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Who's Zoomin' Who

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Date: Friday, August 7

Location: New York

 

If Andy were ever asked to provide mitigating circumstances, she’d blame a heat wave, humidity and atmospheric pressure. Or, if she rewound further back, she’d point her finger at that blasted thunderstorm, and the unfortunate lightning bolt that took out half of the Queens, her A/C included. She was pretty sure any jury in the City of New York would set her free.

Indeed - she’d point out - it has been scientifically proven: people could be significantly affected by weather conditions. There were historical precedents. It was a lesser known fact, for example, that in the medieval City Republic of Dubrovnik, the parliament refrained from making any decisions during hot and stifling southern winds. Furthermore, and Andy was acquainted with all these trivial but intriguing factoids because she did a brilliant although never published piece on meteoropathy, there was a valid - US funded! -  research study linking violent, unpremeditated crimes with heat waves, low atmospheric pressure and high humidity.

Uprisings.

Fistfights.

Murder.

So why not kidnapping, as well?

***

Andy’s minor break down was not preceded by some unexpected, vastly tragic event. Rather, there was a slow build up, a constant trickle of tension, a few hundred bee stings.

Damned power outage killed both her cell’s battery and her building’s elevator.  Stumbling down five murky, moldy stair flights in 3-inch heels, she very nearly killed herself. Finally, upon finding a familiar letter in her mailbox, returned unopened once again, she wished to kill everybody else. 

Outside, heavy, granite clouds were pressing down on Queens, condensing the smog to a thick grayish vapor on the streets below. As she shuffled down to metro station, Andy could almost feel tiny, black molecules of dirt clogging her lungs with every moist breath.

The train ride nearly made her cry.

A clammy, jittery mass of humanity was packed so tightly her boobs left sweaty imprints on the train wall. 

A screaming baby clutched at her with sticky, ice cream covered fingers.

Some fucking pervert glued himself to her ass. 

A teenager’s ripe armpit gaped at her nose.

And she had a lingering fear that she was, in fact, the stinky one.

Finally, a coup de grace: her freshly shaved, offensively energetic boss pushed her out of the cool, air-conditioned Mirror building the moment she staggered in.

Banished back to hell in pursuit of human interest.

And nothing brainy this time, Sachs. It’s a Sunday edition. I want joyful. I want carefree. I want regaling stories of frolicking children fountain dipping, running through sprinkler showers, vandalizing fire hydrants, yadayadayada.

Mostly though, it was sleep deprivation. She was – intellectually - aware that all those glitches were inconsequential (except of course for the damned letter) and would have gone unnoticed if only she finally got a little shuteye. But between the deadlines and heat, she hadn’t managed more than an hour or two of sleep in the last 72 hours.

So, no, she was not particularly lucid as she dragged her feet up the 5th Avenue. She wasn’t exactly paying attention to where she was going either. She let her subconsciousness pick the path somewhere in the general direction of the Central Park.

There were bound to be some frolicking humans around.

***

Id as a guide? A bad, bad idea. The damn thing takes you straight to where you shouldn’t ever go, and where you’d never admit you yearned to be. 

Like the front of the Elias Clark.

It wasn’t that she hadn’t been around the building since the unfortunate Paris incident. It would have been impossible to avoid a whole block of Manhattan for almost a year (particularly if you worked two blocks away). In fact, for a little while she was actively seeking it out, in those early days when she still believed Miranda would actually acknowledge her.

Staking it out or simply passing by, she was always, always aware of the glass monstrosity. The Elias Clark building housed a powerful religion and she could no longer claim herself non-believer, not now - when she could appreciate its icons at glance.

In the first couple of post-Paris weeks, she’d cruise the glass gates like an exile trying to catch a glimpse of the guru. Even later, after receiving a sobering ice-cold shoulder (or five), her heart would beat faster when approaching the glittering facade. For, there was a tiny possibility that Miranda would come out at that precise moment and they’d look at each other and this time she’d smile and -- 

Yes. Well.

In any case, the awareness of her surroundings usually gave her time to prepare, take a deep breath and charge by. Today though, she turned the corner in a state of trance, not even acknowledging the place until a familiar figure made her stumble.

A sturdy and fully uniformed reef in a boiling sea of humanity, Roy was impossible to miss.

At first opportunity, Andy stepped out of the flow and tried out her newly acquired reporter skill of inconspicuous lingering. If she had a trench coat, she’d pull up the collar and pull down the hat but lacking those, she casually leaned on the nearby lamp post.

