duwinter


DuWinter's Muse

'Life IS Risk!'


Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Black Water Hattie (7 of I'm not even going to hazard a guess.)
duwinter

Title: Black Water Hattie (Chapter 7)
Author: duwinter
Fandom: DWP
Pairing: Eventually Miranda/Andy
Rating: PG-13

Dedication: This story is dedicated to two members of our community, the Raven a.k.a. unfortunateggs who has repeatedly asked for a sequel to my story No Swimmin. (Sorry, It started out to be, but this ain't it.) and mxrolkr, whose wonderful story Cerulean Blue (even though it's not finished, if you haven't read it go do so now) midwifed the concept of this story. The other thing responsible for this story is the random occurrence of three songs that I happened hear back-to-back on my iPod one morning while walking my two dogs in the local dog park. The Charlie Danial's Band's The Legend of Wooly Swamp Jim Stafford's The Last Chant and Swamp Witch

Setting: AU. This takes place around the time of the film, but as AU's go this one is a bit out there.

Summery: A film Miranda and an AU Andy.

Disclaimer: The Devil Wears Prada and it's characters do not belong to me. No profit being made here. I'm just playing with the characters for a short while and I promise to put them away neatly when I'm through.

Comment: Comments feed the muse and the Muse is always hungry. Remember, a fat muse is a happy and productive muse. Comments and constructive criticism eagerly encouraged.

Credit where credit is due: All hail the mighty and all knowing jazwriter, beta Goddess extraordinaire. Offer sacrifice, bow and pay proper homage.

Previous Installments Here:
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 1
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 2
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 3
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 4
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 5
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 6

It was easily done. After breakfast was over and the girls had convinced a skeptical Andy that she didn't have to wash the plates and pots by hand, that the dishwasher would, in fact, do that job for her, Cassidy got the name of the store from Andy, Cassidy got on the internet, and in just a few minutes they knew which subway lines they needed to take. A quick discussion about money, and Andy had given the girls one of her twenty-dollar gold pieces for a twenty-dollar bill. Then the three were off.

Thirty minutes later found them far across the city from the townhouse and looking at a store that advertised itself as a place for Wiccans to get anything they might want or need. Andy looked at the twins. “Ya all go on inside and have a look 'round. Then one of ya ask the man with th' cat for a bundle o' sage. When he goes ta get it, the other of ya open the door as if yer comin' back out here. The cat'll shoot out o' the door like its tail's a'fire, an' I'll have a chance t' have a word with it.”

Caroline looked at the woman they were with. “You're going to talk to a cat,” she stated flatly.

Andy nodded. “Won't send its soul to that other place without askin' its permission. I just needs ta know that it's all right ta borrow its body fer a little while. Boy think's he's a witch. Says he gots a familiar. But a familiar gots an old soul. Cat ain't got no old soul. So I'm gonna give it one fer a bit. I wants the boy ta see what a familiar really is. I wants him ta learn what he's messin' with. What's out there in th' dark, so's he'll stop thinkin' he knows everythin'. I wants his soul safe so somethin' that is out there don't eat it."

Cassidy looked at Andy with awe. “You really are a witch, aren't you?” she asked breathlessly.

“Mama called it bein' a wise-woman, but most call it a witch,” Andy answered, her eyes focused on the front window of the shop. “Buy th' bundle o' sage, Caroline. We'll burn it when we gets back ta the house and bless th' rooms. Chase off some of th' bad spirits that all th' unhappiness that's happened there has called up.”

Caroline nodded her understanding as she turned toward the shop. Cassidy continued to look at Andy. “Do you have a familiar?” she asked, still awed by this other-worldly woman.

Andy nodded, her mind still focused on her purpose. “Yep,” she answered absently. “His name's Ol' Toothless, an' he's the biggest gator round 'bout the parts where I live.”

Cassidy listened to the fey woman's answer and then followed Caroline across the street and into the store.

*****

Cassidy watched from just outside the store's doorway as the cat stopped in its headlong journey to Andy only long enough to look both ways before crossing the street.

Caroline stepped outside the door and handed her sister a small bag. “When we get home,” she said to her twin quietly, “watch what she does with the sage. I bought a second bundle so we can take one back to school with us and do our dorm room, too.”

Cassidy looked at her sister, surprised, “I thought you didn't believe in all this witch stuff,” she said, taking the bag.

Caroline shrugged. “Maybe I don't, but maybe I'm starting to believe in Andy,” she almost whispered, her eyes going across the street and observing the strange fey woman holding a conversation with a cat that was peacefully seated before her and looking up as if hanging on every word.

A moment later the cat again crossed the street, but there was something different in the way it moved now, its gait a strut, its back arched, its demeanor as if it had all the time in the world and would do exactly as it pleased. Arriving at Caroline's feet, where she stood close to the door, it looked expectantly up at her and meowed loudly. Caroline opened the door. The cat looked at the man dressed in black and hissed conspicuously before, tail up and twitching, it entered.

Andy crossed the street to join them, a satisfied little smirk on her face.

Cassidy glanced up at her, eyes worried. “The cat will be okay won't it, Andy?” She asked in a small voice.

Andy smiled down at the girl. "Cat's name is Cockroach-Hunter-Pounces-From-Shadows. And he's visitin' fer a bit with his kinfolk that have gone on to that other place. When he come's back, he won't 'member nothin' 'cept that it was a good dream.” She glanced into the front of the store. “Now that boy will learn what he's messin' with, 'fore he can hurt hisself or anybody else.”

*****

The rest of the morning was spent wandering Manhattan with the twins excitedly showing Andy their favorite places. Eventually, they retired to the townhouse, and Andy started to teach them how to make chicken with biscuits and gravy for dinner.

*****

Friday afternoon about three o'clock, Serena saw her chance to connect with Hattie again. Emily was tied to her desk as some kind of Runway-related crisis was occurring that did not involve Serena's department. When Serena stopped by to say hello, Emily lamented over the fact that the second assistant was going to have to leave her desk to gather Miranda's Saint Bernard, Patricia, from the groomer's and return her to the townhouse. “I don't know what I'm going to do,” Emily said, obviously perturbed. “Miranda wants this done before she leaves, and with that bloody girl out of the office, I'll have to watch the phones as well as try to get this report corrected!”

