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I Prefer Your Love

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Approximately six months and two days later, when Miranda was brewing three Nespresso pods (decaffeinato for the girls, a double shot for herself) and Cazz was rinsing the dinner plates in the sink, she heard the buzz of her phone on the kitchen counter.

“Caroline, is that Alex?”

She already felt guilty saying it. The every-other-weekend family dinner policy was and always had been clear: phones on silent. No late night Runway snafus, no pleas for Caroline to pick up a last minute event photography gig (not that she was really doing those anymore, but whatever), and no friends calling to tell Cazz that the Alabama Shakes were in town and could she please get back to Brooklyn right now with her guitar and some weed?

But mother had given her a pass, just this once, in case Alex’s girlfriend went into labor. She was due any day now, and he was a total wreck. Cazz was half-worried he would manage to break an arm or his own neck when it finally came time to take Alicia to the hospital. This, of course, would be problematic, given that she needed him to play the drums in two weeks—his last gig before he went on indefinite paternity leave.

Over her shoulder, she heard Caroline turn the phone over and snicker.

“Uh, no. It’s someone named… Eek?”

Cazz cocked her head and wiped her hands on a dishtowel. She had been very clear with all of the usual suspects that she was not to be bothered tonight unless someone was dying or giving birth. 

“Eek?” Cazz said as she turned around. In the corner of her eye, she could see that their mom was thoroughly unimpressed, even if a tad intrigued.

“It says ‘Eek’ in all caps. And the photo is of someone giving you the middle finger,” Caroline said, sliding the phone towards her sister. “Your friends have bizarre names, but I could not possibly make up ‘Eek.’”

Cazz flushed. It did not say Eek. It said EEIC, and the middle finger nail was painted navy blue (Chanel Le Vernis in orage ) and the mop of hair just visible behind it was long, impeccably straight, and dark brown with stray silver threads starting at the temples.

“Oh, um. I’m going to take this, it might be about Alex.”

There was no way it was about Alex, but her mother had definitely noticed her skin tone change by three shades and she needed some air. She answered the call and made a beeline for the terrace. “Hi, baby,” she breathed.

From the kitchen, she could hear Caroline’s mocking voice: “ Hi, baby , ugh, Jesus Christ.”

Andy’s voice was cheerful on the other side of the phone. “Hey yourself. So I’m just stopping to restock on toothpaste and stuff, and I remembered we have that dinner tomorrow at the label guy’s place? And I’m wondering if you want me to pick up a bottle of wine or something.”

“That would be very sweet. Um, I think the one time we had dinner out with them, they went through like three bottles of white, so if you go by the shop near your place—“

“Which I will.”

“Maybe get something like an Airén or Chasselas? Or get Paul to recommend something that makes it seem like we tried really hard and we know what we’re talking about.”

“Uh-huh,” Andy said. Cazz could hear the smile in her voice. “It sounds like you already know what you’re talking about. Was it an ‘Airén’ you said?”

Cazz swallowed thickly. Not now, please god, not now. “Yes, it was.”

“Mmm. And could you tell me anything more about that particular grape?”

It had taken Cazz less than a week to clock Andy’s fascination with what Caroline called her “encyclopedic knowledge of total bullshit.”

“You know I could, babe, but I’m a little tied up right now.”

“Oh,” Andy’s voice changed, became crisper, less languid. It was like she had suddenly sat up straight. “God, I’m sorry, I thought you were home tonight, my bad.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” Cazz assured her. “It’s just, uh. I mean, you remember my weekends got kind of flipped around this month, right?”

Andy was silent. Then she wasn’t. 

“Well, yes, you had the two weeks off back-to-back when Caroline was shooting for Vogue Arabia, middle of June, and then she came back, and you had two weeks of dinner back-to-back, and now you’re back to normal. I remember, I wrote it down somewhere.” She sounded almost confident by the end of her sentence.

“That’s very close, but actually it was two weeks off at the end of June.”

“But this is the second week of July,” Andy said somewhat dumbly.

“Ding ding ding.” Cazz said ruefully. On the other side of the line, something hit the floor and very possibly shattered. “Andy, are you alright?”

