In the Corners of My Mind
A MirAndy short story
By Gun Brooke
"We can't be responsible for your condition if you decide to leave the ER against your physician's advice." The nurse glared at Miranda who in turn glanced at her indifferently over her reading glasses. She made sure everything was present and accounted for in her purse before she put her glasses back into their casing and closed it.
"I'll be perfectly fine. I'll sign whatever document you need me to sign and then I'll be out of here."
"But, you're alone. You need someone to care for you."
"It's a mild concussion." Miranda shrugged. She saw the nurse's expression darken and relented. "Fine. I'll have my assistant check on me regularly. I'm certainly not going to remain in this enormous Petrie dish, contracting God-knows-what."
"Then by all means." The nurse pushed a legal document across the table toward Miranda, who signed it quickly. "I'll see myself out," she said and rose, feeling slightly unsteady, but set on masking it.
Outside, she drew a deep breath of relief. What on earth had compelled her to get into a cab? Where was Roy? She'd tried dialing him and it seemed he was on vacation. Vacation? Who'd heard of such a thing? Paris fashion week was coming up and she needed all hands on deck.
Dialing, Miranda tried again to contact Andrea. Again, an insistent, and clearly erroneous automatic voice, claimed this number had ceased to exist. Miranda growled and pressed her finger on the screen to close the call. Well, she had access to Andrea's private cell phone number didn't she? She was pretty sure she did, anyway. Squinting, she found the number and pressed the icon.
"Andrea Sachs." Andrea's voice sounded sharp and professional, which was a bit of a surprise as the young woman normally came across somewhat softer.
"I need you here now. Presbyterian Main entrance." Miranda tapped her foot and gazed around her. There were several benches beneath the glass awning. Feeling dizzy, she sat down.
"Pardon me? Who's this?" Andrea asked.
What was wrong with this girl? "Don't test my patience, Andrea."
A brief silence followed by a gasp and then Andrea spoke with incredulity in her voice. "Miranda?"
"Who else? I need you to call in a town car as Roy is nowhere to be found and come and get me."
"Are you all right? Why on earth do you expect me to suddenly do this?"
Miranda stared at her phone and placed it back against her ear. "I don't want to argue about this now. You're clearly confused. Come and get me. How hard can that be? I have a concussion and I need to go home. It's your job to get me there."
At first, Miranda thought Andrea had hung up, as the phone went silent. She was about to redial when Andrea spoke again.
"I'll be right there, Miranda. Hold on."
Disconnecting the call, Miranda leaned against the backrest of the bench, not even caring that strangers insisted on sharing it with her. Andrea was on her way.
Andy hailed a cab and gave him the destination. She'd told her boss she had a family emergency and fortunately, she had no deadline hovering today. Why had Miranda called her out of the blue? And why did she think Andy could commandeer town cars from Elias-Clarke all of a sudden. It was a year ago since that was possible.
She stopped her train of thought and checked her calendar. Exactly a year, give or take a day. Paris Fashion Week was going on right now. Why was Miranda here in New York, calling her? Something had to be very, very wrong.
This last year had meant so many changes. First, Andy had left Miranda stranded in Paris without an assistant, totally unprofessional, but equally necessary to keep her heart from shattering completely. Then Miranda went and wrote her a weird sort of recommendation that helped Andy land the job as a cub reporter at the Mirror. Thirdly, she'd had to learn to live without seeing Miranda every day. Andy hadn't realized until afterward how much strength she'd drawn on watching Miranda throughout the long workdays at Runway. Knowing Miranda would never take a personal interest of any kind in Andy hadn't kept her from eagerly devouring Miranda's gorgeous body and her beautiful face.
And now—out of the blue—Miranda called her like they spoke only hours ago.
The cab pulled up to the curb outside the Presbyterian. Andy rubbed her damp palms against her trousers. "Can you wait? I'll just get my—my friend, and we'll be right back."
"Sure, honey." The cabdriver nodded. "Stay within sight and don't try to run."
"Run?" Andy shook her head. "I won't. I'll be right back." She stepped out of the car and gazed around the area under the glass awning. She spotted the silver white head right away. Leaning against a concrete column, Miranda sat slumped to the side. Andy's heart raced as she hurried toward her.
