Miranda stared at the back of Roy's head, willing the traffic to move. It was hot and humid, far too unpleasant for her to hoof it, even though everything in her body was shouting for her to do so. But if she showed up and Andrea was still there, she'd smell like a locker room, and that would not advance the case she was about to plead.
She checked her watch, the one that had been a gift for her last birthday, after professing to Andrea that she simply did not want to constantly look at her phone. She found it far subtler to track the time during meetings or showings or rehearsals by glancing down at the small timepiece from behind her glasses than by hauling out a device and checking the screen. Of course when she truly wanted to show her impatience, she would do just that, but overall, she preferred to control others’ perception of her. She also did not want the incessant knowledge of a waiting email or missed phone call or text; there were enough distractions and complexities in her universe without constantly having her attention pulled in a dozen different directions.
She wondered if Andrea would make a crack about how her watch did her little good when it came to actually keeping to a proper schedule.
She checked the watch again. 9:28pm, on a Friday.
She sighed. She never should have agreed to an 8:00 dinner, but she had actually wanted to make it. She'd been desperate for a sip of time with her lover, whom she had seen little of for the past two weeks. Tonight the book would not come, since they'd finally wrapped the bear of an issue, but it had taken until literally 9:13 for her to complete the work and deliver the thing. It wasn't exactly late, but it was close; another two hours or so and they'd have incurred tremendous additional fees. Since then, she'd called Andrea multiple times, and texted repeatedly.
Andrea did not pick up the phone, nor did she reply to the texts.
Miranda wondered if Andrea would still be at the restaurant. She didn't hear otherwise, so she barreled forward, but wondered if she would discover that Andrea would have vanished, or had changed the locks on the front door, or barricaded herself in the bedroom.
Early in their relationship Miranda was very rarely late, but these days some old habits were creeping in. They reminded her of the patterns of the past that resulted in screaming fights and panic and tears and --finally, inevitably--divorce. Granted, she and Andrea were not married, but Miranda felt as married to the woman as she ever had been to any of her legal spouses. Andrea had been patient thus far; too patient, Miranda worried. It was the kind of patient that was just storing up energy and resulted in an explosion of mammoth proportions, perhaps involving a public raking over the coals or a drink thrown in her face.
Miranda thought of Jeremy and his silent treatment. Followed by Greg and his rages, his throwing of priceless vases and framed photographs of their wedding day against the wall. Then, finally and most humiliating, of Stephen and his hissed rants, and worse, the smell of bourbon on his breath as he'd spat angry words in her face. His bloodshot eyes and sneers and weakness of character had embarrassed Miranda at the end, when she realized her choice of partner had been so utterly wrong for her and her girls.
Andrea had not exhibited any of those behaviors. Yet. But they'd been together less than a year, and Andrea was still so young, not yet thirty, and her expectation of Miranda was different than that of her previous partners. Andrea had never been a victim of that particularly American masculine construct of not being the primary breadwinner, and Miranda hadn’t felt any jealousy from her over the unevenness of their salaries. Besides, Andrea had started out knowing the intricacies of Miranda’s personality from their time at Runway, but still, now seemed as good as any for the bubble to burst.
She checked her phone again, then her watch, then the traffic.
“Arrival in two minutes, Miranda. I've bypassed some of it, but Fridays are always rough.”
Miranda closed her eyes, and hoped.
Once at the right corner, Miranda stopped Roy and let herself out, asking him to circle the block until he heard from her. She might be leaving post-haste. She did not hurry, for she did not want to appear as if in a rush, but her heart pounded in dissatisfaction. Then at last, the doorman was before her, holding the door for her as she breezed inside on a cloud of damp heat and Chanel No. 5. She walked to the front of the house, where she was greeted with a kiss on the cheek from Charles. “Dear Charles, I apologize for my lateness. It couldn't be helped. Have you--” she paused very briefly before continuing, “Is my dinner companion still here?”
