As she walked home from the subway, Andy couldn’t stop turning over in mind all that had happened that evening. She was struck by the prospect of all the things they would share, all the firsts that Miranda had never enjoyed with a woman. She felt terrible for her, of course, for the many years in which she had felt as if she had to live a lie in search of happiness, but little pity; Miranda, after all, would feel none for herself. Andy could practically hear her explaining her reasoning - we all do what is necessary for success and to achieve our goals - and the twins, of course, were the product of one of those desperate marriages, and Andy knew that they were Miranda’s most beloved treasures. But part of her - the part she wasn’t nearly so proud of at this particular moment - was thrilled at the prospect of sharing so many of these firsts with Miranda. She had been Miranda’s first kiss with a woman; she would be the first to make love to her, the first to bring her breakfast in bed the following morning. She hated herself for thinking along those lines, of course, but she could hardly help it, and her head filled with all the things she wanted to share with Miranda.
Inside her apartment, she paced a path between the kitchen, the bedroom, and the living room, and if her mother had been there to see her, she’d have admonished her for wearing down the floorboards. What she wanted to do was text Miranda, even if it had barely been an hour since she’d seen her. She booted up her laptop and set some coffee to brew, but by the time she’d sat down on the couch with her coffee to do some work, she found herself browsing New York magazine for suggestions for the weekend. It was hardly productive, but Miranda Priestly had kissed her and she found it difficult to focus on much else.
Andy woke up to the sound of her second alarm, the horrifically and entirely falsely-named ‘alert’, which sounded like a repurposed siren from a construction site. It never failed to wake her. Unfortunately, it also meant that she had approximately an hour to shower, dress, and get to work, which was practically nothing in the city. There were some benefits to working somewhere other than Runway, Andy decided, throwing her wet hair into a bun and doing her makeup almost as an afterthought. She flew down the three flights of stairs to the street and was just pulling the heavy door shut behind her when she heard a quiet voice call her name. She spun around. Caroline was standing there, dressed in dark jeans and an NYU sweatshirt, looking entirely unlike herself. Her hair fell loose around her shoulders, and she was sporting a pair of dark oversize sunglasses, looking older than her age.
“Hey Caroline,” she said, after a moment. She considered her. “How are things?”
“I’m sorry I didn’t call you beforehand,” Caroline said, almost as if Andy had been expecting her.
Andy raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”
Caroline shook her head. “There’s no classes today. Professional development for staff.”
“Oh,” Andy said, pulling her coat tighter around her. “That’s cool.” Caroline didn’t seem particularly inclined to say anything further, but if she waited any longer, she was going to be late. “I have to get to work,” she said. “You’re welcome to keep me company on the way.”
“Okay,” Caroline said, and fell into step with her on the way to the subway. They were halfway to the office before she spoke again. “You know how you said you could commiserate with me,” Caroline began, somewhere in the tunnel before the stop at Lexington Avenue. Andy had to strain to hear her. “I was wondering if maybe we could talk.”
“Absolutely,” Andy said. “As soon as we get above ground.”
“I realized when I got here that you have to go to work,” Caroline said as they stepped up into the sunlight. “I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s cool,” Andy said quickly. “Just give me a minute, okay?” Caroline nodded, and she whipped out her phone.
“If I promise that I’ll make the editorial meeting this afternoon,” she said, without preamble, when Jim answered his phone, “can I pull from my overage hours and take the morning off? My story’s filed.”
“I got the story,” Jim replied. “I’ll get it back to you with edits sometime this AM. And sure, take the time. Hangover talking?”
“No!” she exclaimed, indignantly. “Thank you very much. It’s more of a family crisis kind of situation.”
“No worries,” Jim said. “Everything okay?”
“It’ll be fine,” she answered. “Just important that I take care of it now.”
Caroline looked at her curiously once she’d hung up. “You didn’t have to take time off for me.”
“I wanted to,” Andy replied. “Sometimes important things come up. That’s why, whenever your future boss asks you to do some extra hours, you do them. You never know when you’ll need a favor back.” Caroline smiled tentatively. “Had breakfast?”
