“Yes, with the singing and the dancing. We have to do a stupid presentation on them for Music class.”
“You sound more and more like your mother every day, you know that?” Andy hears rustling as the phone is obviously wrestled from one twin by the other.
“I did tell her not to insult musicals in front of you, but does she listen to me? Does she ever listen to anyone?” If Caroline was beginning to sound like her mother, her sister was beginning to sound like Emily, possibly through sheer exposure to her on the phone, “But anyway, we know you have a bunch of them on DVD, so can we come over and watch them? Mom’s really busy with some shoot she’s planning, so I don’t think she’ll appreciate you breaking all the windows.”
“Oi, watch it! You two are so cheeky. Say, tonight at 5? I caught the early shift today, so you can head over to the apartment after you’ve done your homework. Make sure you check with your mom though.”
Andy thinks she hears Cassidy promise she will before the line goes dead. She turns back to the computer screen, where half the article she’s meant to have written by Monday morning is currently highlighted to be deleted. She doesn’t know why she’s struggling with this one so much; when her editor had offered her the chance to write an article exposing the perpetuation of size zero ideals in the New York fashion publishing industry, she’d jumped at it. Finally, a way of using what she’d learnt at Runway for good, not evil, right?
She was beginning to realise that perhaps, it might not be quite that simple.
If Runway had taught her anything, it’s that size zero isn’t exactly sexy. Sure, Emily used to eat nothing but cubes of cheese and the women walking through the halls make Andy feel practically obese, but Miranda always looked at her like she was good enough to eat. And recently, the models Miranda had been hiring looked a lot more like her; curves and all. She’d even seen Emily eat a cheeseburger the other day.
In comparison, Vogue was sticking to the status quo. Lily had wryly pointed out that she’d seen starving African children who looked healthier than some of the models in last month’s issue. Surely, Andy thought, she could find something in the comparison. But she needed to know why Miranda had changed her mind, why the models suddenly didn’t look as if they were about to keel over. And that was the sticking point. Because while she was somehow very good friends with the twins (good enough that they feel they could crash her apartment for a musicals marathon), she would hesitate to describe Miranda as anything more than an acquaintance. Which sucks.
When the clock strikes four, she shuts her laptop, chucks it in a Marc Jacobs that has seen better days and makes a dash for the door before her editor can ask how the article is going. On her walk home, she stops in at the grocery store and grabs all the necessary junk food for a movie marathon with two teenagers, as well as a six pack, which she reckons she’ll need to get through the last 24 hours before her deadline. She’s totally not stressed though.
“Hey, still not getting anywhere with that article? It wouldn’t kill you to call her, you know? Actually ask her why?” Doug is currently the bane of Andy’s existence as well as being her saving grace. Once again, she ignores his comment, the way she’s been ignoring it all week, and starts unpacking groceries.
“The twins are coming over for a movie musical marathon. You are more than welcome to join us?”
“I think I’ll take my leave. Anyway, Lily has invited me on a blind double date. I’m sure the candidate is as awful as usual, but it has to be better than hearing your rendition of ‘Dancing Queen’ for the 3000th time.”
“You’re a jerk sometimes, you know that, Douglas?”
“Your favourite jerk. Go get changed, I’ll put all this away.”
He is her favourite, Andy thinks, as she peels off the pencil skirt she’d worn to work and replaces it with some very worn out jeans. The blouse goes onto the pile on the floor and she’s just buttoning up an old flannel shirt that she’d stolen from Dougie when the buzzer rings.
“Girls? Is that you?”
“Andrea, I thought you might not be in. It took you long enough to answer.”
“Ah, that explains it.”
“You must have had a fall earlier, I hope it wasn’t serious. I assume that little paper you work for doesn’t have a particularly comprehensive insurance policy.” Andy’s pretty sure that if she could see Miranda right now, the other woman would be smiling, not that she knows why, “Are you going to let us up?”
“Sure, urm, yeah, one moment.” She puts the phone down and buzzes them up.
“Did I hear you say Miranda?” Doug pokes his head out of his room, grinning.
