me to jump into that. It's been a few years since I was chasing down leads, interviewing, and rushing against a deadline," Andrea said.

"Well, you can do anything, right?" Miranda said, pecking her on the lips. "I think it would be a good opportunity for you, too. You would earn incredible respect from your staff. But," she continued, "if you need to go to D.C., I understand."

"Are you speaking from experience?" Andrea asked.

Miranda's alarm began ringing again. She sat up and turned it off, then stood next to the bed, stretching gently. "During my first or second year as Editor in Chief, one of our presses jammed up from the heat wave and damaged the plates. It was August, and we were printing the September Issue, naturally. We didn't have computers—well, not in the way we do today—so we couldn't just click a button to replicate them. My assistant called me at one in the morning with the news, and I showed up at the plant along with a handful of other employees—Nigel was there, as was Claire, Simone, George Simmons who's on the Board now. We replicated the damaged section by hand, which required creating new layouts on the spot. We needed something that worked with a more collage-like feel. I still remember stenciling the header: Soviet Style. My god, that feels like eons ago. Anyway," she said, shaking her head and smoothing out the sheets, "after that, word got out that Miranda Priestly herself spent all night printing the issue, and there was a quiet sort of respect in the hallways. Of course, much has changed since then. Somehow it shifted from respect because I pitched in to misgivings because they think I only want to redo all of their work."

"Miranda, they still respect you. Maybe for different reasons, but they do."

"I know," she said, walking towards the bathroom. "What time do you need to leave?"

"I don't have to be in until 8:30," Andrea said.

"Okay. I'm going to shower, do my makeup, go nurse the babies, wake up the girls, make some breakfast, then come back up and get dressed before I leave. Sound okay?"

"The girls aren't going to eat breakfast at 6:15 AM, you know. James isn't picking them up until 7:30."

"Oh, right. Whatever, they still need to get up at 6. I need to be out the door by quarter till, so I'm jumping in the shower now," she said.

Andrea nodded and snuggled into the warm bed.

Later that afternoon, after a series of meetings, a frantic issue with tags on the website, and Library Lunch at the NY Public Library (which, admittedly, she completely forgot about), Andrea walked into her office and closed the door. Miranda had been texting her all morning, and honestly, she hadn't had the time to talk. Picking up the phone, she dialed Miranda's number.

"Hey Rachel, is Miranda still there?"

"Hi Andy, no she asked me to call Roy and then left. I don't know where she went."

"Are the girls okay?" Andrea asked.

"As far as I know. Miranda was nervous about something this morning, though. Sorry, I have to let you go, the other line's ringing."

Andrea quickly hung up and dialed Miranda's cell. She picked up after one ring.

"Andrea! Why weren't you answering your phone?"

"Hi Miranda, I'm sorry. I had to mute it and I went from meeting to meeting, then we had the Library Lunch today…is everything okay? Where are you now?"

"I'm on my way home. Cara wasn't answering."

Andrea rolled her eyes. "Miranda…"

"Do not roll your eyes at me," Miranda hissed. "My babies could be crying or hurt or god knows what."

"I don't even want to know how you do that. Would you like me to meet you at home?"

"I thought you had some crisis with Congress?"

"Nope, we've got it covered. We were able to send one of our Financial reporters to cover in D.C. I'll come meet you—"

"Hold on, Cara's calling," Miranda said, switching over on call-waiting.

A minute or so later, switched back over. "Okay. False alarm," she said, heaving a sigh of relief. "Cara was upstairs in the nursery with them and didn't hear the phone. They're sleeping now."

"Are you still going home?"

"No." Andrea heard a muffled voice direct Roy to return to the office. "No, I'm going back. I'll try to be home when the girls get home. What about you?"

"I'll be home at the usual time, quarter past five. Call me if anything comes up, though. Promise to answer my phone."

"Okay, darling. Love you."

The next few days weren't much different. The twins spent the weekend with their father, and when they returned on Sunday evening, Cassidy had the sniffles and went to bed early. Miranda didn't think much of it, considering they probably didn't get much rest or proper nutrition with James. But, when Cassidy came crawling into their bed at two o'clock with a sore throat, Miranda thought otherwise.

"Take this," Miranda said, giving her daughter a medicine cup full of liquid ibuprofen. "Try to make a gargling sound with it so it coats the back of your throat," she said.

Cassidy did, and handed the cup back to her mother. "It still hurts."

Miranda set the cup on her nightstand and took her daughter in her arms. "Baby, you have to give the medicine time to work," she said, softly brushing Cassidy's hair out of her eyes. "Try and get some rest. Are you comfortable? Do you need a drink of water or anything?"

"No. I'm comfy," she said, snuggling closer. "Can I stay here until I fall asleep?"

"Of course, my darling," Miranda said. "Andrea will feed the babies when they wake up, and I'll stay here with you."

"Mmkay. If I feel better, can I go to school? We're getting milkshakes for Chelsea's birthday," Cassidy said.

"Just get some sleep. We'll see how you feel in a little while, and then we'll decide." With one arm around her daughter, she reached over for her cell phone, turning it on vibrate and sending a text message to Rachel that Cassidy was sick and she would be in late. She gently sighed and kissed the top of Cassidy's head before drifting back to sleep.

That morning, Cassidy still wasn't feeling better. Andrea left for the office and Cara helped get Caroline ready for school while Miranda stayed in bed with her daughter who now had a bit of a fever. She wanted to give her another dose of medicine, but didn't have the heart to wake her up.

A short while later, Miranda saw on the monitor that Callie was awake. Cassidy was still sleeping soundly at her side. She watched on the video as Cara picked her up from the crib, and about five minutes later, she quietly brought her to Miranda.

"I let her suck on a bottle of ice water for a few minutes like you asked," she said. "There isn't much milk in the fridge—can you nurse her?"

Miranda nodded and gestured for Cara to hand her a pillow. She tucked it along her side, then carefully lay Callie down to nurse. When she was finished, Cara traded her babies, and before long they were both fed and happily playing downstairs.

"Sweetie," Miranda said, gently waking Cassidy. "Bobbsey, you have to get up."

The young girl groaned and opened her eyes.

"Good morning, sweetheart. How is your throat feeling?"

"Uggh, my throat still hurts," she said. "What time is it?"

"It's 9:20," Miranda said, reaching over to the nightstand for the medicine. "I'm sorry for waking you, but you need to take more medicine and have something to drink."

Cassidy nodded and took the medicine her mother gave her. "You didn't go to work?"

"Oh Bobbsey, I can't think about work when one of my girls isn't feeling well. I'm going to run downstairs and make you a cup of tea with honey—that will feel good on your throat. Do you want anything else?"

Cassidy shrugged. "I'm kind of hungry. Applesauce? Vanilla pudding?"

"Of course—I'll be right back," she said, getting up and tying her robe around her.

By noon, the medicine was kicking in and Cassidy was feeling well enough to get out of bed. Miranda reluctantly asked her to keep away from the babies so she wouldn't get them sick. Cassidy agreed and settled for hanging out in her room with Miranda's iPad all afternoon. Miranda showered, dressed, and headed to the office for a few hours.

When she called to check on her girls a few hours later, Cara informed her that Cassidy was still not feeling well, and she hinted that it was near impossible to care for the twins and Cassidy and sanitize the house.


"Miranda, how is Cassidy? Are you at work?"

"Yes, and she's still not doing well. We'll have to keep her home tomorrow. Cara is struggling at home, and I just…" she paused and set her glasses down on her desk. "Is there any way you can take the day off, or at least work from home?"

Andrea knew it was serious when Miranda was asking her a favor. "Yes, of course I'll talk to John, but I'm sure working from home won't be a problem. If nothing else, I'll call myself in sick," she said as she closed her laptop and began to pack it in her bag. "In fact, I'm leaving the office right now. Don't worry about a thing."

"Thank you, darling. Make sure that Cara can Lysol our bedroom, too. It wouldn't do for either of us to get sick."

"Don't worry," Andrea said. "I'll handle it. See you tonight."

Andrea left early that afternoon and spent some time helping Cara clean while Caroline, who was now home from school, played with the twins in their bouncers and Cassidy watched a movie in her room. When the twins were down for another nap, she made a quick call to John and he was surprisingly agreeable, allowing her to modify her schedule so she could work from home two days per week.

Miranda was relieved. That night, Andrea slept with Cassidy in her bedroom so she would be free to nurse. It was lonely sleeping in her bed by herself, and she half considered asking Caroline to come sleep with her, though she knew the young girl needed her rest.

By the time Monday morning rolled around, everyone was throughly exhausted. Cassidy's sore throat had turned into a cough, keeping everyone up at night. Andrea, too, started sneezing and blowing her nose, but aside from taking the babies and staying at a hotel, there was nothing Miranda could do.

The following week, Cassidy and Andrea were feeling much better. Miranda was sure to take her Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea, and crossed her fingers that neither she nor the babies would catch their cold.

