Chapter 1: Day 1
“Don't bother me with the details, just make it happen.” Miranda's muffled voice leaks through my hotel room door. “I need to leave this morning.”
It is halfway between three and four a.m. when the unmistakable click of a hotel key card fully rouses me.
“And the itineraries.”
Miranda's cool voice loudens as the door to my hotel room swings open. A wedge of light momentarily illuminates my bed until the door swings itself shut. “As in now, pronto, immediately. Do you need more synonyms or shall I continue?”
Cloaked in darkness, Miranda's silhouette strides to hover over my bedside, cellphone pressed to one ear, not looking at me.
I have clothes on, don't I? No, I do not. Wonderful.
“No, two tickets,” she says to whomever is on the phone – probably the second assistant. “One is for Andrea.”
I mentally cross my fingers that my comrade-in-arms will be up to whatever psychotic task Miranda is bequeathing her. Now that I'm first assistant, Miranda attributes any second assistant screw-ups to me.
“Tell Vera's people that Nigel can handle the rest of the shoot. But make sure to tell Nigel to put them in sandals.”
Is she reaching out her arm...?
She tugs my blanket down.
Miranda's cellphone snaps shut. “Andrea, wake up.”
Miranda's mouth opens to say more. She halts. Her face is hard to judge without a light source, but if I were a gambling woman, I'd guess her gaze is on the dozing redhead beside me.
“I'm up, Miranda.” I sit up dutifully, pulling the sheet up around myself and grabbing my pen and pad off the nightstand.
If I have learned anything about working for Miranda Priestly, it's that if I act cool, everything is cool. This is a perfectly usual state for Miranda to discover her workers in, and no consequences can stem from it. Exactly that.
“Be downstairs in twenty minutes,” she says stiffly.
I sincerely hope she's not blushing; it's hard to tell in the dark.
“Get dressed, pack your luggage. I'm returning to New York early.”
I don't ask how she got a key card to my room, or what the hurry was that she couldn't call me. Asking questions of Miranda Priestly is, of course, against the rules. I nod.
Miranda exits the room without a backward glance.
I stuff my head under a pillow and groan.
The Devil Wears Prada
I am ambushed as I rush to the elevator in four inch heels, still half asleep.
“Six, what's going on?” Nigel hisses. He's dressed smartly for four in the morning wearing clothes that seem like what he typically shows up to work in. He slips into the elevator with me and hits the lobby button. “Miranda just woke me up at the ass crack of dawn – same as you, no doubt – to have me come pick up the Book.”
“Don't know.” I yawn into my hand. “Miranda woke me up, now we're on a flight back to New York.”
His eyebrows shoot up skeptically. “And you don't know any more than that?”
“If I worried about what I knew, I'd lose my marbles with this job.”
“That's... probably a good strategy, actually. The only bit of information she told me is that I'm
in charge of the rest of the shoot because she's flying the coop. No good intel as to why, yet.”
The elevator doors slide open. Miranda is already at the front doors. I can hear her berating the second assistant from here.
“You'll text me when you find out?” Nigel throws me a sly look. “I need to know how to handle her if she comes back breathing fire.”
I nod. “Of course.”
Miranda greets Nigel first when we make it to her. She doesn't spare a glance me except for a disdainful glance at my wheelie luggage. Nothing she hasn't tolerated before, though. She thrusts the Book into Nigel's waiting arms.
“I need you to keep that little blond photographer on track,” she tells him. “More pictures, less flirting. The middle spread only works if the foreground is perfect, keep an eye on that.”
“It'll be my baby, Miranda.” Nigel gives her a reassuring smile. “Have a safe trip.”
Miranda only purses her lips to that.
Nigel takes his leave after flashing me a pointed 'be careful' look, leaving Miranda and I alone to wait for the car. She taps her heel on the marble floor, then decides to thrust her handbag at me. I shoulder it without a word.
Miranda is indeed blushing. It's dusty pink and barely detectable underneath the makeup, but it's noticeable. I wonder exactly what she is picturing to cause the out-of-character uneasiness.
This is going to be a long flight.
The Devil Wears Prada
“KL2142 flying to Okinawa City is now accepting its first class passengers in zone one...”
That is me. Well, us. I shoulder my laptop bag and add the fine leather strap of a Gucci original on top of it, its monstrous weight thanks to my single traveling companion.
“Passport,” she murmurs in my ear, but it is already in my hand, proffered to her. She takes it without commenting on my efficiency, and I without commenting on her lack of commenting.
Miranda Priestly is a study in silence. When she does speak it’s barely detectable, but sharp and lethal all the same. Coffee, hot, now.
Those scarves on my desk in twenty minutes, or your career is over. Nineteen minutes and fifty-five seconds.
It’s a strange relationship we have, her and I. I’m certain it’s an unhealthy one. I perform a task well, then she says nothing, which drives me to do better, which in turn prompts her to… well, say nothing. And the cycle continues, if you could call it a cycle. Maybe you would just call it misery.
She takes the passport just in time to flash it at the boarding attendant before thrusting it into my hands again.
Miranda isn’t carrying anything. Apparently even the passport is too much extra weight for her.
The boarding agent blocks my path when I try to follow hot on Miranda’s heels. “I’m sorry, only one carry-on per passenger.”
“I’m carrying hers, too,” I explain quickly. Out of the corner of my eye I catch Miranda glancing back at us, every iota of her stature screaming her impatience.
I wonder what would happen if one day I magically have every task accomplished with a snap of my fingers, know what she is craving and have it waiting on her desk before she realizes she’s hungry. Sacrifice a virgin to bring Coco Chanel back for one last design and place it in her inbox. I wonder if, just for the sake of continuity, she wouldn’t say a god damn thing.
I’ll find out when I’m just that good, I suppose.
Through the barricade of flight attendants and inside first class, I wrestle her hair-too-large baggage into the overhead bin before settling into my place beside her, immediately cracking open my laptop to add last minute touch ups to a memo to Irv Ravitz’s office before takeoff. It’s an itemized budget breakdown justifying Runway’s expenses and need to fly to the Philippines to do a photo shoot. In other words, it’s a load of bullshit I’m making up on the fly after Miranda waved an arm without looking up and said, ‘oh make up whatever pish posh you need to,’ and left me to it.
Because there is no justification for using the Philippines for a photo spread, no matter what the reader polls said. Not that the shoot hadn’t been a success – it was. At least, when we left it had been.
I manage to add a few bullets about the Filipino demographic of readership before the flight attendant announces over the speaker that everything needs to be shut off. I don’t mind, I’m already satisfied with my bullets. I’ve written many such justifications in the past, and they’ve all been up to snuff.
Bullshitting is easy if I remember everything my journalism degree taught me and throw it out the window.
Sometimes, in between desperately seeking her approval and grasping at the flimsy straws of her attention, I hate Miranda. I don't merely hate the woman. I despise what she stands for as a fashion icon, I loathe her disregard for the human condition, and I rip my hair out at the sound of her silky voice calling out, “Andrea.”
But the moment of hostility always passes. Miranda will speak softly to me with rounded lips, like she is trying not to smile, but still including me on the joke. She will nod approvingly at an outfit, eyes slipping slowly down a model's figure like she's appreciating a fine wine that only she knows how to taste, and that action will somehow endear me to her.
Sometimes her gaze – humble and awed – lingers too long on a model, until she blinks and looks away with pursed lips. Sometimes she looks at me that way. Miranda's long looks are filled with enough guilelessness and wonder that her appreciation for the female form never felt cheap, just... enamored.
Then my anger passes, and I return to work the next day braced for more.
Miranda pulls a black sleeping mask over her eyelids, although I know for a fact she doesn’t sleep on plane trips. Maybe she doesn’t like spending seven hours staring at the back of the seat in front of her. Fair enough.
I think far too much about my boss. Ridiculous really, considering how little she clearly thinks about me. I don’t even know why we’re on this flight, for example, on the quickest connections the second assistant could find back to the States at the last minute, three days before the shoot is due to finish. Miranda hasn’t deigned to tell anyone, even me – despite the fact that she alerted me to start packing my bags at three in the morning to be ready by four, and we’ve been on the move ever since.
Nigel cornering me in the lobby before we departed was shooting alarm bells off in my head. That had been my first clue that something big was happening, if her second-in-command had been left in the dark. I don’t know why he thought she would tell me before him, but I was just as clueless.
He’d agreed with me on the point that a family member hadn’t died – she wasn’t nearly distraught enough – before Miranda had swept down on us and hurried me along. Albeit neither of us had ever seen an emotional state from her that qualified as ‘distraught,’ barring the Vera Wang faux fur expo of 2011, and we could both agree that it went without saying that she hadn’t yet reached that level of emotional upset. If anything she was… eager.
Maybe Irv died.
No, because then I wouldn’t be writing this ridiculous memo.
Lack of knowledge notwithstanding, I have arranged for a car to meet us at the airport 36 hours (and counting) from now and alerted Miranda’s housekeeper and made sure the flight attendant brings her the hottest blazing coffee this side of the transverse mercator.
We’re traveling from The Philippines to Japan, from there direct to LA, then a seven hour coast-to-coast flight to JFK International. I glance around Miranda out the window. The wings are so narrow. It's hard to believe they can carry two hundred people across an entire ocean so easily.
It might sound nuts, but I’m secretly thrilled at how much time there will be for me to lie back and sleep. In Miranda’s presence it’s unheard of, but there is simply nothing else productive I could be doing, and not even Miranda can deny that.
Miranda can wear her mask and sit stark awake in complete darkness all she wants if that’s what suits her, but before the plane has reached cruising altitude, I am blissfully unconscious.
The Devil Wears Prada
I’m startled into bright, screaming, throttling consciousness by the most terrifying feeling of my life.
I’m suspended at least three inches above my seat. The seatbelt is my tenuous connection to the plane, pulling me down at breakneck speed, yet the horrifying lack of solidness beneath my legs makes my body feel like it’s freefalling and there is no plane or hull or belt and I’m just in the sky, falling and falling and plummeting to my death.
There is an eardrum-splitting roaring, and choking black smoke, and cans of diet coke rolling around the ceiling like frantic cockroaches. An angry orange lick of flame is lashing out somewhere around the direction of the cockpit.
Miranda’s window seat is empty; through the smoke I can make out the body of water below us that is rising up so close, so rapidly, it’s like the ocean is lifting itself up in one gargantuan wave to swallow us whole.
An immensely heavy metal something directly impacts the back of my skull – my neck snaps forward and I barely have time to register the sharp starburst of pain before I’ve succumbed to the rush of darkness.
The Devil Wears Prada
It’s around my ankles. By the time I can think life jacket , the water level surges above my head and I’m gagging. Water has never been so terrifyingly fast.
I fumble around the bottom of my seat, hoping against hope that it’s there, because I can’t remember where it’s supposed to be.
My fingers snag something plastic. I’m grateful for one tenth of a second before glancing out the window – the water is pitch black. We’re deep.
A group of unknowns brush past me, swimming hard – it’s hard to tell because the water inside the cabin is nearly as dark – but something catches onto the strap of my lifejacket and before I know it, it’s drifting away from my hand.
I make to snatch it, unbuckling my seatbelt – the orange vest is kicked away by someone’s foot, then it’s too god damn far away to see in the dark.
My lungs are already burning. My chest is about to explode and oh god, we are still sinking.
Miranda’s life jacket, I think in a moment of clarity.
It’s physically impossible for me to make it, I know. Everyone else had a head start while I was unconscious, and now I don’t have enough air to play catch up long enough to survive.
Playing catch up. Like it’s a game. Like in two minutes, I’ll still be alive.
Around me, some people are still buckled to their seats, unmoving. Either unconscious or dead. Both now, actually. They won’t be catching up either.
I will not give up. Not like this.
Miranda’s jacket firmly in hand, I kick off to propel myself to the emergency exit, or at least in the direction I think it is. The life-jacket-kicking idiot seemed to think that it was this way.
My lungs are screaming at me, ‘take a breath! BREATHE!’
I see the way out, a dim but hard outline in the bulkhead. A pair of fish dart in, then out. Even they know better than to stay inside this deathtrap , I think.
My hand catches onto the edge of the hatchway; I’m tugging myself outward when, halfway through, a current rips into me, whipping my neck to the left. My spine collides sharply with the edge of the bulkhead. The ocean itself is ripping down my throat before I choke out a horrified, “oof!”
My last breathe escapes in so many bubbles. My mother is going to be heartbroken. She watched grandpa drown in a swimming pool a few years back.
I hope they tell her I died on impact.
If they can tell either way. I don’t know how they do it.
I’m gagging, doubled over, forcibly swallowing more salty, inky water, but I can’t stop. I’m pinned to the top of the hatch; the hull is sinking to the ocean floor, to thousands of feet down and it has deigned to take me with it. An honor, truly.
I wonder if Miranda made it out alive.
Probably , I think. The bitch.
God, I hope she made it out okay.
I've stopped choking. I no longer feel the crushing, burning need for air. In all honesty, it's a great relief.
Chapter 2: Day 1, continued
Day 1, continued
“Andrea. Don't you dare.”
A hard pressure is on my mouth. Air is pushing forcefully down my throat. I try to ignore it – I’m too sleepy. I need to go back to whatever sweet, warm dream I was having.
“Breath, damn you!”
Another shot of air is forced down my raw, scraped throat. This time it strikes the wrong chord inside me and triggers my gag reflex.
I vomit all over myself.
I hear a gasp, then the person who said my name says it again. “An—Andrea?”
I roll over as a tiny wave of foam slaps into my freezing, shivering body. Besides being soaked and soggy to the core, I’m covered in a layer of sand. A blurry face swims into my field of vision. I blink at it, but it refuses to come into focus, so I squeeze my eyes shut.
“Look at me,” the blur says, in a desperate, throaty sort of way. “Andrea. Don’t you dare close your eyes now. Don’t you – “
I pass out.
The Devil Wears Prada
I’m chilled to the bone. It’s the deep, all-piercing cold that drags me kicking and screaming to a wet, sandy place where I am shivering so violently I am practically vibrating.
I’m being dragged. Very, very slowly and laboriously, if the heavy panting behind me is anything to go by. My left foot snags a clump of washed up seaweed and whoever is holding me by the armpits sags to a halt, emitting a pitiful whimper.
Shouldn’t be trying to drag a fat girl, I think nonsensically.
“I c -- c – c…“
I grit my teeth. ‘I can stand’ is what I’d meant to say.
“I c - c – c—” I can’t keep my tongue from shivering long enough to string to consonants together.
The tone of voice is sharp, familiar to me.
“M – M – Mir --?”
I attempt to stumble up and forward to my feet, but my knees wobble uncontrollably and I plunge face first into sand.
Another thing I realize, as I spit out the wet grains – it’s nighttime. Not like New York nighttime. It’s Ohio dark. Pitch dark. The star-broken black mold that grows in the corners of the world not graced with street lights.
Her long nails press into my shoulder tightly. “I need you to get up.”
I can do that, I know I can, if I can get my legs to stop quaking long enough to get upright. A firm grip lifts me by the arm as I wobble to my feet.
“Wh -- where –?”
“This way. You need to move. Now,” she insists, and the steel carried in her words spurs the familiar, well-trained drive to obey.
She guides me firmly by the arm with purpose, no longer breathing as heavily although still panting, presumably because she’s not dragging my considerable dead weight anymore.
I stagger under her guidance, a painful crick in my neck preventing me from lifting it to look straight ahead. I place one stockinged foot in front of the other, concentrating my focus on my balance and the talon-like grip on my tricep, deflecting all thoughts on the possible ramifications of a neck injury. I’m alive. I have to give thanks for that, and not let myself be anything less than grateful. Not just yet.
Beside my feet, I observe Miranda’s own keeping pace with my stumbling. Miranda’s are also shoeless and bare, no stockings.
My rattled mind flashes back to my lips being pulled apart, a warm breath pushing into my lungs. Her breath.
We move steadily in a silence punctured only by my occasional wince of pain as a heel or toe strikes the solid rocks appearing with more frequency beneath the soles of my feet. Miranda, for her part, neither stumbles nor shows any symptoms of pain.
Her bare feet, for whatever reason, attract my attention. The sight of her pale skin and rose-painted toenails exposed to the elements is a blazing neon sign with capital letters: WRONGNESS. Terrible, frightening wrongness.
We should be in Okinawa right now. Miranda should be hissing demands for a quicker connection, hotter coffee, less ascots in general worn amongst the Japanese population, and I should be scurrying around the airport somehow accomplishing every task she doles out to me. Including the ascots.
She regularly expects me to do the impossible now. I may have shot myself in the foot by striving for perfection. It’s true what everyone at Runway says – I’m the best first assistant there ever was and ever will be. Even if Miranda never says anything, I hold the knowledge that I’m good at something that dozens, if not more have failed at before me. And I know Miranda knows it – she never would have taken me back after Paris otherwise. To this day I don’t know what could have possessed her to submit to my groveling and promises to never, ever be so irresponsible again, unless it was the knowledge that I would excel.
I give it the old college try to raise my chin and catch a glimpse of her face – the back of my neck spasms and my head is pushed further down than it was before. Shit. That was stupid of me.
If only I could examine her face, just for a second, to see if her expression is at its usual neutral, slightly bored default. If her hair is perfectly styled, eyes mesmerizingly cut in wood and charcoal pencil hues. If I could see that, I would be copacetic, wherever we are and whatever just happened. The wrongness would dissipate, and I could feel secure once more.
Alright, I’m willing to bargain. Her make-up can be washed away, that would be reasonable. Her hair may be a tad frizzy from the humidity, that could also be acceptable. If she would only stop in a couple minutes and demand to have the photo shoot team air drop to our location and carry on here on the beach setting she’s picked out for them, that would be excellent. Maybe if she could demand a coffee or two, I would consider that a bonus.
Miranda, as it turns out, does no such thing. She slowly, raggedly leads me to where sand and rock meet vegetation and a space is haphazardly cleared around a fire. It’s tiny and flickering madly with the wind, but I crumple next to it in an appreciative heap.
The fire is so close it is practically burning the wet fabric right of my chest, yet I can’t stop feeling so chilled to the centre of my being, so solidly frozen through and through. I can’t stop vibrating.
“Derrick?” Miranda says sharply. “Wake up. You nearly let the fire die out with your –“
She cuts off.
Then she says, “He’s dead.”
I’m listing to my right side, so my field of vision is capable of seeing around half the fire. Miranda is behind me, and there is a leg beside me from someone I estimate to also be behind me and to the left. Derrick? I think.
I wonder briefly who else she’s talking to when, glancing around, I realize there is only her and I and Derrick’s leg.
“He was shivering like you are,” Miranda says, and her voice is devoid of any emotion, if unusually high-pitched. “Blue like you are.”
I really, truly wish she hadn’t told me that.
“Wh – where is ev – ev’ryone e -- else?” I stutter out, as close to the meek little flame as possible without catching fire myself.
Behind me, she doesn’t answer. In Miranda-speak that means she either doesn’t know, or the answer is obvious enough that she shouldn’t have to answer it.
So it’s me and her then. Just the two of us.
Soon it may be only her, if Derrick is anyone to go by.
This is unreal.
Dozens and dozens of people had left the plane before me. In fact, I had to be one of the last if not the last person to leave, since I remember blacking out with my body halfway through the hatchway. Hopefully they’re all mostly together on the plane’s life rafts or drifting in gaggles, easy to spot in their bright orange life jackets. Miranda and I will probably be found before they are... if I survive long enough.
Or they will find just Miranda.
“T – tell m – my mom I didn’t d – drown. D – don’t let her kn – know that part. Just t – tell her I was t – too cold. K--k – kay?”
Miranda whispers, “Okay.”
Chapter 3: Day ???
It’s the first thought I have when I blink to the unusual sight of an orange, rising sun. It’s followed closely by a joyous ‘Still alive!’ and a more displeased ‘Not rescued yet.’ Daylight should fix the latter, now that I’ve survived the night – and I’m not cold or even wet for the most part.
I don’t understand how I could have been so freezing, since it already feels like seventy degrees and the sun isn’t even fully out yet. There is some type of laceration along my abdomen that I hadn’t taken notice of last night, but it only stings when I run my fingers on it.
A warm body is laid next to mine and I stiffen as the name Derrick flashes through my mind, until I notice that an equally warm hand is holding my own left hand in a death grip.
I twist my neck to the left and my movement is halted. Not due to the crick -- my neck is incredibly sore but mercifully mobile this morning – but due to Miranda’s head tucked into my shoulder.
I was right about the hair and make-up last night. I suppose even Miranda Priestly looks like shit after surviving a plane crash. Her face is bare, reminding me of the last and only time I’d seen her without make-up on, after the divorce. Her eyes are just as puffy, too, like she’d been crying. I won’t blame her if she had; if anything qualifies for a good cry, a plane crash does.
Given, her hair is still gorgeous. A tad frizzy up front, but it only serves to make the coif more homey-looking rather than frazzled. My hair probably looks like a bird’s nest that’d been dragged through the mud.
I carefully rotate my sore neck muscles to test out their range, amazed and profoundly relieved at the ability to see all around me.
At some point I must have been pulled further away from the fire, because the formerly meek flame is now practically a bonfire, roaring and billowing a long column of smoke. Even in the dim light of dawn, it would be an impossibility for a boat or even a helicopter to miss it. Or a truck – because where the hell are we?
Without sitting up I’m able to tilt my head and glimpse the beach, which comprises of a good two hundred feet of sand stretching out to touch the ocean, free of litter… or footprints. Mine and Miranda’s must have been washed away overnight. There isn’t any signage either, like ‘no lifeguard present’ or ‘beware of sharks.’ Or ‘plane crash rally point here.’
If I keep walking far enough, there will be something. Some service road, or public beach, or beach house. Now that Miranda knows I’m not dying or dead, she’ll probably expect me to find civilization for us.
I’m being too pessimistic.
However she chooses to maintain her she-demon persona in her professional life, anyone in their right mind would realize this isn’t the time or situation for power plays. She’s holding my hand; nothing is more human than that.
She’s holding my hand.
Alone on the beach with only Derrick and I – she must have been terrified. Was she the first to hit shore? Did she save Derrick’s life too? Did he wash up like I did, and Miranda, alone and afraid, rushed up and breathed life into him like she did me?
They must have started the fire together. It was probably Derrick’s knowledge (or lighter) that ignited the initial flames; no matter what the circumstances, I can’t see Miranda rubbing two sticks together.
And then she left him alone, and he died.
She left me alone, too. To drag Derrick’s body away, since I can’t see him around now. Again, doing all the work by herself. I wonder if she half expected me to be dead, too, when she returned from the deed.
Whatever hardships she’s thrown my way in the past… I owe her. I’ll owe her forever.
She did save my life. She literally breathed life into me. I don’t know if I can ever top that. Once we’re back to work and Runway, I’m certain she won’t fail to throw it in my face anytime I find a task too demanding or outright impossible.
‘Getting my coffee here on time and not the temperature of the Antarctic ice layer is just too difficult a task for you to handle, isn’t it? …Do you know what’s hard, Andrea? Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Andrea, that is what’s hard. This? This is pitiful.’
The thought of a normal day fetching samples for Miranda, six dozen phone calls to field and a pissy photographer or two, brings a tiny smile to my lips.
But that’s the future. This is now, and now we need to get ourselves to safety one way or the other that doesn’t involve eating one another for sustenance.
I gently extricate myself and my hand from Miranda’s grip, wiggling away before rolling over and pushing off the ground to stand. Instantly I am lanced by a sharp, bright pain from my midsection and double over, nearly head first into the flames.
My fingers encounter wetness when they touch my stomach. When I bring my hand to eye level, it is dark and sticky with blood. How the hell had I not noticed this last night? How had I even managed to stand? Because I definitely cannot stand now.
Hell I can barely gasp now, lying on the ground and doubled up beside the fire, without whimpering.
Oh god, the pain.
I mewl as I allow myself to roll onto my back, glancing to see Miranda propped on her elbows, staring at me – no, glaring at me. Her gaze flashes downward and her eyes widen – I realize there is a hefty, if short, trail of blood in the few feet between my current position and where I had previously lain beside Miranda.
“Nn,” I say. It's all I am able to say.
She crawls to me on hands and knees, wrapping her hands around two belts that are tied to two of my belt loops. I can't help but groan before she tugs and I am dragged in a surprisingly non-painful fashion to my former sleeping spot.
She tucks a jacket under my head irately. “Finally awake and in two seconds, you’ve ruined everything I’ve done.”
My hands are tight and protective against my abdomen, but against my will she pries them from the wound. I whimper.
“Stop fussing,” she commands.
I bite back a sob. Her hawk-like focus, which I’ve only ever witnessed when Miranda is reviewing the Book, is narrowed and going over every inch of my stomach as her thumbs move around the wound.
“You ripped it,” she states matter-of-factly. “I really wish you hadn’t, Andrea. Now what are we going to do, hmm?”
I want to say something, ask her about it, but every time I open my mouth my brain buzzes and screeches loudly, and I can’t make any noise but a whine.
I moan from the change in tactile pressure as she removes her hands and reaches behind her to withdraw from nowhere a length of red-tinged denim.
She wraps it methodically around my waist, lifting me slightly when she tucks it under my back. I bite my lip not to make any noise, but a tiny mewl escapes against my will anyway.
“Let’s allow it keep healing this time, and not tear it by moving around,” she reasonably suggests, and it occurs to me she’s talking to me like she often talks to Patricia… softly. And good-naturedly. And tolerant.
“Are you going to say anything to me today, Andrea?” she asks, her voice high and tight.
“Nnn,” I say. The noise I make vibrates and pierces through the front of my skull like a nail gun. Tears are streaming out of my eyes; I look away from her in shame. I shouldn’t react so badly to pain, but god, it hurts.
“Are you going to stay awake today?” she asks, and there is something peculiar about the way she says today.
Like we’ve been here more than one day.
Like there have been a number of todays.
But that’s impossible.
