Chapter 1: Look, don't touch.
“You will both come to the benefit tonight,” Miranda said, standing there between her two assistants.
Andrea sighed and typed a quick text message to Nate: hey, sorry, but i have to go to the benefit w/ M tonight. i’ll make it up to you, i promise. wait up for me. happy birthday! :-*
Miranda cleared her throat and the girl quickly flipped her phone over, realizing the editor had probably seen the text she just sent to Nate.
The phone buzzed on the desk, but Andrea ignored it.
Miranda looked at Andrea, raising an eyebrow, but the girl didn’t take the bait. “Will you just answer your pathetic boyfriend already?” the editor said.
Andrea folded her arms across her chest. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, moving to stand between the editor and the phone.
Miranda rolled her eyes and stormed back into her office. “Have Nigel do your hair and makeup, will you? I can’t have a Raggedy Ann following me around all night.”
Andrea sighed. “Yes, Miranda,” she said, snatching her phone and heading back towards the Closet.
Miranda took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of her nose. Why had she insisted the young woman attend tonight? Yes, Emily was under the weather, but she was still perfectly capable, she thought. Miranda picked up the phone and dialed the Art Director’s extension.
“Yes, Miranda?” he answered.
“Put her in the Valentino, the cap-sleeve. With a red lip,” she said, hanging up the phone before he could respond.
She wanted nothing more than for the night to be over. Jacqueline showed up early. Stephen showed up drunk. And it had been a mistake to bring Andrea; she couldn’t think clearly with the brunette so close. Maybe had she actually been dressed like Raggedy Ann, she wouldn’t have been such a…distraction.
“Hey—what does it take to get a drink around here!?”
Miranda took a deep breath and sprung into action, taking her husband’s arm and leading him away from the group. “Stephen, honey, please,” she said, softly placing her hand on his chest.
“What about you?” he slurred, pointing to Elias-Clarke Chairman Irv Ravitz. “They’d have to listen to you, little man!”
Miranda firmly grasped his shirt and turned him around. “Dance with me,” she said. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and sighed when he finally stopped shouting.
Looking up, she met eyes with the brunette, who was casually talking to her boss. Thank you, she mouthed.
Miranda closed her eyes and pressed her cheek to her husband’s chest, desperately trying to rid her mind of images of the young woman and her come-hither wink. “Ohh!” she gasped, feeling Stephen pull her tightly against the straining bulge in his pants.
“I want to fuck you right here, Mira,” he whispered into her ear.
“Oh god,” she groaned and pulled back.
“Hey—” he shouted again.
She saw heads turning in their direction, so she quickly kissed him on the cheek and whispered to him, “I want you to take me…in the backseat of the car.”
His eyes lit up and he led her towards the exit. Andrea must have been watching them, because she met them at the door with Miranda’s wrap.
“Will there be anything else this evening?” she asked. Her concern was written all over her face.
“No,” she said. “Wait—actually, call me immediately if that contract with Pierre comes in,” she added, looking pointedly at the young woman.
After a few seconds, Andrea’s features softened. “Will do. Have a good evening,” she said.
Miranda followed her husband. While she was typically grateful to escape the spotlight, tonight she entered the car with apprehension. She knew she could only delay the inevitable so long, and she prayed that she could at least hold him off until they reached the privacy of their home.
“M’randa,” he slurred, pulling her onto his lap.
“Stephen, darling—please,” she said. Unable to wriggle out of his grip, she reached her hand down and cupped his bulge, softly raking her nails across the taut fabric of his pants. “Stephen, let go,” she said, squeezing him gently.
And on command, he did.
Thankfully, it was a short ride from the Met to the townhouse. Once they were inside and the door was locked, Miranda was much more comfortable. Knowing her daughters were at their father’s for the weekend, she playfully led her husband upstairs and into the bedroom, pausing only to carefully step out of her designer gown.
Afterwards, she lay in bed staring up at the ceiling. He was no longer enough for her. Had he ever really been enough? She knew the answer to that. The sound of her ringing cell phone broke her train of thought.
“Let it go,” he groaned, reaching his arm across his wife’s body.
“I can’t,” she said, crawling out of bed and slipping into her silk robe. “I have an empire to run. Yes?” she answered.
“Hi, Miranda. I’m so sorry to bother you, but, um…”
“Is there a point to this phone call?”
“Sorry. Yes, that contract with Pierre—” the young woman said, pausing. “It came through, but it’s a mess. I can’t make heads or tails of it. I know you wanted to be notified,” she said.
“Yes, well, I see. That is unfortunate. And there’s no way this can be handled over the phone? I have to see it in person?”
“Uhh, um… I mean… I don’t know?”
Miranda rolled her eyes. “Fine. Bring it by in ten minutes.” She ended the call and looked over at her husband. “I’m sorry, but—”
“I know. Your empire calls,” he said. “Go on.”
Miranda made her way downstairs, picking up the items of clothing they had previously discarded. She made herself a cup of hot tea and was walking back into the foyer when she heard the door open.
Andrea was still in her couture, her lips as red and as plump as ever. She clutched the folder to her chest as if her life depended on it—and who knew, maybe it did.
Miranda took the folder and opened it, flipping through the pages of their standard form contract with photographers. About halfway through, there was a post-it with a note that caught her attention: Is everything okay? Are you hurt? Tell me to call Nigel if you want the police involved. Ask for Emily if you need me to stay.
Her eyes darted up and met the girl’s. She glanced up at the staircase before speaking.
“I am fine,” she said quietly. “Your midwestern values are rather charming, Andrea.”
“I don’t understand. I thought you wanted—”
“To see you?”
“—me to—wait, what?”
“I will not repeat myself.” Miranda folded her arms over her chest and leaned against the wall. “You look stunning tonight, you know.”
“Really?” Her voice squeaked.
Miranda smiled and nodded. “I couldn’t say anything before,” she added, gently brushing the woman’s arm. “You need to leave.”
“Oh, uh, alright,” she said, picking up the folder from the table. “I will see you Monday, unless there’s anything else?”
“Tell Pierre I need to see a revised draft by tomorrow night—that’s all,” she said, turning around and heading back up the stairs.
Once the front door closed, she felt a crippling sense of panic wash over her. What on earth was she doing, toying with her assistant like that? That smart, fat girl was liable to sue her for harassment.
“Nate, how many times do I have to explain? I don’t have an hourly job. There’s no being ‘off’ work. I’m always on,” she said. “Look, I had to stop at Runway to get something for Miranda. I will be home soon,” she added, ending the call.
She climbed the steps of the townhouse and fished out her key, opening the door and silently walking into the foyer. There was no sign of Miranda, but before she left, she sent a quick text message: I brought the revision from Pierre. -AS
The editor replied immediately. Where are you?
In thirty seconds, Miranda emerged from the top of the staircase, just as Andrea was removing her camel trench coat. She gasped and froze, gripping the banister tightly with her hand.
“Hi, Miranda,” the young woman smiled. “I brought the revisions from Pierre.”
Miranda couldn’t focus on whatever else was coming from her mouth. The only thing she could think about was how badly she wanted to put her mouth on the girl’s nipples. That she had the audacity to wear such a sheer dress with no undergarments whatsoever was beyond surprising. “Andrea, are you—”
“Wearing the de la Renta? Yes,” she said, smiling.
Miranda didn’t think it was possible, but the girl’s nipples seemed to harden under her gaze. She was spilling out of the dress. It was two sizes too small in the bust, but while Miranda would never put this on the pages of her magazine, she couldn’t deny that it was incredibly sexy to see the woman’s smooth, creamy white skin, so full against the offending fabric.
“Helloo?” the girl said, waving her hand in front of the editor’s eyes. “Did you still want to see this?”
Miranda snatched the folder from her hands and flipped through the pages. She tried to seem disinterested, but the trained eye could probably tell she was looking for another note from the young woman. And sure enough, on the last page, she found another post-it: Does this dress look okay?
Miranda felt her throat go dry. It was an involuntary response, licking her lips like that, but it didn’t matter because it definitely answered the young woman’s question.
She stepped closer and reached across for the folder. Miranda’s hand twitched at her side as she forced it still. How did that saying go? Look, but don’t touch? That is what she would have to do.
Chapter 2: Caught in the act
Every day after the girl learned the editor’s weakness, she seemed to be teasing Miranda. Daring her to steal a glance, to let her eyes linger a bit longer, to brush up against her in passing. On one occasion, Miranda walked straight into her desk and spilled her coffee because she was too busy eyeing the young woman over her shoulder.
“See that I’m not disturbed this afternoon,” Miranda said, walking into her office and taking a seat at her desk. It was Friday. When she pulled up her email, she was surprised to see a note from Andrea. Is everything okay? it read. Leave it to the young woman to be so caring, she thought. She quickly replied, explaining that she woke with a migraine this morning, took medication, and is now feeling some residual pain and tiredness. It was more explanation than she liked to give, but, well, Andrea would likely not settle for anything less.
For the most part, the afternoon went by quickly, and in the quiet, she was able to look over the layouts with a fresh set of eyes. She also overheard Andrea discussing her boyfriend—“Nate,” a line cook at some unknown restaurant—with Emily, but parts of the conversation were too quiet to hear. Not that she wanted to know; she didn’t care what the young woman did with her free time, she reminded herself.
That evening, Miranda was leaving for Los Angeles. She told her staff she was taking the long weekend off in Palm Springs, but in reality, she was interviewing a new Accessories Editor for Runway. Jocelyn had to go, but she learned her lesson and decided to have someone ready to step in before she fired the woman.
When she returned Sunday evening, she set down her travel bag and hung her jacket in the closet. “Stephen? Girls? I’m home,” she called, only to be met with silence. Sighing, she kicked off her heels and reached for the book, smiling when she saw a post-it sticking out of the cover. Left a bag for you in your closet. Hope you had a restful weekend.
Miranda couldn’t help but smile at the note from the young woman. She reached into the closet and found a small shopping bag on the floor. Inside was her favorite peppermint tea, a bath bomb from Lush, a silk eye mask, a battery-powered massager, and a drugstore romance novel. She chuckled at the title of the book: Caught in the Act.
As was becoming habit, she flipped through the pages of the book, searching for another note from the young woman. This time, it was scribbled with pencil on the last page of the book: Use the massager to relieve the tension in your neck & shoulders. Trust me.
She took a deep breath, ripping the page out of the book, crumpling it up with the other post-it. She carried her things upstairs and unpacked her suitcase. It was strange that her husband and daughters were not around, so she picked up the phone and called the girls’ father.
“James, it’s me. Are the girls still with you?” Miranda asked.
“Yeah—didn’t you get the text?”
“No. I was out of town, and my phone is off. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s great. I was going to drop them off earlier, but there was no one home. The girls thought Stephen might have been on a business trip or something, so they grabbed their stuff for school and I’ll just take them from here tomorrow,” he explained.
She pursed her lips. “Well, I’m home now if you want me to come pick them up.”
“No, they just showered and are already in their pajamas. You can pick them up from school,” he added.
“Okay, thanks, James. Can I talk to them for a minute?”
James put the girls on, and after Miranda said goodnight to her daughters, she turned on her cell phone. She had been trying to avoid the messages all weekend, but in doing so, apparently missed some important ones. Stephen had sent a message that he had to see his uncle and wouldn’t be back until Monday. Sending him a quick text to let him know she was home and going to bed, she took the bag from Andrea into the bathroom and began to draw a bath.
On Monday morning, as expected, there was a list a mile long—all things that needed her approval or opinion, and hers alone. She was feeling pleasantly refreshed, having slept a full eight hours the night before. And the the little massager did wonders for her tension headache.
When Andrea returned from her morning errands, she paused outside the editor’s door. Emily was away from her desk, and Miranda could feel the girl’s eyes on her.
“Yes, Andrea?” she said, focusing on the article on her desk.
“Sorry, I, uh,” she checked to make sure no one was around, then stepped inside the woman’s office. “You look good today. I take it you had a relaxing weekend?” she asked quietly.
At this Miranda chuckled and pushed away from her desk. “Last night, anyway. Stephen was called away so James kept the girls, and I had peace and quiet in the house.”
“Do you still have a headache?”
“No, I do not. Next time you’re out, pick up some more batteries for that thing—just to keep on hand,” she said.
Just then, Nigel breezed through the doors. “Batteries? Did your Mr. Priestly conk out on you?” he teased.
“Nigel Kipling! I’m shocked that you are actually jealous of my husband. It’s sad, really. I’d hate for the others to find out,” she said, fluttering her eyes at him.
“Damn, you win. Did you see my edits on page two?” he said, pointing to the article.
“Yes, and I agree with the first one,” she said. She was vaguely aware of the brunette leaving the office, but she knew that in order to get anything accomplished today, she needed to keep her distance.
Finally, around six o’clock, Miranda left the office and gave Andrea strict instructions not to bring the book before 8:30 PM, even though she doubted it would be ready.
Despite having had a wonderful night sleep on Sunday, Miranda’s exhaustion from the previous days was wearing on her. When she got home, Cara was in the kitchen finishing up dinner and the girls were working on homework upstairs. Miranda went upstairs to say hello, then excused herself to her room, where she kicked off her shoes and curled up on the bed, quickly falling asleep.
Stephen came home around 7:30 and joined them for dinner. There was a “mixer” coming up at Dalton the following weekend, so that was all the girls were talking about. After they finished, they went upstairs to get ready for bed, and Stephen joined Miranda in the kitchen.
“Sorry I missed you last night,” he said, coming up behind her and softly kissing her cheek.
She smiled and reached over in an attempt to put their dinner plates in the dishwasher, but his strong arms tugged her back. “Stephen, the dishes—”
“Cara will handle it in the morning. That’s what we pay her for, isn’t it?” he asked, nuzzling her neck.
“Please—I can’t sleep with dirty dishes in the sink,” she said, pulling away from his grip.
“You’re a little crazy, you know?” he said, smirking.
Miranda frowned as she continued putting the dishes away. “Are you trying to insult me? Because it’s working.”
“I’ll get that,” he said, reaching under the cabinet for a dishwasher tablet. He pushed a few buttons and closed the door. “There, all clean. Now what’s your excuse?”
Miranda looked up at the clock—it would be at least an hour before Andrea brought the book, so she couldn’t very well feign work. “Why do I need an excuse?” she asked, walking out of the kitchen and turning out the lights. She proceeded through the first floor of the house, turning out all the lights except for the dim lamp in the foyer.
She made her way upstairs and said goodnight to the girls, then joined her husband in their bedroom, where he had already picked out what he wanted her to wear.
“I’m not comfortable in that,” she said, pointing at the bed. “You know that.”
He looked up at her with puppy-dog eyes and dropped to his knees. “Please? For me?”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. Give me a few minutes,” she added, grabbing the barely-there lingerie and heading into the bathroom to change. She was wearing the skimpy thong and strappy, cut-out bra for him, but at least she threw a semi-sheer robe over it. The lights were turned down and he was sitting on the edge of the bed in his boxers and socks, flipping through the TV channels.
“Really?” Miranda asked. “I thought you wanted sex tonight?”
He grinned and turned to her. “Oh, I do. I’m just finding a suitable action-packed movie that won’t make the girls suspicious if we get loud.”
Her eyes widened. “We?”
“Well, me, anyway,” he said, reaching for her hand.
Some time later, once Stephen was fast asleep, Miranda’s throat was parched. The water pitcher at her bedside was empty, so she went downstairs to refill it—except she didn’t expect walking to be so painful.
“Ahh,” she hissed, biting her lip as she carefully made her way down the stairs in her bare feet. At the base of the stairs, she was started by a figure in the dark hallway and dropped the glass pitcher.
The shattering glass caused both women to shriek, and Andrea quickly turned on the hall light.
“Oh gosh! Miranda, don’t move. Let me get the broom and get this glass cleaned up,” she said, quickly stepping over the fragments and heading for the utility closet. When she returned, she didn’t even look up—just meticulously swept up all fragments of glass she could possibly find.
“Thank you,” Miranda said as she swept. “I was just getting some water—I wasn’t expecting to see anyone,” she said, suddenly pulling her semi-sheer robe tighter across her chest.
Andrea smiled and finally took in what the editor was wearing. The young woman hummed in appreciation as her eyes roamed the editor’s body. She twirled her fingers, indicating the woman to turn around, and when she did, the young woman gasped.
“You look incredible, Miranda,” she whispered.
The editor blushed and pushed past her, hobbling down the last few steps and into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of filtered water.
“Why are you—oh god,” the young woman bit her lip.
“What are you oh-god-ing now?” Miranda asked, taking a drink of water.
“You’re walking funny, almost limping. It’s as if—”
“As if what?” Miranda said, clearly not thinking straight.
“As if you just had…really…er, rough sex,” she said, cringing.
“Rough sex” was not a phrase Miranda needed to hear the brunette say, especially when they were alone in her kitchen in the middle of the night—and she was nearly naked.
“You’re okay, right?” she asked, cringing again.
Miranda wondered if she was cringing at the sex or the roughness. Regardless, she needed to diffuse the situation. “I’m fine. Tomorrow, call and book me a massage for later this week. I just have a few muscle cramps, that’s all,” she said. She walked out of the kitchen and back towards the stairs, breezing past the woman. Despite the pain, she was determined to show her she was fine.
“Ahhh, fuck!” she hissed, climbing onto the first stair.
Andrea was at her side in a second, wrapping her arm around the woman’s waist and helping her up the remaining stairs. When they reached the top of the staircase, Miranda grabbed her hand and pulled it away. “Not a word, Andrea. I will see you tomorrow.”
Andrea nodded. “Promise he didn’t hurt you?” she whispered.
Miranda rolled her eyes. “I promise. Good night,” she said, pulling her hand back and quietly making her way down the hall to her room.
“Honey? Who was that?” Stephen asked.
“Oh, um, no one. I dropped the pitcher and had to clean it up, that’s all. Now, goodnight,” she said, crawling back into bed with him. Her husband curled up behind her, draping his arm over her waist—and yet all she could think about was Andrea.
The next morning, Stephen had already left by the time Miranda woke. She was still sore from their activities—really sore. To the point that she considered whether she needed to go see a doctor. She grimaced as she tried to lunge and stretch her aching muscles. Taking two ibuprofen, she finished dressing and selected an insanely high pair of heels. If anyone thought she was walking funny today, they would have to attribute it to the outrageous platform stilettos.
When she arrived at the office, Andrea was on the phone, which meant she was able to walk straight into the inner sanctum without so much as a word to the brunette. In fact, she kept her bag and jacket, tossing them on one of the chairs before making her way behind her desk.
She took a sip of her coffee and began flipping through the New York Times when she noticed a small shopping bag out of the corner of her eye. It was oddly placed just inside her private restroom, and suddenly, Miranda was intrigued.
Leaving the Times on the desk, she crossed her office and picked up the bag, looking inside.
“Ohh!” she gasped. “Andrea?!”
The brunette quickly appeared, not saying a word.
“Andrea, would you care to explain what this is doing in my office?”
“Um, technically, it was in the bathroom—”
“Sorry. I was trying to be discrete. I think it will help you,” she said quickly.
“This is from you?”
The young woman bit her lip and nodded.
“But, w-what—” the editor stammered.
“It’s a dildo.”
“Oh god! Will you shut up?” Miranda hissed, pulling the young woman by the arm into the small bathroom and shutting the door. “Are you trying to announce this to the entire office? I know what this thing is. What I do not understand is why I am holding it in my hand, here at Runway.”
The young woman sighed. “Last night—I thought—”
“You thought what?!”
“I recognized the way you were limping. It seemed like it wasn’t, uh, pleasurable it for you. This will help—just a little bit before, you know. If nothing else, it will help you from getting, uh, dry.”
Miranda licked her lip and carefully placed the silicone back into the bag on the bathroom counter. “Andrea, on what planet is it appropriate to gift your boss a sex toy?”
“Um, I’m sorry. I can take it back—I’ll get it out of here—”
Miranda grasped the bag and pointed at the door. “Out. Leave.”
“Are you firing me over this?!”
“No—I just—I need you out of my sight today,” she said, pinching the bridge of her nose.
The young woman nodded and hurried out the door, grabbing her bag and heading for the elevators.
“Where do you think you are going? Andrea!” Emily called after her.
Miranda shut the bathroom door and leaned against the wall. Was she overreacting? It was a meaningless object, and Andrea really was just doing what she was paid to do—anticipate the editor’s needs. Still, Miranda was unsettled—more at her own reaction than the gift itself.
As expected, the young woman stayed out of sight for the rest of the day. When it was time to leave and Emily was getting her coat from the closet, Miranda said, “Emily, you will deliver the book tonight.”
“And see that she,” she said, pointing at Andrea’s desk, “is back and ready to work tomorrow if she still wishes to be employed in this city. That’s all.”
In the car, she looked down in her purse and saw the bag from the young woman. She may have been going insane, but that didn’t mean the gift was unappreciated.
Several days went by, and because of an issue with an upcoming shoot, Miranda was beyond busy. Stressed didn’t even begin to describe her mood. For once, she was grateful that the girls would be at their father’s this weekend and she could take some time to relax.
On Friday at 4pm, she left the office with strict instructions that she was not to be bothered at home unless it was an actual emergency. She waved off delivery of the book Friday and Saturday, giving the production team the extra time that was necessary to make changes. She would spend the next twenty-four hours relaxing and not thinking about work until Sunday evening.
When her car pulled up to her house, she quickly climbed the steps and let herself in. Cara had just finished dinner, and Miranda sent her, too, home for the weekend.
Her husband was still at work—and would likely be late because he was entertaining clients—so she took advantage of the peaceful house. She wrapped up dinner and put it in the refrigerator for tomorrow, turned down the lights, turned on some music, poured herself a drink, and took a luxurious bubble bath.
Afterwards, she toweled off and wrapped her short silk robe around her body. She poured herself another drink. It was still early—only eight o’clock—and she finally gave in to her own curiosity and pulled out a small bag from the cabinet beneath the sink. Taking a deep breath, she took the item out of the bag and pulled a small piece of paper out with it.
Wash in hot water with mild soap before each use. Break ampoule of lubricant (included) and apply liberally. Gently stimulate genitals with your fingers. Softly press dildo to labia, applying pressure in a circular motion. Breathe deeply, exhaling for 2-3 seconds. Penetrate slowly, first shallow, then deep. Find what’s most pleasurable to you. Gently twist base of dildo once inside to enable vibration.
Miranda was surprised that a sex toy came with such thorough instructions, but never having purchased one herself, she didn’t think much of it. She washed it in the sink with some baby shampoo and towel-dried it. Inside the bag, she found several foil-wrapped ampoules. Removing one, she turned out the bathroom light and crawled into her bed, setting her things on the nightstand.
She reread the instructions, then turned out the light. Taking a few deep breaths, she reminded herself that she was simply doing this to release the intolerable tension she was feeling.
At the first touch of the lubricant to her folds, she inhaled sharply. The cool gel sent shivers up her spine as she spread her legs a tiny bit wider for easier access. Once the lube was applied, she began moving her fingers in a circular motion. Even in the dark of her bedroom, she was embarrassed knowing that the only other time she’d ever touched herself like this was when she was pregnant with the girls.
Next, she reached for the toy. She applied the remaining gel to the tip, then gently pressed it between her legs, moving it back and forth across her folds. Focusing on deep breaths, she gently bit her lower lip as she pushed the dildo inside.
The feeling took her breath away. She pushed it all the way inside and her eyes shot open. It felt nothing like the penetration she’d experienced with men—it was somehow softer, and better. Her body was on fire. She moved the dildo in and out, dragging it against her aching bud each time.
Her left hand found its way up to her breast and she gently squeezed. It wasn’t enough. She pinched and tugged on her nipple, crying out at the shocks flowing through her body. With her middle finger, she twisted the base of the dildo, causing powerful vibrations to shoot through the device, and through her body.
“Oh god!” she cried as her hips bucked off the mattress. “Oh, fuck! Unnghhh!” she groaned. “Oh god, oh god, oh god!”
Silence came over her as her back arched off the bed. It felt like an out-of-body experience.
She heard a grunt on the other side of the room and pushed herself up on her elbows to see who was there. “Stephen?” she gasped. “Are you—?” Once her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could see clearly that he was standing in the doorway with his hand in his boxers. “Oh god,” she groaned, flopping back on the mattress.
“Miranda, that was incredible,” he said, approaching the bed.
“Mm-hmm,” she muttered, pulling the dildo out and setting it on a coaster on the nightstand.
He quickly took his shirt and pants off and climbed in bed next to her, draping his arm over her waist.
“No,” she groaned, turning away from him and removing his hand. “I’m exhausted.”
She didn’t hear his response, because for the first time in what felt like years, she was sound asleep.
thanks for reading! let me know if you liked it! :)
Chapter 4: The touch of your hand
The following Monday, the two assistants were busy preparing for World War Three when Miranda arrived, unannounced.
“Good morning, girls. Emily, take this over to layout,” she said, handing her the book. “And Andrea,” she added, taking her coat off and handing it to the brunette, “don’t bother with Starbucks—I had quite enough coffee at home this morning.”
Andrea took the coat and hung it in the closet, wondering what time the editor must have been awake for multiple cups of coffee before 6:30am.
“Andrea,” Miranda added, poking her head around the corner of her office. “There’s a gala on Thursday evening for the Arts Council. You’ll come with me.”
“But we declined that invitation months ago,” Andrea said. “You didn’t want—”
“Yes, yes, I know. I got a call over the weekend notifying me I would be receiving some award or distinction,” she said flinging her hand in the hair. “They wanted to change the date of the event to fit my schedule, so it’s easier for everyone if I just go.”
“Right. I’ll begin putting a book together with the names and faces. Do you have a dress or shall I have some samples sent over?” Andrea asked.
“No, I’ll wear something I already have. It’s formal, but not a fashion event. But you,” she said, “have Nigel figure something out for you. Maybe a black lacy long sleeve number.”
The next evening, while Andrea was laying in bed with Nate, her phone rang.
“Seriously, Andy? What the fuck? Can’t you turn that off?” he groaned.
“I’m sorry—it’s my job,” she said, quickly answering. “Hello, Miranda?”
“Andrea? I—I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything.”
“You weren’t. What can I do for you?” she said, running her hand through her hair.
“Do you remember that satin Valentino gown? The black satin one?”
“Uh, yeah I think so. It’s still at the dry cleaners, I think.” Andrea said.
“Yes. I think it would be suitable for the gala Thursday,” she said.
“Oh, um, okay. I can get it back, no problem. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Nigel yet about my own, but I will.”
After a few moments of silence, Miranda said, “I also found something for you to wear, Andrea. Nigel will take care of the accessories, so be sure to go see him tomorrow.”
“Okay, I will. Thanks,” she said. “Um, was there anything else?”
“No, that’s all.” Miranda pulled the phone away but didn’t end the call, and to her surprise, neither did Andrea.
“I just do not understand that woman,” Andrea said.
“Mmm, neither do I,” a man’s voice said. There was some rustling, and then he added, “But I should thank her for waking you up. Otherwise, Natey-Matey doesn’t get to have any fun.”
“Ugh,” Andrea grunted. “No, stop. Nate, I mean it. I’ve got a long day at work tomorrow and I need to be up early.”
“Oh come on, babe, aren’t you all hot and bothered after the way that woman talks to you? Come on—at least suck me.”
Miranda grimaced at the thought of the beautiful brunette with that disrespectful young man.
“You’re disgusting,” Andrea said. After another rustling sound, she added, “I’m going to sleep on the couch.”
Miranda couldn’t help but smile at the young woman’s response. Just then, she heard the front door slam shut.
“Miranda? Miranda, are you upstairs?” he called.
She gasped and pulled the phone away from her ear, quickly ending the call and tossing it on the couch as she got up and ran to the stairs. “Shh—the girls are asleep!”
Andrea looked down at the screen of her phone and gasped, realizing that Miranda had just ended the call and probably heard her entire conversation with Nate. She took a deep breath and sent Miranda a text: I’ll schedule time with Nigel to review the dress for the gala tomorrow. Did you need to review the changes from Pierre tonight?
Stephen was walking into the second-floor study when her phone dinged with a message. “You’re still working?” he asked.
Miranda nodded and reached for her phone. “I have been going nonstop since this morning,” she added, reading the text from the young woman. “How was your dinner?”
“You probably didn’t even know I was gone,” he said.
Miranda rolled her eyes. “You had dinner with Walter and Michael and that client from Saudi Arabia. You had reservations at Delmonico’s at 7, and presumably went somewhere after. Maybe the St. Regis?” she said, noticing the way his tie and collar were loosened. “I may not be the best wife, but do not accuse me of not paying attention,” she added.
She quickly sent a reply text to Andrea: That’s good. No, I’ll work on Pierre’s edits tomorrow. Goodnight.
The next day at the office was so busy, Miranda didn’t even have a chance to talk to Andrea. She had back to back meetings, and whenever she returned to her office, Andrea was always out on an errand. But somehow, her dress for the gala arrived in her office, freshly cleaned. Her scarf drawer was refilled. Her lunch was delivered on time, as was her afternoon latte. She didn’t think much about it as she focused on the stack of paperwork on her desk, until she ran into the young woman downstairs in the lobby as she was on her way out.
“Goodnight, Miranda,” she said, quickly walking by.
“Wait,” Miranda said, uncharacteristically stopping in the middle of the lobby. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, just busy today,” she said. “I’ve got a few things to finish up. Did you get the Book?”
“No, it wasn’t ready—but it’s fine. I have other plans this evening,” she said. When Andrea raised an eyebrow, she quickly offered an explanation. “Caroline came home from school early because she wasn’t feeling well—I promised I’d watch a movie with her tonight.” She wasn’t sure why she was suddenly explaining herself to her assistant, but there she was.
“Aw, that’s sweet. I hope she feels better—call me if you need anything. I’ll be here for a while, so I can drop the book off later if you need.”
“You better not,” Miranda said, thinking that Stephen would be home and after he caught her working late the previous night, and knowing she had the gala to attend Thursday.
“I will let you know when I’m leaving. I can meet you or even Stephen on the porch to deliver it if it’s easier. You decide, okay? I gotta run,” she said, hurrying upstairs.
Miranda could see that something else was going on, but didn’t want to push the young woman—not tonight. Not when she had her family to get home to.
That evening, after a dinner of chicken noodle soup and salad, Miranda put on her silk pajamas and put Caroline’s favorite movie, Cinderella, on the TV in her room. Stephen carried her upstairs and gently set her down on their bed, grabbed his own pajamas, and stepped out of the bedroom.
It was just after 9:00pm when Miranda’s phone chirped with a text message.
“Who’s that? Is it work?” Caroline asked. The movie had already ended, but she wanted to lay in her mom’s bed for a while longer so they were watching the news.
“Yes, darling, but it’s not important. It’s probably Andrea letting me know she’s leaving and asking if I need the book,” Miranda explained.
“Don’t you bring that home now?”
“Usually I do, but today I knew you weren’t feeling well, so I wanted to be home with you,” she said, pressing a kiss to the top of the young girl’s head and brushing her hair back out of her eyes.
“Aren’t you going to read it even?”
Miranda picked up the phone and handed it to Caroline. “See? Just what I thought,” she said. On the screen was a text from Andrea: M, leaving EC shortly. Shall I bring the book?
Caroline pressed a few buttons on the phone, and suddenly they were staring at Andrea over FaceTime. “Hi Andy!”
“Oh, um, hi Caroline. Are you feeling better? And does your mom know you’re calling me?” Andrea asked.
Miranda draped her arm around her daughter and kissed her on the cheek. “She is doing much better, and yes, mom knows…now,” she added, raising her eyebrow at Caroline.
“Oh, good. Okay, so, um, do you want me to bring the book tonight?”
“No, I’ll review it in the morning. For the gala tomorrow night, I will be getting ready here at home, then Stephen and I will ride together. I will need my dress picked up from the dry cleaners—Nigel has yours. Can you meet us there by 6:30?” Miranda asked.
“Oh, Stephen is coming? Okay, um, yeah. Sure. Perfect. I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodnight, Caroline!”
“Night, Andy!” she said, waving at the phone before ending the call.
“Caroline, honey, please don’t call people from Mommy’s phone like that again—not without asking first, okay?” she said, brushing the hair from her daughter’s forehead.
“But I like her, Mom.”
“I do, too, but you still have to ask. Andrea is a very very good assistant, but I would never tell her that.”
“Well,” Miranda explained, “if I let her think she impresses me, she won’t try as hard. Imagine if you got A’s on your first Algebra exam. How would you feel going into the next exam?”
“Like I didn’t need to study.”
“Precisely,” Miranda said. “Now I think it’s time for you to go to sleep. Do you want to sleep in here?”
“Can I?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“Of course, sweetheart. Go brush your teeth and wash your face, and then I’ll tuck you in,” she said. Once the young redhead was settled, Miranda washed her own face and brushed her teeth, then she stepped out of the bedroom to find Cassidy and Stephen, both watching TV in the living room.
“How is Caroline?” he asked.
“She’s asleep now. In our bed—she was so tired, I didn’t have the heart to wake her,” Miranda lied. “Cassidy, sweetie, are you ready for bed?”
“Yep, just wanted to say goodnight to you,” she added, getting up and hugging and kissing her mom.
“Okay darling, I’ll be up to tuck you in in a minute.” Miranda waited for the young girl to climb the stairs before turning to Stephen. “As a reminder, we have the gala tomorrow night. I need to be there no later than 6:30, so we need to leave here at 6:10 at the very latest.”
“Yeah, I have that on my calendar. What are we wearing?” he asked.
“I have the black satin Valentino gown, so you could wear any of your black or gray tuxes. Maybe the Tom Ford with the satin detail? It really doesn’t matter—it’s not a fashion event anyway, and we will be the best dressed by far,” she added.
He smiled. “If I had a dollar every time I heard you say that…”
“…you’d have a dollar,” she finished. “I’m going to try and get some sleep. Something tells me Caroline will be up a few times during the night. Can you set the alarm when you head upstairs?”
“Yeah. Oh, and Miranda, I won’t ask tonight, because I know Caroline is sleeping with you and all, but tomorrow,” he said, grabbing her hand and pulling her onto his lap. “Tomorrow night, I want to put some wood in your fire.” He kissed her roughly, then let her go.
She barely resisted the urge to role her eyes and returned the kiss with a chaste peck on the lips, then got up and headed for the stairs. “Goodnight, see you tomorrow,” she said.
Her mind was reeling as she climbed the stairs to Cassidy’s room on the third floor. All she could think about was Andrea, and how disappointed the young woman looked when she found out that her husband would be at the gala tomorrow. She was looking forward to seeing Andrea tomorrow, not Stephen. Especially not if he wanted to do anything with his wood.
She tucked Cassidy in then made her way back downstairs and into her room, where she went into the bathroom and shut the door. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and quickly sent Andrea a text: I’m sorry I didn’t mention Stephen would be coming.
Andrea quickly responded: So, am I no longer needed?
Miranda gasped and quickly replied: No—you are still very much needed. I want you there with me.
Andrea replied: Okay.
Miranda waited for a few minutes and when the woman didn’t offer anything else, she wrote back: I am going to bed a bit early tonight. I am looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night, in the Marchesa. -M
After that, she silenced her phone and plugged it into the charger, then crawled into bed with Caroline, who still seemed to be running a fever.
The next morning didn’t go as planned. Caroline still had a fever, and Cara was out on errands, so Miranda spent the day at home with her daughter. The editor didn’t see or hear from Andrea all day. Emily delivered the dress from the dry cleaners, which she found a bit odd. But, she knew that she would see Andrea at dinner, and she would be able to talk to her then because Stephen would undoubtedly spend the evening at the bar.
“Wow,” Andrea whispered.
Miranda turned around and smiled as she took in the young woman. “I was beginning to think you were backing out,” she said.
“Miranda, I would never do that. I told you I’d be here—”
“No, no. I know. I am sure you arrived before me, I just… that dress is stunning on you,” she said, changing the subject.
“Thank you. Yours as well—I mean, I’ve been lingering behind you for about thirty minutes, and, uh, you look good.”
Miranda smiled and looked down at her watch, trying to avoid the blush that was undoubtedly creeping up her cheeks.
“How is Caroline doing?” Andrea asked, changing the subject.
Miranda relaxed and sighed quietly. “I think she’s feeling a little better. They’re at their father’s house tonight, then through the weekend, but I might stop by tomorrow to see Caroline, especially if she stays home from school again.”
“Poor thing,” Andrea said. “Will you be in the office tomorrow?”
“Probably not,” Miranda said, thinking ahead to her evening and what excuses she could possibly make.
They found their way to their table, where Stephen was already seated. Miranda’s place was front and center, in the first table, facing the podium, and her husband was seated to her right. To her left was one of the senior board members of the Arts Council, and Andrea was actually seated directly across the table, with her back to the podium.
She wasn’t sure how she felt about having the young woman so far away, but when she looked up and met Andrea’s kind eyes, she was relieved.
The dinner dragged on for over an hour, with several speakers and performances throughout. Afterwards, the board presented Miranda with an award for her dedication to arts programs throughout the city, and then the music and mingling began.
Miranda secretly hated this part of the event. She liked to be there on her own time, leaving as little room for mingling as possible. However, as the honoree of the night, she knew that it would be rude to leave early.
Andrea quietly followed behind Miranda, who was surprisingly joined by Stephen for most of the evening. Miranda knew the young woman was behind her and tried very hard not to flinch every time Stephen traced his fingers across her back. She was sure that Andrea noticed, though, as the girl never misses anything.
Once people finally started to leave, Stephen left to retrieve their coats, and Miranda turned to her ever-faithful assistant. “I am sorry for dragging you here tonight,” she said. “To be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect Stephen would actually come.”
“It’s no problem. Can I call your car?” she asked.
“No, it’s being taken care of. You should go grab a cab while you can—before everyone leaves,” Miranda said.
“Okay. I’ll be in the office tomorrow if you need anything,” Andrea said. “Have a good night!”
“You, too,” Miranda called after her. She turned to look for Stephen and instead of going to the coat check like he said, it looked like he went to the bar. Miranda walked over and put her hand gently on his arm. “Honey, I’d like to leave. Can you please get my wrap from the coat check and call our car?”
“I thought that’s what your assistant was doing,” he said, finishing his drink.
Miranda fought the urge to roll her eyes. “I sent her home already,” she said as sweetly as she could muster. “And if you remember, James came to pick up the girls, so we have the house to ourselves when we get home.”
At that, Stephen’s eyes lit up and he spurred into action, quickly heading to the coat check and summoning Roy with a speed that would put Emily to shame. In no time at all, they were in the backseat of the town car.
“Roy, can you please stop at Runway for a few minutes?” Miranda asked once they pulled away from the venue. “I need to run upstairs for a minute, but then I’ll be back and we can head home.”
“Seriously?” Stephen asked.
“Yes, I thought I told you,” she said, kissing him softly on the cheek. “I need to return this dress, so I’ll just change into something else and be right down.” It was a complete lie, but hopefully it would work—at least buy her some time.
When they arrived at Elias-Clarke, she motioned for Stephen to wait in the car and quickly headed into the lobby and into a waiting elevator. First, she would go to the closet to grab a pair of pants and a top from the closet before returning to the car. She purposely left her cell phone in the car, so that if Stephen tried to call and hurry her along, she wouldn’t be able to answer.
She walked into her dark, quiet office with her arms full of pants and tops and a bottle of vodka from the pantry. Pouring herself a drink, she stepped out of her heels and made her way to the bathroom, where she knew she had a hanger and garment bag for her gown. Pushing the bathroom door all the way open, she screamed and jumped back when she ran into someone.
Quickly turning on the light, she saw that the mysterious person was none other than Andrea Sachs. “What the hell are you doing in here?” she shrieked. “In my bathroom, in my office, in the dark?!”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I didn’t know you were coming,” Andrea explained. “I promised Nigel I’d return this dress tonight, and it was just convenient to use this bathroom to change, until I heard you. I turned out the light and was hoping you wouldn’t notice,” she said. “I’m sorry, Miranda.”
Miranda’s heart was still racing from the scare, but she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t happy to have time to talk to the brunette. “It’s fine—I’m just—it just scared me. I thought there was some lunatic in my bathroom.”
“Yeah, well, that’s to be determined.”
“Nonsense,” Miranda said. “You know, I never did get to fully appreciate this gown on you. The long sleeve turtleneck style is very flattering on you. It doesn’t work so well on the flat-chested women, you know?” she said, walking around the young woman. “And this detail with the mirror shards woven into the lace—it’s perfect.”
“Um, this might be a weird question, but while you’re here, can you help me out of this? I can’t quite reach the zipper, and when I try, these shards are cutting into my skin.”
“Of course,” the editor said. “This is an over-the-head one, right?”
“Yeah, it’s technically a bodysuit,” she said, unzipping her skirt and reaching down to undo the snaps of the bodysuit down below. “I think there’s a zipper or something in the seam down the back.”
“Ah, yes, it looks like many hook-and-eye fasteners. Give me a minute,” Miranda said as she carefully unhooked each fastener. “There. Now, can you pull it over your head?”
Andrea did, and Miranda gasped. She was not expecting to see the young woman wearing a stunning corset beneath the top. And naturally, when she lifted her arms over her head, her breasts rose from their dedicated space and Miranda could see the woman’s pebbled nipples.
“Oww!" Andrea groaned.
Miranda quickly saw the source of Andrea’s discomfort: a gash along her shoulder blade from the mirrored pieces in the fabric. “Hold still. I have some antiseptic and bandages here,” Miranda said, digging through the drawer. She applied a clear liquid to a cotton pad. “This might burn a little, but we need to make sure there’s nothing inside the cut.”
Andrea howled as Miranda patted her skin with the antiseptic.
“There, there. Almost done,” Miranda said, softly blowing on the skin to dry it so she could apply a bandage. Once the cut was bandaged, Miranda’s hands lingered on the young woman’s back, softly tracing the outline of her muscles, the shape of her spine.
After a few minutes, Andrea cleared her throat. “Thanks. I should, um probably hang this and put my t-shirt on,” she said.
“Here,” Miranda said, handing her a hanger. “I’ll get you a shirt—or did you bring one?”
“There’s one in my bag,” Andrea said.
Miranda quickly grabbed the t-shirt from the woman’s bag on her desk chair and held it out for her.
“I can put it on, thanks.”
“No, let me help. I don’t want the bandages to come off when you stretch your shoulder,” Miranda said.
Once the t-shirt was on, Andrea reached underneath and unclasped the corset, sighing as the last hook was released. “This feels so much better,” she said.
Miranda looked up at her, in full hair and makeup, standing there in a faded Ramones t-shirt without a bra and a full midi skirt. She was speechless.
“Can I help with your dress?” she asked, interrupting Miranda’s thoughts.
“Yes, thank you. It has this strap that goes around the front—”
Andrea quickly unhooked the strap, then gently set her hands on the woman’s shoulders. From there, she slowly pressed her fingers down the woman’s arms, easing the fitted satin dress off arm by arm.
Miranda reached her left arm across her chest and held the edge of the vanity with her other hand. The dress was off, but Andrea’s hands were still on her, caressing her skin. Her eyes fluttered shut as the woman pressed the softest of kisses to the base of her neck. She could feel her nipples hardening beneath her hand. Her heart began to race. Andrea’s lips were making their way down her spine, delivering feather-light kisses along the way. As she reached the base of her spine, she felt the woman’s hands on her hips, slowly traveling up her ribcage. Miranda gasped and arched away when the woman’s fingertips brushed along the underside of her breasts.
“Shall I stop?” Andrea asked.
Miranda tried to respond, but the words would not come out of her mouth. Instead, she took Andrea’s hands and pressed them firmly to her chest, moaning as the woman’s fingers began kneading and squeezing her sensitive skin. After several minutes, the young woman switched hands and moved to stand in front of the editor. She leaned forward and licked her thumb, then brushed it over the woman’s nipple. Miranda’s eyes shot open and she met Andrea’s questioning gaze. “Yes,” she whispered, nodding her head.
Andrea smiled, then hummed in delight as she pressed her lips to the other woman’s breast.
“Ohh god!” she cried.
As Andrea was moving to the other breast, Miranda’s desk phone began ringing.
“Shit. Stephen is downstairs,” she said, pushing the brunette away and pulling up the top of her dress as she ran to answer the phone. “I hope he’s not on his way up,” she added. “Hello?”
“Hi Miranda, it’s Patrick down in the lobby. Mr. Tomlinson asked me to inform you that he is taking a taxi home.”
“Is Roy still there?”
“Yes. He’s waiting for you, whenever you are ready.”
“I’ll be down in 5 minutes,” she said, hanging up the phone.
She looked over at the young woman who had apparently changed out of her ball skirt and into jeans while she was taking that call.
“I have to go.” She said it almost as an apology.
“I know. Let me finish unzipping your dress—just the dress, I promise!” she added with a smile.
Miranda held still while Andrea unzipped the hidden zipper on the side of the dress. While Miranda gathered her top and pants to change into, Andrea appeared with a hanger and a robe and helped Miranda into it, allowing her to step out of her dress more easily.
“I’ll hang this, go,” she said, pointing to the bathroom where she was sure Miranda would want to change privately.
Once the dress was hung and in a garment bag, Andrea hung it on the rack with the two-piece ensemble she wore and straightened up the office a bit. When Miranda emerged from the bathroom, Andrea handed her the half finished glass of vodka.
“Thank you,” she said, drinking it in one gulp. “About tonight—”
“Not a word,” Andrea said. “Go.”
Miranda nodded and grabbed the Book before heading down to the elevators without a word. As expected, Roy was waiting downstairs for her, and he had her cell phone in his hand. She looked at him with an arched eyebrow and he explained that he grabbed it so Stephen wouldn’t. Miranda smiled and climbed into the backseat.
Just then, her phone dinged with a message from Andrea: When will I see you again? Miranda read it and froze. This isn’t—this wasn’t—it’s not what this was intended to be. She felt frantic. She hadn’t been careful. If this turned into a scandal, it would be her daughters who would pay the price.
Miranda quickly replied: I can’t see you again.
Andrea replied: Understood, but should we expect you in the office on Monday?
Miranda sighed in relief. Maybe she was over-thinking it all. They could pretend tonight never happened. Yes, that is what they’d do. She replied once more before turning off her phone for the night: I will be in on Monday by 7. That’s all.
Taking a deep breath, Miranda closed her eyes and tried to prepare herself for a night with her husband, if he wasn’t already passed out. She did a few breathing exercises, but her mind kept returning to the feel of the young woman’s hands all over her and she could feel her heart racing once again. Knowing there was nothing she could to do erase that, she focused on pretending it was all for Stephen. She cringed at the thought of returning to the townhouse, but reminded herself that she owed it to her daughters to keep their family together.
