Miranda’s eyes widen. The light in her apartment flickers, nearly dies, before buzzing back to life.
Brown eyes peer at her from inside the circle Miranda had hastily drawn.
Miranda takes her in; she is beautiful. So beautiful Miranda almost forgets what she is. “What should I call you?” Her voice doesn’t tremble but her frame is stiff with fear. She didn’t think this would actually work; and how resistant is a salt circle really?
“You, Miranda Priestly,” she rolls the name in her mouth, tasting it, savoring it, before letting it into the room, “can call me whatever you’d like.” The smile that follows is radiant.
Miranda loses herself in the eyes, the mouth, the face. “An—” She opens her lips to name the creature before her, but the last whisper of her sanity and self-preservation remind her of her grandmother’s warnings about the naming of unknown things. “I will not name you.”
Her laughter is soft and airy, full or mirth. Miranda is enraptured. “Suit yourself.” She toes the line of salt, hissing softly when she goes too far. She looks up at Miranda, eyes creased happily, mouth set in a wide smile. “Call me Andy.”
“Andrea,” Miranda corrects the name immediately, without thought. She snaps her mouth shut and stares.
“I’ll be Andrea for you,” the smile seems genuine. “Now,” she paces inside the circle, “why have you summoned me?”
Miranda’s heart flutters. “I need you to ruin several men for me,” she says into the space between them, nerves making her voice almost too soft to hear.
Andy stops, smile turning wicked. “I do so love ruining men.”
Miranda paces in front of the empty circle. “Why isn’t this working?” Her frustration punctuated with each step.
Soft singing from her girls’ nursery pulls her from her thoughts. Cold terror grips Miranda. She forces her legs to take her to her girls. She fights against the fear rushing in her veins, constricting her chest, making her faint.
At the threshold of the nursery, she relaxes marginally but the hair on the back of her neck doesn’t go down.
Andy’s big brown eyes turn to her. Her face is soft and Miranda almost lets her guard down. But, Caroline’s little hand is holding tightly to Andy’s finger.
Miranda doesn’t take her eyes off Andy as she moves quickly through the room. She ignores the pressing urgency to flee.
Andy’s singing has stopped.
The silence fills Miranda with dread.
Caroline finally releases Andy’s finger and curls into her sister for warmth. Andy steps away from the crib and Miranda immediately moves between her children and the thing she has allowed into her house.
Andy smiles wanly, sad almost, and walks out of the room.
Miranda follows, closing the door firmly behind her. She slumps against it, blue eyes watching Andy closely.
Andy turns. Her eyes look ancient to Miranda in that moment. There’s an air of gravity and importance in Andy’s presence that makes Miranda straighten off the door.
“I would never harm a child.”
Miranda believes her without question. The relief that washes over her is immediate, on the edge of distressing in its intensity. She laughs to keep herself from crying.
Andy softens and her smile shines brightly from her face again. “You called?” She jumps easily to sit on the banister, her eyebrows raised in curiosity.
“Why aren’t you in the circle?” Miranda asks. She waves to her study down the hall, inviting Andy.
“That doesn’t actually hold me,” her smile is pleased, shy almost, when Miranda hands her a drink and she settles into a chair.
“Last time it did.”
“Oh that,” Andy waves her hand dismissively, “no, that was to make you feel comfortable.” Her brown eyes light up with mirth. “I can’t recall who you were trying to summon, but they weren’t coming, so I filled in.”
“Why?” Miranda watches Andy with impassive features.
“I was bored,” honesty seems simplest. “You caught my eye.”
“What do you want?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
“Are you dangerous?”
“Yes.” It’s simple and true.
“Not directly,” she shrugs, “not my thing.”
Miranda tips her drink back and finishes it off. “What do I owe you for your…services?”
“I have taken pleasure in ruining men for you. They have all deserved it.” Andy watches Miranda closely. “You want to clear your ledger? Now that you have children?”
Miranda returns the regard. She nods feeling no need to obfuscate.
Andy stands and refills their alcohol. “Let’s start with another drink and a conversation.”
“They are beautiful,” Andy says from the threshold.
Miranda is only mildly startled. Her visits are frequent and at all hours. She finishes tucking each girl in for the night.
They walk silently through the house. Miranda considers stopping in the living room but keeps walking to the kitchen, where she busies herself making tea.
Andy follows. She leans on the counter and waits.
“I’ve heard you singing to them, when they wake up at night.” Mirada’s back is turned, her frame rigid. She’s accusing Andy but she’s not sure of what. She’s angry and exhausted and Andy is here with her ageless face, and her deep brown eyes, and her steady presence.
“Only when they’re sad and you’re too exhausted to force yourself out of bed,” Andy soothes. She steps closer.
Miranda bows her head in defeat. “That has been quite often lately.” A warm hand on her shoulder makes the last of her reserves crumble and she turns into Andy. Miranda doesn’t cry but she holds on desperately. She allows Andy’s warm, soft, solid presence dispel the emptiness left by an absent husband and father.
Andy easily melts into the embrace. She hums soft nothings and gently rocks them.
Miranda comes back to herself slowly and then quickly. She becomes acutely away of Andy’s body pressed against her, of her scent, of her entirely. Embarrassment at showing vulnerability, and at whatever she’s feeling now, flushes her chest and neck. She pulls back. And all she see’s is Andy’s guileless face and her lips giving a gentle smile.
They’re close enough that Miranda feels Andy’s breathing. And for one tiny moment, Miranda wonders what would happen if she closed the distance between their lips.
“I will watch over you tonight,” Andy offers, hands holding Miranda’s.
Miranda nods and invites Andy to her room for the first time.
“Are you here to collect?” Miranda stares into the shadows of her dimly lit hotel room.
She remembers a much dingier room that never had enough light to dispel the shadows at night.
“Hardly,” Andy scoffs. She steps out from the shadows. The Parisian backdrop in the window behind her make her entrance more dramatic.
Miranda smiles at the tone of offense. “You would need to get in line. It seems all my debts are being collected concurrently.”
Andy approaches Miranda and takes her hands gently. Her eyes are soft and deep and Miranda wants to fall into them. “Do you want me to ruin Irv and Stephen?” Her face is earnest and her offer is real.
Miranda hears the words distantly but her focus is on the warmth of Andy’s hands in her own. She doesn’t fear her anymore, but a thrill of excitement still shoots through her every time she appears. And it is always more pronounced whenever they touch. She is less and less sure what to do with the feeling.
“Why have you stayed?” Miranda asks instead of answering. The space between them shrinks. Her eyes fall to Andy’s lips. “Why keep coming back?” She squeezes their joined hands to remind herself that Andy is real. “Why me?”
Something shifts between them in that moment, a mood or a feeling or a realization. But, it’s enough for Miranda to look at Andy differently.
“Curiosity,” the answer comes too quickly. Miranda knows it’s a half-truth at best.
“Maybe at first,” she presses, “but why stay, why keep coming back, for thirty years?”
For the first time in Miranda’s remembrance, Andy looks nervous. It makes butterflies erupt in her stomach.
The room is quiet, muted almost, or holding its breath, filling the atmosphere with anticipation.
“You changed my name,” Andy’s eyes hold hers. Miranda remembers. It had felt reckless and momentous…and binding.
“You changed mine first,” Miranda whispers. She remembers how it felt like being reborn when Andy rolled her name off her tongue. She remembers every moment since with Andy. Miranda’s world settles. She lifts a hand and traces Andy’s jaw before cradling her cheek. “Andrea, may I…”
Andy’s yes is swallowed up between their lips.