“Please stay awake,” she says quietly.
The way she says this is also… peculiar. So peculiar that I want to promise her I will.
I will stay awake.
I am immensely annoyed with myself when I cannot.
Chapter 4: Day ???
A moist fabric is pressed against my lips.
“Drink, damn it,” a voice insists.
I crack my eyes open. The cloth is svelte, red and bowl-shaped. A handful or so of water at the bottom is tilting toward me and where the brim meets my mouth.
It’s a baseball cap. Red Sox, if I know my east coast teams well enough.
I swallow roughly as the water is poured down my throat. It’s warm and bitter, and there are bits of leaf or mold or something fuzzy in it, but it’s not salty and it feels like silk as it flows down, soothing everything that’s raw inside me.
“Thanks,” I breathe unevenly, then swallow some more.
My name is said aloud with an inherent sense of disbelief.
“Yeah,” I confirm. Then I add, because it’s true, “God my stomach hurts.”
Not as much as before, though. That’s the important thing. I can string two words together, for one.
I’m not planning on standing any time soon though. I made that idiotic mistake once of moving without checking myself over, and I’m not doing it again until my wound is the size that it can be covered up with a band-aid.
I blink blearily at my surroundings. It’s daytime, but dusky. Either early morning or late evening. If when I woke up earlier was morning, it must be evening now.
The landscape is rocky, dominated by crag and loose weeds. The largest rock arches partially over us, thrusting upward, providing shade. What trees there exist are sparse. I don't recognize the species -- their trunks are smooth at the bottom, then rough at the top. The lower branches are also bare and totally leafless.
We are further inland than we were before. Still in sight of the beach, but not on the cusp. There is another fire pit to my right, but it’s weak and not producing smoke.
Miranda has been a busy little bee, unless she’s found other survivors. That would be a bonus, to not be trapped with just her and her profound sense of… individuality… while we wait for rescue.
A lot of work has been put into moving me and starting a new fire and gathering water, apparently. Has she bothered to walk down the shoreline in either direction to search for help? If she had, we wouldn’t be here right now drinking water from a Red Sox cap.
Maybe she had, and could only get so far without abandoning me.
A wave of guilt washes over me before I remember I have nothing to feel guilty about. I was in a plane crash, for goodness sake.
Oh wait, yes I do – I tried to stand up like an idiot and tore open a laceration in my stomach.
I can’t look at her – she must hate me right now. Or at least be angry . For once, she has every right to be pissed with me.
If this is evening time, and we crashed yesterday around… six? Seven P.M. yesterday? Then that means it’s been a little over 24 hours since we’ve been stranded. That’s twenty four hours she will lose that she could have spent dancing over Irv’s grave, or eloping, or evading her taxes or whatever the hell reason she had for hopping on this flight and abandoning the photo shoot at the last minute.
We should be nearly to JFK by now. Probably about to land.
I don’t know if I can ever ride in an airplane again.
I don’t suppose Miranda will be patient enough to wait for me while I take a boat to the California coast, then drive myself at a nice, health-friendly speed cross country the rest of the way.
Cars are more dangerous than airplanes, my ass.
“Stay awake,” Miranda says suddenly, insistently.
My head is turned away from her. Right.
“I’m awake.” I make my best effort not to groan. “I am extremely awake.”
A long sigh escapes from behind me.
“Well it’s about time,” she says.
I am immediately annoyed, but I bite back the retort.
Instead I say, not without a small bit of wonder, “You saved my life.”
“…I suppose –” She catches herself. “Well, yes.”
I hear a shuffling and a deep exhalation as she shifts her position.
She doesn’t say ‘you’re welcome.’
The Devil Wears Prada
For a good twenty or so minutes, Miranda doesn’t utter a word to me, nor I to her. She assists me in holding the baseball cap steady and tilts up my head so I can properly swallow the bitter water.
I can’t tell what she’s thinking… never could before with any precision, really, but at the least I’ve always been able to read her moods, which had earned me a modicum of respect from my co-workers at Runway. She is inscrutable to me now. Perhaps because it’s a state of being I’ve never witnessed in her, and therefore hadn’t had time to analyse and commit to memory before.
I’m grateful for the silence. My throat is too sea-burned and raw to carry voice for a lengthy, or even short conversation.
I also do not bring up the fact that I can aptly recall her brief conversation with me (relative to her usual social interactions with me, of course) when I woke up and tore my stomach open. I possess several faraway memories of her voice in my ear, holding one-sided conversations as I drifted in a sea of blurry pain.
We’ve been here too long. Rescue should be soon.
At least I have that to look forward to.
The Devil Wears Prada
A solid hour has passed, at least.
No sign of outside life as of yet. Aircraft or otherwise.
Shit, my stomach hurts.
The Devil Wears Prada
The sun is fully set now. It’s been two or three hours since I’ve woken. Miranda has been keeping the fire up, which creates an orange circumference of soft light around us, while outside it the beach and the vegetation inland are concealed in darkness.
Lying on my back I haven’t seen much of her, beside when she is helping me to drink and for one humiliating encounter when she dragged me – I helping by pushing with my feet – to a private spot to… take care of business… which to say was awkward would be a massive understatement. Other than that, I only hear her feet patter here and there as she carries out unknown tasks which I instinctually feel guilty for not attending to for her. Occasionally she leaves the area around the fire without warning, but always returns quickly.
What could she possibly have to do? I wonder. All that’s written on my agenda, frankly, is to sit – or in this case lie – on my ass and wait to be rescued.
She’s not moving now – why she has stopped is a mystery. She has situated herself behind me in what I have named in my head ‘Miranda’s spot.’ Whenever she’s not labouring at a mystery task, she goes back to her spot to hover where I can’t see her.
It’s now or never.
I turn my head as best I can in her direction. “Miranda?”
“No, thank you.” I shake my head at the red cap proffered into my field of vision. “Have you seen anyone yet? Boats or helicopters or…?”
I trail off hopelessly. By her restless shifting behind me, I already have my answer.
“Have there been any other survivors around?”
“There was one other. However…” Her voice hardens. “He passed away.”
“Derrick,” I say, remembering.
“Derrick,” she echoes.
I could have been him. I wonder why not.
He had been at the fire far longer than I. Miranda had left him there to drag me from the shore… he hadn’t gone to help her. Even if he was shivering, it would have helped him to do something physical. He must have had an injury somewhere that kept him from moving.
Come to think of it, it had been strange to see one of his legs splayed beside me without the other beside it. A broken leg, maybe?
That’s not the question I want to ask, though.
The question I want to ask, but I’m terrified of the answer.
I swallow against the hard lump in my throat. She is still and breathing heavily behind me – anticipating what I’m about to ask. She knows. She knows something terrible, and then I’ll ask and she’ll be forced to tell me.
I’m being ridiculous, allowing my emotions to drive me to hysterics. She probably doesn’t know anything more than I do. How could she?
“Miranda,” I say evenly, staring carefully at the fire. “It’s been a whole day. And… and we can’t be that far from the crash site at all.”
I expect her to say something, respond with a haughty deflection and a Miranda-esque ‘how should I know?’
It would also keep me from asking the question . The question to which I really don’t want her to have an answer to, unless it’s something like, ‘they’re stopping for ice cream first, so that will be excellent.’
But she doesn’t utter a word in response, and I am forced to continue.
“This fire… this smoke… They have to have seen it. Right? Why haven’t they found us yet?”
She is silent for so long that I eventually rotate my torso slightly – painfully -- to do what I haven’t done in hours: catch a glance at her. I can barely see her from the corner of my eye, and it’s hard to focus and maintain my position without shaking too terribly, but she is there.
Miranda is performing the same tactic on me that I have been on her – not looking at me. For the same reason, I wonder? To keep herself from becoming too emotional?
Probably to avoid biting my head off.
Her usually perfect coif is significantly more frizzy and curly toward the front than it had been this morning, but it doesn’t look bad... Trust Miranda to find a way to tame her hairdo in the middle of the wilderness. Her skin is cleaner, too, no longer stained with the remnants of smudged rouge and eye liner. She must have washed at some point.
Her clothes, though – they’re beyond saving. On the plane, she had been wearing a fringed scarf around the back of her hair, and a wide wraparound swatch on her waist to cinch the look of her blouse, but both items were missing now, leaving the Anna Sui peach blouse and dark maroon flared pants whose designer I can’t readily identify. Both items are stained with dirt and leafy green patches at the knees and elbows, as well as a few other sections where mud or sand had made contact with the sacred fabrics.
Her expression, though I have full view of her face in profile, is… unreadable.
“You, um… We don’t have to talk about it. I mean, um, if you don’t want to,” I mutter miserably.
“No,” she exhales.
Miranda forces herself to drag her gaze over to me – honestly, it’s more like she’s forcing herself to look into the eyes of Medusa.
I’m her first assistant, and a pathetic one at that, stuck lying on my back in the dirt, unable to stand. Her reticence is nonsensical.
Miranda’s eyes are unusually watery and bright and hesitant , but I don’t allow myself to look away. I asked. I should be brave enough to hear the answer.
Her lips purse resolutely.
I know a decision has been made.
I don’t know if I should take comfort in the familiar expression’s return or take back my question altogether to make her displeasure go away.
“You deserve to know,” she says.
It’s the fairest, most evenhanded statement she’s made to me in our year-and-a-half-long acquaintance.
I’m not one hundred percent aware of what I’m requesting when I say her name. Maybe to lie. I just don’t know.
“There was an explosion on the turbine, I believe, because I looked out the lavatory window and the wing was gone. And then we were spiraling out of control. We were off course for an hour before… prior to the crash.” Miranda’s lips press into a thin line as a few stray silver curls fall rebelliously across her forehead, highlighting the bizarre anomaly that is her position, sitting dirty on a beach, doling out water to her assistant from a hat.
I take a moment to process the information she’s dealt to me.
At first it seems an abstract thought – why do I care? What does it matter to me, that we were off course? Why does Miranda break eye contact the second she says it, studiously examining a nearby palm frond, jaw anxiously set?
An hour – a basic unit of time that’s never seemed that long to me. An hour is a subway ride and two block walk to Elias-Clarke. An hour is an episode of Lost with a pee break and a commercial to pop a bag of popcorn. An hour is the time it takes to decide if I’m going to go home with a date, or conveniently lose their number. An hour of champagne barely gets me tipsy.
Sixty minutes of travel going three hundred miles per hour in an unknown direction, on the other hand, can get you a lot of places.
A whole lot of damn places.
I don’t even know how to do the math. My brain sparks and short circuits when I plug in the numbers.
“I wasn’t aware of our circumstances in the beginning, when I arrived at the beach,” Miranda continues. Arrived at the beach. Like she’d coasted in on a yacht. “I waited with you for hours, expecting any minute to be rescued. When I realized it was about to become dark, I decided to use the remaining daylight to walk down the beach and search for civilization. Then I discovered Derrick’s fire, that he'd started with a lighter.” She jerks her head toward somewhere I can't twist to see; I presume she's indicating where the lighter is.
A memory flashes as recollection dawns on me.
‘Derrick’ on a black nametag, crookedly pinned to a navy blue vest.
“Something to drink, ma’am?”
A Filipino man placing a cup of water, no ice, on Miranda’s tray.
“Don’t wake her up,” Miranda says. “Let her sleep.”
I close my eyes again. I must be dreaming for Miranda to be saying that.
“The flight attendant,” I say. “He told you what happened.”
There’s so much I want to know. Why we crashed, what else Derrick said, if Miranda is going to sue the living crap out of KLM Airlines when we get back.
I start with the basics.
“But they know we’re out here. They can track planes, right? There has to be some kind of GPS or black box or –?”
“They know they lost contact and they know we didn’t make it to Okinawa.”
“Derrick didn’t say…?”
“He didn’t know anything further.”
“How far off course were we? I mean, were we just off by a little bit or --?”
“He didn’t know that either.” Miranda bites off with a frown, looking very much like she desperately wants to add something snarky to the end of that statement.
The fact that she’s resisting the urge is nothing less than ominous.
“It’s only been a day,” I carry on, unable to keep the bursting despair completely out of my tone. I’m toeing the territory line for rambling and Miranda is gritting her teeth, but I push forward anyway.
I need to say it to make it real.
“We can’t have been that far off. We just have to keep the fire going and… ”
“Andrea, it is Friday night.” She stresses the last two words, staring at me intensely.
I stare back as she bites her bottom lip, an action I am unaccustomed to. Like she doesn’t want to tell me.
“No, it’s Sunday,” I correct her automatically. “We left on Saturday, Miranda.”
“I am well aware of when we left, Andrea.”
Again with the intense look.
That’s not… Friday isn’t…
…I am an idiot.
“Oh,” I finally respond.
“Yes,” she mimics snidely, “oh.”
A light flickers in the back of my mind. “How far have you walked down the –“
“We are on an island, it takes an hour to walk all the way around it, and there is no one and nothing here. Except us.”
She doesn’t mimic me this time, but folds her legs to sit on the ground, then brings her knees up and rubs her forehead with her palms.
“I’m going to sleep,” I announce quietly to no one in particular, repositioning myself so I don’t have to look at her.
It’s not like I can do anything else.
I wait without a particular expectation for her to respond, and true to form I don’t hear anything from her.
Tomorrow I’ll think of something.
Or help will be here tomorrow, and I won’t have to.
Chapter 5: Day 7
Still not rescued.
It’s my first thought waking up today, followed by ‘I’m hungry.’
If memory serves me correctly, yesterday the order was switched.
‘Still alive’ makes a brief, limp appearance, pushed aside by the increasingly attention-grabbing ‘I have to pee.’ Urgently.
Miranda, I need you to come drag me thirty or so feet into the palm trees, abandon me for ten or so minutes so I can wiggle around, pull my skirt up, conduct business , manage to flop myself so I don’t land in my own mess before I cover it up with dirt and try not to look at it when you come back to get me.
Because that’s not awkward.
How did she deal with it while I was unconscious for six days?
Do you go or… do anything… when you’re unconscious? Or does your body just hold it like when you’re asleep?
No response. I twist my head around and tilt my chin up to catch a half-glimpse at her usual spot – empty.
Still consumed with the question of my body’s actions while I was comatose, I quickly raise myself off the ground and run a hand down the front of my skirt. My underwear feels like the same lacy low-rider I was wearing on the plane.
I’m deciding whether my former underwear’s presence is a relief to me or more worrisome in itself when my mind mentally waves a red flag in front of me.
Miranda’s presence, or lack thereof.
I’ve been lying in a foggy state of half-wakefulness, half-sleep for at least a half hour. She must have left before even then for me not to have noticed her leaving.
What could she be getting up to at this time of morning on a deserted island, bordering on the early cusps of sunrise?
A deserted island – why did I have to remind myself of that?
No matter. Today is the day we’ll be picked up out of here.
I can feel it in my gut.
Seven days of flying a search pattern searching for survivors is plenty of time to stumble upon our little camping spot, with our pillar of smoke leading up to the sky like a ladder. That and I’m assuming Miranda has written out S.O.S. in big ass rocks on the beach somewhere. She hasn’t shied away from hard labor yet.
Why did only three people wash up on this island, and where did the rest of them go? The dozens of people I saw rushing out of first class with their life jackets, and I’m sure a hundred more from the coach class as well, had to have gone somewhere.
They can’t all still be adrift at sea, a wave of bright orange vests waiting to be spotted before they’re picked out by sharks or slowly drained of livable body heat by hypothermia? A couple hundred people can’t be easy to miss in the luridly fluorescent lifejackets, even with a search area as wide as our plane might have called for.
A near-painful twinge cramps my lower abdomen.
I really, really have to pee.
Maybe I’m strong enough to wiggle off on my own.
I tentatively tuck my fingers under the hem of my blouse, pulling it up slowly as though that will soften the blow of seeing the wound slashed into my skin. The denim pant leg Miranda wrapped around it some time ago (the exact day of that memory is still unbeknownst to me) is there, heavily blood stained but still protecting the cut from external… germs… or whatever. I guess.
And bugs, I think with a shiver of disgust. The thought of flies and mosquitoes buzzing around my stomach as it heals makes me want to gag.
The wrapping is tight, but I’m able to wiggle my thumbs underneath and lift the wrapping up a tad.
The gash – not a cut, or a laceration, or whatever it is I called it before – gapes at me. I gape back. It’s uneven, and dirty, and swollen and puffy and purpling around my sides, and black around the edges.
Why is it black?
And it does not look like it’s closing.
My cousin Teddy used to be a trauma nurse; he mentioned something about black wounds once. For the life of me, I can’t remember what he said about it. Not one detail.
Has Miranda seen this? Does she know what it means, and has been keeping it from me? Or was it perfectly fine when she wrapped it the last time, and this is a recent development?
Seriously, though, I am going to pee myself if I don’t deal with this soon.
I channel some range into my voice, calling out loudly, “Miranda?”
The fire is receding. It must have been burning low for a while. It needs to stay bright if we're going to attract airborne rescuers.
At least I have the reassurance of knowing that Miranda can use Derrick's lighter to relight it, if necessary.
I holler her name a few more times over the span of five minutes without my ears picking up any kind of movement or response.
I bite my lip. I’ll just have to suck it up and hold it.
The Devil Wears Prada
I can’t… hold it…
It’s been at least two hours. I didn’t think I’d be able to last a half an hour to begin with, but look at me now. Two hours in and still going like a champ.
Except I can’t any more.
I really, really can’t.
My eyeballs are practically floating.
All this from drinking from one measly baseball cap of water?
“Miranda! Where are you?”
I’d be a little bit concerned for her well-being out there if my brain wasn’t so busy swimming in my own pee.
I’m not going to lie here and just… go… and face Miranda’s indignation and disgust whenever she returns from her meditation or rain dance or whatever the hell it is she’s doing. Spending three hours trying to get the grass stains out of her Anna Sui, most likely.
What the heck. My wound already looks like I’m going to die from straight up rotting away and doesn’t look like it’s planning on closing any time soon either. I can move myself at least five or so yards from our little camp site before sweet, blessed relief. What could I possibly do to make my situation worse?
I lift my knees up, wincing at the abdominal crunching that takes place and the corresponding stab of pain that makes me hiss.
I’ll try one push, and if it’s too terrible, I won’t go any further.
I’ll relieve myself right here in this camp, and not accept a word of Miranda’s bull for it.
I push off with my thighs, propelling myself back two-and-a-half feet, like an upside down inch worm. I groan – it feels like a pair of hands is pulling at the gash at its black awful seams, trying to open it like the top of a bag of chips.
No no no no… I can’t make it any further.
This was a bad idea from the get go.
I’m such an idiot.
Push myself away from camp with a wound the size of Manhattan, yes, brilliant idea Andy. Next time, let’s crawl on our belly and leave a trail of guts and blood so Miranda can follow it when she comes back from using the last of her cell phone battery to phone Donna Karen about her disappointing fall formal wear collection rather than calling 9-1-freaking-1.
The two words strike me like twin forks of lightning.
There is no way.
Miranda can say whatever she wants about Donna Karen’s formal wear this year, the handy little pockets the brand puts into professional skirts have always rocked…. Because I never had to fish around a handbag for my cell phone on days when I wear a Karen skirt… it’s always in its own special pocket up front…
I run my hands along my waistline searching for the tell-tale lump, nearly impossible to catch just by looking for it with your eyes, but if you know it’s there…
My skirt is on backwards, I realize, as I feel that the side zipper is on the wrong side.
Alright then. I’ll take it in stride. Miranda must have washed it or needed to remove it to assess my injuries.
It would be nearly impossible for me to believe all the acts of pure humanity Miranda has accomplished for me, if it weren’t staring me in the eyes.
Not that she spoke to me very nicely. Not at all.
When she did talk to me.
Getting answers out of her last night was more of an interrogation than a conversation. I get the feeling if I hadn’t asked any questions about our situation – acted like it was perfectly natural for us to be hanging out on an island, alone and hungry – she wouldn’t have dredged up the subject of our isolation from society at all.
What would she have talked about then?
I’m aware that she is trying. Yesterday’s conversation might have left a lot to be desired, but it would have gone a lot less smoothly had she tolerated my questions and ‘constant, irritating optimism’ (as she has likened it in the past) like she usually does. She could have easily stressed out from the extremes of our difficulties and used me as an outlet for her anger. It wouldn’t be the first time it’s gone down like that.
I understand that she was alone for nearly a week before I became coherent. It’s hard to equate the woman who spoke softly to me, asking me if I would stay awake, with the one who barely meets my eye and murmurs short, brusque responses to my pleas for information.
I stretch my fingers, fumbling, twisting my arm behind my waist.
In the front pocket that is twisted to the back, since my skirt is on backward, it’s cushioned lump is pushed off to my left side, not directly underneath my waistline. It makes sense. I would have felt it yesterday if I’d been laying on it for six days.
My cell phone.
Never have I been so grateful for having to switch off my cell phone at the beginning of the flight. It had still had half its charge when I turned it off on the runway in the Philippines.
I pull it out, holding down the power button with practiced familiarity.
It looks perfectly dry.
My hands are trembling.
The screen remains dark.
“Turn on,” I order it.
I push the power button again.
I push it again.
“Please. Please turn on, please. Come on. Don’t do this to me.”
The screen flickers a flash of blue.
My eyes widen for one and a half seconds. “Thank –“
It goes dead.
I flip it around and yank open the battery compartment. Water splashes all over my face.
“God damn it to – fuck!”
I chuck it as hard as I can. It smashes into a dozen plastic pieces.
A few shards and the battery bounce close to the fire. The pieces immediately start to melt.
I have to pee so bad.
The Devil Wears Prada
It is mid-afternoon.
I don’t hear Miranda approach when she eventually decides to grace me with her presence.
Because I’m pathetic and sobbing like a child.
Because when I do hear her, I am so ashamed I can’t stand to look at her.
I don’t ask where she was. I don’t ask what she was doing.
She doesn’t tell me. She doesn’t say anything.
It takes me a while of listening to her putter around the fire, picking up the broken pieces of my Blackberry, to realize that she’s not aware of what’s happened.
I sob harder.
She is walking close by, probably to her ‘spot,’ when she pauses.
“Are you planning on ceasing this drivelling any time this afternoon?” she finally asks, a strong undercurrent of impatience revealing itself in the high-pitched frequency she utilizes.
I don’t know what else to say. I sniff, then hiccup. There’s not much else to say, actually.
Maybe Miranda has it right. Communication is overrated.
“What’s wrong with you?” I hear her demand suddenly.
My cheeks are hot from the warm tears streaming down my cheeks. They’re not stopping. If anything, Miranda’s sudden interest in my state of distress is making it worse.
“Go away,” I try to make it sound like a demand, but it comes out as more of a plea. “Go do whatever it is you were doing all morning. Just leave me alone.”
If she comes any closer, she’ll know.
If she sees…
I just couldn’t stand it.
I have to deal with this on my own.
My attempt at pushing her away seems to have the opposite of the intended effect.
She steps cautiously closer. I’ve never known her to be tentative before. Her out-of-character action pisses me off.
If she hadn’t been off doing whatever, if she had just acted like she was supposed to and sat around and bitched about the weather, the time, me, or anything… this… wouldn’t have happened.
I know it’s absurd as soon as I’m finished thinking it. It’s the most irrational thought I’ve had yet.
She starts off forcefully. “Andrea, there is no --”
There is a horrible silence.
I want to die.
I can barely get the words out.
I whisper, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
I burst into sobs again.
I know she’s staring at me.
Her condemnatory eyes are burning into my turned cheek.
Then because I’m wretched, and can’t just leave it without explaining myself: “I tried to… I mean, I couldn’t…” I can barely stand to finish the sentence. “I couldn’t get… my… my skirt off… I tore something… or something,” I end miserably.
I spend a quiet moment collecting myself, tracing the trunk of a nearby baby palm with my eyes, waiting for her assessment to be passed and over with.
The two belts attached to my skirt stretch taught. Miranda wordlessly takes it upon herself to drag me a paltry two and a half feet back to my original position before bending over me, fingers running to find the catch in my skirt.
It is one of the very seldom times I have had the opportunity to observe her up close since washing up on this god forsaken rock, and I’m too pathetic and ashamed to make the most of it.
Don’t say anything, I beg her mentally.
No. That’s not what I want.
I want her to berate me. I need her to tear me down. She needs to be Miranda Priestly for a few minutes and make me feel normal again.
Instead she works without comment to remove my skirt and underwear and cover my lower half with a coat I hadn’t seen her wearing since on the plane – I thought Miranda had left it. She is unaccountably careful when she unwraps the denim that is newly stained with the bright red blotch that indicates fresh blood.
When the wound is exposed to clean air, Miranda emits a sharp exhalation.
She states cautiously, “It’s turned… black.”
So this is a new development.
“Do you know what that means?” Miranda asks me sharply.
“What does it mean?”
It takes ten seconds of her not commenting for me to catch on to the fact that she had been genuinely inquiring what does it mean.
“It’ll be fine, Miranda,” I sigh tonelessly.
Now all I need is for her to say ‘Derrick had a wound that was black like that.’
Miranda is possibly the worst person on the face of the earth to encourage an injured person.
“I don’t believe this will be fine,” she replies slowly.
“The doctors will look at it after we’re rescued.”
I know I’m being stubborn. If I’m being honest with myself, I want to annoy her. The very word ‘rescue’ seemed to annoy her yesterday.
It’s wretched, I know. I’m wretched.
Her lips are pursed. I don’t need to see it. I can feel her disapproval in my bones. I’ve been conditioned to sense it like that.
Miranda chooses this moment to daintily fold my underthing into my skirt, followed by holding the bundle delicately far from her person as she marches inland and quickly disappears amongst the rocky outcroppings.
I’m left alone.
If I have to pee, I swear I’ll scream.
The Devil Wears Prada
By dusk, I’m significantly calmed down.
When she lies in her spot, I turn my head in her direction. If I tilt my jaw just right, I can see her legs curled up on a laid-out fur coat. “I apologize. I was being passive aggressive earlier… I didn’t mean to cop an attitude.”
