A/N: I apologize for not being able to update as often as in the beginning. I do have a deadline that I'm working toward with my latest book and even if I try to also write on this story, I have to prioritize the contracted one. After May 1, 2021, I will be free to work on this to my heart's content, but I hope I'll be able to post a few updates before then. If it takes a while, at least you know when I'll be fully committed again. ? Thank you for understanding!
Handing in the rental car at the airport went smoothly, but Andy can't relax. Ever since Miranda freaked out about the drone, she has felt her own paranoia surge. Now she stands with her back to Miranda, who is using her passport as Moira Parker for the last time. Instead, she is going to switch to her last one where her name will be Melinda Prince.
"You're trembling," Miranda murmurs when she turns from the counter. "Something wrong?"
"Nah. Just my stupid nerves." Andy regards Miranda and determines that if she barely recognizes her with the knitted hat covering her trademark white hair, perhaps the stalkers won't either.
"You have every right to be on edge. This is hardly a normal situation." Miranda hooks her arm around Andy's. "Now, let's find our check-in counter. I want to be on the other side of security as soon as possible."
Andy realizes that Miranda was rattled too. "Over there." She has already spotted their check-in counter. "I can't believe you got us first-class tickets."
"You deserve it. We both deserve a good night's rest as we don't know what to expect when we reach Boston."
Andy wasn't entirely surprised when Miranda didn't get them tickets to New York, as she had expected, but instead chose Boston. Big enough of a city to disappear, but also unexpected for an outsider. In Boston, another rental will be waiting for them.
The woman behind the counter doesn't pay them any more attention than she does the other passengers in line, which is reassuring. She pulls Miranda's fake passport through the computer, which accepts it without a hitch. Andy adjusts her facial expression to not look relieved.
As they don't have any checked luggage, and both are returning US citizens, they go through the check-in procedure quicker than normal. Hoisting their carry-on bags, they move through the crowds toward security. Standing in line, Andy casually lets her gaze run up and down the lines leading to the x-ray machines and metal detectors. Too many dark-haired men of the right age. Too hard to see.
Pulling out their phones and tablets and placing them in the bins, Andy empties her pockets and watched her items go through the x-ray. She steps through the metal detector and then the scanner that will show if she was wearing explosives or weapons. She is cleared and keeps her eyes on Miranda as she put her belongings back where they should be.
"Remove your hat, Madame," the officer manning the metal detector says. "It needs to go through the x-ray machine."
"All right." Miranda tosses her knitted hat in the bin holding her bag with the ledger. She steps through the different machines without a problem and then joins Andy who is ready to help her.
"We have to look in your bag, Madam. There are some metal objects we can't identify," a woman on the other side of security says. "This way." She took Miranda's bin and walks over to the table.
"Did you forget to take something out?" Andy whispers to Miranda.
"No. I can't imagine what it might be."
The woman opens the bag and pulls out the ledger and some pieces of underwear. "Ah, there's the culprit." She tapped the ledger's metal corners that keep the leather from fraying. "An antique?" She lifts the front cover carefully. "Perhaps it's better if you flip through the pages so I don't rip it by accident."
Miranda sets her jaw but flips the pages carefully.
"Thank you," the woman said. She then scans the cover with a wand that squeaks when it passes the metal corners. "Ah, yes. That'll do it."
"May I put it down now, before it gets, um, contaminated?" Miranda clearly does her best to sound polite, but from Andy's point of view, she looks ready to launch at the woman for delaying them.
"By all means. Thank you for your cooperation." The woman waves them on as if she is doing them a favor.
After Miranda has safely put back the book that is the only proof of her past, they walk toward the busy area where shops and restaurants compete for the customers and patrons.
"We need to get new clothes," Miranda says. "We're not going to change here, or on the plane, but once we land in Boston. If someone's following us, or if someone's waiting for us at Logan, at least we won't look exactly the same as now."
"Guess we're reinventing ourselves again, then." Andy squeezes Miranda's arm. "Let's find a store that caters to all kinds of tastes."
Miranda stops walking and regards Andy with eyes that clearly search for something.
"What?" Andy askes gently.
"You just go along with every insane plan, or cloak and dagger method, no questions asked. I'm…even after our time together so far, I'm just not sure…" She shakes her head, clearly at a loss for words.
"Hey." Andy doesn't care that they are standing in the middle of a massive throng of people hurrying in both directions around them. She pulls Miranda close and kisses her on the lips. "You know why."
"Perhaps." Miranda presses her face against Andy's shoulder for a few, precious moments. "And you're right. An eclectic store is exactly what we need."
They find what they are looking for in a small boutique that is tucked away in a corner. The woman behind the counter is beyond helpful, if looking a bit confused, as Andy and Miranda choose such diametrically different outfits, compared to what they are currently wearing. Andy picks an ankle-long country-western-inspired denim skirt and a knitted, off-white sweater. A denim jacket completes the look. She figures it all goes with her boots and she will also be able to move unhindered in the wide skirts. Miranda chooses black leggings, a luxurious, knitted tan dress that reaches just above her knees, and a colorful, silky poncho to go with it. All very high-end. All very chic.
Leaving the boutique with their large bags, they make their way to a restaurant, and after finishing their quick meal, they walk to their gate. Andy keeps a lookout for any men she might recognize. Dark hair. Pale complexion. Goatee on one. The other clean shaved. They wore elegant, dark overcoats the last time she saw them, but, naturally, they too could easily change their appearance.
Aboard the plane to Boston, Andy finds they're shown to a booth with double seats that they'll be able to lower into a bed when it's time to sleep. The flight attendant tells them she'll be the one taking care of their every need during the flight. She returns with a menu and asks what she brings them to drink. Andy asks for water and so does Miranda, plus a double whisky.
Andy wants to ask Miranda if it's advisable for her to have a drink so close to head trauma, but reels herself in. Miranda doesn't need her to hover. Or, at least, she won't appreciate it.
"I'm going to savor it, I promise," Miranda says softly, taking Andy's hand, "I'm no fool. I know I shouldn't." She raises Andy's hand to her lips and kisses it. "You can always have a few sips and save me from myself."
Andy smiles and leans her head against Miranda's shoulder. The flight attendant comes with the water bottles and Miranda's whisky. She points out a few features, among them a privacy screen that they can use once they settle down. This makes Andy's cheek warm and she hides her face into the fabric of Miranda's shirt.
"She has us pegged, I think," Miranda says, chuckling before she sips her whisky.
"I'm sure she's just as nice to everybody, but the way she winked when she mentioned the privacy screen…spoke volumes." Miranda runs her hand through Andy's hair.
Andy begins to laugh. "So we're that obvious, even to a stranger."
"Well, I'd assume that flight attendants, like so many others working in service professions, are used to reading people. But yes. Perhaps we're obvious." Something in Miranda's voice softens, no, melts, and she tips Andy's head back and captures her mouth. Slowly, she deepens the kiss, and the way she tastes, very faintly of expensive whisky, but mostly like her unique self, makes Andy tremble. "I haven't had the time, or the energy, to truly look at you, let alone touch you, the way I want. And despite everything, nothing seems more important. This. With you."
Andy cups Miranda's cheeks, tilts her head to the perfect angle. She kisses Miranda back, runs her tongue along her lower lip, over and over. Nobody has ever made her feel like this. Nobody ever will.
The sign for fastening seatbelts come on, the captain greets her passengers over the speaker, and the plane starts moving across the tarmac—but all Andy knows is how amazingly wonderful it is to be in Miranda's arms.
Continued in part 41