Andy photographed Miranda constantly. She used a real camera, always, because Miranda insisted on it. When Andy got her first smartphone, Miranda had been firm on the matter: “No phone pictures. Someone could grab your phone, and they’d think—”
“What would they think?” Andy had asked, and Miranda only frowned. Andy would have taken a photo of the expression—the angles of her face in sharp sunlight, the war in her eyes, the exasperation which revealed an affection Andy wanted to study later—but her digital SLR was at her apartment. She’d left it there because the smartphone seemed easier, and because she was a bit proud to own one after years of juggling a work BlackBerry and a personal flip.
Miranda knew how to keep doing what she was doing when a camera was on. No nervous glances into the lens, no coyly bitten lips, no compulsive laughter. There were photos of her stirring peanut sauce, watching a movie on TV, walking down the street, and it was the miracle of Andy’s life that Miranda looked in the photos as she had in the moments. The heat from the stove reddening her face. Her shoulders tensed against the haunting soundtrack. The clack of her heels on the endless winter sidewalk.
On the rare occasions Miranda grabbed the camera and snapped a picture of her devoted photographer, Andy transformed into the awkward young girl she was afraid she still was. “Don’t freeze,” Miranda admonished once. “Learn to take a compliment.”
“The camera doesn’t deserve you,” Miranda said, trying a different tack. They were in the kitchen at Miranda’s house, late at night, but there was no work spread out on the table between them. It was a Friday, and Andy was just—there, a place she often found herself. “Stare it down. Show it that you know something it doesn’t.”
I fucking adore you, Andy thought. She tried to put the feeling in her face, tried to whisper it to the camera because she didn’t see the point of keeping the secret, and Miranda pressed the shutter button as soon as Andy’s face was settled. Kept pressing it over and over as Andy made subtle adjustments to the placement of her hands on the table, as she intensified the love in her eyes.
“Mmm,” Miranda said finally. “That’s the one.” She turned the camera so Andy could see the image: nearly half her face was in shadow, but the adoration burned bright. “Send it to me, please?”
“Sure,” Andy said. She reached to take the camera back, but Miranda held it close.
“Let me have it a little longer. I want to give you a taste of your own medicine.”
She took pictures of everything Andy did that night. She photographed Andy pouring more wine, dealing cards for gin rummy, putting a plate in the sink. She took so many photos that Andy looked in them, finally, the way she looked in real life. As such, when Andy reached for Miranda’s arm and Miranda responded with “Get a boyfriend,” the photo displayed accurate hurt.
Miranda said this sort of thing all the time, careful and cruel. She interchanged “Get a boyfriend” and “Get a girlfriend” out of respect for Andy’s bisexuality. She said it while they were holding hands, she said it in place of a goodnight kiss, she said it every time Andy stayed over and they woke up curled into each other on the sofa, sweaty and limb-lost.
She said it so often Andy tried to made a joke of it, hurt as she was. What else could she do? “Get a Boston Terrier,” Andy said, brave enough to scowl and snap. Miranda was devoted to large dogs. “Get a Kitchenaid mixer,” she said, as if the absurdity of her responses might illuminate the absurdity of Miranda imploring her to date elsewhere when she already knew what it felt like to hold Miranda’s body against her own. “Get season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera,” she said, lovesick and annoyed. She could no more meet a boy than Miranda could enjoy three hours of trilled Italian.
Andy heard plenty from the chorus.
“She’s probably straight,” said Doug, over drinks. “She’s probably made a bet with herself to see how long she can hold you captive.”
“You’re friends with Miranda…” said Rebecca, a new girl at work. She was in Contracts with Andy, but she was at the magazine because of fashion, because she wanted to orbit Miranda Priestly. “Does she—when you hang out with her, does she talk about our clothes?”
“You’re fucked,” said Lily, one treadmill over. “You’re gonna get stung.”