She was sitting in a brainstorming session in the conference room on Tuesday afternoon. Miranda worked from the townhouse the previous day, so that meant today was jammed with back-to-back meetings. At first, she didn't notice Abby anxiously tapping on the glass door until Emily stood to deal with it. When she quickly walked around the table, Miranda knew something was wrong.

"It's Cara—Catherine is sick," Emily said.

Leaving her things at the table, she practically ran down the hall to her office. "Cara, what's wrong?"

"I'm sorry to bother you, Miranda, but it's Catherine. She's coughing and has a fever of 101 degrees. I just gave her some Tylenol, and I'm holding some cool cloths to her, but—"

"Is that her screaming?" Miranda asked.

"Yes. She won't take her bottle. I just can't comfort her. I thought you'd want to know."

Miranda glanced at the clock.3:45 PM. "Are Cassidy and Caroline home?"


"Cara, I want you to bring Catherine to the Emergency Room. Have the girls stay with Callie," Miranda said, snapping her fingers at Abby, who confirmed that Roy was already downstairs. "I'm leaving now—I'll meet you there. Oh, and can you bring her pink bunny blanket?"

"Yes, we'll leave right away," she said, ending the call.

Emily draped her coat over her shoulders and handed over her bag and iPhone while Abby stood holding the elevators.

"Would you like me to go stay with the girls at home for a while?" Emily quickly asked.

Miranda glanced up from her phone. "Yes, would you mind?"

"I'll take care of it—call if you need anything," she said as the elevator doors closed.

"Damnit Andrea, answer your phone," Miranda said, hanging up when she received the young woman's voicemail a second time. As she was about to dial again, Andrea called.

"Miranda, what's wrong?"

"It's Cate—" she choked out, fighting back tears. "Meet us in the ER. Lenox Hill."

Andrea quickly began tossing her things into her bag. "Oh god, what's wrong?"

"I don't know. Cara said fever, not eating, coughing, and just constant screaming," Miranda said as she hurried through the Elias Clarke lobby to the waiting town car.

"Do you think maybe we should have called the doctor first?" Andrea asked.

"No. If it's serious enough for Cara to call me out of a meeting, it's bad. You know she doesn't tell us half the stuff she deals with. I trust her judgment," Miranda said. "Look, I have to go. Meet me there, unless you'd rather stay at the office and call the doctor." She ended the call and tossed it into her bag as she let out a few quick sobs.

The thought that her baby was hurting caused an ache so great that she could hardly breathe herself. For the moment, she didn't want to think about Andrea. She knew the young woman loved her children immensely, but there was just something she couldn't explain.

When they were stopped at a traffic light on Park Avenue, Miranda looked up and wiped her eyes. "Roy, is there any way you can get there faster?" she asked.

"It's down to one lane up there because of a pothole. If I take the side streets, it will be even longer because everyone else is trying to do that," he said.

"Okay," she said, nodding. She didn't want to call Cara while she was driving, so she called the house instead, and Caroline answered. "Hi baby, is everything okay? Emily is on her way to stay with you girls for a while, okay?"

"Hi Mom. Yeah, Callie is doing fine. Cass and I are doing homework in the living room and she's in her bouncer thing, chewing on that blue flower," she said.

"Okay. Will you both be sure you scrub your hands with soap and hot water? And can you ask Emily to use the Lysol wipes when she gets there?"

"Sure. Is Cate going to be okay?"

"Yes, she's going to be fine," Miranda said, half trying to convince herself of the statement. "I'm on my way to meet them at the hospital now. Did Cara say how long she has been sick?"

"She said she's been fussy since she woke up, and I don't think she had a bottle since you fed her this morning. Why were her lips blueish? Was she cold?" Caroline asked.

Miranda felt like she had just been punched in the stomach.


"Bobbsey," she said slowly, trying to catch her breath, "sometimes that happens when babies are crying and screaming a lot. It's because they're not taking deep breaths to get oxygen. Okay, I'm almost there. Call me if Emily isn't there in the next fifteen minutes, okay? And Caroline—" she said, "I love you, baby. Give your sisters a hug and a kiss from me."

"Okay. Love you too, Mom. Tell Cate we love her, too."

"I will. Bye," she said, hanging up.

Roy turned into the Emergency entrance and Miranda bolted from the car, pushing past an elderly man in a wheelchair as she ran up to the desk.

"Can I help you?"

"My six-month-old daughter, Catherine Priestly—she was just brought in?"

"Oh, Miranda, hi. She hasn't arrived yet. We have a room ready in the back if you'd like to follow me?"

Miranda paused for a minute and looked to the door.

"Don't worry. We will send your nanny and your daughter directly back to the room as soon as they arrive. We've also called Dr. Stevens, so he should be here to evaluate her within the hour," she said, opening the door and leading Miranda into the room. "Someone should be by shortly with a breast pump you can use. Is there anything else I can get you?"

Miranda shook her head and sat on the edge of the bed, stunned by how prepared and organized they were. "No. They should be here soon, though. And my fiancée might be coming, too."

"Yes, I spoke with her on the phone. We'll be sure to send them back right away," she said, leaving the room.

Miranda took a deep breath and closed her eyes, suddenly feeling guilty for how she treated Andrea on the phone earlier. No, she wasn't Catherine's biological mother, but that didn't mean she didn't understand what Miranda was going through at the moment.

A few minutes later, Andrea walked through the door. "How is she? Are they here yet?"

"Not yet," Miranda said. Andrea sat next to her on the bed and she reached for her hand. "I feel terrible for how I treated you on the phone. I know you—"

"—shhh," Andrea said, pressing a finger to her lips, silencing her. "You were upset and worried about Cate. Don't worry about it."

They sat there in silence for another minute until they heard a Cate's cries echoing down the hallway. They both jumped up as the nurse led Cara in, carrying Cate in her car seat carrier. Miranda immediately unfastened her daughter and picked her up, hugging and kissing her as she sat on the edge of the bed.

"Catherine, sweetheart," she whispered. "Mommy loves you, baby. Mommy wants to help you feel better, yes she does," she whispered as Cate finally made eye contact with her. Miranda cradled her in her arms and when she brushed her cheek, she could feel how warm the infant was.

"Hi, I'm Dr. Grant," a young blonde woman said. "I'm the pediatrician on call today. I understand Dr. Stevens is on his way. Let's see, Mom, can you sit back in the bed and hold Catherine while I do a few tests?"

Miranda nodded, and Andrea helped adjust the bed so she was reclining. Dr. Grant carefully listened to her breathing, checked her oxygen saturation and temperature, and drew some bloodwork.

"So, she seems to have settled down a bit," Dr. Grant said, noticing that the baby was no longer screaming now that she was in Miranda's arms. "I would like to put her on some oxygen right away. That should help the discoloration of her lips and trunk, and then we can check out the results of the CBC for the next steps."

"I gave her 5 mL of infant tylenol an hour ago," Cara said. "And she had another dose around ten this morning."

"Thank you. I think we can definitely give her some more to try and make her feel better. I'm going to have the nurse start an IV so she can get some fluids, as well, but hopefully after a little oxygen, she'll be willing to take a bottle or nurse," the doctor said, whispering some instructions to the nurse before leaving the room.

The nurse connected the oxygen mask and handed it to Miranda. "Infants don't usually like this attached to their face, so if you can just hold it as close as you can to her nose and mouth," she said.

"What does the doctor think it is?" Andrea asked.

"She said Catherine's lungs sounded 'crackly,' which is usually an indicator of pneumonia or some sort of fluid on the lungs. She will probably want a chest x-ray to confirm anything," she said. "Mom, can you hold her still while I start this IV in her foot?"

"Yes. And please, call me Miranda. This is Andrea, and our nanny Cara."

A few seconds later, the nurse connected the IV drip and administered some acetaminophen. "She's looking a little better already," she said. "I think the O2 is really helping her color. You might try seeing if she'll nurse a little. It's okay to take the oxygen away for a short time like that. The doctor will be back in shortly," she said before leaving.

"Miranda, I'm sorry. I should have called you sooner. I just thought she was teething or something," Cara said with tears in her eyes.

"Don't be ridiculous. I'm glad you called when you did," Miranda said. "I've been trusting you with my babies for the past ten years. Just—thank you for bringing here here safely."

"I'm going to head back to sit with the girls, then. Will you call me if anything changes?"

"Yes," Andrea said. "Why don't I walk you out? It would probably make more sense for you to leave the keys with us and just have Roy take you back. Hopefully we'll be home tonight."

It was quiet in the room, the only sounds being Catherine's rapid breaths and coughs. Miranda softly brushed her cheek and pressed a kiss to her head. When she bent down, her hair fell in front of her eye, and it brushed against the baby's forehead, making her giggle.

"Did that tickle?" Miranda asked. "Did Mommy's hair tickle your forehead?" she said, bending down again and deliberately brushing her hair across the young girl's skin.

