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The Diamond Eye

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Miranda Priestly made the rules in her saloon. Any man who set foot inside the walls of the Diamond Eye either followed those rules or got the business end of a shotgun right up close.

So far, she’d only had to shoot two patrons: one for refusing to pay up at the end of a very long week of drinking, another for attempting to violate one of her girls. The first got lucky with a graze to the shoulder, and he’d been paying his tab every night since then. The other was buried two miles down the road in an unmarked grave, dug in the middle of the night by her barman and piano player. No one had come looking for the bastard, including the sheriff, who’d been her only concern. While she hadn’t intended to kill him outright, in the end she wasn’t sorry she’d done it.

She occasionally wondered what her old friends in Boston would say if they saw her wielding a firearm, much less putting it to use. She could almost hear their astonished voices, see their stunned expressions. It gave her an enormous sense of satisfaction.

Her reputation in this gold rush town was pristine. She commanded respect everywhere she went. More than one man had tried to court her, but after the death of her husband in Boston eight years before she had no interest in male companionship. Her time was dedicated to running the business. She did not need romance, nor would she likely find it with anyone who darkened the doorway of her saloon. Most men she typically came into contact with were rough. Uneducated. Filthy, not to mention foul-smelling. She would rather tend to her own needs rather than try to make a match at her advanced age. Not that anyone in town knew she was nearly forty-seven. With her snow white hair and pristine skin, she presented a mysterious combination of maturity and youth, an ageless sophistication. Unlike many other women in this part of the country, she was fortunate to have a profession that kept her out of the sun and the wind.

She worked hard to maintain her youthful appearance. And while Miranda’s regal bearing was bred from birth, her continued success was all due to hard work.

Only her girls saw a softer side, rarely. They took the stage for her each night and in return she paid them, fed them, gave them a home. They lived in the rooms built above the stage, while Miranda’s quarters were at the opposite end of the building. Because of her proximity, she knew much of what went on between the girls and interested patrons. She’d laid down two limits: no pregnancies and no marriages. If a girl got married, she went her own way. It was easier for everyone; the last thing Miranda needed was a jealous husband busting down her door when a cowboy pawed his property.

It was a good solution. The girls were careful, or they’d come to Miranda and confess that they were bound to leave after becoming engaged. With each departure Miranda wondered how many girls would have regrets after they’d grown bored with a quiet life and no career other than motherhood and homemaking. Miranda had been lucky; her husband’s investments provided the capital to purchase land and build her saloon from the ground up. Her own parents were long dead, but their money had been a boon as well. Her financial independence allowed her to leave Boston behind once she grew tired of the monotony of decadence and snobbery. Business fueled her. Work was passion. Providing an opportunity for women who might otherwise be struck down by poverty or starvation was thrilling. This was a life she’d created for herself and she would not have it any other way.

She could use a stroke of luck, though. She’d lost two girls in the last three weeks, one to a marriage and the other to an angry father who’d traveled hundreds of miles to retrieve his runaway teenage daughter. Miranda didn’t blame him. The man had been furious, but Miranda explained that had his child fallen in with any other proprietor, there was no telling what may have happened. As it was, the girl spent two months dancing, so Miranda made sure to slip her the last week’s pay before she’d departed. Could she have kept the money? Of course. But she didn’t really need it. Since business was booming her bank account was well in hand. And one never knew when generosity might come back around.

Seven girls was not enough. Sophie had been the best singer of the bunch. It was tough to find talent in a place like this. Sure, she could probably find a hoofer or two to stomp around and shake her rump, but Miranda wanted more than that. The men would get tired of watching the same old thing. Wouldn’t they?

She considered it. Perhaps they would not. Men had simple tastes. Breasts, bottoms, legs. Sex. Even the mere suggestion of it was enough to bring them to her door. Well, that and the liquor.

She looked down at the books and nodded slightly. She would have to wait and see.

===

Andy stood in front of the swinging doors of the Diamond Eye. This was her best chance at staying in California, and she quivered with anxiety. She’d heard tell of the virago at the saloon’s helm from various people she’d come into contact with. Betty Jenkins, who ran the boarding house where Andy was staying, declared that she’d seen the woman cut down a man twice her size with just the sound of her voice. Andy had a hard time believing that, but at least it prepared her for what she might experience if she walked through those doors.

When, she reminded herself. When she walked through those doors.

