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.
By quiethearted (QH Fletcher)
She gathered another armful of clothes from the closet and carried them to the bed to be sorted into piles of what should be packed in the various suitcases and hanging bags that littered the bedroom and what should be stored in the closet in her study. Those items she would return for once she had settled somewhere a bit more permanently than the hotel she had made a reservation at that morning. She would have liked to have found an apartment before actually making a move but that wasn't an option. She wasn't about to 'move at a glacial pace' as she had been reminded all too frequently in the past. No, it was better that the break be immediate and as clean as possible.
She supposed she should be wailing and berating her fate at this point, but at the moment it all seemed a bit too clichéd. Shock. Yes, shock explained it best. She had been moving in that disjointed world of non-reality since the previous night, since finding out that the woman she loved more than anyone else she had ever encountered simply didn't love her back. Perhaps she should have expected it. After all, Miranda was Miranda. The woman seldom seemed capable of caring about anything other than Runway and her children.
The girls. She couldn't even begin to know what to say to them. The three of them had bonded so tightly, so totally, that it seemed as if Andy had always been their parent. But she wasn't, yet another point that had been driven home quite successfully last night. She felt her eyes burn for a fleeting second and wondered if the tears would come now, but it passed with a blink. She guessed she should be grateful. It would be hard to do what she must blinded by the evidence of her grief. Oh, yes. She was grieving, had been since the moment Miranda had pointedly reminded her that she had been told in the beginning that if she couldn't live with life as the older woman prescribed it, she should just pack and leave, so that was what she was doing, methodically moving through the actions of gathering her belongings to depart the townhouse and Miranda's life.
Maybe if she didn't feel so incredibly hollow, didn't feel as if there was nothing inside her left to feel with, even. Her mind seemed to be functioning on autopilot this morning. She had risen from the bed in the guest room after Miranda and the twins had left for the day, grateful that it was, at least, her day off so she didn't have to call into work and make lame excuses. It would be hard enough tomorrow when she had to file change of address forms, however temporarily. She should make a list of all the people she needed to notify, her parents, Doug. It really wasn't a very long list. For the last two years, her life had revolved around work, the twins and Miranda, mostly Miranda.
She should get the papers when she got to the hotel, look for an apartment, though she supposed it would be quicker and easier to contact a realtor. The truth was she had no idea what she could afford at this point. Calling Michael, Miranda's go to guy for all things financial, would have to be added to the list. Shortly after they had gotten together, the older woman had convinced Andy to place the small inheritance she had gotten from her grandmother into his capable hands. She knew it had grown exponentially over the intervening time but she had no idea as to her actual net worth today. It hadn't mattered. She had also been convinced to forward the majority of her salary on to Michael for investing and had simply done so, as always wanting only to please the woman she loved and truthfully, Andy was so busy being ecstatically happy that money was the last of her considerations. There had been her and Miranda's joint checking and credit cards to use when she needed anything, though she had contacted the financial guru when she wanted to buy gifts for her lover and the kids reasoning that such things should come from money she had earned. He'd always seen to it that whatever she asked for was deposited into her account, no questions asked.
She hoped there was enough there to afford at least a tiny apartment. She didn't need much. Outside of the furniture from her study, which she'd bought herself, nothing in the townhouse belonged to her except a few knickknacks that she had already moved from throughout the house into her study to be packed when she could arrange to return with boxes. She hadn't realized how little of herself existed in what was ostensibly their home until it was all placed in once location. A couple of cartons would easily hold her entire two year impact on the place. It seemed Miranda had kept Andy's existence in her life carefully contained.
Had the older woman been planning all along for this to be something temporary? Had she intentionally kept her young lover from invading her life beyond a certain point, made sure that Andy would have the financial means to cover her when Miranda grew tired of the situation? The older woman was a planner, she had to be, always ready for every contingency. Had she been preparing for this one from the beginning? If so, what did that even say about the time they had spent together if throughout Miranda had been preparing for Andy's departure? Had there even truly been a relationship or just an interim where the older woman's more prurient needs were met? The quality of their sex life was the one thing they had both always agreed on. As for the rest well, Andy had made allowances and she thought Miranda had as well. Evidently, she was wrong, had been wrong all along.