"Miranda?" She stopped in front of the unusually rumples and disheveled Miranda. "Oh, God, what happened to you?"
"Andrea?" Miranda murmured and gazed up at her. Her blue eyes were nearly grey and somewhat glazed over. "Good. You're here."
"Come with me. I'll help you to the townhouse."
Miranda stood on unsteady legs and Andy knew she had to break the rule about 'no-touching'. It wasn't as if she was an employee anymore. "Here. Let me help you." She wrapped an arm around Miranda's waist. She was so slender and bordering on skinny, Andy held her protectively. To her amazement, Miranda leaned willingly against her.
The cabdriver turned out to be of the gentleman persuasion as well as a man of his word. Opening the door for them, he assisted Andy getting Miranda safely into the backseat.
"God. Another cab. Not sure I'll survive another trip." Miranda spoke with a slight slur.
"What do you mean, another cab?" Andy gave the driver the address to the townhouse and slid onto the seat next to Miranda who promptly leaned against her.
"My previous cabdriver drove us straight into a lorry." Miranda's British heritage appeared at the end of the sentence, as well as in her wording.
"What? Today? You were in an accident?"
"Yes. Hence you being her. You have to come home with me."
Home? To the townhouse? Andy swallowed. "Why is that?"
"Silly girl. I need supervision, the doctor said. No. Insisted. Apparently I have a concussion and you need to per—perform checks on me every few hours."
Andy gaped. "I do? But—but Miranda, why me?"
"Because Stephen is in the Hamptons. We're going through—issue. The twins are just little girls and besides, they're staying with their father until we get back from Paris. I have to be back on my game until then," Miranda finished in a murmur before she dropped her head onto Andy's shoulder.
Andy was trying to back the conversation up. Stephen? Get back from Paris? We? She wanted to blurt out all these questions, but bit them back when she noticed Miranda's paleness and the blue circles beneath her eyes.
The townhouse was dark, empty and no housekeeper met them. Miranda frowned, but handled the alarm after Andy closed the door behind them.
"Why don't you go and lie down?" Andy suggested when Miranda leaned against the staircase railing. She helped Miranda out of her coat and hung it in the closet she'd put Miranda's dry-cleaning in on so many occasions. "I could bring you something to eat and drink. Tea and toast, perhaps?"
"Yes. Thank you." Miranda still clung to the railing. "I haven't eaten…I can't even remember."
Even more concerned now, Andy stepped closer. "I think you need me to walk you up the stairs. You're very pale."
Frowning, Miranda tilted her head. "You're very direct all of a sudden."
Andy smiled. "Well, a girl changes when she spreads her wings. The job makes me tougher by the minute."
"Really? I wouldn't have thought your assignments were all that challenging at this level."
"Challenging enough." Andy wondered what Miranda actually thought she did at the Mirror. Fetched coffee for her editor while chasing quotes and stories all over Manhattan? "Come on. Let's get you into bed." She placed her arm around Miranda's waist, half expecting the other woman to slap it away and snarl something about her insolence, but Miranda merely held on to her as they walked upstairs.
Miranda's bedroom was a dream in cream, blue and gold. Not as big as some bedrooms could be, as this was an old house, but stunning, nonetheless. Andy assisted Miranda with undoing her ankle boots and lifted her legs up on the bed. She would've preferred Miranda to remove her clothes to be more comfortable, but there was no way she would ask that of her. The fact her heart was hammering again at the sight of the reclining Miranda who looked up at her with dazed eyes, was bad enough.
"I'll go and prepare the tea. I'll be a few minutes, all right?"
"By all means." Miranda waved her away with a semi-limp hand.
Down in the kitchen, Andy opened the fridge and blinked. It was far from empty, but not as well stocked as Miranda's housekeeper normally kept it. Some jars and cans, but no fruit, produce, or dairy. Andy knew Miranda was big on the girls having organic food and there was none. Sure, the girls weren't home, but there should be skimmed milk for Miranda's perpetual lattes, at least.
Miranda would have to have her tea plain and toast with some marmalade and no butter. Andy cringed as she arranged a tray for Miranda and carried it upstairs. Miranda looked asleep at first, but she turned her head and opened her eyes.