Serena nodded. “I don't have anything on my desk that can't wait a few hours,” she said, smiling at the redhead she was so gone on. “Why don't I go get Patricia and take her to Miranda's place?”

Emily looked up at the beautiful Brazilian woman. “You'd do that?” She asked, almost breathlessly.

Serena nodded. “I mean,” she said, “it won't be any trouble, right? Andy's there, so I don't even need a key. I'll just pick Patricia up from the groomer, take her home, and ring the doorbell. Andy can let the dog in, and I'll come right back to finish my work day. If you get done early enough, maybe we could even manage to stop for an after-work drink at that place you like.”

Emily smiled at the woman and, almost as an afterthought, she opened one of her desk drawers and rummaged around, removing a small, festive candy box from one of the trendy upscale chocolatiers on Fifth Avenue. She pushed the box across the desk. “If you're going there, would you give this to her?” Emily asked. “Tell her.....” she paused and then nodded to herself resolutely, "tell her that I'm sorry for us getting off on the wrong foot and I hope in some small way this gift will help us get along better in the future.” The English woman smiled. “Also,” she said, swinging one of her toned and luscious legs from under her desk to display what Serena knew immediately were unquestionably the sexiest pair of shoes she'd ever seen on any woman's foot, anywhere, ever. “Tell her that they fit just like she thought they would, and they're even comfortable to wear.”

Serena swallowed hard and nodded dumbly. Taking the small box of chocolates, she rushed from Miranda's outer office and back down to her desk before leaving to pick up Patricia. Last night she'd managed to find the last of the botanicals on the list Andy had dictated to her in an obscure herbalist shop in Chinatown. Now all she was lacking of the ingredients for the love potion that Andy had said she'd need was the lizard's tail and the graveyard earth, gathered at the dark of the moon. Serena still hadn't made any headway in where one might purchase such things in twenty-first century New York City. She gathered up the bag that contained the spell components and hurried on her way, anxious to talk to the Swamp Witch and see if the woman might have any insights on where to get such items.

*****

Serena stood at Miranda's door with Patricia docilely panting next to her, and after taking a deep breath, she pressed the doorbell. She could hear the faint sounds of someone running down the stairs before the door was wrenched open. A young redhead with blue eyes stared at her a moment before extending her hand for Patricia's leash. Blinking, Serena said, “Hi. I'm Serena. Are you Caroline or Cassidy?”

“I'm Cassidy,” she replied. Then she looked at the woman impertinently. “I haven't see you before,” she said haughtily. “Did Mom fire another assistant?”

“No,” Serena smiled. “I'm just helping out because things are busy in your mom's office, and her assistants are needed there right now.” She glanced in the doorway. “Would it be all right for me talk to Andy for a few minutes?” she asked, now wondering how she was going to keep Miranda's daughter from mentioning her visit to Miranda. Serena had a strong intuition that Miranda would not react well to the knowledge that she had come here to see the woman from the rural South.

“You know Andy?” Cassidy asked inquisitively.

Serena nodded. “I was with your mom on the photo shoot in Florida when she met Andy. I traveled with Andy when she came up here. We're friends, sort of.”

Cassidy took Patricia’s leash and nodded . "Why don't you come inside? Andy's reading Caroline's Tarot cards.” The girl before her smiled mischievously. “Caroline is trying really hard not to believe that Andy's a witch, but Andy's been telling Caroline stuff about herself all morning that nobody but Caroline and me know," the young girl said excitedly.

Serena nodded. “I don't suppose that there's any way you might not mention my visit to your mother?" she asked. “She might not like me stopping to say hi.”

Cassidy looked at the woman suspiciously. “Why would mom be mad at you? You brought Patricia home.”

“Yes,” Serena replied, “But it's really your mom's assistant's jobs, and I'm trying to help one of them out so she can be at her desk, taking care of what's going on there.”

Cassidy looked at the woman warily as if considering what had been said, and Serena, having heard the stories Emily had whispered about the pranks the twin terrors had inflicted on Miranda's hapless assistants who had entered their domain, was suddenly concerned about what she might have to do to buy her silence.

“Yer Mama thinks Miss Serena an' me m'be sparkin'. She done already read Miss Serena th' riot act 'bout it fer misunderstandin' her takin' me ta a store so's I could get some stuff fer potion makin',” Andy said, smiling at the beautiful Brazilian woman from the doorway to one of front rooms of the house.

“Sparkin?” Caroline asked from directly behind Andy, and the mirror image of the girl Serena was following stuck her head around the dark-haired woman and peered at her.

“Kissin' 'n huggin' 'n th' like. Ya know, stuff what goes on twixt lovers,” Andy answered simply and without pretense.

Caroline looked at Andy and then Serena. “That would mean that you liked girls rather than boys,” she said softly.

Andy looked at Caroline meaningfully and nodded. “Yep," she answered gently. “The cards told me so a long time ago, an' I's never had no reason ta doubt what they said. Told me that m' true 'n forever love 'ould be a woman, 'n that I had ta wait fer her comin' ta fetch me near the Black Water."

“You're going to be making a potion?” Cassidy interrupted excitedly.

Andy turned to Miranda's other daughter and nodded. “Iffin' Miss Serena brought all the stuff ta make it,” she answered, again without artifice.

“I have everything but the lizard's tail and the graveyard earth,” Serena replied softly.

Andy looked at her and shook her head, her lips firming into a frown. “Potion ain't gonna work without those two things,” she said flatly.

“I don't know where to get them, Andy,” Serena whined. “It's not like you can just go to a store and buy what I'm missing! I've been to every Wiccan and Voodoo shop in the city. I scoured every herbalist in Chinatown and most of the plant shops in the city just to find the other components,” the beautiful Brazilian complained. “It's not stuff you can just find anywhere!”

Andy shrugged, “Till we does find it, we won't be makin' ya no love potion,” she answered.

“A love potion! That's soooo cool!” Cassidy exclaimed.

Caroline had fallen silent, her eyes on Andy. She smiled shyly and, stepping closer to the woman from near the town of Slippery Bottom, inconspicuously slipped her hand into Andy's.

“So," Cassidy said. “What is it you need?” she asked, her eyes twinkled mischievously as she looked at Serena. “And who are you giving the potion to?”

“I don't think that's really a proper question to ask someone,” Serena replied, suddenly feeling very trapped.