Having sorted through the contents on her side of the closet, Andy gathered an armful of clothes and carried them to her study. Hanging them in the mostly empty closet, she returned to the bedroom for the next load. As with everything else she had done that morning, she worked by rote, her mind fully occupied with thoughts of the night before.
It had been much the same as other nights over the last few months with Miranda once again working late, a habit the editor had never really broken throughout their relationship. At first, she had made some effort, attempting to arrive home in time for dinner or calling with profuse apologies when she simply couldn't be there on time. Andy had been so thrilled that her lover was willing to at least try for her benefit that she had been as understanding and supportive as possible. Perhaps that had been her first mistake. Maybe if she had laid the law down to Miranda in the beginning the situation wouldn't have escalated, but then, who exactly could try to dictate behavior to Miranda Priestly and live to tell the tale. If such a person existed, Andy had yet to meet them. The twins came closest and even they knew their limits.
Over the last six months, Miranda came home later and later. Her calls to notify her family were first delegated to whatever second assistant existed at the moment and then slowly tapered off until they ceased. The editor began to show up whenever she chose to, coming in after Andy and the girls were asleep and leaving before they awoke. Were it not for the indentation in the pillow and the increase of a single outfit in the to-be-dry-cleaned section of the closet, Andy would never have known her lover was there. More and more, she felt she was more au pair than partner. She loved the girls, she truly did and she wanted to keep seeing them, but the ultimate responsibility for them was Miranda's, something the older woman seemed to have pushed off onto Andy so she could live fully for her magazine without concern that her children were loved and cared for.
The previous night had been one of the few times the woman had arrived home before the rest of her family were asleep. Andy had heard her come in and go directly to her study. The younger woman had gone downstairs in the hope of convincing her lover to spend some time together. It had been so long since they had even talked, that Andy would have settled for that, though truthfully she wanted very much to make love to Miranda. It had been weeks since they had touched intimately and she missed that closeness. She had tried to be non-confrontational. She really had, but Miranda had hardly noticed her, giving inattentive answers and basically, just brushing Andy off. When she had persisted the editor became defensive and the encounter has escalated to a full scale argument in moments.
"Can you not see that I am busy, Andréa? Are you so childishly insecure that you require my constant attention?"
"Constant !? Hell, Miranda, I get no attention from you at all. I'm like some friggin' trophy you drape over your arm for public appearances and then hang on the wall when you get home until the next big event."
Andy couldn't believe it when Miranda rolled her eyes with a sniff as if Andy's concerns were beneath her concern.
"How incredibly droll of you. Do you have any other ludicrous fantasies you wish to share, or may I return to something of importance?"
The condescending tone was more than Andy could take. "Ludicr unimpor ," Andy sputtered. "Damn, Miranda, do you even want me here?"
"No, Andréa, I do not. We had this discussion at the very beginning. Now please leave. I have no desire to drag this out ad infinitim. Good-bye." She turned back to The Book and continued to study each page as if there had been no disagreement.
Andy felt everything inside her freeze as if she had suddenly entered some internal Ice Age. It was over. Just that quickly. A few words and Miranda had erased their entire time together, everything they had meant to each other. Gone. Afraid to move too quickly, afraid to make a sound lest the vibration cause her to shatter into a million infinitesimal pieces, Andy left the room closing the door behind her. The soft 'snick' of the catch giving finality to the argument, the night, the entire relationship. She climbed the stairs to the guest room. Miranda would not want her in the same bed tonight, or ever again. She lay down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling, unblinking, unmoving. Her mind moved sluggishly. There were things to be done. She knew that, but right now she simply wanted to escape. She closed her eyes and let her mind and body shut down, taking her away from the horror.
