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Dark Secrets

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Walking through the campus alleys, she smiled as the sun caressed her skin, a warm feeling of freedom and rightness filling her heart. She was incredibly tired but couldn't avoid the sense that, despite the difficulties, things were in the right place. After a long stressful night of hard work, her early classes were a good reminder of her choices and a hopeful glimpse of her future. She inhaled the morning air deeply and picked a small table to study during the break, hoping to put some class notes in order.

The first two classes were very interesting, but she was almost too tired to pay any attention, so she was at least, very accurate with her records, hoping to take a look at them later. Sipping from a coffee mug, she sat alone and opened a book, deliberately avoiding her classmates. She was usually very private about friends and relationships, mainly because her energies were drained by work, leading her to expend the remaining time focusing on her student needs. The other reason was more complicated, she simply didn't want her colleagues guessing the kind of work she did. She was not ashamed of her job, but those boys and girls were far from her reality and a bit immature.

She was not older than any of them, but the differences were huge and she found herself on more than one occasion bored to death around them. Their conversations were about lives so distant from her experiences. Comparing them with her work mates she could easily see the differences. The girls from Dark Secrets were also young but wiser and mature, most of them had stories so complicated as hers. They were her real friends, the ones with whom she could share her fears and desires.

A few guys and girls had tried to approach her in college, offering friendship or inviting her out. Her polite refusals were granting her a reputation as a remote, reserved person. That was better than being considered arrogant, but still she couldn't deny the fact that she'd been avoiding dating because she was terribly scared of developing deep relationships. How she would explain to a friend the nature of a job that she couldn't' speak about or to a girlfriend, that she would never be available to date at night, because she would be serving tables in a place that she couldn't talk about, at a secret address. She decided to keep things simple and focus on her goal: work and study.

She was so absorbed in her own work that she was startled when someone took a by her side. She raised her eyes from the book to be greeted by a good looking guy that vaguely reminded her of one of her classmates. He was smiling confidently as he started the conversation.

"Hi, you're Andy right? I'm Nate; we're in the same class on Wednesdays. Are you here alone?"

She thought his attempt of making light conversation was offensive, but didn't' want to be rude.

"Yes, I'm just reading my notes and studying."

"Is that your first semester?"

"Yes, I'm in New York just for a few months."

"Oh, that's why you don't have many friends around…."

She just nodded and turned her attention back to her notes, hoping the guy would find someone else to chat with. Unfortunately he was still seated after a minute, even if she didn't make any attempt at conversation."

"So Andy, I was thinking if you would like to go out sometime, we could dance or watch a movie, what do you say?"

"Well… I really appreciate your invitation, but I work at night, so it would be difficult to find time, I'm sorry."

He was surprised by her answer and it was amusing because he was not used to being refused. He was a handsome and smart guy, but definitely not her type. He insisted.

"But we could go before or after your work, or on the weekends."

She was getting uncomfortable with his insistence, because she knew that she would have to be more specific about her impediments if he kept trying, so, she stood from her place in the table, gathering her books and her purse.

"Look Nate, you're really a nice guy, but as I said before I'm not available. I appreciate your offer and I'm sorry, but I just… can't. If you excuse me I have a class in ten minutes."

She left the surprised guy behind her, heading to her class. He was really disappointed but she couldn't have encouraged his advances. She had many troubles and doubts about her life, but she was pretty certain about her sexual orientation - her feelings toward the silver-haired woman were a blunt proof of those inclinations. She sighed and rolled her eyes. She had tried hard to avoid any thoughts that would remind her about the previous night's incident. She was annoyed by her own reactions toward the insufferable woman and the uncomfortable situation. During their conversation, she had to deal with conflicted feelings, fighting the undeniable attraction as she made her position clear to the demanding patron. She was almost certain that the woman wouldn't give up so easily, considering the fierce expression on those blue eyes as they followed her every movement for a couple of hours following their brief encounter. They didn't talk anymore, but Miranda Priestley didn't accept other girls' company as would be expected. A few of Andy's friends had come to her table, only to be dismissed with an annoyed gesture and a roll of the eyes. The woman was obviously stubborn, but Andy knew her own conviction. Determination was second nature for Andy and if the wealthy patron continued her advances she would have a hard time facing Andy.

