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meet me in another time and place

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Andy’s favorite activities could be cut down to three:

 

1.Reading. She loved sitting on the large ledge of the window in her living room, letting the natural light illuminate the words on the pages while she read about adventures she could never experience beforehand. Books were her favorite way of escaping from reality, from a job that didn’t satisfy her and from a boyfriend who often didn’t understand her. She could come home from work, frustrated after a day spent brewing coffee for colleagues who didn’t acknowledge her, and read whole books in one night.

 

2. Writing. At the bottom of her closet, covered by shirts and cardigans, she hid manuscripts of her novels. She knew that Nate wouldn’t approve of them, since he considered writing a waste of time. He wasn’t a bad man, he just didn’t understand the value of art. Andy considered it a shame, especially since making it her job was her biggest dream - she wouldn’t be working at The Daily Mirror otherwise. But that wasn’t the main reason she hid her works: she considered them intimate, personal and she didn’t feel like sharing them yet.

 

3. Politics. Books weren’t the only thing she liked reading. At work, when she wasn’t needed for photocopies, she spent her time learning about politicians and their strategies. She read the newest articles or searched for older ones in the archives. She didn’t think she could be a politician, but she considered being informed about what was happening in the world fundamental for a person. Not only because of historical reasons, but also because it could help everyone learn something more about themselves and their own ideals.

 

 

Reminding herself of the things she loves, helped Andy in keeping focus, in not letting the behavior of her colleagues get to her. They considered her only if they needed coffee and they didn’t let her near any of the original copies of the articles. She was young and female, two of the things those men most despised: young equaled unqualified and naive, while woman equaled irrational and stupid in their minds. Andy meant danger for all of them.

 

She hated it.

 

She felt like she was the only one out of all of them struggling and she considered quitting more than once. Knowing that that’s what they really wanted, though, was what made her stay, over and over.

 

“Sachs,” said Michael, one of the youngest journalists of the office, shocking Andy out of her reverie, “John wants to see you.”

 

“Oh, sure,” she said, trying to hide her surprise.

 

She followed Michael to Cain’s office, wondering what he could want from her. She felt like she was walking towards her own execution. God, she really hoped she wasn’t getting fired.

 

She knocked on the dark wooden door and entered, after having straightened her back to hide insecurities and fears. If they really wanted her out of that building, she would have gone with her head high.

 

“Sachs,” Cain said, after noticing her, shuffling some papers in his hands, “Come in and take a seat.”

 

He is really going to fire me, Andy thought as she did as she was told.

 

Cain looked at her for a moment searching for something in her expression. Andy really hoped he found what he was looking for.

 

“Gianni left us for The Times this morning, without any given notice,” he said, sounding rightfully annoyed.

 

She knew Gianni. Or, better, she knew who he was: a middle aged flamboyant Italian guy, who looked like he could better run a clothing line than a column on one of the most important journals in America. He handled the fashion and culture column and he was known for his lack of concentration. Andy suspected he just forgot without malice to tell Cain about the job offer.

 

Andy watched as Cain opened a drawer on his side of the desk, saying, “We need someone to handle the Priestly interview,” he slid something over the desk to her side, “Here’s a valid badge, ask David about the details. I need the completed article within June 6th,” he concluded, getting back to read the papers he had been shuffling earlier.

 

Andy took the badge in her own hands, sliding a thumb on the surface. She couldn’t believe what was happening.

 

“I am going?” she asked in disbelief.

 

“Half of my journalists are covering the current elections, the other half is handling the case of the kidnapped kids in Baltimora,” he said looking up at her, “You’re our last resource.”

 

“Oh, okay,” Andy said, nodding more to reassure herself than her boss, “I won’t disappoint you.”

 

She knew she had been chosen out of necessity, but it didn’t stop her from being determined to do a good job. It was her chance to become something more than the coffee girl.

 

“I sure hope not,” he said before he pointed his index finger towards her, “Good luck, Sachs, and remember: it’s a wolves’ den out there.”

 

_______

 

Andy walked rapidly through the streets of Manhattan. The ballerinas hurt her feet a little, but she felt lucky she wasn’t wearing high heeled shoes.

 

She stopped for a second to catch her breath, leaning on her thighs. As she noticed herself in the mirror of a Cartier’s shop window, she felt terribly out of place.

 

Her pixie cut gave her a boyish look. She got it after the first week spent making coffee at her job. She had found a picture of Audrey Hepburn on a magazine and she had decided to get it too, hoping that a less feminine look would have helped her in her career. She remembered taking the scissors from one of Nate’s drawers and leaning in front of the mirror, cutting her hair messily. She had found the experience kind of liberating.

 

But now, she realised, she looked younger than she really was: a kid trying to do a job she was not suited for.

 

Maybe it had been a mistake.

 

The rest of her outfit made her look like an unprofessional and distracted girl. She was wearing a colorful horizontal striped and sleeveless t-shirt with white trousers and black ballerinas.

 

Well, it wasn’t her fault that she hadn’t expected to be sent on her first interview that morning.

 

She sighed. She looked at her clock and she begun running again. She was a few minutes away from the address David had given her a hour before. She stopped and she looked at the name of the street. It should have been right. She looked to her left and rapidly found the number she was looking for.

 

She straightened and knocked on the door, hoping to be heard.

 

______

 

“Great. Mr. Cain must have developed an uncanny humour, recently. Miranda will certainly be happy about this.”

 

That was what Miranda’s assistant said as soon as she laid eyes on Andy. She honestly felt crushed by her words.

 

She ignored her and tried again, faking a warm smile.

 

“I’m Andy,” she said, extending her arm in greetings towards the red haired woman, “I’m from The Daily Mirror.”

 

“Oh, I know who you are,” the woman replied, avoiding her hand and opening the door, “Come in!”

 

The dramatic gesture that she made, made Andy smile. She was sure that the following days would have been interesting, to say the least.

 

“I don’t know why they have sent a junior to do a job clearly meant for experienced people,” she said as she made way towards the main offices of the Miranda Priestly brand. She stopped and turned around, her white dotted and deep blue dress fluttered slightly at the movement, “But here failing isn’t accepted.”

 

“What does it tell you that I’m going to fail?” Andy tried to say as a comeback.

 

The pitying look on the other woman’s face told her it hadn’t been successful.

 

“Has the cerulean tulle arrived, Emily?” a man with an annoyed look interrupted them.

 

“No, it hasn’t.”

 

“Great! Who’s gonna tell her now?” he sighed dramatically, before turning towards Andy, “And who is she?”

 

“A joke Mr. Cain must have found hilarious,” the assistant replied, rolling her eyes before turning to walk again.

 

As Andy followed her, she wondered why everybody seemed to be so dramatic in that place. It felt like walking straight into a parallel universe, some kind of bizarre fashion world she didn’t know that existed before. They stopped in front of a large white wooden door with a blurred window in the middle. It looked modern and expensive. No name was attached on it, as if everybody must have known who it belonged to.

 

It was intimidating.

 

“There are rules here,” the assistant said, catching again her attention, “You mustn’t interrupt her, make jokes or show uncertainty. Her name is Miranda and she won’t accept being referred to through her last name. You don’t ask questions, you just don’t,” she added at Andy’s protests.

 

“I’m here to interview her, how am I supposed to not ask questions?”

 

“I don’t know,” she said, making a face and shrugging, before putting her hands back on her hips, “I have told you that this isn’t something suited for a junior, like you.”

 

Andy furrowed her eyebrows. What was that supposed to mean?

 

The other woman sighed, rolling her eyes at her silence, before she knocked on the door and opened it, “Miranda, The Daily Mirror is here.”

 

“Let him in,” a velvety low voice said from the other side of the door.

 

Andy felt shocked to the core: she had never heard such an elegant voice. Her mind started supplying various possible images of the woman who it belonged to, but none of the options seemed fair.

 

She clutched her notepad close to her chest before walking in the room.

 

She could have never imagined such a perfect and elegant figure.

 

The woman - Miranda - was shorter than she had imagined but her presence made her seem immense, ever-present. Her white hair was styled in a way she had never seen before and it looked soft to the touch. She wore white high heels, a light grey skirt that reached her calves and a white large belt that separated it from a purple sleeveless top that left her collarbones and neck exposed. Her shoulders were covered by a cardigan made of the same material and color of the top. She felt unreal, like a statue or a goddess who came right from the Olympus.

 

“Where is Gianni?” the woman asked once she noticed her presence.

 

“Oh,” Andy said, dumbstruck, “He left the journal this morning.”

 

“I wasn’t notified,” she said, disappointment clear in her eyes.

 

“Neither were we.”

 

Miranda inclined her head slightly to the side, taking her in. Having her whole attention felt dangerous and risky. Andy felt inappropriate, as if she was meeting the Queen of England in pajamas and slip-ons.

 

“So here I am,” Andy said, trying to break the silence, “I’m a junior writer.”

 

“I see.”

 

Andy clutched her notepad tighter. What was she supposed to do? She stayed still, trying not to shuffle her feet, hoping that Miranda would eventually tell her.

 

“You have never heard of me?” Miranda asked, accentuating the last word. She was leaning against her white desk.

 

“No,” Andy confessed, looking to the side.

 

“Or of my brand?”

 

“No,” Andy said again, she started to feel cornered, like a hopeless prey. Miranda took a long look at her figure, her eyes taking her in from the feet to her eyes.

 

“And you have no style or sense of fashion.”

 

Andy’s brows furrowed, “Well,” She tried, “I think that depends on-“

 

“No, no,” Miranda interrupted, “that wasn’t a question.”

 

Andy felt a pang of hurt in her chest, shame making her hide her hands behind herself.

 

“Well, I came here to ask some questions...” She stopped, noticing Miranda looking to the side, seemingly bored.

 

The stylist moved towards the mannequin covered in different kinds of satin at the other end of the room. It felt like a dismissal and Andy felt affronted by her behavior.

 

“This is my first assignment and I won’t back down easily,” she stated, looking determined, “I’ll do whatever it takes to finish it and to do a good job-“She was interrupted.

 

The guy with the annoyed look from before entered the room, talking, uncaring of Andy’s presence, “The tulle hasn’t arrived yet, so I made some changes to the textures.”

 

He showed some drawings to Miranda.

 

Andy was disappointed and angry. Miranda had finally given her attention, watching her with an interested look that replaced the bored one of before, and that guy interrupted rudely without letting her speak.

 

Andy clenched her fists and walked towards the exit of the room, “Well, I’ll be just outside.”

 

The guy said something to Miranda that Andy didn’t register. She couldn’t care less about the rude people working in that place.

 

______

 

She sat outside Miranda’s office for more than three hours.

 

At first, she occupied her time by taking notes about what she had experienced so far, hoping it would be useful for the article. She didn’t think that the scribble “Miranda = goddess” would really be, but that was what first came to mind when she started writing.

 

Once she hadn’t had anything else to write down, she watched the people around her. They all seemed stressed and on the edge of a mental breakdown. Andy didn’t envy any one of them: working for someone like Miranda must be stressful and consuming.

 

She noticed people bringing new fabrics and stock of colorful threads inside Miranda’s office. They looked like travelers from another time and place, bringing colorful cloths and expensive gifts to an emperor or a queen. The image of Miranda dressed like Queen Elizabeth I was supplied by her own mind and she smiled to herself.

 

Emily run around like a scared mouse trapped inside a cardboard. She gave orders, shouted at the interns and she fixed her hair every time she was summoned to the boss’s office. She was as funny as the inventive british curses that she muttered to herself any time she came out of the Dragon’s Lair.

 

Only after two hours of waiting, she came to scold her and to send her away.

 

“Didn’t you get the message?” She told her petulantly, crossing her arms in front of her, “Out!”

 

“I’m not going anywhere.”

 

“I’m going to call security then.”

 

“Why? I’m not bothering anyone, I’m as still as a piece of furniture. It took you two hours to remember about me,” she said, amused by Emily’s taken aback expression.

 

“Well,” she said, affronted, “You’re the one wasting your time.”

 

As she stomped away, Andy hid her smile behind a hand. That place was weird but certainly entertaining.

 

It was 1 p.m. when she saw her again.

 

Andy was drawing little cats on her notepad, trying to pass the time. She didn’t hear the shuffling beside her and the door opening. The only thing that broke her focus was Miranda’s velvety voice.

 

“You’re still here,” she heard her say, before she turned around with a shocked expression. She tried to regain her composure and Miranda let her, tilting slightly her head to the side.

 

“I’ve told you,” Andy said, trying to hide her drawings, “I’ll do everything it takes to write this article and that includes bothering you by staying here until I get an interview.”

 

Miranda shifted the weight on her feet and held her white Prada bag with both her hands. She seemed thoughtful and she regarded Andy again with that searching and analyzing look she started to be afraid of.

 

“Very well,” Miranda said, “Come!”

 

The order and the sudden movements of Miranda shocked her. She got up from her seat rapidly and she gathered her things before following the stylist through the corridors.

 

As Miranda walked steadily, swaying her hips, Emily intercepted and approached them to take notes of her last requests.

 

“Call Stephen and remind him of the twins recital. Then call Mark and tell him that no, for the last time, no, I don’t need sapphire silk, I need teal silk, is it too much to ask for competence? No, I don’t think so,” she talked rapidly, not stopping, even for the sake of Emily, “Then call production and tell them that I need the prototype of those dark grey skirts of last season.”

 

They stopped in front of the main exit. Miranda turned around to look at Emily.

 

“Oh, and cancel all the appointments of the early afternoon. I’m going to lunch.”

 

Emily’s eyes opened in shock and, looking between the two of them, she enquired, “But, what about the steak?”

 

“What steak?” Miranda asked, straightening in surprise.

 

“T-The steak that you ordered-“

 

“I haven’t ordered any steak,” the stylist turned around and opened the door, nodding to Andy to let her get outside, “I’ll be back by 2.30 p.m.”

 

Andy followed Miranda towards the light blue Chevrolet parked outside the building. Nothing felt real at the moment: she was going to lunch with one of the most important stylists of the moment - who happened to be a goddess amongst humans, in Andy’s opinion - and she was supposed to be working for her first assignment by The Daily Mirror. Had the world tilted on its axis? Had Luck finally took a preference for her? She didn’t know, but she was determined to live it all fully and without any distraction.

 

______

 

Miranda brought her to an Italian restaurant near Manhattan. Everything looked expensive there: from the curtains that softened the light that came in from the big windows to the cutlery Andy was touching quietly.

 

When they had got there, they had been approached by none others than the owner of the place. Andy had squirmed a little beside them: they were all dressed elegantly, talking in a perfect english without accents and she had been standing there, dressed like she was going to a pool party next door. She had felt ashamed.

 

“And this is... Andy,” Miranda had said, seemingly disturbed by her name, a fake smile covering her lips, “She works for The Daily Mirror.”

 

“Oh, nice to meet you, Andy. It’s a pleasure to have you here,” the middle aged man had replied, taking Andy’s hand and leaving a kiss on the back of it.

 

Andy had felt so, oh so terribly uncomfortable.

 

Miranda seemed to read her thoughts and behind the menu, she assured, “Don’t worry about the bill, I’m sure that Mr. Cain will be more than pleased to pay for it.”

 

Andy nodded once, before focusing again on the menu she had a hard time understanding. She didn’t know what a bearnaise was, nor she knew half of the ingredients mentioned.

 

“I hope that ‘Andy’ is the short for a real name,” Miranda said, closing the menu and putting it beside her cutlery on the table.

 

“Yes, my name is Andrea, but everybody calls me Andy,” she replied, smiling softly.

 

“Well, I don’t know why you let everyone butcher such a sophisticated name, Andrea.”

 

Only her parents used her whole name - mostly to reprimand her or to warn her - but they would have never been able to pronounce it as amazingly as Miranda. She made it sound exotic and elegant, like a French name. It made her feel special, like one of those great actors with imposing personalities. Andy blushed slightly as she replied.

 

“Not everybody is able to pronounce it like you do.”

 

Miranda’s brows lifted in surprise. Andy felt pleasure running through her veins: she surprised Miranda, she was sure very few were able to do such a thing. Miranda looked like a woman who don’t like to show emotions and Andy could understand why: she had to look impenetrable, strong and unreachable to be respected, as less feminine as she could.

 

The waiter interrupted them to take their orders. Andy was mesmerized by the way Miranda pronounced the dishes she chose. She made them seem like a promise land or something.

 

God, she would buy anything from her.

 

“And you, Miss?”

 

Andy’s eyes widened, “Oh, I’ll take the tortellini and then the sorbet with Sicilian lemons.”

 

Those were the only dishes of which she knew every ingredient. Miranda was smiling slightly at her with her arms crossed on her legs. She seemed pleased, as if she knew exactly what she would have chosen.

 

“Don’t you have questions to ask me, Andrea.”

 

“I was told that I’m not allowed to ask you questions.”

 

Miranda stayed quiet as the waiter filled their glasses with red wine. As she brought hers to her lips, tasting the red liquid on her mouth, she looked at Andy intently.

 

“Well, we are not at work right now, are we?”

 

Andy felt like it was a trick question, like it was her occasion to choose if she wanted to dive deep into the currents or take a step back and go back home.

 

“No, we aren’t,” she said.

 

Miranda smiled again slightly, “Then go on, ask your questions."

 

“What does it feel like, for you?” Andy asked, “Being a woman in a business mostly run by men, I mean.”

 

“It was certainly better in the 40s, if that’s what you’re asking me,” she watched the wine moving in the glass as she tilted it a little, “Far few men around, worried about losing power and control. We used to run things around here.” She paused for an instant, before saying in a whisper only loud enough to be heard by Andy, “It was fun.”

 

Andy smiled to her feeling like an accomplice of some big secret.

 

“Do you know why they sent you here?” Miranda asked, “to me.”

 

Andy thought about it for a moment. She hadn’t had the time to ask herself that question.

 

“Because the fashion column is mostly dedicated to the female audience of the newspaper. They took a risk and decided to send me, a junior whose CV is composed of coffee runs and photocopies, because they consider it of secondary importance,” she blushed a little at the admission of her inexperience.

 

Miranda was looking at her approvingly, though, as if she was finally getting attuned to her. Andy hoped she was discovering the version of her that she could mostly like.

 

She didn’t understand why she was so worried about Miranda’s opinion on her. Maybe she wanted approval from an older and more powerful woman. A mentor of sorts.

