Actions

Work Header

Fake Names and Hotel Rooms

Chapter Text

Her caresses burn my skin between sleep and wakefulness.

I sit in bed restless, surrendered, and I turn on the light in an attempt to gain some mental clarity in doing so. I can't remember what I was dreaming but I feel feverish, and my sudden embarrassment makes me afraid to remember. I look at my laptop, still open beside me and before I turn it off, I see the last website I visited. A quiz titled 'how do I know if I’m gay'. I laugh at myself and rub my face with my hands, fully waking up, and glance at the neon green light on the bedside table that indicates it's four in the morning. Too late to sleep, too soon to be up. My body sore, I let it fall on the hard mattress again and I stare at the ceiling. My eyes feel dry and when I close them an image of my dream assaults me. Soft cream-colored sheets, the dim sunlight coming in from one window, coloring the scene with a warm feeling; an eternal sunrise. It's my bed but I’m not alone. I open my eyes abruptly, afraid of my own mind.

My blood runs through my veins and I feel alive with embarrassment as I now know why I’m sweating. I’ve never dreamt of her before, and even if I thought about her constantly these past few days, my unconscious doesn't seem to have enough of her. I feel the familiar warmth in my lower abdomen and the subsequent guilt over it. I haven't dared to fantasize about her, as I don't want my memories to mix with my imagination, but now, almost blind with arousal, I can't help but want to imagine her hands instead of mine inside my underwear.

I’m embarrassed of being so wet but it's too late to stop, so I touch myself with the memory of her moans and I let my heavy breathing melt with hers until I come, intensely but unsatisfactorily; I fall asleep, not even bothering to turn off the light.

It doesn’t really matter in the end because when I wake up the entire room is filled with sunlight. I grab my ringing phone that reads “Emily”.

―Finally! Andrea, swear to god! ― Says the angry voice, distorted by the bad signal.

―I’m up, I’m up!

You should be on your way already, the photo shoot moved ahead of schedule. Pierre just arrived at the airport; I’ve sent a car to fetch him, but we need the whole team ready by the time he gets to the location. Oh, and he’s clearly pissed because he had to re-plan the whole thing, so ―I hold the phone between my cheek and my shoulder as I put my shirt on, while trying to find the notebook in my nightstand. I blow a strand of hair out of my face when I find the pen and start to write what I can get out of Emily’s frenzy. ―we better not make it worse by making Miranda angry too. I mean more than she already is! She’s on her way and she’ll need a coffee as soon as she gets there, or I fear she might literally kill someone today. She left the office fuming! You know how she hates to change her schedule to accommodate other people, ―Emily’s frantic monologue gets interrupted when she has to yell orders to other people, and I take the opportunity to zip up my skirt and put on my boots without falling to the floor. By the time she abruptly ends the call, I’m already in the cab, taking the first deep breath of the morning.

I make sure that when I walk into the Starbucks the order is ready to go, and I ran inside the building where the photoshoot is to be held for a second time this month.

As the elevator doors close, I think for the first time that I’m about to see Miranda again. Last time we saw each other we were kissing in her office, a few days ago. Since then, she gave me tasks outside the office and I respected the distance; I didn’t even send her a message out of fear, and she didn’t reach out either. Still, in my heart I know, I say to myself when the doors finally open, revealing everyone running everywhere, hurriedly, fully devoted to their jobs. I leave the quiet four walls of the elevator, along with my nervousness, and enter the frenetic vitality of the room, trying to match my energy to theirs.

I pretend that I’m thinking about my job, and it works well. That is, until two steps later when I find myself in front of my boss, coffee and heart in hand. She’s giving me her back and I convince myself that it’s okay if she doesn’t acknowledge me since we’re here to work, and that, in fact, she won’t. She will act like every other day; she will look at me, annoyed and say something like ‘Emily, you are very lucky I haven’t fired you yet, but luck does run out, especially when you can’t bring yourself to comply with our schedule’ or something along those lines. That certainty brings me comfort in some sick way. So, of course, she had to spoil it by smiling at me. I’m forced to hold my breath in disbelief.

