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We Arrive in the Dark

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She meets with the curators to start planning the exhibit; that same day she starts sleeping with Andrea Sachs.

These two things have no relationship with each other, only that she thinks of both, often. The exhibit and the subsequent planning for the Met Gala are day-work, washed clean by sunlight through glistening windowpanes, morning catching on the lip of her Starbucks cup, phlegmatic wheezes of hot air from Manhattan vents curling around her ankles as she crosses streets. Andrea is only ever night-work.

From October to May, her team is sunk deep into planning. Once upon a time, one of her editors muses when Andrew announces the theme at a press conference, and Miranda rolls her eyes. Truly she is in the presence of an original mind, a creative among creatives. Miranda has already resigned herself to the many dull article titles that will be printed about this.

“We could start a betting pool,” Andrea says one night, unable to stop her dreadful habit of snooping in Miranda’s day planner. “Or better yet, a drinking game. One point for every article that references snow, forest, or Grimm. Double points if anyone ever tries to pin you as the Snow Queen.”

That old song and story.

We are pleased to announce Märchen: Fashion and Fairy Tales at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, says Andrew from behind the tired smear of his glasses, as the cameras go off on him.

Well, thinks Miranda. Themes are themes; one needs must be chosen every year, paraded, and despite Andrew’s high-strung anxiety about the whole matter, about art and legacy and curatorship, once the next one is chosen, the old one will cease to matter. Unless, of course, one is speaking about the McQueen exhibit; there is a certain distastefulness, Miranda feels, in doing too good a job if you are not certain you can repeat the act.

But let Andrew’s people and her own team fuss about the shape of it, whether or not Märchen will be praised or panned. Miranda has a ball to plan.

“What’s the point,” is another one of Andrea’s bothersome questions, “of hiring a Director of Special Projects to organize the gala when you won’t even let her choose the napkins without consulting you?”

Of course, someone like Andrea would never understand about napkins, how they are sign and signifier and, for god’s sake, textiles, which does matter some in a party to celebrate haute couture. Andrea does not grasp that it is a language. These napkins, or flower arrangements, or the proper chairs to go with the table, or the buttons on the ushers' uniforms. If Miranda would have them speak, she would have them sing.

The lead-in to May is very short, and very, very long. There are not enough hours in the day for meetings — and there is still Runway to manage, an issue to produce — so Baz starts coming over to the house at night, climbing the stairs and waving to the twins.

“Oh, Baz Lurhmann, is he here again?” Cassidy says.

“He leaves the toilet seat up, you know,” says Caroline.

“I think he’s stealing our silverware,” Cassidy adds.

The twins are in high school and as such, are impossible to deal with. Miranda tries to keep them busy, with tennis and violin and ballet and French, but still she ends up coming home some nights with a vice-principal’s message on her voicemail, and she yells at Caroline for skipping class and smoking until she needs to lie down or her head will burst.

Baz comes over twice a week, claims it suits him since he works better at night anyway. They drink rosé while the girls do their homework, and they discuss the artistic direction of the gala, the video exhibits he will make for them. Baz comes over twice a week, but never Thursdays.

More preparations. Miranda goes in for final fittings of her dress, something Miuccia’s thrown together for her. Huntsman garb, Miuccia says casually, you know the like, and Miranda approves. As she stands there in front of the three-walled mirror, stony while Miuccia’s black-clad assistants buzz reverentially around her with their measuring tape and pins, she examines her own reflection. Surrounded every day by so many pretty young lush things, she thinks. She feels like a piece of broken glass clutched in a fist.

 

*

 

An October to May’s worth of Thursday evenings, and Miranda has missed only a few. Naturally, her being unavailable Thursday nights has led to an increased fervor of invitations from all sorts of people who want her attention, and in the beginning Miranda thought it would do Andrea good, to be kept waiting. To be told no.

But the unfortunate side effect of regularly sleeping with someone is that you are no longer as inclined to be as intimidated by them, and Andrea has made it very clear that she does not need to keep her Thursday nights open. She could spend it anywhere else she likes, and so it is Miranda who says no. To designer friends, to Hollywood directors, to publishers who invite her to their wives’ dinner parties.

She goes to Andrea, and tells herself that it is not a humiliation; it is a convenience.

