Dinner Out

Apr. 16th, 2010 11:39 pm
chainofclovers: (dvl)
[personal profile] chainofclovers
Title: Dinner Out
Fandom: The Devil Wears Prada (film)
Pairing: Miranda/Andy, Nigel/OMC
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to The Devil Wears Prada.
Summary: Nigel is observant.
Author's Note: In June 2009, I requested some prompts to unstick my writing. [livejournal.com profile] somniesperus said, "'Cosmopolitan.' (Can be the drink, the magazine, or the state of mind; lady's choice.)" [livejournal.com profile] baggers said, "...location: wardrobe." So, I wrote, and in July I sent [livejournal.com profile] pin_drop my draft of a story about Nigel and Miranda's friendship. She did a fantastic job editing it. Then I sat on it, for many months, distracted by other projects and frustrated by a lack of direction. Now I've finally finished. Many thanks to my prompters and especially to my editor!



Nigel always mixed the drinks at his parties. He had a gift for cocktails, a talent for measuring ingredients quickly, coming up with creative garnishes, and striking the perfect balance between bitter and tart and sweet. He loved the sound of drinking words, too, the slippery way they rolled off the tongue. Gin Sling. Grenadine. Vermouth. Cosmopolitan.

Not that he had time for parties (other than benefits) and alcohol (other than whatever trendy cocktail some snooty waiter was serving up) and vocabulary (other than bias-cut or couturier) all that often. He wondered if there’d be more time now that he was through with Runway, though he was going to need quite a while to get used to his new job before allowing himself too much in the way of relaxation.

Runway, with its bright colors and piles of accessories, was designed to look like a party. Often, flipping through its pages, Nigel stared at the models’ deliberate faces and was reminded of uncertain party guests with their studied disaffectedness. But after a couple of decades of working there, Runway had started to feel more like a hangover. He never stopped loving it, despite all the exhaustion and disappointment and Miranda’s endless demands, but he badly needed a change. He needed to own his creativity again, to feel like he personally was affecting some real part of how the world looked and felt. When a position opened up as the fashion editor at Scope, a brand new art and culture magazine, he spent a few days lost in thought before he startled from his foolish waking slumber and applied. The first man hired for the job hadn't worked out, there wasn't much time before the release of their first issue, and the challenge was appealing.

Miranda hardly said anything when he approached her desk a few weeks later and told her he’d gotten the job. She’d nodded once, muttered “Good,” and returned to her newspaper. The syllable might have contained relief. On the flight back from Paris six months prior, she’d quietly promised to pay him back for ruining his future at James Holt. Still, Nigel thought they both preferred that this was a job he’d gotten himself. Miranda had provided a reference, of course—even she could see that she really didn’t have much of a choice—but Scope hired him on the merits of his own work at Runway rather than his impressive ability to work under her.

That kind of recognition felt good, and he wanted to share that goodness with friends. Even, in spite of himself, with Miranda. So he threw a party the Saturday night before his first week at Scope and hoped she would come, telling himself that it didn’t matter if she did or didn’t because his other friends—trustworthy friends, with whom he enjoyed far less complicated friendships—would be there.

She did. She arrived late, but only fashionably so, and she arrived with Andy Sachs.

It killed him, as he poured drinks and picked music and looked debonair and tried to get caught in the swirl of his only weekend sans work in his remembered past or foreseeable future, that he couldn’t stop thinking about Miranda and Andy and how utterly weird it was that they were sitting on one of his white living room sofas, drinking the Tom Collinses he’d mixed for them and talking softly to each other.

“Oh, and she’ll have what I’m having,” Andy had said as she leaned against the kitchen counter, watching Nigel mix her drink. There was laughter in her voice, presumably at the humorousness of making a choice for Miranda, and her eyes kept darting away from the counter and back through the crowd mingling in the room behind her. It was obvious whom she sought out.

Nigel hadn’t invited Andy. It wasn’t that he didn’t like her, but they simply didn’t speak anymore, and hadn’t since Paris. She didn’t feel…important, or essential, at least not to him. He didn’t need her to know that he was moving on from Runway, any more than he needed to know if she’d really left because of him. Andy had made her choices just as Nigel had made his, and he could understand that without developing much of an appetite for the details.