Again, Cate smiled and giggled, but her laughter turned into a coughing fit and Miranda held her upright for a few minutes, hoping to help. Careful of the IV, she pulled Cate onto her chest and began to hum quietly as she soothingly rubbed her back.

It seemed like her daughter's breathing had calmed, and Miranda quietly began to sing to her.

. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. . You make me happy when skies are grey.. You'll never know, dear, how much I love you. . So please don't take, my sunshine away…

Andrea returned to the room and quietly slipped into a chair next to the bed. "Is she asleep?" she whispered.

"No, just content."

A few minutes passed and Catherine began to fuss again. Miranda carefully laid her on the bed next to her, and took off her cardigan.

"Do you need help?" Andrea asked.

"No, just give me a second," she said, slipping her arms out of the straps of her camisole, then putting the cardigan back on. "There we go," she said, kissing Cate gently. She turned to her side and pushed her camisole down so she could free her breast.

Without needing much encouragement, Cate pressed her hand to Miranda's breast and began nursing. Every few sucks, though, she pulled away and began to cough, causing her to spit up half—if not all—of the milk.

"Oh, I know, darling," Miranda said sweetly. "You're so hungry and you can't even eat because of this cough." She carefully slipped her finger inside Cate's mouth after nursing for a few seconds to pull her away and wait until she swallowed. "Andrea, is there a bulb syringe around? It might help her breathe."

"I'll go find the nurse," she said, rushing out of the room. Before she could return, Dr. Stevens came in.

"Miranda, Catherine, how are we doing?" he asked, watching how Miranda was controlling her feeding. "Is she coughing it up?"

"Yes," Miranda said. "I don't know how this all started. She was absolutely fine this morning. No coughing whatsoever."

"Well, this tends to come on quickly. I reviewed her chart and the bloodwork definitely signals she's fighting an infection. I would like to do a chest x-ray just to be certain, but I want to start her on IV antibiotics right away, then maybe a few breathing treatments. She had her pneumococcus vaccine, right?"

"They both did. They should be getting their second booster in a few weeks," Miranda said.

Dr. Stevens nodded as he listened to her chest. "This must be a different strain of bacteria, then. She definitely has pneumonia. But the bright side—antibiotics will make her feel better very quickly."

Miranda tucked her breast back into her bra and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Can we get her started on the antibiotics right away?"

"Of course, right after the chest x-ray," Dr. Stevens said.

"Does she still need it?"


"I thought you said that she 'definitely' has pneumonia? What is the purpose of the x-ray?" Miranda asked. Andrea had returned to the room and was quietly standing by the doorway, watching Miranda do her thing.

"W-well, you know, it's common procedure to—"

"To what? To put my baby under unnecessary tests? Like she's some experiment so you can show a group of interns what they can find in any textbook or on the internet?"

"I-it's not just that," he said quickly. "It would help us to rule out any other potential problems, as well."

"Oh, then by all means, take scans of her entire body—to rule out other problems," Miranda snapped. She took a deep breath and pressed a kiss down to her daughter's nose. "Catherine is not having the x-ray. That's all."

Dr. Stevens nodded, then whispered something to his nurse. "She's giving her antibiotics now. I'll write a prescription for a suspension for you to administer at home, as well as an inhaler with nebulizer. I'd like her to stay until her O2 saturation can hold its own in the nineties. The nurse will also show you how to do some chest physiotherapy to help loosen the mucous and encourage her to cough it up."

"What about a cough syrup or tylenol for her fever?" Miranda asked.

"Her fever should go down with the antibiotics. If she needs a cough suppressant so she can sleep at night, you can give her up to 4 cc of something like Delsym for children—not the adult version. It's important that she coughs and spits out any mucous."

"One last question," Andrea said, finally speaking up. "How long is she going to be contagious for? Should we keep her sister away from her?"

"Actually, the incubation period will be over by the time she returns home. Of course, practice good hand washing, don't share bottles or teething toys, you know. But if she sneezes on Callista, it's not like she's spreading pneumonia."

"Thank you, doctor. We'll be sure to call if we have any additional questions," Andrea said, opening the door for him to leave.

After giving Catherine the antibiotics, the nurse checked her oxygen. "It's going to take an hour for these fluids and antibiotics to get through her system, and by that time I think her oxygen will be doing much better, too. Can I get you anything to make you more comfortable?" When there was no response, she shrugged. "Okay then, I'll be in to check on her later."

Once the nurse left, Andrea walked over and sat on the edge of the bed, gently taking Catherine's hands. Her eyes were droopy, and she would no doubt be falling asleep soon after her exhausting day. Andrea gently kissed her tummy, then looked up at Miranda.

"I can sit with her if you need to get up and stretch or anything," Andrea said.

Miranda was about to protest when a young man pushed a breast pump into the room on a wheeled cart. She sighed and kissed Catherine, then got up and took a seat in the chair so she could pump. Between being back at work and Callie cutting teeth, the babies were given bottles more often than not, though it still meant a considerable commitment on Miranda's part. As she situated herself, she watched Andrea snuggle up with Catherine and it warmed her heart.

Later that night, around nine o'clock, the doctor signed the discharge papers. Catherine's oxygen was back to normal and her fever went down. The nurse demonstrated the chest physiotherapy for the women, but advised that they let Cate get some rest before trying it.

At ten o'clock, Andrea was pulling their SUV to a stop in front of the house to let Miranda and Catherine out before pulling it into the garage. Catherine fell asleep during the car ride, so Miranda quietly carried her upstairs and laid her in her crib without starting a commotion. In the nursery, she peeked over at Callie who must have woken when she opened the door, as her eyes were open and she was looking up at the glow-in-the-dark stars painted on her ceiling.

"Hi love bug," Miranda whispered, gently resting her hand on Callie's chest. "I missed you today. Go back to sleep, baby," she said.

Closing the nursery door, she could hardly make it to her own bedroom before collapsing to the floor. It was as if all the emotions of the day suddenly erupted, and it was too much to bear.

Andrea came in the back door, and saw Emily, Serena, Caroline, Cassidy, and Nigel sitting around the table. "Hey," she said, walking over to the fridge and adding a few bottles of milk from her bag. "Thanks guys, you can head home now."

"How's Catherine?" Emily asked.

"Where's Miranda?" Nigel said.

"Uh, she came in the front door about ten minutes ago—maybe she went upstairs since Cate was asleep?" Andrea said. "Anyway, Cate has pneumonia. They gave her some oxygen and antibiotics, and sent us home with some medicine, too."

"Poor baby!" Serena said.

"What's pneumonia?" Cassidy asked.

"It's uh, you know when you have a cold and you're blowing stuff out of your nose?" Andrea said.


Everyone chuckled. "Yeah, but it's nicer to call it mucous. Anyway, pneumonia is when that mucous forms in your lungs instead of your nose. It can make you really sick if you don't take medicine to help it."

"But Cate is taking medicine. She's going to be okay, right?" Cassidy asked.

"Yes, sweetie. She's still going to be coughing for a few days, but it's important so she can cough all that yucky stuff out of her lungs," Andrea said.

"Did Miranda say whether she'll be in tomorrow?" Emily asked.

"We honestly didn't talk about it. I can work from home tomorrow, but I think she'll probably want to take the day off," Andrea said. "Thank you for coming and staying with the girls—you should go get some rest though."

"Thanks." Emily and Serena got up and said goodbye to everyone before heading out the door.

"Nigel, I didn't know you were coming, too," Andrea said.

"He's got a problem," Caroline said, pointing to the pictures laid out on the table. "This dress," she said, touching the photo with her index finger, "got lost in the mail. Mr. Oscar only made one of them, and that was the one Mom wanted on the cover next month."

Andrea smiled. "Well, it's February 2nd, so I think we have some time," she said.

"No, actually. Kate will be in New Zealand for the next two weeks. Tomorrow is our only chance to shoot the cover unless we totally revamp the issue," Nigel said.

"I already asked if there wasn't something else in the closet that she could wear, but Uncle Nigel said it had to be something more special," Caroline said, crossing her arms over her chest.

Andrea looked up and could see the concern in Nigel's eyes. "This is the one that's supposed to have the hand-painted gown, right? There's going to be that piece on French Impressionism inside?" He nodded. "Can't you do something with the art itself? Like, I don't know, wrap her in those Water Lilies scarves from the art museum or something."

"It has to feature de la Renta. Literally, the entire concept of this issue hinges on the cover," he said, taking off his glasses and rubbing his brow.

"What about body paint? You were going to use it last month but ended up changing your mind," Andrea said.

"What about body paint says de la Renta?"

"Paint her to look like she's wearing the dress? Then feature it inside on someone else by the time someone can track it down? I don't know, Nigel, I don't work for Runway!" Andrea said.

"That's why I came here to see Miranda."

"Give me five minutes, let me see what's keeping her," Andrea said, running upstairs.

When Andrea walked into the bedroom, Miranda was standing in front of the dresser, wearing her grey robe. Her eyes were red-rimmed and she was fixated on the baby monitor.

