Alright, it’s not like this is happening for the first time. It’s not. Even though you would have known if you had ever experienced something like this very moment before. A woman in full glory. And you have seen women before, a bunch of them – God, they’re the thing you have been seeing more of in a current day for months since you joined the Runway crew, besides piles of clothes, post-its and tasteless yuck-y food. It’s even kinda embarrassing in some way – but that’s not the point.
You have seen Miranda before. This woman is observed daily, covered by all types of fabric, texture, color, all shaped in fancy clothes. Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Narciso Rodriguez, Vera Wang, even Vivienne Westwood. Name it and you – with Nigel’s assistance, of course – would know. But not quite this. So simple, so different from her elaborate everyday pieces, yet so elegant.
Neck for show, not even a single necklace to dispel the attention, and a delicate heart-shaped décolletage, as Miranda herself would probably say. A black fabric that extends from her shoulders to her feet, so long you can’t even check her shoes, unless Miranda- oh, oh crap- unless she walks step by step, descending the stairs, exactly like- fuck- like she’s doing right now.
While doing some basic research for The Daily Northwestern, you found a curious fact: women could float. Not like magic or anything paranormal. Gosh, no. Just women who walked so graciously, it looked like they wouldn’t even touch the ground. And yeah, yeah, yeah, alright. Nuts. Silly. Insane that the thought crosses your mind at some random occasion like this one.
But could Miranda be one of those women too?
Not when she paced as if making sure she’s in the room, the constant clack, clack, clack of her high-heels. Not when her red shoe soles echoed in Elias Clarke’s hall. But right now. When your hearing is compromised and not even the annoying buzz of chitty chat – so overwhelming that all you could think of, forty seconds ago, was going home as soon as possible for Nate – is perceived anymore.
However, what evil would ravage the world if you stare for just two more seconds? Midnight will wait and it will still be your boyfriend’s birthday by the time you are done. The boyfriend who isn’t the easiest and the most comprehending person towards your career choices. That’s fine, though, you understand. Sort of. You two have been together for years, you’re used to each other’s company on a daily basis, but with your new jobs and late hours, the only arrangement manageable is sleeping together. Sleep. Asleep. It’s natural you grew apart. The distance is not easy, you know, not when you like someone this way, so it feels reasonable enough Nate would have an… animosity regarding the subject that’s keeping his girlfriend away. Makes sense. And it’s not like you don’t miss Nate. No. You mean, no! In between arriving at your apartment so very tired from Runway and leaving it soon in the morning while Nate is still deep asleep, unable to think things through that much and process it, you still know he misses you and you wished to be able to do more for him, for your relationship. So that’s what you’re doing tonight. Buy a nice little cake – which does not do his incredible talents justice – make it in time, drink some cheap bubbly champagne he got from work and celebrate him. Celebrate him like the sweet genuine guy you met in college, who loves and fancies you so dearly, set aside your weight and your not-so-fashionable attire. Yes! The only guy your family (and especially Dad), surprisingly, trusted enough to let you live with in the big city.
For now, though, you have to get through this. This benefit. You have to make quality time for your job and make it good. Not. Screw. Things. Up. God knows your background is not that favorable and you didn’t memorize all those names and faces for nothing. Except, by now, your gaze is trapped on one single feature. Only you and Emily noticed the vision at the top of the stairs, but if Miranda descends just one more degree, everyone will be doing so. Staring. Looking. And you find it almost offensive to have all these eyes laid on one single person. This said person should have their privacy kept, much as they’re used to the attention. Much as they enjoy it.
Still, Miranda is coming in your direction, doubtless, and your jaw does a strange funny movement. Huh. It’s night and yeah, there are camera flashes outside the building and massive chandeliers stuck on this ceiling, but you’re quite sure you never saw a room light up like that. The hall wasn’t that bright before. Did someone turn on the floodlights?