She is asleep, or pretending to be asleep.
By the way her feet twitch, I’m positive it’s the latter.
It’s fine to me. I’ve said my piece.
I can feel better about myself and go about my life.
My life of lying on my back, having occasional, jilted question and half-answer fests with my boss.
I’m still using a coat to cover my lower half while my washed skirt is propped on sticks and drying by the fire, but I’ve reassembled what shreds of dignity I still have left to me and am handling myself fairly well. I haven’t shed any tears since… the incident… so I’m considering that a quiet victory.
I’ll have to take those where I can get them.
I’m also still hungry.
I’m assuming so is Miranda, so I don’t bring it up. No need to state the obvious or remind her of anything that will probably aggravate her. Plus, it’s not like she’s complaining about it.
I respect her for that.
She hasn’t acted at all what most people would expect from a supreme fashion dictator with her type of reputation. People who worked with her, though… I think we could have predicted it. Miranda is too stubborn to let any social situation put her at an awkward angle or catch her off guard, so there is no reason she would react differently to a physical situation.
Her mental toughness is not what’s out of character. If I were to put my finger on it, I would call it her… disposition.
It was off.
Not wrong, just… tilted in slightly the wrong direction.
A little bit too much patience, a little bit too skimpy on snark. One might think a change in personality for her is a blessing to be thankful for, but it sat wrong with me, and I’ve learned to trust my instincts when it comes to Miranda Priestly.
This is what I’ve spent all evening thinking about.
Laughably tragic and useless and just plain witless.
“I’m going to sleep,” I tell not-asleep-Miranda.
I listen to the sounds of the beach. I can hear the shore better than yesterday. Tide must be coming in.
If we’re not discovered by tomorrow, I just might eat her.
Maybe if I inform her of that, she’ll regard our pending rescue in a more hopeful, if not more optimistic, light.
Chapter 6: Day 10
Still not rescued.
As soon as I stir awake, Miranda finagles my newly washed and dried skirt tight around my hips and drags me away from camp.
My shoulder blades and the backs of my heels burn more than usual with the friction. I wince, but otherwise manage to hide the signs of my distress. Miranda has enough to worry about.
The path of vegetation and rocks I normally bump and scrape over is smooth. She must have cleared some of it away to make her job easier.
Instead of leaving me to my privacy, Miranda sticks around. She hovers impatiently as I undo the side zipper, then ignores my fumbling movements and pulls my skirt off for me.
“Thanks,” I mumble when she pulls down my panties with her head turned away.
She’s considerate today. I’ll take it.
She doesn’t leave.
“…Do you need any more help?” Miranda finally asks.
I glance around the area she’s brought me to. The soil is loose beneath my head. As long as I’m careful, if I can roll myself onto my stomach… then when I’m done, return to being on my back… my arm is long enough to shove dirt over the wet spot.
The searing pain in my abdomen has lessened overnight. It’s the least painful it’s ever been, in fact. An unanticipated development but I won’t complain. Twice I’ve ruined that, but I don’t plan on a third performance.
No wiggling , I mentally order myself, as Miranda grudgingly leaves my presence. Or pushing. Or any movement or contortion of my stomach whatsoever.
The Devil Wears Prada
The sun is straight overhead. My eyes are screwed shut in an effort to block the blazingly bright rays, arm slung over my eyelids as an extra barrier of protection.
I want to throw up.
If I do that, I won’t be able to stop myself from ruining the skin around my stomach for good.
I’ve been hungry for so long, but this afternoon I don’t feel it at all. I feel sick. Like a gurgling pool of acid is eating me from the inside out. It’s akin to the seasickness I’ve felt on boat trips with my uncle’s family, except the more deeply I breathe in, the woozier I become. I have to inhale and exhale carefully in order to keep my stomach from heaving.
Miranda hasn’t left camp once today. She doesn’t move around except to feed the fire, just hovers around in her spot where I can’t see her. Miranda spends most of the lead-up to the afternoon haunting the camp from her out-of-sight position like a ghost.
She always angles my body so I can’t properly see back there.
Because Miranda has spent every spare minute on this island fashioning creepy supermodel dolls and has them all situated in a display around where she sleeps.
That’s one theory, anyway.
Or she needs somewhere private. Though considering my movement capabilities right now, the whole damn island should suit her purposes perfectly. There’s no need to go through the fuss of hiding herself every second of the day. What am I going to do, judge her on her outfit? I’m the one wearing the skirt that still smells like pee with a pant leg wrapped around my waist.
I startle when she approaches without a sound and is suddenly hovering over me, thin lips pressed into a frown, eyes scanning me up and down like an x-ray.
“Um… yes?” I squeak. “What are you…?”
I’m too nauseous to twist my neck to watch, but I’m able to feel the light grazes of her manicured fingers picking at the denim and efficiently exposing my wound to the world.
“Do you mind asking before you do that?”
Miranda squints at me as if she’s trying to determine if I’m being serious or not.
Her hair is especially frizzy around the front today… very wind-swept, like a model in a JC Penney catalogue. I like it.
It’s time to drop the bomb.
“Also, I’m quitting.”
Miranda glares at me murderously – finally, a response. Not that I would usually mind a silent Miranda Priestly. Three days and nights of no one to talk to but my friends the rocks, though, and no one can blame me for needing a little human communication.
“No, you’re not.”
“I am,” I confirm matter-of-factly.
“You – what? You are not quitting.” Miranda seems appalled.
“I can’t work for someone who’s seen what you’ve seen. It’s humiliating.” I struggle to keep the shame out of my voice and maintain a light tone, but I know something’s eked out when Miranda has trouble meeting my eyes.
“That is irrelevant. Name an actual reason,” Miranda demands, mouth tensing through a couple of unsure positions before settling on an all-purpose scowl.
“It’s not up to you to decide if my feelings are irrelevant or not,” I respond hotly. “And it’s not like I’ve been very good at assisting you lately, have I?” I add for good measure.
“Are you an idiot?”
Her gaze is running up and down me as if she’s already decided that yes, I am in fact as she accused. A genuine idiot.
Finally Miranda exhales slowly and says, “I’m going to do you the biggest favor I’ve ever done anyone and forget what I just heard.”
“I’ll remind you when we’re rescued.”
Miranda’s pale face twists in anger. She opens her mouth to spew out what I’m sure will be a bitter refutation of my disgusting optimism.
She closes her mouth.
Miranda glances downward. Her head jerks minutely – she catches herself before it’s too obvious, but I notice.
“Don’t!” she shrills, voice cracking in the middle of the word.
Her eyes are boring into mine like drills.
“Andrea, don’t look at it.”
Don’t look at…?
I breathe in heavily.
“I, um… okay.”
I blink rapidly, turning my sights to the bright, furious sky.
“Is it… um…”
“It’s fine,” she answers quickly.
“Of course it’s fine, obviously. As long as I’m not looking at it,” I ground out.
I grit my teeth and ignore the nagging urge to take a peep.
If Miranda Priestly tells me not to look at something in that tone of voice, I’m damn well going to burn my retinas out staring at the sun before I take a peek at it.
I’m breathing. Shoot, I can’t stop breathing.
“What does it look like?”
“Worse than yesterday.”
In my peripheral vision I catch her arms moving up and down my sides.
She’s touching me.
I can’t feel it.
I squeeze my eyes shut. This isn’t happening…
We have to be rescued soon. They can’t just forget about us.
How hard can it be? Fly around in a circle. That’s it. That’s all you need to do. That cannot possibly take nine days. Are they taking breaks? Do they consider how hungry and weak and hurt we are, any time they stop to eat or sleep?
Or they’ve found everyone else. They’ve found everyone in their lifejackets and high-fived themselves and went home. They didn’t bother looking for anyone else.
We are dead to them.
“Andrea.” Miranda’s sharp grip digs into both of my shoulders. “You’re hyperventilating.”
My eyes shoot open. Miranda’s face is hovering directly over mine.
She is intensely close. Her cheeks are flushed. Her breathe comes out in soft puffs, mingling with mine.
“I’m sorry,” I pant. I bite my lip – it’s trembling.
I’m not going to cry in front of her again.
“Are you touching me?”
Perturbed, Miranda’s lips turn downward into a frown. “Yes.”
Despite my vow to myself, my traitorous eyes burn in the face of her perplexity and the feel of straight, naked dread with its fat fingers wrapped around my throat, choking the hope out of me.
I can hardly force my tongue, my lips, the air inside my throat to form the words.
I will not cry.
“I can’t, um… I can’t feel it.”
There is an abominable silence.
Miranda’s tone, when she responds, is hesitant. “Andrea… I… this dead skin, it’s spreading. I…”
She pauses. If she’s waiting for a solution from me, she’s going to be waiting a long ass time.
Miranda’s voice shifts into something harder. “It needs to come off.”
She doesn’t stall or vacillate. “I discovered a fragment of debris sharp enough to cut skin. If the black portions are removed from your body, perhaps what is left will heal properly.”
Perhaps? So she is guessing.
I don’t bother to ask her what she thinks will happen if we don’t. Rescue or no rescue. I know what I think will happen, even without the benefit of examining what I’ve been forbidden to look down at.
I’m going to die.
I swallow. I’ve always been afraid of pain. A wimp, as my father playfully called me, but it was a truth ingratiated into my soul.
I am the kid who cried for hours after a scraped knee. I am the woman who has to psyche herself up before getting a flu shot, and can’t even look at the needle as it’s sticking my skin.
“That’s…. that’s alright then.”
Miranda jerks her head in a nod.
“I’ll fetch it.”
“Wait – right now?” I stutter.
“Yes.” She levels a glare at me. “Forgive me, did you want to call your primary physician for a second opinion? Shall I fetch the remaining shattered pieces of your cell phone and attempt to melt them back together?”
“You’re right, you’re right okay? Just – just do it.”
Her nails withdraw from their talon-like grip on my shoulders, leaving half-moon indentations imprinted onto my skin.
I should have expected that her touch, forbidden in the halls of Runway or anywhere, would be fierce and painful when given at all.
Miranda falls to rummaging around her ‘spot’ beyond my sights. Unidentified objects clink as they are shifted around. What else can she possibly have back there?
Miranda Priestly is about to perform impromptu surgery on me with a piece of airplane wreckage on a deserted speck of land with no anesthesia, no knife or bandages save an apparently abundant supply of extra clothing, and no experience to speak of. Unless there is a whole section of Miranda’s educational history I don’t know about.
I’ll die of shock.
I don’t know exactly what that is, but that’s what they say on House and Grey’s Anatomy . That man can’t go on the table right now, you’re mad! The shock will kill him for sure.
I need to get my mind off of this.
“Um, Miranda. Where did this pant leg around my waist come from?”
I’m definitely not thinking about my gut being cinched open and peeled off like the top of a can in a can opener. Totally not.
Miranda must realize what I’m doing because she doesn’t bite my head off for distracting her, merely redirects me. “Ask me something else.”
“Where did you find the Red Sox cap?”
Her next response is strained, possibly through gritted teeth, even if it’s not a very Miranda-like expression. “Something else.”
“When did you find this shrapnel you’re talking about? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like discovering wreckage from the plane that sent us hurtling to our doom would warrant some type of announcement.
“I found it on the beach while you were unconscious. Monday morning.”
Miranda does not extrapolate further.
She is terrible at this.
I’ll have to make a note. When faced with imminent misery and suffering and I need a friendly distraction, Miranda Priestly will be the absolute last person I call.
Because she was so close to the top of the list beforehand.
“Why won’t you tell me where you’re getting these clothes? It’s from a suitcase, right?”
It had occurred to me yesterday evening that a flight attendant wouldn’t be wearing blue jeans or have a baseball cap on his person. With Derrick ruled out – and I won’t even consider the possibility of them belonging to Miranda – luggage is the only option. But why would Miranda be reluctant to speak up about salvaging a suitcase?
Miranda continues to be relentless in her pursuit of not saying a god damn thing .
“Is there a Gap on the island I’m not aware of?” I press.
Or another body besides Derrick's. That would be the worst answer.
“I’ll tell you when you can stand up without gushing blood like a water hose,” she snaps. My ears catch the ingratiating grind of metal being scraped against metal and, oddly, a plastic-sounding rattle.
“Do you –”
The remainder of the question drops out of my head like a rock when Miranda swoops over me, the left sleeve of her peach blouse ruffled with fresh wet sand. Her bare hands – she used to wear so many rings – are gripping a jagged, twisted strip of metal the length of a cane and shaped ungainly like a ‘J’. It’s something out of a nightmare – ripped with black torch marks, the notched edge wet as though recently washed, but the remnants of something dark and crusty detectable in the finer indentations.
“You’re using that?”
I can’t hide my terror.
I refuse to not to act terrified – it’s not like it’s unwarranted.
She wants to cut me open with a machete that’s been through a blender.
Miranda pins me with a hard scowl.
Hold – hold still?
“You’re not – I don’t –” I stammer out.
“You are going to do this.” Miranda crouches and dips her head close to mine, jaw set stonily.
Her body’s immediate presence ratchets my heart rate up dramatically. The only time I’d ever imagined Miranda this close to my person was in the event that she were to one day literally bite my head off.
Or strangle me.
“Maybe you should, um... tie me up. Or something.”
Miranda blinks at this. “That is an option,” she allows, glancing at me strangely. Her lips are pursed, but the displeasure doesn’t seem to be directed at me.
“I don’t, um…” I bite my lower lip to keep it from trembling. “I don’t know if I can do this,” I admit hoarsely.
My eyes burn, brimming with salty moisture.
I blink it away, praying Miranda doesn’t notice. I made a promise not to cry in front of her anymore after yesterday. I can’t break it in less than twenty-four hours.
Even if the only person I promised was myself.
“No.” Miranda’s response is direct. And severe.
“Yes, you are doing this, and no, you have survived for too long to cede defeat and you have lasted for too long to give up on me, after… everything that’s happened.”
Give up on me.
Strange choice of words, but the longer they remain drifting in the air between us, the less they sound strange to my ears.
Miranda’s brought me this far.
She breathed life into me when I should have been dead. She dragged my body to a source of heat and saved my life from ebbing away to hypothermia. She’s provided water and cared for my injuries.
It has been Miranda’s will all along that’s been keeping me alive.
It’s too bad she’s put all this effort into a coward.
I clear a wet weight from my throat.
How dare she put this kind of guilt-trip pressure on me? Doesn’t she know how hard it is for someone like – someone like me – someone not her to go through this? Didn’t she get the hint when I couldn’t hold myself together for six measly hours alone yesterday morning?
Miranda is as tough as a rock. She’s gone her whole life never batting an eye at the obstacles thrown in her path. She’s always overcome. She can’t understand.
All titles she has deigned to bestow me with in the past. And she’s right. She’s probably thinking those words to herself right now.
But this is about more than me being afraid. I need to survive. That’s what this is about. Whether I’m scared so shitless I can barely breathe or not. I have to live in order to be rescued.
In order to eat a cheeseburger again. To hug my neighbor’s dog again. To hug anyone again, and be hugged in return.
“Tie me up then. I… I need that, at least.” The long piece of shrapnel in her hands glimmers in the direct sunlight, seemingly laughing at my fear of the agony it is sure to cause. “Use the scarf. Or something.”
The Devil Wears Prada
“Try to move.”
Miranda scrutinizes me through squinted, skeptical lashes before offering a nod of approval. She’d better approve. I’m near hog tied.
Miranda picks up a white pill bottle from behind my head and rattles it.
“I found these.”
Is that… Tylenol PM? So there's a Gap and a Walgreens.
She raises an eyebrow inquiringly and I nod in consent. I don’t know why she thought she needed permission, nonverbal or otherwise. Why would I refuse a painkiller? What with the can opener of Cthulhu lying so casually behind Miranda’s bare feet.
Miranda holds the bottle close to her face, scowling as she examines the label from several different angles before I remember that she routinely wears reading glasses.
“Over 12 years… two tablets… motor vehicle…”
“Just give me ten.”
That comment earns me a scathing look. “Are you seeking liver damage in addition to your current injuries?”
“It might knock me out.”
My hopes are dashed when Miranda upturns the bottle and dumps three blue caplets into her open palm.
Nothing else pours from the bottle. It’s empty.
Three is better than nothing. I probably would have gotten liver damage anyway, as Miranda predicted.
“Hurray for my liver,” I say weakly.
Miranda gives me her patented I am not amused look before freeing a restrained arm with a tug and proffering the pills along with the familiar red baseball cap.
I pop the caplets and sip tentatively. The pills wriggle down my raw, swollen throat feeling like they’re three times the size they actually are.
“Thank you,” I say hoarsely, which earns me a murmur of acknowledgment. “How long should we wait? For the um, pills to take effect?”
Miranda squints at the bottle again. “Thirty minutes.”
Maybe I’ll be unconscious by then.
The Devil Wears Prada
It feels extremely silly for Miranda to have tied me up, then decide to wait thirty minutes to chop me up.
My nose is itchy.
Miranda doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, sitting beside me yet pointedly not making eye contact. She’s also not the one that’s facing having to lie here immobile for the next half hour.
Well I’m not giving in and asking her to untie me.
The Devil Wears Prada
“So what else have you found, besides the man, um…”
“Derrick,” Miranda fills in forcefully. “And I do not wish to speak of this with you.”
She has retreated to her spot beyond my sight, safe from my vision.
“Alright,” I concede. “Later though?”
“Later.” Miranda breathes the word like a prayer.
I don’t know what else to ask beyond that, and Miranda doesn’t add anything to the conversation.
I couldn’t feel her fingers when she touched me. Maybe I won’t feel a thing.
The Devil Wears Prada
This would be an excellent point in time for a helicopter to fly overhead.
Any second now.
That’s okay. I can wait. There’s another twenty or so minutes.
The Devil Wears Prada
“I was serious about quitting, you know.”
There is a beat before Miranda replies. “I know. However, I will not be accepting your resignation until we are on American soil.”
“I quit,” I say more firmly. It feels good to say.
It feels liberating.
My ears pick up Miranda’s heartfelt, if overly dramatic sigh.
“How is the medication affecting you?”
“I’m not tired at all,” I report honestly.
I’m trembling and buzzing with more adrenaline than I’ve felt in my life.
The Devil Wears Prada
Seriously, how has it taken this long for them to even fly over this area?
The Devil Wears Prada
These pills would probably work better with alcohol.
The Devil Wears Prada
Miranda edges into my view, eying me like a wild horse she’s about to hop on.
She’s cradling it in her arms.
The long, twisted object of nightmares that’s been haunting me for the past half hour.
“How do you feel now?”
For a microsecond, a shade of doubt crosses Miranda’s visage like a flickering shadow.
“It doesn’t matter.” I force myself to breathe. “It has to be done.”
I can’t let her bring up the option of backing out, not even once.
I know if she offers it, I’ll take it. I’ll take it and die, and she’ll be alone with mine and Derrick’s body on this island when the choppers show up. She’ll be using my clothes to bandage up her scrapes. And it will be her fault, for offering.
“I discovered a box of chips,” Miranda says abruptly. “From the airplane. They’re salt and vinegar flavored.”
“Huh?” I say.
When did she do that? She hasn’t left my side for longer than five minutes at a time today. Unless she discovered them days ago and she’s been hoarding them.
“We ate them all save one bag while you were unconscious,” Miranda continues.
I may have vague memories of bits of potato chip being pushed into my mouth, or I may be imagining it. It’s hard to recall with any clarity.
“You’re conserving the last bag?”
“You can have it when this is over with,” she promises me steadily. “Tomorrow morning, when you are healing properly.”
The lilt in her tone is reminiscent of boardroom meetings with advertisers, when Miranda was sipping her latte, calculating gaze darting from suit to suit, negotiating price and compensation. She’s speaking as if… she’s making a deal with me.
I stay alive, I get chips.
If she offers me chips, I’ll decide to stay alive.
It’s the most desperate, pathetic deal I’ve ever heard of.
“Right.” I find myself nodding, wiggling a tad in my bonds. I hadn’t allowed her to remove them while we waited, when she eventually offered. I hadn’t trusted myself to allow her to put them back on if I’d shucked them. “We’ll split it. Now get this over with.”
The Devil Wears Prada
I don’t scream or squeal like a tortured pig, like I thought I would.
I whimper and squeeze my eyes shut, the cruel jagged edge of shrapnel easily parting flesh from my body. In some areas I can hardly feel it.
I thought I was okay with this.
I’m not okay with it.
“Stop bleeding,” Miranda orders me in a panic.
I can barely hear her. It sounds like a hundred mile an hour wind is rushing past my ears. My blouse is wet and sticky against my skin.
Something’s gone wrong. There’s never been this much blood before, not even when I tore myself open on accident.
Miranda is abandoning me.
She’s run off and left, and now I’m alone and bleeding to death.
At least she took that wicked thing with her.
I never want to see it again.
I won’t, I realize.
Miranda is back. I hear her shuffle to her knees through the raging wind that won’t leave my ears.
My eyelids flicker briefly – I glimpse something bright orange and glowing before the effort is too much to keep them open. I’m too weak.
The Devil Wears Prada
I’m screaming. I can’t stop. It’s too much.
I writhe away from the red, twisted metal that’s burning straight through me and into the ground.
She’s run one end of the shrapnel through the fire, seared it so that it’s so white and horrible I can’t stand to look at it.
“Stop! Stop it! Stop!”
Miranda doesn’t stop. She doesn’t respond, that I can hear anyway.
A heavy, awkward weight shifts onto my lower thighs, pressing me into place. Miranda’s sitting on me. Her entire body is quaking, but doesn’t budge when I throw my knees up.
I buck her off, but she’s back in a heartbeat.
“St – st –”
I can’t form the words. I grit my teeth the wrong way – a pain as insignificant as a lit match next to a burning building flares briefly before a coppery, liquid bitterness tangs the tip of my tongue. The sour flavor is flooding my mouth. It’s the first taste I’ve had of anything that wasn’t baseball cap water in a week.
No, no. I can do this. I can get a handle on this.
I’m mewling. It’s the most wretched, humiliating sound I’ve ever created.
I didn’t know I had this sound in me.
It’s better than screaming.
I can’t stop. It’s the only way I can handle this.
The Devil Wears Prada
Miranda sits down delicately, femininely tucking her legs under herself, unusually far from me – at least ten feet. The shrapnel has been flung carelessly aside, graciously out of my sight. She is trembling.
The scarf that had held my wrists together is torn apart, a casualty of my bid for escape, freeing my arms to move as they please. I don’t remember struggling against them. I don’t recall trying to pry my hands free at all.
The pain is still there. Not the searing, throttling all-encompassing need-to-poke-my-eyes-out-with-a-razor-to-distract-myself pain. It’s a low, grumbling pain that sizzles to life if I breathe in too deeply and stretch the burned lines of skin along my abdomen.
I glance at Miranda, who isn’t making eye contact. She’s looking solidly in the opposite direction in clear, familiar Miranda-speak. She is done with me for the day. There will be no more Miranda interaction.
That’s dandy with me. I don’t know if I can handle anymore Miranda interaction.
I shut my eyes to the pain. It’s dark enough. Maybe I’ll pass out. Maybe I can fall sleep. I feel exhausted enough.
No, it hurts too much. I can barely breathe without wincing. Why bother?
My eyes snap open.
If I lie here long enough, I have to fall asleep eventually.
Miranda doesn’t say anything.
I don’t bring anything up.
Chapter 7: Day 11
Still not rescued.
It’s going to happen today.
Tomorrow neither I nor Miranda will be on this rock. We’ll be in Japan or the Philippines accepting fly-for-life vouchers I personally will never, ever ever ever use, sleeping in downy hotel beds and calling home to let everyone know we’re okay, and why were they so scared anyway, because of course nothing bad could’ve happened to us.
Of course not.
Miranda is already sharp-eyed and moving around by the time I blink myself into consciousness this morning.
This afternoon, actually. By the time I’m fully aware of my surroundings, the sun is far past its noontime position. It’s no bother to me, if sleeping means that my body has had twelve or so hours to fully devote to healing my stomach.
I breathe in experimentally, deliberately flexing my abdomen. The shot of pain that results is quick to remind me of its uncanny ability to choke the air out of me, gutting me up the belly like a fishing knife -- I yelp.
“Your fault,” Miranda murmurs under her breath, not giving me the benefit of her attention as she fumbles with a pile of thin leafy branches.
I don’t deign to respond. Not that I am indignant for long – within seconds of peering to the left and right, a sealed brown bag catches my eye.
The chips Miranda promised me last night – a blurry figment of my memory in comparison with the sharp, cold torture that befell me after.
“Holy cow,” I breathe reverently.
They’re kettle chips, which I hate. Salt and pepper flavor, which I double-hate.
As of right now, I take back all the hate I have ever held. I want to hug the chip bag like a lost child.
“Thank you.” I chance a glance over at her. She is studiously picking through the leaves of the branches she’s gathered, for what I have no idea. She doesn’t respond.
What the hell ever. In a rushing, shaking mess, I’m tearing open the paper and in less than a second, I’m unceremoniously cramming my face with crispy chips.
“Have a chip,” I insist, waving the bag encouragingly in her direction. I distinctly remember promising her that we would split it.
“Hmph,” she says to me. Miranda is sitting cross-legged, back turned to me, fiddling with her branches. Probably too decent to tolerate witnessing me pushing chips into my mouth like a starved…
No, I’m not eating like a starved person. I am starved.
Not the weak, had-to-skip-breakfast-to-catch-the-subway starving. Deathly starved.
I shift my attention to begin a covert observation of Miranda’s befuddling actions. I see the woman’s hands run deftly along a shriveled branch, divesting it of its cache of three tiny, pea-sized red berries. Miranda tosses it into a pile of presumably already stripped branches, then carefully added the berries to a molehill-sized pile no bigger than her fist.
The pile of unstripped branches remaining is already much less than the stripped. Not that there were many branches to begin with.