"Hey, everything okay?" Andrea asked. wrapping her arm gently around her waist.

Miranda wiped her eyes and nodded. "It all kind of hit me again after I laid her down," she said.

Andrea hugged her and kissed her gently on the lips. "Nigel is downstairs. The dress for the cover shoot tomorrow hasn't arrived yet," she said.

Miranda's eyes widened as she quickly put the pieces together. "And he wants my opinion?"

"I'm pretty sure he wants you to make the decision on this one," Andrea said.

"The only other de la Renta piece we could feature is a gown that's currently in Milan and would never be here in time," Miranda said. "We'll put Kate in the most elaborate de la Renta necklace and bracelets and rings we can find and then drape some sort of blank canvas over her. If Oscar can't get us the dress, we can't put it on the cover. End of story."

Andrea smiled and kissed her. "You're so smart. Will you go tell that to Nigel and I'll start drawing us up a hot bath?"

Miranda nodded and left the room. Not ten minutes later, Miranda returned to their room and shut the door. "All four girls are in bed and Nigel has his instructions," she said. "I even went in and checked on Catherine and she's doing fine, too."

Andrea was tying her hair up in a topknot before stepping in the bathtub. "Come here. I've got the monitor all setup on the iPad right here so we can keep an eye on them," she said, pointing to the ledge just beyond the tub.

Miranda smiled and followed, slipping off her robe and climbing into the tub with the young woman. Andrea's arms were wrapped tightly around her, but tonight, it was what she needed. After the emotional toll of the last eight hours, all she could do was sit in Andrea's arms and cry.

The next few months saw their share of ups and downs—thankfully, none meriting another trip to the emergency room. As the trees and flowers began to bloom with the freshness of springtime, Miranda herself felt a sort of rebirth that had nothing to do with floral patterns or color-blocking.

In April, Miranda went for her nine-month postpartum follow-up with her gynecologist, Dr. Assaf. It was a Wednesday afternoon. She, Andrea, and the four girls had plans to spend a long weekend in Sagaponack, and she was eager for the opportunity to escape the city for a few days. When Dr. Assaf asked to see photos of the babies, Miranda eagerly reached for her phone, pulling up dozens of adorable candids.

"They're growing up so fast, Miranda. I can't believe they're up on their feet already," she said.

"Yes, they'll be walking any day now," she said, wiping a tear from her eye as she put her phone back into her bag.

Dr. Assaf paused for a moment and sat in the chair next to Miranda. She gently placed her hand on Miranda's shoulder and bent down, trying to make eye contact with the woman.

Miranda sniffled and reached up once more to brush the tears from her cheek. "I'm sorry—I'm just a little emotional," she muttered.

"Miranda, how have you been?" she asked.

"Like I said, I've been sticking to my diet and fitness plan, I haven't had any problems breastfeeding—"

"No, Miranda. I know all that. I want to know how you have been doing. Life with two newborns can be challenging," she said.

Miranda leaned forward and buried her head in her hands as she began to cry while Dr. Assaf patiently waited for her to gather her thoughts. "I love it—really, I do. They're perfect, but I don't have enough time to spend with them. They're not newborns anymore. They're eating solids and practically walking, and I'm afraid that I'm missing out—or that I won't be there or something."

"Are you often emotional like this?" Dr. Assaf asked.

Miranda frowned and nodded.

"To the point where you're in tears?"

Again, Miranda nodded. "Nearly every day," she said.

"Is there anything that helps or makes it worse? Spending a day with Catherine and Callie? Or maybe a nice hot bath once they're asleep?"

Miranda shook her head. "I cry when I'm away from them. I cry when Andrea does something nice for me—she's always doing nice things for me. I feel awful. I guess the only time I don't cry is when I'm playing with them," she said.

"Miranda, why haven't you said something sooner?"

She shrugged. "It was really bad the first day or so we brought them home, but then it seemed okay and I guess I just accepted that this was me."

Dr. Assaf stood and walked over to the laptop on the counter and began typing a few notes. "I'm going to draw some additional bloodwork and run a full hormone panel. This is not normal, and I expect your body has been highly sensitive to the drop in progesterone since giving birth."

"Really?" Miranda asked, looking up for the first time since she began to cry.

"Yes, really. That's why I wish you would have come in sooner. Also, with your age, I would expect to see some other hormones out of balance as well. You know, the day you came in to see me last January, I was going to advise you on the symptoms of perimenopause before we saw the results of that pregnancy test."

"Menopause?" Miranda groaned. "This is not making me feel any better, you know."

"Perimenopause. It means you're not there yet. Some women can hang out in perimenopause for a decade. Now, if we do decide that you could use some hormone-replacement therapy, you'll probably want to begin weaning your daughters from breast milk. An increase in progesterone in your system will tell your body to stop producing milk—but that's not a bad thing. It's in the first nine months that babies get all those really important antibodies from you, anyway."

"So—you really think this is why I've been so emotional lately?"

"Miranda, nine months is more significant than 'lately'…and yes, I absolutely think this is all related. Do you feel like you might need some medication for the time being? An anti-anxiety medication or a mood stabilizer?"

Miranda's eyes widened.

"You seem curious. I'll write you a prescription for Tegretol. It's one of the mildest mood stabilizers out there, and at 50 mg twice a day, it won't pose any harm to the babies through breast milk," Dr. Assaf said, handing Miranda the prescription. "I would try it this weekend and see how you handle it. You should begin to see a difference in a few days."

"Thank you," Miranda said.

"Of course. Don't be afraid to get help. I know you're reluctant to admit when you need it, but I'm sure I speak for your partner, as well, when I say I want you to enjoy your life and not spend your babies' nap time drowning. Now, the phlebotomist will be in to draw your blood shortly, but please call me if you have any questions."

"Thank you," Miranda said, shaking her hand.

Later that night, when they were packing for their drive to the Hamptons, Miranda told Andrea all about her doctor appointment, checking for a hormone imbalance, and the mood stabilizers.

"I'm sorry I've been such a mess," Miranda said. Andrea tried to protest, but Miranda silenced her with her index finger to her lips. "We began seeing each other when I was three months pregnant. You massaged my feet and my back. You kept me going during my labor. You put up with me completely losing it—more than once—after the babies were born. You gave Caroline and Cassidy attention so they wouldn't feel left out. You draw baths for me. You camped out on the floor in the nursery with me. You bring me hot tea when I'm up late working… Without you, I know I couldn't do this, but it's not fair for me to rely on you so much."

When she finished, Andrea hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. "Yes, I've done a lot for you, but you've been nothing but grateful and appreciative, and I'd do it all over in a heartbeat. What you apparently fail to realize is that in this past year, you've made me happier than I could ever imagine. You gave me two beautiful daughters—four, really. You've made me feel safe, sleeping with your arms around me. You turn all the lights down when I have a headache and you gently massage my scalp. You've lavished ridiculous gifts on me—from diamonds to artworks to gowns. You welcomed me into your home and into your family. You've given me the greatest gift, Miranda. It's such an overwhelming feeling—whether I'm here in your arms or sitting at my desk at work—and I'm just so…content. I don't need to worry about what to say to you or how I can get your attention. I'm not afraid that you'll leave me or worried that your daughters will not approve. It's peaceful and calm, a quiet strength I feel within me. It's love."

"You really mean that?" Miranda asked. "There's so much more I want to be able to do for you, to support you like you did me."

"It doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be one-for-one. It's just, oooohhh!" she said, squeezing Miranda tightly and pinning her to the bed. "I love you so much. I love our life, our children, your ex-husband's mother, my little office at The Mirror, your amazing office at Runway. I love it all and wouldn't for a minute to want any of it to change even though Irv can be an ass and Helen is a little scary and Caroline and Cassidy are way too smart for their age. I love it. I can't even find a word for it," she groaned, leaning in to kiss Miranda's lips.

When she pulled away, Miranda was smiling up at her. "I know," she said. "It's bliss."

"Mmm, yes. Bliss."

"Why don't you have a bed like this at the townhouse?" Andrea asked.

"Didn't fit up the stairwell," Miranda said, snuggling closer. "Plus, smaller beds mean more cuddling," she said as she pressed a kiss to Andrea's chest.

"That is true," Andrea said. "But with a bed this size, we wouldn't have to worry about the girls pushing us over the edge."

Miranda chuckled. "On that note, it's curious no one's awake yet, isn't it?"

"Nah, I think they're all letting you sleep in."

"Oh really? Who told you that, Callie?" Miranda said with a chuckle.

"Actually, yes. She told me you were the best mother in the whole wide world and she wanted to make sure you got enough sleep so you could play with her at the beach today," Andrea said.

"What is it with children and sand?" Miranda asked.

"Aww, come on. You have to admit it was pretty cute watching Care and Cass make sandcastles for them to knock down. Plus, it's supposed to rain Saturday and Sunday, so this is their last chance to feel the sand between their toes."