Oh, boy. Andy prayed Miranda wasn't so out of it she had forgotten she'd called her. Getting arrested for trespassing was not on her wish list. A small voice inside her firmly claimed spending time with Miranda in her fancy bedroom was not only on her list—it was her super-secret fantasy. Almost a secret even to herself.
"Here. There was no milk or cream, or even lemons, so I hope you can manage the tea as it is."
"Don't be ridiculous. My housekeeper stocks the fridge every other day. It's fully—" Miranda broke off as Andy merely shook her head.
"I have to ask, Miranda. Why aren't you in Paris with the rest of the Runway team?" Andy placed the tray on the nightstand as Miranda pushed herself up in a half-sitting position.
"What? What are you talking about?" Miranda looked annoyed. "We fly to Paris a week from now. You're on the team. You know this."
Fuck. Something was beyond wrong here. Andy carefully sat down on the edge of the bed. "Miranda. Paris fashion week is going on now. You're supposed to be there, aren't you? Isn't that why the fridge is empty of stuff that goes bad quickly?"
"Andrea. This is ridiculous…and not… funny. Not at all." Miranda sat up straighter in bed. Andrea was clearly confused.
"Which date is it today?" Andrea was still invading her personal space on the bed.
"Date? What kind of question is that? September 14." Glaring at her assistant, Miranda began to feel oddly cold. Shivering, she tugged at the throw next to her.
"What year?" Andrea's coffee colored eyes expressed infinite kindness as she took Miranda's hand. Kind and brazen. How odd.
"You're trying my patience." Miranda pressed her lips together.
"What year is it?"
"2006." Miranda growled the word, feeling utterly foolish.
"Miranda. Listen." Andrea held on to Miranda's hand and now she actually stroked her lower arm up and down. "It's indeed September. That's correct. But it's the 28thth and it's 2007. I'm no longer your assistant. Perhaps Stephen is in the Hamptons, but if he is, he's there with his new wife, Clarice, and their baby."
Nausea hit from nowhere and Miranda slapped her free hand over her mouth.
"Are you going to be sick?" Andrea began to stand up, probably ready to haul her to the bathroom, but Miranda tugged at her to remain sitting.
She held her hand over her mouth until she felt calmer and the nausea had gone away, if not completely. "Tea."
"Right. Here." Andrea took the mug and handed it to Miranda.
Sipping the tea, Miranda refused to deal with Andrea's astonishing, no, shocking, statement. The hot beverage was strong and jolted her back from the weakness that flooded her before. "God almighty." Miranda lowered the mug. Studying the young woman sitting on her bed, she made some disturbing observations.
Andrea's hair was much longer than last she saw her. She wanted to say yesterday, but knew somewhere this wasn't correct. Andrea didn't dress in clothes borrowed from the Closet. She wasn't as without style as she'd been the day she came for a job interview, in fact, she looked smart and tough. Professional.
"2007?" Miranda whispered.
"Yes. I'm so sorry, Miranda. This must be a horrible feeling for you. You must've really banged your poor head."
"I'll say. A whole year is gone." Miranda flinched. "My girls!"
"Let me check on things." Andrea pulled out her cell phone and tapped rapidly at the screen before she pressed it at her ear. "Nigel. Hi." She frowned as Nigel Kipling, Miranda's creative director, started talking. "Really? What? No. Stop, stop. That's why I'm calling. I'm with Miranda. I mean, she's here. With me. At her townhouse." Andrea listened again. "She left?" Glancing at Miranda, Andrea frowned. "As a matter of fact, Miranda was in an accident today. No, no. She's all right, but she has a concussion. Yes. Wait." Andrea turned to study Miranda. "Do you feel well enough to talk to Nigel?"
"Not really," Miranda sighed, but held out her hand for the phone. Then she changed her mind. "Have him call the house phone. This is far too expensive for you. Calling Europe." She realized Nigel had to be in Paris.
"You heard?" Andrea asked into the phone. "All right. Later, Nige."
The house phone called immediately and Miranda accepted it from Andrea who'd grabbed it on the first ring.
"Miranda, oh, God, what's wrong?" Nigel gushed, but seemed to reel himself in. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't accost you with questions. I need to know you're all right. You left Paris without telling anyone. Your assistant has been like a headless chicken as you haven't answered your cell for the last twenty-four hours."