Returning to the bedroom after her last load, Andy began to rhythmically fold and pack the clothing she had set aside to take with her. It mostly consisted of business attire she had purchased herself and things she had brought with her to the townhouse. She didn't question the fact that everything purchased for her by Miranda had gone into the study closet, no matter how high on the young woman's favorite things to wear list the items had been. Right now was not a good time for reminders. Starting over for her needed to be more about picking up where she left off, back at a station in life suitable for what she had accomplished on her own. She knew the paparazzi would descend the moment word got out, just as they had when the story had broken at the beginning of their relationship. Andy had survived it then, she would do so again until the next big scandal took the attention away from her.
She had finished with the hanging clothes and moved on to contents of her dresser when a sound much like a gasp drew her attention to the door. Cassidy stood there, one hand on the jam as if needing the support. Her gaze wandered the room, taking in the empty space in the closet and the myriad suitcases scattered throughout the room.
"What are you doing, Andy?"
"Packing," came the succinct reply.
"Why? What's going on?" The girl's voice quivered as evidence of her concern.
"It's what you do when you leave, Cass," Andy's voice sounded hollow even to her own ears.
The young red-head's eyes widened. She had never heard their Andy's voice so totally devoid of emotion. She watched the woman carefully, observing the jerkiness of her motions. Andy had never been the most graceful person when she was upset but this seemed almost robotic, as if there was no longer a real person animating the tall body. Her face was haggard with dark circles under the eyes, which no longer shimmered with warmth and humor.
"Where are you going?" the girl tried, hoping for an answer about a business trip or a family illness in Cincinnati, anything but what she feared was happening.
"I don't know yet a hotel. I'll call when I have a place," Andy continued to move between dresser and suitcase never once stilling her movements. She needed to finish this and be gone before Miranda might arrive, not that she would, but still
"Does Mom know?" Cass tried again, praying she could snap the brunette out of whatever fugue state she seemed to be in.
Andy hesitated in her movements for just the briefest second before resuming.
"It was her idea. I need to finish this, Cass. I need .I just need to finish." The long body seemed to become even more rigid as it continued its movements.
Seriously afraid for this woman who had become a second mother to her in such a short time, Cassidy turned and ran to her room where she had dropped her purse and backpack upon returning home thankful that she'd only had one mid-term that day and that in the morning. Something was terribly wrong here. There was no way her mother had told Andy to leave. Cass and her sister had just recently joked together that the young brunette could have an affair in the bed she shared with their mother and send the video to Page Six and the older woman would forgive her, punish her yes, but still ultimately forgive. Their mother was that gone on the woman. She dug frantically through her bag until she found her phone and hit the button that would connect her to her mom. Whatever is going on here, Mom needs to fix this.
Miranda was in the middle of an editorial meeting and had just shot down yet another reprehensible suggestion for the August shoot in her usual quiet, decisive way when her phone sounded with Cassidy's ringtone, one of exactly three that could interrupt her day without dire consequences.
"Yes, Bobbsey?" she answered while still looking over the disaster that was the latest layout submitted by the art department.
"You have to come home. Right now," was stated in a harsh tone without the usual preamble.
"Darling, you know mother is working. I can't simply just come home." Miranda's tone was lightly chiding.
"Whatever you've done, you have to fix it. Now!" The young voice escalated in a way the older woman had seldom heard.
"Is something wrong with your sister?" Miranda's own voice took on a concerned tone. She waved an impatient hand at her staff for silence.
"No, Caro's still at school. It's Andy," Cass began only to be cut off by her mother.
"Is she ill? Injured?" Miranda could think of no other reason for her daughter to be this upset, or to call her making demands in such a strident tone.
"No! Nothing like that." Why wouldn't her mother just listen?
"Then I fail to see why my presence is needed at this moment. I have a great deal to do today, Cassidy. I don't appreciate needless interruptions, even from you," Miranda's patience, never in vast supply, was beginning to strain.
"Damn it, Mom! She's leaving you! Leaving us!" Cassidy snapped at the end of her own store of patience.
"Language, Cassidy," came the rote admonishment before the message actually sank in. "What?! What did you say? Repeat yourself this instant!"