Apparently, he supposed, Miranda felt differently. As the evening progressed, he speculated more than once on the possibility that Miranda had forced Andy here to prove to her that Nigel had a future and that she had done no irreparable damage to his career. He wondered if there was some kind of coercion involved. Still, Andy didn’t seem hurt that her invitation had come from Miranda rather than Nigel. And there didn’t appear to be anything particularly non-consensual about the way Andy had risen from the sofa and was chatting politely with Angela, Nigel’s cousin from Long Island, or anything fierce in the way that Miranda, still seated, accepted another drink from Angela’s husband.

There was a rich navy blue night outside, his apartment glowed with a drunken warmth, and out of everyone at the party the only person who seemed stressed out was Nigel himself. He grabbed a grape from the hors d’oeuvres table and popped it in his mouth, deciding as he chewed that now was not the time for an epiphany. He could wait until morning to figure out that for years now he’d been evaluating every move he made, every moment he witnessed, from two perspectives: his own and Miranda’s. He was going to make a quick trip to the bathroom to freshen up, and then he was going to walk right out to his balcony, where an absolutely charming (and single) friend of a friend was having a cigarette. He was going to indulge in some banter, flash a winning smile, and make a date if he was lucky.

“Nigel Kipling, Scope Magazine,” he muttered to himself as he splashed water onto his face. He frowned slightly, scrutinizing his reflection in the mirror. “Scope Magazine.”

Now for some fresh air—or at least a little secondhand smoke. The door to the balcony was in the hallway, just beyond the antique oaken wardrobe he’d rescued from a creepy estate sale a couple months before. It was a good conversation piece, mottled and imposing, and he’d taken pleasure in having his guests stash their coats and bags there during the party.

In hindsight, of course, he should have turned right around and walked away as soon as he saw two pairs of familiar ankles and feet peeking out from underneath the open door of the massive wardrobe. He should have, but he didn’t. Flight and fight got all mangled up in his brain with whiskey sour and maraschino cherry, and he ran right into the scene.

Later, when he really thought about it, he supposed the moment shocked him in part because of how utterly connected Miranda and Andy seemed, even though nothing risqué was going on. Something a bit more predictable wouldn’t have surprised him in the least. Miranda, older and more powerful, copping a feel. Andy, younger and eager to please, pleasuring Miranda without expecting her to reciprocate. But this looked innocent and oddly…mirrored. Matched. It was kind of sweet, the way they stood in front of the row of coats, their hands resting on each other’s shoulders, like this was a seventh grade dance and they’d both decided to be the girl. Their heads were tilted toward each other, poised for a kiss.

Nigel whirled around to walk back toward the party. Through the dizziness of his buzz and the sight before him, he suddenly couldn’t remember why he’d been in the hallway at all.

“Oh my God!” Andy said, and the words froze Nigel in place.

He looked at each of the women as they jerked away from each other. Andy, blushing and pushing her long hair behind her ears, grabbed both their jackets off of hangers while Miranda stood aside, stone faced and completely still. He felt, absurdly, like a child, younger than either of them and uncertain of exactly what he’d seen. Nigel tried to catch Miranda’s eye, knowing he could gauge what should be done if they could only exchange a look, but she was completely focused on Andy.

“Congratulations, Nigel,” Andy said, voice suddenly loud. “On the position at Scope. I’ll be sure to buy it when it comes out—hits the newsstands—um. Anyway. Good party.”

--

The next week, Andy called to let Nigel know that she was spending the morning in the building next door to his office, having scheduled a couple of interviews there for an article she was writing. “I’m half an hour early,” she explained over the phone. “Mind if I stop by and check out your new space?”

It was obvious she’d looked up the location of his office on the internet. Or maybe Miranda knew. “Sure,” he said. “Come on up.”

“Nice office,” she remarked, settling into the chair across from Nigel’s desk. Before he had a chance to thank her or mutter anything vaguely polite, her voice had dropped to a stage whisper and she barreled on. “I am so, so sorry for what happened at the party.”

“Sorry about what?” Nigel cracked. He’d had plenty of time for the surprise to sink in, and wanted to hear her be specific. Besides, it wasn’t like he’d caught them naked, or doing anything particularly scandalous. He’d developed a sense of humor about their embarrassment—Andy’s, Miranda’s, and his own.

