Sister Sundays always began with breakfast cocktails. They didn’t always begin with unexpected knocks on Miranda’s sister’s front door.
“Surprise!” Miranda’s brother Adrian called out from Ariel’s foyer.
Miranda set down her mimosa and rushed out to the hallway to hug him. She held his shoulders and looked him over. Even in his late-thirties, he had a boyish energy that animated his fair features. Miranda envied his fresh-faced good looks; lately her reflection seemed desperately in need of a spa day.
“What are you doing here?”
Ariel followed her into the foyer. “I hired him to do a photoshoot for Mommy-Go-Lucky.”
“Nepotism much?” Miranda laughed. Her sister’s parenting-advice site was currently at the top of the internet heap, with an editorial board and a stable of paid writers, a far cry from the blog she started when her kids were born.
Adrian shucked his coat; almost immediately he moved to Ariel’s side. Miranda wondered if they were even aware of the emotional gravity that anchored them to one another. Or that they were almost too similarly gorgeous to look directly at.
Adrian ruffled Ariel’s chic shag. “That, and it means I’m here for Christmas. All part of her nefarious plans.”
“You’re staying?” Miranda reached for the pair of them. “Elliot will be thrilled.”
Adrian peered down the hallway, as though his nephew might pop out of the powder room any moment. “Where is Boy Wonder today?”
Ariel’s expression darkened. “Michael’s house. That candle-pimping tart he’s shacked up with is probably trying to bond with him. She’s closer to Elliot’s age than Michael’s.”
Adrian started counting on his fingers. “Actually, she splits the difference exactly.”
“I made Bloody Marys for you,” Ariel said to Adrian, sensing Miranda’s discomfort. She shot her twin a look. “Take off your shoes.”
“Fine,” Adrian grumbled. “But then I want to know when Mira’s going to bring home a sugar baby of her own.”
“You’re disgusting,” Miranda said, wrapping an arm around her baby brother’s waist.
“I’m adorable,” Adrian said, walking them into the kitchen. “And equal opportunity. I wouldn’t mind a sugar baby for myself. Preferably one who looks like Harry Styles.”
“Yes, well, I’d love for Idris Elba to turn up on the doorstep looking to whisk me away from all this,” Ariel gestured to the bespoke kitchen she and Greg put in the year before, “but I’ll settle for Greg.”
“Foxy,” Adrian said. He poured himself a pint glass of Bloody Mary from the pitcher on the island, then grabbed the mimosa pitcher and topped off his sisters’ glasses. “So’s Greg.” He waggled his eyebrows.
“You are disgusting.” Ariel’s insult was without venom. She turned on Miranda. “But he’s got a point. When are you going to bring someone for Christmas dinner? Are you even attempting to date?”
Miranda sighed, searching the fizz atop her drink for an answer that would satisfy her siblings and coming up short. She hated to be a downer, but the truth burst out. “I can’t date. I’ve had panic attacks after every date I’ve been on since the divorce. It’s no good.”
“Men are terrible,” Adrian said. He squeezed her shoulders. “I’m sorry, Mira.”
Ariel was a little less sympathetic. “Maybe the dates aren’t the trouble. Maybe the right guy just hasn’t come along.”
“It’s all the same if it ends with me in a sweaty, clammy paralysis.”
Adrian snorted. “If you’re going to get sweaty after a date–“
“Don’t.” Ariel shut him down like the professional mother she was, before returning her attention to Miranda. “Are you still seeing your therapist?”
“Aren’t I the older sister?” Miranda said.
“Older doesn’t necessarily mean more pulled together,” Ariel said. “You can’t waste your life–”
“I’m not wasting anything, Ari. I have–“
“Needs.” Adrian toasted his sisters. “You have needs, just like the rest of us. Time get them scratched.”
Ariel set her glass down hard. “Are you trying to be foul?”
Adrian laughed. “When did I ever have to try?”
“I think you’re talking about itches, Adi. Itches get scratched. Needs get met.”
Adrian crooked a brow at her. “Not yours, Bossy.”
“Just because I don’t jump my cute neighbor five seconds after I meet him doesn’t mean my needs aren’t being met.” She anger-drained her mimosa, regretting it almost instantly as the bubbles hit the back of her throat.
“Now we’re getting somewhere.” Adrian perched on the stool next to her. “Cute neighbors are good.”
“Stop it.” Miranda dropped her flaming cheeks into her palms. “I literally met him Friday night. He helped me with Elliot’s Christmas gift, and offered to snowblow my driveway.”
“That’s hot.” Adrian hugged her. “You should hit that. Unless he’s a total uggo.”
“Are you fourteen?” Ariel leaned over the island, propping her chin on one hand. “Mira, I swear to god, aliens put him in Mom’s womb with me.”
“You wish. I got all the fun genes. Ari got all the serious ones.” Adrian threw a walnut from a tastefully arranged bowl. It bounced off Ariel’s nose and plopped into her drink.
Miranda couldn’t help laughing. It was like watching two sides of a coin sniping at one another. They were forever themselves, her beautiful devoted siblings; they loved her without reservation, but she would never be part of their exclusive club of two. Sometimes she envied them, sometimes she thought it might be exhausting.
“Let’s see the story boards for your shoot,” Miranda said, knowing it would distract the pair of them from her non-existent love life.
It worked, and the rest of her Sister Sunday passed peacefully enough until it was time to go get Elliot. Ariel waylaid her in the powder room.
“We love you, Bossy. We just want you to be happy.” She tucked Miranda’s hair behind her ears. “And maybe for Michael to get abducted by Adrian’s real family.”
“I heard that,” Adrian chimed from the foyer.
“I love you both.” Miranda slipped past her sister. “And I promise, I’ll be okay. See you at Christmas dinner.”
Adrian waited, Bloody Mary in hand, in the doorway until she was in her car. She rolled down the window to wave goodbye in time to catch his parting advice.
“Bring the neighbor for Christmas!”
…to be continued.