Charles' eyes widened, and Miranda's heart fell. “Oh, hmm. I don't believe he's here; your reservation went unclaimed. Of course we have a table for you, always, ma chère, if you’d like to stay.”
Miranda was confused; had Andrea stood her up before she'd been stood up herself? That was unlike her. It was possible, but more than atypical. Miranda exhaled as her heart continued to thud noisily in her chest. She swallowed down disappointment, her throat dry as dust. “May I take a walk around, just in case?” Miranda asked, knowing the answer would be yes.
Carefully, Miranda made her way along the edge of the room, searching and disregarding the curious looks she received in return from faces she did not recognize. But some of them knew her; of course they did, because Miranda could not go anywhere in this city without being noticed. The dining space was long, and widened out into a larger room at the back, where there was more privacy. But nowhere did she see her Andrea, with her smart pixie cut and wide dark eyes, who always gazed at Miranda with appreciation and affection.
Miranda swallowed, and sighed, and turned around. The walk back to the front of the house seemed endless, as though she trod through molasses. Charles' face was sympathetic, and Miranda should have been embarrassed, but she wasn't. She simply felt sadness, and a terrible yearning to hold Andrea in her arms.
“Perhaps he is simply late?” Charles asked.
Miranda kissed Charles’ cheek again, and smiled, ignoring the comment. “See you again soon, I hope, my dear. Give Louis my best.”
Walking toward the door, Miranda pulled her phone out of her bag to text Roy, until she was startled out of her daze by a slightly too-loud staccato laugh, not from behind her in the dining room, but off to the right, in the small bar she'd never visited during the many years she'd been coming here. It was a laugh that had once irritated her, long ago, when she'd heard it on occasion from outside her office. She'd often wondered what inspired such a ridiculous noise, and only when she'd come back into contact with Andrea did she discover that very little was needed to cause it. Andrea laughed eagerly and often, at everything, including herself. But she never laughed at Miranda. That—well, that was what it meant to love someone, in Miranda's eyes. She'd tease Miranda, and would make terrible jokes, but never would she have a laugh at Miranda's expense. And if anyone else did, Andrea was always there to come to her defense.
She suddenly felt a minor trepidation; why was Andrea still here, and what had she been doing all this time? She thought of bloodshot eyes, and bourbon, and held her breath for a moment before turning and heading for the bar.
There, in the center of a small group of people, was Andrea, seated on a tall stool and listening to a man with greying hair and a loosened tie tell a story. Miranda didn't want to interrupt, but her simple presence drew the attention of a few people in their circle, and Andrea noticed her with a clap of hands and an eager smile. She did not look in the least put out for having been waiting on her own for Miranda, because she had apparently not been alone at all.
“Miranda! Everyone, this is Miranda,” she said as she got off the stool and made her way over. “Miranda, these are my new friends. We've been hanging out for a while, and we are so glad you're here!” Andrea kissed her on the cheek and took her hand. “Come on and meet everyone.” She turned and gestured to the older man and the woman who sat next to him. “This is Henry and his wife Louise, who are here celebrating their almost-38th wedding anniversary, and even though it's next week we're pretending it's today. They're from upstate, near Poughkeepsie, and they came down for dinner and a show, but their train got held up so the show was out, then they couldn't get a table, so they made the best of it here. Lucky for me,” she said, with that silly laugh, and Miranda's heart warmed. “Then here,” she held out her hand to a younger couple, “This is Alexis and her husband Josh, who are visiting from Dayton, and they're staying down at the Edison. They read about Juan-Carlos on Yelp, but they couldn't get in either, so they joined us too. And here,” pointing to the two who completed the circle, “are Irene and Eddie, who just moved into the neighborhood. They inherited an adorable apartment over on 67th from Irene's grandma, who just passed away, may she rest in peace. Anyway, they're regulars who come for the Moscow Mules, which are apparently to die for.” She turned back to Miranda with a broad smile. “Anyway, that's everyone.”