Miranda shook her head. "You talk as if we're never coming back here. Darling, we can come back every weekend this summer if you want," she said.

"I don't want them anywhere near the ocean once they start walking. I'll go crazy," Andrea said. "You see how I freak out watching them crawl around near the stairs."

Miranda laughed and kissed the young woman. "I love that you're so protective," she said. Sitting up, she reached for her watch from the nightstand and gasped. "Is it really quarter past ten?" She jumped out of bed and hurried to slip into lounge pants and a tank before wrapping her robe around her. "It's way too quiet in here," she said, walking out of the bedroom in search of her daughters.

Andrea quickly jumped up and followed her, practically running into the woman outside the second bedroom.

"Shh," Miranda whispered, pressing her finger to her lips. "Look."

Andrea peered over Miranda's shoulder and wrapped her arms around the woman as she warmed at the sight. Cassidy was sitting on the floor with Catherine, flipping through the pages of the latest issue of Runway, while Caroline was at the other end of the room, sitting on a quilt, eating Cheerios with Callie.

"Good morning, my darlings," Miranda said, kneeling on the ground with the girls. "Have you been awake long?"

"We gave them their bottles earlier," Cassidy said.

"Yeah! And we changed their diapers," Caroline said proudly.

"Why didn't you wake us up?" Andrea asked.

"We heard Mom on the phone talking about a new medicine and saying something about being tired. We were awake and thought you guys could stay in bed and rest," Caroline said, shrugging.

The girls were still focused on the infants next to them, so they didn't notice the glance exchanged between the two women.

"Well, thank you for letting me rest," Miranda said. "I have so much energy now, I think we all need to go back to the beach to build sandcastles again today. You go put on some play clothes, and Andrea and I will look after the babies and get dressed, okay?"

"What do you mean she's 'come down with something?'" Miranda asked. "She was fine when I left this morning."

"Well, she was throwing up in the bathroom when I was about to leave, so I sent her home."

"Did the girls get to school?"

"Yes. Roy took them. Miranda, I have a few big meetings today, and I've already pushed the one with our VP of Advertising back an hour. I can't stay home. Can you spare Abby or Rachel?" Andrea asked.

"No. I just gave Abby a list of urgent errands—and I do mean urgent. Rachel's busy with the run-through, then she needs to finalize the expense report by five…" her voice trailed off. "This might sound crazy, but what if you bring them here?"

"To your office? Runway? Elias Clarke?" Andrea could practically see Miranda rolling her eyes on the other end of the line.

"Of course."

"Are you sure? They're going to want to run all over the place. It would have been much easier before they started walking," Andrea said.

"I'll figure it out. Can you pack a bag quickly and get over here?"

"Sure. Do you mind if I just drop them off, then take the car to work?"

"No that's fine. Call me when you leave and I'll come meet you downstairs," Miranda said, hanging up the phone.

"Guess what, girls?" Andrea said. "You're going to see Mommy's work today. We need to get you dressed!" She tickled Cate's tummy, causing the young girl to erupt in giggles.

She took their hands and led them carefully up the stairs to their room. Miranda had a second handrail installed along the wall on the first flight of stairs a few weeks ago, just for this purpose. Andrea selected two summery outfits that Oscar sent over a few weeks ago, then packed up a bag with diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, a few toys, and one of Miranda's silk scarves.

She had to make a few trips up and down the stairs since they weren't quite steady going down yet, but she managed. In the kitchen, she added their sippy cups, a few jars of food, spoons, and some cheerios. After securing them in their car seats, she carried them one by one to the car, then grabbed her own bag for work and tossed it on the front seat. A quick phone call to Miranda and she was on her way.

Miranda spent the next ten minutes tidying up her office and trying to baby-proof it as best she could. Luckily, most of the sharp edges of the furniture would be above their height. She moved a chair in front of the one exposed outlet, and secured a few knickknacks on a higher shelf.

"Rachel, see if you can find any quilts or blankets in the Art Department," she said. "I only want them if they're clean," she added. Deciding she gave Andrea sufficient time, she headed to the elevators.

"Look, there's Mommy!" Andrea said as she unfastened Catherine from the car seat.

"Ma-ma?" Catherine babbled, looking around. When she spotted Miranda, she smiled and reached out.

Miranda picked her up and kissed her on the nose. She kissed Miranda on the cheek—well, more like licked—and put her fingers by Miranda's mouth.

In the meantime, Andrea helped Callie out, and Miranda bent down to give her other daughter a hug and kiss, too. Callie's hugs typically involved hair-pulling and cheek-smacking, so she was grateful that she was gentle this morning.

"You probably want their carriers, right? Just in case they need to nap or something?"

"Yes," Miranda said, gesturing to the security guard who was standing next to their vehicle. "Can you see that all this is brought up to my office?"

"Yes, ma'am," he said.


"Yeah?" she said, turning around. Miranda was standing on the sidewalk with Cate on her hip and Callie standing next to her, clutching her skirt.

"I love you, darling. Hope your meetings go well today."

Andrea smiled. "I love you, too. And I love you," she said, kissing Cate, "and you," she said, bending down to hug and kiss Callie. "Be good today."

"Ma-ma!" Callie called after Andrea.

"Come on, sweetie," Miranda said, quickly taking her hand. "We're going to go see Uncle Nigel and Auntie Emily and Auntie Serena."

"Ne-na, ne-na," Catherine said.

"Yes, come on," she said, gently guiding Callie into the building and towards the elevators. Miranda pressed 19 for Runway, and as soon as the doors closed, Callie went running towards the mirror-like elevator walls and began pressing open-mouth kisses to her reflection.

"Callie, no, that's icky," Miranda said, tugging her away and squatting down. "You only kiss Mama, okay?" she pressed a kiss to her lips, then one to Catherine's, then another to Callie's, causing both girls to start giggling.

When the elevator doors opened, she stepped out, still holding Callie by the hand. It was very noisy today, and she instantly felt her daughters tense up. Catherine clutched tightly at her blouse, while Callie just stopped right in the middle of the elevator lobby.

Miranda softly brushed her cheek, "Come on, Callie," she said, sweetly coaxing her down the hall. By now, the floor was practically silent—someone must have spotted her and sent out some sort of alert.

She walked the girls into her office and set Catherine down on the couch, then took a seat next to her, pulling Callie into her lap, hugging and kissing her while they both took in their surroundings. She figured her office would be the most comfortable place in the building for them, since Andrea informed her on more than one occasion that the room just smelled like her—something she was sure the babies would appreciate.

As she was playing peek-a-boo with the girls, Nigel walked in. "Miranda, these lay— Oh!" he said. "Wow, this is a surprise."

"Cara was sick. Andrea had a meeting." She turned to look at the girls, "and we have a run-through this morning, yes we do."

Nigel smiled as he just observed the totally domestic side of Miranda, present for the first time within the walls of Runway.

Miranda looked up at him, jolting him from his thoughts. "These layouts—on here you have a note that the backlight needs to be adjusted, but on this one, it would be way too dark. I was thinking we do them in black and white to balance the contrast," he said, showing her the photos.

She held Callie tightly on her lap and grabbed her hands to keep her from reaching for the layouts. "Hmm, yes, that could work. Or we could superimpose a sort of spotlight on just this portion over here."

"True. I'll work both up. Thanks," he said, turning to leave. "Oh, and do you need help with that?" he asked as he pointed his finger in the general direction of the babies.

"No. I think we can manage just fine, don't you?" she asked, tickling Catherine's feet as she took her shoes off. "Let's see what toys your mommy packed for you," she said, digging into the bag security just dropped off.

In the meantime, Rachel brought a few blankets in and helped Miranda spread them out on the floor. Callie was content sitting on the floor and playing with the Hermes scarf, putting it in her mouth while she babbled away. Miranda sat at her desk chair with Catherine in her lap as she examined the stack of papers that needed her approval.

She was amazed at how content Catherine was just sitting in her lap—and she was actually quite productive for nearly an hour, until Callie began crawling around. "Looks like we have to follow your sister," she said to Catherine, letting her sit by the couch as she ran after Callie who was crawling past Rachel's desk.

"Emily!" Miranda yelled to the redhead who was racing down the hall. She stopped just before she collided with the infant.

"Oh!" Emily said, bending down. "And are you our new assistant, Callie?" she asked.

"Mi-mi, mi-mi, mi-mi," Callie babbled as she reached up and pet Emily's face.

"You're 'Mi-mi?'" Miranda asked. "Of course. Andrea and I were trying to figure that out all week."

Emily smiled and picked the girl up. "Apparently so," she said.

"Well, she's been asking for you," Miranda said, quickly peeking back into her office to make sure Catherine wasn't getting into any trouble.

"What's the occasion?"

"Cara was sick, and you," she said, taking Callie from her arms, "are too busy today to be distracted. Say bye to Mi-mi," Miranda said waving to Emily.

"I'll try to sneak another visit in before I leave," she said, winking at the young girl.