Cassidy smiled wickedly. “Sort of depends on if you don't want Mom to find out about your visit here today, doesn't it?” she answered, with a cat-to-canary smile.

Serena swallowed. “Lizard's tail and graveyard earth, gathered at the dark of the moon,” she answered, feeling silly telling this to a girl not yet half her age, almost as if she were whispering ghost stories around a campfire.

Cassidy merely glanced toward Andy, who seemed to be having a quiet word with Miranda's other daughter, before looking back, her expression calculating. "And who is it for?"

Serena groaned, and her shoulders slumped. Well, if she hadn't been sure of Cassidy's parentage before, that sharp look and air of expectation pervading the girl was enough to convince her that she would not be leaving the townhouse with her secret of unrequited love kept safe an unrevealed.
*****

Miranda returned home from work after seven P.M.. Entering the kitchen of the townhouse she was surprised to find her daughters setting the table and wonderful smells emanating from the stove, where Andy stood in one of her tattered sundresses, stirring a pot. Again her two beautiful daughters were laughing and, if Miranda had to consider how to describe their demeanor, joyful. They turned and smiled at their mother in a way that she had not seen in such a very long time. The beauty of it made Miranda's heart ache. She knew, deep down inside, that the slip of a girl who sometimes called herself Hattie, had bewitched her girls every bit as much as she had bewitched her.

*****

Late in the evening found Caroline and Cassidy lying side by side on Cassidy's bed in her room. Cassidy was very aware that her sister had been somewhat quiet during the evening. Caroline was usually the ringleader of the two, the one who instigated things, but tonight she had been reserved, almost withdrawn. Cassidy knew something was bothering her sister. “So what's eating you, Caro?” she asked softly.

“Why do you think Mom would be upset if Serena was interested in Andy romantically?” Caroline virtually blurted.

It was Cassidy's turn to go quiet, surprised by the question. She considered it for a moment. “Haven't got a clue,” she answered. “Why do you think so? Besides, why would you care?”

Caroline nodded. “Andy knew something about me that I haven't told anyone,” she said, looking at her sister with wide, scared eyes.

“Nobody but me, you mean,” Cassidy replied, knowing that they shared everything.

Caroline shook her head. “I've been trying to tell you for a while, but every time I've thought I had the nerve, I've chickened out.”

Cassidy rolled over and looked at her sister, her best friend, her other self. “You can tell me anything, Caro, you know that. We're part of each other."

Caroline shook her head. “I'm not sure you'll want to be part of me anymore if I tell you,” she whispered, and through the intimate bond they shared, Cassidy could feel her sister's fear and could tell her mirror image was about to break down into tears. “Hey,” she said softly, reaching out and stroking her beloved sister's cheek. "Whatever it is, it'll be okay. This is me, remember? All for one, and one for all?”

Caroline swallowed hard and closed her eyes, a single tear escaping and running down her cheek. “I think I'm gay,” she whispered. "I've thought so for a while now, but I was afraid to say anything to anybody. When you left the room today to answer the door, the cards told Andy that I was. She's okay with it. She told me so when the cards told her. And later, after Serena left, she told me that the cards have told her that the only person she'll ever love is another woman. She told me that Serena's not the one, but she came here from where she lives in Florida to be with the one that the cards say she's supposed to be with. And she's living here in our house, with Mom, who's never had anybody other than us and those stupid men she married after she divorced Dad live here.”

“And we both know she didn't really love those two losers,” Cassidy answered, her tone bitter. Her thoughts continued to turn on what her sister was saying, and her eyes opened wide with astonishment. Her jaw dropped open. “Don't you think she's a little old for you, Caro?” she exclaimed, only half joking.

“I was thinking more along the lines of don't you think she's a little young for Mom?” Caroline swallowed, the words flowing out, almost against her will.

Cassidy's eyes opened wider and her mouth was a perfect “O”. She knew that Caroline was a lot more like her mother than she was. She knew that her sister could read her mother's moods and what she was thinking a good deal of the time. “Are you saying you think she's here for Mom?” she asked.

Caroline shrugged. “I think it might be a good thing if we considered the possibility,” she answered. “Mom went down to Florida, went into the swamp where Andy lives. Brought Andy out and back here with her...”

Cassidy thought for a long moment and then looked at her sister. “If you are gay,” she said quietly, “it doesn't make any difference to me. You're my sister and my best friend forever. If you want to date girls instead of guys, it's no big thing.” She stopped for a moment before continuing “And if Andy could make Mom happy, her being with Mom wouldn't be any big thing, either.”

Caroline reached over and fiercely hugged her sister to her. “I love you, Cass,” she whispered.

I love you too, Caro,” Cassidy answered just as quietly.

*****

Saturday was a day of revelations for Miranda as she watched her daughters interact with Andrea. The three of them played together and beckoning, drew Miranda into their games. By late afternoon Miranda was forced to admit that playing with her daughters and Andy had made her feel more alive than she had in as long as she could remember. After the twins had gone to bed, she and Andy continued to enjoy each others' company, and Miranda tarried a long while at Andy's bedroom door when they were preparing to part company for the night.

“T'morrow night, girls'll be gone,” Andy said, smiling her beautiful smile. “No reason fer us ta be partin' then.”

Miranda nodded. “Till tomorrow night then, Andrea,” she said softly and, leaning in, kissed the young woman goodnight.

*****

The doorbell to the townhouse rang just before ten o'clock Sunday morning. Opening the door Miranda was surprised to find Oliver Trumbleson, an elderly, extremely influential member of Elias-Clarke's Board of Directors and one of Miranda's longtime allies. He smiled at her wearily. “I'm sorry to drop by unannounced, Miranda, but I was hoping that we might have a few words.”

Miranda nodded. “Certainly, Oliver. Why don't you come inside. There's fresh coffee just on," she said, leading her guest into the front room of the house. “Andrea,” she called out. “Would you please prepare a tray of coffee? I have a guest.” Motioning to a comfortable chair, she took the one opposite.

“What brings you here today, Oliver?” she asked.

“Miranda, Irv's power among the board is growing. There will come a point,” he sighed, his demeanor regretful, “that he'll gain the upper hand. When that happens, his first goal will be to depose you and rework Runway.”

