Thanks everyone. I really appreciate your continuous support! This chapter was hard for me to write, since it deals with a tough topic, but I hope that it is real and accurate in the information. It could be emotional triggering.
Before Miranda even woke up, she knew the brunette was gone. The sheets beside her were still warm, yet empty. A spark of hope remained that Andrea would be downstairs, fixing her coffee, but somehow, Miranda knew that it was a futile desire. She remained in bed with her eyes shut, trying to sate the indescribable ache in her heart.
"Oh Andrea," she whispered and rolled over with her hand pressed tightly against her breast.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Lily asked, glancing over to her best friend as she drove.
"No," Andrea bit her lip and stared out the window.
"Alright," Lily let the subject drop.
Something was terribly wrong with the brunette, and although she was incredibly concerned, she didn't want to push it. The drive was quiet and terse, since Lily didn't know what to say to make her friend feel better. Andrea looked like crap when Lily pulled up in front of her apartment earlier that morning. Her eyes were red-rimmed, she didn't have any makeup on, and her clothes were thrown on haphazardly. Andrea barely muttered a 'hi' before she completely shut down and curled up with her back facing Lily.
Why did I do it? Why? were the only thoughts running through Andrea's mind as she stared at the snowy world of New York pass by.
"Hey, we're here," Lily said gently, rousing Andrea from her desolate thoughts.
"Right," Andrea mumbled, unbuckling her seatbelt.
Lily sighed and got out of her car and locked it after making sure Andrea was out. They made their way towards the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's entrance. Before entering though, Andrea grabbed Lily's arm.
"Hey, thank you for taking me," Andrea's large brown eyes searched Lily's, "I'm sorry for my mood. I just want you to know that I'm incredibly grateful."
"Of course honey," Lily gently squeezed Andrea's arm, mindful of her easy bruising. "I'm always here for you."
"I can't tell you how much that means to me," Andrea smiled through her watery eyes. She sniffed and wiped them away quickly. "Ready?"
Lily didn't respond. She linked her arm with Andrea's, giving her both physical and emotional support the brunette needed.
Through a hazy fog, Miranda walked to her kitchen, sliding an earring in as she pondered Andrea's absence. Steeling her heart, she opened her enormous fridge and stared at its contents. Nothing looked good. Angrily, she whipped out her iPhone and dialed a number.
"Andre-" Miranda choked over the name, "Get me coffee. I will be in the office in twenty minutes. That's all."
She hung up on her tired assistant and rubbed her temples. Why had she slept with the silly girl? She had pushed too far, but Andrea seemed willing. She hadn't...raped her, had she? Miranda gasped aloud. Wait. Andrea had wanted to! She had initiated some contact...right? Miranda growled. Never in her life had she been so happy to slide into her comfy Mercedes Benz and drive away to a life where she could hide behind her icy mask.
Andrea laid on her side with a blue cloth draped over her body. She had gotten her blood pressure and heart taken, along with her weight, height, and other various necessities. The anesthesia had been administered, and now Andrea couldn't feel anything in her hip area. 'Too bad that it didn't take away the pain in my heart,' Andrea thought cynically.
"Can you feel this?" a doctor asked and pressed his fingers against the top ridge on the back of her hipbone.
"No," Andrea replied shortly.
"Alright, we're going to insert a needle in your hip, and you might feel some discomfort. When we pull some of the bone marrow out though, you will feel a brief sharp pain or stinging. Don't hesitate to cry or scream or whatever you need to do to alleviate your pain," the doctor explained.
"Mmkay," Andrea grunted.
"Here we go."
The doctor was right. Andrea couldn't tell when he put the hollow needle in her hip, but when he injected the syringe into her bone marrow and pulled back on the plunger, it hurt like hell. She inhaled sharply and squeezed her eyes tightly. Her hands fumbled to grasp something she could grip onto, and her trembling fingers found the edge of the table she was on. As Andrea clutched it tightly, the doctor drew a sample of the liquid portion of the bone marrow into the needle and pulled the needle back out. A blonde nurse applied pressure on the site where Andrea was bleeding while the doctor emptied the needle into a tube.