 

“I started my brand making suits and tailleurs for women. They needed a new kind of fashion, something that could give them the aura of professionalism and a boyish look to earn the respect of their remaining male colleagues,” she said, looking pointedly at Andy’s hairstyle. She felt conscious about it.

 

“It was a feminist statement, then,” Andy said, hoping to not struck a nerve.

 

Miranda crunched her nose a little at the mention of the movement, but didn’t say anything about it, “You could say so.”

 

They ate their lunch silently for awhile. At the first bite of her tortellini, Andy nearly moaned in pleasure - she was glad she managed to calm herself down. They tasted so good and yet, they looked like such a humble dish. She realised she was smiling for the pleasure of eating. Miranda looked at her with a curious expression.

 

“They taste amazing,” she said, enthusiastically.

 

Miranda chuckled at Andy’s disbelief, “Oh, I bet they do, Franco’s dishes are delicious.”

 

Andy’s smile betrayed the warm feeling that was taking over her. She made Miranda chuckle - a heavenly sound, if Andy had to describe it. She felt affection for a woman she had been talking to for less than a hour. It was strange.

 

“My boyfriend is a chef too,” she said, not knowing either why she was sharing that personal information or why Nate came to her mind while she thought of Miranda.

 

She watched Miranda’s expression losing her mirth and she realised she wanted to fix it for her.

 

“He could never make such a delicious meal,” she concluded, watching gladly as Miranda visibly relaxed again.

 

She felt a little bit guilty for talking badly about Nate with a stranger, but she also felt it had been necessary. Maybe he deserved it, even, for making her angsty every time she talked about writing and her work.

 

“One last question,” Andy said, taking another look at Miranda, “Everybody is afraid of you at work.”

 

Miranda didn’t seem affected by the accusation. She lifted her brows to encourage Andy to continue.

 

“Are you really cruel, as they say, or is your presence enough to make them squirm and run to do their jobs.”

 

Miranda took a bite of the red meat she ordered for lunch, slowly chewing and never taking her eyes off of Andy.

 

She was eating a steak, Andy realised.

 

“I hope you’ll never have to find out,” she said once she had finished the bite. It made Andy feel hot.

 

______

 

As Andy opened the door to her and Nate’s apartment that evening, she realised that her first day of work as a journalist had gone better than she had initially thought.

 

The lunch with Miranda had gone smoothly and she had got from it enough information she could start writing the article. Most importantly, she had taken a like for that woman. Something she would have never expected.

 

The rest of the day had went well, too.

 

Once they had got back from the lunch, Miranda had told Emily to give Andy her own desk. She was going to be Miranda’s second assistant for the week, since she had to stay for some days to learn about her business.

 

She suspected that Miranda wanted her to learn something more about fashion too and Andy was really great about it: she planned on keeping the job Cain gave her and she needed to research and learn about textures, fashion history, colors... and where could she gain a better education than from Miranda and her brand?

 

As she opened the door, she smelt spicy tomato sauce and her stomach grumbled.

 

“Hi!” She said, “I have some great news.”

 

“Really? Something happened at work?” Nate replied from the kitchen.

 

Andy left her backpack and notepad on the table in the living room and run to Nate, hugging him from behind as he stirred the sauce.

 

“I got my first assignment!” She exclaimed, happily.

 

“Really?” Nate said, turning around, “That’s big news, Andy!”

 

As he hugged her, she melted a little in his arms. She was glad of being home as she had been feeling guilty all day for the things he said about him to Miranda.

 

“So what is it about? The elections? Some scandal that is going to be revealed soon?”

 

Andy took a step back and went searching for a spoon to taste the red sauce.

 

“No, I was given an interview. You know Miranda Priestly, the stylist.”

 

“The fashion column? It doesn’t sound like something that could suit you, Andy,” he reprimanded.

 

“Well, what can I say?” She turned around sucking the spoon clean, “I must have looked fashionable to those grumpy old men.”

 

Nate seemed not completely convinced. Damn, she thought, hiding her disappointment from Nate, and she had been feeling guilty all day for a joke.

 

“Well, it’s your first job, Andy. I’m sure better things are coming your way.”

 

“To be honest, I liked it.”

 

“You liked it?” He asked in disbelief.

 

“Yes,” she said, starting to set the table, “The people there are funny, you have to see how they all try to be mean at each other. They’re hilarious. And that woman, Miranda, is stunning, really. She looks like she is made of clay or marble, she doesn’t seem real.”

 

“So?”

 

“So, I had fun on my first day of work and I’m looking forward to the next,” she started to feel frustrated. He never understood her, never.

 

“Mh,” he said, bringing the plates full of pasta to the table, “I just find it different from what you initially wanted.”

 

Andy sat in front of him and watched him eat for some moments. Why couldn’t he congratulate her for once? Why couldn’t he at least try to be happy with her, instead of bringing her down? What was he doing of such an importance that made him feel superior? He worked as a kitchen hand at a restaurant not so far from their apartment.

 

She angrily stabbed the pasta and took a taste of it.

 

She realised that his cooking was great, not so different from the skills of whoever cooked the tortellini for her some hours before: it was his presence that made everything taste bitter.

Chapter Text

The next day, at 8:15 a.m., Andy was already sitting at her desk.

 

During the previous night she had had a hard time sleeping. She had felt excited about writing: words had swirled in her mind as she had turned around in bed and her whole being had longed for a pen and the notepad. She had kept thinking about Miranda, her stunning beauty and ways in which she could have described them. She had never wished to be a painter or to know her way around colors and pencils before, and yet, as she had been laying there on the bed, she had realised that words were too ephemeral to catch Miranda’s essence and presence.

 

She hadn’t been ready to confess herself her need for a distraction, but work had been calling for her and, as it is known, work is always the best distraction from everything. So, after some time, she had given up at trying to sleep and she had went to her and Nate’s little kitchen to make tea and to try to put some ideas down.

 

When she had woken up that morning, excited and happy, she had found herself leaning on the table, surrounded by sheets of paper.

 

As soon as she had got to the offices, she had went straight to her desk to organize her thoughts. Emily had greeted her with a fake smile, not even trying to fake niceties and kindness. Andy didn’t really understand why she liked to antagonize her so much, but she suspected that the british was a little jealous about the attention Miranda gave her, who was, basically, a stranger. She felt bad for her, but what was she supposed to do? She liked Miranda’s attention and, if she had to be honest, she longed for more.

 

As she fixed her dress under the desk, she realised that she wasn’t even being subtle about it.

 

That morning she had chosen to wear a white simple shapeless dress, paired with white ballerinas and a black watch. It was sober and it made her seem elegant and slim. She had thought it could fit in a place like that, but as the time passed and as she watched colorful people running around the offices, she had started to feel a bit basic.

 

In her defense, she didn’t have many elegant clothes to wear daily - she even worried about not having enough for those four days. Her pay wasn’t enough to spend it on herself or on luxuries and the few sober clothes she had were her mother’s or gifts. She had realised that, during all those weeks at The Daily Mirror, the way she had dressed hadn’t exactly helped her in appearing experienced and knowledgeable. She had been partly responsible for her dismay at work and it made her feel ashamed of herself.

 

As she closed her notepad, sighing, she noticed Emily staring at her.

 

“What?” She asked, annoyed.

 

“I don’t get it.”

 

Andy’s brows lifted in confusion.

 

“Why had she brought you to lunch with her?” Emily asked, “You don’t even know the difference between linen and silk.”

 

Andy felt affronted, “I know the difference-“ she stopped: that wasn’t the point, “I’m here to interview her, it is the most reasonable thing to do.”

 

Emily didn’t seem convinced, but before she could express her suspicion, the chaos taking control over the office caught her attention.

 

“She’s here,” Emily said, before rushing to organize her desk.

 

Andy was stunned by the rush that was happening in front of her eyes. She felt like she was witnessing nosy children fixing the disasters they created in the living room before their mom could arrive home and find out. It was ridiculous but entertaining, nonetheless.

 

But nothing could have ever been as entertaining as the vision that she would have witnessed in some minutes.

 

As chaos swirled through the offices, she kept still, staring at her colleagues running around confusedly and panicky. The feeling that took over Andy wasn’t the fear that controlled all the other employees, it was something different: while all the other people were rushing, moving and almost running to fix everything to perfection, Andy felt herself stunned and froze to her place in anticipation of something she could only witness. As she would have found out in some minutes, what she was waiting for was Miranda’s beauty. Andy couldn’t name the feeling that she was experiencing yet, but she felt stunned and she wondered if the hysteria around her was influencing her somehow.

 

When Miranda, wearing a light-yellow sleeveless dress, turned around the corner and walked steadily towards them, Andy’s breathing stopped: the shape of her hips was accentuated by a belt hugging her waist tight, the top exhibited an opened button in excess, showing her neck and the curve of her breasts, and, at last, the white of her high heels matched her icy hair. Andy stared at Miranda, who looked like she just came out of a blockbuster movie, unable to look away. She felt ashamed, hot and confused.

 

“Where are the sketches Nigel brought here yesterday?” Miranda asked Emily, professional as always, once she arrived in front of them.

 

“T-The sketches?” Emily replied with a fearful look on her face, catching Andy’s attention.

 

Miranda didn’t reply, but by the way Emily started shuffling through the papers covering her desk, Andy was sure she had made herself clear with just a look.

 

“I’m sure they are here,” Emily said again, getting angsty, “They were here, yesterday!”

 

Andy dared to look at Miranda again. She had her eyes closed, hidden behind her white pointy shaped sunglasses. She looked kind of exasperated and Andy felt bad for Emily’s embarrassment.

 

As the moments passed, Miranda looked more and more annoyed. Andy moved towards Emily, wanting to help before Miranda could express her exasperation.

 

It didn’t take long for her to find the drawings.

 

As she moved some colorful patches around, a folder fell down on the pavement, opening and showing the sketches. She reached down to gather them, her dress running up a little showing more skin and thighs.

 

“I found them!” She exclaimed, turning around to face Miranda with a warm smile.

 

The look Miranda was giving her was priceless. She was focused on her legs and dress, her head inclined in what Andy started to read as curiosity and interest. Needless to say, Andy felt conscious about herself and she patted down her dress slightly.

 

Miranda took the folder from her hand with a sharp thug. She reserved for her a little knowing smile that made Andy blush.

 

Well, Andy thought, she had been caught.

 

She was meant to learn about the fashion industry, right? She couldn’t come to work dressed like a girl on a beach trip like the day before, she needed to show improvement. What if that meant taking seriously some of Miranda’s suggestions? Surely she was showing admiration towards the designer, but it wasn’t a crime. That whole place was filled with people worshipping her!

 

Not that Andy was worshipping Miranda, she just was... fascinated by her.

 

Andy seriously needed to think about what was happening to her.

 

_____

 

The rest of the morning went on uneventfully.

 

She spent some of her time studying the folders of patches that she found laying around unattended on the nearest desks. She learnt about colors and textures and she found it kind of entertaining. She preferred politics, if she had to be honest, but this was something new, something exciting and that was enough to keep her going.

 

She also witnessed one of Miranda’s meetings, stunned and a bit crazed out about the amount of details that went into creating clothes and styles. At first she had a hard time understanding the differences between colors and shapes, she had found the whole process ridiculous, even. Who even noticed the details of a texture or the slightly different color of two belts? She didn’t, at the very least.

 

As the meeting went on, though, she came to understood the importance of it.

 

Behind the production of a shirt, for example, there were a lot of people: the designers, the suppliers, the artisans who handled the crafting of it, Emily, even, and every other person working at the offices. It was a real business that sustained families: nothing could be taken lightly.

 

Miranda had power, for sure, but it equaled the responsibilities she had. Her perfectionism wasn’t a fatal flow under which people had to fall, but a necessity for keeping her business high, stable and competitive.

 

She felt overwhelmed and her admiration for Miranda grew.

 

She was doomed.

 

As she had lunch at her desk, writing down some of the thoughts that she had during the meeting, Nigel stopped in front of her desk, interrupting her.

 

“So, Miranda brought you to lunch.” He said, leaning against the edge of the desk.

 

Andy sighed, looking up at Nigel, “Why is everybody fixated on that? Has she never brought anyone to lunch before?”

 

“No,” Nigel said, shocking Andy.

 

She opened and closed her mouth before replying, “What?”

 

“Well, no one who isn’t important,” he said.

 

Thank you, Nigel.

 

“I still work for The Daily Mirror and I am writing an article about her, maybe she wants to give a good first impression.”

 

Nigel winced in disagreement, “she had never cared about other people’s opinions on her.”

 

Andy felt cornered. She didn’t know why Miranda gave her attention, nor she didn’t expect to get so much focus from the other employees too. They knew her more than Andy, they should be the ones giving her answers, not the other way around.

 

“Well, I don’t know why, but it helps, so I’m not going to complain,” she said, looking back down at her notepad.

 

“You know that you can wear Miranda’s designs now that you work here, right?” He said. He didn’t look convinced by her previous explanation, but she appreciated the change of subject, so she went along with it.

 

“I don’t work here, I’m merely observing.”

 

Nigel looked perplexed, “I just mean that you can borrow some of our pieces, you would look good in them.”

 

Andy thought about it. She really needed presentable and fitting clothes, but she didn’t want to feel more indebted to Miranda than she already was.

 

“Thank you, Nigel, but I’m not interested,” she said, turning her attention back at the notes.

 

“If you’re sure,” he said, looking pointedly at her dress, “Miranda would appreciate it though.”

 

Andy shot him a glare.

 

“Andrea!” Miranda exclaimed from her office.

 

Andy’s eyes widened in shock. What did she want from her? She looked at Nigel questioningly.

 

“Go!” Nigel whispered encouragingly, sending her away with small gestures of the hands.

 

As Andy walked into the room with her notepad, she clutched it to her chest as if it was her anchor. What if she needed something from her?

 

“Oh, here you are,” Miranda said from behind a model.

 

She was fixing a black belt around the young girl’s waist, her fingers brushing against her and caressing the deep ochre fabric. Andy followed the movements of her fingers attently.

 

“How is the article going?” She asked, taking notice of the direction of her look.

 

“It’s coming together,” she said, “I’ve already written the beginning of it.”

 

“Mh,” Miranda said approvingly, turning her attention back on the dress in front of her, “I’m going down to production tomorrow, to check the mock-ups,” she said, fixing the way the fabric fell down the model’s waist.

 

“Oh,” Andy exclaimed, dumbly as she watched Miranda kneeling behind the blond girl to pin a needle to a fold of the dress’s skirt.

 

It all seemed sensual to Andy and she suddenly wished to be in the model’s place, feeling Miranda’s fingers on her. She blushed for the absurdity of the thought.

 

“You’re coming with me,” Miranda said, looking up at her from her crouching position, startling Andy.

 

Andy nodded, turning her eyes away from the designer, “Yes, Miranda.”

 

“Call Roy and give him your address, he will pick you up at 7.”

 

“I will get to it immediately, Miranda.”

 

Andy watched as Miranda straightened, giving a last look at the model. She touched her hip briefly to make her turn around.

 

Andy noticed a satisfied smile appear on Miranda’s face as she looked over her own work. It was nearly imperceptible, but she was starting to learn the little tells of Miranda’s emotions: she looked proud and confident, satisfied for her own work.

 

Since Miranda was distracted, not giving her instructions anymore, Andy turned around to leave the room.

 

“Andrea?” Miranda called again.

 

Andy stopped, fearing she did something wrong, “Yes?”

 

“Colors,” she stated, looking pointedly at Andy’s white dress.

 

Andy nodded in reply.

 

As she exited the room, she realised that Nigel had been right: she needed advice and she needed new clothes. She decided to took him up on the offer he previously had given her.

 

_____

 

The following day, as she was sitting in Miranda’s Chevrolet, she thought about her orange dress and wondered how could she ever had agreed to wear something like it.

 

It was ostentatious and eye-catching and she worried about not being enough to wear a dress made by Miranda Priestly herself. The orange color wasn’t flashy, nor fading, but natural and the dress hugged her hips sensually. A short sleeved cardigan with big rounded white buttons covered her chest, making it sober and appropriate. The first time she had seen herself in the mirror wearing that dress, she had felt like a movie star, but now that she was meeting Miranda, all her confidence rushed out.

 

She still didn’t understand why she needed to gain Miranda’s approval, but she felt that it was important to impress her and have her attention.

 

The previous day, Nigel had mainly given her fashion advice about color cohordinations or the best type of clothes that could fit her, along with a pair of outfits she was going to wear in the office. She had thanked him, not knowing how to pay him back.

 

She crossed her legs, nervous and fidgeting when she saw Miranda approaching the car.

 

“Hi, Miranda,” she greeted, as soon as the door opened.

 

When Miranda entered the Chevrolet, leaning back on the light leather seats, giving Andy just a short and quick look, Andy felt disappointed.

 

That’s it? She thought to herself, she isn’t even going to mention it?!

 

Andy looked out the window, trying to contain her disappointment. Had she been worrying for nothing?

 

“We will be there all morning,” Miranda said, fixing her white shirt, “Make sure to get the most important details.”

 

Andy stayed silent, wondering once again about what she was doing. Why did she feel the need to impress that woman? She felt like in a cheap movie, where the girl shows up to a date with a new haircut that the guy doesn’t even notice.

 

They didn’t talk for the rest of the trip, Andy fuming at Miranda’s side, feeling herself restricted by the dress.

 

As she followed the designer inside the building, walking rapidly behind her, Andy noticed the older woman’s completely white dress, colored only by red shoes and a red belt. She couldn’t help but feel like Miranda was giving her a lecture.

 

This is the way you wear a white dress, Andrea, she could hear her saying in her mind.

 

Andy’s brows furrowed in anger as they stopped in front of an elevator. Andy stepped back, letting Miranda get in without following, glad that of the older woman’s distaste for sharing such a small place with strangers.

 

As Miranda looked up at her with a questioning look, though, Andy was taken aback.

 

“Come along!” Miranda exclaimed exasperated.

 

Andy pursed her lips and followed, settling beside the editor.

 

She didn’t know if Miranda was always this confusing and irritating, but she guessed that the frustration of trying to understand her wouldn’t have left Andy for a long time. Even after the end of her stay at the offices.

 

As the door closed, she noticed Miranda’s fingers fidgeting with the handles of her Prada bag.

 

“Orange is a good color on you, Andrea,” she heard her say, the velvety voice filling the small enclosed space between them.

 

Andy turned around surprised, she noticed then.

