Miranda’s words took her completely by surprise. She wasn’t sure what exactly she’d been expecting, but it certainly had not been this. “That makes me really happy,” she said quickly, since Miranda obviously deserved a reply.
“I’m glad,” Miranda murmured. She sounded unsure, hesitant, as if she had been searching for words and these were the best she could do. The last thing Andy expected of Miranda was that her bisexuality would throw her off, so there had to be something that she was missing or that Miranda was simply not saying.
“I guess I’m not really being clear,” she said, after a few minutes. Perhaps the problem was with her, with the way she’d spoken around her feelings as she had. “I had a dream about you, you know.”
“Really?” Miranda asked. She leant further forward, and Andy wished that she’d come closer. But Miranda, for all that Andy knew her to be assertively driven in the office, seemed to be consciously checking herself: keeping her voice deliberately neutral, her body language reserved, and most of all, keeping the distance between them.
Andy stood up until she was standing before her. It felt odd to stand while Miranda was seated, almost as if she was back in the office, with Miranda barking orders at her left, right, and center. She sat unceremoniously on the floor, crossing her legs and leaning back on her hands. Now it felt like a proper heart-to-heart. Miranda looked at her as if she’d lost her mind.
“I had a dream about you after the wedding, when you told me to keep the ring.”
“Really,” Miranda repeated.
“I told you about this date I went on - well, it wasn’t really a date, but that’s besides the point - and we were talking about it, and you laughed. Like really laughed, laughed because you were legitimately amused, not because you had to. And it was the best, most wonderful, most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. And I woke up and basically decided that I wanted to make you laugh like that in real life.”
“I laugh more with you than I have with anyone, save my daughters,” Miranda said.
“And you laughed at dinner at Eataly, and you were just as beautiful as I thought you’d be.”
“Thank you,” Miranda said. She sounded bemused.
“What I’m trying to say, Miranda, is that I’m interested. In you. Um, not just as a friend."
Miranda shook her head, her forehead creased. From Andy’s vantage point she seemed older than she was, but perhaps it was simply the light. “You can’t possibly,” she said.
“It’s true,” Andy said. “Do you hate me?” It was juvenile, but she hoped Miranda would laugh.
“Of course I don’t!” Miranda exclaimed, as if Andy had jolted her out of her thoughts. “I couldn’t possibly.”
“That’s good then,” Andy said, in what she hoped was an encouraging tone. “Right?”
Miranda slipped her hand beneath the collar of her blouse to rub the back of her neck. She seemed preoccupied. “The ring belonged to Brooke Astor,” Miranda said, after a moment,as if their previous exchange hadn’t happened. With Miranda one could never be sure if a rapid change of subject meant that the former subject would be dropped and completely forgotten, or if she’d simply had something else on her mind. Andy hoped it was the latter, because she couldn’t possibly imagine having to do this all over again.
Miranda nodded at the ring, sparkling in the light on Andy’s hand. “It was in fact a recognizable part of her collection. I bought it at auction two years ago or so. Your wedding was the first occasion where I might reasonably have given it to you.”
And decided against telling her that it was bad form to give the bride a ring on her wedding day, and she had no idea how on earth Miranda had expected her to know that the ring belonged to Brooke Astor, of all people.
“She was an accomplished writer and editor,” Miranda continued, “and blue diamonds represent new beginnings, or so I’ve heard. The meaning behind it seemed appropriate for your wedding.”
“Which you hoped wouldn’t happen.”
“That’s besides the point,” Miranda said. “It seemed most appropriate in the event that the wedding did occur. Brooke Astor pursued her career in a time when it was practically unheard of for married women of her status to work. I wanted you to remember your potential. Your then-fiance did not seem to have the same estimation of your work as you did of his.”
“He was frustrated when I worked for you because I never had time for anything else,” Andy said. “When I began at the Mirror, things were different.” Mostly.
“It communicated a lack of respect for you, and me,” Miranda said. Andy had no idea how she could so utterly despise someone she’d met for perhaps a fraction of a second, if that, but Miranda’s tone was practically dripping with derision.