―Oh, there you are! ―Her cold fingers lightly touch mine as she grabs the steaming cup. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Nigel’s reaction matching my own. He’s speechless. Miranda seems to notice that as well, as her smile becomes sarcastic, and the stern expression returns to its place. ―I’m glad you can finally delight us all with your presence, Andréa. ―She turns around again, speaking with her characteristic monotonous tone of voice. ―Where are those mockups we had the other day? ―I almost choke when she mentions the other day so casually in front of everyone and my outburst makes her tilt her head in my direction. ―Is it too much to ask that nobody dies in here today?

―Sorry Miranda. I have them right here. ―I finally find my voice and hand her the folder we had that night; I stand beside her while I open it. She nods and goes through the pile of pictures of the models and the drafts for the campaign. Then, she whispers. ―And your notes. ―I nod emphatically, feeling like a hormonal wreck and give her my notepad as well; the memory of her looking at me while reading it invades my brain.

A young man I’ve never seen but recognize as Julien, the designer, stands in front of Miranda, calling her attention to the other side of the improvised desk, and I take it as a cue to leave her side.

―He’s downstairs! ―A girl announces to us soon after, and it all begins.

Pierre, turns out, is a very famous tiny man who can barely speak any English. Of course, that will not be a problem for Miranda, who speaks fluent anything. For everyone else in the room it is hard to know exactly what’s being said, but it fills the air with a sense of importance and momentum that only happens when the boss is present at such an early stage of the process. And when she happens to give directions in French.

Given the fact that my job is basically taking notes and I can’t speak a word of French, I decide it is best if I record the entire conversation, just so I can translate everything later. So, I place my phone in recording mode on the desk, discreetly, and walk away to greet the newcomers.

Soon, the room fills with the egos of underweight young women and sick-looking men as they start to come out from make-up and wardrobe, and the shoot officially begins. Since I don’t have much to do, I find a chair close to Miranda’s desk and watch the whole thing unfold.

You can recognize everyone by the way they move, I notice. It goes on a scale according to the amount of movement: the lower in the hierarchy, the more you move around. So, you have wardrobe assistants, make-up trainees, production people on the lower level, and you recognize them right away as they’re the ones doing the actual physical work. Then, you have photographers and designers. They only move when a specific need arises; in fact, generally they’re the ones people move towards, that’s how you know they’re the decision makers.

Therefore, it’s not surprising to find who is the most powerful person in the room.

She stands, stoic, in the middle of the room. With a hand on her waist and her head tilted a little to the side, she examines every single little thing that’s happening; controlling everyone without ever raising her voice or moving an inch. She even has Pierre in the palm of her hand despite the schedule being accommodated to his needs. And that’s when I understand the real difference between powerful men and powerful women.

Pierre is a lousy man, obnoxious. Hostile in his manner but for no reason at all other than to prove he can get away with it. When he congratulates you, you feel resentful as if you don’t even want to do it right because that would mean pleasing him. Miranda, on the other hand, doesn’t need to prove anything since everyone already knows . She doesn’t even have to utter a word for people to give her what she wants, and at the end of the day, you feel good when she’s pleased. When you ’ve pleased her. Her power is quiet and indirect; her approach almost indifferent, much like her tone of voice, but the influence is undeniably bigger.

Watching her closely and thinking about our night together makes me feel intoxicated. I’m sure everyone in the room would like to feel what I’ve felt; her attention for once. I taste the power she gave me, and I know I want more.

She calls my name in a French accent.

―You need to go. ―My spirit decays and I’m sure she senses my sudden change because she gets a little closer, as she does when she whispers to important people. Intimate, yet professional. ―You’re staring. Again . ―I try not to smile while she moves away, leaving my notebook in my hands. ―I will leave in about an hour. I want Roy waiting at the door the minute I get out, and I’ll need a change of clothing for lunch with- with my husband. ―She doesn’t look at me, but I nod anyway trying to reassure her that I understand. ―After that, you can take the rest of the day off. ―I frown at this and she stares at me, but I don’t understand.