 

“I just followed your advice,” she said, after a moment, looking back at the designer who looked strangely expectant, “and got a little help from Nigel,” she concluded, tentatively.

 

Miranda looked at her for a moment with her head inclined to the side. She looked thoughtful as she reached out to touch Andy’s hip the way she did with the model the day before.

 

Andy’s eyebrows shot up in surprise as she felt Miranda’s fingers on her. She felt herself blushing and her skin tingling at the touch. She turned around to show her dress better at Miranda.

 

“Mh,” she heard Miranda muttering approvingly from behind, “did Nigel choose this one?”

 

“Yes,” Andy admitted, feeling warm as a small smile grew on her lips, “he said, and I quote, that you would have certainly appreciated it.”

 

She turned around to look at Miranda’s surprised look.

 

She watched as the other woman broke the touch, straightening and fixing her own belt, “he was right.”

 

Andy smiled, relieved of the anxious fear that took over her before. She settled again beside Miranda, waiting for the elevator to open.

 

“You could bring this model back to fashion, Andrea,” Miranda said beside her, before exiting the elevator.

 

As she followed, Andy’s wicked smile didn’t falter, nor she tried to hide it from the people who greeted them.

 

_____

 

The four days passed rapidly between writing the article and Miranda’s interruptions – when she told her that she would have been her second assistant, she hadn’t been lying.

 

She had to run around the city to gather fabrics and documents more than once. She had also often found herself replying to the phone, taking notes of tasks that were mainly Emily’s responsibilities.

 

Once as she found herself making coffee to Miranda, she had laughed for the absurdity of the situation.

 

All in all, she had liked the experience, even if she had wished to spend more time with Miranda. She knew that the older woman took her job seriously – even too seriously, if some of the office rumors were true – but she had hoped for another lunch spent together, for more secret conversations shared between them.

 

She knew that the experience had certainly been… educational, not only because she had learnt more about the industry and of details she surely needed to know for future articles, but also because she felt something had changed inside her.

 

And no, she wasn’t thinking about goals or work.

 

She had realised that her behavior towards Miranda was only similar to the ones of her colleagues: they didn’t blush at her compliments, they didn’t dress better to impress her, nor, she was sure, replayed the feeling of her touch on their hips over and over again during her days – and nights.

 

Andy knew that something was going on with her, inside her, but she kept lying to herself, believing she didn’t have time to think about such a frivolous thing: a feeling.

 

During her last day, as she was sitting beside Miranda on the beige leather seats of the Chevrolet, Miranda had talked, making a request.

 

“You will deliver the Book tonight,” she had told her, looking outside the window and breaking the silence that had been filling the car since they had left the set of the shoot for next season’s advertisement.

 

Miranda hadn’t been satisfied with the photographer’s work: she found the lights too dark and her work out of the main focus of the shooting. She had scolded them, both for their mistakes and for their confusion.

 

As they had been traveling back to the offices in the Chevrolet, Andy hadn’t dared to interrupt Miranda’s thoughts or to disturb her. She had kept still beside her, letting the designer fume at her side, wishing to comfort her in some way.

 

When Miranda finally spoke, Andy had been wondering about the scene Miranda had caused before. She read it as a good sign, a proof that Miranda trusted her. She had let her see the mistakes and issues that could come up in her line of work, not scared of being judged for her words and tantrum against her employees.

 

Andy looked back at Miranda, asking “The Book?” without obtaining any reply.

 

She bit her lips slightly, understanding the mood of Miranda and returning to her thoughts. She couldn’t have imagined what would have happened to her in the following hours.

 

_____

 

“She told you to do what?” Emily asked when Andy enquired her about the Book and its contents.

 

Andy rolled her eyes, before repeating herself, “She said that I have to deliver The Book tonight, care to explain?”

 

“Are you connected to someone important?” Emily asked with her hands on her hips, “A banker, perhaps.”

 

What kind of question was that?

 

“Do you think I would be a junior journalist if I were?”

 

Andy contemplated Emily’s foolishness. If she really had connections she would have been publishing articles for months and not as a fucking junior journalist. How could Emily dare to suggest such a thing was beyond Andy and it irritated her that she didn’t give her the information she needed.

 

“The Book is the heart of Miranda’s work, filled with all the details, sketches and plans for the next clothing line,” Emily said, looking at Andy petulantly, “It’s the Holy Grail of Miranda’s work and it holds the secrets of her anticipated collection. I can’t believe she would just give it so easily to a stranger. A journalist, for god’s sake!”

 

Andy’s brows furrowed, taken aback by Emily’s words. She knew that the assistant liked to exaggerate everything and to add a dramatic note to anything that happened to her, but she never lied. Since they’ve met, Emily had always told her the truth. That’s why, even a watered down version of what she was saying, scared and confused Andy.

 

Something was going on.

 

“Why would I lie to you, Emily?” She asked, eager now to see the contents of the folder.

 

“What if you wanted to sell her secrets? I wouldn’t see it past you.”

 

“Let me get this straight, firstly you believe I’m here just because I’m connected to some kind of banker or rich man, and now you believe I’m the equivalent of a Russian spy in the fashion industry?”

 

“I don’t know,” Emily shrugged, “It doesn’t make any sense to me, so I guess everything could be true.”

 

Andy sighed, feeling like arguing with Emily was a lost cause, “Come with me, then.”

 

“What?”

 

“Come with me, you can keep an eye on the Book the whole time to make sure I won’t run away with it,” Andy felt like she was giving in to the weird fantasies of a child.

 

“Okay,” Emily said, straightening, “I will come with you.”

 

Andy considered it a victory, “Thank you!”

 

As she went back to her desk and sat down, she realised she didn’t know anything about the task she was asked to do yet.

 

“Where are we bringing it, anyway?” She asked, opening her notepad.

 

“To Miranda’s house,” Emily said, matter-of-factly.

 

Andy was glad she was already sitting on her office chair because she was sure she was going to faint.

 

_____

 

Andy bit her own lips as she sat at her desk, waiting for The Book to be brought over. She couldn’t believe she had the chance to meet Miranda in her own home, alone, and she blew it because of Emily’s chattering nonsense.

 

Her mind kept wondering about what Miranda could have told her or what could have happened without Emily’s presence. She never stopped once to think about what she would have wanted to happen between the two of them.

 

It was her last day and she felt that Miranda’s request wasn’t random. Emily was there beside her, so she didn’t really need anyone to substitute her and to bring her the folder. Andy knew she had something in mind and she needed to think about a way to salvage the situation.

 

When Miranda had gone back home, a hour before, she had stopped in front of Andy’s desk, regarding her with gleaming eyes.

 

“Goodbye, Andrea,” she had said, placing a hand on the desk in front of her, “I can’t wait to read the article.”

 

Andy had blushed under the whole attention Miranda had given her.

 

“Goodbye,” she had said, speechless, watching Miranda hiding a smile by turning around and walking away.

 

The last thing Andy had seen of her were her swaying hips as she turned around the corner of the corridor.

 

Dear God, she thought, she was really going to fuck something up that night.

 

“If you keep biting your lips like that, I will have to medicate you,” Emily said beside her.

 

Andy turned around to face her, “You could have told me immediately that we were going to Miranda’s house.”

 

“Why?” She asked.

 

That was a good question.

 

Andy leaned back against the chair once more, her leg shaking under the desk.

 

“Do you do this every night?” Andy asked after a moment, trying to distract herself from her own thoughts.

 

“Yes, I do,” Emily’s voice betrayed proudness and arrogance, “but don’t worry, we won’t meet her.”

 

Andy wasn’t so sure about that.

 

She watched as Emily yawned, putting a hand in front of her mouth to hide it.

 

An idea striked Andy.

 

“Are you tired?” She asked, innocently.

 

“Yes, I’ve been running around all day,” Emily replied, looking back at her judgingly, “quite opposite to someone else.”

 

Andy ignored her as she said, shrugging, “I could have some coffee.”

 

“And I should make it?”

 

“You’re the one who needs it more,” she said, “and I made it for you this morning.”

 

Emily sighed, squinting her eyes in suspicion. Andy looked back at her without faltering.

 

“Fine, I guess it will be my fairwell gift.”

 

Andy watched for a moment as Emily went to the kitchenette. She looked down the corridor, anxiously.

 

C’mon, she thought, as if to summon the guy who was supposed to bring them the Book.

 

When she saw him turning around the corner, she almost squicked in surprise. She gathered her things rapidly, taking a pen from her desk. She thugged at a page of her notepad to tear a piece of paper.

 

I’m sorry, Emily, she wrote on it.

 

As she run towards the man approaching her, she hoped Emily would have forgiven her, one day.

 

_____

 

Some minutes later, Andy found herself in front of Miranda’s house, fidgeting.

 

Andy knew the building by then, having studied it for days as she had waited for Miranda to reach her and Roy. It was elegant and imposing, just like its owner. Andy wondered how anyone could occupy a place like that: it could have harbored families, and yet, only one lived in it.

 

She looked at the Book, as if it could have given her answers or encouragement to enter the house. She almost expected Emily to jump out of the bushes, jumping on her to defend the folder.

 

She sighed: she had arrived there, she couldn’t gave up at the last moment. She took a deep breath and opened the door.

 

What she found disappointed her a little.

 

She didn’t know what she expected to find: Miranda waiting for her with a glass of wine in hand to congratulate her or gold walls and Italian marble covering every surface. She really hadn’t had the time to imagine anything behind the door, but surely she would have never expected to find a quiet house – elegant and rich, for sure, but not ostentatious.

 

She walked up the few stairs of the entrance, wood creaking slightly under her heels.

 

She looked around for a moment, not sure what exactly she was waiting for. As she turned around to look down the corridor, Andy noticed a table with lilies and a white box on it.

 

To Andrea, was written on a white headed piece of paper, ripped at the bottom edge.

 

Andy smiled at the box, happy, even without knowing its contents. She almost didn’t want to touch it and live in that moment for a little while more. She felt cared for, wanted, but most importantly, she felt a connection with Miranda.

 

She put the Book next to the vase of lilies to open the box. She lifted the lid slowly and noticed deep black fabric inside of it: it was a dress.

 

Andy recognized it as one of the latest designs by Miranda. She remembered looking at the classy and elegant dress at the manufacturing house, as Miranda talked with the head of production. She had been mesmerized by the elegant shape, so different from what she was used to.

 

She didn’t know Miranda had noticed.

 

She heard sounds coming from upstairs and, not knowing who it could be, she closed the box and took it, walking rapidly towards the exit.

 

As she settled in the Chevrolet, giving Roy the approval to go, she clutched the box tight, feeling that her relationship with Miranda wasn’t ending there, as her first assignment concluded.

 

She knew she would have heard from her again.

Chapter Text

 

 

The day after the conclusion of her job at the Priestly brand, Andy felt at a loss.

 

When she woke up, she felt happy, for sure, excited, even, but the emotions were number than before: meeting Miranda, seeing her beauty and having little talks with her had been Andy’s highlights of her days – even if she would have never confessed it to anyone.

 

She had known, since she had made the decision to wear her first haute couture dress, that something was up with herself.

 

She was missing a woman she knew very little about, with whom she had exchanged few words. Her mind kept drifting off to re-enact their encounters and visions of soft white skin kept swirling in her mind, warming her cheeks. She felt like a heroine from her favorite romantic books of the 19th century, longing for a desire she was not allowed to show or to feel, yearning for insignificant touches and moments that she couldn’t have.

 

If Andy didn’t know better, she could believe she was developing feelings for Miranda.

 

The truth was that her feelings for Nate were fading and Miranda was serving as the perfect distraction from it. Andy knew that she should consider herself lucky to have such a nice guy by her side, or, at least, that’s what everyone kept telling her. But she didn’t feel lucky, not at all.

 

Nate was loving, kind and caring. She knew he really loved her, but she was starting to doubt of her own love for him, she was getting insecure about their compatibility.

 

They had a hard time understanding each other since they had gotten to NYC. Sharing afternoons and weekends in a small town in Ohio had certainly been easier for them and, even if they had took in consideration the difficulties of living together before departing from their hometown, Andy just didn’t feel the same way for him as before.

 

And to think that they had even considered marriage before moving to NYC… Their parents had pushed for it, for the sake of appearances, but Andy and Nate had decided to wait. For what? Andy wondered now. She didn’t really know, but she couldn’t help blessing both of their past selves.

 

She didn’t know what to do about him. She didn’t even understand what was happening to her. That’s why she kept postponing her decision and the inevitable crash with Nate.

 

And so, there she was, walking towards The Daily Mirror, thinking about someone who had been important in the first big step of her career, distracting herself from the doubts and fears she was harbouring in her own heart.

 

That was what was really happening to her. Nothing else.

 

As soon as she stepped back into the offices, she went straight to Cain’s to give him the finished article.

 

He greeted her with a nod, while sitting at his desk signing documents. She gave him the article and waited anxiously for an assessment.

 

“Mh,” he mumbled, turning the pages stapled together.

 

He looked up at her and nodded.

 

Andy beamed. She wanted to say something, to thank him and jump from excitement, but she restrained herself, trying to be as professional as she could be. 

 

The smile didn’t falter, not even for a moment, for the whole morning. She sat quietly, enjoying the quiet times and feeling proud of herself for the first time in a long while.

 

Around noon, Doug came to congratulate her, joking about first assignments and rookie pride.

 

Andy liked Doug: he was sweet, kind and he treated her like the equal she was to him. They had the same age and they started working at The Daily Mirror nearly at the same time. She didn’t exactly consider him a friend, yet, but if someone made her choose a colleague to work with, she would have certainly made his name.

 

He didn’t disrespect her, at least.

 

“Sachs!” He exclaimed, greeting her, “I have an offer for you!”

 

“Let’s hear about it,” she said, flashing one of her warm smiles at him, closing the newspaper.

 

“What would you say to a trip down to the archives?” He showed her the list of articles they requested him.

 

Andy rolled her eyes, huffing jokingly, “I’d say no, it’s like descending straight to Hell.”

 

“C’mon! Don’t tell me that writing your first article got to your head already?!”

 

She looked at him pointedly, “Doug!”

 

“Please! I need your help,” he said, fluttering his eyelashes suggestively.

 

“Okay, alright! I’ll help you, but only because they left me nothing else to do,” she said, chuckling a little at his enthusiastic ‘yes’.

 

Searching for articles in the archives was a nightmare, that’s why she hadn’t exactly been enthusiastic about the offer: the searching system was confusing, with numbers seemingly placed randomly and examined articles placed casually in the few free spots left. It was clear that whoever was in charge of keeping it in order didn’t really care about what they were doing.

 

“What do you even need these for?” Andy sighed, searching for an issue from 1951.

 

“The Baltimora case,” he said, stumbling on a box, “police found a connection to some older cases.”

 

“And someone wants to read the articles that have been written on them?”

 

“It’s McKennie.”

 

Andy turned around to look at Doug, “does he think he kind find some kind of clue?”

 

“You know how it is,” she heard Doug sighing, “when you spend most of your time, for weeks, researching on something… it’s easy for it to become an obsession.”

 

Andy frowned, focusing her attention back on the research. What if that was what had happened to her with Miranda? She had her mind fixed on her for a whole week, trying to fulfil her requests or writing the article. Maybe she had just let her first assignment slip out of her control. As much as she didn’t want to be overlooked for her inexperience, it had really been her first official article.

 

“What do you know about the case?” She asked, trying to distract herself.

 

As Doug replied, she found the section dedicated to the early 50’s issues. She brushed the dust off the folders.

 

“Eh, not much. I tried to avoid the goriest details,” he said, “but I found something really interesting-“

 

Andy didn’t hear much else of what Doug said after that, because, as she opened one of the numbers McKennie had requested, she noticed a bizarre picture on one of the pages.

 

It was of two young women, nearly her age, looking at each other with a warm and loving smile. Their hands were intertwined, the thumb of the taller of the two seemed to be stroking the skin on the back of the other’s hand.

 

Andy had seen such a similar look somewhere, back at home, in Ohio, but it had been exchanged between a man and a woman: her parents. It was a soft look, full of promises and love. Andy would have described it as an intimate moment that had made her younger self, who had been witness to it, blush and look away, as if she was intruding on something.

 

She had never shared such a look with Nate.

 

“Andy, are you listening to me?” She heard Doug call her.

 

“Yes!” She exclaimed, closing the newspaper, “I think I found one of the issues!”

 

She folded the paper nicely, putting it aside on the nearest table.

 

______

 

 

As she sat at the table in her little living room, turning slowly the pages of the newspaper, she hoped for the third time that evening that no one had noticed its absence from the archives. She didn’t dare to think about the consequences, otherwise.

 

When they had brought all the requested issues to McKennie, later in the afternoon, he had immediately begun to discard some of them. The pile they had brought upstairs had seemed infinite, too vast to be useful for his research.

 

Andy had waited, watching him nervously through the process. She used the opinions on her of her colleagues to her advantage, making them believe that she had simply wanted to learn the method by helping McKennie and studying his approach to the work.

 

All she had wanted though, was for him to reject that newspaper.

 

“It should be all, for now,” he had said, not even looking at her, opening his notepad to keep working.

 

“I’ll bring these back in the archives, then, Mr. McKennie,” she had said, before stepping up to balance the pile of newspaper on her arms.

 

When she had gotten to the darkened room of the archives, she had searched through the pile for the number she had wanted with staggering breath.

 

“Yes!” She had exclaimed, once she had found it, before putting a hand on her lips, shocked by her own indiscretion.

 

“What are you reading?” Nate asked, scaring her and making her jump a little on her seat.

 

“Oh, you frightened me!” Andy said, putting a hand on her chest, willing herself to calm down, “It’s just an old number of The Daily Mirror.”

 

“Do you need it for a new article?”

 

“Not exactly,” Andy watched him as he moved to the kitchen to make himself some tea, “a colleague of mine made us research old articles. He hopes to find clues to solve the Baltimora kidnapping.”

 

“Oh, and he asked you to help him?”

 

Andy pursed her lips, before lying, “yes, this is the last issue I have to check for tomorrow.”

 

It didn’t take long for Nate to pop out of the kitchen, holding two mugs of tea. She accepted hers gladly.

 

“Mh, you’re already bringing work home,” he said, sitting in front of her to read a book.

 

He didn’t even looked at her as he talked.

 

“Nate,” she warned.

 

“What? You’re becoming a business woman,” he said, without looking up from the book, “I’m happy for you.”