“Oh, shit. It’s just a glass, in the sink. Shit! I’m so sorry, I’m so so sorry, I don’t know how I got that mixed up! Why did you answer, why are you not with—Oh, god, can your mom hear you right now?”

Cazz snorted. “Um, no. I’m on the terrace. It’s fine, if there were going to be a nuclear meltdown, I wouldn’t have answered.”

“Cazzie, you should go back inside, I’m interrupting.”

Cazz shrugged. “Agree to disagree. But I will go back inside, it’s fucking hot out here.”

Andy laughed, a fluttery sound that made Cazz glad she’d picked up. “Okay. Good night, I love you.”

“I love you. Don’t forget to ask Paul about fancy white wine.”

“Aye aye, captain.”

The house was quiet when Cazz silenced her phone and went back inside. Alicia could have twins tonight for all she cared, there was no way she was getting away with answering the phone again. 

When she reëntered the kitchen, her single espresso shot was cold, and her mother was feigning interest in the Times Saturday crossword. “I am curious about something,” Miranda said without looking up. Cazz wrinkled her nose and threw back the espresso quickly just to have something to do with her hands. “I’m curious to know what the first ‘E’ stands for.”

So she had asked Caroline to spell Eek. Christ. Cazz placed her demitasse in the sink. “Esteemed. I’ll wager you were thinking more along the lines of Elle or ESPN ?”

“Well, I have always been curious about Alison Overholt’s leanings.”

Alison Overholt was definitely straight, but it wasn't like her mother to be in the know about sports journalism. Cazz turned and leaned back against the counter. “It seems like you’re implying that I couldn’t seduce Nina García. Which I totally could, by the way, if I really wanted to.”

Miranda looked up, then, and placed her eyeglasses on the sheaf of newsprint below her. “I know you could, bobbsey. However, I do trust that, as I have refrained from meddling with your business life, you will refrain from,” Miranda paused, as if to select her words very carefully. “Instigating any relationships that could create problems in my work.”

Before Cazz could respond, the door to the half-bath swung open, and Caroline stood looking at them warily. “Before these vibes get any worse and crush me underfoot, could we adjourn to the living room and watch Barefoot in the Park now?”

“I thought we were watching Funny Face ,” Cazz said, a frown on her lips. Miranda scoffed.

“Think critically, girls. Miranda Priestly? Maggie Prescott? Tell me that movie isn’t a blatant cash grab based on my own life.” It was only the beginnings of a smile on her face that made it clear she was joking. Caroline grabbed a bag of M&Ms from the counter—clearly something she’d picked up on her way over—and sighed. Cazz shook her head.

“For the last time, mom, the movie is from 1957.”

“Prescience is no excuse, Cassidy.”

 

 

When the movie ended, Caroline suggested sharing the town car back to Brooklyn. Cazz was eager to avoid more time alone with her mother, so she agreed.

Caroline had been living just below Harlem for the past year, and she only went to Brooklyn when she was back with one particular asshole, but Cazz chose to ignore that line of questioning altogether. So what if his great American novel was unfinished and he was incapable of the monogamy Caroline demanded? That was her problem, and the last time Cazz had offered Caroline unsolicited advice about her dating life, Caroline had been wracked with laughs so great she completely fell out of the frame of the Facetime call.

They’d been riding along in silence for a few blocks before Caroline said anything. 

“Do you remember,” she started suddenly. “Nigel’s 55th birthday party, when we got totally drunk, and you said to me that I had inherited all of mom’s good qualities and all you got was the attitude of a complete bitch?”

Cazz stifled a laugh under her hand. “I have absolutely no memory of that, but it’s proof that I’m totally brilliant when drunk.”

Caroline gave her a wry grin. “You’re brilliant most of the time, Cazz, you’re the smart twin.”

Cazz elbowed her slightly in the ribs and shook her head. “God, shut up. Why are you bringing this up? Don’t tell me you’ve got sudden onset bitch syndrome.”

