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A Happier Year

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Miranda Priestly has never dated a woman before, but she’s worried that she might be dating Andrea Sachs. It’s not that women are a foreign concept. In the early nineties, Miranda fucked a lot of women. No delicacy, no grace--when given the opportunity, she’d bang a woman and leave. With permission, but still.

Now she’s fifty-one years old, and her gynecologist is the only woman who’s seen Miranda even partially naked. Miranda may have fucked a lot of women (seven of them, she sometimes counts) but no woman has ever fucked Miranda.

Perhaps appropriately enough, Andrea is the only woman who’s ever even seen Miranda without any make-up. But that was over two years ago, and there were extenuating circumstances. That night was not a dating situation, nor was it a fucking situation.

Tonight is the former. Miranda and Andrea have been out to dinner three times, and tonight makes four, since Andrea called her out of the blue on a Wednesday afternoon one month before. Andrea Sachs is now an established name in journalistic circles, and Miranda has had at least five assistants since the year 2006, so Emily--no, Becky--had no way of knowing that Andrea’s call ought to have been screened.

They were barely past the hellos when Andrea had asked, so smoothly and suddenly, about Miranda’s happiness. “Have you had a happy year so far?”

It was mid-January; the question was excusable. “Ah,” Miranda said brilliantly. “I’m not sure yet.”

“I’d really like to see you for dinner.”

Andrea paid for their Indian food. A week later, Miranda paid for French, at Pastis. A week after that, Japanese, thanks to Andrea’s wallet.

Tonight, they are leaving Pastis together for the second time. (It was Andrea who requested a repeat visit, and ordered the same macaroni au gratin that she’d tried two weeks prior.) Miranda reaches into her bag for her phone, ready to call for the car.

“No,” Andrea says, the word a visible puff in the frigid air. “Wait.”

“Yes?” Miranda says, smiling. Andrea is so beautiful tonight. Her dark hair falls perfectly against the back of her long, cream-colored wool coat, which fits trimly against her body and ties with a sash. Her cheeks are pink, but the rest of her face is pale, and Miranda imagines the combination continuing down her body. Pink and pale, pink and pale.

“Kiss me first,” Andrea says, and Miranda feels the smile fall out of her face in an instant.

“Why?” Miranda asks. Stupid, she thinks, berating herself.

Andrea looks at her very seriously. “Because you’re gay, Miranda, and I really want you to kiss me.”

Miranda has never used that word to describe herself, not out loud. None of the women she fucked did, either. She’s sure some of those women identify that way themselves, and certainly did at the time. But they couldn’t touch her--not with their fingers, not with that word.

“Not here,” Miranda says quietly. She steps away from Andrea and calls for the car. When it arrives, they both get inside. The car pulls up to Andrea’s apartment building, and Andrea looks at Miranda with her eyebrows raised.

“Wait here a moment, please,” Miranda says to the driver. Andrea sighs.

In Andrea’s living room, lamp-lit and filled with books, Miranda refuses to let herself look around for more than a second. Her daughters used to do that, on Christmas morning: allow themselves a single peek at the tree before the family gathered, but nothing more.

Still standing by the door, Miranda leans close and kisses Andrea on the lips. One kiss, firm but quick. A kiss like the look she just gave Andrea’s apartment.

“No,” Andrea says, shaking her head for emphasis. “More.” She grabs Miranda by the shoulders and heaves her closer. This time, Andrea’s tongue is involved. This kiss is warm, and Miranda shivers. Winter plus good kiss.

“Your chariot awaits,” Andrea says dryly, just as Miranda starts to let herself consider what else might happen tonight. She drops her voice to a whisper and adds, “Anyway, Lily--my roommate--is home.”

“Dinner next week,” Miranda hears herself say.

“Can it be sooner?”

“Not this week,” Miranda says, with real regret. “But the week after is less impossible.”