“She’s right,” said Andy’s mother. They were wading through many new topics lately, and their weekly phone call had turned tense. “You should get a boyfriend. Or, um, a girlfriend. Of course. Whatever makes you happy. She’s telling you she’s not available.”
“It’s a generational thing,” said Nigel. He didn’t work at Runway anymore. He could speak freely. “There’s a certain trauma…” Maddeningly, he trailed off. “It isn’t worth it,” he said. He didn’t sound convinced.
No, Andy said, or tried to say, to everyone. She was sick of people only wanting to have conversations about Miranda, and was sick of having conversations about Miranda with people who thought Miranda knew everything, who assumed Miranda knew herself well enough to understand what it was that she wanted.
On Saturday morning, Andy loaded the new photos onto her computer. She emailed Miranda the portrait she’d requested, could see why she’d liked it so much. The image was palpably warm, and not just because of the contrast between deep shadow and yellow light: it was a question already uttered, the moment before the answer.
Miranda’s kids were with their grandmother all weekend, so Andy had slept over the night before. They’d sat on the couch in the study, cuddling while they pretended to be interested in unexceptional television show after unexceptional television show. It made Andy angry; they were exceptional people, and Miranda’s insistence on make-believe was wearing her out. Later, lying in the darkened room, she’d spent what felt like hours rubbing Miranda’s back, a gesture designed to perform the act of helping her go to sleep, although they both knew Miranda would stay awake as long as she was being touched. Andy stilled eventually, and they did sleep, and when they woke up her hand was still inside Miranda’s shirt.
They kissed for the first time in the dim early morning, and then she’d reached for her camera, captured grainy images of Miranda with her head against the armrest of the couch, her body mostly covered by a blanket. She’d picked up Miranda’s arm and moved it so her fingertips grazed her throat. “Oh god,” Miranda had moaned, staring straight into the camera. The photos were inexpert, taken at such close range that they held more feeling than substance, and before long Miranda slithered off the couch and into the day.
Now Andy clicked through each photo again and again, and Miranda’s unspoken hunger emanated from the sleepy grey rectangles. She sent a second email with the fuzziest, sexiest photo attached. She’d never sent Miranda a picture of herself before. M, will you let me see your bedroom next time? It’s okay if you don’t like sex, she wrote, or if something’s happening that you haven’t told me about. I can’t think of any obstacle that would make me lose interest in you.
Miranda responded to neither email, started a fresh message instead. Let’s go out to dinner tonight. I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.
Instead of dessert: “Oh, sweetheart, you need to get a girlfriend. It shouldn’t be me.”
When Andy cried, it was like an unfinished sentence, jagged and awkward, so they drove back to Miranda’s house together. Wordless, Miranda marched upstairs. Andy, tear-streaked and sober, was suddenly afraid she was scaring her. But Miranda stopped at the top of the stairs. “Come on,” she said. Andy pulled her camera from her bag and followed her into a room that was all cream and blue and crispness, a large but neatly folded space.
They sat together on the bed, which was a potentially terrible idea. “It was easier before we were friends, when you were my assistant,” Miranda said. “I could pretend I was evaluating your clothes.”
“You were evaluating my clothes.”
“You know what I mean,” Miranda said. She glanced around the room. “There’s so much ugliness here,” she said. She bowed her head to an invisible history, and Andy tossed the camera on the bed, far away from them both. “I don’t want to ruin your life, so I’m ruining it as slowly as possible.”
“No,” Andy said. “That’s not how I see it.” She could hear the teary congestion in her own voice.
Miranda raised her head. “I know you don’t.”
“I won’t let you ruin my life. And besides, aren’t you afraid I could ruin yours?”
Miranda shrugged. “No.”
“I’ll let you read every word I write,” Andy said. “I’ll make out with you for hours. I’ll touch myself and let you watch. I don’t have a timeline.”
“Okay,” Miranda said. She smiled through the exhaustion in her face. She reached behind her and tugged at the duvet until it came untucked, looked down at her fingers splayed against the sheet. “Take my picture,” she said. “And then I’ll take yours.”