Saturday afternoon came quickly for all concerned. Much to Andy's surprise, Miranda accompanied the twins to the sporting goods store and watched with amusement as Andy wrestled the girls into the unfamiliar protective equipment. The final items on Andy's list were field shoes and mouth guards. Miranda handled the rubber-cleated shoes well but looked askance at the brightly colored, oversized mouthpieces.
"Are those horrible things absolutely necessary, Andréa?"
"It depends, Miranda. How many thousands of dollars are you willing to spend on reconstructive orthodontics and plastic surgery?"
"I take your point, Andréa. Forget I said anything."
"It's not as bad as it seems, Miranda. We'll fit them tonight and they won't seem so huge once we trim them down to size. And remember, these are just temporary until their dentist gets their permanent ones made. Wait and see."
They headed for the checkout lanes with each twin staggering under the load of unfamiliar equipment and complaining loudly. Andy grinned and told them to shut up and get used to it as Miranda gamely kept her expression neutral. Then, in a moment of charity, Andy detoured the party through the luggage and travel department and allowed each girl to pick out a large gear bag to carry all their pads, sticks, shoes, headgear and gloves. Once the bags were packed the twins moved more easily and with far fewer complaints. They checked out and loaded the bags into the trunk of the waiting silver Mercedes. Andy climbed into the front seat next to Roy and Miranda and the twins filled the back seat, the girls chattering excitedly about their new equipment.
"So are we going to fit the mouth guards tonight? How do we do that? Do we have to break in our new field shoes? Won't we get blisters if we don't? How are we supposed to hold a stick with those huge gloves on?"
Andy patiently answered the barrage of questions until they arrived outside the townhouse. Roy popped the trunk and the girls hauled the oversized bags out and up the steps.
Once inside Miranda ordered them upstairs to unpack their purchases before dinner. Andy told them to bring their mouth guards back downstairs when they came down. She and Miranda then adjourned to a comfortable sitting room on the ground floor. The housekeeper arrived quickly with glasses of a chilled Auslese wine and a tray of hors d'oeuvres.
"Cook says dinner will be ready in half an hour, Mrs. Priestly."
"Thank you, Mrs. Grant. I'll call the girls then. You and Ms. Wegmann can leave once dinner is on; we'll clean up."
Miranda and Andy talked idly about the news from Runway and an article Andy was working on until the enticing aromas emanating from the kitchen told them the pizza was ready. Miranda called up the stairwell for the twins and was rewarded with the sound of running feet along an upstairs hallway. Andy just grinned at Miranda's involuntary wince.
"It is not amusing, Andréa. After dinner Thursday evening, I was treated to the sound of the two of them running up and down all four flights of stairs for half an hour. When I demanded to know what they thought they were doing, I was informed in no uncertain terms that running steps was a good way to strengthen your legs and improve your cardio endurance. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was attempting to work with their thundering hoof beats echoing throughout the house. I nearly lost my mind."
Andy's first instinct was to burst into laughter at the look on Miranda's face, but she cowboyed up and managed to keep her expression sedate as she replied.
"I'll talk to them Miranda, but they were right. Running steps is great conditioning. I'll suggest to them that they find some steps at Dalton to run or that if they're absolutely forced to run the steps here to do so before you get home from the office. Will that help your sanity?" Unable to resist, Andy added, "See? We're willing to compromise."
The arch of Miranda's eyebrow had never been higher as the twins clattered down the steps and dragged them into the kitchen. Ms. Wegmann, Miranda's cook, had done a masterful job on the two steaming pizzas that rested on the kitchen counter. Miranda poured juice for the girls and Andy refreshed the adults' wine as they sat at the table.
The pizzas were simple and delicious. Instead of a tomato sauce, each crust was brushed with a garlic-infused butter and covered entirely with paper-thin slices of ripe tomatoes. Over this was sprinkled a mixture of four cheeses. One pizza contained pepperoni and one Italian sausage. Andy almost hummed in ecstasy at the first bite. It was all she could do to keep from moaning in delight as she devoured several slices.
"Four slices, Andréa? You won't stay a size four long at that rate."
"Actually I will, Miranda," Andy mumbled, chewing the last slice. "That's one of the benefits of running four or five times a week." Her grin caused a slight upturn at the corners of Miranda's mouth as she turned to the twins across the table. "So, who's ready to fit mouth guards?"
Miranda gave a barely noticeable shudder. "What will you need to fit them?"