Miranda carried Callie back into her office. Catherine was happily chewing on the Hermes scarf now, so she quickly grabbed a few of the files off her desk and handed them to Rachel.

"I'm finished with these. I'll try to get to the fall/winter editorial calendar next, since I know they've been waiting a few days on that, and then after lunch I'll review the ad map the digital team sent over. Do they have a live version of it so I can see how it actually looks on the website?"

"Yes, I'll send you the link. I should be finished with the budget by 3:30, so when you're finished with the run-through, you can review before we send it off," Rachel said. "Did you want me to reschedule your lunch with Irv?"

Miranda rolled her eyes. "No. Let's just order in. That bistro on 43rd is fine. Be sure to get a side of french fries for the girls—no salt, not too crispy. I'll take the chef salad, and you can ask Irv what he would like."

"Yes, Miranda," she said, biting her lip as she tried to hold back a smile.


"Nothing. It's just—she's pulling your hair and sucking on your shirt."

Miranda smiled. "Callie's version of hugs and kisses," she said. "I'm going to close my door—not because I don't want to be disturbed, but because I don't want them crawling out into the hallway. Be careful opening it," she said. Miranda pulled out a few toys and poured some juice into their sippy cups, letting them play on the quilt for a while so she could review the calendar.

Once she finished, she handed the folder back to Rachel, then shut the door again. Catherine was chewing on a stuffed octopus, while Callie was attempting to climb onto the couch. Miranda selected a book from her windowsill and sat on the quilt.

"Come here, girls. Let's read a story," she said. Catherine came speed-crawling right onto Miranda's lap, and Miranda reached around and tugged Callie next to her.

She opened the book, which happened to be a collection of photographs by Patrick Demarchelier in the 1990s, and began. "Once upon a time there was princess named Callista," Miranda said.

"Cess," Catherine echoed quietly.

"And Princess Callista had a sister named Princess Catherine," Miranda said as she slowly flipped the pages in the book. "Princess Catherine always wore a pretty blue dress," she said, pointing to the blue dress the woman in the photo was wearing. She turned the page. "Princess Callista, on the other hand, insisted on wearing pink." She pointed to another photo of a woman in a rose-colored gown.

Miranda continued to narrate a story until she reached the end of the book. When she closed it, Callie clapped her hands together. "We'll read another story later," Miranda said, hugging her girls. "Now, I'm going to give you something to eat, and then Mommy is going to have lunch with Mr. Ravitz," she said.

Several hours later, just when the run-through was finishing, Andrea arrived.

"Darling, are you finished with work?"

"Yep. Boss gave me the rest of the day off," she said, hugging her daughter. "How was your day?"

"It was great," Miranda said. "We played with scarves and read stories and felt some different textures of fabric…honestly, it was fine."

"Well, I can take them home now if you want," Andrea said.

"Actually, do you just want to hang around here for an hour, then I'll come home with you? There's just one thing I have to finish up, and I can do the rest at home."

"Sure, the girls have rehearsal for their spring play after school, so they won't be home until 4:30, anyway," Andrea said, sitting on the couch with Callie. "Let's watch a video and let Mommy get her work done," she said as she pulled out her iPad. She helped Cate onto the couch.

Seeing Andrea with the girls on the couch was all the incentive she needed to finish reviewing the budget. The sooner she was finished, the sooner she could go home with her family.

Over the next few weeks, the weather was getting warmer, and Caroline and Cassidy were once again on summer vacation. Miranda was concerned that her older daughters were constantly helping out with the babies, so she decided to arrange some short trips for them over the summer. James was going to take them to Boston for a week, then Andrea was going to take them to Washington D.C. for a long weekend, and finally Miranda would take them to Philadelphia for another long weekend. She wanted her daughters to have a sense of individuality and independence.

But now, it was June and it was the first week of their summer vacation. Miranda took the day off to spend with her girls, and was surprised to see Andrea come home in the middle of the afternoon.

"Well, hello. I didn't expect you home so soon," she said, meeting Andrea at the door. The woman's eyes looked glassy. "Is everything alright?"

"Just another headache," Andrea said. "I'm going to go lie down upstairs."

"Oh…can I get you anything?"

"No, thanks," she said, heading up the stairs.

Miranda stood there at the base of the stairs, thinking about the last few weeks. Andrea had been very busy with work and was suffering from really intense migraines. There were even days when Miranda took the girls out for a walk or a drive just so Andrea could rest in the peace and quiet. The more she thought about it, they hadn't had sex in a while—and the last few times, while Miranda was more than willing, Andrea declined.

Biting the bullet, Miranda climbed the stairs after her.

"I thought you were taking the girls to Bryant Park today?" Andrea said as she crawled onto the bed.

Miranda gently sat at the edge. "Yes, but that can wait. I'm worried about you," she said.

"Why? I'm fine. It's just those summer allergies making my sinuses crazy," Andrea said.

"When was the last time you saw a doctor for them? Maybe they have a new medication they can offer you."

"I'm fine. I just need to sit in the dark for a while."

Miranda sighed and softly brushed the young woman's arm. "You haven't even wanted to be intimate lately," she said quietly.

"Is that what this is about? We're not fucking enough?" Andrea snapped. "I'm sorry. I'm crabby—this headache."

Miranda bit her lip and counted to ten in her head, trying to calm her thoughts before responding. "You would tell me if there was something else, right? I feel like you're shutting me out here," she said.

"It's just this headache. I'm trying to shut everything out—sound, light, everything."

"Okay," Miranda said. She wasn't fully satisfied, but she didn't want to push.

"Oh, and this weekend I have to head to Buffalo for a conference—I'm leaving first thing Friday morning, and I'll be back Sunday," Andrea said. "I forgot to tell you, sorry."

"Oh, well, that's fine. Cara will be here Friday, and James has the girls anyway. Maybe me, Callie, and Catherine can come with you?" Miranda asked.

"No, there's back-to-back sessions. It would be boring. I'll be back before you can miss me."

"Okay. We can talk more later. I'll take the girls to the park now so you can have the house to yourself to rest," Miranda said before she walked out of the bedroom. Something still didn't seem right, but she wasn't about to push Andrea now. She knew how debilitating a migraine could be, and this was not the time to have a serious talk.

Later that week, Andrea was packing up a small bag for her trip. Her headache from earlier in the week still hadn't gone away, but when Miranda suggested she skip the conference, Andrea lashed out, causing Miranda to leave the room and go sit with the girls.

Friday morning, Miranda pretended to be asleep when Andrea left because she didn't feel like fighting at six in the morning.

"Hey Em, I'm heading there now. You're sure I can stay at your place for a few days?" Andrea said.

"Of course. I've been spending a lot of nights at Serena's anyway."

"Good. Also, um, you're still willing to come get me if I need?"

"Yes, and if you make it home on your own, I'm still coming by tonight to check on you. But I don't understand why you won't tell Miranda. You know she's going to be furious when she finds out," Emily said.

"Which is exactly why she can't find out. I'll be fine. It's an outpatient procedure. They're going to remove the fibroids, then send me home."

"Okay. I'll keep my cell phone on me if you need anything. Good luck!"

"Thanks. Bye," Andrea said, hanging up the phone as her taxi approached the hospital entrance.

Later that evening, Andrea was curled up on the couch, fast asleep. She didn't even hear Emily and Serena enter until Serena sat on the edge of the couch and woke her.

"Andy, honey, how are you doing?" she asked.

Andrea tried to sit up and grimaced. "Uhh, it's actually a lot more painful than I thought it would be," she said.

Emily picked up the prescription bottle from the coffee table and handed one to Andrea with a glass of water. "Miranda has been trying to reach you all day. I think she even asked Rachel to call all the hotels in Buffalo since your cell phone apparently wasn't getting any reception," Emily said.

"Oh shit—I forgot to turn it back on after the surgery. Can you grab my bag?"

Emily handed it to her, and she fished the phone out, turning it back on.

"Well, only thirteen missed texts and five voicemails," she said with a sigh. "Look, I have to call her back. Thanks for coming by—I'm okay, really."

"Andy, you really should tell her the truth. I don't even understand why you're hiding this," Serena said.

"Look, at this point, I can't tell her. I lied for months about my headaches, never told her when I was seeing the doctor—she's going to be so hurt, I can't let that happen," Andrea said, cradling the phone in her hands.

"Honey, she loves you and she will understand. I think she'll be more hurt if she has to find out on her own."

"And remember, this is Miranda Priestly," Emily added. "She will find out."

"I can't," Andrea said. "Please. Just go. I'm fine. I'll head home Sunday morning, unless you need me out sooner."

Emily shrugged. "We'll leave you alone. Come on, Serena."

"Thanks again," Andrea called out after them.

Summoning her courage, she dialed Miranda's number. It was time to check in.

The woman answered on the first ring. "Andrea? Hello?"

"Hi Miranda. Sorry I missed your messages earlier—I had my phone muted in my bag and didn't pull it out until I just now got back to my room. Is everything okay with the girls?"