"I'm all right. I can't say why I…left. Do the job, Nigel. Be a dear and…be my eyes and ears. I can't fly there in my current state." Hating how weak she felt, Miranda hoped it wasn't obvious in her voice. "I depend on you, my friend."
Nigel was quiet for a few moments and then cleared his voice twice. "Thank you, Miranda. You know I'd do anything for you, right? And I'm not just talking about Runway."
The last sentence gave her pause. She had fully expected him to prioritize Runway, and even to help her maintain her image and save face, for the sake of the magazine. The fact he indicated he was also doing this for her, personally, was…not surprising, as Nigel was a kind person, but still unanticipated.
"Miranda?" Nigel sounded worried.
"I hear you, Nigel. And thank you. I appreciate it. Now, I must know…where are my girls?"
"You girls? Oh. Oh! You mean Caroline and Cassidy. Of course you do. They're staying with their father, like they always do during the fashion weeks. No worries there."
"Oh, thank God. Thank you, Nigel."
"Any time. Let Andy care for you. She always had a soft spot for you. Don't hurt her."
The last part was obviously a warning. "I'll talk to you later. Seems this concussion thing is quite tiresome." And she had questions. So many of them, her head spun. Or that might be because of the head trauma as well.
After sipping some more of the now tepid tea, and taking a few bits of the toast, Miranda curled up on her side. "Stay with me, Andrea. I realize you are not my assistant anymore, but I—if you can, I'd—" Miranda didn't know how to put her request. She couldn't order the young woman. Not anymore.
"I've got the rest of the day off as well as this weekend. If you want, I can stay. Do some grocery shopping for you. And stuff." Andrea shrugged.
"Can you answer some questions?"
"I can try." Andrea pulled her legs up underneath her. "You should take a nap though."
"I will. Soon." Miranda moved her legs to make better room for Andrea. "When did you leave Runway?"
"Last year, during fashion week. Not my finest moment."
"What do you mean?"
"You were neck deep in business intrigues, Stephen send you divorce papers with overnight delivery, I had a drunken one-night-stand with Christian Thompson, which was a huge mistake on so many levels, and I tossed the phone in a fountain and went back to New York." Andrea bit her lower lip. "I've missed you every single day since then. I don't mind telling you, since this is my chance to apologize for not giving proper notice. For abandoning you."
"What did I do?"
"What did I do to deserve this abandonment?" Miranda wondered if Andrea realized how much her words and the longing tone in her voice betrayed about her feelings.
"On the surface, and what was the easiest for me, was to blame how you threw Nigel under the bus to save your position at Runway. Beneath the surface, I split to safeguard my heart. I was getting too close to you—purely one-sided, I do realize that—and it freaked me out."
"You mean I was stranded in Paris without you?" Miranda tried to imagine how that would feel. For her, Andrea had been in her life, in her work-life, she amended, every day since early March. Now, she was sitting here, her soulful eyes close to tears, claiming they'd been apart for a year? It was insanity. Complete insanity.
"Yes. I'm so sorry."
"The good thing with amnesia is you don't have to apologize for anything I can't remember." Miranda extended her hand and took Andrea's. Miranda couldn't wrap her sore brain around the fact she was obviously missing a whole year. Her girls were a year older. Stephen gone. She prayed she'd soon remember the previous year with her girls, but why didn't the whole mess about Stephen hurt very much at all? Perhaps her subconscious mind had already dealt with that failure? Hadn't Andrea said he was remarried and had a baby? How very odd. "I'm trying to picture you being gone from my life for a year. I'm glad I don't remember it."
Andrea merely stared at her.
Andy could hardly believe her ears. Had Miranda just admitted to wanting Andy in her life? Or was she merely talking about Andy in her capacity as an assistant? This was so confusing and if she was bewildered, who wasn't concussed, how strange must this not be for Miranda?
"Am I to understand you'd miss me on a personal level?" Andy had to know. If she was going to stick around and help out, she had to know.
"Of course. I don't take to all my assistance the way I've done with you." Miranda looked slightly irritated. Or it could be she had a headache.
"Yes. Oh, you know what I mean. I…I like you. I care about you. You're not like any of the others."
"Which others? Your assistants?"
"Yes!" Miranda pushed a hand through her hair. "I thought I was going to ask the questions."
"Sorry. Go ahead." Andy couldn't help but smile.