Miranda made a huge effort to concentrate on the last meeting of her schedule. Her staff should be offering solutions to the countless problems she identified during the week, although, in the last two hours she had to control her temper more than once, avoiding the urge to fire half of that bunch of fools. She was also feeling deadly tired, as the lack of sleep and worry about deadlines overwhelmed her.

She was trying hard, but her thoughts kept flowing wildly around a certain pair of innocent eyes. She lost track of time during the night, observing the young woman working, her elegant, delicate movements, brought a broad easy smile to her face. Nigel was right, she was definitely special and Miranda couldn't control her rising interest to know everything about her. She had somehow offended the girl, demanding too soon what she probably wasn't ready to accept. Andrea's refusal only ignited Miranda's curiosity and she couldn't wait to see the young woman again, although she was quite aware that she would need to change her strategy. She was shocked and delighted with Andrea's lack of fear, an unusual demeanor around her. She could say, without exaggerating, that the only persons completely comfortable in her presence were her two daughters. She hadn't had time yet to analyze her fascination with the young woman, but she knew that it would be imperative to see her again.

From afar she heard her assistant's voice, confirming her late dinner. She dismissed the girl, ordering her to clear her night schedule. Bringing her attention back to the meeting she sighed heavily, silently communicating her discontentment. Taking off her glasses, she massaged her temples in a desperate attempt to control the oncoming headache. Tired of her subordinate's incompetence she made an impatient dismissing gesture with her hands.

"Enough. I can't stand one more minute of your inability. I'm just asking you to do your job, am I reaching for the stars here? I want a meeting first thing in the morning and I really hope to see something acceptable or I'll be forced to find different talents. That's all."

She stood abruptly not waiting for explanations. Incompetence was an unacceptable word in her magazine and anyone who had serious professional pretensions would have to follow her orders. One of her great characteristics was a single minded inclination when pursuing an objective. Some people would consider her efforts a sign of a compulsive work behavior and evidence of obsessive motherhood. Thinking about her own actions she couldn't contradict them. To everything in her life, at least the important things, she acted with a firm purpose and conviction to success.

The only strange fact was that not even once did she feel that way about a romantic relationship. Once, in her youth she had nourished naïve expectations of finding a mate, a partner of body and soul, but the years had brought reality. She was not getting any younger despite her ageless beauty and an uncomfortable feeling of loneliness had been haunting her thoughts frequently. At the age of fifty two she was convinced that romantic love was nothing but a fairy tale and that everyone in this damn world wanted something from her.

Entering her office, she felt her phone vibrate. It was one of her girls, probably asking if she would be home to talk to them before sleep. She answered the phone, smiling at her daughter's voice.

"Hi Bobbsey, how was your day at school?"

She smiled tenderly as Caroline told her a few tales of her teachers and classmates before passing the phone to her sister who asked about her evening plans.

"Mommy is going to be late again tonight, but tomorrow I'll be home earlier and we'll spend the night together, ok?"

"Ok Mommy, when you get home, will you kiss us Goodnight?"

Miranda smiled at her child's voice, thinking that sometimes they sounded like her small babies, especially when they were sleepy. The girls already knew she had a business dinner that night, so she just informed them that she would not be home to put them in bed. Normally, she would make every effort to avoid being away from home, especially two days in the same week. Since her first divorce she has tried hard to coordinate her nights out with the ones the girls would spend with their father. The twins were at a very delicate age and she knew the importance of being present in their lives. She was aware that her work routine took away a lot of their precious time together, so she used every chance she had to reassure her precious girls that she was there for them no matter what.

"Of course, my angel, when I get home I'll see you ok? Love you."

"Bye mom, love you too."

Despite her tiredness and the great wish to be with her kids, she decided to go back to Dark Secrets. She had thought about Andrea all day. Her thoughts kept flowing between annoyance and excitement beyond just seeing her again, even though she couldn't yet understand the nature of her own feelings.

Andy was impressed with the second day of an almost full house. The new girls were having a great impact on the business and consequently in Andrea's earnings. She received more tips in the last couple of days than in an entire week in her first month working in Dark Secrets. Trying to find some space between tables and bodies, she got some orders, stopping briefly to watch her two best friends on the stage. Serena and Lily were beautiful, performing a new act they had rehearsed at their apartment, showing the first movements to Andy. She was very proud of her roommates, cheering heartily as they finished. Heading to the bar she waited as Doug prepared the drinks she would deliver. The place was so full of people that she didn't notice Miranda's approach.