Chapter 5: This has to work
Miranda sat on one of the barstools in her kitchen, sipping her second cup of coffee and watching the early morning light slowly begin to filter in through the windows. She couldn’t stop thinking about the previous night at the office—it was as if she could still feel the young woman’s hands on her…
“Ohh!” Miranda gasped, jumping up and spilling her coffee all over the counter. “Stephen! I didn’t hear you come down—you startled me.”
“Sorry,” he said. “How long have you been up?”
She shrugged as she wiped up the counter. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“What was going on last night?” he asked, wrapping his arms around her waist. “Is everything okay?” he asked as he pressed his lips to her neck.
She squirmed away and leaned back against the refrigerator, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.
“What is it? I thought maybe you were just stressed at work, but there’s something else to it, isn’t there?” He ran his fingers through his hair.
“Stephen, it’s not what you think. I’ve just been feeling so out-of-sorts, like I’m lost, or maybe losing my mind.” She reached up to wipe the tears from her eyes. “I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I don’t want the girls to see me like this.”
“Why didn’t you say something?”
“Because I was trying to handle it on my own!” she snapped back. “I thought it would go away.”
“Jesus, Miranda. I have to go into work today—are you going to be okay?”
Miranda rolled her eyes. “How convenient.”
“Can we talk more when I get home tonight?” he asked.
“Sure,” she said.
“I feel bad leaving like this—”
“Just go,” she said, burying her head in her hands. Thankfully she didn’t have to go into the office today.
A few hours later, she woke when she heard Andrea calling her name.
“Miranda, oh my god, are you okay?!”
She opened her eyes and wasn’t sure why Andrea Sachs was standing in her kitchen. “What are you doing here?” she asked, not lifting her head from her arms, where it was resting. “Go away.”
“Your husband called the office this morning. Emily answered, but he was worried and asked one of us to come by. I practically ran over. Are you okay?”
Miranda pushed herself up and accepted the young woman’s hand, standing against the counter. “You didn’t need to come. I’m fine,” she said.
“You were asleep at the kitchen counter—how is that fine?!”
“You’ve never lost it in the kitchen and cried yourself to sleep? Just wait until you grow up.”
“What is that supposed to mean? Till I grow up?”
“You know exactly what it means.”
“Miranda, if this is about last night—”
“We are not talking about last night. You need to leave,” she said, walking past her and towards the stairs.
Andrea caught up to her, softly grasping her elbow. “I am leaving, but first, I want to say that I am sorry, really, for last night, and for making you uncomfortable.”
“Andrea, you don’t need to apologize. If anything, I—”
“Stop,” she interrupted. “You were drinking and I took advantage of you. You are not at fault here.”
“We both know that’s not true.”
“Really? I don’t remember it like that.”
“Are you being serious?” Miranda asked.
“Will it be better if I say that I am?”
Miranda chuckled. “Yes, actually.”
“Then I am completely serious,” she said. “Look, I’m going to go back, and I’ll tell Emily that everything was fine and I have no idea why Stephen was worried. Okay?”
Andrea leaned over and wrapped her arms around the woman, pulling her into a tight hug. “I won’t see you until Monday. Please take care of yourself and enjoy the weekend,” she said.
“Thank you, Andrea,” Miranda said as she turned and walked up the stairs.
That evening, Miranda was expecting Stephen home by 6pm. She had his favorite dinner ready, and she was prepared to tell him she would do whatever it takes to make their marriage work. The plan would work, she told herself, but the caveat was that Stephen actually had to be present, which he was not.
When she phoned his office, they said he left hours ago. He wasn’t answering calls or texts on his cell, and just to triple-check, Miranda checked to see if he was with Caroline and Cassidy. He was not.
Miranda sat at the kitchen table for nearly two hours, watching the taper candlesticks melt down, wax dripping onto the tablecloth in a near rhythmic pattern.
Finally, Miranda got up and put the food away, telling herself that karma was, indeed, a bitch, and that she deserved this after how horribly she had treated him in the past. When all the food was in the refrigerator, she finished her glass of wine and threw the empty bottle into the recycling bin.
To think that she had even dressed for him tonight.
By now, it was 9pm. Miranda turned the kitchen lights out, leaving only the candlesticks and their piles of wax there to greet him when he returns. Upstairs, she changed out of her dress and left her heels at the foot of the bed.
But, she couldn’t sleep. She was angry and worried and upset—but mostly angry—that her husband didn’t come home. Knowing she would likely regret this decision, she reached for her phone and dialed her ever-faithful assistant.
“Hi Miranda. Is everything okay?” she answered.
Miranda sighed into the phone. “Not really. I shouldn’t have called you.”
“Don’t worry, it’s not like I was asleep.”
“Oh,” Miranda said. “I know you don’t get much time away from work—am I interrupting time with your boyfriend?”
“Nate?! Um, no. Why would you ask that?”
“I know you live with him, and, well—”
“Wednesday night, when I called you late about the dress, you must have set the phone down or something. You didn’t hang up, and I heard you two talking,” Miranda said. “It was unintentional.”
“Ah, right. I thought you may have heard. We aren’t together anymore.”
“It wasn’t working. He wanted a girlfriend to dote on him and do his laundry. I may have been that girl a year ago, but I have different priorities now.”
“I can’t help but feel I am to blame.”
“Stop. No. You are not—this is not your fault. If anything, I should thank you for doing me a favor and opening my eyes. He didn’t really love me; he just used me. And he just liked telling everyone he had a not-terrible-looking girlfriend,” she added.
“Andrea you are beautiful. And men are pigs…most of the time.”
“Yeah. So, anyway, I’m staying at my friend Doug’s place, which is great because at least it’s closer to work,” Andrea said. “The apartment was in his name—I couldn’t kick him out, though god knows I wanted to.”
“I know that feeling,” Miranda said.
“And that’s what prompted this call?”
“Do you want to talk any more about it?”
“Haven’t decided. I can’t sleep,” she said. “No, wait. That’s not true. I want to wait up for him. I think.”
“Will it make you happy?”
“I think you should only do things that make you happy in your personal life. I wasn’t happy living with Nate.”
Miranda began to respond, but heard the front door open and shut. “Looks like he’s home.”
“Are you upstairs?”
“I have to go,” she whispered, quickly ending the call. Within seconds, Stephen came walked into the bedroom.
“Hey, I’m glad you’re still up,” he said, rubbing his forehead and walking over to the bed.
“Where were you?” she asked. Her voice trembled a little more than she’d have liked.
He reached in his pocket and pulled out a slip of paper that had been folded several times. Unfolding it, he handed it to her. “I was at the police station all evening. They thought I had been drinking, and I wouldn’t take a breathalyzer, so they took me in.”
“Are you serious?” she asked, looking the folded paper before handing it back.
“Yeah. They took my phone and I was just so worried about getting my lawyer on the phone… I’m sorry.”
“I waited for over an hour. Dinner is in the fridge if you’re still hungry.”
He shook his head. “Let me shower, then, if you still want to talk—”
Miranda nodded and watched him step into the bathroom. Part of her felt guilty for thinking that he was cheating on her, and part of her felt that he still wasn’t telling the truth. In the end, it didn’t matter, because Miranda knew where she stood.
This would be the last time she would try to make it work—and she wanted him to know that. She would make an effort to spend time with him on the weekends, but during the week, any time not focused on the magazine needed to be focused on her daughters, and there was no argument. He would still get to claim the wife and family he so desperately wanted to brag about, and Miranda wouldn’t have to sacrifice time from her magazine or her girls.
This has to work, she thought.
Chapter 6: I'm on the edge
The following week, Miranda's life seemed to be in less of a disaster—or at least she was no longer crying herself to sleep on the regular. Stephen had taken things well, provided that she really didn't give him a choice. She dared to think that some self-imposed distance between them during the week actually helped things to feel normal on the weekends. For the first time in as long as she could remember, she didn't mind his arm resting on her hip as they fell asleep.
She even noticed that they argued less, something that—to her disappointment—her daughter pointed out.
What Miranda also noticed was that in agreeing to spend her weekends with her husband and family, she was decidedly not spending them seeing or talking to Andrea—and that bothered her more than it should.
After two weeks of their arrangement, Miranda found herself counting the hours until she could go back to the office on Monday morning, and she could only hope that her husband didn't notice.
"Emily?" she called from behind her desk. When there was no response, she called out again. "Emily? Andrea? Where is everybody? Is it not Monday? Do we not have work to do?"
Andrea quickly stepped into the doorway. "Yes, Miranda. Sorry," she said, hurrying around the desk to deliver the photos and mock-ups and the book from the weekend.
"And why are you doing Emily's job, Andrea? I distinctly remember asking Emily to have this on my desk by 7am," she said, thumbing through the stack to make sure everything she needed was there.
"I—uh—she—I needed her to help with something. I apologize."
Miranda opened her mouth to respond, but upon lifting her eyes up to meet the young woman's gaze, her tongue darted out and licked the corner of her lower lip instead.
The young woman smiled and saw Miranda's eyes dart towards the open office door. She quickly walked over and shut the door, then returned to her spot next to the editor's desk.
Miranda swallowed. "Th-those are the C-Chanel boots." She turned her chair to face the young woman, her hands instinctively reaching out to caress the rich leather encasing the young woman's thigh.
"Yeah," Andrea said, "I am worried they don't look right on me."
Miranda traced her hands up and down the boots, softly tugging the young woman closer. "They look… perfect… they're perfect on you," she managed to say.
"Thanks. This skirt feels too short, but anything longer would look weird with the boots, I thought," she added.
Miranda's hands reached the top of the boots, where there was about one inch of skin before she met the olive green suede skirt. Her fingertips lingered on that pale expanse of skin for far too long. She inhaled sharply as her hands continued upwards to the soft suede encasing Andrea's hips, and tugged her even closer—until she was positioned between the woman's legs.
"Oh god," the editor quietly exhaled as he hands smoothed over the young woman's skirt. "You can't do this to me. You can't. You cannot dress like this anymore," Miranda whispered.
"I'm sorry. I was just trying to me more fashionable. You know, fewer lumpy blue sweaters and hideous skirts, more of what I see on the other girls here. If you don't like it, I can take it off," Andrea said, biting her lip when she realized what she had said.
Miranda's eyes shot up.
"I mean, I can go change into something else," she said, blushing profusely.
She gently shook her head. Her eyes traveled down the woman's neck to her chest, where she was certain the lace of her bra was peeking out from the plunging neckline she wore. Those ivory globes were situated just so, perfectly round and perfectly lifted. Miranda couldn't help but pull the girl even closer until she was pressing her face against that soft ivory skin, inhaling deeply. She made soft whimpering sounds as her hands traveled around the woman's waist and cupping the supple suede covering her firm cheeks.
Andrea heard Emily return to her desk and gently tapped the editor on the shoulder. "Emily is back," she said.
Miranda lifted her head and was shocked to hear the groan of displeasure that escaped her lips. She closed her eyes and pushed her chair away, taking a deep breath and pressing the back of her hand to her lips. She knew her makeup would be smudged, and she would certainly need to touch it up before her next meeting, but she couldn't stop thinking about how lovely that felt.
The editor stood from her chair. "I don't know what got into me," she said, keeping her eyes down and heading towards her bathroom. "You may have the rest of the day off," she added, as if that any consolation.
"Miranda, wait—" she said, taking the editor's wrist and stopping her in the middle of the office. "This is yours. Whenever. Wherever."
The editor took a deep breath and pulled her hand away, continuing on towards her private en suite. "See that my coffee is here in ten minutes—no sooner," she added.
The young woman straightened her clothes and left the office, grabbing her coat and running downstairs to fetch Miranda's coffee. When she returned—in record time, not that anyone was keeping track—Miranda breezed out of her office.
"What's that? I don't want that," she said to Andrea. Turning to her other assistant, she said, "Emily, be sure to have those samples on my desk tomorrow morning. I asked for them today, but I see it didn't happen. I don't want them this afternoon or tonight. I want them in the morning."
Miranda, of course, had no reason to actually leave except to distance herself from the brunette. She knew it was dangerous territory, but she also knew she had never felt that comfortable with any of her former partners—and that fact alone was enough to make her uncomfortable. There was certainly something intriguing about Andrea Sachs.
That afternoon, after a ride around the park, Miranda got a call from the school nurse that Cassidy was now running a fever. She still had some work to do on a few creative briefs, but she quickly packed everything up and left to get Cassidy, who seemed to have what Caroline had a few weeks prior.
Later that evening, Cassidy was feeling better after some tylenol and a nap, so she and Caroline were sitting on the couch doing homework while Miranda was in her chair, working on the briefs. It was quiet and everyone was occupied. If Miranda had to do work at home, this is how she wanted it to happen.
"Mom," Cassidy said, standing next to the couch. "Can you help me with this?"
"Of course, Bobbsey. What am I looking at?" she asked, putting her own notepad down.
"It's a word problem. I think my answer is right, but Caroline had something different. And I wasn't there to hear the teacher explain how to do it, so I'm probably wrong."
Miranda patted the couch next to her. "Okay, let's read it together, then you can walk me through what you did," she said, draping her arm over her younger daughter and pressing a light kiss to her forehead, which was, thankfully, cooler than before.
Meanwhile, as Miranda focused on Cassidy's homework, Caroline reached for the editor's phone on the table and pressed a few buttons to call Andrea.
"Caroline? How did you do your problem?" Miranda asked. "I think Cassidy's is correct."
The young girl quickly ended the call and brought her math notebook over to the couch. Miranda's phone rang, and Caroline quickly grabbed it from the coffee table and handed it to the editor, pressing the button to answer the call.
"Oh!" Miranda gasped, seeing the young brunette's makeup-free face on her screen. "I must have answered accidentally," she said, glaring at Caroline. "Is everything alright, Andrea?"
"Yeah, I just thought—"
"Hey Andy!" Caroline shouted, interrupting before Andrea disclosed that she was, in fact, returning a missed call.
"Hi, Caroline," Andy said. "And hi, Cass. I'm sure you're there, too."
"Hi Andy," she said, leaning over the screen and waving. "Thanks for taking care of everything so that Mom could come early today."
"Oh, of course. That's my job!" she said with a smile. "Miranda—there's this issue with, uh, Pierre. I'm sorry to call you, but—"
The editor nodded and got up, excusing herself from the study and taking the call in her room. "Andrea, please—not now. I'm home with my daughters tonight," she said.
"You called me first."
"I had a missed FaceTime call from two minutes ago, so I called back. Oh, wait. Let me guess, Caroline?"
Miranda sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. "Yes, I believe so. I'm sorry she keeps calling you."
"Well, no worries, it's not like I mind. They're really sweet."
"My daughters?" Miranda asked in surprise. "Sweet" was definitely not the reputation they had among her previous assistants and colleagues.
"Yeah. I don't mind talking to them. Obviously, I don't want to intrude on your family time, though. So, I… uh… I will see you tomorrow," she said.
"Wait. Wait, Andrea. I have been meaning to talk to you about something. I would have brought it up earlier, but—"
"You were a little distracted," Andrea said.
Miranda's face turned red as she glared at the young woman through the phone.
"No! Not that, I mean, you were distracted because Cassidy had a fever and you left early. That's what I meant," she said, biting her lip.
Miranda's features softened and she rolled her eyes. "Well, regardless, I—I need my best team with me in Paris. It's usually the first assistant's job to accompany me, but, well, my best team no longer includes Emily."
"Emily will not be going to Paris."
"You want me to go instead? For Paris Fashion Week? The biggest event of the season?"
"Are you turning it down?"
"No, but—Emily has been preparing for this all year. I don't understand how I…oh," she said, realizing why Miranda must have wanted her.
"So, you will come?"
Andrea rolled her eyes and sighed. "You know a French girl would be way less complicated."
Miranda's eyes widened. "Andrea, that's not—it's not like that. You manage my schedule better. You can read me better. You tolerate my issues and my children without complaint. She'll have her chance soon enough. Unfortunately, it's just not next week."
"Do this for me—think about it overnight, okay? We'll talk in the morning."
The next morning, Andrea told Miranda that she would fly to Paris with the Runway team next week. Miranda immediately told her to phone Emily and break the news, then walked back into her office.
"Umm, Miranda?" the young woman said, standing nervously at the doorway.
"I was on the phone with Emily, but then there was this screech, and, well, she… um… she's on her way to the hospital. She was hit by a car crossing the street."
"Are you serious?"
"Yes, I mean, why would I—"
Miranda waved her hand in the air. "Go. Meet her at the hospital. Bring flowers or something from us. Be back here by noon for the run-through."
When Andrea returned shortly before 11, the editor waved her in, and gestured for her to sit in one of the chairs across from her desk. "Is everything set?" she asked.
"Yes. Emily will be back in two days, with crutches. I am going to Paris in her place. I still need to get a few wardrobe items figured out, but thankfully my passport wasn't expired. Everything else is on track, and the team is ready for the run-through whenever you are."
Miranda looked up and smiled. She got up and rounded the desk, standing next to the young woman's chair. She reached out and straightened the lapel on the young woman's jacket, her fingertips lingering much longer than was necessary.
"I know this wasn't what you wanted," she said quietly as she traced the material between her thumb and forefinger.
While the editor softly stroked her collar, Andrea reached for the editor's other hand, gently tracing her thumb along the back.
"Oh, Andrea," she whispered, inhaling sharply as she clasped her hands around the young woman's. "You can't—I can't—This—" she choked back a sob.
Andrea gently brought Miranda's hands up and kissed her palm, squeezing her hand tightly. "I think I understand," she said, kissing her other palm. "I have a lot to do before we leave, so you probably won't see much of me over the next few days," she said. "I hope that's alright?"
Miranda nodded. "Thank you," she said quietly, her eyes cast down at the ground.
Andrea stood, frowning, and gently lifted the woman's chin up to meet her eyes. "Are we okay?"
The editor nodded quickly and pulled her hands away, the pads of her fingers dabbing at the tears forming in her eyes.
"Yes, yes. Now, go. You're doing the job of two people today, remember."
"Yes, Miranda," she said, grinning and scurrying out of the room.
Chapter 7: Seems like the right thing
warning: potentially triggering content ahead (hints of non-con/abuse). please proceed with caution.
Miranda stared at the clothing hanging on the rack next to the trunk. Nigel was less than pleased when she asked him to pull a wardrobe for Andrea on a moment’s notice. To be fair, Nigel had spent weeks getting Emily’s lined up, and with three days before they leave, he was slammed with finalizing the plans for the photo shoots that would be happening upon their return.
Nigel had suggested getting everything they had for Emily in a size six, but Miranda knew that would not work. Their styles were so different—and Emily would go ballistic if that happened. Instead, Miranda told Nigel she would do it herself.
And now, on her last Friday night in New York, Miranda was in the closet, selecting outfits for her assistant to wear next week. It so happened that the girls were with their father and Stephen had a work engagement, so she didn’t feel too terrible about spending the time at the office. However, she didn’t think it would keep her there until nearly two o’clock in the morning.
With the wardrobe nearly finished, Miranda jotted down a few items they would need to procure, but otherwise, the young woman would be set for eight days of four outfits per day, plus three sets of sleepwear.
When she returned to her office to grab her things, she saw three missed calls and a missed text message from her husband: Are you still at work? I’m just leaving and can pick you up.
She rolled her eyes. Thankfully she was still awake, but what if she would have been asleep. What kind of a message is that to send someone in the middle of the night?
Her phone rang again, and she quickly answered it.
“Hi, I just got your messages. Yes, I’m still at work.”
“What the fuck? I thought we agreed on weekends?”
She took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Please. I’m heading down now. There’s a lot of work to do here before Paris,” she said, tossing her things in her bag and heading to the elevators.
“Who are you with?” he asked.
“What? No one. I’m quite literally turning out the lights on our floor. Even the cleaning staff is long gone.”
“Don’t you have people to do this work for you?” he asked.
“Yes, I have plenty, and everyone who is qualified has their hands full. I sent them home at ten o’clock, because I know they will be back first thing in the morning. I, on the other hand, stayed until I finished because I won’t be returning. Why are you suddenly so interested?”
“Because a man has needs, Miranda!”
She rolled her eyes and fought the urge to groan aloud. “This conversation is over. I will be home in fifteen minutes,” she said, ending the call.
Once she was situated in the backseat of the car, she stared down at her phone. She wanted to dial the young woman’s number, just to hear her voice. But instead, she took a deep breath and tried to figure out why she had that impulse in the first place. She tucked the phone into her pocket and gazed out the window as the city flashed by.
The ride home wasn’t nearly long enough, and before she knew it, she was walking up the front steps to be greeted by her husband, who kindly held the door open for her.
“Now, back to our conversation,” he said, firmly grabbing her around the waist and pulling her against him.
She dropped her bags on the floor and tried pushing away from his chest. “Let go of me! Put me down!” she shouted. “Stephen, come on!”
“Someone needs to be punished for breaking the rules,” he said with a sly grin on his face.
“Stop it this instant,” she hissed, feeling his fingertips tightly gripping her sides. “Let me go. Give me five minutes to use the bathroom at least,” she said.
He loosened his grip and she softly kissed his lips. “Just five minutes. I’ll meet you upstairs,” she added, kissing him once again. He nodded and let her go, and she quickly ran the rest of the way up the stairs.
In her bathroom, she turned on the faucet and pulled out her cellphone, sending a quick message to Andrea: Need your help—need a distraction at the townhouse in 15 minutes. A guy ringing the doorbell, looking for Stephen or something. Anything. Please, anyone but you. -M
After she sent the message she waited for it to display as “Delivered” then quickly deleted it and shut off her cell phone. She changed into her silk robe and used a makeup wipe on her face, though most of it was already worn off.
When she emerged from the bathroom, as she expected, Stephen was waiting for her. The thought of touching him made her cringe. She didn’t want to touch him. She wanted to touch… She gasped as she realized she was thinking of the brunette.
“Come here,” he said, grabbing her hand and tugging her to the mattress. He pushed her robe off her shoulders, leaving just the lace bra and panties, and he stripped down to his boxers before joining her on the bed.
“Honey,” she said, “let me take care of you tonight, okay? I’m sorry I worked late. It won’t happen again,” she promised, kissing him gently on the cheek and on the neck. He reeked of alcohol, and she fought the urge to gag.
“How about a little massage first?” she asked, smoothing her hands out across his chest.
He quickly flipped her over and pinned her against the mattress. “Damnit, Miranda! I told you a man has his needs,” he shouted as he pinned her hands above her head, his knees tightly on either side of her hips.
“Stephen, please, not like this,” she said. “We can do whatever you want—in the shower?” she suggested. “Please, honey, this is uncomfortable,” she said, turning and twisting out of his grip.
With his free hand, he grabbed her chin. “I want yo—” he paused.
“What, honey? What do you want? I’ll do it, just say the word,” she said, hoping to god he would get up and answer that door.
“I want your lips around my—” again he stopped. “Who the fuck is ringing the doorbell at this hour?”
“Just ignore it,” she said, knowing he would never be able to.
He groaned and let her go, climbing off the bed without another word and wrapping his robe around himself as he ran down the stairs.
Miranda got up and stood at the bedroom doorway, listening. She had one hand on the door handle so that she could shut it and lock him out if she needed to.
She heard him open the door and shout something at whoever was on the doorstep. It sounded like two young, drunk men.
“Hello, Sir, may we please see Miranda Priestly?” one asked. “Yes, Miranda please. We have a message for her,” the other added, snickering.
“What the fuck are you doing on my porch at 3 AM? If you don’t leave I’m going to call the cops,” Stephen said.
“No need to do that, sir. If you could please just pass a message along to the missus for us?”
“Yeah, just a message. Tell her that this month’s issue of Runway magazine is rubbish!”
“Yes, rubbish! It’s a bloody sin that she thought—”
Before they could finish, Stephen shut the door. Miranda could hear them shouting “thank you” and “goodnight” as they walked along the street. Smiling, she closed the bedroom door and locked it before Stephen had a chance to return up the stairs. She went to get her phone from the bathroom and turned it on.
While she waited, Stephen began pounding on her door.
“Hey!” he shouted, “Let me in! We weren’t finished!”
“I will not tolerate your anger, Stephen,” she shouted back. “Go to sleep, and we’ll talk in the morning.”
Even he knew better than to push her when she raised her voice
Looking down at her phone, she saw a few texts from Andrea:
Done. Is everything ok? Should I be worried?
Sending my roommate Doug and his friend over. Ignore whatever they come up with—they both worship you.
Doug said your husband answered—is everything okay? Are you hurt? Call me.
Miranda, please. I’m so worried right now. Just let me know everything is ok.
Miranda took a deep breath and called the young woman’s number.
“Are you okay?” she answered on the first ring.
“Yes, I am fine. And thank you. I owe your friends—ask them what they’d like you to bring back from Paris,” she said.
She sighed and sat in the armchair in the corner of her room. “I stayed late at work—the time got past me. Stephen had been drinking, and was starting to get violent. I could see it when I walked in—the way he grabbed me. It’s just, I thought maybe it would be okay, but thankfully he got up to answer the door and I was able to lock him out of the room.”
“Did he hurt you?”
“Would you tell me if he did?”
Miranda chuckled. “Probably not. But I am fine.”
“Miranda, I’m sorry if it’s not my place to say this, but you don’t need him. He doesn’t deserve you. He doesn’t respect you, and… it just makes me so sad to know that you could have nearly anyone in the world, and yet you’re with him.”
The editor wiped the tears from her eyes. “You’re right in that it is not your place to comment on my relationship with my husband. I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say what you did.”
“I know, but—”
“Andrea, enough. He is my husband. He is a step-father to my children. He makes us pancakes every other Sunday. And he has put up with a lot of Runway nonsense over the years,” she said. She didn’t agree with a word that was coming out of her mouth, but like a robot, said it anyway because it seemed the right thing to respond.
“You can’t actually believe that garbage you just told me.”
She sighed. Leave it to Andrea to call her bluff over the phone. “Does it matter, really? It’s my position. My girls… I can’t have them continue to suffer over my poor choices. You’ll understand if you have children some day.”
“Miranda, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I’m sorry you feel that you need to hide behind the wife thing, and I’m sorry that I can’t help you,” she said.
“If you want to help me, find an excuse for me tomorrow—something only I can do. I have to go to bed,” she said.
“Okay, I’ll do that. Goodnight, Miranda. Call me if you need anything at all.”
“Thank you. And tell your friends thank you, again. Goodnight.”
The next morning, Miranda dressed casually in jeans and a sweater, and after making her morning coffee, she proceeded to chop vegetables for a stew that would need to simmer all day.
Not long after she began chopping, Stephen came down the stairs. She could feel the hairs on the base of her spine stand on edge, but she tried to keep chopping as if nothing had happened.
“Morning,” he said.
“Coffee’s made,” she replied, not making eye contact. “I thought we’d have New England stew tonight,” she said, dumping the chopped celery into a bowl and reaching for the carrots.
“Sounds good,” he said, sipping his coffee. He set down his mug on the counter, and stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.
She quickly spun around, knife still in hand. “Stephen don’t you dare—”
“Whoa, I’m sorry. I—” he reached up for the knife and put it on the counter. “Can we talk? Maybe at the table?” He stepped back, lowering his arms and reaching for his coffee cup.
Miranda nodded and poured herself a fresh cup, then led him into the den, taking a seat on the sofa. “Talk,” she said.
He sat next to her with his head in his hands. “I don’t know. I was so angry when you weren’t home, and I just kept imagining you with some other man’s hands all over you.”
Miranda nearly choked on her coffee. “Oh, I can assure you there is no other man in the picture. Stephen, I spend my day in an office, surrounded by female models and women’s clothing. There are only a few men around, and even then, they’re mostly interested in each other,” she said.
“I guess it was just a jealous rage,” he said.
“You’re going to have to do better than that,” she said. “You were practically abusive. I-I’ve never…” her voice trailed off as tears filled her eyes.
“Honey, I am so sorry,” he said, reaching over to pull her onto his chest.
“I was terrified. The look in your eye was pure hatred,” she said. “I’ve been trying—really, I have. I am just grateful the girls weren’t around to witness any of that.”
He hugged her and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “How can I make it up to you?” he asked.
“When I say ‘no’ or tell you to stop, you need to respect me and my decision. We’re in this together,” she said. “I know we don’t always agree on everything, but when it comes to that, if there’s no mutual agreement, it’s not happening.”
“But Miranda, babe, you didn’t think I’d hurt you, did you?”
“Before last night, no. But after you picked me up so forcefully and pinned me to the bed, I started to have second thoughts.”
“But it didn’t hurt, right? No bruises or anything?” he said.
Miranda rolled her eyes and reached for her coffee, freeing herself from his arms. “I don’t think so, but you certainly grabbed me hard enough to create bruises on my hips, my wrists, and chin.”
“But that’s it?”
“What do you mean ‘that’s it’—like it’s only a few bruises so it doesn’t count or some bullshit rhetoric?”
“No, I mean you said you don’t actually have bruises,” he said. “I’m sorry,” he added, shaking his head and running his fingers through his hair. “I hardly remember what happened,” he said.
“I remember dinner with the tech investors, where we had some drinks, then we went to a club and—these investors, they were young. They wanted to party, and they said we were going to smoke some hookah, that’s it. It had to be something else—the night was just a blur after that. I remember you not being home when I got here, and then we were in bed, but I woke up in the guest room.”
“So I am supposed to believe that you were drugged, and that’s what caused your paranoid, abusive behavior?”
“Damnit!” He shouted. “Stop calling me abusive!”
Miranda froze. That look was back in his eyes. “Stephen,” she said quietly, “please calm down.”
She struggled to keep her voice from faltering. “You’re shouting at me.”
He sat down. “You’re right. I am. I just—I don’t appreciate being mischaracterized. I was drugged. You know I wouldn’t hurt you.”
“Okay, I understand,” she said. “Are we finished? I was going to go finish cutting vegetables for stew.”
“Yeah,” he said.
Miranda stood and walked back into the kitchen, just as her front door opened. She couldn’t help but smile when she saw Andrea holding the door open for what looked like movers.
“Wait, wait, what is this?” he asked.
Miranda shrugged and Stephen approached one of the young men in a mover’s uniform. “Excuse me. What are you doing in my home?”
“Boss’s orders,” he said, pointing to Andrea. “All this fashion drama, I don’t get it. But hey, I do what I’m told,” he said, walking out.
Once all the trunks were secured, Andrea came in off the porch and a large security officer followed her. “What’s this?” Stephen asked.
“Hi, I’m Ms. Sachs, from Runway,” she said. “We need to complete the inventory on the Paris wardrobe for the team, and I have a note that Miranda would not be able to come to the office today, so we brought this here. I do hope it won’t be much of a bother? We’ll be out in no time,” she said, flashing him a smile.
“Ok, fine. What’s he here for?” Stephen asked, pointing to the security officer.
“For the clothing,” she said. “There are millions of dollars of clothing here—some one-of-a-kind pieces. I won’t be held responsible if something goes missing!”
Stephen sighed and took a few steps towards the kitchen, where his wife was rinsing the cutting board in the sink. “Did you know about this?”
“Honestly? No. I stayed late last night so I wouldn’t have to go in,” she said.
“Hi Miranda, if you can come with me,” Andrea interrupted, gesturing for her to follow.
“Do you mind?” Miranda asked. “It won’t take long,” she added.
“Fine, go—I’ll figure out what to do with this stew,” he said.
“Brown the meat!” Miranda called over her shoulder while Andrea led her into the living room and shut the french doors behind her.
Miranda opened her mouth to speak, but she was actually speechless.
“I won’t ask how you are,” Andrea said. “But know that I’m thinking it.”
“I appreciate that,” she said. “And we can talk more next week, but honestly, what were you thinking in bringing all these clothes here?”
“Well, I needed to try on my wardrobe for Paris to make sure everything fits, so, why not do it here?” she said with a smile.
Miranda’s jaw dropped and she watched Andrea walk over to the blinds, closing them so passerbys from the street wouldn’t be able to see in. Then, she proceeded to unfold a little half-wall she brought and set it up in the corner.
“Makeshift changing room,” she said. “Shall I go day-by-day or do you want to see all the casual first?” she asked.
“I don’t know that I’m in the right mindset for this right now,” Miranda said, sitting down on the settee.
Andrea opened one of the cases and pulled out the outfit she was to be wearing on the plane: black matchstick pants, flats, a white blouse, and a loose sweater. She set it on the coffee table and took a seat next to Miranda. “Can I wear a nice pair of leggings with this instead of these pants? Just because it will be on the plane and everything?”
“That’s fine,” Miranda said.
The young woman could tell she wasn’t paying attention. “And I think I’ll just skip the pants from now on, just wear a really good shoe. Is that okay?”
“Yes, that’s fine,” Miranda repeated.
“Okay,” she said, reaching out for the woman’s hand. “Talk to me. What is going on?”
Miranda squeezed her hand, then pulled away. “I think I need to leave my husband,” she said quietly.
Chapter 8: Double standards
It had been less than 72 hours since she admitted aloud that her marriage was failing. Andrea had been kind enough to reschedule her flight so she would be leaving a few hours earlier, and more importantly, separate from the Runway crew.
By the time the rest of the team arrived, Miranda was in bed, though she was unable to sleep. She heard Andrea and Nigel milling about in the suite, and while she thought about joining them, she was too emotionally drained to actually get up. She considered taking a sleeping pill on the flight, but decided against it and ended up spending hours filling up the pages of her journal.
She turned over and switched the light on next to her bed, reaching for the journal she left on the nightstand. Flipping to the inside back cover, she reread the post-it that Andrea had affixed to her plane ticket: Know that you have my support, whatever you decide. x A.
Miranda traced her fingers over note. She couldn’t stop thinking about it. About her decision. About Andrea. On one hand, she knew she deserved better than him. On the other, she worried that a divorce would make life unfairly difficult on her girls. And then there was the fact of Andrea—would she be leaving him because he was a jerk, or because she wanted Andrea?
She couldn’t help but feel that she needed to see the young woman. Pulling out her phone, she sent a quick message: Can you talk for a moment when you’re finished? Once Nigel and everyone else leaves? Not urgent.
Andrea responded immediately: Shooing them out as quickly as I can. :)
Miranda turned out the light and laid back against the pillow, comfortably resting in the middle of the king-sized bed. The simple exchange of text messages with the young woman helped calm her mind, and before she knew it, she was gently woken by the woman’s hand on her shoulder.
“Hi,” Andrea said, sitting gently on the edge of the bed.
“Oh god, what time is it?” Miranda asked.
“It’s just after 11 PM, Paris time,” she said. “I’m sorry to wake you—you weren’t answering my texts, and I didn’t want you to think I forgot.”
Miranda took a deep breath and pushed herself up so she was leaning back against the pillows. “No, I couldn’t sleep. I mean, before.”
“Okay,” Andrea said, smiling. “We have a busy day tomorrow—first meeting is out there in your suite at 6:45 AM. What was it you needed to talk about?”
Miranda shook her head. “Forget it—it’s late.”
Andrea frowned and kicked off her shoes, carefully climbing onto the edge of the bed and situating herself against back against the headboards.
“Andrea? What are you—?”
“I’m tired, but I want to listen,” she said. “This bed is so huge there’s like room for three people between us.”
Miranda smiled and took a deep breath, sinking down and curling up on her left side, facing away from the young woman. “If I fall asleep, you can see yourself out,” she said.
“Will do,” Andrea replied. “So, did Stephen drive you to the airport?”
“Yes. I do think he genuinely feels bad, but—I just don’t think that’s enough for me,” Miranda said. She felt the tears pooling in her eyes and was glad that the young woman couldn’t see her. “Did you really mean what you wrote?”
“On the note?”
“Of course I did. Miranda, I can’t imagine how hard this is for you, but I meant that—no matter what you decide,” Andrea said, reaching over and placing her hand gently on the woman’s shoulder, “I’ll still be here.”
“Even if I stay? When you clearly think I shouldn’t?”
Andrea chuckled. “I am not privy to your relationship with him. From what I’ve seen, well, you know my opinion. But that does not mean it’s the right decision for you.”
Miranda sighed. She didn’t want to admit it, but the young woman’s hand on her shoulder was incredibly comforting. “I thought it would be easier to decide after some time away, but…”
“You still have time,” Andrea said, gently rubbing her shoulder. “We just got here.”
Miranda nodded and took a deep breath. “Is it strange to miss him?” she asked after some time.
“A little,” she replied, rolling her eyes. “But you should probably think about what it is specifically that you miss. You know, do you miss him grabbing you so hard you’re worried you’ll have a bruise? Or do you miss reading the Sunday Times over coffee?”
“I suppose it’s more just the idea of him,” Miranda said. “But how will I explain—the girls,” she cried, burying her face in her pillow.
“Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get you worked up,” Andrea said, gently stroking her shoulder. “Let’s change the subject.”
Miranda nodded and sniffled. “I think you should go to bed. I’ll try and get some sleep, too.”
“Okay,” Andrea said, carefully climbing off the bed and grabbing her shoes. “I’m sorry if I upset you.”
“You didn’t. I’m just tired. I’ll see you in the morning, Andrea.”
Three days later, Andrea caught the editor falling asleep during a dinner meeting. She quickly pulled out her phone, then reached for the editor’s arm.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but there’s an urgent issue back in New York and I need to steal Miranda for a little bit,” Andrea said, gesturing for the woman to follow her out of the room. Thankfully they were only at the restaurant in their hotel.
Miranda excused herself and followed Andrea out of the room. “Is there really an issue?”
“Of course not. You need some sleep, though.”
The editor rolled her eyes. “I’m fine. I can’t believe you pulled me out of dinner for this.”
“You were falling asleep. It was obvious,” Andrea said, shaking her head. “We are going back to your room. I’m going to make you some hot tea, and you’re going to lay down,” she said. “You can’t keep up this pace.”
Miranda punched the button for the elevator. “Why, pray tell, am I not able to keep this pace? Are there not hundreds of others doing the exact same thing in this same city?”
Andrea rolled her eyes and led Miranda into the elevator. “There are, but they sleep at night. You, on the other hand, have been sending me emails and texts about pointless things in the middle of the night, and all night long.”
Miranda rolled her eyes. “And you respond, so that keeps me up longer.”
“Look. I am not giving you a choice here. You’ll only be gone an hour, two max.”
Miranda shrugged. “Fine. I doubt I will be able to sleep,” she muttered as they entered her suite.
“I have an idea about that, too,” Andrea said.
While she was initially a bit resistant, once Miranda slipped into her robe and crawled into bed, she felt a strange sense of comfort—as if the mattress and pillows were somehow softer. Without a word, Andrea also stepped out of her shoes and climbed into the other side of the bed.
“What are you—?”
“When you don’t sleep, I don’t sleep,” Andrea said, reaching over to turn out the light. “I have an alarm set so we can make the Gucci party tonight,” she explained.
When the editor didn’t respond, she glanced over. “Miranda?” she whispered. Again, no response. It appeared as though the woman had already fallen asleep.
Several hours later, Miranda woke at the sound of an alarm. “Mmh, that felt so good,” she sighed, her eyes still closed shut.
“Hi,” Andrea said, gently brushing the woman’s arm. “It’s 9:45. The Gucci party downstairs is starting soon.”
The editor nodded and went to push herself up when she realized her arm was draped across the woman’s waist. “Oh god, I’m sorry,” she said, quickly pushing away. “Really, I didn’t mean—”
“No worries. Did you sleep well?”
Miranda nodded. “I will never admit that you were right, but I do feel immensely better.”
“Then it’s settled.”
“I’ll sleep in here from now on.”
Miranda’s eyes widened.
“Just until you fall asleep. Then I’ll go back to my own room. It’s a win-win.”
She sat back and took a deep breath, clutching the covers tightly to her chest. “This is getting dangerous, Andrea,” she said. “I feel like I should be putting up a boundary somewhere.”
“It’s fine,” Andrea said, squeezing her hand and getting up. “We’re good. I’m going to go change. Mind if I come over to have you help with the zipper? I’m wearing the Marchesa again.”
“That’s fine,” Miranda said.
She quickly dressed in a short black long sleeve “bodycon" dress. She examined herself in the mirror and had to admit that she actually looked really good for a woman of her age. Tonight, she had some business to take care of with Irv that she was hoping to take care of over drinks at Gucci, but first, she wanted to call her daughters to check in.
When they returned to the hotel, it was after midnight. Andrea had a few too many glasses of champagne, but Miranda was none the wiser, as she spent the evening drinking scotch with Irv.
They walked out of the elevator, and instead of going to Miranda’s suite, the editor led them across the hall and one door over, where Andrea was staying.
The young woman looked at her quizzically, but proceeded to swipe her keycard and let Miranda in.
“Your top,” she said, walking in and standing behind Andrea. She slowly pulled her hair out of the way so she could work on the hook-and-eye clasps. It took her longer than she would have liked, but to per perfectly honest, she didn’t mind it. Once it was unclasped, she carefully—almost reverently—slid the fabric down the woman’s shoulders.
Andrea was wearing the corset again, even though the editor hadn’t included it in the girl’s wardrobe for the week. Andrea turned around and stood before the woman, tilting her head to the side, trying to meet her gaze. She reached her hand upwards and cupped Miranda’s cheek, softly brushing her thumb over her cheekbone.
“Andrea, I can’t—” she choked out, casting her eyes downward. She couldn’t ever remember feeling more conflicted than she did at this moment. She yearned for the woman’s touch—and to touch her in return—but she thought of her girls and how she would never be able to explain it to them.
As if she knew what Miranda was thinking, the young woman reached down and took both of Miranda’s hands in hers, squeezing gently. “I won’t complicate things for you,” she said softly. “Please, just let me take care of you tonight.”
Miranda’s eyes widened. “Take care of me?”
The young woman smiled. “Not because you need it,” she clarified, “but because you deserve it. I will draw you a bath, make you some tea, work the knots out of your shoulders…what do you say?” When the woman didn’t respond, Andrea squeezed her hands and released them. “I’m going to go to the bathroom and change into something comfortable. Think about it.” She headed to the bathroom, and stopped at the doorway. “I won’t touch you if you don’t want it, Miranda. I would never do that,” she added, walking into the bathroom and closing the door.
Miranda reached for the dresser to steady herself and took several deep breaths. Her heart was racing, and for once she wished it was because of the anxiety around her dilemma. She knew, though, that there was only one person who could make her heart race like that. Her choice was clear—she had no choice, really.
When Andrea walked out of the bathroom and saw Miranda sitting on the edge of the bed, a smile crept across her face. She held out a room key to the woman, explaining that she could go first and get changed in private if she wanted.
At that, Miranda rolled her eyes and reached for the woman’s hand. “Take care of me, Andrea,” she said.
The brunette grabbed her phone and room key and led Miranda across the hall, back to her suite. “This is probably the wrong time to tell you this,” she said as she held up a robe for the woman, “but you looked incredible in that dress tonight.”
Miranda smiled and tossed the dress onto the chair. “There’s never a wrong time for a compliment,” she said, draping the robe over her shoulders.
The young woman gestured for her to have a seat on the bed while she prepared the bath. Miranda poured herself a glass of ice water, which only served to make her shiver. Andrea saw that, and quickly led her into the warm, steamy bathroom.
“There’s some lavender, geranium, and sandalwood in the bath, as well as loads of bubbles. If you want to get in—and you can use this cloth if you feel more comfortable—” she said, handing her a washcloth, “and then I’ll tie this scarf around your hair and gently massage your shoulders.”
When the young woman turned away, Miranda slipped off the robe and climbed into the bath. “Ohhhh, this is heavenly,” she gasped as she sank into the tub.
“Can I turn around?”
“Yes,” Miranda said. She found she didn’t need the washcloth, as the tub was deep and full of bubbles.
The young woman smiled and came around the edge of the tub, wrapping a thin scarf around her hair and tying it at the top. She proceeded to fold a towel in half and drape it across the back of the tub so the woman could lean back against it.
“I could fall asleep like this,” Miranda said, sinking deeper into the bubbles and closing her eyes.
Andrea let her relax in the bath for a few minutes, and once she noticed the woman getting restless, she kneeled next to the tub and rolled up her sleeves.
Miranda watched as the woman reached for a sponge and squirted some body wash onto it.
“Lean forward a little bit?” she said.
Miranda complied with the request, bringing her knees to her chest as the young woman dipped the sponge in the water and slowly dragged it across her back and shoulders. When Andrea was finished, she did the same for her arms, and Miranda nodded, gesturing for her to bathe her legs as well.
By this point, many of the bubbles had dissipated, so Miranda draped her arm across her chest in an weak attempt at modesty. She was a bit surprised that the young woman didn’t wash her chest, but that was probably for the best, she thought.
Andrea reached for a towel, stretching it out and using her chin to secure it to her chest, she reached out her hand to help Miranda up.
The editor accepted the help, especially since the bath oils made the surface of the tub extremely slippery, and allowed the woman to wrap her in the towel. She then led her to the small chair in front of the vanity, where Andrea pulled out a few cotton pads and a French micellar water so she could remove her makeup.
At the first swipe of the cotton pad across her forehead, Miranda reached out to stop the woman’s hand. “I can do this. Could you get me a cup of tea?” she asked. Andrea immediately left the room and Miranda finished removing her makeup as quickly as possible, not wanting the young woman to see her makeup-free face.
A few minutes later, there was a quiet knock on the bathroom door. “I have your tea, Miranda. I also have the lights off in your bedroom. I was thinking after your tea, you could lie on the bed and I would massage your back a bit,” she said.
Miranda’s heart swelled. There was no question that the woman sensed her concern. She opened the door and stepped into the bedroom, where Andrea quickly took her elbow, leading her in the dark to the edge of the bed.
She handed her the teacup and saucer, then went back into the bathroom to rinse out the tub and gather a few towels and some lotion, being sure to run the bottle of lotion under hot water for a bit in order to bring up its temperature.
Miranda set her empty tea cup on the nightstand as Andrea was returning. Miranda watched as she laid one of the larger towels directly on top of the bed, and the next thing she knew, her head was resting her arms as Andrea’s hands kneaded and pressed along her back.
She allowed the young woman to massage her for nearly twenty minutes, after which, she could tell that the hands had lost some of the strength they initially had. Pushing herself up to her elbows, Miranda turned to look at the young woman. “This was an unexpected but wonderful end to the night, Andrea,” she said.
“I’m glad,” Andrea said. She retrieved a silk nightshirt from the drawer and helped the woman into it.
Miranda used the restroom while the woman folded up the towels and tossed them in the laundry bin. When she returned, she was grateful that the lights were still out, but she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t disappointed that the young woman had left.
Setting the alarm clock, Miranda slipped into bed, feeling incredibly relaxed and—admittedly—still a little inebriated.
Just then, Andrea returned, quickly climbing under the covers.
