Fed

Oct. 12th, 2009 03:23 am
chainofclovers: (Default)
[personal profile] chainofclovers
Title: Fed
Fandom: The Devil Wears Prada (film)
Pairing: Miranda/Andy
Rating: M
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to The Devil Wears Prada.
Summary: This is a story told backwards.
Author’s Note: Many, many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] pin_drop for being an incredibly thoughtful editor. I am beyond grateful for her amazing insights and attention to detail. This piece was a long time in the making—back in June I told Telanu I was starting to write a “really happy, really feminist” story, and mentioned that I was finding it surprisingly difficult. Her response: “Miranda + Happy = Difficult. Not surprising at all!” Four months later, I’ve learned a little bit more about Miranda and Andy and joy. (Also, FYI, the story really is told chronologically backwards.)



10. August

“Hey Miranda, will you marry me?” Andy struggles for a look of disarming innocence as she sets their breakfast—grapefruit and homemade peach bread with cream cheese—on her cramped kitchen table. She has to clear away a game board to make room, and Miranda helps, gathering up a fistful of tiny metallic weapons. Andy is joking, of course. Marrying Miranda would be terrible. The thought is completely unappealing.

Miranda glowers. “Very funny.” Her divorce isn’t even final yet.

“Oh, drink your coffee,” Andy says, a broad smile spreading across her face. “Miranda in the kitchen with a whole hell of a lot of caffeine.”

It’s been a humid summer, but Miranda won’t touch the coffee that Andy cold-brews in jars which litter her kitchen counter and sit neatly in the door of Miranda’s fridge. Not even today, when Andy’s window unit has gone out, and the very walls of the apartment may start to melt. Steam rises from Miranda’s mug, ice cubes clink in Andy’s glass, and they smirk at each other as they start in on their breakfast.

“I will never understand you,” Miranda declares. She’s not talking about the facetious marriage proposal. She takes a sip of hot coffee that finished brewing all of two minutes ago and eyes Andy’s glass. “I’m not letting you drink that disgusting concoction this winter.”

Andy’s frown masks her happiness at this winter. “You’re not the boss of me.”

Miranda knows this, and Andy knows that she knows. Andy is also very aware that such elementary barbs drive Miranda crazy, and not in the good way. Not like late last night, when she fingered Miranda on top of the covers, bringing her right to the edge and holding off, again and again, until her begging—whispered, out of necessity—was practically incomprehensible. When she was coming down, she’d murmured “Exquisite,” very clearly, and the adjective made Andy laugh.

“Charlotte the spider has an orgasm,” she’d said teasingly, hoping Miranda wouldn’t kill her before she got to come.

Miranda restrained herself. She was getting better about choosing her battles, and said only “Some would call that sacrilege” before punishing Andy quite pleasantly, with lips and fingers and her own particular stubbornness when it came to timing.

But that was last night and this is today. Even indoors at seven in the morning, the heat of the sun is heavy and the day is long. “I’m not the boss of you? How astute, Andrea.”

“That’s me. Hey, maybe we should get a cat.” She really does adore Miranda, but she’s in a button-pushing mood this morning.

Miranda rolls her eyes, and they sip in silence for awhile. When it’s almost time to wash up and dress for the day, Andy takes a breath and asks, serious now, “How’re you feeling about this afternoon?”

Miranda sighs. The divorce proceedings are dragging on and on, and she has to appear in court for the third time this month. “I wish it were over.”

“It will be,” Andy replies. “Soon.” Obviously, the afternoon will be over in about ten hours, but Andy alludes to a bigger picture. In a few months, the divorce will be final. In the midst of that freedom, it won’t be very difficult to move past how much money Miranda’s lost, how many hours she and Stephen have spent extricating themselves from each other’s lives, the number of headlines printed about her and her family. They’ll be together, no question about it, as together as they are right now. There aren’t any other suitable options.

“Wake up the girls, will you?” Miranda asks, having been ready to steer the conversation away from divorce as soon as the subject was raised. “Unless they’re already awake, in which case we can count on fielding lots of delightful questions about gay marriage and cats. It’s humiliating, Andrea, really.”

“They’re not awake. Trust me. They’re almost teenagers.” Still, Andy glances out the doorway of the kitchen just to make sure she can’t sense anything astir. She can’t see them, but she can imagine what they look like, faces flushed with heat, sound asleep in spite of the sunlight that streams into her living room at this hour.

She’d been surprised when Miranda decided that the best way to guarantee enough time with both Andy and the twins was to bring them with her for visits sometimes, but it’s an unexpectedly good system. Anyway, routine is less imperative when school’s out, and she’s made her apartment a happy place for them to be, with games and art supplies and foods they don’t get at their own house. The girls love the novelty of air mattresses and sleeping in the same room as the TV, and Andy is grateful every day that the twins weren’t any older when she came into their lives: an eleven-year-old’s idea of an amusing indoor camp-out would probably feel to a fifteen-year-old like a very big—and very unnecessary—imposition. She thinks sometimes of what it’ll be like when the school year starts, and smiles like a fool at the thought of everyone working together in the same room: Miranda editing, Andy writing for a different editor entirely, and the girls doing homework—lots of homework, she’ll make sure of that. If she remembers correctly, sixth grade is a tough year.

“I should go get ready,” Miranda says, but she doesn’t budge except to remove Andy’s hand from its grip on the glass and to press it in her own. Between their hot and cold fingers, on some molecular level, there is a plain and even warmth.


9. July

“I’ve always tried to keep myself thin,” Miranda says. She’s standing at the doorway of her open pantry, attempting to explain why dinner should be small and light, barely a meal at all compared to breakfast and lunch. Then Andy, who’s been listening from across the room, is right behind her, head tilted so she can kiss and lick the back of Miranda’s neck until it shines under the bright light of the kitchen. Miranda shudders. “To minimize the damage,” she continues, struggling to keep her voice even against the sensation of Andy’s tongue, “when my metabolism comes screeching to a halt.”

“And when’s that going to be?” Andy’s words, skeptical, tickle Miranda’s damp skin, and her arms wrap around Miranda’s waist.

“Consider it halted,” Miranda says, and adds “Oh God,” because there are teeth where there was tongue, and Andy’s fingers have pulled up her blouse and are grabbing her stomach on the way to their resting point, the fleshy spot where hip meets lower back. Andy always finds Miranda’s least slender places, fixates on whatever she can find of muscle and fat. She loves to eat and loves to watch Miranda eat, loves the evidence of their nourished bodies.

“You have substance,” Andy once told her in bed, her tone detached and observational even as she patted Miranda’s ass. Miranda was confused, on the verge of offended, until she got the explanation she demanded. “It’s a compliment. You know those women who hit forty or fifty and get really, really wiry? You’re creating an army of them, and they’re beautiful, but not like this. There’s enough of you. I love it.”

Miranda has since conceded—to herself, at least—that she knows the look of those women, tanned skin stretched tight over thin braids of muscle and bone. She feels a tinge of unfamiliar guilt when she thinks of them, nothing like the fierce pleasure of watching a parade of waifs in perfect dresses. All day, she separates the now now now of fashion—of women like trees blooming clothes instead of leaves and flowers—from the question of what the day’s perfection will become. At night, she nibbles on Andy’s dimpled young knees and thin wrists and round breasts, and lets Andy touch her in whatever way she wants.

They don’t eat dinner tonight. Instead, they eat each other on the kitchen floor. They’ve made sure that they are absolutely without a doubt going to be alone in the house all evening, and their voices echo off the appliances and empty air. Andy clunks her head against the oven door while Miranda is fucking her, and they have to stop for a minute to laugh at the absurdity of the sound, the slapstick quality of her physical pain. “Mmm,” Andy groans when Miranda resumes, and Miranda echoes the sound against the pink and the wet of Andy’s flesh.

When they’re finished, Andy looks pleased but guilty. “I’m still kind of hungry,” she admits.

Miranda hauls grapes and strawberries and one of the twin’s chocolate pudding cups out of the fridge, remembering she is mostly naked only when the cold air hits her skin. The selection is nothing like supper. She sits back down on the tiles with a glass of water and watches Andy eat.


8. July

Andy means it when she tells her co-worker Bridget, who’s on maternity leave for a few months, to stop by anytime so she can meet the baby and Bridget can see her new apartment. It’s not a huge problem that Bridget doesn’t call first, except Miranda’s over and they haven’t seen each other in a few days. Even though it’s noon on a Saturday, they are probably, if not definitely, thinking about having sex on the living room couch when the door buzzer sounds.