"Good evening Andrea."

She froze recognizing the deep dulcet-tone of Miranda's voice as she felt a delicious shiver all over her body. Like the previous night, her body reactions betrayed her will and she had to control herself to hide her feelings, wearing a mask of serious indifference.

"Mrs. Priestley, how may I help you tonight?"

Miranda smiled, but to Andy's surprise, her expression was softer than the night before, the feral stares were gone, replaced by an almost sweet attitude. Their bodies were close due to the lack of space between the tables and Andrea smelled that delicious perfume again and felt the warmth coming from the other woman's body as their chests almost touched.

Miranda was looking intently into Andrea's eyes as if she was seeing them for the first time. Andrea tried to put some space between them, but the older woman held her arm in a soft but firm grip.

"I'd like to apologize for my behavior last night, the way I treated you was lamentable. You must know that I mistook you for one of Nigel's girls and I sincerely apologize."

Andrea would be less surprised if a second head popped out of the woman's neck. Considering her previous behavior, Andrea would have expected anything but an apology. The woman didn't seem to regret her actions last night, on the contrary, her eyes reflected rage and determination. Andy was still suspicious about this unpredictable turn of events, but decided to be diplomatic. She smiled softly.

"Don't worry, let's put this behind us. You're one of Dark Secrets most important patrons and I'm just a waitress, if that's settled I'm sure we won't have any future problems."

Miranda was holding her close, sheltering her body from the touches of other guests. If it wasn't for their misunderstanding, Andrea would have found her protective attire very sweet. The music was loud and Miranda leaned in to place her lips near Andrea's ears, in a slightly seductive gesture.

"Would you please come with me? I'd like to talk to you in private."

Andrea's head snapped back and she looked again at the older woman's eyes.

"I'm sorry, I'm only allowed on the main floor, I've never been and don't intend to be on the private upper floors. If you want to speak to me, you have to do it here, like the other guests."

Something undefined flashed through Miranda's eyes as she offered Andrea a fake smile, but her voice kept soft.

"I'm sure Nigel can make an exception if I ask him to. I really need to talk to you where I can hear my own thoughts. Don't worry, I won't bite."

Doug called Andrea to deliver her orders. She put them on the tray, ignoring Miranda.

"Wait please! You're not giving me a chance to explain my terms, last night I don't think I made myself clear."

"Your terms? Look, Mrs. Priestley…"

"Miranda, call me Miranda."

"Mrs. Priestley, as I already told you last night I'm not interested in any of your terms, as you put… I'm just working here and I have a lot to do. In case you haven't noticed, this place is crowded tonight. One of the waiters didn't come to work and I'm working for both… so, I'm sorry but I can't help you, excuse me."

Miranda held her arm firmly.

"Look, I understand you."

Andy blinked, looking confused.

"You think you do?"

Miranda smiled again, looking into Andrea's eyes. Her words and her tone were seductive.

"Of course. You want to be valued, I understand and respect that. You're not like the others, that's what you're trying to tell me…"

Andrea shivered at her tone, disconcerted for a second by Miranda's beauty. Then, as if waking from a dream she huffed with indignation. The woman was the most infuriating, stubborn person she has ever met, she just couldn't take a 'no' for an answer.

"I'm not trying to tell you anything more than what I already told you! You know what? Forget it! Just understand that I'm not available and we won't have problems."

She turned her back to the woman, intending to leave, but felt her arm being grabbed again.

"Why the hell are you always turning your back to me, I haven't finished yet. Didn't your mother teach you better manners?"

Andrea couldn't believe that line. What was this woman thinking? Apparently she was not satisfied with just insulting her, the lady would have to patronize her too. Her temper was rising pretty fast and she started to fear her own reactions.

"Leave my mother out of this conversation and talking about good manners… didn't your mother teach you that insistence can be very impolite? Look around you, this place is full of amazing women, you just have to choose one of them and leave me alone. Just let me go back to my work!"

She was getting annoyed by her own reactions toward the older woman. Miranda was able to do the impossible: infuriate her. Worst, her body that should be repulsed, was enjoying the feeling of those soft and warm hands. She was very attracted to Miranda, she couldn't deny it and if the older woman's insistence was a sign, she probably felt the same. The problem was that Andrea was having a hard time to separate the physical from the mental reactions. She was living an unusual contradiction: physical attraction against personality revulsion. Miranda's voice pulled her out of her thoughts again.