―No, I don’t want the day off. ―I say, determined to stay; and she thinks, blue eyes not abandoning mine. Before speaking again, she takes a deep, resigned breath. I open up the notebook.

―Alright then, Andréa. You can go pick up the skirts from Chanel, make sure to talk to Bianca and not Alice, because she’s completely inept for anything you might tell her to do. And tonight, you’ll need to go to Ashlynn’s party, have Emily give you the address. Find her assistant named Jennifer or Jessica or something equally bland; she will give you my outfit for next week’s event in Milan, at least the first version of it. And remember, Andréa, you’ll be representing Runway. In fact, you always are, so dress accordingly. That is, find something in Runway’s closet and not in your own. ―She stops to breathe and looks past me, thinking, for a second. Then she looks at my figure. ―Not a dress. ―She swallows and I feel my ears going red. I nod, writing everything down. ―After that, take everything, with the book, back to the townhouse.

―Okay. ―I smile diligently at her but she doesn’t smile back. I’m about to turn around when she stops me.

―Don’t forget this. ―She handles me my phone and I feel dumb as I mumble something like thank you. ―Now, go . ―She says, rolling her eyes and I have to suppress a smile once I leave her side and walk towards the exit. 

It’s almost noon when I get to the office.

―God, finally. ―complains Emily the minute she sees me― I hate being here alone, without Miranda everyone acts stupid, and I haven’t peed since this morning! I can’t even remember what it’s like to not feel in constant pain. ―I give her an apologetic look despite it not being my fault. With difficulty, I leave the Chanel bags on the floor and Miranda’s change of clothing in the hanger, when the phone starts to ring. I rush to get it.  

―Hello! ―Shit . ―Miranda Priestly’s office. ―I correct myself, out of breath.

Tell her to not even bother meeting me for lunch. ―His voice startles me for a second.

―Step- hello? ―He’d hung up. I sit, sighing. I remember when I saw him at that Runway party, how unappealing he seemed, drunk and possessive. And Miranda married him. The thought of them together makes me feel sick to the stomach, so instead of thinking, I call Roy to let him know first. I start typing a message for Miranda, but before I can send it, she calls me.

―Miranda! ―God, why do I pick up the phone like that? I hear her sigh on the other end of the line, but it makes me smile.

Andréa, I need you- she gets interrupted while my heart raises. I hear her speaking French. ―This will take longer than expected and I want another coffee before lunch. ―There’s a pause. ―You’ll need to tell Stephen I can’t make it, maybe reschedule for dinner if he still feels like it.

―You want me to bring something to eat?

No, just the coffee. Send it, don’t come all the way.

Miranda, jetez un coup d’ œil à ceci. ―I hear a woman’s voice in the distance and Miranda ends the call. I don’t let the disappointment show since Emily walks in the office. I call the Starbucks closest to where Miranda is while I watch as the brit starts gathering her things.

―Where are you going? ―She snorts.

I am leaving. ―She says, with a cocky smile. I look at her waiting for an explanation. ―Miranda gave me the afternoon since I have to get ready for our trip in a few days.

―Our trip?

―Well, not you. Me and Miranda, we’re going to Milan for that conference in her honor, remember? ―I don’t. And I can’t hide my disappointment this time.

―Wait, before you go. I need the address for Ashlynn’s party tonight.

―I’ll send it! ―She runs out of the office before I could complain.

I sit in silence for about two minutes before I can compose myself enough to keep going with the day. People rarely call at noon, so I take the opportunity to run to The Closet to get an outfit like Miranda asked. Not a dress. I find Olivier when I get there and he cheerfully says, ‘I have just the thing for you!’ after hearing my request.