“We were in your neighborhood, so I thought we’d pop in to say hi! I hope I’m not interrupting lunch!” Bridget says brightly, not at all apologetic. Then again, she has no idea just what she’s interrupted, and the rosy infant in her arms guarantees instant forgiveness. Pregnancy has made Bridget glow the whole time Andy has known her, and at two months post-childbirth she’s still radiant: the circles under her eyes and the tired smile don’t detract a bit from her obvious joy.

Andy realizes as soon as she opens her mouth to take care of introductions that she isn’t sure how to refer to Miranda, so she doesn’t provide anyone’s title. It’s clear that Bridget recognizes Miranda immediately, and probably wonders at her presence in Andy’s apartment, but she doesn’t say anything other than “Nice to meet you.” Standing near Andy’s front door, they are three women with first names, not necessarily “co-worker” or “lover” or “friend.” The baby’s name is Henry.

“He’s beautiful,” Andy says reverently.

She glances at Miranda, who nods. “Beautiful.”

Bridget beams. Their words are basic, utter truth for her. “Andy, would you mind taking him for a minute?” she asks. “I really have to go to the bathroom. The place is great, by the way.” The apartment is small enough that she doesn’t have to ask where it is. She thrusts Henry into Andy’s arms, sets his diaper bag on the floor, and hurries down the hall.

For so tiny a creature, Henry feels pretty substantial. He and Andy gaze at each other, and Miranda watches them both intently.

When Henry starts to gurgle and fuss, Miranda bends to grab a white cloth sticking out of the top of the diaper bag. “Here,” she says softly, situating it on Andy’s shoulder. “You’re wearing Michael Kors.” She leaves her hand there even after the cloth is in place, uses her other hand to rub Henry’s back, and she and Andy stare at each other, stunned.

“I’ve never felt like this holding a baby before,” Andy murmurs. The feeling she refers to is unnerving happiness, so good she could die.

“How old were you the last time you were around one this small?”

“I don’t know, fourteen or something. I don’t have friends with babies, and my cousins are all too young.”

“Well,” Miranda says, and doesn’t continue. Henry drools a little, and she picks up a corner of the cloth and wipes his mouth very gently.

“I think it’s because I love y—” Andy is saying right as Bridget comes back from the bathroom, and the funny expression on Bridget’s face tells her that they look about two seconds away from stealing the baby and making a run for it. Everyone moves to the couch, where they pass the baby around and discuss bland, pleasant things for the better part of a half hour.

Finally, Bridget stands and plucks the baby from Miranda’s arms. “It was very nice to meet you,” she says again. “I really have to get going.”

Miranda storms to the kitchen the second the front door closes. She grabs a bag of basmati rice out of the food cupboard and slams it on the counter. She paws noisily through the cabinet, toppling measuring cups and a frying pan in her hunt for a saucepan.

“What do you want for lunch?” Andy asks, standing next to her at the stove.

“Something with rice,” snaps Miranda, testy.

Andy turns to face Miranda, waiting to speak until she can catch Miranda’s eyes. They’re not going to fight about rice when they what they should do is talk about what just happened. “I adore him. Henry, I mean.”

“Babies are hard.”

“Oh, I know,” Andy says quickly. This conversation is ridiculous, even two sentences in. They’re supposed to be fucking right now. She grins. “He didn’t cry once while you were holding him.”

Miranda looks pleased. “He was an agreeable baby. Caroline was mine—Cassidy cried night and day. I thought I was going to lose it.”

Miranda has had all this. For all Andy reminds herself that she’s prematurely grey and in great shape and intensely attuned to the present—to the modern, not only to fashion but news and art and the city and her children—it is so clear in this moment that Miranda has done this before and, emotionally if not technically, is too old to do it again.

Andy knows she looks sad, because her expression is echoed in Miranda’s eyes. But they kiss and it feels good, and the lunch they make tastes good, and it isn’t necessary to think about time every minute of every day.

When Andy calls Lily that night, she can’t hold back. “We took care of Bridget’s baby today,” she says breathlessly. “It was awesome.”

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Miranda and me. Bridget brought Henry over, and we were only by ourselves with him for something like three minutes while she was in the bathroom, but it was so, so awesome.”

“Okay…”

“It turns out Miranda looks really sweet holding a baby. He was only born in May so he doesn’t really smile much yet, but he kept staring at her and she was grinning at him, and—”

Lily laughs. “Andy, if you think Miranda’s ‘sweet,’ we’ve got a problem.”

“Oh, no. Well—not that kind of problem.”

“Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock,” Lily says. “You know what that sound is?”

“Shut up. I don’t have a baby problem. It was just a really great afternoon, all right?”

“Sure. Hey. Maybe Bridget will let you guys rent Henry out sometime.”

Dating Miranda has left Andy pretty attuned to sarcasm in its many potential forms, but in this moment Lily’s is lost on her. “That’s not a bad idea,” she replies. “I mean, maybe we could baby-sit. Or I could baby-sit and Miranda could hang out with us when she gets home from work.”

“Great plan, Andy. You’re completely insane.”

“I don’t want a baby, Lily. Not for a long time. I don’t know how it’ll-- I just— you didn’t see her with him. You didn’t see me with him. It was so weird, and so great.”


7. June

Excepting her daughters, it seems like everyone Miranda loves lives in a tiny apartment that heats up like a toaster oven as soon as June hits. Her mother’s apartment is only forty-five minutes away from Manhattan by train, but it’s been a few months since Miranda has visited. She’s put the girls on the same train at least twice since then. Someday, she’ll take Andy. Right now, Andy is alone at the townhouse with the girls for the first time. Before leaving for the train station, Miranda could hear three individual pitches of laughter coming from the TV room.

“Why isn’t the fan on?” Miranda asks as she walks into Agata Princhek’s front room. She starts talking right away during her visits in an effort to beat back the shock she always feels at seeing her mother so little and old. Agata, all stick limbs and downy white hair, is mostly confined to the furniture in rooms she used to move through like wind.

“It wastes energy.” Agata smiles at the way the statement raises Miranda’s ire.

“Remember the heat wave in France?” Miranda picks up a standing fan from the corner, plugs it into the wall, and plants it in front of the burnt orange easy chair her mother currently inhabits. She turns it on—not full blast, no need for a fight to break out over how impossible it is to hear over the din of stirred-up air—and takes a seat on a sunken brown chair across from her mother’s.

“Your daddy’s chair,” Agata murmurs when Miranda sits down.

Miranda cringes; she can never quite stave off that particular pain in time, and she only sits here because there are no other choices. For twenty-five years, she’s been the one sitting in the chair, not her father. He’s never even seen this apartment, not to mention her house, or her kids, or the neat rows of Runway back issues that sit on the bookshelf behind Agata’s chair. Still, the chair is undeniably his. At the end, he spent two straight years sitting in it, disappearing, and Agata will never throw it out, and—this isn’t why Miranda is visiting. “The heat wave,” she tries again, louder this time. “Do you remember it?”

“Yes, yes, all the elderly folks like me turning into so much toast.” Agata smirks. “I think I’ll make it. Mir—what’s going on?”

They’d settled on “Mir” years ago: the common syllable in both “Miranda” and “Miriam,” a way of choosing without having to choose.

“I’m seeing someone.” Miranda puts up her hands, her palms like stop signs. “I know. Already. I wanted to be the one you heard it from.”

“A woman.”

“How did you—?”

“Because when you’re seeing a man you go crazy making sure I know. You hit me over the head with ‘Mom, his name is Stephen, or John, or whatever, he likes baseball, he is a financial genius, he is going to be the father of my children!’ Don’t try to deny it.”

Miranda opens her mouth, and closes it again.

Agata’s eyes sparkle as she continues. “When you’re seeing a woman you just say ‘I’m seeing someone.’ No pronoun bonanza. It’s been awhile, but I remember.”

“I see.” The words are small and tight.

“There’s nothing to prove.”

“I know.”

“Do you?”

“Mom—”

“Are you happy?”

“She’s quite a bit younger than me.”

“So her parents think you’re the Big Bad Wolf?”

They do, of course. But Richard and Maureen have only had a week to process. So far, they haven’t made too much trouble, and what Miranda says next is true. “They think I’m…lucky.”

“I’m sure you are. But I asked if you are happy.”

Miranda takes a breath. In the breath, in the air waiting to be formed into words and released, is the risk of saying “yes” and finding the word lacking in effectiveness. The risk of chasing away an enduring emptiness but not running it far enough or fast enough and discovering it not quite vanquished. “Yes. I am.”

Agata twists her wrinkly mouth into a smile. “Good.” She places her hands on the armrests and heaves herself up. “Let’s get you something to eat.”