Brief seconds won’t kill anyone. Brief seconds might do the exact opposite. Time can be a turning point to somebody’s life. Or not. Because you are holding your breath, holding it to the point of a choke if this lasts a little bit longer, eyebrows raised and mouth so agape like a waterless fish. Miranda is beautiful. What’s the designer, really? You’re mistaken, you have never seen something like this before and you wished you were able to reach Nigel and ask who made it. The piece. Who made Miranda look so stunning, a dress so plain and, at the same time, so captivating your pulse is racing, your palms sweating and your breath coming out in puffs on your lips. Eyes caught, Miranda is lightning, so to speak. You have learned, so far, the power of clothes. How they could do… not stuff to people, please , but how they could elevate them. Make them look like a totally different human being, a more confident one, secure, hidden underneath all those layers that led themself to feel a bit less self-conscious. Your dress isn’t so different from Miranda's – at least, not in your lay opinion – black, evening gown, it also has a nice heart-shaped cleavage. Neat. “A classic”, Nigel said, aiming Audrey Hepburn. You’re kind of matching. Yet, this woman’s glory is so ahead of you, despite red lipstick and an white adornment on your hair that makes you look cute, classy and mysterious all together.
You couldn’t care less.
And yeah. All the heads are turning and lifting. The buzz has evened out a little, the violins, the piano and the cellos quite forgotten. There’s no rush at all, second forty two never passed, for Miranda stopped time and space to get closer and closer- until- crap-
Until she’s looking at you. Almost inducing your cry.
Aaand she isn’t anymore.
As if she’s too busy, as if she has too many problems to take care of to stop her eyes at Emily Number-Two for that much of a time. To be honest, fair.
It’s not like you would actually cry, for fuck’s sake, you’re not that much of a baby like Doug, for example. It’s just a natural response to Miranda. To Miranda’s imposing figure. Bosses can be a pain in the ass sometimes, “they can make your life miserable," Dad said the night you were supposed to see Chicago – another evening to be forgotten – but there should be a line, shouldn’t it? Boundaries of mutual respect. And Miranda inspires nothing but respect. Not fear, not fright, even though Miranda had made you cry and the memory of it still heavies your chest. She had been vicious and impossible, demanding in every way. You have all the right to hate her and her loathsome temper, her dissatisfying disposition and her crazy errands for picking up Patricia and surfboards. On the other hand, the wake up call kinda… served you well. Admit it. You had been no more than a brat on your first days, a childish behavior that miraculously hadn’t gotten you fired. Fashion drives Miranda to do things, all of this, which, even if it is beyond your comprehension, is her life, is important and valid, in spite of this industry’s problems you just can’t stand to mention.
This silly drive to lacrimation, on the contrary, was due to so much beauty. A beauty so profound. Like watching a painted canvas in a museum, listening to a nostalgic song or- damn- there aren’t even words available in English vocabulary! And you had studied it a fucking lot. Like when your eyes were so sensible, as a kid, and you entered a very bright mall. No! Stared at the sun. There! Finally.
And there’s this uncanny smell in the room, not exactly weird, just new and unfamiliar and not helping the so-pretty-canvas-in-a-museum-I-could-cry feeling.
But you are not going to be a weirdo, like Emily, who is actually crying, for more she denied.
Stop gaping. Uh huh. That’s better.
You notice it all. I mean, this is your job, isn’t it? Even though Miranda may be infuriating, terrible, unkind and a completely rude asshole. It's your duty to take care of or- or even try to take care of Miranda. Of her needs, her schedule, her coffee, the people who stand around this woman, also taking care of the process of delivering a work of art each month. Not that you were doing that great till now, but you can tell you’re getting better at it and you would be a liar to deny how much you delight in getting something right. A sense of pure pride and joy.
And well… you have always been a very observant person.
That’s how you manage to lean ahead and whisper in Miranda's ear, thirty minutes later, as the servant competent employee you were designed to be. An immediate click, telling you to go, do something, because, hey! Although all those people don’t have a single clue of who you are, you know them by heart since this afternoon! So that’s it!
Such a good job you manage to do before your mind starts to get dizzy, halfway into your speech to Miranda. Your lungs failed you or something? But not only this. Your nostrils are kinda odd by that strange scent that’s been tickling your nose all night. Really silly.
However, you are still in Miranda's personal space even after the information was delivered, so close you can even picture the little grayish hairs moving behind a delicate ear due to your breathing. So soft and silk like the fabric the Art Department dealt with everyday. And the thing, the thing bothering your nose and had your head spinning was Miranda’s perfume, accentuated by your short distance. Holy shit.
A woman never pulled away from another so fast in her entire life. Nobody noticed, right? It was like, for one moment… right ? It’s like entering the Lotus Hotel and Casino: time didn’t quite function well and one second could turn into hours – wow, brilliant. Now you are thinking about Percy Jackson in the middle of a benefit. Thanks, Caroline and Cassidy.
