I can tell from the sound of Miranda’s heels which mood she is in. The cadence from those four or five inch Christian Louboutins, or Prada pumps, telegraph if I should stand at attention, pad in hand, or perhaps even hide under my desk. If I remain standing, which I have to date except that one time when I had forgotten to take off my lime green Crocs, the next sign of her mood is how she carries her purse. If her business lunch or whatever has gone well, she carries her purse calmly over her shoulder, neatly tucked against her. If there’s been hell to pay, she swings that poor purse like a missile, tossing it at me as if it was a grenade with the pin out. Lastly, as if these two signs wouldn’t be enough, her voice has this undertone—not just quiet, but soft and smooth like you would imagine she’d speak to a lover.
So, I knew that hearing Miranda’s heels create machine-gun pattern sound, and then receive the purse like she was target practicing, and then she practically whispered “Andrea. My office. Now,” with such a sultry voice I gasped before I could stop myself. Oh, yes, all three and worse than ever. The perfect Miranda storm.
I took my pad and the pencil I nearly snapped in two when she leveled her eyes at me, and hurried in behind her, my legs feeling a bit unsteady.
Miranda hadn’t even tossed the coat at me, so now she tore it from her body and flung it in the direction of the couch, which she missed, but clearly didn’t care.
“I’ve never seen anything as atrocious and never, never, have I been treated with such horrific lack of decorum. Not only was the food inedible, the people complete idiots, but the clothes, these sorry excuses for what they think is fashion is not even fit for bloody Patricia!” Miranda exhaled through her nose and for the first time I was actually surprised not to see flames erupt. “Then, then,” Miranda continued, “when I manage to more or less wrestle myself to the exit and leave, Roy is locked in by some double parking imbecile who left us sitting there in twenty minutes!” Miranda rounded on me, her blue eyes piercing my skin and drilling for my heart. “And where were you? You are supposed to join me and keep all these dangerously morose individuals from coming too close.”
“I, uh, I had a doctor’s appointment, M-Miranda,” I stuttered like a fool. “I told you that last night, when I delivered the Book.”
“I know that. I know!” Miranda drummed her nails against the glass surface of her desk. “I just hate when I need to attend these things and you are not there.” She muttered still, but her voice rose from the lowest register. “Are you all right?”
“Wh-what?” I blanked and stared down at my pad and up again. “All right?”
“Your important doctor’s appointment. Are you all right?” Miranda enunciated. “Or am I going to have to suffer through more plebeian attempts at garnering my favors without you present?”
“I…” I would have liked to say no, but the truth was, I was still trying to wrap my brain around what the doctor had told me. “I need to go back tomorrow, Miranda. I’m sorry.”
Miranda had started to reach for the paperwork on her desk, but now her head snapped up. “What is wrong? Why do they need to see you right away again?”
“Just a minor procedure, Miranda. I’ll be back after lunch.” I really did my best to smile bravely, but I could feel my lips tremble and from the widening of Miranda’s eyes, I knew she caught on.
“What minor procedure, Andrea?” she asked, her voice back into the lower register.
“Just removing a spot. Like a birthmark. It’s nothing. I ju-just hate needles.”
“And they are having you back within twenty-four hours for just a birthmark?” Miranda walked toward me and circled around me like a shark around prey. “Where is this birthmark?”
Oh, God. No, no, no. “I assure you—“
“I want to see this birthmark.” Miranda closed the door the outer office. “Show me.”
I knew if I tried to stall one more time, I would unleash the Dragon unnecessarily, so I sighed and pulled my blouse out of my skirt and unbuttoned it. Pulling it half off, I raised my arm and showed her the mark just below my La Perla bra, on my left side.
Miranda stepped closer and maneuvered me so the light from the window fell upon me. She gave a small gasp and gently touched the ugly mark that had started to bother me the last few weeks. When I found blood on my sheets during the weekend I seriously freaked out and made an appointment.
“That’s not just a birthmark,” Miranda said. “It’s not looking good at all.”
“I know.” To my horror, I sobbed, a deep, guttural sound. “I really hate needles. And I’m afraid.”
“Who’s going with you?”
“With me?” The thought hadn’t occurred to me. Nate was long gone, living and enjoying life in Boston. Lily…well, Lily was still mad at me and she so clearly had taken Nate’s side when he left. Doug was working in California for six months for his company before he returned to New York. That was it. That summed up my life. No friends. “Nobody.”
“Ridiculous. Cancel all my morning appointments. Roy and I will pick you up at…what time is your appointment?” She looked haughtily at me. “Focus, Andrea. When?”
“9 AM. I was going to come in and prepare your schedule first—“
“You will do nothing of the sort. You will cancel it all and postpone what cannot be canceled, and you will be ready at 8.30 tomorrow morning.” Miranda’s eyes narrowed. “Understood?”
“Yes, Miranda.” What else could I say? I looked down at my empty pad. “Was there anything else?”
I put my blouse back on and tucked it into my skirt. Walking back to my desk, I knew I was dreaming. I was probably already having the procedure and the Novocain had knocked me out cold.
If I had thought I’d get a bit of a respite and find my bearings before I was due for my appointment, and not only that, with Miranda as my moral support, I was of course dead wrong. I had to deliver the book. The new girl, who had replaced me as I replaced Emily Carlton, had not yet earned her stripes, so I was the one waiting for the dummy version of this month’s Runway issue. Once I was in the car, dry-cleaning and all, I had to take fortifying breaths before I could manage to potentially face Miranda. There was a small chance that she was at some late function or in bed, but of course not. Of course she was in the foyer as if she’d been pacing and waiting to pounce.