A handful of berries and – I count – eight potato chips.
This small amount is what’s left of Miranda and I’s life.
By that, I mean if someone were to ask me how long Miranda and I had left to live, I would answer using those measurements. Not days, nor hours.
We have a handful of berries and eight chips left to live.
Should I eat four now and save the rest?
I count the chips again, in case they have multiplied or I have drastically miscounted and there are, in fact, twenty chips and I have longer to live than I thought.
What would I be saving them for? A rainy day?
I glance skeptically at the bright blue wash of sky visible between the trees’ lanky fronds.
It’s not going to be raining any time soon. By the time it rains here, we’ll either be rescued or…
Or not rescued.
Dead. That’s the word.
It’s an awful, miserable word. Four letters that mean the end of everything you are as a human being. A word that says to the world, this person doesn’t matter anymore. They used to, but don’t worry yourselves about that. They’re over now.
They’re dead, dead, dead.
With that macabre, twisting, thirsty leech of a thought, I consume the crisps and follow up by pouring into my mouth the remnant yellow crumbs at the bottom of the bag. I want to crumple it up, throw it at the ocean and scream.
I fold the empty bag into eighths and place it under a rock. I can’t imagine a situation where I might need an empty chip bag, but two weeks ago I couldn’t have imagined living day to day, clawing my way to survival either.
The thirst that had been lurking in the shadow of my monstrous hunger magnifies times ten after subjecting my tongue to the salty food. Luckily Miranda has left the baseball cap right beside me – I have the brim pressed to my lips before I register that it’s dry inside.
I’ll have to ask Miranda to get more from whatever magical island water fountain she’s been retrieving fresh water from, assuming I can squeeze another conversation from her. For Miranda’s part, she’s busy.
“What are you doing?”
I only ask once I have spent a moment inhaling and exhaling slowly, and only after I am satisfied that I will not fly off the handle if she brushes me off or refuses to respond entirely. I am too relieved to be alive this morning to take up arms, however oblivious she is to my near-vital need for civil human contact.
“Berries,” Miranda answers succinctly and unnecessarily.
“Right.” Despite my attitude, merely hearing the name of the food spoken aloud makes my mouth water. Not to mention that after the chips, my throat is dry and cracking, begging for moisture. “They’re edible, for sure?”
“Psh,” Miranda scoffs. “You tell me. You ate enough of them while you were…” She pauses, searching for the perfect adjective.
“Injured,” I supply for her.
“Psh,” she says again, and despite the fact that I’ve mentally declared today an anger free day, Miranda’s ridiculous psh grates me the wrong way.
Miranda does not elaborate beyond her monosyllabic response.
“I don’t remember that.”
“That’s interesting,” she states unconvincingly.
I sincerely hope that she didn’t rip the branches off of a bush, leaving it unable to produce more fruit. Even if I don’t believe in the possibility that we’ll be here for much longer. No, Miranda is too calculating, too far-thinking for that. I don’t know why I considered the possibility.
I give up on communication for the morning.
Miranda spends the new day’s afternoon wordlessly roaming in and out of my field of view, re-arranging bits of metal and trash – chip bags, strips of soggy cardboard, mostly – for the purpose of… well, I haven’t the faintest. The only breaks are when, despite no request of my own, she twice pauses to assist me to relieve myself.
As always when not observing Miranda Priestly’s actions, my eyes are scanning the skies, ears straining to detect the sound of an aircraft or helicopter. It’s difficult to see the waterline from where we are inland, but if I crane my neck just right, I can peer around the trees to catch a small portion of the beach.
There is not much there either, unless I’m counting dredged-up seaweed as significant. Which I’m not.
The Devil Wears Prada
I’m thinking about my family. Not my Dad or older brother so much as I can’t get Mom out of my head.
She still goes to counseling to keep her handle on… stuff, I guess. The first thing she went to seek help about was from when her father drowned in a swimming pool while she was visiting him a few years ago. Last Christmas she told me that the doctor had started her on pills. For anxiety, she said. I haven’t brought it up since.
I hope she’s seeing the doctor now.
When we make it back I’ll…
When we make it back. Am I a fool for believing we’ll be rescued? Miranda seems to think so.
How long has it been since the crash? That was Saturday… then a week went by… now it’s Tuesday.
If I were a search-and-rescue pilot I would still be…
No, I would have given up a long time ago, I realize.
I would likely feel generally sad and helpless in the face of mass-scale tragedy, like any person I suppose, but eventually I would come to the conclusion that there was little chance anyone left floating ‘out there’ could still be clinging to life.
And I’d go home.
The Devil Wears Prada
I’m quite lucky the fronds overhead provide the shade we need to not be sunburned to death. I believe that’s what people are referring to when they say so-and-so died of exposure. There's also a crag jutting out into the sky that, for the early part of the day, blocks the sun perfectly. It's my favorite rock on the island. Pathetic, I know.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. By ‘this,’ I mean how we’re still alive.
How pathetic would it be to starve to death on this happy little island? Will our bodies have faded into the rocks in the time it takes for the next human to set foot upon this ground once more?
Perhaps no one will discover for how long we struggled to hold on, to survive against the odds.
I’m so lost in thought that I fail to detect Miranda’s tiny feet picking their path through the crags and vegetation. I am alerted to her glaring presence by the sudden cool air prickling at my bare stomach.
Miranda kneels at my side, a silhouette blocking the sun.
My stalwart companion Miranda, doing the typical Miranda thing by walking on up and doing whatever damn well pleases her to my body. I politely do not bare my teeth at her. “Good afternoon to you.”
Miranda sets the removed wound dressing a la denim carefully to the side. She responds to me by displaying a miniature black bottle.
I frown at it. The label is pure white, the inking long since washed away.
“Miranda, that’s not – whiskey?”
“Andrea, hold still,” she orders without a hint of compassion and I immediately begin to wiggle away.
“Miranda, wait, what’s --?”
There is no emotion on her face as, quick as a flash of lightening, she uncaps the bottle and tips it over, allowing the honey liquid to stream directly into the thinly-healed, angry gash on my stomach.
I swallow a yelp just as it’s about to make its escape and instead choke it down to a whimper. God… freaking…
It’s as if the microscopically thin layer of newly-healed skin does not exist. It feels like what I’m assuming is alcohol is filtering straight into my muscles and organs, burning and ravaging as it goes.
“God. The – oh, god, what the hell, Miranda?!”
My eyes burn, filling with water that I furiously blink away. I will not cry. I will not cry. I shield my gash with my arms, just in case Miranda has a second bottle concealed on her person somewhere.
Miranda’s hard eyes narrow. “You’re welcome,” she replies, not without the typical injection of martyrdom and snidery. She stalks to the other side of the banked fire, tossing the emptied bottle aside.
“I’m sure you have a perfectly good reason for doing what you just did, Miranda, so I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and not murder you in your sleep tonight.”
Miranda scowls at me, not in malevolence but in the way that I learned from a year of Miranda-reading means that she is confused and simultaneously angry that she is confused. I realize, from her expression, that it is entirely possible she had not expected a negative response from me.
She offers a half-hearted shrug and supremely exasperated eye roll indicating exactly how much stock she puts in my indignation. “Cowboys did it all the time,” she provides me, in what I assume she imagines to be a valid defense for what she just did.
“In movies, Miranda,” I hiss the name like a curse, then groan.
“It was better than doing nothing,” she bites back, “which in case you hadn’t noticed is the summation of everything we have in our possession at the moment.”
“I’m fine that you did it, honest, I just wish you would…”
I trail off, still trying to decide which I’m mad at more, her continual treatment of me as a non-entity, or her harassed air of sacrifice when I demanded an explanation.
Cowboys do it all the time. Mercy.
And throughout everything, she manages to look so… together. Miranda’s lack of shoes, make-up and a working laundry machine has had a minimum impact at best on her drive to maintain a dignified appearance at all times.
I want to drag her onto the ground with me and rub sand and dirt all over her clothes. Ruffle her hair. Make her look as terrible and hopeless as I feel.
But I don’t do any of that.
“Just… just ask me next time,” I sigh, resigned, and throw my arm over my eyes.
It occurs to me that I have blown this way out of proportion in my head; I toss the thought away.
I’ll be angry if I want to be. I just really don’t give a shit right now.
The Devil Wears Prada
It’s late afternoon (what I would consider suppertime) and I still don’t understand why I’m angry with her. Last night, she undertook actions that most likely saved my life.
Have I said thank you?
If I have, I don’t remember it.
Is she expecting gratitude? Is that the root of her brusqueness this morning?
Last night encompassed the worst moments of my life… and it may have been one of the last nights of my life if not for Miranda’s actions. I should be showing my thankfulness.
I can’t believe I’ve been so consumed with myself that I haven’t even given a ‘thank you’ to a woman who’s saved my life. Twice, actually.
I’ve thanked her for giving me chips and once when she gave me water. In both instances she had acted like I hadn’t said anything, or like I had banally commented on the weather. Miranda was above such things as acknowledging her former assistant’s thanks, apparently.
Even if it doesn’t matter to her, it matters to me. I resolve myself to rectifying the situation before the sun is set.
Shoot, I’ll rectify my manners now.
As is her wont, she does not respond from wherever she’s lurking. If she were stuck on her back, unable to properly look around at the world, I imagine she’d be blasting me for ever leaving her sight.
Luckily for Miranda, I’m above venting my frustrations at bystanders, however frustrating a bystander she may be.
“I wanted to say thank you for what you did last night. It was incredibly brave, and I’m grateful. To be honest, you probably saved my life and I’m sorry I haven’t given you my thanks properly before this.”
She’s been awfully quiet with whatever she’s doing in her spot. I don’t hear so much as a stirring from her at my admission.
I twist my head left. I can’t see her little hideaway, but a set of footprints leads away from camp, sloping down a slight decline toward the beach.
Miranda has long since gone, of course not deigning to inform me of her whereabouts before she left. I must have been too absorbed in my thoughts to pick up on her exit.
I throw a rock in her general direction.
I hate this island.
I check the sky that peeks through the leaves overhead. Not a plane nor cloud in sight.
The Devil Wears Prada
“You remind me of an idiot I fired once.” Miranda rolls her eyes while taking a luscious bite from a ripe green apple. “I let you fly the plane and now look at where we are.”
I look around – we’re underwater and sinking like the heavy weights that we are. Probably because we’re carrying all these weights… or at least I am. Miranda just has her apple. Why am I holding a barbell?
“Weren’t you supposed to bring one of these too?” I ask haplessly, indicating the barbell.
“Well I had to bring something to eat while we’re sinking,” she explains, rolling her eyes again at my ineptitude. “I told you to bring steak, but you brought that ridiculous thing instead.”
I have to admit, bringing a barbell instead of steak is a rookie mistake.
“I can’t believe I forgot steak,” I try to say, but only bubbles come out. We’re sinking faster. My stomach somersaults but Miranda remains unperturbed by our status. Her hair and clothes are perfect, even underwater. She calmly chews another mouthful of apple.
“Andrea, wake up,” she insists, taking another bite.
“No,” I realize, “I remember why I didn’t bring steak. You can’t eat steak underwater.”
The watery world jars and tumbles as I am wrenched from the ocean by my shoulders.
I blink and suddenly Miranda’s pale cheeks and fierce, angry eyes are directly, invasively in front of mine.
Miranda’s fingers dig deeply into my shoulders.
“What were you thinking?” Miranda demands.
“What?” I manage to ask, too stunned by her sudden anger to formulate any sentence more articulate than that.
“Falling asleep while I was away, Andrea -- don’t you realize how dangerous that is?”
“No, what? How is that --?”
“Think about it!” she snaps. “You could – choke on your own vomit, lying on your back. Everyone knows that, everyone says that!”
I have never heard anyone say that. My head is spinning.
“I… I had a dream where we were sinking underwater, and you were eating an apple, and I was supposed to bring steak, but you can’t eat steak underwater...”
Miranda releases her death grip, finally giving me the distance I need to breathe.
“I feel sick,” I add.
Forget spinning, my head is like a little toy car on one of those loop-de-loop race tracks that make the car go upside down.
Miranda’s hand goes to my forehead as she swallows and frowns. “You don’t have a fever.”
I notice her lips are dry. She’s paler than she should be. “You should drink some water,” I tell her.
“Go back to sleep,” she commands.
The arbitrariness inherent in this conversation makes my eye want to twitch.
“Well could I have some water then, please?” I ask hopefully, motioning with my head toward the dry baseball cap, which is just out of reach.
“We’re out of water.”
Miranda adjusts her lapel, smoothing out wrinkles that have formed with the combined humidity and sharp wind.
Despite what I’ve noticed in her to be an incessant, insatiable need to always be doing something productive with her hands, Miranda meets my eyes.
Ironically, her irises are the exact shade of an icy glass of water... or perhaps it is my subconscious speaking to me. Like on TV, when a hungry person starts seeing everyone as talking hamburgers and hotdogs.
Before this island, at Runway, I never would have been able to meet Miranda Priestly’s eyes for more than a second or two. I never would have been able to study their color, or see them lackluster or hopeless or even anxious about anything more stress-inducing than next month’s print deadline. Now that I have the privilege, I don’t believe I’m enjoying it.
Back then, I couldn’t have imagined anything more panic attack worthy than a deadline with Miranda Priestly breathing down everyone’s necks, ejecting the odd teary-eyed employee from the building without a job, making occasional demands for impossible spreads and scrapping thousands of dollars in an instant at any summer dress that made her lips purse.
In those tense days leading up to print, Miranda did not show fear. She’s not showing much now, either. That grounds me.
So we’re out of water. That’s alright. We can go for at least three days without it.
“Where have we gotten the water from before?”
Miranda crosses her arms. “It rained. I hung plastic bags to catch water.”
We both seem to have the same thought as we simultaneously shoot ominous glances at the sheet of pure blue sky overhead.
A pain is growing behind my eyes, embedded deep, like a nail hammered straight into my brain.
“Sleep,” she repeats.
The Devil Wears Prada
By the time night has fallen, I have slept and slept and now I have the happy privilege of being wide awake when the sun has disappeared and the island has cooled just enough so that I have to shiver to keep warm. This is the first night here to ever be so frigid; Miranda is just as wide awake as if she had been downing Starbucks.
Instead of retreating to her spot, she scoots closer to the fire to sit not three feet away, knees to her chest, wrapped in the coat she normally uses for a pillow.
She tosses a wadded-up bundle of cloth at me that unfurls mid-arc into a wrinkled blazer -- it lands in a sloppy drape across my knees.
I shrug it around my shoulders gratefully. It’s enormous, a man’s size, and wonderfully dry. A hard, uncomfortable plastic rubs against my skin as I wrap it around myself. I locate the source of my discomfort easily by running my hands along the inside and outside: a plastic square is pinned to the front of the blazer.
I hold it at an angle to catch the firelight. It’s a nametag. Derrick.
Miranda swallows from where she’s sitting fireside, gaze locked on the little black pin. She’s noticed it too.
“I didn’t see that.” Her voice is unexpectedly hoarse. “Let me…”
Miranda uses her hands to edge closer before leaning into my space, delicate fingers reaching to the inside of my jacket and fumbling to release the catch of the tag.
‘Derrick’ on a black nametag, crookedly pinned to a navy blue vest.
“Something to drink, ma’am?”
A Filipino man placing a cup of water, no ice, on Miranda’s tray.
“Don’t wake her up,” Miranda says. “Let her sleep.”
Miranda places the nametag reverently between us, propped to face the fire. The nametag is a gross placeholder for where there should be three of us huddling amongst the crag, warming up side by side.
“I don’t suppose we could live here forever, could we?”
“Unless there is a vast wealth of food I have yet to discover on this island...” Miranda’s sarcasm collapses. “No, Andrea. I think not.”
The smooth skin around her lips crinkles in distaste as she casts a glance at me. How she must hate this place, far from her daughters and a life she could control every aspect of through the force of an unbreakable will. How she must hate being attached to me.
“Tell me what you’re thinking,” Miranda demands suddenly.
I bite my lip. How does she do this? Determine the very least thing I want to do and then rip it out of me.
“Tell me,” she says again, just as demanding but this time a note of concern filters through, probably without her being aware of it.
“I suppose… I suppose I’ve been thinking…”
That I’m a burden. That her chances would be better off without me.
And our chances were never that spectacular to begin with. Because why the hell are we still here? Where’s our rescue?
“I don’t even know what I’m thinking,” I finish lamely. “It’s just so hard to believe that there’s been no one. No one at all. Come to get us, I mean,” I add in a whisper.
“The only thing I can think of,” I continue, “is that they rescued everyone else. All those people that escaped in their life jackets. We weren’t with them. Everyone must think we sunk to the bottom of the ocean with the rest of those poor people.”
I recall the tense seconds when I swam past a half dozen people still buckled to their seats, unconscious, hair floating around their heads.
I remember when the seatbelt sign had turned on due to minor turbulence that I hadn’t even felt. They had put their belts on dutifully, though. Because if you do all the right things, nothing bad will happen to you.
If I had paused, could I have grabbed at least one of them? Could it have been myself, Miranda, and the middle-aged woman wearing the violet scarf curling next to the fire for warmth tonight? Or that teenager who had yapped of nothing the whole flight save his girlfriend, Penelope?
From two rows behind, I’d heard him wax on about his plans to surprise her with a necklace he had made himself. She wasn’t impressed by anything but the very best, apparently.
In my opinion, Penelope sounded like a real bitch.
But I had swam right on past him and his Pokémon t-shirt, whatever his name was.
“It’s comforting, though, to think that all those people in life jackets made it to safety. They’re with their families right now, out there somewhere. Eating whatever they want.”
The hungry part of me added that last sentence.
Perhaps the mention of families hits a nerve, because Miranda’s interest in our conversation turns off like a light switch. She rises gracefully to her feet – as gracefully as can be done with bare feet and rocky ground – and retreats to her spot without another word.
I pull the moldy coat up to my chin, tucking my legs underneath as much as I can. I’m still chilly.
I don’t know what I should hope for, for tomorrow. There are not many options to be hopeful for.
I’ll settle for an uneventful day my abdomen can use to heal in peace. I won’t mind the hunger or thirst. I won’t even mind Miranda’s grouchy company if I know I’m on the road to mending so I can at least sit up without tearing my wound apart.
I drift to sleep, falling quickly into a dream.
The Devil Wears Prada
When I awaken later in the night, I can’t remember any of it – the dream -- despite the fact that I was just there, living it, seconds ago. I think Penelope was in it.
Someone warm is very close to me, radiating heat, to my pleasure. Miranda. She’s not sleeping in her usual spot. She’s moved.
Her head and shoulders are a foot from my own. Touching distance. Her lips are pursed.
I hope she is dreaming about a run-through gone wrong. Whatever I had been dreaming, I know it had been about this miserable island, and the feeling had been awful.
Awful and lightless.
I take a risk (is much of anything a risk here, really?) and place my hand over her slightly smaller one.
She does not stir.
It is to comfort me more than her.
I don’t know when, exactly, but I fall asleep again, tumbling into the same gray world.
The Devil Wears Prada
I dream of Miranda alone, sitting by the fire. To her left is Derrick’s nametag, also facing the fire. To her right is my driver’s license, propped against a rock.
The dream transforms into something blue and foggy, and then instead of Miranda there is a cream-colored Coach bag. The fire burns low.
Chapter 8: Day 16
I’m starved. My insides are burning away with it.
I can’t classify what I’m feeling as hungry anymore.
It’s early still. The fire has collapsed into a dozen tiny flickers. The world is still emerging from the final shades of gray before dawn.
Miranda is curled up on her side, asleep and sound. Her white hair is a touch longer than it should be, hovering right over the line of manageable, splayed in a miniature fan as she dozed. A life jacket is folded under her head.
The island is exactly as it was yesterday morning and the morning before that: all harsh rocks and limp weeds, the palm trees huddled in clumps. The group of trees that bends over us offers no more aid than usual, bearing no fruit or sustenance other than their shade.
The tide sounds closer than it did yesterday. It's gotten louder every day we've been on this island, actually. I suppose the sea-levels naturally rise and fall throughout the year.
Why am I awake?
If I’m going to be this famished, I might as well be asleep for it. It hurts.
Maybe we can eat the berries today.
I screw my eyes shut.
If I can fall back asleep, despite my stomach ache and the cold and the noise, my life this morning will be so much better.
The noise that woke me up.
“Hmmm,” she says, and covers her face with her coat.
Pain lances my abdomen as I roll onto my side, scrabbling for leaves, sticks, anything to throw into the dying flames.
I thrust a handful of dead twigs into the fire – to minimum effect. The twigs are immediately crushed by a hunk of bark that clunks on top of them.
Another chunk hurls into the fire, tossed from behind me. Before I can blink, a pile of sticks and bark is tumbling into a pile beside my head.
“Keep feeding it,” Miranda urges. She’s awake, she’s upright, she’s dumping another load of fuel beside me. She’s stumbling away, fumbling through the rocks in her bare feet, moving faster than I’ve ever seen.
I know to where. The beach.
The noise is emitting from above a smattering of clouds. It’s hard to tell where the clouds end and the stars begin with so little light.
But someone’s up there. Somewhere.
A noisy little plane that could mean our lives, if we can get them to look down.
I shove the lighter, leafier bits into the embers, blowing where the wood burns red and prodding with a stick.
I need bigger, like a bonfire. Shoot, I’ll set this whole island on fire if I have to.
I thrust in bits of bark, wet and moldy and wonderfully smoke producing. Then the thicker sticks.
More prodding. More blowing.
I’m a little too close and strands of my hair are singed off as each lick of fire grows taller.
It’s practically night, still. They have to see this, if they look down.
In a fit of inspiration, I catch the end of a longer stick alight – it’s instantly ablaze – and wave it at the stars.
If this doesn’t work, my heart will snap in two.
Where is it? Behind what mist?
I’ll wave this stick until my arms fall off. I don’t care.
‘Look down,’ I think. ‘Please, please. Look at me.’
The whir of engine falters as the noise travels beyond a sound barrier -- maybe a thicker clump of cloud.
I’m still waving the stick when the fire reaches its arm down the length of the wood and nips my knuckles. My hand seizes at the flare of pain. I re-adjust my grip, not daring to relinquish the only tool I have.
The wood is ablaze nearly end to end by the time I allow myself to hurl the stick into the fire.
The noise is drifting away.
I can still detect a buzz somewhere in the horizon beyond, but it is fading rapidly.
A roving pilot has departed our lives as quickly as he entered them.
The faraway drone of the plane is so distant, so faint that I may be imagining it.
The Devil Wears Prada
Miranda breaks out the berries that she picked yesterday. Maybe she thinks of it as a consolation prize. Eating them makes me more hungry.
The fire is banked, dying. It had grown too hungry too quickly, enormous and unable to sustain itself.
I’m lying on my back. The sky is so bright it hurts my eyes to keep them fixed upward, but I force them wide open anyway.
My ears are straining. There’s been a buzzing between my ears all morning, the echo of the tantalizing engine noise from earlier refusing to leave. I know it’s made up in my mind, a trick of the imagination. It doesn’t make it any less painful to know that whoever was up there did not notice us and did not circle back. They never broke the cloud barrier.
It would be easy to cling to the hope that they saw us and yet continued to fly, perhaps reporting us on the radio. It would be a foolish hope because anyone in their right mind would circle around to at least get a second look.
I don’t believe anyone aboard the plane observed us or our tiny island.
Not their fault.
If one plane has passed over this island, it means there is potential for another in the near future. Whether ‘near’ is another couple of weeks or be it a year, another plane will fly over us eventually. All we need to do is survive until then and come up with a failsafe plan to grab their attention. That part is easier said than done, as we discovered this morning. But there has to be a way.
A second fact is that the plane sounded small. It was flying low enough for us to hear it, it may have even been just a two-seater. A puddlejumper, practically.
That means that we’re close to somewhere with an airport. I don’t know how far out those teeny planes can fly, but this island is close to somewhere .
If I’m being honest with myself, I ran out of hope four or five days ago. Possibly since Miranda first told me we’d been stranded for over a week.
Perhaps I’d thought if I kept telling myself we would be rescued, it would have to happen.
Of course there is a large possibility… I admit the likely possibility… that we are going to starve.
There. I thought it.
We’re nearly out of food, we’re completely out of water, and our chances of living much longer are not strong. Probability indicates that Miranda and I will die.
But there’s a chance. And it’s a hell of a lot bigger this morning than it was last night.
The knowledge is stirring.
Having a tiny hope inside me is like reading a bit of beautiful poetry, a line that you read one day and it sticks with you for months, the words rushing back to you time and time again when the world is quiet.
I can’t summon any lines of poetry.
I rummage through my memories, but everywhere I cast my search, the words disappear. When I was getting my journalism degree, I could have recited dozens of prose, each dear to my heart.
I glance to my right.
Miranda is lying on the other side of the fire.
She hasn’t done much since the plane crossed the sky besides returning to camp and curling up under her coat, lifejacket tucked under her head, like it’s nighttime again.
“I wonder if there’s been any funerals yet,” I say to break the silence. “Or if they’ve had our funerals yet.”
“What a wonderful train of thought.”
“Maybe it’s sick of me, but I hope they’re sad about us. If we’re suffering out here, other people should be at least distraught. You know?”
“How’s your stomach?”
Miranda’s redirecting me, but I don’t mind. “It still hurts,” I admit, “but it looks better than it did before.” I slip my fingers into the wrapping, catching a peek of violent, puffy scarring. “It wasn’t so bad to twist around this morning.” I brighten at the thought that follows. “Maybe I’ll try sitting up tomorrow.”
“Hm,” Miranda says, but I can tell the idea is appealing to her.
She’s probably sick of doing all the work around here.
“We’ve got to find a way to survive until the next plane comes, Miranda.”
“There’s no water.” Miranda sneers at the barren rocks and trees surrounding the camp. “Anywhere.”
I couldn’t forget that irrefutable truth if I tried. “Yeah.”