6. May

“Call me when you’re done with your dinner,” Andy says, standing in Miranda’s foyer on a still-cold morning. The words are not a request but a demand, casually stated but hardly open for debate. She’s running late, and in her rush to gather her things and head to work, she exits the townhouse without waiting for a response. The cool air she lets into the house settles over Miranda all at once.

Many hours later, Miranda digs her phone out of her bag as she steps out of Pastis and into a light spring rain that should feel more pleasant than it does. She is angry at Dolce and very angry at Gabbana. Her feet ache. It would be nice to see her daughters, but they are with their father. She is full from dinner and does not want to be. It is certain that her body does not contain even the potential for pleasure. But she calls Andy, understanding that she agreed to obey that order even without saying anything.

“I’m tired,” she says into the phone, aware in the back of her mind that if she were a decent person she’d inquire about Andy’s day.

“So come over and sleep,” Andy says, no sex in her voice.

“Are you going to see Andy?” Nigel asks, very quiet. He’d walked out of the dinner with her, probably interested in a quick debriefing before parting ways, but that’s going to have to happen tomorrow.

Miranda nods, unaware that she’s going to smile until she feels her lips move.

“What are you doing with her?”

She decides to ignore the hint of condescension in his voice, the barely perceptible sneer that creeps into his expression on the rare occasions Andy is mentioned in conversation. “Monopoly. Clue. Occasionally Scrabble.” Nigel rolls his eyes, but what’s funny is the fact that she’s not lying.

It’s already well past ten, so Miranda swings by her house to pick up the Book, fully intending to flip through it in the car and to finish the job at Andy’s. The Book stays closed, and she lets Andy extract it gently from her grasp the second she’s in the apartment. “Why don’t you look at it tomorrow morning?” Andy asks, leading her into the bedroom. They do not kiss. “Slip off your shoes,” she adds. Andy takes her coat from her next, then her blouse and skirt, finally her stockings and bra, hands her a soft cotton shirt and sends her to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Somehow she’s learned how to serve Miranda and boss her around in the same moment.

“Did you have a good day?” Miranda finally asks, tucked neatly into bed like a child and watching Andy move about the room, changing into her own pajamas and brushing out her hair. The lamplight is dim and warm, and so are the stripes on the comforter. She hasn’t gone to bed this early in years.

“Yeah, pretty good.” Andy winces. “It actually isn’t over yet. I’ve got just a little bit of writing to finish up.”

“Mm,” Miranda says. Her eyes are heavy, and she lets them close.

“I’ll be in soon,” Andy says from the doorway. “Um. I love you.”

Then they’re looking at each other very closely. They are vertical and horizontal, young and not young at all, awake and exhausted. “I love you too.”

Andy smiles and nods and leaves Miranda alone in a room for the second time that day. Miranda feels excitement jolting in her stomach, like taking a hill too fast on a country road. They have told the truth, and it is good that it has happened at a distance, across the room from each other on a quiet night.


5. March

Andrea emails Miranda on a Monday. “Congratulations! The sixth month ‘anniversary’ of our mutual absence is coming up,” the message says. “I’m calling you Wednesday.”

She calls early in the morning of the promised day, when she’s almost certain Miranda is reading the newspaper at her desk. “Do you want to get lunch?” she asks unceremoniously. She can’t waste time: Miranda is too good at ending conversations quickly when she isn’t sure if they hold something for her. After all this time, she doesn’t think she can handle small talk and she doesn’t want to risk finding out anything big over the phone. When they really talk, she wants facial expressions and touching and eyes. She’s had a long time to diagnose her cravings.

“Today?” Miranda responds. Her voice sounds the same, and Andy feels silly that this startles her. She doesn’t know what she was expecting to hear.

“If possible.”

Miranda sighs. “Fine. Yes.”

“Well, don’t ruin your whole day on my account,” Andy jokes, happy that Miranda either has no other lunch plans or, more likely, is willing to rearrange.

“Oh, I won’t.”

“I don’t want to keep you. Why don’t we meet in front of Elias-Clarke at noon. Bye,” Andy says, and hangs up before Miranda has the chance to suggest something else.

Andy feels jittery and warm all morning, barely able to stand this final wait. But when lunch finally happens, and they’re sitting in the corner of a café with nothing between them but their water glasses and a white tablecloth, they don’t talk about friends or work or the daughters Miranda has had six months to nurture. Instead, Miranda decides it would be a good idea to explain to Andy why this lunch is not a date. Why they are not, in fact, going to date at all.

“It’s about appearances,” Miranda says, and has the gall to look distracted and pleased by the sight of her eggplant parmesan as it is set before her. “By that I don’t mean appearances, the way things look to tabloid writers and paparazzi and the people for whom Page Six is their primary news source,” she continues. “I’m talking about events. Functions. Half a relationship is how the people in it deal with being in public together. That’s one of the main reasons my marriage to Stephen failed. We weren’t good in public.”

Or private, Andy thinks to herself. She stabs at a piece of ravioli. “But that has everything to do with how things look to other people.”

“It’s about the machine of the event, not the crowd. When two people get involved, especially when one is a public figure, they don’t just commit to each other. If you don’t understand the expectations, you can’t—”

Andy has to interrupt her before she hears anything else. “You’re arguing with yourself here, Miranda. I mean, by that account, we’d be a big hit. We’re in public right now, and you’re obviously managing to enjoy your lunch in spite of how humiliatingly inappropriate I am. You waited six months to tell me this?”

Miranda frowns, exasperated with Andy and herself, clinging to the argument for dear life. “Don’t pretend to feel sorry for yourself. It isn’t flattering. This isn’t an event, Andrea. You know perfectly well what I mean by that—I mean public gatherings. Rituals.”

“Is that what a relationship is to you? Somebody to go to funerals with?”

“That’s a terrible example. You’re being purposefully dense.”

But Andy is exasperated too, and doesn’t think she’s being dense at all. She lowers her voice for the sake of caution, though she’d like to yell. “You’re basically assuming that I wouldn’t be good at public appearances, and telling me that you choose who to date based on who’s going to look ‘right’ with you at a party. Or a funeral. Whatever.”

“It isn’t that simple—”

“Look. Stephen was a pretty boring guy. Am I right?”

Miranda smiles warily, almost imperceptibly, but Andy’s eyes are sharp and she is given away. “I thought he and I would be better than we were.”

“I’m willing to bet you find me a lot more interesting than him. Even if you think we’d seem like a weird pair at functions. Even,” –she raises her eyebrows— “if you thought I could barely function at all when you first met me. What could possibly be wrong with pursuing this?” She feels hot tears threatening to make an appearance, and wonders how she’s become someone who cries so easily. She thought Runway had toughened her up, but she’s cried more in the last year than in the previous five combined.

“I didn’t say there was anything wrong with it,” Miranda says quietly. Somehow, her “it” contains the twenty-four years between them and their one kiss and all the sex they could be having and aren’t. And, barely, it hints at the way they would look at dinners or as audience members or sitting in a church.

“You’re just saying it isn’t happening.” Suddenly, Andy doesn’t have much of an appetite. She reaches into her purse for her wallet, and pulls out a very precious twenty dollar bill. “Well, maybe you’ll change your mind.” She puts the twenty on the table. “I’d better cover my share, since it looks like we’re on our own here. There’s such an appalling shortage of benevolent rich guys in this world.”

Wisely, Miranda doesn’t tell Andy to keep her money. “Selfish,” she says, looking down, and it isn’t clear if she’s talking about Andy, herself, or judging them both with a single word. “You’re sure you don’t want to finish lunch?”

“I’m sure.” Andy stands up. She needs to figure out what Miranda means by “selfish,” because she has a sneaking suspicion that she’s right. This restaurant isn’t the place to do it. “Thanks for meeting me.”

Barney Reynolds, the sole octogenarian on the Elias-Clarke Board of Directors, dies the next day.

“I’ll go to the funeral with you,” Andy says into the phone, which Miranda picked up after only one ring. “I really think I’d be an excellent choice.”

The funeral is on Sunday afternoon. Miranda has her driver drop them off a half block away from Saint Patrick’s, and for a stomach-sinking moment Andy believes Miranda actually is deeply ashamed of her, that she’s proving a very different point than Andy initially thought. Then, as they approach the great stone cathedral, she sees the crowd of photographers documenting the arrivals and understands. “Look at that circus,” Miranda murmurs. She has a love/hate relationship with publicity, but death is sacred. “It has nothing to do with Barney at all.”

From what Andy can gather, Barney was very old and very rich and very calm when he died. The congregation is an interesting blend of family members and big names in publishing, and, once inside the church, no one makes a scene about anything. She is moved by the sight of tears on the faces of two of Barney’s grandsons, but sees nothing truly tragic about the day. She sneaks a lot of glances at Miranda in black Chanel; Miranda keeps her eyes on the priest the entire time but brushes her hand against Andy’s knee twice.