It’s been ages since she had any real contact with Miranda. Everything – all of the people, all of the places – seemed to vanish when she deserted Oz. Roy there was the first flesh and blood reminder of Runway she’d seen for almost a year. It was eerie how familiar he looked standing practically at attention in front of Miranda’s personal car, a shiny red BMW, his eyes glued to the entrance of the Elias Clark.

Andy felt her own shoulders straightening up in a reflex. She knew what Roy’s focused look implied; Miranda’s arrival was imminent. She connected the dots – Friday, Miranda’s fancy car, early August, school holidays. Of course. The coupé was Miranda’s runaway car: whenever the twins were absent, she’d have Roy bring it over and she’d speed away for a long weekend. The destination unknown. It was, she remembered with a pang, a favorite Friday office bet: a weekend orgy, a soul stealing voodoo ritual, virginal blood spa treatment, all of the above?

Andy held tighter to the lamp post, rusty iron ridges coarse under her fingertips. Miranda was leaving the city, and suddenly the heat felt even more oppressive. Fittingly, a drop of sweat tickled her jaw.

The surge of misery crashed over her like a tidal wave. Here she was on the fringes, exhausted and drenched in sweat, glued to a crumbling lamp post. There was Roy, all cool and collected, guarding a shiny M6. And there would be Miranda any minute now, barreling down the sidewalk, purse in one hand, cell in the other. Nothing changed in their world; Andy didn’t leave a single dent. They went on unaffected.

Unlike Andy who still startled at every single well-dressed white-haired woman, avoided Starbucks like plague, and got a nervous tick at a whiff of freesias.

It really had to stop.

She was sick of placing the same old letter in a new envelope every week. She had enough of dismissals and banishment. Vandalized hydrants could wait; one way or the other, this chewed out story needed to be filed away.

Right fucking now.

Her heart pumping faster than the techno beat blaring from the music shop across the street, Andy pushed away from the lamp post. She fell in step with two businessmen, her eyes never leaving Roy. Don’t turn. Don’t turn. Luckily, his concentration never wavered from the Elias Clark entrance. Andy walked close to the curb, keeping the men between herself and Roy. Finally, coming level with the coupé, she stepped down to the street. She moved quickly to the other side of the car, and ducked. She pretended tying her shoelaces, an intriguing exercise on her old Jimmy Choos. Fortunately, there was a lull in traffic and no one tried to run her over. Andy peeked at Roy over the roof of the car. 

No change in posture.

Here it goes.

It was amazing what could pass for normal in New York City if you appeared as if you knew what you’re doing (of course, wearing a Chanel summer dress didn’t hurt either). No one even blinked when Andy soundlessly opened the door and, still crouching, slid in. After some maneuvering, she squeezed sideways in a slot behind the front seats that masqueraded as a back seat, and thanked God for the size six body and tinted windows.

Andy held her breath for a long second, waiting for alarm. Nothing. She relaxed a bit and, feeling the coolness of leather under her stretched out body, sighed luxuriously. Oh, the bliss. Fresh and fragrant, BMW approved air caressed her sweaty back. The familiar smell of luxury – genuine leather and not so genuine pine forests - teased her nostrils.

She didn’t dare move around too much. So she picked at the stitches on the pale leather seat under her cheek, and nibbled her lip. And waited. She ran horror scenarios in her mind. What if Miranda had company? What if right at this moment police officers were sneaking towards the car? What if--

The door opened. 

Andy pressed her forehead to the back of the front seat and closed her eyes, tightly, trying to make herself invisible. She caught the end of Roy’s customary Have a great weekend, ma’am, and an answering and, good Lord, so familiar snort. The car dipped a bit with added weight, the door clicked shut. The street noise disappeared once again and there was nothing to focus on but the fragrance that suddenly invaded the interior. That spicy perfume did not leave any doubt as to who just climbed in. Then, Miranda sighed and Andy almost jerked her knee in surprise. That customary Friday sigh of workers everywhere was so shockingly out of character, Andy was tempted to check the driver’s identity regardless of familiar snorts or scents.

Finally, the engine purred, and with a sudden screech, they were off.

They drove for a couple of minutes, and in that short time Andy realized two things.

Firstly, and with a surge of pleasure, that Miranda was a horrible driver. The car was jerking with every change of the shift. Also, tellingly, the horns around them were blaring louder than during the last year’s Topless Cyclists’ protest ride.

The second, far less pleasurable realization was - she was very much fucked. Sneaking into Miranda’s car must have been the most idiotic thing she’s ever done. 

Ever.

More idiotic than smoking that chamomile-parsley pot in Lily’s kitchen, age 13.

More idiotic than stealing her dad’s fishing boat and steering it across the lake and up the beach, age 9.

More idiotic than flinging the damn phone in the damn fountain, age 26 going on 5.