"Look, I know you're playing hard to get not saying what you want and I admire that. I'm also a negotiator and you must know that I'm willing to compensate you properly. If you agree I could be your exclusive patron and if you talk to Nigel he will inform you that's a very rentable arrangement."

Andrea closed her eyes and counted to ten to avoid slapping Miranda's face in front of everyone. She wanted to keep her job and that pampered woman didn't worth her future. So, she decided to refuse for the last time. She extracted her arm from Miranda's grip firmly, straightened her body and looked directly into those blue orbs.

"Mrs. Priestley your inconvenience is really bothering me, I don't want to make a scene or be rude, so please, I beg you, forget me, pretend that I don't exist. I know that it will be no problem for you, as you already told me more than once I'm an insignificant person. Besides, if your wealth is everything you have to offer to a woman, I'm sorry for you, because to me it's not enough. Now, if you will excuse me I really must go back to work."

With that, she turned on her heels, hoping at least to maintain her dignity.

Miranda was speechless, shocked even. Not just with the girl's blatant refusal, but for her last words, they hurt more than she could admit, especially because she knew that they were true. What did she have to offer to people? Her money and her position worked well until now. What does she mean when she says she's not interested in those things? Where is that girl was from, Jupiter?

Miranda was a good judge of character, that was one of the reasons for her success and she could almost swear that the other woman was attracted to her. Every time she came close to Andrea's body she felt delicate shivers in the young woman's body and one brief touch evoked a tiny gasp. It was a delicious sound and Miranda couldn't wait to hear it again. She would win this dispute, no matters how. Looking around she found Nigel, talking to one of the patrons. Moving between the patrons, she reached him, petulantly interrupting the conversation. She complimented the patron and excused herself, dragging Nigel with her. When they reached a tranquil corner, she pointed a finger at his face.

"I don't give a damn about your work ethics, your moral philosophy or that stupid conversation about a dream land! That girl is pushing her luck and if you don't help me I won't make things easy for you either!"

Nigel offered her a bored stare, looking absently at his hands while speaking.

"I presume we're talking about Andy…"

"Andrea, yes! What's the matter with her? Can you believe that I offered her an exclusive agreement and she refused? Look around! We're surrounded by girls that would kill for an opportunity like that and that brat dismissed me if I was an annoying…nobody!"

Nigel rolled his eyes dismissing her intimidations. He knew Miranda Priestley well, considering himself one of her only real friends. She could be very dangerous when thwarted, but he was confident that she would never cause him harm. Besides, he was getting curious about her unusual reactions toward Andy. In twenty years he never once witnessed anyone so obsessed. He could swear that a woman of her age, who never fell in love before, would be damned to sadness and loneliness, but looking at her eyes he saw a different light. Was that just an effect of the dispute, or could she be really interested in the young girl? His romantic side, that never once subsided, decided to investigate the issue.

"Well my friend, I understand your annoyance but there's nothing I can do to help you."

Miranda narrowed her eyes.

"What do you mean? Of course you can help me! I want to know everything about that girl, everything!"

Her words got his attention.

"And may I ask why you are so interested in her?"

Miranda seemed startled for a second as if she hadn't thought about her reasons for pursuing the girl.

"Well, I need to know her, because when you have a trouble, knowledge can be your best weapon."

"Hmm.., maybe in that magazine where you work, that's a good philosophy, but here…. I don't think so… you know, I don't like to hear you calling her a problem, because I don't see her like that. She's a beautiful, bright kid, who deserves the best from life and if you want to know the truth I'm really attached to her. I won't allow you to mistreat her."

"Nigel, you idiot, I don't want to mistreat her, I want…"

He looked directly in her eyes waiting for her next words.

"I want… shit, I don't know what I want…"

Nigel smiled tenderly, and patted her arm.

"Well, this is a rare occurrence, I suppose. Guess what? I like your answer, but I need to know your intentions better."

"Intentions? Who are you? A nineteenth century godfather?"

He ignored her remark waving to one of the girls.

"If you're still this amazed by Andy tomorrow, call me, we can have lunch while I consider these intentions..."