The Righteous Anger
The indignation was a good, healthy reaction in times of adversity; a proper and civilized response to a perceived injustice. Instead of drowning the perpetrator, for example, it made you walk away and drown the phone, all the while smiling with smug satisfaction of a moral victor.
The raw anger though, the kind that would come afterwards was, oh, so much better. The righteous anger, Andy was discovering, was an incredibly potent emotion.
It propelled Andy through the crowded streets, all the way to the Plaza Athenee, without even wobbling once on her 3-inch heels. It took her through 25 minutes of throwing the clothes haphazardly in her bags. It carried her through scribbling a short resignation letter on a hotel memorandum, and slipping it under the door of Miranda's room. It even got her to a supposedly cozy hotel the taxi driver eagerly recommended.
The anger felt empowering. Therefore, with some assistance of cheap red wine, she fully unleashed it; she paced the damp, dark room, occasionally made a point waving her arms around and, frequently, spilled the wine in process. She cursed Miranda; she cursed stinky freesias and hot Starbucks, seasoned steaks, Anna Klein skirts and Christian Thompson for a good measure. She cursed her own stupidity for caring for a woman who ultimately did not care for anyone. She cursed Miranda's cold beauty that made Andy's breath catch until almost hyperventilating. Most of all, she cursed her shattered image of the previous night that made Andy realize just how much she really cared.
It was only when the rage abated, when all the adrenalin finally run its course, when she stopped and slightly woozily posed that ultimate question - now, what? - that she realized the magnitude of what she had done.
She'd screwed up, big time.
And she wasn't even referring to her career. She'd given up on her right, however flimsy, to ask questions and hear the answers. She had ruined something, probably irreparably, when she wasn't ready for it to be over.
Even if J.R. Rowling had been writing a new book, she doubted it would have helped.
Hope sprang eternal, however, which was why she was slipping through the fountain at 1 a.m., diving desperately for the damn phone. She couldn't go back without it, could she?
Already, she had fished out 25 Euros change, a glittering no-name sandal which, for a short but ecstatic moment, felt like a phone under her toes, a broken umbrella – did they not clean these things ever? She was cursing in panic, stumbling on the slimy fountain floor. A crowd was assembling around the edges of the pool and she, briefly but fervently, wished for a City of slightly less bright lights.
It was awkward trying to rummage around, her left hand occupied with her Jimmy Choos – there was no way she was leaving them unattended - and at the same time trying to stop her own bag from strangling her. Besides, the early autumn nights were cool and the water was downright cold. Damn. No one ever bothered to mention the consequences of grand gestures.
Suddenly, she felt the familiar rectangular shape under her searching fingers.
She yelled in triumph and crowd cheered with her. Such lovely people, Andy thought, loving the world all over again. A steadying hand even helped her out of the water.
It was only when she glanced at the polite gentleman that she noticed the uniform and a mighty frown.
"American. Naturellement." Immediately, he pulled out a notebook. "The fine for swimming in the fountain is 50 euros. Passeport, s'il vous plait?"
"Wait a minute!" Andy said indignantly. "I was not swimming!"
He glanced down the dripping edge of her tunic and her soaked pants, an eyebrow disappearing under the blue cap.
"I was trying to find my phone! Look!" Andy waved it in his face.
"Bien sur. A phone which you dropped while swimming in the fountain," The policeman helpfully supplied, swiping away the drops from his cheek.
"I. Was. Not. Swimming," Andy said through clenched teeth. She welcomed the swell of familiar anger boiling in her stomach. Everything felt clearer when she was angry.
"And how did you drop it then?" The policeman asked smugly.
"I threw it in!" She said, triumphal. So there!
"Ah," he nodded with understanding. "The fine for littering is 50 Euros."
"Aargh! Look, mister, I had a very, very bad day!" She got into policeman's face. "So don't give me that shit..."