Andy saw the joke for what it was, and smirked. “We just got carried away.”

“And how long have you been getting ‘carried away’?”

“Almost a month and a half. I would have told you, but—”

“You don’t need my permission.”

“I know. But I feel terrible—we haven’t talked in so long. I really have missed you.” She smiled. Nigel’s eyes roamed over the smoothness of her skin, her white teeth, the way her fingers played non-stop with the buckle on her very stylish leather briefcase. She’d always been lively, but she carried with her a particular vigor today, something he’d never noticed before. He concentrated, and realized the vigor belonged to Miranda. Energy, a little foreign and flighty, was the way Miranda did happiness, and now Andy had some of it too.

“And I’ve missed you,” he said quickly, having caught himself staring. “But things are good?”

“Yeah. The Mirror’s good—I’m getting assigned more stories, and these interviews should be pretty interesting. I mean, I’m interviewing investment bankers, so ‘interesting’ is obviously a relative term, but I’m excited about the piece.” Apparently, her excuse to visit Nigel was legit after all. She talked for awhile about her relatively new job, and asked all the right questions about his, but everything about her expression practically begged him to ask her about Miranda.

“She’s great,” Andy enthused when he finally did. “Things are great. I mean, the divorce is awful, and work is crazy—for both of us, especially her—and…we just don’t have a lot of time. But we make do with what we can scrounge together. Hence, um, the little surprise at the party.” She sighed. “I kind of feel bad, almost, because I know things would be simpler for her if I weren’t around, and—”

“Andy. Trust me, you shouldn’t feel guilty about any of this.” She had no idea, Nigel realized, how good she probably was for Miranda, how glad Miranda must have been to have her around.

She shrugged and grinned. “I know, I just—she doesn’t need anything else right now. Another weird thing. But it’s happening.”

“You care about her.”

Andy nodded solemnly. When she opened her mouth, the words that came out were nothing he could have anticipated. “We both had appendicitis on the exact same weekend in June 2003.”

Nigel laughed. “How’d you get on that subject?”

Color shot to Andy’s cheeks, and a topless vision replaced the confusion in Nigel’s mind. “Oh.”

--

Nigel found himself sitting at his desk at just past nine o’clock p.m. on the day Andy visited him, photos from a recent shoot scattered across his desk. Technically, there was very little keeping him there so late: he had to make only a few quick decisions before a production meeting the next morning. Chartreuse dress or fuchsia. Cryptic smile or one with teeth. And then a couple of final choices for a Balenciaga spread. He could’ve called it a night if only his mind would stop wandering away from fashion.

Of course, part of the appeal of Scope rested in its own wandering. It wasn’t strictly a fashion magazine, and Nigel liked that the staff was interested in applying concepts of fashion to a larger cultural context instead of the other way around, especially after so many years of working on a publication at which fashion was relevance itself. He liked being the office authority on “taste,” and liked that his editor-in-chief was kind of dorky, always making a show of adjusting his tie before entering Nigel’s office.

Still, the new job was hard, and he was lonely for the familiar. He hadn’t expected it to annoy him so much when his coworkers, progressive New Yorkers all, equated “the fashion guy” with “the gay guy” without stopping to consider what their assumptions implied. At a few weeks away from press time, the issue was taking on a clear shape, and Nigel already knew that his sections were going to overflow with trendy queer aesthetics and come up a little short on politics.

He missed Runway, a magazine that sold more products to rich straight women (among others) than Scope ever would, in no small part because he realized now that the strange comfort he’d felt there was a byproduct of working in a place where he was neither expected to come out nor to stay in. At Scope, his co-workers came out for him day after day, embarrassingly eager to prove their acceptance, and their redundant enthusiasm did little but remind him of how long he’d been without a boyfriend.

Miranda never tolerated a lot of chatter about relationships around the office, at least not any that took place within her earshot. Nigel missed her, too. Her edge, her quiet, their history.

He missed 1997 most of all. For much of that year, Miranda and Nigel had found themselves in relationships at the same time. In all the time they’d known each other, they’d never before been equally satisfied in matters of love or sex or security, and the evenness of the experience did wonders for their friendship.