Except for the fact that it is hugely inconvenient, actually. When discretion requires waiting until the girls are in their rooms for the night and hardly likely to care about where their mother’s gone off to. When discretion means Miranda can’t have an assistant book the hotel room; she has to do it herself. When it means a very large tip for her driver to never divulge her secrets.

“I think you might consider taking over the reservations,” she tells Andrea, while Andrea’s lounging naked on top of the sheets, hand placed provocatively over her own round belly that she’ll never get rid of, not so long as she continues to eat carbs. Andrea says her doctor, at her last physical, called her apple-shaped, and also that she should drink more water.

“Nah, can’t,” Andrea says cheerfully. “I’m busy.”

What airs this girl has found. Deputy video editor for the New York Mirror’s website, and she’s content to make Miranda Priestly ask for it. Miranda always did feel what Andrea needed was a jolt of self-confidence, but really this is too much.

(This mousy backslider pseudo-intellectual journalist of a girl, it makes no sense that Miranda could want her this much, after so many years).

Andrea is very interested in talking about the Met Gala, even if it’s only to smile at the things Miranda cares enough about to be done right. “At least you picked a perfectly banal theme this year,” Andrea says, stroking her nipples while Miranda watches from the other side of the bed, fully clothed and dry-mouthed. “Fashion people should stick to fantasy. It’s when you guys try to tackle real world topics that you look really, really dumb.”

“This really, really dumb industry,” Miranda says, imitating Andrea’s flat American accent, “accounts for two percent of the entire planet’s GDP.”

“Yes, thank you for that fact,” Andrea says. “I dropped it in a story of mine last week. It was very useful.” She lets her legs fall open. Sometimes Andrea does not bother to shave. Miranda tries not to let Andrea see her swallow.

(“Do you want me to cut my nails,” Andrea asked once, balanced heavy on Miranda’s lap while her hands clutched at Miranda’s bare back. Her hair smelled like CVS soap and honeysuckle. She’d insisted Miranda keep on only her Hermès scarf.

And Miranda had sucked in a sharp breath and said, “No.”

“Okay then,” said Andrea. “Let me know if you want me to — go gentler on you.”

Gentle is not what she wants from Andrea Sachs).

They have unspoken agreements for what they do on Thursday nights. It has taken them some time, and many arguments, to reach them. Andrea may ask Miranda about her work, and Miranda often is willing to share, if only for the amusement of Andrea’s ignorant replies. Miranda rarely asks Andrea about her own job. They talk about the twins, sometimes. Miranda does not enjoy Andrea offering parenting advice, but nor does she disallow it. Miranda does not like to be completely unclothed, though there are some nights when she merely wishes Andrea to do it for her. Andrea was shy about her body in October; less so now. They have both been with women before, but not frequently. They spent several months mutually believing that kissing was too intimate an act to be introduced, before realizing that Andrea loves to be kissed and Miranda yearns for it.

When they leave the hotel room, Andrea always goes first.

 

*

 

Caroline and Cassidy are still fond of Andrea; that is how this whole thing began. It is… not common for them to harbour fond feelings for any of Miranda’s assorted chocolate box of assistants, but perhaps Andrea’s own uncommonness is what brought them here. The twins are fond of her, though in a sly predatory way that ought to alarm Miranda if she had time to be alarmed by anything so small as selfish behaviour in her children.

The twins are known to camp out on Andrea’s Facebook and remark on all of her photos. They are known to phone Andrea late at night and keep her up for hours. The twins are known to call her “Harry Potter lady” and “wrong closet girl” and “Sandy Andy” on account of a beachfront visit that apparently went awry. Miranda was not there to witness this no doubt illuminating tale. Miranda allows Andrea to take the twins out without her prior permission; if Andrea can handle Dior couture with the most delicate of touches, she can navigate Caroline and Cassidy through New York without one of them getting hit by a bus.

On the other hand, navigating the seating charts for the Met Gala requires a degree in higher level mathematics. No one who is known to dislike each other will be seated together. No one who has sat next to each other in previous events this year will be seated together. If there is the potential for interesting and unexpected collaborations, well, Miranda considers it her role to connect people who would be well-suited for each other, professionally.

“Mm, no,” she says to Vienna, the Director of Special Projects that she does, contrary to Andrea’s laughing, actually hire. “Move Taylor Swift from the table with Emma Stone.”

“Why?” Vienna asks, confused. She’s new; she hasn’t yet learned not to ask Miranda for explanation.