Oh, well. Time to face the music and all that. She’d say what she’s got to say and scram at the first traffic light.

Slowly, she straightened up. Miranda didn’t notice. She was leaning close to the wheel, squinting ahead. 

“Um.”

Miranda’s eyes flicked to the mirror. She yelped a tiny terrified sound, swerved the wheel-

“Ohmygod! Miranda, watch out!”

There was a tense moment of Miranda swerving back to her lane amid another shriek of horns.

“You! What-- How--“

“I can explain,” Andy blurted, unconvincingly.

Miranda’s eyes were huge and terrified. She still managed to look skeptical.

“Well, I can!” Andy said quickly. “Look, I admit this was a spur of the moment thing, but as they say, carpe diem and all that. And you are not exactly easy to corner. Not to mention--“ 

“How did you--  Did Roy let you in?” Miranda interrupted, her voice catching.

“No!” Andy said, indignant on Roy’s behalf. “Of course not!” 

“You are even more deranged than I thought.” Miranda was obviously very quick at getting her equilibrium back. Her eyes had much more familiar frosty shine to them. “Get out of my car.”

“Not until you hear me out!”

“I’m calling the police.” Miranda grabbed for her purse on the passenger seat.

“No! Don’t!“

Miranda reached for the phone anyway, so Andy groped inside her bag.

“I’ll use this!”

Miranda froze, and glanced at the mirror.

“It’s a brand new pepper spray! I’ll use it!” Andy waved the small, hand sized can in her hand. “I will!” And she felt like she really, really might. Miranda must have read something similar in her eyes because she put her hand back on the wheel, slowly.

“What do you want?”

“I just want to talk to you.”

“Fine, talk.”

“Gimme your phone first.”

“Absolutely not.”

Andrea narrowed her eyes. “They say pepper spray is worse than tear gas.”

“I am not giving you my—“

“They say it’s impossible to control the mucous—“

“Fine,” Visibly shuddering at the word, Miranda tossed the phone at the back seat. “But, if you dare ruin another phone…”

With a practiced touch of someone who used to sleep with a similar phone under her pillow, Andy quickly dismantled the device. She fought for a second with unfamiliar window controls but soon enough, a battery flew out. Then she realized she had carelessly let go of the spray can, scrambled after it and showed it off threateningly. There.

Quite disrespectfully, Miranda rolled her eyes. “Now what?”

“Now you drive, and I talk.”

“Drive where?”

For someone who was usually so cavalier about giving directions to others, Miranda sure asked a lot of questions.

“Anywhere! North. I don’t care!” Andy winced at her own raised voice. When did anyone ever raise their voice at Miranda and lived to tell the tale? It felt good, though, this rush of adrenaline and anger. It quite effectively blanketed the usual feeling of inadequacy Andy experienced in Miranda’s company.

Miranda changed the shift and jerked the car forward. “There’s no need to yell.”

“Will you be quiet and let me apologize?”

“Fine.” At Andy’s continued silence, she sneered, “Well?”

“I’m trying to think!” Andy rubbed her tired eyes. “I have no idea where to start! It’s not like I planned this, exactly. It’s just that I’ve been trying to talk to you for so long and when I saw--”

 “Oh, for God’s sake. Spare me the pity-fest. If you wanted to talk to me so desperately, you could have simply called.”

Andy gasped, enraged. “I tried, the whole of the first month!”

“Yes, so very persistent of you,” Miranda sniffed.

“You hung up on me! Repeatedly!”

“I was busy. And assistant-less, thanks to you.””

“You sicced the security on me when I tried to approach you!”

“And at the first hurdle, typically you quit.”

“I’ve sent letters! Well, a letter, technically. You keep returning it! You wouldn’t even read it!”

The car jerked violently again as Miranda turned the corner cutting off the whole other lane. “Please excuse me if I find your halfhearted attempts at apology lacking.”

“Lacking? Anything more would have been stalking!”

“Which is a criminal offence as opposed to kidnapping?”

“The kidn-- This is not kidnapping! I’m just trying to apologize!”

“And you are doing such a good job.”

“Oh, shut up already.” Andy snapped. Then, she took a deep breath and started in more subdued tone. ”Sorry. Ok, listen. First, about today…”

***

She tried to explain it all, she really did. Only, she wasn’t sure where to start and where to stop, and that Parisian fountain was somehow blending with the frolicking children and Miranda’s driving did improve once they left the city and the car was so comfortable and in the end, she was so very, very tired.

 

***

“Andrea.”

Andy smacked her lips. She was in a nice place; a shady pine forest so refreshing and cool it was making her skin tingle, just like that familiar, sexy voice murmuring her name in that particular, fancy way.