But it was safe. Apparently.
Uh, Emily is looking at you.
Not only dumbstruck by the fact that a huge accomplishment has just been made, but also because it was so good that it even deserved an acknowledgement from Emily. You’re soothed. Relieved. Proud to the point you can’t not smile. You like Emily, you… appreciate your co-worker quite a lot, in fact… on the occasions where she’s not unbearable. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re tied to someone every hour of the day like the TV Guide Lady With-A-Sliced-Hand should be chained to her desk. Getting used to someone in your routine makes them grow on you, for worse or for better. You learn their patterns, style – you are still trying to figure the last one out, for Emily changes everyday – and you catch their habits, like “Bugger off!” invading the space between your current expressions.
You learn their secrets too, despite everyone being aware of them already, and you hope Emily gets to listen to Jewel’s music more whilst she’s with Serena, albeit she declines she listens to both of them. Denial is not a river in Egypt.
But you have to go. Now! Otherwise, Nate will be pissed. Worse than arguing for hours, as he so likes to do, he’ll be silent (it’s kinda how Dad would behave in your childhood, when you did something a normal kid would do. Like drawing on walls. Mom liked to have dialogues and conversations, but Dad, even if he was affectionate, talkative and understanding, just stared at you). Nate will keep that passive-aggressive attitude. That lazy way of solving things. Lazy did describe Nate fairly, especially when you leave a sleeping body in your bed at 7a.m., just to return home to that same body in a sulking mood.
Better to avoid that. God. Avoid Dad’s blue gaze, holding so much pressure, telling you you have to thrive. You didn’t want to become a lawyer, so you have to make an exquisite journalist out of yourself. He never said anything mean, not at all, much the contrary. Dad is always so supportive and generous, but you can see how much he hopes his daughter will rise. His Golden little Girl. Still, in his stare is doubt that you can do it without his help. He expects so much of you, hopes so much. Yet, he seems to believe in you so little.
More disbelief could wait. Also more disappointment. Breaking promises has always been awful, so it’s better to go home. Now!
“Go. Go on, then.” A nasal voice startles a wandering mind. “I will cover it from here.”
As if a redheaded angel appeared on your side. Emily deserves to be hugged right there, even on the verge of spreading the flu to your healthy self. A pat on her arm shows enough gratitude you will for sure retribute later, as soon as you can.
It’s good to turn your back to that insane crowd of rich, pretentious people. You can’t wait to arrive home and take these goddamn shoes off and, hopefully, be welcomed with a warm look, not a greenish bleak one. Rules change everyday and you never know which version of Nate you will get each evening.
But the eased crowd is starting to make a fuss again and- wait. Is that a sh-
A shout. A yell that would make anytone stop in their tracks.
“Darling. There you are.” It’s breathed out.
“Yeah. It’s been a hell of an evening. Three people didn’t recognize me, one called me Mr. Priestly and now the damn bartender won’t even serve me.” A shake of a hand in Irv’s direction. “Why don’t you get me another drink? He would have to listen to you, wouldn’t he, little guy?”
Shock. Written in Emily’s and Miranda’s faces. It’s not possible to see from here, but Mr. Ravitz must be stunned as well, due to how his temple is thumping.
There’s no other way to go but back. Feet must move. Mind must think. Mouth must open to say, “Um, excuse me?” Think. “Mr. Ravitz?” Think. “Oh, I have just been dying to ask you if…” If what? “… it’s true that…”
How dare Stephen? Sorry, no! An employee can’t talk with so little respect. How dare Mr. Priestly try to sabotage this benefit? How dare he show up drunk on Miranda’s special night and embarrass her in front of all these people? What little consideration regarding his own wife. The thing with Nate is a blob in the ocean compared to this. A man like that is deeply dislikeable. How can he submit himself to that lack of decorum? Falling so hard in his absence of altruism and comprehension. Anyone would be proud to even stand in Miranda’s shadow, for it illuminates more than all camera flashes pointed right at your face. No attention could be more valued than to be praised and to be called “Darling,” by Miranda. Do you have any idea how a compliment said by this woman is craved on a daily basis by all staff and all designers in the world? A million men would kill for this. A million people would die for this.