“I read once that a person can survive seventy-two hours without water.” Miranda eyes me critically. “The last time you had a drink was…” She pauses, knitting her brow. “Over thirty hours ago. Thirty-one for me.”
Neither of us had anything to drink yesterday. This morning I had been distracted by our aerial passerby, but now I’m aware of how shriveled the skin is at the back of my throat. I gulp in an instinctive measure to moisten the area, but it doesn’t work. There is little saliva in my mouth to begin with.
“Thank you for that factoid,” I manage to get out.
I glance at her again. Miranda is biting her lip. I frown at the uncharacteristic expression. It’s like she’s regretting what she said.
Well it’s too god damn late now.
Thank you, Miranda, for putting an egg timer on our lives.
The Devil Wears Prada
We’ve spent all day in silence.
Lying down and not looking at each other.
I’m going to scream at someone.
Not someone – Miranda. She is the only someone around here.
“Tell me about why you got a degree in journalism,” Miranda says out of nowhere. She sits up, then uses her nails to adjust the stray strands of hair that are jutting wildly out of place. Like it is perfectly in character for her to ask me personal questions.
I open my mouth to say something to that effect before two words shoot across my brain: egg timer . If our lives were an hourglass, the last grains of sand are about to tumble to the bottom of the glass.
I won’t question why she asks. I won’t inquire to the reasons why she wants to know. I’m not an idiot; I'll not look a gift horse in the mouth.
“Journalism…” I trail off.
I can’t give Miranda the generic do-gooder answer I give for job interviews and whenever my parents questioned my life choices. She deserves more from me.
“Newspapers were how I learned about the world outside Ohio. Magazines showed me people outside of my town who did things other than work at gas stations and go to church.”
I pause, glancing at her response. She nods, acknowledging that she is listening.
“It’s hard to explain,” I say, shrugging.
I don’t know how to describe how I developed such an oversized adulation for the writers of Rolling Stone and Time and how much I resented the small town values I’d felt were being forced down my throat. Not without sounding like a douche.
“What about you?” I ask. “Why fashion?”
“It’s hard to explain,” she says, and then no more words are spoken. Miranda crosses her arms and scowls at the beach.
My conversational abilities were not up to snuff. She's given up.
The Devil Wears Prada
Death buddies. It’s a term I came up with just now. It’s the only appropriate term I can formulate to describe Miranda and I’s relationship.
We’re certainly not friends. I don’t work for her anymore, so we’re not colleagues. Comrades would imply far too much fellowship and actual camaraderie.
Acquaintances could not entail the intimate nature of awaiting one’s death at the side of another human being. Cohorts, associates, partners, or island-cohabitants do not have the appropriate ring or connotation, either. But Miranda and I are something. Death buddies is what I’ve settled on.
Island buddies? No, that sounds like we’re on vacation together.
Vacation… the word reminds me of the root reason Miranda and I were aboard flight 2124 to Okinawa City. Root reason being that I don’t freaking know why on earth we were on that flight.
I study Miranda, who is stretched on her side, using her coat as a pillow as she tosses chunks of bark into the fire. She hasn’t volunteered the information. That may be for a reason... such as it was something incredibly stupid, and she expects I would flip my lid if I found out.
If I were to ask and discover Miranda had to return to the States quickly to overthrow a plot to oust her from Runway, I may be able to handle that. Her career was on the line. It would be reasonable to take an early return flight to deal with it.
If it were to be something else… something, oh I don’t know, patently Miranda-esque ridiculous, I would lose every bit of sanity I’ve managed to hold onto.
I can’t imagine anything more depressing or degrading than to learn our imminent deaths are due to a fashion malfunction at the Nashville Burberry shoot. I will not ask Miranda why we were on that flight. I value my sanity, after all.
Be it my choice, I would prefer to live the remnants of my life in ignorance than in the knowledge of my own fate’s triviality.
That's barring the possibility that another plane will sputter by before we expire of thirst. The hope is still alive and thrashing deep inside my heart, keenly excruciating to bear. I wish it would snuff itself out and leave me in peace, but it’s there, burning and hoping away despite my best wishes.
The Devil Wears Prada
It’s difficult to tell how late the night has dragged on, but I’d guess it’s hovering around midnight. It’s surprisingly tempting to slip into sleep. My body definitely wants to.
The night sky is a mass of a billion stars. More than I could count if I lived to be a hundred.
No rainclouds. Or normal clouds. No wisps of clouds.
There’s no midnight dew sticking to the scraggly plant life for us to take advantage of. It’s doesn’t even feel humid.
How is that possible on an island in the middle of the ocean?
My lips are cracking. My throat feels like it’s been wrung through a cheese grater and then washed out with sand. My tongue is swollen and fat in my mouth.
I haven’t had to pee all day. Miranda would have been too weak to drag me, anyway.
Miranda is wide awake, lying on her back in a position that almost completely mimics mine, only on the opposite side of the fire. She has not returned to her ‘spot’ since last night.
She realizes I’m staring at her a second before I can avert my gaze.
“Andrea.” Her voice is just as grinding and parched as I would expect mine to sound. Miranda turns on her side, resting her cheek on her arm.
She does not answer right away. Her breathe is coming out in foggy puffs.
Finally she says in a small voice, “Talk to me about something.”
Her eyes are duller than they should be. Miranda’s cheeks are ruddy from her proximity to the heat, but she hasn’t moved from her current position since sunset.
Miranda is asking me to talk. No, telling me to talk. Is this an action out of pity? Has she finally decided to show some remorse and take heed of my attempts at civilized communication?
If so, she did not pick the best time for it.
I expect the last thing she would want in a woebegone state would be to do what she has narrowly avoided for nearly two weeks.
“Alright,” I say slowly. “What would you like to talk about?”
Miranda furrows her brow. She eventually settles on, “You pick.”
“Okay,” I exhale. “Er…”
Miranda waits patiently.
I’m thinking. I swallow and the pain is so grating that I swallow a second time instinctively to soothe my throat with moisture, inciting another grinding throb. There is no moisture in my mouth to soothe with.
“We, um...” I narrowly avoid swallowing again. It’s maddening, but it’s like trying to stop blinking. The urge, the need is an unending, gnawing undercurrent to my state of mind. “We need a plan for when another plane comes.”
Miranda’s eyelids flutter to a close, like the very thought exhausts her. The laxness of her limbs and the quiet sigh that accompanies her withdrawal sends a message that I interpret as total depletion. Like she’s all spent up.
“I can help, I think, tomorrow. I bet I’ll be able to stand.”
Her eyes open at that remark, zeroing in on my wrapped abdomen. She hasn’t examined it yet today, but I have. There’s skin growing. It’s red and angry, but an active barrier against my insides falling out, or whatever else horrible that could happen.
I’m sure I could turn over as I please at this point, but leaving my wound as it lies is a point of security for me. The less I jostle before I have to, the more likely I will be able to walk with as little hitches as possible. At least this is what I’m telling myself. I’m not a doctor. But the best I can do is guess and hope.
Miranda appraises me with a look. “You said this morning that you would attempt sitting tomorrow.”
“That was this morning. I feel even better now.”
“We’ll see,” she replies, but there is a hopeful lilt in her answer. It’s heartening.
“What did you do this morning when the plane was here?”
“I lit torches on the beach.” Her gaze turns toward the dark blue expanse that is the ocean. “In a circle around a message written in rocks in the sand. What shall I add to that?”
It takes a moment to comprehend the subtle point Miranda is making.
“So I guess either they look down or they don’t,” I concede. And there’s nothing we can do to control that. My ears strain for the telltale whir of an airborne engine before I can stop them, and god help me but I’m disappointed when I detect no sound save the tide riding up the beach, closer than I've ever heard it before.
There’s nothing to hear, I scold myself. Stop it. Before I’m driven mad.
Miranda’s gaze is still fixed doggedly in the direction of the shore. Perhaps she is driving herself as mad as I am.
“Tell me something I don’t know about you, Miranda,” I say in an effort to distract her.
It’s probably why she asked me to start conversing with her in the first place. As a distraction.
She redirects her attention to me and lapses into silence, pursing her lips.
I’m still taken aback when I perceive that she’s seriously considering her answer. It would be dense of me to expect a brush off, death buddies that we are, but that’s conditioning for you I suppose.
“You know most of everything concerning the personal details of my life,” she responds after a lengthy pause. “It would be easier for you to tell me something about yourself.”
I’m sure my expression reveals the dim view I take on her verbal turnaround, but Miranda does not falter, only adding, “Tell me one thing.”
“I’ll tell you something,” I hesitantly agree, “if you do the same. One thing for one thing.”
“We have a deal,” she immediately agrees. Miranda utters the word deal like it’s a binding contract, the type that you sign in blood with the devil. The emphasis she puts on the word implies that now that she’s labeled our interaction a deal, it’s unbreakable.
“Let me think, then.”
I rub the tiredness out of my eyes. It’s becoming a struggle to stay awake, but the lingering desperation for social contact drives me to continue to function.
There is so much Miranda doesn’t know about me, but in the light of… our situation… all the various bits and details that combine to make up the summation my life are superficial.
My favorite color, for example, does that matter to anyone? It doesn’t to me. Green, what of it?
Miranda interrupts my thoughts. “Tell me first thing you’ll do, if we manage to return to the world.”
Could she have come up with a more painful question to prod me with? Is she planning on kicking me in the stomach, as well?
The answer falls easily into place, however.
“I’m going to eat so much food.” My stomach gives a sympathy twinge. “I’m going to stuff myself until I explode. Actually explode.”
Miranda wraps her coat tighter around her shoulders. “Tell me what foods,” she says.
“Tacos,” I sigh. “Pizza. Chicken nuggets. I don’t know, anything really. God, I could eat the crap out of some tacos.”
“Are tacos your favorite food?”
“No,” I blush, “I just… want them. Anyway, that was like three things.”
“That was one thing,” Miranda chides. “My favorite food is steak.”
“I knew that already.” I swallow dryly. The act still hurts, but I’m sufficiently distracted enough to not pay attention to the pain. “Tell me something better.”
“Fine. My second favorite food is salmon.”
I know her second favorite food, and I know that Miranda knows.
But I let that go. This… whatever this is… is good.
“Green,” I say, studying her reaction.
She purses her lips. “Lavender.”
“Lost,” I give her.
“Downton Abbey,” she replies without hesitation, then scowls in a delayed reaction to my previous answer. “That is horribly ironic.”
“Obscenely ironic,” I concur. “Their island was so much better than this. Even the Survivor island is better than this.” I gesture to the bereft landscape. “We don’t even have bugs to eat. Why aren't there bugs? Islands shouldn't be exempt. At least some beetles, or something.”
Miranda’s face twists. “I’m genuinely grateful for their absence.”
It’s a simple game, but it’s begetting a conversation between us. It’s awkward, and Miranda looks like she’s suffering through it, but it’s marvelous how sating it is – nearly as sating as if I had a pitcher of ice water to gulp from, or a cheeseburger to wolf down.
“I wish I’d spent more time writing than worrying about getting a job writing.”
“Mm.” Miranda abandons her position, shooting lasers at me with her eyes then rolling onto her back, huffing out a breathe. “I wish I had spent more time with Cassidy and Caroline.”
“I wish that I’d left my ex six months earlier than I did.”
“I wish I’d never gotten married,” Miranda says quietly.
I don’t know what to say to that, so I don’t remark on it at all.
“I keep listening for planes.”
I glance at Miranda to check on her when she doesn’t respond. Her eyes are shut. Her pale skin has smoothed out, relaxed.
She is asleep.
Chapter 9: Day 17
Still not rescued.
I'm not okay with that, but I'm handling it without completely losing my grip on reality, so that's something.
I awaken to the persistent morning sunlight blazing into my eyes, forcing them open even as thoroughly exhausted as I am, and I discover Miranda sitting hunched beside me.
“Good morning,” she says to me, palms held out to absorb the warmth of the fire, which she has kept going despite the fact that the sun is providing a decent temperature for us this morning. She must be traveling far for fuel, because the few sticks and twigs that were in the area before are picked clean. Before I can respond in kind, she adds forcefully, “How are you feeling?”
“I'm fine,” I reply, then instantly feel moronic. “Uh, you?”
Miranda presses her lips together, giving me a once over. “I suppose I'm just as fine as you are.”
Right, give or take one abdominal laceration.
Miranda levels her laser-like attention at my midsection as though her mind leapt to exactly the same thought. Finally she abandons her study of me to re-arrange her coat on the ground and reclines with a laborious breathe. “Talk to me,” she orders like she did last night, only now there is less energy behind the demand.
I spend the morning like I have spent no other on the island. Talking. Listening. More of the former than the latter. Miranda is quick to ask questions and query on details that I would have expected her to find inane. Like how much my cat meant to me when I was a kid. Or how crushing it was to be turned down at every publication in New York City besides Runway .
She makes it difficult to turn the conversation toward her. Eventually I acquiesce to what seems to be her need to listen to me prattle.
It’s fine with me. I’ve needed to talk, to be social with another human being for so long it had become like yet another need that was going unfulfilled, like my hunger and thirst.
I tell Miranda about my mother, and how I hope she’s okay (Miranda also hopes she is okay), about the boy in the pokemon shirt and his girlfriend Penelope (Miranda agrees that she sounds like a bitch), and how I wonder if I could have grabbed someone else during my escape (according to Miranda, that train of thought is ridiculous).
Eventually Miranda stops prodding me with questions and lapses into silence.
I fall back onto my tried and true habit of observing Miranda as she frowns at the world, knees held close to her chest, pondering. The island vexes her. She doesn't seem to get angry at it, but I do see her chewing her lip, like the island is a problem she can't solve. She is mystified as to why there is a conspiracy against her continued state of living. I don't get it either, why nature would want to end a force as electric as Miranda Priestly's life has been.
That or I am waxing philosophical and Miranda is frowning because she has a stomach ache, same as me.
Inside me, beneath the layer of healing skin, is a twisting knot that's eating me from the inside out. The distressing pain isn't from the wound – it's my excruciatingly empty stomach.
Neither of us have made mention of it, but I assume Miranda is experiencing similar symptoms. She's not complaining about them. Neither shall I.
I break the silence. “Now's as good a time as any to try to get to my feet.”
Miranda startles. “I beg your pardon?”
“I'm going to stand up.”
“Yes.” She scowls at my midsection dubiously. “You said that yesterday, on the condition that you had improved further today.”
“Is that how I phrased that?” I genuinely don't recall. “Well that doesn't matter because there's no firing squad ready to execute me if I go back on my exact wording.”
“Perhaps you shouldn't bother.”
“From this point on, we become weaker and weaker. I can't know what you are experiencing, but for me it is exhausting to undertake the simple, constant work of inflating my lungs. I'm tiring myself out merely lying here breathing.”
I notice that her chest is, in fact, quivering slightly with each expansion and subsequent exhalation. If it is so exhausting for Miranda to breathe, why has she wasted her stamina on speaking with me all morning?
“Don't waste the healing you've done, Andrea,” Miranda sighs, “just rest with me for a while.”
“Please. It will only get worse from here on out, what's the point? Soon we'll become delerious. Soon after that I doubt we'll be able to move much at all. Just – for me, Andrea. Don't try it.”
“Fine, alright? I won't, damn it.” I take a few seconds to breathe in – breathe out – breathe in – breathe out. Breathing is beginning to be as exhausting as Miranda described. “Maybe we'll hallucinate up some steak.”
Miranda laughs. It's so genuine and pure that it hurts to hear.
“You would, wouldn't you?” Miranda says. “Steak and tacos and pizza and chicken nuggets.”
I can't help but allow a smile to appear fully formed on my lips. She remembers.
Miranda's thin eyebrows narrow like a hawk's. “I wish I had seen that. Steak or water.” It takes Miranda a beat before she seems to realize that she's revealed information unintentionally.
'Had' as in past tense? I open my mouth to question her statement, but I needn't bother as Miranda surprisingly offers a muttered explanation.
“When we first crashed, before I found the box of chips and the berries, I was starving like this. I began to see things, like people whom I know are dead. Like my father.” She looks at me. “I saw you as well. I started to believe you were dead.”
“How do you mean?”
“I would leave you unconscious by the fire to search for food, then I would see you strolling along the beach. Or I would see your body lying at a strange angle in the rocks. Always from far away. Always disappearing when I approached.”
“I wondered if I was merely tricking myself into believing you were alive, that your chest was still rising, so I would have a purpose. So I wouldn't be surviving on my own. At times I would glance at you, and you were a corpse. Then I would blink, and you were breathing again. I wondered which image was real and which was the delusion.”
“Miranda,” I say, but she doesn't look at me. “Miranda. Miranda.” Her blue eyes snap to mine. “You know I'm real. Right now, this is the real me.”
“Of course I know,” she says quickly. Too quickly?
No, that's stupid, Miranda and I have interacted enough, socially and physically, in order for her to know I'm not some delusion she created in her head. She's helped me pee enough times, for goodness sake.
“You're too free-spirited to be a figment of my imagination, anyway,” Miranda adds exasperatedly. “If my addled brain were to conjure up a fake assistant, it would not be like this, I promise you that.” She gestures vaguely at me. “Unless my subconscious contains a masochistic streak I didn't realize I possessed.”
I know Miranda has no intention for her words to be cruel, so I blink away the burning sensation that rushes to my eyes. I'm not upset, honest. Mainly it just sucks to be reminded of the huge burden I've become to her.
Miranda is quick to cover her tracks. “That's not how I meant that. I apologize. I'm glad that you're alive.”
“Yeah, I know, thanks,” I sigh. “No need for apologies.”
“I never picked up on how to be a proper friend,” Miranda says. “Not one of my skills, you could say. I don't know how to be what you need me to be. So I apologize for that.”
Miranda's ready justification is forthright enough to make me blink a few times.
“You've done everything I could ask of you.”
Miranda shakes her head. “Not like a friend would know how.”
I don't understand what she means, so I don't pursue it. Instead I ask, “Does the tide sound closer to you?”
She shrugs halfheartedly, disinterested. “It sounds like it's high tide.”
“If that's the case, then it hasn't been low tide in days.” I listen again to the sound of waves sloshing against the rocks. It's louder than it's ever been before. “Is that normal?”
Miranda buries her face in her hands. “Andrea, I really don't know. Does it matter?”
I shrug sullenly, aware that this is Miranda's signal for our conversation to draw to a close. Perhaps this is what she meant by not knowing how to act like a friend. “I guess not.”
This conversation is exhausting. My thoughts normally run at a mile-a-minute, but right now the gears in my brain are operating like they're covered in sticky glue. My breathing feels normal, but it seems like I'm only getting half as much oxygen as I should.
I shut my eyes to block out the rocky panorama, the bare trees and the distant, taunting oceanscape. It's too much input – I feel like a computer on overload. I just need things to shut down so I can concentrate on thinking.
Miranda is being bizarrely forthcoming with her opinions and emotions. It is relieving in a small way to have the companionship, but the greater distress lies in that it indicates Miranda has, at some point, given up every last hope for survival. Not that she's exactly been waving a 'we will survive' pennant around the island all this time, but she has always maintained the characteristic aloofness that indicated that our relationship could return to something resembling normal should we be rescued. Even with all our shared island memories, she would still be able to remain as the snarky, cold superior being and I would still be Andy, awkward and failing at establishing a connection. The thought was comforting, in its own familiar way.
This morning the comfort of our old relationship is completely vanished, the last remnants of it as used up as our last drops of water, and it is just me alone with Miranda and her long sighs and her awkward, unadulterated apologies.
Miranda claims she doesn't know how to have friends, yet she is currently the best friend I've ever had, and it doesn't even seem like she's trying hard.
The Devil Wears Prada
So we're eating leaves now. So this is something we're doing.
I'm not even questioning it. I'm just eating it.
I take full credit for this awful idea, although I never encouraged Miranda to start chewing on them too. Bored, desperate and hungry, a few minutes ago I scooted myself close to a browning weed jutting out of a rock, stripped it of its leaves and and gave it a try. What else do I have to lose?
The leaves are stringy and bitter, not how my imagination had portrayed them, which had been water-filled and crunchy like lettuce. My imagination is a damn liar. When nothing but the stem remains, I pull that from the rock and nibble on that, too.
Miranda hesitantly copies me. She slips leaves delicately onto her tongue, chewing them thoughtfully.
“This is a terrible idea,” she comments off-hand. “The more I eat these, the more hungry I am.”
Miranda places another leave in her mouth.
The Devil Wears Prada
It's mid-afternoon. We have long since given up on the leaves idea and have taken to retreating to our inner thoughts, each of us huddled in our own private mental version of anywhere that is not this island.
It is Miranda who eventually breaks the soundless mold. Apparently coming to some sort of conclusion, she dredges herself up from the ground, swaying when she gets to her feet. “I'm going to look for food,” she says when I frown at her.
My stomach churns at the mention of food. It can't decide whether its excited or nauseous at the prospect of nutrition, so my belly compromises on a simple urge to dry heave.
Miranda shoots a laser glare at my prone form. “Stay here.”
I groan in frustration. “You said there wasn't any food left. Why bother?”
“Maybe I missed something,” she growls, although the effect is lessened by her unsteady footing. Dang it, she's going to walk out there, get tired and pass out, and I'm going to be stuck with finding her. I just know it.
Miranda knows very well she hasn't missed a damn thing.
“I guess I can't stop you, then.”
“There has got to be something, Andrea,” Miranda tells me, and I'm positive that it's not me she's convincing.
“Just make it back, okay?”
Miranda is already stumbling away, arms wrapped around herself like she's cold in this summer heat.
The Devil Wears Prada
I spend some wonderful time seeing how many pebbles I can stack on top of each other before they fall down.
My record is six, and I bet Miranda couldn't do better.
The Devil Wears Prada
At least before, I had Miranda to stare at. She hasn't returned yet. Should I be getting worried?
Nah, the sun is still up. She's probably not keen on wasting daylight while we have it.
The Devil Wears Prada
New record: eight!
The Devil Wears Prada
It has to have been at least four hours by now. Where is she?
The Devil Wears Prada
New record: nine – crap. Dang it. Nevermind.
The Devil Wears Prada
There's likely an hour left before sunset. The sun is still chugging along in the sky, but not for long. It'll start to get dusky soon, full of murkiness and long shadows.
It cannot possibly take this long to survey the entire island, from the way Miranda has described it.
A dozen visions run through my mind, of Miranda tripped with her head cracked on a rock, or fainted from hunger on the far side of the beach, or stark white and dead from eating a poisonous mushroom.
There's no point beating around the bush. I need to find Miranda and there's a limited supply of light left to me. First things first. Without allowing myself the time to work myself into an anxious snit over whether I'm about to ruin my own body or not, I push myself up into a sitting position.
Success! Painful success, but who's complaining?
I've always been able to catch glimpses of the area that I've previously thought of as Miranda's 'spot' where she used to sleep far from me, whereas now she keeps at a couple arms' distance. I've seen the twisted bits of washed-out fabric and metal that Miranda for whatever reason decided to horde from the crash debris. I don't think Miranda was ever trying to hide her collection of random crap, although perhaps she did enjoy the idea of always having me in a position where she could be near camp but not have to deal with me watching her.
A gray sheet of metal, as long as our campsite and as tall as me standing up, is leaning against a tree. It's twisted and burnt on the edges, but I can make out the rivets and straight lines that give a hint to its origins – the pattern is familiar, though I can't quite place it.
My legs twist into a familiar position. Before I know it, I'm scrabbling to my feet, calves and hamstrings screaming their lack of use at the unfamiliar weight of my body. I can't stand up straight without tugging on my wound, so I hunch. But rip-in-my-stomach be damned, I'm upright. Fuck you, rip-in-my-stomach, and the plane you flew in on.
I hobble toward the metal sheet, entranced, not bothering to marvel long at the miracle of my ability to stand. The black, mangled metal is hypnotizing in a fashion, much like the dreaded aura of the long jagged shrapnel that Miranda once used to remove the black rot from my stomach. It's very existence screams violence. I want to shudder from looking at it, yet I find myself staggering closer, bare feet cringing at the skittering pebbles.
I step around some unidentifiable burnt scraps to reach the sheet. The other side of it is painted black, concave slightly and bearing frayed stems of copper that imply that wiring was previously attached. The entire underside is gutted by fire, melted plastic marring a smoothly curved inner surface that make me realize it's part of a wing.
I give it a heft. It's light. I guess it would have to be for Miranda to drag it over here, where it would be safe from the tide floating it away in the night. I remember glancing out the windows upon boarding the plane and being astounded that such a tiny wingspan could carry hundreds of people across the world.
Miranda is out there waiting for me. I don't have time for this.
I slowly, tenderly pick my way to the beach, careful to not look back at the gutted metal corpse of what cheerfully bore Miranda and I's lives to ruin. It feels ominous, like soon Miranda and I will be just as gutted and empty.
The Devil Wears Prada
The beach is empty to my left and right for as far as my eyes can see. I do spot shark fins cruising far, far away from the shore. Can't get me here, jackasses, I think. Not that my chances with them are any better than my chances starving on this island.
I holler Miranda's name. No answer.
“Damn you, Miranda.”
Eenie, meenie, miney... right. I go right.
I shuffle along the sand with minimal pain, occasionally grunting when my abdomen twists the wrong way. There's not much beach remaining except a swathe of sand barely wider than a house; the rest of the beach is swallowed by the sea.
“Miranda!” I holler again. If I can make it around at least half the island, I'll have a good chance of coming within ear distance of her, even if she's somewhat inland. That's the plan, anyway. The waves wash across my ankles, wiping away my footprints behind me as soon as I've created them. I still keep an eye on the sand that's farthest from the ocean's stretching fingers, hoping to get lucky and spot the remnants of Miranda's tracks.
“Miranda! Miranda Priestly, you bitch!”
I don't mean that, and I instantly feel like a brat for saying it. I know Miranda won't magically jump out from behind a rock and demand I apologize, although that would be convenient for current purposes. I know I don't mean the word because I would weep until I were dead if I discovered the graceful body that used to be Miranda Priestly, swanlike and empty and speaking to me no longer.