“She’s coming up right this second, with her children. Doug, what did I do in a past life to deserve this?”
“Obviously something gloriously bad. It’s a good opportunity; crack open a bottle of wine, watch some movies, eat some chocolate. I’ll stay at Lily’s tonight, so you lot can have a sleepover of your own,” he waggles his eyebrows and Andy almost slaps him, “The twins know where the spare mattress is.”
Somehow, spending time with the twins has turned into having sleepovers with the twins, so much so that Doug went out and bought something better than an air bed for them to sleep on. Now, the twins seem to shuttle between three houses; their mom’s townhouse, their dad’s penthouse and Andy’s shitty little apartment way up town. It’s weird as hell, but it’s ‘kinda cool’ according to Caroline.
Just as Doug is probably going to make more lewd comments about Andy’s sizable and totally-not-going-anywhere crush on Miranda, there’s an excited knock at the door. He goes to answer it, while Andy pulls her hair up and panics over the state of the apartment.
“Hey girls! How’re you?”
“I’m good! Totally sucks that we have to do this stupid musicals project, they’re so lame.”
“Don’t let Andy hear you say that! How are you Cass? Excited about the musical madness?”
“I’d be more excited if we didn’t have to write a report, but it sounds pretty fun. Are you watching with us?”
“Are you kidding me? I love you kiddos, but I’ve lived through Andy’s one-woman Mamma Mia a few times too many. I’ve got a date, anyway, but I’ll see you guys for brunch?”
“We won’t be here, we’ll be back at the townhouse.”
“Soon then, you’ll have to email me and tell me what you thought of Andy’s singing. Get in, she’s waiting for you.” The twins rush into Andy’s lounge and start chattering away to her about their school days, “You must be Miranda?”
“And you must be Douglas. The twins speak very highly of you.”
“I would expect nothing less. I’ve heard a lot about you from Andy.”
“None of it good, I expect. I must apologise, for displacing you from your home and for the twins running rampant every third weekend.”
“Don’t apologise, I love it. You’ve got great kids there, and if it makes your life easier, it makes them happier and Andy happier, and that’s all I care about. Anyway, I must go back to getting ready. You’ll hear where they are.”
Miranda allows herself to think about what Doug had said as she walks slowly down the hall to the lounge. Making her life easier makes Andrea happy? She’s not sure why that would be but she can’t deny it makes her feel a little bit lighter inside. She enters the room smiling and is greeted by Andrea’s face splitting into a grin that practically makes her float on the ceiling.
“I’m sorry, it’s a tip in here, I wasn’t expecting such…distinguished company.”
“Please, Andrea, it’s me, not the bloody Queen of England. Caroline called to tell me that they were coming over to yours this evening instead of tomorrow, and I asked them if it would be alright with them if I joined you. I was under the impression that they had asked you.” She glares at her girls, who look a little sheepish.
“We did text, but she didn’t reply. And she li-”
“We knew she wouldn’t mind. Plus, this way, she can pick your brains about the article she’s been struggling with.”
“Maybe, maybe. But first, I believe, you girls need to watch some musicals. Any thoughts on what we should watch, Andrea? I’m led to believe you are quite the expert?” Andy moves over towards her DVD cabinet slowly, trying to shield the embarrassing number of musicals from Miranda. She had to get her fix somehow, she reckoned, and it’s not like she can afford Broadway tickets on her salary. DVDs were much more within her reach.
“Right, I think we should start with something from the Golden Age, for which I propose West Side Story, since I know you’ve just finished up with Romeo and Juliet in English, right? It’s like a musical version set in New York, with gangs and singing and dancing and stuff. Then, we’re going to move onto something a bit newer, Les Miserables, which is really long and completely sung through, but really emotional and generally a good piece of musical theatre. And then, if we’re all still awake, which knowing you two, we will be, Mamma Mia to finish off because it’s my favourite of all time and also, it’s a really good jukebox musical, which means that the songs were already written and then used for the musical, rather than the other way around.”
