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Have to Breathe

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Miranda felt like she was floating, drifting along the waves of life but not really living… and she wasn’t sure if it was ever going to get better.

She accepted another kiss to her cheek, and gave another tight nod as another practical stranger said his condolences.

She felt like her head was going to fall off. Nod when they say this. Smile when they say that.

Don’t cry. Now was not the time.

To see so many people... to see just how much of an impact Andrea had on all the people there, it made her chest tighten painfully. She put on a plastic smile and gripped Caroline’s hand tightly, her other hand resting on Cassidy’s shoulder.

Now was not the time. She didn’t have the time to break down. There was too much to do. Keep busy, stay busy. Not enough time.

Time. Andrea had turned the car, had been able to react with just enough time to decrease the damage to their daughters, but that meant she took the brunt of the hit.

Another kind face stepped in front of them with a sad smile, and words of sorrow. “I always remember how happy she was every time she arrived at my doorstep for our interviews.”

DOA, the officer had said that night. Dead on arrival. Nothing they could do, it was too late.

“Hadn’t seen her in months. I wish we had been able to have coffee again.”

Four months. Andrea had been gone four months. She had been cremated, and her ashes sat on the mantel in the townhouse. Right now they were situated beside a large photo of the smiling woman.

“That’s a fine photo. She always had such a beautiful smile.”

Her smile, never to be seen again. Gone. Because a drunk man had ignored his friends’ warnings and got behind the wheel.

“She had a very strong head on her shoulders. Such a free and gentle woman.”

They had been hit on the freeway. A drunk man driving the wrong way. The officers stated that it almost could have been a head on collision, but it seemed Andrea had been able to notice the other car barreling towards them at high speed. There were skid marks left behind on the asphalt from burning rubber. She had slammed the brakes and tried to veer out of the way.

Miranda mechanically said her thanks to another well wisher.

She had also been told that if the accident had been head on, there likely would not have been any survivors.

The funeral had been put off until the twins were out of dangerous territory. Cassidy had been in the front passenger seat, Caroline had been sitting behind her. They had both been touch and go for several weeks, requiring several surgeries for various injuries—broken bones, internal bleeding, brain contusions….

“Why, is that Andy’s mother? Talk about a spitting image. Good Lord.”

Diane, Richard, and Blake Sachs. Andrea’s parents and brother had flown to New York as soon as they’d been informed. They stayed in the guest rooms, sharing Miranda’s space, giving comfort, and driving her up the wall. She had never felt so conflicted or so torn. She was grateful for their support and comfort while she fretted about losing one or both of the girls, but any time she looked at Diane Sachs her throat began to close up, and it became difficult to breathe. She was grateful, but also miserable, because their presence was a constant reminder that Andrea was gone.

Gone. Her wife was gone. Dead, not just gone. Dead. Her wife—her love—ripped from the world by the callous and dangerous carelessness of a drunken twenty-one-year-old. Andrea was dead, and the perpetrator had survived.

It felt almost like a dream. Words barely filtering through her mind, like the noisy chatter that surrounded her at galas. She could pick up a word here, a sentence there, someone saying her name, someone saying her name.

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Tragic.”

“Heartbreaking.”

“That man deserves to rot in jail.”

“Look at-”

“Miranda.”

“My condolences.”

“Andy was such a shining light.”

“She seems-”

“So sad.”

“I didn’t know she was-”

“Lost.”

“Mom?”

Miranda physically jerked, head swiveling to see which daughter was calling her attention. “Hmm? Yes, Bobbsey?”

Cassidy nibbled at her lip before whispering, “I need to use the bathroom.”

She snapped to attention, burying her grief beneath the role of being a mother whose child needed her. “Of course. Caroline, are you ok by yourself? You can sit with Diane and Richard, if you need to. Or go stand with Blake.”

“My leg is bothering me, so I should probably sit down. Besides, the lines are starting to dwindle, so hopefully just about everyone is seated.”

“Alright, darling. We’ll be back in a moment.” She pressed a kiss to Caroline’s temple. “Tell Diane not to let them start until Cassidy and I have returned.”

Kicking up the break on the wheelchair, Miranda pushed Cassidy to the restroom, forcing herself not to dwell on the reason why her daughter was paralyzed.

Now was not the time.

Andrea was dead, one of their daughters was paralyzed, while the other was now blind in her right eye and would likely have a permanent limp… but she couldn’t break down.

She didn’t have time to break down, not anymore. That time for that had come and gone. It had passed while Cassidy and Caroline were fighting for their lives.

Now was not the time to collapse. She had to be strong. For Cassidy, a star track runner, who may never be able to walk again, let alone run. For Caroline, a varsity soccer player, who may never be able to play again.

Now was not the time.

“The girls and I will be home in about half-an-hour, unless we stop for ice-cream.”

“Alright. I’ll be waiting.”

“I love you, Miranda. See you soon.”

The words echoed in her head.

She had been getting anxious, they were late, and it made her worry. Then… the most horrible thing happened. She hadn’t wanted to believe it, even though she did know it was true.

Her thigh had burned that night, about an hour before the officer rang the doorbell. She had yanked down her skirt, and stared at the letters burning into her left thigh beneath her nylons, forming the exact words Andrea had said at the end of their phone call..

I love you, Miranda. See you soon.

Her soulmate.

Andrea was her soulmate, and she was dead.

She couldn’t breathe.

But she forced herself to keep moving, to keep going. She couldn’t stop. She just had to keep busy. Cassidy and Caroline needed her. Runway needed her.

She couldn’t breathe.

But she had to.