 

Andy looked at him for a moment: his voice sounded serious and Andy could detect a slight note of disappointment. Andy tried to ignore him, getting back to the newspaper, faking interest into the kidnapping article.

 

She really wanted him gone from the room, so she could read what she really wanted to, in peace.

 

_____

 

 

She managed to read the article only late at night, when Nate moved to their bed.

 

Exhausted by the wait, as she impatiently wished for Nate to be gone, she had discarded the newspaper for a romance book she had started weeks before and of which she didn’t even remember the premise.

 

She had kept looking at Nate nervously, waiting for him to go. She certainly could have read the whole paper, faking interest in the usual financing and political articles, but what would have she done once she reached that picture?

 

She had felt the need to read it privately; it… had felt important and intimate.

 

Once she had the space and time to read it alone, by herself, she felt nervous, her hands slightly shaking as she opened the newspaper.

 

As she stared at the picture once again, she felt hot, her breath caught in her throat. It felt like looking at something forbidden, at a taboo that somehow made sense to her, that spoke to her immensely.

 

The Rise of Lesbianism in America, read the title of the article. It made Andy purse her lips for its pungent irony; she stole a look at the bedroom door, assuring herself it was closed, with Nate sleeping behind it.

 

The picture depicted one of the couples that founded the first national lesbian political organization, called The Daughter of Bilitis, which fought for lesbian rights in the US. The article wasn’t really kind, but Andy tried to ignore the male perspective that permeated it, trying to assimilate the data, as if she was analysing a phenomenon that could be affecting her.

 

Andy wasn’t naïve, she knew of the existence of women who love women, who are attracted by the same sex. She just… had never focused on the issue that much, thinking it didn’t concern her at all.

 

She wasn’t so sure about that anymore.

 

Questions swirled in her mind as she lifted her look from the newspaper: had men ever really been attractive to her? Yes, she was sure about it. Andy had loved Nate, in the past, and she had felt attracted to him and to other men, she had even enjoyed… her few sexual experiences. But was that all?

 

She thought about her past, about the times she had blushed when her childhood best friend – a blond girl with long curls cascading on her shoulders – complimented her or hugged her tight. She thought about all those times she had stopped to look at the figure of a girl, blushing as she looked away. But, more importantly, she thought about her feelings for Miranda, about the tingling sensation she had felt as Miranda had touched her hip.

 

Oh, she was in such big troubles.

 

Tears formed in her eyes as she looked away from the newspaper, out the window and down at the road. Was she attracted to women?

 

Was she really attracted to Miranda?

 

That notion scared her, immensely.

 

She closed the paper, hiding it in her purse. She kept herself busy by rearranging the living room, fixing the details without considering the few tears that escaped her eyes.

 

That night, she fell asleep on the sofa, exhausted and alone, with the bag forgotten on the other side of the room.

 

_____

 

 

The next day, as she entered The Daily Mirror’s building, Andy clutched her bag tight to her side.

 

She was still hoping that no one noticed the absence of the newspaper, but as security let her in without much more than a glance, she felt reassured of it. She walked rapidly towards the elevator, determined on putting it away without much trouble.

 

Andy felt better than the night before. She was still confused about herself and she still had many questions she needed to find the answers to, but she felt calmer.

 

She knew then that she was attracted to women, now. She wasn’t a lesbian, per se, but she knew that she felt attracted to people of her own sex and that knowledge made her feel steadier: she knew something more about herself and it could only made her stronger.

 

She surely had to do something about Nate, since, attraction to women or not, she knew she couldn’t stay with him any longer – it wasn’t fair for neither of them – but she didn’t have to do anything about her feelings for the same sex: she wasn’t an animal she could resist some temptation.

 

Or at least, that’s what she thought at the time.

 

As she came back from the archives, heading towards her own desk, she saw Doug approaching her.

 

“Andy!” He waved at her in greeting.

 

“Hi, Doug!” She said, curious about his excitement.

 

He handed her a newspaper, smiling happily, “Congratulations! You’re officially a publishing journalist now!”

 

“They published my article?!” She said, incredulously, as a big grin spread on her lips, “Oh, Doug, that’s the best news I could have received today!”

 

She took the newspaper he was offering her, opening it and searching for the fashion column. She knew that Cain would have published her article, but reading her own name on the newspaper gave her a completely different feeling: it was the realization of a dream coming true. She was an official writer!

 

She couldn’t have been happier.

 

“Yeah, well, I’m glad of being the one who told you then,” he said, looking genuinely happy for her.

 

“Can I keep the paper?”

 

“Sure! You can pay me back with a coffee,” he said, suggestively.

 

“Fair!” She exclaimed, rolling her eyes jokingly.

 

As she followed him towards the cafeteria, reading the article aloud for her friend to listen, she felt changed and grown. Things were finally looking bright for her.

 

She surely didn’t expect to have her coffee break interrupted by a phone call. Not that it bothered her, since she was just having a chat with a friend, but she didn’t expect any call and she feared of some bad news about a family member – or something equally terrifying. Who could be calling her at work, otherwise?

 

In retrospect, she should have expected the call of someone who wanted to congratulate with her on the article – her parents, maybe, since she didn’t have a phone at home – but she would have never been able to foresee that specific call.

 

As she thanked one of the receptionists for reaching out to her, she took a deep breath holding the receiver of the wall phone in her hand. She lifted it to her ear, with a worrying feeling her stomach.

 

“Hello? Andy’s speaking.”

 

“Shouldn’t you be more cheerful?” A soft velvety voice asked, “Haven’t you just published your first article?”

 

Andy would have recognised it anywhere.

 

“Miranda?!” She exclaimed.

 

“Did you expect another call?”

 

“No! No,” she corrected herself, fearing she could have angered her, “I’m just surprised, that’s all.”

 

She visibly cringed for her own slip up: using Miranda’s favourite words? Was she trying to make the woman hate her?

 

Why did she call her, anyway?

 

“I wanted to congratulate you, for your newest accomplishment,” she said, a note of amusement clear in her voice, “I read your article, it is… quite interesting.”

 

“You read my article?!”

 

“Of course I did,” she said, matter-of-factly, “Why else would I have let you stay here all this time?”

 

Was that Miranda’s personal way to say that she valued Andy’s opinion?

 

Andy smiled, warmed by the strange confession Miranda just made. She knew she was going to spend days thinking about their interaction over the phone.

 

“Thank you, Miranda,” she said, “and thank you for the dress too.”

 

She blushed as she spoke. She hadn’t forgotten about the dress: it laid in the closet, near her novels, still in the box she had brought it home, hidden from Nate’s eyes.

 

He wouldn’t have understood Miranda’s kindness. She didn’t want him to criticize it or worse, doubting about the reasons why she had brought it home.

 

She had imagined wearing it numerous times: for Miranda or for herself, in front of the mirror. She hadn’t tried it on, yet, scared of ruining it.

 

“Mh,” Miranda said approvingly after some moments, her voice lower than before, “I’m hosting a party at the townhouse next week.”

 

“Oh,” Andy exclaimed, not really understanding what Miranda was telling her.

 

“You’re invited.”

 

Andy found herself frowning, amazed, at the black numbers of the phone in front of her. She panicked, not knowing what to say, “I-“

 

“Call Roy, he will pick you up,” Miranda said, hanging up to not giver her time to object.

 

Andy stayed there for a moment with her mouth slightly opened in shock, the receiver still placed against her ear.

 

Miranda just invited her to her house.

 

Miranda just invited Andy to her house?!

 

Andy was panicking. What did it mean?

 

She tried to think rationally: it was just an invite, a simple, educated invitation to a party with a lot of other people, she was sure about it. They were going to have little time to talk, anyway. Except, Andy was sure that those people were her rich friends and acquaintances, not certainly junior writers at a newspaper or girls in her 20s that Miranda got to know casually.

 

She closed her eyes, recalling Miranda’s smooth deep voice over the phone and the determined way she invited Andy over, without leaving room for objections. Was it really just an invite to a random party?

 

A small part of Andy hoped it wasn’t. Well, not just a small part.

 

She sighed, putting back the receiver on the phone.

 

Oh, she was really in so much trouble.

 

______

 

 

A week later, as she waited for Roy to pick her up, she looked at herself in the mirror, amazed at her own reflection.

 

She almost didn’t recognise herself: she was wearing Miranda’s black dress, white gloves that reached her elbows and black heels. If she had to be honest, as much as the dress looked amazing – on and off her – she felt that the heart-shaped neckline was a little too revealing as compared to what she usually wore.

 

Had Miranda imagined Andy in that dress as she put it away in the box for her?

 

The possibility made Andy shiver.

 

She chose not to wear any jewellery or necklaces: she didn’t have anything that could fit the elegant fabric of the dress. Moreover, she liked the contrast between her white skin and the black of the dress and she didn’t feel like breaking it.

 

She could see why Miranda chose it for her: she could almost imagine herself fitting in the group of rich and snobby people that would surely populate the designer’s party.

 

As she climbed up the Chevrolet with Roy’s help, she was glad that Nate wasn’t home, busy working until late at night: he would have never approved of such an outfit and Andy desperately wanted to wear the dress for Miranda, to make her understand how much she appreciated it – and her, too.

 

That didn’t mean she wasn’t at all nervous to join Miranda’s party. Who could she have talked to? What could she have said to the people there? She didn’t know what rich people usually talk about and if movies were, in any way, true, she didn’t have villas or boats she could show off. She only had herself and the little knowledge she had of the world.

 

She also didn’t delude herself into thinking she could spend most of her time with Miranda. It was her party: she surely needed to talk to the guests with her husband at her side, someone Andy wasn’t so eager to get to know.

 

She also knew that she had the opportunity to meet designers and she wondered if Miranda didn’t invite her just to help her in her career. Andy knew that it must have been at least one of the reasons why she decided to offer her an invitation. She appreciated the opportunity, but she still hoped for a deeper reason of Miranda’s interest in her, even if she didn’t exactly know what would she have done if she got what she wanted.

 

“We’re here, Mrs. Sachs,” Roy said, shocking her out of her reverie.

 

“Oh, thank you, Roy.”

 

“I’ll be back at midnight.”

 

Andy nodded, smiling gratefully at the driver, before exiting the car.

 

As she was left alone in front of the townhouse, Andy felt her heart in her throat: her fear was worse than the last time she found herself in front of that house – and she wasn’t committing any betrayal that time. Doubts confused her and she felt the sudden urge to run away.

 

She mastered her courage to walk up the stairs.

 

What she saw as soon as she opened the door made her lose her breath a little.

 

The entrance, that she recognized, was filled with white flowers, making it appear even more opulent. People dressed in colourful clothes and gowns populated the main room, talking and laughing cheerfully with each other. A window-door was opened on the garden, decorated with more flowers and tables.

 

Andy walked up to the main room, watching the people there as if they were of some different species. She felt a little out of place, but she was mesmerized nonetheless.

 

As she looked through the room, she noticed white coiffed hair and her breath caught: it could only be one person, Miranda.

 

Andy watched her as she laughed, talking with a man with hair streaked with grey. She looked ethereal, as always, the eggplant-coloured dress she was wearing only amplified the effect of her presence. Andy thought that very few people could master such a deep and mystical colour: Miranda was one of them.

 

As Miranda turned around, hiding her annoyance for the conversation she was having, she locked eyes with Andy, who lost a heartbeat.

 

Time seemed to freeze as they looked at each other, Andy’s lips parting as Miranda smiled knowingly at her.

 

“Champagne, Miss?” A waiter asked Andy, frightening her.

 

“Oh, no, thank you,” she replied, hiding her disappointment for the interruption.

 

When she looked back at Miranda, she was met with the sight of her white shoulders, shown off by the contrast with the purple fabric she was wearing.

 

Andy pursed her lips, annoyed.

 

She walked nervously across the room, searching for a spot where she could watch Miranda in peace. Someone bumped into her twice, making her feel overwhelmed.

 

“Sachs!” She heard a voice behind her call her.

 

She turned around, immediately recognising the man who spoke to her, “Nigel,” she greeted.

 

“If you don’t want to get offered more alcohol, may I suggest you to keep a flute in hand at all times?” He said, smiling and offering her a flute of champagne.

 

She took it reluctantly.

 

“Now, Miss Sachs, what are you doing here?” He asked, taking a sip from his glass.

 

“Miranda invited me,” Andy replied, casually, trying not to react at his inquisitive look.

 

Nigel lifted his eyebrows pointedly, wanting Andy to explain better. She knew it was a curious turn of events, she hadn’t forgotten about her own bewilderment at Miranda’s suggestion.

 

She sighed, “to thank me for the article,” she said pointedly.

 

“Oh, my!” He exclaimed, lifting his glass dramatically, “you must have written an extraordinary article.”

 

Andy blushed under his knowing gaze. She looked at the crowd to try to look unaffected by it. She wasn’t sure about Miranda’s intentions, but she couldn’t confess it to Nigel – or anyone else, for that matter.

 

“I guess so.”

 

“And what an amazing dress you’re wearing,” he said, gesturing to her waist, “I remember it from somewhere…”

 

Andy smiled, amused.

 

Nigel wasn’t a bad man and Andy suspected that he cared deeply for Miranda. She knew that his curiosity was born out of interest for his colleague and friend and that his intentions weren’t malicious, but she wasn’t sure about what was happening between her and Miranda, so what could she have explained to him? There was nothing – yet – to say about the matter.

 

She looked at him, expecting some sarcastic remark, “mh, I wouldn’t know where.”

 

Nigel squinted his eyes, “did you steal it or is it another example of Miranda’s strange generosity towards you?”

 

Andy looked at him with a shocked expression, “Nigel!”

 

“Well, I’ve heard weird things about you from Emily,” he said, shrugging, “it would make sense.”

 

“Okay, I’ve been unfair to Emily,” she said, lifting her hands in defeat, “and I’m so sorry for her, but Miranda told me to deliver the Book and she wouldn’t let me do it by myself, so…”

 

“Oh, you know how Emily is, she likes to be dramatic. She will get over it,” he said, turning around to look at the crowd, “but you haven’t given me an answer.”

 

Andy licked her lips to lick away the champagne. She considered the kindness Nigel showed her during the few days she worked for Miranda: she owed him for his advice and the make-over that made Miranda like her a bit more. She guessed she could confess some little details to him.

 

“She gave it to me, as a gift.”

 

Nigel turned towards her, shocked, “a gift? For what?”

 

“I don’t know,” she said, before sipping at her champagne.

 

“That’s impressive,” he said, pensive.

 

Andy knew that that little information would have kept him busy for some time.

 

“At least, I’m giving you publicity,” she said, turning around jokingly as if to show off the dress.

 

“Well, that’s for sure,” he said, nodding towards a man who was looking over at them, “Givenchy has been looking at you since you walked in the room.”

 

Andy looked at him surprised. She hadn’t noticed it.

 

“Oh, don’t worry,” he said, leaning in close to whisper, “he doesn’t fancy women, if you know what I mean.”

 

Andy blushed at the notion: she never heard anyone speaking so confidently about same sex attraction before.

 

______

 

 

Andy spent the majority of the evening with Nigel, who kindly navigated her through the crowd.

 

She got to know some members of the fashion elite: Givenchy, for example, associates of Balmain, of Balenciaga and of Chanel. Some of them complimented her on the article and suggested to meet some time to discuss a possible article about them.

 

She considered, for the first time in her life, to get business cards.

 

Luckily, she had a little notepad with her that turned out to be pretty useful to note phone numbers and suggestions for future articles.

 

Nigel introduced her to some of her colleagues too: people who worked for the Washington Times or for Harper’s Bazaar. They treated her kindly, congratulating her on her first published article and expressing interest in hearing more from her in the future.

 

All in all, it had been a useful and entertaining night, but as the hours passed and the distance from Miranda didn’t lessen, she felt disappointment build in her. She certainly was grateful for the opportunity the party had been for her, but she still hoped for a close interaction with Miranda.

 

Nigel left her at a certain point, running to discuss something important with a lawyer or something. Andy didn’t particularly care.

 

As she stood alone in a corner, she was surprised to hear cheering and laughter fill the room.

 

She got closer to the crowd, curious about what was happening.

 

She didn’t exactly like what she saw, even if she knew, at some level, that it wasn’t her right to feel disappointed and sad for it.

 

Miranda and Stephen were dancing slowly to the music, with their bodies pulled close by the hands Stephen placed on Miranda’s back. One of Miranda’s hands was clutching her husband’s arm; the other was placed on his shoulder. Their cheeks weren’t touching and Miranda was smiling with pursed lips.

 

Andy felt a pang of jealousy took over her feature and she hoped she wasn’t being too obvious.

 

As they slowly turned around, Miranda’s gaze locked with Andy’s. The younger woman felt her breathing stop again, just like it happened some hours before. Miranda didn’t look away, keeping her eyes focused on her. As her look deepened, her smile seemed to turn more genuine.

 

Andy smiled back, uncaring of the presence of other people around her. She wished to live in that suspended moment for as long as she could, taking up all of Miranda’s attention.

 

The stilled moment was broken up too soon and Andy was brought back to reality too forcefully: Stephen kissed Miranda’s cheek, regaining her focus and gaze. She smiled timidly at him, before looking around at the crowd that was cheering them on.

 

Andy looked away, not wanting to see any more of that man touching Miranda. She quietly walked away from the crowd, searching for fresh hair to breath in.

 

As she walked out of the room into the garden, she realized of how tired she really was and of how exhausting the party was being.

 

She looked over the garden to search for a place to sit and she noticed two small mops of red hair. She walked over, surprised to find children at that kind of preposterous party.

 

“Hi,” she said, smiling warmly at the two girls sitting on a white metal bench.

 

“Shhh!” One of them shushed her, placing a finger on her own lips, “Cassidy’s sleeping.”

 

“Oh,” Andy said, quietly, “sorry.”

 

“Who are you?”

 

“I’m Andy,” she said, taking a white chair to sit next to them, “I’m a journalist.”

 

“A journalist? But you’re a woman,” she said with furrowed brows.

 

Andy shrugged, “There are a lot of female journalists,” she reassured.

 

“Oh, okay,” she didn’t seem that convinced.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Caroline.”

 

“Oh, it’s a beautiful name,” Andy commented.

 

“I know,” she nodded.

 

Andy smiled, amused by her behaviour. She seemed defensive and confrontational. Andy liked her.

 

She nodded over to Cassidy, “Is she okay?”

 

“Yes, she just ate too many crab cakes,” she said shrugging.