“Andrea.”

“Mhm.”

“Andrea!” 

She snapped out of the dream, automatically reaching for a nonexistent pen. “Huh? Wha-”

Before she even had time to wonder why she was waking up in a luxurious but unfamiliar car, Miranda’s frigid glare brought everything back in a whoosh. Oh, shit. Did she actually kidnap Miranda Priestly and then conked out?

Suddenly very much awake, Andrea blanched and averted her eyes to the window.

There were trees. Everywhere.

“Um. Where are we?”

Miranda inspected her nails, bored by conversation. “North, I presume.”

“What do you mean – north? North of where?”

“Why, New York, of course.”

“But-“

“We are also out of gas.”

“Well, is there a town nearby?” Andy struggled to clear her head; conversations with Miranda were daunting even when one was fully conscious. She looked through the windshield, searching for any familiar landmarks. They were on a gravel road, and not very popular one judging by amount of grass growing on it. Obviously its only reason of existence was to lead a traveler to a lonely beach house ahead. Behind it and through the pines she could see the glint of water. Did Miranda drive north until she couldn’t go any further?

“How should I now? You, might I remind you, are the kidnapper. I am the hostage. I do believe it is your duty to organize these minor details.”

Andrea bristled, “I’ve told you already, I am not a kidnapper!”

“You kidnapped me, didn’t you?” Miranda snapped. “That makes you a kidnapper.”

“Even if I were, I ceased being one when I fell asleep!”

Miranda turned back to the wheel and huffed, “How typical. You are quitting again. You can’t even kidnap people properly.”

“For the last time,” Andy said through her teeth, “I did not kidnap you. I just wanted to talk! You are the one who drove us-“

 “Well, I’m sure police will agree with you.”

“The pol-, “Andrea gasped.

“It’s getting chilly here,” Miranda waved her hand towards the lake ahead, “perhaps you should check that little shack over there.”

“You check that shack!”

Tense silence.

Then, Miranda enunciated, all the while staring at Andy in the mirror. “Yes, officer? Oh, of course, I can explain: my disgruntled, psychotic ex-employee stole into my car, threatened me with tear gas-“

“It’s not tear gas!” Andy dangled a pink and yellow bottle at Miranda, “Look! It’s a deodorant!”

“…a stink bomb, then--”

“I’m not letting you stay alone in the car!”

“ --furthermore, she exhibits strange fixation on destruction of Elias Clark pho- “

“OK! Fine! But you are coming with me! Damn it!”

****

Gravel crunched under their feet as they approached the so-called shack. The swanky one-level house – all smooth planes and sharp lines - was sitting perpendicularly to the water edge, its elongated terrace partly hovering over the calm lake waters. With its façade of weathered, grayish planks, the building resembled a sleek sailing boat stranded on the beach.

Light breeze tangled in Andy’s yellow dress and raised goose bumps on her bare shoulders. She welcomed the feeling: the memory of New York heat was still too vivid to complain of the fresh air. She took a deep breath, inhaling the sharp scent of pines (almost as impressive as the BMW’s Forest Fresh Magic Tree TM), and stale lake waters. However, the cool air and the mountains on the horizon confirmed that, yes; Miranda really did drive that far north. Good God, how far would she have gone if they hadn’t run out of fuel? Just in case, Andy thanked the Lord that Canada was brave enough to insert itself between them and Alaska. She had no doubt whatsoever that if it were any less of a country they’d be communing with polar bears right now.

And where the hell were they? Andy wrecked her brain for those long evaporated geography lessons, but all she could make was ... blank-blank-blank … lakes, rivers, fjords … blank-blank-blank … Appalachian trail ... blank-blank-blank … bear, moose, salmon. Not much help there. Good fishing, she vaguely recollected her father mentioning once. With some relief, she noticed a few docks and tiny cabins peppered further along the coast.

Andy appraised the building ahead: whoever owned it, certainly valued their privacy. The narrow side of the house, the one facing the road, was windowless and uninviting. The fine-grained wooden façade effectively hid the entrance; if not for a door knob, Andy would have probably missed it. She rolled her eyes. Apparently, it was one of those minimalistic designs where making things seem simple and unassuming cost more than gilding them twice over.

She looked around, hoping for signs of human life. Obviously, someone visited semi-regularly; there was a small dinghy pulled up on the beach, the grass was given a crew cut and a pile of logs was lined along the side wall. Or perhaps not so often; Andy frowned at the half-dead ferns sagging forlornly in three pots aligned next to the entrance. They looked like a sad afterthought, a halfhearted attempt to make the entrance appear somewhat friendly, after all.