Miranda wondered at her happy grin, and held her hand tightly. She leaned closer, sniffing silently, wondering exactly how many Moscow Mules Andrea had imbibed herself to bring on this cheerful mood. “I'm sorry I'm late,” Miranda said, glancing around at everyone.
“You must be tired if you're just done with work now,” the girl called Alexis said. “Why don't you take my seat and we'll get you a drink and some snacks? Andy already got everyone lots of great appetizers, but we polished most of them off, I'm sorry to say.”
“On my own card,” Andrea said, sotto voce. Miranda lifted an eyebrow. Even now, almost a year in, Andrea tried to make things even between them, at least in the ways she could. Some months ago, Miranda had handed Andrea a black card with her own name on it, and told her to put whatever she wanted on it. It was a card that automatically paid its own balance in full every month, no matter how many thousands of dollars were charged to it. So far, Andrea had used it less than sparingly, and often only at Miranda's encouragement. “Just a round and some apps. I didn't know when you'd make it, and I thought it would be a nice treat since they couldn't get tables.” She took her own drink from the bar and sipped from it. She offered it to Miranda.
“What is it?” Miranda asked with suspicion.
Andrea frowned. “Diet Coke.”
The last of Miranda's concerns vanished. She felt them slip from her shoulders like a heavy coat she hadn't realized she'd been wearing. Miranda took the straw between her lips, and tried not to feel so bloody grateful for being relieved, but she was. Finally, she said, “I called. Your ringer must be off.”
Andrea looked shocked. “Oh, shit, I'm so sorry,” she said, reaching over for her handbag, which wasn't even at her own seat. “Irene, could you hand me that-- thank you,” she said as she took the bag. She fished her phone out. “Oh my gosh, it's 9:40! You must be starved. Do you want to, um--” she peered around at the funny little group of people who had nothing in common but good taste in restaurants and a willingness to make fast friends. “I can see if Charles will get the two of us a table?”
With that, Miranda tossed her hair. “Wait here.” She left Andrea's side and strode out of the bar, heading for Charles, who seemed surprised to see her. “I found my companion, and a few extras. Can you seat eight for dinner?”
Charles' eyes lit up, and he nodded. “For you, Miranda, absolument. It will be only a moment.”
Miranda looked over her shoulder at Andrea, who was watching her. Miranda nodded, and drew a circle with her index finger in the air. Andrea's surprise was evident. She mirrored the same motion and mouthed, “All of them?”
Miranda nodded, and Andrea's answering grin told her of the depth of her pleasure. Before she could forget, she texted Roy; “go home. see you monday.” They could catch a cab home; she doubted they’d be going out much over the next two days.
Less than five minutes later, everyone was crowded around a table large enough to seat them all, but it was snug and intimate. It allowed for easy conversation between some or all of the ragtag group of diners, and out of sight, Andrea's hand rested on Miranda's thigh. Charles had given a Miranda an approving look when he'd realized the identity of her dinner date.
Even after so many months, she and Andrea had crept under the radar of paparazzi and the gossip columnists. They did not often dine as a couple in public, mostly because Andrea always seemed to be inviting others into their company. They spent much of their precious time alone together at the townhouse, so Miranda did not mind sharing Andrea with others when out and about. It certainly made her feel as though she were pulling the wool over the eyes of Page Six, at least for a little while longer.
When their server attended the table to take their drink order, Miranda whispered to Andrea, “I'll be covering the check. Let them know, will you?”
Andrea's mouth twisted in uncertainty. “I don't--”
“Darling,” Miranda said, and Andrea turned to look at her. She did not frequently use endearments, and this one caught Andrea's attention. “Of all the scenarios running through my mind on my way over here, finding you at an impromptu dinner party was not one of them. I was very late, and I – I didn't know how you'd take it.”
Andrea watched curiously. “I'm not a baby, Miranda. I can entertain myself. You put the issue to bed tonight, didn't you?”