The brackish ocean water freezes my ankles like clockwork before pulling back to the shore, letting me warm up for a few glorious seconds before icing my feet over again, out of what I assume is spite that it was deprived of the the privilege of drowning me.
“Miranda!” I shout as loud as my voice will go. I've made enough distance that the beach has curved away from camp and it is barely within sight.
The tide grabs at my ankles again, making me wish for our old beach, the one wide enough to where I probably wouldn't have to deal with this crap. I made a diorama of how tides work in the fourth grade. It would be convenient to know when the tides will allow us to have our beach back. I'm still keen on trying the seaweed that used to wash up. Eating seaweed has got to be better than eating leaves.
Now the only memory I recall from fourth grade is getting a black eye from the kid who sat in the desk next to mine. The little twerp.
I'm being overwhelmed by a million long-forgotten childhood memories when I realize that I'm not alone on the beach.
There are people ahead of me. Dozens of them. Forty or fifty, at least.
The other passengers.
They're ahead of me by a hundred feet or so. They're far away enough that I can't make out their faces. I don't want to see their faces. I'm cold in a way I've never felt before.
From the distance they look like a line of afternoon sunbathers who have forgotten their towels and umbrellas, lain beneath the sun in ordered rows. As I approach, their forms sharpen and I can make out their business suits, jeans, sports jackets, t-shirts, and other clothing that is glaringly inappropriate for their setting. Some still have deflated lifejackets wrapped around their necks.
I suppose you can wear whatever the hell you want to a beach when you're dead.
They didn't just wash up in neat little lines like this. They had to have been pulled from the shore to protect them from the brunt of the water, although if the tide continues to creep up, they won't be safe for long.
A breeze picks up from their direction. I gag from the heavy scent – it's rank and sweet. I turn away, covering my mouth.
A fire is glaring from far, far down from whence I came. Miranda has started a fire back at camp.
The Devil Wears Prada
The sun is nearly set by the time I've hobbled back to camp.
Miranda's voice is frantic when I'm near enough to hear it calling out for me. “Andrea? Andrea?” She is not far from the fire, a stone's throw away from camp as she scrabbles amongst the outlying scarce vegetation and scraggy bush that we use as a bathroom area. Her white hair is windblown, her clothes hanging off of her like they're three sizes too big.
“I'm here, I'm okay.”
Miranda twists at the sound of my words, a stunned expression flitting across her face for milliseconds before her features darkens with rage. “Where have you been? Why are you standing up?”
“Looking for you, but I can check that off my to-do list now.”
“I told you I was coming back,” she hisses.
“Then you should've come back!” I shoot back. “You also should've told me we're sharing this island with three dozen or so friendly corpses, but you didn't do that, either.”
Miranda's rage disappears in an instant. It seems like her entire body deflates to where she is only this tiny person, looking at me and making fists with her tiny hands.
“You were pleased when you thought they had all survived. How could I bear to tell you otherwise?” Miranda sounds helpless more than anything else. “Would that not have been the crueler act?”
“Maybe, but certainly less dignified.”
“That doesn't change that you shouldn't have left camp. At least you knew what my intentions were when I left. I had no idea where you were.”
“I thought you were hurt, or worse!” I retort defensively.
“I thought --” Miranda cuts off, pursing her lips and looking angrily at the beach.
I'll never know what she thought, because I don't push and ask. I trudge back to the fire, only to sink to a heap on the ground and wrap myself in my coat. I'm drained. Miranda follows suit and we lie for a minute or two in the flickering firelight.
“I'm sorry for not telling you,” she says to me in a low voice.
“Don't be,” I sigh. “We're dying. There's no point in being sorry for anything anymore.”
Miranda doesn't argue. Instead she says, “Very well then.”
I spend a stretch of time focusing solely on the task of existing with her in the dark. The atmosphere brought on by our fellow passengers is disquieting. The island belongs to them – to the dead – and we are merely borrowing it. The longer we stay here, the more probable our chances of joining them.
There is a foul undercurrent in the sea breeze tonight. It smells like burnt sugar.
The Devil Wears Prada
“Andrea, wake up.”
“Sure, yeah.” Despite my words, I keep my eyes closed. They are simply too heavy to wrench open, and this bed is so soft.
“Don't fall back asleep.”
How did Miranda get a key card to my hotel room? Is she really anal enough to demand the front desk to provide her with one? Am I seriously asking myself this question? Of course she is that anal.
Someone pokes me in the shoulder. Miranda?
This bed is hard. I grab the blanket and roll over – rocks?
I'm not in bed and I'm certainly not cuddled up in the hotel back in the Philippines. I'm on the island with Miranda.
I jerk up with a mewl. Everything is as it was when I drifted to sleep – shadowy and nebulous. My gaze roves over the black blemish on the ground where the fire used to be, the craggy rocks jutting out toward the sea, and the shriveled trees peppering the landscape, waiting for rain. It's all the exact god damn same.
For a few moments, I'd dreamt I was warm and unassailable. It was a sadistic dream to make me believe that Miranda and I had never happened upon this soulless speck of land.
My survey falls on Miranda, who is meeting my eyes in the dark, her figure barely illuminated by the moon and starlight. She sits with knees bent to her chest; her fingers are squeezing my shoulder. Her white hair is fuzzy from the humidity, front locks ragged like she's been wringing them with her hands, twisting them over and over.
“Andrea, this is the first night we've gone to sleep when I don't know if we'll wake up again.”
Miranda pauses to glare at me, challenging me to respond. I am speechless. I don't know what she wants so much as to have awoken me for: reassurance, companionship or silence. Miranda removes her hand from my shoulder, folding her hands in her lap.
“You’re the rest of my life. No,” she corrects herself, “the rest of my life is you and this island. And I hate this island. Not many people can say the rest of my life is blank, and then name someone. Not lovers, nor married couples. Not siblings. You and I, though.” She grimaces, not looking at me. “I’m the rest of your life. You’re the rest of mine.”
Death buddies, I think. Never has the term been more appropriate.
“There are goals that I will never accomplish. It is impossible and I won't belabor on that. But you, Andrea – you are all I have left. You are the rest of my life and you're the only person left who knows I am alive.”
“I get it,” I say quickly.
“You don't! You –” Miranda shakes her head roughly. “You will let me say what I need to say. Then you can return to sleep.” She squeezes her eyes shut for a brief moment. “Because there won't be any other chances, and I need someone to know, even if you – even if they're not going to make it, either.”
I shrug the coat I had been using as a blanket around my shoulders. Her pupils gleam like a cat's in the dark as she studies me. “Okay,” I agree hesitantly. As if there were any other answer.
Miranda takes a deep breath before plowing forward without a second pause. “I would take Caroline and Cassidy to Disneyworld next summer. I would ride space mountain with them, no matter how terrified I was. I would attend their graduation and throw them a party, and let them drink champagne.”
Miranda glances at me to check if I'm listening. I give her a nod. I may not understand, but I am.
“I would not spend another second on hating my upbringing, or my exes or anyone else. I would focus on my children, and clothes and fashion and how beautiful it can be.”
I want that for her, too.
“I would tell everyone I'm gay. Gay. I want women.” Miranda lets out a strangled laugh. “I said the words. To you, of all people. I would stop being ashamed. No pretending anymore.” She buries her head in her hands. “And do you know what else, Andrea? I don't even understand how I was so terrified before.”
I bite my lip as Miranda grabs her coat and abruptly lies down on her back. “That's all, I'm done, I just – just go back to sleep, would you? Damn it, just – just lie back down and go back to sleep.”
A few hours ago I was telling Miranda that there was no point in being sorry because we are dying. Now I can't let her fall asleep with the idea that she'll never live out her grand life plans. I need her to believe that she will experience each and every one of them – that it is still possible. And if she doesn't – well, then she'll already know what would have happened, because I'm going to tell her.
“You'll have an incredible experience at Disneyworld, despite yourself,” I say.
“Go to sleep,” Miranda says quietly into her coat, back turned to me.
“Caroline will poke fun at you for being scared on space mountain,” I go on determinedly, inspired. “But you'll know that she's only doing it to cover up for being scared herself, so you'll be okay with it.”
Miranda is silent.
“By the time they graduate, they'll be beautiful young women that most people can hardly recognize. When you look at them, though, you'll always remember how they looked as kids coloring on the walls when you weren't looking. You'll wonder how they could have turned out so right and mature.”
Miranda's small body doesn't move.
“At the graduation party they'll both try to act grown-up and say they love the champagne, but you'll be able to tell they secretly think it tastes nasty.”
I stare a burning hole between her shoulder blades.
“You'll date lots of women. Younger and older, models and career business women, artsy types and nerds. You won't know what to do with yourself, free to be with whoever you want.”
Miranda twists around. Her mouth forms a hard line; her blue eyes fall upon me shining with desperation.
“It will all happen, Miranda. You'll be there,” I promise her with all my being.
I know those eyes – eyes like she doesn't believe me.
Then she tells me so.
“I don't believe you,” Miranda says, squeezing her eyes shut and rolling away from me. “I'm sorry, Andrea. I can't.”
Chapter 10: Day 18
Still not rescued.
Dew clings to the leaves this morning. Most branches are beyond our reach, but we spend the morning sucking the moisture as if it will disappear at any second – which it does, eventually, dried away by the sun. What we take isn't enough to sustain us, but perhaps it will extend our lives by a few hours. Who the fuck knows.
Exhausted, we nap.
The Devil Wears Prada
I spend the late morning on my side watching Miranda watch the world. Miranda sits hunched hugging her legs, neck twisting, examining the fine details of our surroundings. Miranda canvasses the few cloudy wisps streaking the otherwise clear sky. She takes in the distant foamy splashes that dash across the rocks, the waves closer than ever. She runs her palms flat against the coarse stone that comprises of where she sleeps. Occasionally she turns her scrutinizing gaze to me, such as whenever I prod her with words and she placidly responds. It is then that I feel her memorizing me, like there will be a test later that she can't fail.
Miranda is surprisingly still open and willing to communicate after the words we shared last night.
In my old life, I know that I regretted emotional outbursts the next morning. I would realize how out-of-control I sounded and hate that I had revealed that part of myself, and talking with my friends would be painfully awkward.
That social law does not apply on our island.
My mother told me that after grandpa drowned and she went to therapy, they told her that she started grieving but had never moved on. They told her she had to accept that the future she had planned out with her father wouldn't come to pass and adapt to a new plan. Perhaps that is what Miranda was doing last night, acknowledging all the things that would never come to pass, accepting them and moving on from grieving her life. If that's the case, then hypothetically my reassurances were the last thing she needed.
Screw that. There should be a difference when you're grieving for yourself. There shouldn't be any giving up.
“Have I ever met her?” Miranda asks.
“Nope, don't think so.”
“Is she dead?”
“Was she an actress?”
I shake my head in the negative.
“A scientist,” Miranda suddenly says, inspired.
Miranda purses her lips.
It's Coco Chanel. Miranda is so awful at playing twenty questions that this may need to turn into a game of a thousand questions.
“Was she aggravating?”
For example, asking subjective questions like that won't get you very far.
“I wouldn't know, Miranda. That was your nineteenth question, by the way. Nice.”
“Is it... Joan of Arc?”
“Good guess,” I say goodnaturedly. “But no.”
“Well who was it then?” Miranda asks in a huff.
I tell her. She purses her lips.
The Devil Wears Prada
My first thought upon waking, as usual, is what is Miranda up to? I prop myself on my elbows, scanning the sparse trees for a sign of where Miranda has gone. I am so accustomed to waking without her that it takes me aback when I notice that she is still lying deeply asleep.
I take a moment to appreciate the fact that I can prop myself on my elbows without my abdomen ripping apart. One luxury I will never take for granted again is the ability to bend my torso.
My arm muscles tremble. Since when did my upper body feel like it weighed as much as Miranda and I put together?
I estimate that I can't weigh more than a hundred pounds, as I examine my shaking body – the shaking has spread beyond my arms.
Clearly my arms need a break. What better way to give it to them then to stand up?
I give myself a hearty push, tucking my feet in and – “Ah!”
My legs crumple beneath me like wet paper. I smack into the ground – hard. Pebbles jab into my skin mercilessly: my knees, my elbows, and the palms of my hands.
I try again.
I fall again
More pebbles dig into my skin. I'm trembling violently now. Even my toes are shaking. I am so damn exhausted. And parched. Fucking little pebbles.
Luckily I'm not hungry anymore. It's been so long since I've thought of food as a regular prospect that perhaps my body's grown to not expect it.
One glorious day of movement, and now that is taken from me as well.
The lack of nutrition has finally taken its toll. I could stand yesterday. I had been so damn pleased with myself, walking along the beach.
The waves are crashing into the tree line, from what I can hear and observe. The sand is completely consumed by the tide. There's no beach left to walk upon anyway, I tell myself. That fact is of little consolation, but I'll take what I can get.
The Devil Wears Prada
“Is it something that you like?”
“Miranda, I told you those are the worst kind of questions.”
“I pick the questions, that's part of the game,” Miranda protests.
“Yes. It is something I like.”
Miranda studies me for a long moment. “Is it a food?” she finally asks.
“Ugh. Yes. Yes, it's a food.”
She scrutinizes me again. What can she possibly think she is gleaning from examining me with a laser beam focus, I don't know.
“Fried chicken,” she guesses.
“No, and you have to narrow it down more before you guess specifics, otherwise you're wasting questions.”
“It's called instinct, Andrea.”
“Whatever, you have one more question.”
It's tacos. Not that it matters.
“It is ice cream, isn't it?” Miranda accuses when I don't answer right away.
I really need to stop talking about food. This was a bad pick on my part.
The Devil Wears Prada
I would seriously eat bugs right about now. Not even a beetle? Really?
Well fuck it, I'll eat some more leaves. Roots too, why not?
Miranda copies me again. I really don't think that I'm on to something. It probably takes more calories to chew the leaves then the amount of energy we'll get from them. It's just something to comfort me.
Either way, I don't stop eating them, and neither does Miranda.
The Devil Wears Prada
Yours truly is awfully terrified right now.
If I owned an actual diary, I suspect I would be morose and weepy, writing to myself all the time. It's for the best that I don't have one.
Some people make up someone that they're writing to in their diaries. Diaries get names and personalities, and the writer can imagine that person reading the entries and commiserating with every hardship.
Miranda has been the sole person in my existence for so long, I can't imagine writing a diary entry to anyone but her. Except instead of having a diary that I imagine is sympathetic to my plights, this one would merely tolerate me.
The Devil Wears Prada
I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. I pinch myself.
Now stop spending the last days of your life whining to yourself like a little bitch, I scold myself. I doubt Miranda is sinking this low. She's probably not even thinking about herself. Maybe her daughters, but never herself.
How does one take one's mind off of dying?
“I spy with my little eye something...” My gaze lands on a rock. “Brown.”
Miranda rolls over to face away from me. “Go to hell.”
I fall silent. It occurs to me that if I were as bitchy to others as I am to myself, I would be just like Miranda.
The Devil Wears Prada
I hated watching you today. You're like a lost dog. Thanks for twenty questions, though.
The Devil Wears Prada
The next time I slip into consciousness, I am surrounded by pale birthday balloons that float, ethereal, around camp. My vision sharpens, like when the optometrist slides to a different lens and the letter chart turns crystal clear.
The ghostly balloons are in reality plastic bags, suspended on branches and rustling with the breeze. I blink and the bags – which I know is what I'm supposed to be seeing – melt into balloons again.
Is this what it feels like to hallucinate?
“Nn.” Miranda is curled up beside me, eyes squeezed shut, cheeks flushed. Her chest is moving erratically, sporadically changing from slow, even breathes to heaving like she had just jetted through the four hundred meter hurdles.
“Might rain.” Her gaze draw my attention upward – bleak clouds scoot lazily across the sky. “I put up the bags. In case.”
So maybe Miranda hasn't quite given up on us just yet. I clear my dry throat painfully. “I see.”
The cycle of Miranda's slow-fast-slow breathing continues. I wait to see if she'll die. She doesn't.
Chapter 11: Day 19
Still not rescued.
I don't allow myself to wake up, even as I feel my skin start to heat up and I know I should scoot into the big rock's shade to keep from burning. I don't possess the energy to do anything but be carried away by a dark, amorphous dream. In my dream, my skeleton calcifies into the ground. I'm alive, but I can't move. It's not terribly bothersome; the position is relaxing.
I spend an unquantifiable length of time in my dream floating like a piece of driftwood down a lazy river, being someone who isn't concerned that she'll wake up to find her sole friend and confidante dead.
A drop of liquid splashes onto my forehead. Another drop lands in my eyelashes – I twitch away, rubbing my face. For one completely illogical moment I think someone's crying over me. No – I chalk that notion up to my flare for the dramatic.
I sit up in a haze, groggily taking in my surroundings. The typical heated sunshine isn't baking my skin like usual. The sky is brimming with heavy clouds, gray and ungainly and hanging over us like an axe.
I allow my mouth to fall open, tilting my head back. A drop slips into my mouth, which is so parched that the water burns an acid trail down my esophagus.
Then another drop, and another. The sprinkling of moisture falling from the sky is light, but it's cold and refreshing. Every new drop is comparable to drinking an arcane elixir – electrifying, invigorating and forcing me to feel alive.
“Wake up, Miranda.”
“I'm awake,” Miranda responds in wonder. She pushes herself up from her sleeping position, stretching a hand out. A raindrop falls into it. More drops dot her hair, then a torrent falls into her lap. The rain is thickening, coming down heavy and fat until it's a downpour.
A smattering of crinkles erupts around us as weight-burdened rainclouds shrug off their loads and the drops patter into Miranda's labyrinth of plastic bags.
A pool of lukewarm water accumulates in my palms when I cup them. I pour the water between my cracked lips, gulping it down and following up with a moan. A hum of appreciation radiates from Miranda. Her head is tilted back, throat moving up and down as she drinks from a hunk of scrap metal currently doubling as a bowl.
The hourglass holding the last grains of sand of our lives turns over, resetting the clock. We can keep going longer – long enough for another plane to cross our paths and notice us down here, maybe. Miranda's eyes are wide and blood-shot, stuck in a permanent state of disbelief even as she sips. I take another drink and laugh. Miranda's gaze shoots to mine. Her lips are pursed, but slowly... very slowly... her lips slide into a smirk. We've cheated the island out of our deaths for now; it'll have to wait longer if it wants to claim our souls.
The Devil Wears Prada
Hours later, the rain is still pouring down on our heads and it doesn't look like it plans on stopping. The entire sky is a load of dark clouds brimming with storm; not a blue patch in sight. Thunder booms, too, though there is no lightning that we can determine.
Miranda and I help each other scrabble up the rock that juts over camp, dragging the big sheet of what used to be part of the plane's wing along with us. Miranda props one end up with the pointy stick that she'd failed to spear fish with, allowing us to fall prone to our bellies beneath a shelter. Raindrops plunk relentlessly onto the metal overhead. Miranda purses her lips down at our flooded camp; the island is ankle-deep in water.
“We should use the lighter to make a fire tonight,” she says. “We shouldn't go to sleep wet.”
“I'm not gonna argue against that.”
The Devil Wears Prada
“Could I find it in the ocean?”
“Typically,” Miranda confirms, face neutral. I suspect that she's annoyed that I narrowed it down so much with my first question. Well too bad for her, because I'm awesome at this game.
“Is it bigger than a car?”
Miranda's blue eyes narrow in contemplation. “It could be bigger or smaller, depending on how much is massed together.”
“Is it... an island?”
“No.” Miranda looks scandalized.
The rain is a slow drip, lighter and airy. The sky is still stormy, but the sun is shining determinedly through the cracks between the clouds. Miranda and I are still flat on our stomachs, lying on top of the rock and safely beneath the propped up shelter, waiting it out. Our camp is still more of a swamp then solid ground.
“Is it alive?”
Miranda shrugs. “Technically, I suppose. If you call that a life...”
“Is it something I can eat?” I ask carefully.
“You probably have at some point, albeit without realizing it.”
“What? How did you guess so quickly?"
“The answers you give me are way too detailed, you gotta tone it down. Yes or no only.”
“I give interesting answers. Your robot answers bore me.”
“That's how you're supposed to play.”
“Those rules bore me. They should bore anyone with an intelligent mind.”
“What type of word is that?” Miranda says, appalled.
“Urgh.” I bury my head in my arms. It's the only appropriate vocabulary word I have to respond to that question.
The Devil Wears Prada
I hold up the wing section as Miranda removes the stick that is propping it up. I gently allow the hunk of metal to slide and scrape gracelessly down the rock, plunking one end into the flooded ground with the other end still leaning on the lower part of the rock.
The rain is no more. The lowest parts of the island, however, are under a foot of water. The beach is gone altogether, eaten up by the sea which is marching steadily inland.
All we have to do is wait.
The Devil Wears Prada
Hours drag on. The water level reaches two feet, even though it's not raining. Weird, but whatever. It'll go down eventually.
I beat Miranda twice at twenty questions, needing less than ten questions for each winning guess (Amelia Earhart and lasagna). We argue on how healthy lasagna is and once again debate Miranda's answering technique.
It's surprisingly agreeable, sitting here together on top of a boulder and talking. Maybe it's because there's nowhere for Miranda to slouch off to when she feels like she's reached her conversation quota for the day.
I think Miranda might have a quota for eye contact too. Urgh.
The Devil Wears Prada
It happens out of nowhere.
The day is nearing sunset. I'm thirsty again, but all of Miranda's plastic bags are still strung up on tree branches. Miranda buttons her coat as a powerful wind rips through her white hair. My hair flares out like a fan is facing it and set on high.
One moment the water is holding at two feet, the next a dozen waves crash into our habitat, and our safety rock is surrounded by water on all sides.
The seawater is at least five feet and rising. Green seaweed floats in chunks at the surface. The lightest scraps of wreckage that Miranda had collected are floating, banging against each other.
“Why is this happening?” Miranda demands.
“It's going to go back down, right?” I ask, already knowing that Miranda can't possibly have that answer.
She shakes her head, uncertain. “The rain stopped. I don't understand this.”
“Maybe this doesn't have any connection to the rain,” I say with dawning comprehension.
This isn't rain, I realize. It's the tide. The tide has swallowed up this island little by little, day by day. We always took notice of it, after all. We just never paid any mind to it.
I thought of the lack of bugs, the sparse vegetation, the way all the leaves were plentiful at the tops of trees but scarce at the bottom branches... the smooth bark that roughened as it got higher up the trunk.
The pieces fit together so perfectly, I can't believe we didn't realize before. We asked the right questions, but never pondered too hard when we couldn't figure out the answers. Miranda and I were too busy surviving.
Miranda meets my gaze with a hard look. Her face no longer possesses the pale, smooth skin of her past. Her cheeks are sunken in, tanned from the sun and rough from sleeping on the ground. She's survived by adapting the best she could. I don't know how she's going to make it through this one, though, or if I can make it either.
This is the type of island that's sometimes there and sometimes isn't. The kind that cartographers don't concern themselves with marking down on their maps.
The tide is rising, coming to swallow this island whole.
I feel a squeeze on my bicep. It's Miranda's hand gripping my arm like a vice. She has that demeanor swirling around her that I hate with all my soul: grim acceptance. Like this is our rightful fate to be washed away after surviving for so long. She has refused to accept any notion of us being rescued, and today she is proven correct.
This can't be the end. There has to be something we can do.
A scraping noise pulls my attention behind us. The wing section is still leaning against our rock; the bottom end is starting to bob with the buoyancy of the sea level, grinding the top end against the rock.
“Miranda, look! We can use this as a raft.”
“Why?” Miranda's voice cracks.
“Why?” My jaw drops. “Are you shitting me?”
“There's no point, Andrea.” She gestures to the writhing waves. The ocean is still rising, no longer a calm flood but a thrashing temper tantrum. Her voice is tremulous. “There's nowhere to raft to. Nothing is out there. We're done.”
“We can still make it!”
Miranda shakes her head sadly. “I can't believe that, Andrea. And I don't think you believe it, either. Not truly.”
“After everything you've done to survive? Now you're quitting?”
“Look around you–”
Miranda stutters to a halt as I grab her by the coat collar and slide off the jutting rock, dragging her struggling form with me. The pair of us crash into the water's surface with an enormous splash.
For a second I am underwater – I suck air into my lungs before realizing it's not air at all. Miranda's legs and arms are thrashing next to me, bubbles erupting everywhere from her flailing limbs. An open-mouthed fish darts away. My feet plant on solid ground.
I surface, gasping to clear the burning liquid from my lungs. Miranda's face is one of shock and terror. She's shorter than me and up to her neck in water.
“Hey, it's okay, c'mon.” I flip the wing piece over so that the hollow interior is face-up. “Get in. Miranda, now.”
I hold out my hand. She takes it.
I help Miranda clamber bodily onto the wing, splashing and dripping all the way. I scramble in after her.
I grab at a long flat strip of steel that's floating nearby. Miranda snags her sharp stick. Our makeshift raft undulates up and down.
“We need to get your water bags.”
Miranda only hesitates a moment before giving me a sharp nod, knuckles whitening as she tightens her grip on her stick. The resistance that she had given me before is evaporated for now, for which I am grateful.
I dip the steel into the water, paddling forcefully. Miranda uses her hands on the other side, the stick much too thin to be of any use paddling. We make it to the first plastic bag before a wave crashes into us.
I sputter saltwater out of my nose and glance to my right. Miranda is clutching the bag triumphantly. Score.
We're nearly to the next bag when a wave rams into our back end, twisting us completely around.
“Just get us closer.” Miranda leans over the water, stick in hand, stretching toward the bag. I know it's going to fail the second I look over and see a monstrous swell bear down on us.
Miranda tips over – I grab her by the wrist, jerking her away from the edge as the pointy end of her stick pierces the plastic bag. The collected rainwater splashes uselessly into the ocean. Miranda chokes back a cry.