“Funerals feel like other funerals, don’t they,” Miranda says afterward, blank-faced, resting her head against the headrest in the back seat of the car. It’s clear she doesn’t mean that funerals are all boring, or the same, that if you’ve been to one you’ve been to them all. Somewhere, she’s dealing in specifics. Andy wants badly to ask her who died? and when? and what did it mean for you?, but she can’t get her tongue to work quickly enough, and the moment passes.

“Up until maybe five years ago, Barney was very often a little bit drunk,” Miranda says. “He’d catch up with you after a meeting and you had to pretend he wasn’t swaying.”

Andy laughs, remembering that, as a board member, Barney was one of the few people around whom Miranda was implicitly expected to behave with deference. “Let’s have a drink, then.”

“At my house?”

“Sounds good.”

But they don’t have a drink until later, a couple hours after they stand just beyond the front door of the townhouse, taking their second kiss from each other.

“You’re my love,” Andy says, breaking the kiss, her voice loud in the high-ceilinged foyer. Miranda relents. She nods her head against the crook of Andy’s neck, and doesn’t look up even when she extends her hand to lock the door.

They’re still wearing their coats when they walk up to her bedroom, and those get piled along with their clothes at the foot of the bed. They undress themselves quickly, matter-of-factly. Stripping, not a striptease.

“One hundred and eighty days,” Andy murmurs, her hand shaking a little as she grabs pillows and stacks them up against the headboard. “Lean back?” she asks tentatively, and Miranda does.

“At least two of those months had thirty-one days,” Miranda corrects.

“One eighty two, then. A lot of fucking days.”

“Even so—” Miranda starts, and is interrupted by a kiss. “—even so. Take your time.”

Andy wonders if Miranda means she wants it slow, if it takes her a long time to warm up—to get wet, that is, to get ready. Or if she’s talking about kissing and foreplay and the fact that they have all afternoon, now that they’ve done their peripheral mourning. “Okay,” Andy says, like she understands perfectly, and kisses Miranda’s mouth until both their throats are leaking whimpers. Eventually, she pulls back, and sits up straight. Slowly, she runs a finger up and down one of Miranda’s shins and then the other. For whole minutes, she presses hard against the bone, then lightens the touch so that it’s hardly a touch at all, then returns to the initial pressure. It makes Miranda flex at the ankles.

“Please—” Miranda says. “You can—”

“You’re ready?”

Yes.” The word is almost snappish, but Miranda’s eyes are shut tight and her cheeks are blushing red, and she’s got her head resting against the pillows like she can’t hold it up anymore. Andy moves on from shins to knees and thighs and hips, and when she ends up between her legs, the sex is simply a continuation of everything else about her body.

It’s a long time before Miranda comes, and when she does the pleasure is silent and soft and wet. She lies for a while in its invisible covenant, then turns all her attention to Andy. The pleasure she gives her is completely different; Miranda moves quickly, with intensity and focus, a near roughness. She doesn’t take her time at all. The exploration comes afterward, when she massages Andy’s wrists and ankles and shoulders, almost random in her pacing, smiling at the fact that Andy can’t stop shivering.

Their clothes are back on but they haven’t showered or brushed their hair or talked about anything when Cassidy comes home. They’re standing hand-in-hand at the door of the fridge, picking out a yogurt flavor, when they feel her presence and turn around. “Forgot my history b—” she starts, her eyes wide. “Going back to Dad’s—” she starts again, and it’s obvious that she knows what’s happening even if Miranda keeps discomfort from reaching her face. Andy has no idea what her own face looks like.

“Does Caroline have everything she needs?” Miranda asks. “Is she with you?”

“Yeah, it’s just me,” Cassidy says. “Dad’s waiting in the car.”

“All right, darling,” Miranda says. “Have a good day at school tomorrow.”

Tomorrow, after school and work and dinner, Cassidy will ask Miranda a question she hasn’t spoken aloud since she was seven years old: “Why can’t Dad be the one you love the most?” Caroline will stand silently next to her, tears streaking down her face. They will glare at Miranda, because they’ve already learned to use anger to express confusion, the same way she does. Miranda will want to explain that Andy is intelligent and kind (and pretty), that she’s done with clever and calculating and handsome, but in the awkward minutes before the words arrive, she will do little but frown right back. It’ll be a week before the girls calm down, before Caroline—still quieter, still the subtle one—starts coming downstairs with the air of a delegate from a two-member panel to ask Miranda “When did it start?” and “Is it a secret?” Three weeks of Andy coming to occasional dinners (and staying for the most delicious, hushed sex, or for working in each other’s company, or making everyone play board games that haven’t been opened in years) before Cassidy asks “Can we see where you live?”

Today, Cassidy leaves quickly, and Miranda speaks. “From the night he moved out, John and I agreed that we didn’t want the girls to feel like they needed an invitation to either of their homes.”

“Of course,” Andy says, looking down at the hand she instinctively snatched from Miranda’s as soon as Cassidy entered the room. “It’s fine.” All she’s thinking about is how funny it seems to have been “caught” at four-thirty in the afternoon. She hears Miranda’s voice, oblivious to the audience as she listed off flavors of yogurt: “Vanilla? Strawberry banana? Raspberry?” Any worry she should be feeling about Miranda’s daughters doesn’t quite reach the warm place where the thought resides. Vanilla, she thinks, and when she looks up Miranda is spooning that flavor into two dishes.

They have a little bourbon when they’re done eating, because the thing they’d agreed on in the car was a drink, and it’s much too early to go back on agreements. Maybe it will always be too early. It’s not yet dark out when they raise their glasses to their lips, but it feels like the middle of the night.


4. October

On the first night in Paris, Andy can’t get a wireless connection in her suite. She’s supposed to be downloading some photo stills from a delayed shoot, but gets nothing no matter how many times she repairs the connection. Miranda wanted the photos tonight, and it’s tonight by any account: in Paris it’s nearly midnight, and it’s six o’clock in New York.

She dreads knocking on Miranda’s door at this hour when all Miranda wants is an email, but Miranda seems wide awake and unperturbed by the bad news. “I’ve got a good signal,” she says. “Why don’t you try in here.”

So they end up sitting across from each other in gold brocade chairs, each peering at a screen. With a fast internet connection, it’s quick work to email Miranda a folder of images. She decides she can afford to take a minute to check her personal email, and when she sees a message from her mother in her inbox she feels a stab of guilt for not having informed her parents of her safe arrival. The email is newsy and brief: Maureen hopes Andy had a good flight and that she hasn’t had to work too hard (ha), and mentions that Andy’s father is suffering from a terrible bout of stomach flu.

“My dad’s sick,” she says, and is surprised by the sound of her own voice.

Miranda slams her laptop shut. Her eyes are wide with what seems like…like fear, and empathy. “Oh no,” she says. “What does he have?”

“The flu,” Andy says hurriedly. “Nothing serious.”

“Ah. I thought it might be—” Miranda swallows. “—I thought it might be something worse.” She reopens her laptop and resumes typing.

It’s a little awkward to stay and keep working after that, and Andy doesn’t stick around much longer.

“Goodnight, Miranda,” she says as she stands. “Unless there’s anything else?” As an afterthought, she adds, “I’ll give my dad your deepest sympathies.”

“Please don’t,” Miranda replies, but her face doesn’t empty the way it does when she’s mad. She frowns instead, that sham frown that hides a smile.

The rest of the trip is one big misunderstanding. Fashion Week’s major players conduct themselves in an elaborate hybrid of French, English, Italian, and body language, and Andy can’t shake the feeling that sixty percent of every conversation she has gets lost in translation. Every day feels more muddled, even as she starts to get addicted to watching Miranda during shows, torn between fear that she’ll never truly understand what Miranda loves and the wonder of seeing that love all over her face.

After the funny confusion—the puzzlement over language and style and Richard Sachs’ health—comes something much worse.

For months now, Andy has dreamed nauseating, guilt-inducing dreams in which Stephen gets hit by a train, is poisoned by his secretary, disappears into thin air. A million sickening ways for him to fall away from Miranda’s life. The only possibility she hasn’t let herself consider is the most realistic, because divorce is confusing and tragic and she can’t imagine Miranda going through it without regret. It’s difficult to make a fantasy out of lawyers and court appearances and crying children.

But here is divorce, and here are Miranda’s regrets, as sad and as confounding as Andy would have expected had she let herself imagine. After Miranda shares them, it’s like she can’t get Andy out of the hotel suite fast enough.

Andy, slow at translating, has begun to think of this trip to Paris as a play, and there’s Christian in the wings, and she takes herself offstage.