 

“Well, they are good.”

 

“I prefer the salmon ones,” she said, fidgeting with a decorative bow of her dress, “Why are you here?”

 

Andy lifted her eyebrows in question, “what do you mean?”

 

“Nobody ever hangs out with us,” she said, sadly.

 

“Oh,” Andy exclaimed, “I just felt like a fish out of water, in there,” she nodded towards the house.

 

Caroline shook her head, “that isn’t good.”

 

“No, it is not.”

 

Caroline frowned, “then why don’t you go home? You can.”

 

Andy shrugged, “I just… don’t feel like to.”

 

“Do you know mom?”

 

“Uh, mom?”

 

Caroline nodded, without explaining more.

 

“I… maybe? Who is she?”

 

“Nobody ever asks that.”

 

Before Andy could ask something more, surprised by the answer the kid gave her, a voice interrupted their conversation.

 

“What are you two doing still awake?”

 

Andy turned around to see Miranda approaching them with a soft expression gracing her features. She didn’t sound alarmed or angry, but playful and questioning. She looked at Andy briefly, before stopping beside her, putting a hand on the back of her chair.

 

“So?” She asked, faking impatience.

 

Caroline shrugged, nudging Cassidy awake by kicking her foot a little, “we couldn’t sleep.”

 

“Because you craved for tarts?” She enquired, knowingly.

 

The girls blushed, swinging their feet and making both Miranda and Andy smile genuinely.

 

“Well, you had your food, it’s time to go to sleep, now,” Miranda said, encouraging the girls to follow her with a small smile.

 

The girls jumped off the bench.

 

Caroline kept an eye out for her sister who looked sleepy and unsteady on her feet. She pushed her on stopping in front of their mother who crouched down to fix their clothes and hair, chuckling softly at something Cassidy said.

 

Andy felt special for being a witness to such a soft and genuine scene from Miranda. She looked happy and caring; it was clear that she loved her daughters.

 

As she straightened, she said, “Now let’s get you two to bed.”

 

“I can do it, if you want,” Andy said, not looking directly at Miranda, “so you can return to the party.”

 

Andy felt Miranda focusing her attention on her.

 

“You don’t have to.”

 

“It isn’t a problem,” she smiled, before turning towards the twins, “and we became friends, right girls?”

 

Caroline nodded.

 

“She felt like a fish out of water,” she said, looking curiously at her mother.

 

Andy blushed. Well, she should have expected it, from a kid, and she couldn’t hide the fact that she offered to bring the two girls upstairs to keep away from the party a bit more. She used to babysit, back in Ohio, and she loved being in company of kids: they were always genuine and honest.

 

Miranda lifted her eyebrows, “Really?”

 

She looked back at Andy, amused by the visible blush, “Very well, then.”

 

Andy took the hand that Caroline was offering her and they all followed Miranda through the house, towards the stairs. As she climbed them up, she turned around to give a last look to Miranda who was smiling at her from downstairs.

 

Purple was an amazing colour on her.

 

____

 

 

As she descended the stairs some minutes later, she expected to find herself alone once again, navigating through a strange crowd.

 

When she found Miranda waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs, with two flutes of champagne in hands, she was surprised.

 

She approached her with a rapid step, not wanting to keep her waiting.

 

“You waited for me,” she said, smiling softly as she took the glass Miranda was offering her.

 

“We haven’t got the chance to talk all night, have we?” she said matter-of-factly, looking her up and down to appreciate the way the dress clung to her figure.

 

Andy blushed, “No, we haven’t.”

 

“Were you avoiding me?” She asked, surprising Andy.

 

“What?” She panicked, “No! I- It’s the first time I join a fancy party like this one, I don’t know if- if there are rules and-“

 

Andy noticed that Miranda was hiding a smile behind her glass of champagne and felt her cheeks blush even more. Did she try to fluster her? Oh, well.

 

“A fancy party,” she repeated, still smiling and shaking her head slightly.

 

“Well,” Andy looked down at her glass, “it is, for me.”

 

Miranda leaned back against the white wall, looking at Andy with a pensive look.

 

“You will get used to all of this,” she said, locking eyes with Andy, “If you keep writing astounding articles.”

 

Andy’s attention focused on her lips as she took a sip from her glass.

 

“You really liked it?” She asked, flustered.

 

“Well, it was certainly the first time that a journalist hasn’t called me a bitch in their article,” she shrugged a little, “or a home-wrecker.”

 

In the previous weeks, Andy got to know about Miranda’s reputation: her peers considered her ruthless, cold-hearted and cruel because of her demanding nature and of her disdain of incompetence. It had also earned her nicknames in the press, like The Ice Queen, for her white hair, or The Dragon-Lady.

 

What people hated the most about her, though, were her success and her tendency towards unconventionality. She hadn’t followed the most common path for a woman in the 50s, putting aside the desire for a family to focus on her career. She was the proof that things could and were going to change for women and men didn’t like that.

 

“Well, was it the first article written about you from the perspective of a woman?” Andy asked.

 

Miranda chuckled, hiding her laugh behind her hand, “You would be surprised to learn about how many women hate me out there,” she said, before nodding towards the main room, where most of the guests were, “some of them are here, tonight.”

 

Andy lifted her eyebrows in surprise as she gave a quick look at the crowd. She realised that Miranda was hiding from it, covered by the wall she was leaning onto.

 

“Like whom?”

 

“There’s a woman with an awful yellow dress,” she said, looking at Andy’s lips, “Jacqueline Follet, she’s French,” she said, gesturing with one of her hands, “Nonetheless, she has an awful conservative view on everything.”

 

Andy watched the woman Miranda mentioned and she was surprised to find her wearing a modern, innovative look.

 

“She doesn’t look like it,” she said.

 

“Well, she is good at hiding it.”

 

Andy looked back at Miranda, “I’m glad you liked my article.”

 

Andy noticed the amused expression Miranda was regarding her with and she felt hot: it reminded her of the look that the two girls of the picture exchanged on the newspaper she had read some days before.

 

“And this colour is amazing on you, Miranda,” she heard herself say, before locking eyes with the older woman, again, “It’s all I could think about, all night.”

 

Miranda’s look deepened. Andy thought that only few people could tell the difference.

 

“You should be careful with what you say, Andrea,” she said with a lower and deeper voice, taking her time to roll Andy’s name on her tongue, “one could think that you’ve got a little too involved with your first assignment.”

 

“I am not here for work,” she said, calmly.

 

“No?” Miranda inclined her head.

 

“I don’t exactly know what I’m here for, but you could tell me,” she said, noticing the taken aback look from Miranda, “You invited me here, Miranda.”

 

Before any of them could say more, they both heard someone call for Miranda. Andy watched as she rolled her eyes and straightened, placing the flute of champagne on a small table next to them.

 

“I have to go,” she said, seemingly avoiding their previous conversation, “But I’m sure we will get to know more about each other in the future, Andrea.”

Chapter Text

Andy couldn’t stop thinking about Miranda.

 

As the days passed, she fell deeper and deeper down the hole of admiration and affection for the woman.

 

She thought about Miranda’s promise to meet again, or, better, to get to know more about each other and she couldn’t stop her mind from imagining situations and encounters. Andy wanted to know everything about her, from her past to her deepest fears.

 

She knew it was irrational, but she felt a pull towards her that she had never experienced with anyone. It felt like finally understanding why people lost their minds for love, carrying out actions that were completely illogical to anyone around them.

 

Well, maybe she was being a little too dramatic, but how else could she describe the longing she felt for Miranda?

 

At night, she recalled the conversation they had exchanged at the party: she felt proud for the compliments she had directed to Miranda and she could still feel the tingling sensation that the older woman’s looks have caused in her.

 

She knew that, somehow, she was betraying Nate’s trust, but she couldn’t help herself. She was afraid of losing him, her only fixed point in that terrifying and enormous city, but that woman was like a bad habit she couldn’t, for the love of God, get rid off.

 

Andy didn’t hear from Miranda for a whole week. She didn’t blame her, though, she knew about her demanding job – and it wasn’t like she weren’t busy herself.

 

The next time she heard from her, it was, once again, through a call at the office.

 

She really needed to give her the number of the communal phone of her apartments building.

 

“Andy’s speaking,” she said, leaning against the wall beside the phone.

 

“Good morning, Andrea.”

 

“Miranda,” she acknowledged, smiling warmly at the ceiling, “I expected your call.”

 

“Did you?”

 

“Mh, mh,” she mumbled in affirmation.

 

“I keep my promises,” she said in a smooth and deep voice.

 

Andy couldn’t keep herself from biting her lips at the sound.

 

“Did you enjoy yourself at the party?” Miranda asked, casually.

 

“Yes, it was certainly a rewarding experience,” she said, referring mainly to the understanding of her feeling towards Miranda – and her affinity with her. “A representative of Balmain reached out for an interview.”

 

“That’s impressive,” Miranda answered, continuing only after a pause, “I received a lot of compliments for the little black dress.”

 

“Oh, well, it certainly is splendid.”

 

“No, no,” she replied pointedly, her voice more hoarse than usual, “they were entranced by your figure.”

 

Andy was surprised. She wasn’t sure she understood what Miranda was trying to tell her: people reached out to her, personally, to compliment on Andy’s beauty? Or was that her personal and subtle way to compliment her?

 

She wasn’t sure about the more accurate response.

 

“I- I don’t know what to say,” she confessed.

 

There was a pause at the other end of the line. Andy hoped she didn’t say anything wrong.

 

“I’m having a dinner with Stephen on Friday night,” Miranda stated, matter-of-factly.

 

Andy frowned. She was definitely confused: they were talking about Stephen?

 

“Oh,” she said, once again.

 

“I know that this isn’t…” Miranda stopped, thinking, “ideal, but the girls can’t be left alone yet and…”

 

She paused for a moment.

 

“And?” Andy said, trying to encourage her.

 

“They specifically asked for you,” Miranda’s voice sounded different than usual, more timid.

 

Andy wished she could see her face and the millimetric reactions that could tell her what Miranda was really thinking. She wondered how she had learnt to look so impassive and stoic.

 

“They specifically asked for me,” Andy repeated, sounding unconvinced.

 

“Yes.”

 

Andy smiled at Miranda’s absurd explanation, “will I get to see you?”

 

“Yes,” she sounded more convinced this time, eager.

 

Andy wondered if babysitting a couple of twins would be worth the rapid glimpse she would get of Miranda.

 

She didn’t try to hide her indecisiveness – Miranda could have found a better excuse, honestly – but she knew that their encounter would satisfy her enough for some time.

 

She sighed. “Okay, will Roy pick me up?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“See you on Friday, then, Miranda.”

 

____

 

 

During the rest of the day, Andy pondered the pros and cons of telling Nate about her plans for the night.

 

Babysitting would certainly be less suspicious than going to a party alone: she would be working to get some extra money – it wasn’t like they weren’t in need of them. She didn’t even need to tell him the details about the family she would have worked for; or, at the very least, she could have invented some white lies about it.

 

But Andy knew that she would have felt too guilty this time.

 

So she told him about the job, two nights before she needed to meet Miranda, and he just shrugged in reply, accepting it uncaringly.

 

Andy wondered if he had lost interest in her just like it had happened to her with him.

 

As the days passed and the date got nearer, Andy was glad of having the opportunity to do something useful instead of spending the night alone. With Nate working and coming home late, she would have been overwhelmed by uneasy thoughts and the impulsive desire to leave him, for sure.

 

She couldn’t. She needed stability in order to do so and it would have certainly taken her time to get it through her job.

 

Even if the prospect of not being left alone appeased her, there was something Andy desperately wasn’t looking forward to: meeting Miranda’s husband.

 

The thought of taking care of Miranda’s children as Stephen got the chance to parade her around like an empty golden prize made her immensely jealous. She felt offended on Miranda’s behalf.

 

The fact that Miranda didn’t take her feelings into account made her even crazier.

 

From the conversation she exchanged with Miranda at the party, she had gotten the impression that Miranda knew about her infatuation with her. They even had flirted, hiding from the looks of the other guests… did she get it all wrong?

 

Andy didn’t think so.

 

Maybe Miranda had something in mind – or she just wanted to see her, even for some slight and quick moments.

 

She didn’t know what option could have made her happier and more excited.

 

On Friday night, excited with the prospect of meeting Miranda, she found herself in front of the townhouse, once again, for the third time in a month.

 

There was definitely a pattern.

 

As soon as the door opened in front of her, though, she immediately had to face the worst possibility she had expected for the night: meeting Stephen.

 

She even needed to make small conversation with him, God, she thought, Miranda definitely owed her.

 

“Good evening, Sir,” she said cordially as he let her in the house.

 

“Evening, Miss…?”

 

“Sachs.”

 

He nodded, taking a long and slow look at her. Andy shuffled on her feet, feeling uneasy under his analysing gaze.

 

She desperately wished for Miranda to appear soon.

 

“Do you work for her?” He asked, mentioning Miranda in a weird impersonal way.

 

Andy looked at him and smiled warmly, trying to look harmless, as she often did at the offices when men felt threatened by her presence.

 

“Oh, no,” she said, “I’m a journalist, but I wrote a piece on Miranda a month ago, more or less.”

 

His look hardened, getting suspicious. He seemed distressed and mistrustful.

 

“And you turned to babysitting because…”

 

“I’m doing Miranda a favour,” Andy ignored his implying tone, “and, if I have to be honest, being a female journalist in New York City doesn’t really pay well…” She shrugged to emphasize her words.

 

He didn’t look convinced, but before he could ask more direct questions, he was stopped by footsteps on the stairs. They both turned around.

 

“Here you are, Andrea.” Miranda said, approaching her.

 

Andy felt stunned as Miranda left a few air-kisses near her cheeks, seizing her elbow gently.

 

The change in approach confused her but she played the part Miranda was asking of her.

 

“Thank you for being here, I’ll certainly return the favour,” she said, carefully aiming at her a cold smile, similar to the ones Andy had seen her flash to colleagues and business men at work.

 

Andy nodded, “Ah, don’t worry, Miranda. It’s a pleasure.”

 

She let the designer guiding her through the corridor, feeling the tingling sensation coming back again at the touch of Miranda’s hands on her elbow.

 

“The twins are waiting for you,” she said, pushing her through a door.

 

Andy smiled timidly, overwhelmed by what was happening to her. She definitely was missing something.

 

Miranda stopped her once they were in the living room, “I apologize,” she heard her whisper, with a renewed look that seemed more genuine. “My husband is…” she looked to the side, “a bit distrustful of strangers.”

 

Andy shook her head in reassurance. “It isn’t a problem, Miranda, I’m glad I have the opportunity to see you.”

 

The older woman smiled with a surprisingly tender look in her eyes. Andy felt her cheeks heat just because of it.

 

“We will talk more later,” she reassured, before smoothing out the deep grey dress she was wearing. “Have a good evening, Andrea.”

 

“You too,” she said softly, watching Miranda disappear behind the door.

 

____

 

 

The twins were, surprisingly, of an amazing company.

 

They welcomed Andy warmly, recognizing her and excited to get to know someone new.

 

They were brighter and happier than the last time Andy had seen them. She guessed that the late hour and the boring company of snobbish old men and women could do that to a child: make them sad and overly obedient out of tiredness.

 

That party had weakened even Andy’s usual cheerfulness, so she shouldn’t have been so surprised to see the twins bored and tired.

 

She was glad to have two little bubbles of energies with her that time.

 

Andy learned that of their love for classical dance and that they were taking classes for it. They showed their skills and some choreography to Andy as she cheered them on and laughed at their bickering.

 

They even asked Andy to dance.

 

“Do you like dancing, Andy?” Cassidy asked.

 

“I sure do,” she said, “I even go to clubs sometimes.”

 

“You do? Do you like swing?” They were both looking at her in awe.

 

“Yep,” she said, understanding immediately what they wanted from her, “But it isn’t a dance for you, kids.”

 

“Please!” They shouted at the same time.

 

“Mom loves to dance too.” Caroline said.

 

“Yes, she goes to dance often,” the other twin added, lowering her voice confidentially, “when dad is away.”

 

“Cassidy!” Caroline elbowed her twin, making her shout in pain.

 

Andy was surprised to learn about Miranda’s love for dancing. She wondered how she was like, if she liked some modern swing or if she limited herself strictly to waltz.

 

And what was that about? Miranda going to clubs alone? She couldn’t imagine meeting Miranda in any of the clubs she and Nate usually go to.

 

Maybe she went to some private parties for the elite of New York.

 

As the time passed rapidly, they played, danced and cooked together. Andy was happy to see them being the children they were. It was the proof that Miranda was a good mother and that she cared for them deeply and genuinely, not just for show.

 

Andy brought them to bed as soon as they started yawning and rubbing their eyes, holding Cassidy in her arms while she held Caroline by the hand.

 

They went to bed without protests, yawning and wanting a kiss of goodnight from Andy, who happily gave them little pecks on their foreheads.

 

They were good kids, Andy realised, even if keeping up with them was hard. She liked them and felt real affection for the both of them.

 

She closed the door quietly, glad of having spent an evening with the two girls.

 

The quiet of the evening, though, was immediately broke by the sound of the front door opening. Andy walked to the stairs softly, hearing voices coming from the hallway.

 

“I can’t believe you, Miranda!” Stephen shouted, throwing the car keys forcefully on the console table near the entrance.

 

“What did I do this time?” She sounded bitterly ironic, as if she didn’t have the strength to keep up with another fight.

 

“Oh, don’t play dumb! You know exactly what you did.”

 

Miranda sighed, holding Stephen in place by the elbow to prevent him from storming out of the scene, “Stephen-“

 

“You disrespected me! You humiliated me!” He yelled, making Andy turning around towards the girls’ door, reassuring herself that it was closed. “And in front of a colleague, no less.”

 

Miranda made a dismissive movement of the hand, as if to belittle his words, “I was just trying to being nice to Betty,” she said not looking at him anymore. “He kept making jokes about her status as a housewife as if he hasn’t been the one who made her stay at home and leave her job. I simply couldn’t allow it.”

 

“So what? You decided to belittle your husband to make it even?” Stephen placed himself in front of Miranda to catch her attention again.

 

She looked at him squarely in the eyes, “I was trying to make her feel better.”

 

“And what about me?” He asked, his tone loud and aggressive. “What about my humiliation?”

 

“Get yourself together, Stephen,” she stated bitterly, “I merely stated a fact.”