―Where’s the rest? ―I ask, holding what seems to be an oversized blazer. He laughs with complicity.

―Honey, there’s no rest. Wear this with this. ―He hands me some Burberry ankle boots. ―black stockings, obviously, and you’ll be good, cool kid. ―I smile and he gives me two kisses before running to the other end of the room.

All that’s left to do is wait six hours until my shift is over, so I can keep working afterwards. Great.

I make a list. First, the notes from the recording; then, the message to reschedule dinner for Miranda and Stephen. I start with the easy one: translating French.

After I manage to open the file in the computer, I put my earphones on and connect it to the translator app. As soon as I hear her soft, imposing voice, I feel like I’m doing something I shouldn’t. To have recorded her, even if it’s just for work, feels intrusive so, when a few minutes later I hear Nigel mentioning my name, I have to pause it out of fear of being caught. I rewind it. “Did you see Andy?” he’d asked. Miranda’s absent-minded voice followed. “Who?”. Then, silence. I assume Nigel made a face because Miranda continued, snapping her tongue, downplaying it. “What is it that you’re trying to say?” she’d said, annoyed. Nigel explained, making my blood boil. “The way she looks at you! Or should I say, the way you looked at her?” The violence of my heartbeat makes me miss her answer, so I have to rewind once again. “Nigel.” Miranda said, warningly, but then continued in a mocking tone of voice. “Alright, I’ve seen it too, but it’ll pass. It’s just a silly crush. Nothing we haven’t seen before.” Nigel laughed while my heart squeezes. I pause it to take a deep breath and then press play again to hear Nigel’s amused voice. “You think she’ll be more like the Claire or the Jane type?” Miranda laughed in a way I haven’t heard before and it makes me want to vomit, so I take off my headphones, afraid to hear one more thing.

I feel weak and out of breath; I press my chest with my hands as if it would help, and when it doesn’t, I get up and go to the bathroom, forgetting about the phones and the ‘no moving from the desk rule’.

I look at my reflection, but I don’t see myself; I see a stranger; weak, young, and on the verge of tears. I wash my face with violence, trying to get rid of my foolishness and naivety with water; and when I look at myself again, I see a teenage version of me, crying over a silly thing that felt like the end of the world. Of course, she wasn’t going to tell Nigel about anything, she had to keep it a secret; keep me a secret. She only said that so he wouldn’t suspect. Right?

But then again, who were Claire and Jane? Had Miranda been with other assistants before me? Was that a pattern? Am I part of her routine?

Reality hit me. Why would I be different? Let’s face it, Andy , I say to my mirror self, you’ve only been with her once ―and then a little in her office―, but do you know anything about her? Did she ask anything about you? No! Of course, you’re not different than the rest.   

I sigh, deeply, and then I go back to work, feeling empty-hearted. I make sure Miranda speaks French before I can listen to it again.


 

Miranda didn’t come back to the office. Instead, those hours were filled with calls, emails to respond, letters addressed to Miranda to send away, and very little time to think about my personal life, which I am thankful for. I decide to ignore the content of the recording altogether, as I shouldn’t have heard it anyway, and I manage to do it. But I can still feel in the back of my mind the questions of the pathetic quiz. ‘Have you ever had feelings for a member of the same sex? ’, I would say it’s a pretty straight forward question, it should be easy enough to know if you’re gay or not. Have I ever had feelings for a woman? For Miranda? Of course, many feelings. But I’m sure every person who meets her has strong feelings about her one way or the other, right?

Anyway, I had gay sex. That makes me at least a bit gay, I would presume. Let’s say I’m a little gay. That’s alright, nothing wrong with that. Although I’ve never liked a woman before, what does that make me? Only gay for Miranda? Where’s the quiz to know that?

―Andy! ―Marco repeats and I shake my head with my previous thoughts.

―Sorry, what is it?

―The book. ―The book? Already!?