The preceding years had been difficult for them both: Miranda’s father died in 1994, the twins were born in 1995, and she divorced the twins’ father in 1996 after discovering that the responsibility of fatherhood didn’t make him any more inclined toward fidelity. Mourn, birth, mourn. Nigel grew used to seeing Miranda exhausted, her eyes almost blank, when she arrived for work in the mornings. Runway always woke her up, though. The magazine didn’t suffer for a minute, and thanks to careful juggling on the part of Miranda and her ex-husband and a nanny, the girls didn’t suffer much either. Nigel considered his own discomfort during that time negligible, mostly: he worried a lot, and worked extra hours to keep Miranda from detecting any slack, from having one more reason to be unhappy. The only things Miranda seemed to care about were fashion and her toddlers. Lucky for Nigel, he cared about those things too. Sometimes, when Miranda wasn’t satisfied with the amount of work that had been accomplished in the office that day, she’d ask Nigel to come over at night. They’d work in the kitchen, the table spread with dozens of photos and stacks of paper, each holding a child.

Then, early in 1997, Miranda met Rachel, a history professor at NYU, and Nigel met Kevin, an off-Broadway theatre producer. Nigel and Miranda been tired for so long, and the suddenness of their happiness was startling.

And fun. The four of them went out to dinner sometimes, painstakingly rearranging the natural order of their arrivals and seating arrangements and departures so as to appear more heterosexual. They did it for laughs as much as anything else: by that point, Miranda was the only one among them for whom there was any real value in discretion. It was an amusing set-up: Nigel with his elegant butch girlfriend, Miranda with her suspiciously effeminate boyfriend.

Looking back on that time, Nigel could so clearly remember Kevin’s rare gentleness. It was unusual to meet a man who exuded as much warmth as Kevin did, from his curly auburn hair to the freckles that appeared on his face and arms that summer to his easy, delighted laughter.

Perhaps even more vividly, now, he remembered how Rachel—who favored white button-downs and faint cologne, who wore her dark hair very short and had the prettiest face—would tease Miranda with a skill Nigel had never been able to master. She teased her mercilessly, making fun of her greying hair or the most minute difference between their political beliefs or how her daughters were only two but she was already trying to figure out which kindergarten they would attend. “Tell me, Miranda,” she’d say for the benefit of the whole table, her deep brown eyes never leaving her girlfriend’s. “There’s only fifteen, maybe sixteen, years before their college apps are due. Harvard or Yale? Or one at each? Will they be able to handle the separation by that point? Don’t look at me like that—these are serious questions! You’ve got to start planning now. Has Cass made any progress on those essays? I sense she’s going to need more prodding than Caroline.” She’d go on and on, until Kevin and especially Nigel were tense with fear, waiting for Miranda to explode. It never happened. Miranda would frown, remove her hand from Kevin’s shoulder, stretch her fingers out across the table until they met just briefly with Rachel’s, and the whole table would calm.

Then, late that summer, in what seemed like minutes before fall semester began, Rachel found a tenure track position in at Boston College. She and Miranda tried to make it work, but long-distance relationships are difficult even for people with nothing else to do with their time but have phone sex and write long, yearning letters on pretty stationery.

Miranda refused to talk to Nigel about the break-up. Mostly. Still, out of all Nigel’s memories of that time, his brain isolated one night, two months after Rachel had left and one month after they’d called it quits. Miranda had called his home phone, and as soon as he picked up she asked, “What kind of hot sauce do you put in a Bloody Mary?”

“Frank’s Red Hot,” he said, puzzled by the question. Then again, he’d noticed that lately the words that came out of her mouth didn’t always feel like the ones she’d meant to say. “Well, that’s what I use. I’ve always thought Tabasco was overrated.”

“Good. I’ll get some tomorrow.”

“I think I’ve got an extra bottle. I’ll, ah, bring it to work.” He realized Miranda must have been on a cordless phone, because the muffled noises he could hear in the background had sharpened into noisy crying. He knew from experience that it was stressful when both girls started crying at once. As infants, it had been deafening; even now they sometimes fed off of each other’s wailing and could keep the din going for long minutes. “Miranda, is everything all right?” He could not help but ask.

“I miss Rachel,” she said. Her voice was a little desperate. “They don’t ask for their dad, but they ask for her.” Then she hung up on him, and they never spoke of Rachel again.