“I’m still not sure why we have to study musicals.”
“Because it is a music class, Caroline. Now stop complaining, find out what takeout your mom wants and call them up. You know what I want.”
The girls rush off to the kitchen to find takeout menus and Andy finally allows herself to turn her attention to their mother. Who, as Andy could have guessed, looks absolutely stunning and the slightest bit pissed off.
“Oh god, did they not tell you that they have takeout food here? I can make them order salads, if you prefer. I’m really sorry, Miranda, I should have thought…”
“Dancing and stuff? Really, Andrea, I thought you’d learnt something since you started working for the Mirror. As for the takeout food, do not worry. I am not nearly as controlling over my daughter’s diets as the press would like to imagine.”
The smile that breaks out on Andrea’s face this time is something Miranda wishes she could bottle up and keep with her to use at work when Irv is being particularly irksome. There’s just something about the way that the girl seems to exude happiness that makes her a little bit irresistible. Sort of. Miranda doesn’t like to think about the way her heart beats a little faster when Andrea comes to pick her girls up or drops them home or the odd time she’s picked the home phone up before one of the girls could.
“I dunno why we’re giving these to you, mom, you’re probably just going to get a salad or something lame.”
“What do you girls normally have?”
“Caro normally gets lamb shish with rice and extra pita bread. I normally have kung pao chicken with noodles and Andy has pad thai with peanut sauce on the side.”
“You order from various different places?”
“I was running late, I normally grab it all on my way home from work, but this article is kicking my butt. But yeah, order from where you like, and I’ll pop out to collect it. They’re all within like a block of here anyway.”
“But you will miss the movie?”
“Trust me, you will not miss my singing.”
A couple of hours later and even Caroline has admitted the relative merits of West Side Story. Andy’s just loving watching the girls watch something new. Cassidy, true to form, has three pages of notes, whereas Caroline might have written the name of the musical in her notebook.
Andy’s also enjoying watching Miranda, who, instead of joining the other three in their den of beanbags and comforters, is lounging on the sofa, a half finished dish of Indian food sitting on her lap, entranced by the screen. Andy’s pretty sure her crush on the older woman has grown more in the last hour than it has in the year she’s been back in contact with the twins. It was watching her eat, watching all three of them eat, sharing their dishes, trying each other’s. When Miranda leant over and stole a spoonful of Andy’s noodles, she actually winked and Andy was pretty sure she’d never be happier in her entire life.
Suddenly, as per usual, inspiration hits her.
“Hey, do you two mind if I sit up on the couch, I’ve just thought of something for this damn article and it’s so much easier to write sitting up.”
“Sure, sit where you like. Is this nearly over?”
“Sure, you need to pee? We can pause it.” Andy pauses the movie and lets Cassidy get up to go to the bathroom. She goes through to the kitchen and grabs her laptop from her purse and a couple of beers from the fridge. Hopefully Miranda wouldn’t mind that it wasn’t some kind of fancy independent stuff.
When she gets back, she finds that Miranda’s curled her legs up, leaving Andy room on the couch and the girls have turned the movie back on again. During the final song, Andy isn’t surprised to find herself welling up, even though she’s only got half an eye on the screen. What she’s more surprised about is the tears streaming down Caroline’s face and the undeniable sniff that comes from the direction of her mother. As the credits roll, she hits the stop button and puts her laptop to the side.
“So, what do we think?”
“It’s really sad! You didn’t tell me it was going to be sad!”
“I told you it was based on Romeo and Juliet! How did you not know that it was going to be sad? Did you like it?”
“I thought it was really interesting, how they took like a really old play, and made it way more modern. I think I’m going to do my paper on this one.”
“It was good, even though it was sad. Better than expected.”
“There’s snacks in your cupboard in the kitchen, go get them and bring them through. You’re going to need cheering up before Les Mis,” She turns to look at Miranda, who is still wiping tears from her cheeks, “Now, you can’t be mad at me for not telling you it was going to be sad. You saw it on Broadway last year.”