She smoothed back a few loose strands of hair and straightened her hat. Her current ensemble of high-necked blouse and ankle-length skirt might not present the ideal image of a dance-hall girl, but it was all Andy had. No use in getting riled up about it now. Best just to walk through and get it over with.

Up the three stairs and through the doors she went. The place was empty except for a woman with white hair seated at one of the back tables. When she glanced up at Andy’s noisy entrance, Andy immediately realized that Betty had not exaggerated this woman’s presence.

“Yes?” the woman said.

“Ms. Priestly?” Andy asked, her voice barely loud enough to reach across the room.

The woman stood. Her dark red dress was elegant and simple, cut low across the bosom and reaching all the way to the floor. Andy trembled. She was utterly beautiful; Andy found it difficult to speak.

“I am Miranda Priestly. And who might you be?”

Andy swallowed against a dry throat. “My name is Andrea Sachs. I’m looking for work.”

Miranda came closer, looking over Andy’s clothing with a critical eye. “Work. I don’t run the local schoolhouse, Miss Sachs. If you’re aiming to teach, you’re in the wrong place.”

“No, ma’am,” Andy replied, remembering her plight. “I want to be a dancer in your establishment. I’ve got some training and I’d fit right in.” It wasn’t really a lie; ballet classes till she was twelve had given her some semblance of grace. She’d waltzed with Jefferson at a hundred parties back home, not that she’d enjoyed any of them.

Miranda was just a few feet away. Andy felt weak with nerves. “A dancer.” Miranda tilted her head, still focused on Andy’s hips. “Lift your skirt.”

Startled, Andy’s eyes widened. “Pardon me?”

When Miranda’s eyes met her own, Andy realized they were the brightest blue she’d ever seen. “Lift your skirt,” Miranda repeated slowly. “I want to see your legs. The men will see more than that if you’re serious about working here.”

“Oh. Of course.” Repressing her modesty, Andy leaned over and pulled her skirts up, revealing her trail-worn boots and stockings. She paused just at the knee and Miranda inspected her carefully.

Miranda nodded. “Fair enough. You’ll have to fix your hair. The girls will make you up. Can you sing?”

Andy could barely keep up with Miranda’s words. She had the job already? “Uh, a little.”

“Let’s hear it.”

Frozen with fear, Andy cleared her throat. Back home she sang all the time, while her mother played the pianoforte and her sister joined her. She’d performed at events with songs from Italian and French operas. But memories of those experiences fled as Miranda Priestly watched her like a hawk. She wouldn’t choose a church hymn; that seemed unsuitable for her surroundings. A tune she’d learned on the journey here came to mind. “I’ve traveled the mountains all over,” she began, but her voice wobbled nervously. “And now to the valleys I’ll go, and live like a pig in the clover, in sight of huge mountains of snow…”

When Miranda waved her hand, Andy stopped. “A little,” Miranda said flatly. “No matter. I need someone and you’re here. You put on a show with the other girls six nights a week, dance with the men, and bring them to the bar when you’re through. You get a share of the money from every drink they buy, both for themselves and you.”

Andy was uncertain at that. “I have to drink liquor?”

Miranda rolled her eyes. “My girls don’t drink on the job. You’re welcome to indulge at other times, but on the floor you drink tea or lemonade. You get room and board, plus two dollars a week’s salary.”

Two dollars wasn’t very much, but if Andy was getting a commission, plus rent, she could save plenty. It seemed reasonable. And it wasn’t prostitution. “I’ll take it.”

“Good,” Miranda said with a short nod. “The girls are upstairs. You’ll stay with Lily, in the last room on the left. Can you carry all your things on your own?”

Andy nodded vigorously. “Oh yes. I don’t have very much.”

With narrowed eyes, Miranda stared at her. Andy shivered. “What brought you west, Andrea?”

“I—” A cascade of ideas flew through Andy’s head. I want to be a writer. I don’t love the boy I’m supposed to marry. I don't love boys at all. There’s something wrong with me. The last thought Andy would never voice to another living soul; she wouldn’t be able to run far enough from anywhere to escape that. “I wanted an adventure. This town seemed as good as any other. The school doesn’t need a teacher. My boarding house costs too much to stay longer.”

Miranda touched her upper lip with the tip of her index finger. “You’re not in any trouble are you? Because I don’t need trouble. I have enough already.”