Caroline, for all of her adolescent cattiness, had mostly grown into a well-adjusted adult with a good eye and expensive taste. Cazz had apparently used up a great deal of her sweetness in childhood and was practically incapable of emotional vulnerability. (Her therapist said she had seen improvements in Cazz in the last six months, a note she had placed in the back of her mind because it made her feel giddy to the point of nausea.)

“No,” Caroline said, her eyes drifting to look out the window. “I just think it’s becoming obvious that you have more in common with mom than we thought.”

Cazz quirked her lips. “Am I graying early or something?”

Caroline looked at her with a sort of incredulous pity on her face. “I am trying to tell you as tactfully as I can that I know who you were on the phone with tonight,” she said. “And I am simultaneously impressed and concerned.”

“Concerned? Give me a fucking break, Car—“

“Do you think I’m naïve enough to be concerned about your well-being?” Caroline snapped. “Give me some credit. I’m worried about how you’re going to tell mom.”

“Have you considered that I might not tell her at all?”

“Sure, sure. And what will your excuse be when she inevitably finds out for herself? ‘Sorry mother, I never told you about my girlfriend because I think you’re heartless and I assumed you would disown me?’ That’ll go over real well.”

Cazz clenched her fists and closed her eyes. “I'm not the only person in this relationship, Caroline. It’s a complicated situation.”

“Yes, I can see that.” When Roy came to a red light, Caroline looked out the window and tapped a finger on the glass. “You can let us out here,” she said. “We’re going to grab a drink.” She grabbed Cazz by the wrist and yanked as she swung open the door. Cazz gritted her teeth.

“You’re sober, you idiot,” she said. The drunken tittering at Nigel's party had been years ago now.

“Yes," Caroline said, giving her sister's wrist another tug. "But I like to watch.”

“Gross.”

When she had sufficiently removed Cazz from the backseat, Caroline ducked her head back in. “Roy, you’re a legend. Drive safe.” There was no need to ask for his vow of silence. Caroline doubted he even really knew who they were talking about. She slammed the door and knocked on the roof of the car before he pulled away from the curb.

The bar they’d stopped in front of had non-alcoholic Heineken, which Caroline ordered with a grimace that seemed to involve her entire body. Cazz ordered a club soda, earning them a desperate and annoyed look from the woman tending the empty bar. Don’t worry , Cazz wanted to tell her. Caroline’s guilt complex usually makes her tip 200% .

“How are you not putting an exorbitantly priced whiskey on my tab right now?” Caroline asked. Cazz shrugged.

“I had wine with dinner, and I haven’t had much water today. I can’t be hungover tomorrow.”

“Oh. The big dinner.”

Yes, the big dinner. It really wasn’t all that big, but it would be Cazz’s first meeting with a record executive since the band released their first album in March, and she had only realized Wednesday that none of her bandmates had been invited. So she was either being fired or told to fire other people, neither of which appealed to her very much. She’d told Andy her worst nightmare would be the guy telling her they wanted her to go solo, go pop, have her name written in lights in all caps, CAZZ , with shitty album titles like Rhymes With Jazz or The First LP . But she was starting to realize her worst fear was actually getting fired. That would suck.

“So I guess Andrea’s going with you?” Caroline asked. “Or does she go by baby now?”

“If you’re going to be hostile, can you just give me the unsolicited advice already so I can go home and sleep?” Cazz stared at her sister, her perfect, patient, beautiful sister (God, it was so easy to have great self-esteem when your body double was always in full makeup), and wondered what the hell she had done to piss her off this much. “If you’re mad because I haven’t told you, fine. I really can’t believe I was stupid enough to think you would be happy for me.”

Caroline sighed. “I’ve never known you to sleep with a woman more than twice, so yes, I am happy for you in that regard.” Cazz winced. Caroline had always been a little puritan. “But you have to admit this is a real what-the-fuck situation, Cassidy. I mean, you can’t seriously tell me you’ve been a full lesbian all your life and you never noticed the tension when Andrea worked for mom.”

She could not be serious. “The tension ?” Cazz said, her voice raising enough to draw the attention of their bored bartender. “Are you for real right now? Mom doesn’t even date women. I thought she might murder me when I came out.”