Nigel and the rest of the staff, attention drawn by the unheard of heightened sound of their leader's voice, watched in concern as her normally pale skin took on a ghostly countenance.
"Andy is packing. She's packed everything. She says she's leaving. Whatever you did, get over here and fix it! Right damn now!" Frustrated beyond all belief at her mother, Cassidy hung up before the woman could respond and sent a quick text to her sister, followed by one to their driver to pick up Caro at school. Maybe between them, they could correct whatever her mother seemed to have done. It was a snap she wasn't going to do anything. Lately, her head had been so far up Runway's ass, it was a wonder she even knew the three of them still existed. Cass knew there were good reasons. She wasn't supposed to, but she did and had chosen to not even share them with Caro just in case their mom changed her mind. No sense in everyone being disappointed if that happened, though she prayed every night her mom would hang in there and follow through. Now she feared it was all too little too late. In her half attentive state, her mother had evidently made the ultimate screw up. Shoving her phone in her pocket, she rushed back to her parent's bedroom to try to distract and slow Andy down long enough for some kind of help to arrive. She had serious doubts about being able to handle this on her own. She was only fifteen years old. How the hell was she supposed to know how to deal with this?
Miranda rose, as if dazed by whatever she had heard, and began to move towards the door, all thoughts of the meeting she was in gone.
"Miranda?" Nigel ventured.
Her head turned slowly in his direction, though he had the feeling she wasn't seeing him or anyone else in the room. Whatever Cassidy had told her had had a profound effect on his boss and friend.
"I have to go, Nigel. I have home Andréa is home I have to go there," her soft tones were barely audible.
In all the years he had known her, Nigel could never remember seeing Miranda look quite so lost and devastated.
"Miranda, is everything all right?"
Her head moved in the negative, almost as if she had gone into slow motion.
"No, nothing is. Never again." She continued out of the conference room and towards her office. Two steps beyond the door, she stopped and seemed to shake herself. Then Nigel saw something he had never seen in all his years working with the fashionista, Miranda Priestly ran. From the look on her face he wasn't sure if it was to salvage heaven or escape hell, maybe a bit of both.
He grabbed his phone and connected to Emily.
"Get Miranda's coat and bag. She'll be there in a moment. Tell Roy to be out front NOW. Don't ask, just point her towards the elevator I don't know what's happened, Emily, and I don't have time to speculate right now. Just aim her towards home and start the damage control on your end. I'll wrap up here And, Emily .Pray, even if you never have before, start now and pray." Snapping his phone shut, he said a few of his own before turning back to business.
Emily shot a fast text to Roy, sent the second assistant off to call and hold the elevator and stood in the corridor bag and coat at the ready as her boss tore down the hallway. Bloody hell, she thought as Miranda snatched the items from her hands and continued her drastic flight.
"Elevator and Roy are waiting!" she shouted after her rapidly disappearing employer. If the situation was bad enough that Miranda was running, she was definitely taking Nigel's advice and learning to pray this instant. Bollocks, who do I know that knows how? I could use a few pointers.
Unaware of her staffs sudden religious bent, Miranda paced the confines of the elevator frustrated at the delay, though knowing it was much quicker and safer than attempting seventeen flights of stairs in 3 inch Manolo's. What the hell had happened? Why was Andréa leaving? Somehow Miranda felt like she should know, Cassidy certainly thought so, and not having any idea infuriated her. Coupled with the fear that had blossomed the instant she realized what her daughter was telling her, Miranda was ready to tear her way through the metal doors and run the entire distance to her home. This cannot be happening. This cannot be ALLOWED to happen. She was Miranda Priestly, she could stop this. She just had to get there in time. How far had Andréa gotten in her packing? Why in the hell was she packing in the first place? Was she so terribly miserable being with Miranda?
The doors opened and she took off, ignoring the people who dove out of her way and the shocked looks from the scattering clackers. A security guard was there to open the standard glass door that was usually kept locked except in emergencies so she could by-pass the slower revolving door and emerge onto the sidewalk in front of her waiting car. Another guard held that door so Roy could stay behind the wheel ready to pull away at a moment's notice. Miranda gave a fleeting thought to Emily's efficiency as the car door slammed and the vehicle moved quickly into traffic.