“W-where did you go?” Miranda asked.
Andrea moved closer, reaching for the woman’s hand beneath the sheets. “I used the other bathroom,” she said.
Miranda sighed and relaxed into the pillows. She felt Andrea’s hand reaching across her stomach as the woman curled up along her side. “Thank you for tonight,” she whispered, turning her head to the side. She was inches from the young woman’s face—so close, she could feel the woman’s breath on her own lips.
Inhaling sharply, Miranda quickly turned away from Andrea.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, yes. I just—” she shivered and tugged the covers up to her neck.
Andrea scooted closer, wrapping her arm tightly around the older woman. “Shh, just go to sleep and get some rest,” she said, pressing a soft kiss to her cheek.
And sleep Miranda did.
The brunette was gone by the time her alarm went off. While she initially missed the physical contact, she was grateful not to have to face the young woman in the daylight without any makeup.
The editor was dressed and ready to go relatively quickly, but as she headed out to the sitting room, her phone buzzed with an incoming text from Andrea: can you help me with this outfit? i left my key card on the table by the door, too! -a
Miranda smiled. She grabbed her coat and bag so that she and Andrea could go straight down to meet Nigel for breakfast, but when she entered Andrea’s room, she certainly wasn’t expecting to find the woman sitting on the bed in her bra and panties.
“Hi,” Andrea said. “I was having some issues with my outfit today, so I thought you should probably just dress me. You know, so I don’t look like a street urchin or anything,” she said.
“I never figured you to be so coy,” Miranda said. She set her coat and bag down in the chair, pretending to be annoyed at the young woman’s request—when really she was delighted. “You do have an unusually high propensity towards hideous sweaters,” she continued, “I must say, we are all lucky you called me when you did.”
First, Miranda grabbed a pair of black stockings. Walking over to the young woman, she slipped them over one foot, then the other, then gestured for Andrea to stand so she could pull them up. Her hands lingered over the woman’s curves, particularly near her perfectly shaped buttocks.
Reaching for the skirt, Miranda helped Andrea to step into it and once again slid it up her legs, smoothing over her hips. She zipped it up and fastened the button at the top, letting her fingers ghost across the young woman’s toned stomach.
She held out a black silk camisole for her, and after slipping it over her head, she traced her hands up the woman’s ribcage. Her own body betrayed her and she shuddered as her thumbs brushed over Andrea’s breasts. She swallowed and quickly tucked the silk camisole into the skirt, reaching out for the last piece of the outfit, a scoop-neck military jacket.
Andrea reached out and grabbed Miranda’s arm, causing her to drop the jacket to the floor. She tugged her closer, wrapping the editor’s arms around her waist as she pressed their bodies flush against each other.
“Ohh,” Miranda gasped. “What are you—?”
The young woman reached around and firmly grabbed the editor’s derriere, leaning forward so that their lips were almost touching. “Stop talking,” she whispered.
Miranda gazed into her eyes, and before she realized what was happening, the young woman’s lips were against hers. She whimpered into the woman’s mouth, delighting in the tension between the softness of her lips and the sheer strength of her tongue.
Andrea’s hands made their way upwards, cupping the base of her neck as she deepened the kiss.
Suddenly, a knock at the door caused Miranda to jump back and push the young woman away.
“Six? You in there?” Nigel’s voice called from the hall.
Andrea turned to look at Miranda, but she was shutting the bathroom door behind her.
“Uh, just a second, Nige. Running late!” Andrea called. She quickly picked up the jacket and tossed it on the bed, taking Miranda’s coat and bag and tucking it inside her closet. She glanced in a mirror and quickly wiped her lips. Hopefully Nigel wouldn’t notice the smudged lipstick.
She opened the door, and Nigel stepped inside. “My, you look good today. You are sparkling, sweetheart.”
“Thanks,” she said, blushing slightly. “I have to touch up my makeup, but then I’ll be ready.”
Nigel looked at her lips and smirked. “Busy morning?”
“Uh, no. I, uh, wasn’t feeling too great so I had an apple. Did you need something?”
“No, I was actually looking for Miranda,” he said.
“Oh, she went downstairs to meet you—did you not see her? You must have crossed paths on the way up.”
“Ah, okay. I’ll go back downstairs and apologize profusely for being so late,” he said with a smile. “Want me to wait for you?”
“Nah, I have a few errands. I’ll just have breakfast here and meet you at Zac Posen,” she said.
He quickly said goodbye and walked out. Andrea locked the door and retrieved Miranda’s items from the closet setting them back on the chair.
“Miranda?” she said, knocking on the bathroom door.
Miranda opened the door, her emotions fully overwhelming her.
“That should never have happened. Andrea, I am married. I am trying to make things work with my husband. I—this has gone too far.”
“What?! No, Miranda, please, I am sorry I took advanta—”
“Stop. You are no more to blame than I am, and I need to accept that.”
“No. It’s my turn to say ‘stop talking,’” she said. “The minute I walked into the bathroom to hide—that’s when it went too far. Soon I’ll be lying to the girls just like you lied to Nigel. I—I can’t do that, Andrea.”
The young woman had tears in her eyes, but she was smart enough to keep her mouth shut.
“Don’t you see how wrong this is?” Miranda asked.
“We didn’t do anything!”
“It’s just kissing! Everyone kisses. You’ve kissed every designer you’ve met this week!” Andrea said.
“But I wasn’t emotionally invested in any of them! It didn’t mean anything!” she shouted back.
As soon as she realized what she said, she clasped her hand over her mouth.
“Miranda, I won’t argue with you. I will respect your wishes,” she said calmly. “I apologize for contributing to this, and for encouraging you to do something that complicates your marriage.”
Miranda nodded and walked towards the door, reaching for her coat and her bag
“I hope we can continue to work together,” Andrea said.
Miranda stood in front of the door, looking down at the handle. “Andrea, I think it’s best for you to switch to another department.”
“What?! No! Why??”
“You know why. I shouldn’t have to justify my decisions. You have a background in writing, so you belong in editorial. I will see that you are transferred once we return,” Miranda said. She quickly opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.
Waiting for the elevator was torturous. She wanted to cry and scream, but was forced to keep her outward persona up, as she was in public and could easily run into someone. She was devastated to lose the young woman after the past twelve hours, but her brain was screaming cheater! cheater! and the tension made her sick to her stomach.
“Miranda?” Nigel said, gently taking her elbow. “Are you okay?”
She shook her head and looked up. “Of course, why?”
“You were standing here in front of the elevator and you looked—er, I mean—I was concerned.”
“I am fine,” she said, taking a deep breath. “Let’s go—we’re going to be late for Zac Posen.”
“What about Andy?”
“What do you think about transferring her to Claire’s team?” Miranda said, stepping into the elevator. She nodded for Nigel to join her, and he pressed the button for the first floor.
“Um, that came out of nowhere. I think she’d be great, but why?”
“Her heart isn’t in the job,” Miranda said, knowing that was only partially true.
Andrea met them in the lobby, and as per usual, Nigel rode to the show with Jocelyn, while Miranda rode with Andrea.
Andrea was the first to break the silence. “I am truly sorry, Miranda. I don’t mean this as an excuse, but I honestly didn’t realize what this meant to you—the emotional investment, as you put it.”
Miranda took a deep breath. “I spent years angry at James for cheating on me. I couldn’t understand how—or what was going through his mind. And now, here I am, no better than the father of my children who I threw out of our home, disrupting my daughters’ lives forever,” she said. Tears threatened to fall from her eyes. “I can’t believe I let this happen.”
“I’m so sorry,” Andrea said.
Chapter 9: We both have to eat
The next forty-eight hours was more painful than the editor could have imagined. She continued a working relationship with Andrea, and despite being in the woman’s presence for most of the day, nothing could have prepared her for such a profound sense of loss.
She wanted to say something, to let Andrea know how hard this was for her; however, she knew that reaching out now would only complicate matters, as Stephen was set to fly in the next morning for the closing luncheon.
As the Runway crew was leaving the Vaccarello show, Miranda waved Andrea over.
“Yes, Miranda?” she said with a smile. Her eyes were so full of hope, Miranda had to look away.
“Get me those red Zanotti flame sandals—take them off the model’s feet if you have to. I will wear them tomorrow at the luncheon,” she said, waving her hand and walking away. She couldn’t bear to see the pain in Andrea’s eyes.
They had a short break before dinner, and then there would be another show in the evening. Feeling a headache coming on, Miranda snuck away to her room so she could relax for a while.
Upon her return to the hotel, the manager handed her a small stack of mail, and she made her way upstairs to her suite. Upstairs, she tossed the mail on the desk, then took a hot shower. The water was so hot, it nearly burned her skin. She was embarrassed to admit that the pain felt good.
Wrapping her gray robe around her, she poured a glass of wine and thumbed through the mail. Most of the correspondence consisted of thank you notes and invitations to visit designers’ showrooms while in Paris. There was a padded envelope that was filled with proofs from the location scout for the next cover shoot, but Miranda didn’t need to look at that now. To be perfectly honest, she only asked them to send them to her so that they would actually do it on time.
The last envelope looked like it was a catalog or something, but strangely, it came from New York. As she opened the crisp envelope and slid the materials out, her breath caught. It felt as though she were being choked. Dropping the envelope onto the table, she turned to the windowsill, gripping the ledge tightly as she took a few deep breaths. “That bastard!” she cried.
When she finally caught her breath, she turned back to the desk and stared down at the pages.
IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF:
PETITION FOR THE DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
Miranda slid the stack of papers all the way out of the envelope. Thumbing through the stack, she was relieved that he did not detail any specific incidents, nor did he ask for more money than they had agreed to in their prenuptial arrangement. It didn’t make the red “sign here” post-it flag any easier to stomach.
She finished her glass of wine and leaned against the desk. Knowing there was nothing she could do about the divorce, she set her mind on the only thing that really mattered: her girls. She wanted them to hear it from her, not from James or anyone else.
Glancing up at the clock, she did the math. It was just after noon on Friday in New York. The girls would be finished with school in a few hours. Miranda sent a quick text message to James, asking him to have the girls call her as soon as they get home.
She looked down at her empty wine glass, shaking her head. “Damn it!” she shouted, throwing the glass across the room. It struck a wall and shattered onto the floor.
Finally, she made her way to the couch. She took off her glasses and closed her eyes, trying to think of what she would say to the girls. Her phone rang, and seeing it was James, she answered right away.
“Hi,” she said.
“Caroline?” Miranda said, sitting up on the couch. “It’s not three o’clock yet—you and your sister should still be in school. Is everything alright?”
“I don’t know, why don’t you tell me?” she snapped.
“Caroline, please. What is that all about?” she asked. “Did you leave school early?”
“Dad had to pick us up. There were too many photographers outside.”
“What?! Why? Is Cassidy there too?” she asked, concerned for her daughters’ safety above all else.
“Like I said, why don’t you tell me?”
“Is Cassidy there? Put your sister on,” Miranda said.
“Bobbsey, what’s going on over there?”
“Stephen was on TV, telling people you’re getting a divorce. Are you really? Why didn’t you tell us?” Cassidy asked.
Miranda’s heart broke, hearing her little girl ask that. “Sweetheart, I am so sorry that you found out that way. Yes, we are getting a divorce,” she said.
“How long have you known this?” Caroline hissed.
“Please, put me on speakerphone,” Miranda said. “Okay?”
“Okay,” she said, taking a deep breath. “I love you two more than anything in the world, and I am going to be honest with you, because you’re practically teenagers. Mommy and Stephen have been fighting a lot lately, and—”
“Is that why he was sleeping in the guest room all the time?”
“Partly, yes. He was not being very kind or respectful to me, and I just felt safer with him in another room.” She cringed as soon as the words came out of her mouth. “He didn’t hurt me or anything,” she quickly added, “but there were times when I was scared. He’s just not the person I thought he was.”
“So you don’t love him anymore?” Cassidy asked.
Miranda sighed. “Not really. He was part of my life for the past five years, and I know we all have some good memories, but, no, I do not love him anymore,” she said as tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Are you crying?” Cassidy asked.
Miranda chuckled and wiped her eyes. “Yes, sweetheart, I am. I just opened the envelope with the divorce papers a few minutes ago, and it all hasn’t set in yet, to be perfectly honest.”
“Wait, you didn’t know?” Caroline said.
“No, uh…this is coming as a surprise to me, as well,” she admitted.
“But on TV, Stephen said that you were—”
“Sweetheart, listen to me,” Miranda said firmly. “My relationship with Stephen has not been in a very good place—I can’t say I didn’t think about my options. But he drove me to the airport when I left, and he was supposed to be meeting me in Paris tomorrow. I was hoping that I could talk to him, and maybe we could fix things. I don’t know when he mailed these or how long it took to get to me, but I promise you that the very first thing I did was send your dad a text asking for you two to call me immediately. I am so sorry that I’m not there for you, my darlings.”
“Mom, don’t cry,” Cassidy said. “Was that really the first thing you did?”
“Well,” Miranda chuckled, “no. I finished my glass of wine, then threw it across the room. Then I called,” she said.
“At school they said you’re probably cheating,” Caroline said.
Miranda held her breath. She could just picture Caroline sitting there with her arms crossed and her lip turned up.
“They said you had a bunch of model boyfriends.”
“Michael said they were ‘escorts,’” Cassidy said.
“Duh, that’s a boyfriend,” Caroline said. “Are there boyfriends that we don’t know about, Mom?”
“No, sweetheart. There are no boyfriends or escorts or anything like that. I am too busy with the magazine to even find time for that. Nearly all of my time is spent with you two,” she said.
“And Andy!” Cassidy said.
“Yeah, what about her—did she know about the divorce before us?” Caroline asked.
“No, sweetheart. I haven’t seen her since earlier today. I don’t know what else I can do—should I come home tonight? Would that make you feel better?”
“No. Dad’s here,” Caroline said.
“I love you both, so very much. I hope you know that,” she said.
“But you loved Stephen, too, didn’t you? And now you don’t anymore?” Cassidy asked. “How do we kno—”
“Stop,” Miranda interrupted. “You two are my flesh and blood. I have loved you since before you were born, do you understand that? There is nothing in this world that would make me stop loving you,” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Do you understand? Nothing.” She could hear at least one of them sniffling on the other line. “I am going to go wash my face and get ready for an event tonight, so I have to hang up, but I will talk to you again tomorrow, okay? And you can call or text me at any time. Got it?”
“Yeah. Thanks, Mom.”
“I love you, Cassidy. And I love you, Caroline. Both of you, very much.”
“Love you, too, Mom!”
“Yeah, Love you, too. Bye,” Cassidy said.
Miranda set the phone on the coffee table as tears streamed down her cheeks. She stared off into space, trying to imagine what was going through their minds and what she could do to fix it.
She didn’t hear the door open, but when the young woman gasped, she looked up and met her eyes.
“Oh, there you are,” Miranda said. “We need to go over the, um, seating chart… for the luncheon.”
“Sure,” Andrea said, cautiously approaching the couch. “I have that right here,” she said, digging through her bag. The young woman eventually produced a folder, which she handed over to the editor.
She put on her glasses and looked at the folder. “We’ll need to move someone to my table,” she said.
“But, your table is full—”
“No. Stephen isn’t coming.”
“Oh, he’s not? Okay, so I don’t need to fetch him from the airport tomorrow?” she said, flipping open her calendar.
“Well, if you speak with him and he decides to… rethink… the divorce,” Miranda choked out. “Oh, damn it!” she said, tossing the folder aside and burying her head in her hands as the tears started flowing again.
Andrea was at her side in an instant, draping one arm around her shoulders and pulling her onto her shoulder with the other.
Miranda curled up against the young woman, burying her face in the woman’s neck as she cried her heart out.
Never had Miranda felt so helpless. She could hardly control her own body. She could feel Andrea’s arm around her, but she couldn’t tell if she was sitting or standing.
The young woman was understanding and supportive, gently stroking her back and whispering calming words of encouragement. “It’s okay, cry it out,” she said. “Take your time—whatever you need.”
That only served to make Miranda feel worse. She didn’t want to need anything. She wanted things back to the way they used to be. She didn’t want the complication of another divorce, and of her sudden availability. As she thought more about it, she realized that the young woman was still there, holding her, comforting her.
Miranda sat up and wiped her nose with the sleeve of her robe. Her eyes were swollen and red. “Andrea, I’ve been horrible to you,” she said as she looked down at her hands. “I spent so much time worrying about things with Stephen—it was unfair to you and—”
“Shhh,” Andrea interrupted, gently wiping the tears from the woman’s cheek. “It’s okay. You’ve had a rough couple of weeks,” she said with a smile.
“But everything I said—the other day—”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I figured you were just making a rash decision. It was just your natural reaction to put distance between us, and I was hoping to speak to you again once things calmed down,” Andrea said, reaching for the woman’s hands. “You haven’t lost me. I’m still here,” she added.
Miranda’s eyes darted from Andrea’s eyes to her lips. The young woman smiled and leaned forward, pressing a kiss to Miranda’s cheek, then another to her forehead.
“Can I draw you a bath? Or do you want to lay down for a while? I’m sure you’re exhausted.”
“I think I would like to lay down for a bit. Will—will you stay?” she asked quietly.
Andrea’s eyes widened. “Sure. I can lay with you until you fall asleep,” she said, standing and helping the woman to her feet. “Come on,” she said, taking her hand and leading her into the bedroom. She pulled back the covers and helped Miranda into bed. Once she was situated, she kicked off her own shoes and climbed on top of the covers, leaning back against the pillows.
“I ruined everything,” Miranda said quietly.
“Miranda, don’t say that.”
“I did. Because I didn’t have the courage to leave him when I should have, now I’ve lost both him and my girls.”
“What? What happened with them?”
“I sent James a text the minute I opened the envelope. The girls called me back a few minutes later and said it was all over the news because apparently Stephen was giving interviews or something, and,” she sighed, “they were deeply upset.”
“I’m so sorry,” Andrea said, placing her hand on the woman’s shoulder through the comforter.
“Like I said, I ruined everything,” she said.
“Maybe not everything,” Andrea added, getting up off the bed and climbing under the covers with the woman.
Miranda closed her eyes as the woman curled up behind her, wrapping her arm around her waist and holding her close. She wanted to push the woman away, but it felt too good.
“If there’s one good thing to come out of all this, it’s that you no longer have a husband,” Andrea said quietly.
“How is that a good—oh,” she said, realizing where the long woman was taking it. “Andrea, this is very complicated. It will be months before a divorce is finalized, and then there’s the girls to think about. I have to win them back. And the press, I just…I can’t. I can’t, I’m sorry,” she said, extracting herself from the woman’s arms and running into the bathroom, shutting the door.
Andrea sighed and climbed out of bed. She didn’t want to push the editor when she was in such a vulnerable state, but she hoped this idea would work.
Miranda had been sitting on the floor of the bathroom, leaning against the door for what felt like hours. All of a sudden, she noticed a folded piece of paper slipped under the door. Before she could say anything, she heard the door to her suite open and shut.
Unfolding the paper, she instantly recognized the young woman’s handwriting—
I can’t imagine what is going through your mind, and I won’t try to know it. I apologize for being so forward. I said what I did in the hopes that it would alleviate some of the guilt from earlier in the week, but I can see that my words did not have the intended effect.
I hope you reconsider my role at Runway. Don’t get me wrong; I would love to work as a journalist—it’s just that the journalism in Runway is not my thing. If you think it would be good for my career, I trust you implicitly.
Miranda - I want to support you in whatever way you need in this next year. I hope you can at least appreciate me as a friend—someone you can trust, who you can call at any hour of the day or night just to talk. I promise that I will dress modestly (and on my own) and that I will keep my hands to myself at all times.
You might be thinking, why on earth would this girl want to help me? —well, you see, it’s simple. I love you. At some point very early on, I also became emotionally invested. You are an incredible woman. You’re a wildly successful businesswoman, and also a bit of a superwoman, because when you’re home from work, you still give 110% to your girls. You do, and I know they still adore you. One hug and kiss from Mommy is all they need. But aside from all that, you’re also incredibly beautiful inside and out. (Notice that I didn’t add “for your age”—it wouldn’t be accurate.) You exude a brilliance that anyone would be lucky enough to capture. You deserve everything you’ve ever wanted in life, and then some.
I know that things with Stephen have been stressful over the past few months. I can’t change the past, but I can help you change the future. I hope you will allow me to support you during this time. Whatever you decide, please don’t try to do it alone. I have no doubt that you can—because you are actually the girl who can do anything—but it will take its toll on even you.
Should you accept my offer, I would also like to take this time to start from scratch. Get to know each other, and see where that leads…
You need not acknowledge this letter if it makes you uncomfortable. I’ve already left the room, and I will be in my own room for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow, I’ve made a dinner reservation for two at Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen at 19:30. I hope you will join me. It’s just dinner, and we both have to eat!
If you need anything else tonight, please let me know. The shoes you requested were delivered earlier, and your schedule has been rearranged to give you tonight off. Your first meeting in the morning is with Irv at 6:45—details in your inbox. I will plan on seeing you tomorrow, at the luncheon.
Miranda read and reread the letter. At this point, she couldn’t deny her feelings for the young woman, but she wasn’t sure how she wanted to proceed. Finally making her way into bed once again, she decided she would sleep on it and come to a decision in the light of day.
The next morning went by in a blur. The meeting with Irv had gone well, and she was pleased to see that her table was rearranged to include only seven chairs instead of eight. She didn’t get to speak to Andrea until they were leaving the luncheon, when the young woman was clearly upset.
“Andrea,” she said quietly, looking over at her in the backseat of the car.
“I can’t believe—”
“I know. I, um, hope we can discuss this and other events more tonight. At Alléno?” she said, looking down at her hands. She wouldn’t blame the young woman for rescinding the invitation after what happened with Nigel, but she hoped she would give her a chance to explain.
“Y-you still want to have dinner?”
Miranda smiled softly. “Only because we both need to eat,” she said.
Andrea sighed and closed her eyes, nodding. “Yes, we do. Okay. Great.”
“Andrea,” the editor said, reaching across the seat and brushing the woman’s arm. “If you need, you can take some time off this afternoon.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, please. I think I can manage this private showing on my own,” she said. “I will meet you in the lobby this evening.”
The car pulled up to the location and Miranda got out without another word. She wasn’t quite sure what she was doing, but she knew she would regret it for the rest of her life if she didn’t see where this thing with Andrea was leading.
Chapter 10: Priorities and distractions
Miranda smoothed her hands over her dress. She was wearing the black bodycon dress again, this time with a different necklace and wrap. She hoped the woman would be waiting for her in the lobby, because after everything that happened in the last twenty-four hours, the last thing she wanted was to run into someone she knew.
Sure enough, when she exited on the first floor, Andrea was standing and waiting. Her lips were slightly pursed, and she was most definitely not smiling, though Miranda couldn’t quite identify the emotion. She tilted her head towards the doorway, where she led Miranda without saying a word. The young woman opened the car door, and once Miranda was safely inside, she ran around to the other side and climbed in herself.
Miranda watched the young woman carefully. She was wearing a pair of black, high-waisted pants with an emerald silk one-shoulder blouse. She looked stunning, but Miranda resisted the urge to say so. That wouldn’t be the best way to begin their friendship, if there was anything to begin at all.
They rode in silence the entire way to the restaurant. Miranda’s heart was racing and she could hardly still in the car. It certainly didn’t help that she had an espresso before leaving the hotel. When the car pulled up to the restaurant, she exited on her own and walked in, with Andrea trailing behind. Inside, they were led to a private corner of the dining room.
“Thank you for joining me,” Andrea said, breaking the silence. “I was worried you had changed your mind.”
Miranda frowned and shook her head. “It is I who was worried about you changing your mind,” she said, looking around. “Actually, I would like to explain something first—if I may?” When the younger woman nodded, she took a sip of her water before continuing. “I didn’t know that James had already promised the job to Nigel. Irv was planning to have Jacqueline replace me, and that’s when I suggested her for the Holt role.”
“Even though you had put Nigel up for it already?” Andrea asked, folding her arms across her chest.
“Well, that’s true. I did. I encouraged him to meet with James and Massimo, and I put a good word in. That was almost four months ago. I talked to Massimo yesterday about Jacqueline. He went to Irv, insisted that he have Jacqueline, and, well, you know the rest.”
“B-but why did Nigel think—”
“That he was getting it? James must have said something to him earlier in the week. I believe it was the plan up until the past forty-eight hours. James knew last night, but my guess is that he was just letting me take the sword on that one.”
“Does Nigel know all this?”
“He does now. I spoke with him on the way back from the showing,” Miranda said. “I hope you know that I do have a conscience—even I am not that cruel.”
Andrea shrugged. “Like that’s stopped you before.”
“Listen to me,” Miranda said, reaching for her hands across the table. She managed to grab the woman’s wrists and hold them tightly. “You must not purport to know me, Andrea. I have many regrets in this lifetime, but the sacrifices I have made for this magazine, and for my own career—I would do again if needed. Do you understand? After my girls, it’s my magazine. There isn’t much I wouldn’t do to protect it.”
Andrea twisted her wrists free and sat back against the booth. “I don’t understand why you’re telling me this,” she said quietly. “Why are you trying to convince me that you’re so bad?”
“I can see it in your eyes. You are disappointed in me. Because you’ve caught me with my guard down on more than one occasion, you think I’m…I don’t know, some sort of human being. I am not. Thinking that I am will only lead you to further disappointment.” She sighed and took a drink of water. “I should go.”
Andrea reached one hand across the table and gently squeezed Miranda’s fingers, keeping her in place. “I was sad for Nigel, but not disappointed with you. You’re right—I don’t know you. But I want to. That is why we’re here, after all…isn’t it?”
Miranda was stunned. “Andrea, I will only cause you pain and bitterness.”
“You can’t scare me away,” Andrea said, squeezing her hand once more before letting go. “I’m going to use the restroom. Order something French for me,” she said, smiling before she stepped away from the table.
The editor stared off into the darkness as the woman walked away. She knew that this would be the time to slip out quietly if she wanted to, but there was something so sincere about the young woman’s words. Perhaps, Miranda thought, she was telling the truth. Perhaps this would work.
Just then, Miranda’s phone buzzed with a text: I’ll be back to the table in five minutes. I hope you’ll still be there.
The editor smiled and waived the server over, ordering them a few items off the menu and a bottle of wine.
When the young woman returned, she smiled, clearly relieved to see the editor still sitting there. Miranda pushed a glass of wine across the table to where the young woman was sitting. “What do you say we change the subject? We have a little over an hour, then I have to make a call,” she said. “Ask me anything you’d like.”
Andrea took a drink of the wine and set the glass back on the table. “Okay. If there were no repercussions or other time constraints, what is one thing you wish you could do more of?”
“Oh, my,” Miranda said, leaning back against the wall of the booth. She grinned and shook her head. “You’ll never let me live this down if I tell you,” she said.
Andrea smiled. “What happens at dinner stays at dinner.”
“I wish I could spend more time reading,” she said, reaching for her glass of wine. The smile that graced her dinner companion’s lips was the most beautiful thing she’d seen in a long time.
“Do you have a favorite book?” Andrea asked.
“Frankenstein,” she said without hesitation. “Yours?”
“The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway,” Andrea replied. “I would have never guessed you were a closet bookworm,” she added.
“I’ll have to show you my library someday. It’s on the top floor of the townhouse, and it’s mostly storage for the girls’ old toys, but I think you would appreciate it,” she said, reaching for another sip of her wine. “There’s this wonderful seat by the window, and in the afternoons, there is just the most perfect light coming through the windows, warming the entire room,” she said. “I actually haven’t been up there in years.”
“I would love to see it someday—maybe even help you clear it out. I know you don’t have much time to read, but perhaps you could review the book up there. Or the girls could do their homework there.”
Miranda nodded and took a sip of her wine. “Andrea, what is your biggest fear?”
“Failure,” she said quickly.
Miranda chuckled. “That sounds like me. Let me guess, perfectionism runs deep?”
“Yeah. I guess I just don’t want to disappoint anyone…like, ever,” she said. “Except that it’s been happening a lot lately.”
“Sweetheart, you are incredibly hard on yourself,” Miranda said. “Even your worst effort is probably better than most people’s best. You know that, right? You have to give yourself a break.”
Andrea shook her head. “Don’t—stop saying that. Please.”
Miranda pursed her lips together in a frown. It wasn’t the kind of frown she’d use to tell a designer she hated his collection, but rather an empathetic frown. “Do you know why I’ve always loved Frankenstein so much? There are two reasons, really. Have you read it?”
Andrea looked up and nodded.
“First is the obvious motto that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. It’s a cautionary tale about power and responsibility. You go on for years thinking that it’s common sense and that it doesn’t apply to you, until you’re in a position of power where your decisions impact the lives of others,” she said.
“The other reason?” Andrea asked, refilling Miranda’s glass before pouring the rest of the wine into her own.
“Do you recall the beginning of the novel? The letters?”
“Yeah, R. Walton, right?” she asked.
“Exactly. Remember when he writes to his sister Margaret and describes how lonely he is? He writes, ‘I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection.’” She took a deep breath and ran her fingers through her hair. She had read and reread that part so often, she committed it to memory, though it had been some years since she recited it aloud. “It’s more than a little depressing, but those are words that I haven’t had the courage to say myself. I feel such a connection to this auxiliary character in that novel. Ever since I first read it when I was a little girl, it just spoke to me.”
Andrea reached out and gently squeezed Miranda’s hand. “I love seeing this part of you.”
Miranda thought for a moment about her husbands. James had laughed at her when she tried to tell him how she related to that novel, and Stephen, she didn’t even bother telling. But Andrea was just so different… She quickly grabbed her wine glass before she said something she’d regret.
Their dinner was served, and Miranda gently bit her lip when she realized how much food she’d ordered.
“My god, we could feed an army with this!” Andrea said. “I know I like to eat more than most Runway employees, but geez, I need to fit into my wardrobe for the rest of the trip!”
“I wasn’t sure what you’d like, so I ordered one of everything. I suppose that was a bit excessive, though,” she said. “Here, let’s just treat it like a French tapas,” she said, handing the young woman an empty plate.
The conversation remained light while they ate, and once they had finished, it was clear that neither woman wanted the evening to end.
“Did you say you had a call to make?” Andrea asked, looking at the clock on her phone.
“Yes, I, uh—” she sighed. “I have to call Stephen.”
“Do you want to take a little walk? There are some private gardens around back. I could stay with you if you wanted.”
“Andrea, I can’t ask you to sit with me while I discuss my divorce,” Miranda said.
“What if I sit next to you with headphones in?”
Miranda thought about it for a minute before agreeing. “But I don’t want to sit outside—just in case someone else is walking around. I’d rather sit in the car if you don’t mind,” she added.
Naturally, the young woman agreed and led them to the car. Miranda was surprised at the calming effect of the young woman’s presence. As she expected, Stephen would be out of the townhouse by the time she returned. He didn’t want any visitation with Caroline and Cassidy, and by and large, he made everything quite simple.
When she was finished with the call, she gently tugged on the young woman’s earbud cord.
“So, how did it go?” she asked, tucking her phone and earbuds back into her bag.
“It was fine. Just fine,” she said. She could feel herself begin to tremble, so she quickly changed the subject. “I had a lovely time at dinner tonight, Andrea. I think we could do this again sometime,” she added.
The car pulled up to their hotel, and Andrea opened the door to step out.
“Andrea,” Miranda called. “I-I think I’m going to ride around for a bit.”
“Of course,” the young woman said. “I’ll be in my room if you need anything.”
Once Miranda was alone, she dialed James, hoping to speak to the girls once again.
“Hi, James? It’s me. How are they?”
“Jesus, Miranda. You called at a really bad time. Can I call you back?”
“What?! No, wait, tell me what happened first.”
“Caroline punched someone at the basketball game. I gotta go. I’ll call you back tonight.”
“Okay—please, don’t worry about the time. I need to know what’s happening,” Miranda said.
“Yeah. Bye,” he said, hanging up.
Miranda clutched her phone to her chest. Her heart was racing, and she wished she hadn’t finished that last glass of wine. Something had happened with her daughters, and she needed a clear head. Thankfully, the driver had a few chilled bottles of water, and offered one to her. Drinking the water, she tried to think of what could possibly have caused Caroline’s sudden violence.
Her phone rang again, and she instantly picked up. “James? What happened?”
“Hi Mom, it’s me.”
“Cassidy? Sweetheart, are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. Caroline is okay, too. I mean, she has a cut on her hand and will probably have to miss a week of school, but she’s okay.”
“Oh honey, I am so glad to hear you are both okay. Will you tell me what happened?”
“Yeah. Dad is talking to the principal now in the living room. He doesn’t know I’m calling you.”
“It’s okay, sweetheart. You can call me whenever you like. So what happened tonight?”
“Please don’t get mad at me.”
“Honey, I won’t. I love you. Tell me what happened.”
The young girl sniffled. “Okay, so Dad dropped us off at school for the basketball game. A bunch of our friends were going and it was like the last home game of the season, so a lot of people and teachers were there. It was kind of boring, but when we were leaving, there were flyers posted all over the gym and the hallways.”
“What kind of flyers?”
“Of you, well, photoshopped. At least Care and I think it’s photoshopped. In this leather bikini thing with long blonde hair. The flyers said stuff like to call you for a good time, and that you liked some nasty things. Josh was walking out with us and he started laughing and asking Caroline if she was such a prude because her mom is such a…a slut. Caroline and I both shouted back that you’re not, that those photos weren’t you, then he showed us this website on his phone where you were, like, naked with some guys. The next thing I knew, Caroline had pushed Josh up against a locker and was punching him in the face.”
“Oh my god. Bobbsey, I am so sorry this is happening. Is Josh okay?”
“Seriously? You care about him?”
“Honey, you’ve already assured me you and your sister are not injured. I just want to know how violent things got—I need to know if his family is going to sue us.”
“He was bleeding pretty bad. They called and ambulance and rushed him to the hospital, but everyone says he just has a broken nose and a black eye.”
“Where is your sister now?”
“She’s in the shower. The police officer said—”
“What!!? The police were involved?!”
“Yeah. Mom, you promised not to get mad!”
“I’m not mad. I’m not mad, sweetheart. I am worried. Can I talk to Caroline?”
“Sure,” she said. “Oh, wait, gotta go, love you,” she whispered, quickly ending the call.
“Cassidy? Cass? Ugh,” she grunted as she tossed the phone into her lap.
She quickly got out of the car and ran inside the hotel, rushing up the elevator and to Andrea’s room. She knocked on Andrea’s door, and after a few seconds, a very sleepy-looking brunette opened the door.
“I need your help. I need to go home as quickly as possible,” Miranda said.
“I’ll explain later. Get me a flight. I’ll pack a quick bag,” she said as she headed across the hall to her own room.
“Miranda, do you need me to come with you?”
“No,” she said. “And I don’t have time for your disappointment. I need you, as my assistant, to get me home. And then I need you to stay here for the rest of the events. Be my eyes and ears. Put your journalistic skills to use,” she said. “But first—the flight!”
Miranda rushed inside her room and quickly changed out of the dress and into a pair of loose black linen pants and a tank and cardigan. She tossed some of her makeup and face cream into her Louis Vuitton duffle, then made sure she had her passport and house keys, cell phone, charger… She looked around the room, quickly trying to figure out if she missed anything. She grabbed the divorce papers and her journal off the desk and tucked those into her bag as well. Slipping on her Gucci loafers, she stepped out of the room, practically running into Andrea in the hallway.
The young woman was on the phone, but led Miranda towards the elevators. She pressed the down button, then ended her call. “Your flight leaves in 45 minutes, just after 1:00 AM. There is a brief stop in Amsterdam, but you don’t have to get off the plane. I know it’s not a nonstop, but you’ll be in New York sooner than any of the nonstop flights that leave in the morning,” Andrea explained. “You should be at James’ door by 8 or 8:30 AM, eastern time.”
The elevator opened and the young woman followed Miranda inside. “Andrea, I—”
She gently squeezed Miranda’s arm, then pulled away. “The driver is out front, and Roy will meet you in New York in the morning. I will take care of everything here. Your bags will be packed and shipped home with the rest of our things. I’ll connect with Nigel and I will take notes from all the remaining shows. If you need anything at all, you call me, okay?”
Miranda nodded. “Thank you,” she said, stepping out of the elevator.
Andrea walked with her out to the car. “Are—are the girls okay?” she asked quietly.
“Yes and no. They are not injured, but I just need to be with them.”
“Understood,” Andrea said. “Take care. Call if you need anything.”
Miranda nodded and closed the door as the car pulled out into traffic, heading for the airport.
Before the plane took off, Miranda had sent a message to James that she would be on a flight home and asked him to email her any pertinent information. When she landed in Amsterdam, she was able to download her messages, and although it was too late to talk to the girls, she sent James a text asking if he was awake.
He replied with a phone call.
“I only have a few minutes until we leave again,” she said, answering the call. “What’s the worst of it?”
“They won’t press charges against Caroline if you agree not to press charges against Josh. My lawyer called Leslee and she’s actually negotiated a settlement, but they need your okay once you’re in the city,” he said.
“Wait. I don’t follow. Why would I press charge—or, wait, was he the one who posted those?”
“No, worse. He created them. He didn’t do the website though, and he’s agreed to comply with the police if you don’t press charges against him.”
“How are the girls?”
“Honestly? I can’t tell. It either hasn’t hit them or they’re holding back. I know they were pretty good friends with Josh, so I think they haven’t fully processed what he did just yet. I talked to the principal and Caroline’s going to have to sit home from school for the week because of Dalton’s zero-tolerance policy for violence, but so will Josh. The principal assured me there won’t be anything on her academic or disciplinary record, and the police were more concerned with the flyers than Caroline’s behavior.”
“I will have to send lunch over to the precinct this week. Do they know I’m on my way?”
James laughed. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but the one thing I’ve learned over the years is never to get the girls’ hopes up.”
“Fine. I will encourage them to sleep in, and hopefully you’ll be here to surprise them in the morning.”
“I will. I have to go. I’ll see you in a few hours,” she said, ending the call. The flight was ready to depart again, so she closed her eyes and curled up against the window.
Hours later, when she arrived in New York, she hurried through customs and to her waiting car, grateful she didn’t have any checked luggage. Roy drove her straight to her ex-husband’s house, where some reporters were camped out in the street, careful to stay off private property.
Naturally, when she stepped out of the car, they all sprung to life. She tried to keep her head down, ignoring them, but one of them asked why she wasn’t in Paris for fashion week.
“Who said that?” Miranda asked, turning around.
“That’s me. Jay Coleman with the Post.”
“Well, Mr. Coleman, you see, I have priorities in my life. While some may say that Runway always comes first, I can assure you that it does not; my daughters always have and always will. I left fashion week without a second thought the minute I learned my girls needed me.”
“Understood,” Jay said. “Do you have a comment on the website and photos?”
Miranda took a deep breath. “No. I haven’t seen them. I am only grateful that I’m providing enough of a distraction to keep my girls out of the papers. I do hope you’ll respect that in the future,” she said, turning and running up the steps to the house.
“Are they still asleep?” she asked as James shut the door behind her.
“Yeah, in my room. Go on, I’ll make some fresh coffee,” he said.
Miranda hurried up the stairs and slipped into the bedroom, stepping out of her shoes and setting her bags on the chest at the foot of the bed. Caroline and Cassidy were huddled together in the center of the bed, so she crawled under the covers and draped her arms around Caroline.
“Mom?” Cassidy said. “Mom! You’re here!” She practically jumped over her sister and landed in Miranda’s arms.
“Oh my darlings, I am so sorry about all of this,” she said, hugging and kissing both girls.
“Mom, I thought you were in Paris working,” Caroline whispered. “D-did you come home be-because of what I did?”
Miranda could feel her daughter’s tears on her shoulder. “Oh, baby, you two are more important than any fashion show. Don’t tell your father, but I don’t care about what you did,” Miranda said with a chuckle. “What I do care about is what provoked it. And for that, I am so sorry, my darlings.”
“Mom, it was awful!” Caroline cried, wrapping her arms tightly around Miranda’s neck.
“Are you mad at us about the other night on the phone? When you told us about the divorce?” Cassidy asked.
“Sweetheart, no. I am never mad at you. I was upset, and it was really hard being away from the two people I love in this world,” she said, kissing Cassidy’s forehead.
The three Priestly women lay there, curled up in Miranda’s ex-husband’s bed for nearly an hour. The girls took turns telling Miranda the whole story, and she reiterated to them over and over how much she loved them and how sorry she was.
There was a soft knock on the door and James appeared, carrying a tray with two mugs of coffee, two glasses of chocolate milk, and a bowl of donut holes. “Ladies, I thought you might like some sustenance,” he said, walking over to the bed.
Miranda sat up and leaned against the headboard, while Caroline and Cassidy both went for the donuts. James handed her a mug of coffee, then stopped, staring down at the bed. “Come here,” she said, patting the space next to her and rolling her eyes.
He took a seat, his back against the headboard, careful not to sit too close to Miranda. “Thanks for coming so quickly,” he said quietly. “They were really upset last night. I didn’t want to tell you because you were so far away, but that’s why we all slept in here,” he said. “I slept on that chair,” he quickly clarified.
“You’re a good father—the best I could hope for, really,” she said. “A terrible husband, but an excellent father,” she added with a chuckle.
“Hey, I heard that,” he said, frowning. “Look at them.”
Cassidy and Caroline both had powdered sugar on their cheeks from the donuts, and somehow in a few short hours, their worries were gone.
“Where do you think she learned to punch with such precision?” Miranda asked, taking a generous gulp from her steaming hot coffee.
“I assumed you,” he said.
Miranda almost spit out her coffee. “Of course I didn’t teach her that! Caroline, sweetheart, where did you learn to punch someone like that?”
She frowned and shook her head.
“What’s wrong? Did someone hurt you?” Miranda asked, handing her coffee to James and crawling over to her daughter. She cupped the young girl’s cheek and gently kissed her forehead. “You can tell me—I promise it’s okay.”
“Andy taught us,” Cassidy said.
“Andrea? My assistant?”
Caroline nodded. “She took a self-defense class at the Y because of her boyfriend, and she was telling us how cool the class was. She showed us a few of the moves and made us swear never to tell you,” she said.
Miranda’s heart was racing. How was it that her assistant was spending so much time with her girls and she didn’t know about it…honey, when was this?”
“A few months back. She also made us promise we’d only use it in self-defense.”
Miranda looked at her daughter with a raised eyebrow.
“I was totally defending you, Mom!” Caroline said.
“Honey, I love that you defended me, but it didn’t need to happen. Self-defense techniques are usually for when you are in danger, not for you to go around defending everyone else,” Miranda said.
“And Caroline, we talked about this last night. I never want to hear that either of you started a fight ever again. Self-defense is okay. Responding to anger with your fist is not,” James added.
Miranda hugged Caroline and whispered in her ear, “I’m so proud of you, Bobbsey.”
“Mom, did Andy come back with you?” Cassidy asked.
“No, sweetie. She’s in Paris with the rest of the Runway team,” Miranda said. “Why do you ask?”
“You’re not going to fire her because of this, are you? Because she taught us some self-defense?!” Caroline asked.
“Well, I haven’t thought about it yet. That you two are okay and are safe is the only thing on my mind right now,” she said, brushing the powdered sugar off Caroline’s cheek and glancing over at James.
“I hope you don’t,” she said, glancing over at her sister. “We actually like Andy.”
“Yeah, she’s cool. Please don’t get mad at her about this.”
Miranda smiled. “I will certainly take your thoughts into consideration when making a decision. I will have you know that when we were in Paris, Andrea and I discussed her moving to the editorial department, since she wants to be a writer anyway,” Miranda said, tucking Cassidy’s hair behind her ear. “So, if she chooses to pursue editorial, you will need to respect her decision.”
“That’s awesome!” Caroline said. “She’s always telling us about how much she loves writing. Maybe she could come over for dinner to see us, since she won’t be your assistant?”
“Darlings,” Miranda said, “you are getting ahead of yourself. What do you say we go downstairs and have breakfast?”
“Can we go to Norma’s for waffles, Mom?”
Miranda frowned. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t bring any clean clothes—I just hopped on the plane, then came here straight from the airport,” she said.
“Actually, Miranda, a bag was delivered this morning before you got here—I forgot about it. It’s in the foyer. I didn’t open it or anything, but I can only presume it’s clothes.”
Miranda smiled. Of course Andrea would have clothes and makeup messengered over. “Alright, girls. Norma’s it is!” she said with a grin.
“Awesome!” Caroline said. “Dad, are you coming?”
“No, honey. I’ve got some things to do. You two go with your Mom. I’m sure she’s starving,” he said.
“I actually had a huge dinner last night in Paris, but that was over twelve hours ago. Give me 30 minutes to get ready—you two, please wash your faces and brush your teeth, and pack up your things to take home, too.”
The girls ran out of the room and Miranda climbed off the bed, heading downstairs to retrieve her bag. She paused at the doorway and looked back. “Do you think they can handle it?”
“Yeah. I don’t want to hide—but I don’t want them to suffer,” Miranda said.
“They’ll be fine. Remember, Caroline just threw a right hook at her classmate yesterday.”
“True,” Miranda said.
Downstairs, she grabbed the bag from the foyer and headed into the first-floor bathroom.
She pulled out her phone and sent a quick text to Andrea: thank you for sending a bag for me.
Andrea replied immediately: No problem. Is everything okay?
Miranda sighed and replied: Can you talk?
Seconds later, the phone rang.
“Hi,” Miranda said.
“Hi. So I saw stuff about the website in the Post.”
“Did it mention the girls?”
“No. Are they involved? I can only presume that’s why you rushed home.”
“Yes, well, one of their classmates took an image off that website and made a bunch of flyers and put them all over the school. The girls were at a basketball game, and they got defensive when they saw them—a little too defensive,” she said.
“Yes. Caroline punched someone, and she claimed that you taught her.”
“Uhh, it wasn’t like that. I mean, I showed them the moves I learned, but I told them it was specifically for self-defense!” she said. “Ugh, I’m so sorry, Miranda.”
The editor sighed. “I know. And honestly, I should probably thank you for teaching them that. It’s unfortunate that she injured someone and that it happened at school, but she was defending me and I can’t fault her there. Anyway, we are going out for breakfast, and I’m a little worried it will be a zoo.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“No. Focus on the last few days in Paris. We’ll talk when you’re back. Caroline has to stay home from school next week, and I think I’m going to stay home with her, possibly Cassidy, too.”
“Okay, um, let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
“I will,” Miranda said, ending the call.
She took a deep breath. Between everything with Andrea and the divorce from Stephen, and now this website and Caroline’s behavior, she definitely needed a few days to sort her thoughts out.