The look on Caroline’s face was one reserved for ogling aliens from the outer reaches of space. “Am I for real? Do you not remember when you finally came back home from college? Mom’s friend Estelle from France?” Caroline’s eyes were widening so much that Cazz started to worry they would cartoonishly pop out of their sockets. “Help me understand this. Why did you think Estelle was living in the townhouse?”

Okay, Caroline maybe had a point. But Cazz had been mostly high out of her mind that summer, trying and failing to find work as a sound engineer somewhere other than WNYC. She spent most of her time killing brain cells in friends’ apartments and sleeping around. It was one of the luxuries she had missed about the city—it had a much denser sapphic population than Nashville.

“Well, first of all, I thought she was in town for work , which she was, and needed a medium-term place to stay! And she was married for Christ’s sake, I met her husband when he visited.”

Caroline shook her head. “Given the number of married women I know you’ve slept with, I’m not even gonna dignify your last point with a response. And yeah, she was in town for work, but do you really think she couldn’t expense some rent? She was from fucking Givenchy, you idiot.”

Actually, Cazz had never really thought to ask where Estelle was from or what the hell she was doing in town. She didn’t have a habit of asking after Miranda’s friends, and it wasn’t her fault that Caroline was better at innocuously befriending the carousel of Runway assistants. Plus, you know, there were basically two new ones every year. Who had the time?

But now that she thought about it, she could understand where Caroline was coming from. Estelle and Miranda spent a lot of time together, and even when other people were around there were touches of intimacy: a hand on a shoulder, ankles delicately touching in the towncar, offering input on what the other should order for brunch. “Fuck,” Cazz said suddenly. She didn’t speak again until she had ordered and downed two neat bourbons.

“What the fuck do you think a ‘full lesbian’ is, by the way?"

 

 

Cazz was hungover the next morning, but it was remedied with a bottle of Pedialyte and three cups of black coffee. She picked up food from the deli near Andy’s place and brought it upstairs, where they split an avocado turkey club and a cheap order of hummus that Cazz was surprised to see on the menu. 

They talked about work—Andy’s mostly, because it was obvious that Cazz was sick to her stomach about dinner, and besides, Capital was releasing this cool climate change special edition that Andy was really proud of. That was the thing about Andy. She was obsessed with Cazz’s Trivial Pursuit-wired brain to the point where Cazz swore she sometimes pretended not to know something just so Cazz would talk about it in detail. But Andy was also brilliant. Her mind was analytical and observant in a way that Cazz was pretty sure Andy couldn’t even turn off. Cazz could, due to a high school obsession of Caroline’s, name every Woody Allen movie in order. But Andy could probably outline a longform article on the relationship between national dialogues about feminism and the sexual liberation of Diane Keaton characters on screen without stopping to blink.

After nearly forty-five minutes of Andy monologuing about the contents of the special edition, she stopped cold. “I’ve been going on too long, haven’t I?” she said. Cazz tried to convince her otherwise, but it was no use. “Okay, fine,” Cazz said lightly. She placed a hand on Andy's wrist. “How about you show me what you’re going to wear tonight?”

Pinning Andy to the bed still gave Cazz a dizzying rush, and hearing her shout her name was like a drug. She had come a long way from her childhood of seeing Andy like a god, but the reaction she had to touching her was still euphoric. Caroline was right when she’d said, or at least implied, that Cazz’s past relationships had lasted at most a week. But that was because they weren’t Andy , because they tired her out instead of making her feel recharged. And when Andy reached her third orgasm, all sticky and flushed and clenching around Cazz’s fingers, Cazz was reminded for the nth time that absolutely no one else could bring Cazz this close to the edge of utter delirium.

She left Andy half-asleep in bed and took her shower first. When she came back, dressed in a set of oversized pinstripes sent to her by Chloé with a towel over her shoulders to encourage her slow-drying hair, Andy nearly dropped the robe she was putting on.

“Do you seriously expect me to focus on getting ready when you’re standing there dressed like that?” Andy said, in no hurry to tie the band around her waist. Cazz leaned forward and kissed her on the nose. “Take a cold shower, champ. I believe in you.”