There was a miniature buzzer next to the door (no name given), but it made no sound when pressed. Andy knocked, and then thumped the door. “Hello?”

She tried the knob next.

“It’s locked,” she called to Miranda. “I’ll check if any windows are open. Or perhaps I can break in through the back door…” 

“Lovely. First kidnapping, and then breaking in… It just piles up, doesn’t it?” Miranda drawled behind Andy’s back. Andy jumped, but Miranda didn’t seem to notice. She was inspecting the potted ferns with morbid fascination.

Andy gnashed her teeth, “What, you have a better idea?”  Even though there wasn’t even a hint of smile on her lips, Miranda was laughing at her, she could just tell.

 “Well, we could retain some civility,” Miranda purred as she pushed one of the pots away with a tip of her Manolo, “and try a key.”

“Yeah, right, it’s just waiting for y-“

Except there it was, in its shining glory: the blasted piece of metal peeking under the pot.

“How the hell did you do that?” Andy snatched up the key. “How did you know?”

 “If I had a dollar every time someone asked that question,” Miranda sniffed. “Oh, wait, I do. Open up already.”

****

“This is… disappointing.” Miranda turned around, looking quite offended.

The room they entered was huge, spreading all the way to the glass façade at the far side of the house. Andy thought it was kind of neat: one wall, the entrance, completely closed off, the opposite one its, well, total opposite. Besides, the view towards the terrace and the lake beyond was truly striking.

She could understand Miranda’s dismay, though.

The place was empty.

As in, there was no furniture whatsoever. Nothing. No chairs, no carpets, not even pictures on the walls. With some hope, Andy noticed a row of sliding doors along the side wall. Perhaps they’d have more luck with the other rooms.

“Well, I think it has great potential. Although it’s evidently unfinished,” Andy, quite on purpose, stated the obvious. As a so-called kidnapper, she should have some rights, damn it. Like getting on Miranda’s nerves, for example.

“How astute,” Miranda said acidly.

Andy poked her head through the first door to her left. She waited until Miranda noticed the huge wooden stove with a couple of pans on it and helpfully continued with her timely observations.

“It’s a kitchen!”

Miranda rolled her eyes and retreated. Andy didn’t let it stop her. She kept on talking, loudly, as she rummaged through the cupboards.

“Hey, I bet a guy owns this place. A bachelor type. I mean, those half-dead plants up front, right? And, look, a tool cabinet bigger than my apartment. And no proper plates or utensils… it must be a guy.”

Finally she spied a treasure.

“Ooh, goody, there are some soup cans! And crackers!”

She could just barely make Miranda’s voice from the other room. “Do stuff them in your mouth, won’t you?”

“No coffee, though,” Andy sang back happily.

She squinted into the darkness. “Yay! But there is wine!”

At least she could drink herself into oblivion. And she wouldn’t have to do it in dark, because she found candles as well. She also spied some dishes, but noticing their less than exemplary state, decided not to draw attention to them just yet.

Andy greedily guzzled a water bottle she found in the other cupboard, grimacing only a little at water’s lukewarm, stale taste.

“Thank Lord.” she could hear Miranda’s sigh from somewhere further inside and wandered after her. Miranda was carefully inspecting a small but obviously fully furnished bathroom. There was even some toilet paper, Andy realized with the relief of a seasoned camper.

“Check the shower for critters;” she advised nonchalantly,”they just love to crawl in there.”

She blinked innocently at Miranda’s sudden pallor and promptly escaped. Pissed off Miranda plus large mirrors plus tight places reminded her of Runway elevators a bit too much, thank you. 

 ***

Oh, hell, Andy thought as she stared at the center of the last room.

Good news was there was a bed. Bad news was there was a bed. Not even a king sized one. There was no way they would… She felt blood rushing to her face. Perhaps she should sleep in the car. Yup, the car, Andy nodded to herself, very good idea.

She looked away with effort and noted a row of mirror-like panes lined along the wall. She inspected them with interest: solar panels still waiting to be installed. That explained the lack of power, at least.

There was a gasp behind her back and she turned to find Miranda transfixed, staring at the bed. She glanced at Andy, and then quickly averted her eyes.

“One bed. How unfortunate,” Miranda said snootily. “You will obviously have to sleep in the car.”

Andy could actually feel her vertebrae stiffening, “The hell I will!” Oh, damn.

Miranda narrowed her eyes.

Andy narrowed them back.

“Stop squinting,” Miranda said and left the room.

***

This was ridiculous. They were at it for the last hour and kept going in circles.

“Look,” Andy said slowly, trying to be very, very patient. ”If you could just point me in direction of the main road, I’m sure I could get to a gas station.”