“You are correct in that Nate was never as comfortable with my hours as he expected me to be with his,” Andy said, “and that was part of the reason why I called off the wedding.”
“I thought the ring belonged with you,” Miranda said. “I knew it would suit you.”
“I love it,” Andy said.
“I’m glad.” Miranda sat back heavily against the chair, and Andy would have given anything in that moment to know what was going through her mind. “Why did you tell me all this now?”
Andy sat up straight. She’d been expecting a question of this sort; after all, Miranda liked to know every angle of a situation so she could determine the best response. Andy supposed it was a defense mechanism. “Because I wanted you to know,” she said, because it was the truth. She’d told enough lies to keep her relationship with Nate afloat - lies of omission, white lies, exaggerations, they were all lies, in the end - and if a relationship was to somehow come out of this, they were not beginning it on anything other than the utter truth. “Because I hoped that you might be open to trying something new. I mean, I know that you -”
“You don’t know a thing about me,” Miranda said. Her words were biting but her tone was oddly soft.
“You don’t know what I was going to say,” Andy countered. Once she would have been entirely taken aback, but she knew Miranda better now, even if Miranda apparently disagreed. Miranda was capricious, but she was not illogical. Once Andy had understood that, working for her, anticipating her wants, finishing her sentences, and smoothing her way had made perfect sense. There was a reason why she had been chosen to go to Paris instead of Emily, and it was that she’d been damn good at her job, and that had been down to figuring Miranda out. Most of the time.
“What were you going to say, Andrea?” She sounded tired, not infuriated. Andy took that as a positive development.
“What I was going to say was that I know that you are straight, and I know that you definitely shouldn’t try to change people, but sexuality is fluid, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you - “
“I’m aware,” Miranda said.
“Right, and so you know, you never know who will be open to things. And since I like you, I thought it would be worth a shot.”
“What would be worth a shot, Andrea? What exactly?”
Andy looked at her, trying to puzzle her out. “A date. A gelato date at Eataly, since you wouldn’t go last time. I want to take you out for gelato.” She hoped that it didn’t sound as if she’d thought it up right on the spot, which of course she had. But gelato sounded good - really good, and if it wasn’t a quarter to twelve, she’d have half a mind to run out and get some.
“I don’t like the gelato at Eataly,” Miranda said, even though Andy knew perfectly well she’d never had it before. “I want to go somewhere else.”
“Okay,” Andy said. “I’ll find the best gelateria in the city, and I’ll take you there. Okay?”
“Okay,” Miranda said, as if Andy had stunned her into agreement.
“See, I really do know you well,” Andy said. “I know your weak spot is ice cream you’ve convinced yourself is healthier because it’s Italian.”
Miranda smiled. “I suppose.”
It was a frustrating end to the conversation, Andy decided. There was something Miranda hadn’t said, something she’d kept back and secret. But she’d won her gelato date, something she hadn’t even known she’d wanted to do, and her own secret, for her part, was out in the open. And Miranda, knowing that, had wanted to go out too. It was a heady feeling, and one which easily won out over her lingering confusion at Miranda’s reticence.
“I’ll text you tomorrow,” she settled for saying, when it became apparent Miranda wasn’t going to say anything else. “Once I consult Zagat and Michelin and maybe call Marcus. He liked me when I worked at Runway.”
“It’s late,” Miranda murmured, looking at her watch. “Do you have a dress code at your office?”
“I think it would be best if you were to stay here for the night, rather than go home. Roy is off the clock and you’d have to travel,” she said. “You will not fit any of my things, but Cassidy should have something suitable. She does, however, dress like a teenager, which is why I asked.”
Andy smiled. Miranda could be rather considerate, even if she managed to make it sound like quite the opposite. “I’m sure she’ll let me borrow something appropriate,” Andy said. “Thanks.”
“The guest room is on the second floor,” Miranda said. “You will find whatever you need in the attached bathroom. I would ask Cassidy to sort out an outfit tonight, rather than tomorrow morning. The girls are not especially communicative before they leave for school.”