Nigel started working longer hours like before, and became the best of everyone aside from Miranda herself at effort, action, and results. The magazine reached a new standard of excellence, and when Kevin fell away from his life he told himself it was a matter of differing priorities. He tried his best to be understanding, and refused Kevin’s tentative offer of continued sex after only a little deliberation. Better to make a clean break of it, and besides, sex took up almost as much time as going on dates and staying up late talking.

Nigel snapped back to reality. Somehow it had gotten to be 9:30. Just a couple more choices, just a couple snap decisions, and he could go home.

He hardly realized he’d dialed his phone until he heard Miranda’s voice. “Hello, Nigel.”

“Miranda. Where are you?”

“At home,” she said. “Working.” She sounded tired. “Where are you?”

“At work. Working.”

“Everything all right?” She asked the question in that dry tone her voice sometimes took on, the one that made it impossible to tell whether or not she really wanted to know.

“I’m looking at this sci-fi thing from Balenciaga. I know you would like it.”

“And?”

“That’s the thing, Miranda. I know you would like it. I know your tastes.”

Nigel could practically hear her eyebrows raise. “Why are you telling me this?”

“I don’t like the collection. At all. The lines aren’t attractive. There’s this one picture…the model’s pale, and all the silver actually flattens out her skin. You would see something poignant in it. Deep space longing, not that you’d ever use the phrase. Anyway. I don’t see that, but I see you seeing it, and it’s freaking me out, and I’m not putting it in my magazine.”

“Don’t, then. Who’s stopping you?”

There was silence for a few seconds after that, a loaded kind of silence that meant neither of them had dropped their eyes back down to their work.

“I got a visit from Andy this afternoon.” It was something to say.

“Yes, she told me tonight.”

“Appendicitis, huh? ‘The same exact weekend in June 2003’? That’s kind of fantastic.” He remembered how Miranda should have gone to the hospital hours before she actually did. She’d worked until she couldn’t ignore the pain and had to admit there was something wrong, and the surgeon, confusing Nigel for a husband or other family member, told him sternly that they were lucky the appendix didn’t rupture. Stephen got back to the room only a minute later, and they’d shared a weak, relieved laugh. Andy had been in college back then, and Nigel wondered what interruption the surgery had caused in her life. For some reason, he knew that Northwestern was on the quarter system, and guessed that she’d been right at the end of a quarter when it happened.

“It is fantastic, isn’t it? We both had laparoscopic surgery, so our scars match.” She gave a short, huffy laugh. “At least something about us is the same age.”

“Are you worried about the age thing? She’s not taking advantage of you—she isn’t like that.”

“Of course she isn’t,” Miranda said sharply.

Oh. “Well, you aren’t taking advantage of her, either. I can tell.”

“Can you?”

“Yes,” Nigel replied, matching the forcefulness of Miranda’s voice. “I know it as much as I know you’d like those emotionless sci-fi dresses.”

“I do like that collection,” she said, softening. “Some of it will be in Runway.”

“Am I good or what?” he joked. “Goodnight, Miranda. Finish your work and go pay attention to Andy, or else you really will be taking advantage.”

--

Several weeks went by before Nigel heard from Miranda or Andy. More than once, he pondered giving Miranda a call, or at the very least shooting Andy a quick email, but something told him to wait. Miranda’s Who’s stopping you, then? kept ringing in his ears, and every time he wondered how she was doing he decided to think about Scope instead.

Or about Justin Blake, the friend of a friend who’d spent so much time smoking on Nigel’s balcony the night of his party. Justin worked at Calvin Klein, and had come to see Nigel at Scope a few weeks prior, supposedly on business. Right off the bat, he’d looked Nigel in the eye and said, “Marcus dragged me to your party because he thought we should meet. Are you still too busy to talk, or should we get a drink tonight?”

They had several drinks, and got up to quite a bit more than talking before the night was through. Justin was blond and cute, younger than Nigel but not by much, and was on such an even keel that Nigel couldn’t help but feel more relaxed when he was around. Even the stress of the new magazine wasn’t enough to truly disrupt the sensation of calm: Nigel worked long hours, and though he loved his job it did not consume him. He went home or over to Justin’s at a reasonable hour nearly every night. He was approaching a new sort of success at a walk, not a run: the magazine would be released and it would (hopefully) be a hit, he and Justin would decide to take their casual thing to the next level of commitment, he would entertain friends, he would call his family weekly. He had time.