"Hurry, Roy," were her only words before her thoughts turned to the previous night and her discussion with Andréa.
She slowly climbed the stairs, exhausted by both the day and the knowledge that she still had several hours of work left to do. Unable to stand another moment in the office, she had simply wanted to be in her own home, near her family. She needed the reminder of why she was doing this in the first place to help bolster her through yet another night of too little sleep and too much work. She had settled in behind her desk and opened The Book, afraid that changing into more comfortable clothes would have her asleep before she finished for the night. She forced her weary mind to concentrate on the layout before her. There was something wrong with it, but she was just too tired, her eyes just too strained and blurry to easily see it. A noise brought her attention to the door where a smiling Andréa entered, evidently pleased to see her. The younger woman's smile had the hint of deviltry that usually spelled a willingness to lock the door and become very nakedly horizontal very quickly.
Oh, please, not tonight, Darling. I have neither the energy nor the time for the distraction, Miranda thought.
Andy walked over and stopped behind her chair, strong fingers beginning to knead the tight muscles in her lover's neck and shoulders, a move Miranda knew would have her asleep in no time. She shrugged the hands away.
"What do you want, Andréa?" She kept her tone even, unaware of how cold it sounded.
"I just thought we could spend a little time together. I haven't seen you other than in passing in a while," Andy's tone clearly displayed her hurt.
"Can you not see that I am busy, Andréa? Are you so childishly insecure that you require my constant attention?"Miranda couldn't seem to stop herself from reverting to Runway form. Too many hours at the office and not enough just being me, she thought.
"Constant !? Hell, Miranda, I get no attention from you at all. I'm like some friggin' trophy you drape over your arm for public appearances and then hang on the wall when you get home until the next big event."
Miranda sniffed and rolled her eyes at the ridiculousness of the statement. She loved Andréa. Everything she was doing, she was doing for her, for them. Surely, her lover could see that.
"How incredibly droll of you. Do you have any other ludicrous fantasies you wish to share, or may I return to something of importance?" She hadn't meant for her tone to be quite so condescending, but really what did the girl expect? It had been a difficult day and she still had a great deal to do before she could hope to catch even a few hours of much needed sleep before having to start all over again. If she had not had such a clear goal in mind, she would never have attempted to maintain this exhausting pace. But the prize was in sight and she refused to give up at the last moment. She turned her mind more fully to her work, tuning out the young woman who stood beside her desk. She really had no time for this at the moment. They would have more than sufficient time to talk of anything Andréa desired soon enough, just not right now.
"Ludicr unimpor ," Andy sputtered. "Damn, Miranda, do you even want me here?"
"No, Andréa, I do not. We had this discussion at the very beginning. Now please leave. I have no desire to drag this out ad infinitim. Good-bye." She turned back to The Book and continued to study each page as if there had been no disagreement. Perhaps if Miranda had been less tired, less fixated on her ultimate goal, she would have noticed the loss of expression and rigidity that settled over her lover at that pronouncement. Maybe if she had chosen a word besides 'good-bye' to end it or paid enough attention to realize they were addressing different subjects, for Miranda completing her days work, for Andy the rest of their lives, the older woman might have realized the message she had just sent. As it was, she was simply grateful for the silence that prevailed and the quiet closing of the door. Nor did she question the younger woman's absence from their bed when she at last had time for sleep, putting it down to Andréa having a tantrum and sleeping in the guestroom. They really did need to talk about the way the younger woman handled confrontation, but that too could wait for a more appropriate time.
"I told her to leave," Miranda gasped. Cassidy was right.
"Pardon, Ms. Priestly?" Roy asked not sure if she was talking to him.
"Drive, Roy. Floor this thing and get me home. Do it in half the time and get me there alive and the bonus you get will put you into another tax bracket."