"You hinted at leaving in Paris because you were getting too close. Wasn't I clear enough about my own—um—affection?"
Andy drew a deep breath and then had to cough. Affection? Miranda harbored affection? Or could this be her bruised brain talking? Somehow, knowing Miranda's mind rather well, bruised or not, she doubted it. "You kept any such thing pretty well hidden. You were still married then and showing affection toward anyone, man or woman, was no doubt the last thing on your mind. You had a lot on your plate…and I didn't exactly help."
"Perhaps not. But you're helping now. You came when I called, even if you didn't have to."
"Sure I had to." Andy smile. "I will always come when you call. My ex-boyfriend predicted this, very astutely, before we went to Paris last year. He knew you would always come first."
"And when you came home after leaving me behind in spite of everything?"
"He was gone. Left for a career in Boston. Ironically, he has a new girlfriend, who's due any day now, so I've heard. Rather ironic."
"I'll say." Miranda rubbed her thumb against the back of Andy's hand, which sent shivers up her arm. "I can selfishly say I'm not upset he's gone."
"Me either. Not anymore."
Miranda's eyelids began to close. Andy sat holding her hand until Miranda was asleep. Once she was certain she wouldn't wake her up, she stood and carried the tray downstairs. She thought about going shopping, but didn't dare leave Miranda alone. What if she woke up and needed her?
Andy fetched her briefcase and took her laptop to work while sitting in the armchair in Miranda's bedroom. She typed a few paragraphs, but then her scattered mind refused to do any more productive work. Placing the laptop on the floor, she let her mind go where it wanted as she watched Miranda sleep. Now when she had a few hours to contemplate Miranda and her amnesia, her fears of what might happen once Miranda got her memory back surfaced. What if this condition was permanent? Or what if Miranda resorted back to the emotionally distant Dragon Lady when her memory came back? Andy had lowered her guard completely and now she was beginning to think it had been a huge mistake.
Miranda stirred and stretched in bed. She was sore and a faint headache throbbed at the base of her skull. She sat up and switched on her bedside lamp. Casting a soft light over her bedroom, it also revealed a sleeping figure in her armchair. Andrea.
Miranda gasped and pressed a hand to her temple as flickering images streamed jerkily through her brain. It was as if the entire last year was downloading and firing off her synapses sporadically at a furious pace. Gasping, she saw herself as if from above, screaming at Stephen, tending to her girls, dodging paparazzi, keeping her despicable boss at an arm's length at all times, and throughout every scene and among all the voices, there was the all-overshadowing mantra. She left. She's gone.
And yet, here she was. Focusing on Andrea seemed to stall the onslaught of images and voices somewhat. Instead she remembered getting onboard the flight to Paris, arriving there with her much-more-blasé assistant, the one replacing Emily. Where Andrea had looked wide-eyed at the lights of Paris, this girl filed a nail and commented on how traffic along Champs-Elysées was always a bitch. Andrea had gasped at the sight of the hotel and its luxurious surroundings, and this new assistant actually complained to the staff how her room was not a suite and upgraded with her daddy's credit card.
Miranda remembered now how she'd managed to get through the first four days. Going to all the shows, attending functions in the evenings, hosting the Runway luncheon—and as she was leaving this to ride across Paris to Vera Wang's show…she had turned and in her mind expected to see Andrea there on the backseat. For a moment she had. Her memory of how accusing and filled with contempt Andrea's voice had been—or had it? Was she projecting her own self-contempt after selling out one of her best friends, of sacrificing Nigel, into Andrea's tormented tone of voice?
And now Andrea said she left because she was getting too close, felt too much for her much-older, married boss. She also said she would always come to Miranda's side, or aide, no matter when. What did this mean? Did this mean what that inner, ever-hopeful voice inside Miranda hoped it did?
A beeping sound from Andrea's cell phone sitting on the small table next to the armchair made her jump.
"Miranda?" Andrea sat up, tapped the screen to mute the alarm and then stretched. "How are you feeling?"
"I remember." Miranda knew she sounded short, but her heart was pounding so hard and it seemed all her fear and all her hope were battling for space within her.
Andrea stood so fast she nearly toppled over. "You do? You remember?" She hurried over and placed the back of her fingers against Miranda's forehead. "How's the headache?"