Chapter 11: I know the feeling
For the next week, Miranda vowed to completely disconnect from work and spend time with her daughters. They went to museums and saw a few plays, and more importantly, they spent quality time together, just the three of them.
She didn’t talk to Andrea all week. The young woman kept her distance, but every night she would send a text asking how things were. Miranda’s response was always the same: We are good - thank you. She wanted—no, needed—to keep her distance. That’s not to say she didn’t appreciate her thoughtfulness. She did, very much so. But, she had to trust that Andrea knew she needed this time alone, and understood why.
On Friday after the Runway team returned from Paris, a gorgeous bouquet of spring tulips and daisies was delivered to the townhouse. Cassidy plucked the card out and read it, with a confused look on her face.
“Who are these from?” Miranda asked, walking over.
“It doesn’t say,” she said, handing it over to Miranda. “It just has some weird quote on here.”
Paper is a poor medium for the communication of feeling. You desire the company of one who could sympathize with you, whose eyes would reply to yours. You have no one near you, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like your own, to approve or amend your plans. How would such a friend repair the faults of your beautiful soul! You are too ardent in execution and too impatient of difficulties. You greatly need a friend who would have sense enough not to despise you as romantic, and affection enough for you to endeavour to regulate your mind.
Well, these are useless complaints; you shall certainly find no friend on the wide ocean, nor even here in New York, among elites. Yet some feelings, unallied to the dross of human nature, beat even in your full bosoms. There is something at work your my soul which you do not understand. You are practically industrious—painstaking, a workaholic to execute with perseverance and labour—but besides this there is a love for the marvellous, a belief in the marvellous, intertwined in all your projects, which hurries you out of the common pathways, even to the wild sea and unvisited regions we are about to explore. x
Miranda wiped a tear from her eye.
“What is it, Mom? Who sent it?”
“A friend,” Miranda said. “My friend. Excuse me,” she said, running upstairs. She took her cell phone off her nightstand and went into her bathroom, shutting and locking the door.
The past week had been wonderful, yet unbearable at the same time. After having grown so close to the young woman, being apart from her was nearly impossible. She yearned for the quiet conversation, the casual touches, the empathy that seemed to roll off of Andrea in waves. These flowers with a quote from her favorite novel—it made her miss the young woman terribly.
She opened her phone to begin a message, thinking about what to write. All the words that came to her mind seemed to pale in comparison to what she wanted to say more than anything: I love you, too.
“Oh god!” she cried, sinking down to the floor. “Why is this so difficult?!”
She shut down her phone and threw it across the room as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m a 50-year-old woman. I’m still married, but I broke my vow to my husband. I’m going through a public divorce,” she said aloud. “I am suing a teenager for violating my right of publicity and using my likeness. My daughter was suspended from school for fighting. I treated Nigel terribly. I almost lost my job. I almost lost my daughters. I almost lost Andrea.” She continued to repeat this over and over, a mantra of sorts, until she calmed down and stopped crying.
“And all I can think about is how much I love Andrea,” she said.
A gentle knock sounded on the bathroom door. “Mom? Are you okay?”
She wiped her eyes and pulled herself to her feet. “Yes, darling, I’m fine. I’ll be out in a minute,” she said as she fixed her makeup in the mirror.
She looked over at the cell phone on the floor in the corner of the room and decided it best to leave it there. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and was surprised to see Caroline sitting on her bed.
“You were crying,” Caroline said.
Miranda knew that even with the best makeup, she couldn’t hide the redness in her eyes. She nodded and sat next to the young girl, wrapping her arm around her shoulders. “You’re right, I was. They were happy tears, sweetheart,” she said, kissing her daughter on the top of her head.
“Because of the flowers? Cassidy said they were from a friend—who, Mom?”
“A friend who knows how to get me all sentimental,” Miranda said, chuckling. “She heard about the divorce, and then the website, and she knows me. She knows that I often insist on fighting battles on my own, and her card reassured me that I am not alone.”
“Mom, you have us. Of course you’re not alone,” Caroline said, hugging her tightly.
“Oh, I know, sweetheart. I am so grateful that I have you and your sister. But this is a little different. Some things are meant for adults to discuss, not children—or teenagers,” she added with a smile.
“You can talk to us about that jerk Stephen and the divorce, you know,” Caroline said. “I didn’t even like his pancakes—Dad’s are way better.”
Miranda laughed. “Oh, darling, I love you so much,” she said, hugging her.
“Did that make you feel better?”
“Yes, actually, it did. Thank you.”
“No prob,” she said. “Do Cass and I know this friend of yours?”
“I don’t think so. Maybe you’ll meet her someday,” Miranda said. “Come on, let’s go downstairs and see what your sister wants to do this afternoon.”
On Monday morning, Miranda went straight to Claire’s office when she arrived, and explained that she would be switching Andrea over to the editorial team, effective in one week. She asked Claire to give her some uncredited pieces first, and if it was suitable, to allow her one piece per month, in addition to other editorial duties.
Claire was honestly surprised, but knew better than to question the editor. Plus, she would never turn down the extra help around the department. Editorial was one of the smaller departments at the magazine and most of the pieces had to be freelanced out, so an extra on-staff writer—with a degree in journalism from Northwestern, no less—was a dream for her.
When she returned to her office, she tossed her coat and bag on Emily’s desk. “I need a replacement for Andrea, starting one week from tomorrow. She’s moving to editorial.”
Emily’s eyes widened, but she nodded and responded, “Yes, Miranda.”
Miranda sat at her desk and sipped her coffee as she flipped through the stacks of papers awaiting her attention. She couldn’t think about anything aside from the young woman, and the minute she returned to her desk, Miranda stood.
“Yes, Miranda?” she replied, hurrying into her office.
“Close the door,” Miranda said.
Andrea frowned and pulled the door shut. “Is everything okay?”
“We need to talk,” Miranda said as she walked over to the couch. “Come, sit.”
Andrea cautiously sat next to the editor. “You’re making me nervous,” she said quietly.
Miranda quickly reached out and covered her hand. “No need to be nervous,” she said, hoping to reassure the young woman. “I talked to Claire this morning, and beginning next week, you will join the editorial team.”
Andrea opened her mouth, but Miranda quickly held her hand up, stopping her.
“It was a difficult decision, but I one-hundred percent feel this is the best for your career, if you still wish to pursue journalism. It will show that you worked your way up and you will have published articles in a prominent magazine.”
“But I don’t want to write about fashion. I’m not qualified to do that.”
“I know. While I have no doubt that you could do it, we’re going to give you the opportunity to pitch your own stories. In a way it’s the fashion world from your perspective. Andrea, I think it will be an invaluable experience for you. After that, should you wish to join the ranks of the Times or the Journal, it will all be within your reach,” she said, squeezing her hand.
“Is this your way of telling me goodbye? Transferring me to another department and not answering my messages?”
Miranda smiled. “No, it’s not. Nothing close.”
The editor reached up and stroked the young woman’s cheek. “When you sent the flowers, I wanted to thank you, but I was so overwhelmed by the accompanying note. I couldn’t find the words to express what it meant to me, and once I found them, I couldn’t bring myself to send the message.”
Andrea frowned, gently brushing her thumb over Miranda’s hand.
“I have to sort a few things out, and while this isn’t the reason I’m moving you, it will certainly help to have a small bit of distance from you.”
“I-I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
“Darling,” Miranda said, cupping her cheek. She closed her eyes and whispered the next four words: “I love you, too.”
The young woman gasped and reached up for Miranda’s hand, holding it against her cheek before turning to kiss her palm. She reached for Miranda’s cheek, brushing it gently. Her thumb lingered over the woman’s lips.
Miranda quickly grabbed her hands and held them firmly in front of her. “Darling, I know that it’s all been complicated. Please, I am asking you to do this for me. I need to wait until my divorce is finalized. I know it seems silly now—after what happened in Paris and all—but this website with me and the flyers…the optics are not right.”
She bent down and kissed their joined hands, then stood and walked to the window. “If it wasn’t for that damn website—it’s just that now, if we’re caught together, it gives truth to their claims.”
Andrea stood behind the woman and wrapped her arms around her waist. “I thought they took it down?”
“It’s down, but there are still screenshots all over the place,” she said.
“Ahh. Well, it’s okay. It will be okay,” Andrea said, resting her chin on the editor’s shoulder.
“It’s not okay!” Miranda shouted, spinning around. Tears threatened to fall from her eyes. “It’s not okay. We shouldn’t have to hide. I shouldn’t be worrying about what other people think!”
“Hey,” Andrea said, hugging her tightly. “Do you want to step into the bathroom?”
She spent a moment considering it, then gently nodded her head and let the young woman lead her into the private room.
Andrea locked the bathroom door. “It’s not wrong to worry what others think. It could jeopardize your divorce and the website settlement, and I think more importantly, it could make your daughters’ classmates go crazy again. I get it. I’ve always understood your priorities. I love that about you,” she said, gently lifting up Miranda’s chin.
The sweet gesture made Miranda’s knees grow weak, and she practically fell into the woman’s arms. “We can’t do this,” she whispered.
“Miranda,” she whispered, pressing a soft kiss to her temple. “I know we can’t make a habit of this, but I think you need a kiss right now.”
Miranda reached up and pulled the woman closer, pressing their lips firmly together. Andrea pushed her back against the wall and deepened the kiss. Miranda felt like a guppy, standing there, motionless with her mouth open while the young woman’s tongue did wondrous, marvelous things.
After some time, she pushed Andrea back, gasping for air. The young woman stayed there, with their foreheads pressed together as they caught their breath.
Miranda could feel the flutter of the young woman’s eyelashes on her nose, and it warmed her heart. “Thank you for the flowers,” she said.
Andrea laughed out loud. “If that’s the kind of thank you I have to look forward to, I will have to send you flowers more often,” she said with a wink.
“No, you can’t…you should go. You should get back out there before Emily gets suspicious,” Miranda said as she used her fingers to fix the smudged makeup on Andrea’s face. She pulled a brush from the drawer and applied some matte finishing powder, then a neutral lipstick. “I’m sorry,” she said.
The young woman shook her head. “When can I see you again?” she asked, kissing the editor’s hand.
“I don’t know—maybe dinner later this week? Or the following? You know my schedule better than I do.”
The young woman smiled. “Okay, I’ll see what’s available. Will it be okay to text?”
“No. Stephen’s lawyer could subpoena our phone records.”
“Okay, I understand,” she said. “But I am still an employee, so you know, you still should to talk to me or it will look even more suspicious.”
Miranda looked at the young woman intently. “Are you certain that you are okay with the role in editorial?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I mean, I honestly love being your assistant; however, I trust you completely, and it seems like this is a great opportunity for me. For us.”
“Okay. We will figure this out,” Miranda said. “And hopefully the divorce and all will be over soon. Until then—”
Andrea pressed a finger to the editor’s lips. “Until then,” she whispered before unlocking the door and walking out of the editor’s office.
Miranda leaned against the sink and took a deep breath. For the first time in weeks, she didn’t feel like something was gnawing at her stomach. She felt a sort of relief, as though a weight had been lifted. Despite the mess that was currently her personal life, there was hope. There was Andrea.
The work week went by quickly. After having been out for two weeks, there was more than enough work piled up, not to mention Emily began training a new assistant, and then there were the girls, who didn’t have the best week back at school. On top of all that, she had learned some disturbing news about the creator of the website.
It was Saturday afternoon and Miranda had enough work to keep her busy for the rest of the month piled up on her desk. James just picked up Caroline and Cassidy to take them to the movies, and they were going to spend the night and have pancakes in the morning. Miranda walked out of her home office, knowing that if she didn’t take a break, it would take her twice as long to get through it all. She poured herself a vodka tonic and typed up a text message to Andrea: Do you have the changes to Pierre’s contract? I need to see them, if possible.
The young woman replied immediately: Of course. As a reminder, Jessica is the new assistant who will be taking over my duties.
Miranda chuckled at that. Jessica will not be working with Pierre. That will continue to be your responsibility as long as you’re an employee of the magazine.
Andrea wrote back: On my way.
Miranda had to admit that it would be difficult to remember not to message Andrea whenever she needed something. Jessica seemed competent—more like Emily than Andrea—and she would hopefully be suitable. She would never admit this to anyone, but of the options that Emily presented her with, she deliberately chose the woman who was least like Andrea.
Sighing, she thought about how much she would miss seeing the Andrea on a daily basis. There’s no doubt that it was the best step for her in her career, one that she likely wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Not that she wasn’t capable—Miranda had full confidence in her abilities—but most publications wouldn’t look twice at her resume or portfolio if she didn’t have a year’s experience at an established, non-collegiate publication. This was an incredible opportunity for the young woman, and maybe if she wasn’t so disappointed to be losing her, she could find it within herself to be happy for the young woman.
She finished her drink, but thought twice before pouring a second, opting for sparkling water instead. She had some information to share with Andrea, and while it would be wonderful to see her again, she couldn’t let things go too far tonight.
The doorbell rang, and for a moment, Miranda wondered why Andrea didn’t use her key. As if she could read her mind, the moment the door opened, Andrea reminded her that she had to give the key back to Emily for safekeeping, and that it would eventually be passed on to Jessica.
Miranda took her coat and led her into the den. “What will you have to drink?” she asked.
“Oh, um, nothing. I’m fine,” she said.
Miranda ignored the girl and poured her a glass of wine, handing it to her before sitting on the opposite end of the couch.
“Are the girls with James?” Andrea asked, accepting the drink and taking a sip.
“Yes, but—” Miranda closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Before she could finish her thought, the young woman was next to her, taking her face in her hands. “Shhh,” she whispered, pressing their lips together.
The woman returned the kiss, but quickly pulled away before it went any further than a chaste peck. “Darling, we can’t—not here. There are windows and it’s just—we can’t.” She grasped Andrea’s hands and held them tightly. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t spend time with each other.”
“I know. I’m sorry—I shouldn’t have kissed you,” she said. “Believe me, the last thing I want to do is complicate things. It’s just that I feel like I can be so patient, but then I see you, and I can’t help myself.”
Miranda smiled. “I know the feeling. We’ll have to think of something else.” When the woman didn’t respond, she took a deep breath and reached for the envelope on the coffee table. “I asked you to come over because the detectives stopped by this morning and gave me some interesting information. Information about the website that I believe you should hear,” she said.
“Oh god. What is it?”
“Take a look,” Miranda said, handing her the envelope. She watched as the young woman’s eyes skimmed the page. “They identified the man behind the website as…Nathaniel Cooper.”
“Nate!” Andrea gasped.
Chapter 12: When you say nothing at all
“Miranda, no. I-I’m sorry!” she cried, getting up and running out of the room.
The woman took a deep breath and pulled herself to her feet. She anticipated this reaction, and she wanted to give the young woman some time to compose herself. She found her in the dining room, leaning against the wall.
“Andrea, this is not your fault.”
“It is," she said, burying her face in her hands. "It’s all my fault. If I never mentioned you to Nate, Caroline wouldn’t have punched that kid, and she wouldn’t have gotten suspended, and you wouldn’t have had to deal with this shitty porn website thing. It’s all my fault,” she said.
Miranda hugged her and led her back to the sofa. “Listen, what he did was wrong—illegal, criminal even. Did you give him photos of me?”
“Did you tell him to build this website?”
“Then it’s settled. It is not your fault,” she said. “If you would let me finish explaining, they were able to do some sort of analysis, and it seems that the website was not created until the day after Stephen went on TV to talk about the divorce.”
“I still feel awful. Nate wouldn’t even have known who you were if it wasn’t for me,” Andrea said.
“That’s mere speculation,” Miranda said. “I find it hard to believe someone can live in New York City for a year and not know me,” she said with a smile. “Actually. There’s a tiny bit of good news to go along with this—they traced it back to his current address, which means that the District Attorney in Boston is now handling everything.”
“So that means, you don’t have to be part of it? It won’t be here in New York?”
Miranda sighed. “Not exactly. But it will certainly be less burdensome—for the girls, especially.”
“That’s good,” she said. “If there’s anything you need to know about him, any way you think I can help the case, just let me know. I’ll tell you everything I know.”
Miranda frowned. “Yes, about that. I spoke with Leslee, and it’s actually best that we don’t talk about it any more.” She reached out and took the young woman’s hands. “It’s only until the case is closed. It’s important that no one connects us to each other beyond working at Runway, or they will start digging and I don’t want to think about what they might find.”
Andrea closed her eyes. “So I can’t see you anymore. That’s what you’re telling me?”
“Not exactly,” Miranda said squeezing the young woman’s hand and holding it tight. “We just have to be much more careful. Especially at work.”
“And with me in editorial, it’s easier to do that.”
“Much. Well, for the most part,” she added with a smile.
“Will the DA at least push it through quickly? It can’t look good for them—Boston or wherever—to let this linger. You’re too high-profile.”
“Leslee, I believe, has personally threatened to issue hourly press releases describing the failure of Boston’s justice system if they do not settle it this month,” Miranda said with a chuckle. “I did want to check and see if you’re okay with this first.”
“My lawyers going after your ex-boyfriend. You realize he will likely see prison time. Will that upset you?”
“Seriously?! No! No, go after his sleazy ass!” Andrea shouted.
Miranda chuckled and patted the young woman’s shoulder. “That’s my girl,” she said. “I was fairly certain of your answer, but I just wanted to be sure.”
“Thank you—I appreciate that.”
“Of course. Now, it should be an open-and-shut case, but depending on how creative the boyfriend’s lawyers get, they might actually ask you to testify.” She took a deep breath. “And if it comes to that, I will find a way to hire a lawyer for you. It won’t look good if Leslee represents you, or if I actually hire someone. I will find a way to take care of it, though.”
“Miranda, you don’t need to—”
“Hush. I want to.”
The following week, Miranda was busier than ever. With dinners and meetings each night, she was gone until almost 11:00 PM every night. Caroline and Cassidy missed her terribly, and she tried to make it up to them by going into the office late each morning, but her daughters were not the morning person she was, and they were hardly awake enough to appreciate it. The girls would be at their father’s this weekend, and while she usually hated to see them go, she thought this might actually be good for them to get some special attention while she caught up on her sleep.
Knowing James would be there to pick the girls up after school, Miranda sent Cara home early on Friday. She had a dinner meeting with the CFDA planning committee that would likely go long, and all she could think about was taking a hot shower and curling up in bed. With the girls at their father’s, she would be able to sleep in as long as she needed.
Her cell phone buzzed and she glanced down: Pierre has urgent changes, says you need to see them ASAP. -A
Miranda tucked the phone back into her bag. She would reply later. Tonight was not a good night.
About an hour later, after a few people had already left, Miranda was speaking with Diane when her she felt her phone buzzing again. Ending the conversation, she reached for her phone and saw another message: Miranda, Pierre needs an answer by 2pm tomorrow and requests that you review it tonight. Let me know when I can drop it off. -A
Miranda sighed. She wasn’t sure what could be so urgent, but she trusted the woman enough to know it must be important enough to merit the insistence. She replied: I’ll be home in 20 minutes, then left to get her coat.
Not surprisingly, she underestimated the Friday night traffic situation in Manhattan. Meanwhile, Andrea arrived exactly twenty minutes after Miranda’s text, gently knocking on the door.
“Andy? What are you doing here?” Caroline said, answering the door and hugging the young woman.
“Oh, hi, um…isn’t it past your bedtime?” Andrea asked, hugging her back and walking inside. “And aren’t you not supposed to answer the door at night?”
“We thought it was Dad,” Cassidy said. “Hey Andy.” She hugged the young woman, too.
Andrea shut and locked the door behind her. “Wait, is your mom home?”
“No. Dad was supposed to pick us up hours ago, but he called to say he was running late. And Mom gave Cara the night off,” Caroline explained.
“Oh goodness, well, your mom should be here any minute. But you definitely should not be answering the door this late at night—it’s dangerous!”
“Sorry, Andy. We were watching the camera, waiting for Dad. We saw it was you, otherwise we wouldn’t have answered!” Caroline said.
“Why are you here to see Mom? Didn’t you switch to a new job as a writer?” Cassidy asked. “You never come around anymore, and Mom doesn’t talk about you.”
Andrea smiled and sat on the steps with the two girls. “I did. I’m on the editorial team now—nothing fancy, but it’s cool to flip through the magazine and see a caption or little blurb and know that I did that.”
“That is cool!” Cassidy said.
Just then, the front door opened and Miranda froze in the doorway, her eyes darting between Andrea and her daughters. “Girls! What are you doing here? Andrea?!”
“We were just catching up with Andy,” Caroline said, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
Cassidy elbowed her and clarified, “Dad called and said he’d be running a little bit late.”
“More like a lotta bit,” Caroline muttered, laughing.
“Upstairs, both of you,” Miranda said. “Wash your face, brush your teeth, and get your pajamas on.”
“Aren’t we going to Dad’s?”
Miranda rolled her eyes and set her bag down on the table as she took off her coat. “Not if your father cannot pick you up at a reasonable hour. If he’s here in the next twenty minutes, you may go, otherwise, I’ll take you over in the morning,” she said. “Upstairs, now. I need to handle some Runway business with Andrea.”
The girls turned to go upstairs reluctantly, but Miranda quickly caught up to them. She reached out and hugged and kissed each girl, telling them she loved them and was sorry she had to work tonight.
Once they were on their way to the third floor, she turned her attention to Andrea and gestured her head towards the den. The young woman followed, and was surprised that Miranda didn’t even bother to sit down.
“Andrea, I am terribly exhausted. I just need…what is so urgent?” she asked quietly.
“I have a deposition tomorrow at 2:00 PM in Boston,” she said.
Her eyes widened. “You what!? They owe you more notice than that.”
She sighed. “I know. The letter got delayed—they sent it to my old address, and I just went to go pickup my mail from my old landlord tonight. It was mailed a week ago, I’m just lucky I saw it in time.”
Miranda sat on the chair and sighed. “I’ve already spoken to Elias Clarke’s General Counsel, and because this all arose in the course of your employment…anyway, they’ve agreed to represent you in any pretrial proceedings. You will need to email Ellen tonight and let them know,” she said.
“Miranda, what should I tell them? If they ask me about my relationship with you?”
The editor opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by one of her daughters shouting that their dad was there. She rolled her eyes. “I’ll be right back—stay here please,” she said, looking over at Andrea and eyeing the door to see if she was visible where she was seated from the front porch.
She sighed and walked over to the door, helping the girls into their coats and sneakers, then opened the door when James knocked.
“Hey girls, sorry I’m late,” he said.
“Bye, Mom. Love you!” they both called, walking past their father and into the car without saying a word to him.
“James, this is so irresponsible of you! Do you realize the girls were home—alone—for nearly four hours tonight, waiting for you?” Miranda hissed.
“Hm, why were they alone, Miranda? I though you were watching them during the week,” he snapped back. “Of course it’s my fault when you leave your precious babies home alone.”
Miranda took a deep breath and she felt her nostrils flare. “Please—just take care of them. I’ll expect them home by seven on Sunday.”
“Fine,” he said, walking out and shutting the door behind him. Miranda pressed her forehead to the cool surface of the door and took a deep breath.
Andrea quietly stepped into the foyer. “Hey,” she said, gently reaching out to touch Miranda’s back.
“I’m sorry you had be here for that,” Miranda said. She turned and leaned her back against the door and closed her eyes for a second. “I think I could fall asleep right here.”
“Let’s go upstairs. I’ll talk to you while you take your makeup off, and I can even give your shoulders a little rub before you fall asleep.”
“I feel like I should turn down that offer,” Miranda said quietly, her eyes still closed.
“Come on,” Andrea said, taking her hand and walking her to the stairs.
“You know what? A nice, hot bath would feel so good right now,” the editor said.
“No way. You’re way too tired. You’ll fall asleep in the tub—or you won’t be able to get out. Not happening tonight,” Andrea said. “Not on my watch.”
Miranda’s eyes were still closed, and she curled her lips in a pout—and it took every ounce of Andrea’s willpower not to kiss her.
Upstairs, Andrea turned down the covers on Miranda’s bed and turned off her alarm clock while she was changing into pajamas and washing her face. She emerged in a short cotton night gown, but she practically dove under the covers, so Andrea didn’t have much time to appreciate the view.
Andrea sat on the bed next to her, gently tracing her fingers along the woman’s arm. “So, for the deposition,” she said quietly, “They will probably ask about my relationship with Nate, and mine with you. You were my boss at the time, and now you’re actually my boss’s boss,” she said.
“Mentor,” Miranda said softly. “Tell them I’m your mentor. I knew you wanted to write and helped you make the move, supporting you in your career growth, reviewing your writing samples.”
“Oh, okay. Good. That will be good. That could kind of explain the closeness,” she said. She felt the woman tense up and quickly clarified. “I mean, I am sure Nate has told his lawyer how my life revolved around you when I was your assistant—calls at all hours of the evening, you know. That’s what he was always pissed about. If I simply say I worked for you, I think they will push it further. So I guess I’m saying it’s good that I can say you were my mentor, too. It’s a reasonable explanation.”
“Andrea, I’m sorry to be so blunt, but is there any way he knows that we’re intimate? Might he suspect something like that?”
“No way. I also don’t think he would suspect anything. Plus, we only—” She bit her lip and decided not to finish that thought. “He was pretty stupid. He was just pissed I worked so hard. He wanted me to pick up after him and cook and clean, that’s all.”
Miranda smiled and turned onto her side. “Hmm, whatever you say.”
Andrea smiled. “Okay, I think I better go. You need your sleep,” she said.
“Mmkay. G’luck tomorrow. Stay as far from the truth as you can without lying,” the editor said.
“Thanks,” she said, smiling and placing a gentle kiss on the editor’s forehead. “Goodnight, Miranda.”
— — — — - - - - — — — — - - - - — — — —
The deposition was actually quite painless, and as it turned out, Nate’s idiot lawyer hardly asked any questions at all. She had been worried for nothing. For the next few weeks following that, Miranda and Andrea continued to keep their distance. The night at the townhouse with James and the girls was just too close for Miranda’s comfort, but she couldn’t deny that she missed having the young woman around. Plus, the case against Nate had been delayed because there was something about the website host not cooperating and turning over its records.
After a week or so of not communicating, Miranda began sending the young woman a single text during the day simply saying “Coffee.” At first, the young woman was confused, but after the third straight day of the cryptic messages, she got up and walked over to Miranda’s office and saw her working, with both assistants away from the desk.
“I’m sorry, I keep sending you messages out of habit,” Miranda explained without looking up. “As soon as I realized my error, I sent Jessica out.” She hoped that the young woman understood, and chanced a look up from her computer. The grin on Andrea’s face indicated that she did. “Is everything going well for you with Claire?” Miranda asked.
Andrea smiled and nodded. “May I sit?” she asked. When Miranda nodded, she sat in the chair across from the editor’s desk, moving it just a bit closer. “It’s going very well. I’ve helped with some copyediting, and I even wrote some captions for the last issue. Next week, I have to pitch a story, so hopefully that works out,” she said.
“You know, I would be happy to look at your ideas. Just send me an email. I could easily tell you if something’s been done before, or maybe identify a unique angle on a given topic. And I could probably rattle off some sources for you much quicker than Google,” she said with a smile. “I am your mentor, after all.”
“Oh, okay. I didn’t know if that would be—if that would be acceptable. I may take you up on the offer,” she said with a smile.
Miranda’s eyes darted out to the hallway as someone walked by. “By chance, Leslee hasn’t reached out to you, has she? About the divorce decree?”
“No, um, she hasn’t. Should I expect something?”
“No, no, I just know she often forgets that you’re no longer my assistant. The divorce should be finalized any day now, and there’s just some final paperwork to process,” Miranda said. Her eyes glimmered when she looked back at Andrea.
“That’s wonderful news!” she said. “I, um, will be sure to forward anything that’s mistakenly sent my way,” she said. “Um, I should probably go back.”
“No, stay. Share…this,” Miranda said in the quietest whisper, softly gesturing at the air between them. She focused her eyes on the young woman, willing her to stay there in the chair across the desk, not speaking a word. The young woman smiled, and Miranda smiled back, nodding her head ever so slightly.
Andrea bit her lower lip. The editor’s stare had always been powerful, but in this moment, she almost forgot to breathe. Her chest heaved as she met the intense gaze, her hands reaching out and gripping the arms of the chair until her knuckles turned white.
Miranda’s lips parted, as she, too, was nearly out of breath. Her body shuddered as her eyes remained locked with the young woman’s. A single tear escaped her left eye, and while she wished to attribute it to the lapse in blinking, she knew better. She felt such a warmth in the woman’s eyes that she always knew to be there, but it just felt deeper, more profound in this very moment.
She closed her eyes for the briefest moment, dabbing at the lone tear on her cheek as they fluttered open. The young woman never broke her gaze, and Miranda couldn’t help the tiny whimper that escaped her lips as she felt Andrea’s eyes penetrating through what felt like the very depths of her soul.
Andrea smiled and looked down at her hands, breaking their gaze. When she looked up, Miranda was still staring at her, but the intensity wasn’t the same. “Miranda, when you are glowing with,” she paused and smiled, “the enthusiasm of success, I will be there to participate in your joy,” she whispered. “If you are assailed by disappointment, I will endeavor to sustain you in your dejection.” She looked up and smiled.
Miranda gasped and pressed her fingers to her lips.
The young woman nodded, then got up from her chair. She cleared her throat and spoke at a normal volume, clearly intending for anyone outside the office to hear. “Thank you for the advice, on the pitch. I appreciate it, and will definitely send you some ideas for feedback,” she said, repositioning the chair before she left.
Miranda licked her lips and nodded as her fingers tugged on the pendant around her neck. “That’s all,” she said, grabbing a paper off her desk and spinning around to face the window.
She closed her eyes and took several deep, calming breaths. Her heart was ready to beat out of her chest. Her skin tingled from the tips of her toes to the roots of the hair on her head. Even now, with her eyes closed, she could feel the tremendous force of the young woman’s gaze. She softly reached up and pressed her fingers back to her lips, preventing any words from escaping. She couldn’t, however, keep the lone tear from escaping her eye.
Jessica chose that moment to rush into the office, running a cup of Starbucks into Miranda’s office and setting it on the desk. She was in such a hurry, she didn’t even notice Andrea walking down the hallway, back to editorial.
Later that week, Miranda and the girls were sitting in the kitchen, working on the book and homework, respectively. Miranda excused herself to use the bathroom, and Caroline quickly reached for her mom’s cell phone, dialing Andrea’s number.
“Hey you,” Andrea answered.
“Um, Andy? Why’d you answer so weird?” Caroline said.
“Caroline? What’s wrong? Where is your mom?”
“Mom just went upstairs for a minute,” she said.
“You know you’re not suppo—”
“I know,” she said, cutting her off. “Did you know Stephen is back?”
“Wait—what?! What do you mean?”
“We saw him last night. They were making out.”
“Is he there now?” Andrea asked, trying to hide the anger in her voice.
“Uhh, no. Shoot, gotta go!” she said, ending the call.
Andrea stared at her phone. She considered calling back, but if something was up with Miranda, she wasn’t sure she actually wanted to talk to her. Just then, her phone rang.
“Hey, what happened?” she answered, thinking it was Caroline again.
“Oh, Miranda, hi.”
“Did one of my daughters call you again?” she asked. Andrea could just imagine the look she was giving them. In the background, her daughters could be heard saying “Mom, can Andy come to dinner on Friday night? We’re having pizza and it’s her favorite.”
“Yes, Caroline called.”
Miranda sighed. “And I presume you heard that?Apparently my daughters wish for you to join us for dinner tomorrow night.”
“Do you want me to join you?” Andrea asked.
“Would I have asked otherwise?”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have Stephen there?” Andrea said. She immediately regretted the words once they left her lips.
Miranda froze as the color drained from her face. She vaguely noticed her daughters’ worried glances as she stood and walked out of the room and headed for the bathroom—the only room on the first floor with a door that locked.
Andrea heard the faint click of a lock and was relieved to know that Miranda wasn’t ending the call on her—at least not yet.
“What are you talking about?” she asked quietly.
“Caroline told me Stephen is back,” Andrea said.
“I— th-that’s not—” Miranda stammered, feeling as though the air had been sucked out of her lungs. “That’s not true.”
“She said he was over yesterday. Will you tell me what happened?” She wanted to hear from the editor, in her own words, what exactly he was doing there.
Miranda took a deep breath and sat on the vanity, leaning back against the mirror. “He is not ‘back,’ as you put it. He came by the townhouse last night. I think he came in right after Jessica left—the door must not have locked fully,” she said. At the young woman’s silence, she continued. “He had been drinking. He was saying all these vile things, including that he heard I was into women. I have no idea where he may have heard that, but he saw something in my eyes and pressed the issue. He asked if I had been fooling around with any of the models, or with Emily.”
“What did you tell him?” Andrea asked quietly.
“The truth. That I have never even thought a female model or Emily in such a way. I also suggested that he was focused on the wrong crowd, that maybe he should have thought twice about inviting me to those work functions where those young financial analysts were.”
“What?? You never told me about that.”
“There’s nothing to tell. I just wanted him to look somewhere else—let him question all of those young boys and leave the women at Runway alone,” she said. “I can’t have him asking questions.”
“So he left then?” Andrea pressed.
“Not exactly. He grabbed me and pulled me to him and tried to show me that he was, um, just as capable as the young boys,” she sighed and ran her hand through her hair. “I couldn’t move. I just wanted him to leave, but I was afraid of what he might do if I fought him.”
“Are you okay? Is this why you worked from home today?” Andrea asked.
“Physically, I am fine. But otherwise, I am still quite unsettled,” she said, sniffling as she wiped the tears from her eyes.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“I d-don’t—I’m not—I can’t—” she said, closing her eyes and trying to calm her breathing. She was practically hyperventilating.
“Ok, it’s okay. I won’t ask you to do that,” Andrea said. “Do you need me to come over?”
There was a pause. “You can’t.”
Andrea sighed. “I’m sorry for bringing it up. After what Caroline said, I guess I was just worried.”
“Worried? Seems more like jealousy.”
Andrea bit her lip. “Would you have a problem with that?”
Miranda chuckled. “No, not really,” she said, thinking about what an unfamiliar feeling it was to have someone so protective and desirous all at once. “The offer for dinner tomorrow still stands, if you’re free.”
“I don’t want to intrude on your time with the girls—I know it’s your weekend,” she said.
“It’s not. I mean, James will be out of town next week, so we traded. He’s picking them up after dinner.”
“Won’t it be an issue? Like last time James came to pick up the girls? When you made me hide in the den?”
“There’s a difference now,” she said quietly. “I am no longer a married woman.”
“Really? The divorce—?”
“Yes. This morning. I would have told you, but I wasn’t in, and…”
“That’s why you didn’t want to cause a scene with Stephen last night,” Andrea said.
“Yes. I knew it would come today or tomorrow. It wasn’t worth jeopardizing that.”
“I understand. I wish I was there to hug you, and reassure you,” she said.
Miranda smiled and shook her head. “I should have told you that he came over right away. It was silly to think you wouldn’t find out.”
“Um, Miranda?” Andrea said carefully. “I think you need to talk to Caroline and Cassidy about it, too.”
“Oh. I definitely will be having a talk with them,” she said sternly.
“No, not about her calling me—I actually think she misinterpreted what she saw last night.”
“Oh, I see. Well, she has always been quite imaginative. Thank you for that. I will speak with her.”
“So…dinner tomorrow night?” Andrea asked.
“Yes, come by at 7:00 PM if you care at all about pizza topping choices, 7:30 if you don’t,” she said with a smile. “And, bring some writing samples for me to review.”
“Ah, I see.”
“I would like to clarify. You do not need an excuse to be in my home tomorrow evening, and you certainly need not hide anywhere. I genuinely would like to see your work so far, and…we should also talk, after the girls leave,” she said, hoping the young woman wouldn’t be too upset.
“Suddenly, I think I know what designers feel like before a showing,” she said. “So, I’ll, uh, see you tomorrow.”
“Goodnight, Andrea,” Miranda said. She ended the call and stood facing the mirror, wondering why it was so much more difficult to let the woman in now—now that she was available. Sighing, she opened the door in search of the girls.
Chapter 13: Not a good day
“Mom, I’m sorry,” Caroline said first.
“We hate that we don’t get to see Andy anymore because she’s not your assistant,” Cassidy said. The girls exchanged glances and nodded.
“I shouldn’t have told her about Stephen,” Caroline said. “I’m sorry, Mom.”
Miranda squatted down and held her arms out. “Come here, both of you.” She hugged them and pressed a soft kiss to each of their heads. “I am not upset that you wanted to talk to her. I am, however, disappointed that you felt like you couldn’t just tell me this. Or that you couldn’t ask me about Stephen.”
“I thought you’d say no—”
“—and if we asked and you said no, but we did it anyway—”
“—we’d be in even bigger trouble!” Caroline finished.
Miranda smiled. She secretly loved when her daughters would finish each other’s sentences like that. Pursing her lips together she looked Caroline in the eye. “Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission?”
Caroline eagerly nodded, and Miranda couldn’t resist the smile on her face.
“So, can Andy come to dinner tomorrow, Mom?” Cassidy asked.
“I extended the invitation, and I believe she will be here if she’s not too busy with work.” Miranda knew that was a lie, but she wanted to soften the blow for the girls if Andrea changed her mind.
“Cool!” they both shouted.
Miranda stood and walked them into the den, gesturing for the girls to join her on the couch. “There’s something I’d like to speak to you about, and now seems like an appropriate time,” she said.
Caroline’s eyes filled with tears, while Cassidy hung her head.
For the life of her, the editor could not imagine what they thought she was going to say next. She waited, quite uncharacteristically, to see what they would do next.
Cassidy reached for her sister’s hand. Keeping her head down, she said quietly, “It’s okay, we know. We saw him here last night.”
Miranda’s eyes widened and she wrapped her arms around them both once more. “As I said, I am disappointed that you did not feel like you could talk to me about this. Tell me, what did you think when you saw those flyers at your school?”
“That it wasn’t true! It wasn’t you in those pictures!” Caroline said quickly.
“Yeah, we knew right away it was just some loser trying to make money,” Cassidy added.
“So you understand that you cannot always believe what you see? That sometimes there’s a context around it, right?”
They both nodded in unison. “What if I told you that the photos were real, that I did some modeling to put myself through school?”
Twin sets of eyes widened. Caroline was the first to respond. “But they took it out of context! If you did take that picture, it was probably for a magazine or something, not some disgusting stuff.”
“Okay, so let’s talk about last night. What did you see?” Miranda asked.
“We saw you making out with Stephen,” Caroline said quietly.
Cassidy looked up. “He had his arms around you and his face was in your neck, but we didn’t actually hear what was going on,” she said. “We didn’t want to watch, so we went right back to bed.”
“And based on your observations, you presumed that I was bringing Stephen back into our lives? That I had forgiven him and he was moving back? That I was not going through with the divorce after all?” Miranda asked.
“I guess,” Caroline said. “And I guess that was prolly out of context, too.”
“Probably,” Miranda corrected. “And yes, it was. First, for the record, I never worked as a model and the photos on the flyers and the website are a complete fabrication. I only used that to illustrate my example,” she said. “Next, had you asked me about Stephen, I would have told you that the divorce was finalized today and he is out of our lives for good.”
Miranda nodded and both girls threw their arms around her.
“I’m really sorry, Mom,” Caroline said. “Why was he here though?”
“He snuck in after Jessica delivered the book. He had been drinking, and he wanted to kiss me. I knew the divorce would be finalized today, so I chose not to make a big deal out of it, and once he left, I shut the door behind him.”
“Mom?” Cassidy asked. “Did Stephen try to rape you?”
Miranda’s eyes widened in horror. “No no no, honey. Not at all. Where did you learn about that, sweetie?” she said, hugging her daughter.
“Um, it’s on the news a lot and we googled it at school the other day.”
“Okay, look,” Miranda said, talking to both of them, “Stephen and I were married up and till this afternoon. We kissed, and we did other adult stuff that married people do, okay? He did not hurt me. I would never have stood there and let him hurt me, do you understand?”
Caroline and Cassidy both nodded. “Andy says that we can use self-defense if someone tries to hurt us.”
Miranda smiled. “Yes, that is true, Bobbsey. I don’t think that was necessary with Stephen, though. I think he was just feeling a little lonely and missed me. I listened to him for a few minutes, I let him hug me, I let him kiss my cheek and my neck, but then I told him he had to leave.”
“So you weren’t even making out!” Caroline said.
She laughed. “No. Definitely not. And how do you even know what making out looks like, young lady?”
“I watch TV, Mom! Jeez!”
Miranda sat back and hugged her girls for a bit longer. “So, is everybody good? No questions, no secrets, no more misunderstandings?”
They nodded in agreement.
“And about calling Andrea,” Miranda said, “When you see her, you may ask her for her phone number. If she is willing to give it to you, you may call her from the house phone, not my phone. Understood?” At their nods, Miranda gently led them off the couch and back to the kitchen table to finish their homework.
Friday night dinner at the townhouse was surprisingly comfortable. Andrea talked to the girls about their school projects and their book reports due at the end of the month, while Miranda mostly took in the easy exchange between her daughters and this young woman.
The girls actually groaned when their father rang the doorbell—something Miranda hadn’t witnessed in years. It wasn’t until Caroline asked for Andy’s number and the young woman handed over a business card that they seemed willing to go out the door.
Once they said their goodbyes, Andrea silently followed Miranda into the kitchen and helped her clean up the table, putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher and wrapping up leftovers in foil for the refrigerator.
Finally, Andrea broke the silence. “I, uh, have a writing sample in my bag,” she said, pointing towards the foyer.
“Let’s talk, shall we?” Miranda said, leading her to a chair in the den. Once they were situated, Miranda took off her glasses and leaned back against the chair. “I will start by saying that you, Andrea, have done nothing wrong.”
“Oh god,” the young woman groaned, closing her eyes as she took a deep breath.
“Oh god what? I haven’t even said anything,” Miranda replied in confusion, and if she were to admit it, slight irritation.
“It’s not you, it’s me,” Andrea said mockingly. “I see where this is going.”
Miranda sighed. “Well if you feel that way, maybe we shouldn’t even have this conversation.” She got up from the chair and marched back into the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of water.
Andrea joined her after a few minutes, leaning against the opposite counter. “I don’t want this to go that way. I thought that’s what you were going to say, and I was just trying to prepare myself for the worst,” she said quietly. “I apologize for interrupting. If you’d like to continue—”
“What would be the worst?” the editor questioned.
“You saying you can’t see me anymore,” she said with a shrug.
Miranda reached for the young woman’s hand and squeezed it gently. “I find myself at a loss for words to describe what I’m feeling,” she said quietly. “I want you, I do, but it’s suddenly so—so real.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t either,” Miranda said with a chuckle. “Before, I nearly couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t keep my hands off of you. And now…now I have difficulty being alone with you.”
The younger woman looked up, her brown eyes filled with tears. “I won’t hurt you, Miranda. You know that, right?”
“Yes, of course,” she said quickly to reassure the woman. “It’s—I don’t think I’m ready for this, for a relationship with you.”
Andrea froze. Once the editor’s words fully set in, she asked, “How were you okay with it before? With us, I mean.”
“If you recall Paris, I most certainly was not ‘okay with it.’”
“No,” she said, “I mean, the other night when I helped you to bed. Or that day in your office. Or that other day in your office. Or that other day in your office—”
“Stop.” Miranda held her hands up. “I was still married then. I knew things wouldn’t go—well, they wouldn’t go too far.”
“And now that you’re legally single, this is a problem?” Andrea asked. “I’m confused.”
Miranda wrapped her arms around her waist. “I know it doesn’t make much sense. It is simply more serious now.”
Andrea huffed. “So you weren’t serious before? You were just using me?”
The editor quickly lunged forward and took Andrea’s arm. “No! No! That’s not what I meant. I’m using insufficient words here,” she said with a sigh. “When two people who are single begin to see each other socially, there are certain expectat—no, implications,” she corrected herself. “Single women…date, until they find a partner to marry and have a family with. Even if I could give you that, I am not ready…” Miranda was suddenly trembling, so she walked back to the den and curled up on her chair, pulling the cashmere throw over her shoulder.
Several minutes later, Andrea followed, handing Miranda a cup of hot tea before taking a seat in the other chair. “Do you remember the note I wrote you in Paris?”
“I meant what I said in it—that we could start from scratch. Just because we’ve kissed and touched and fallen asleep together doesn’t mean that I’m ready to have sex and think about marrying you,” she said. “Not that I haven’t thought about that,” she added with a smirk, “it’s just that your newly-single status does not change anything. At least not from my perspective.”
The woman looked over at Andrea, completely incredulous. “Oh, do be realistic, Andrea. Don’t tell me that you weren’t disappointed I was so tired last week when you were over—or that you didn’t expect to sleep with me tonight after I sent the girls off.”
“May I speak?” Andrea asked.
The editor gestured with her hand.
“Last week when you were tired, I was upset that you had to work so much that made you so tired. I did want to hold you, at least until you fell asleep, but you were so exhausted, I wanted you to get your rest,” she explained. “And tonight, I was upset that you asked me to bring work because I was hoping to spend time with you—just you.”
“In bed,” she said with an eye roll.
“I wouldn’t object to that—but do you realize we’ve actually been well-behaved in bed? It’s usually us just talking, or maybe me rubbing your back until you fall asleep. What I was hoping for was some time to simply get to know you better, like when we had dinner in Paris. Maybe to sit on the couch with you and watch a movie, or help you clean out that library upstairs,” she said.
“You know I’m lonely and upset—why wouldn’t you just prey on my vulnerabilities?”
“Because—can I be frank?” At the woman’s nod, she continued, “You deserve better than a sympathy fuck. You are more important to me than that. I care about you as a friend, and hopefully at some point, something more than friends. You deserve to be loved, to be taken care of. And although we both know you can do better than me, I’m here now, and I would like to be your friend.” Andrea stood and excused herself to the bathroom, leaving the woman to process what she had just said.
Miranda folded the blanket and carried the tea cup and saucer into the kitchen, rinsing them in the sink before placing them both on the drying rack. When she heard the doorknob, she hurried and met Andrea in the hallway, just outside the bathroom.
“I think I shou—”
The older woman quickly reached out and pressed her finger to the woman’s lips, effectively silencing her. “You have made your points clear, and I am mostly in agreement. I hope that you can forgive my behavior this evening, because I would very much like for you to join me upstairs, where I’d like to begin sorting through the boxes stored in the library.” Her eyes twinkled as she removed her finger from the woman’s lips and reached down for her hands.
“All is forgiven,” Andrea said. “Think we can celebrate finally being rid of that idiot Stephen? Or is that too soon?”