The waves that are slamming into the island are arriving larger and faster for every second we spend paddling toward the next bag.
The island is disappearing altogether. Our safety boulder is completely submerged.
Wham! A head of foam catches the raft, pushing us at least fifty feet. The plastic bag we were aiming for is also caught in the wave, ripping off of the tree branch from the force of it.
A softer crest catches us and Miranda and I drift helplessly away as we paddle fruitlessly against the current.
The few trees of the island poke from the water, like the ocean has sprouted a sparse garden of green shrubbery. Limp plastic bags float around them, abandoned.
The undulating waters fling us away from the watery grave the island used to occupy; with every wave that Miranda and I struggle to hold on for, the island shrinks away. The rocky mass itself is completely submerged along with the dozens of bodies we left behind, unless they were taken by the waves too.
It lies dormant, I imagine, but ominously so, like a spider waiting in a hole. The island lurks beneath the surface, jealous of the two lives it should have taken for itself.
Our lives belong to the churning ocean now.
Chapter 12: Day 24
Still not rescued.
Miranda and I take turns washing ourselves in silence, both of us lost in the world around us, or at least I am. The earth is flat, blue, and not much else. I can understand now why explorers used to believe the world was flat. In five days, I haven't seen evidence to prove otherwise.
I use my hands to cup water from the sole plastic bag that we recovered from the island, which Miranda set up hanging from the stick. I swallow it gingerly. Just because the bag is full now doesn't mean it'll always be.
Miranda and I have been lucky enough to have rainfall every afternoon since we abandoned the island.
The rain is always light and warm, never stormy. I don't know which will be worse, if the rain turns violent or if it disappears altogether. A quick death verses a slow one, I suppose.
One or the other will have to happen eventually. Not that I plan on telling Miranda that.
I remember the shark fins that I saw from the beach once. They're out here, sharing this ocean with us somewhere. Hopefully we will never encounter one another again. If I were a shark, I wouldn't try to grab anyone off of a raft when there are millions of fish darting around just waiting to be caught.
I know that for a fact because the fish have no qualms about swimming around our raft, and they're unaware enough to keep coming back even after Miranda has managed to stab four of them out of the water over the past five days with our water bag stick (minus the water bag, of course).
Apparently Miranda had achieved zero success trying to do the same thing on the island. I hadn't even thought of it.
It's exhausting to wait for the fish to die, because Miranda can't plop them on the raft and wait for them to suffocate due to the constant layer of smelly saltwater that we can never get rid of. I hold the fish in my arms as it thrashes and dies. Then Miranda sets it on fire with the lighter.
The final step is to toss the burning carcass into the watery inside of our raft to extinguish the flames. The end result is a slightly charred, partly cooked yet still mostly raw fish.
The recipe is a work in progress.
We're eating better than we ever did on the island. Life of Pi made this look so much harder than it actually is.
The Devil Wears Prada
“I spy with my little eye, something...”
“Blue?” Miranda guesses with a glare.
“No,” I lie, then realize that Miranda isn't falling for it. “Maybe...”
Not starving or dying of dehydration leaves a lot of free time to fill.
The Devil Wears Prada
“My first pet was a cat named Bartholomew.”
I groan. “Of course it was named Bartholomew.” Typical. Might as well name it Oswald the III if you're going to go that swanky with it.
It's old faithful, the sharing game.
Miranda folds her hands in her lap, biting her lip at the clouds. We spend a moment in silence, rocking with the wind, when I realize that it's my turn to share.
“My family had a dog named Brick. He was very much into squeaky balls and naps.”
A soft expression crosses Miranda's features. “I had to stop giving Patricia balls when she got older. Now if you give her a ball she rips it apart and devours it like some kind of monster.”
The image of calm, noble Patricia going insane tearing apart a ball makes me chuckle. Miranda gives me a slow, tentative smile.
The Devil Wears Prada
“We'll still be friends afterward if we're rescued, you know?”
Miranda scowls. Right, I forgot – mentioning being rescued does not please Miranda. Forever the pessimist, my Miranda is.
“We can hang out, buy a cat,” I say. “Name it something posh, like Mansfield or Frederick or something.”
“Hm,” Miranda says.
“We'll live far away from the city and walk everywhere we need to go. No cars, no trains, and most importantly no planes.”
Miranda tilts her head at me. “No cars? Avoiding crashes altogether, are we?”
“We'll play with Mansfield all the time, with laser pointers and toys with bells on them. Mansfield will basically become our life.”
“I preferred the name Frederick.”
“You'll date women - incredible women - and they'll think you're progressive for not using any type of modern transportation, and fall all over themselves for you.”
“I see,” Miranda says, clearly dubious and not seeing at all.
“You won't have to worry about anyone judging you, because we'll have moved to a very progressive area. While you're off dating I'll hang out with Mansfield.”
“We would have no choice but to move into a progressive area, would we?” Miranda drawls with a dissatisfied huff. “If we wanted to escape anyone looking down on us for naming a cat Mansfield.”
The Devil Wears Prada
We spend the rest of the day and evening not speaking to each other. The silence is not out of spite. Miranda seems to close in on herself as night falls, overcome with thoughts of I-don't-know-what. I respect her quiet nights. She needs them. Who am I to deprive her?
I spend the night trying to ignore the constant state of wetness my body is in and fall asleep. I study the stars, a master web of pinpricks in the night sky. Somewhere out there, other people are looking at these stars. People with beds and food, who know with certainty where they're going and how they'll get there. Maybe some of our Runway coworkers are looking up tonight, the stars glared out by the lights of New York, but they might be looking all the same.
I wonder what Nigel and Emily are up to right now, at this very moment. I bet Nigel's in charge of Runway and getting ready for print deadline, most likely. They'll have to do a tribute to Miranda. I'll probably get a mention somewhere. I hope they have a good picture.
Miranda's low, careful voice jerks me out of my thoughts. I turn on my side to face her. There's not much room inside the wing, barely enough room for us to lie side by side with space between us.
Miranda is on her back not a foot away, head resting on her folded up coat.
“If we survive, I would go with you. I swear that I would.”
I chew on my bottom lip, watching her.
“I would live with you in the place far from the city.” She inhales the crisp night air, then exhales shakily. “And I would let you call the cat whatever name pleased you the most. I would do it. I would.”
“Me too,” I say quietly.
“Yet I know we will not, Andrea, and that makes your words painful.” She's taking in another shaky breath. “You and I... we're not going to survive to do any of it.”
“I didn't mean to...” I trail off uncertainly. “I didn't mean to hurt you. I'm sorry.”
“No, no, it's not your fault. I should know better to want something so badly, but god help me I can't stop thinking about it.” She twists in my direction, repositioning to be on her side. I'm ashamed to see wetness in her eyes. “It could never be your fault. Andrea, no.”
“Yeah,” I sigh. “Don't worry about it.”
How long can we live like this? Even if the fish and rainwater keeps coming, which they won't, for how long a time can we exist lying in a pool of water inside an old piece of scrap, longing for a life we'll never live?
“It's not your fault,” Miranda insists, her hand finding my upper arm and stroking it. Her fingertips are rough and make my skin stand on end. My eyes flutter shut. Human contact.
With my sole focus on the warm sensation of Miranda's touch on my arm, I drift to sleep.
Chapter 13: Day 29
Still not rescued.
I wake up to the gentle rocking of the ocean. I ponder how long it will be before the fish disappear and we run out of water. Is it possible to continue to live like this forever, scavenging fish and rainwater and staving away the sunburn, until we're old enough to die of natural causes? Even with my natural optimism, I can't believe that. Even if there are always fish, Miranda's lighter will run out of fluid eventually, and we'll catch some disease from eating raw fish for every meal. The rain won't always come and we don't have the means to save enough water to last when it doesn't.
Miranda is already awake, stabbing her sharpened stick fruitlessly into the ocean.
“Very few fish this morning,” she explains to me when I shoot her a questioning look.
“Can I try?”
Miranda purses her lips dubiously, but hands me the stick all the same.
I lean over the side of the wing, staring hard at the ocean surface. The water is shockingly transparent, the morning light making it as crystal as a summertime swimming pool. There's not a fish in sight.
“Did you scare them away?” I ask her.
“Of course not.” Miranda joins me at the edge of the wing, peering intently at the water below. She frowns. “They were just here. They'll be back.”
“Right, okay.” I slump down into the watery raft, content to wait.
Miranda and I wait for hours while sipping carefully from our fresh water supply, careful not to over-indulge. Occasionally I catch deep shadowy movements gliding in and out beneath the wing, but the fish do not return.
The Devil Wears Prada
I am an egg splattered messily onto a frying pan, sizzling as my flesh sticks to the quivering wet surface of the teflon.
I'm not hallucinating. My imagination, on the other hand, is morphing into a deranged lunatic. I'm not alarmed as long as I compartmentalize myself. I am not delirious, but my imagination is. I am not hungry, but my stomach is; my stomach will just have to deal with it because that's out of my control.
The sun is outdoing itself today, planting itself directly over our heads and seemingly sticking there, despite the fact that noontime has come and passed. All the better to scorch us with, I suppose. The air vibrates with the heat. With no cloud cover to protect us, Miranda and I take to brandishing our coats over our heads like I used to use a newspaper to protect me from the rain.
The fish have not reappeared for a second act. They've smartened up.
Miranda and I sit back to back, awkwardly shading ourselves with our coats. I long for the moment when I would stand in front of my freezer on a hot day, frigid air swirling around my neck, granting me sweet relief from the greenhouse effect of New York City.
Miranda shudders behind me.
“You can't possibly be cold.”
I twist to check on her, suddenly anxious that Miranda may be weeping. Miranda isn't crying though. Her mouth is parted in surprise.
“I saw – there was--” Miranda stutters to a halt when the ocean finishes the idea for her.
A fin emerges a foot away from the edge of the wing, breaking the water surface soundlessly, close enough that I could reach out and grab onto it. The fin is bulky and gray, more massive than I would have expected. The fin submerges.
“Let's just, um, stay away from the edges,” I say, attempting and failing to keep the shake from my voice.
My suggestion is obvious and moronic, stated out of an innate need to gain control of the situation, but Miranda doesn't call me out on it with a snide remark about my intelligence. She scoots closer into me.
“Smart fish,” Miranda murmurs to herself.
I doubt the fish will be returning anytime soon.
The Devil Wears Prada
According to Miranda, sharks leaped into rafts during World War II, latched onto sailors and dragged them out. After a shipwreck, more than half of the sailors would be eaten before rescue arrived. Miranda has the best stories. She cuts herself off when she catches that I'm feeling sick. Then she presses her lips together firmly and stops speaking.
It appears that these sharks haven't heard those stories from World War II, because they don't lunge out and pull us screaming into the water. Instead they hug the sides of the wing, scraping it with their skin as they skim past and then wrap their bodies around the corners like I rub my body on a cold bed sheet. I count eight of them.
If they wait until we're starved to death, no doubt an eventual wave will knock us into their waiting jaws. All they need is patience.
Miranda and I press close, shoulder to shoulder with our knees curled in so as to keep our feet far from our enterprising companions. She hasn't made any indications that she's ready to make an attempt at sleep. Last night the up-and-down lull of the sea was comforting. Tonight we are surrounded by the sounds of rough skin grazing steel and the dull thumps of their tails thudding against the wing frame. They're not sleeping either.
This is the part where we wait until we're dead. There will be no more food for us. We are food.
Miranda must despise me deep in her soul. She could have been dead by now, drowned by the crashing waves that consumed the island. On the island Miranda had struggled to survive until the bitter, tattered end, despite that between the two of us she was the most disbelieving of any hope there was for us being rescued. Sinking into a watery grave with the island would have been... honorable? Reasonable? A good try?
Then I pushed us to keep going. I literally dragged Miranda into this waiting game, forced her to move. Our undertaking for survival thus far wasn't satisfactory enough for me. I had to stick it out a bit more and I conscripted Miranda to the same agonizing sentence.
“Miranda... I never should've pressed you into coming with me. I'm--”
“Don't apologize,” she interrupts calmly. “I've thought about it. You did what was right.”
“It's not what you wanted.”
“I disagree. I would have sat down and watched you drift off on the wing, and when you were a little speck and I was being washed away, I would have hated myself. I would have struggled to swim and catch up to you. I wouldn't allow myself to be left behind, alone. But I wouldn't have been able to catch up either.”
I have a vision of myself alone on the wing, a current sweeping me far from Miranda. She perches unsteadily on the rock, staring down at the rising waves, afraid but determined. She makes eye contact with me. A strong wave sweeps her off her feet. She plunges into the ocean. She is so distant now that I can barely see her white hair as she struggles to keep afloat. Why struggle? I think desperately, knowing that this is what she wanted, too horrified to look away. Then I realize that she's struggling toward me. She needs me. I think I hear her voice yelling out my name. I yell hers, paddling fruitlessly as she becomes smaller and smaller, until her waving arms disappear beneath the waves.
It almost happened. It could have happened. If Miranda had been obstinate in her desire to stay behind, if she had resisted me a bit more, would I have left her? I want to say no... but I'm not sure.
That did not happen, I tell myself. I don't say the words, but I think them. I promise you now, Miranda. I will never leave you behind.
I entwine my arm with hers, needing to reinforce the physical connection between us. Miranda starts to twitch away before relaxing at the last moment, allowing my touch. I'm scared that she'll pull away if I embrace her, so I settle for pressing my cheek against her shoulder. I don't care what she thinks of it. I need it.
Miranda exhales slowly as a shark fin sluices through the water, the gray skin an eerie pearl color beneath the moon's glow. “I'm glad you didn't leave me behind,” she says into my hair. Her hand finds mine and squeezes it.
Our breathing syncs together as we listen to the soft sloshes of water caused by the massive bodies hugging the wing.
“If anyone should apologize, it would be me. I never should have taken the early flight to New York. Even if I had gone, I shouldn't have insisted that you accompany me.”
“There's no way you could've predicted what would happen.”
“It was such a silly trip...”
“Don't. I don't want to know why we were on the plane.”
Miranda hesitates, her fingers squeezing mine tighter than before. “I don't understand why,” she says finally.
“I guess I'm scared that it was for something...” Superficial? Frivolous? “...inconsequential,” I finish.
“It doesn't matter what circumstances led you to this place in time,” Miranda insists. “Your life matters. Therefore, so must your...”
Miranda holds her tongue, tilting her eyes downward to our interlaced hands. I say it for her. “Death.”
“Yes,” she says quietly.
Miranda gives me a small nod.
“Distract me?” I request. “I can't stand listening to them.” Them. The sharks, our future consumers.
“I can do that.” Miranda squirms, seeking a more comfortable position. She ends up tucking her legs underneath her. “I was planning on setting you up, you know.”
“With a job or a date?”
“Both,” Miranda confides. “A reward for two years. Assistants only need to stay for one, but you... you stayed with me.”
Always, I think.
“How did you know I wasn't seeing anyone?”
“I frequently overheard you from my office, whinging about unsuccessful dates.”
“I was dating on and off. I didn't think I was whinging about it, though.”
This is possibly the most quaint conversation ever conducted in the presence of imminent danger in the history of mankind. I have grown so used to conversing under bleak circumstances that this is old hat, I suppose.
And Miranda... she's always been unflappable.
“Well in any case, I would have introduced you to a decent gentleman. Image matters to Runway, and it definitely matters to me. It's beneficial for the industry to see that those loyal to me end up well-connected.”
Miranda's nonchalance is forced, but she has succeeded in distracting me. I can picture the type of stuck up pricks that usually float around Miranda's social circles. They're not my type. I can't imagine anyone thinking that those blockheads are my type, either.
“Who'd you have set me up with, then?”
“I hadn't decided yet... My cousin Sebastian, actually, he would be a suitable match. Yes,” she adds thoughtfully. “Perfect.”
“I'm not familiar with any of your cousins.”
“Because I'm not on speaking terms with most of them. Sebastian, though. He's worth talking to. And he would appreciate you like you deserve to be appreciated.”
Miranda pulls her arm away from me, finally uncomfortable with our proximity. That's okay – I expected it from her eventually.
I'm getting drowsy. It's becoming difficult to keep my eyes open. “Tell me about your cousin.”
“He's business savvy, handsome, around your age. He just graduated law school”
“Yeah... I dunno if I'd be his type. The kind of men that you know, I really doubt that I'd fit any of their types.”
“If you sell yourself short, you'll always be short,” Miranda says dismissively. “And I can imagine many interested parties. I would date you.”
Miranda's face pinkens in the dark as she seems to think she's stuck her foot in her mouth – or maybe she's never spoken so casually about her sexuality before – but either way I grin at her to let her know that it's okay. “Thanks. Not that it matters now.”
My focus is successfully removed from the circling sharks, but Miranda tilts her head like she's listening to them. Her eyes fall on the deep black horizon. “No, not anymore. We should sleep.”
The Devil Wears Prada
Miranda's asleep. I'm lying beside her, watching her. It's not creepy if she's the only one around. Honest.
A week ago... two weeks ago, maybe? I was thinking about how I couldn't imagine writing a diary entry addressed to someone other than Miranda. I still feel the same. All the people whom I've met with and interacted with in my life are nothing but an ether world, only as real as my memories make them to be. Miranda is my new world through no fault of her own, but that's the way the world fell around us and there's nothing I can do to change that.
My sun rises and sets on her. While our existence here is wretchedness personified, I have forgotten how to live in a world that is not Miranda. Some nights like tonight, I'm tormented by the idea of her death more than my own.
“I can imagine many interested parties,” Miranda says dismissively. “I would date you.”
Miranda's words dredge up a concept that is alien to our new reality: a date. It's almost laughable; it's as foreign as bringing up tacos or Coco Chanel. But it makes me wonder.
I know how it feels to have Miranda Priestly, her blue eyes and her hesitant glances as the center of my universe. It's a symbiotic relationship that is beautiful in a macabre sort of light, as long as I think about it in a way that glosses over our mutual grim circumstances. I try to imagine finding the same solace with Miranda under happier circumstances.
I puzzle on if I would arrive to the same feeling of wonderment if Miranda and I had, as she suggested was possible, dated. If Miranda would have become my world, but in a different way. In a way that was more beauty and less desperation, and minus all of the suffering.
I'll never know, will I? I will never have that bright chance with Miranda. That world is a world of ghosts that neither Miranda nor I will touch again.
Chapter 14: Day 31
Still not rescued.
No sight of land, ship or anything on the distant horizon besides the flat blue line that never changes form, no matter how often I search it for the slightest abberation.
The water is perfectly smooth. There are no fins knifing across the surface. I dare to lean over the edge. No ominous shadows lurk underneath, but... no fish. I can't fool myself into believing that the fish are sleeping in this morning, or that the sharks are gone forever. The island taught me the hard lesson of listening to my surroundings when they deign to speak to me.
I slept surprisingly well last night, in as long a time as I can remember. Maybe a month; I've lost track of the exact days. I think Miranda slept just as soundly, although I wouldn't guess it to look at her now.
Miranda is lying on her back, coat rolled up beneath her head, not paying mind to the cold saltwater pooling around her, seeping into her clothing. She doesn't look to the horizon. She looks to me occasionally, and I wonder if I should be doing more.
I don't do anything more, however. I chew on my lower lip and spend my time thinking instead. I think quietly on my life and just how damn inconsequential it was. Last night Miranda said that my life matters, however the indisputable logic of it all is that my life, in the grand scheme of the world, is equivelent to a grain of sand on a beach. Take the grain away and who's going to notice? At least Miranda was more like a sparkling sea shell than little old sand-grain me. At least one international industry will be permanently altered by her absence – has already been altered, in fact. That and two young, lonely girls who are already packed off to their father's.
By mid-afternoon, my brain runs out of steam. Thankfully my head can only force me to go over gruesome death scenarios so many times before it exhausts itself into a blissful, thought-free coma. Without my brain racing at a mile a minute, I'm bored. What an absurd problem to have.
Miranda and I lie side by side in an inch of saltwater, keeping our hair and faces dry by using our coats as folded pillows. It is she who pulls me out of my reverie.
"I don't suppose you could come up with something to entertain me," Miranda darkly drawls, "if you can fit that into your schedule? Something that's not a question game, if you're feeling merciful."
"Question games are my specialty, Miranda," I protest.
"If we play twenty questions one more time, I will throw myself into the ocean." Miranda's words are churlish, but her blue eyes are luminous and playful. She is uplifted by the absence of sharks; I know though that, like me, she's not completely convinced.
"Okay. What then?"
"Try arguing," Miranda turns her eyes skyward, possibly soliciting divine intervention. "You're good at that."
"You want me to argue with you?"
"No," Miranda huffs. "Not literally."
I feel the rustle of her hands shifting idly by my waist. We lie side by side, positioned a careful distance from the edges of the wing. I'm close enough to feel the vibrations of Miranda's voice on my skin when she speaks. I'm hyperaware of her every movement, every breathe that she takes. It's more intimate than resting beside a lover, although I can't put my finger on why except for the knowledge that I have gone through more with Miranda than anyone else in my life.
It is a knowledge that she is more than the word 'friend' can imply. She is even more than a death buddy, a term which I used to think of as appropriate. Miranda is someone who has been strong for me for no other purpose than she knew that I needed her.
That's it. That's who she is to me: I need her. I don't know the word for it; none exists that I know of.
"What if we had gotten together?" I suggest quietly. "I mean in the past, instead of my working for you, we had met and... you know. What if?"
Miranda closes her eyes briefly. "Is this a question game?" she finally murmurs, voice barely a whisper on her lips.
"It's a what-if game," I answer slyly.
Miranda rubs her cheek against the fur lining of her jacket. Her chin is nearly touching my shoulder. “We're dying, Andrea.”
"But what if," I breathe the words.
"You have more what-ifs than any human being I have ever encountered," she says under her breath.
"I was thinking about it last night."
Miranda's hands clench into fists. "I don't want to hear about it. Truly," she says desperately.
"I'm sorry," I say helplessly. I mean it.
"Andrea, you're fine." Miranda's fists unclench, the backs of her fingers ghosting over my hip unintentionally. "I don't care for regrets, therefore I make an effort not to have any."
"It seems like you have plenty from where I'm sitting." I wish I could take the words back as soon as they fly from my mouth, but Miranda doesn't seem upset by them. She only nods wearily.
I decide to drop the subject if Miranda isn't going to touch it. I won't ruin this with topics that make Miranda feel anything less than the strong woman she is, and 'what if' is a duo of words that seems to leech the vitality right out of her.
I settle on another tack. "The total amount of time your assistants spend on coffee alone is insane."
Miranda makes a study of her hands, frowning at them as she clenches and unclenches them. "I suppose it is," she concedes.
"What happened to wanting to argue?" My eyebrows furrow into a knot. Miranda is deflated. The short, unsuccessful what-if game has sapped her. I'm a fool for ever bringing it up.
"I changed my mind. Let's just lie here, shall we?"
Miranda turns into me, a long ghost of a sigh escaping from her. Her eyes are screwed shut. I know how it feels – the need for connection. I needed it yesterday, and Miranda was gracious enough to allow me comfort. I will do the same for her.
"If that's what you want," I agree uncertainly. She gives a nod in response.
We continue to lie together, soaking up the layer of seawater that permanently graces our metal wing thing of a raft. Warm sunrays filter through a light layer of clouds to beat down on our faces and heat up our damp clothing, creating a sensation that is as snug and cacooning as a good blanket. I close my eyes, relishing the comfort.
A firm hand presses into mine, and that is how I drift to sleep, warm and not alone.
The Devil Wears Prada
At first I think it's fish, either the same ones as before who are idiotic enough to return to the people who scooped them up and ate them, or a new school that is daring enough to venture to the surface waters.
No. How could I ever forget that sound? It's the thud of massive tails propelling even more massive bodies, upon which are teeth lined up in grinding rows.
Miranda lifts her head. It's evening time. The sun has nearly disappeared and the stars are dim in the ruddy sky. The risen moon is reflecting in Miranda's pupils when they widen.
I prop myself up on my arms, willing my sight to adjust quickly to the lack of light.
Miranda yanks me down. The last sight I see before being slammed down is a broad nose, wideset black holes for eyes and a gaping red gumline. Triangular teeth close around our plastic bag. Fresh water splatters violently.
"Oh my god!"
"Stay down," Miranda hisses harshly into my ear. Like she has to tell me.
Thunk. A row of glaring teeth flashes on the opposite side of the wing.
Miranda pins me firmly by the shoulder, nails biting through my blouse. "There are dozens of them. Little ones and big ones."
Thunk . The wing rocks; Miranda jerks, stunned. I hold her, keeping us from rolling.
I hate that noise. I hate it, hate it, hate it . "Jumpy little assholes," I say shakily.
Miranda doesn't say anything. Her throat bobs as she swallows. She loosens her grip on my shoulder and instead slides her hand downward, threading her fingers with mine.
"Maybe they heard your World War II stories," I try to kid. My voice cracks.
An arm slides across my waist, squeezing me. "Let's just lie here for a while," Miranda whispers. Her body presses tightly into mine, keeping at least an arm's length between us and the edges. The oblong curvature of the wing works against us, yet another item on the infinite list of things that have not gone right in our lives.
Another pink gumline bobs to my right, eating the air not three feet from my head. "Oh my god."
"I know," Miranda responds faintly.
"Why is this happening to us?"
"I don't know, Andrea." She closes her eyes as she says my name. "Do you want to play the question game?"
"You hate the question game. Do you think they're going to make it up here?"
Miranda ignores my question. She presses her cheek into my shoulder. "What about the what-if game?"
"You hate the what-if game too, Miranda."
"I don't hate it, I only- I don't like wishing that it's true. I need to be at Caroline and Cassidy's graduation. I need to- I need so many things."
"No regrets," I quote Miranda's philosophy back to her.
"No regrets," she parrots back slowly. We're still holding hands. She looks at them like they're the most ponderous things in the world.