Eyes widening, he didn't even stop to wonder if she was joking. Miranda Priestly never joked. Pressing his foot to the floor, Roy put his many years as a hack driver to good use cutting in and out of traffic in a frightening manner that Miranda didn't even notice so busy was she berating herself for being stupid enough to risk losing the one person that had motivated her to change her life in such a drastic manner. She just had to get there in time. Tires squealed as Roy brought the car to a stop in front of the townhouse. Miranda was out the door before he even thought to move the transmission to park. He watched as she streaked across the sidewalk and up the steps where the door opened just as she reached it. His jaw dropped as he saw his boss shove Andy back against a wall, plaster her body to the younger woman's and attack her mouth with her own. He was too far away to hear what was said, could only watch as the younger woman stood frozen as if Miranda's efforts meant nothing to her. Not sure whether to leave or stay, he stayed where he was and prayed for a thaw for all their sakes.
Caroline burst into the house, slamming the front door and hurrying across the foyer. It took only a moment to catch sight of her sister sitting on the staircase, arms wrapped tightly around her waist, head in her lap, sobbing as if her world had ended.
"What the freakin' hell is going on?" Caroline shouted, throwing herself up the stairs to envelope her twin in a tight hug. Cassidy just cried all the harder. "Cass Cass, please. Ya gotta tell me so I can help. My teacher is totally pissed cause I bailed in the middle of the exam. Come on, please, Cass." She pleaded, rocking her sister gently.
A shuddering breath and then another and Cassidy unbent to wrap her arms around Caro, burying her face in a warm neck.
"Andy's leaving," she whimpered.
"I know, I got your text. 'Andy leaving home now.' I don't oh, shit," blue eyes widened as Caroline realized what her sister was telling her. "You mean leaving leaving. Like forever leaving. But why? What did Mom do?" It would have surprised no one, the editor least of all, to know that Miranda's two daughters immediately placed the blame on their mother's head.
"I don't know," Cass sobbed. "She won't say. Just keeps packing and repeating that Mom told her to go. She's not even acting like Andy. It's like there's nothing inside her."
Footsteps at the top of the stairs had them both looking up and scooting out of the way as Andy started down, a suitcase in each hand.
"Hello, Caroline," she said in that inflectionless voice that Cassidy had been listening to for the past hour.
"Hey, Andy," Caro's tone was hesitant. "Where ya going?"
"A hotel. I explained to Cassidy." Andy never halted in her movements. She lined the bags up near the front door and turned around to go back upstairs for the next set.
"Where's mom?" Caro hissed when the brunette was once again out of sight.
Cassidy shook her head moaning, "I called but she's probably not coming. She said she was busy before I hung up on her."
"You hung up on MOM!" Caroline wasn't sure what shocked her more, Andy leaving them or her sister hanging up on their mom. Both could have some pretty devastating consequences for all involved.
Cass just nodded her head miserably and cuddled closer to her sister while they watched Andy bring down two more bags to line up with the others. They turned their heads to follow as she headed back up and into the bedroom.
"How many more?" Caroline asked.
"This is the last set," Cass supplied. "We're out of time."
Andy returned and set the last of the bags with the others. She was opening the closet for her coat when they all heard the screech of tires outside.
"That's my cab. I need to go now. I'll call you," she assured the girls, knowing she needed to comfort them in some way but unable to connect to the emotions she needed to do so. Forgetting about her coat for the moment, she turned to open the front door only to find herself driven back against the wall. She barely got a glimpse of tousled white hair, before she felt softness and heat pressed against the front of her body and an urgent mouth claimed her own. She stood where she was unsure as to what was happening, aware of Miranda seeking entrance to her mouth. She vaguely heard twin cheers of "All right, Mom!" as hands slid over her body, up around her neck and settled on the back of her head pulling it down for an even deeper kiss.
Feeling as if she was slogging through a nightmare, Andy broke away and moved several feet to lean against a table for support. The infamous table with the flowers, she thought nonsensically.
"A cab I have a cab coming. You weren't I was supposed to be gone before " Unable to think clearly enough to finish, Andy turned to the closet and reached for her coat.