"Better." Having Andrea's cool fingers against her skin helped, actually. "I left Paris and—fled." So certain her self-disgust for this cowardly behavior would reflect in Andrea's expression, all she could do was stare when Andrea nodded solemnly.
"Too many bad memories?"
"You did go through hell last year. First Irv's scheming to dethrone you and then Stephen…"
"No. Those two things were nothing to the fact I hurt Nigel and lost you." Miranda hadn't planned to say it like this, but the words tumbled out as if bottled up too long. "Then when I took a cab from the airport as Roy's on vacation, there was an accident. After that, it's a blur, until you came."
"Are you still glad I came, Miranda?" Andrea asked carefully, a small catch in her voice.
"The fact you did, has made all the difference. I haven't felt this…weightless, I suppose, in months. A year."
Andrea sat down on the bed. "Your makeup has smudged a bit. Should I get some remover?"
"Thank you. That'd be great. You've seen me without makeup before."
Miranda couldn't read anything in Andrea's short response and when the young woman came back from the bathroom with cotton swabs and her makeup remover, she saw a new light in her eyes. Without saying anything, Miranda merely turned her face up and closed her eyes, allowing Andrea to remove the only thing that made her look remotely younger than she was. She was well aware that without makeup, she looked paler and older.
"You look so soft like this. Like removing your armor." Andrea spoke in a low voice. "So beautiful."
"Are you being serious?" Miranda didn't open her eyes, afraid of what she might see.
"Dead serious. I know you use makeup as a tool. You really aren't vain at all. It's important when you're in the fashion industry to use these products and the clothes, to show you know your, hm, almost said stuff again. I meant 'topic'. That's not vanity. It's practical."
Amazed, Miranda looked up at Andrea. Nobody had ever seen right through her and expressed this opinion of her and still it was so accurate. Stephen had preferred her with makeup on. Her first husband, the twin's father, had not cared either way, to his credit. And now, this amazing woman, Andrea, seemed to really know.
"And you prefer to be without makeup," Miranda said. "You use it when there's a special occasion. Having to use it all the time at Runway was one of the things that made you feel you didn't quite recognize yourself, wasn't it? And compromising some of your values…or, rather, placing the things that mattered to you on the backburner for the foreseeable future. You began to think you were losing sight of your true dreams."
"Yes." Putting away the makeup remover and swabs, Andrea turned back and cupped Miranda's cheeks. "That's absolutely right. I did find my dreams again, but, I thought, at the price of losing you."
"No. Not unless you rather not have me." Miranda whimpered inwardly at her choice of words.
"I would rather have you than not. I think of you every day and I'm not sure if this is why the universe conspires to bring you back into my life, and I'm sorry you got hurt in the process, but…" Andrea drew a trembling breath. "But I'm so very glad to be here with you."
"Kiss me, Andrea?" Miranda was trembling now, because if she had somehow misunderstood the basis for all these emotions between them, she was going to find out.
Andrea was still cupping her cheeks lightly. She bent and pressed her full lips against Miranda's forehead, her eyebrows, her cheeks, the tip of her nose, which made Miranda smile, and then her lips.
Miranda raised her hands and pushed them into Andrea's silky hair, holding her firmly as she returned the kiss. Changing angles every now and then, she explored Andrea's mouth like it was a well in an oasis and she'd been lost in the desert all these months.
"Mm, Miranda…" Andrea sat down again, scooting even closer and pulled Miranda onto her shoulder. "We have time. We have tons of time. Trust me, I want to kiss you all over and explore every square inch of you, but you're still concussed. I'm here to look after you and I will do that."
"You're very fine, but not fine that way. You're still not feeling entirely well and for what I have in mind later on, once you're all better, you need your stamina, Priestly." Andrea nuzzled Miranda's hair. "Mm, you smell so good."
"Actually," Miranda said and sighed. "I'm very comfortable right here."
"Let's rest like this for a bit and then we can order in food. I don't want you to go anywhere."
Andrea chuckled. "I like how you reason. I'm so very comfortable like this with you in my arms."
Where I belong. Where I belonged all along, no doubt. Miranda wrapped an arm around Andrea's waist and held on as sleep once again began to overtake her.
This time she was certain Andrea would be here when she woke up.