And to hear what Mr. Ravitz is saying is impossible, not when “Darling” still echoes so sharply, the word never heard coming out of Miranda’s lips, not even to her daughters. It’s always “Bobbseys,” always “babies.”
It’s not possible to listen to anything when Miranda’s face has faltered and, right now, keeps hidden behind Mr. Priestly’s figure. Get out of the way. “Darling.” Turn around, so I can see how Miranda-
Is looking at you. “Darling.” Opening her mouth above a boned shoulder and saying something so much better than “Darling.”
Showing gratitude. A different kind than the one Emily deserves, because the alleviation in Miranda’s whisper spread to her face and her peek as well, a face shining more light and openness than all chandeliers and floodlights, due to so much relief. And you realize you’re on the brink of a heart-attack, your chest pumping and rushing blood like never before, reddening hot cheeks that you hope all that powder is able to hide.
There. A compliment a million people would die for. Exactly like you’re feeling, about to combust. Smiling feels natural, like the only option, because you did something right. Pure, absolute bliss.
Even if smiling is the last option, when you turn down a big opportunity to network with some of the most influential personalities of New York publications. Even if, up in the clouds of your thoughts and deep in the crowds, you realize how late you are. You wish to have a Time-Turner. Maybe you can borrow the one you bought for Caroline in Miranda’s name, because that sensation of stilled time lasts only until you enter the towncar. Clocks start ticking again, faster than ever, and you feel like the stupidest Cinderella trying to get home before midnight.
Midnight arrived and you are still pulling out of the car. Shit, shit, shit! It is all happening so fast! You can barely remember having climbed the stairs right now, much less turning the keys to your apartment. Nate’s apartment, actually (at least is what it says on the intercom panel in the building entrance). And there he was, your sweet boyfriend, sweeter than the cupcake you’re holding. Guilt makes you want to apologize right away, because Nate’s looking at you like he was watching TV but- not really seeing it. Just empty. Disappointed. How could you fail someone and meet somebody else’s high standards in such a small period of time? Time that seems to stretch and shorten itself altogether. And your shoulders are dropping as the weight of defeat lays on top of you, as Nate strides forward to your bedroom. Because you can’t be everything you want at the same time. You can’t currently be a great professional, a present girlfriend, and a brilliant daughter without failing one of them.
It’s nobody’s fault. Not yours, not Dad’s, not Nate’s, certainly not Miranda’s. Miranda… You sit on Nate’s seat on the couch. Miranda, who probably is going home with Stephen by her side, on your side of the car, since there’s no way he could drive them both home. Would she have him shower? Put him to bed? Would they argue? Everytime Miranda travels, rumor has it in the office that Stephen gets more and more mad. One time, he called looking for her.
She was in Miami. She didn’t tell him.
A smile peeks on your face again, extending warmth and scaring away cool glares. Miranda may be terrible. She may be demanding, even of her own husband. She can be rude, but she also can be human. She can be kind and thankful and thoughtful and benevolent. And to think someone can blame her for personal issues. Yes, people love to hate her. But even this hate carries fixation, worship, adoration.
You can’t bring yourself to hate Miranda. Even if all the reasons are valid, even if she turns yours and Emily’s everyday life into a living hell, there’s no way to loathe her, not even a single bit – what a fool to think you could – albeit you don’t know why that is. Perhaps because you aren’t able to hate someone despite them wounding you the most? As Nate does sometimes.
As sleep slowly approaches, tomorrow can’t wait to arrive quicker. Thank God. Five hours to go and it would be work hour again. Doubtless, to see Miranda once more. Such longing to get out of this apartment, the place you didn’t even have your name on, a place full of noises, full of Nate’s brooding. To sleep on the couch seems like a good bet.
There’s so much satisfaction inside you. In a slow pace, you rise and conquer. Dad can’t say you aren’t thriving, because there’s no one who feels more proud of you than yourself, which is one of the most important things in the world, even if you have to let some people down along the way. Like your boss does, the most inspiring competent woman you have ever met. And you can’t wait for tomorrow- today, sorry, to keep conquering. Slow. Being bigger than men who sometimes minimize, underestimate and shame women. Like Mr. Priestly enjoys doing.
Slow, then fast, as the little clock on your bedside table, time passes. And you drift smoothly.
‘Cause you never saw a face shine light like that.
And you never felt time stand still.
And you didn’t know men could fall so fast.
And you never felt so much will.