Hours later, apathetic with drunkenness, she decides—thought stumbling over thought—that she’s mentally done with Nate and therefore isn’t cheating on him. She adds, wavering but determined, that since she and Miranda don’t have and never will have what she thought they did (a mutual attraction, a certain sensibility about power, and why Miranda should have it and why Andy should want her to have it), she might as well succumb to Christian’s paltry charms. Nate is over and Miranda may never begin, and nothing matters.

With the harshness of morning comes the feeling that she has cheated them both.

Then Miranda does something bad, really bad, and explains it poorly, and Andy runs. She runs and smiles and tells herself the out-of-control panic she feels is freedom. Of course, if Andy were truly free, she wouldn’t have to go back to the hotel for her passport and suitcase and pretty things.

For the first time since her arrival, the internet works perfectly in her hotel room. It informs her quickly and efficiently that she can’t get a flight out until tomorrow, and that it will cost her most of what she has left in her bank account. She procrastinates on completing the transaction, wondering stupidly if she might be able to get away with hiding in her room for the rest of the day, staring at the Air France homepage until she can’t see anything but blobs of color and light.

That farce lasts until five o’clock, when Miranda has an hour’s pause in her breakneck Paris schedule. Andy senses the pause when it starts, having internalized Miranda’s calendar, and is unsurprised by the knock on her door.

“You’re done,” Miranda says, and Andy remembers, completely unbidden, what she looked like in tears. Now Miranda is dressed like a queen. The only reason Andy can tell she is at all affected by what has happened is the simple fact that they are alone in her room together.

“Done with Runway,” Andy clarifies, pulse racing.

“Yes. With Runway. I can’t have an assistant who takes things personally and runs off.”

“I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.”

Miranda shakes her head. “Do not.”

“Is there anything—”

No.” Miranda is flushed with anger. Even now Andy wants to kiss her, touch her, get closer. Running was idiotic.

“Why aren’t you freaking out about this?”

“Because it isn’t worth it,” Miranda says. The words feel like a bluff. “The kindest thing I could do would be to leave you alone forever. Your life would be much easier.”

“So you don’t want to leave me alone?” Exhaustion seems to have addled Andy’s brain, because Miranda’s little slip into truthfulness bolsters her confidence all over again, restores some of what she’s lost.

Miranda looks miserable, and doesn’t answer.

“Why don’t I go away and leave you alone first? So you don’t have to make a decision. Just for a little while. Six months, maybe.” She’s almost kidding, and it’s like she’s speaking a foreign language. She has no idea what she’s said until after the words are hovering in the air between them.

“Six months and then what?”

“Whatever we want.”

“We might not want the same thing.”

But then Andy takes a step closer, and so does Miranda, and their lips and noses and cheeks share a common mission. The kiss is warm and long, a little desperate, like a last kiss rather than a first.

The kiss cheats no one. Miranda bites at Andy’s lower lip and pulls away suddenly, leaving Andy gasping.

“I bet you’re as mean about sex as you are about everything else.”

“And you want to find out.” Miranda looks happy now, maybe even calm.

“In six months. To the day, even. I’m serious about that. You said last night that all this was unfair to the girls, and you’ll need time to…be with them. Uninterrupted.” She’s been terrified before by the things she’s said to Miranda, but this moment has to set some kind of record. “But I’ll be back. I won’t, um, I won’t disappoint you.”

Naturally, Miranda’s letter of recommendation is about disappointment. It’s the only message Andy gets, the only acknowledgment. It’s stunning to think of how quickly Andy loses Nate and Runway and with them everything that’s made up her home life and work life and her recurring dreams.

She’s untethered for the first time in years, and tries to explain the sensation to Doug and Lily at a dinner at her apartment, three weeks after Paris. “It feels good,” she says. “Insane but good. This is definitely the right thing for me. Thanks for being here, you guys. I mean it.”

“What can I say? I’m a sucker,” Lily says, kind of joking and kind of serious. “Really, though, I’m glad for you. Especially about the new job.”

“I still can’t believe Miranda wrote me that recommendation.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Doug says quickly. “You deserved it.”

“I left her in the middle of—”

“Oh, whatever. You don’t think there’s plenty more where you came from?” Doug snickers. “That dried up old cunt can—”

“Don’t call her that,” Andy says firmly. “I’m going to—to stay in touch with her.” She swallows, and decides she owes it to her friends to tell the truth. “We’re going to see each other.”

The rest of the conversation is made up of “What the hell?” and “How do you know?” and “What the fuck are you thinking?” before Andy forces a subject change. Months of listening to her friends complain about how self-absorbed she’s become, and yet they don’t cooperate when she desperately wants to talk about something other than herself.

“I really am a sucker,” Lily mutters as she hugs Andy goodbye late that night. Still, it’s the best hug Andy’s gotten in months.


3. October

As Paris approaches, Andy knows she shouldn’t be surprised that work on the magazine carries on as usual. No one at Runway seems to procrastinate, Andy realizes, finally able to put her finger on why—besides all the obvious reasons—the magazine feels so incredibly different from school and from every other place she’s ever worked. Instead of cutting themselves some slack, or shifting their regular priorities around to make room for Paris, everyone simply works harder.

For the last three nights, Andy hasn’t sensed Miranda’s presence in the townhouse when dropping off the Book, and yet Andy has been arriving at work well before seven just to stay a few minutes ahead of her. Miranda must not be sleeping much.

Nate is perpetually annoyed now. Secretly, Andy thought that picking up Miranda’s call during their fight outside the gallery might mean that he was going to leave her alone for a while. But for two people who are supposedly taking a break to re-assess their feelings, they’ve been having discussions—arguments, really—an awful lot. Nate is always grumpy on less than eight hours’ sleep, but he’s been staying up late to pick fights with Andy about everything from Miranda to a dish left in the sink to that time their junior year of college when he’d walked into Lily and Andy’s apartment to overhear Andy saying she didn’t think she was completely opposed to the notion of non-monogamy.

“It was theoretical,” Andy shouts. She’s the monogamous type, and feels like she’s cheating even when she indulges in dirty thoughts about Miranda—improbable fantasies that calm her down now that she can no longer procrastinate. “And it was three years ago. I don’t have time to argue about this.” She really doesn’t. Tomorrow is the second-to-last full day in the office before Paris.

She thinks of the blouse Miranda had on today, so grey it made her grey eyes warm by comparison. She’d kind of hoped Miranda would be home tonight, arriving only shortly before Andy, with no time to change clothes. Who knows when she’ll wear the blouse again.

The next night, Miranda is home when Andy staggers into the townhouse with dry-cleaning and the Book. “Andrea?” she calls from her study.

“Yes?”

Miranda has definitely changed clothes tonight. Gone is the Stella McCartney dress, shorter than the hemlines she usually favors, and in its place are dark brown slacks so soft they almost look fuzzy, and a sweater the color of rust. Andy stands at the doorway, thinking in cliché: Miranda is autumn personified, and it makes Andy’s brain stop. Even against the warm clothes, Miranda’s eyes do not look especially cold.

When Andy snaps back to reality, she realizes Miranda hasn’t snapped at her to come closer, or held out her arm for the Book. She hasn’t asked for anything.

“What are you reading?” Andy asks, noticing the thick book in Miranda’s lap.

Miranda smiles, her face suddenly devious. “‘Lysistrata,’” she says. She must be joking, because this volume is far larger than any copy of the play could be. She holds it up so Andy can see the cover: it’s actually Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady.

“Isabel Archer. Now there’s a good case for going after what you want.” Andy has grown to appreciate the sensation of going just a bit too far with Miranda. The thrill is almost sexual, which is welcome considering they never touch, or talk about touching, or do anything but work hard and stare at each other and, apparently, speak in code.

Miranda looks like she wants to say something else, but she doesn’t, and Andy leaves the study with a smile on her face. In the car, Andy thinks about how Miranda’s brain is made of grey matter. Her heart is made of muscle. Her skin is made of skin. They don’t touch, but they could: it isn’t nearly as much of an impossibility as it was even a month ago. She beams, and can’t stop even when she sees that the bedroom door is closed, and that Nate has left a pillow and a blanket on the couch. She lies wide awake in the dark, treasuring her riddle and her answer.


2. September

When Andy falls in love with Miranda, she decides now is as good a time as any to stop drinking hot coffee. During the first Starbucks run of the day, she starts ordering an iced house blend for herself and sucking it down while she waits for the rest of the order. She decides not to notice that it’s starting to get cold outside, that she’s going to miss the warmth of drip coffee in her chilly apartment, on her walk to work, and at late night coffeehouses with her friends—not that those evenings are happening with much frequency anymore.

