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When I'm Gone
Soft music filled the church as Doug escorted a grieving Andy down the church aisle to the second row of pews. He waited patiently as she took her seat and then joined her. Glancing at his friend, he could see tears brimming in her eyes. He leaned closer and whispered, "Do you need anything, Andy?"
"No, I'm fine. Where are the girls?"
"They're with Serena and Emily. They wanted a drink of water."
"Okay." Andy pulled a tissue out of her clutch. "I really wish Miranda was here."
"I know, honey." Doug patted Andy's hand. "She's watching over you, don't worry."
"You think so?" Andy glanced at Doug and then towards the front of the church. Several people were talking quietly with the priest preparing for the funeral service. Andy listened to the organist playing in the background. "I really hate funerals." Andy dabbed her eyes and tried to focus on the high stained glass windows.
"I'm with you there. It will be over soon." Doug held Andy's hand as he glanced around looking for the twins and their escorts. He was relieved to see them coming down the outside aisle. First Caroline, then Cassidy entered the pew from the far end and moved next to Andy. Serena and Emily followed and took their seats. Doug watched Caroline snuggle into Andy's side. Cassidy leaned into Serena who wrapped her arm around the little girl. Both girls' eyes were red and they looked ready to cry again at any second.
Everyone quieted as the priest stepped up to the pulpit. "Good morning and welcome to a celebration of a life well lived. Today we say goodbye to a woman who touched many lives in publishing and fashion. She was a woman loved by her family and friends and respected by her colleagues. It is only proper that the ones who knew her best tell us about her life and how she will be missed." The priest stepped back as a dignified woman strode forward.
As she set her notes on the lectern she looked out over the crowd. "My name is Miranda Priestly and Elizabeth Carole Clarke Johansson was my friend."
Andy dabbed her eyes and listened to Miranda eulogize her old friend. Elizabeth had been a member of the Elias-Clarke Board of Directors for over forty years. She was one of the original supporters for appointing Miranda as Editor-in-Chief of Runway. Andy remembered Elizabeth attending their wedding reception last year. 'She danced and partied with the best of them. No one would have guessed she had just turned ninety.'
Andy started crying thinking about how wonderful Elizabeth had been when the news broke of her and Miranda's relationship. Elizabeth marched into Miranda's office and demanded that Miranda tell her if Andy had a sister and could Andy set them up. Miranda told Andy that evening she didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or hug the old woman. Andy heard from Rachel that Miranda tilted her head, removed her glasses, and said "Unfortunately, Andrea doesn't have a sister. But I shall inquire if there are any cousins that might be available."
As Andy's tears started in earnest, Doug passed her a box of tissues. Feeling guilty, Doug hoped the speeches and ceremony wouldn't take too long. Miranda had personally asked him to stay with Andy during the funeral because she was suppose to sit up front with the priest and other speakers during the service.
When Miranda finished her remarks, she nodded to the priest and made her way to the side of the dais. Disregarding protocol, Miranda came down the steps. Doug patted Andy's shoulder and slipped out and into the pew behind. Miranda took Doug's vacant seat and wrapped her arms around Andy. Before Andy could register that Doug was gone, Miranda had her. Andy buried her face in Miranda's neck and continued to silently cry.
After the service, Doug, Emily, and Serena parted from the Priestlys outside of the church and Miranda ushered her distraught family to the waiting car for the ride home. Elizabeth's remains had been cremated and would be spread during a private ceremony.
"Everyone change clothes and I'll check on lunch," Miranda directed her family as she closed the front door. Miranda watched Andy and the twins start upstairs before heading to the kitchen. As requested, the housekeeper had soup heating in the crock pot and salad in the refrigerator. She had even set the kitchen table before leaving for the day. Satisfied that lunch was ready, Miranda went upstairs to change out of the dark Armani suit.
Andy was sitting on the side of the bed when Miranda entered the room. Miranda walked over and gently squeezed Andy's shoulder. "Feeling alright, dear?"
"Just tired." Andy leaned into Miranda. "I'm sorry I lost it at the church."
"Nonsense, you didn't lose it. You cried because you lost a good friend. There were others just as upset." Miranda ran her fingers through Andy's hair.
"But we hadn't been friends for that long. You and girls knew her longer."
Miranda lifted Andy's chin so she could look into her wife's eyes. "Someone once told me that it's not how long you know someone; it's how deeply they touch your heart."
"Oh, yeah," Andy blushed. "I think I remember that."
"Good." Miranda leaned down and kissed Andy on the top of her head. "Let me change and we'll eat."
Miranda set down her spoon and shook her head. As lunches went, this was the quietest meal ever eaten in the house. "That's enough. All of you need to stop this instant."
Andy and the girls stared at Miranda, confusion plain on all of their faces.
"Mom, we haven't said anything," offered Caroline.
"Exactly. All of you are acting as if a dark cloud has descended on this table." Miranda pushed her soup bowl away and stared in turn at her daughters and wife. "Did any of you listen to what was said in that church this morning?"
Cassidy shook her head. "I don't understand, Mom. Elizabeth is gone and we won't see her anymore."
"Yes, Elizabeth is gone," Miranda sighed. "But she lived an exceptionally full life. Do you remember when you were younger and some of the birthday presents she gave you?"
Caroline and Cassidy looked at each other and grinned. "Play-Doh," they chorused.
"Yes. It took me a long time to forgive Elizabeth for that one. It wouldn't surprise me if I could still find some of that vile product ground into the upstairs carpet." Miranda smirked at Andy's surprised laugh.
"She actually gave the twins Play-Doh? How old were they?"