Miranda nodded. “I am aware of the power dynamic, Oliver. And I am also aware, as the board should be, that if Irv ever manages to have me removed as editor-in-chief, Runway will suffer. His attempt to put Jacqueline Follet in charge proves that. French Runway is losing market share in the European market with her at the helm. Elias-Clarke is profitable on the whole, but the majority of the magazines we publish do not generate a stable profit profile, as the year end reports have clearly demonstrated over the last several years. Runway is by far the most successful of those we have that are profitable consistently. Runway is the bedrock of Elias-Clarke's continued success.” She looked up as Andrea, smiling and dressed in a colorful cotton print Spring dress that Miranda had purchased for her to wear around the house, breezed in with a coffee service on a tray.

Andrea placed the tray on the coffee table, immediately and expertly preparing Miranda a cup and placing it in her hand. “Strong 'n hot, 'Randa, just like ya likes it,” she said, her rural Southern accent strongly flavoring her words. Then she turned to the man seated across from Miranda and smiled at him. “How does ya likes yer coffee, Mr. ...?”

Oliver smiled at the comely young woman before him. “ Trumbleson,” he replied pleasantly, “Oliver Trumbleson. Black with two sugars, please Miss...?”

Andrea prepared the cup and turning to hand it to Miranda's guest, continued to smile. “Most folks call me Hattie,” she replied. Oliver reached out and moved to take the cup and saucer from the young woman before him. As his fingers touched the edge of the saucer he felt a jolt of energy, like a spark of electricity but not. The girl before him started and a small amount of coffee sloshed out of the cup and into the saucer. Her eyes went dark, and the smile faded from her face. “I'll just leaves y'all ta yer business,” she said softly, quickly leaving the room.

“You hire charming help, Miranda,” the older man offered., a curious smile directed at his hostess.

“Andrea is not a domestic, Oliver, but a friend of the family, visiting from out of town,” she replied absently, having noticed Andrea's change of mood and wondering what it might portend.

Oliver nodded. “Back to the reason for my visit. Miranda, you need to understand that Irv doesn't care about Runway's profit profile as long as it remains in the black. He hates you with an unholy passion, and the fact that you've continued to get the better of him for years now only exacerbates matters. He wants you out, and he's bound and determined to get what he wants by hook or by crook. He seems to believe that he can weather whatever downturn in profits that might occur long enough for Runway to recover from losing you.” He shook his head and looked down into his cup of coffee. “Over the last three years we've seen quite a bit of attrition on the board of directors due to age. Each time Irv has put up the name of someone who owes him, and each time that individual has been elected to the board. As the balance of power stands now, I am the deciding vote in your favor. I won't be there forever.”

Miranda nodded. “Fortunately for us, Oliver,” she chuckled, “we are both still quite a few years from retirement.” She sipped her coffee and continued, “But I hear what you are saying. I am aware of the situation, and I am grateful for a friend and ally like you on the board.” Miranda looked up to see Andrea hovering in the doorway to the room.

“Ya gots a boy,” the woman from rural Florida said, obviously directing the observation at the older man.

Oliver looked up, surprised. “Yes, I have a son,” he answered, his tone melancholy.

“Ya ain't seen him in quite a spell. Ya ain't talkin' ta him,” the woman stated, her delivery absolute and without hesitation or doubt. She advanced on where he sat and, reaching across the space that separated them, grabbed his upper arm in a tight grip.

“Andrea!” Miranda said, flabbergasted. .

Oliver's eyes showed his shock and then his features relaxed. He looked at peace.

“No,” Oliver answered, “It's all right, Miranda. The young woman is correct. My son and I had a falling out some years ago. We haven't spoken in some time. I'd be curious to know how you know that, Ms. Hattie.” His eyes were on her with a look one could only call awe.

Andrea looked at the man, her eyes sad. “Ya needs ta go see him,” she breathed tightly. “Ya needs ta put the past behinds ya. Ya can't rests easy till ya does.” Again, her tone, although sympathetic and regretful, still brooked no doubt or question in what she said.

Oliver nodded. “I understand,” he said softly, offering the girl a sad smile and a nod of his head. The girl moved to stand in the doorway, stared at Oliver with an unreadable look in her eyes for several moments, and fled the room.

“Oliver,” Miranda offered softly, evidently embarrassed by the rural girl's outburst.

“It's quite all right, Miranda,” the man offered softly, gathering his coat and hat. “I hope you'll think about what I've said today. And it was an unusual pleasure meeting your guest.”

Miranda saw him out the door and after they had said their goodbyes she went to find Andrea, an uncertain dread plaguing her thoughts.

She found Andrea in the kitchen, sitting on the floor, rocking back and forth, looking out the French doors that led to the small backyard garden. “Andrea,” she said, more sharply than she had intended, “You can't...” The girl turned and looked up at the woman standing over her, and Miranda was shocked to see tears running down the beautiful face before her.

“He's sick 'Randa,” she almost whispered. “Dyin' sick. Ain't no cure, and he knows it. Has known it fer a while. Time now for him ta be puttin' paid ta things. Came ta ya taday ta try an' get ya ready fer what's comin'.”

“Sick?” Miranda stammered. “But how do you....you can't...”

Andy shook her head sadly. “I done tol' ya that I have th' knowin' 'Randa. Ya jus' won't allow yerself ta believe. It's my gift, as it was my Mama's a'fore me an' her Mama a'fore her and her Mama a'fore her an so on back. Been lots o' Hatties down the long years.”

Miranda looked up and toward the front door of the house. “So what you are saying is that Oliver came here to say...”

The woman who called herself Hattie nodded sadly. “He cares 'bout ya, 'Randa. Came ta warn ya and say his goodbyes ta ya. He knows he don't got long. He needs ta make his peace. With his boy 'specially, or he'll not rest easy, and the boy 'll blame himself from now till Judgment Day.”

Miranda reached out to help Andy up. As her hand closed on Andrea's shoulder, Andy gasped, “No, 'Randa, don't touch me!” But it was too late. Wave after wave of nausea and dizzying pain overwhelmed Miranda's senses. She suddenly felt exhausted, and she didn't understand what was happening to her. Suddenly she was afraid. Afraid of the coming darkness. She quickly removed her hand from Andrea as if burned. As soon as she was free of contact with Andrea, the pain, fear, and sick feeling receded from her. She looked at the girl on the floor with wide, frightened eyes.