Miranda chuckled. “Too soon. Come on,” she said, taking the young woman’s hand and leading her up the stairs. “Library is four flights up.”
Andrea followed, fighting back the urge to reach for the woman’s derriere as they climbed the steps.
Upstairs, Andrea gasped as Miranda turned on the lights.
“I was beginning to forget what this looked like,” she said. “Cara doesn’t even clean in here.”
“Miranda, this room is beautiful—the architecture is fantastic,” she said, gazing up at the vaulted ceiling dotted with skylights.
“I know,” she said, walking around the stacks of boxes and finding her way to her favorite reading alcove on the other side of the room. “This was the selling point when we purchased the home—this very window,” she said. “James and I bought this place together before we had children.”
“Do you mind?” Andrea asked, hesitantly standing at the door.
“Come here. Look—have you ever seen a more stunning view of the park?”
Andrea moved next to the woman, peering out the window. She could certainly see why the editor loved this space so much. “Can I ask why you didn’t make this your office?” she asked.
“It was. I relocated to the second floor twelve years ago,” she said. “When I was pregnant, it was challenging to climb all the stairs. I had wanted to make it into the nursery, but we didn’t want the babies that far away from us.”
“That makes a lot of sense. I’m surprised there’s no elevator in here,” she said with a chuckle.
“There is, or, there was,” Miranda said. “It’s extremely old and it wasn’t up to code when we bought. We sealed it off, in the hopes that we’d someday restore it, but that never happened.”
“Where was it?”
Miranda looked around the room for a moment, then pointed to a section of the bookcase that was slightly protruding from the rest. It was centered on the wall, so it seemed intentional. “It’s behind there—it goes down to the back of the hall closet on the third floor, then behind another door in my office on the second floor, and finally the butler pantry on the first floor,” she explained. “We never told the girls—please don’t say anything.”
“Oh, of course not. I can see how curious minds might react to that information.”
Turning back to face the piles of the boxes in the middle of the room, Miranda put her hands on her hips. “I think I can get rid of all of this,” she paused for effect, “stuff.”
Andrea chuckled. “Are these boxes labeled?”
The woman rolled her eyes. “Of course. They are meticulously labeled, except that I can’t remember what I meant when I wrote this.” She gestured to a box labeled: C&C T 1998 + OCT.
Andrea bit her lip to keep from chuckling. “You know, had Emily been in charge of this, she would have left you with a laminated legend somewhere.”
“Yes, she would have, wouldn’t she? Well, let’s start there,” she said, pointing to the boxes closest to the doorway. Miranda lifted one box off the stack and placed it on the floor, pushing it over towards Andrea. She did the same with a second box, then dropped to her knees to open it and sort through its contents.
Andrea mirrored the editor’s movements cautiously, knowing that whatever was in these boxes could be deeply personal to Miranda.
“Oh my goodness, I remember this,” Miranda said quietly. She held up a ragged bunny blanket and showed the other woman. “We had to take it away from Caroline because she took it absolutely everywhere. I tried buying her a new one—same thing, just cleaner and less tattered—but she cried for a week.” She smiled at the memory.
“Are you getting rid of that?”
Miranda pursed her lips. “No, I suppose I won’t.” Glancing around at all the boxes, she suddenly had an idea. “Tomorrow, I’ll go buy two small trunks. We’ll put a few items away for each of them, for sentimental value.”
“That sounds nice,” Andrea said. “For now, do you have a bag or laundry basket or something we can put everything in that we want to keep?”
Miranda nodded and went down one floor to the laundry room, returning with two plastic baskets, and a large trash bag. “Of the items we’re not keeping, some we may be able to donate,” she said, holding up the trash bag.
The two women worked in comfortable silence, going through box after box, holding up the items they found. These things brought back so many memories for Miranda, and she was glad the young woman was there to share them with.
After a few hours, Miranda sat back and looked around. Each laundry basket had a few sentimental items for her daughters to keep, there were two large trash bags full of items to be donated, and on the landing at the top of the stairs there were several broken down boxes and items to be taken to the trash.
“I think that’s enough for tonight,” Miranda said. “I’ll ask Cara to start cleaning this room regularly, now that there’s some usable space here.”
“Can I help you take the boxes out to the trash?” Andrea asked. “Or, I mean, just show me where to go, and I can make a few trips.”
“I am perfectly capable of taking boxes to the trash,” Miranda said, rolling her eyes. “I think we can do it in one trip,” she said, looking down. She turned out the light and closed the door to the library and picked up the flattened boxes that were leaning against the banister. Andrea already began making her way down the stairs, so Miranda called ahead, directing her to use the back patio door and walk around to the alley.
Once the boxes were disposed, Miranda excused herself to use the bathroom while Andrea washed her hands in the kitchen.
“Oh my, it’s past midnight,” Miranda said. Had they really spent three hours up there?
Andrea’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry—I wasn’t even paying attention.”
“Are you leaving?”
“I was going to…why?”
Miranda just shook her head.
The young woman reached out and took Miranda’s hands. “You know, if you ask, I’ll do anything,” she said quietly.
“I know,” she said, reaching up to cup the young woman’s cheek. “Thank you for helping me tonight. It was nice.”
“I will call a car to take you home,” Miranda said. “If you’re not busy, we could probably finish going through everything tomorrow afternoon.”
Andrea bit her lip.
“Or if there’s a better time—I am in no rush, and I think I prefer your company while going through those boxes,” Miranda said.
“I have brunch plans tomorrow with my roommate and a few friends—our reservations are at 12:30,” she explained. “I sort of neglected them while I was your assistant, and then when Nate and I broke up, I just didn’t want to face them. Now, they’re all on my side and want to catch up.”
“Andrea, do not feel guilty for having plans with your friends. You are welcome to come by afterwards if that works, or we can do it again in a few weeks,” Miranda said, reaching for the phone and sending a text to her driver.
“But I feel bad,” she said, pouting her lips.
“Call me tomorrow after brunch, then. We’ll see where we are and make a decision.”
The young woman nodded.
Miranda glanced down at her phone. “Your car is here,” she said, taking the woman’s jacket from the closet and holding it up for her.
Andrea let the woman drape the coat over her shoulders and spun around to face her. “Can I give you a hug?”
“Of course,” Miranda said, wrapping her arms around the young woman’s waist and resting her head on her shoulder. She could feel Andrea’s arms around her shoulders as the young woman pressed their cheeks together.
“I loved spending time with you tonight. It was the perfect Friday night,” she said.
Miranda was a little surprised she didn’t release her arms, but then again, it felt so good to be held like that, she was certainly not going to complain. “I would not disagree,” she said, hugging her a little tighter. “I am sorry for thinking—”
“Shhh,” Andrea said, pressing a kiss to her temple. “I know, and all is forgiven. I should go—I don’t want to keep Roy waiting,” she said, tightening the hug before releasing her arms.
“How do you know it’s Roy?” Miranda asked.
“What other driver do you have on speed dial in your phone?”
Miranda smiled. “The truth is, I wouldn’t trust anyone else driving you home tonight.”
“Goodnight Miranda,” she said, sighing as she picked up her bag.
“Wait!” the editor said, rushing to the kitchen and returning a few seconds later. “Take this,” she said, placing a key in the woman’s hand. “Goodnight, Andrea.”
The following afternoon, Andrea telephoned after brunch, as promised.
“Today is not a good day,” Miranda said.
“Oh, um, okay. Is it something at work? Or did Stephen do something?” Andrea asked. She wasn’t going to tell her, but she was already in a taxi on the way to the townhouse.
“No, nothing like that. I’m fine. It’s just a bad day,” she said as she pulled the comforter tighter around her body.
“Oh, well if you’re busy, I don’t want to keep you,” she said.
“I’m not busy,” Miranda replied quickly. “Let’s just do this another time,” she added with a sigh.
“Okay,” Andrea sighed as the taxi turned down the editor’s street. “Um, bye.”
The editor pressed the button to end the call and buried her face in the pillows on her bed. She hated turning down the young woman like that, but today was just one of those days. She forced herself out of bed to make coffee, but afterwards, she found her way right back upstairs and into bed. “I’ll be okay tomorrow,” she said quietly, closing her eyes.
Andrea paid the driver and quickly walked across the sidewalk and up the stairs of the townhouse. She paused for a moment, unsure whether she should risk interrupting whatever Miranda was doing, but the mimosa she had at brunch gave her the courage to proceed against her better judgment.
Once she opened the door, she quickly locked it behind her, remembering how Stephen had gotten in the other night. “Miranda?” she called quietly. There was half a mug of cold coffee on the counter, so clearly the editor hadn’t been downstairs in a while. Andrea walked up the steps and peered in Miranda’s office. “Miranda?” She checked the library on the fourth floor, and when she still didn’t find the editor, she began to grow worried. Finally, she approached the woman’s bedroom.
The door was open, so she looked inside and covered her mouth to hide her gasp at the editor’s prone form on the bed. She hurried to the woman’s bedside and gently placed her hand on her shoulder. “Miranda?”
Blinking her eyes open, Miranda stared straight ahead for a moment before turning to look at the young woman. “What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I-I was already on my way, a-and are you okay?”
“I told you I was fine,” she said, sinking back into the pillows and closing her eyes. “Today is not a good day.”
“Well, I can see that,” Andrea said, gently rubbing her hand along the woman’s back. “But why? What happened?”
Miranda kept her eyes closed, her face partially pressed against the pillow. “Do you think if I knew why I would be laying here like this?” She opened her eyes again and took in the look of terror on the young woman’s face.
“Do not make any calls,” Miranda said firmly. “This happens, sometimes.”
“What’s ‘this,’ Miranda?” Andrea asked. “You’re scaring me.”
“I don’t have the energy—not today,” she said.
“Can I make you some fresh coffee, or maybe a little breakfast?”
Miranda’s eyes remained closed as she reached out for Andrea’s hand. “No. Don’t do anything. This will pass,” she said. Then, to Miranda’s complete surprise, she felt the mattress dip as the young woman curled up next to her. She opened her eyes and met the woman’s gaze. “Why?”
Andrea reached out for her hand, linking their fingers together. “Because you’re having a bad day, and you shouldn’t have a bad day alone,” she said quietly. “Is this okay?”
Miranda closed her eyes and nodded ever-so-slightly, tightening her grip on the young woman’s hand. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Later that evening, Miranda pushed herself out of bed to use the bathroom. She was certain the young woman next to her wasn’t asleep, but she was grateful to be able to use the bathroom without twenty questions. Sure enough, when she emerged from the bathroom, Andrea was sitting on the edge of the bed. “I can’t talk about it,” Miranda quickly said.
“I’m not asking you to,” she said, standing to face the editor. “I don’t mean this to come across the wrong way, but you’re extremely good at hiding this.”
“I know,” Miranda said, frowning.
Andrea reached her arms out and wrapped the woman in a tight embrace. “You’ll get through this,” she whispered, “just like you always do.” She felt the woman relax in her arms, finally laying her head on Andrea’s shoulder and softly securing her hands at her waist.
They stood like that for several minutes until Andrea pulled back just a little and looked down at the editor. “What sounds good—back to bed? downstairs for a snack? a movie on the couch? a hot shower?” she asked, stroking the woman’s back.
Miranda thought about it for a minute, then decided she needed to have something to eat or else she’d feel even worse tomorrow. “Kitchen,” she said.
Andrea led the woman downstairs, and led her to a barstool at the kitchen counter. “Do you have a taste for anything in particular?”
At the editor’s slight shake of her head, Andrea looked through the fridge and pulled out some grapes and cheese. She took two slices of sourdough bread and popped them in the toaster while she arranged a very small plate with some fruit, cheese, and half a slice of toast. She poured a glass of water and set it in front of the woman, pushing the plate over to her as well. As Miranda took a sip of water, she made an identical plate for herself, and sat next to the woman.
Miranda finished her plate, but waved off any more. She stood and helped herself to another glass of water. “Andrea, really, I am fine. You do not need to be here,” she said.
“I know. I want to be. There’s a difference,” she said, finishing her plate and standing, moving their dishes to the sink. “Come on, let’s go see what’s on TV tonight,” she said, taking the woman’s hand and leading her to the den.
Miranda curled up in the corner of the couch, and Andrea retrieved the cashmere throw from her chair, gently draping it over her. She took the remote and turned on Dateline before taking up residence on the opposite side of the sofa. They didn’t exchange any words, and though Miranda was looking ahead at the television screen, she wasn’t watching it. Her mind was elsewhere.
Soon, she felt the woman’s long arms around her waist as Andrea moved to lay with her. “I know I can’t help you, but I wish you would talk to me,” she whispered before laying her head on the woman’s shoulder.
“What’s there to say?” Miranda said, looking over at the woman. “The illustrious editor of Runway can’t even get out of bed if she’s not working?”
Andrea chuckled. “Well, that’s a start.” She tightened her arms around the woman’s waist. “Have you ever had treatment for…you know, this?”
“You can say it. Depression. Have I ever been treated for depression, you want to know,” she said.
“Yes. Depression,” she repeated quietly.
“Of course I have. The medication makes me—foggy. I can’t take it, not if I intend to work at the same time,” she said.
“You say that as if you have a choice. I thought…”
“You thought what?”
“Nothing. I don’t know anything about depression, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“You didn’t,” Miranda said. “I am able to push myself when needed. Most days it is a conscious choice to get out of bed and ignore whatever is in my head. I suppose that’s why no one knows, my daughters included.”
“Oh, wow. Is that healthy?”
Miranda chuckled. “I would think not. I’ve just been able to almost train myself to only have bad days on the weekends when the girls are with their father.”
She shrugged. “Feels like it. I can always put on a face for them. And for the magazine.”
“Wow,” Andrea said, snuggling closer into the woman. “You don’t have to put a face on for me, you know.”
“That is very kind of you to say so, but I think you would have a different opinion if you lived with it,” she said.
“You really are superwoman, you know,” Andrea whispered, pressing a kiss to the woman’s shoulder.
“Hardly. It seems like whenever I have a truly good day, this monster rears its ugly head and reminds me…”
They sat in silence for a few moments. “Reminds you of what?”
“The thoughts,” Miranda said. “That I’m not good enough, that I’m not happy, that my life isn’t what I wanted for myself or my daughters.”
“Oh, Miranda,” she said, hugging the woman tighter.
“I know—I know, on most days, that the thoughts are wrong.”
“What happened this morning?”
“I don’t know. I never know—it just, it hit me. I could hardly drag myself back up to bed.”
“Is this what happened a few months ago when Stephen called the office? The morning I came over and you were asleep at the counter?” Andrea asked.
“Oh god, do you—do you think I that I caused this today? Because of something I said last night?” she gasped, sitting up quickly.
At that, Miranda quickly turned her head and sat up with the woman, taking her hands and looking her squarely in the eye. “Absolutely not. Never say that again. You are nothing short of amazing—right now, this afternoon, last night, last month. You are no more to blame than I am. This thing just happens. We handle it, and we move on. Understood?”
Andrea nodded. She was a little concerned at the woman’s fierce reaction, but it was more in character than she had seen her in hours. “I understand. I just wish there was something I could do for you.”
Miranda tilted her head, a wistful look in her eye as she cupped the young woman’s cheek. “Don’t you see? You’re already doing it,” she said quietly. “You are supporting me, and you’re not making judgments. You are loving me, and there is no better remedy for the negative thoughts than that.” She smiled and removed her hand to wipe at the tears in her eyes. “I’ve never had this. Thank you,” she said, gazing into the woman’s eyes.
Andrea bit her lip and nodded, once again sharing a silent moment with the woman. She reached up and pulled the editor in for a hug, letting her lay against her chest. “You have this now, Miranda. You have me, and I’m not going anywhere.”
Chapter 14: Patience, darling.
The next morning, Miranda woke when her alarm went off at 6:00 AM. After silencing the alarm, she turned to her side, looking at the beautiful woman curled up on the other side of the bed. “Good morning,” she said.
Andrea grunted and pulled the covers up over her head.
Miranda chuckled and got out of bed. “I’m going to take a shower and get ready—sleep in as long as you’d like. You can use my shower when I’m finished, and I’ll leave some clothes out for you on the dresser,” she said.
Several hours later, Andrea came down to the kitchen, lured by the smell of pancakes and bacon. “Wow,” she said, looking at the breakfast Miranda had made. “This looks amazing. I’m starving.”
“I figured you would be. I may have nibbled on a few pieces of bacon already,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. She set a glass of juice next to the coffee she had poured when she heard the shower turn off. “Here,” she said, handing the woman a plate, “help yourself.”
After the two women had finished breakfast, Andrea stopped the editor, reaching down for her hands. “So, this is what we do? We don’t talk about yesterday? We just keep going?”
Miranda nodded, squeezing her hands tightly. “That’s right—we just keep going. I meant what I said last night,” she added. “You are a balm to my spirit, Andrea.”
Andrea quickly pulled her in for a hug, then released her. “How about we get out of the house and go get two trunks for the library?”
Miranda grinned at the change of subject. “Yes, let’s go.”
Andrea had just finished emailing Claire the edits to her newest piece—her second full-length piece that would be appearing in the pages of Runway—when her desk phone rang.
“My office—ten minutes,” Miranda said.
Andrea looked at the receiver in confusion, then glanced at the clock. If Miranda said ten minutes, that meant she was expected in five, so she quickly touched up her makeup and adjusted her outfit, grabbing her notebook and pen out of habit, she made her way to the editor’s office. When she arrived, she was surprised to see the door closed.
“She said for you to go inside,” Jessica said.
Andrea nodded and carefully opened the door, closing it behind her. “You wanted to see me?”
“Come here,” she said, pointing to her computer screen. “Look.”
Andrea walked around to stand next to Miranda, gently resting her hand on the back of the chair as she leaned forward. “What are we looking at?”
Miranda grinned. “A live feed from a certain courthouse in Boston. The jury just came back.”
“Oh, the trial! Your lawyers think they’ll win right?”
Miranda nodded. “Just watch.”
Their eyes were glued to the screen as the jury read the verdict, and suddenly Miranda sat up and clapped her hands together.
“Wait, what? What happened?”
“Leslee said she’d run her hand through her hair if it came back not guilty,” Miranda said, with a smile, pointing to the woman on the screen. “And she didn’t. You have no idea what a relief this is—to finally put this behind me,” she sighed, leaning back in her chair and turning off the feed. “My lawyer is pushing for three years, and he would be eligible for parole in one, with a permanent restraining order against me and the girls.”
Andrea sighed. “I guess…yeah, I guess that’s good.”
Miranda reached over and took the woman’s hand. “Something’s still bothering you.”
“It’s nothing,” Andrea said, shaking her head.
Miranda reached out and rested her hand on the young woman’s arm. “It’s not nothing. Are you upset because of him?”
“No, nothing like that,” Andrea said, shaking her head.
“Andrea, I can understand. You put a lot into your relationship. As much as I argue with James, I would never wish for him—”
“No, that’s not it at all,” Andrea interrupted. “Have you, um, seen the website? Or the flyer?”
She tilted her head. “I saw a copy of the flyer, but not the website before it was taken down. Why?”
“I, uh…I kind of want to see it,” she said.
Miranda smirked and looked up. “Really?”
“I mean, yeah. I think you would look amazing in that, uh, context,” she said quietly.
“You want to see my face photoshopped onto some ridiculous pictures?”
“Well, if they did a good job, which it sounds like they did because so many people believed it, I’d—” she swallowed the lump in her throat. “Never mind. I’m sorry, I should get back,” she said.
“Wait!” Miranda stood and followed her to the door, pressing it closed over her shoulder so that the young woman couldn’t escape. One question lingered in her thoughts. One word, the answer to that one question she wanted to hear so badly. “Why?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
Andrea’s tongue snuck out and she licked her lower lip, while Miranda’s breath hitched, and she closed her eyes.
The young woman reached out and gently placed her hand on her hip. “I think you know the answer to that,” the young woman whispered huskily into her ear.
“I-I do?” Miranda gasped.
She pulled her hand away. “Yes,” she said. “You do.”
Miranda distanced herself from the brunette, smoothing her hands over her skirt as she backed away. “I have an opening on my schedule Thursday evening—in case you were wondering,” she said with a smirk, turning back and sitting at her desk. “That’s all.”
Later, Miranda was at home with the girls when she received a text message: Pierre has a quick question.
She excused herself from the kitchen and replied: Go ahead.
Andrea replied: Can I interest you in dinner and a movie on Thursday?
Miranda smiled: Hmm, I will have to check my calendar.
Andrea replied: Oh, um… okay. I thought you were free.
Miranda chuckled and replied. I am a very busy woman. But, as it turns out, I am still free Thursday. Shall I pick you up at home?
The younger woman sighed and sent one more message: Sure, 7pm. See you then.
On Thursday, Andrea left work early so she could run to the store and prepare everything for their evening. She was certain Miranda expected they would go out, but she wanted to surprise her with a relaxing and night in.
As expected, at 6:50 PM, Miranda sent a text message that she was downstairs. Andrea indicated that she was almost ready—which wasn’t exactly a lie—and asked her to come upstairs, and then a few minutes later, there was a quiet knock at her door.
“Hi, come in,” Andrea said, opening the door and quickly ushering the woman inside and taking her coat. “I thought I could make dinner for you,” she said. “Is that alright?”
Miranda kicked off her shoes and unbuttoned her blazer. “That is more than alright,” she said, loosening her blouse and unfastening the top two buttons on her skirt.
The young woman handed her a glass of wine and pulled out one of the chairs at the kitchen island. “My roommate Doug is out of town on business, and he won’t be back until Saturday.”
“Ah, okay. Anything I can help with?” Miranda asked.
“Nope, all under control,” she said with a smile.
“It smells delicious,” she said. “We could have gone out, you know.”
“Oh,” she said. “Um, I wasn’t sure. We could still get a reservation if you wanted—”
Miranda shook her head. “No, no, this is perfect. I didn’t want you to think that you need to hide,” she said, taking a swig of her wine.
“Good to know,” Andrea said, turning around with two salad bowls. “Dinner is served.”
The meal was delicious and the conversation was easy. Miranda enjoyed the young woman’s homemade cheesecake so much, she had two slices—one with chocolate sauce, the other with raspberry sauce. “This skirt is not going to button back up,” Miranda teased.
“I don’t see a problem with that, do you?” Andrea teased back.
Once dishes were put away and the kitchen was clean, Andrea poured two glasses of sparkling water and led Miranda to the couch. “What are we watching?”
“I narrowed it down to two—but you have to choose,” she said, reaching for two DVD boxes. “A Star is Born or Silkwood?”
“Mmm, it’s been a while since I’ve seen…Mrs. Norman Maine,” she said, chuckling. “Let’s watch that.”
Andrea put the DVD in and dimmed the lights in the room. “Is this okay? Can I get you anything?”
“It’s good, come here,” Miranda said, patting the couch next to her. After Andrea was seated, Miranda tucked her legs beneath her and curled up along the young woman’s side, resting her head on her shoulder as her arm loosely rested across the woman’s stomach.
“Wow, could you imagine leaving home like that to start a career in a new city?” Andrea commented.
“Personally, no. Although, isn’t that what you did when you came to New York?” Miranda asked.
“Not really. Two of my best friends from grade school were already here in New York, and then Nate came with me. Until I found a job, it was definitely terrifying. My parents had given me a little bit of money to get started, but I knew it wouldn’t last. At least I wasn’t completely on my own,” she said. “Have you always been in New York?”
“More or less. I grew up in Massachusetts, so when I moved to New York to work as an assistant for Diane, I wasn’t very far from home, and it wasn’t an unfamiliar place to me.”
“Yes, she was—and still is—a fabulous mentor. I’ll have to introduce you,” Miranda said.
“Do you still have family in this area?” Andrea asked.
“No. My parents were killed when I was seventeen. After that, I stayed with my aunt and uncle for a bit, but they are long gone, too,” she said. “I’d rather not talk about my family or lack thereof, though.” She reached out for the young woman’s hand, entwining their fingers together.
“Okay, I’m sorry,” she said. “So, what’s your favorite song?”
Miranda rolled her eyes. “Are you conducting a survey?”
“No, I just—I wanted to know you better.”
“Some things are better learned than asked,” Miranda said, turning back to the movie. She squeezed the young woman’s hand in reassurance. “All in good time,” she whispered, resting her head on the woman’s shoulder. “Patience.”
After some time, Miranda sat up and took a drink of water. She excused herself to the bathroom, during which time Andrea paused the movie and refilled their glasses. When they returned to the movie, Vicki Lester was just getting her academy award.
“God, that is so embarrassing—even to watch!” Andrea said. “Remember when—”
“Stephen?” Miranda asked. “As if I could forget. At least I was able to control him with some empty promises,” she said. “Have you ever been publicly humiliated, Andrea?”
“No,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d do if someone hit me like that while I was accepting an award. I certainly wouldn’t apologize for the person!”
“You say that now,” Miranda said, “but if it was someone you cared about, someone who meant something to you, I think you would act differently.”
“Yeah, I guess you’d want to talk with that person in private and figure out what was going on,” she said.
After a few minutes of silently watching the movie, Andrea spoke up again.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you how, uh, the weekends when the girls are with their father have been for you.”
She smiled and tightened her grip on the woman. “It’s been good and manageable,” she said. “I’ve been keeping myself busy around the house. By the way, the library is finally finished—you should come see it.”
“What did you have done?”
Miranda smiled. “I didn’t have anything done. Cara helped me clean the bookshelves—she vacuumed the spine of each book while I dusted and polished the shelves. I also cleaned the floor, replaced the area rug, reupholstered the alcove, and added some new furniture—two chairs, a small desk. It’s back to being functional space, and I am very happy with it.”
“Sounds like I’ll hardly recognize it,” she said with a chuckle. “Did you decide to keep the trunks?”
“Yes. I actually put a cushion on top of one and a glass top on the other, so they double as an ottoman and coffee table,” she said. “The girls were very impressed. By the way, Caroline hasn’t been calling you much, has she?”
“No, just once or twice initially, then she forgot about me,” Andrea said with a laugh.
“She did not forget. In fact, I talked to them after school and I think they were upset they wouldn’t get to see you tonight,” Miranda said.
“They know you’re here?”
“They know I was having dinner with you, yes.”
Andrea smiled. “That’s sweet.”
“Cassidy wanted me to invite you for Friday night dinner again because it’s pizza, and,” Miranda looked up at the young woman, “she says you told her the pizza tastes better at the townhouse. Is that true?”
“Yeah. It’s not the same when my Doug and I order it. I think we just devour it and don’t enjoy the whole sharing-a-meal aspect,” Andrea said. “So if the invitation stands, I would love to come.”
“Do you order pizza every Friday?”
“God no!” Miranda said, laughing. “We always order out, but we rotate. It’s usually between pizza, sweet and sour chicken, tacos, burgers, or Smith & Wollensky. I’m sure you can guess which we get when it’s my choice.”
Andrea laughed. “That’s actually really neat. I guess I should tell Cassidy that I like burgers, tacos, and Chinese, too!,” she added with a smirk. When the editor didn’t respond, she quickly clarified her last statement. “I mean, just for the record. I’m not trying to encroach on your tradition or your time with them every week.”
“I know that. Do you know why I don’t invite you over that much?”
“Um, not really. I just figured you didn’t want anyone to be suspicious.”
“Well, that,” Miranda said, “and the fact that I don’t really want to share you with them.” She pushed herself up on one arm and looked into the woman’s eyes. “The movie’s over, so I guess I should be going,” she said.
When she didn’t actually move, Andrea reached up and cupped the woman’s cheek. Leaning forward, she softly pressed her lips to the corner of the woman’s mouth. “I hope you enjoyed this tonight.”
Miranda pushed herself up to her feet, reaching out her hand to help Andrea off the couch. “It was lovely, thank you.” The young woman helped her into her coat, and she stepped back into her heels, not bothering with the buttons on her skirt. “Would you like to ride back with me?”
Andrea shook her head, reaching for the woman’s hands. “Not tonight. We both have work tomorrow, and I’ll be over for pizza.”
Miranda quickly texted Roy, then reached for the doorknob. “Well, goodnight, Andrea.”
“Goodnight, Miranda,” she replied.
Miranda suddenly turned around and walked back towards the young woman, letting the door close shut behind her. She laced her fingers behind the woman’s neck and kissed her squarely on the lips.
“Wow,” Andrea gasped.
Miranda licked her lips with a playful glint in her eye. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Andrea. Sweet dreams,” she said, slipping out the door and down the hall to the elevator.
The next evening, Miranda was sitting in the kitchen with the girls when she got a text from Andrea: Still at work, but will be there soon. Order without me.
Miranda glanced up at the clock. It was 6:57 PM.
“Andy’s not coming, is she?” Caroline pouted.
Miranda rolled her eyes and showed the text message to her daughter. “She’s coming, I promise you.”
“Should we wait to order?” Cassidy asked.
“No, I don’t want you to eat too late. Let’s order for everyone, and Andrea can eat when she gets here,” Miranda said.
Nearly two hours later, Miranda received another message: In a cab now. Please tell the girls I am SO sorry. Can I stop and bring some ice cream or cupcakes?
Miranda replied: No—Cara made cupcakes. She walked into the second floor living room, where the girls were playing video games, and Caroline looked up.
“Let me guess—”
“No.” Miranda held up her hand. “Andrea is in a taxi now and is on her way. If you’d like to see her, you are more than welcome to join us downstairs. I’m going to reheat some pizza for her.”
“She’s like two hours late!” Caroline said.
“Caroline, you will not make her feel guilty for that, do you understand?” Miranda said.
“Yeah. Geez, Care, you sound like Stephen,” Cassidy said, rolling her eyes.
Miranda ran her fingers through her hair. “I am this close,” she said, gesturing with her fingers, “to sending you both to bed right now. Do not push me on this. Stay here and keep your comments to yourself, or join me in the kitchen where we will welcome our guest,” Miranda said, marching out of the room and down the stairs.
In the kitchen, she took a deep breath and pulled the pizza out, turning the toaster oven on to preheat. Looking back at her phone, she sent the young woman another message: Don’t look into my earlier response—I am looking forward to seeing you whenever you arrive. Do not worry about a thing.
She received an immediate response. Not worried. Tell Caroline I said to deal with it.
Miranda furrowed her brow at that. “Caroline?” she called upstairs. “Did you call Andrea?”
“Yeah,” the redhead said, folding her arms across her chest. “She didn’t answer. I left a voicemail asking if she was really coming or if she just had something better to do. She shouldn’t make you wait for her like that!”
Miranda fought the urge to chastise the young woman. “Well, she just gave me a message for you,” Miranda said. “Do you want to come read it?”
“No. What does it say?”
“It says, ‘Tell Caroline I said to deal with it,’” Miranda said with a smirk.
The young girl’s jaw dropped open as she stood there, speechless.
“On this, I think I have to agree with her,” Miranda said.
The doorbell rang, so she jumped to answer it. Knowing the girls were likely watching, she pulled Andrea in for a hug. “I’m so glad you were able to make it,” she said. “Just go with it,” she whispered so the girls wouldn’t hear.
“It’s good to see you again,” she said in reply. “I’m sorry that I’m late—”
“Hush. Nonsense,” Miranda said, taking her coat and hanging it in the closet. “Did you eat? We have plenty of leftover pizza—I was just about to warm it up.”
“That sounds great,” Andrea said, following her into the kitchen. Once they were out of earshot, Andrea whispered, “Is everything okay?”
Miranda nodded. “Just teaching the girls a lesson.”
“Actually—can I eat it cold?” she said, grabbing Miranda’s wrist before she placed the foil-wrapped pizza in the toaster oven.
“Yes,” she said, smiling. She shooed Miranda out of the way and fixed herself a plate, carrying it to the table, where Miranda had set two glasses of wine.
“Everything okay in the editorial department?” she asked after Andrea swallowed the first bite.
“Wow. It took you nearly five minutes to ask me about that—I am impressed,” Andrea said.
“What can I say? I’m impressive,” Miranda said playfully. “Actually, I called Claire to check in but she didn’t mention that there were any issues.”
“I figured you would. It’s handled, so there’s nothing to worry about. I promise we are not hiding anything from you.”
When Miranda didn’t respond, the young woman knew she would need to tell her the full story to reassure her.
When she finished her pizza, she put the plate in the sink and joined Miranda back at the table. “I accidentally deleted the electronic copy of the feature story,” she said. “But before you freak out,” she added, “I had a hard copy with all of the edits, so I just had to retype it. That’s what kept me behind.”
“It wasn’t due today, was it?”
“Yes, for layout. They needed to know how much space there would be on the page. I think they’re actually splitting it across three pages. Anyway, it was entirely my mistake, and it’s fixed,” she said.
“How are you not mad about that?” Caroline said, stepping out from the shadows in the doorway. “She almost messed up the magazine!”
Miranda looked at Andrea and was relieved to see an I-got-this look on her face.
“Caroline, do you want to tell your mom what you said to me when you called earlier?”
“N0,” she said, quickly shaking her head.
“Then maybe I should?”
The young girl sighed. “Fine. I told her that you didn’t want her to come over.”
“Why would you say that, Bobbsey?” Miranda asked.
“Because it’s not fair. Tonight is our night, and you just want to spend it with Andy,” she said. “You freaking waited for her for two hours!”
Miranda’s eyes widened. “Watch your language. What are you even talking about? Honey, what’s going on?” she asked, wrapping her arm around the girl’s shoulders and walking her into the den.
Meanwhile, Cassidy sat with Andrea in the kitchen. “Hey, Andy. I think you’re cool. I like when you come hang out with Mom,” she said.
“Well, good. I like hanging out with your mom, with and without you.”
“You hang out with Mom without us?” Cassidy said.
“Sure, like last night when we had dinner. Or a few weeks back, I came over and helped her clean out some boxes in the library.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s when I’m at Dad’s or at a friend’s house anyway. I don’t know why Caroline is jealous.”
“If your mom says it’s okay, maybe I can come hang out with you tomorrow,” Andrea said.
“Well, I think your mom has to go into the office for a few hours, and it’s supposed to be nice, so maybe we could go to the park or something.”
“I think I would like that,” Caroline said, standing in the doorway and hanging her head. “I’m sorry for what I said, Andy.”
“No problemo,” she said, winking at the girl.
“Girls, I think this is a good time to say goodnight,” Miranda said.
They both frowned, but said bye to Andrea and kissed their mother before running upstairs.
Miranda sighed and leaned against the counter top. “I wasn’t expecting them to react like this,” she said. At the terrified look on Andrea’s face, the editor quickly engulfed her in a hug. “No, nothing like that. It’s nothing bad—certainly nothing to make me change my mind,” she said, reaching out and squeezing her hand.
“What did you have in mind tonight?” Andrea asked.
“I thought we could sit upstairs in the library. You haven’t seen it yet, and if you had work to do, you could use the desk,” Miranda said.
“I do have a little bit of work, but I actually wouldn’t mind just working on my lap,” she said, knowing that Miranda was the one who likely had work to do. “I can’t wait to see it.”
Miranda grabbed the bottle of wine and their glasses, gesturing towards the staircase. The young woman picked up her bag from the hallway, then followed the editor up to the third floor. Miranda stopped at the base of the stairs to the fourth floor. “I’m going to check in on the girls.”
“Can I use the bathroom?”
Andrea nodded and made her way upstairs while Miranda checked on her daughters, who were already fast asleep.
Miranda made her way up to the library and smiled when she saw that Andrea had turned on the lights behind the book cases, setting an amber glow over the room. She set her things down on the makeshift coffee table. The only thing that was missing was some background music.
“Are they okay?” the young woman asked as she looked out the window at the night sky.
“Yes, they’re practically asleep,” she said as she gently placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder.
Andrea turned and reached for the woman’s other hand. “Everything okay?”
Miranda smiled and nodded. “It is now,” she said. “Will you read something to me?”
Andrea’s eyes widened. “Okay, um, sure. Anything in particular?”
She shook her head. “Your choice. I’ll be right back,” she said, slipping out the door. When she returned, Andrea was curled in the larger chair, flipping through the pages of a book Miranda instantly recognized. “Pablo Neruda?”
The young woman nodded, patting her lap for the woman to join her on the chair.
Miranda hesitated, instead choosing to sit on the armrest next to her. Andrea quickly reached for the woman’s waist and tugged her onto her lap, at least partially. Miranda closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Tell me if I’m too heavy for you,” she said.
Andrea smiled and wrapped her arm around the editor’s shoulders, propping the book up on her knees. “Shh, just listen,” she said, turning the page. “This one has always reminded me of you,” she added.
Juegas todos los días con la luz del universo.
Sutil visitadora, llegas en la flor y en el agua.
Eres más que esta blanca cabecita que aprieto
como un racimo entre mis manos cada día.*
Miranda chuckled. “Ah, the blanca cabecita,” she said. “Will you read it in English?”
The young woman nodded and continued reading the poem, pausing and taking a deep breath after the last line.
Miranda smiled and rested her head against the young woman’s chest. “Mmm,” she whispered, “I want to do with you what the spring does with the cherry trees.”
Andrea pressed a kiss to the top of the editor’s head, and began reading the next poem.
At some point, Miranda fell asleep, and the stiffness in her neck caused her to stir. “Oh! Andrea,” she whispered, “wake up.”
The young woman’s eyes opened, slowly at first, then wide as she realized she had fallen asleep. “I’m so sorry!”
“Hush.” She climbed out of the chair and gently stretched from side to side. “I am too old to be falling asleep in chairs,” she said.
Andrea jumped up from the chair and nervously chewed on her lower lip. “Again, I’m sorry—I’ll be really quiet, and I’ll just call a cab.”
“Andrea. Wait,” Miranda said. “You don’t have to leave—unless I’m keeping you from something.” When the woman shook her head, she continued. “It’s late, just come downstairs with me and we’ll talk in the morning if you’d like.”
Miranda rolled her eyes dramatically.
“Okay, um, lead the way,” she said, following the woman out of the room.
When they reached the bedroom, Miranda pulled a camisole and soft cotton pants from her closet, handing them to the young woman. “Go on,” she said, gesturing towards the master bath. “Use whatever makeup remover or anything you need. I’m going to run downstairs for some water.”
As Andrea stepped into the master bath, Miranda turned her bedside lamp on and turned down the covers before heading down the staircase. When she returned, Andrea was sitting on the edge of the bed, checking her emails on her phone. Miranda handed her a bottle of water, then headed to the bathroom to change. When she emerged in her silk nightgown, she noticed Andrea was already curled up in bed.
After climbing in herself and turning out the light, she turned over and softly ran her fingers through the woman’s hair. “Is everything okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, are you?”
“Yes,” she said, moving closer and draping her arm around the woman’s waist. “Do you mind this?”
Andrea laced their fingers together, holding the woman’s arm firmly in place. “Not at all. Sleep well,” she whispered.
Several hours later, Miranda woke when she heard her girls racing down the staircase. “Mom?!” Cassidy called. “Mom? Where are you?”
She gasped and shook Andrea awake. “Andrea, wake up,” she said. “The girls will come barging in here in a few seconds,” she said quickly.
“Shit. Should I hide?”
“No. No, just—I’ll handle this,” Miranda said, laying back against the pillow and stretching her limbs as she thought about what she would say to her overly-inquisitive, nearly-pre-teen daughters.
“Mom, where are you? Are you still—” Caroline called, opening the bedroom door as she finished, “—sleeping? Oh!”
“Caroline, sweetheart. Where’s your sister?”
“Hi, Mom,” Cassidy said, running into the room. “Oh, shit!”
Miranda rolled her eyes and looked over at Andrea who was pulling her hair into a messy bun. “I decided it would just be easier for Andrea to sleep over last night. We were up in the library really late, and it didn’t make sense for her to go home and come right back when I leave for work,” she said. “I apologize, though, for not letting you know ahead of time.”
“Why is she in your bed?” Caroline asked.
Cassidy elbowed her sister. “Hi Andy,” she said.
“Hey, Cass,” the brunette replied.
“Is she your girlfriend, Mom?” Caroline asked.
Miranda looked over to the young woman, who was staring very intently down at the sheets. “Hey,” she whispered, brushing the young woman’s arms. Their eyes briefly met, before Andrea excused herself to the bathroom.
“I will answer your question, Caroline, but I do not appreciate your tone. Andrea is not my girlfriend—we haven’t discussed anything like that—but we have become very good friends. I enjoy spending time with her, and I think she enjoys spending time with me, too,” Miranda explained.
“So what’s the big deal?” Caroline asked.
“I think Mom wants her to be her girlfriend,” Cassidy whispered, causing her sister’s eyes to widen.
“Is that true, Mom?”
“I’m not sure. But I do know, that if she’s continued to be treated the way you seem to think is fitting around here, she will not want anything to do with us, and that would make me very sad,” she said. “If you have issues or questions, you come to me. And from now on, in this house, Andrea is someone we like and respect and we want to keep her around. Fair?”
“Yeah,” Caroline said, looking down at the carpet.
Miranda climbed out of bed and took both of her daughters in a hug. “I love you both. Go down and get the waffle maker out. We’ll be down in a few minutes, and you can apologize to her then.”
The girls quickly left the room, shutting the door behind them.
Miranda knocked on the bathroom door before walking inside. “That could have gone worse,” she said.
“Worse? Yeah, I guess, but it could have gone a lot better,” Andrea said, running her fingers through her hair. “I am just complicating things for you.”
“Stop, don’t say that,” Miranda said, wrapping her arms around the young woman. “I feel like I’m never going to be enough for you. I can’t give you what you want—what you need right now—and I don’t want that to hold us back.”
“What is it you think I want?” Andrea asked.
“Commitment. A relationship. Certainty. Don’t you?”
Andrea shook her head and started laughing. “Commitment and certainty don’t matter much to me. I just want you,” she whispered. She reached up and cupped the editor’s cheek in her hand. “May I kiss you?”
Miranda nodded, closing her eyes, and the distance between their bodies. The taste of the other woman’s lips was divine—so divine that the editor was to focused thinking about it to return the gesture.
“I don’t mind doing all the work,” Andrea whispered as she peppered feather-light kisses along the woman’s jaw line. “But you know, this is your opportunity to kiss me, too.”
Miranda simply shook her head. “If I taste you, I won’t be able to stop at your lips,” she whispered, quickly pulling away. “Meet us downstairs in a few?” she said, quickly grabbing her robe and walking out of the bathroom, heading downstairs to make breakfast.
The girls were suspiciously quiet throughout breakfast, but Miranda was determined to act normally around them, which meant occasionally touching Andrea or even whispering something in her ear. Most importantly, her daughters were being kind and respectful to their guest, and despite Caroline’s earlier attitude, she knew they were being genuine.
After they finished eating and the adults were sufficiently caffeinated, the girls excused themselves to watch a television show. Once the kitchen was back in order, Miranda walked up behind the young woman and wrapped her arms around her waist.
“Oh, hi,” Andrea said with a giggle.
“Hello,” Miranda murmured, resting her head on the woman’s upper back. “I have to go upstairs and shower before I go into the office. I imagine you’d like to freshen up as well. If you’re still interested in spending some time with the girls today, I was thinking the three of you could go get pedicures.”
“Really?” Andrea asked, turning around in her arms.
“Yes. Would that interest you?” she asked, pulling away. “You don’t have to—I understand.”
“No, I will. I think that sounds great,” Andrea said. “Can I ask you something?”
“Why did you do that—pull away like that?”
Miranda sighed. “It’s nothing,” she said. At the young woman’s frown, she added, “It’s nothing to worry about. Are you free this evening? We can talk more then.”
*quote from the poem “Every Day You Play” by Pablo Neruda
Chapter 15: Over the edge
Andrea spent the day with the girls, walking around the park and getting pedicures. She took a few photos of the girls and sent them to Miranda, reassuring her that everything was okay, and that she could take as long as she needed at work.
On the way back from the nail salon, Caroline muttered something under her breath about Stephen.
“What was that?” Andrea asked.
“I said, this is no different than Mom making Stephen go places with us when she was working,” the young girl said.
Andrea led them to a bench, where she gestured for both girls to sit down and she squatted in front of them. “Look, I don’t know what it was like with Stephen—I only know that your mom was not happy with him. Because I care about her so much, I also care about the things she loves, and that’s you,” she said. “Your mom can’t make me do anything—not now, that I’m not her assistant. I want to hang out with you and get to know you better.”
The two girls looked at each other, and after a few seconds of silence, Caroline nodded.
“What we mean,” Cassidy explained, “is that Mom and Stephen used to spend time with us separately. Never the four of us together, except for dinner.”
“We don’t want you as a substitute for spending time with our actual Mom,” Caroline said, crossing her arms over her chest.
“It’s not like that at all,” Andrea said. “Believe me, your mom would rather be here with us if she could.”
Caroline rolled her eyes.
“If you don’t believe me, let’s make plans for later this afternoon,” Andrea said.
“Really?” Cassidy asked. “Like what—the movies or something?”
“Sure, if you want,” Andrea said.
“Mom has never taken us to the movies, Cass,” her sister said. “She just has her assistants get the movie on DVD and we watch it at home.”
“Well then that’s perfect,” Andrea said. “I will prove to you that your mom wants to spend time with you—with us—and that I am in no way a substitute. How’s that?”
“Can we see Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist? Or Marley & Me?” Cassidy asked excitedly.
Caroline’s face lit up at the suggestions. “Yeah, either of those would be okay,” she added.
Andrea sat down next to them on the bench and pulled out her phone, quickly looking up the show times. “Okay, it’s 12:30 now, and your Mom will probably be there for another hour or two. We could see Nick & Norah at 4:30, or Marley & Me at 4:10. The next showings are after 7:00, so hopefully she can do the earlier ones,” Andrea said. “Should I message her now?”
Both girls replied with a nod, so Andrea typed out a text message: Hope work is going well. C+C want to see a movie tonight—either Nick & Norah or Marley & Me. The shows are at 4:30 and 4:10—can you make either?
“There, sent,” she said, showing Caroline her phone.
Two seconds later, Miranda replied: You want me to go with?
Andrea replied: That was the idea… She showed the girls her phone.
“Told you she won’t go,” Caroline said. After a few more minutes, she got up off the bench. “Let’s just go home. Mom’s not responding, and she clearly doesn’t want to go with us.”
Andrea’s heart broke just a little bit at the disappointment on the young girls’ faces—even more so because she felt like she contributed to it by thinking Miranda would say yes.
Just then, her phone dinged with another message and the girls eagerly reached for Andrea’s phone to see what it said. Nick & Norah is PG13—they are too young to see that. They realize Marley & Me is sad, right? I’ll be finished in a few minutes here, so we could actually make the 1:50 showing at the Cineplex in Manhattan if you want to meet me at the office…?
Andrea grinned. “Told ya,” she said, wrapping her arm around Caroline’s shoulder.
“Yay! Can we go now?” Cassidy asked.