Andy shook her head. “None at all, Ms. Priestly.” Jefferson or her father would never be able to find her. She’d left no trail when she took off from Boston six months ago and California was a wide open space. “I’m not pretty enough to cause trouble, ma’am. Surely you can see that.”

Miranda didn’t answer. Instead she walked away and returned to her work table once more. “You may call me Miranda. Be ready for tonight by 7.”

Andy smiled, exhaling in relief. “Thank you Ms. Priestly. Miranda. You won’t regret it.”

Miranda didn’t answer. Andy turned around and flew through the saloon doors. Even under her hat the sun was so bright it blinded her, but she didn’t mind. This was her first job. A sense of unimaginable freedom and wonder settled over her. She would survive, no, succeed, in this far-off town. And she would write, secretly. Somehow, she would do it.

===

Miranda had already forgotten the new dancer she’d hired today until she saw eight girls gathering on the stage instead of seven. The young woman was pretty, despite her protestations. Miranda wondered how much attention she’d attract. Her voice was only average, which was unfortunate, but her legs were another matter altogether. Miranda would have to watch out for her at the beginning until she learned how to handle herself.

The red velvet curtains were still closed but the bar was already full tonight; it was Friday and Miranda was about to make a good deal of money.

Which one was the new girl? Miranda recognized the fine pair of calves from behind, but until she was out front, she would not be able to tell if the other girls had helped transform her into a beauty.

She tapped Geoffrey on the shoulder. He tipped his hat as he did each night before he opened the curtains.

Nigel hit his first few notes on the piano. The rabble quieted as Miranda left the backstage area to join her patrons for the performance.

As a rule, Miranda only drank after business hours. That did not leave her much time to enjoy the merits of fine liquor, but she needed to keep her head. She was already looking forward to a whiskey later. The day had been long as she calculated and doled out the week’s pay for her employees. Since they’d had an excellent month, Miranda had quietly ordered silks and other materials from Paris just yesterday for new costumes. The miners wouldn’t care, but Miranda did.

She nodded to her barman, Roy, who poured her a glass of tea. The color was right in line with alcohol and no one questioned her about it. From her usual table, Miranda sat and watched as the girls began their routine.

They started with a common song, popular amongst the men today. Spotting the new girl, the unusual name of Andrea popped into Miranda’s head. There was something so changed about her face, her hair, that it stopped Miranda’s breath.

Where had the shy schoolmarm gone?

Miranda barely recognized this girl, who moved like liquid. She was relaxed and cool on the stage, as though dangling herself just out of reach. She sang, or at least mouthed the words, her generous mouth painted a dark red. She even kicked along with the other girls in perfect unison as she danced. How on Earth had she learned the routine so quickly?

And that face. Smoky eyes focused on the patrons, many of whom leaned forward in their chairs with unabashed interest. Andrea’s expression made no promises, but spoke of secrets she would reveal only to the highest bidder. When she smiled for the first time, Miranda felt the frisson of energy that rippled over every man in the room.

Miranda was rarely surprised by anything. Andrea had seemed so plain earlier that day, so small and jittery. But under the limelight, the girl positively glowed. By the time the first song was done the crowd was hooting and hollering for more. The other girls patted Andrea on the back, and after a moment, they started anew.

Miranda watched closely. The glow from the stage did not fade with the passing minutes, instead growing stronger. She was startled when Roy leaned close. “That’s a pretty new girl, Miss Miranda. Where’d ya find her?”

Blinking steadily, Miranda replied, “She found me.” After another moment, she came back to herself. “Hands off, Roy. She’s only just started.”

Roy leaned back. He picked up a glass and dried it with his towel. “Yes ma’am.”

Placated, Miranda went back to observing the remarkable affect Andrea had on the place and everyone in it. Including herself.

After twenty minutes the performance came to an end, so the girls came down off the stage to dance with the men. They each had tickets to sell for dances and instantly Andrea was swarmed with interested parties. Up close she was just as beautiful, just as magnetic. It had not been a trick of the light. There was something that unnerved Miranda about her beauty, something that made her belly twist and clench.

When her dance tickets were sold in less than two minutes, Miranda recognized jealousy amongst some of the other girls. Time for damage control. Emily, one of the most successful of her dancers, was surly as she watched Andrea swept off onto the floor by a handsome, if dirty miner. “Emily,” Miranda said firmly.

