Andy had timed it perfectly. She simply had to wait for the inevitable Starbucks run. The moment a distraught second assistant ran out of the Elias Clarke, she slipped into the building. She waved enthusiastically to Carl, the security guard she used to chat with, and he cheered back, unsuspecting.
The next moment, she was in the elevator, hugging her package close.
At the glass entrance to the front office, she stopped to observe the remaining assistant. She waited for a phone to ring. One, two…ah. The moment the girl answered, Andy drew a huge breath, and then, ignoring a terrified squeak behind her back, sprinted all the way into Miranda's office.
"Hi!" she said cheerfully.
"What-" Miranda stared at Andy in disbelief.
"Miranda!" The assistant rushed in. "I'm so sorry, I didn't-"
"Go away." Miranda said, her eyes never leaving Andy's.
Was it really too late?
Then, Miranda turned her glare on the assistant. "Are you deaf?"
A mumbled apology later, the door closed leaving them alone.
They stared at each other, tense and unmoving.
Finally, Miranda swiped her glasses away and gave her a measured look. "Do take your time, Andrea."
"I've decided to move on," Andrea handed her a package. Her hand shook only slightly. "So I'm returning your things."
For a very brief, almost invisible moment, Miranda looked stricken. A twitch of the lips, a slant of her eyes. If Andy weren't looking for the signs, she'd never even noticed them. In a blink, a familiarly cold, collected expression reappeared.
"How lovely for you," Miranda said coolly. "Whatever makes you think I care?"
"It wasn't healthy, wallowing like that," Andy continued as if Miranda hadn't spoken. Miranda's unconscious clasp on the once pristine newspaper was far more telling than her words, anyway.
Miranda leaned back in her chair. "From obituaries to instant self-help. How quaint."
"Perhaps," Andy laughed. It was invigorating, doing the reckless thing. Taking the chance. Her world might never tilt back, but she wouldn't want the axis realigned anyway. She liked seeing Miranda from this new perspective. More important, she liked herself.
Miranda eyes widened. When was the last time someone let out a real laugh in this office?
Miranda's lips thinned.
"Have lunch with me?" Andy said quickly, over Miranda's imminent insult.
Miranda froze, mouth half opened. She narrowed her eyes. Andy resisted the ingrained instinct to cringe.
It was only fitting, Andy thought. A familiar tableau at the end of the road. They were facing each other just like that first day in the office.
Then, she was a blundering lamb, blissfully unaware of the danger, or of the proper ways of treating the lions in their dens.
Now, she taunted fully aware of consequences.
"Dinner, then?" Andy asked, undaunted. She never dropped her gaze from Miranda's, bravely staring her down. One way or the other, this would be resolved today.
"Why should I?" Miranda raised her eyebrow.
"A follow up story, of course." Andy tilted her head, smirking. Who's afraid now? "Aren't you curious at all how it would turn out?"
Miranda shook her head in apparent amazement – at Andy's idiocy? – then looked down at the newspaper on her desk, seemingly losing interest in the conversation.
Just like the first day.
Ignored in lieu of the Sports page.
Well. It was a gamble from the beginning. But at least she tried. Never let it be said again Andy Sachs lacked a spine.
She turned to leave.
"Meet me at seven at that new place," Miranda said. "And send Janice in on your way out."
It was a full month and six dates later, after Andy had finally managed to land a first real kiss, tongue and teeth and all, that she dared to ask the question again.
Miranda, her face flushed, her hair mussed up, still managed to look haughty when she answered.
"Even you should know by now, that in arts, the technique is as important as the subject."
With a sudden clarity, Andy realized Lily and Miranda would most probably become quite good friends.
If they didn't claw each other's eyes out first.
But then she forgot about Lily, because Miranda was touching her again, tracing her eyebrow with her fingertips.
She bit her lip and finally said, "Would you believe, there was nothing else of yours that I owned?"
A/N I've stumbled upon The Museum of Broken Relationships by accident, but itis real and touring all the time (although there is a permanent display as well in Zagreb, Croatia). Google it – it's an interesting, and, occasionally, strangely uplifting concept. I've changed some of the facts for this story (for example, a total anonymity of participants) and even, somewhat, its general idea.
I apologize to the artists for that.