―Thanks! ―He nods before turning around. I glance at the clock on the wall. 7pm. Bewildered, I got up, feeling my body sore after being in the same position for a few hours. I move on autopilot. Coat, bag, phone, lights, elevator. Just like a million times before. While I walk to the train station I wonder if I should have called Stephen and try to make plans for dinner with Miranda. Somehow I believe he and I are on totally different planes of reality, and in that vision, it makes sense for them to mend things and it also makes sense for me and Miranda to kiss in her office. I won’t question why that makes sense.

Suddenly I want to call her. It fills me with anticipation; I feel nervous at the idea of hearing her voice, as if I were the teen I saw in the mirror, seeking reconciliation over every little thing. At the same time, it terrifies me that she’ll think I’m needy and then wishes to get rid of me, so I end up not making the call.

But I do dress for her. I look at my reflection and imagine the whole scene. I go to that party to pick up her dress, take a few drinks. Not enough to make me drunk but to wash away all my nervousness, so when I meet her at her place, I’ll look relaxed and care-free in this oversized dark brown blazer and the fancy boots. Then, she’ll think I’m cool and hot, and not at all crazy, and then she’ll tell me Claire and Jane don’t exist. All settled, I say out loud when I leave my apartment.

Then I get Nate’s call.

―No. ―I say for what it must be the third time.

Please. I’m in the bar at the corner of our block, it’ll take a second. ―My heart breaks when I hear his familiar voice. I get nostalgic and irritated all at once and the last no doesn’t sound so convincing. I end the call, frustrated, and then I see him. Sitting alone in the bar.

―You came. You look beautiful. ―He says with a big dumb smile when he sees me.

―I’m leaving. What are you doing here?

―I think we should talk. About us.

You left me , remember? ―Seeing him makes me shiver for some reason. He looks like a ghost from the distant past, even if it was not at all long ago.

―Andy, don’t be like that. We had a disagreement. Listen, you don’t have to leave your job. ―I snort at the absurdity.

―That’s kind of you!

―Look. I got promoted, we’ll be better, I promise.

―It wasn’t about the money!

―I know you miss me, we shou- But I won't let him finish.

―I fucked someone.

We should - wait, what? You- whe- who!?

―It doesn't matter who.

―Yes it does!

―It wasn’t about he- him! It was about you and me. ―I lie.

―I can’t believe it. ―he joins his hands and rubs his face, trying to hide his tears and I feel like I might cry too, so I look away from him and take a deep breath.

―I have to go. ―I walk away without looking back.


 

On the train, I reapply my makeup.

Find Jennifer or Jessica, get the outfit, have a few drinks, and leave. I repeat a few times just to keep me from wandering. I smile at my reflection in the small round mirror and then I feel dumb, so I put it in the bag.

By the time I get to the place, I’m feeling better. Nighttime always lifts up my mood. The wind, the people going out, the loud honks, the sense of danger follows me until I get in the room full of strangers. I feel important yet intimidated when the big man at the door lets me in.

I look around before approaching anybody. Everyone looks fashionable and drunk. I’m glad I’m not wearing a dress since the vibe of the party is relaxed, almost informal. I’m sure Miranda knew that.

―Excuse me. ―I venture to a woman who’s waiting for her drink. She smiles for me to continue. ―Do you know Ashlynn’s assistant by any chance? Jennifer?

―Jessica?

―That's it.

―She’s over there. ―Her expensive perfume invades me when she gets closer to me and points at the other side of the bar; to a young blonde woman, about my age. The similarities end there, though, as she seems like she’s been in this business for a lifetime; confident, stylish, and I don’t know why but I’m certain no one chose her outfit for her. I thank the woman and go to meet Jessica.

―You must be the Miranda girl. ―She says kindly after she sees me. I smile at the title.

―Andrea.