When Andy finally emerged from the bathroom, it was with a cloud of steam. Cazz raised an eyebrow. “What happened to a cold shower?”

Andy’s face crinkled. “I never agreed to that. I can keep my hands to myself. You know I’m beyond aware that you require complete stillness to dry your hair.” She was right. If Cazz so much as leaned against a pillow while her hair was damp, it would manage to look dented somehow. Even now, though her hair was mostly dry, she was sitting ramrod straight on the velvety chaise longue under Andy’s window. “Though I will say,” Andy added, “that I think your outfit was chosen in an effort to make me uncomfortable all evening.”

Cazz laughed. “My outfit was chosen in an effort to make Jack remember that I am an incredibly attractive and irreplaceable part of the most promising band on his roster right now.”

Cazz slipped out of the room to make a pot of tea while Andy blow-dried her hair. Andy hadn’t actually met Jack yet, but she had been adamant in assuring Cazz that Jack would be America’s worst businessman if he fired her. And as much as Cazz wanted to keep her expectations low, she had to agree. The dinner invitation was a little ominous, but the band’s first record had done remarkably well. They were sending them off to open for a couple bigger artists in Europe in the autumn, and everyone knew that Cazz was the source of it all. She wrote the songs. She picked the clothes, chose the aesthetic. When they’d had no one to advocate on their behalf, she did the promotions and booked the venues. Everyone in the group worked hard. But Cazz, with her trust fund cushion to fall back on if it’d been a massive failure, had worked the hardest.

So Jack would ask her to quit the band. That had to be what it was. He wanted to build an escape plan so that once their touring obligations were complete, Cazz could go solo. The kettle whistled as her thoughts drifted over to Alex, her right-hand man, and his baby . He had a family to support. Jack couldn’t ask her to leave him behind. Or, he could, but it would be no use. Cazz just couldn’t do it. Her father, not Stephen, but the short-sighted dolt who’d been there at her conception, would probably tell her to go solo. He had. Both personally and professionally. She hadn’t spoken to him in years.

Cazz wandered back into the bedroom with two mugs of steeping green tea and left one on Andy’s vanity, where the woman in question was sitting and attempting to choose a pair of earrings to accompany the flimsy silver shift hanging in the doorway of her closet.

Looking at her from a distance, her reflection framed like a painting in the vanity mirror, Cazz suddenly felt more confident than she had all day, and a weight in her stomach told her she needed to ask now. “Did you know my mother is gay?” Cazz said without preamble. “Or, uh, bi, or whatever,” she added hastily.

Cazz saw Andy’s mouth fall open. “ What ?” she squeaked. “No? Or maybe? I don’t really know, it wasn’t something I thought about too much. Too busy memorizing Starbucks orders and trying not to get fired.”

No or maybe. Interesting. “I got drinks with Caroline after dinner last night—”

“Oh my god,” Andy said suddenly. “Is she okay?”

I had the drinks, she had a really disgusting fake beer,” Cazz clarified. But the concern on Andy’s face was very sweet and very adorable and slightly heart-clenching, so she filed it away for later. “But she mentioned that she always thought there was, um. Tension. Between you and Miranda, when you worked for her.”

Cazz had developed a habit of calling her mother Miranda now, which she was avoiding mentioning to her therapist in a continual act of self-preservation. She kept her eyes on Andy, seated across the bedroom, back in her very flattering robe.

Andy bit her lip and finally turned around. “So here’s the thing,” she said, keeping her eyes absent-mindedly on the ceiling. “I think that maybe, possibly, there was something there? But, um. I mean, I didn’t realize it until I left. Like, a few years later, even. So. Yeah. And I could have been imagining it.”

Cazz dropped her head into her hands. “Can I ask a follow-up question?” Her voice was muffled by her long sleeves. Fucking suit. A shifting feeling told her that Andy had sat down next to her on the chaise. Cazz looked up at her with brows raised, watched her nod nervously. “Are you worried about meeting my mother again because you’re afraid of her? Or because you think she may have had feelings for you?” Her brain cruelly deleted the past perfect tense from her sentence. It rattled in her head. My mother may have feelings for you.

Andy let out a gush of air. “Um. Both?"