In bed that night, Miranda considers 1991 and 1992. She’d been in New York a long time by then. She was in publishing, but no one would have thought to sleep with Miranda with the hope of getting a raise or a promotion. No one was going to feel pressured to change their style to suit Miranda’s because they’d slept with her; likewise, no one was going to expect their work to be featured in a magazine.

In her head, she names the seven women--authors and designers and chefs, and one young mother, Miranda’s only regret, though she was so much younger then--in chronological order. Penelope, Susan, Mary Ann, Tina, Rebekah, Laura, Claire. One time each, except for Claire, the children’s book illustrator. Claire seemed to appreciate Miranda’s style; when it came to “love ‘em and leave ‘em,” she heard the “love ‘em” part more loudly. She asked Miranda out for coffee the week Miranda got editor-in-chief: the week, not coincidentally, that Miranda very firmly told herself, No more women.

The irony that a string of beautiful young assistants comes with the editor-in-chief job is not lost on Miranda, who has for years kept her hands carefully to herself while making business deals with men, and planning how to dress a hundred women in a week. She’s been fine. She has not been entirely unfulfilled. Look at her daughters, look at her magazine. She is an undeniably successful woman. It’s been sixteen years since she’s felt the way she does tonight--or maybe she’s never felt quite this way before. She touches her lips with her fingertips, and sticks her other hand into her underwear, but after that she doesn’t move. She stays very still.

She and Andrea keep seeing each other. Dinner, kiss; dinner, kiss; like clockwork. Something stops Miranda from bringing Andrea home on a night the twins are with the father. She’s sure, by now, that she could ask. She could bring her home, lead her up to the bedroom, remove her clothes, and do whatever she wants.

Instead, she and Andrea spend a lot of time out. They go to matinees, take in concerts, and eat a million dinners. Andrea doesn’t press the matter, except for right after they kiss. “You’re beautiful,” she sometimes murmurs. Other times, it’s “I like you,” or “Tell me what you want.”

But Miranda never tells her anything in those moments.

One Saturday, they meet for a late lunch and then go to the Met. Later, neither of them will be able to remember whose idea it was, but they stay for hours, not knowing how to decide when to move on. The galleries don’t clear until nearly 9 p.m. on Saturdays, and they take advantage, staying long past the point of museum-tiredness. In some rooms, their pace matches, and if a thought about a painting or sculpture occurs to one, she shares it with the other. In other rooms, one gets ahead, so they end up meeting each other over and over again.

They are among the last to leave, and their heels echo against the marble as they approach the exit. “Will you come home with me?” Andrea asks softly. She places a hand against the back of Miranda’s shoulder.

Miranda nods her assent. The girls aren’t home this weekend, but she wants to go to Andrea’s. They hail a taxi, and Miranda breathes great gulps of fresh air before and after the journey. It’s early spring, her favorite air, and she must remember the way tonight smells.

Even from down the hallway, it’s obvious from the sounds of laughter, bass, and enthusiastic conversation that Andrea’s apartment is full of people. “Sorry in advance,” Andrea says offhandedly, and Miranda is annoyed, but they proceed inside.

A pretty woman, who’s seated at the kitchen table with at least eight others, looks up as soon as they walk in. She catches Andrea’s eye with a smile, and Miranda decides this must be Lily. But none of the other guests, all deeply engrossed in their Pabst Blue Ribbon and game of Apples to Apples, seem to notice that anyone has arrived. Andrea holds a finger to her lips, Lily nods, and Miranda follows Andrea straight to her bedroom.

Miranda lets herself see that it’s a lovely room. It’s small, but it contains little more than a full-sized bed, so the space is not cramped. The walls are the color of dusk, somewhere between purple and grey, and Andrea’s bedspread is charcoal. It looks soft.

Andrea sits on the foot of her bed and kicks off her shoes. Miranda remains standing. “You’re a great friend,” Andrea says unexpectedly. “And I love you.”

A voice that seems to emanate from Miranda’s chest says, Don’t fuck up. “I love you,” Miranda replies. It feels impossibly good to finally say it.