“He's been carryin' it fer a long time 'Randa,” the girl rocking on the floor continued dolefully. “Been carryin' th' sick and th' pain and tryin' ta stomach th' poisons they've been pumpin' inta him ta try and cure what's been eatin' him from the inside out. Been all alone, knowin' that he's dyin' with no one to help him shoulder the load. I took it from him fer a little while. Took the sick and the pain and the fear. I'll carry it till he sees his boy. Better his boy's last remembrance of his daddy be a good 'un rather than one o' him sick and dyin'.”

Miranda swallowed hard. “What you are suggesting is not possible,” she whispered.

Andrea shook her head mournfully as she continued to rock and stare out the window. “Not where y'all come from,” she whispered dejectedly. “Cause ta do what I do, ya gots ta believe. And ye won't. Ye won't let yerself believe. It's gonna be the death of what's twixt us when the time comes, iffin ya can't bring yerself ta believe.”

Miranda, shaken right to her core, left Andrea sitting on the floor of the kitchen and retreated to her study with much to think about. She thought back over the last several board meetings she had attended and her recent meetings with Oliver. The man had changed, slowed from what he had been. Become quiet in the boardroom. His pallor had changed, and Miranda hadn't seen it. If Andrea was right, if Oliver was sick and not going to recover, not only was she going to lose one of her few friends, her tenuous hold on her position as editor-in-chief of Runway was in far greater jeopardy than she had believed when she had woken up that morning.

*****

The trip to return the twins to Mrs. Swineford's Academy so that they could attend their classes the following week turned into an impromptu dinner in a roadside restaurant and much laughter among the gathered family. Miranda was somewhat shocked that she was already thinking of Andrea as family, but being honest with herself, she also had to admit being both pleased and excited at the prospect. Her daughters had been most considerate during the trip, having recognized that Andy wasn't feeling well, and had both been quite solicitous about her welfare and comfort during the trip. Over the course of the drive to the school, they had begged shamelessly to be allowed to return to the townhouse next weekend to spend more time with Andy and their mother. Miranda, excited by the prospect that her daughters wanted to come home for a visit, was already considering things that the foursome might do the following weekend. The twins hadn't been to the zoo in a long time, and Andy had been fascinated by photographs of some jungle animals that Caroline had show her in a magazine the previous evening.

When they had arrived at the school just before dusk, Miranda left Andy with the twins in the girl's dorm room when she went to speak with Mrs. Swineford about the incident that had the twins wrongly suspended and to make very sure that such a thing never happened again.

Once in the dorm room, Cassidy immediately went to a calendar where it hung on the wall. She ran her finger across the displayed page. “Dark of the moon is Wednesday night,” she said, licking her lips. Then she glanced at Andy. “Is there some ritual or something that someone needs to do when they gather graveyard earth?”

Andy, who had been quiet much of the car ride, shook her head no. “Just needs ta be careful o' the spooks that'll be there. Always lot's 'o spooks 'round a boneyard.”

“And lizard tail, can it be any kind of lizard?” Cassidy asked curiously.

Andy nodded, apparently feeling unwell enough that she wasn't paying close attention.

A few minutes later Miranda arrived and, kissing her daughters goodbye, telling them that she had made arrangements for them to be sent by train back to Manhattan after their last class on Friday, and advising them that Roy would be on the platform to collect them for their return to the townhouse where Andrea would be present to greet them, she gathered up Andrea and left for home.

“What are you up to?” Caroline asked once their mother and Andy had departed.

Cassidy shook her head. “Nothing too serious, just going to arrange for another one of mom's employees to owe us big time.”

Caroline smiled evilly at the idea.

*****

Andy sat quietly beside her in the car on the return drive. Miranda was uncomfortably aware that Andrea was in severe discomfort. The girl had hidden it well from her daughters, but Miranda was good at reading people. She glanced in the rear view mirror and then at Andrea.
“Andrea,” she asked softly. “What is it, exactly, that you did for Oliver?”

“Told ya, 'Randa,” she answered. “I took his sick fer a time. I'm just feelin' what he's been carryin' around fer quite a spell.”

Miranda focused her eyes on the road. “Do you know what illness he has?” she asked, not quite believing that she was having this conversation.

“Don't rightly know what it's called,” the girl answered. “Know I ain't got the particular gizzard he's sick in. Know that the sick has spread from where it was ta his liver. It's the spread that's gonna be th' death o' him. Angel o' Death is just waitin' on him now, allowin' him ta do a couple o' things he need's ta do. Man o' strong will, Mr. Trumbleson. My hope is he'll be able ta lay his burden down 'n rest quiet when he goes on.”

Miranda listened to the cryptic answer and thought about what she'd heard in the car and at the house. Oliver was being eaten from the inside out and pumped full of poisons to try and cure him, according to Andrea. That smacked of cancer to Miranda. Now the witch-woman said that she didn't have the organ that he was sick in and that it had spread. Miranda wondered if Oliver might be suffering from prostate cancer that had metastasized to his liver. If that were the case, and if chemo wasn't working, Miranda had little doubt that it might be a death sentence. “Will you taking it on yourself hurt you, Andrea?” she asked worriedly. “I don't want you risking yourself.”

Andrea shook her head. “Long as I don't keep it fer too long, won't hurt me none. Not my sick. I's just carryin' the feelin's fer a bit. Lettin' him feel better, so's he c'n do what he needs ta do. ”

Miranda was quiet for most the rest of the trip home. When they arrived at the townhouse, Miranda looked at her guest. “If I touch you, will I feel sick again?” she asked.

Andy nodded sadly. “I'd hoped we'd share a bed tonight, but ain't a good idea. If we were ta touch, you'd take on part of the load I'm carryin'.”

“If I were to take part of what you are carrying, would it be easier on you?” Miranda questioned.

The woman who sometimes called herself Hattie nodded. “Be less fer me ta carry, but you'd feel the sick and the pain and the fear. It ain't a pleasant thing ta be burdened with.”

Miranda nodded. “Oliver is my friend, Andrea, and you are dear to me. It's time that I took some of your load.” She reached out her hands. “Let's do this, and then we can hold and comfort each other thought the night."

Andy reached out her hand and, clasping Miranda's, it was done.
*****

“Emily,” Miranda said immediately upon exiting the elevator to the floor her office was located on. “I want you to schedule a meeting for me with Irv Ravitz and a lunch with Oliver Trumbleson. Move whatever needs to be moved around on my schedule to make those two things happen this week. The sooner the better.”

