The first fantasy she had about Miranda was quite ordinary, and she told herself it was a fantasy about the job. In it, a major emergency cropped up at the magazine, something to do with a feature story and a large chunk of text that had gone missing hours before deadline. It was late in the evening, everyone else had gone home, and Miranda needed the text now. So she called Andy in and gave her the assignment - the first writing assignment she'd ever given Andy, and the first time her prose would ever appear in a major magazine. They'd sit at Miranda's desk and Miranda would go over the story with her, what the angle was, which advertisers were in focus, what details to highlight - what Miranda needed from her. She'd listen attentively, ask intelligent questions, and then take it back to her desk and churn out a fantastic story in record time. Miranda would see how closely she'd been paying attention to everything that went on at the magazine, how much she'd learned, how well she could capture and hold the reader's attention. Miranda would see she was someone special. She'd give a slight lift of her eyebrow, say "Thank you, Andrea." And sometime soon, when the soup hit the fan again, she'd call on Andy to do more writing.
Sometimes it was a feature on lingerie that they were talking about, heads bent together over the mockup. But that didn't mean anything. Andy liked lingerie.
The second fantasy she had about Miranda was a little more off-key. She'd show up at Miranda's house in the evening to drop off the book, and she'd hear Miranda call her from the sitting room - "Andréa." (Andy loved the way Miranda pronounced her name, the long e, the French emphasis. Andréa was a different person than Andy the cheerful lit-geek, Andrea the hopeful supplicant peddling dogeared freelance pitches to various magazines: someone sophisticated, someone with perfect makeup and a smooth walk, someone who turned heads in the street and couldn't be bothered to notice. Andy supposed Andréa was the one her friends didn't like, but that didn't stop her from feeling a frisson every time Miranda called the name.) Tentatively, she'd follow Miranda's voice, find her watching television. Miranda would mute the TV, doing Andy the courtesy of giving her her full attention, and then explain that someone (the name varied) was supposed to drop something (the item varied) off shortly, and she needed Andy to bring it somewhere (ditto). Andy would agree - absolutely, Miranda, that's no problem at all - and would begin to head back into the hallway to sit in one of the chairs there and wait. "Where are you going?" Miranda would ask. "Oh - I thought I'd wait out -" she'd begin to explain, and Miranda would cut her off, brusque as usual. "For heaven's sake, sit yourself down in here. Unless you have an objection to my choice of programming, of course." Andy would reply of course she didn't, and she'd seat herself in one of the armchairs (even in fantasy she didn't dare share a couch with Miranda) as Miranda flicked the sound back on. The messenger delivering the whatever-it-was tended to be delayed quite a bit in this fantasy, and so they'd sit and watch television together, mostly silently. Sometimes, in her bolder moods, Andy would offer a cogent comment or two on the program, and Miranda would nod slowly.
Somehow she could never nail down what it was that they were watching. She'd always had a hard time imagining Miranda doing normal-person things - watching television, reading a novel, laughing with her family. She thought this was part of why this fantasy was so intriguing. It was strange, working with someone so very many hours every week and knowing next to nothing of who they really were. (Because Andy was quite certain that the Dragon Lady was no more the whole of Miranda than Andréa was the whole of Andy herself.) She would turn it over in her mind, trying to decide what Miranda would watch in the evenings, what pastimes she would enjoy. These musings were never without a creeping flush of guilt, a sense of trespass. Late at night, just before she fell asleep and her thoughts wandered most freely, the curiosity and the sense of trespass seemed to blend into one aversive/attractive notion, and she would find herself simultaneously cringing over the horrific night when she'd brought the book upstairs and wishing she'd taken a good look at the bookshelves while she was up there. She wanted to know what Miranda read.