“How about we grab lunch and bring it to your mom’s office, because I’m sure she hasn’t eaten anything. If she’s busy, we can hang out in one of the conference rooms until she’s ready. Deal?”
“Deal,” Caroline said, smiling. “Can we get Panera?”
“Absolutely,” Andrea said.
Thirty minutes later, they were walking into the lobby of Elias Clarke. Caroline carried a tray of four drinks in to-go cups, and Cassidy and Andrea each had a bag of food. When they stepped off the elevator, the floor was dark, except for the light coming from behind Miranda’s office doors. Andrea took the drinks from Caroline and gestured for her to knock first.
Pushing the door open, she smiled and ran around the desk, hugging Miranda. “Hi Mom!”
“We brought a light lunch,” Cassidy said, holding up the bag.
“Oh, my, this is a surprise,” she said.
“Are you busy? Andy said we can sit in a conference room if you’re too busy right now.”
“No, I am finished,” she said, closing the folder she was working on. “Let’s eat in here.”
Andrea set everything out while the girls each took a seat on the sofa next to Miranda. As they ate, the girls related a few stories from their morning to their mom, and Caroline even showed off her neon orange pedicure.
At the movie theater, the girls chose seats towards the back of the theater, and they each wanted to sit next to Miranda. Andrea didn’t mind, and she sent off a message to Roy asking him to pick them up when it was over. Miranda seemed to be enjoying the movie, until the end when all four of them were in tears.
Once they returned home, the girls went upstairs to watch something on television while Miranda led Andrea to the couch in the den. She curled up next to her on the couch and wrapped her arm around the young woman’s waist.
“I hate going to the movie theater,” Miranda said.
“What? Why didn’t you say something?” Andrea asked, gently stroking the woman’s back.
“The girls don’t understand. It’s better if we go during the day when it’s not too crowded and I’m not sitting next to a stranger. It was better having you there, and,” she admitted, “it was actually better that it was such a sad movie.”
“I’m so sorry—I had no idea,” she said.
“I know. I’m glad we went. I know it means a lot to the girls that I am there.” She took a deep breath and pushed herself away, standing up in front of the couch. The young woman quickly grabbed her hand and tugged her back onto the couch, onto her lap. “Andrea!” she gasped.
“Kiss me,” she whispered.
Miranda couldn’t ignore that request. She moved to straddle the young woman, pulling her skirt up so her legs could reach either side of the young woman’s hips. She crushed her lips against Andrea’s, pinning her back against the sofa.
The young woman’s hands wrapped around Miranda’s thighs, sliding around to reach her backside, where she discovered the editor was wearing a small satin thong. She pulled her closer, spreading her hips wider and bunching the skirt up around her waist.
The editor deepened the kiss as Andrea squeezed her a little tighter, until Miranda’s hips jolted forward, and she quickly pulled away, tugging her skirt back down.
The editor stood next to the couch, smoothing out her clothes and trying to calm her breathing. “What?”
“Why did you stop?” Andrea asked, walking over to the woman and reaching for her hands. “You’re shaking—are you okay?”
She pulled her hand back and turned around. “Yes, I’ll be fine. I just need to go upstairs for a minute,” she said, pulling away. As she reached the foyer, she saw two redheads running up the stairs. “Girls,” she called.
They stopped running, and Caroline replied without turning around, “What?”
“My room—five minutes,” she said, continuing up the stairs and down the hall to her bedroom.
The first thing she did was splash some cold water on her face. She had been both aroused and embarrassed—and her face showed it. She slipped off her underwear and tossed them in the laundry bin, then she used the toilet, making sure to clean any lingering evidence of her arousal with a baby wipe. She slipped into a pair of yoga pants and a tank, then turned the ceiling fan on as she waited in her room for her daughters, hoping to cool off.
They came in exactly five minutes later. “Hi, Mom,” Cassidy said quietly.
“Is there something you want to ask me?” Miranda said.
Both girls shook their heads.
“Remember what we talked about the other night? If you see something, you come to me first. We don’t make assumptions around here. Are you sure you don’t have anything to ask?” she said. She was almost certain the girls had been watching her and Andrea from the stairs, but she wasn’t sure if they saw her on the couch, or only afterwards.
“Um, we were coming downstairs for something and we saw you and Andy on the couch,” Caroline said, still looking down at the carpet. “You were on her and I think you were kissing her.”
“Yes, I was,” Miranda said calmly. “It’s not polite to spy on people, though. You should have made your presence known.”
“Sorry. Um, so, why were you kissing her like that?”
Miranda sighed. “I don’t know that I can explain it in a way you’ll understand—I just—I am physically attracted to her, and I just needed to kiss her.” When her daughters didn’t respond for a minute, she added, “Does that make you uncomfortable?”
Cassidy nodded, her nose all scrunched up.
“And you, Caroline?”
“Yeah, sort of. Not ‘cuz she’s a girl, but I just don’t want to see my mom making out with someone. Sorry, kissing.”
Miranda smiled. “No, I think making out is a better way to describe what was happening,” she said with a chuckle. “I am sorry that you had to see it, though. In the future, we will keep that behind closed doors.”
“Like this morning?” Cassidy asked.
“Last night, I was so exhausted, we only slept—nothing more. But generally, you should knock and wait for a response before barging in,” she said. “Are we good?” she asked, opening her arms for a hug.
Both girls nodded and hugged her.
“Mom, I have one more question.”
“Of course, Cassidy. What is it?” she asked, walking her daughters out of the room.
“What made you stop with Andy? She looked sad.”
Miranda pressed a kiss to the top of her daughter’s head. “That is not for you to worry about, darling. Everything is okay, I promise. Oh, what were you coming downstairs for?”
“Oh!” Caroline’s eyes lit up. “Sophia asked us to sleep over tonight. She said you could call her mom if you wanted to. Can we?”
“Sure, I don’t see why not. I’ll message her mother and see what time she wants you over,” Miranda said.
“Sophia said we could come any time!”
“Okay, well you two go pack an overnight bag,” she said, heading downstairs for her cell phone.
She quickly texted Sophia’s mother to make sure it was alright for the girls to come over, and she confirmed that they could come over at any time, so Miranda agreed to drop them off at 6:00.
“Hey,” Andrea said, stepping into the foyer with her bag and coat. “I should be going.”
“Oh,” Miranda said in surprise. “I suppose you are free to leave whenever you’d like.”
“Doug needs help ironing his shirt for his date tonight. Apparently the dry cleaners messed up the collar or something,” she said.
“Oh, I see. Of course, do what you need to do.”
“Miranda, don’t do this, please,” the young woman said.
The editor opened her lips to respond, but was interrupted by her daughters practically stampeding down the stairs with their bags. “Good gracious, are you taking all that to Sophia’s for one night?”
“We actually packed our homework—we might be able to finish our group project in the morning,” Cassidy said.
“Okay, go load your things in the car. I told her mom I’d drop you off by 6,” Miranda said.
“A sleepover. Looks like I’ll be by myself this evening.”
“Come with me. Tell Doug his shirt looks fine so I can get out of ironing,” she added.
Miranda grinned. “This is your roommate Douglas, who you sent over that one night I needed a distraction?”
“The one and only,” Andrea said. “It’s just him—no one else—and he is literally dying to meet you.”
“I’ll ride with you to take the girls, so that way you’ll have your car and you can leave whenever you’d like,” she added.
“Okay,” she said, “let me run up and grab a few things. I’ll meet you in the car.”
Andrea got in the front seat of the car, explaining to the girls that Miranda was going to drop her off at home. They seemed okay with that explanation, and were really just excited to be going to Sophie’s house.
Miranda dropped them off and waved to Sophie’s mother from the street, then they made their way to Andrea’s. Neither Doug nor Andrea owned a car, so Miranda was able to park in their space behind the building. Upstairs, when Andrea opened the door, she practically choked on the smell of cologne.
“Oh god, Doug! Too much cologne!” she shouted, tossing her bag on the chair. Miranda followed, tossing her coat and bag on the chair as well. “Are you decent?” Andrea asked, peeking into the shared bathroom. “I brought someone to meet you,” she added.
“Holy shit, Andy! I’m not ready!”
Andrea gestured for Miranda to join her in the doorway.
“Hello, Douglas. I’ve heard a great deal about you,” she said, extending her hand.
“Oh my god, Miranda, it is truly an honor,” he said as he kneeled and kissed her hand.
“I must say, Andrea did not tell me how handsome and charming you were.”
Andrea laughed at that. “Yeah, well, saying that I live with Prince Charming himself doesn’t exactly help my prospects,” she added.
Miranda’s eyes widened and she looked at the young woman, who quickly retracted her statement.
“Not like that! No, nothing, I just mean, you know—not that I’d—or that I’m trying to—”
“What she means,” Doug interrupted, “is that there is practically a conga line of extremely gorgeous, and extremely gay men in this apartment on the weekends, so naturally she blames me for her inability to find a steady boyfriend,” he said.
“Douglas, it was nice to meet you. I should be going,” Miranda said, quickly heading for the door.
“Wait!!” Andrea cried.
“What’d I say?” Doug asked.
“Shut up, Doug!” she called, meeting Miranda at the door. “Please, let me explain.”
“Andrea, I can’t do this. I shouldn’t have assumed that there was any exclusivity.”
“No, listen me,” she said, cupping Miranda’s cheek. “I love you, and I have for some time. There is no one else,” she added, kissing the woman on the lips.
Miranda quickly pushed her away. “Stop this. I can’t do this level of drama, Andrea. I am too old for it. Whether you had boyfriends or were just looking for one—I can’t do this.”
“Miranda, Doug doesn’t know!” she said quickly. “I didn’t tell him anything about you or us. I haven’t even told him I’m gay—or bi, maybe—whatever, not the point. I lied to him to protect you.”
“He knows I worked for you, and that’s it. He knows you called me at all hours with crazy requests, and he knows I spent a lot of time with you because it was my job. He knows your husband was an asshole, and he knows what he’s read in the papers about your divorce. That’s it. He doesn’t know about us.”
“Wait, what?” Doug asked, joining the conversation a little late.
Miranda stared at the young woman’s tear-filled eyes for a few seconds before reaching her hand out and kissing her cheek softly. “Andrea and I are seeing each other, Douglas,” she said, not taking her eyes off the young woman. “It started officially after my divorce, but we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t building in the months preceding.”
The young woman squeezed Miranda’s hand. “I wasn’t interested in finding a boyfriend, Doug. I let you think that, because I couldn’t tell you what I felt for Miranda, and if I told you I liked women, you’d have dragged me out to your gay bars every night. And the truth is, I don’t like women,” she clarified, “there’s just one woman for me.”
“Wow,” he said.
“And, you almost ruined it for me, you asshole!” she said, throwing a pillow at him.
“Yeah, you know what? This shirt doesn’t need to be ironed,” he said, grabbing his wallet and phone. “I’m just going to head out now. I’ll be back later. Or maybe tomorrow. I’ll call first,” he said, squeezing out the door. “Bye!”
Andrea took a deep breath. “I should have warned you—or him. I’m so sorry,” she said.
“And I am sorry for overreacting,” Miranda said. “I guess this is the effect of us not talking about things.”
“Would you like to talk now, before I go?” Miranda asked.
Andrea nodded. “Come on,” she said, gesturing for the woman to follow her down the hall. She opened the door at the end of the hall, and led Miranda inside.
The room had a cozy feel, just like her library. “This is a lovely room,” she said, looking around.
“It’s my bedroom,” Andrea explained. “That couch folds down into a bed, and I do a lot of writing there, at my desk. Would you like to sit?”
Miranda nodded, and opted to sit in the chair, not on the futon. Andrea stepped out to get a glass of water, and Miranda couldn’t help but close her eyes and take a deep breath, inhaling the young woman’s scent.
Andrea returned, handing Miranda a glass of water, then sitting on the futon. “You know, you can sit with me here—I don’t bite,” she joked.
“I actually need to sit here, and that’s part of what I wanted to talk to you about,” Miranda said. “There’s no easy way for me to say this, so just hear me out. My body, it just reacts to you in ways that I cannot control. So, earlier this afternoon, I pushed away because I didn’t want to lose control completely. I can’t—not yet. The girls were on the stairs and saw us ‘making out,’” she said, making air-quotes with her fingers. “I had to explain to my daughters why they had to see that. It feels like everything is happening backwards. But don’t look into my body language, because you’ll see me literally fighting my overwhelming desire for you.”
“Um, okay,” Andrea said hesitantly. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Take it slow. Linger at this stage with me a while longer. That’s all I ask.”
“I can do that,” she said. “Would it help to go back to the way it was before Paris? Not with Stephen, obviously,” she added.
“I can hardly remember things before Paris,” Miranda admitted.
“I would come by late at night and let you look at me. Sometimes you’d be in very sheer lingerie. We’d communicate through post-its in the book. Sometimes we’d help each other out of our gowns after an event.”
“And how exactly would that help me?”
“I don’t know—you seemed pretty controlled then,” Andrea said.
“Well, I was still getting a release several times a week then. I was still married, remember? And he was very insistent on a wife’s duties in the bedroom. Now it’s like—”
“Like a fucking steam engine with the lid on. I feel like I am going to explode,” she said, putting her head in her hands.”
Andrea chuckled. “Okay, this is actually really easy to solve,” she said. When Miranda looked up at her in confusion, she continued. “You need to get laid.”
“And how do you suggest I do that?”
“Miranda, I can’t think of a man who wouldn’t screw you at least once. I know Doug would. Hell, Stephen would be an easy one. Or,” she added, “you could go to one of those clubs where they match you with an escort and it’s all discreet.”
“Do you hear yourself? No. I won’t do that!”
“You could always do it yourself,” she said.
Miranda opened her mouth to protest, then quickly closed it, recalling briefly the exquisite release after she used that dildo. “So maybe that’s not totally off the table.”
Andrea smiled. “Just read the instructions and imagine I’m there with you. You still have my instructions, right?”
“Your instructions? Did you give me a used—”
“No!” she laughed. “It was brand new, but I typed up the instructions and added the packets of lube to the bag. Wait, you didn’t know that?”
Miranda slowly shook her head. “I thought they came with it.”
Andrea chuckled. “Now you definitely have to do that, and think of me as you’re reading. Think of me writing those instructions just for you,” she said.
Miranda squeezed her legs together and bit her lower lip as she nodded. She could feel her sex throbbing, and she didn’t know how much longer she’d last.
“Wow, you weren’t kidding about exploding,” Andrea said. “Are you sure you don’t want me to help you take care of that?”
“Unngggh!” Miranda groaned, tightly clenching her teeth.
“Suddenly the concept of a chastity belt doesn’t seem so awful,” Andrea added with a chuckle. “I’m sorry. Can I get you anything?”
Miranda gripped the arms on the chair, breathing heavily for a few minutes until she was able to relax and take a deep breath. “I will get you back for that,” she said. Her face was flushed and there was sweat dotting her brow. “I think I should go.”
“Okay,” Andrea said, standing and leading her to the front door. “I hope you take care of yourself tonight,” she said. “If you want to call me, I’ll be around,” she said.
Miranda smiled and headed out the door. As much as she hated to admit it, the young woman was right—she needed the release, and hopefully that would help her to maintain control.
Later that night, after Miranda finished straightening up her room and answering a few emails, she took a long, hot shower and slipped into her most revealing, silk nightie.
She pulled the bag out from under her bathroom sink, carefully unwrapping the towel she had wrapped around the dildo, lest someone find it. Her folds were tingling with anticipation, and she all but ran to her bed, arranging her pillows against the headboard, and dimming the light just enough so she could read. She climbed onto the bed and put her glasses on as her hand trembled, holding the instruction sheet.
Break ampoule of lubricant (included) and apply liberally.
She reached for the small ampoule and squeezed it onto her fingers, pressing the cool gel against her folds. “Ohhhh,” she moaned.
Gently stimulate genitals with your fingers.
“Ohhhhhh god!” she cried as her hips involuntarily shot upwards off the mattress. She was far too sensitive for foreplay right now.
Softly press dildo to labia, applying pressure in a circular motion. Breathe deeply, exhaling for 2-3 seconds.
She took the dildo in her hand and pressed it against her clitoris. “Oh… oh… oh… oh!” she cried. She forced herself to take a deep breath and exhale, repeating the circular motion.
Penetrate slowly, first shallow, then deep. Find what’s most pleasurable to you.
She spread her legs a bit wider and tilted the dildo as she pushed it inside. After two seconds, she quickly pushed it inside as deep as it would go, wiggling her hips to accommodate the length. “Ahhhh! Fuck!” she cried. She slowly moved it in and out until she was gasping for breath.
Gently twist base of dildo once inside to enable vibration.
She flicked the base, and it began to vibrate rapidly. “Ohh god!” she gasped, arching her back as she pressed her head back into the pillows. Her left hand reached upwards, palming her breast and squeezing her nipple sharply as she imagined the young woman’s hands and lips on her. She changed the angle of the dildo ever so slightly, and in doing so, she captured her aching bud between the vibrating device and her pubic bone, sending sharp, almost painful shocks through her system.
She gasped, opening her mouth as the sound was caught in the back of her throat. She felt the blood pumping through her body, her heart, her neck. She could smell her own sex, and she only wanted more—stronger, deeper, harder. Pushing the dildo deeper inside, she gasped, her abdominal muscles contracting as she choked out her second orgasm.
Finally, she pulled the device out and switched it off. She was sweaty and her heart was pounding. The muscles in her throat were sore and she was sure she would have a bruise on her left nipple.
Taking a deep breath, she reached for her phone on her nightstand and dialed Andrea’s number.
“Andrea, I hate that you’re always right,” she panted.
She chuckled on the other end of the line. “I take it that steam engine finally found some release?”
“Godddd yes,” she groaned, rolling onto her side. “I think I pulled a muscle in my neck, but was it ever worth it.”
“I am so looking forward to the day when I can watch you come undone like that,” Andrea said. When the woman didn’t respond, she decided to ask the woman a question now that she had her with her guard down. “Miranda, why won’t you let me?”
“Darling, it’s complicated.”
“You’ll call me after you masturbate, but you won’t let me touch you? Honestly, that hurts me. Like, what’s wrong with me that you don’t want to let me in?”
“No, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s me—I promise, give me four or five weeks,” Miranda said.
“That’s specific. What’s going on? Are you okay? Oh my god, I’m so concerned about having sex I didn’t even think—are you sick?”
“No, calm down, I’m not sick,” she said. She took a deep breath. “I have a minor outpatient surgery scheduled on Friday. It will take a few weeks to heal, and then we can move forward.”
“You’re having surgery and didn’t tell me!?”
“That would defeat the purpose,” she said. “Since I know you’ll have your ways of finding out, I may as well tell you. I’m having a plastic surgeon remove my scar from my cesarean with the girls.”
“Oh, why are you worried about telling me that? Was it infected or something?” Andrea asked.
“No, it just never healed well. Unless I’m wearing control-top hose, there’s a noticeable dimple, and I just want it removed.”
“Okay. I don’t really understand why we have to wait until after the surgery, though. I mean, I get that once surgery happens, you’ll probably have to refrain from some activity, but it’s not for five days.”
“Don’t be so naive, Andrea. Think about it. I’m fifty and you’re twenty-five.”
The young woman gasped and covered her mouth. “You think I care what you look like. You think I won’t want you when I see your scar, is that it?”
“No one wants to see this ugly scar, Andrea.”
“Who told you that? Stephen? That bastard,” she said. “Miranda, listen to me. This isn’t about us being intimate—it’s about you being comfortable with your body. I will support you, whether or not you go through with the surgery, but please do not think you have to do it for me or anyone else but yourself,” Andrea said.
“You say that now,” Miranda said, crying. “You would change your mind when you see me.”
“Will you at least let me come with if you decide to go through with it?”
“Yes. I know you’ll need a ride home—let me come with, and I’ll help you home and upstairs so you can rest.”
“I won’t be able to climb stairs for a few days they said.”
“Well, I’ll carry you then. Or I’ll bring you to my place,” Andrea said.
“I will consider it. Thank you for the offer,” Miranda replied. “I should go…shower or something. Goodnight, Andrea,” she said, quickly ending the call.
The two women didn’t talk much over the next few days except for a few text messages in the evenings. Andrea spent time filling Doug in on her relationship with the editor, while Miranda spent time with her girls, since they would be spending a long weekend with their father.
On Thursday evening, after James picked up the girls, Miranda invited the young woman over.
“What’s wrong? You sounded distant on the phone,” Andrea said when she arrived.
“I’ll admit I am having second thoughts about tomorrow,” she said.
“Hey, don’t worry about a thing,” Andrea said, hugging her tightly and pressing a kiss to her cheek, then gently on her lips.
Miranda broke the kiss and looked into the young woman’s eyes. “Do you want to take this upstairs?”
“Do you want to?”
Miranda nodded and took the young woman’s hand, leading her upstairs and into her bedroom.
“Miranda, we don’t have to do this if you’re not ready—”
“I know, and I’m not. I just, um, will you look at it?” she asked.
It took Andrea a few minutes to realize what she was asking. “The scar? Of course.”
The editor closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She moved a few steps away from the young woman and untied the drawstring on her lounge pants. She reached down and pushed her underwear down a little bit, then lifted up her shirt. She hadn’t realized she was holding her breath until she felt the woman’s hand on her skin, tracing the scar, lightly running her fingers over the bulging skin.
Miranda reached down and pulled her pants back up, sighing and walking back to the bed. She sat at the edge and hung her head. “It’s ugly, isn’t it?”
Andrea sat next to her on the bed and reached out to cover the other woman’s hand with her own. “Miranda, you are the most beautiful woman I know, and your scar just proves that you’re human, and a mother.”
Miranda opened her mouth to protest, but Andrea pressed a finger to her lips.
“Your scar doesn’t bother me one bit—it doesn’t change what I feel for you, or what I want to do with you when you’re ready,” she added. “However, if it’s really important to you, I meant what I said. I will go with you tomorrow. In the same way I don’t want Stephen’s words to cause you to elect for this surgery, I don’t want my words to keep you from being happy and comfortable with yourself. Does that make sense?”
Miranda nodded and squeezed the woman’s hand. “I really don’t want the surgery,” she said quietly. “But I’m nervous you will change your mind.”
Andrea reached up and cupped her cheek. “How about we compromise? You can call the doctor and postpone the surgery for a few months. We’ll see how things go, and then you can make your decision—either to go through with it, or postpone it again.”
“Thank you,” she whispered, pressing a kiss to the woman’s cheek. “Thank you.”
Andrea captured the woman’s lips and kissed her deeply. Miranda moved backwards onto the bed, and Andrea followed, pressing kisses to her lips and cheek and neck.
“I just want to hold you tonight,” Miranda whispered. “Is that okay?”
The following week was insanely busy. Miranda couldn’t pinpoint why—there were no disasters or deadlines, it wasn’t budgeting season or fashion show season, but for some reason the days were long and packed with meeting after meeting, decision after decision.
By Friday, she realized she had not seen Andrea for six days. On top of that, they hadn’t even been talking much because Miranda was so exhausted when she wasn’t in the office. They tried to plan dinner on Tuesday, then again on Wednesday, but something else came up. Miranda even suggested lunch on Thursday, but after deciding it would be difficult to explain the last-minute plans to Claire and Emily, they decided against it.
So here she was on Friday night, sitting at the kitchen table with the girls, eating beef and broccoli with jasmine rice while the girls fought over the last piece of sweet and sour chicken. “Girls,” she asked, “what did you want to do tonight? We could watch another movie or play a board game, maybe. How does that sound?”
Caroline shrugged and took another forkful of rice.
Cassidy rolled her eyes. “It doesn’t matter, whatever you want to do,” she said.
Caroline finished her milk, then said, “I kinda want to finish reading that book I got from the library.”
Miranda smiled. “That sounds like a good idea. We can make some hot chocolate and sit upstairs in the library and all of us can read,” she said.
“I’m cool just reading on my bed,” Caroline said.
“Ah, I see. And you, Cassidy?” she asked.
“Uh, yeah, me too. I mean, I’ll probably just play around on the computer,” she said.
Miranda sighed and nodded. She knew there would come a day when her daughters would rather spend time by themselves than with her, she just never thought it would be so soon. “Would either of you mind if I invited Andrea over, then? Since you’ll just be in your rooms all night anyway, that is.”
“Seriously, you’re asking us?” Caroline said.
“Caroline, you practically threw a jealous tantrum a few weeks ago when she was over!”
The young girl shrugged. “Eh, I’m over it,” she said, grinning as she took her empty plate to the kitchen.
Miranda chuckled as she pulled out her phone. “I will never understand you two,” she said as she typed out a text message. Late notice, but any chance you’re free tonight?
She received a response right away: Hmm, I don’t know. I’m staring at freezer-burnt Lean Cuisine meal…it’s a really tough call.
Miranda smiled. No leftovers tonight, but I’ll order you anything you want.
Andrea wrote back: Sold! I’d honestly be very happy with grilled cheese.
Miranda replied: Any particular kind?
She received a one-word response that made her chuckle: Homemade?
The girls were already upstairs, so when Andrea arrived, she was finishing the grilled cheese in a cast-iron pan on the stove. The young woman claimed it was the best sandwich she had ever eaten, but Miranda wasn’t sure that she could believe her.
Andrea kissed her softly on the cheek as she got up to put her plate in the dishwasher. She also cleaned out the cast-iron pan and put it away for the woman. “Can we sit up in the library tonight? I like it up there,” she said.
“Of course,” Miranda replied. “My daughters are in their rooms anyway.” She gestured for Andrea to follow her upstairs. “Do you want something more comfortable to put on?” she asked, looking at the young woman’s pencil skirt and blouse.
“I’m okay for now,” Andrea said.
Upstairs, Miranda adjusted the window shades and dimmed the lights while Andrea closed the door behind her. “I thought about getting a small TV for up her—Oh!” Miranda froze as her eyes took in the young woman’s form. The young woman had taken off her blouse and was standing there in a nude lace corset that was a little too small in the chest for her.
Andrea stepped closer, draping her arms over Miranda’s shoulders.
The editor felt her heart begin to race. “Andrea, what are you doing to me?” she sighed, closing her eyes and resting her head on the woman’s shoulder as her arms wrapped around the woman’s waist.
“I know how much you liked that lace De la Renta dress when I wore it before, so I just thought that I would see if you still liked this design,” she smirked.
Miranda’s hands made their way up the young woman’s side. Knowing that she had been wearing the corset underneath her blouse when she arrived was particularly arousing. “Andrea,” she breathed into the woman’s neck, “I don’t know how you manage…to do this…to me,” she said as she pressed kisses to the woman’s neck, her shoulder, her arms. Her hands traced the sheer lacy fabric down, just above the waistband of her skirt. She slipped her fingertips beneath the lace fabric, softly scratching at the woman’s bare skin.
The young woman responded by arching backwards and sighing.
Miranda quickly turned her attention upwards, pressing a gentle kiss to the center of her chest as her hands traced the fabric up along her ribcage, gently brushing the underside of her breasts with her thumbs.
“I know I should probably wear a larger size, but you seemed to like it last time,” Andrea said, taking a deep breath and putting her hands on her hips. “I’m afraid that if I move even just a little bit, I will just fall out of this top.”
Miranda looked up at the young woman. Her pupils were dilated, and for a moment, Andrea thought the woman was going to completely devour her. “You have no idea how badly I want to tear this fabric off of you,” she whispered, pressing a kiss to the woman’s neck.
“Let me help with that,” Andrea said, holding the corset as she arched her back and twisted, causing her breasts to quite literally spill out of the binding fabric. “Ohhhh,” she groaned. “That feels so much better.”
The editor let out a low growl as she leaned forward and took the young woman’s right breast in her hands.
“Ohh,” Andrea groaned, reaching out to balance herself on the woman’s shoulder as her knee buckled.
Miranda led her over to one of the chairs, and she climbed onto her lap. Her hands returned to the exposed flesh, and eventually she couldn’t resist and took the nipple into her mouth. She continued her assault on her breast—first the right one, then the left—pinching and tugging and biting and licking and squeezing and stroking.
After a few minutes, Miranda pressed her cheek to the young woman’s chest, softly cupping the tender flesh before her. “You are exquisite, Andrea,” she whispered.
The young woman ran her fingers through the editor’s hair, gently guiding her up so she could lean forward and kiss her lips. After a few minutes, she pulled away, pressing a kiss to the editor’s cheek and tapping her hip so she could get up. She reached behind her and unclasped the corset, letting it fall to the floor as she took her blouse off the chair, slipping it back on and buttoning it up.
Miranda picked up the lace garment from the floor and folded it carefully, placing it in the desk drawer. She took a tissue to wipe the smudged lipstick off her face, then returned to the chair where the young woman was relaxing.
“I’m sorry I was so busy this week,” she whispered as she leaned her head on the woman’s shoulder.
“Miranda, you know I understand this, perhaps more than anyone.”
The editor nodded and wrapped her arm around the young woman’s waist. “I know, and I do not wish to take advantage of that. I wish we could spend more time together during the day without so much to think about,” she said.
“I’m going to say something, but don’t look into it. I am just curious, really, okay?”
Miranda nodded and held her breath. She had an idea about what was on the woman’s mind.
“Would you ever consider coming out? Like, I am still just trying to figure out what this all means for me, and, well, yeah. You have so much more at stake, so I was just curious. No pressure—that’s the last thing I want right now,” she added.
Miranda kissed her neck softly. “I thought you were going to ask when we were going to go public. I know it’s basically the same thing, but…thank you for posing that the way you did,” she said. “I’ll admit I was thinking the same thing the other day when we decided it would be too complicated to schedule lunch together. As far as an answer to your question, I have no clue.”
Andrea chuckled and kissed the top of the editor’s head. “Yeah, I don’t either. It wasn’t until I was telling you that I hadn’t told Doug about us that I realized I don’t even know how I want to classify myself. This is exhausting,” she said.
“Yes, it is,” Miranda agreed. “Are you staying tonight?”
“Depends. What’s in it for me?” she asked.
Miranda teasingly pinched the woman’s waist. “A comfortable bed, extremely tired company, and an early—but homemade—breakfast in the morning?”
“Mmm, so hard to pass that up,” she teased. “Of course I’ll stay. How early is early, though?”
“The girls have orthodontist appointments at 9 in Brooklyn, so we’ll need to leave by 8:30. And they need time to brush their teeth, so breakfast will be at 7:30,” she said, biting her lip as she awaited the woman’s response.
“If it means I get to wake up with you, I’ll get up as early as you need,” Andrea said.
“Hmm, I will have to write that down somewhere,” she said with a chuckle. “C’mon, let’s go to bed.”
For the rest of the weekend, Miranda and the girls were busy, so she didn’t see the young woman again. She didn’t want to push the girls too much about inviting Andrea to all of their outings and family time, so instead she surprised the young woman with a lunch invitation for Tuesday, when she asked Emily to schedule a “mentor” lunch meeting with Andrea.
On Monday evening, Andrea was trying to find something to wear to lunch the next day when she got a call from the townhouse.
“Hello?” she answered, thinking it was probably Caroline.
“Hey Caroline, what’s up?”
“Andy, can you come over?”
“Tonight? Why?” she asked, suddenly starting to worry.
“We think something is wrong with Mom.”
Andrea gasped. “Can you put her on the phone?”
“No, she locked herself in her bedroom and we heard her throwing up,” Caroline said.
“But that was hours ago,” Cassidy added.
Andrea quickly tossed a few things into her bag, as she tried to reassure the two girls. “I’m on my way, but don’t worry, okay? I’m sure she just has a headache or something. Did you two have anything to eat tonight?” She asked as she grabbed a coat and headed downstairs to catch a cab.
“Yeah, there were leftovers in the fridge. Um, do you have a key?” Caroline asked.
“I do, sweetheart. Keep the doors locked and I will let myself in. I’m getting into a taxi now—would you like me to stay on the phone?” she asked as she stepped into the car and gave the driver Miranda’s address.
“No, we’ll talk to you when you get here,” Caroline said.
“Okay. I’m glad you called me—you guys did the right thing. I’m sure everything is going to be fine,” she said, reassuring herself as much as them.
It was a short ride, but long enough for Andrea to prepare herself for the worst. After letting herself in the townhouse, the girls practically dragged her up to Miranda’s room. She knocked and there was no answer, so she asked Cassidy to go grab a bobby pin, which she was able to jam in the lock and unlock the bedroom door.
“Whoa,” Caroline said.
Andrea glared at her. “You did not learn that from me,” she said. “Actually, why don’t you go watch tv or get ready for bed. Let me talk to your mom first—you know she wouldn’t want you two to catch whatever she has.”
They nodded reluctantly and went upstairs, while Andrea took a deep breath and pushed open the door, closing it behind her. It was dark in the room and took her a while to find the lightswitch, but when she did, she saw that Miranda was not in bed.
“Miranda? Are you okay?” she called.
“In here,” the editor’s voice replied from the bathroom.
When Andrea opened the bathroom door, she quickly knelt next to the editor on the floor. “Oh my god, what’s wrong?”
“I’m okay,” she said, “but it’s food poisoning or something. Why are you here?”
“The girls were worried, so they called me,” she said with a smile. “What can I do for you? Do you want to go back to bed, or maybe have some crackers and 7-up?”
Miranda waved the suggestion of food off. “I’ll try going back to bed,” she said, pushing herself up.
Andrea could see that she was weak, but didn’t want to say anything, so she let her get up herself, then wrapped her arm around the woman and helped her back to bed.
“When did it start?” Andrea asked as she ran a washcloth under cold water at the sink.
“After lunch—four o’clock, maybe? I was getting nauseous at work and left early.” She sighed as Andrea placed the cool cloth on her head. “Thank you,” she said quietly.
“Have you taken anything?” Andrea asked.
“When I got home, I tried some Pepto-Bismol, but I couldn’t even keep that down.”
Andrea sat there with her, softly rubbing her back, as she tried to think of what she could have gotten sick from. “You know, it could just be the flu,” she said.
“I know, but that’s contagious and lasts forever,” she groaned.
Seeing the glass of water with a straw on the nightstand, she picked it up. “You need fluids—even if it’s just a tiny sip of water,” she said as she held it out.
Miranda shook her head. “No. No water.”
Andrea sighed. “Okay, I’ll run downstairs and see what else I can find. Is it okay if I tell the girls you have the flu? I can make sure they get to bed and everything.”
“Yes, thank you,” she said.
Andrea quickly stepped out of Miranda’s room, and she wasn’t surprised to find Caroline and Cassidy sitting outside the door. “Up to bed,” she said before either of them could open their mouth. “Your mom has the flu and she doesn’t want you getting sick. She’s going to be fine, but I’m glad you called me. Do you know why?” she asked as she tucked in Caroline.
The young girl shook her head.
“Because your mom never asks anyone for help. And everyone needs a little help when they’re sick, right?”
“Thanks, Andy. I knew you’d come,” Caroline said, hugging her tightly.
“Oh you’re welcome, sweetheart. I’m probably going to sleep over tonight. Hopefully your mom can get some sleep and I’ll be in the guest room, but we’ll see,” she said, turning out the light and closing the door.
“Andy, why doesn’t mom ask for help?” Cassidy asked as she climbed into her own bed. “Did she think we wouldn’t want to help her?”
“No, nothing like that, sweetheart. She is probably the smartest woman I know, and I think she just likes doing things herself. She would have been just fine if I didn’t come over, but I want to be able to take care of her when she needs it, you know?”
“I want her to focus on getting her rest so she feels better, not worrying about going downstairs for gatorade or getting a cool washcloth. I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”
“Goodnight, Andy,” Cassidy said, hugging her and kissing her on the cheek.
“Goodnight, Cass,” she said. Once she made her way down to the kitchen, she found some gatorade, propel water, and even an iced green tea. She grabbed a clean cup and some straws, then filled another cup with ice chips from the refrigerator and grabbed a spoon. Hopefully, Miranda would take something.
She returned upstairs just in time to hear the editor running into the bathroom again. Quickly setting the drinks down on the dresser, she ran after her, kneeling next to her on the marble floor, her hand resting on the small of the woman’s back as she threw up again.
When she was through, Andrea reached for some squares of toilet paper and softly wiped the woman’s mouth and chin, then flushed it down the toilet.
Miranda leaned her head on Andrea’s shoulder and wiped the tears from her eyes. “I hate being sick,” she said.
“I know you do,” Andrea said, softly rubbing her back for a few minutes. “Ready to get up?”
Miranda nodded, and this time Andrea didn’t wait for the woman to do it herself—she slipped her arms under Miranda’s and practically lifted her to her feet, guiding her to the sink where she poured a tiny splash of mouthwash into a disposable cup.
Miranda swished out her mouth, then ran her hands through the ice cold water and splashed a bit onto her face.
Andrea handed her a fresh hand towel, then led her back to bed, where she propped a few pillows up against the headboard so the woman would be sitting up. “How about some ice chips?”
Miranda nodded. She knew she needed fluids, and if she was going to throw up again, she’d rather there be something in her stomach so she wouldn’t just be expelling stomach acids. The thought made her shudder. “I’ll try some gatorade—just a little,” she said, seeing that the young woman brought it upstairs already.
Andrea handed her the drink first, and after she took a few small sips, she traded her for the cup of ice chips. She walked around to the other side of the bed and climbed up, sitting indian-style next to the editor. “If you can keep this down, I think we should try some Tylenol or Advil for your fever,” she said.
“Okay,” Miranda said, “but I just can’t imagine how I got the flu.”
“It could be anything. You were pretty worn down last week, so maybe that plus going out this weekend—your resistance was probably just down.”
“I hope the girls don’t get it. Are they in bed?”
“Yes. I told them I was staying over tonight,” she said with a smile.
“Andrea, I don’t want you getting sick either,” Miranda said.
“I know. I’ll sleep in the guest room. I just want to make sure your stomach settles and you’re able to get some sleep.”
Miranda finished a few more ice chips, then set the cup on the nightstand. She curled onto her side and made herself comfortable. “Will you—”
Before she could finish, Andrea reached over and began gently rubbing her back. She smiled to herself, because it was always a little victory when she could so accurately know what the other woman wanted.
“Thank you,” she said.
After a while, Andrea pulled her hand away. She wasn’t sure if Miranda was asleep or not, so she carefully climbed off the bed and walked around to the other side. The editor appeared to be sleeping, so Andrea quickly took the editor’s phone and sent a text message to Emily that she would be out sick with the flu for a few days, then turned the phone off completely.
She quietly opened the door and walked out of Miranda’s bedroom, deciding to leave the door open so she could hear if the woman needed her in the middle of the night. She walked across the hall to the guest room and quickly washed her hands and face, then promptly fell asleep because she, unlike Miranda, actually had to go into work in the morning.
Several hours later, Miranda woke and quickly pushed the covers off. She was entirely too hot, and could feel beads of sweat on her forehead and at the base of her neck. She got up and went to the bathroom, running her hands under the ice cold water and splashing some on her face and chest.
As her eyes adjusted to the light, she could see that the tank top she was wearing was soaked through, so she stepped out of her clothes and turned on the shower, stepping inside and drenching herself in the cold water. She poured a little bit of conditioner into her hand and massaged it through her hair, and did the same with her bar of lavender soap.
Once she started to shiver, she turned off the water and stepped out, wrapping a towel around her body. She bent over and towel-dried her hair, then leaned against the counter and took a deep breath. Thinking about the last twelve hours, she was relieved to find she was no longer nauseous, but she had pounding headache and it felt like her chest was congested.
She returned to her room and took two Tylenol with a glass of water, and then she changed into a clean tank top and underwear. She turned on the ceiling fan, and when she returned to bed, she noticed the spot she had been sleeping in was still warm, moist even.
She coughed a few times, then sank into the pillows with a groan.
The sound of the cough woke Andrea across the hall, and she quickly ran into the woman’s room. “Everything okay?” she asked, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Yes, I’m fine. Please—you don’t have to stay here,” Miranda said.
“I was worried last night. I don’t mind, you know.”
“And I appreciate your help last night. I would have been fine, but you helped reassure the girls, and I am grateful for that. But I’m fine now.”
“Okay, um, just call me if you need anything, I guess,” Andrea said as she quietly walked out.
Miranda closed her eyes and turned to her side. She didn’t want to watch the young woman walking away, but she didn’t want her sitting there, doting on her.
She fell asleep again, this time waking at 7:00 when her alarm clock went off. Cara would be arriving shortly, so she got up, slipped into her robe, and went upstairs to wake the girls. While they got ready for school, she went back to her bedroom, stripping the sheets off the bed and turning her cell phone back on. She sent Emily a note telling her she wouldn’t be coming in today, and she received an immediate phone call.
“Hi Miranda, I wanted to let you know that everything has been rescheduled except for the call with Jane Birkin. It was quite difficult to schedule in the first place, and it isn’t until tomorrow morning, so I thought by chance you might want to keep it on your calendar,” she said. “Oh, I’m sorry—are you—I mean, I trust you are feeling better and flu symptoms are manageable?”
“I’ll talk to Jane tomorrow—send me the details, as I will likely not be in. Wait, how did you know about flu symptoms?” she asked, confused how the assistant would have known.
“Your text message late last night, when you asked me to reschedule your week because you were sick,” she replied.
“Oh, of course,” Miranda said. “It was rough night. I will call you if I require anything else. That’s all.”
Miranda looked through her text messages and saw the note to Emily, only she didn’t remember sending it. Suddenly, she thought of Andrea and sent a text to the young woman: Did you text Emily last night from my phone?
She received a reply immediately: Good morning. Yes, to tell her you wouldn’t be in.
Miranda sighed and typed out a response: I appreciate your intent but please do not send messages to my staff from my account without my permission.
She waited for a response, and when it didn’t come right away, she regretted what she sent. Finally, she received a response. Just one word: Sorry.
Miranda plugged her phone in to charge and headed downstairs to make breakfast for the girls. Once they were off to school, Cara changed the sheets and cleaned and disinfected Miranda’s bathroom while she made herself some oatmeal and a pot of tea. When Cara was finished, she went back upstairs, took two more Tylenol, and went back to sleep. She was no longer nauseous, but her entire body was aching, and hopefully the rest would help.
“Miranda, how could you?!” James screamed.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“This,” he said, throwing the paper on her desk. She looked at the headlines and gasped.
‘MIRANDA PRIESTLY CAUGHT ON TAPE IN SCANDALOUS AFFAIR WITH 25-YEAR-OLD ASSISTANT’
“What? How?” she stammered, flipping through the pages as she saw photo after photo. Andrea with her hands on her naked breasts in her office. Kissing in her office bathroom. Entangled with each other in bed in Paris. Kissing in Andrea’s hotel room. Andrea giving her a bath. On the couch in the townhouse. Laying on Andrea’s couch. Sitting on Andrea’s lap. Straddling Andrea on the couch. Sitting on Andrea’s lap and sucking on her breasts.
“Miranda, you cheated on Stephen with her? Did you cheat on me with your assistant, too?” he asked. “God, how could you have been so stupid!”
“It’s not like that,” she said. “These pictures are out of context! We didn’t do anything until Stephen filed for divorce!” she cried.
“You’re a liar. These are time-stamped. Undressing in your office after dinner, really? You didn’t even get to the text messages and phone logs,” he said. “Admit it. You’re a cheater. Your daughters deserve better than you!”
Miranda woke with a gasp pressed her hand to her chest. She was out of breath and it felt like her heart was going to beat out of her chest. “It was just a dream,” she said aloud, taking a deep breath. “It was just a dream.”
She got up and out of bed. After a nightmare like that, she didn’t want to go back to sleep anytime soon. She still felt achy and congested, but she knew the girls would be coming home shortly and she wanted to remind them that she was okay, so she got dressed and did her makeup.
As she was styling her hair, her phone rang. She looked to see who was calling and dropped the phone when she saw the name: James.
“Miranda, what the fuck?” he said.
She closed her eyes and held her breath, waiting for what he was going to say next.
“You just locked yourself in your room last night and left the girls to fend for themselves?!”
Miranda exhaled. “I was sick and didn’t want them to catch anything, or to see me like that, honestly,” she said. “Who told you?”
“The girls did.”
“When did you talk to them?”
“Today, at school. They had their spring awards assembly—or did you forget?”
Miranda sighed and sank into her chair. “I had my assistant clear my calendar for today and she must have just deleted it on accident.”
“And who is this ‘Andy’ fellow they keep talking about? Have you started seeing someone, and you’ve introduced him to our daughters already?”
“No, Andy is Andrea, my former assistant. She works in editorial at Runway now, but the girls took a liking to her. She’s become a friend, sort of.”
“Sort of? That doesn’t explain why she’s always around.”
“What do you want me to say? I know you must be so goddamn surprised that I have a friend who I occasionally invite over, but there’s no need to imply that my relationship with Andrea is in any way harming our daughters. Andrea is wonderful with them,” she said.
“You love her.”
“What? Where did that come from? That’s insane. She’s a woman half my age!” Miranda replied.
“You know, it wouldn’t be the worst thing, Miranda, if she is everything you say she is.”
“James, I do not know what you’re implying, but I would appreciate it if you would keep your nose out of my personal life. I would never put the girls in danger, and I would never introduce them to a casual suitor—you have to know that.”
“Is that all she is to you? A casual suitor?” he asked.
“This conversation is over,” Miranda said, ending the call. She took a deep breath. Her hands were trembling.
She jumped in surprise when her phone chirped with an incoming text message from Andrea: Feeling better? Can I swing by on my way home?
Miranda shook her head as she typed out the reply: We need to talk. I’ll call you tonight once the girls are asleep.
Andrea replied quickly: I can’t talk then. I’ll be on a flight—Claire is sending me to cover Coachella, so I won’t be back until the weekend. I really want to do well on this assignment. Can we talk when I get back?
Miranda took a deep breath. Do you have five minutes now—can I call?
Seconds later, the phone rang.
“What’s wrong? Are you still sick?!” Andrea answered.
“I am not 100% yet, but that’s not why I wanted to talk,” she said. “I think this break is happening at a good time.”
“Wait, break? What?! You mean us?”
Miranda sighed. “Yes.”
“But—I don’t understand. What did I do?”
“You didn’t do anything, darling,” she said, cringing as she let the affectionate term slip out of her mouth. “James is starting to put the pieces together, and I just cannot risk him doing something drastic.”
“So just like that, because it’s no longer convenient for you, we just act like nothing ever happened?” she said. “I can’t believe this.”
“Andrea, you’ve known this could happen. Just the other day when we were talking about it, I realized that it wasn’t the best time in my career to put my sexuality and personal life in the spotlight. Just because I am attracted to you—” she suddenly got choked up and couldn’t finish the rest.
“Unreal. And what about me in all this? I don’t get why your needs and concerns are more important than mine.”
