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Just a Moment

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Every moment of every day is filled with obligations, constraints, demands. My time is precious. I have no spare moments to waste on insignificant, mindless events, events that can and do occur without my consent or consideration. Time, like the endless flow of people prowling the streets of Manhattan, moves relentlessly regardless of how inconvenient and troublesome it may be.

If I were inclined to use some of my invaluable time to review certain events, if I were inclined to revisit mere seconds that stretched into countless terrifying eons, if I were inclined to examine the events or perhaps just the one event that altered my life’s course, then I would spend time reflecting on the astonishing event that occurred on a seemingly ordinary day where one person’s stupidity created a domino effect, a cascading waterfall of outcomes that I could never have imagined if I were to spend my priceless time dreaming.

Most people assume I do not dream, I do not fantasize, I do not imagine. Foolishness. Of course I do. I must. I am an artist at heart. I create through half-forgotten dreams and focused fantasies. I do not deem these moments of artistic rumination wasteful. Why would I? They are essential to what I do. They feed my vision, direct my desires, motivate my mind. They even instigate thoughts that so often serve as a cold splash of water across my heated face. Oh, yes, I flush when passion fills me. I flush in anger, in desire, in embarrassment. I am human, after all. I show little to the world so others cannot use my emotions to their advantage. Yet they are present. Like a magician, I provoke watchers to look elsewhere. I manipulate what others see. I direct the eye, the mind, the ooh’s and the aah’s even as they wait with bated breath wondering whether my latest trick will fail to impress.

A flick of the wrist, a blink of the eye, and the moment passes. The event passes. People react. The repercussions begin.  For them. For me.

In this instance, though, I was not in command. Nor did I know enough to direct my eyes in any particular direction. I should have felt horrified while the danger unfolded; instead I felt nothing except an endless moment of frozenness. I saw the car speeding toward us from my vantage point in the backseat. I glanced at my girls seated next to me, noting with detachment that their seatbelts were secure as was mine. I looked through the windshield to see that same car much closer, now honing in on our position through a diagonal trajectory as it crossed into our lane. I saw Roy’s arms tighten as the car sped past and clipped the front passenger side of the car, jostling us forcefully.

Andrea sat in the front passenger seat out of deference to my family.

I wondered whether Roy would pull over as I swung my head to the right, watching the car that dared hit us spin around completely as it crossed two other lanes. Just missing several pedestrians before bouncing off a telephone pole, the car came to a rest against a brick building. The car, torn apart, spilled its contents.

I heard wheezing from the front. Andrea. Roy pulled to a stop and leaned toward my former assistant asking urgently, “Are you all right, Andy?” I listened as my eyes jumped around landing on Caroline then Cassidy to make sure they were not hurt.

They were not. I was not. Roy was not. Andrea was.

I leaned forward. “Andrea?” I asked.

I sounded different. My voice shook. I heard uncertainty, fear, concern. She turned to me, and I gasped. I saw pain, confusion, shock.

“Where does it hurt?” I asked. I could hear the edge of panic, but I ignored it. My voice revealed too much.

I felt my gut twist as I noticed her eyes glazing. Blood dripped from a gash above her right eye. The passenger side of the car was crushed inward pinning her leg. Glass surrounded her haphazardly. I saw her cradling her wrist gingerly.  I felt helpless and sluggish. My emotions were weighed and unwieldy. I didn’t know what to think, what to do.

People arrived asking whether we needed help. I did not. My children did not. Roy did not. Andrea did.

They were unable to open her door and were afraid to remove her through Roy’s side. They decided to use the jaws of life. Was that necessary? So much effort. Such a production. I did not want to deal with production. I did not want to look at Andrea’s bright eyes and clenched teeth. I did not want to have to remain next to the car with my two girls, Roy, the police, the media.

But I could not very well leave her while others attempted to help her, now could I? It was all such a bother. Each moment lasted much too long. And it was all about the accident, all about Andrea—trapped in my car because she insisted it was no bother to sit in the front with Roy so I could relax with my children.

Why was she always so considerate? Why did she always anticipate my needs? If she’d acted like, say, Emily, who is oblivious to everything and is only good at following directions, she might have sat in the back seat and have been standing next to us as I railed at the wasted time. Instead, those golden eyes darkened in pain as she attempted to maintain a brave face.

Experts swarmed the area, taking measurements and snapping pictures as metal was sliced like butter with some monstrous contraption. Medics approached Andrea as soon as the roof and side door were removed.

“Is she okay?” Caroline asked as she hugged herself. I stared at Andrea, noticing her grimace as her wrist was stabilized.

“Yes,” I replied strongly. Of course she was okay. She always bounced back from any situation. I’d never seen her give up. A mere injury due to a reckless driver would not deter her. Besides, I had plans for this fetching girl. She’s a woman, a breathtaking woman, my mind whispers.

Just because she walked away from me in Paris did not mean I let her go. That’s why she was in the car. I had requested her presence. She didn’t know why. We were on our way to the townhouse after retrieving my girls from school when we were hit.

“Stay with your sister,” I instructed Caroline before approaching Andrea. The medics were now checking her leg and hip. I noted her ability to move, albeit gingerly. Not broken then. Well, good. I needed her to be mobile.

As I passed Roy, who was on his cell phone, I heard him reassuring someone. His wife? My steps faltered when I heard him say, “If she’d hit us just a bit differently or just a moment before, Andy would be dead.” 