Going on the instinct that had saved her uncounted times in the past, Miranda addressed herself to the twins who stood on the stairs holding each other.
"Girls, go pack." Glancing at Andy's bags, she continued. "For several days, maybe weeks. And could you pull out my luggage when you get your own. Just put it in my room, please."
"No problem," came the excited responses and they hurried up the stairs. Their mom had a plan. She could do anything once she had a plan.
Andy stared at the other woman as if she had never seen her before.
"What are you doing, Miranda?"
"As it seems evident that we're going on a trip of some kind, I felt it best to have the children pack. If you'll give me a moment, I'll do the same. We won't need a taxi. Roy's waiting outside."
Andy shook her head, confused by what Miranda was saying.
"I don't know, Andréa. You're the one that's all packed. Simply give Roy our destination and the rest of us will be ready shortly," Miranda kept her tone light and conversational, as if they actually were preparing to travel as a family. The monotone voice and delayed reactions of her lover had the older woman terribly concerned. She was afraid to come on too strong for fear of making the situation worse.
"We aren't going. I am. You told me you said ," Andy couldn't force herself to speak the words.
Stepping forwards, Miranda cupped one pale, cold cheek, noticing the minute shivers that passed over her lover in waves. She's in shock, Miranda realized.
"I asked you to leave my study so I could finish what I was doing," she spoke slowly and clearly so there would be no misunderstanding. "I was extremely tired and unable to work with a distraction. I know I'm working a great deal, but we talked about this when we first started dating. The Board is moving to oust Irv and they want me to take over as CEO with the Chairmanship going to one of the board members. I've been trying to get Runway ready to hand over to Nigel while preparing for a structuring of the other titles. Are you listening to me, Andréa?" Miranda was concerned that the young woman's expression hadn't changed, nor had the cheek beneath her hand warmed.
"You're getting a promotion. Con-congratulations, Miranda," Andy offered unsure what any of it had to do with her now. Her cab should be here soon.
Moving her other hand up to cup the other side of Andréa's face, Miranda forced their eyes to meet. "Darling, you're not hearing me. I do NOT want you to leave. In two more weeks, I am taking you and the girls on a vacation. The Board wants me out of the way of the fallout when they take down Irv and I'm putting it to good use. Once we're back, all the preparation I've done means I can immediately reduce my hours. I'll be home for dinner every night and on weekends. You cannot leave me, Andréa. I won't allow it. All our plans are about to come to fruition."
"Plans?" The natural curiosity that drove her slowly seeped back into dark eyes.
It was all Miranda could do not to rejoice at the sight.
"Yes, Darling, our plans. Remember all the talks we had while we were dating? About having more time together, me having fewer responsibilities or at least manageable ones and you being able to freelance, maybe even write that book you were thinking about. Do you remember all that?"
"Yes," Andy nodded, her voice sounding slightly stronger and her skin becoming faintly warmer. "I didn't think you listened to all that."
"Oh, Andréa," Miranda smiled tenderly at the younger woman with all the love she felt. "I remember every word you ever said to me and I promised myself I would give you the chance to make those dreams live."
One thing became paramount in Andy's mind, the one thing that could have headed this all off.
"Why didn't you tell me any of this? Why leave me in the dark all these months?"
Miranda's expression was strange and one Andy couldn't easily identify.
"But-but I did. Every night. You held me and I told you what happened that day. You've known everything, every step of the way."
Andy looked away, her face flaming. Oh, damn, could it really be that simple.
"Miranda, when things become too stressful, I talk in my sleep. Eyes open, carrying on a complete conversation, the works. But I'm not really awake. I never remember it. I've done that since I was a kid. It's how Nate found out how I felt about you even though I still didn't realize it at the time. My subconscious does most of the talking then."
A confession which earned her an eye roll and a muttered, "You would have to mention cookboy."
Feeling as if someone had finally turned on the tap of her emotions, Andy wasn't sure whether to laugh or to cry. Even after everything, Miranda would insist on being jealous of a past relationship that meant less than nothing to Andy compared to her feelings for the older woman. Sure, she'd always care about Nate, but there was a world of difference in caring and being totally, breathlessly in love with someone, as she was with Miranda. Shaking her head, she moved to stand close to the other woman.