The third fantasy that she had about Miranda was strange, bewildering, and she tended to indulge in it with a firm sense of shutting down her mental censor. In it, Miranda handed her a list of errands to run, and the last one was a trip to Good Vibrations. Miranda needed her to pick up some sex toys. When Andy had first come up with this fantasy she'd thought of it with a casual smirk, passing it off as a wry reflection on the kinds of crazy tasks Miranda handed her every day. She still smirked about it when she remembered to think about it that way, but somehow, the fantasy stayed - and kept getting more and more detailed - after the smirk had faded. She'd mentally sift through the options - which sex toys would Miranda buy? - in much the same way she'd sift through which television programs Miranda might like. Sometimes she pored through the Good Vibrations catalogue online to check out the options, although she was quite clear that that was just for herself (and Nate, naturally) and had nothing to do with Miranda. She told herself she wasn't fantastizing about Miranda using them, of course, and if she dreamed about that she laughed at herself for concocting such silly fantasies as she was falling asleep and giving herself such silly dreams. And then she'd go about work the next day with heated cheeks and a slight sensation of heightened friction between her legs. She supposed she ought to have her pants tailored soon. They didn't seem to fit quite right around the crotch, rubbing the way they did.
Over time these fantasies began to find prime placement in her thoughts, drifting lazily through her mind in all sorts of odd situations. Others developed, shorter, hazier, weird pockets of weirder imaginings about the Miranda behind the designer clothes. So to speak. As Paris approached everything heated up, and the obsession got so intense it almost scared her after Miranda asked her to go in Emily's stead (she'd protested twice as hard as she normally might about that, not so much because she felt guilty that Emily wasn't getting to go but because she felt guilty that she *wanted* to go so very much, and Emily be damned). She'd be staying in a hotel with Miranda; they'd probably be in adjoining rooms. In the night she'd hear what Miranda was up to (would Elliot be there overnight? Would she hear - never mind.) They'd confer about work in the space where Miranda was living, her personal belongings strewn about the room. During the day Andy wondered what books might be on the nightstand. During the night she wondered what Good Vibes products might be in the nightstand.
And then they'd been in Paris, and everything went topsy-turvy: the wish fulfillment so dizzying to start with, the chances she didn't take and the mistakes she made so painful, and somehow she walked away with no job and a mind swamped in waves of moral outrage that couldn't quite drown her regrets. She wasn't like Miranda (though was that really such a bad thing to be? An iconic career woman, gorgeous and unabashedly ambitious?) - what Miranda had done to Nigel had been horrible (but what did that have to do with Andy? What did she owe him? Would *he* have quit if Miranda had treated *her* shabbily?) - if she kept the job she'd lose her soul (to *what*? A woman who treated the business world as business, who knew how to separate her emotions from her profession? Wasn't it the height of sexism to expect Miranda to be some sort of nurturing mother figure to her employees, always putting their needs in front of her own?) - oh, God, she'd had to leave! She'd had to.
And so she'd gone back to Nate, and she'd apologized, as she was sure good old nice-girl Andy would do. She'd been living in some wild dream for months now, and it had gotten unmanageable, had come close to changing everything she'd ever known herself to be. It was time to be good old nice-girl Andy again. She'd move to Boston with Nate - maybe she'd freelance long-distance, maybe she'd find a job with one of the papers down there. She'd make up with Lily. She'd get her appetite back and learn to like grilled cheese sandwiches made with Jarlsberg again. Everything would be exactly the way it was meant to be.
It's six months later that she runs into Miranda. In Toys in Babeland. Since she and Nate split, Andy's become a more discriminating connoisseur of sex shops than she'd once been.
She actually runs into Miranda literally, as befits her usual sangfroid. She's on her way out, Miranda's on her way in, and while neither of them winds up on the floor, Andy's bag of goodies does. A bunny vibe bounces under a table; a copy of Curve magazine hits Miranda's shoe. Flustered, Andy goes after the vibe, then reconsiders, turns back for the magazine, and winds up eye-to-eye with Miranda, who'd reached down to pick it up for her. She snatches it with a garbled thank you, stands up, remembers the vibe, and drops to her knees to crawl under the table for it, much too aware of her upturned ass waving in Miranda's line of vision. Emerging from her crouch, vibe in hand, she smacks her head on the table. Oh God, oh God, oh God.
Miranda's cool as a cucumber, but when is she not? Andy doesn't have the faintest idea what to do. Chat pleasantly, as though they'd run into each other on an escalator in Bloomingdale's? Blurt out something about so nice to see you and oh god look at the time, then take off running out the door? Crawl back under the table and never come out? Die on the spot?