"We need a couple more samples," the doctor said. "But you're doing great. Is there anything we can get you?"
"No, thank you," Andrea said through gritted teeth.
The second sample hurt less, since Andrea's mind and heart wandered back to Miranda, so her emotional pain was greater than her physical discomfort. And during the third sample, her mind had numbed her body enough, she could barely feel a thing.
"Great job," the doctor said in a comforting tone. "Amy here," he gestured to the nurse, "is going to apply pressure to your hip for about 10-15 minutes, and then she will put a bandage on it. You can go home after that. Do you have a ride since you were under anesthesia?"
"Yes I do," Andrea replied.
"Okay, the biopsy results should be in a few days. In the meantime, just go around your normal activity as soon as you feel up to it. You will have tenderness for a week or more, so take tylenol for the pain as needed. I see that you had the lump on your neck tested as well," the doctor said, checking his sheets.
"I did," Andrea swallowed. "I also had my blood drawn, and both came up positive for lymphoma."
"This bone marrow biopsy should give you a diagnosis for what stage you are in and the options you have," the doctor adjusted his glasses. "Keep your chin up and stay strong."
"Thank you doctor," Andrea gave him one of her best smiles, although she was feeling god-awful.
He blushed, nodded once, and exited the room.
"Just tell me if I'm hurting you honey," Amy cooed in an annoying voice as she pressed firmly down on the cloth.
Andrea didn't reply, for the throbbing ache in her hip would never hold a candle to the pain in her heart.
Miranda's sharp eyes scanned over the new layout, and she clucked her tongue disapprovingly. She was sitting in a business meeting with a bunch of imbeciles, had a splitting headache, and was in the worst mood possible.
"My my, are there no more new ideas?" Miranda said in a silky voice. "I thought I hired the best."
"We thought that along with the spread for Andrea Sachs we could put a spread for other things that are receiving Oscar buzz," Emily spoke up.
"No," Miranda said shortly.
"Well how about fur?" Emily timidly tried again.
"Fur? For winter?" she fixed Emily with an ice cold glare that made the redhead wilt. Before Miranda could make her ex-assistant cry, Nigel quickly intervened.
"How about we take a break," Nigel glanced quickly at Miranda who pursed her lips, "and reconvene in about 20 minutes?"
Everyone all but bolted for the door, leaving the bald-headed Design Editor alone with the Devil.
"Miranda, what's wrong?" Nigel rubbed his forehead. "You've shot down every single idea that anyone has suggested. Some of them weren't even bad."
"No one had any good ideas," Miranda bit out. "And did you hear Emily's? Fur?"
"We both know that you would have approved Jocelyn's idea with the concept of global warming affecting New York," Nigel said, "even if you didn't like Emily's. So I will ask again. What's wrong?"
Miranda swiveled her chair so she was facing away from him. "I slept with her," she murmured so quietly Nigel almost didn't hear her.
Nigel did a double take. "What?"
"You heard me."
He took off his glasses and nervously wiped them clean on his shirt. "S-six?" he stammered. "My God Miranda. I knew I was teasing her yesterday, but I didn't know she would take my ridicule seriously."
"Excuse me?" Miranda rotated her chair so fast, Nigel thought it was a miracle that her head didn't pop off.
"Um," he said meekly. "I may have insinuated that something was going on between you two."
"So she didn't even want to," Miranda mumbled more to herself than Nigel.
"No! I didn't say that," Nigel's forehead creased. "Andy wanted to. She confessed, and I made it worse by teasing her relentlessly about it. Apparently she took my advice the right way and decided to go for it."
"What kind of 'advice' did you give her?" Miranda practically hissed between her teeth.
"I didn't really say anything," Nigel held up his hands in mock surrender. "All I told her was that a certain Editor may have the same feelings for her."
Miranda flopped ungraciously back on her chair and rubbed her tired eyes. The unexpected change in her demeanor startled Nigel. Instead of the strong, independent fashion icon Nigel had known for the last 10 years, a tired woman with a broken heart was left in her wake.