“And you’ll walk for miles in those shoes? Don’t be ridiculous.”

“It’s warm enough,” Andy shrugged. “I can walk barefoot.”

“I have no doubt,” Miranda sniffed.

Andy refused to take bait, she would not be provoked. She inhaled deeply and glanced through the huge windows.

“Or I could walk around the lake; I noticed other cottages,” she tried again. “There might be people inside. Or phones. Or maps, at least.”

“You managed to get us lost in broad daylight,” Miranda rolled her eyes. “I fail to see how you expect to find your way around here now.”

I got us lost?” Andy sputtered.

Miranda gave her that familiar, unforgettable look of utter incomprehension, the one usually accompanied with a Why are you still here? or a Do I have to do everything by myself?

Andy rubbed her forehead trying to erase a déjà vu. “Look, I need to get back to the city. I have an article due tomorrow.” She continued reasonably, “It’s only 4 pm. There is still plenty of time before nightfall. I’ll be back before you even notice I’m gone." 

“Oh, and I am supposed to trust you shall come back with help?”

Exasperated, Andy spread her arms, “What else would I do?”

 “How would I know the workings of a criminal mind? You might have accomplices hidden somewhere in these woods.”

Andy’s jaw dropped. “Huh?”

“You might try to strong arm me,” Miranda said, with a strange gleam in her eyes.

“I…What?”

“Or, even,” Miranda licked her lips,”have your way with me.”

Andy blushed. Furiously. “I would never!”

“Oh. Well then.” Miranda started towards the main door.

Andy surged forward. “Where are you going?” She almost cringed at her own question, but then remembered her freshly grown backbone.

“I am going to retrieve my travelling bag and unpack.” Miranda looked back at Andy. “You, on the other hand, should go chop.”

“Excuse me?” Andy shook her head. She might have acquired a spine but conversations with Miranda still made her dizzy.

“We need to eat,” Miranda said slowly, sounding like she was trying to be very, very patient. “You babbled about soup cans and a wood-burning stove. Find an axe. Find some wood. Chop, chop.”

***

She felt like such a wuss for doing this. Miranda says chop, you chop. Not particularly empowering, no. She seriously considered sulking, but firstly, moping around would not make her feel any tougher, and secondly, the damn woman was right. The firewood needed to be cut.

She cursed. That was the problem with Miranda’s orders – when you managed to look beyond the abuse, casual insults and general lack of direction, most of her commands were perfectly rational.

Damn woman.

She needed to change out of her dress, firstly. A part of her really, really wanted to go at it all dolled up in Chanel, if only to witness the horror on Miranda’s face. Unfortunately, the dress in question was one of Andy’s favorites, and one of the few Parisian pieces she had kept. On a more practical level, having some experience with the intricacies of wood chopping (and those far too long summers on Grandma Pauline’s farm were finally paying off), she preferred a tad more protection on her legs.

Fortunately, the salvaging excursion through the house turned out to be a success; the tiny utility room proved to be a workman’s treasure chest. There, neatly folded on a shelf, she found a pair of worn out but reasonably clean jeans. They were too large, of course, but manageable when tied up with a string of rope she snatched from the tool cabinet in the kitchen.

Even better, on the bottom shelf she found a pair of hard tipped working boots, again a few sizes too big but certainly more resilient to chopping accidents than her Jimmy Choos.

She managed to stuff most of her hair under a washed out but clean baseball cap.

Finally, and with profound pleasure, she liberated a pair of Under Armour socks and white sports bra which Miranda had so thoughtfully unpacked.

She decided to go out through the back door and check the terrace on the way. And yes, she guessed correctly, it was gorgeous, perhaps the most beautiful part of the house. Almost half as large as the house itself, made of smooth, perfectly fitted, weathered planks, with sturdy wooden railing to match, it extended all the way into the lake. You could probably jump straight in from the far end. There were two comfortable looking chaise-longs on the deck, one of them presently occupied. Of course.

 She shuffled to the stairs to the beach, hefting a fine looking hatchet. On her way past the chairs, she sneered at Miranda, doing her best Jack Nicholson expression. Alas, the talent was wasted, since the woman was deeply engrossed in the Book.

“So glad we are sharing the workload here,” Andy spat.

 “Mhm. Do chop a bit more, we’ll need some for boiling drinking water tomorrow,” Miranda advised absentmindedly, sipping from Andy’s water bottle. “We are running out.”

Andy felt the heat surging into her cheeks. Sometimes, she could just--, she could--

“You should never taunt a woman carrying an axe,” she hissed.

“I’m trembling inside,” Miranda never even raised her eyes from the Book. “You’re in my sun.”