“Then I really don't mind. We’ll be together, all weekend long, right?”
Miranda nodded again. The girls were spending three weeks in Fiji with Greg as part of their summer break. The house would be empty when they arrived home.
“Well, see? That's all I want.” She kissed Miranda's cheek, and the softness of her breath against Miranda’s ear made her shiver. “I know you love me, Miranda. Even when you're late, or in a bad mood when you come home. Don't get me wrong, being on time is awesome, but I'm fine. And if I'm pissed off, I'll tell you. But I'm good at making friends.” She looked across the table, where Henry and Louise were not so subtly watching the two of them. Andrea's smile was shy when she noticed. “And I have lots of patience.” She turned back to Miranda. “I waited six years for you, didn't I?”
Miranda covered Andrea's hand on her leg under the table. “You did.”
“Right. Anyway,” she said, sitting back in her seat. “I'll um, spread the word, as long as you're sure about dinner.”
“Quite,” Miranda replied as the server arrived at their seats. “A bottle of the Josmeyer Pinot Gris, and do you still have the 2004 Paolo Scavino Barolo?”
The server nodded. “We do.”
“Two of those,” Miranda added. Damn the heat outside; she was having steak and a delicious red no matter what. “And the Krug Grande Cuvée as well. We're celebrating an anniversary tonight, so we should have champagne for a toast.”
Most of the eyes around the table were wide, and staring. “That's um—I had a look at the list,” the man Miranda though was named Josh said. He swallowed, and scratched his throat. “That's um, some good wine.”
“Indeed. I have every faith that you'll enjoy it.” She smiled serenely at the group before opening her menu.
She felt more than heard Andrea whispering to the young woman next to her, and as the information moved through the group, there was some shifting in seats, some hushed words exchanged. Miranda closed her menu, having settled on her choice, and Henry asked, “So, Miranda, Andy tells us you're an editor at a magazine.”
“I am.” She was enjoying being anonymous for once; she wondered if that time was over.
“She's the best,” Andrea added. “I know, I used to work for her. I mean, a long time ago. Before we—” she motioned at the space between them, waving her hand back and forth. “You know, got together.”
“For which magaz--” Henry began, but he stopped noticeably short, meeting his wife's eyes in shock. Apparently he'd gotten a swift kick, or something like it, under the table. “I mean to say—how nice.”
The wife, Louise, turned to Miranda with a raised eyebrow, and Miranda smirked. So much for anonymity, but she appreciated Louise's discretion. It would be quite boring to discuss work at this point. She deserved time to talk about other things.
When the server appeared at Miranda's side with the champagne and an ice bucket, she thought there would be little need for that with so many guests around the table. He poured glasses for everyone as the rest of the wine was delivered, and Andrea delivered a brief speech in honor of her new friends.
“I know we've only just met, but it feels like serendipity brought us all together this evening. I hope that the next 38 years bring Henry and Louise double the happiness and more. I'm so fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to be a part of their celebration,” she said, gazing warmly at Miranda for a moment, before holding up her glass. “So cheers to Henry and Louise, and to all of us here on this special night.”
The cheers rang out from everyone, and Henry and Louise finished by clinking their glasses together before drinking them down. Everyone clapped for them, and the rest of the glasses were emptied just as quickly. Miranda decided it would be a night of extravagance and decadence, and she looked forward to it very much.
Eddie, whom Miranda had not yet heard from, leaned forward in his seat. “Okay, so let's hear the story of how Henry and Lou met, back in the day,” he said, his eyebrows waggling.
There were encouragements all around the table, and Louise smiled a little ruefully in Henry’s direction. “It might sound silly in this day and age, but... I was his secretary.”
Miranda's mouth dropped open, and then her voice joined the delighted chuckles that echoed around the table. Andrea's laugh rang out over everyone’s, and she raised her glass to Miranda in a silent salute.