“Please don’t do this.”
The young woman was quiet for several minutes until she finally responded. “Did you mean any of it?”
“Of course I did.”
“If I was a guy, would it be different?” she asked.
“NO,” Miranda replied quickly. “In fact, James thought Andy was a new man I’d been seeing.”
“Miranda, please don’t push me away like this. Whatever it is, we can work through it. What else happened besides what James said?” she asked. Something told her that Miranda wouldn’t have made this drastic a decision if it had only been her ex-husband’s words.
“Who said there’s anything else?”
“What happened in the past ten hours since I left? Did the girls say something?”
“No, nothing like that,” Miranda said. “I just had this horrible dream. They had pictures of us—all the way from the beginning.”
“Please—can we talk more about this before you make a decision? I know you still feel guilty because you feel like you cheated on Stephen, but you and I both know the truth,” she said. “Look, if I were a man, there would be no question whether or not you cheated. If I were a man, that would have been no more than some heavy flirting. Right?”
“Can we please just plan to spend some time talking on Sunday afternoon? Not dinner or a movie or cuddling or anything like that—just talking. Complete honesty.”
“I don’t know…”
Andrea sighed. “Please, will you give me an hour? If after that you want to stop and walk away, so be it.”
“Fine, but let me ask you this one thing—why is this so important to you?” Miranda asked.
“Because you are important to me—as a friend, as more than a friend, as a human being—and I can’t sit here and watch you blame yourself and struggle with this guilt, not without speaking up,” she said. “I have to go—my cab is here to take me to the airport. Let’s plan on Sunday at 4—you pick the place.”
“Enjoy your trip. Get us some inside scoop,” Miranda said, promptly ending the call.
She threw her phone across the room and put her head in her hands as she quietly began to cry.
On Friday, Miranda was feeling better and was back in the office. Andrea had been contributing live updates to Runway.com’s Coachella blog, and the page numbers were through the roof. It was wildly popular, and the amateurish photos from an iPhone seemed to be just what readers needed to feel like they were there. She couldn’t deny how proud she was of the young woman—she even talked to Claire about it, and Claire asked if she could give her a promotion to an Associate Editor and a boost in salary. It was an easy decision, and Miranda knew it would mean a lot to Andrea to know that it was Claire’s idea.
When Miranda returned home Friday night, the girls had their bags ready to take to their father’s for the weekend. The doorbell rang, and they ran to answer it, assuming it would be James.
“Mom, it’s for you!” Cassidy called, walking away from the door.
Miranda stepped into the foyer and accepted a large bouquet of tulips and hyacinths from the delivery man. She brought them into the kitchen and could hardly see around it.
“Wow, who’s it from?” Caroline asked, snatching the card. “Hm, doesn’t say,” she said, handing the card to Miranda. “Is this your friend who sent you the flowers and that quote before?”
Miranda read the card and wiped a tear from her eye. “I’m not sure,” she told the girls.
Before she could say any more, the doorbell rang again, and this time it was James. Once they hugged and kissed her goodbye, she closed the door and returned to the table, reading the card again:
I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
and that necessary.**
Miranda pulled out her phone and sent a message to the young reporter: Thank you—they’re lovely. See you Sunday at the Peninsula, give your name at the desk. P.S. Claire approached me; she is very impressed with your work this week.
She didn’t receive a response, but then again, between how she treated the young woman earlier and her busy schedule covering the events, she hardly expected one. By the time Sunday came around Miranda was actually quite nervous. Without the girls home, she had the entire weekend to think, which was never a good thing.
On Sunday, at 4:02 PM there was a knock on the door to her suite. She was dressed for a board meeting in heels, a blouse, and a three-piece suit, but she did so because the fabric felt like armor, and she felt like she needed any help she could get in resisting the young woman’s charms.
She opened the door and stepped aside for the young woman to enter, closing the door behind her. The woman was wearing a cotton jersey dress, and she led her to the two arm chairs by the fireplace, gesturing for her to sit. “If you’d like water or soda or something, help yourself,” she said, pointing to the bar.
“I’m good. Thanks.”
Miranda sat with her legs crossed and her arms folded across her chest. She knew exactly what kind of body language she was using. In a way, it was a sort of test that she needed Andrea to overcome, she thought.
“Okay, so I guess the clock has already started,” she said. “I see that you sort of came here prepared to fire me. Okay, not funny,” she murmured. “Here goes,” she said, taking a deep breath. “I don’t need you, Miranda. Especially not after this week, when I more than proved myself as a reporter. I have a home, living with my best friend from grade school. I have a family that I don’t see nearly enough. And I have a job—with six new offers as of this afternoon. I repeat, I don’t need you.”
Miranda scoffed and rolled her eyes.
“You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. I have nothing to gain from association with you. Yes, I am very grateful that you hired me and ultimately moved me into my current role, but there’s nothing more you can do for me, not now. In fact, being seen associating with you could actually create challenges for me. I can’t report on the news if my face is all over Page Six. What self-respecting reporter associates with the queen of fashion? How do I explain to my parents when they ask how I spend my free time? What do I tell Doug when he asks if I want to move out since I spend so much time at your house anyway?” She leaned back against the chair and crossed her arms, mirroring Miranda’s position. “And it’s not like there are any other perks—or the prospect of any in the near future. You have near-teenage children, two ex-husbands, a demanding job, and an all-too-public life. I have bent over backwards to take care of you, but you’ve done nothing for me. From this perspective, I mean, really, there’s nothing in it for me.” She kept her arms folded and her eyes trained on the editor. She knew this was a risk, but she knew that she needed to do something drastic if she wanted to keep the editor in her life.
After about a minute of staring at each other, Miranda cracked. “You ungrateful little girl,” she hissed. “How dare you say I have done nothing for you. I taught you everything you know about fashion and the publishing industry. I cared about you. I trusted you with my most private thoughts. I even left my husband for you—I loved you,” she said, gasping and covering her mouth. Tears welled in her eyes as she finally looked away from the young woman.
“And I love you, present tense,” Andrea said. “I care about you. I trust you with my life. And perhaps most importantly, I want you. All of you. The exes and the kids and the spotlight and the magazine and all the other drama. I want it. I know it will be hard. And I know I have nothing material to gain, but even an ounce of you will bring me a sense of happiness and satisfaction that I cannot quantify. I want you, Miranda Priestly, and all your baggage. Why can’t that be enough?” she asked.
By now, the tears were streaming down Miranda’s cheeks. “I don’t want my girls to know that I cheated. Even if it was just Stephen, it will cast into doubt every single parenting decision I’ve ever made,” she said. “Sometimes in life, we must make sacrifices—”
“Stop. You did not cheat on him, and I will not let you sacrifice your own happiness over this,” Andrea said. “And yes, I know you that we would be happy together, wouldn’t we?”
Miranda nodded and sniffled, wiping her nose on the back of her hand.
Andrea stood and took a box of tissues from the bathroom and brought them out, setting them on the table next to the editor’s chair. “I have a suggestion. Will you hear me out?”
She looked at her watch as she was wiping her nose. “You have twenty-five minutes left, so yes, I am listening.”
The young woman took a deep breath. “Okay. I think you should talk to Stephen, and then to James.”
“Shh, my turn,” Andrea said. “Explain to Stephen what was going on. You grew apart. You lost interest in him. It happens in so many relationships. But this time, you realized why it wasn’t working, and why your attempts to save your marriage kept failing. It’s because you just weren’t attracted to men anymore. Your young, awkward assistant was flirting with you, and you didn’t even know if she realized what she was doing. But, you felt something for her that you hadn’t felt in more than a decade. She must have noticed, because she came onto you and you froze. You let her, but only for a few seconds until reality kicked in. She could ruin your career with a photo and a sexual harassment claim.
“As you tried to steer things in a platonic direction, something incredible happened: you became friends. You opened up to her about your marriage, and even though she encouraged you to end it, you told her you were going to make it work—that is, until you received the divorce papers and ate your words. After that, your guard was down a little, and she was nothing but supportive. You grew to rely on her, and then a change in management at Runway led to her moving to the editorial team. You no longer interacted on an hourly basis, so you made time outside of work to keep in touch, as friends do. Your daughters adored her from her time as your assistant, and it was just comfortable spending time together, like when she helped you clear out the fourth floor library.
“Once your divorce was finalized, you tested the waters, and discovered you really liked kissing her. But you weren’t ready for anything else, as you’re still coming to terms with it all. So, you’re sorry that your marriage didn’t work out, but there isn’t anything you could have done to make it work. It had been oil and water from the beginning. You’re sorry, but you hope he feels better knowing that it wasn’t necessarily anything he did or didn’t do.”
Miranda tilted her head to the side. “I’m supposed to tell him all that and hope he says that he’s happy for me? Are you out of your mind?!”
“I guess so,” Andrea said, getting up to pour herself a glass of water. “I just know that you feel so guilty and you don’t want anyone to find out, so I thought maybe if you actually just told him the truth—the less-detailed version of it, anyway—that you would decide I was worth it.”
“Oh. darling,” Miranda said, internally cursing herself again for using that word, “this is about me and has nothing to do with your worth. That does not change.”
“So you’re saying I’m worth something to you, but obviously not worth the trouble of talking to your exes about it? That’s just sugar-coating that you think I’m worth nothing, that you won’t go out of your way for me. Thanks.”
“Andrea, that is not what I said. You’re twisting my words.”
“And you’ve been lying for the past five months—to your daughters, to James, to Stephen. Have you been lying to me, too?”
“Andrea, you know I have been nothing but honest with you.”
“Yeah, and look where that gets me? Kicked out of your life because it’s inconvenient,” she said with a chuckle. “You know, for all of your business and fashion sense, you are a complete idiot when it comes to your own life. Your lies will eventually backfire and do more damage than the truth ever could,” she said. “Miranda, you have the opportunity now to tell the truth and give yourself a clean slate. Even if I’m not worth it, your daughters certainly are.”
Miranda was sitting in the chair with her eyes closed, her fingertips tightly gripping the armrests.
She stood and walked over to the door. “I love you, Miranda,” she said, opening the door.
“Wait! Don’t leave,” Miranda said quickly, jumping up and running to the door. She reached for Andrea’s hands. “What if I tell them, and it doesn’t work. What if Stephen gets angry and tells the press about us?”
Andrea smirked. “You mean, tell the reporters that he was screwing a lesbian for the past five years and didn’t know it?”
Miranda’s eyes widened and she grinned. “It would be in his best interest to keep this under wraps, too. Are you okay with that?”
“I am, as long as we can tell a few people we trust. I don’t doubt it will get out eventually, but maybe by then it won’t impact our lives—or the girls’ lives—as much.”
“Andrea, I love you so much,” she said, pulling the young woman into her arms. “Can you find it within you to forgive me for what I’ve said this week, and what I’ve put you through?”
“Only if you promise to keep talking to me. You don’t have to tell me everything, but what good am I if you can’t talk to me about your fears?” Andrea said. “Do we have time to lay down for a while?”
She nodded and led the woman to the bedroom. “James is bringing the girls to the townhouse at 8, so I just have to be back by then,” she said as she kicked off her shoes.
Andrea reached up and unbuttoned the woman’s blazer, easing it off her shoulders. She unbuttoned the vest, and also unbuttoned the top button on her pants. “Come on,” she said, tugging her towards the bed.
Miranda joined her in the center of the bed, relaxing into the young woman’s arms. “I missed you this week,” she said.
“I know,” Andrea said. “Caroline left me a voicemail and she said that you were ‘mopey.’”
“What does that even mean?”
“Well, I pictured you walking around the house with a really sad face, dragging your feet, you know,” Andrea teased.
“You better kiss me before I get upset about that,” Miranda said.
The young woman leaned in and kissed her softly. She pulled away and looked into the woman’s eyes. “Mopey,” she whispered with a chuckle as she kissed her again, this time deepening the kiss.
The editor responded with a gentle pinch, and a silent prayer to whoever was listening, thanking them for keeping her from making the biggest mistake of her life.
**Quote from the poem “Variations on the Word Sleep” by M. Atwood
Chapter 17: For your eyes only
The next week was challenging, but not for the obvious reasons. Miranda knew that she needed to talk to her exes sooner rather than later, but her desire for the young woman was becoming unbearable, overwhelming in ways that she could not satisfy alone in her bed.
Andrea, on the other hand, was having the best week of her life. After her return from Coachella and her wildly popular live blog, she was pursued by over a dozen top publications, including Newsweek, THR, Pitchfork, The Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed. Claire offered her a position as Associate Editor with an increased salary and benefits package, but Andrea said she would think about it.
Miranda intentionally did not bring it up with the young woman, as she knew whatever she said or didn’t say would heavily sway her decision. She selfishly wanted Andrea to stay so she could be near her and help her career, but in the same breath, she wanted what was best for her, which wasn’t necessarily Runway.
Claire came to see Miranda on Thursday with an interesting dilemma, and she was glad to be sitting down to hear it.
“Excuse me, did I hear you correctly?” Miranda said.
“Yes. THR is offering her nearly double, plus relocation expenses. The position would be out of their office in Los Angeles,” Claire said. “I don’t know that I can compete with that. It’s not in our budget, and I don’t know what else I can include to sweeten the deal.”
Miranda took a deep breath. Financially, it was a non-issue. Even at triple the Associate Editor salary, it was less than Miranda sometimes spend for a single model for a single photo shoot that might end up on the cutting room floor.
What concerned her was the relocation. Was she bluffing? Or was Andrea taking this opportunity to soften the blow, to walk away from Miranda again, albeit more professionally?
She took a deep breath. “Call over to THR—or have Helen do it—and verify the offer amount. I’ll authorize a match, with an option for a 20% one-time bonus in nine months for extraordinary performance. You can work out the details there, but make it measurable like page views or subscriptions or something,” she said.
“Do you think that will make her stay—just the money?” Claire asked.
“I don’t know. I recall when she first interviewed, her writing portfolio consisted of a lot of public interest and social justice type pieces. Maybe you can give her some latitude to explore other types of content. I do not recall her ever being interested in fashion.”
“Okay, thanks,” Claire said. “I’ll verify the number and run it past you this afternoon,” she said, walking out of the office.
“Wait—don’t say anything to her yet. Schedule a meeting for tomorrow afternoon to discuss. I have a few contacts I’d like to ping first,” Miranda added.
Miranda took a deep breath and glanced at her schedule. She had two hours until her next meeting. She sent a text message to Andrea: Are you free in 30 minutes?
She received a quick reply: Yes, I should be back from lunch then.
Miranda smiled and wrote back: Meet me in the town car. I’ll be down in 30.
She sent a quick email to Grant, publisher and CEO of THR, asking what his plans were in poaching one of Runway’s rising stars. She was sure he had no idea about the offer, but Grant was someone she rather liked, so she didn’t mind catching up with him anyway.
She busied herself in the office for another twenty-five minutes, then finally stepped out, accepting her coat and bag and informing Jessica she would be back for the meeting with the art department.
Downstairs, Andrea was already waiting in the town car, casually chatting with Roy through the window, which was cracked open. When Miranda strode towards the car, Andrea quickly rolled up the window and sat back while Roy opened the door for the editor, then jumped around to sit in front.
“Just drive around,” Miranda instructed, pressing a button to move the privacy glass upwards.
“Hi, what’s so urgent?” Andrea said. “Miss me?” she whispered.
“Always,” Miranda said, squeezing her hand gently. “But I wanted to talk to you about your career.”
“Claire came to me this morning and told me about your other offer, and asked what we could do to get you to stay.”
“And,” Miranda continued, “I wanted to find out whether you actually wanted to stay before I considered doing anything.”
“Are you serious? Of course I want to stay—why would you think I wouldn’t?”
“You countered with a position that relocates you all the way across the country! What am I supposed to think? I want you to be happy, and if that means moving away, I will deal with it,” Miranda said.
“Miranda, I do not want to move away. I used that offer as my counter because they were paying so much. I would never take it, but I’d be stupid not to negotiate,” she said.
“You promise you’re not just saying that? Because if you want to move to LA, I would of course miss you terribly, but I would fully support it. I don’t want you to feel like you’re stuck at Runway because of me, or that I’m throwing money at you and it complicates your decision,” Miranda said.
“Shut up,” Andrea said, moving to straddle the editor. “I’m not leaving,” she said, kissing her softly. “I don’t want to leave.” Another kiss. “I won’t leave you,” she added.
“You’re sure?” Miranda asked, wrapping her arms tighter around the young woman’s waist.
“Yes,” she said, bending down to kiss the editor’s neck.
After a few minutes, Miranda reluctantly pushed the young woman away. “I’m sorry, darling, but I have to go back to the office—we can’t get carried away,” she said as she tried to catch her breath.
“Can I come for dinner on Friday?” Andrea asked.
“No,” she said with a frown. “I invited James over. The girls have a sleepover, and, well I thought it would be a good time for me to talk to him. Are you okay with that?”
“Talk to him about us?”
“Sure. Do you need me there?”
Miranda shook her head. “James and I have a long and complicated history. I’d rather have this conversation on my own. I would very much appreciate your presence when I talk to Stephen, though,” she said. “I hope you understand.”
“Of course. Call me after James leaves if you want me to come over,” Andrea said as she leaned against the editor’s shoulder. “I should get back to work.”
“Andrea,” Miranda said. “Thank you for being honest with me.”
On Friday evening, James brought pizza and the girls enjoyed a relaxing meal with their mother and father before their friend’s mom picked them up. Miranda was grateful that she and James could put their differences aside for the girls when they needed to.
Once the girls were gone, she grabbed a bottle of scotch and two glasses and led James upstairs to the library.
“Wow, it looks great in here, Miranda,” he said.
“Thank you. Andrea encouraged me to clean it out, and now it’s probably my favorite spot in the whole house,” she said.
“It always was,” he said. “I’m surprised your friend isn’t here tonight. I thought I might meet her.”
“I asked her not to come—I thought it was best if you hear this from me,” she said, pouring the drinks and handing him a glass. “You accused me the other day of loving her, and, well, it’s true.”
“No shit,” he said in disbelief.
Miranda rolled her eyes. “It started innocently. She was my assistant and my marriage was falling apart. She was there, and I started to open up to her. She was dealing with some issues with her boyfriend at the time, and she helped me talk through mine. She kept telling me that I could do better than Stephen, but I wouldn’t believe her. Then he filed for divorce,” she said, taking a sip of her drink.
“Did you love her then?”
“I think so, but I hadn’t realized it. I knew that what I felt for her was a foreign experience, but I just attributed it to the fact that I never really knew what a friendship would be like. I found myself wishing that I could have that sort of connection with Stephen, and then being disappointed when it wasn’t the same,” she explained.
“Do the girls know?”
“They walked in on us sleeping in the same bed,” Miranda said. “I am really sorry about that.”
“You’re screwing her when the girls are at home?!”
“No, James, it’s not like that. She and I—I mean, we haven’t—” she took a deep breath. “We haven’t been intimate like that. It really was just a friendship, but then after my divorce was finalized and her boyfriend left her, we grew closer. We hugged and cried on each other’s shoulders, and yes, sometimes fell asleep together. We haven’t even kissed all that much,” she said.
“So the girls know you two are close. Why tell me?”
“I want to spend more time with her, but I don’t want to be accused of infidelity. I know what it looks like, but I wanted you to know the truth.”
“Have you told Stephen?”
“No, but I plan to,” she said.
“I can’t imagine he will take it well. I mean, it’s a little hard for me, and you and I have been separated for more than ten years,” he said.
“I’m sorry to do this to you.”
“Are you happy? If you are, don’t apologize.”
“I am,” she said, smiling. “I am very happy most days. And when I’m not happy, I’m usually busy, and when I’m not either of the two, well, you don’t care about that.”
“Is she supportive? More than I was?” James asked.
“Yes,” she said. She knew it was a sore spot for them, so she didn’t want to push the issue. “She understands my obsession with Frankenstein,” she added with a smile.
“Then by all means, keep her!” he said with a chuckle. “I mean it, I am happy for you. Will I get to formally meet her anytime soon?”
Miranda sighed. “Sure, whenever you’d like. She usually comes to Friday dinner, but I wanted to talk to you alone today.”
“Alright, maybe next week when I come pick the girls up?” he asked.
“That would be nice. And thank you, Jim,” she said, reaching for his hand. “It means a lot to me to have your support.”
He set his glass on the table and stood from his chair, reaching out for Miranda’s hand and helping her to her feet. He pulled her towards him, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and hugging her tightly. “I should be going,” he said.
Miranda thanked him for coming over as she led him downstairs. Now, all she had to worry about was Stephen.
After everything that had been going on, Miranda decided to do something for Andrea as a surprise. She was so intrigued by the photoshopped flyers and website, the woman decided to give her the real thing in the form of a polaroid photo shoot in the basement. She spent the next week gathering the items she would need—a backdrop, lighting, a few props, a polaroid camera and some film, and of course, something to wear.
Once she had everything setup downstairs, she waited for a weekend when the girls were with their father, then invited Andrea over for a surprise.
“Come on,” she said, grinning. She took the woman’s hand and eagerly led her through the kitchen. “I’m going to take you downstairs. Hold onto the handrail, and close your eyes,” she said.
“Trust me,” Miranda said, squeezing her hand, carefully leading her down the steps.
“Can I open my eyes yet?” she asked.
“Not yet. Here, sit down,” she said, guiding the woman to a chair. “Don’t open your eyes until I tell you or you’ll spoil the surprise,” Miranda said, giving her a soft kiss on the cheek.
She took a deep breath and walked to the other side of the room where there was a chaise draped in blue silk. She quickly took her sweater and pants off, revealing an exquisite leather bra and panty set underneath. Softly fluffing her hair with her fingers, she stepped into a pair of eight-inch platform stilettos and casually posed against the chair.
“Okay,” she said.
Andrea opened her eyes and gasped at the image before her. “Oh my god,” she said, quickly jumping from the chair.
“Stay put,” Miranda warned. “In front of you there’s a camera and some extra film. This is for your eyes only, darling.”
The young woman groaned, as if staying in the chair was physically painful. She reached for the camera and held it up. “God, this is torture, Miranda!” she cried. It caused the editor to toss her head back in laughter, and Andrea quickly snapped the photo. “You are incredible, Miranda,” she said quietly.
“I thought you might appreciate this. We haven’t been able to spend much time together lately, and I know you were a little disappointed that you didn’t get to see that awful website before it was taken down, and, well, hopefully the real thing is better,” she added with a wink as she sat up and adjusted her pose.
With each click of the shutter, Miranda naturally and flawlessly moved into another gorgeous pose, one after the other. Andrea was speechless as she kept snapping photos, only pausing after ten photos when she had to replace the film cartridge.
“How else would you like me?” Miranda asked.
Andrea set the camera down and walked over to where the woman was standing, pushing her back against the chaise and kissing her forcefully, mussing her hair and smearing her lipstick as her fingers slipped inside the leather bra and pinched the woman’s nipple. She broke the kiss and walked back to the camera, taking a photo of the woman looking thoroughly sated.
“I-I was not expecting that,” she stammered.
“You never look more beautiful than after we’ve kissed, Miranda. Your makeup gets worn off and your eyes darken to a beautiful sapphire.” She waved the developing photo back and forth a few times, then held it out for Miranda to see.
“If you are interested, I had a matching set made for you. I thought you might want some of us together,” she said, pointing to a small bag next to the chair.
Andrea pulled out a much skimpier leather bra and panty set, and Miranda felt her insides twitch as the woman held it up.
“You can change in the bathroom over there,” she said, pointing to a door off to the side.
Within seconds, Andrea stepped out in the barely-there garments. “I am not surprised that you had my exact measurements,” she said, picking up the camera and approaching the chaise.
Miranda pulled her onto her lap and pressed a kiss to her cheek and neck as Andrea attempted to take a selfie with the camera. After a few tries, Miranda reached for the camera and stepped back, taking a few photos of Andrea. She quickly changed out the film cartridge, set it back on the table, and pressed a few buttons before returning to the chaise, where she straddled the young woman, kissing her fiercely and pressing her back against the furniture.
Andrea was able to spin them around so Miranda was flat on her back and she was crawling on top of her, kissing and licking every inch of exposed flesh. “Miranda, you are gorgeous… so stunning… delicious,” she whispered between kisses. When she reached the area near her pelvis that she knew the woman was so sensitive about, she pressed a single kiss to the scar, allowing her lips to linger as she whispered, “so beautiful.”
“Darling,” she called, reaching down and cupping the woman’s cheek, guiding her upwards to her lips. “Darling, I love you, so very much,” she said as she softly brushed her thumb against the woman’s cheek.
Andrea responded by taking the editor’s lips in her own, kissing her so fiercely Miranda couldn’t think about anything else except the exquisite feel of those luscious lips against her own.
After a while, the young woman trailed kisses down the editor’s neck and she stopped, laying there, resting her head just inches above Miranda’s heart, but looking up into her eyes. “This was the best surprise ever,” she said quietly.
“I thought you would appreciate it,” she said.
“This leather is beautiful—where did you find it?”
“It was specially made, darling. No one but you will ever see me in this, and no one in the universe will ever wear this,” she whispered. “For. Your. Eyes. Only.” she said, punctuating each word with a kiss.
“I don’t want to leave this place—ever,” the young woman said.
“There’s one more cartridge of film if you’d like,” Miranda reminded her.
“Can I use it upstairs? After you’ve showered and taken your makeup off?” she asked.
Miranda nodded. “Whatever you like, sweetheart. Let’s just lay here a bit longer.”
It was hours later when Miranda woke, and she only woke because she needed to use the bathroom. She gently nudged the other woman awake and crawled out from beneath her, grabbing her robe and stepping into the bathroom.
Andrea threw her shirt over her head and walked over to the ledge where the polaroids were sitting. “Miranda, these are gorgeous,” she said quietly. “Have you modeled before?”
Miranda laughed and wrapped her arms around the young woman. “Of course not. I’ve just picked up a thing or to from watching the models at Runway for twenty years,” she said.
“I guess that makes sense,” Andrea said. “What would you like to do tonight? Are you hungry?”
Miranda hugged her tightly and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “I thought maybe we could go upstairs.”
“The library? Sure.”
“No. My bedroom.”
Andrea spun around and looked the older woman in the eye. “Seriously? Finally?”
Miranda rolled her eyes and moved away, picking up the polaroid and putting it back in its case. “If you’re going to trivialize it, then no.”
“I just got this sudden urge to sweep you off your feet and carry you upstairs,” Andrea said.
“Don’t you dare do such a thing! Honestly, Andrea forget I said anything.”
The young woman took a deep breath and reached for Miranda’s hands. “I’m sorry. It just caught me by surprise.”
“Why?” she said, pulling her hands away and wiping the tears in her eyes. “Why were you surprised?”
“We just haven’t talked much about it, that’s all. Really,” she said, softly stroking her arm. “Let’s just go upstairs and play it by ear. Please?”
Miranda nodded and followed the young woman upstairs. “I think I’ll take a shower first, if you don’t mind,” she said.
“Can I join you?”
Miranda froze. “What?”
“In the shower? Both of us?”
Miranda cleared her throat as she blushed profusely. “I, uh, I don’t think my shower is big enough.”
Andrea laughed out loud. “You are hilarious. Your shower is, like, the size of my entire bathroom. You know you can be honest with me, right? You don’t need to make excuses.”
“I’m not… okay,” she sighed. “I guess I am making excuses. It’s just that we haven’t even seen each other naked before.”
Andrea smiled and wrapped her arms around the woman, slowly untying her robe. “Well we could shower like this, but it would ruin this beautiful leather. Or I could keep my eyes closed the whole time, would that help?” she asked, kissing her neck softly.
Miranda rolled her eyes. “It’ll be fine. I’m just overreacting. Can you just, you know, keep your eyes up?”
“You should know by now that I will literally do anything,” the young woman whispered.
Miranda smiled and walked towards the bathroom. “Give me a minute first,” she said.
“Sure. I’m going to run to the kitchen and grab a bottle of water. I’ll be right back,” she said, pressing a kiss to the woman’s shoulder.
The older woman closed the bathroom door behind her and quickly relieved herself. She straightened up a few things and got two towels out. She turned the shower on, utilizing all of the jets and filling the room quickly with steam.
When Andrea returned, she knocked gently before entering the bathroom. She put her hair up in a topknot, then pulled her shirt over her head and reached around her back to unfasten the leather bra, letting it drop to the floor as she stalked closer to Miranda.
“A-Andrea,” the older woman stammered. She was frozen in place, but when the young woman pressed their lips together and began kissing her, she felt her tension melting away.
Andrea pushed Miranda backwards until her shoulder blades were against the glass outer wall of the shower. Without breaking the kiss, she reached behind the woman, unclasping the leather top encasing her breasts and pulled away just enough to pull it off the woman, tossing it on the floor with her own. She unfastened her bottoms and slid those to the floor as well, reaching to do the same with Miranda’s when the editor stilled her hand.
“I’m s-still a little uncomfortable with this area,” she said quietly, her eyes silently pleading with the young woman. “Get in?” she asked, gesturing to the steamy shower.
Andrea pressed a soft kiss to the woman’s cheek then walked into the shower, reaching for a loofah and facing the other direction while Miranda unclasped her leather briefs. They were designed to cover her scar, and even though Andrea had already seen that, she hadn’t seen anything lower.
She quickly followed the young woman into the shower, stepping behind her and wrapping her arms around her while she kissed the woman’s back. She took the loofah from her hands, put some body wash on it, and ran it up and down the young woman’s arms and chest.
The young woman stepped into the spray to rinse the suds off her body, then turned around to repeat the process with the older woman. She handed the loofah back to the woman to wash between her legs, and then Andrea quickly pulled her underneath the spray, too. She ran her fingers through the woman’s hair, ensuring all the strands were wet. “Conditioner only?” she asked. When the woman nodded, she continued, massaging the conditioner into the silky silver strands.
“May I?” Miranda asked, reaching for the young woman’s hair.
“Not now,” Andrea said. “Later, it’s all yours,” she added, leaning forward and kissing the woman as her fingers massaged her scalp.
“Oh god, that feels so good,” she sighed.
“We’re only getting started,” Andrea added as she gently rinsed the conditioner from the woman’s head. “Doing okay?”
Miranda smiled and nodded. “More than okay,” she replied.
“Good,” Andrea said, quickly pinning her back against the glass shower wall and kissing her deeply. Her hands cupped the woman’s breasts, massaging them and tugging on her nipples while her lips trailed down her neck, finally taking a breast into her mouth.
Miranda moaned, throwing her head back against the glass and reaching out for something to hold on to. There was nothing, so she held on tightly to Andrea’s shoulder while the young woman assaulted her nipples.
After a few minutes, Andrea kissed her way back up to Miranda’s mouth, her hands reaching around to cup the woman’s backside. She wedged her knee between Miranda’s legs, and given the slight difference in height, it didn’t take much for the young woman’s thigh to make the woman gasp.
“Hold that thought,” the woman whispered, licking the outer shell of her ear for good measure. She reached around and turned the shower off, leading Miranda out and wrapping her in a towel. She dried herself off with another towel, then gently towel dried the editor’s hair before taking her hand and leading her out into the bedroom.
Miranda stood next to the bed facing the young woman, clutching the towel around her body. She wanted to drop it, but she was scared—she didn’t want to see the young woman’s reaction. Before she could decide what to do next, Andrea pushed her back against the mattress, kissing her so fiercely she couldn’t help but fall back onto the bed.
Andrea hovered over her, helping her to scoot back so she was fully on the mattress, then she crawled on top of her, kissing her and trailing her lips and tongue along every inch of exposed skin. She coaxed the woman’s hand away from the towel and gently slipped her hand beneath it, cupping her breast and pinching her nipple. The editor arched off the bed, causing the towel to fall open a bit. Andrea took advantage of that, slipping her hand further down the editor’s stomach, gently stroking her scar as she pressed her lips to her neck, sucking lightly. Her fingertips trailed lower, combing through the woman’s wet curls, and finally reaching her core. She cupped her gently, smirking at how the woman’s hips bucked into her hand.
“Oh god, Andrea, please,” she moaned.
The young woman pressed a kiss to her neck, then pushed herself up to look Miranda in the eyes. “I’ll be gentle, I promise,” she said, kissing her lips softly as her index and middle finger explored the woman’s silky hot folds.
“Ohhhh! Oh-oh-ohhhh,” she gasped.
Andrea circled the woman’s folds and gently pressed her thumb to the base of her pubic bone.
“Ahhhh, harder, harder!” she cried.
The young woman chuckled and kissed her. “You don’t want me to be gentle?”
“No, no, god, please,” she groaned.
“We will definitely have to explore this later,” she whispered. “Look at me.”
Miranda’s eyes fluttered open and she struggled to focus on the woman above her. “I love you, Miranda,” she said as she rapidly rubbed the woman’s folds and applied pressure to her clitoris.
As the editor silently choked out her orgasm, she broke focus with the young woman’s eyes, letting her head fall back against the bed as waves upon waves crashed through her body. She finally pushed Andrea’s hand away as she took several deep breaths, trying to get her breathing back on track.
The young woman laid next to her on the bed, her arm wrapped tightly around the woman’s waist. After a few minutes, Miranda pushed herself up onto her side and softly stroked Andrea’s hip.
“How are you?” Andrea asked.
“I couldn’t be better,” Miranda replied with a smirk, kissing the young woman softly. “That was incredible.” She crawled on top of the woman and began assaulting her with kisses, much in the same way that she had received not minutes before. As she kissed her way down the young woman’s stomach, she paused when she reached her curls.
“You don’t have to, Miranda,” she said, softly squeezing her shoulder.
“I want to. I just—” She shook her head. “I-I don’t know how.”
“It’s okay, start with a kiss,” Andrea said. “You can use your fingers to help, and then either—OHHH! Oh god!” she gasped, her hips practically bucking off the bed. “Like that. Again.”
Miranda dragged her tongue over the woman’s folds again, delighting in the exquisite sounds emanating from the woman’s core. She could hear and see it contracting, and she quickly decided that was the most beautiful sight in the world. She leaned in and dragged her tongue once more, but when she reached her apex, she stiffened her tongue and assaulted the woman’s clitoris, coaxing it out of its hood and sucking on it while her chin pressed into her folds.
Andrea cried out as her juices quickly flowed, coating Miranda’s hand and chin.
Miranda wiped her chin with the back of her hand and returned her tongue to its earlier rhythm, lapping up the woman’s juices as her body calmed. She kissed her way back up the woman’s body and was a little surprised when Andrea pulled her head down, pressing their lips together. She didn’t think the woman would want to kiss her after her mouth had been down there, but was she ever wrong.
After a while, Miranda was no longer able to support herself, so she let her hips fall against the woman’s body. Their legs intertwined as their hips sought contact of their own. Her already-sensitive nipples hardened as they brushed against the young woman’s, and Andrea turned slightly so that they were laying side by side.
Andrea’s lips trailed lower, licking her own juices off the editor’s chin. It was all so surreal, laying here with the woman. She was one of the most influential people in publishing, and definitely the most influential woman in fashion—and not two minutes ago, this woman’s lips were against her clit. “Is this a dream?” Andrea wondered out loud. “How did I get so lucky?”
Miranda smiled and pressed a kiss to her neck, gently resting her head on the woman’s shoulder. “I don’t think luck had anything to do with it,” she said with a chuckle.
They laid there for some time, wrapped in each other’s arms, but each in her own thoughts.
“What are you thinking about?” Miranda asked after some time.
The young woman sighed. “That you still haven’t talked to Stephen.”
“What?!” Miranda said, propping herself up on one elbow. “Why on earth are you thinking about that right now?”
“I’m sorry, I’m just being honest. Now you can’t tell Stephen that we haven’t done this,” she said. “I know that was important to you.”
“It’s funny,” Miranda said, chuckling. “It had been so long since I experienced anything like this afternoon. And really, I don’t think I have experienced anything like it,” she added. “But, it all sort of put everything into perspective.”
“How so?” Andrea asked, softly stroking the woman’s arm.
“I felt so guilty for what were doing while I was still married. I know you keep telling me we weren’t cheating, and of course while it was just a few kisses and well-placed hands, I almost came to expect that sort of behavior from Stephen. I have no doubt that he has been very hands-on with his assistants or waitresses or what have you. It wasn’t the physical that bothered me; it was the rest of it. I felt guilty for opening up to you, for wanting to talk to you instead of him, for needing to hear your voice and not his,” she said.
“But now it’s different?” Andrea asked in confusion.
“Not okay, just in perspective. Being with you today—it just makes my previous relationships pale in comparison. I can’t explain it, but the tenderness with you—it’s almost as though the orgasm is secondary to everything else. I’ve never experienced that. It makes me realize that what I felt before, when I was still married, wasn’t as unfaithful as it seemed at the time. It was friendship—care and concern—feelings that were somewhat new to me, and wholly misplaced,” Miranda said. She leaned forward and kissed the young woman softly on the lips.
“I’m sorry, but I still don’t follow,” the young woman said.
Miranda smiled and cupped her cheek. “Had I felt anything like I feel today, even without the sex, that would have been unforgivable while I was married.”
“So, you’re saying you don’t feel guilty anymore?” Andrea asked.
“No,” she said with a sigh, turning onto her back and staring up at the ceiling. “This is an entirely new feeling for me.” Tears began to stream down her cheeks and she quickly reached up to wipe them away.
Andrea curled up next to the woman, draping her arm and leg across the woman and resting her head on her shoulder. “I love you,” she whispered, pressing a kiss to her chest.
Miranda wrapped her arms around the woman and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “I love you, too, darling.”
The following week, Miranda met Stephen for dinner alone and explained as best as she could what was going on. As expected, he wasn’t thrilled that his ex-wife was now dating a woman more than half his age, and that was enough to keep him quiet. Miranda asked that they could be amicable to one another, and he agreed.
With Andrea’s new role at Runway, she was busier than ever. Add to that Miranda’s summer schedule with the bridal shows, previews of fall collections, and preparations for the September issue, they hardly had time for one another. Andrea moved into her own apartment now that she had a significantly better paycheck, and it seemed as though Miranda was spending more time at her place than she was at her own. The girls were gone for most of the summer—either at camp, on vacation with their father, or visiting their grandparents—so the two women took advantage of the situation and spent the nights together when they couldn’t find time during the day.
One morning in early August, however, changed everything.
For several weeks, they had been were riding up in the elevator together. They’d give each other a quick kiss before the doors opened and they’d head in their separate directions. Today, they arrived separately because Andrea needed to interview someone early in the morning. She texted Miranda as she was heading to the office, and Miranda agreed to meet her out front so they could still walk in together.
When the young woman stepped out of the cab, Miranda almost tripped and fell. She was wearing the sheer De La Renta dress, albeit in the correct size and with a nude slip beneath it. She looked breathtaking, but Miranda knew she needed to regain her composure as they were in the middle of the sidewalk. As soon as the elevator doors shut, Miranda pounced on the woman, pushing her back against the wall and kissing her so hard she knew her lips would be bruised and her throat would be sore for days.
“You will change into something more appropriate in the closet as soon as you get in,” the editor growled. This is mine,” she said, biting the young woman’s neck. She glanced back and saw they weren’t even halfway up, so she gently lifted the young woman, causing her legs to wrap around Miranda’s waist. The editor was wearing a suit today, and she rather expertly pressed her intricate belt buckle against the juncture between the woman’s legs.
“Ohhhhhh god!” she cried out, clawing at Miranda’s back. “Stop, let me down,” she added, seeing that they were approaching their destination.
Miranda pulled away reluctantly. The young woman quickly smoothed out her skirt and tried to fix her smudged lipstick, but Miranda couldn’t resist and pulled her in for another kiss, her hand sliding up to cup the woman’s breast through the thin fabric.
Suddenly, the doors opened and they heard a gasp before either of them could pull apart.
“Shit,” Andrea said, pushing the editor away. She grabbed her bag and ran past Emily and Serena and a few others, heading towards the bathroom to freshen up before she went to her office.
Miranda’s eyes went wide and she realized she had no cover. The others had enough tact to look away, but the woman knew the damage had been done. Just as the elevator doors were beginning to close again, she reached her hand out, causing them to jerk open again. She picked up her bag and phone from the floor and stalked out of the elevator, heading towards her office.
When no one was following her, she stopped and turned around. “Excuse me, I was under the impression you all worked here. Let’s move,” she said, snapping her fingers and turning to walk again. Emily and Jessica quickly caught up to her. Emily rattled off her schedule for the day while Jessica took notes. When she reached her office, it wasn’t surprising that she shut the door behind her.
Emily took a deep breath and leaned against her desk. She looked up at the others who had followed her from the elevator lobby. “Not a word,” she said. “Remember, you signed a confidentiality agreement when you started. Now, back to work!”
In her office, Miranda went straight into her bathroom to freshen up. Her lipstick was smudged and her hair was mussed, but it wasn’t terrible. She quickly touched up her lipstick and dialed Andrea’s cell phone.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“Uh, the bathroom,” she said. “I’m going to have to change into a turtleneck,” she added with a chuckle.
“Andrea, I am so sorry.”
“No, don’t apologize,” she said. “We both knew something like this was bound to happen.”
“It was reckless of me.”
“But also really, really hot.”
Miranda chuckled. “I can’t disagree there. Would you like me to have Emily bring you something to wear?”
“That would actually be fantastic,” she said. “Maybe that white sleeveless turtleneck and the ankle pants? I have a jacket in my office I can throw over it if needed.”
Miranda quickly sent a text message to Emily with the request. “It’s on its way,” she said. “Again, I am sorry I put you in this position.”
“I’m not,” she said. “I’ll swing by before I head out for lunch, okay?”
“That’s fine. See you then,” she said.
She ended the call and returned to her desk. She had twenty minutes before her first meeting, so she sent Irv a quick note, then drafted up an email. She dialed the young woman’s extension before clicking send.
“Hey,” she answered.
“Can I read something to you? I want to send it out to our New York office.”
“Okay. Memorandum Re: Privacy & Confidentiality. As some of you saw or by now have heard rumors, there was an incident this morning in the elevator involving myself and another employee. Through no one’s fault but my own, I have unfortunately exposed a very private, and still very new relationship. I am hereby formally calling everyone’s attention to the Confidentiality Agreement you signed when you were hired. If you have questions, please contact HR. On a personal level, I can honestly say that I have never felt happier or more fulfilled, and I ask you to please think twice before that for me, and for your colleague. Best, Miranda,” she finished. “How’s that? Too formal? Would you rather I didn’t?”
“It’s perfect,” Andrea said, wiping a tear from her eye. “I love you, did you know that?”
“Darling, I love you, too. And while I’m not thrilled about the way this morning went, perhaps it is an opportunity for us to see more of each other during the day. I don’t know about you, but I would like that.”
“I would too. Send it,” she said.
Miranda clicked the button. “Done. See you at 11:45?”
“You bet,” she replied.
Miranda sat back, in her chair, wondering how long it would be until Nigel barged into her office. She could hear his distinctive walk out in the hallway, and within seconds he was standing in front of her desk.
“You’re sleeping with Andy and you couldn’t tell me?!” he said, rubbing his hand over his bald head.
“We didn’t tell anyone,” Miranda said.
“Why now? What happened in the elevator?”
Miranda chuckled and rolled her eyes. “Shocking that you didn’t hear. I got carried away and half my staff saw us together.”
Nigel nodded. “This started in Paris, didn’t it? Andy lied to me when she said she had been eating an apple that morning. I know, because she happens to hate apples.”
“Yes, she does. And it’s a little more complicated than that. I was helping her with her outfit that morning in Paris, and things started to get out of hand. Nothing happened for months, and certainly not while I was married.”
“I don’t care if you believe me or not, Nigel, but I meant it when I said that this is very new for us.”
“As long as you don’t hurt her,” he said. “I happen to think she’s great and wouldn’t mind her sticking around.”
Miranda smiled. “I know. I promise I’ll take care of her,” she said. “Ready for the run-through?”
Nigel nodded and opened the door, ushering everyone inside.
Miranda took a deep breath. It was a bit surreal, knowing everyone else knew, but at the same time, it was freeing, as though a weight had been lifted. She could see the empathy in the others’ eyes, and she vowed that she would be a little more forgiving of others and their struggles in their personal lives, because she knows all too well that it’s difficult and frankly, unhealthy, to keep that inside.
Chapter 18: I am not unhappy
Once the girls were home and school had started, Miranda made an effort to be home in the evenings to spend time with them, even if it meant she had to work while they did their homework. Unfortunately, this meant she had less time for Andrea.
The two women continued to see each other in little spurts—a quick hello here, a shared ride there, and sometimes even a working lunch in the office. Andrea hadn’t seen the girls in months, and it had been over two weeks since she was last at the townhouse. She wasn’t sure why, but Miranda seemed to prefer spending time with the young woman at her apartment.
She would sometimes come by early in the morning on her way to work, bringing coffee and a croissant and waking the young woman up with a kiss. Andrea loved those mornings, but she knew that it likely meant she wouldn’t see her the rest of the day. Still, Miranda went out of her way for the young woman.
Other times, she comes over late at night, after the girls are in bed. She doesn’t stay long, but it’s long enough to spend time together. They text message each other all throughout the day—every day. Andrea tells herself that it should be enough, but it’s becoming clear to her that it’s not.
Miranda was sitting in her chair with her iPad, watching her daughters do their home on the opposite couch. She wished Andrea were there, sitting with her. She missed her presence, but she was concerned her daughters would grow jealous if she invited her over too much. But what was too much? Miranda didn’t want to find out, so she didn’t invite her at all.
Caroline and Cassidy occasionally asked about her, but nothing remarkable. Miranda would always explain that Andrea was busy or traveling or working on a deadline, and that seemed to satisfy them.
As the weeks passed, Miranda knew they needed to do something. One day, she called the young woman into her office at work.
“Yes, Miranda?” she said, entering the office and closing the door behind her.
“Sit, please,” the editor said, gesturing to the chairs across from her desk. She rounded the desk herself and gently leaned against it, folding her arms over her chest. “I have to fly to Mexico tomorrow morning. We have this shoot, but the location is all wrong, so we need to find something else while the crew is there. Anyway,” she said, biting her lip, “I was wondering if you would stay with the girls at the house. Cara will still be there during the day, but at night it would just be you and them.”
“You’re asking me to watch the girls while you’re gone?” she asked, confused.
“Yes. Will you? I’ll be gone two—three nights max—and they’ll be in school during the day.”
“Of course I will, but I have to be honest, I thought you were going to ask me to come with you on your trip,” she said, sinking back into her chair. “But no, I’m just the evening nanny.”
Miranda pushed away from the desk and squatted down in front of Andrea’s chair. She took her hands and pressed a kiss to the back. “I am sorry—you know I wish that were the case. It’s just that James is out of town this week, too, and the girls have never stayed with anyone else like this. They miss you. Our house misses you,” she added with a chuckle.