Andrea smiles. “Come here,” she says, and lies back as Miranda sits down, pulling Miranda’s arm until she lies down, too. Miranda is sure her heartbeat is audible. Andrea has no idea how new this is, and can’t know unless Miranda tells her.

“I’m not sure--” Miranda starts. “I want--”

Andrea asks her to sit up a little, then wedges two pillows beneath Miranda’s head. “Thank you for being here,” she says quietly. “Don’t worry about anybody out there.” For the first time in minutes, Miranda hears the party. “It’s just us here.” Andrea reaches out a finger and runs it down the row of buttons on Miranda’s white blouse. “Can I unbutton these?” Miranda nods, and closes her eyes, feeling the slightly cool air in Andrea’s room hit her skin inch by inch. She lifts up again, eyes still closed, so Andrea can remove the shirt entirely. “How about the rest of your clothes?” Miranda nods again. She wills herself not to shake, and partially succeeds.

That done, Andrea quickly undresses herself, and they settle against the pillows again. Andrea runs her finger over Miranda’s ribs, counting under her breath. She plays with Miranda’s breasts for so long that Miranda almost forgets it’s the first time they’ve been together like this. Andrea brushes a fingertip against one nipple and then the other, and Miranda lets out a little moan. “Be as loud as you want,” Andrea encourages. “Loud or quiet, doesn’t matter.”

Miranda can feel how wet she is. She has worried: too wet or too dry, too much feeling or too little. Everything about this moment is decidedly much. “Touch me,” she says, before Andrea can ask.

Andrea is too gentle at first, so Miranda says “harder,” and like that, she has the three fingers she wants, and a thumb against her clit. Soon the sheets are soaked beneath her thighs. She whimpers, so soft it’s probably louder inside her head than out, and comes. The orgasm sings up her stomach and travels into her legs. Suddenly Andrea’s mouth is on Miranda’s, her fingers still buried inside her.

Later, after they disentangle and spend a few moments relearning the lost art of breathing, Miranda fucks Andrea. She moves quickly, then slowly, then quickly again. She knows exactly how.

Miranda is almost asleep when she hears Andrea’s voice. “C’mon. The guests have gone now, so we can get ready for bed. You have to get dressed for a second. But only for a second.” What’s this if not bed? Miranda thinks. But she concedes that her mouth could use some toothpaste, and she supposes she’d like to wash her face.

Once they’re in the bathroom, Andrea says sheepishly, “Don’t make fun of me, but I bought you a toothbrush, like, a month ago.” Miranda smiles. “And here, you can use my face wash.”

Andrea quickly brushes her teeth and washes her face, then leaves Miranda some privacy. After scrubbing, Miranda scrutinizes her face in the small square mirror that hangs over the sink. She usually doesn’t mind how she looks. But tonight she has been given this happiness, and it makes her feel old. She’s glad for the dark when she returns to the bedroom.

“Are you gay?” she asks Andrea as they curl together for sleep.

Andrea giggles a little. “Yeah, mostly. I think you’re hot, and isn’t that the most important thing?”

In the morning, there’s a crash in the kitchen, followed several minutes later by the slamming of a door. “Lily’s hungover,” Andrea explains. “And she works Sundays.”

Sunday. Miranda can relax. They shower together, and afterwards Miranda wants to put on make-up and get dressed right away. She wants to look like the self that Andrea knows. But Andrea kisses her and reminds her that they missed dinner last night. “And we are champions of dinner,” Andrea says. “Something important must’ve come up. Anyway, let’s make breakfast.” It turns into a whole day of that. The crossword is more important than make-up. So is more sex. So is lunch. So is a movie on TV. When Lily comes back from work, the movie ended an hour ago and they’re making out on the couch. Andrea's lips are so soft against Miranda's bare face, and they don’t quite pull away in time to avoid getting caught.

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Miranda,” Lily says warmly, and Miranda realizes that while they’ve been seen, they haven’t been caught at all.