“Hmm?” she said distantly, still watching the new girl.

“Concentrate on yourself. Andrea is a novelty. You remember your first day, don’t you?” Something similar had happened when Emily came to work for Miranda, but they both knew it hadn’t been like this.

“Yes, Miranda.” Emily flounced off and gave a familiar miner her biggest smile. He promptly bought a ticket.

Miranda glanced over at Andrea again. She chatted as she danced, her partner clearly besotted. So were half a dozen others who were waiting for the next song. Miranda would have to notify Geoffrey and Roy to monitor the situation; things could get out of hand.

Briefly, Andrea caught Miranda’s eye and looked nervous. Her dark head tilted, as though searching for approval. When Miranda nodded slightly, she was rewarded with a beaming smile.

Yes, Miranda would have to watch out for this one.

===

By midnight, Andy was exhausted. She’d had to use the privy out back a few times too, because she drank more sweet tea in three hours than she’d ever had in her life. She’d worked off a lot of it though; the lights were hot and dancing around the stage required loads of energy. Not to mention the turns around the floor with the men.

She was surprised they’d been so polite, almost reverential. Not just to her, but to all the girls. Andy wondered how much of that attitude was due to Miranda’s iron fist, or just because they saw women so rarely. They’d spoken of their sisters, their mothers, their dreams of making a big find. Some wanted to bring their families west. Others were only out for themselves. A few even tried to have long-distance relationships with sweethearts back home, although the mail took so long that it was difficult. Andy really felt for them, but her sympathies only ran so deep. With each dollar they spent at the bar, she felt a little cheer come back to her heart.

The last weeks had been painful, starting when Andy realized that she wouldn’t find work at the school in town or anywhere else. She didn’t even have enough money to get back home if she wanted to. Not that she did, but without the option, she was trapped.

Andy knew where the town’s bordello was located, not far from the saloon. Everyone in town knew where it was. She tried not to pay attention when she spotted Miss Delilah’s in the distance, turning away when men walked into the unknown mysteries beyond. It gave her a little shiver to think about what went on there. Andy was ashamed that her curiosity wasn’t entirely innocent. Though she knew little of sex, her church had taught her that prostitution was wrong. Still, it brought a little blush to her cheeks thinking about it.

The saloon was a compromise. There was no way she was sacrificing her virginity just to eat. She owed Miranda for that.

Next to her at the table, Lily nudged her foot. “Andrea, you sure did good tonight. You swear you’ve never done this before?”

Andy laughed. “Nope. I sang now and then at parties back home. It wasn’t so different.”

Lydia, Andy’s new next door neighbor, nodded. “I thought so. I could hear you behind me during the shows. You’ve got a great voice. You’ll end up on the stage by yourself once Miranda hears it.”

Andy blushed. “Oh no. Miranda’s already heard me. I don’t think she was very impressed.”

Emily sneered. “Don’t be coy. I saw the way she was watching you from her table. You’re the new favorite. But not for long. There’s always another girl coming in behind you, then you’ll be just like the rest of us.”

Lily kicked Emily’s foot off the tabletop. “Em, don’t be that way. Andrea’s real nice and I like her. Which is a good thing since she’s rooming with me. Anyway, I made more tonight than I have in three weeks, so I don’t care if you’re the new favorite. More men means more money, and if you can bring on the men, I say praise Jesus!”

The six girls sitting with Andy laughed and she joined in. The only missing girl, Lucinda, had a date with one of the mining supervisors. Andy was a bit shocked at the thought of a single girl going on a date after midnight, but no one else seemed to think it was out of the ordinary. It wasn’t as though single girls were accompanied by family or chaperones around here.

“So,” Andy said, trying to keep the interest in her voice to a minimum, “What’s Miranda like?”

Lily leaned back in her chair. “She saved my ass, let me tell you.”

“Golly, Lil, you’re so crass,” Emily crowed.

“Well, she did,” Lily continued. “A year ago we spent months coming west, you know? It was bad. There was an outbreak of dysentery and we got hit by a freeze so harsh I’m amazed anybody lived. Anyway, my dad, well, he’s not so nice, if you know what I mean. We were just passing through on our way to Shasta when my dad stopped here for the night. My ma, she’d died of typhoid fever a few years back, so it was just us.” Andy patted her on the shoulder in an attempt at comfort. “So, Dad got good and tight. He came back to the camp and got rough with me. I ran off, because that’s what I always did. Miranda found me in the street.”