Andy called the day after the first issue of Scope hit the newsstands.

“It looks awesome!” she enthused, and gushed for a few moments about everything from the fashion spreads to the art features to, strangely, the font on the Table of Contents page.

Though he tried hard to absorb the feedback, Nigel briefly wondered what Miranda thought of the issue, and if she’d even had time to read it. As if his thoughts called Miranda into the conversation, Andy abruptly brought her up. “Oh, Miranda wants to have you over for dinner soon, you know, to celebrate. We were thinking her house, with the twins. How’s this Saturday?”

He and Justin had vague weekend plans involving champagne and a lot of time in bed, but he hardly thought the guy would fault him for a Saturday night out. “Uh, sure, sounds good.”

“Great. You should feel free to bring someone, if you’d like.” She paused. “If there’s someone. I’m sorry, I haven’t been—”

Nigel interrupted her with a laugh. Easier that than anything else. “Maybe.”

Nigel made his way to the front door of the townhouse at half-past seven on Saturday evening. He was alone—it was simpler that way. He and Justin hadn’t socialized with other friends much, and why bring him to meet people Nigel hardly knew anymore?

Cassidy answered the door. It had been more than a few months since Nigel had seen the twins, and Cassidy seemed to have grown a foot taller in his unusually long absence from the townhouse. “Hi, Cass,” he said, and her answering smile was achingly familiar. He immediately felt silly for refusing to bring Justin, for convincing himself that this place didn’t matter.

“Hi, Nigel,” Cassidy held the door open and ushered him inside.

As soon as the door shut behind him, Nigel was bowled over by the smell of something burning, all at once acrid and sickly sweet. Growing up, he’d lived very near a factory that processed corn syrup, and this smell was like five years of childhood pressed into a day. Cassidy rolled her eyes. “Caroline made brownies tonight. She put these little caramels all over them, baked ‘em way too long, and they scorched.” Her voice dropped slightly. “Mom and Andy are in the kitchen with her. She’s having a meltdown so they sent me to get the door. Please come in and sit down.”

They sat across from each other in the living room, just down the hall from the kitchen. For an odd moment Nigel wondered what to say. When the twins were much younger, Nigel saw them far more frequently. This girl, sporting a growth spurt and ballet flats and manners, didn’t seem the type who’d want to chat with a grown man like Nigel about Disney princesses and Theatre Shoes.

“Mom loves your magazine,” Cassidy said into the silence.

“Did—did she tell you that?” Nigel asked, hating the way he couldn’t just say ‘thank you.’

“Well…” Cassidy paused, seeming to collect her words before saying them out loud. “She bought four copies of it the day it came out. She came home a little early and read it ‘til dinner, and after we ate she gave everybody a copy—Andy was over to eat with us—and made us all go through it with her page by page. Andy already had a copy, so now we’ve got, like, millions of them lying around.”

“So, did you learn anything?”

“Yeah. I mean, it was kind of like going to school twice in one day. But I really liked it,” she added quickly. “Mom never makes us read Runway like that. And the clothes were gorgeous. I loved, um—” Here she seemed shy. “—how artsy it was.”

“Thanks, Cass.” Nigel was delighted, but before they could continue Miranda strode into the room. She wore a blouse of eggplant silk, and silver earrings that looked like paisley swirling towards her neck.

She leaned in to kiss Nigel’s cheek, the silver brushing his chin a little, and took advantage of the proximity to whisper, “Nigel, Andrea is in the kitchen helping Caroline pick charred caramel off the most disgusting dessert we will ever eat. And we will eat it, won’t we?”

“Of course we will.”

After enjoying a couple of professionally-prepared courses, they did eat the brownies, one respectable square per person, and Caroline—who had a right—was the only one who didn’t finish. The brownies were all at once chewy and tough, but Nigel was so attuned to Andy and Miranda that he hardly paid attention as he choked his down. He hadn’t seen Miranda this focused on a partner since Rachel; every time Andy shifted in her seat or cleared her throat or leaned back, Miranda shifted in response. Andy was such a femme, though, tall and made-up. She might not have been quite right for Miranda’s magazine—that he and Miranda agreed on that much was certain—but she wasn’t exactly what Nigel would pick for Miranda to date, either. Still, she and Miranda kept smiling and catching each other’s eyes, and Nigel was pretty sure they were holding hands under the table during dessert because Andy held her coffee mug with her left hand.