She’s not a coffee addict, unlike some people she knows. And she doesn’t need to burn the inside of her mouth in order to feel something.

She feels lots of things. Normal things, expected things. Terror, for one, even now: terror at almost being late or mixing up Miranda’s phone messages or forgetting some important aspect of the preparations for whatever photo shoot that currently has the office in a frenzy. Affection for Nate, as always, though guilt curls in her stomach when she thinks about how many times she’s refused sex lately, or stayed home when he’s wanted to go out. And most recently, most vividly, she feels a lot of curiosity, because suddenly she’s dying to know the texture of every fabric against her skin, which boots will fit her calf muscles, why Miranda hardly ever wears more than the slightest accent of red.

Of course, it’s interesting to consider why anyone favors one color or style—or anything, really— over another. She just happens to notice Miranda a lot more than most people. She assists Miranda; she has to look. It has something to do with the way her desk is oriented. And now she tells herself that the extremely unexpected lightness in her heart is just a silly crush. Hero-worship, minus the hero. Nothing a little iced coffee won’t fix.

She’s lying to herself, and she knows it. She is in love with Miranda, and it’s surprising but not improbable. Inconvenient, but not at all ludicrous. Miranda is gorgeous and smart, and there’s something appealing about how she never apologizes for her anger.

One night Miranda hears Andy hanging up the dry-cleaning, and she calls for the Book. This happens maybe once or twice a week, and now that the humiliation of walking in on Miranda and her husband fighting has faded, Andy has little difficulty walking casually into Miranda’s study and handing her the precious volume. Usually, Miranda waits to open it until Andy has turned to leave, and Andy amuses herself with the idea that Miranda performs some kind of secret ritual on its sacred pages. Tonight, Miranda opens the Book immediately, turning the pages with purpose until she finds what she’s looking for. “Oh, good,” she says quietly, and holds up the page so Andy can see what she’s looking at. “There was talk of a more major retouching, but I said I wanted to see her like this first.”

The photo in question is of a mural artist whose work is being profiled by the magazine; the portrait is a close-up, and it’s clear that the woman has spent at least forty years laughing and frowning and very little time worrying about the sun. She’s been photographed in bright sunlight, too, and her eyes have the slightest squint. Actual wind gives her long dark hair a windblown look, and the button-down shirt she’s wearing looks like such a perfect fit that Andy wonders if it’s from the artist’s own closet.

“She’s beautiful,” Andy says, deciding not to voice her opinion that this is the loveliest image she’s seen in Runway. It’s clear that Miranda is happy with the picture, but she would not agree with this assessment.

Miranda nods. “Yes, she is.”

Andy realizes that if she and Miranda were friends, they’d be laughing right now, and would teasingly ask each other if they were talking about mere appreciation or a more active attraction. They aren’t friends, and Andy does nothing but stand vaguely near Miranda’s chair, looking closely at the picture.

“You can’t always get what you want, Andrea,” Miranda says mildly, and right now, coming off a minute of staring at this artist and a whole day of staring at each other, this is as good as asking.

The words sound odd spoken by Miranda, who is quite accustomed to getting what she wants. But Andy knows as well as anyone that almost nothing makes her as angry as a misinterpreted desire, and that the mildness of her tone can carry a potent rage. She is looking at Andy with desire, and Andy tries to look back at Miranda the same way she looked at the photo only a moment before.

When Andy gets back to the car, Roy doesn’t ask what took her so long. He turns off his music like always, but before he does she catches a snippet of a Johnny Cash song her dad used to play all the time.

“What was the name of that song, Roy?”

The song is “Big River.” She suspects it might be perfect, and downloads it when she gets home. She puts on her headphones and listens to it immediately, even before she sneaks into the bedroom to whisper a greeting to Nate. The song works because it isn’t at all fitting: it takes place after the love has dried out. The narrator sounds like the world’s most cynical puppy dog, trudging around the country mourning an elusive woman.

Andy doesn’t trudge; she power walks. Miranda isn’t elusive; she’s married. Anyway, half the time you can’t tell if Johnny’s singing about a woman or a boat.

“New favorite song?” Nate asks on the third or fourth morning that she listens to it on repeat while getting ready for work. He’s still in bed, squinty-eyed and wondering why it matters that the restaurant doesn’t need him until lunch rush if he’s going to be up at 6 a.m. listening to Johnny Cash anyway.

“It wakes me up,” Andy says.

“Me too,” he retorts, the mumbled words lost as the song starts over for the third time today. He adds, louder, “I thought you didn’t like country music.”

Andy turns on her hairdryer in lieu of a response. Country’s growing on her, especially the old stuff. Miranda probably hates it. It really is perfect.

She hums to herself on her way to—to work. Lately her brain has wanted to replace to work with to Miranda, and that won’t do at all.


1. July

Miranda doesn’t know for sure if she made Andy cry today, but there’s a strong chance she did. It wouldn’t have been the first time: then it was obvious, unambiguous tears all over her face before she could leave the office. “I told myself, ‘Take a chance. Hire the smart, fat girl.’” What was amusing about that one is the fact that Miranda is the ultimate smart, fat girl at Runway. Not that she’s a girl, of course. She isn’t fat, either, but neither is Andrea. They aren’t models, but that doesn’t mean anything except that she and Andy have breasts and asses and hips.

Today was less clear. Andy certainly wasn’t crying when she placed the manuscript on Miranda’s desk, but a great deal of panic surely preceded that unexpected triumph, and Miranda can’t stop wondering in spite of herself. She tried to mention something about it to Nigel today: a passing statement, not even of regret, not exactly.

“They’re supposed to be obsessed with you,” Nigel pointed out, a funny smile on his face. “Not the other way around.”

She shouldn’t dwell on it, but tonight, sitting up in bed with the Book, Miranda imagines Andrea at home with her boyfriend, venting about her terrible day, sniffling through a play-by-play of the undoubtedly hellish wild goose chase for Harry Potter. Maybe she cries a little more as she says cruel things about Miranda. The boyfriend probably kisses her, trying to erase some of the stress. Suddenly, the covers are too hot. She’s kicking the comforter away from her body when Stephen opens the door without knocking. Technically, this is his bedroom too, though he doesn’t stay in it very often.

“You busy?” he asks.

Miranda looks down at the Book for the first time in who knows how many minutes, and over at Stephen, who’s wearing nothing but boxers and a white undershirt.

“Yes,” she says. His intentions are obvious. Best to dash his hopes now, so he can decide whether or not he wants to suffer through a polite conversation for nothing. “I’m busy.”

“How busy?” he asks, grinning a little. He probably thinks she’s flattered by the attention. They haven’t spoken since their argument the night before.

“Busy,” she says sharply.

“You know, it’s pretty inconvenient that you have to pore over that thing every night.”

“It came later than usual,” she says, hating that she’s making an excuse, hating even more the way his voice roughens so quickly. He sounds like he did last night, when Andrea heard them fighting. She made Andrea crazy today because of a conversation with this man.

“Well, maybe you can fantasize about it while you suck me off,” Stephen laughs bitterly, as if he already knows this new tactic isn’t going to work. Still, he sounds serious, like he’d take her up on the offer if she did in fact offer.

The conditions are right. The girls are miles away, with their grandmother. (“We love the book,” Cassidy enthused over the phone that night, thanking Miranda like she was the one who’d gone to the trouble of procuring advance copies.) They could be as loud as they want, could do it anywhere in the house.

But she can’t tonight, not after the kind of day she’s had. “You can take care of yourself,” she says. She’s getting careless. She refuses to look up again, and while her eyes settle on the page in front of her she notices a paragraph that isn’t properly justified. She reaches blindly for the pen on her nightstand, and as she makes the note Stephen huffs a disgusted sigh and leaves, slamming the door behind him.

Miranda is so angry the room dims, but she edits methodically until she’s calmed down. As she falls asleep that night, she burrows into the sheets, seeking softness out. Her last thought is about how much better the world would be if the only people who could comfort were the tormentors, the catalysts for tears. Obsession is a funny word.
Page 1 of 2 << [1] [2] >>

Date: 2009-10-12 09:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unfortunateggs.livejournal.com
THIS has no comments?

It is quite frankly one of the best stories in the genre that I have read.

Seriously.

More, please.

Very, very good.

Date: 2009-10-12 01:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you very much for your kind words. (And it's OK that there weren't any comments, I think I'd only just posted it!)

Date: 2009-10-12 09:25 am (UTC)
law_nerd: Our 1/2 Lab puppy stares intently off into space. (Default)
From: [personal profile] law_nerd
Apologizing in advance for four a.m. incoherence.