Andy stared at her. “Found you?”

Lily shrugged. “I looked a little worse for wear.”

Evelyn, who everyone called Evie, groaned. “That’s putting it mildly. She couldn’t open one eye and she had broken ribs. She threw up right over there—” Evie pointed to the entrance of the saloon— “when Miranda dragged her in. And when her dad came looking the next day, Miranda got out her shotgun and ran him off.”

With a grin, Lily said, “That was the last time I saw him. Best day of my life.”

“You’re glad you’ve never seen your father since then?” Andy asked. She may have abandoned her family back home, but she loved them and hoped to see them again. One day.

“Honey, my dad’s got bad blood. Nothing I coulda done would change that. My life’s different now. I got my own money, I make my own way. And nobody gets to smash my face in just ‘cause he feels like it.” Looking off into the darkness, Lily’s expression grew distant. “Sometimes I wonder what mighta happened if Miranda hadn’t been there.” She shuddered. “No use in thinking about it though. I’ll stay till Miranda runs me off with that same shotgun, I’ll tell you. Nobody gets paid better in this town except the ladies on the line, and that’s the truth.”

On the line. That might have been me, Andy thought.

Evie chimed in. “I always wanted to dance you know, on the stage. But I’m not that good, see. Two left feet.”

Andy had already figured that out, but Evie was so sweet-natured that her charm made up for what she lacked in grace.

“Miranda though, she thinks I might find a nice boy if I’m lucky. She doesn’t want to lose me, sure,” Evie said, “but she wants me to be happy. I might be happy even if I don’t meet a boy. I love all the girls here. Nobody is ever mean to me. See, I lost my folks a while back and uh, I did some things I’m not proud of.” When Evie’s voice wobbled, Andy detected tears in her eyes. “Anyway, I left Portuguese Flat after my parents passed on. My first day in town, I saw the Diamond Eye.” Her face began to glow. “I knew right away I’d find a home here. I’m not sure why. I just felt it in my bones. You ever feel that way?”

Andy hadn’t, but she nodded nonetheless.

“I knew I’d be safe here. And I have been ever since. Miranda, she’s not really like a mother, but she takes care of me. Of all of us, really.”

There was a collective sound of agreement amongst the girls, including Emily. Andy realized she’d been more than just lucky to find a place here. It felt like the hand of fate had dropped her in this spot, right when she needed it most.

Lily yawned, downing the last of her whiskey. “I don’t know about you all, but I’m done for. I’m going up. Andrea, you coming?”

Andy nodded. “Okay. It’s been a busy day!”

Lily chuckled. “Sure has. What’d you do this morning, wake up and decide to change your life?”

With a grin, Andy said, “Yep. And I’m glad I did.”

===

Spring in California always surprised Miranda; the heat so often warred with torrential downpours, sometimes in the same few days. This past week had been like that, with a stifling heatwave putting nearly the whole town out of commission until it finally broke early that morning. There had been a near thing with one of the girls passing out from dehydration just last night. Evie was so sensitive. Too sensitive, really; if she hadn’t drawn regular customers, Miranda would have had to consider letting her go. But Miranda was relieved not to have to do so, because Evie had lured more than one hard-up man into the saloon. Sometimes all they wanted was a kind word and an understanding heart, and of every girl Miranda employed, Evie was the kindest one of all.

That included the new girl, who was kind but no pushover. Miranda had underestimated her strength of character. Not three days into the job, Miranda had seen Andrea deal with a pair of rough, wandering hands late in the night.

She recalled quite clearly how the event had progressed, of how firm Andrea’s voice had been when she’d said, “That’s not your property, Mister. I suggest you take your paws off it.”

The man’s eyes had nearly bugged out. “It’s all right, girlie, I bought you a drink and there’s more where that came from— “

Andrea had wriggled out of his arms. “You bought a drink and a dance. Nothing else. You want more, you go down the street and pay for it, you hear? I’ve got plenty of takers with or without you, Mister. Nobody gets to touch my bottom unless I say so.”

The man had raised a hand to pull a hat down over his eyes, only he hadn’t been wearing a hat. A moment later, he’d bowed a few inches and disappeared into the throng.

Another man had stepped in and used the rest of his dance. Andrea had not charged him for it and Miranda approved. Nothing like a little freebie to bring in a customer.