Only Andrea was not laughing. “Do you miss me, Miranda?” she asked, wiping a tear from her eye.
“Come here,” Miranda said, standing and taking her hand, leading her over to the couch where they were able to sit next to one another. “I miss you terribly, Andrea. I think about calling you over every night, but…”
“But what? Why don’t you?”
“Because I know you’re doing your thing with your career. You’ve hired a few people, you’re working on new columns, Claire is constantly sending you to luncheons and readings—I know you must be swamped. I don’t want to interfere,” she said, hanging her head.
“Not everyone works as much as you, you know. Yes, I am busy and I have a lot to do, but I try to keep a work-life balance, so most nights I’m just sitting at home watching Netflix,” she said.
Miranda sighed, putting her head in her hands. “Please don’t tell me I’ve screwed this up.”
“No, you haven’t—not yet,” she said. “It’s partly my fault. I could have communicated better instead of feeling sorry for myself.”
“Will you come over tonight? We can spend some time together before I leave, then just bring enough things to last you through the weekend,” she added. “We will go on a trip soon, just the two of us. I promise you.”
Andrea nodded and squeezed her hand.
“Do you have much more work to do today?” Miranda asked.
“Nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow, why?”
Miranda smiled and cupped the young woman’s cheek. “Let’s take the afternoon. We’ll go to your place and pack a few things, we can grab something to eat, and then whatever you’d like to do tonight.”
“That sounds perfect,” she said.
Not long after, they were walking into Andrea’s apartment. The young woman quickly went into her bedroom to pack some things, while Miranda straightened up the kitchen and washed the coffee mugs and spoons that were in the sink.
“Have you been eating, Andrea?” Miranda called out.
Andrea came out into the kitchen. “Yeah, why?”
“Your sink is full of coffee mugs but no plates or forks. Do you eat out every night?”
Andrea rolled her eyes. “I didn’t know you were so interested in my eating habits. I usually have a big salad for lunch at work, then for dinner I will either go hang out with Doug or have a Lean Cuisine.” At Miranda’s curious look, Andrea added “look in the freezer.”
Miranda opened the freezer and gasped. “You eat this? It can’t be healthy. Honey, I’ll have Cara make extra of whatever we’re having and I’ll messenger it over—”
As she was talking, Andrea walked up and wrapped her arms around the woman’s waist.
“What?” she asked, confused at why the young woman interrupted her.
“You called me honey. That’s what,” she said.
Miranda blushed. “Sorry, it slipped.”
“I love that it slipped,” Andrea said, kissing her cheek.
Miranda returned the light peck and took Andrea’s hand. “You should finish packing.”
Andrea sighed and returned to her bedroom, gathering some pajamas, underwear, a few dresses to wear to work, and then headed to the bathroom to pack her makeup. By the time she finished and walked into the living room, she was not surprised to see Miranda furiously typing some message on her phone.
Miranda nodded and reached for the door, but Andrea reached for her hand, holding it on the doorknob.
The woman took a deep breath, then closed her eyes and nodded. “I’m sorry, let’s go. I am beginning to think that even I can’t save this shoot tomorrow.”
Andrea led her out of the apartment and down to the garage, where Roy was waiting. Her new apartment came with a parking space, and since she didn’t have a car, she gave the opener and hang tag to Roy, which turned out to be quite convenient.
Once they were settled into the backseat of the car, Miranda’s phone rang and she promptly turned it off with a sigh.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Andrea asked.
“No. I can’t do anything until I am there, so I’d rather not think about it.”
“Okay,” she said. “Come on, there’s a lot of traffic,” she added, moving into the corner of the backseat and gesturing for Miranda to follow her and lay against her chest.
By the time they reached the townhouse, Miranda was sound asleep against Andrea’s chest. The young woman hated the thought of waking her, so she sent Roy a quick text with her free hand and asked him to give them ten more minutes. She softly ran her fingers through the woman’s hair, then pressed a kiss to her cheek.
“Mmm,” the editor sighed as she angled her neck, reaching back to capture the young woman’s lips without opening her eyes. “Oh, Andrea,” she gasped, turning herself around so she was straddling the young woman’s lap.
The young woman chuckled as Miranda’s lips trailed down her neck, carefully unbuttoning her blouse as perfect lips left telltale red smears across her chest. “Ohhh, god. I need you,” she groaned.
Miranda growled as she pushed the woman’s bra down softly clamped her teeth around the pebbled flesh. The young woman’s hands reached out and grasped at the woman’s back.
Meanwhile, Cara had picked up the girls from school, driving around and parking in back as she always does. When Caroline saw the town car out the front door, she ran down the steps and opened the door, gasping. “Ugh, gross!” she screamed, shielding her eyes and turning away.
Miranda tumbled onto the floor as Andrea frantically pulled her blouse over her chest and tried to sit up. “Caroline, go back inside. We’ll be there in a minute,” she added, reaching out and pulling the door shut once she saw Andrea was fully inside.
As soon as the door was shut, the two women started laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. Andrea buttoned her shirt and tossed her hair up in a messy bun, and Miranda carefully wiped the smudged lipstick off her lips.
“I didn’t even realize we were in front of the house. Are the doors always unlocked like that?!” she asked.
“No, Roy did it when we got home. I told him to wait because I wanted to let you sleep, and then, I got, uh, rather distracted,” she said.
Miranda smiled and brushed the woman’s cheek. “We needed to talk to the girls anyway. Serves Caroline right for forgetting to knock yet again,” she added.
Once they were dressed and halfway decent, they stepped out of the car, Andrea first, so she could help Miranda up. “What did you need to talk to the girls about?” she asked.
“Us. I just want to make sure they know what you are to me—to us, really—before I leave tomorrow morning,” she said as they walked up the stairs. She reached for the doorknob and opened the door, letting Andrea inside first and following after.
“Miranda, I am so sorry,” Cara said. “I was in the kitchen fixing a snack and I heard her say you were home—I’m sorry,” she said, blushing as she returned to slicing the apples and celery.
“It’s perfectly fine,” Miranda said with a wink, looking around for the girls, then eventually hearing them upstairs. “But while you’re here, you may as well know that Andrea and I are seeing each other.”
“Oh! Really?” she replied. “I’m sorry, don’t answer that. Thank you for informing me.”
Andrea wrapped her arms around the woman’s waist and rested her chin on the editor’s shoulder. “And she means ‘seeing each other’ as in seeing each other romantically. Dating. Necking,” she added with a grin.
“Good heavens,” Miranda said, spinning around in the woman’s arms. “Remind me why I’m leaving you with the girls tomorrow?”
The young woman grinned. “Because you love me? Because I’m the best babysitter ever? Or maybe because you think I’m still your assistant!” she said with a laugh.
Miranda frowned and looked away.
“Wait, I was just kidding. Don’t get mad.”
“Let’s talk later,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I want to go talk to the girls. Come with?”
Andrea smiled and nodded, following the woman upstairs and into Cassidy’s bedroom, where Caroline was sitting on the bed and Cassidy was at her desk.
“Girls, can we talk for a moment?” Miranda asked, sitting on the bed next to Caroline and wrapping her arm around her shoulder. She looked across the room at Andrea, leaning against the dresser and trying to be casual, but she could see that the young woman was nervous.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” Caroline said, hugging her and burying her face in Miranda’s shoulder.
“Sweetie, you don’t have to apologize,” she said, softly rubbing the girl’s back and pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “I want you both to know that Andrea and I are officially—uh,” she paused and looked over at the brunette.
“In a relationship?” Andrea offered.
“Well, yes, but, it’s more than that,” she said, frowning at her daughters’ questioning looks. She turned to Andrea and smiled. “I love her.”
Caroline and Cassidy’s eyes widened as they stared at their mom, who was completely and totally lost in Andrea’s eyes. “Well, come on, Andy!” Cassidy finally said.
“What?” she asked.
“You’re supposed to say it back!” Cassidy said, rolling her eyes and looking a little too much like her mother.
“Ah, right. Well, I love her, too. Is that okay with you?” she asked.
Caroline and Cassidy exchanged a look, then Cassidy nodded. “Yep.”
“There’s just one thing,” Caroline said.
Miranda looked down at her daughter and held her breath, unsure of what she was going to say.
“You really need to learn how to lock the doors.”
Miranda laughed and gently tickled her daughter. “Thank you, I believe we will be locking the door from now on,” she said. “Now, this isn’t public knowledge yet. I imagine it will be someday, but right now it’s not, so unless you are in this house, you don’t talk about it, okay?”
Both girls nodded in understanding. “Is Andy moving in?” Cassidy asked.
“No, Bobbsey. She is going to stay here for the rest of the week, though, because I need to fly to Mexico tomorrow morning.”
“But Mooom, Dad is out of town, too! You can’t both be gone at the same time!” Cassidy said.
Andrea stepped forward and knelt next to the young girl. “And your mom didn’t want to to go because of that. I know I’m not a replacement for either of your parents, but I thought maybe if I came and stayed with you, it wouldn’t be so bad. Your mom will be back before the end of the week, and then we can all do something this weekend,” she explained.
“I guess,” Cassidy said with a shrug.
“Sweetheart, come here,” Miranda said, patting the bed next to her. When the young girl came over, she wrapped her other arm around her shoulders. “I realize this is the first time I’ll be away when you’re not with your dad or grandparents, and I am so sorry, but I have to go tomorrow. I will be back as soon as I can, and I bet you won’t even know I’m gone.”
Caroline started to cry, and Miranda pulled her closer.
Andrea started walking towards the door, and Miranda gave her a nod, indicating that she appreciated the privacy with the girls.
“Caroline, darling, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t want you to go,” she cried. “What if something happens, like a plane crash, and you don’t come back?”
“Stop thinking like that. Did you know that you are more likely to get in a car crash than a plane crash?” Miranda said. “My whole team from the magazine is down there right now. We will all be coming back—I’ll just be home sooner than the rest of them. Is it Andrea that makes you uncomfortable?” she asked quietly, hoping the young woman wasn’t within range.
“No, Andy’s cool,” Caroline said, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. “But she’s not you.”
Miranda hugged her daughter tightly and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “I love you so much. I will always be your Mom, and I love that you miss me like this, but spending time away is all part of growing up. In a few years, you’re going to be driving and hanging out with your friends and then going to college—you won’t want to sit home with me then, and I would never make you do that.”
“That’s not the same,” she cried.
“Okay, okay,” she said, hugging her tightly and gently running her fingers through her hair as she tried to soothe the young girl. “What about you?” she asked, looking at Cassidy.
“I’ll miss you, but I know you’re going to be home soon. Plus, we’re going to be in school, and Andy is here if we need anything,” she said.
“That’s my girl,” Miranda said. “I’ve tried to raise you two to be smart, kind, independent women. One day you’ll have a family of your own, and maybe you’ll understand. The very last thing in the world I want to do is leave you, but I can’t bring you with, so I am trying to do the next best thing. I trust Andrea completely. She loves you almost as much as I do, you know.”
“She does?” Caroline asked, sniffling.
Miranda reached over for a tissue and wiped the young girl’s nose. “Yes, she does. She’s a little nervous because she can’t tell what you think of her yet, and she doesn’t want to scare you away,” she explained.
“But we’ve haven’t even spent a lot of time with her. And then we tried to trick her that one time,” she said, looking down.
“Yes, and she loves you anyway. You two are all that I ever talk about, so I think that’s why she feels like she knows you so well,” Miranda said. “But look, there’s no pressure. You don’t have to love her back—at least not right away. I hope that after a while, once you get to know her, you will love her as much as I do, but look. I’m going to be gone for two days. She’s staying here with you, whether you talk to her or not. If I were you, I would spend time getting to know her.”
“What if we do and we don’t like her?” Cassidy asked quietly.
“We will handle that if it happens, but I sincerely hope that is not the case. Now, what do you say we order out for dinner tonight?” she asked, changing the subject. “Chinese, maybe? Andrea seems to think we only ever order pizza.”
“Okay. Chinese. Let’s do it,” Caroline said.
“I’ll go tell Cara and get the menus out!” Cassidy said, jumping off the bed. She stopped and turned around before leaving the room, running back to hug Miranda, then made her way downstairs.
“And are you okay my darling?” Miranda asked. “Or is there something else you didn’t want to say in front of your sister?”
“What if I get a nightmare when you’re not here?” she asked.
“You run to my room and crawl into bed with Andrea, explaining that you had a nightmare,” she said.
“Really? She’ll let me?”
Miranda smiled. “Of course she will. And I happen to know she is a very good hugger, so you will fall right back to sleep—I promise.”
The young girl nodded and scooted off the bed. “Mom,” she said, “I like Andy. I just want you and Andy to be around, not you or her. Get it?”
“I think I do. And Bobbsey, rest assured that I want the very same thing. It’s not an either/or. Why don’t you go help your sister with the menu,” she said, nudging the young girl out of the room.
She made her way down to her room and was surprised to find Andrea sitting on the bed, her bag still on the floor and nothing unpacked. “What’s this?”
“I didn’t want to get too comfortable,” she said with a shrug.
“Oh, please,” Miranda said, rolling her eyes and stalking over towards the bag. She picked it up and set it on the bed, then unzipped it and laid the clothes out on the bed. She took the young girl’s cosmetic case and set it on the vanity in the bathroom, then took her shoes and set them on a shelf in her closet. For the underwear and pajamas, she opened an empty drawer in her dresser and set them inside, and then proceeded to hang the woman’s shirts and pants in the closet. “I want you comfortable,” she said, walking out of the closet and approaching the bed. “I don’t want to mess this up—you and me—but if you can’t be comfortable in this house, around the girls, it’s not going to work.”
Andrea smiled and hugged the woman. “I am comfortable here and around the girls, but I was worried they weren’t comfortable having me here,” she said.
“They’re fine. I told them to grow up,” Miranda said.
“Well, not in those words. I suggested they get to know you and made it clear that I like you and that’s all that matters,” she said, kissing her softly. “Oh, and we’re ordering Chinese,” Miranda said.
That evening, after the girls went to sleep, the two women retired to bed and simply spent time enjoying one another. When Miranda’s alarm went off, the last thing she wanted to do was get up and go to the airport, but Andrea reminded her that the sooner she left, the sooner she could be home. Yes—home.
Later that day, Andrea explained to Claire that she needed to leaver early to babysit, and that she would finish her work from home, but Claire informed her that Miranda had already sent an email explaining the situation. Andrea couldn’t imagine how difficult the whole situation was for her employee to be dating her boss, but she was appreciative nonetheless.
When the girls got home from school, Andrea was in the kitchen working on her computer at the kitchen island. She had just gotten off the phone with Miranda, who apologized but said she couldn’t talk because there was a crisis. Naturally, Andrea was aware—that was the reason the editor flew to Mexico on a moment’s notice—but there was something in her voice that told her it was much worse. Andrea simply reassured her that everything was fine and that she’d have the girls call later.
Still, she worried about the woman.
Caroline and Cassidy mostly kept to themselves, doing their homework and sitting upstairs in their rooms with their headphones on. They were polite and respectful, and Andrea didn’t want to pus them.
As they were getting ready for bed, Andrea sent Miranda a quick text message: Hi, Cass & Care going to bed in a few minutes. Can you spare a quick call or should we wait until morning?
Miranda’s reply was brief, and it worried the young woman more than it should: I’ll call in 5 min.
As promised, she called five minutes later, and Cassidy answered the phone. She talked to her for a few minutes, then handed the phone to her sister, who said goodnight and hung up a few minutes after that. Andrea tucked them into bed, and was a little surprised that they both hugged her and told her goodnight.
It was still early, so Andrea couldn’t sleep. She knew Miranda was either two or three hours behind, so she was certainly still awake, too. After taking a shower and drying her hair, Andrea made herself a cup of tea and settled into bed with a book. She wanted to call, but didn’t want to be needy. Miranda trusted her to handle everything here so that she could go focus on work, and Andrea didn’t want to make the woman feel like she had more on her plate.
At about 1:00 AM, it became clear Miranda would not be calling her. She folded the corner of her page down and set her book on the nightstand. Then, she sent Miranda another text: I hope things are looking up with the shoot. Everything’s fine here. Your bed isn’t the same without you, though. XO
Andrea fell asleep shortly after sending the message, and was awoken by Caroline, standing at the edge of her bed, a few hours later.
“Sweetie, what’s wrong?” she asked sleepily.
“I had a bad dream,” she said. “I can’t fall asleep.”
“Oh, um, okay. Do you want to sleep in here?” she asked.
Caroline nodded and quickly crawled under the covers, clutching Andrea tightly.
“Okay, you’re okay,” she said quietly. “Let’s just go back to sleep,” she added as she stroked her fingers through the young girl’s hair.
About an hour later, Andrea felt the mattress shift and looked over to see Cassidy crawling into the bed behind her sister. “You okay, Cass?”
The redhead nodded and curled up under the covers.
Andrea smiled to herself and wished that Miranda was there to share it.
The next morning went smoothly, and before she knew it, Andrea was on her way into the office. She still hadn’t heard from Miranda, and that was just strange, so she decided to give her a quick call since the car was currently in the midst of a epic midtown traffic jam.
“Hi,” the editor answered after a few rings.
“Hi, Miranda. I hadn’t heard from you and just wanted to say hi,” she said cheerfully.
“Well, hi,” she repeated.
“What’s wrong?” Andrea asked quickly.
“What isn’t is an easier question.”
“Did I wake you?” Andrea asked. She looked at her watch and it was 9:50 AM.
“Yes. Well, sort of,” she said with a sigh. “I can’t do it. I can’t fix it. The shoot is ruined, the budget is gone, and—and I can’t even get out of bed.”
“Oh no. I wish I was there with you,” Andrea said.
“Tell me more about the shoot?”
Miranda sighed and flopped onto her back. “The photos aren’t usable. It rained for days before everyone arrived, so there’s mud everywhere, and you can imagine the condition of the clothing. We had a few items cleaned but it didn’t work. I thought that with the right location we could make it work, but that’s not the case,” she said. “On top of the money we already lost here, we will have to do some re-casting because all the models aren’t available in two weeks when we are projecting the reshoot.”
“That sucks,” Andrea said. “Does it at least help that you’re there and saw it yourself? I mean, at least you know there’s nothing that can be done,” she said.
“I suppose. Although it may have just been more effective to send a truckload of bleach to Mexico.”
“I miss you.”
“I miss you, too.”
“So both girls slept with me last night,” she said, changing the subject. “Caroline had a bad dream, then Cassidy followed not long after. It was really sweet. We all missed you.”
“They haven’t done that in a while. I’m surprised,” Miranda said.
“Do you know when you’re coming home? No rush—everything is fine here. I know the girls will ask me promptly when the get out of school today, though,” she explained.
“I probably won’t make the afternoon flight.” She shook her head, half expecting Andrea to complain about that, but of course, she didn’t.
“I’ve got some free time this morning, I’ll see what’s available. Tomorrow morning? Or do you need more time?” she asked.
“Okay. And don’t feel like you need to rush home—we are good here. More than anything, take care of yourself and do what feels best to you.”
“Thank you,” Miranda said. “Call me later when you have a minute, will you? I like to hear your voice.”
“Of course. Talk to you soon.”
“Okay, bye.” Miranda hung up the phone and stretched out against the pillows. She wondered how it came to this, how she went from being unhappily married and flirting with her assistant to whatever this was.
Suddenly, Miranda had an idea for the shoot. Hurrying out of bed, she threw on a loose cotton top and skinny jeans, then stepped into her silver metallic Birkenstock sandals and ran across the hall, knocking on Nigel’s door.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
Miranda winced when she saw him. He had clearly gotten little or no sleep after closing down the bar the previous night. Also, judging by the way he was blocking the doorway with his body, she presumed he had someone else in his room. She shook her head. Good for him. “Nigel, I have an idea. Bleach everything. Whitewash everything,” she said.
He furrowed his brow. “Are you feeling alright? You can’t bleach a million dollars worth of Gucci we have on loan.”
“Why not? I’ll call Freida. But do you think it could work? We could use the Mission location and have some paint in the background as if they’re whitewashing the stucco or one of the smaller brick walls or something. We could actually brush some white paint on the bottoms of the dresses,” she said.
“Miranda, in thirty years this is your craziest idea yet.”
“And I think it will work,” he said, nodding and shaking his head. “I’ll call the crew and have Serena gather the models. We’ve got until dusk to pull this off.”
“I know,” she said, smiling.
“What made you think of this?” he asked, as she was walking across the hall and back to her room.
“It was Andrea’s idea,” she said quietly. “If this works, we owe her.”
“Why not give her the cover story? She could do it on the charitable work of the Mission or something—I imagine she’d love that angle.”
“I think she would. Let’s see how the day goes, then you can tell her,” she said, walking into her room and shutting the door. She quickly washed her face and applied her makeup, opting to leave her hair naturally wavy today.
After a quick call to Frieda Giannini for her blessing, Miranda typed out a text message to Andrea: Darling, I love you more than words can describe. I think we found a way to fix the shoot. I’ll tell you more later—hopefully you can spend a few hours away from work after picking me up. xo M
The rest of the day went by in a blur. It took a lot of work to make this happen, which meant that everyone had their hands dirty, so to speak. Models helped to dip-dye their own dresses, assistants ran errands all over town gathering supplies and props, and Miranda herself even used a paint roller to brighten up part of the wall in the background.
Nigel was busy with the photographers and lighting technicians, but he managed to snap a few candids of Miranda in her element, yet very much out of her element and sent them to the young woman back in New York with a note— Six, I don’t know how you do it, but you are the best thing that’s happened to her in 30 years. Just thought I’d share. -N
Seeing the message come through on her phone during a meeting with Claire, Andrea couldn’t help but smile. When Claire raised an eyebrow, Andrea let her know that Nigel and Miranda were able to fix the shoot and the team would be returning tomorrow—and that sometimes he forgot and still included her in group texts from her time as an assistant.
The crew worked until dusk, then some excellent lighting and well-placed string lights allowed them to take some shots in the dark, too. When the day was through, Miranda thanked each of the models and crew personally. They would typically have a wrap party, but seeing as most of the team did that the previous night, Miranda instead retired early to her room to pack and get some sleep before her flight home in the morning.
The front desk had printed and delivered her boarding pass for tomorrow morning’s flight, as well as notified her that a car would be ready to leave for the airport at 5:30 AM. She would be in New York just before noon, and she wanted nothing more than to see the young woman.
As expected, when she arrived in New York, Roy was waiting to pick her up. She quickly got into the backseat, half hoping Andrea would be there—but she wasn’t. Miranda asked Roy to take her straight to the office, but he informed her that he had strict instructions to return her to the townhouse. She agreed, then saw the thermos sitting in the cupholder with a post it: for you. in successes and joy, disappointment and dejection. always. She smiled at the thought of Andrea taking such good care of her.
By the time she arrived at the townhouse, she had finished the coffee and felt properly caffeinated. When she climbed the steps and reached in her purse for the key, she was surprised to see Andrea answer the door.
“Oh, hi,” she said, walking inside.
Andrea shut the door behind her and smiled. “Hello.”
Miranda was speechless—the young woman was in one of Anna Sui’s newest runway looks, a french-maid inspired dress that quite literally took her breath away on the young woman.
“I missed you,” she said, stalking over and pushing the woman back against the wall.
“Andrea,” the editor gasped, dropping her purse to the floor.
The young woman kissed her, lips pressed firmly together as her hands traced the woman’s arms, pinning them against the wall.
Miranda couldn’t think clearly as the young woman’s lips trailed down her neck. Her throat was dry, her heart racing. “Andrea…oh god, Andrea,” she panted.
“Want to go upstairs?” Andrea asked, murmuring against her neck.
The editor shook her head and reached down, fumbling with the buttons on her pants.
Andrea pulled the woman’s hands away, kissing them gently. “I’ll take it from here,” she said, dropping to her knees and unfastening the buckle on the woman’s pants, carefully pushing them down. She stroked her center through the thin fabric of her panties, and Miranda practically growled, pushing them down around her knees with her pants.
“Andrea, oh god, please,” she gasped, reaching out to steady herself against the wall.
The young woman pressed a kiss to Miranda’s folds, dragging her tongue slowly across before she used her fingers to apply a gentle pressure. “How’s this? You want it quick don’t you?”
Miranda was practically sobbing with need. She frantically shook her head, and the young woman obliged. She felt Andrea’s strong tongue inside while her long fingers rubbed her clit. It didn’t take much to bring her over the edge, and after gasping and chortling out her orgasm, she practically slid down the wall and into the young woman’s arms.
Once she had a chance to recover, Miranda looked up at the young woman and kissed her on the lips. “Thank you,” she said after pulling away.
“You don’t have to thank me for an orgasm,” the young woman said. “It’s worth it if I can watch you and taste you and touch you.”
“I meant for wearing that, for being here, for surprising me,” the editor clarified.
Andrea frowned. “Again, you don’t have to thank me. I wanted to do this.”
“Perhaps I’m not explaining myself very well,” the editor sighed. “Do you have time—can we go upstairs and talk?”
“You mean you don’t want to sit here in your foyer with your underwear around your ankles when we talk?” she smirked. Before Miranda could respond, Andrea removed her shoes and tugged her pants and underwear off of her legs. The young woman stood and held a hand out to Miranda.
She stood on wobbly legs, then followed the woman upstairs. “Are you sure you don’t have to be back?”
“Yes. Nigel told me about the cover story on the Mission, and Claire has given me a few days to research it. I imagine you will fill me in later, so, yes, I’m off,” she said with a grin, tugging Miranda towards the bed. Once they were settled against the pillows, Andrea laid her head on Miranda’s chest as she softly stroked the woman’s arm. “How are you doing today, otherwise?”
“I’m good. Yesterday was something different altogether. It felt good to be hands-on again. Would you believe I painted the wall with a paint roller?”
Andrea pressed a kiss to the woman’s collarbone. “It’s hard to believe. If Nigel didn’t send me the photo, I wouldn’t have been able to picture it. You looked beautiful like that—the off-the-shoulder top and your hair naturally wavy with a headband.”
“I wasn’t aware he was sending photos of me around. What did he say?”
“Relax. It was only to me—he probably sensed that I was worried about you with all this stress,” she said.
Miranda took a deep breath and hugged the woman tightly. “It’s all so different now.”
“You. Me. You have to admit that things have changed.”
Andrea chuckled. “Well that’s an understatement.”
“I mean our—” she paused, “our relationship. We went from eye candy to depression to fucking in the foyer, pardon my language. It makes me uneasy to think about.”
“Why?” the young woman asked. Her voice was calm and loving, not accusing or defensive.
“I worry that this isn’t what you signed up for. See,” she said, “just me admitting that is too much. You don’t need all this drama.”
“Wait wait wait,” Andrea said, pushing herself up onto her elbows to look the woman in the eye. “It’s not too much, I do need all this, and it’s exactly what I signed up for. I love you, Miranda, and that hasn’t changed. That’s what matters.”
“You signed up for an office affair. Flirting with something you thought you couldn’t have. Imagining work-related reasons for spending time with each other,” she said, closing her eyes. “What you got was a complicated relationship, someone who has hardly any time for her family let alone you, who comes with baggage of kids and exes and mental health issues. It’s not what you wanted.”
Andrea took a deep breath and sat up, sitting indian-style next to the woman. “Let me start by repeating that I love you and that I want this—all of it,” she said. “Yeah, I get that it’s complicated, but that’s all part of a relationship. It grows and evolves. While the thrill of our initial dalliances has worn off a bit, it’s been replaced with new, better feelings. I would rather lay in bed with you on a bad day than live in hope that I’ll get a text message about Pierre,” she said. “And I mean that.”
“You don’t think this is falling apart?”
“God no! Do you? I mean, are you unhappy with things? It’s okay if you are—I guess I just presumed…”
“No, it’s good. I am not unhappy, not with you. I worry about you, though.”
“Miranda, I promise—I swear on my life—that I will tell you if something is not working. The past few weeks were rough, and we’re both equally to blame. I promise to communicate more, especially if something is bothering me, okay? Even if it’s just a little thing.”
Miranda nodded and squeezed the young woman’s hand. “I want to be perfectly honest with you. When I hit this point in the relationships with James and Stephen, there was no going back to the way it used to be. It was the beginning of the end. I don’t want to repeat that, not with you.”
“Neither do I. And we won’t. I will continue to surprise you. We will work on this together, if you want to.”
Miranda nodded, sitting up and taking the young woman’s face in her hands. “I do want to. I want this with you,” she said, kissing her softly.
Weeks later, Miranda sat at her desk upstairs in the library. She had committed to working from home once per week, and more often than not, Andrea arranged to work from home on the same day.
On this particular morning, Andrea had a breakfast meeting, but promised to drop by afterwards. Miranda was in her zone reviewing the photos from the shoot, and she didn’t notice the young woman come in. Andrea sat in one of the armchairs and propped her feet on the ottoman as she pulled out her computer.
When Miranda finally finished the sheet, she looked up and saw the young woman. She watched her until the young woman’s eyes made contact, and then they simply stared at one another, without saying a word. Miranda sat back in her chair, her eyes never leaving the young woman.
“Hello,” she said quietly.
The young woman’s lips curled up in a smile. “Hello, you,” she said. “Are you free this evening?”
“I could be…”
“Okay. We have to leave by six,” Andrea said.
Miranda nodded and leaned forward to press a button on her desk phone. “Emily, make sure that my schedule is clear this evening after 5pm and see that Cara can stay until midnight. I’ll expect to see the book on my desk first thing in the morning,” she said. She released the button and looked up at Andrea. “Done.”
“Am I to know what our plans are tonight at six?”
“It’s a surprise,” she said with a wink.
Miranda nodded and went back to work. When the girls came home, they shared an early dinner at 5, and then Miranda went upstairs to change. She wasn’t sure what to wear, but knowing Andrea, it wouldn’t be anywhere too public, so she dressed in a comfortable pair of cropped pants and a cashmere crew-neck short-sleeve sweater. Looking in the mirror, she changed her mind, tossing the sweater on the bed and grabbing a low-cut ribbed tank from her dresser. She quickly slipped it on, then stepped into the bathroom to freshen up.
Andrea came upstairs and saw the sweater on the bed. “You’re not wearing this sweater, are you?” she asked.
Miranda opened the bathroom door, mascara tube in her hand. “What?”
“I said, you’re not wearing this sweater, are you?”
“Well, I was going to, but I thought this tank and a light cardigan might be more appropriate,” she said. “Is this okay?”
“Yes, it’s perfect,” Andrea said with a smile. “How did you know I wouldn’t like the sweater?”
Miranda chuckled. “Darling, you practically pout any time my chest is covered,” she said. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed.”
The young woman bit her lower lip and blushed. “Well, can you blame me?”
Miranda smiled. “I’m going to finish my makeup, then tell the girls goodnight and we can leave. Five minutes?”
“That’s perfect,” Andrea said, heading back downstairs.
A few minutes later, Miranda met the young woman in the foyer. “Are you planning to tell me where we are going tonight?”
“Nope,” Andrea said. “It’s a surprise. And we have to drive about 45 minutes to get there, so let’s go,” she said, taking the woman’s hand.
Outside, Miranda was surprised to see her BMW. “Roy isn’t taking us?”
“No. Ughh, I should have asked first,” she said as she shook her head.
“It’s not a problem. I just haven’t seen that car in a while. Can you drive a manual?”
Andrea nodded and opened the passenger door for the woman before walking over to the other side to get behind the wheel. They drove in silence for a while, the whole time Miranda was analyzing the route and trying to figure out where they were going. To be honest, it didn’t matter all that much if Miranda knew where they were headed, but to make a point, when they were at a stoplight, Andrea reached over and took the woman’s hand. “Close your eyes, Miranda,” she said.
“Please, I just want you to relax. We’ve got another 20 minutes to go,” she said.
Miranda reluctantly closed her eyes and rested her head back against the headrest. Once they started to drive again, Miranda gently laid her hand on top of the young woman’s hand on the gearshift. “Is this okay?”
“It’s perfect,” she said.
Some time later, Andrea gently nudged the woman awake. “Okay, we’re here,” she said.
Miranda blinked her eyes open and looked around. They were parked on the street in a very small, almost deserted town. She had certainly never been there before, and she couldn’t imagine what Andrea had wanted, dragging her all the way out there.
“Now, before you ask why I dragged you out here,” Andrea said, “let me just say that someone owed me a favor, and I thought you might like this.” She got out of the car and walked to the other side, opening Miranda’s door and helping her out.
The editor stepped out and saw that they were parked in front of an old movie theater. Looking up at the marquee, she saw: FRANKENSTEIN (1931) - SOLD OUT. “What is this?” she asked.
“Your surprise. I know you don’t really like movie theaters, and we’re doing a feature on historic theaters for the upcoming issue to go alongside the costume cover, and I was just taken aback by the beauty and quaintness of this little theater,” she said. “Come on.”
“Are we the only ones here?” she asked as they walked in.
“Yes. It’s sold out because I have every ticket,” she said with a wink.
Miranda was suddenly overwhelmed. No one, not in her fifty years on this earth, has done something so special for her.
Andrea led them to their seats in the center of the theater and gasped when she saw the tears in Miranda’s eyes. “Oh no, was this a bad idea?” she asked. “I’m sorry—I should have asked you first and not tried to surprise you.”
“Andrea,” the woman said, taking her hand and holding it firmly. “This is an incredible idea and I am very happy—and also very overwhelmed.”
The young woman relaxed a little, but she frowned at hearing Miranda was overwhelmed.
“I have a feeling that you will never cease to amaze me,” Miranda whispered quietly as the movie began.
By the end of the movie, Miranda was in tears again, and she wanted nothing more than for Andrea’s arms around her. Walking out of the theater, she was surprised to see the town car. “What’s this?”
“Oh, I thought we could relax on the way home. Roy brought someone else to drive your BMW home, unless you’d rather drive?”
“Of course not,” Miranda said. “I want nothing more than to curl up with you in this backseat,” she whispered.
Miranda looked at the clock on the wall and sighed. She was supposed to be at dinner with Andrea fifteen minutes ago. Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do. Her afternoon meeting with the Art Department was pushed back when Marc showed up in person for a pitch meeting, which caused her to be thirty minutes late for the Board meeting. Miraculously, they waited to begin until she arrived, but it felt like her secret punishment that Irv put Runway last on the agenda. And to make matters worse, her phone was still on her desk downstairs, so she couldn’t even text the young woman.
She flashed back to one of her more memorable arguments with Stephen, memorable just because Andrea happened to walk in on them. She knew that the young woman was more tolerant than he was, but she worried that she didn’t deserve her forgiveness.
Meanwhile, sitting alone at a restaurant, Andrea realized—after about five minutes and no response to her text messages—that something was wrong. Miranda always let her know if she would be running late. Trying not to think the worst, Andrea quickly called the office and was immensely relieved to hear that she was in a meeting with the Board that had been delayed. Andrea asked Jessica not to tell the editor that she called, then finally was able to relax.
They had a great table at the restaurant, so she took advantage of it and ordered a dessert, knowing Miranda wouldn’t likely want dessert anyway. About forty minutes later, a frazzled-looking Miranda hurried through the restaurant and sat down across from the young woman, burying her face in her hands.
Andrea reached across the table and took the woman’s hand, squeezing it tightly. “I saved a bite of dessert for you,” she said.
Miranda lifted her head and looked first at the plate, then up at the young woman. “I am sorry I missed dinner,” she said.
“It’s okay, really. Don’t stress about it,” she said, taking the last spoonful of the creme brûlée and lifting it to Miranda’s mouth. “Isn’t it good?”
The editor nodded and licked her lips. “It is. You really saved that bite for me?”
Andrea nodded. “You never order dessert, but you always want a taste of whatever me or the girls are having. Shall we order something?”
“You plan to eat again?” Miranda asked in confusion.
“No, I didn’t order yet—just dessert,” she said with a smile.
Miranda shook her head and wiped the tear from her cheek. “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you. You didn’t even ask where I was.”
“I called Jessica,” she admitted, “but only because I needed to know that you were safe. I was relieved to hear you were delayed in a meeting.”
The young woman shrugged. “It’s not like you to go dark like that. I didn’t talk to you all day, and I started to fear the worst.”
“The worst? Andrea, you must know I would never just stop talking to you like that.”
“No, I wasn’t worried about that. God, if that happened it would be awful, but it’s still not the worst,” she said. At the editor’s raised eyebrow, she continued. “The worst would be if something happened to you, like if you were late because you were in a car accident and I didn’t know,” she said, sniffling.
Miranda quickly glanced around, then got up and sat on the bench next to Andrea, wrapping her arms around her. “I love you. I love that you worry about me. I love that you forgive me for working as hard as I do. I love that you go out out of your way to surprise me. I love that you pay attention to the little things and save the last bite of your dessert for me. I just love you, and I never want this to end,” she whispered, hugging the woman tightly.
The server came over and the two women ordered dinner, choosing to stay next to each other on the same side of the booth for the rest of the evening. By the time they left, several glasses of wine later, Andrea was too tipsy to notice the cameras as they exited and got into the car.
“Andrea,” Miranda said quietly, “I hope you’re ready for this.”
“For what?” she asked, nuzzling the woman’s neck.
Miranda gently pulled away and looked the young woman in the eyes. “The public, darling. There were cameras as we left and I’m sure the cameras caught some of our dinner as well.”
The young woman’s eyes widened. “You mean we’re like, out?”
Miranda frowned and bit her lip. “Possibly. I think we can only take the mentor and friend story so far. Is that okay for you?”
The young woman nodded.
“Are you sure, Andrea? It’s alright if you aren’t. I’m not going anywhere, and we can take as long as needed to figure this out,” she said, squeezing her hand.
“What about for you?”
Miranda rolled her eyes. “This is nothing. The story will, unfortunately, be focused on you, my dear,” she said. “How will your parents react?”
“I think they’ll be okay. My cousin came out last year and they seemed to be understanding. Will I still be able to keep my job, if Irv knows we’re together?”
“Darling, do not worry about your career. Irv already knows, and if a company tried to fire you because of your sexual orientation, we would launch the biggest lawsuit this city has seen,” she said. “Do you want to call your parents tonight so they can hear from you instead of reading it online?”
“Right now?” she asked, looking up towards the house as the car pulled to a stop.
“Yes,” Miranda said. “Come inside, stay the night. I want to talk to the girls again anyway.”
They quickly went inside and Miranda sent Cara home for the night. She gave Andrea some privacy in her study while she went upstairs to find her daughters, who were both curled together on Cassidy’s bed.
“Girls,” Miranda said, softly sitting on the bed. “Girls, wake up,” she repeated, gently rubbing their backs.
“Mom, you’re home,” Caroline said quietly.
“Yes, darling. And I have a favor to ask of you two.”
“What is it?” Cassidy asked, sitting up and rubbing her eyes.
“Andrea needs us tonight. She’s here, in the study talking to her parents. There were a lot of cameras on our way home from dinner, and we suspect there will be pictures in the paper in the morning. We need to give her privacy, but when she’s ready, I want her to see how much—to see that we are here to support her. Okay?”
Caroline sat up and nodded. “You can say it, Mom. How much we love her.”
Miranda smiled, grateful that the darkness hid the tear falling down her cheek. “Yes, Bobbsey, how much we love her. Give us about ten minutes, then come to my room, okay?”
They nodded in agreement and Miranda quietly made her way back to her room, where she stepped out of her clothes and slipped on her silk pajamas. She washed her face and brushed her teeth, then heard the bedroom door close. “Andrea?”
“How did it go? What can I do?” Miranda asked, hugging her tightly.
“Not as well as I thought it would. Apparently a guy with a boyfriend is more acceptable than a woman with a girlfriend. And a nephew is more acceptable than a daughter,” she said with a sigh. “Whatever. I told them, so at least they heard it from me first. Hopefully Doug can give me some backup tomorrow when they undoubtedly call him.”
“Oh honey,” Miranda said. “Do you want to talk more about it now, or just try to get some sleep?”
Andrea shrugged. “There’s nothing more to say tonight. I’ll go wash up,” she said, heading into the bathroom and grabbing a tank and boxers from the dresser on her way. When she returned from the bathroom, Miranda was already in bed, so Andrea turned out the light and joined her with a sigh. “Thank you,” Andrea said as she settled into Miranda’s arms.
“Oh sweetheart, of course. Don’t worry,” she said in reassurance, kissing her softly and wrapping her arms around the young woman. “We can talk more in the morning.”
A few minutes later, there was a light knock at the door. “Mom?”
Miranda sat up. “Bobbsey?”
The door cracked open and Caroline poked her head inside. “Mom, I had a bad dream,” she said. “Oh, sorry,” she said when she saw Andy.
Miranda switched the bedside lamp on and patted the mattress next to her. “Come here, darling.”
A minute later, Cassidy appeared in the doorway, clutching her pillow. “I couldn’t sleep,” she said.
Andrea moved to the side and lifted up the blanket, gesturing for Cassidy to join them. Once she crawled up on the bed, Andrea expected Cassidy to climb over her so she could sleep next to her mother, but instead, the young girl curls up alongside Andrea.
“Thanks Andy, I’m glad you’re here,” Cassidy said, wrapping her arm around the young woman’s waist.
Miranda reached up to turn out the light. “Let’s all get some sleep, shall we?”
The next morning Miranda woke with a smile. She and Andrea were both laying on their backs, with the girls on either side of them. Reaching out for Andrea’s hand, she squeezed gently and pressed a kiss to the woman’s shoulder. “I love you,” Miranda whispered.
“Same,” Andrea whispered. “I still can’t believe this is real. It’s like it was just the other day when we were in Paris and—”
Miranda quickly turned to her side and kissed the young woman on the lips. “Mmm, yes. We have an audience though, remember?” she whispered into her ear.
Cassidy started to stir, but Caroline was sound asleep.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” Miranda said. “Did you sleep well?”
“Yeah,” she said, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. “Can we have pancakes?”
“Of course,” Miranda said, “Caroline, sweetheart,” she gently rubbed the young girl’s back until she woke up. “How about some pancakes?”
Caroline quickly opened her eyes and sat up. “Yes! Now?”
Miranda chuckled. “How about half an hour,” she said. “That will give you time to wash your face and brush your teeth.”
Both girls nodded in agreement and left the room, closing the door behind them as they left.
“So, what were you saying about Paris?” Miranda asked, turning over and climbing on top of Andrea under the covers.
“That it felt like just yesterday that we were—uhh—” she gasped as Miranda softly bit her neck.
“What was that?” Miranda whispered as her tongue traced the outer shell of the young woman’s ear.
“Umm, in Paris. Kissing, touching. I want to do that again,” she groaned.
“We can go back to Paris if you wish,” Miranda said, pulling away.
Andrea shook her head. “No, I want you to touch me again like that. With our clothes on.”
“My my,” Miranda clicked her tongue. “How inappropriate of you Ms. Sachs. Very well. Perhaps later, after pancakes?”
“Or we could go out for breakfast,” Andrea said.
Miranda turned her head and raised her eyebrow.
“With the girls. I mean, it’d confirm anything from last night, but if we’re not denying it, wouldn’t it make them stop caring?” Andrea asked.
“Probably not,” she said, sitting back against the headboard. “Are you sure you’d be okay with that?”
“I would be fine. I’m just concerned about the girls.”
Miranda fought the urge to break into tears. “You are irreplaceable, Andrea, do you know that?”
The young woman smiled. “Do you want to ask them?”
Miranda shook her head. “No. You can,” she said with a smile. “I’m going to take a quick shower.” She leaned over and kissed the young woman on the cheek, then on the lips before getting up and going to the shower.
A short while later, when they were on their way out the door, Miranda took Andrea’s wrist and tugged her back.
“Everything okay?” Andrea asked.
“Yes. I just—I need to say this. I know you don’t think that what we were doing while I was married was cheating. I still think it was, because if you ever do that with someone else while we are together, it would break me.”
“Oh, Miranda, please, you know I would never cheat—”
“Stop. If you’re going to promise me, promise me you won’t look at anyone else with lust in your eyes. That you won’t trail your fingers down their back. That you won’t arrange to meet in the middle of the night just so they can see you. Promise me that,” Miranda said.
Andrea saw Miranda’s hands were shaking. She took them and held them tightly. “I know what we did was wrong, and I would never do any of that to you, Miranda. I know experience says otherwise, but I am not the kind of person to mess with someone’s marriage, it’s just…” she sighed and leaned back against the wall. “I was so head over heels for you, nothing else made sense. If you hadn’t responded to me the way you did, I probably would have given up and quit my job.”
Miranda crossed her arms over her chest.
“I love you. I’ve loved you for a long time. I am really sorry that I pushed you to cheat,” she said.
The editor’s features softened. “It’s at the same time the best and most troubling decision I’ve ever made. But it was just that, a decision, and one that I could never make again.”
“Let’s hope you don’t get the opportunity,” Andrea said as she softly wrapped her arms around the woman’s waist. “I don’t want to be a crazy possessive girlfriend, especially when literally everyone looks at you like they want to fuck you, for better or worse,” she added.
“And I don’t want to be so possessive that I keep you from having friends or a social life with people your own age,” Miranda said.
Andrea rolled her eyes, but didn’t push it. “Miranda Priestly,” she said, taking the woman’s hands, “I love you. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I will never do anything that will hurt you. I will talk to you—about everything. I will love your children and respect your commitment to work, because you are worth it all. I can only hope to love you the way you deserve,” she said, gently squeezing the woman’s hands and pressing a kiss to her knuckles.
“Whoa, sounds like you guys are getting married here,” Cassidy said.
The two women turned and looked at the girls, then Miranda started laughing. “It sort of does, doesn’t it?”
“Umm…did you forget about breakfast?” Caroline asked.
Cassidy elbowed her sister. “Geez, at least let Mom finish her vows!”
Miranda softly bit her lower lip and grinned, turning to look at Andrea. “Andrea, I will love you and protect you to the best of my ability. You are like family to me now—to us,” she added, looking over at the girls, “and we will never do anything to hurt you, either. I will try harder to communicate and not shut you out when my mind is elsewhere. You are my best friend, and I’ve never had one of those. But from now on, anything or anyone, no matter what, we talk and we handle together,” she said, lifting the young woman’s hands up to her lips.
“Great!” Cassidy said, clapping her hands together. “So, let’s all start by handling breakfast. Pancake House?”
Miranda exchanged glances with the young woman, who nodded. “Yes, let’s go.”
The girls raced out the front door while the women collected their purses and keys from the foyer.
Andrea put her sunglasses on, and Miranda did the same. “You ready?” the young woman asked.
Miranda nodded. “Let’s do this.”
thank you all so much for reading. i hope you enjoyed it. xo