Too many young things together, Miranda does not say. “Put her with Stella McCartney. That’s all,” she says shortly, and glides away to where the head chef wants a word.

“Nouvelle German cuisine,” he says.

“No,” Miranda says. She checks her phone. There is a message from Cassidy, with a photo of her, Caroline, and Andrea at a Yankees game. They are all wearing baseball caps with hot dogs in their hands. Andrea has a beer in a red cup. It is, after all, a Saturday.

The twins come traipsing into the Runway offices late afternoon, freckled and sun-happy. “Where is Andrea?” Miranda asks sharply.

“She had to run back to her office, some last-minute call,” Caroline says.

“Don’t worry, Mum, she sent us off with Orlando before she had to go,” Cassidy says, naming their driver.

“I think she was lying, though, about the call,” Caroline says delightedly.

“Oh totally,” Cassidy says. “Cos didn’t Graham go with her? Booty call, am I right?” She and Caroline exchange cackling high-fives. Miranda does not ask about Graham, whoever he is, but Cassidy takes out her phone and shows her anyway; the girls can hardly resist gossiping about Andrea’s love life. There are photos they did not send Miranda, of them, Andrea, and a tall dark-haired man in a leather jacket, the sort who looks like he would claim to read Knausgård, carry around The Economist on the train, and ferment his own beer in his bathtub in Queens.

“Did you friend him on Facebook already?” Caroline asks.

“Oh yeah,” says Cassidy in tones of great satisfaction. “There are shirtless photos. Nigel! Nigel!” She flags him down as he passes. “Did you see?” She sticks her phone in his face. “Andrea has a boyfriend.”

“Indeed,” Nigel says dryly, “The one who got away.”

Miranda’s blood runs cold. “Nigel,” she says. “Bring me the Yiqing Yin dress from the other room.” When Nigel does not move, she raises an eyebrow. “Oh yes, be lumberous and slow about it, we have all day.”

They hardly have any time left. They are two weeks to the first Monday in May, and they are nowhere close to finishing anything, much less the seating charts.

 

*

 

Miranda enjoys beautiful things. No one gets to where she is without being something of a hedonist. She lays her hands along the backs of Andrea’s smooth, creamy thighs, and breathes in the musk of her skin, the faint whiff of sweat. Andrea’s breath skips in her throat. She is standing while Miranda is sitting, and when she looks down at Miranda, her eyes are dark and moon-blown.

They do not do this always, but on some Thursdays Miranda will bring something for Andrea to wear. Something from the closet, something she saw while her editors were flipping through the racks, and Miranda thought oh and that will do nicely. Some things she gives to her tailor, who is as discreet as her driver, to have adjusted a size or two, though this Andrea does not know. Miranda enjoys beautiful things, and she enjoys seeing them on Andrea.

Andrea tonight is in dark green Givenchy, a dress they chose not to use for the fairy tale exhibit, which frees it for Miranda’s pleasure. It clings to Andrea’s hips and dips low to the swell of her snowy breasts. Her hair falls straight down her back; Miranda likes it best loose, tumbling from towers.

Andrea’s mouth is red-bitten, and she gasps as Miranda squeezes her between her knees, reaches one hand down the front of the dress to press a thumb to Andrea’s nipples. They peak immediately, and a pink flush travels up Andrea’s neck, to her cheeks. For all that she acts the indulgent cynic when they talk about work, she is always eager for Miranda to touch her.

But Miranda wants other things. Things she could never tell Stephen or her first husband, or any of the men that came before them — so many men, and for what? She could not ask for them to do what Andrea does to her. Miranda holds Andrea’s wrists and pulls her to the hotel bed. Andrea goes willingly. Andrea crawls over her, poured into her Givenchy, and kisses Miranda like a Medusa, wide-eyed and prone to kill.

“Do you want me to—” she pants, braced over Miranda, her hands coming to rest on Miranda’s wrists. Miranda can see the jump of an excited pulse in Andrea’s throat, her own skittery wonder.

Miranda does not say anything. Miranda does not have to say anything. She looks at Andrea, and Andrea knows. Andrea, damn this foolish girl, knows Miranda down to the skin of her thighs and the sag of her belly. Andrea is young, and Miranda is not. Of course Miranda has wondered why Andrea keeps their Thursday appointments when she has a Graham she could go to; she does not need Miranda.