Andrea was hardly new now, though; almost a month had passed and everyone knew her name. But they liked her as much today as they had at first. There’d been an eight percent uptick in business since the moment she’d walked through the door. Part of that was due to the improving weather, with the warmer nights bringing more men out into the streets. Still, Miranda believed that one particularly bright smile was making waves among the townsfolk.

Yet Miranda still knew little of her young employee. She kept to herself much during the day, retiring around 2am each night. The rest of the girls would often drink and talk at the empty tables into the wee hours, entertaining the bar staff far more than they did during their shows. That didn’t stop Miranda’s eye from drifting upstairs to the last door on the left. The girl might be sleeping, but she emerged later than Lily most mornings, so it was a mystery.

Miranda loved a mystery.

The upstairs rooms were empty this afternoon since the heat had broken. The girls were out, doing whatever it was they did during the day, which Miranda never worried about. But a soft, melodious sound caught Miranda’s ear, drifting in through an open window at the back of the saloon. Something about it made her want to get up and follow it and she put down her pen and did so.

There, in a dry yard of dust and wheat, Andrea knelt by a half-barrel full of water and scrubbed her clothes against a washboard. She wore only a petticoat and corset. Miranda’s eyes widened at the pale flesh of her shoulders, at the muscles of her arms as they worked the fabric over the ridges of the board. But the sound of her voice was the most remarkable thing of all.

This was not the same voice she’d heard the day Andrea came to work at the Diamond Eye. Nor were the words in English, but the tune was familiar. In fact, Miranda was sure she’d heard the song years before.

She observed silently, leaning against the doorframe. Rossini, she remembered, recognizing a turn of phrase that tipped her off. So. This girl, so youthful, was not from the back woods. She was clearly educated, with an impeccable Italian accent.

They hadn’t exchanged more than a few words in the past weeks, only a “here,” and “thank you” when Andrea’s pay was delivered. But she knew the young woman hadn’t taken any of her “suitors” up on their invitations for dates. Something about that made Miranda almost cheerful. She thought that might be because losing an asset like Andrea would be more than just a loss of revenue, but of morale amongst her clientele.

At the end of the aria, Andrea sagged, giggling to herself. When she dipped her clothes into the barrel to rinse them, Miranda cleared her throat.

Andrea jerked around, raising a hand to her ample chest. “Oh!”

“It’s only me,” Miranda said, moving forward. “I heard you singing.” A charming blush colored Andrea’s cheeks. “You’ve been hiding something from me.”

The girl frowned. “I haven’t.”

“You have,” Miranda insisted. “Your voice is quite beautiful. Here I was so sure it was less than average. You’re not even singing during your performances, are you,” she questioned.

“Of course I am,” Andrea insisted. “Just not… very loudly. My voice doesn’t blend so well with everyone else’s if I sing out. We have to blend well, don’t you think?” Getting up from her crouch, she shook her clothing out. Miranda’s gaze was caught by sparkling drops of water that traveled from her collarbone down into the milky skin concealed by the corset. “I’d drown them out if I projected and I don’t want that. I like being part of the group.”

Briefly, Miranda found herself speechless. Her brain had taken in Andrea’s words, but curiously, she was unable to respond. The rise of Andrea’s breasts was just so entrancing, nearly spilling over—

“Oh,” Andrea declared, suddenly realizing the direction of Miranda’s attention. “I’m so sorry to embarrass you. When I came out here,” Andrea looked around and covered her chest, “I was sure the saloon was empty. I just didn’t even think of it.” Her eyes were wide and soulful when she asked, “Forgive me?”

Swallowing thickly, Miranda replied in a low voice, “Forgive you? There’s nothing at all to forgive. I’ve seen it all before, and more, naturally.” She licked her lips. “You go on with your laundry. But keep on singing. I’m doing the books and it’s very dull. Your voice will help pass the time.”

There it was, that smile that had captured so many men. “Oh, I’d be happy to. Do you care for Donizetti?”

“Indeed, I do,” Miranda replied. And so Andrea began with the opening words of “Prendi, per me sei libero” from “L’elslir d’amore.” Slowly Miranda backed away, enjoying the image she left behind.

As she sat at her work table, she was overcome with melancholy. Instead of continuing with her calculations, she rested her head on her hand and let herself disappear into the sound of a lovely, lonely voice.

===