"And you are disturbing the public order," He carried on undaunted. "The fine for which is... "
"I don't care for the fine! I was not disturbing anyone! I was just trying..."
"And you are drunk." He sniffed. "On cheap wine at that. I think, mademoiselle, you will come with me."
The crowd cheered again.
The police officer in charge, a droopy man in his fifties, reminded Andy of Patricia; large, good natured but unrelenting. Furthermore, just like Patricia, the man she dubbed Bernie in her mind was annoyingly impervious to Andy's charm. He nodded sympathetically, albeit doubtfully to Andy's account. He sat her in his tiny office, away from the rowdy drunks loitering in the corridors and pushed a much needed espresso in her hands. He even offered her a phone call, warm clothes and a solitary bed for a night. However, while Andy successfully refused the unflattering garments, he was quite insistent on her spending the night. Unless, of course, she paid the fine which by now amounted to 200 euros.
She didn't have the money - even counting in the 25 Euros catch from the fountain. She had spent what she had on a taxi, on the quasi cozy hotel with very suspicious clerks, and a newly acquired plane ticket home.
Since she couldn't- wouldn't- call the first person that inexplicably came to mind, Andy did the only other thing she could think of. She called Nigel.
"Pick up, please pick up, please pick ... Nigel, oh thank god!"
Andy promptly dropped the receiver. She jumped away as if bitten and stared at the phone as if it were a black mamba. Why did she answer? Where was Nigel?
She noticed Bernie eying her suspiciously so she tried for an innocent smile. Shrugging her shoulders, she settled gingerly back in her chair.
"Um, wrong numb…"
The phone rang.
"Don't answer that!" Andy screamed. Watching her every move, the officer very carefully reached for the phone. She was definitely losing points with him.
«Commisariat. Oui? Oui, Mademoiselle Sachs. Oui," he stated cautiously, frowning at the phone. He continued the conversation in that melodious but incomprehensible language, mellowing out by a second. Fascinated against her will, Andy watched the transformation; it was like watching one those fast forward documentaries on life-cycle of a plant. In a quick succession, he was straightening up, fixing his uniform, fiddling with his tie, softening his voice, smiling boyishly.
Bernie was smitten. Woof.
It was pathetic, what the woman could do to people, even over the phone.
Andy sank deeper into the plastic chair. That was it. Miranda was probably successfully arranging a deal to keep her imprisoned for the rest of her life.
After reluctantly ending the call and shooting a final disapproving look at Andy, the officer scuttled out without an explanation. She slumped resignedly, watching a small puddle forming on the floor beneath her shoes. Cold was slowly seeping in. Partially it was the wet clothes, partially the exhaustion, but mostly it was the feeling of dread in her stomach.
The station was quiet now, and silence felt oppressive. Bring the drunks back!, she wanted to yell. At least they'd fill her head with noise. The absurdly cheerful, yellow clock on the wall showed 3 am. How did she manage to screw her life so thoroughly in less than 24 hours? She put her head in her hands. She should have called the US Embassy instead of Nigel.
She wasn't sure how long she sat there when a sound raised her from stupor; Bernie's boisterous laughter drifted from the hallway. However, it wasn't the laughter that made the hair on her neck stand up. It was that familiar clicking of the heels. She'd know that measured, decisive gait anywhere.
Andy sucked a shocked breath in. Why was she here? As a character witness, God help her?
A moment later, Miranda was standing framed by the door, looking impeccable, hell, making even the shabby door frame look impeccable. Every silver hair in place, immaculately made up face, long black Valentino coat draped seductively over her slender body. The freshly shaved officer – the bastard must had had known she was arriving, and never said a thing - was looming in the background, leaning in under excuse of explaining something, but basically panting in her ear. Judging by the way he was gazing at Miranda's profile, Bernie was besotted. Love was truly blind, Andy thought. The man was completely oblivious of barely hidden annoyance on Miranda's face. He must have outlived his usefulness, Andy appraised.