"I think there's a lot we need to talk about while I'm conscious. Starting with when the heck all this started." She slid her arms around Miranda's waist and pulled her closer. "You should also be aware that everything I own is either in those bags over there or my study and I'm not happy to realize just how little that is. There's very little of me here, Miranda."
"We'll fix that. Anything you want to change is fine, anything you want to hang or toss anywhere, as long as the dirty laundry stays in the hamper. We'll sell this house and buy another if you'd be happier somewhere else," she promised resting her head against Andy's shoulder.
"No, this house is fine. It's very you. I just want it to be a bit more us is all."
"Us is good. I can work with us," Miranda wanted nothing more.
Andy took a ragged breath as warm hands stroked up and down her back. It felt so good to hold Miranda and know she was holding her.
"You should also know that very shortly I'm going to start the crying that I haven't been able to manage since last night. I-I know it's probably silly since things are alright now but I just ."
"Shhh, Darling, I understand. You need the emotional release. It's important. Let me have Roy help get your bags back upstairs. You go tell the girls you're staying and to stop packing, if they are and I'll meet you in our room. I think we need some quiet time, just us two."
Receiving a nod from the younger woman, Miranda turned to motion Roy in through the still open door, which surprised her. She wasn't normally forgetful about closing and locking the door, but she did have other things on her mind when she arrived. Things of paramount importance to her life. She turned just in time to see the twins coming downstairs with a packed overnight bag each.
"I didn't mean to actually pack," she admonished, a bit startled that they hadn't picked up on her intent as they usually did.
"We called Dad," Caroline began.
"He's expecting us. We think you two need some time to talk and stuff," Cassidy finished.
"Yeah, especially 'and stuff,'" Caroline added.
Andy smiled and hugged both girls.
"I love you," she whispered between their ears.
They hugged back as strong as they could.
"Never again, " Cass warned her. "I'm too young for a breakdown."
"Never again," Andy promised. "I'm too young for one too."
Grinning they broke apart and Caroline gestured from Roy, who had just reached the door, to the bags.
"Grab a few, Roy. We've got to move the 'nother mother back in," Cass quipped dropping her bag in favor of two of Andy's smaller bags.
"'Nother mother?" Andy laughed by way of asking.
"Yeah, female parents are called mothers, ya know," Cass explained with a teasing grin.
"We've already got one of those," Caroline helped. "Now we have another."
Andy shook her head, groaning. "That was sooooo bad."
"Yes, well, you have to excuse us. We've been traumatized," Cass laughed to show there were no hard feelings now that things looked to be okay again. She took off for the stairs with the two bags before Andy could respond.
A few minutes later, Miranda closed the door on the three as Roy left to take the twins to their father's. Surprisingly, after some initial reticence, he'd taken a liking to Andy and had proven very supportive of their relationship. He had even tried to warn Miranda of what was happening but she had not heeded him as she was sure from her nightly talks with Andréa that everything was fine between them. She realized now she should have listened. He saw things and heard things from their girls that she did not. It was a mistake she didn't intend to make again.
She went in search of her lover and found her curled up in their bed in the middle of that 'good cry' they had spoken of. Andréa had stripped down, if the pile of clothes at the foot of the bed were any indication, and was huddled under a blanket she had had since she was a child. Worn and threadbare, it was usually delegated to the back of the closet, but one open suitcase showed where it had most recently been. Adding her own clothing to the pile, Miranda slid beneath the blanket and pulled the shivering body tightly against her own. Then she simply held her lover, pressing small kisses to her shoulders and neck, while whispering reassurances of how very much she truly loved the younger woman. How long they lay like that, Miranda had no idea, but eventually, the tears ceased and Andréa turned in her arms, rested her head on the older woman's breast and with a murmured, "favorite pillow" fell asleep. Kissing the top of the dark head, Miranda joined her.
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