Gnashing her teeth, Andy stomped to the log pile, picked a few smaller logs and looked around. There should be… ah. Just a dozen feet from the house, she found a weathered, gray tree stump, heavily scarred by years of splitting wood. Carefully, she positioned the first log on top of it, took a deep breath, tipped the cap bill to her long departed survivalist grandmother and let loose.

The first few blows were shaky, damn logs bouncing around like bunnies on crack, and even without looking she was certain Miranda was snickering. Soon, though, she found her balance and slipped into the rhythm.

Lift, aim, and hit the log. It was refreshingly mind numbing. 

In no time, she could feel the sweat washing over her, running down her temples, her neck, trickling down her spine. She didn’t really mind. Unlike the hot misery of her morning, this was a good sweat, healthy and earned. She could feel her back muscles tightening, her thighs tensing, her biceps pumping the force into each blow. Wood was splintering with sharp cracks, exploding in sprays of tiny wood chips.

This felt better than working out. The results were immediate, the special effects more than satisfactory.

Andy was almost disappointed when she ran out of wood.

With great satisfaction, she plunked the axe into the stump, straightened up and stretched. This close to water, she could feel a light breeze stirring the air. She raised her arms behind her neck, enjoying the gentle wind on her overheated body. Lazily, still stretching, she turned towards the terrace.

And promptly froze. 

Miranda was staring at her, her lips parted, sunglasses dangling from her fingers, the Book forgotten in her lap. Andy could feel the heat of that look scorching her face, her neck, her shoulders, sizzling at her breasts, then travelling slowly, slowly down her stomach, (where Andy’s muscles clenched instinctively)… and back up again. Somehow, Andy doubted the misappropriated sports bra was the reason for the scrutiny. And the attention itself was achingly familiar; a reminder of the days long past when each workday started with Miranda’s invigorating once over.

Andy gulped. Miranda’s gaze did not lose its power: it still managed to perk her up.

Everywhere.

Suddenly thirsty, Andy pulled the jeans up – they tended to slide almost indecently low - and swaggered over. Almost managing nonchalance, she leaned on the railing.

“Pass the water?”

Without a word, Miranda gave up the bottle, snatching her fingers back when their hands touched. 

Andy drank in long, slow, messy gulps. The water trickled down her chin, dripped down her neck, lazily snaked between her breasts.

Water never felt so good, so sweet and luscious.

For both of them, evidently: once Andy finally lowered the bottle, they both licked their lips. Silence suddenly felt heavy, loaded with expectations. Miranda’s eyes, her pupils huge and dark, flitted from Andy’s shoulders to her stomach.

“You work out,” Miranda croaked.

“Mhm,” Andy murmured, too fascinated by the expression on Miranda’s face to form a sentence. She’d seen that look exactly once, the day Valentino presented Miranda with her lush Met Gala evening gown. Miranda had circled the model like a giant cat, her eyes at half mast, and her fingers twitching with the need to touch. When she finally spoke her appreciation, her voice was husky and mellow. At the end of Miranda’s appraisal, everyone in the room was flushed and bothered.

No wonder. Having Miranda’s absolute, hungry, undivided focus was inebriating. It made Andy feel unique, and worthy and special.

It made her feel daring.

She hitched her thumbs in her pants, pushing them even lower on her hips.

Miranda’s breath caught. She visibly shook herself.

 “You might as well keep the top,” Miranda tried for arrogance but her voice broke. “It’s ruined now.”

“Thanks,” Andy smirked. And stretched languidly.

“I’ll-,“ Miranda cleared her throat. ”I’ll go refresh myself.”

****

Andy sprawled on the terrace, supremely satisfied with herself. Ever since that damn Harry Potter- no, ever since she had earned Miranda’s first astonished once over, she gloried in upsetting Miranda’s carefully constructed balance.

She happily wiggled her toes, letting the breeze cool her overheated feet. One-upping Miranda felt as good as stepping out of those monster shoes.

Who knew? She could affect the woman like that. Was it always there, this… interest? God, if that was true, she’d chop her own head right off. Because, in that case, by leaving she had lost much more than the mere possibility to bask in Miranda’s presence.

The question was, of course, if this was something Miranda would be willing to acknowledge. Miranda, whose every single date, not to mention husband, had been carefully considered and assessed for their social standing, cultural worth and economical value. The woman did not have marriages, she had mergers.

Andy sighed. And that answers that particular question.

And still…  Miranda didn’t seem that desperate to get away from her, however ridiculous her accusations (kidnapping, right) and however uncomfortable the lodgings. Running hot and cold, the woman was confusing hell out of Andy. Nothing new there.

Perhaps she should take a more fatalistic approach for a while. Stick around and see what happens. And finally clear the air about that fiasco called Paris.