"Well after we...uh," she turned red, "explored our feelings, she left me high and dry this morning. I feel like a fool. I practically groveled at her feet to give us a chance, and then, after I had laid my heart out on the line, she left me." Miranda just couldn't bring herself to speak her name. It hurt too much. "I thought we were perfect for each other," she breathed out.
"And she left? Just like that?" Nigel rested his forearm on the table and bent his arm at the elbow to rest his chin in his palm. "That doesn't sound like Andy."
"Well apparently she had a change of heart," Miranda sniffed, trying to appear aloof.
"No, something probably happened," Nigel tried to reason.
"I don't know," he said helplessly. "Maybe she had a family emergency? Or one of her friends had an emergency? Or maybe she forgot that her iron was on and she wanted to rush back before it burned her apartment down?"
"Those are the worst suggestions I have ever heard," Miranda said, torn between laughing and crying. "Besides, she didn't even leave a note. She hasn't called. She hasn't emailed."
"Have you reached out to her?" Nigel asked.
"No," Miranda admitted. She played with the bracelets on her wrist. "It...hurts too much. What if she rejects me? I won't be able to survive."
"You deserve to know the truth," Nigel pushed. "Whether it may be that she did have an emergency to attend to, or whether she just left because she's a-"
"Don't finish that sentence," Miranda's eyes flashed dangerously.
Gulping, Nigel continued, "Sorry. I meant if she does not share your affections, then you will know for certain."
Miranda didn't respond for a long time. Nigel awkwardly fiddled with his multiple rings as he waited nervously for her response.
"Cancel the meeting," Miranda finally said softly. "Tell Jocelyn that her idea about global warming is fine for the upcoming issue. She will make the acceptable arrangements."
"Okay," Nigel pushed back his chair and stood up.
Making his way over to the door, he paused when he heard Miranda mumble something.
"Pardon?" he asked with his hand on the door handle.
"Thank you," Miranda said quietly.
Nigel just nodded and slipped out the door. As soon as he was gone, Miranda dialed a number she knew by heart and prayed for the best.
Andrea grimaced as she slowly hobbled to her kitchen chair. She was leaning heavily on Lily, and they both were panting and sweating from the exertion it took to get out of the car, walk to the door of Andrea's apartment, and climb the stairs.
"Easy does it!" Lily cautioned as she gently lowered the injured brunette onto the chair.
"Whew, thanks," Andrea breathed heavily as she collapsed onto the seat.
"No problem. Do you need anything?" Lily asked.
"Mmm, no thanks," Andrea winced as she shifted in her chair.
"Are you sure?" Lily prodded. "How about some lunch? I can run down to Subway or something and get you a sandwich if you're hungry."
"Are you sure?" Andrea raised an eyebrow.
"Of course! I know you probably want your usual," Lily grabbed Andrea's apartment keys and opened the door again. "Ciao! I'll be right back."
She left before Andrea could get a word in edgewise. Chuckling at her friend's thoughtfulness, Andrea found her thoughts once again returning to Miranda. She sighed in frustration, anger, and helplessness.
Startled out of her musings, Andrea jumped slightly and fumbled around in her pants pocket for her cell phone. Not bothering to check the id, she flipped it open.
"Hello?" she said breathlessly.
"Andrea," came that cool and slick voice that Andrea so desperately craved and feared.
"M-miranda," she squeaked.
"I do believe that you left rather abruptly this morning," Miranda's voice shook a little at the end, but she pushed on. "Might I have an explanation why?"
'She gets straight to the point,' Andrea thought as she panicked trying to think of an explanation.
"Uh..." she trailed off.
"Always so eloquent," Andrea could practically feel Miranda rolling her eyes. "I need to know something Andrea."
"Yes?" she gulped.
"Do you or don't you have feelings for me?" Miranda held her breath.
Andrea made the hardest decision of her life in about two seconds. "No. I do not have feelings for you." As soon as she said the dreaded words, her throat seemed to close up and her tear ducts prickled.
She heard Miranda inhale sharply and then in a cold and icy tone, she said, "I see. I hope I was a good fuck. Good bye Andrea."