 

“What-“

 

“A fact.” She interrupted him, angrily shushing him with just two words.

 

Andy had never heard Miranda being that angry before. She had witnessed the annoyed looks she usually sent towards those employees who don’t live up to her expectations or the hurtful and quick sentences she uses to belittle someone because of their incompetence, but she had never heard her as angry as she was with Stephen that night.

 

“Mark called me the other day, he said that at work you can’t even hold yourself together long enough to start reading about a case,” she said approaching him, “that you start drinking as soon as you arrive in your office.”

 

Andy kept as much still as possible. She was hearing things she wasn’t supposed to hear: she felt out of place.

 

“You haven’t worked a case in months, they’re keeping you to do me a favour.”

 

The way she spat out the words made Andy shiver and she wasn’t even the cause of her anger. Somehow, she felt sorry for Stephen – not because of the way Miranda was talking to him, but for his problem. That family was more problematic than she initially thought.

 

“So yes, I am the one who brings the money home for the family.”

 

Stephen replied after a moment of silence, “and what do you think is the reason for that, Miranda?”

 

“Oh, now I am the reason why you’re an alcoholic?” She chuckled hysterically.

 

“No, you aren’t,” he said, his voice getting graver, “but I’m not letting you walk all over me as if I’m the only one with vices here.”

 

Andy looked down as a tense silence crept over the place. From her hiding spot she could see Stephen seizing Miranda’s elbow to keep her in place.

 

“I know about your…” his face was distorted into a disgusted expression, “weakness. It’s the reason why she is here, right?”

 

Miranda didn’t reply, she kept still, never breaking eye contact with him.

 

“The journalist.” He concluded.

 

Miranda inclined her head like a snake seizing up its prey. She got nearer to him, before she started talking, enunciating the words carefully, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

Andy’s breathing faltered. Has he just mentioned her?

 

Andy leaned her head against the wall behind her.

 

Being associated with Miranda’s weakness made Andy feel incredulous. She had a suspicion she knew what Stephen was talking about.

 

It was clear now, to Andy, that everything she had been imagining was true: that Miranda’s looks, the peculiar attention she sent her away and the subtle flirting really meant something deeper.

 

It wasn’t like Andy hadn’t already caught on it, but playing with Miranda’s flirting and reading between the lines was something different than hearing the confirmation of what was happening between them from the lips of Miranda’s husbands.

 

He knew: he knew Miranda liked women and he knew she had an interest in her.

 

Oh, it was all so much dangerous. They could be sent to a psychiatric hospital, they could be… treated for…

 

Andy shook her head.

 

Before their fight could get longer and nastier, Andy seized up her courage and descended the stairs, making as much noise as she could. She didn’t want them to wake up the girls or worse, to go on and on hurting each other uselessly.

 

Moreover, she didn’t want to be the cause of a scene and she started feeling panicky about the whole situation.

 

She descended the stairs rapidly and they noticed her immediately, breaking apart.

 

“The twins are asleep,” she said, simply, hoping that her voice wasn’t too obviously shaking.

 

Stephen hid in the living room, not without sending Andy an irritated look, while Miranda approached her.

 

She seemed rightfully anxious and nervous.

 

“Do you need a ride?” She asked, not even looking at her, opening a drawer in search of something.

 

“Oh, don’t worry, I can call Roy.”

 

“No,” she said, fishing a pair of keys out of the drawer, “I’m driving.”

 

Andy was taken aback. Was she in the condition to drive?

 

She figured that she needed to unwind some of the tension that transpired through the fight with Stephen, but she was a little worried for Miranda’s wellbeing.

 

She followed her nonetheless, surprised to find that they weren’t going to board on the usual Chevrolet.

 

“You have two cars?” She asked, surprised.

 

She didn’t get any response, obviously.

 

Andy sighed. She wondered if Miranda hadn’t known, before, that Stephen was aware of her… sexuality. In that case, both her anger and strange attitude would make sense.

 

Miranda just realised that her deepest and most dangerous secret was out in the open, knowledge of the only person who should have never known about it.

 

Andy couldn’t even imagine how she could feel. She didn’t even try to imagine what would she do if Nate found out about her own secret. She was already anguished and terrified enough.

 

She followed Miranda inside the green Cadillac silently, but she knew that, once they were alone and driving, she wouldn’t have been able to keep everything inside.

 

She was worried about Miranda.

 

She watched the city passing by for some moments, listening to the music on the radio: Only You by The Platters was on.

 

She stole a look towards Miranda.

 

Only you and you alone can thrill me like you do.

 

“The twins have been amazing tonight,” she tried, calmly, as she watched Miranda’s hands on the wheel, “they’re full of energies. They’re really good kids.”

 

“I know,” Miranda replied, not even looking back at Andy.

 

Only you can make this change in me.

 

Andy tried to hide the pain she felt at Miranda’s harshness.

 

She pursed her lips and tried again.

 

“They’re amazing dancers,” she commented, looking straight in front of her, “they would have went on all night, if I hadn’t stopped them.”

 

Miranda didn’t seem to register anything she was saying. Andy started fidgeting with the handle of her purse.

 

For it’s true, you are my destiny.

 

“Are you okay, Miranda?” she asked, even more worried.

 

She didn’t reply, once again, and Andy should have known that it wasn’t the time to show compassion to her.

 

“If there’s anything that I can do-“

 

When you hold my hand, I understand the magic that you do.

 

Miranda rolled her eyes, gripping the wheel tightly, her knuckles turning white.

 

“Yes, there is something you can do for me,” she turned around to face Andy, “shut up.”

 

Andy’s eyes widened as hurt panged in her heart. She watched as Miranda turned to look at the road again as tears formed in her eyes.

 

You’re my dream come true, my one and only you.

 

She sat in silence for the rest of the ride.

 

___

 

 

Andy didn’t cry, once she got home: Nate was already in the bedroom, sleeping.

 

She went straight to the bathroom to take her make-up off. A few tears escaped her eyes, but she didn’t let all the emotions show off. She gathered the tears on her fingertips and hid them away in the running water as if they never fell.

 

She desired, once again, to be alone and to live alone. She wanted to have a place for herself, where she could write, read and cry, without anyone questioning any of her actions.

 

She wanted a place where she could be herself.

 

As she watched Nate sleep through the glazed tears, she realized she felt absolutely nothing for him anymore: all her emotions were taken up by Miranda.

 

___

 

 

Two days passed before she heard of Miranda again and, as much as she had hurt her, she knew she would have gone back for more.

 

She guessed that the magnetic power that woman hold over her was too great to be broken by some petty comebacks said out of anger and stress.

 

She liked Miranda – she wanted her – but she knew she couldn’t let her get away with how she mistreated her. She wasn’t one of her minions or one of the young designers who venerated her without questioning any of her actions.

 

Andy was Miranda’s equal: maybe not career-wise or economically, but they both were human being who deserved kindness. She didn’t know what Miranda wanted to get out of their relationship, nor she understood what she wanted either, but respect was a must in any relationship.

 

She needed it from Miranda.

 

When the secretary finally called her in her office saying that there was a call for her, Andy was ready to tell all of that to the other woman.

 

She lifted the receiver to her ear, once again, waiting for the caller to speak. She didn’t trust her own voice enough to not falter.

 

“Andrea?” Miranda asked, softly.

 

“Yes.” She said.

 

Some moments of silence passed between them and Andy gripped the receiver tight, wanting Miranda to say something: to shout, to say that they couldn’t see each other again or to invite her over again, anything but silence.

 

She was nearly going to shout everything she had been thinking about during the past days, when Miranda finally broke the silence.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Andy’s eyebrows lifted in surprised. Hearing Miranda apologizing was a moment worth of a gasp or of the shuttering of a glass.

 

Here she was: Miranda Priestly, the most feared and dreaded woman in NYC and in the fashion industry apologizing to Andy, a mere apprentice just turned journalist, for hurting her.

 

Andy straightened, even if Miranda couldn’t see her, feeling that maybe, just maybe, she didn’t need to tell her the speech she had been preparing for days.

 

“What is it again?” She asked, smugly, “I didn’t hear you.”

 

The other woman sighed both in relief and fake annoyance, “I said that I apologize, Andrea.”

 

“Good.” Andy said, chuckling, “Thank you, Miranda.”

 

“I do respect you, Andrea,” she said seriously, a deep kind of melancholy coming through her voice, “I know that there is… an age difference between us and that I had been an authority in your life before. But I see you as an equal, a friend that I don’t really know much of, but that I would love to get to know better.”

 

Andy smiled, appreciating her honesty. She thought about what to say for a moment, “I consider you a friend too, Miranda, and I want to know you better.”

 

“So, would you come back to the townhouse tomorrow?”

 

“To the townhouse?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“There won’t be…” she suggested.

 

“No men around, this time,” Miranda reassured, “but there will be the twins, I hope that-“

 

“Don’t worry, I love them.” As I was trying to tell you the other day, she didn’t add.

 

“Okay, then. Tomorrow, as soon as you get off work.”

 

“Alright.”

 

____

 

 

That’s how she found herself sitting in Miranda’s living room for the third time in less than a month.

 

The twins were playing in the small garden, in full view from where she was sitting beside Miranda at the table, watching her work and drawing sketches of a new dress.

 

She contemplated the way her hand held the pencil, the white of her skin and the delicacy of her fingers. She couldn’t believe she had finally free time to spend with Miranda.

 

“Do you like it?” Miranda asked her, referring to the dress she was drawing.

 

“Yes, I really do.” She replied, looking directly at Miranda, unable to think about anything else but their proximity.

 

Miranda smiled, as if she knew.

 

“Maybe you could wear it at the next party I will invite you to.”

 

“Or for someone special.” Andy blushed as she spoke, with her head leaning on her hand on the table. She must have looked like a teenager in love.

 

Miranda regarded her with a curious look, “and who would that be?”

 

“Well, I can’t exactly afford it, so it’d be whoever would gift it to me, don’t you think?”

 

“Mh,” Miranda said, lifting her brows knowingly, “I hope it isn’t Nigel.”

 

Andy chuckled, noticing the small smile Miranda was sending her. “I sure hope it isn’t.”

“And what about your article?” The older woman added, after a small moment of silence, “I see that you’re still writing by hand.”

 

“Yes, they still haven’t given me a typewriter at work,” she said, taking a sip at the iced tea Miranda offered her and the twins earlier, “and I don’t have one at home, so…” she didn’t finish the sentence.

 

Miranda looked at her with a weird determined look, “I’m sure things will get better with time.”

 

“They already are,” Andy said smiling, “getting better, I mean.”

 

Miranda smiled.

 

She stole a rapid look at her children who were bickering. She didn’t seem worried as she looked back at her.

 

“Let me take a look at it.” She said and reached out to grab the papers out of Andy’s hands, without even bothering to wait for an answer.

 

As she her fingers slid against the back of Andy’s hand, she didn’t really care about it.

 

“Mh,” she said as she kept on reading, “I think Balmain will be really pleased with your work.”

 

“Do you really think so?” Andy asked, taking back the papers Miranda was offering her.

 

“I do,” she said, getting up and walking behind Andy. She stopped behind her, leaning in and caressing her bare arms, before whispering near her left ear: “You’re really talented, Andrea.”

 

Andy couldn’t stop herself from blushing with her eyelids fluttering for the feeling she was experiencing for Miranda’s warm closeness.

 

As Miranda broke the proximity, walking away while swaying her hips, Andy felt at a loss.

 

“I’m going to our beach house in The Hamptons in two weeks,” she stated approaching a cabinet and opening it, “with the girls.”

 

“Oh,” Andy said dumbstruck. She hadn’t yet recovered from Miranda’s touch – she had a feeling that the woman in question knew a little too well about the state she was in. “I’m sure it will be beautiful.”

 

“Oh, it always is,” Miranda turned around with a glass of scotch in hand, leaning against the counter.

 

She held the bottle up as if she was asking Andy if she wanted some.

 

Andy shook her head.

 

She already felt drunk enough on Miranda’s presence. She was slowly killing her: the way she was dressed reminded her of Katharine Hepburn and her hatred towards skirts of any kind. She wore a lilac shirt with short sleeves and high-waist pants that fit her a little too well. She hadn’t shoes on and only some black nylon socks covered her feet.

 

It was so domestic that Andy could faint.

 

“I was thinking that you could join us,” she said, looking at her over the glass, “if Cain lets you have a week long vacation.”

 

“Uh,” Andy was shaken out of her reverie, “You would want me with you on a week long vacation?”

 

“Yes,” Miranda didn’t seem offended by the question.

 

Andy thought about spending a whole week with Miranda. God, was she living in one of her daydreams or was it real, for real?

 

The way in which Miranda was looking at her sent shivers down Andy’s spine. She knew that something would happen between them if she accepted to go, but no thoughts of Nate swirled in her mind.

 

The only thing she could think about was the taste of Miranda lips: how could it be? Would her lips be soft? She wondered if kissing a woman was different to kissing a man.

 

“I would love to come with you.” She said, not thinking about it anymore. She feared she would have jumped Miranda right there and then if she didn’t stop herself.

 

“You would love to?” She asked smirking, “Good. Then everything’s settled.”

 

Andy took a sip from her drink and regretted refusing Miranda’s offer for scotch.

Chapter Text

“How are you feeling, girls?” Miranda asked, looking back at them through the rear-view mirror. “We’re almost there.”

 

“We’re okay,” Caroline said, as Cassidy, almost at the same time, exclaimed: “I can’t wait to meet with Judy!”

 

Andy laughed, looking back at them, “I am looking forward to the beach.”

 

“We have a pool!”

 

“You do?” She turned towards Miranda with a wicked gleam in her eyes. “How big is this house, exactly?”

 

The other woman smiled, keeping her sight on the road, “You’ll be surprised.”

 

Andy still couldn’t believe she was going to spend a whole week with Miranda and the twins.

 

She was starting to feel like the protagonist of one of those romantic movies she used to watch at the drive-in with Nate – movies which she never really followed, too distracted by Nate’s lips on her.

 

She couldn’t believe she had become the brunette protagonist who got herself a rich wealthy man who liked to spoil her.

 

Well, Andy was glad to have Miranda by her side: she had never liked rich wealthy men, anyway.

 

She was just surprised to have gotten the attention of a wonderful woman like Miranda, who was now driving beside her on the mint coloured Cadillac, with her red lips turned into a smile and her eyes covered by big fancy sunglasses.

 

Andy was just glad to be there.

 

After everything that she had to do during the previous week to obtain the freedom of a vacancy, she had almost expected for the trip to be cancelled.

 

Not only she had to work twice as hard – and twice as fast – than usual to obtain that free week from Cain, but she had also had to tell Nate about it.

 

The working part had been the easiest out of the two.

 

“You’re going to spend your only free time of the year with the family of the kids you babysit?” He had asked, angrily, as she had been packing.

 

She had decided to let Nate know about her plans at the last minute, to avoid further fights or any other subterfuge Nate would have used to let her stay.

 

“We need the money, Nate.”

 

“No, not that much.”

 

Andy had kept silent, folding a shirt as if nothing was really happening.

 

“And where are you even going?”

 

“To the Hamptons.” She had stated, matter-of-factly.

 

“Woah,” he had said, “that’s some rich family you’ve got there.”

 

Andy hadn’t dared to say anything else.

 

“Are you fucking the husband, Andy?”

 

“What?!” She had exclaimed, disgusted. “How can you even say that?!”

 

“It just seems a bit strange to me that some strangers are inviting you out to their house in the Hamptons to look over their kids.”

 

“Really?” She said, “Babysitters do it all the time: they follow the family on their vacations,” she continued, “They take care of the kids as the parents get some free time together.”

 

Andy had hated the disgusted look in which Nate had been regarding her.

 

“And they don’t have a private and specialized babysitter to do that.”

 

Andy shrugged, “she’s been sick.”

 

“For what? A whole month?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Nate had thrown his hands in the air: “Dear God, Andy! Are you listening to what you’re saying? You’re literally grabbing at straws here.”

 

Andy huffed. “The father won’t even be there,” she said, “I promise.”

 

“What’s the name of the family?”

 

“Nate-“

 

“You can’t even tell me?”

 

“Priestly,” she had shouted to shut him up, “it’s Miranda Priestly’s family.”

 

The way in which Nate had regarded her, the disgusted and shocked look that he had thrown at her, could still make her recoil and shiver, even if she was safe in the car next to the people she was growing to love deeply.

 

He had walked away outside the door that night.

 

She wasn’t sure of what he had understood of her relationships with Miranda.

 

“Is everything alright, Andrea?” Miranda asked, watching her out of the corner of her eyes.

 

“I’m fine,” she fixed the comfortable and large skirt she was wearing, “I’m just too excited.”

 

“We should be there in ten minutes.”

 

Andy spent the rest of the ride talking with the twins.

 

They started to recognize the place and they pointed out at Andy the places they liked and to which they were more linked to, through memories.

 

She still didn’t know what to expect from the week.

 

She certainly knew what she wanted.

 

First of all, she didn’t want to spend her time there babysitting: she had only used that excuse to try to convince Nate, but, as much as she loved the twins, she wanted to spend most of her time with Miranda.

 

Most importantly, she wanted to spend some moments alone with Miranda. To get to know her, for sure, but she would be lying if she said that she didn’t want to see how things would turn out between them in a private situation.

 

She had thought about being with her, about… knowing her in the biblical sense, as they said.

 

God, she had never been such a prude with her male partners before. Why was she being one now?

 

She suspected that inexperience had something to do with it.

 

She knew how to kiss and she knew that kissing a woman mustn’t be so different from what she was used to. But, she was less sure about what to do if things got… heated.

 

Not that she desperately wanted thing to get heated! No.

 

She hadn’t even thought about it. Not once.

 

She was being pathetic.

 

“Earth to Andrea,” Miranda said softly with her velvety voice.

 

She noticed that Miranda was looking at her and that they had stopped in front of a big white metal fence – specifically, in front of an opening gate.

 

She blushed a bit in embarrassment as if she really got caught thinking about having sex with Miranda. Andy knew, though, that as much as the other woman was wonderful, she hadn’t yet developed the ability to read someone else’s mind.

 

She turned her look away, directing it towards the house.

 

It was elegant and modern, with a lawn perfectly cut and a gravelled entrance in front of it. It was painted in a pale cerulean colour with white details. It was enormous.

 

Damn, she really was rich, uh?

 

Andy wondered about how many rooms must have been in there.