They kiss, drowning in the silken bed, Andrea pinning Miranda down. They kiss, and Miranda makes Andrea take the lead, because for one night a week Miranda does not want to think. Andrea kisses her on the mouth, on the neck, over her breasts, between the vee of her legs. Andrea slicks her up with two fingers and presses in. Andrea fucks her until Miranda cries out wildly, oh god yes! and thrashes her head against the pillow, a snapping wild wolfish thing, a thing that she did not know she could be, not anymore.

She peels Andrea out of her dress, after, like an apple offered by a woman lost in the woods. She tosses the dress aside and eats.

 

*

 

Andrea sees the seating charts spilling out of Miranda’s Birkin. When Miranda comes out of the bathroom, Andrea has the binder in her hand.

“What are you doing?” Miranda asks.

“What if you did this—” Andrea muses. “Switched over here — put them here — made a new table here?” She shows her.

“I see,” says Miranda, flatly, and Andrea smiles.

 

*

 

The contractors to mount the exhibits are late. Vienna is seething. Miranda is staring out the windows of her office with a mild frown.

“We have a schedule to maintain,” she says. “Vienna?”

“Um, yes?”

“I will be very disappointed if we do not keep to that schedule,” Miranda says. “That’s all.”

“Let me call Andrew,” Vienna says desperately. “He said he’ll talk to them.”

“At least someone,” Miranda says, “is doing their job.” She turns to watch Vienna flee from the office, her heels like keys clicking on the floor. Andrea used to have a name for that sound, didn’t she? Miranda thinks of this, and then pulls her thoughts together, turns them to the problem at hand.

The gingerbread house, the underwater grotto, and the beanstalk — all designed by Baz, jeweled and shard-sharp and dripping with lights — will be mounted. She receives confirmation as much at the end of the day, Vienna practically melting with relief. However, the East of the Sun and West of the Moon video display to accompany the Schiaparelli dresses is not complete, and there is another issue besides: Lady Gaga, who was set to be one of their presenters, has been rushed to the hospital with appendicitis.

“Oh for goodness’ sake,” Miranda says.

Nigel gives her a funny look. “It’s her appendix. She doesn’t exactly control it.”

“Yes, yes,” Miranda says. “But fix this.”

Nigel turns to Emily, and mouths, Is Blake Lively available? We love Blake Lively. Emily, who these days has clawed her way into an editor position, mostly by Nigel’s tutelage and Miranda’s indifference, is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. She has already shouted at two assistants and broken the heel of her Jimmy Choos.

“At least the clothes are ready,” Miranda says, staring down at her notes for the umpteenth time.

“Um,” says Vienna.

Miranda looks at her.

“Well, Karl—” she begins.

She refuses to be laid low by that ghoul of Chanel. “Get him on the phone,” Miranda snaps. “And get me Demarchelier.” She listens to the noise around her as people jump to do her bidding. Is it too much to ask, she thinks, for basic competence.

Her new junior assistant finally calls out, tremulous, “I have Patrick!”

Caroline calls her at ten past five. “Are you doing your homework?” Miranda demands when she picks up.

Caroline’s answer is beautifully sweet and very, very false. “Yes, of course, Mummy. But Cass and I were wondering — we’re still going to the Met Gala with you, right?”

Miranda is flipping through the Book and frowning. “Yes.”

“Can we bring a friend along?”

Miranda would do anything for her girls, but. She turns a page. “Darling, you know the seating arrangements have already been finalized.”

“Oh, she can eat in the kitchens,” Caroline says quickly. “She won’t mind. Please, Mummy? Please, please, please. It’s just — Cass and I will be so lonely, if we only have each other to talk to, and it’s so boring at these things. Please?”

“Fine,” Miranda says. “Give Nigel the details. She can come on the red carpet, but no dinner.” She pauses for a moment. “This isn’t a boy, is it?”

“No,” Caroline says meaningfully, and it doesn’t sound as if she is lying. Well, that is alright then. Miranda forgets about the call almost immediately after it ends. The sun is dipping into the jagged crease of the Manhattan skyline, and her back aches with long, slow pain. The queen in Snow White, she remembers, was punished by dancing in red-hot iron shoes until she died.