"Yes, yes, they're fine. I think Callie misses you—she keeps watching the front door. I got nervous when you weren't answering."

"Again, I'm sorry. I'll be sure to check my phone all day tomorrow," Andrea said.

"So how is the conference?"

"Oh, you know, schmoozing and exchanging business cards, feigning interest, all that. I'm actually pretty tired, though, and I was just going to take a shower and get some sleep," she said.

"Okay. Is your headache better?"

"A little."

"Okay, good. So, goodnight?"

"Yeah, goodnight, Miranda. Love you. Tell the girls I love them, too, will you?"

"Of course. Goodnight, darling. I love you, too."

The next day, Andrea was extremely grateful that Serena had left out some delivery menus in the kitchen because she was not feeling up to leaving the apartment. She was still bleeding pretty heavily from the surgery, and although the sharp, stabbing pains were gone, she still felt an uncomfortable tightness in her lower abdomen.

At the townhouse, Miranda was enjoying a quiet morning with the babies, watching the news on the television. When the house phone rang, she answered without looking at the caller ID.


"Hi, is Andy there?"

"No, she's not available. Should I give her a message?" Miranda asked. The irony of her taking messages for her former assistant was not lost on her.

"Nah, I just wanted to see how she was doing. Sorry—it's John, her manager from The Mirror," he said.

"Oh, John, of course," Miranda said. "She's up in Buffalo now, but you should be able to reach her on her cell if you need."

"What's she doing in Buffalo?"

Miranda paused for a moment. "She's at a conference…for work, I thought?"

"Hmm, that was a few weeks ago and Andy didn't attend. I was just calling to ask how her surgery went yesterday," he said. "I wanted to know if she'll be able to do some work on Monday."

Miranda's heart was racing. She could hardly find the words to finish the conversation. "Oh, of course, I must have my weekends confused. I'll let her know you called."

"Okay. Take care!" he said, ending the call.

Without a second thought, Miranda dialed Andrea's cell phone and got her voicemail. Next, she tried Nigel, who also didn't answer, and then Emily.


"Emily, where is Andrea?"

"Hi Miranda, this is actually Serena. Em's in the shower."

"Where is Andrea? Do you know anything about a surgery?" Miranda asked. She was beginning to panic.

"She's okay," Serena said. "Relax. She's staying at Emily's apartment. She made us swear not to mention it to you, so I don't want to say any more."

Miranda's heart felt like it crashed to the ground. She fought to keep her tears at bay. "Would you or Emily be able to come by and look after the girls for a while?" Miranda asked.

"Sure. I'll head over now. Give me ten minutes," she said, hanging up.

Miranda frantically paced back and forth in the den, trying to figure out what could be wrong with the young woman that she would need surgery, and more importantly, why she would feel the need to hide it from her family.

It seemed like eternity, but when Serena arrived, she handed Miranda a key to the apartment, along with the address. Miranda quickly jumped into her taxi and headed to Emily's place in the West Village. There wasn't much traffic, and the short ride wasn't nearly enough time to figure out what she wanted to say to her.

When she opened the door, she froze. Andrea was curled on the couch with a heating pad on her stomach. Miranda slowly walked closer and dropped to her knees next to the couch. She softly brushed the hair out of the young woman's eyes, gently waking her.

Andrea's eyes widened in fear and she instinctively pulled away from Miranda's touch. "Wh-what are you doing here?" she stammered.

"I should be asking you the same question," Miranda said calmly.

Andrea looked down at her hands. She couldn't stand to see the pain and hurt in the other woman's eyes.

"Are you okay?" Miranda asked.

"Yeah," Andrea said, nodding.

"You owe me more than that," she said. "You lied to me—to our girls." Miranda turned and sat on the floor with her back to the couch. "Why…just…why?"

"I'm sorry."

"I don't give a damn about your apologies. What did I do to make you feel you couldn't come to me?"

"Nothing. It's not like that. Miranda, look. I don't have one single reason for you. It got out of control, and then it was too late to say anything, and then it seemed like this was the best solution. I mean, we don't have to share every single thing, right? We can each have some things we don't share, right?"

"Not when those secrets affect our children. Andrea, what would I have told them if something happened and you didn't make it through surgery?"

"I don't know. I'm sorry. Look, I said I don't have a good reason. I don't know what else to tell you," she said.

"How about you come home with me and then start at the very beginning?"

"Looks like I don't have a choice," Andrea muttered.

"Oh, you do have a choice. You always have a choice," Miranda said.

"Ughhh," Andrea groaned. "Seriously?"

"It's true," Miranda said, shrugging her shoulders. "At least you're not in any condition to be running away today."

"Look, Miranda—"

"No. Not here. I'm calling Roy and taking you home."

"Fine. I just have to get my stuff out of the bathroom," Andrea said, pushing herself off the couch.

"No, I'll take care of that. You just sit. Oh, better yet. You can call John back, since he phoned the house earlier asking how your recovery was going," Miranda snapped. She held her tongue as she went about the apartment, gathering Andrea's things and tidying up a bit.

Miranda didn't return to the living room until Roy messaged her that he was downstairs. She had so much she wanted to say to the young woman, but the overwhelming need to get Andrea home prevailed. She helped her up from the couch and down to the first floor in silence.

As Roy helped Andrea in and out of the car, Miranda wondered if she was possibly the only person in the world who didn't know about Andrea's surgery. Miranda helped her up to their bedroom, noticing that the babies were both down for their nap. She poked her head downstairs, gesturing that Serena was free to leave, then returned to her room, kicking off her shoes and climbing onto the bed with Andrea.

Miranda took Andrea's hands and looked into her eyes. "Darling, I love you so much, and I'm grateful that you're okay. I just—I love you no matter what, do you understand?"

Andrea nodded. "And I love you, too, Miranda," she said as her eyes welled with tears. "I'm so sorry I hurt you."

Miranda reached up and brushed away the young woman's tears with a soft smile. "Darling, start from the beginning."

Andrea closed her eyes and nodded. "Actually, first, can I go grab the heating pad?"

"I'll get it. Do you need any medication?"

"I think another ibuprofen—the doctor gave me a prescription for the 800 mg tablets," Andrea said.

"Would you like tea or anything else?"

"No, water is fine. Thank you," she said as Miranda headed into the bathroom to retrieve the heating pad.

Once she was settled, Miranda sat indian-style on the bed next to her. "The beginning, Andrea," she said.

Andrea could tell she was upset, but seeing that pain behind her eyes was too much. "Can you turn around or something? I can't look at you."

Miranda opened her mouth to protest, but quickly shut it and laid next to the young woman, resting her head on her shoulder. "Is this okay?"

Andrea reached down and squeezed her hand as she took a deep breath. "I got my period when I was nine years old—the girls' age. By senior year of high school, it was too painful to wear a tampon. No one believed me, and I just thought all the other girls were putting up with it. My mom finally let me go to see a gynecologist, and right away she knew I had fibroids. It's rare in young women, but possible. I later came to find out that my mother and aunts and grandmother all had fibroids, too. You can imagine how upset I was that my mother didn't recognize my symptoms," she said. "Oh, but that's not what you want to hear. Right. Um, so yeah. I had surgery right after I graduated from high school. They were growing on the interior wall of my uterus, and they basically did a dilation and curettage, then cauterized. It wasn't until a few years ago, when I went to a different doctor, that I was told I would never be able to have children due to the scarring from my previous surgery."

Miranda turned towards Andrea and gently draped her arm across her stomach.

"So, um, yeah. I could have sued the doctors and hospital for not informing me or whatever, but I didn't want the money. It wouldn't change things. The fibroids basically couldn't grow on the inside of my uterus anymore, so they started growing within the wall, and on the outside. My doctor gave me some medication to shrink them, and that helped for a while, then I moved to New York. I was feeling okay, so I didn't bother seeing another doctor. Then, a few months ago, I started getting headaches with my period, and I was bleeding a lot more than I usually do. I tried to put it off, but I knew I needed to make an appointment. This time, she was able to do a laparoscopic myomectomy, so she just made a few tiny incisions and cut them up, then sucked it out in small pieces. So, yeah."

"When are you going to get to the part about not telling me?" Miranda asked calmly.

"Like I said, it wasn't a big deal, and I really didn't want to talk about it, but then it sort of snowballed, and I thought it was too late. I thought you'd be upset with me. I thought you wouldn't want to be bothered with this. Look, I'm fine. It's no big deal."

"It is a big deal, Andrea. Not only is it an ongoing health issue that you'll face for your entire life, but you had surgery. If you can't share something like that…but you expect me to trust you with my daughters…"

"Your daughters. I guess I've already ruined it."

"No, our daughters—our. Andrea, I'm sorry, that was not intentional."


"Andrea, I am not apologizing again. You're the one who lied to us."

"Miranda, I'm sorry. What more do you want from me?"


"I do trust you—completely. I just don't understand why I have to tell you every single thing. Can't I just keep something to myself? Something personal? Something that, I don't know, you can't use against me."