 

“So, what do you think?” Miranda asked as they brought the luggage inside.

 

“It’s the biggest house I’ve ever been in, honestly,” Andy confessed, unable to keep surprise from showing in her voice.

 

She noticed the absence of any kind of staff, but she didn’t utter a word about it. She hoped she understood the reason why.

 

“Well,” Miranda continued, “that isn’t really a compliment.”

 

“Uh?”

 

“It may be the biggest house you’ve ever been in, but that doesn’t mean it’s beautiful,” she added, thinking of throwing Andy completely off.

 

But Andy noticed the slight smirk the other woman was directing at her.

 

Was she trying to get her all flustered again?

 

“No, but it implies the prospect of exploring it with you,” she said, getting nearer so she could whisper and be heard clearly, “and I honestly can’t wait.”

 

She didn’t wait for a reply, she just turned around to walk away towards the living room where the twins were already waiting for them.

 

She turned to look at Miranda at the last moment before turning the corner: she caught pure hunger in her eyes.

 

___

 

 

As the girls played in the garden, Miranda poured two glasses of red wine. Andy knew it was expensive just by looking at the label.

 

“You know,” she accepted the glass Miranda was offering her, “trousers give you a domestic look.”

 

Miranda’s brows lifted in surprise as she took a sip from the glass, “a domestic look?”

 

“Mh, mh,” she licked a drop of wine from her own lips, before mumbling to herself: “God, this tastes amazingly.”

 

Miranda inclined her head as she regarded Andy’s lips with an intrigued look: “I’m glad you came with us on this vacation, Andrea.”

 

“I am glad, too. And the twins seem excited.”

 

“Oh,” she chuckled softly, “they just can’t wait to see their friends. I bet that at lunch they’ll ask us to take them to Judy’s.”

 

“Does she live near?”

 

Miranda nodded, leaning against the counter. “She’s the daughter of my neighbours,” she said, “I bet that Cassidy will beg us to let them stay there for a sleepover too.” She looked at her pointedly.

 

Andy didn’t comment on the use of the singular adjective, nor she let Miranda’s look fluster her.

 

“And would we have to stay there too?”

 

“Oh, please, no.” She rolled her eyes: “They’re insufferable.”

 

Andy chuckled slightly at Miranda’s dramatic gestures.

 

As she spent more and more time with her, she understood that that was her personal way of joking and teasing. She found it kind of cute.

 

“But,” Miranda said, turning around to stir the pasta she was boiling, “we will spend that time together that I’ve been promising you.”

 

“To get to know each other,” Andy said, hiding her smile by taking a sip from her wine.

 

“Yes, to get to know each other.”

 

Andy could spend hours listening to the Miranda’s implying tone.

 

She watched as the other woman turned to lean against the counter with her hip, tapping her fingers on the marble.

 

“How is your boyfriend?” She asked, “I seem to recall that he was… a chef.”

 

Andy’s smile faltered and she nodded almost imperceptibly.

 

“Last time that I saw him, we had a fight.” She looked to the side, “I don’t even know if I’ll find him home by the time I’ll be back to the city.”

 

Miranda didn’t try to console her, nor she asked more about him. She looked pensive and she couldn’t stop tapping her fingers against the marble of the counter.

 

Only when they locked eyes once again, Andy understood why: she had the suspicion of being the cause of the fight. The question was written in the way she was looking at her.

 

She didn’t deny it.

 

“And how’s Stephen?” She asked instead.

 

Miranda shrugged as her eyes hardened: “He’s out on a business trip.”

 

“Really?” Wasn’t he a lawyer?

 

“Well, that’s what he told me, anyway.”

 

Andy nodded.

 

She knew that their relationship was fucked up, but it was certainly more complicated than it appeared. She couldn’t even begin to understand the layers of lies that rest between the two of them.

 

She wasn’t even sure she wanted to know the details about it.

 

Andy knew, though, that she hated seeing Miranda upset, tensed, clenching her jaw; so she did the only thing that came to mind.

 

She got near her, facing the counter and she shyly reached out to caress Miranda’s hand with her little finger. She was tentative at first, but once she registered the other woman relaxing, she took courage and enveloped her hand in hers, caressing it and drawing little circles on her skins with her thumb.

 

Miranda looked up at her with an affectionate look in her eyes.

 

She wished for more soft moments like it.

 

____

 

 

Later in the afternoon, as they came back from a walk through the city, Andy felt happier than she had ever been in her life.

 

Or, better, she felt that kind of happiness that people experience as they feel at peace, safe, typical of summer days or childhood.

 

She was finally alone with Miranda, as the twins were staying to their friend’s.

 

She expected to fret in anticipation as they walked back to Miranda’s villa, but she felt so greatly and comfortable in her company that she could have spent the whole week just talk and walk beside her.

 

She just couldn’t get enough of her presence.

 

“Ah,” Miranda said as they entered the living room, “I need to drink.”

 

“Can I bring you something?” Andy jokingly asked as Miranda got rid of her shoes and walked straight to the sofa.

 

“Oh, please! Anything from that cabinet behind you.”

 

Andy lifted her eyebrows in surprise at the request. She gladly turned around to fish out a scotch, even if that unhealthy behaviour stunned her.

 

She poured two fingers of the golden liquid in the glass.

 

She didn’t have a clue if she chose the right stuff.

 

“Are you aware that it’s 5 pm?” She said, offering the glass to Miranda, who was already sitting with her legs propped up on the sofa.

 

“Don’t you know they lied to you?” She smirked. “Alcohol is great at any time of the day.”

 

“Mh,” she wasn’t really convinced.

 

“Don’t you want something too?” She was turned with her whole body towards her. She had her arm propped up on the back of the sofa as she leaned with her head on her hand. She was looking at Andy curiously.

 

“No, it’s fine.”

 

“People like me,” she said, looking at the glass that she was pointedly lifting in the air between them, “are usually uncomfortable around those who don’t drink.”

 

“Should I get something, then?” Andy asked.

 

“Oh no,” she shook her head. “I am the one at fault here.”

 

They looked at each other for a short moment.

 

Miranda seemed on the verge of confessing something important, that’s why Andy tried to stay as silent as possible, letting her talk.

 

“We just… envy those people who can live their feelings and emotions freely, that’s why we often try to bring you down with us.”

 

“Do you really think that of me?” Does she really think that of herself? “I don’t live my emotions as freely as you think, Miranda. More often than not, I just ignore them.”

 

“But you can’t ignore them for long, right?”

 

She wasn’t sure she could handle the intense look Miranda was giving her.

 

“No,” she shrugged, “it isn’t their fault, really. They just are: they exist alongside fear.”

 

Miranda paused, thinking for a long moment, before she proceeded to put the glass on the small table next to them.

 

Andy hoped she interpreted their conversation right: they weren’t just talking. They were discussing that thing between them that had been hanging in the air for weeks now.

 

As much as nervousness hadn’t took control of her in the previous hours, she couldn’t help but feeling her hands tremble a bit in anticipation. She tried to hide it by squeezing one hand in the other.

 

The distance between the two of them on the sofa was smaller than she initially thought. Andy could lean in easily to kiss her. She obviously couldn’t.

 

“And how are you feeling now, Andrea? Are you ignoring the truth or do you feel brave enough to unveil it?”

 

“The fear is still there,” she looked directly at Miranda, her eyes looked even bluer at that small distance, “but I’m tired of ignoring what I feel.”

 

She kept still as she waited for Miranda to make her next move.

 

She didn’t have to wait for long.

 

The other woman leaned in, reaching out with her hand to caress her, as if she was putting a strand of hair behind her ear.

 

She wondered if it would have happened more if she had longer hair.

 

She was so focused on the feeling of the tip of Miranda’s fingers caressing her hair, that once their lips touched, it felt almost unexpected.

 

Her breathing stopped as their lips moved together. Miranda’s lips were soft against hers and she could taste the expensive scotch that she had been drinking just a moment before.

 

She didn’t want Miranda to stop.

 

She grabbed her shirt to keep her in place as she licked Miranda’s lips. She heard her moan and she took advantage to slide her tongue against her.

 

They kissed for long moments, breaking apart only slightly to regain breath.

 

Miranda’s hands flew almost immediately to her neck and collarbones and Andy wondered briefly if she had been thinking about touching and kissing her neck the whole time they had known each other.

 

As she smiled against Miranda’s lips, she did what she had been wanting since she had realized of being attracted to her: she touched her white hair, sliding her fingers through it, caressing Miranda’s scalp.

 

They broke apart.

 

“Is it the first time?” Miranda asked.

 

“Uh?”

 

She had to stop doing that!

 

“That you kiss a woman.”

 

“Yes,” she said breathlessly.

 

“It doesn’t seem like it.”

 

Wait, she thought, what was that supposed to mean?

 

“Really?”

 

“You’re a bit… domineering,” she said with a small smirk on her lips; Andy took it as a good sign.

 

“Oh… Can we get back to it?”

 

Miranda chuckled softly at her impatience and eagerness.

 

It wasn’t her fault, okay? She finally had Miranda between her arms: she wasn’t planning on letting her go so easily.

 

“Yes,” her eyes traced the line of her neck, “but I want to kiss your neck.”

 

Andy shivered from the intense and hungered way in which Miranda was looking at her: “It’s all yours.”

 

She was glad of feeling her lips on her jaw almost immediately.

 

___

 

 

Andy was sure she died and ended up in heaven – granted, she didn’t know what she’d done in her past to deserve that kind of treatment from a goddess like Miranda, but she was glad she did it.

 

As soon as Miranda’s lips had assaulted her jaw and neck, Andy had felt herself losing reason and clarity.

 

Not that she was complaining.

 

After small moments, they ended up lying down on the sofa with Miranda in between Andy’s legs, kissing and biting her neck. She teased her, licking her skin near the collarbones and biting on it.

 

Andy felt her whole body tremble with shivers of pleasure. She felt wet and she desperately wanted to feel and touch Miranda, but, as much as the other woman had called her domineering, she was hesitating, unsure of what to do.

 

Miranda’s lips felt softer and better on her than what she was used to. The weight of her body felt reassuring and anchoring, even if she desperately wanted the clothes to be gone.

 

Yet, she didn’t take any initiative, even if she wanted to. She was just lying there letting Miranda kiss and bite her. She didn’t know why.

 

Miranda looked up at her as she kissed her chest. She broke the kiss to look straight at Andy, leaning on her own forearms.

 

Her hair looked roughed, with some strands falling down on her forehead. She looked amazingly.

 

“Andrea,” she called.

 

“Mh?” She tried to look unphased by it.

 

“Is everything okay?”

 

She sighed: “Yes.”

 

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

 

“I know.”

 

“You don’t have to do anything for me.”

 

“But I want to!” Andy exclaimed.

 

“I’m glad to hear that.” She smiled softly, “I just meant that I’m okay with… playing with you for a little while, if you’d let me.”

 

Andy felt on fire. Who wouldn’t, honestly? Miranda was on her, telling her that she wanted to take her time to tease her and to do anything she had been imagining to do and she shouldn’t have freaked out, even a little bit?

 

“I’m definitely more than okay with that.” She couldn’t contain her smile.

 

Miranda’s look lingered on her lips, “good,” she said as she leaned in to kiss Andy once more.

 

She trailed a line of kisses down her neck as she unbuttoned her shirt. It felt like a long and pleasurable torture that she couldn’t get enough of.

 

Once her shirt was opened, Miranda continued the trail of kisses, licking her skin and smiling as Andy moaned in pleasure. She focused on her breast, biting softly the skin left exposed by the bra.

 

She looked up deviously. “May I?”

 

Andy felt her fingers tugging at the hook of the bra in question.

 

“Yes.”

 

She was sure she had never felt more breathless.

 

Once her whole chest was exposed to Miranda, as her clothes were discarded on the floor, she felt exposed. She wasn’t necessarily uncomfortable; she just feared Miranda’s judgement.

 

The hunger in her eyes, as she took a look at her, reassured her well enough.

 

She kissed one of her breast, “I want you”, she whispered, making Andy shiver at the perception of her breath on her naked skin.

 

“Please,” Andy whined.

 

She kissed and teased at her skin and nipple for a while, feeling it hardening and enjoying her moans and gasps of pleasure.

 

“Your beauty is indescribable, Andrea.” She said, opening the belt and buttons of her skirt. “It nearly made me go mad.”

 

“What?” She asked dumbly, she would have been more articulate, if it weren’t for the overwhelming feeling of having Miranda divest her.

 

“At the party, with that damn dress,” she tugged down on the skirt, “I could see their looks on you, taking you in,” she finally got rid of it. “Those slimy and greedy men, ugh! It was driving me mad.”

 

So, that’s what she meant on the phone-call!

 

“I didn’t even notice them, I only had eyes for you.” She arched up as Miranda bit her stomach, kissing her down some more, “I hated him, because he could dance with you freely and he could hold you in front of all those people and I-”

 

“You went to the garden,” she whispered on her skin, “because you couldn’t take it anymore.”

 

Andy nodded.

 

Miranda looked at her from in between her legs, “I hate his hands on me.”

 

Why do you stay with him, then? She wanted to ask, but she didn’t because Miranda got her completely naked.

 

She bit the inside of her leg making her gasp. “Has your boyfriend ever done this to you?” She asked, kissing her groin, never taking her eyes away from hers.

 

Andy suspected she knew what she was referring to.

 

“Oh, God. I don’t want to think about him at the moment.”

 

Miranda chuckled. “Don’t worry, soon you won’t be able to think about anything but me.”

 

Andy wished she could describe how she felt once Miranda’s lips touched her clit, but she couldn’t find words. She couldn’t stop whimpering and moaning as she sucked on it or swiped her tongue on her.

 

She didn’t remember of being so vocal during sex. Maybe it was just Miranda’s effect on her.

 

Not one of her previous partners had ever made her feel that kind of pleasure. Her senses were on fire.

 

“Please,” she told Miranda.

 

Miranda kept sucking and licking as she looked up at her deviously. Her hands were holding her thighs, bruising her.

 

Andy arched up as she came on Miranda’s tongue, whimpering and breathlessly trying to say her name.

 

Miranda kissed her chin gently, smiling as she looked at her as she regained some clarity.

 

“I’m not finished,” she promised, kissing her lips.

 

“Mh,” Andy mumbled, making the other woman chuckle, “just a moment.”

 

“So, it is true: you got yourself a little too involved with your first assignment.”

 

Andy huffed playfully, “God, Miranda!”

 

“They do call me that some times.”

 

She looked up at her, after laughing some more. She caressed her cheek with the back of her hand, smiling sadly.

 

“You’re not the cause of my downfall, Miranda.” She reassured her, “For one thing, I’m here on my own volition. Moreover, I’ve never felt happier.”

 

“Mh,” she mumbled appreciatively.

 

She leaned down to kiss her deeply once more.

 

Tasting herself on Miranda’s mouth could easily become an addiction.

 

___

 

 

“So, I think there’s a certain elephant in the room that we haven’t yet discussed.” Andy said, peering down at Miranda as she leaned on her elbow.

 

They had migrated to the bed shortly after the kiss, feeling giddy and excited at the prospect of learning how to give each other pleasure.

 

“Do you, now?”

 

Andy loved the unkept hair Miranda was sporting then.

 

“It’s clear enough that this has been my first time with a woman.”

 

Miranda nodded.

 

“Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but I gathered that the same doesn’t apply to you.”

 

You knew a little too well how to handle things down there, was what Andy didn’t say out loud, fortunately.

 

Miranda huffed. “Are you really asking me about my past experiences?”

 

“Well, not in details!” She really didn’t want to know: she knew it would overwhelm her and she didn’t want to get overly jealous after one day of their relationship.

 

Miranda hesitated.

 

After a moment she sighed and sat up, covering herself with the cotton bed sheet.

 

“I’ve been with women before,” she stated clearly, “because I am a lesbian.”

 

“Okay, I got that.”

 

Miranda didn’t seem convinced at all.

 

“We’re here, together, it is clear to me that you like women.”

 

“It’s more complicated than that: I only like women.”

 

“Oh!”

 

Oh! That made sense. Well, in part.

 

If she only liked women, why was she with Stephen?

 

She looked up at her and she realized that she was waiting for Andy to ask all the questions she wanted to and she was waiting patiently, ready to answer.

 

“Why are you with Stephen?”

 

Miranda shrugged, looking to the side. “Because it’s the perfect cover.”

 

“I don’t think I understand.”

 

“What do you know about sexualities, Andrea?”

 

“Very little,” she was embarrassed to confess that truth, “I know only what I feel and the general view of certain sexualities.”

 

The other woman nodded in understanding. She didn’t judge her and Andy appreciated it greatly. She knew she lack contest, but the reality of not being heterosexual was revealed to her just weeks ago.

 

“You have loved your boyfriend in the past, right?”

 

Andy nodded.

 

“And you had felt attracted to him.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Then, you aren’t a lesbian, Andrea. You just happen to like both men and women, but for me it’s different.”

 

She continued. “When I was younger I easily avoided marriage, thanks to the war – if I even can say that. It was also easier to… entertain certain relationships and to hide them too. But then things changed and I still was at the beginning of my career and I couldn’t risk anybody spreading rumours. Moreover, I needed to get the support of some investors and having a husband and the prospect of a family helped in getting their trust.”

 

“So I found Stephen, who was more supportive at the time, more… loving. He agreed to let me keep my work, but he wanted kids and I wasn’t against that idea: I wanted them too, I just never thought I could have them. He has always known that there was… something going on with me, since I rarely agreed to sex, but he blamed it on work and my “obsession” with my career. He turned to cheating soon enough to let me be.”

 

“We settled into a routine of lies and of acting as if nothing was happening. But something must have changed, lately, that’s why he is resentful.”

 

Andy listened intently to everything Miranda was telling her.

 

She couldn’t believe she had to agree to a marriage, to fake love for someone to hide her truth.

 

To hide herself, she realized.

 

“Why didn’t you try to get divorce?”

 

“Because it isn’t easy for a woman to get one and I was worried that he would find out about my sexuality.”

 

Andy nodded.

 

Miranda looked upset and Andy got closer to give her warmth and a comforting presence.

 

“But now he knows and I hope he doesn’t hate me enough to take my kids away.”

 

She hugged her close, leaning her forehead against her shoulder.

 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to make you upset.”

 

Miranda shook her head. “No, I had to tell you about my life sooner or later.”

