Miranda stood in the doorway of the bathroom belonging to the guestroom that was located across the hallway from her bedroom. Andrea leaned back in the bathtub, holding a cup of chicken soup that Hannah, Miranda's housekeeper had made.
"Thank you," Andrea said, her voice low and hoarse. "I'm not sure why I'm here. Not really. But thank you anyway."
"You're here because it is the best thing for you at the moment. By the way," Miranda said, squaring her shoulders. "The driver called Emily only moments ago. He located your parents and they are on their way from La Guardia as we speak."
A gentle smile appeared on Andrea's pale lips, followed by a worried frown.
"What's wrong?" Miranda stepped over the threshold and walked up to the tub. She could hear the distant voices of Emily, Serena, Doug, and Nigel from downstairs. They were all traumatized and Miranda found she couldn't ask them to leave before they were ready. All this had created a mess at Runway of course, but for some reason Miranda didn't—couldn't—care.
"No-nothing. I'm glad mom and dad are on their way. Haven't seen them in a long while." Andrea's hands shook so badly, Miranda had to rescue the mug. She placed it on the vanity and carefully sat down on the side of the tub. She took Andrea's right hand in hers.
"You've gone through something unimaginably horrible today, Andrea. Of course something is wrong. I don't want you to feel you have to put up a brave face or be my ever efficient second assistant in this moment. What I want is for you to know you're safe, cared for, and that nobody can get to you here. Nobody. If you listen, you can hear your friends talking downstairs. They're having pizza in my kitchen." Miranda saw a faint smile appear on Andrea's lips. "I'd offer you a slice, but the doctor said you need comfort food. Perhaps tomorrow."
"Mac and cheese." Andrea whispered and squeezed Miranda's hand. "Tons of carbs."
"Shocking." Miranda lifted Andrea's hand to her face and kissed the inside of her wrist.
"Oh…" Andrea went from chalk white to pink in a few moments.
Miranda was stunned at her own actions. What possessed her? Then again, watching Andrea's eyes grew wide with amazement was quite rewarding. Unable to resist, she repeated the kiss, this time prolonging it and inhaling the sweet scent of the bath salt.
"Miranda?" Andrea's curled fingers made a small caressing motion against Miranda's cheek. "I need to wash my hair. Perhaps Serena…?"
"No. I'll do it." Miranda didn't want Serena to join them. Not unless it became necessary. For now, Miranda accepted she was selfish enough to have Andrea to herself. "Which shampoo would you prefer?" She pointed to a row of high-end shampoo bottles sitting in an indentation in the tiled wall.
"Oh. I—I don't care. As long as it smells nice." Andrea sounded so wary, Miranda wanted to kick herself for ever thinking of asking her in the first place. Why would a woman who almost died care about shampoos?
"Very well. The one with argan oil will do nicely with your hair. Dip it completely." Miranda kicked off her Prada pumps and placed a rolled up towel on the floor next to the tub. She knelt on the towel and retrieved the bottle. Andrea had scooted down and dipped all of her hair in the water.
"I can't wait to get rid of the last smell of the dumpster," Andrea whispered.
"I won't argue with you on that matter," Miranda said and poured a generous amount of shampoo in her left hand and slid it against Andrea's long, brown hair. Another handful went to the lengths of the hair, and then she began working it into the silky tresses. "This smells wonderful. It will do the job."
"Your hands feel wonderful." Andrea's eyes snapped open. "I mean…I mean…"
"Shh. Don't worry. You can say anything you want. We're not at Runway now. You're not here in the capacity of my assistant."
"Then in what capacity am I here?" Andrea looked over at Miranda with shiny, dark amber eyes.
"As Andrea Sachs. Someone I have come to care a great deal for. I wasn't quite sure just how much until I feared we might never know what happened to you." Miranda wasn't certain telling Andrea this much was the best course of action, but the vulnerability in her eyes made Miranda want to reassure her. She longed to see the exuberant light appear in Andrea's entire demeanor again. If that mean Miranda had to go out on a limb, so be it.
"I can't help but feel I'm sort of…almost trespassing. Well, not trespassing perhaps…but that I don't truly belong. Unhinged, for sure."