“It’s not the movie…I haven’t seen the girls this happy in a long time.” Andy almost falls off of the couch. Miranda can still throw a curve ball with the best of them, obviously. She can go from insulting Andy, to vaguely complimenting her, to obviously praising her skills as a friend during the space of one, admittedly long, musical.
“I think it’s because you’re here.”
“You don’t have to say that. I’m not even sure why I’m here, I just…wanted to see what all the fuss was about.”
“They come home on a Sunday, and it’s all Andy this, Andy that, Doug was so funny at brunch this morning. I’m…glad they have a friend like you. My job makes…everything difficult.”
Everything. Like this. Like the fact that she’s sitting on the couch next to her ex-boss, talking to her properly for the first time since she walked out of a hotel room halfway across the world. Or was it when she stepped out of the car? She forgets. She spends whole days trying to forget.
“I’m sorry, Miranda.”
“Sorry for what?”
“I’m sorry that doing what you love takes you away from the people you love. I’m sorry that I take the people you love away when you have the time free. If you like, I’ll stop having the girls for the weekend.”
Miranda has missed this. She’s missed barely having to say anything and yet having someone who knows exactly what she’s talking about.
“I would not like to take you away from my girls. They have found a home here, more so than perhaps they might find at the townhouse. But, if you and they are amenable, I would possibly like to spend some time with all three of you.”
“I’m happy with that. What do you girls think of your mom crashing our weekends?”
“Can we still get takeout food and sleep in on Sundays?”
“I’m sure we can work something out along those lines, girls. Do I take that to mean that you would like to stay tonight?”
“Yeah, can we Andy?”
“Sure, if that’s cool with your mom. I can take Doug’s bed, you two can take your mattress out here and your mom can have my bed.”
“Oh, no, don’t worry, I shall head back to the town house. I shouldn’t like to put you out like that, Andrea.”
“It’s no bother. Plus, I wouldn’t like you to get a cab back all the way across the city and I know for a fact that Roy gets off the clock at midnight and there’s no way we’ll be done before then. Which leads us to the next musical. Caroline, put Les Mis in and hand me those tortilla chips.”
Les Mis is less of a resounding success. Andy thinks it’s the sung through thing, but Caroline insists that it’s just that she hates history and anything from the past. Cassidy points out that Fantine looks like a ‘skinnier, less pretty version’ of Andy, and something inside her bursts. She’s been trying to teach the girls about healthy eating habits, something which they knew surprisingly large amounts about, but still, in practise, it’s very different.
When ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ comes on, Miranda is in tears proper, and Andy does something she would have thought impossible yesterday. Their hands stay linked right through the rest of the movie and when Fantine comes back on at the end to sing the finale, Miranda squeezes her hand, hard enough that she’s almost sure something snaps.
“I liked it! But not as much as West Side Story. It’s harder to understand the story, with all the singing and no talking. What did you think, mom?”
“I prefer the stage show, but the movie is adequate, I suppose. The woman who plays Fantine is very talented, I think I might bring her in to shoot a cover. We have some new dresses from a designer which I think would look rather fetching.” Andy stores this piece of information away so she can email Emily to tell her that ‘the woman from that movie’ that Miranda’s speaking about is actually Anne Hathaway.
“Adequate? Especially high praise. Are you feeling alright, Miranda?”
“I assure you, I am feeling perfectly fine. Now your friend Douglas mentioned something about a one-woman Mamma Mia, which I find myself desperate to see. But first, coffee.” Miranda heaves herself off of the couch and stretches. Andy only just stops herself from whimpering when a few inches of perfectly flat, pale stomach are revealed from under Miranda’s blouse. That would be totally uncool and the twins would tease her about it for weeks.
“I’ll go make some, you girls want another soda or something?”
“Nah, we’ll get the movie set up and then change into PJs.” Miranda, to Andy’s surprise, follows her through to the kitchen and just stands and watches her make the coffee. It’s kind of annoying because it makes Andy’s hands shake and her breathing quicken and she hates the physical reaction this woman gives her.