Probably not unless you text them, Andy thought, but what she said was, “I’ll do that now then, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course not,” Miranda said, though she made no move to get up herself. Andy stood up and made her way to the door.
“Good night then,” she said.
“Good night, Andrea.” Miranda spoke quietly, and Andy had to strain to hear her. She thought for a moment that Miranda might follow her, but the door remained resolutely closed,and Andy sighed as she made her way upstairs. Only Miranda could make what should be a happy thing into something she didn’t quite know how to categorize.
Andy knew, from her one foray into Miranda’s living area, that the master suite was to the right of the staircase, which meant that the girls’ rooms had to be to the left. Of course, there were two of them, and consequently two doors, and Andy felt quite like she had on her first night of bringing the book.
She finally knocked on the closest door.
Caroline opened it. “Hello Andy,” she said, her voice touched with surprise. “Is everything all right?”
“Oh! Yes, everything’s fine. Your mom suggested I stay over rather than trek back to my place, and apparently Cassidy has clothes that might fit me for work tomorrow.”
Caroline was very pretty - the prettier twin, if Andy was being honest, although Cassidy was certainly pretty too. Slimmer than Cassidy, who was more athletic and sun-kissed from lacrosse, with her paler skin and darker hair, Caroline seemed almost ethereal. She also seemed very, very thin, just as Andy had noticed the first time she saw her. Andy took a moment to really look at her face, to consider the prominence of her cheekbones and the translucence of her skin.
Caroline did look beautiful and fey, and Andy remembered well a time when people told her the same thing. And she also knew that she’d looked in the mirror and, with the help of her childhood doctor, recognized that ethereality for what it really was.
Fey. That had been the word her father had said to her, when he told her that he’d made her an appointment with Dr. Hughes. You look fey, he’d said, and the words had hung ominously in the air between them. She’d never heard it before, and had to go look it up. It hurt her to use the same word for Caroline, but it was true. She looked as if she might be spirited away.
Caroline smiled, a wispy little smile that Andy thought quite matched her personality. “She has a pretty green dress that would look nice on you,” she said thoughtfully. “It’s D&G but work-appropriate, depending on how tall you are. I’ll get it for you. Cass is already asleep.”
“Great! Thank you.”
Caroline slipped back into her room, closing the door behind her. Andy almost laughed, but caught herself. It seemed teenagers never changed.
“Here you go,” Caroline said, proffering the dress on a wooden hanger. “Is there anything else you need?”
“Not really,” Andy said. “Oh, just that - well, that would be super awkward.”
Caroline narrowed her gaze, looking just like her mother. “There’s a washer and dryer next to the kitchen,” she said with a smile. “You can wash your stuff there, mom won’t mind.”
“Awesome,” said Andy. “There’s just no way I’m going to work with dirty underwear.”
Caroline laughed. “You’re funny.”
“You clearly don’t watch enough comedy,” And replied.
“Probably not,” Caroline said, and went to shut her door.
“Caroline?” Andy asked. “Are you feeling all right? You didn’t seem to eat very much at dinner.”
Caroline bit her lip. “I’m fine, thank you,” she said. “Just a little tired, you know.”
“I do know,” Andy said, because if what Caroline was saying was what she thought she was saying then she did know, very, very well. “I do know, Caroline, so I could commiserate if ever you need to.”
Caroline seemed to visibly force a smile. “I’ll remember that, thanks.”
Andy stared at her closed door for the longest time, until she heard the click of Miranda’s heels on the slate in the entryway.
Andy’s first order of business, as soon as she sat down at her desk, was to call her dad.
“Dad, when I was sick in high school, what did I do that made you notice?” She felt bad to spring it on him with no warning, but she needed to know.
“You were just different,” he said, after a moment. “At first I chalked it up to mom being sick, but after a while, it was apparent that it wasn’t just that. Or rather than mom’s sickness had actually affected you more than I’d realized.”
“The thing is, I thought I’d done such a good job of hiding it,” Andy said.
“You had, sweetheart. I didn’t notice, you know, and I’m so sorry for that.”
“You don’t have to be sorry,” Andy said. “The whole point was that I didn’t want you to notice. What I want to know is what did make you notice after all.”