"We were four," answered Cassidy. "It was great. She gave us a multi-pack with all the colors and a Fun Factory. We made all kinds of things, like animals and jewelry. That was a really cool present."
"I made the mistake of telling Elizabeth how creative the two of you were in pre-school art class." Miranda's eyes twinkled at the memory. "I was more careful in my conversations later on. I was quick to explain 'My Little Pony' was a toy and not a live animal."
Andy and the girls laughed and the mood lightened as they all shared their memories of the woman. When everyone finished eating the twins went upstairs to watch a movie.
"I think I'll take a nap," Andy said as she put her dishes in the dishwasher.
"Mind if I join you?" Miranda hugged Andy from behind and splayed her hand over Andy's tummy.
"Nope, I'd like the company." Andy relaxed back into Miranda's embrace and covered Miranda's hand with her own.
Andy and Miranda climbed the stairs arm in arm, stopping briefly in the media room to check on the girls. Once they reached their bedroom, Andy toed off her shoes and climbed into bed lying on top of the duvet. Miranda grabbed a light weight throw before spooning behind her wife and spreading it over Andy and herself.
"Comfortable, Andrea?" Miranda asked.
"Mmmm. Feels good to lie down."
"You didn't have to go today. I'm sure Elizabeth would have understood."
"No, I wanted to be there. Besides, the girls wanted to go." Andy wiggled into Miranda's embrace. "I'll be glad when I start to show."
"Any particular reason," Miranda kissed Andy's shoulder while rubbing her tummy.
"Well, for one thing, people will understand when I burst into tears for no apparent reason."
"You shouldn't worry about what other people think, dear."
"I know. But my emotions have been all over the place lately. I met Dougie the other morning and teared up when he bought me a blueberry bagel."
Miranda chuckled softly.
"It's not funny," Andy whined.
"Your body is adjusting. These symptoms will pass soon."
"I hope so. The morning sickness sucks enough on its own."
"Sorry, darling, but it's part and parcel of the whole experience."
"I know. But between the pregnancy and Elizabeth's passing, I just feel off balance."
"What can I do to make you feel better?" Miranda thought she had been supportive during this early stage. She was determined to do whatever it took to make her wife comfortable.
"You're doing it now; holding me, listening to me complain."
"I'm glad. Why don't you try to sleep?"
Andy sighed. "I'm tired but not sleepy. Can we stay here and talk?"
"Of course. Anything in particular you want to talk about?"
"I don't know," Andy mumbled.
"Andrea," Miranda propped her head up and brushed Andy's hair away from her face. "What's going on in that pretty little head of yours?"
Andy looked over her shoulder at Miranda. "I'm scared."
"Darling," Miranda whispered. "What are you scared of?"
"Everything." Andy ducked her head and wiped tears from her eyes.
"Everything is pretty big territory. Do you want to narrow it down a little?"
"What if something goes wrong? What if I'm a horrible mother? What if, I don't know, there's a zombie apocalypse?"
Miranda smirked and leaned over to kiss Andy's cheek. "I'm sure we could handle the zombies. We'll double check that the safe room is fully stocked. You've gotten some pretty good experience with the girls, so I think you'll make a wonderful mother. Plus, I'll do what I can to give you a few tricks and tips." Miranda ran her hand down Andy's side and around to her abdomen. "The rest we will deal with as it comes. You're young, healthy, and will have the best medical care available."
Miranda rubbed Andy's tummy and waited for her to respond. Peeking over her shoulder, she saw that Andy's eyes were closed and tears were running down her cheek. "Darling, what's wrong?" When Andy continued to cry, Miranda got up and came around the bed. Laying down facing Andy, she reached out and wiped the tears from Andy's cheek. "Talk to me, Andrea."
"I don't want you to die," Andy whispered. "I don't want to be alone."
"Oh, sweetheart." Miranda hugged Andy. "I'm fine. The results from my latest physical were all excellent. I'm not going anywhere soon."
"Elizabeth died." Andy snuggled further into Miranda.
Miranda smiled as she rubbed Andy's back. "Darling, Elizabeth had almost 40 years on me."
"I know, but she was here and then she wasn't. I saw her last week and now she's gone." Andy lifted her head and looked into Miranda's eyes. "I got to thinking and I don't know what I'll do if you're gone."
Miranda reached up and pulled Andy's head to her chest. "When I'm gone, you will take care of our children and our children will take care of you. When I'm gone, I want you, the girls, and this little one to sit down and remember all of the good times. I want you to tell each other stories and be happy. You and our children have been the best part of my life.
"But be that as it may, I plan on seeing our grandchildren playing in this house." Miranda stroked Andy's hair. "There are no guarantees in life, but I will do my best to stay by your side for a very long time."
Miranda heard a muffled "You promise?" Smiling she kissed the top of Andy's head. "Promise."
Miranda continued to rub Andy's back and silently comfort her wife. After a few minutes, Andy whispered, "Do you believe in heaven?"
"I'm not sure," Miranda answered softly. "I'd like to think there is something after this life. But I promise you, if there is a heaven or alternate plane of existence, I will wait for you."
"Really. And no matter when I go, I want you to take your time. For once, I will be very happy for you to move at a glacial pace."
Andy kissed Miranda's neck. "I love you."
"And I you."
"Thank you for listening." Andy shifted to get comfortable. "I'm sleepy now."
"It's my job, Andrea. Go to sleep, I'll be here when you wake."
Miranda felt Andy relax and her breathing deepen. As she watched her wife sleep she thought about her promise. "I wonder if Elizabeth would keep me company," she mused.
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