It's an educational experience to watch Andrea as her mind goes through my last sentence, while trying to analyze it. Eventually, she seems to give up.
"What?" she askes quietly, in that special low, husky vibrato she gets when she's either nervous or intimidated. I want to kick myself. This is not what I want. At all.
"Don't panic," I say calmly. "Can you elaborate on your statement?"
"What statement?" Andrea's mind is still in what-the-hell mode.
"Of what you thought were impossible. In Paris."
Andrea, unsurprisingly places a piece of steak in her mouth and chews. Stalling again.
"Okay," she says, swallowing even after the piece of meat has left her mouth. "Since you ask. I thought it was impossible that you would ever see me as I saw…see…you." She stops and looks at me with widened eyes. She clearly expects to be slashed by my razor tongue, or simply dismissed. It makes me ache and I have to stop myself from rounding the table in an attempt to reassure her.
"I did see you," I murmur, again clinging to the napkin that soon will be beyond repair, the way I go at it. "I did, even if I shouldn't…couldn't."
Now Andrea sits up straight in her chair, placing her utensils on the place again. "What? In what way could you have…did you…You were married and you're straight, aren't you?"
"What do those assumptions have to do with anything?" I say, realizing that Andrea's snatched the ball and is tearing down a path leading to God knows where with it.
"A lot, I'd say," Andrea says. "You never gave me any indication or a trace of hint that you…saw me."
"How could I? You were my employee. My subordinate. We weren't equals by any stretch of the imagination. Apart from risking being reported for sexual harassment…" I stop abruptly when I hear my own words. Damn it.
"I get that, though." Andrea's voice is so soft now, it wraps around me like a silky blanket. "You would have risked everything, and you were already losing so much."
"Yes." She does get it. Thank God.
"So that part about seeing me, it was something secret?" Andrea places her napkin on the table with an unsteady hand.
"Very secret. In part, even something I kept from myself. I can be quite accomplished at compartmentalizing." I find it surprisingly easy to share this with her. After all, it's a big deal. I've never voice this to anyone. Ever.
"Isn't that how you manage your high-octane job, being a good mom, and dealing with the fact that you're a very public person that the gossip magazines and Page 6 love to invent things about?" Now Andrea gets up and crouches by my chair. She places a gentle hand on mine, freeing the napkin from half of my grip.
"Yes." I can't string more words together right now. Not when she touches me. Back when she worked for me, we would accidentally touch on occasion. She would pass me in a doorway or lean in to indicate something on my computer or on a document, and our shoulders would meet. One time, and this moment has been in that part of my mind where I stow memories I never want to forget. Andrea was leaning over me, trying to decipher her own handwriting as I had just complained about it. Nervous, she had followed the unreadable scribbles with a trembling index finger and as she leaned in closer, her left breast rubbed against my cheek. It took a few moments for her to notice and I didn't move away. When she did notice, she bounced backward so fast, she fell against the window behind my desk.
"Goodness, Andrea," I said. "Please don't fall out and add to the rumors that I toss assistants out the window if I find them lacking."
She of course apologized profusely but kept it general. A devil in me had to put her on the spot, which should have alerted me to how I found her mesmerizing. "What are you apologizing for, exactly?" I nailed her with my eyes, demanding an answer as the cruel Dragon Lady I can be.
"I…um…crowded you. I apologize." Crimson red, Andrea tugged at her fingers, another sign that turmoil ruled among her inner organs. "I…eh…I can type my notes and email to you instead. It'll be faster and less…hrm…intrusive."
I took pity on her then and dismissed her, and not in an unkind way either.
And now, current Andrea is covering my hand with hers and running her thumb over the back of my wrist. "Miranda. Am I here because you need me to tell you how I used to feel…hell, how I still feel?" She drew a trembling breath. "I can do that. No problem. But if this is some sort of experiment to get closure because of Paris, I'm not interested. On the other hand, if you meet me honestly, no matter what your emotions may have morphed into, I respect that. So, no games. No guessing. Can we do that?"
If I ever was at a fork in the road, this is it. I sit there and watch Andrea, this new and more assertive Andrea. She was always in there, it was just the nature of being a second assistant that obscured the formidable woman that looks into my eyes and asks me to be honest.
I clear my voice and let go of the napkin completely. "You're here because it was time I knew." I'm not sure I make sense but keep going. "You're here because I, as a thoroughly selfish woman, want you to be. And you're here because I care about you to a degree that not having you in my life in any way, shape, or form, is hurting me." There. I have never been that honest with anyone. And I'm not afraid. That is the strangest part. I have just bared the jugular of my soul and she may either slash it or kiss it.
I'm thinking metaphorically, but Andrea, being her absolute amazing self, rise on her knees and kisses the back of my hand and then my cheek. No polite air kisses, oh no, proper, long and gentle kisses where her full lips cushion my skin.