Miranda seemed to ignore him for a moment though, focusing rather on the more immediate victim. Her eyes quickly assessed Andy's attire, lips pursed in annoyance. What would a verdict be? Off with her head? She was allowed a fair trial, wasn't she? Wide eyed, Andy stared at her.
"For heaven's sake, she's freezing. Are cryogenics an approved method of French penitentiary system?" Miranda threw sharply at the man behind her.
"Madame?" The policeman visibly deflated looking like a kicked puppy. There you go, Andy thought with grim satisfaction; fall for her at your own peril.
Miranda waved her hand dismissively, silencing the stuttering explanations. Andy would have been thrilled with Miranda's concern; however, she suspected it was simply a way to put another minion in his deserved place. Apparently deciding she'd already lost enough of her precious time on the whole unfortunate event, Miranda sighed impatiently and nodded at Andy.
"Andrea," she said, claiming her as if retrieving an umbrella from a Lost and Found office. She marched away, ignoring the heartbroken officer, obviously expecting Andy to follow.
Don't make me go with her, she wanted to beg of the fellow victim but, of course, didn't. Meekly, she staggered up and followed.
Andy pressed herself to the far side of the car, trying to take up as little space as possible. The cold leather beneath her ass felt extremely uncomfortable but she was afraid to move. It would probably squeak traitorously and bring unwanted attention. She focused at the city lights streaming by, trying not to shake too much.
She bit her lip and dared a glance to her side. Miranda was staring through the window, chin propped up on her fingers. Andy couldn't see Miranda's face, but there was tension written all over her body; her shoulders were stiff, a hand in her lap curled into a tight fist.
Andy desperately wanted to wave her phone at Miranda. Look, I got it back. I was trying to make it all right. Somehow, she doubted it would be appreciated. However, they needed to talk. Andy needed to explain.
She swallowed once, twice, and then bit the bullet.
"No." Miranda's head snapped back. She stared at Andy coldly. "No," she repeated softly.
"You will not talk." Miranda's voice was precise and deadly. "You will, however, be in my suite at 7.30 tomorrow morning, clean, sober and properly attired. You will arrange for our flight back home as previously discussed. You will continue to fulfill your duties conscientiously for next two weeks, as any other marginally responsible adult. Then," she turned back to the window, dismissing Andy from her thoughts and her life, "I want you gone."
Each word felt like a slap on her face. The street lights blurred through the tears. She would not cry. She would not.
The car slid smoothly at the glittering entrance of the Plaza Athenee. Miranda glided out before the driver could even open his door. He scrambled quickly to Andy's side, trying to attend to at least one of them. Andy automatically made to get out, when she remembered her hotel. She slumped back, defeated.
"Um, Pierre, if you could take me to…"
Miranda, who already took a step towards the entrance, turned and stared at her, disbelievingly.
Andy shrunk back.
"Um. I checked out. I'm in another hotel… a.. a.. Bonne nuit, I think."
The driver sniffed disparagingly. Miranda's mannerisms seemed to be infectious.
"It is cozy," she defended weakly.
One eyebrow raised, Miranda ran her eyes slowly over Andy's bedraggled figure, the shivering shoulders, the black pants plastered to her shins. Without bothering to comment, Miranda jerked her chin in direction of the hotel.
The elevator ride took two painfully long, silent minutes. By the time they arrived to the top floor, even the lift boy was twitching with nerves.
In the suite, Miranda pointed her to the sofa and disappeared in the bedroom. Andy stood numbly, staring morosely at the golden cushions. She probably shouldn't sit down, drenched as she was. Miranda reappeared, only to carelessly toss silk pajamas on the armchair. Departing again, she threw the instruction over her shoulder.
"Use the complimentary toiletries in the bathroom."
"Miranda, I apologize for leaving like that," Andy blurted desperately to her retreating back, but Miranda merely continued walking.
"That's all." She softly closed the door behind her.