Emily scratched the instructions onto her pad as she followed Miranda into the office. She was curious of Miranda's appearance, and she impatiently waited for the right moment to glance at Miranda again. The woman looked pale, and Emily wondered if she was going to need to slip out at lunch and purchase a paler shade of concealer. Where Miranda Priestly led, the fashion world followed, and one of the biggest perks of Emily's job was the fact that she was the first to be in the know when Miranda changed the perception of what was fashionable. If Miranda was going with a paler shade of makeup, Emily would follow in a heartbeat.

Miranda continued her normal litany of tasks for Emily to oversee and accomplish, and at the end she said, “And Andrea wished me to give you her thanks for the gift you sent over. She and my daughters shared it after lunch yesterday. Andrea especially appreciated the chocolate-dipped strawberry. She'd never had one before, and she declared that it was the best thing she had ever eaten.” Miranda's eyes raked Emily up and down. “First Serena and now you have apparently taking a shine to Andrea," she said in a dangerously soft tone. “Is there something I should know, Emily?”

Emily felt Miranda's eyes on her, and she could swear that the temperature in the room dropped significantly. She glanced up at the fashion icon she idolized. “She came to me, Miranda, and said that you had suggested that she and I make peace,” the first assistant stammered. “She brought me the Manolo Blahnik Chain-Maille snake sandals, which are to die for, from the Closet. She said that you had said she could take anything she wanted and do with it as she pleased. She said that she thought that they would fit me, and she hoped I'd like them. Later I remembered that she liked sweet things, so I arranged to have a box of candy picked up. I had it dropped off to her on Friday afternoon when Serena dropped Patricia off at the townhouse.”

“Serena,” Miranda said dangerously. “What was Serena doing dropping Patricia off? That is not in her job description.”

Emily immediately realized she had made a misstep. “Friday afternoon we had the meltdown around the quarterly report misprint. I was tied to my desk, and the new second assistant was barely handling the phones successfully. Serena was kind enough to offer to help out since her projects were ahead of schedule.”

“Really,” Miranda said coldly. “How interesting,” she replied, and Emily could swear she saw ice crystals hanging off the words.

*****

Miranda retreated to her office and fumed. Serena had told her that she had no interest in Andrea. That Andrea was only helping her with a personal problem. Miranda felt the green-eyed monster roil around inside her. She felt that Serena was much younger and far more desirable that she was. Why would Andrea want to stay with a foolish old woman when a young beauty like Serena was on the prowl. Miranda sat down at her desk and pursed her lips. Last night she and Andrea had held each other. Slept in each others' arms. Even though she felt physically ill, she had managed a more restful night than she had in her memory. It was as if the girl from the Florida swamp was a balm to Miranda's troubled soul.

The young brunette's interplay with her children over the weekend illustrated what a loving caretaker the girl could be. And her involvement in drawing Miranda in to playing and interacting with her children in a way that she hadn't managed for years told Miranda clearly that Andrea's presence was a good thing for her family. She stared out the window. She had three marriages behind her. All three had failed, partially because Miranda had difficulty trusting the men she'd chosen to marry. Granted, her mistrust had been justified in each case since all three of her husbands had cheated on her with other women. She didn't believe Andrea was like that. Andrea had told her how the cards had informed her that Miranda was the one she would love and be with until death parted them many years from now. Well, that was what Andrea had told Miranda would happen if they had made their home at the Orchid Pool. Here, Andrea didn't know exactly what would happen. Especially if Miranda couldn't bring herself to believe in Andrea's powers, a difficult thing to do for a woman of the twenty-first century, even having seen what she'd seen. Her rational mind wanted to believe that it was the power of suggestion or some kind of shared delusion, but a small voice inside of her cried out for her to put her preconceptions aside, to grab onto Andrea and hold on for dear life. In that moment she decided to ask Andrea directly about Serena and what the two of them were involved in. And then she would do the hard part—take Andrea at her word.

*****

“A love potion?” Miranda asked, her tone disbelieving.

Andrea nodded from across the dinner table. Still feeling horribly ill, neither of them had managed to eat more than a few bites of food. “She's sparkin' your Emily, but your Emily ain't sparkin' back. It's got Miss Serena real flustered. She done lost her heart to the gal. And the poor gal don't know how to love nothin'. So I'm doin' them both a kindness. Love potion'll fix things right up twixt em.”

Miranda looked down. “Are you sure, Andrea? Are you sure that Serena isn't sparking on you?”

Andrea looked up at Miranda and smiled. “Wouldn't do her no good if she was,” the girl from outside Slippery Bottom answered. "Cards have said it's you and me. That's what is an' what's gonna be.”

Miranda nodded. “all right, I won't fire Serena. And I won't interfere with this potion the two of you intend, but for God's sake don't poison my first assistant. The second assistant is absolutely hopeless, and I need Emily...at least for a while longer.”

*****

Dark of the moon meant it was dark crossing the grounds of Mrs. Swineford's Academy, but scared as Cassidy was, she was also resolute. She had something to prove. She needed to show Andy that she could do what others couldn't. She wanted to show Andy that she too had what it takes to become a wise-woman. Being out after curfew was a suspendable offense, and she really didn't want to get caught and hauled in front of Mrs. Swineford. There was a cemetery about four blocks from campus toward the little town of Salem, New York, where the school was located. Cassidy thought it prophetical that the town was named Salem and that she would perform her first acts to prove she was worthy of following Andy's footsteps in this place. She had already subtly probed her Biology teacher finding out that the lizards kept in a tank in the classroom would regrow their tails should one of them lose said tail. It was Cassidy's intention to encourage one of the lizards to do just that on Thursday evening. She was going to put the tail in a plastic bag with some ice and take it to Andy on Friday when she went home for the weekend.

Making it to the edge of the school property, she stepped off the grounds and hurried down the sidewalk. In less than half a block she was able to leave the sidewalk and move into the edge of the woods that ran toward the direction where the cemetery lay. She wanted to be away from the road because she didn't want to be seen by either one of the school staff or the local police, who regularly rounded up students from the Academy that were trying to run away.