 

Andy smiled and kissed her shoulder. “So, that clears up why you’re still with Stephen, but what about your lovers?”

 

“Oh, God, I’m not telling you about them,” she chuckled.

 

“So there have been lovers: and more than one.”

 

Miranda turned towards her, “Well, there are different ways to get to know people like us today.”

 

“There are?”

 

She nodded. “Maybe I’m going to show you.”

 

Andy kissed her neck, “do you want me to get another lover?”

 

“No, but it could give us a chance to dance together,” Miranda inclined her head to give Andy more access, “in public.”

 

Andy stopped and looked up at her curiously, “really?”

 

Miranda nodded.

 

Andy imagined holding her as they danced slowly to the music surrounded by strangers.

 

As they sat in bed, it felt like an impossible dream, something unattainable that Andy could only want, but never have.

 

That's how she had felt about kissing Miranda, though, or even about holding her, and yet there she was, sitting on her bed, naked, next to her as much naked lover.

 

Things were changing for her: she was discovering a new reality that made her feel alive, wanted and free, and she couldn't wait to explore it all with Miranda.

Chapter Text

“What should I wear?” Andy asked, peering up at Miranda with a soft smile and curious eyes. 

 

She enjoyed the feeling of Miranda’s skin against her: their legs were tangled under the sheets and, as she hold her close, Andy couldn’t stop focusing on the points in which their bodies touched. They were lit up and on fire. 

 

She watched carefully as Miranda laughed out loud, making the most marvelous sound. She could feel the older woman’s belly tremble under her arm. 

 

Miranda’s instinct to throw her head back along with the laugh was the cutest thing Andy had ever seen. 

 

“That is what you’re worried about?”

 

“Shouldn’t I always be worried about my appearances, Mrs. Priestly?”

 

Andy didn’t know what exactly made Miranda’s look soften. 

 

Maybe her words had betrayed her real thoughts and worries. Maybe Miranda knew her even more than herself, already imagining the nervousness that would have gotten over her as soon as they stepped out of the house together. Or, maybe, she thought she was being too naive, like only a young heart can be. 

 

All Andy knew was that nobody had ever looked at her with such a soft look and she couldn’t help feeling appreciated.

 

Miranda was delicate as she left a featherlight kiss on her lips. Her movements were slow but deliberate as she licked Andy’s lips, sliding her tongue on hers and angling her head to better deepen the kiss. 

 

Andy let her lead once again, enjoying the mind-blowing experience. 

 

“I can’t wait to show you off,” is all she said, leaving Andy breathless.

 

_____

 

 

Andy adjusted the way the skirt fell around her legs. 

 

Looking in the mirror, she felt beautiful and feminine, even with the hair cut short. Miranda lended her one of her own creations again. It was a cocktail dress, less elegant than the one she wore at her party, but still slim and sophisticated. 

 

She knew she ought to feel more nervous, but she trusted Miranda and her need of privacy. It was a trust that didn’t derive from a good feeling, but from the reassurance that Miranda would have never risked her own career and lifestyle for someone like Andy. She kind of felt worthless in comparison to Miranda’s life and achievements, but she tried desperately not to think about the hurt and disappointment that awaited her at the end of their relationship. 

 

She wanted to enjoy those moments of peace and truth, without thinking about her future and the consequences, no matter how devastating they could be. 

 

She hoped she wasn’t being too reckless. 

 

“Let me take a look at you,” a soft voice ordered from behind her. 

 

Andy turned around. 

 

She swore she could feel Miranda’s gaze on her, taking her in from her naked feet to her naked neck. 

 

She noticed Miranda’s look turning possessive and proud, as if she felt satisfied with Andy’s skin covered in her design and the product of her mind. It was sensual and dangerous. Andy would have let her stake her claim on her without a complain. 

 

“It fits you like a glove,” she said, “you could easily become my muse, Andrea.”

 

Andy let Miranda caress her cheek gently, before replying, “you’re wrong.”

 

“Pardon?”

 

“A muse is unexpected, like an obsession,” she said, bringing Miranda closer by the belt loops of her dark trousers, “you can’t choose a muse, she just… happens.”

 

As Andy tried to close the distance between the two of them, Miranda backed away with a small smirk covering her lips. They looked at each other for a moment in silence, before Miranda spoke again. 

 

“Then I stand for what I said, Andrea,” she said finally, before leaving a kiss on her lips. 

 

She took Andy’s hand gently and pulled, leading her towards the bed, “but my muse still needs some lipstick.”

 

Andy chuckled, “and what about all those kisses you promised me?” 

 

She enjoyed Miranda’s good mood.

 

“It fulfills the purpose,” she sat down on the bed, motioning for Andy to do the same as she searched for something in a small purse, “I can have fun smearing it as much as I want.”

 

“You’re unbelievable.”

 

“Mhh.” She opened the lipstick to taint the brush a little.

 

“And possessive!” Andy laughed. 

 

“And you’ll learn to love it,” she replied, holding her chin in between two fingers, “now, don’t move.”

 

As Andy stood still, feeling the soft touches of the brush painting her lips, asking herself if she felt ready to take such a big step with Miranda. 

 

______

 

 

Andy observed the still horizon of the ocean as Miranda softly told her about a tale from her work, something incredulously embarrassing Nigel did. 

 

She turned around to look at her as Miranda drove. 

 

Andy wondered if she was trying to soften the tension, to distract her from her thoughts. It felt like one of those conversations that paramedics entertain with patients, trying to calm them down on the way to the hospital.

 

She felt stupid for thinking that Miranda couldn’t have doubts and fears. She was human just like every other person, she was just good at hiding it.

 

“Are you nervous?” Andy interrupted.

 

Miranda froze for a moment, clenching her fists around the steering wheel. “No,” she said, “I’ve told you, it isn’t exactly my first time.”

 

Her arrogance sting. Andy didn’t back down.

 

“You know it doesn’t matter.”

 

Miranda kept looking forward with a hardened expression. Andy didn’t utter a word, waiting for the other woman to finally tell the truth.

 

“Andrea…” she sighed, taking a rapid look at her before admitting, “I am nervous.”

 

“If you aren’t sure-“

 

“But not about the place or it’s safety,” Miranda interrupted.

 

“About what, then?”

 

Miranda fidgeted for a slight moment that Andy managed to catch.

 

“I’m nervous about doing this with you,” she confessed, finally.

 

Andy was left speechless. She stayed still, waiting for an explanation, while her heart missed a beat.

 

“You have to understand that it’s been a while for me too,” her hands shifted around the steering wheel, “it’s been years since I have felt this good with someone, that I have felt safe enough with someone to let them near me, to let them know me.”

 

Andy’s heart was filled with uncontrollable joy and excitement: she finally understood. She couldn’t help but feel like Miranda’s words were more than a confession about her anxiety. Miranda wasn’t good at handling emotions, let alone expressing them, but Andy was good enough at reading between the lines and understanding the older woman’s reasoning.

 

She smiled happily, finally feeling equal to her. She wasn’t the only one inexperienced, who needed guidance through this… relationship they were having. They just were lacking in different areas. 

 

In simpler words, they completed each other.

 

“Do you believe that I know you?”

 

Miranda looked puzzled, she looked back at her for a slight moment worriedly.

 

Andy flashed a small but warm smile at her to comfort her.

 

She looked back at the road and as a smile appeared on her features too, she said: “more than anyone else, Andrea.”

 

Andy laughed softly.

 

She stared at Miranda for the rest of the trip, noticing all the details of her hands, face and neck, thinking that there were a lot of mysteries that she had still yet to solve about her lover.

 

And she couldn’t wait to explore them.

 

_____

 

 

The place Miranda brought her to was far less fancy than she had expected.

 

From the outside, it looked like a small light colored cabin in the woods. The small patio was decorated with soft colored lights, two benches and some flowers. 

 

She guessed the anonymity fitted the secrecy.

 

Miranda brought her in by holding her hand, making her feel like a teenager sneaking away from the crowd, searching for a dark place to kiss their summer crush. Miranda seemed excited and she couldn’t stop smiling. Andy wished she could make her feel like this more often, her whole demeanor changed when she was truly happy.

 

They knocked at the main door, waiting patiently for an answer.

 

“Who is it?” Someone asked from the other side of the door.

 

“Archianase,*” She replied, squeezing Andy’s hand.

 

Andy furrowed her brows at the weird name. It was obviously a passcode, but a weird passcode at that.

 

The door opened and a small tough woman with short hair came out gasping, “Miranda!” 

 

“Maria,” Miranda said, without shying away from the hug the other woman welcomed her with.

 

Andy watched the scene, surprised.

 

“Long time no see!” Maria exclaimed.

 

“It’s honestly been too long.”

 

“You left your butch friend here all alone,” she chuckled, “all the young ones are a mess, I’m telling you. They don’t have any idea of what secrecy means,” she sighed, “I have so much to tell you!” 

 

“Can’t wait to hear about all the disasters you’re responsible for. How’s Lucy?”

 

Maria made a weird gesture, wincing, “it’s old news.”

 

They chatted for some small moments while Andy watched mesmerized. Miranda seemed like another person: happier, free, but most importantly at ease. 

 

She felt warm for a rapid moment: she was being allowed to see the real Miranda, the one that was usually buried under bitterness and coldness.

 

Coldness that had never been really directed at Andy.

 

When Maria finally took notice of Andy, she gave her a long look, sporting a malicious smile: “And who’s this babe?”

 

Andy blushed at the nickname, “I’m Andrea, but everyone calls me Andy.”

 

“Does Miranda call you ‘Andy’ too?” She asked with a disbelieving glare.

 

“No, she is the only one allowed to call me Andrea,” she winked, “there’s a difference, you know.”

 

Maria directed a knowing look at Miranda, “I see that your tastes haven’t changed”

 

“Why should I change something that already works perfectly fine?”

 

“Alright,” Maria sighed, putting her hands up in the air in defeat, “I think it’s time to get inside.”

 

As they begun following her, Andy felt an arm around her waist. She closed her eyes for a brief moment to enjoy the sensation. Keeping everything a secret seems natural until you realize how much you’re losing because of it. And yet, she had never felt so overwhelmed just by a simple touch like that, nor she had ever felt so excited to share simple and intimate touches with someone. She would never exchange it for anything else.

 

The cabin from the inside looked exactly like Andy had expected. Maybe even better.

 

The shiny floors, the bright lights and the expensive seating were mesmerizing. That place could have been easily mistaken for one of the most glamorous and fanciest bars in NYC, filled with the best dressed women in town.

 

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Miranda said, stroking circles on her hip with her thumb.

 

“I-“ Andy sighed, not knowing what to say, “it’s beautiful.”

 

“Mhh,” Miranda hummed, leaving a small kiss on her neck, “let’s go dancing, first.”

 

“No drinks?”

 

“I told you, I need to show you off. And I need to do it now.”

 

Andy laughed, letting Miranda guide her through the crowd.

 

“Are you sure?” She asked, letting her bring them closer, “you don’t even feel slightly jealous?”

 

Miranda laughed again and Andy realized that she had never heard her laugh so much before.  

 

“Why would I be jealous?” She asked, pulling Andy close, “You’re wearing a dress I specifically made for you, you’re flush against my body and you happen to have only eyes for me, right?”

 

Andy nodded, smiling at the other woman’s lifted eyebrow.

 

“There’s no reason to be jealous of,” their foreheads touched, “everything is where it should be.”

 

The issue was that, with their lips so close, almost touching - in public - Andy couldn’t understand her anymore.

 

She still couldn’t believe they were so close in public. She could feel all the eyes in the room on them, even if it wasn’t probably true - nobody would waste their time in a secret but magical place like that by staring at strangers, neglecting their lovers. 

 

Miranda’s body was really flushed against hers. The other woman was holding her close with a hand on her waist, the other holding Andy’s left hand. Their foreheads touched and Andy could feel her breath on her while her own heartbeat sped up.

 

Just like that, she had the realization that what was happening was real.

 

In the past few months, she had been dreaming about touching Miranda, about letting her worship her own body and even about spending useless time together, playing with the twins, taking care of them.

 

She had never dared to imagine to touch Miranda in public, though. It was just too risky, too real and, well, impossible.

 

Pure foolishness, really.

 

And as it happened in real life, she finally realized what had happened in the past few days. Everything came back at her, making her hot and delirious.

 

And as their lips were so close, Andy dared to finally let herself hope.

 

“You’re different,” Andy blurted out with a small broken voice.

 

She couldn’t master the courage to tell Miranda the truth, not out loud, nor explicitly.

 

“Mh?”

 

“You’re different when you’re with me,” they didn’t stop moving slowly to the song, no matter its rhythm, “you’re different when you’re free.”

 

“How different? Better?” Miranda whispered, they were closed enough that nobody else could hear them.

 

“No, no.” Their nose bumped and Andy slipped a hand on the back of Miranda’s neck, “Just different. No values. And I’m honored that you let me see you like this.”

 

Andy hoped Miranda understood the meaning of her words: a reply to the hidden love declaration Miranda confessed earlier in the car. Because maybe she had been doubting about a lot of things lately, but she couldn’t help but being sure about the meaning of her lover’s words. 

 

The smile she felt against her own lips as they kissed was certainly a good sign.

 

____

 

 

“Is it okay if I do this? In public?” Miranda asked, caressing her thigh.

 

She was devouring her neck and the visible places of her chest.

 

“Yeah, good, perfect, alright!” Andy said breathlessly as she put a finger under the other woman’s chin to guide her lips towards her own.

 

They ended up in a booth on the side of the ballroom. The leather seats were awful for that kind of activity in the heat of summer. The friction of her skin on it… Andy tried not to think about it.

 

“Listen, don’t take this the wrong way but,” Andy pushed against Miranda’s shoulders, “I’ve got to do something.”

 

Miranda looked at her questioningly.

 

Andy straddled her, sighing, “here, thank God.”

 

“Not a fan of leather seats?”

 

“Yes, exactly,” she leaned in to share a small kiss, “Let’s go on.”

 

She felt brave enough to let Miranda’s hands slip slightly under the skirt of her cocktail dress. 

 

_____

 

 

“I need a drink,” Miranda said, stopping Andy from biting her shoulder.

 

“Now?”

 

“Yes or I won’t be able to restrain myself.”

 

Miranda said it with such gravity that Andy laughed out loud as she watched her partner disappear in the crowd.

 

_____

 

“What’s ‘Archianase’?” Andy asked the third night they spent at the cabin, as Miranda treaded her fingers through her short hair.

 

She was leaning against the back of the leather seats, looking up at the older woman.

 

“Who’s Archianase,” she corrected.

 

Andy shrugged, “well, who’s… she?”

 

Miranda smiled, her eyes gleaming as they were illuminated by the colorful lights. She let her index finger caress Andy’s cheek. 

 

“A muse.” She finally said.

 

Andy furrowed her brows again in confusion.

 

“She was one of Sappho’s muses, a young woman she fell in love with.”

 

“Oh,” Andy nodded, “she wrote poetry about her, then.”

 

Miranda smiled, “some of her best pieces, actually. Have you ever read one of her poems?”

 

“No,” she bit her lips, “I guess I will try.”

 

“You don’t have to, although I wonder how it would be to read them now.”

 

“Now?”

 

She nodded, “Now that I’m in love with you.”

 

_____

 

 

"It's a bathroom," Andy said, feeling Miranda's fingers reaching the fabric of her panties.

 

"Yes," she licked the skin on her chest.

 

“Anyone could walk in,” Andy looked at the door startlingly.

 

“They could.”

 

Andy had definitely never done anything like that with anyone before.

 

And thank God, not with Nate.

 

She felt foolish and as if she lost control a bit. She felt great, free and she knew that only Miranda could make her feel like that.

 

"Alright, okay, fuck," Andy gasped as Miranda slipped a finger in her entrance, "Go on, please."

 

Miranda smiled against her skin, “I guess the drink didn’t help.”

 

Andy moaned, tightening her grip on Miranda’s arms, “it definitely helped, not in the expected way, though.”

 

_____

 

 

Andy let the wind coming from the open window sooth her: she felt hot and sweaty.

 

They had spent the night having sex, like most nights since the start of the vacation. She couldn’t complain, honestly.

 

She hugged her pillow tighter, remembering Miranda’s lips on her skin, sucking her, biting her. 

 

She bit her own lips.

 

Miranda had been desperate, clinging on her and torturing her, breaking Andy’s own promise to do the same to her and to take care of her. Andy had let her, there was some time left, after all. 

 

As they were traveling home from the cabin, they had a weird conversation which Andy still had to fully understand. 

 

"Andrea," Miranda had whispered as if she had been scared to wake her up, but couldn't refrain to get her attention again.

 

"I'm awake," she had opened one eye, "what's up?"

 

Miranda had shook her head slightly, “I just need to tell you something.”

 

“Are you breaking up with me?” She had joked.

 

Miranda had sighed, “please, Andrea.”

 

She had straightened, fearing the tension that ruled over her lover’s features, “okay, alright, I’m all ears.”

 

“It isn’t probably the best conversation to have in a car, but I want to thank you,” Miranda had sighed.

 

“Thank me?”

 

“Yes,” she had pursed her lips, “you’re making me feel alive and real after a long time. Something I didn’t expect to be anymore, not after…”

 

Andy had sighed, smiling, “you don’t have to thank me for anything, Miranda,” she had caressed her hand on the shift, “you know this goes both ways, right? You know that I love you.”

 

Miranda’s brows had furrowed, “I know I love you, Andrea, but it’s going to take some time before I fully realize that what you’re saying is true. Not because I don’t trust you…”

 

“I know, I understand.”

 

Miranda had gripped the steering wheel tighter.

 

“But maybe I could show you, mh? When we get home,” Andy had reached out, caressing Miranda’s neck softly, “I think it’s time for me to take care of you. Just like you did for me the first time we’ve been together.”

 

Miranda had sighed, “you’re making me lose focus,” she said smugly.

 

“I’ll restrain myself, then, unlike someone else.”

 

Andy tried to push all her fears away, hiding them behind the joy she had been experiencing with Miranda.

 

She had always known that her relationship with Miranda was heading towards a dead-end, but she had been hoping to live it fully for a little more time. At least for that whole week.

 

She jumped as she heard a weird sound coming from downstairs.

 

She immediately thought about the kids, turning around to reach out for Miranda but the place on the bed next to her was empty.

 

“Miranda?” She called, straightening.

 

An angry shout.

 

They were hitting that dead-end a little too soon.