"Give it time. You can't be on your own until you feel your old self again, or as close to it as humanly possible. If you allow it, I will have Emily make an appointment with a therapist."
Andrea's eyes grew huge where she looked up at Miranda. "Therapist?" she murmured.
"Yes. You're going to need professional help. Anyone who's been through what you have today needs someone to talk to who can be of objective assistance. I'm far too involved to be that person." Again, unfiltered words slipped over Miranda's lips. She busied herself with the shower and tipped Andrea's head back as she started to rinse off the shampoo. Since she didn't want Andrea to sit in the tub too long, Miranda quickly applied conditioner and forwent a second shampooing session. Andrea sat very still, only moving her head obediently this way or that according to Miranda's gentle nudges.
"All rinsed off. I'll leave you to it for a bit so you can wash the rest of your bo—uhm—yourself." About to stand, Miranda felt Andrea grab her left wrist.
"Don't leave. Please. I'll be quick." Andrea reached for some body soap and Miranda stood and turned her back. One thing to help Andrea into the tub, another thing to gawk at her right now as she stood up in the tub. She heard water cascade from the large showerhead in the ceiling above the tub. Andrea gasped and all of Miranda's intentions flew out the door. Fearful Andrea might have slipped Miranda pivoted and took a step back toward the tub.
"Are you all right?" Miranda cupped Andrea's elbows.
"The water was a bit cool at first. And you're getting all wet. I mean your blouse. Of course." Andrea was now crimson and looked as if she wanted to hide below the surface of the bath water.
"Never mind my blouse. Clean up and I'll take the robe off the heater." Miranda resolutely stepped over the large heated towel rack. As per usual, her house keeper had put one of Miranda's soft, terrycloth robes there. Warm and fuzzy, it would perfect to warm Andrea. Miranda also retrieved a hair towel from a cabinet, realizing that the long, wet tresses would chill through any fabric after a while. On second thought, perhaps she should blow dry Andrea's hair?
"I'm done," Andrea said quietly behind Miranda and her voice made it obvious that her teeth was about to clatter soon unless Miranda acted swiftly. She dressed the robe around Andrea's naked body, only catching a glimpse of her curvy body. Chastising herself for even thinking of Andrea in that way right now, Miranda tied the belt with quick fingers. She wrapped Andrea's hair in the towel and had her sit on the white leather stool. She squeezed the excess water from Andrea's long hair with the hair towel. It quickly became saturated and she pulled a second one from the pile. This one managed to soak up enough moisture for Miranda to blow dry Andrea's hair.
She took her detangling hairbrush from its drawer and raised it to begin brushing the long tresses running down Andrea's back. Andrea suddenly flinched, raised her hands in defense and shrieked, "No! Stop, stop!"
Miranda jerked and dropped the brush. Staring aghast at the shaking, sobbing woman before her, she then quickly wrapped her arms around her, holding her close. Andrea fought her weekly at first, twisting and turning in her embrace.
"Andrea. It's me. It's Miranda. Listen to my voice. It's me. You're safe here with me. I promise nothing is going to happen to you."
"M-Miranda…he-he had a pipe. A fucking pipe! And he p-pushed it under my chin, against my ne-neck." Andrea's voice was choppy and tear-filled, but also furious.
"You remember?" Miranda held on to Andrea, her heart racing as she hugged her closer.
"I can see his face…and another face. Younger. But the man with the pipe…he—he hurt me." Her hands balled into fists, Andrea suddenly stood, almost toppling Miranda, but she kept her grip around the shaking young woman.
"All right. All right. Sit down again, please. You're not very steady on your feet, darling."
Perhaps it was the last unedited word that made Andrea go still. Miranda wasn't sure. What was more, she had no idea why she'd call Andrea darling. Or at least that's what she tried to tell herself. Andrea was her second assistant and that was it. Wasn't it? Her fluttering heart insisted there was more to it and the way she had come close to ogling the naked girl just before was hard to disregard.
"Is everything all right?" Serena's voice from outside the door made them both jump.
"Come in, Serena. I think we need assistance." Miranda wasn't sure she'd be able to get Andrea into bed on her own.
"The driver is pulling up with Andy's parents." Serena strode up to them, her eyes a tad wide, no doubt at the sight of Miranda holding Andrea.