*****

The bed check had been unexpected, which was somewhat unusual. Often the girls in the dorm that Caroline and Cassidy lived in would get word in advance that there was going to be a curfew check, and it allowed Caroline to be in the room she was supposed to be in and Cassidy to do likewise. It also allowed the girls living in the dorm to make sure any kind of contraband that they weren't supposed to have in their rooms was well-hidden. Caroline heard Miss Simmons down the hall doing a room check. “Shit!” she said aloud. Thinking quickly, she stripped down and threw on her robe. Grabbing her toiletries bag she stuffed a few clothes into it before waiting by the door. When she heard Miss Simmons stop before it, she threw it open. “Oh, Miss Simmons!” she said, as if startled to find the woman before her door. “I was just getting ready for bed and thought I'd get a quick shower."

Miss Simmons, evidently also startled by the sudden opening of a door on which she was about to knock, nodded. “And where is your roommate, Jade, Caroline?” she asked.

Caroline smiled, “She was down in Marissa's room earlier. They were working on that group project history paper for Mrs. Cleaver's class. It's due tomorrow, and I don't think they got started on it as early as they would have liked,” she lied smoothly. “Feel free to look around,” she continued, opening the door wider, “I'm going to go shower.” As Miss Simmons entered the room, Caroline walked down the hall. When she heard the door to her room close, she broke into a run. Arriving in front of Marissa's door, she knocked quietly. The door opened. and she came face-to-face with the girl her sister was supposed to be rooming with. “Bed check,” she said quietly. “Is Jade here?” Marissa nodded and stepped aside. “I've got to go run the shower, and then I'll be back. I told Miss Simmons that you and Jade are working on that paper for History. Cassidy isn't back on campus yet, so as soon as the shower is going, I'll be back here to pretend to be her when Miss Simmons gets here."

Marissa nodded. “We'll be ready when she gets here,” she grinned.

As Caroline ran for the shower room she mused on how much fun the girls in the dorm had pulling a fast one on the staff of the school. She twisted the handles of the shower so the running water could be heard, and steam fogged up the room. Hurrying back she slipped into the room that Marissa and Jade really shared and, dropping her robe, quickly dressed in some of Cassidy's clothes. She stuffed the robe into her toiletry bag and stashed it under the bed as she sat down. She looked up and saw that Marissa and Jade reclined on the other bed in the room with History books open and pads of paper with notes on them strewn about. Jade had her computer open, and a copy of the paper they would turn in the next day pulled up on the screen. A few minutes later Miss Simmons knocked.

Marissa again rose and opened the door. “Miss Simmons,” she said, smiling. She stepped back, allowing the woman a clear view into the room. Miss Simmons entered to see Jade obviously working on a homework project and the other occupant of the room, Cassidy Priestly, lying on her bed with headphones on, apparently listening to an Ipod.

After a quick look around for any obvious signs of things that the girls were not permitted to have in their dorm room, she left. Caroline pulled off the headphones, and after counting off about thirty seconds, she stuck her head carefully out the door. “As long as she doesn't go into the shower room, we should be okay,” she said to the other two girls in the room.

“I'll do you one better than that,” Jade said, pulling out a cell phone she wasn't supposed to have on campus. “I'll call Sabrina down at the end of the hall. If she makes a noise or something, Miss Simmons will go down there to look. Then if you hurry, you can get to the shower room, and she can see you coming out after your shower.”

Caroline laughed. “Thanks, Jade. That's perfect!”

A couple of minutes later there was a loud crash from the far end of the hall, and as predicted Miss Simmons immediately rushed past the shower room and to the area where the crash had occurred. While her back was turned, Caroline slipped out of the room that her sister was supposed to be living in and ran on silent feet into the shower room. Throwing off her clothes, she stepped into the shower and wet herself all over. Turning off the shower, she again donned the robe and stored her sister's clothes in the toiletry bag. Wrapping her hair in a towel, she exited the room just as Miss Simmons was about to enter. “Nobody else in there, Miss Simmons,” Caroline offered helpfully, carrying her toiletry bag back toward her assigned room. “Goodnight,” she called pleasantly over her shoulder.

*****

Cassidy had discovered that the gate to the graveyard had been locked at dusk. She had walked the perimeter of the small cemetery and found a place where she could shimmy up the trunk of a tree and grab hold of some of the lower branches. From there the step to the top of the wall wasn't difficult. She dropped soundlessly into the confines of the cemetery between two graves. She swallowed hard. Here she was, alone in the dark of night, in a place where they buried the dead. Andy talked with spirits. Ghosts essentially. Cassidy felt her heartbeat quicken. She was in a place where there were likely lots and lots of ghosts. She peered into the darkness as a breeze stirred up some dead leaves. Cassidy considered her position.

“Hello ghosts,” she said to the empty air. “I don't mean to be disturbing you. I'm just here for a little dirt that a friend of mine needs to make a potion.” A barn owl suddenly called out repeatedly into the night. “It's a good potion! A love potion! So a friend of my friend can make the person she loves love her back!” She rose from her crouch and stepped further into the graveyard. “Great, now I'm babbling like an idiot,” she groused to herself. “You can do better than this, Cassidy Priestly. Andy wouldn't be afraid.” The breeze rose and whistled mournfully through the trees. "Just gonna be here long enough to get a little dirt,” she reiterated to the graves around her. She was careful as to where she stepped, making sure to do her very best not to walk on anyone's grave.

When she figured she was far enough into the cemetery to insure what she took was graveyard earth, she used the tablespoon she had "borrowed" from the school dining hall to dig up the dirt she had come for. Opening a zip lock plastic bag she had brought for the purpose, she knelt down beside a grave. Glancing at the headstone, she couldn't make out any of the writing because of the darkness. “I'm just going to dig a little bit here right next to where you're lying,” she whispered to the stone. “Not digging on your grave.” She pushed the tablespoon through the grass and pried a bit. A tuft of sod a little larger than the tablespoon came away. With that Cassidy began to dig. In a few minutes she had what was likely a cup of earth in the plastic bag. Rising up, she stood and whispered, “Thank you, and I hope you rest well,” to the stone.

She just had turned to make her way back toward the wall when she heard a male voice shout, “You there! What are you doing? Stop where you are! You're trespassing!”