Dead? Ridiculous! Such a vivacious creature no longer roaming Manhattan? Preposterous. I worried at my belt, repositioning it slightly before continuing to Andrea’s side.

Andrea looked at me apologetically. As if she had anything to apologize for. As if this were in some way her fault. “Well?” I barked. At Andrea’s confused look, I sighed as I flicked my eyes to her wrist, leg, and then back to her eyes. I could see understanding replace the baffled look.

“Nothing’s broken, just bruised. They want me to go to the hospital, though, to be sure,” Andrea reported. Succinctly, for once.

She must have been shaken to say so little. Normally she would stutter and spit out meaningless drivel for several minutes before reaching the point. I peered at her closely. Her eyes skittered away from me, as if afraid of my response. Did she think I was inhuman? That I had no feelings? That I was more concerned about her inability to meet with me than her wellbeing? I took a deep breath, ready to blast her for such absurd fears. Then I realized she was holding her breath, shoulders hunched, as if bracing for a blow. Just as quickly I exhaled.

I nodded. “Go to the hospital. We’ll reschedule. Call me on my cell with the results.” At her shocked expression, I felt anger bubbling in my gut. What did she suppose I was going to say? I turned away abruptly. It would be counterproductive to lose control.

It bothered me that she thought so poorly of me. Granted we hadn’t spoken in over two years, granted the last time we were together she was extremely upset over the events in Paris, but if she thought so little of me, why did she agree to see me? I smirked. Probably thought I would get her fired and blackballed if she did not consent. I felt my lips tighten into a grim line before pursing them. I had much to say to her.

It would have to wait a bit longer.

I returned to my girls and Roy, eyeing the new town car idling at the curb. Roy always was supremely adequate at his job. He’d taken the initiative of procuring another vehicle. Although I wanted to lash out at him for the accident, I knew it wasn’t his fault. I would not allow myself to appear so petty and outrageously emotional. Besides, I knew my feelings were unreasonable, fueled by fear. Andrea would be proud of me for my restraint.

I reassured Caroline and Cassidy that Andrea was fine, trying to believe my own words. With a nod to Roy, we got in the car and returned home. I called Emily to give more instructions, including that she was to clear the rest of my day as well as the next one, and sat back in my chair. I felt the storm clouds hovering over my head. I could well imagine the dark look on my face, terrifying enough to scare even the bravest away.

I allowed the rage to overtake me in the privacy of my home. I felt my body shake, as I gave into the morbid thoughts Roy’s thoughtless remark created.

Andrea could have died.

The moments before the accident seemed so normal, so inconsequential. I was ruminating on the best way to express myself to the young woman one moment, then wondering what happened the next. Even seeing the car coming toward us had not caused fear to stir in my heart. It seemed so surreal, so impossible that the car would hit us. I cannot help feeling I should have known what was going to happen before it did. Why didn’t I feel a shudder run through me or ice-cold fear grip my heart? Some type of foreboding—something to warn me to pay attention. I should have been ready, more prepared to warn everyone. Or at least to watch every part of the collision with a sharper eye.

If Andrea had died…I cannot entertain such thoughts. How could Andrea ever be so vulnerable? She is so young, animated, ebullient, fearless. Such an irrepressible spirit cannot be snuffed out in such an arbitrary way.

I have waited, biding my time while Andrea settled into her career and I sorted through my emotions. Finally, I took steps to reach out to her, and now she is in the hospital. If I were superstitious, I might take this as a sign to remain out of the girl’s life, since all I seem to contribute is pain and confusion.

I refuse to give up so easily. Running a hand through my hair I recognize that I am not thinking rationally. The fates have not conspired to keep Andrea from me. I did that myself through my cut-throat tactics. True, I needed to take such action to remain at Runway, but Andrea, the dear girl—woman, she’s a woman—could not hope to understand the intricacies of business politics without knowing all the players intimately or what was at stake. Nigel understood. He’d witnessed the power-plays many times over the years. Although he became an unwilling pawn, he never held it against me or the magazine. I will reward such loyalty when the opportunity presents itself.

He has shown loyalty outside the workplace, too. Surprisingly so have Emily and Serena. They, knowing me so well, reached out to me at the risk of incurring my wrath. They dared to delve into my personal life, dared to say what needed to be said—what I needed to hear. And then they dared me to act.  

Hearing my phone ring, I note how much time has passed. “Yes?” I answer.

“Hi. I’m fine. They took x-rays to make sure I no bones were fractured and put a few stitches on my head. I’ll be bruised for awhile. They suggested physical therapy once I heal for my hip and leg. And they wrapped my wrist.”

I can hear her breathing, waiting for my response. I cannot think of anything to say that will remain in character. I decide to speak with my heart instead of through my work persona.

“The girls were asking for you. Eat here tonight. I’ll send Roy to get you.” I hear my own breath reverberating over the line as I await her response.

Hearing the silence I add softly, “I need to see with my own eyes that you are not badly hurt, Andrea. Humor me.”

“You saw me before I went to the hospital,” Andrea replies, confusion evident in her tone. Is my concern so puzzling to her?

“Please, Andrea.” The silence continues. As I take a breath to offer to visit her, she answers.

“Okay.”

“He’ll pick you up at 5:30.” Knowing she expects me to hang-up without further comment, I wait a moment before saying, “Thank you.” Thank you for coming over even though you still do not know why I contacted you to meet me in the first place. Thank you for allowing me to see that you are safe. Thank you for not demanding a better explanation. Thank you for being you.