"What? What did you just say?" Miranda hissed, sitting up. "Use against you? Clearly I was under the misguided illusion that we loved each other, but according to you, it sounds more like we're enemies."

"I didn't mean it like that!" she said, raising her voice. "So, you mean, you've never kept anything from me?"

"Not intentionally. There's plenty I haven't told you, mostly because you haven't asked. And of course, I don't always tell you the whole story, but I'm just redacting out the boring parts. If you showed any interest whatsoever, I would tell you."

"I find that hard to believe," Andrea said, rolling her eyes.

"So you really think I've been keeping things from you? Jesus, Andrea. Two months ago I started taking mood stabilizers, and I told you before I even had the pharmacy fill the prescription. You've seen me at my most vulnerable—and you know there is no argument in that—and yet, you still think I'm keeping secrets?"

"I knew I couldn't talk to you about this."

"Oh, wait wait wait. Now this is about you feeling like you can't talk to me? Have I ever—since we started seeing each other outside of work—said that I didn't have time for you? Tell you I didn't care about whatever it was you were saying? Judge you for your feelings? No. No, I haven't," Miranda said, shaking her finger. "I have done everything in my power to show you that I care about you. That I don't look down on you. That each and every day I am grateful to have you in my life and in the lives of my daughters." She shook her head and looked away for a moment. "If you don't want this…with me…you could…no one's forcing you to stay."

"Miranda, no. Where are you getting that? I do want this life with you. I just, I was afraid."

"Of what?"

Andrea shrugged. "That you wouldn't want to put up with me. You know, if I have problems like this," she said as she gestured towards her lower abdomen. "I'm imperfect."

A sharp cry interrupted their conversation, and the women noticed Cate standing up in her crib on the monitor.

"I'll be right back," Miranda said.

On the monitor, Andrea watched her pick up Cate and gently try to soothe Callie back to sleep. A few minutes later, she returned to the bedroom and climbed up onto the bed, cradling a sleepy-eyed Catherine against her chest.

"What did I say or do to make you think I wouldn't want to 'put up with you,' as you say?" Miranda asked. "And how do you know I don't already think you're perfect?"

Andrea shrugged and shook her head. "It's just me being insecure, forget it."

Miranda's eyes widened and she turned to the young woman. "Why this all of a sudden? Is it the press—did someone say something to you?"

"No, forget about it. It's fine. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have overreacted. I shouldn't have brought up secrets or anything. Can we just forget about it?"

"How can I forget that you had surgery without telling me? That you arranged to stay the night somewhere else so that you could hide from me? What's next? Will you be taking another lover and keep that from me, too? Because you just want something that you can keep to yourself?"

"I could never—there is no one else. There will never be anyone else. Miranda, please don't do this. Just let it go."

"Tell me why you're feeling insecure."

Andrea was silent.

"Andrea, if you're going to continue to keep things from me, this is as good as over. I've played that game many times before, and honestly, I'm too old for that. I don't have time for the hesitation, the teasing, the jealousy. I would like to think I've outgrown that, and I thought you were someone who could meet me in the middle here. I want a partner to share the rest of my life with, someone I can grow old with, someone to watch our daughters grow up with. Are you or are you not that person?"

The young woman began to cry as she shook her head. "I'm not good enough. I was stupid to think I could make you happy," she said as she took the diamond engagement ring from her finger and placed it on the nightstand.

Miranda gasped and immediately realized she took it a step too far—she practically issued Andrea an ultimatum, and that was not her intent. She set Cate down on the bed and turned over, wrapping her arms around the young woman. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I'm a fool—please, don't do this to me. You do make me happy, Andrea, you must know that. You are that person I see myself spending the rest of my life with. I'm the one who doesn't deserve you, darling. Please take it back."

Cate tried to crawl over Miranda, reaching out for Andrea. "Mama," she said.

"Darling, please," Miranda pleaded, kissing her on the cheek and ignoring the infant altogether.

Andrea took a deep breath and grasped one of Cate's tiny hands. "I ran into Stephen last week at Starbucks in Manhattan. I don't think he knew who I was until I gave the barista my name. He had some awful things to say, and I hate it, but he made me doubt some things."

"Did he harass you? Sweetheart, I'm so sorry. He has no right to treat you like that. Why didn't you tell me?"

Andrea rolled her eyes. "What, so your lawyer could call his lawyer? I don't need you to fight my battles. I would have told you, but I figured you would just be too upset, and then I hadn't decided whether I believed him or not."

"Are you going to tell me what he said?"

"He basically said that no one would ever be good enough for you. He insinuated that you're treating me now the same exact way you treated him just before you got married. He said that you surround yourself with people who are indebted to you to maintain the illusion of loyalty—that you know, deep down, just how insufferable you are and that you're terrified of being alone. And then he told me you could replace me in the blink of an eye. He said, 'Don't even think about telling me that Miranda would never cheat on you, because there are two nine-month-olds as proof she's done it before.'" Andrea brought her hands up to cover her face. "I don't want to believe him. I know he's an asshole, but he got to me. I want to believe that I'm different, that what we have is different, but I can't think of a single thing you could do to prove it to me."

"Andrea, I can promise you that I never treated Stephen like this. Even in the beginning, I never hugged or kissed him simply because I wanted to. I never snuggled beside him because I liked the way he smelled. I don't even know what he smelled like before I gave him a bottle of Ralph Lauren cologne for his birthday," Miranda said, sitting up and anxiously glancing at the monitor. Callie was awake and jumping up and trying to climb out of her crib. "Of course, we got along better when we were first together, but—ask Caroline and Cassidy. It was entirely different. I have to go get Callie before she breaks that crib," she said, heading to the door. "Darling, whatever you want, say the word and I'll do it."

A few minutes later, she returned to the room carrying Callie and kicking two bouncers through the doorway. She fastened Callie in hers, then came to gather Cate and fasten her inside as well. Once they were settled, she crawled next to Andrea again and tightly wrapped her arms around her. "Andrea, I love you so much," she whispered.

"If I asked you to leave Runway, would you?"

"Yes," Miranda replied without a moment's hesitation. "Do you want me to?"

The young woman shook her head. "If I asked you to, uh, dye your hair dark brown, would you?"

"Yes—want me to call Tiffani?"

Andrea shook her head. "If I asked you to marry me today, would you?"

"Yes," Miranda said, smiling brightly. "But technically, we wouldn't be able to obtain the license until Monday at 8:30 AM, and then we'd have to wait twenty-four hours to officially marry. If there were a way to make it happen today, I would. We could fly to Vegas tonight if you're feeling up to it?"

Andrea turned and looked her in the eye. "Seriously? You'd do that? I mean, how do you know all the details?" She couldn't imagine Miranda had bothered with all that in any of her previous marriages.

"I think about it a lot, and finally looked up the process for New York," Miranda said with a shrug.

"You think about marriage in general or marrying me?"

Miranda rolled her eyes. "Marrying you. The first time I really thought about it was when I was with the girls in Riviera Maya for Christmas last year. I didn't look up the details until after we started seeing each other, naturally," she said.


"Well right now would be a very inconvenient time to tell a lie, don't you think? Actually, you can probably look in my calendar book. I scribbled down the address of the City Clerk's office, and I have a document pouch in the top drawer of my desk with all of my finalized divorce decrees."

"You would seriously go to the City Clerk's office first thing Monday morning?"

Miranda gently stroked the young woman's cheek. "Darling, I'd hire a private jet to Vegas this very minute."


"Yes. Is that what you want? To get married?"

She shook her head. "I don't think so. I mean, I haven't thought about it too much. I don't want it to be like this. Maybe some rainy spring day in the Hamptons when the girls are old enough to remember it and not cry through it. And also after I make enough of a name for myself that no one will accuse Andrea Priestly of using her wife to get ahead."

"You would take my name?" Miranda asked, softly brushing her cheek.

"Of course—I mean, if you'd let me. I guess I should have asked first."

"Darling, the girls and I would be honored," she said, leaning closer. "Can I kiss you?"

"Are we okay now?" Andrea asked, gently placing her palm against Miranda's chest. "This all started because you were upset with me, and then somehow I upset you and…are we okay?"

"Apology accepted, and I'm sorry for overreacting. I'm still learning how these personal conflicts work."

"I understand, and appreciate you recognizing that this works differently than a situation at the magazine," Andrea said.

"So, can I…?" Miranda asked, patiently hovering over her lips.

"Yes, please," Andrea said, quickly closing the distance between them.

Miranda devoured the young woman's lips, eagerly searching out her tongue and staking her claim inside her mouth. She pulled away and softly traced the features of her face. "When John called earlier," she said as she peppered her face with tiny kisses, "I felt like I couldn't breathe—I was terrified, and betrayed. The anguish was just…oh god, I never want to feel that again. My heart won't stand it."

"I'm so sorry," Andrea said, wrapping her arms tightly around the woman.

Part 6

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