Caroline shook her head. Andy suspected as much. Cassidy ate a carefully planned diet because of her sports commitments, but she’d long had the feeling that Cassidy’s strict meal schedule was not something the twins shared.
“Are you a tea and crumpets kind of girl, or something else?”
Caroline brightened. “Can we go to the Ritz?”
Andy glanced down at their attire. “If they let us in, sure.”
“They’ll let us in,” Caroline said confidently, then seemed to remember her sweatshirt. “If you mention mom, that is.”
Andy sighed. Name-dropping it was.
Andy settled back against the booth to people-watch through the glass windows that looked out over the street. Beside her, Caroline did the same.
“This was a good idea,” she said, toying with her napkin. “Thank you.” They’d ordered tea, two-egg omelets, cheese for Andy and tomato for Caroline, and a selection of tiny pastries – croissants and pinwheels and tartlets – served on three tiered plates.
“Don’t mention it,” Andy said. She’d done her best to focus on her own breakfast and not Caroline’s, but she’d been happy at least to see that she’d eaten a good half of her omelet and had helped herself to bits and pieces from the pastry tiers.
“So you probably have been thinking that I have a problem with eating,” Caroline said, as if she’d read her mind. “So do I. I looked it up online.”
“What did you find out?” And asked, deliberately keeping her voice light.
Caroline sighed, her eyes fixed on her gold-rimmed teacup. “I’m telling you because I had a feeling you knew, and you said we could talk. But I’m also telling you because if I told mom, she would think it was her fault, or Runway’s fault, and it’s not like that at all.”
“Okay,” Andy said.
“I’m not anorexic and I know I’m too thin,” Caroline declared, unceremoniously. “I don’t want to be this thin.”
“Okay,” Andy repeated. It occurred to her that this was the first moment in a good long while – perhaps since the wedding – where she’d actively wished for her mother to tell her what to do.
“I look at myself and I don’t like what I see because I’m too thin.” She sighed. “I don’t know how to fix it. Fix me. Whatever.” She glanced down at the half-eaten croissant on her dish, licked her finger, and picked up some of the crumbs and confectioners’ sugar.
Andy took a sip of her tea, biting back her initial response, which was to say that Caroline didn’t need fixing. “When did this start?”
“Like last year, I think. Maybe after Christmas sophomore year. I gained some weight freshman year, and I wanted to lose it.”
“Lots of people do,” Andy replied.
“Yeah, I know. I just got really careful about what I ate. I never went below 1200,” Caroline continued. “Anything lower than that isn’t safe, you know.”
“And then I lost the weight and I was happy, and I just kept on watching what I was eating. I figured I was being safe anyway.”
Andy looked at her questioningly. “So you’ll still eating a restricted-calorie diet? Even though you want to maintain, not lose?”
“I’m not sure,” Caroline said. “I don’t count as carefully now. At first I kept a journal, but then I got good at it, just eyeballing it, and I haven’t, for a while.”
It sounded, to Andy’s mind, much like what she herself had done. She’d started watching her weight because of lacrosse, and then it had just gotten away from her. She remembered, quite clearly, telling her therapist that she knew it didn’t make sense – how could she just let it get out of hand like that? – and her therapist’s firm reply that it made perfect sense.
“That makes sense to me,” Andy said. “Or at least it’s what I did. My mom was sick and I had stuff at school, and I kept on doing what I was doing, but I wasn’t paying attention to it anymore. But then when I wanted to stop – “
“You couldn’t,” Caroline filled in. “Yep. And you don’t know why. And then you feel worse, because you’re like, there’s no reason for me to be like this, and it’s something you’re just doing to yourself and if you don’t have a real problem with your body, then you’re just being ridiculous, and then you feel even worse.” She looked at Andy expectantly, waiting for her to say the magic words to make her better.
Andy sighed. “It’s about control, you know,” she said, after a long moment. “But you really need to talk with someone who’s trained in all this to help you figure out how it works. Seriously,” she added, when Caroline looked dubious. “That’s what I did.”
“Okay,” she said, finally. “I’m just not happy. Like not even that, because obviously everybody’s happy, you know, they have happy days and sad days. It’s like this is what I think about and things that used to make me happy don’t anymore.”