And Andrea was left frozen in shock at her kitchen counter, listening to a dead end.
Miranda stormed out of her office and barely paused at her assistant's desk to rattle off her instructions. "If Roy is not here in 5 minutes, you both will be jobless. When you bring the Book tonight, leave Andrea Sach's photos on the printer. Do not bring them with you. Call my ex-husband and tell him I changed my mind-I want the twins with me for this weekend. That's all."
While the poor assistant was struggling to remember everything, the Editor snatched her coat and purse and strode angrily down the hallway to the elevators. Once she was in the privacy and comfort of the elevator, she allowed herself to weep a few tears before wiping them away determinedly and shoving her Prada sunglasses on her face. Wrapping her coat tightly around her-almost like a shield-she marched out of the doors of Elias-Clarke and into the warmth of her Mercedes where Roy was dutifully waiting for her.
When Miranda arrived at her home, she shrugged off her coat, dumped her purse in a chair, and walked furiously to her kitchen. Pouring herself a large glass of gin, she added vermouth, pinched the bridge of her nose, and took a big swig of the nasty-tasting drink. She shuddered as the hard liquor slid down her throat. Pausing to cough violently, Miranda repeated the action twice before backing off. After all, her girls were coming, and it would be unfit to have an intoxicated mother.
When Lily returned, she found Andrea in the same exact position she had left her, although this time, the brunette's eyes were wide in shock, and her mouth was slightly parted. Dropping the Subway bag on the floor, Lily hurried to her friend and embraced her. That seemed to turn Andrea's waterworks on.
"S-s-she deserves so much better than me!" Andrea blubbered. "It's not fair to her if I try and pursue anything. It's just not fair."
"I know honey," Lily murmured soothingly into Andrea's ear. "Shh, it's going to be alright."
"It's not fair. It's not fair," Andrea kept repeating.
"Shh," Lily placed a kiss at the crown of Andrea's forehead and stroked her hair. "You're going to be fine. Everything will turn out for the better."
"I'm going to die," Andrea whispered. "I can't be in a relationship with her. It's just not fair."
"Honey, don't say that. You are strong. You are going to make it," Lily's eyes filled with tears and her body shook with silent sobs.
She didn't even question who 'she' was. Much like Nigel, they both knew exactly who their anguished friends were talking about. All Lily could do was hold her best friend gently and breathe soothing words of comfort into her ear. After Andrea's twitches and shudders subsided, Lily tenderly disentangled herself.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Lily asked.
Andrea looked down, hiding her puffy, red eyes. "I'm not sure if I can."
"Does this have something to do with Miranda?"
Bursting into fresh sobs, Andrea responded, "It has everything to do with Miranda."
And so she relayed the past two days to Lily.
"I left her Lil," Andrea sniffed. "Without a note, without anything."
"Why don't you just tell her the truth?" Lily asked.
"I have cancer," Andrea wiped her eyes. "She shouldn't have to go through that. You shouldn't have to go through that."
Lily's own heart was breaking at her friend's attempt to save the woman she loved from getting hurt. "Andy, I love you. I'm your best friend. Of course I'm going to stand by you and support you during this time of crisis! And if Miranda loves you too," she pushed on, despite Andrea's gasp of shock, "I'm 100% positive that she will support you too."
"What if I die?" Andrea said hollowly. "Then what? What's going to happen to her? What's going to happen to you?"
"We will mourn and grieve, but ultimately, we will be thankful that we got to spend the last years of your life with you. You are so special Andy, and I am honored to have a friend like you," Lily spoke with feeling and soon both friends were sobbing again.
"I can't talk to her now though," Andrea cried. "She just accused me of sleeping with her because she was a 'good fuck'. How am I going to tell her? I can't just pick up the phone and say, 'Oh hi Miranda. I love you, and I'm extremely sorry, but I have cancer. That's why I made love with you and left you. Sorry!'"
"You deserve happiness Andrea Sachs," Lily gently squeezed Andrea's arm.
Leaving her hand on the pale arm, Lily cried along with her best friend at the unfairness of it all. The sandwiches lay forgotten as the two women shared their pain.