She finds the name in her cell phone. She listens to the phone ring and ring. It’s not yet Thursday, but the twins will be at a sleepover with one of their classmates tonight, and Miranda could use company for dinner. The room service at the Crosby Street Hotel is decent from what she remembers, and it is not a place she has gone to before, so she is less likely to draw attention.

Andrea picks up on the eighth ring.

“Hello?” It is a man’s voice, laughing. Miranda can hear Andrea in the distance, Graham, I didn’t give you permission to answer my phone, give that back! She’s laughing too. Who is it?

“I don’t know,” Graham’s saying to Andrea, while Miranda stops breathing. “Caller ID says M. It’s all very mysterious. Very, very James Bond. Hello M,” he adds to Miranda. “I’ve got Andy here, just give me a sec.”

Miranda’s hands shake. She is a creature of the sea unused to land; the air burns her lungs. She hangs up.

 

*

 

Andrea calls back.

Miranda does not pick up.

Andrea calls the next day, and the next. She calls on Thursday.

Miranda does not pick up.

Andrea texts her. It is not something she does often. Miranda does not like texting, tolerates it only from her children. Don’t worry, he didn’t realize who you were. I told him you were my aunt. A few minutes later: Graham’s a friend, not that I have to justify this to you.

Miranda does not pick up.

 

*

 

It turns out, laughably, that she’s in love with Andrea Sachs. How did this happen, she wonders curiously. A path that turned away from her. She thinks of a wheel spinning, and a needle too sharp not to touch.

 

*

 

Here the clock strikes. Here is the moment of transformation. Here disaster becomes astonishment, mannequins and cloud-silk and märchen, exquisite possibilities, girls in red riding hoods and stepsisters with bone-white teeth. Here is Andrew all nerves and bravado, straightening his glasses and leaning towards Harold in his smart Zegna suit for confirmation. Here the photographers are gathered in a sea of waking light. Here are the curators and the ushers and the cooks and the assistants. Here is the carpet, red as virgin blood, trodden as winter berries, smearing the steps.

Miranda is satisfied. This, at least, has been salvaged. The Costume Institute and her Runway team, and Baz, have pulled tricks out of their hats. The gingerbread house, with its panes of stained candy glass, throws mirror reflections over rows and rows of plumasserie, dresses for girls in flight. The room of roses with its gossamers and toiles savaged by wolves. The seven dresses in their lacquered coffins, seven sins.

This is the first Met Gala she has allowed her girls to attend, the first she has deemed them old enough to make that decision. They have ever been in the public eye (poor poor girls, the reporters say), but here now they are demanding to look. Caroline and Cassidy as Snow White and Rose Red in their Oscar de la Renta dresses with the plunging backs. Miranda holds onto them, one for each arm, as they walk up the red carpet behind Gwyneth Paltrow in a veil of diamonds.

Caroline’s face is flushed. Cassidy’s eyes gleam with fever. For the first time, perhaps, they are impressed by what their mother does. Miranda smiles in tiny increments.

“Where is your friend?” she asks, raising her voice to be heard over the roar of the crowd. Rihanna has arrived, one long leg emerging from her limousine.

“She’s coming later! Stuck in traffic!” Cassidy shouts back. “Are you sure we can’t save her a seat at one of the tables?”

“Yeah, Mummy,” Caroline begs. “Someone’s gone MIA right? Hasn’t shown up?”

“I can punch Jay-Z in the face,” Cassidy offers. “He’ll have to go home then.”

Miranda purses her lips. All the work that goes into planning this event, the privilege of receiving an invitation. Of course there are always no-shows, but that does not mean she can't feel some good old-fashioned loathing for them. “We’ll see,” she says, and motions for Vienna to draw closer. She repeats the girls’ request to her, and Vienna nods, scurries away to make it happen.

A reporter shouts loud enough to be heard over the din. He wants a sound clip from Miranda. She pivots towards him and pauses, eyebrows arched. “It’s one night a year, high fashion paired with celebrity,” she says slowly, making him strain to hear her. “The ultimate collaboration.”

“Oh my god,” Caroline breathes, clutching her sister’s arm. “It’s Beyoncé.”

“Now I’ll really punch Jay-Z in the face,” Cassidy declares.