Cassidy turned to look, and she saw the lights on top of one of the local police cruisers suddenly flash red and blue. A flashlight beam from a dark shape beyond the cemetery gate swept the inside of the graveyard, near where she was standing. She turned and made a dash for the far wall that she had climbed over when she entered. Reaching the wall she realized with some horror that she hadn't considered how she was to get out of the graveyard. No trees on this side of the wall had any conveniently low branches right next to the wall. Hearing a man cursing and the chain on the gate rattling as if he might be struggling with the padlock that secured the gate, she didn't stop. She charged the wall and leapt, reaching her hands out for the leading edge of the wall's capstones. She knew from the moment she left the ground it was hopeless. She was going to hit the rough stone that made up the wall and hit it hard, well below the rim that she needed to catch in order to hopefully pull herself up and over to escape. She was going to hurt herself and get caught, and mean old Mrs. Swineford would suspend her again. Her mom was going to kill her for being out of her dorm at nearly midnight. Suddenly, when there was no hope, something cold grabbed the back of her jacket at the neck and belt at the back and heaved her over the wall. She suddenly found herself in the same branches she had used to step onto the rim of the cemetery wall. She looked into the graveyard and saw that the police had gotten the gate open and were pulling the patrol car into the grounds, likely to use the vehicle's headlights to aid in the search for the trespasser. Caroline dropped to the ground only to realize with horror that in her headlong flight she had dropped the precious bag of soil. She felt like falling to her knees and crying. Something flew over the wall and landed at her feet. She looked at the impossible bag of soil lying before her. Her rational mind tried to tell her that she had dropped the bag of earth as she crested the wall. That it had fallen on top of the wall and a breeze had blown it down. But there was no breeze . Everything was still. It was then she thought she heard a ghostly laughter. Snatching up the bag of dirt, she ran for the tree line, wanting to get as far from the graveyard and the road as she could before the local police began driving around, looking for whoever had been seen in the cemetery. “Flowers,” she said aloud as she ran. “So help me, when I get a free period this week, I'm going to town. I'm gonna buy a pretty bouquet. I'm gonna find that grave. And I'm gonna put flowers on it!” she vowed to herself.

*****

Thursday morning Andrea had a not completely unexpected visitor at Miranda's townhouse in the form of Oliver Trumbleson. When she answered the door bell, the man stood silently for a moment before speaking. “Ms Hattie,” he started and then paused. He drew his hat from his head in a sign of respect. “What did you do to me?” he asked softly.

“Best ya come inside for a spell,” she answered, “an' I'll tell ya what ya wants ta know.”

*****

Oliver was making cappuccinos with Miranda's espresso machine. “So you took my pain,” he said softly, “took it so I could go see my son and make peace with him.”

The woman who called herself Hattie nodded as she watched him steam and foam the milk. “Randa, too. She loves ya in her way. Can't never say that to ya, though. That's her way, too,” she said sadly. Then she smiled. “Yer boy'll make somethin' of himself in what he's doin'. I knows ya didn't think he'd make a livin' actin', but he will. Gonna be real good at it. Gonna win somethin' called an Oscar a few years down the road. He'll talk 'bout his daddy and how bad he misses him when he makes a speech that night.”

Oliver nodded. “He and I have talked over the last few days. For the first time I allowed myself to really listen to the passion he has for what he's doing.” He looked at the woman standing beside him. “I gave him my blessing, and it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.”

“Offen his, too,” The woman he knew as Hattie answered.

Oliver looked down. “I don't have long, do I?”

Hattie shook her head sadly. “No, not long. The Angel's been waitin' on ya so's ya could make peace with yer boy. Wouldn't a been right iffn ya had gone on and left things twixt ya broken with ya all lovin' each other so much.”

“You know so much about me, about my relationship with my son. How is that possible?” Oliver asked.

The woman from the swamp shrugged. “I was born with th' knowin'. It's a gift and a curse my family's born fer a long time.”

Oliver looked at the woman before him. “Do you know what's beyond?” he asked softly.

Hattie smiled. “She's waiting on ya. She died too young, and she's like ta give ya an earful when ya get there fer keepin' her waitin' so long.”

“My son is going to be all right, and my wife is waiting for me,” Oliver returned the smile. “You've done so much for me, is there anything I can do for you?”

The woman before him shook her head. “If there was, ya already would'a done it. No way you can spike Mr. Ravitz's wheel. He'll do what he's gonna do when yer gone. And the thing you and 'Randa built together will suffer 'cause of it.”

Oliver nodded sadly. “I'm ready to take back what's mine now. No need for you and Miranda to carry it for me any longer,” he said, reaching out for her hand.

Andy reached out and touched him.

*****

Early Friday afternoon, Oliver Trumbleson stood up Miranda Priestly for their lunch engagement. In her grief, she had to concede that dying was probably a legitimate excuse for leaving her sitting alone at Smith and Wollensky, and he really couldn't be considered rude.

On to Chapter 8


  • 1
oh my lord.

You are an incredibly good writer. I could feel the pain, and the heartbreak, and the tension and the sickness and I was scared in the graveyard and so utterly heartbroken about Oliver.

Absolutely great chapter.
Thank you!

It is always a wonderful surprise to find a new chapter of a story that is worth waiting for ;-)

There were so many amazing moments in this chapter and the end was so moving. I hope that we can read more of this story soon but I certainly don't mind waiting to see what you conjure up next!

Wonderful chapter! Ditto what heartsassassin said.... We're getting closer to whatever Irv is cooking up. Looking forward to the next bit. Thanks for sharing.

What a great update, heart brake at the end. Cass in the graveyard talking to the spirts and Miranda feelings growing for Andy. can't wait to read the update.

Oh, that last paragraph... :(:(:(:(

Everything above it was lovely and heartwarming, but even for that little bit, Mr Trumbleson made me feel a little less so. :(

Your ability with words never ceases to amaze and move me whether to laughter or tears. As always, I thank you for sharing your gift with all of us.

I am so glad that you have picked up this story again. You bring such wonderful depth and emotion to your stories. Thank you!

I'm so enthralled with what you are doing here. It's just magical and beautiful, with just the right touch of fun.

It's amazing I was so happy to see an update on this wonderful story!

Now if Miranda could just suspend her disbelief. Poor Andy, loves Miranda
so much. She is an amazing rendition of Andy.

Keep up the good work! Take care.

Wow. Loved Cassidy's little adventure (and her promise to buy flowers). Poor Oliver. Andy gave him such a gift.
Thanks for the read.

  • 1
?

Log in

No account? Create an account