I wish I could tap Charlotte for suitably complimentary adjectives, but I seem to be coming up dry. Nothing in my mental thesaurus suffices. Is it enough to say that I wanted to (and did) re-read "Fed" the moment I arrived at the beginning? And that I expect to revisit this story many times in the future?

The reversed chronology works for this. I'd be appreciative, though, if you'd sometime discuss how you decided that it would be the perfect way to tell this particular story.

Date: 2009-10-12 01:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! It always makes me giddy when someone says they re-read something I've written, and I'm incredibly flattered that you re-read it right away.

I decided to use reverse chronology soon after I decided to write a story about happiness. I tend to write these characters--Miranda especially!--as pretty emotionally strained, and I really wanted to make them happy (Miranda especially!). I decided it would be most believable to start with a place of stability and mutual appreciation and joy, and to gradually introduce problems and sadness into the mix. If I started with Miranda's displeasure with Stephen, or even with the lingering grief over losing her father, the reader would have to filter her ultimate satisfaction through a knowledge of those troubling things. But if joy is the foundation, all the difficulties get filtered through that instead.

I also wanted to take the element of surprise out of the relationship, and starting with the relationship in its healthiest moment so far seemed like a good way to do that. I didn't want the fact that they're queer to be such a revelation for these characters, such a big deal. It's important that they love each other, but realizing that their love works is not the climax of this story.

That might be more of an explanation than you bargained for, but it was fun to write. Thanks again for your kind words!

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] law_nerd - Date: 2009-10-12 08:11 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-10-12 09:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baggers.livejournal.com
“They’re supposed to be obsessed with you,” Nigel pointed out, a funny smile on his face. “Not the other way around.”

GASP!

And suddenly, everything that came before falls in to place. (And, not for nothing, an idea exploded in my brain.) I adore the concept of Miranda as the smart, fat girl, and in turn keeps trying to feed Andy. The divisions in Miranda's world are many and varied.

Number 8, where they sit and speak of pleasant things, reads like Hemingway.

Do I even have to say that I loved this? Probably not, but I say it nonetheless.

Date: 2009-10-12 01:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Yay! Thank you so much. I always greatly appreciate your feedback, and I'm happier than you can know that the moment with Nigel in the "first" vignette made everything fall into place. I really struggled with how to set up and explain the relationship that has become a given in the chronologically-later sections. And I really, really want to hear the idea that "exploded in your brain." That sounds awesome.

I really like the idea that Miranda's "smart, fat girl" identity, however hidden, makes her feed Andy. I hadn't thought of it quite like that, but it works. (Oh wait. Was that your exploding idea? If it was, it's a good one, and I apologize for my denseness.)

Thanks again!

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] baggers.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-10-14 09:13 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-10-12 10:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] perpetualblyss.livejournal.com
An interesting way of presenting the story with a reverse chronology. Excellent writing. Thanks for sharing.

Date: 2009-10-12 01:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you very much!

Date: 2009-10-12 10:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jintymac.livejournal.com
WOW! What an amazing story to wake up to :D

I loved the format and structure, it was amazing to see things unfold from a different perspective and of course knowing that everything was going to work out between them ;-)

The characterisations are perfect too and I loved how things started slowly and they agreed to that six month gap after their first kiss and the news of the divorce.

This was absolutely awesome and I completely agree with unfortunateggs!

I'd also love to read more if you were considering it.....

Date: 2009-10-12 01:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thanks so much. It occurred to me that knowing the chronological ending might make people less invested in the stuff that came earlier, and I'm glad to know that this wasn't the case for you.

I don't think I'll be visiting this particular story with a sequel, but that doesn't mean I'm done writing for the fandom. I hope to write more eventually!

Thanks, as always, for being such a supportive reader. It really means a lot that you always comment on my stories.

Date: 2009-10-12 11:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bailey01.livejournal.com
Very interesting a fic told backwords :P Can't wait to see waht you have more in store :)

Date: 2009-10-12 01:35 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-10-12 12:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radak.livejournal.com
Interesting, I like it!

Date: 2009-10-12 01:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thanks so much!

Date: 2009-10-12 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carinjo.livejournal.com
wow. very good.
my favourite bit: "They have told the truth, and it is good that it has happened at a distance, across the room from each other on a quiet night." beautiful

and i read the nightwatch a few months ago, so i wasn't worried about this, especially since this started with a happy ending.

Date: 2009-10-12 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you very much!

Also: I love The Night Watch. It's one of the best examples of reverse chronology I can think of.

Date: 2009-10-12 04:35 pm (UTC)
ext_425300: (Default)
From: [identity profile] mayireadtoday.livejournal.com
I enjoyed this. Although in my mind Andy does eventually have a baby. I actually read this chronically because reading any backwards story makes my head hurt.

Date: 2009-10-12 07:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading! I haven't completely decided for myself whether or not my version of Andy ends up having a child. Hmm, I can't quite imagine reading the story starting with the last vignette and working back to Number 10. I kind of wish I could forget I'd written it so I could try reading it both ways and see if it "works."

Date: 2009-10-12 05:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chilly-flame.livejournal.com
I cheated today, and I never do this, because I love the pleasure of reading a great story at home, but... I read this at work. And it was totally worth it. My willpower vanished the moment I spotted it this morning.

i'll be quick now and say how calming your words seem to be--they just ebb and flow like a river, taking me where you want to go. And the line that leapt out at me most totally feels this way too, which ends in "a plain and even warmth." It just zinged in my head, like, "oh yeah."

Stellar job. Can't wait to take a deeper dive later. :)

Date: 2009-10-12 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
I'm sorry I made your willpower vanish.

Actually, I'm not sorry at all, and I'm extremely pleased that you liked it. I liked that line too, and it makes me happy that you felt that way about it. Thanks, as always, for reading and offering feedback. I really appreciate what a supportive reader you are (and I hope you know that I'm always, always a very eager reader of your work).

Date: 2009-10-12 06:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pantone462.livejournal.com
Hmmm, since you are so good at avoiding cliches, I'll do one!

Your stories read like perfect red wine (not white, white is too light). Not too sweet, complex, heady, rich and dry, and leave just a hint of a tart aftertaste.

Delicious. Thank you very much for this story!

Date: 2009-10-12 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thanks so much; you are far too kind, and I'm so happy you enjoyed reading the story!

Date: 2009-10-12 06:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pin-drop.livejournal.com
I'm not going to say too much here, because a) you seem to bring out the "eeeeee" in me, and it's embarrassing, and b) I have work, like, right now. But I want to let you know that I've reread it, and I love the changes you've made and the things you've kept the same, and I will send a more detailed reaction to your gmail at some point tomorrow. Awesome.

Date: 2009-10-12 07:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you so, so much (for everything). I'm completely happy that you approve, and I'll be greedily and eagerly anticipating your more detailed reaction. Totally meant what I said in my author's note, by the way: your comments were incredibly helpful, and I'll be gratified to get whatever other insights you have to offer.

Date: 2009-10-12 07:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ciprus.livejournal.com
I was instantly thrilled when I saw you’d posted this, because I knew it was going to be good. And I was right. ;) (And I love being right, so I’m very happy right now. )

Your writing is something else… I’m not eloquent enough to describe it, sadly, but it’s beautiful and thoughtful, and you have such an insight to the characters. It takes my breath away. I adored Clean Rooms and Dirty Light and have re-read it many, many times and I will do the same with this I’m sure, because there’s always something new to discover in your fics, every time I return to them.

I’m always awed by your Miranda(s), and I particularly enjoyed the scene with her mother. It felt real, and it’s a kind of scene that felt completely new to the fandom, in the best way imaginable.

What was amusing about that one is the fact that Miranda is the ultimate smart, fat girl at Runway.

Yes, of course she is! After a long time reading this fandom, you can still surprise me with new angles and new thoughts that has never crossed my mind but are so completely right. I could keep quoting all evening, because there are many treasures like that in this fic.

You’re a without a doubt one of the most interesting authors I’ve ever encountered in fandom. So, thanks for sharing! :)

Date: 2009-10-12 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
This is the kind of feedback I will treasure forever. Thank you.

I'm so happy you liked the story, and particularly happy that you enjoyed the scene with Miranda's mother. I had so much fun writing that one, because Miranda hardly ever gets a mommy and it's even more rare that she gets a good one who's actually willing to mother her. I had a great time with that part.

Thanks again for the amazing kindness of your feedback; I am truly touched!

Date: 2009-10-12 07:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennedyjld.livejournal.com
I admit it, my excitement about "Fed" was considerable. When I see your name on something, I just know it's going to be good. The story was as terrific as I'd hoped - I loved watching Andy and Miranda fall in love in reverse. Even though things aren't completely resolved at the beginning/end, we still feel that they are going to be okay. One day one of them will ask that question and the other WON'T be so horrified...