―Andrea! Nice to meet you. Come, follow me. ―And so, I do. She takes my hand firmly to guide me through the crowd and I see a few people looking at me, approvingly. I have to remember to thank Olivier again, I think, while she makes me climb some narrow stairs. ―I have it right here. ―She announces once we’re in an office-studio type of room. The lights are dim, and the décor feels sophisticated. I wonder if this is where she works. I look at her while she searches through the different pieces from the hanger. She’s fit and has that kind of careless beauty, probably any straight man would want to be with her. I used to feel intimidated by these types of girls in school, but she’s too kind to provoke those feelings. For a moment, I wonder if I would go to bed with her.

Now that I know I like gay sex, why not try it out? It might not be about Miranda at all. But when Jessica looks at me again, cheerful, almost childish, I don’t feel like I could. Maybe I should be alone for a while.

After thanking her, I go back downstairs and approach the bar. But before I can order, the bartender puts a fruity drink in front of me and points at a man sitting a few seats away from me. He smiles politely and seductively, and I feel equally sick and intrigued. He has brown, short hair and his green eyes remind me nothing of Nate’s. I take the drink, feeling an embarrassing blush.

―Haven’t seen you around.

―Are you really gonna start with that? ―His smile grows, forcing mine.

―So, it is a start! I’m relieved. I’m Art, by the way. ―I shake his hand and take a sip before asking.

―Is that really your name? ―I say with narrowed eyes. He snorts.

―Alright then, what’s yours?

―Andrea.

―Nice to meet you, Andréa. ―He says in that French way; Miranda’s way. I’m a bit taken aback by that as it feels almost bizarre to hear my name being said in that particular way by someone other than her.

―Something wrong?

―No, sorry. Do you know the designer? ―I ask, trying to make conversation. He follows my lead.

―I do, I happen to be her friend. I’m sure I’m the only one actually invited to the party. ―He looks at the other people with a funny face, theatrical, and I feel like laughing a bit after those few sips of the too-strong of a drink. I point to my pass, smiling.

―I didn’t crash your party, you know. ―He then seems to notice my bag with clothing.

―Oh, I see, working lady. What do you do? Designer? I can see that. ―He looks at me up and down. He talks relaxed, like he has all the time in the world and it’s appealing enough that I forget I want to try being alone for a while.  

―Writer. But I work for Miranda Priestly, actually. ―His smile decays a bit. I frown, inquisitively.   

―Tough lady, your boss. Ash is obsessed with her, ―Then, he whispers in a complicit tone. ―don’t tell her I said that. But I guess I can see it. It’s a big deal for the Miranda Priestly to wear your stuff. ―I get the sense that he doesn’t like Miranda at all, but I can’t figure out why. Either way, knowing about what other people think of her always interests me, so I pay more attention to him.

―I mean yeah, it is. She’s very influential. ―He nods agreeing with me, but I know it’s not how he really feels. I give him a side look. ―But? ―He laughs.

―Nothing, she’s just tough. Look, every once in a while I see a girl like you, alright? Pretty but not self-aware like the model type who’s obsessed with her and the magazine, you know? Someone who looks like they could be doing a lot better in another field. But at the end of the day, Miranda seems to prefer the other kind; the kind who would do just about anything to satisfy her and when they have no dignity left, she chooses another from the pile. ―I swallow, thinking about who’s the Claire and who’s the Jane in this scenario.

―I see you’ve given it a lot of thought. ―I say, defensive. He smirks, coming back to his previous mood.

―Listen, she obviously hired you for a reason, I’m not saying you won’t be different, I’ve just met you. Just, I don’t know… I guess keep it in mind. Unwanted advice from a stranger? Don’t close yourself to her, she might not be who you expect. ―He’s looking past me and when I follow his glance, I find who I assume is Ashlynn, talking happily with a group of people.

―Are we still talking about me? ―I see him blush and it makes me forget his rant about my boss. ―What do you do, anyway?

―I’m a journalist. ―It surprises me, and I look at him with different eyes after that. ―Wanna dance? ― Why not? I tell the bartender to watch over my stuff and follow him to the dancefloor.