Miranda's gaze fixes on mine, studying me.
I can't guess what she's searching for. I don't know that I'm feeling anything besides heartbreak. My heart isn't broken for me. For Miranda and her lonesome world of regrets, my heart crushes into a thousand tiny shards.
I used to give my heart to someone and tell them to be careful with it; I didn't want to be hurt. Miranda is so prone to breaking her own that I want to give her mine instead. She can break mine as she pleases – I will keep hers safe and whole.
"We would have been brilliant together, Miranda. I know it."
Her hand squeezes mine tightly. "Yes. I believe you are correct."
"I know you're not one for regrets. I can't help it, though."
"No, that would not make sense for you. It's who you are," she says, like that's a sad thing.
Miranda's free hand reaches up to touch my hair, tracing it from the roots to the tips. As her palm grazes my cheek, it is natural to tilt my head toward her.
My face is close enough to hers that we are sharing the same air. Miranda breathes softly onto my lips, truly living up to her title as ice queen – unmoving, like a sculpture. Yet she is not moving away.
A blush dashes across Miranda's high cheekbones. I want to press my lips against that rouge-tinged skin, to taste Miranda's self-conciousness on the tip of my tongue.
We move toward each other at the same time.
Miranda hums when our lips meet. I brush my mouth against hers twice, and two times my heart flutters. Miranda contests my cautious interaction by tugging my neck, deepening the kiss.
I keep my eyes open. I burn every facet of Miranda's kiss into my brain – the feel of her lips, the tentative caresses, and the sensation of her chest against mine as she breathes. My nails dig into her hair until the kiss breaks.
Miranda rests her forehead on mine, keeping her grip on the back of my neck. The air between our mouths mixes as she scrutinizes me.
"Miranda," I murmur.
Miranda spends a long moment massaging behind my ears with her thumbs, regarding me carefully. "I wonder if there's any point to this," she eventually exhales.
"The point," I pull back, giving her air, "is whatever we decide it is. What do you want?"
"I want a million tiny, stupid things that will never be mine."
Miranda gently rolls on top of me in one fluid motion. The full weight of her body presses into me, her breasts making firm contact with mine.
My eyes flutter involuntarily as her knee presses between my legs.
"And this. This is what I want," Miranda whispers, touching my hair, running her thumb down to the the curls at the ends. "I wish it to be real."
"I need you, Miranda. And-- and needing you is the most beautiful thing that's ever happened to me."
I can't tell if she understands exactly how I mean it – the need. I want desperately for her to get it, but she makes no indication other than her eyes darkening with want.
I kiss her deeply, immediately probing for entrance with my tongue, which she grants with a groan. Her hips twitch into mine, quickly causing my skirt to bunch up around my waist. Our pelvises work into a steady friction as I mewl and grind my way toward release.
Miranda comes before me, twitching and moaning and with her pants still on. I follow her, Miranda's noises igniting the heat between my legs into throbbing orgasm. Wetness surges from between my legs, soaking my panties.
Thunk-thunk. I hate that god damn noise. I hate that it pulls my mind away from Miranda and her elegant neck, her tongue and the way she presses her face into my skin, inhaling deep.
Miranda is hesitating. Her skin is flushed, her eyes darting down our bodies uncertainly.
"More," I plead. I will never be sated of Miranda Priestly.
Miranda and I are on the same page for once. Miranda watches my fingers in a trance as I free the button at her waist and tug on the zipper, loosening her slacks enough for me to push them down with my knees. I peel her panties off using the same method. I'm sliding my hand to exactly where it belongs between her thighs when Miranda grabs my wrist and says, "Wait."
Miranda twists her body, planting her knees over my head. Her lower lips tantalize me, positioned just high enough to where I cannot taste them.
Her first lick down my slit is electric. I struggle not to buck as she does another, then another. Her rough tongue grows bolder with every swipe inside my labia. I need her around my clit, pressing it, sucking it.
She slips two fingers into me. Her eyes are bright and moving over my body, from my pussy to my breasts to my mouth. When she meets my eyes I say, "More."
She pushes her fingers knuckles deep. I moan throatily, squeeze them with my hips and say it again. "More."
Miranda buries a third finger inside me. My cunt burns to stretch and make room for her. My eyes squeeze shut. I'm so full. So full and it's Miranda who's inside me, moving her fingers inside me, stretching me. It's Miranda's silver head between my thighs, pressing her hot tongue to the top of my slit, barely glancing my clit. I thrust my hips upward, impaling myself on her moving hand. Miranda knows exactly what I need and she is giving it to me.
Miranda's warm lips wrap around the hood of my clitoris, tongue exploring to discover the nub beneath. She swirls the tip of her tongue around it, then grazes it again before fully devoting her entire mouth to it, stroking, lapping, and sucking.
Miranda twists her fingers, keeping a steady rhythem. I spread my legs as far as they will go and I squeeze my hips around her hand once – twice – three – god --
I buck as wetness gushes down my legs. "Oh..."
Miranda exhales softly at the sound. I bite my lip when she extracts her fingers.
My sense of urgency drives me to draw her hips down to sit my face. Miranda hisses as her pussy makes contact with my mouth and I immediately lap at her clit. I tug at her thighs to grind her into me then push my tongue into her center.
Miranda rides my face, whimpering and shuddering into her arm. Her thighs tense as her channel tightens, jerking unevenly until she cries out.
I penetrate her with my tongue in sync with each spasm. She keens with every dip of my tongue, her body throbbing into my mouth until the convulsions subsist and she slides off wetly.
Miranda lays a delicate kiss on my ankle. I grant her a moment of repose before I tap my index finger on her calf. "Come back?"
Miranda joins me, easily fitting into place by my side.
I twitch at a splashing sound. I don't look to check if it was a tail whumping or one of the sharks throwing itself up, scrabbling for meat.
Miranda stares fixedly at her hands, lost in a universe that is hers alone.
"It's not fair," I mutter bitterly.
She tears her gaze away from whatever world she was in, meeting my eyes at last. "Perhaps they'll leave."
"They're never going to go away."
"Perhaps they will," Miranda says emphatically. "Something more appetizing may catch their interest. If that happens, we paddle like the devil's behind us, find safer waters. Continue to search for help."
How did the coin between us flip, leaving me cold and useless and Miranda grasping onto straws of hope?
"Today is a good day," Miranda decides quietly. I realize that she is crying; I didn't notice when it started. Despite her words, they don't seem like happy tears.
"Aren't I supposed to be the optimistic one?"
"We have water left. I don't feel like death." The corners of her mouth twitch upward. "And I have beautiful company."
"Lucky me," I joke. Miranda freezes. "No, Miranda, I didn't mean it like that."
"I know you didn't," she says, glaring at the murky horizon. "You wouldn't. That's not how you are."
I rub at her tears. “Tell me why you're crying.”
Miranda's voice becomes tiny. “I am so sorry that I brought you with me.”
“No.” I take her hand and press its warmth to my cheek. “Don't feel that way. No regrets. Remember?”
Miranda tucks her head onto my shoulder with a soundless hiccup. “I remember.”
The Devil Wears Prada
The sharks settle down as we wile away the night. They swim in gentle circles together, rubbing and occasionally lazily rolling over. I'm watching them.
"Don't pay any mind to them," Miranda urges, rubbing a thumb on the inside of my wrist. "They can't reach us, and if they do ever touch us, we would be gone already."
Miranda and I are picking up where we left off on the island, starving and wasting away. Once we've kicked the bucket and the waves are rocking, we'll tumble right off... if they're patient enough.
I don't know if I should be peeved or not at the idea of the two of us expiring only for the sharks to lose interest when a strong wave doesn't come to knock us off right away.
"That is a comforting picture," I reply wryly.
Is this what Miranda once meant about being a horrible friend? You were right, I think. You are terrible at this.
Miranda scowls the second she realizes what she's said. She opens her mouth to say something no doubt apologetic and self-incriminating. I kiss her instead. She exhales against my lips, eyes snapping to a close.
I hear it before it happens.
My ears catch a distant churning.
I am kissing Miranda and then I am not. A swell – not a gigantic wave, but silent and powerful enough to sneak up on us – lurches the wing.
I instinctively cling to the side closest to me as Miranda's side of the wing floods in milliseconds and we tip. Gravity yanks Miranda's fingers from my waist. I grab at her blouse – it rips. She falls away from my lips, stunned.
Her head bounces off of the edge of the wing with a crack – and then she is tumbling.
"No!" I lunge for her. My grip closes around her wrist, but not before a colossal shadow lunges at her. Serrated teeth flash around Miranda's neck as she cries out.
The wing rights itself, slapping back into the water. Miranda rolls into me, one hand pressed to her throat.
Blood is in the water. Gray bodies writhe in a frenzy around the spot that Miranda's blood splashed. Foam sloshes into the wing.
"Oh god, Miranda." Her neck is a mess of blood and shredded skin.
"I think I'm alright," Miranda says, sounding not a little astonished.
"Fuck! Let me see!"
Miranda lifts her hand to reveal the worst of it. Her collarbone is a series of jagged gouges – light, not deep. "He just grazed you," I say in relief.
"It's my head that hurts," Miranda reveals. I probe the back of her head tenderly. My fingers return soaked in bright red blood.
"What do I do?"
Miranda raises an eyebrow, more composed than I can ever be. Crimson rims her mouth, painting her bottom lip in glossy red when she purses her lips. "Do I look like someone who would know what to do? With this?"
"I'm going to, um, put pressure on it," I say frantically as I shirk my coat. I wrap it up and tuck it under her head. Miranda's coat, which she had not been wearing, is miraculously still on the wing. I ball it up and compress it into her collarbone. "And uh, we need to keep you awake. Because of the head injury."
"Alright," Miranda agrees evenly.
The sharks are still thrashing in their delirium for blood. Their hysteria is rocking the wing.
"That was so fucking close and it came out of nowhere. Out of freaking nowhere!"
"Indeed they did."
"I just..." I lose my train of thought, at a complete loss. For once, I had felt safe, even in the midst of a dozen killers. I don't regret it, but... to have it be ripped away by something so everyday and simple as a wave? Our lives are so fragile, and...
"Stop looking like a kicked puppy, we'll be fine, Andrea," Miranda insists. "That monster might have pulled me under, but he didn't. We'll talk for a few hours, or however long I need. And tomorrow will be another day. Okay?"
Miranda threads her fingers through my hair. "Okay?" she repeats.
"Okay." I take a deep breath. Then another. "Talk about what?"
"Tell me about one of your what-ifs. Tell me what happens when we're rescued."
When we're rescued. Miranda isn't supposed to say that. She treats those words like poison when they fall from my mouth.
"We're going to move to the country, remember?" I remind her. Miranda's gaze flickers to the left.
"Ah yes," she says. "How could I forget? Somewhere progressive."
"Exactly. And we'll have a cat."
A trickle of liquid runs around my hands, then several trickles. Blood is leaking, spilling from where I'm pressing the coat like it's not there, warm and runny. I jam the coat as hard as I can, tensing my body and putting my entire weight into it.
Miranda winces at my forcefulness but otherwise doesn't acknowledge it. "Yes, the cat."
"And women," I add, continuing to bare my weight down. There's too much blood swirling around my palms to tell if it's working.
That is the moment in which I realize she is not fine. Not at all.
I think Miranda realizes it then too.
This is the last conversation you'll have with her. Her life is pouring out of her chest and you are helpless to stop it.
Fear flits behind Miranda's eyes.
You shut the fuck up, I tell the voice in my head.
"No," Miranda huffs. "You're just fine, Andrea. Just on your own."
She said we would be fine. Tomorrow is going to be another day.
Lies we tell ourselves.
But I'll keep talking.
I smile. It feels brittle on my face, but I keep it there anyway. It's like I've forgotten how to smile, and I'm only following instructions I read in a book. Muscles twitch up plus lip twist equals one smile. I keep it on for her, to keep her calm. "You're my best friend, you know."
"You're..." She pauses, swallowing, struggling for air.
No-no-no-no-no. "Keep talking, come on. Don't stop."
She's falling asleep. That's the worst thing someone with a concussion can do. I don't know how or why it happens, but I've heard it a million times. It's the type of sleep you don't wake up from.
"Tell me the what-if of if we were together. I never heard it. Tell me," she insists when I take longer than a moment to respond.
"Well... I would be an award-winning journalist, I suppose. And you would live in my townhouse and uh, we would adopt a kid. A foster kid or orphan or, you know, someone with no home to go to. Caroline and Cassidy would teach him how to prank. And he would inherit your fantastic fashion sense."
"God help him if he inherits yours."
"Long, deep breaths. And he'll learn great things from me. I'll teach him how to cook."
Miranda frowns at me and shakes her head. "We would've been good together..." She pauses, taking my advice and catching her breathe. "It would have been easy... easy to be happy."
"I am pretty easy."
Miranda exhales, pursing her lips. "I wasn't joking."
"Yeah, I know."
"I do," I say.
I do know. I've only caught glimpses of it before, today but I could see it all. I can see Miranda and I holding hands down the street. It won't happen, but it could have been real. It could have been our reality today instead of this – of Miranda lying bleeding on a hunk of metal in the vast ocean, with me to keep her company who has forgotten how to smile.
Her chest is shaking. My plan of keeping her awake feels juvenile. What do I know about medicine or doctoring? I'm only a fool throwing TV show science at a dying woman.
"So after we're rescued..." Miranda runs out of breath.
"So after we're rescued, I'll be your girl."
"You'll be my girl," she repeats, blue eyes blinking slowly at me. "My girl."
"You'll take me to a shit ton of fancy dinners, right?" I nudge her.
A smile creeps onto Miranda's lips. "If it pleases you." Her eyelids slip shut; tears slide from them like raindrops sliding down a windowpane. "You're dead. You're not real, are you?"
"Of course I'm real, Miranda – hey, eyes open. Keep talking to me."
"You're not," Miranda accuses softly, voice barely a whisper. Her eyes remain shut.
"I am too. There's no resting yet, Miranda. Look at me."
Her entire body relaxes, slumping.
"Don't." I shake her roughly – her shoulders bounce and smack off the metal bottom of the wing. "Wake up! Miranda!"
Her eyes don't open. Her breathing doesn't change. Her head tilts, her milky neck craning backwards in what would be a painful position, were she conscious. I cradle her head and brace the back of her neck with my other hand, lowering her delicately.
"Miranda." Her chest rises and falls.
The shark fins cut a steady, never-ceasing circle.
I trace my fingertips along Miranda's silver bangs, pushing them out of her face.
"Not fair, Miranda."
With the sharks' unflagging dedication to consuming our flesh, no fish will reappear under our raft. My end is staring me directly in the eyes, gradual and grueling.
I squint searching for Miranda's large coat, forcing my sight to adjust to the dim reflection of the crescent moon. The stars have not deigned to make an appearance tonight, hiding behind the clouds and leaving the troposphere stark black -- like the universe knocked over a gargantuan pot of ink and the night sky sopped it all up.
I slip my body next to hers, grabbing the oversized coat and tugging it up to our necks. Her hair tickles my nose. I listen to her heart beating.
"Please wake up," I weep.
My Miranda is a clever woman, I'll give her that. On the island, she was terrified of me kicking the bucket and leaving her alone. She has successfully avoided that.
Only she accomplished it by being the one to leave me first.
How very cunning of her.
Chapter 15: Day 33
Still not rescued.
It's been a day and a half since Miranda slipped into unconsciousness. She has not woken since, no matter how much I've prodded her. She is as white and still as death.
This morning I grab her shoulder and give it a shake, because why not?
Miranda doesn't stir. She doesn't snore or roll away from me. Her head lolls to the side like a ragdoll's.
The sharks are still here. Ever since blood spilled into the salty sea, they've never been far. Not that they ever left before, although it seems to me like they're getting bored. Their telltale fins aren't always cutting the water surface, but if I squint, I never fail to catch one or two massive shadows lurking close to the surface.
Even without watching their sleek bodies move beneath the water, I have yet to see a single fish since the first appearance of a fin.
Other than that, the flat blue horizon is the same, except for a distant gathering of clouds. It's strange how the clouds have met there like they're having a meeting, leaving the rest of the sky clear to patiently discuss the pros and cons of forming a thunderstorm.
A shark fin glides nearby.
"To think I used to oppose shark finning," I inform Miranda snidely.
I tuck Miranda's silver hair behind her ear.
I lie beside her and wait.
The Devil Wears Prada
Did I ever tell you I named my imaginary diary after you?
Yup. That's what I did.
The Devil Wears Prada
A thunderous growl rolls across the ocean. I squint groggily. A storm is rumbling on the horizon. It forms harsh and black at a terrifying speed.
Cloud meeting adjourned, unanimous vote: thunderstorm. It's not moving. It hunches, scowling at the world.
I fall back into sleep.
The Devil Wears Prada
I need you.
The Devil Wears Prada
I’m startled into bright, screaming, throttling consciousness.
I'm three inches out of my seat. My seat belt is pinning me to the chair – but only barely. The plane is hurtling into a spiral, down, down, down.
A Filipino flight attendant pushes a drink cart next to me. “Water?” he offers. I glance at his name tag. Derrick.
“She's fine, she's busy,” Miranda answers for me. She is perched primly in her seat, full make-up done and not a hair out of place, unaffected by the gravity. “We're all fine. Everyone is fine. I hope we're not crashing?”
“We are, actually,” Derrick helpfully informs her. He points to the window. I follow his line of sight – the wing is gone, torn off.
I wake up.
I'm bobbing up and down. The water beneath the wing is decidedly tumultuous. The storm is almost on us, monstrously gigantic up close, filling the horizon from end to end with dark, grumbling clouds.
In the far heart of the storm, I see waves as high as a house. The sharks are agitated and darting around each other.
“We're not going to be able to hang on during this storm, Miranda.”
We have no rope to tie us down. Our metal rod for paddling fell overboard when we tipped. The sharks even ruined our damn plastic bag. Bizarrely we have managed to hang on to Miranda's fishing stick, which I doubt could ever pierce the hide of a shark.
“I think we're fucked, Miranda,” I tell her softly.
It's nothing that I hadn't realized. I'm tired. I want to rest my head on Miranda's shoulder and go back to sleep.
I don't want to deal with the storm. It's a futile, excruciating act to struggle to the bitter end when, in fact, to live is impossible.
I think carefully. I unfold the problem unhurriedly in my mind, taking time to consider every facet.
I think about the options in front of me. The lack of options, I should say.
I think about Miranda wanting to stay on that island, to drown with it. To stop thrashing around for once and be able to rest.
I want to rest so badly.
The Devil Wears Prada
The ocean is churning. The world is shady. The stormclouds are close and thundering.
I kiss Miranda on the lips. I can hear her protesting, even in unconsciousness.
"I have to," I tell her. "And... I love you." I kiss her again.
I pull away and sit upright. I scoot my body to the edge of the wing, and then I dip my feet into the water. I kick in the water.
I'm shaking violently.
The closest shark reacts so fast I can barely pull away.
For a horrifying split second, my ankles are in between it's top and bottom teeth, and I know it's going to snap down with the strength of a jaw the size of a german shepard.
Then I thrust Miranda's sharp stick into the roof of its mouth. My feet are back onto the wing in a flash. I stab it again.
The shark splashes into the water, performing a tight circle then moving back toward me, perhaps wanting a second round. The dark blood staining the water in his wake proves otherwise.
The ocean surface explodes into a pink foam. Teeth flash. An awful gargling sound comes from the center of the thrashing as the shark is ripped apart twelve different ways.
I waste no time. I frantically dip my hands into the water, paddling madly.
The storm is behind us, pushing us. We rock and churn and I paddle.
My entire stay on the island, I was weak. I couldn't move; I couldn't fetch my own water. I was foolish enough to believe in the faceless people who would lift us out of the rocks. The people never came, but I didn't stop believing in them and I blasted that hope onto Miranda. Sad, determined Miranda who hated to think about her girls and her life and all the moments she would never live.
Miranda was strong for both of us for a long time.
We're not going to survive. That undeniable knowledge is embedded deep inside my soul.
Her eyelids slip shut; tears slide from them like raindrops sliding down a windowpane. "You're dead. You're not real, are you?"
"I am real, Miranda," I vow as I paddle away from the rabid feeding frenzy. "And I'm never going to stop fighting for us." Whether we have a chance or not.
The Devil Wears Prada
The storm carries us far. We drift at a decent speed, rocking gently.
The sharks do not return. Maybe they lost the scent, or maybe they were disoriented by the storm.
Either way, I continue to paddle when I can.
Paddle, rest. Paddle, rest. My arms and shoulders burn. My vision blurs as the day grows longer. There have been no fish to spear. Paddle, rest. Paddle, rest.
When I'm resting I lie with Miranda. Just in case she feels like she's alone. I know I do.
The Devil Wears Prada
It's a thin, yellow line on the horizon. Blurry, but visible.
It's anticlimactic. It appears into my view nonchalantly, as if no great importance could possibly be attached to it. Like human lives don't depend on the existence of land on this Earth.
It sits matter-of-factly, as if Miranda and I haven't thrown every painful, bloody shred of our souls into finding it.
It's land. It's real.
“Miranda. Miranda, it's..." I don't know how to finish the sentence. I want to believe, yet I am haunted by the prospect of it being a mirage.
I close my eyes, will myself to be awake and open them again.
The yellow line remains.
I lean over the edge, scrounging energy from I-don't-know-where to sit up and dip my arms forcefully into the sea. “Row," I tell myself. "For god's sake, Andrea, row.”
I'm already rowing, and I don't plan on ever stopping.
Day: 34 (Epilogue)
I am rescued.
By rescued, I don't mean someone else did it.
We did it, Miranda and I. We rescued ourselves, others be damned.
It’s hard to believe that there was ever a day without Miranda. One day I was sitting on an airplane disgusted with my dedication to her, when every idea bearing the signature and essence of Miranda overloaded my senses with repugnance, and in another day, another place… she became my entire life.
I couldn’t help but come to love her.
If I had washed ashore with a person who had abandoned me, left me to die and lived on the other side of the island as I fended for myself… perhaps I could not have helped but love them, either. To beg them to speak to me. To give over everything I owned and was to that person, in exchange for a little portion of themselves to hold on to.
It's after midnight at the American Embassy in Tokyo.
I’m watching a Japanese-dubbed version of The Office.
I have no idea what's going on. It’s pretty funny.
“Did that woman mention when we'll be receiving real food?”
“Nope.” I take a hearty swig of milk water as Miranda eyes her bottle with disdain. Nevertheless, she sips it. It's her fifth bottle. The Japanese doctors say her unconsciousness probably did her a lot of good.
Unlike me. They've already forced eight bottles down my throat, whereas Miranda is sipping at her leisure.
We're too delicate to eat food, apparently, to my stomach's distress.
“I dropped you onto a rock on accident,” Miranda suddenly blurts out. She stares hard at the large oak-finished door that leads into the office we're currently sitting in, pursing her lips.
“Um,” I say. “That's okay.” Then she waves a hand vaguely at my stomach. “Oh. Oh. That's, um. That's still okay.”
“I flew back to New York so I could be at Stephen's wedding. I didn't know about it until that morning. He didn't invite me. I don't know what I was going to do when I got there, precisely. All I knew was that he didn't want me there enough to schedule it in secret on a date when I was out of the country. So I had to spite him.”
I don't feel anything about that. What's done is done. We're alive.
“Would it be in bad taste to say you probably crashed his wedding anyway, in absentia?”
“Well yes,” Miranda smirks, “but I wouldn't expect anything less from you.”
I watch her throat as she swallows. “And... We... I need to know...” she trails off uncertainly, searching for words.
“I meant everything,” I tell her fiercely.
“And I as well, of course” she says readily as the nervousness falls off of her. A smile spreads slowly on her face. I'm not sure she realizes it's there. “I don't suppose there's anything you need to get off your chest, to make this conversation feel more even-sided?”
“Nope.” I flash my teeth at her.
“What happened with the sharks?” she questions curiously.
“Well...” I feel my face start to burn. "Uh, I may have, um... used myself as bait and stabbed a shark. And it started bleeding and all the other sharks went insane and started eating it, and I paddled as--"
Miranda pulls me into a hard, desperate kiss. I taste her lips, reveling in the warm burning in my chest that only Miranda and her sweet-tasting kisses have ever given me.
A Japanese woman in a pantsuit knocks on the door then pops her head in. “The ambassador be with you in a minute,” she chirps, then pops out.
Soon an American will walk through the door and sit behind this pretentiously enormous desk and ask us to recount everything that's occurred. Every action Miranda and I have taken to survive, hard-pressed, cruel and sometimes savage, will be minimized into words. An interesting story, mildly astonishing and easily forgettable.
Miranda takes her seat gracefully beside me and crosses her legs, examining the ins and outs of the office decor with a critical eye. “I'll do the talking.”
I flash her a smile. Not because I'm appreciative of her take charge attitude, though I am. I'm charmed by her protectiveness, even now. She doesn't need to protect me anymore.
I'll let her, but I don't need it anymore.
I pull her chin toward me and press my lips against hers. Miranda gasps – then her eyes flutter shut.
I make a silent promise to Miranda.
It's the most important lesson that the island – and Miranda – have taught me. The most important promises are the ones you don't utter aloud. The ones made to others without saying a word, and the ones you make to yourself, are the most holy. They're the ones that are a sin to break.
I will be as strong for Miranda as she was for me.
I will not give up on her. Never.
I make these promises to Miranda without a sound, then take her cold hand and clasp it in mine.
“We're going home,” I swear to her, and Miranda squeezes my fingers. Her gaze locks on mine, her eyes flashing bright and full of hope. Eyes like she believes me.
Author redcharcoal wrote a stunning sequel titled Somewhere Progressive, it's amazing, emotional and humbling to read, and frankly she tackles the ramifications of Miranda and Andy returning home with a depth I could never have achieved. I really, really encourage you to check it out (on FFN or her LJ), because it is beyond incredible.