“Do I make you nervous, Andrea?”
“No, why would you say that?”
“The small puddles of coffee on your countertop rather speak for themselves. Why do I make you nervous?”
“Why would you ask if you already knew? That’s why I’m nervous. Because you can see right through me, because I’m friends with your kids even though I left you, walked out of your life without even saying ‘sorry but not sorry, Miranda’. I’m nervous because it’s one thing having a movie marathon with a couple of teenagers and a completely different one having it with their mother sitting on the other end of my shitty, uncomfortable couch, in my tiny, messy apartment, eating substandard Indian food and crying at Les Miserables.”
“You…you’re terrified? You could have me blacklisted from every publication in the country if I put one foot wrong, and you’re scared?”
“I’m scared because if I mess things up, I mess things up for my children. I will mess up the only solid, stable relationship they have ever had with an adult, and as much as you think I am capable of anything, I am not capable of that. I will not make my girls sad on purpose, Andrea. I want you to stay as part of their lives, but I would like to become a part of that too. If you would let me.”
Andy turns around with a cup of coffee, centre of the sun hot, just like Miranda likes it.
“I hope you’re aware of what you’re getting yourself into. And I would love to spend time with all three of you, but I would still like to spend time with just the girls. I know there’s stuff they think they can tell me that they might not tell their parents. And I kinda like being a big sister. Never had that before.”
“Trust me, siblings can be more trouble than they’re worth.”
“You have brothers and sisters?”
“One of each. They live in England. You’re an only child?”
“My parents tried so hard for another but it wasn’t to be. I had cousins and stuff, but it’s not the same. England?”
“I moved to the States when I was 17, changed my name, changed my life. Are you close to your family?”
“Incredibly. What was your name before then?”
“Miriam.” Miranda asks Andy no more questions and in fact looks almost surprised that she’d divulged so much of her personal life to what might as well be a stranger. Although Andrea’s not a stranger, is she? She’s never going to be a stranger, but will she ever be able to be a friend? After Paris and the pretty much total radio silence since then? Maybe Miranda just has to be willing to try.
“Andy, come on! I still need a stupid musical to write about, so you need to come and tell me loads of stuff about this one.”
“Caroline Rebecca Priestly, what have I told you about the word ‘stuff’?”
“Sorry mom! Are you coming?”
“We’re coming, hold your horses! You are your mother in miniature, have I told you that yet today?”
“Not yet, I must have been behaving.” Andy turns around to look back at Miranda, who’s smiling slightly at the exchange with her daughter, “You ready for all this?”
“I think so, Andrea, I think so.”
Andy tries her best to hold the singing in, but then the girls insist on watching it with sing-along lyrics at the bottom of the screen and dancing and she can’t help herself. It turns out she’s not the only one.
“Andrea, I will have you know, I remember the Eurovision Song Contest of 1974, when Waterloo won and catapulted this unfortunately dressed band to stardom.”
“What on earth is the Eurovision Song Contest?”
“It’s this totally lame thing mom makes us watch with her every year, all the European countries compete to see who has the worst song.”
“Really, Andrea, you haven’t even heard of the Eurovision Song Contest?”
“Well, until two years ago, I’d never even been to Europe!”
“And as I remember, on that trip, you missed some of the best bits. You shall have to rectify this situation.”
“Trust me, Miranda, I am working on it.” Somehow, the dynamic has switched again. Andy feels like the fat girl who walked into Miranda’s office nearly three years ago with no idea who the woman actually was or what her name meant. She ignores Miranda for the rest of the movie, focusing on finishing up her article. To give Miranda her due, she does appear uncomfortable, especially when the girls point out that Meryl Streep looks a hell of a lot like her, as if Miranda would ever deign to don overalls and let her hair grow out that long. Andy can’t quite stifle a giggle, earning her a pointed look from the girl’s mother. She shrugs and turns back to the laptop. When the credits roll, she catches Caroline yawning.
“Alright, kiddos, bedtime.”
“No, no whining, go get your mattress out of the closet, I’m just going to change the sheets on my bed for your mom.”