“What’s got you thinking about this?” Her dad sounded genuinely confused, and slightly worried.
“It’s about Miranda’s daughter,” Andy said. “She looks a whole lot like you said I looked. Fey.”
Her dad sighed. “But you’re all right?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “I’m great. Miranda’s other daughter has been interning with me for the past week, and this is her twin. Miranda’s worried about her, but can’t put a finger to what’s wrong.”
“I’d be tempted to wonder how she could not notice if something like that was going on, but then I didn’t, so I’m hardly one to talk.”
Andy recognized the tone of his voice and smiled sadly, even though her dad couldn’t see. This was the one thing that had always bothered her, when she was sick and especially in recovery: that her father felt such guilt over it. She’d tried to explain when she was younger that there was no fault, and there was no way that he should have known what was going on, because she’d gone to such lengths to keep it from him.
“You seem to be seeing an awful lot of Miranda,” her dad said. “Is she doing something with the paper or something?”
“No, I’ve been seeing her socially,” she replied, and began twirling her pen.
“That’s pretty surprising. I didn’t know you were especially friendly.”
The word hovered on the tip of her tongue, but Andy couldn’t manage to get it out. “Yeah, it’s different now that I’m not working for her,” she said, after a moment.
“Sure bet,” her dad said, and changed the subject.
Andy left the office late that night, after rushing to assist with the paper’s election endorsements, having long since sent Cassidy safely on her way with Roy. She realized, just as she was about to go down to the subway, that she’d completely forgotten about Miranda and her gelato and her promise to text. She glanced at her phone; it was half-past eight. She supposed she could take Miranda out, especially since she’d effectively told her to clear her schedule, and Miranda had simply acquiesced. But she was tired, and in all honesty, she had no idea where to take Miranda in the first place. Every place she’d been to for gelato looked more like a bodega than a proper date-night restaurant.
It still wasn’t late, though; certainly not too late for Miranda. Andy considered her options. She could call Miranda and suggest they go out, and figure out where and how on her way over to the townhouse - or she could propose a date night in. She decided on the latter and wondered if she had enough time to get to Little Italy.
“I thought you’d forgotten,” Miranda said unceremoniously as she opened the door.
“I just got really busy at work,” Andy said, “and I’m so sorry. I didn’t forget, but I also didn’t have time to find us the perfect place.”
Miranda frowned, but glanced at the bag Andy was holding. “Where did that come from?”
“From the kind of place you wouldn’t even look at,” Andy said. “It’s really good and you’d miss out if I left you to your own devices. So are you going to let me in?”
“Of course,” Miranda said, and stepped aside. “I’ve asked the girls to stay upstairs tonight,” she continued. “May I take your coat?”
“Oh! Thank you,” Andy said. She’d practically forgotten about it.
“This was a classic,” Miranda said. “YSL from roughly 2006, I should think?”
Andy had no idea, except that she’d bought it from a high-end consignment store before Nigel let her shop the Closet. Miranda looked at the tag. “Hmm, yes. It suits you.”
Miranda motioned her down the hallway and Andy smiled to see that Miranda had set the table with crystal dishes and had a pot of coffee brewing.
“I didn’t know if you liked affogato,” Miranda said.
“That’s perfect,” Andy said. “Really. I didn’t expect you to do all this, I hope it wasn’t too much trouble.”
“Nonsense, you’re my guest.” It sounded so formal that Andy practically winced.
She set the container of Tahitian vanilla bean gelato on the counter and turned to face Miranda. She looked beautiful, dressed in a skirt and deep blue blouse with a scarf collar, and now that Andy was looking at her properly, she could see that she had touched up her makeup.
“You look beautiful,” she said, and Miranda smiled.
“I wanted to look nice,” she said simply, as if she ever looked anything but.
“You always do.” Andy laughed. “Unlike me.”
“You make a lovely impression.”
“You say that now,” Andy said. “Just wait until you see me after my Saturday morning run.”
Miranda opened her mouth to protest, and then seemed to reconsider. “I shall evaluate your fitness wardrobe when the time arises.”