“Girls,” Miranda says sharply. “Stay with Emily.” She drifts away from them, ready to play the part of the delighted host, air-kissing Nicolas Ghesquière, and, a few steps to the right, Hedi Slimane. They’ve each brought their muses, beautiful actresses in hand-sewn creations floating effortlessly behind them, like kite-strings. It is always the male designers who love to parade their muses, she thinks privately. She smiles when she sees Rei Kawakubo with her husband, practically hiding behind a pillar. They’ve already found the hors d'oeuvres.

Caroline shouts, “Andy!” and Miranda freezes.

They look at her, these photographers. Their eyes slide over her and then slide away, marking her as unimportant, someone’s assistant, a wife or a girlfriend, no one of note. But Miranda sees her there, standing on the steps of the ball, shoulders hunched, eyes squinted as she tries to peer past the quick-tempered lights up to the doors. Looking for someone. Miranda recognizes the dress that she is wearing, tar-black with a thousand and one golden stitches. They featured it in the last issue of Runway. Comme des Garçons, she thinks, and faintly hysterically thinks that she must introduce her to Rei.

Their eyes meet over the stairs. Andrea does not smile, but she tilts her head, waiting to be invited.

Miranda turns away.

“You kept this from me,” she says to Nigel, when they pass. “We will discuss this later.” Nigel is meant to be terrified. He is not. Miranda wonders if that is what happens, with time. Castles grow over with thorns. Ice melts.

Well, Andrea is here, but Miranda is occupied. The program starts. Everyone takes their seats. In the corner of her eye she sees Andrea ushered to a half-empty table where she sits beside the people from H&M whose names Miranda can never remember. Andrea says something that makes them laugh. They look like they are having a great time, Miranda thinks sourly. She turns her attention back to the stage where she is waiting to be introduced.

“Ladies and gentleman,” says Naomi Campbell, “chair of the Costume Institute Gala, trustee on the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, editor-in-chief of Runway, and our all around favourite lady—” everyone laughs politely. “Miranda Priestly.”

She speaks. Other people speak. Many people speak. It is long, and she is tired.

Andrea throws her head back to laugh at someone’s witticism, and Miranda watches the pale flex of her throat, the soft muscle. She feels ill. How dare you leave me, she thinks, when Andrea was not hers to have.

Andrew takes his position as chief curator, clears his throat into the mic. “We use the word märchen to designate a specific type of story, a fairy tale set in an indefinite time and place, a fairy tale that happened yesterday but could happen again tomorrow.” He turns the page of his notes. “Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published a series of books, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, and for those of you who actually speak German—” another polite laugh, “—you will understand that these children’s tales have a very adult fear in them, and was it not Alexander McQueen who said, ‘I want people to be scared of the women I dress?’”

Then, it is done. The program is over, and now people are drinking, now they are wandering through the exhibits, now they are dancing. Miranda rubs the bright spot of pain from behind her eyes, checks in on Cassidy and Caroline to make sure that they are not, in fact, terrorizing Beyoncé, and when she turns around there is Andrea standing before her, a martini in her hand. Her shoulders are bare. Her bangs are swept off her forehead. It is hard to look at her.

“I trust,” Miranda says, “that this will provide excellent content for the New York Mirror.”

She prized Andrea’s brazenness as an assistant, and again as a bed partner, but Andrea is not brazen right now. Andrea is looking down at the ground, smiling wryly; there is a fine tremble in her hands that sloshes the martini in its glass. “It may have been a bad idea for me to show up here,” she admits.

Miranda’s assistant is trying to get her attention. There is someone very important, possibly an ambassador of some nation, heading towards her. Emily, but a few feet away, widens her eyes.

“I do not like surprises,” Miranda says.

“I know,” Andrea says, ducking her head. “I guess I just wanted to say — um, that I tried. With Graham. But it wasn’t fair to either of us, when one of us is, um, in love with someone else.”

One day, Miranda thinks, she will cure Andrea of her cloying use of the word ‘um.’ Miranda taught herself how to speak flawlessly when she decided she wanted to be someone who mattered in the world; it is not that difficult.

“Is that all?” Miranda asks.

“Yeah,” Andrea says, “it is.”

They do not speak again for the rest of the night. Andrea is easily carried away by Caroline and Cassidy. Miranda continues making circuits of the room, greeting the guests, posing for photographers. She looks up when she realizes it is midnight. “Take the girls home,” she instructs Emily, and when Emily rounds up the twins, Andrea is nowhere in sight.