The music is loud enough that prevents me from thinking about anything. Arthur is a good dancer and I feel at ease with him. Tall and handsome, he smiles while we dance. I feel a bit dizzy from the alcohol and let myself go. A few people stare in our direction making me feel wanted and I see Jessica in the crowd, who smiles and winks at me. I laugh at nothing, dumb and young, until the music becomes slow and the people around us start dancing in pairs. That’s when I remember about the book. I stop him when he tries to come closer to dance.

―Sorry, I have to go. ―I yell so he can hear me, but I have to repeat it until he gets it; when he does, he nods and follows me to the bar where I get my things.

―Let me walk you out. ―I nod.

―Hope we see each other again, Andrea. ―He says my name normally this time, and I smile at him. We’re outside and he walks to the street to ask for a cab. I look at him under the orange lights of the night and he smiles, kindly, manly. Then he takes something out of his pocket. A business card. ―Here’s my number. ―I grab the card and he doesn’t let go of my hand. His perfume is strong, and I feel him getting closer.

―Office number. Should I make an appointment with your assistant? Talk about my career future. ―I say, playfully.

―I don’t have an assistant, but we can talk about your future. ―He says, seriously. My smile fades while his grows. ―How about Friday night? Is that future too close? ―He gets closer to me, and I have to look up.  

―I’ll have to think about that. ―I feel his breath against my nose and I think I might not be gay at all. But then he kisses me and it’s too sudden. His lips are cold, and I feel like I’m doing something wrong, so I get a little distance, feeling his smile in my lips. When I open my eyes I don’t see his, but Miranda’s blue eyes looking right through me and it scares me, so I step back abruptly.

―I’m sorry, did I do something wrong? ―He asks, worried when he sees my colorless face. I clear my throat and I see a cab approaching, so I run to the street to stop it.

―No, you did nothing wrong, I’m sorry. I have to go. Thank you for tonight! ―I say the last bit yelling from the safety of the car. He looks confused but smiles either way, and I see him disappear inside the place when the cab turns the corner.

After giving the directions to the driver, I take a couple of deep breaths, feeling like my heart wants to leave my body; instinctively, I press against my chest with my hand, trying to prevent it from happening. I feel the worried eyes from the driver through the rear-view mirror and I try to look like I have my shit together. I tell him to stop a few blocks away from Miranda’s townhouse, and without much of a thought, I press the call button when I find her name.

Yes? ―I receive her calm, distracted voice with violence in my heart.

―Mi-Miranda. ―My voice trembles in comparison; I feel her miles away.

Where are you? ―her tone becomes more concerned, and I know she stopped looking at whatever she was doing.

―Close.

Well, come . ―She says as if I were stupid, and I walk faster.

Who is that? ―The man’s voice surprises me and now I do feel stupid.

Nothing, it’s just work. ―I hear movement and a door closing. ― We can’t talk right now.

―But are we? ―Her breathing scares me; I get this terrible premonitory feeling that I might never see her again for some reason. ―I’m about to get in. ―She ends the call when a tear rolls down my cheek. I wipe it and close the door, standing there for a second to compose myself. This is not the night I’d planned.

―It was the right choice. ―I hear from behind me. I turn around so fast, the boots make a funny noise on the floor. She looks at me as she walks down the stairs; elegant even when she’s wearing comfortable clothes and it feels so warm and so domestic I almost want to hug her. That drink was really strong. I realize she’s talking about my clothes and her compliment makes me blush; I can’t look her in the eyes.

When she stands in front of me I know she notices my watery eyes because her expression becomes solemn all of the sudden. I leave her outfit in the closet, to get away from her inspection.

―You didn’t call Stephen. ―The change of topic makes me angry, but I hide it behind an innocent look. ―You have to understand that I can’t have that. If I tell you to do something, you have to do it. No feelings involved; do you hear me? ―Her severity embarrasses me.