Thanks for writing it, and thanks for sharing it.

Date: 2009-10-13 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you! It feels great to know that you trust my writing. And I'm glad that you felt they were going to be okay despite the lack of complete resolution. I felt that way, too...I don't always, and it was a nice feeling to give these characters something solid to hold onto. I'm not sure if I can imagine this incarnation of the characters ever wanting to marry each other, but I do think they'll be "2-gether 4-ever," so to speak. ;-)

Date: 2009-10-12 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fanchiction.livejournal.com
I always love the way that you put Mirandy into words... and the dynamic of their relationship is always painfully charming. This is no exception. I mean-- "They are vertical and horizontal, young and not young at all, awake and exhausted."-- such a beautiful image!
Thank you for sharing!

-Jo

Date: 2009-10-13 02:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you for reading! So glad you enjoyed it.

Date: 2009-10-12 10:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] androgynydelmar.livejournal.com
Wow. That was so different. And I love how it was retrospective. That was an incredible read. I'm looking forward to your next fic :D

Date: 2009-10-13 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thanks very much. I'm glad you enjoyed the backward storytelling. It may be a while 'til my next fic, but I'll try not to disappoint.

Date: 2009-10-13 02:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] black-inkfinity.livejournal.com
I said it already, but I'm glad to say it again: I love your writing. You bring out the depth in relationships. Delicious. Thank you. More. Please.

Date: 2009-10-13 03:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you so much for reading and letting me know what you thought! I hope there will be more--not to sound like a snot or anything, but I have a lot of time-consuming obligations coming up (that don't have anything to do with fanfic). I don't feel done writing for this fandom, though. Thanks again!

Date: 2009-10-13 06:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ubiquitousmixie.livejournal.com
wow.

seriously...wow.

when i saw that you had posted (beside my panic of "omg, i posted this CRAP when chainofclovers posted a fic that is bound to be genuis!?"), i knew i was going to be in for a treat. i always get a bit of a thrill when you post something - you are an exceptional writer. i look forward to it as i would a glass of wine after a long day.

this was brilliant. completely stunning. i love the way you flipped the storytelling here - with each passage, i found myself hungry for more details about how they got there, etc. you wove this tale perfectly, and incorporated some very surprising and delicious elements. i'm thinking, to be more specific, of the passage between miranda and her mother. that was really a beautiful touch. i also love the progression of their relationship.

this was fantastic. thank you so much for this incredible fic.

Date: 2009-10-14 04:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! Also--your story was great, and you shouldn't even joke about stressing over it being posted in close proximity to mine.

I'm really glad you enjoyed reading backward in time to get more details about the relationship, and I'm pleased that the section with Miranda's mom worked well for you. Giving Miranda a mom was one of the most fun-to-write things I've ever done. Thanks again for reading and letting me know what you thought.

Date: 2009-10-14 03:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beachbum3668.livejournal.com
What a marvelous fic! I truly love the structure - moving back through what led them together worked wonderfully well. And your Miranda is spot on.

Couldn't wait to finish reading it and then was depressed that it was over...much too soon! Thank you for sharing it with us.

Date: 2009-10-14 04:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you so much for reading and letting me know how you felt about the story. Very glad you enjoyed it!

Date: 2009-10-14 11:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] somniesperus.livejournal.com
I was happy when I saw you'd posted because, naturally, I knew it was going to be good. I started reading it right away last night, but then I realized that my attention span was utterly shot and I was in a lousy mood, so I stopped. It was clearly the right decision, because your work deserves to be approached with appreciation and a clear head!

The story's structure really intrigued me, and I like what you said in a comment upthread about showing us the joy and pleasure first, instead of the suffering. So that in essence we have the happy ending (if that's the term) in our minds already. You set out to write a story in which Andy and Miranda have a happy-making relationship, and look: you did it!

My favorite moment, because I'm predictable, is the moment in which they agree on "six months" in Andy's Paris hotel room. Because although it's the middle of the story, it's also a beginning, and I like beginnings. They are rife with potential and the knowledge of things, perhaps good or perhaps not, to come. And by that point I knew how good the relationship was going to be for both of them, so I was happily poised to see what was left.

Favorite lines:

they have all afternoon, now that they’ve done their peripheral mourning.

Oh, I see what you did there.

the funny expression on Bridget’s face tells her that they look about two seconds away from stealing the baby and making a run for it.

Brilliant image. Thanks for making me smile.

And, of course, Andy pining for Miranda from afar perpetually hits my buttons, so I enjoyed that as well!

I've been looking forward to this. Thanks for gracing us with more of your beautiful, thoughtful writing.

Date: 2009-10-18 06:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! I'm really glad you enjoyed it, and sorry that your mood/attention span were in a bad place on Thursday.

Especially glad you liked the "six months" thing. I struggled with that a lot, because Andy and Miranda have so much chemistry (even in the movie...hence the entire fandom, I guess) that they needed a really, really good reason to be okay with waiting such a long time to see each other again.

Hope you're doing well. Regardless of whether I know if you've got a story in the works, I tend to be in a constant state of looking forward to your writing.

Date: 2009-10-15 01:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caramelapples11.livejournal.com
Incredible. I loved every single word of this, and the unusual format. :D Thanks for sharing!
Edited Date: 2009-10-15 01:33 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-10-18 06:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you very much!

Date: 2009-10-16 06:08 pm (UTC)
ext_37112: (lovesquid)
From: [identity profile] la-fono.livejournal.com
THIS. This this this.

First off: The format. Stellar use thereof. The way each chapter forward is a definite window going backwards means they stack up in the mind, and become all the more... pertinent? Relevant? I realise you chose the subject of your moments specifically, but the format definitely amplifies the story. Smashing. :D
I'm going to go for a read in the other direction in a while when the intended way around isn't so fresh; see what it looks like.

I shan't quote all my fave bits, because I'll be quoting the whole thing, essentially, but this, for me, was when it all clicked, got underlined and realised:

She made Andrea crazy today because of a conversation with this man.
followed by
“Well, maybe you can fantasize about it while you suck me off,” Stephen laughs bitterly, as if he already knows this new tactic isn’t going to work. Still, he sounds serious, like he’d take her up on the offer if she did in fact offer.

The huge red flag of Miranda's thinking showing us she already thinks of Andy before her husband (even if she's not entirely aware of it), whose speech sounds hugely crass next to it, is just wonderful in its aww/awful.

<3

Date: 2009-10-18 06:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thanks very much. I'm so happy you enjoyed the story, and more pleased than you can know that the moment where everything clicked was so close to the end of the story/the beginning of the chronology. It was weird to write a story in which the only suspense was in finding out why things happened the way they did, rather than finding out what happens next. None of my stories are especially suspenseful, but this one was even less than usual. So, it was really exciting to get your feedback.

I'd be curious to hear what you think of reading the story in the other direction. I've only heard of one person who read it that way intentionally, and I'm not sure if it would work all that well. At the very least, it would make the scene where Miranda is worried that Andy's dad is seriously ill a little more confusing.

Anyway. Thanks so much for reading and letting me know what you thought!

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] la-fono.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-10-19 06:41 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-10-21 02:12 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-10-17 04:10 am (UTC)
woldy: (Miranda)
From: [personal profile] woldy
This is a great story! I'm a sucker for reverse chronology and you've used it to good effect with the six month break and slow development of the dynamic between them, but where we already know there's a happy ending. I love the overlap with what we see in the movie, especially the missing scene after Andy leaves Miranda, and the final POV shift. Great job!

Date: 2009-10-18 06:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm so happy you liked it!

Do you have any plans to write any more DWP stories? I really loved "Strike the Pose," and rec'd it to my friend list. It was so great, and I'd be thrilled to read more of your writing!

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] woldy - Date: 2009-10-18 07:49 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-10-22 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] perks123.livejournal.com
This is an incredibly well written story. Emotionally deep and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing.

It will be on my list of stories to read again.

Date: 2009-10-23 03:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm very glad you enjoyed it.

Date: 2009-11-03 06:23 am (UTC)
ext_7700: (city)
From: [identity profile] swatkat24.livejournal.com
This is lovely, lovely. I love the backwards narrative, and the hurt and anger in the end is beautifully balanced by the laughter in the beginning. I particularly enjoyed the way you used the other characters - Nigel, Miranda's mother, the twins, Doug and Lily. It makes their world feel a little fuller, more fleshed out and real.

Date: 2009-11-10 12:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chainofclovers.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm so happy to get this feedback--I really enjoyed writing the secondary characters, maybe more than I have in any other fics, and I'm glad it showed. Thank you very much for reading and letting me know what you thought.
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