“I think sometimes it helps to have someone who knows the best way to get you to see the fuller picture, understand what’s going on, and figure out a game plan to fix it.” She took a gamble and wrapped her arm around Caroline. “And then you have people you talk to and commiserate with, because they know what you’re going through, and that’s cool because they’re just there to support you, not treat you.”
Caroline smiled, and to Andy’s surprise, hugged her back. “Thanks, Andy.”
Andy smiled. “Anytime. In fact, I think we should totally do this again, except maybe on the weekend.”
“Actually,” Caroline said, “I think we should make a tour of it. Go to the Russian Tea Room and the Waldorf and everywhere and have brunch.”
Andy laughed, and couldn’t bring herself to care that the girl’s plans would blow a good third of her take-home pay in pastry. “That’s an excellent idea.”
The rest of the day passed without incident, and when Cassidy turned up for her shift, saying nothing about Caroline, Andy stayed mum too. It was odd to go about their ordinary tasks – sending Cassidy to fetch something from design, cramming into the conference room for the Friday editorial meeting – and not acknowledge in the slightest all that had happened in the morning. Fortunately, Jim said nothing about her absence in Cassidy’s presence, but when Cassidy left, waving as Roy drove her off to Runway to collect Miranda, she breathed a sigh of relief. She had a feeling it might have been something of a test for Caroline to not clue in her twin and it felt good to relax back at her desk, looking over the proof for her piece on Park Avenue philanthropy, without having to worry about accidentally spilling the beans.
Unfortunately the girls had been a distraction from their mother, she realized as she stepped through her door, dropping her keys loudly on the side table. In all that had happened, from her quiet morning with Caroline to the typical Friday flurry of activity with Cassidy, she hadn’t had a single moment to spare on Miranda. But now that she was home, rummaging through her empty fridge for dinner, it dawned on her that she hadn’t heard a word from Miranda all day. To be fair, she reasoned, sniffing an opened jar of tomato sauce, she hadn’t contacted Miranda at all, either.
The phone rang just as she was wading through search results on the lifespan of jarred sauce.
“I heard you had breakfast with Caroline,” Miranda said, without so much as hello.
“Hi Miranda,” she replied, shutting her laptop. “And yes, we did. She surprised me.”
“So she told me,” Miranda said, and Andy was certain she could hear the wheels in her head turning the whole situation round. “She said that you were – and I quote – lovely and understanding and helpful.”
“Is that all she said?” As soon as the words left her mouth, Andy regretted them. She’d always had a habit of playing into Miranda’s semantic traps, and this, it seemed, was no different.
“Indeed,” said Miranda, with only a trace of self-satisfaction. “I was hoping you might enlighten me.”
Andy sighed. “I want the girls to like me and trust me, especially if you and I are going to – you know – give it a go. And they won’t do that if I turn around and tell you the things they tell me. I think you should talk to Caroline.”
“Caroline doesn’t talk to me,” Miranda replied. “I suppose I shall trust your better judgment.”
“If I thought it was something you absolutely needed to know right this second, Miranda, I would tell you. But I think it’s okay to let her tell you in her own time.”
“Very well.” Andy could just picture her, sat at her desk in the study, her head resting against her hand, her fingers toying with the stack of papers. She would have come home from work and loosened the buttons of her blouse; her scarf would lie loose about her neck. She would be wearing her glasses, she would be rubbing the bridge of her nose. She would be drinking tea.
“Why don’t you try talking to her again?” she asked, when the silence on the line made her think Miranda had hung up.
“They’re en route to East Hampton, to spend the weekend with their father.”
“Ah,” Andy said. “So. What are you up to?”
“I am not ‘up to’ anything,” Miranda said indignantly. “What are you up to?”
Andy laughed. “Trying to find something to make for dinner. Hey, do you know how long tomato sauce keeps?”
“No,” Miranda replied, incredulous, as if she didn’t know why Andy had even bothered to ask.
“Neither do I. I think I’m going to order in some Chinese. There’s this place around the corner – ”
“Don’t bother. I shall join you,” Miranda said imperiously, and unceremoniously ended the call.
Andy glanced around her apartment and rather thought she’d never been more grateful in her life for the fact that she took after her parents and kept a neat house.