"A pot of boiling water, a pair of tongs and scissors."
Miranda set about boiling a small saucepan of water as Andy and the twins washed the plastic mouth guards in the sink. When the water was boiling, Andy took her mouth guard and dropped it into the pot. She waited about a minute then fished it out with the tongs, shook the excess water off and popped it into her mouth, biting down firmly. The softened plastic conformed to her teeth and after thirty seconds, she removed it and ran it under cold water to cool and solidify it. She popped out the plastic plug in the breathing hole and showed the girls how the plastic had molded itself to her mouth.
"Okay, did you pay attention? It's your turn now. Who wants to go first?" When both twins yelled "Me!" simultaneously, Andy said "Only one way to settle this. Rock, Paper, Scissors."
Cassidy snapped out 'paper' while Caroline put up 'rock'. "Paper covers rock. You're up Cassidy."
Concentrating as if she were creating a cure for cancer, Cassidy repeated the steps Andy had demonstrated and two minutes later had a perfectly fitted mouth guard. Caroline was equally successful and after they'd cleaned up after themselves, Miranda sent her offspring upstairs to complete homework with an amused smile.
"Is it safe for them to wear those mouth guards in the house?"
"I'm sure it is, Miranda. But why would you want them to?"
"Did you not notice how quiet it got when they were wearing them? Could you instruct them to wear them every night to, I don't know, break them in or something?"
"Miranda, if you want your twins to be quiet you're going to have to talk them into it yourself. I only hold sway on the Lacrosse field," laughed Andréa.
"Don't sell yourself short. I can see how much the twins enjoy being with you. They light up. The way they talked about your meeting in the park was one of the main reasons I wanted you to coach them. They need…I haven't...they've had to deal with a great many changes in their lives because of me. I want them to feel secure and…and normal. They seem to relax around you in a way they don't with me."
"Miranda, you're their mother. I'm not. Of course they're going to be a little more relaxed around me. And as for them being normal? Trust me, playing on a team will more than take care of that."
Just then, Andy's phone rang. She checked the display and said, "I'm sorry, it's the paper. I need to take this." Miranda nodded agreement and made a 'go ahead' gesture with her hand.
"Sachs? It's Greg. How fast can you get to the 300 block of West 53rd?" Greg Hill was the editor of the Mirror.
"I'm on the upper east side in the 70s now. Not too long if I can grab a cab."
"Right. I need you on this. There's a fire at some new club called Xanadu. Looks to be serious. Meet Hooker at the corner of 53rd and 8th Avenue as fast as you can get there. He'll do the photos. Then get back here as fast as you can; we can only hold the print run until 11:00 pm."
"Okay, Greg; I'm leaving now. I'll be back at the paper as fast as I can." As Andy disconnected she heard Miranda saying "…as quickly as possible to this address. Four minutes? Acceptable. We'll be waiting."
Miranda hung up and said simply "A cab will be out front in four minutes for you."
"You didn't have to do that."
"Nonsense, Andréa. Your job requires it. If I could have had Roy out front that quickly I would have. Now, let's say goodnight to the girls and get you on your way."
Andy set up a practice session with the twins the following Tuesday and got their promise to do stick drills and run each day until then. A quick grin for both of them and a thank-you to Miranda and she was out the door as the cab pulled to the curb.
The taxi got her half a block away from where she needed to meet her photographer and she paid the driver and jumped out. Jogging up the street, she could see the emergency vehicles blocking the intersection ahead, their flashing lights and crackling radio calls filling the night around her as she dug in her bag for her press ID. She interviewed a frightened young couple that had been inside the club when the fire broke out while she kept one eye out for her photographer. When he finally arrived she set him to work his way past the fire lines and get some shots of the firefighters battling the blaze up close.
She moved quickly through the throng; heading toward the ambulances lined up at the far end of the block. An hour later the inferno was coming under control, the photographer had some terrific art and Andy had an exclusive interview with an angry Fire Captain who went on the record saying the circumstances looked 'suspicious'. They grabbed a cab on 7th Avenue and ran through the doors of the Mirror's offices at 10:25 pm.