“Thanks,” Andy said. “Although I don’t think I have a fitness wardrobe, unless you count yoga capris a sports bra/tank combo.”
Miranda looked horrified. “You run in capris?”
“Yes, I do! Like everyone else who doesn’t want to run in shorts. They’re from Lululemon, if that makes you feel better.”
Miranda shook her head. “My,” she said, and Andy had a feeling that she might actually have been serious about evaluating her workout clothes.
For all her commentary about Andy’s clothes, however, Miranda seemed fairly quiet. It was as if she was an entirely different person at home than in the office. Andy had expected that, to a certain degree; the Miranda she’d met in her hotel room in Paris was not Miranda at Elias-Clarke, and the Miranda she’d seen in the townhouse that night, making excuses to try to placate her husband, was a Miranda she hoped to never see again.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Of course,” Miranda said. “But won’t you sit?”
Andy pulled out one of the bar stools and sat down, listening to the coffee maker finish its pot. Miranda sat opposite her, looking decidedly apprehensive. “It’s just that it seems like there’s something bothering you,” she said. “Something you haven’t told me, but that you’ve been mulling over. You’re doing that thing where you tap your lip, and that means you’re turning something over and over.”
“Yesterday I said you didn’t know me,” Miranda began after a long moment. “It was perhaps not the most elegant phrasing.”
“That’s okay,” Andy said, wondering where she was going with it, and whether or not she ought to scoop out the gelato.
“There’s something that I haven’t told anyone, but that I have suspected for a long time.”
“Okay,” Andy said. “Do you want some gelato?”
Miranda nodded, so Andy busied herself while Miranda sorted out her thoughts.
“The fact of the matter, Andrea, is that the reason I was unhappy in my marriages had relatively little to do with my choice of men, although God knows the last one was hardly a prize, but rather with the fact that they were men at all.”
Andy looked up from the container of gelato to find Miranda blushing. “Go on,” she said, as encouragingly as possible.
“You were hesitant to tell me that you are bisexual,” Miranda said. “I have been hesitant to tell you that I think I am a lesbian.”
“But you were married three times!” Andy blurted out, and wished she could take it back as soon as she saw Miranda’s face fall. “I’m sorry.”
“Is it so hard to believe that a woman of my age, from my generation, coming of age when I did, would try to fix it, so to speak, by marrying a man? Or that she would be so desperate to fix it that when the first marriage didn’t work out, she tried again? And then again?”
“No, of course not, Miranda - “
“And would it be so beyond the realm of possibility that she might, when a beautiful woman expressed interest in her, consider risking a very great deal to actually be in a relationship that feels right? Something she’s never had before?”
Miranda was impassioned, flushed almost. There were tears behind her voice, though her eyes merely glistened. She looked compellingly, angrily beautiful.
“I’m sorry, Miranda,” Andy said. Miranda was hurt, and worse, she had been the cause of it, because she’d been thoughtless and inconsiderate. “I didn’t for one second mean to diminish what you were saying by asking a silly question. I was taken by surprise, but that’s a rotten excuse for hurting you, and I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right,” Miranda said, after a long moment. “But you understand, now.”
“I do,” Andy said, and covered her hand with her own, linking their fingers together. “I really do, Miranda.”
Miranda stared down at their hands in amazement. It occurred to Andy that Miranda had never been able to do this, had never had a woman tell her she was beautiful as Andy had, take her to dinner as they had done, or sit with her hand in her lover’s, waiting for coffee to brew.
“May I ask you something?”
Miranda nodded, and tightened her grip on Andy’s hand, as if she were afraid she would pull away.
“Do you really like me?”
“Oh yes, Andrea,” Miranda said. “I’ve liked you for quite a long while.”
Andy smiled. “So then you won’t mind if I do this,” she said, and hopped off her chair. She let her free hand trace Miranda’s cheek and the contour of her lips before she very gently guided her to her lips. Miranda’s mouth trembled beneath her own, as if she was about to cry, and so Andy did her best to caress her gently, to distract her and make certain she thought of nothing but this kiss.