“I’m seeing someone,” Nigel heard himself say after the girls had excused themselves and the adults had switched to wine.

“From work?" Miranda asked.

“No, Calvin Klein. Well, actually, he’s a friend of Marcus Green’s. Remember Marcus, who did some photography for us—for Runway—last summer?”

“I remember.” Andy said. “Nice guy.”

“Yeah, nice guy. And so is Justin. He’s great, actually. Really incredible.” He gushed a bit more, attributing his effusiveness to the wine and the friendly feeling in the room.

“You should have brought him,” Miranda said, but she didn’t sound annoyed.

“Next time,” Nigel replied, and he was sure of that now. “Maybe we could go out someplace, the four of us.” He grinned at Miranda. “Remember that time at Nobu with Kevin and Rachel—”

Technically, the thing that cut him off was the slight shaking of Miranda’s head from side to side, but what really stopped him was the look in her eyes. Panic, and above all sadness, and Nigel realized that even now Rachel wasn’t sex to stop missing or a set of quirks to avoid mentioning in front of a new partner. She was a secret, a gulf, all shame and love.

“Who’s Kevin?” Andy asked, turning inquisitively toward Miranda. “Oh wait. Who’s Rachel?”

“We’ll talk about it later,” Miranda said softly, and to her credit, Andy had to keep lifting her wine glass with her left hand, too.

--

“This isn’t 1997,” Miranda said almost exactly a week later, staring at the back of the driver’s seat in the silver Mercedes. She and Nigel were the only two passengers: as it so happened, Andy was on her way back to Manhattan from an assignment in Queens and Justin had to work a bit later than expected, so the two of them were going to meet Miranda and Nigel at the restaurant.

“God, no,” Nigel said emphatically, though he appreciated her mentioning it. “Look, I realize I shouldn’t have brought Kevin and Rachel up unexpectedly. But I didn’t do it to make you feel uncomfortable.”

“I hope you don’t think I suspected that—”

“I mentioned them because I was happy. Our circumstances do remind me of those days—I know things are different, for a lot of reasons, but those were good days. Things felt right. Not only with you and Rachel and with me and Kevin. With us.”

Miranda glanced in his direction. “I know.”

“I hope what I said didn’t complicate things between you and Andy too much.”

“We talked,” Miranda said simply.

Nigel already knew that much. He’d spoken with Andy on the phone a few days before, and she’d mentioned a conversation with Miranda that, in her mind, had been rather productive. But Nigel was here in the car with Miranda, his friend for well over a decade, and he wanted her take. “And?” he asked.

“She wishes we’d talked about Rachel sooner. Then again, so do I. And she doesn’t want to sneak around the way Rachel and I did. Of course, neither do I.” She smirked. “Andrea is convinced that our relationship hasn’t registered with the press because they’re so used to seeing me with my assistants, never mind the fact that I don’t go to dinner or shows with them.”

It pleased Nigel that this account matched Andy’s perfectly. “So what are you going to do about this theory of hers?”

“We haven’t decided. Even when the divorce is final, I don’t think we’ve got it in us to stage some sort of public display of affection. But neither of us will lie.” Miranda sighed. “Rachel and I were the same age, you know. Maybe being honest back then wouldn’t have prompted the scandal I was envisioning.”

Nigel shrugged. “There’s no way of knowing that now.” Before he could continue, the car pulled up to the restaurant. Justin and Andy were both waiting at the curb, but they weren’t speaking or standing together because—as Miranda and Nigel seemed to realize simultaneously—they didn’t know each other.

“Keep talking to me,” Nigel said in the split-second before opening his door.

Miranda nodded, and Nigel saw that she saw him.

They exited the car and stood on the sidewalk, where Andy kissed their cheeks and Justin came over, laughing, to shake the women’s hands. Miranda walked into the restaurant next to Andy; Nigel walked into the restaurant next to Justin. It mattered and it didn’t.
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