“Andrea,” Miranda puts a hand over hers, “I do not want to put you out. If you must insist on me staying here, leave the sheets, I don’t have a problem with it. I insist.”
“Alright, I’ll just clean up in here and the kitchen. There’s pyjamas in the top drawer and there should be a spare toothbrush in the bathroom cabinet. Girls, don’t forget to brush your teeth.”
The chorus of ‘We won’t’ is probably the most insincere thing Andy has ever heard but at least Miranda’s here as well to bug them about it. It makes her feel kind of awkward, telling the kids what to do in front of their mother.
“You’re going to be a fantastic mother one day, Andrea.”
“I try not to think about that too much, really. It’s too depressing; every time I log on to Facebook, my friends from high school are posting their wedding photos or their newborn pictures or baby’s first birthday. You know the last photo I posted on Facebook? A picture of the damage to the lock on the front door, to warn my neighbours that people have been trying to break into the building.”
“Still, my point still stands. The girls actually listen to you.”
“Sometimes. Excuse me,” she turns to shout at the twins, “You had better not be doing that thing with the door to prank Doug, or so help me God, I will embarrass you so bad in front of your friends you will never stop blushing.”
Miranda looks slightly incredulous.
“I think there’s a method. And they listen to me because I’m not actually their mother. Take their not listening as a sign of love; that’s what my mom does with me.”
Miranda surprises Andy by helping her clean up the coffee table as the twins bring the air mattress through and start inflating it. She’s impressed with how well Andrea and Doug have accepted the twins into their home; there’s everything here they might need. She’s almost jealous that they’ve found it easier than she ever did, but maybe Andrea has a point. She’s not the girl’s mother. That’s what makes it easier.
They’ve finally got the girls to actually go to bed, and they’re drinking a glass of wine in silence when the key turns in the lock.
“Dougie, is that you?”
“Hey Andy! Sorry, I know I said I’d stay out, but Lily pulled and I didn’t and as much as I love the girl, I did not want to listen to her have sex all night. And, let’s be honest, you’re not going to be having sex, loud or otherwise, because you can barely speak to Miranda let alone invite her into…Miranda. You’re still here.” Doug appears in the doorway right about the second Andy drops her head into her hands and prays for the floor to open up and swallow her.
“Mmm, yes, still here, Douglas. I trust you had a good evening.”
“My friend, well, really, our friend Lily likes to think she’s some kind of Cupid but she is the worst at blind dates. Are there really no decent guys in New York City?”
“I’m beginning to think they are a little thin on the ground myself. Why don’t you sit down, we were just having a glass of wine. Andrea, what are you doing?”
“Nothing, just…nothing. Doug, wine, ok, I’ll grab you a glass.” Andy can’t believe Miranda’s too scared to talk to her but she’s treating Doug like he’s some kind of friend. She’s being too normal, too human, and Andy doesn’t like it.
“Actually, I’m beat, work’s been kicking my ass this week and I need my bed. You don’t mind taking the couch do you, Andy?”
“Sure, whatever. Sleep well.”
“Goodnight Miranda. Will you and the girls be joining us for brunch in the morning?”
“I assume so, since we are staying the night. As long as that is alright with Andrea?”
“Yes, perfectly fine.” Doug leaves, winking at Andy, who gives him a death glare. She’s entirely too flustered to be able to deal with sitting in silence with Miranda now so she downs what’s left of her wine and goes to stand up before Miranda grabs her hand.
“I recognise him.”
“He’s in legal at Auto-Universe. Hates every second of it but it’s a pay check. He’s the one that put me on to the job at Runway when I first moved here. You’ve probably seen him in meetings or something.”
“Hmm. I see. Off to the couch so quickly, Andrea?”
“The wine…it goes to my head. And I need to get up in the morning to get groceries for brunch, before the gruesome twosome wake up demanding pancakes. You can take the wine into my bedroom, it’s fine, and I’ll wake you when the food’s cooked in the morning.”
“Alright. Good night, Andrea.”