"Then by all means, she needs to be relaxed in bed so they can be comfortable together. Come on, Andrea. We'll tend to your hair later." Miranda wrapped a dry towel around Andrea's head and then Serena assisted in walking the wobbly girl to the guest bed.
As they tucked Andrea in, bathrobe and all, Miranda pressed the button on the remote to elevate the top of the bed so she could sit comfortably against the multitude of pillows. Serena was busy taking care of Andrea's discarded clothes when she spoke.
"Darling," Andrea said with a slurry voice, looking up at Miranda.
"Andrea?" Miranda's cheeks grew hot as she could see Serena stop moving in bathroom, clearly listening.
"You called me 'darling', Miranda." Andrea reached out her hand to Miranda. "Why?"
God almighty. "Because I was worried," Miranda said in a low voice and took Andrea's hand, still knowing full well that Serena heard everything.
"Okay." Andrea looked mystified, but clung to Miranda's hand.
There was soft padding coming from the hallway. "I think I hear your parents coming up the stairs," Miranda said.
Miranda tried to free herself from Andrea's hand, but she looked so panicky and clung to her, Miranda relented.
"Andy!" A brown haired woman darted into the room, staring at Andrea. "Oh, honey. Thank God they found you." Andrea's mother hurried to her daughter, sat down on the side of the bed and hugged her. Andrea still clung to Miranda's hand while wrapping the other around her mother.
"I'm okay, mom. I'm okay now." Andrea sobbed. "Miranda—Miranda was there when they found me."
Andrea's mother looked up at Miranda who calmly held Andrea's right hand. "We can never thank you enough, Miranda," she whispered huskily.
"I'm just grateful the right people were present and thinking outside the box," Miranda said. "I'll leave you and your husband to—"
"No!" Andrea's grip became painfully hard around Miranda's hand. "Please, don't go." Her eyes grew wide. "Please."
"Andy. We're here now," Andrea's father said, entering fully into the room after hovering over by the door way. He was visibly shaken, but rounded Miranda and reached for Andrea's hand.
Slowly Andrea let go of Miranda's hand and let her father take it. She was completely unprepared how losing physical touch with Andrea would feel. Setting her jaw, she nodded politely toward the Sachs'. "I'll let you spend time with Andrea. The doctor did say she needs a lot of rest. I'll have my housekeeper bring you something to eat. I'm sure you're hungry after your flight."
Andrea's father took his eyes off his daughter and sent Miranda a grateful glance. "I second what my wife just said. We cannot express our gratitude enough. You're going above and beyond for our daughter."
"She deserves it." Miranda could hardly get the words out. "I'll be downstairs in the den if you need to talk to me. Let us know when you need to go to your hotel and I'll come and sit with Andrea. She won't be alone tonight."
"Oh, I can sit with her…" Andrea's mother objected, but Andrea shook her head on the pillow.
"Mom. You're not well yourself. Have a good night's sleep at the hotel and we can hang more tomorrow. I can even go back to my apart—"
"No." Miranda pivoted at the door. "You are staying here until you are fit enough to return to work. It doesn't matter if it's about days, or weeks, until you're up for it. You will not stay alone in that area." She knew her words must seem very odd to Andrea's parents, but the fact was Miranda spotted something close to gratitude in both her parents' faces.
"Okay. All right." Andrea sank back against the pillow. "You're the boss."
Miranda had to smile despite everything. "I am." Leaving the Sachs family to reassure each other to their hearts' content, she hid in her den with her laptop, catching up on work. Every now and then Nigel, Serena, or Emily would poke their heads in, not say anything, and just bring her a plate of fruit or some Pellegrino.
Miranda knew she was biding her time. Being honest with herself was something she aimed for, but knew also she was good at looking at her surroundings the way she wanted them to be at times. Now she was faking patience while she waited for Andrea's parents to leave and her staff to go home. A nurse would be on call, using one of the guest rooms, but Miranda already knew she would be Andrea's primary caregiver this first night. If anyone suggested she needed her sleep or to leave Andrea's care to the professionals, they would run into trouble.
Tomorrow they would call the police so she could give a description officially of the two men she remembered. Until then, Andrea was hers.
Continued in part 8