While she's stacking up the pros and cons of her various options, Miranda takes the lead. "Andréa. How nice to see you," she says, all public-Miranda mannered elegance. Andy's surprised that she merits the public Miranda, but decides to go with it. "Oh. Oh. Hi! Miranda. Hi." At least her own brilliant wit remains undimmed.
"I'm surprised to see you in New York. I'd been under the impression you'd left us for greener pastures."
Andy laughs, which is fine, but then she keeps laughing, which isn't. She tries to stop laughing. She *will* stop laughing. "Greener? Oh, no. I -" What is with the giggles? Stop it with the giggles. "No, no. I..." She what? "I did go. But I came back. It wasn't..." Wasn't what? "Wasn't for me," she finishes finally.
"I'm sorry to hear it."
She's in a sex shop talking to Miranda Priestley. She's - what is Miranda doing here? All those months of wondering what she'd - "Why? I mean - I'm sorry. I'm sorry?"
"Well, it was my understanding that you'd moved to Boston with your boyfriend. Perhaps I was mistaken?" It's amazing how ostentatiously Miranda manages *not* to look at Andy's bag and its belatedly-hidden copy of Curve.
"Oh." Suddenly Andy doesn't feel like laughing anymore. "No, that's right. It's just - he's my ex now."
"Don't be," Andy says, without having realized she was going to say it.
Miranda inclines an eyebrow.
"He and I - it wasn't right." Andy wants to continue, but she pauses to let Miranda assemble the "that's all" face. Somehow, though, it doesn't show up. And now the words are spilling out of her, bizarre and inappropriate as they are in this setting. "We got together when we were in college, and - he was expecting something different from me. The job..." Miranda still hasn't pulled the "that's all" face. "He thought I was changing. And maybe I was," she says. "The clothes, the shoes... he was right. The Andy he knew never cared about that stuff. It was just that - well, he figured it made me shallow, caring about it, and... he didn't understand."
Miranda's eyes travel over Andy's outfit, slowly. Andy's glad the labels are all good.
"It was about the job," she blurts suddenly. "I was good at it. And I liked it. I liked the clothes, but it wasn't about drinking the Kool-Aid. It's about presenting yourself on the outside to show you respect yourself on the inside. It's about looking at cut and color and style and being proud that you know how to see what's unique in them. And it's about the work. It's about respecting yourself because you know you're good at your job, respecting yourself because you know that you're working hard and growing and learning from your mistakes and becoming someone new... He didn't want the someone new, but I did. She's me. And... in the end, she was more important to me than him. He," she corrects herself hurriedly.
Miranda's been studying her intently. "Well," she says finally, and damned if there's not a small smile flickering at the corners of her mouth. "I'm proud of you, Andréa."
Andy can't believe how much it means to her to hear that.
"You know what always surprised me when you left," Miranda says. Andy knows better than to answer Miranda's rhetorical questions; she waits it out. "You gave your Paris clothes to Emily."
"Oh - yeah. Well, in Boston I didn't have anywhere to wear them."
Miranda shakes her head slowly. "They were made to fit you."
Andy lets a beat pass. "I know."
The room's wavering oddly around them, dissolving out of Andy's peripheral vision. It's the effect of Miranda's words: "Perhaps we could discuss this further over dinner, Andréa. Runway hasn't been the same since you left."
"I -" What's wrong with her? She's shaking. Violently. Her vision's breaking up. Is she actually passing out? What -
"Andy." One more shake and the room dissolves completely. "Earth to Andy. Feel like joining the land of the living today?"
Nate's face looming in front of her, filling her line of vision. For a moment she's so dazed - and so very close to heartbroken - that she can't find a thing to say.
"You up? You're running late." He swings out of the bed, ambling naked toward the kitchen. "You were out cold."
"I was," Andy says, stunned.
"You want eggs? Toast? I picked up a loaf of nice multigrain at the restaurant last night."
"I - no. Not hungry," she says. Her voice sounds odd and strained to her, but he doesn't pick up on it.
"Okay. Your loss."
"Yeah, it is," she murmurs, as he cracks an egg against a pan. He doesn't hear her.
As Nate's eggs sizzle in the kitchen, Andy flops back on the pillow and wonders how she's going to do what she needs to do now.