“Here,” Caroline says, shoving something into Miranda’s hands. “She left this for you.” There’s something in her face that says she knows. Miranda takes a breath.

Dark, ribboned, with a wicked heel. Andrea’s absurd sense of humour in play, evidently. It’s a shoe.

 

*

 

After the ball is over, there is always more work to be done. There is a special issue of Runway to put together, photos and writeups of the event, a fantasy for the masses. Miranda meets with Nigel, Emily, and Vienna to go over the photos and decide which ones to include. “No, no, not that one,” she says, flipping through the massive book. “This one, maybe.” She studies it. “No,” she decides, “perhaps not after all.”

In a photo of Jennifer Lopez in Lanvin, a corset of ink and ivy, there Andrea blends with the assistants in the background. Emily and Nigel don't even notice her at first glance, or if they do, they don't remark upon it. Andrea is clearly not aware of being photographed. She looks weary, lipstick smudged, and she is carrying a single shoe, its strap looped over one finger, a disgusting habit. Miranda abhors women who kick off their heels mid-party. Andrea has her coat on; in this photo, she is leaving.

Miranda is not even aware of her thumb pressed to the page, hovering by Andrea’s head, until Emily glances over her shoulder and goes, “Oh! Well, of course we have to cut this one out, she looks dreadful.”

“Who is this?” Vienna asks. “Is that J.Lo’s assistant? Why is she barefoot?”

“Because she’s dreadfully mad, that’s why. She used to work for Runway,” Emily says breezily. “Whats-her-name. I don’t even remember.”

“Of course not,” Nigel says drolly. “You only had lunch with her yesterday.”

“I did not,” Emily scowls. “Whats-her-name had the nerve to cancel on me. Said she was too busy with work.” She sniffs. “She thinks she’s too good for us.”

“Well, we’ll not include this one in the issue,” Vienna decides. “The lights are too bright anyway. Everyone looks washed out.”

In every memory she has of Andrea, Miranda thinks, closing her eyes behind her sunglasses, she is leaving.

 

*

 

When she goes to sleep that night, she dreams of Andrea, underneath her hands, eyes bright, going um um um um um, until Miranda’s tongue is in her, and her voice breaks.

 

*

 

Andrea opens her door. She is not expecting any visitors. She is wearing her Northwestern sweatshirt, basketball shorts, and a ridiculous pair of socks with cartoon sushi rolls on them. Miranda wants her more than anything else in the world.

“It’s Thursday,” Miranda says.

“Right,” says Andrea, blinking. “Come in.” She closes the door behind Miranda. The hallway is impossibly cramped; New York Mirror journalists don’t get paid very much. Miranda thinks wistfully of her townhouse on the Upper East Side, all the beds she has, and how luscious Andrea would look on any of them, and how the twins would adore having her for breakfast the next day.

Miranda stands in the hallway and does not take off her coat. She watches Andrea visibly swallow, with some fascination.

“I have something of yours,” Miranda says. “In the bag.” She holds the bag out to Andrea, expecting Andrea to go digging for it.

“Technically it’s Runway’s,” Andrea confesses. “I had Nigel steal it from the closet.”

Miranda looks around the hallway. “I suspected as much.”

“Yeah,” Andrea says, and she’s smiling. “So we’re going to do this again, huh? Thursdays.”

“Andrea.”

“Uh huh?” Andrea's tongue flicks over her mouth.

“I am not sentimental,” says Miranda, and she trusts Andrea to understand.

Andrea does. Her mouth opens, very slightly; Miranda can see the pebbled pink of her tongue. She clutches the bag so hard that Miranda fears she will break something inside it. No matter. They are only shoes. “Okay,” Andrea says helplessly. “Ah, okay. My place is a mess, but you want to — you want to stay for a bit? I have coffee, or tea, or something. I think.” She smiles a little. “No Graham around, I promise.”

“Andrea,” Miranda says, and even her name feels like sugar in her mouth. She reaches for her. “Your hair is a fright.”

“I know,” Andrea says. “I was sleeping. It is eleven o’clock at night.”

“Is it?” Miranda asks.

“I was sleeping,” says Andrea, pressing the back of her knuckles to Miranda’s arm, a brief touch, a warm touch, “but then I woke up. It happens. I’m glad it did.”

“Alright,” Miranda says, “alright,” and she follows Andrea inside.