"Miranda. I care about you more than I can express in words." Andrea blinks away a few errant tears. "And that's saying a lot, considering that words are my bread and butter." She smiles sheepishly.
"Don't worry about eloquence," I say and turn slightly to be able to cup her face with both hands. Her complexion is immaculate, and I revel in the feel of it. "Listen. I promise you will get your interview, in as great a detail as you want to, but can we please move to the den. I need to be comfortable with you, when we talk about his further. That is, if doing so is what you want?"
"It is." Andrea stands up and I let go of her face with some regret, but also take her hand.
I guide her to the den, not caring about the food we leave behind on the dining room table, and when she sits down next to me, so readily, I pull her close. Having Andrea in my arms, it makes all my synapses fire in a repetitive cascade. Her shoulder-long chestnut hair smells of a fresh shampoo with a note of apple. My old self would have deemed that plebeian, but now…it's her scent.
"Oh, God, Miranda." Andrea pulls back enough to look at me. Her eyes scan my face as if searching for something. And then she kisses me. I'm agreeable, of course, but completely unprepared for my own reaction.
My body tingles and erupts in goosebumps. I can feel my lips parting and becoming so sensitive to the slightest touch that I whimper. Andrea hums against me as she carefully runs her tongue against my lower lip. I fall back against the backrest and she follows me in one fluid movement. She holds me in place with gentle hands just shy of my breast. I know my nipples must be clearly visible behind my thin lace La Perla bra and the thin satin, sleeve-less blouse. They ache and my entire being screams for Andrea to touch them, but of course, she's too much of a gentlewoman to do so uninvited.
But, oh my, this woman can kiss. She explores my mouth and invites my tongue in to hers with the same voracity. She hums and whimpers, moans and whispers, and dear Lord, the sounds she makes while engaged in a kiss. It makes me lose all perspective of what we're doing but this is the only thing that feels right.
I take one of Andrea's hands and places it on my left breast. Immediately, I know that is not enough. It will never be enough.
She grows still for a moment and pulls back enough to look at me again. "Miranda?"
"Yes, Andrea." I smile tremulously at her. "Like that. That's exactly how I care for you, darling."
Andrea melts into me, her hand still on my breast, cupping it, caressing it lightly, and she buries her face into my neck and inhales deeply.
"I love you, Miranda," Andrea says with tears in her voice.
I loathe for her to feel distressed when it comes to the topic of our feelings. I try to disregard the beyond stimulating caressed bestowed upon my breast and hug her closer. "Silly girl. I love you too. It should be obvious if you'd paid attention." I'm being facetious and hope she realizes it.
"Pardon me for being dense." Andrea lifts her head and I've seen her smile numerous times before, but this…this is something different. It's smile that holds a promise and hopes that what we have just begun to explore will prove to be what we hope it is.
"Not dense," I murmur and kiss her forehead. "Beautiful, inside and out. Brilliant."
Andrea inadvertently, I think, squeezes my breast and end up tweaking my rock-hard nipple. I groan and arch into her exquisite touch, demanding more. Instead, Andrea soothes my breast, and thus me, by slowing down her movements. "The girls will be home soon," she says and look happy and undecisive at the same time.
I check the time on the small antique clock over on a sideboard. She's right. "They wished for you to remain, so they could say hello. Can I interest you in sharing the rest of the abandoned lunch with us if we reheat it?"
Throwing her arms around my neck, Andrea kisses me as if it was the last time, over and over. "Yes," she finally manages between gasps. "I love your Caroline and Cassidy. I can't wait to see how much they've growned and how they're doing. Thank you."
"What for?" I ask, still buzzing all over and praying I'll be able to pull myself together before my eagle-eyed girls come charging in.
"For this. For being so brave. For letting me in." Andrea runs her fingers through my bangs. "I had reconciled with the fact that I would have to finally move on. Then, one look from you, not to mention how incredibly sexy and beautiful you are when you let yourself to, and I was there again. All the love I felt, which I had buried somewhere deep inside, came rushing back. I don't think I can ever push it back down where I kept it again, Miranda."
I kiss her lightly on the lips. "You don't have to, Andrea."
The moment when Andrea finally relaxes completely into my embrace and merely rests her head on my shoulder, is another moment that belongs in the "never forget" part of my mind. She's back in my life and I will go to any length to keep her there. I'm normally goal oriented and competitive, so it doesn't surprise me that I regard this in the same manner. I love Andrea Sachs and she loves me back. I'm going to make this work, not fall back in to old habits and let work take over everything, but instead keep my eyes on the price, as my daughters say.
"What'ya thinking about?" Andrea stirs, but remains against my shoulder.
"What matters," I whisper. "You. My girls." I know I must get up from the couch soon, but for now, I revel in the clarity loving Andrea gives me. Passion can lead to serenity. Tears can lead to laughter.
And Andrea an I will guide each other.