―It wasn’t about that. I- He called first, and then- She moves her hand and walks towards her study. When I don’t follow her, she looks at me as if I’ve grown a second head. I rush to get inside and watch her sit in her reading chair. I stand in the middle, feeling mortified and out of place. 

―Andréa, I think you’re a smart girl; I really do. But you have to prove it to me, do you understand? ―She pauses and I’m afraid to move a muscle for I might break. ―Now, listen carefully because you know how I dislike repeating myself. ―I feel lost but I won't ask for an explanation. I nod. ―I want you to really think about this before making a decision. It is unfair for me to ask anything from you, and so I won’t. But you have to know that I won’t let anything happen to my marriage, or my career. I’m hoping you feel the same way about yours, do you? ―I nod again, feeling a knot in my throat. She narrows her eyes, as if she’s making her mind about me. I want to cry again because she doesn’t seem to understand that all I do since that night is think about her, that she’s ruined everyone else for me. Even if I don’t know if I like her or not, I have one thing for sure.

―I want this.

―You’re very young. ―She seems to just realize this by the way she looks at me, disappointed; it pains me that it feels like an accusation. I want to defend myself, but I can’t deny it; I’m trapped. Her coldness is both shocking and unsurprising; her indifference hurts me; in this moment that is supposed to be intimate, I feel like we’re in the office, talking about some little mistake I made.

―I know what I want. ―She sighs, not believing me. I sense she’s getting impatient, and I don’t know what to do or say to convince her. She speaks calmly, her heart mute, unbothered. I realize what that means, but I don’t let it affect me.

―What is it that you want, Andréa? ―You! I yell in my head, and I know she sees it in my eyes. ―And before you say anything, have in consideration who you’re talking to. ―She says this very carefully and I feel like I’m missing something behind those words. I look away from her gaze; those eyes are too cold for me to handle. And then, just like that, I understand. I know how to keep her. She’s giving me a way out because she thinks I can’t handle it. But I can, so I look her straight in the eyes and I try to mimic her indifference. I pretend that my heart isn’t trying to flee to her as if it belonged to her; I pretend my heart belongs to me.

―You’re afraid I’ll say that I want you. You think I’m young and confused, that I don’t know the difference between love and sex, but you’re mistaken. ―She looks at me as if I were new again. No disappointment in her eyes but amusement, as if she got what she wanted at the end. I envy her confidence, her ability to look unsurprised all the time, as if everything was part of her plan all along and you’re just getting at her level. ―I won’t threaten your career, Miranda. Please believe me, that’s the last thing I want. ―She lowers her gaze and I know I’ve hit the nail.

―You haven’t answered my question. ―I sigh and, filled with determination, I walk towards her and place my hands on both armrests of the chair, cornering her. It surprises her, I can tell. She breathes through her mouth and when I lower myself to get closer, out of instinct she moves backwards, her head pressed against the backrest. I smirk when she looks at my lips, confirming what we have; confirming me.  

―I want what you want. ―I force myself to not look away from those blue eyes; I want to prove to her that I’m up to the challenge, even if I need every piece of self-control to do it. She looks at me with a new glow in her eyes and I feel like I’ve passed the test. Then, she moves, and I stop breathing, waiting for her to kiss me but instead, she stands up forcing me to move away.

―In that case, Andréa, book me a hotel room. Friday night. ―She says, smirking still. My disappointment vanishes as soon as it appears and I smile, even if she doesn’t see me as she’s already walking towards the door. I follow her, beguiled.

―No kiss goodbye then.

―Cheeky. ―I look at her faking innocence, playing dumb, and I see a little smile before she closes the door.

Then, I start crying.  

I’ve gotten what I wanted; I don’t know why I can’t stop the tears. But my body speaks for its own, my legs tremble and I feel like I haven’t eaten for years. I try to breathe and notice how the tension I’ve built up to that point slowly abandons my body, leaving me drained and weak.

The tears ran out when I walk out of the last train of the night.

What have I gotten myself into?