“Good. There you are. I’ve decided that it’s a much more efficient use of time if you stay here tonight. It will save Roy from navigating rush hour traffic and possibly delay us and make you miss your appointment.”
I promise I couldn’t think of anything to say, but “yes, Miranda”. She seemed so agitated that I started realizing she must really fear being stranded with new girl if I needed more time recuperating. Trying to reassure Miranda, I said, “At least Moira has finally caught on how to transfer calls now.”
“What are you talking about? Who is Moira?” Miranda scowled at me. “Don’t just stand there. I’ve had Elise prepare the guest room on the third level for you. You should take the chance to get some extra sleep before tomorrow.”
“I…uhm. Are you sure about this, Miranda? It’s just a minor, out-patient procedure and I won’t have to use any of my medical leave days.”
“I don’t care about that.” Miranda looked…hurt. Before I could respond, she snatched the Book from the dresser and strode into the den.
I stared at the ceiling and then, after hanging the nearly forgotten dry-cleaning, I bit the bullet and made my way up to the guest room. Of course, it looked like a luxurious hotel room; only the pillow chocolate was missing. The bathroom held everything I might need, even…even a change of clothes, size four. How was that possible? I found silk pajamas, so I showered quickly and donned it, before tiptoeing down the stairs. No matter if I was a strange sort of house guest, I was hungry all of a sudden. I needed some fruit, yoghurt, something.
I realized I had to pass Miranda where she sat curled up on a love seat perusing the Book with her usual laser focus. Perhaps she was so focused she wouldn’t notice me? I knew I was grasping at straws. I was almost all the way to the kitchen when I hear her close the Book.
“Andrea? What do you need?”
My nerves intact, please. “I’m sorry, but I’m hungry. I…I didn’t have any lunch, and when I waited for the Book, I…I just felt so nervous about this whole thing, I didn’t have an appetite.”
“Take anything you want from the kitchen. As a matter of fact, I’ll join you and have some of that ice cream the girls love so much.”
Miranda having ice cream? Which parallel universe had I skidded into? “S-sounds good.”
“You should have something more substantial, though.” Miranda opened the fridge. “Ah, yes. We had fruit and vegetable platters before the girls left this evening. They are in the Hamptons the rest of the week. I swear having them home from school in the summer can be daunting. It was nice of Mrs. Craig-Lauritz to offer.”
I knew I probably looked totally dazed, but this chatty woman serving me fruit and veggie platter with dip sauce, was indeed Miranda. Unless an alien had taken her place. I wondered to myself if I should feel through her hair for antennas, and this made me giggle. Soon I was laughing so hard, I had to hold onto the counter to not fall off the fancy bar stool.
“Andrea. Andrea, it will be all right.” Miranda rounded the counter and suddenly she had her arms around me. She was gently rocking me and kept making hushing and reassuring noises no matter how I laughed. And that’s when I realized that I was crying. “You’re stressing because of the procedure, which is understandable. You are uncomfortable around sharp objects, but I will be there with you and nobody will hurt you. You will be all right.”
For a moment, I thought Miranda was perhaps trying to convince herself as well. I had begun to relax, but part of me, hell, all of me, wanted Miranda to keep her arms where they were. If anybody had told me my scary boss would ever, ever, hug me, I would have laughed in their face before calling the little men in white coats. And yet, here she was, holding me close and stroking my back. Eventually she let go and motioned for me to eat. I reached for a Kleenex and mopped at my cheeks, blew my nose discreetly and then went through all of those carrots, celery sticks, and apple slices, not leaving a single one.
It turned out that just because you are sleeping in the most comfortable bed you’ve ever used, sleep can still elude you. I tossed and turned, and used the bathroom every half hour. Darn that nervous bladder of mine. When I had gone for the fourth time, I nearly fainted as I bumped into Miranda when I returned to the bedroom. She stood there, looking like a ghost in her silky, white nightgown.
“What are you doing, Andrea?” she asked, sounding tired. “I hear you go back and forth and flush the toilet and run the faucet. Are you ill?” She felt my forehead.
“No. No, I’m fine. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—“
“You’ve kept me awake now for two hours and God knows we both need our sleep. What is wrong?”
“Nervous bladder,” I muttered. “Can’t help it.”
“Would it help if I slept here next to you?”
How? How could Miranda sound so matter-of-fact when she flung such words around? How? I just stared at her in the faint light from the street lamps filtering through the blinds. “Uhm…”
“I take that as a yes, because I’m ready to sleep where I stand.” Miranda took me by the hand and pulled me along with her to the bed. She pulled the covers back more and slipped in between them, still holding onto my hand. “Andrea. Please.”
Oh, God. She said ‘please’. For more than two years, this was the first time I’ve heard Miranda say please. I was probably going to die and she was part of the ‘Make a Wish’ foundation, which in turn had tapped in to every secret fantasy of mine regarding this incredible woman. Saying please was just a start. I already had received a hug and now I was on my way to share a bed with her. I was so screwed.
“If you snore, I’ll pinch you,” Miranda said, sort of putting romance on hold. Perhaps I was going to make it after all.
“I don’t think I snore.” I had never had any complaints before, but then again, there’s a first for most things.
I estimate that it took me about ten minutes to fall asleep. Ten minutes of holding my breath, of pinching my thighs, (so there was indeed some pinching going on even if it was mainly to verify I wasn’t dreaming) and trying to not inhale Miranda’s scent too greedily.
I woke up, flinching and not sure why. I was completely immobilized.