Andy had her coat and gloves off before she got near her desk and threw them in the general direction of a nearby bench as she slid into her chair and booted up her computer. Greg Hill paced behind her as she began to block out her story. The mantra "Who, What, When, Where, Why and How" that had been drummed into her in journalism school pounded in her head as her fingers flew over the keys. It was an old-fashioned concept and had been discarded of late as obsolete, but a college professor had showed her how a strongly written lede using them was still the best way to grab a reader's interest and hang onto it. She was vaguely aware of Bill Hooker and Greg choosing the photos for the story at the next desk as she checked her notes on the Fire Captain's quote.
Finally, at 10:49 pm she stood up from her desk and said. "Take a look, Greg."
Hill slid into her chair and began editing the article. It took only four minutes for the few changes he made to be transmitted to the printers and by 11:06 pm the giant presses began their long run of the morning edition. Bill leaned back and grinned at her.
"Nothing like trying to write your first front page story with the editor breathing down your neck. Feel any pressure, Sachs?"
Andy grinned right back at him. "Are you kidding? I'm used to having Miranda Priestly breathing down my neck. Compared to her, Greg's a cupcake."
"Well, Sachs, you keep coming through like this and you're going to be on the front page a whole lot more often," said Hill. "That was good, solid journalism tonight. You have a real talent for this business. Keep it up."
Half an hour later the three of them headed out of the Mirror offices toward the nearest subway stop. Even though Andy let herself into her apartment well before 1:00 am she knew that she hadn't worked off the adrenaline high and that sleep would be elusive. She took a hot shower and made a pot of tea then dropped her favorite DVD of 'Pride and Prejudice' into the player and sprawled on the couch to watch. She never made it to the end.
Her peaceful slumber was shattered at 7:22 am by the ringing of the phone. She nearly fell off the couch fumbling for the harshly ringing device. Finally she managed to get a hand around it.
"Hullo?" she croaked.
She was temporarily deafened by a pre-adolescent voice screaming her name directly into her ear. Wincing, she sat up and rubbed her free hand over her face. "Cassidy? Is that you?"
"Yes, it's me! Andy, it is so neat! We read your article this morning with breakfast! You, like, actually left our house and went right to a fire. And your article is on the front page! That is so totally cool!"
Andy couldn't help but chuckle. "Totally cool, eh?"
"Well, since it's my first front page article, I'm a little impressed myself. Does your Mom know you're reading the Mirror at breakfast?"
"Who do you think showed us the article? We have a subscription. Oh wait, Caroline wants to talk to you."
"Andy? Your article is like, completely amazing! And the pictures! Were you really that close to the fire? The one of you and that big fireman…" a faint voice in the background could be heard gently correcting her, "that big firefighter you were talking with! Were you guys really standing right next to the building? While it was burning?"
"Well, the angle is a little deceiving, but yes, we were pretty close to the building. Once, while we were talking, we had to dodge some debris that fell from an upper floor. It was on fire and it almost hit us."
"Whoa! Far out!"
"Do people still say that? Far out?"
"Duh! I just did." Andy could only laugh in reply. "Anyway, we thought your article was just totally awesome and Mom said it would be okay to call you and tell you so."
"Your mom did, did she? Is she there?"
"Yeah. Here, Mom, she wants to talk to you. Bye Andy!"
"Andréa? We were most impressed with your article. The girls seem to think their English teacher will react favorably that they know Andy Sachs, front page writer for the Mirror."
"Well, anything to help them get a good grade. So how does the article look? I only got to see the mock-up that we sent to the press room last night."
"As I said, it is most impressive. Below the fold, but the photos are quite attention getting and your lede was concise and pulled the reader into the article. I'm constantly being told that the classic '5 Ws' are no longer in vogue for feature writing, but in my opinion there is nothing to compare with them when they are done well. You used them well. Congratulations. But why haven't you seen a copy yet? Don't tell me you don't have a subscription."
"As a matter of fact, I don't. I don't need one; there's always a pristine copy sitting on my desk every morning."
"But today is a special day. Your first front page. Shall I messenger a copy over to you?"
"Thanks, Miranda, but no. I think I'll throw on some jeans and walk down to the corner for coffee and a bagel. I can pick up a copy to read with my breakfast. And just how long have you had a subscription to the Mirror anyway? I used to put the newspapers on your desk every morning and I don't remember you ever reading it then."
"It is a somewhat…recent subscription. Well, I'm delighted that you got your story, Andréa. Congratulations again on your first front page. The twins will see you on Tuesday."
"Tell them to do their drills. Thanks for calling Miranda. 'Bye." Andy grinned at the now-silent phone in her hand. A recent subscription? Just how recent? she wondered.