Andy’s thoughts turned back to her article. God, she was so dead. Perhaps she should write it longhand and transcribe it tomorrow when they found a way out of here. She tried imagining explaining the circumstances to her editor. Sorry, Greg, I was on an unplanned weekend getaway with Miranda Priestly. Ha! As if anyone would believe her. And asking Miranda to provide a written excuse felt very wrong. On so many levels.

She rose and dusted herself off. Man, was she looking forward to a shower. Her skin was all itchy from the tiny, prickly wood chips, and she felt glazed over by sweat. Not to mention her hair. She was actually afraid of taking the cap off. It was probably the only thing keeping her scalp from crawling off.

Yup, she was more than ready for a shower.

***

Except, the shower was not ready for her.

Refreshing oneself in Miranda-speak obviously meant occupying the bathroom forever. After a few foiled attempts of coughing significantly in front of the door followed by forceful knocks, Andy finally gave up.

Her stomach was growling so she decided to tackle the wood stove, instead. Once more she thanked granny Pauline for teaching her the basics. She cleaned the grate with only minor mishaps involving the ash pile; she crunched up some papers to light the fire and gently layered the firewood.

Andy was staring at the flickering flames, when she heard the door opening. She sprang to her feet.

“Well, it’s about ti--, “she swallowed the rest upon seeing Miranda.

Was it the hair? Slick and combed back, darkened by moisture, it sculpted Miranda’s face anew, lending an unexpected rawness to sophisticated features. Perhaps it was the contradiction of the unpolished attractiveness and the haughty tilt of her lips. Or was it the curious tiny curl that dared to rebel next to her ear? Or the mockingly raised eyebrow while she pierced Andy with the sultry look?

She was negligently sexy, arrogant in her beauty. She was Dietrich personified and Andy’s heart almost broke.

Midnight dark blue silk bathrobe opened up when she moved, showing a generous amount of long, sculpted leg. Miranda glided to Andy, close enough to have the edge of her robe brush Andy’s arm, definitely close enough for Andy to inhale Miranda’s familiar, luscious scent.

“Yes? You were screaming?” Miranda brushed her fingers against Andy’s cheek. They came off dirty with ash.

“Um.”

“You should clean up, Andrea,” Miranda leisurely wiped her hand on Andy’s sports bra, painfully close to her nipple. “The layer of civilization seems awfully flimsy on you.”

“Um.” Andy repeated eloquently. It was only when Miranda disappeared through the terrace door that she could finally breathe. “Good Lord.”

She stumbled to the bathroom. She really, really needed a shower now.

*****

The blend of scents that made up Miranda’s unique fragrance was thick and intoxicating in the humid air. Lightheaded, Andy stumbled to the sink. The woman was a menace.  One-upping Miranda, right. Every single touch was calculated to entice. And embarrass. Andy turned to the mirror and stared. Her face was indeed stained with ash, her hair sprinkled with wood chips. On her left cheek, she noticed two streaks of cleanness. She traced the lines, imagining Miranda’s fingers on her skin.

Jesus.

She stripped efficiently, discarding the heavy jeans with great pleasure. She forlornly dumped the top and the panties into the sink to soak. Yay. She was going commando until these dried.

But first, the shower.

With utter relief, Andy stepped into the tub and adjusted the jets. The water gushed out strong and steady, beating down on her tense shoulders and sweaty back. She moaned in appreciation, feeling her muscles mellowing with every blessed drop of water.  

Andy eyed the row of expensive looking bottles on the shelf and finally succumbed to temptation. Kidnapper’s rights and all that. She could almost feel her hair stretching and purring with pleasure. She let herself enjoy the excess of foam for a few minutes, then put her head under that hot, lush waterfall --

-- which trickled and died.

“Oh, no. Nononononono!” Andy wailed, turning the knobs desperately. ”I can’t fucking believe it!”

She sobbed in frustration. She howled in rage.

“Miranda!”

Andy scrambled out of the shower, draped herself in a towel and stormed to the terrace. Miranda was once again curled on the deck chair, deeply immersed in that bloody all-important Runway mock up. Andy glared at her ineffectively, until a blob of foam dared to drip on a page.

“Careful!” Miranda quickly flicked the offensive bubbles away. “Did your brain wash down the drain?”

 “It couldn’t,” Andy said through her teeth, “because there was no water left!”

“And?” Miranda snapped. “Do you expect me to do a rain dance?”

“You used it all!“

“Ah,” Miranda leaned back. “How very unfortunate for you.”

Andy felt the vein in her left temple thump wildly.

 “Unfortunate? Unfortunate?” Andy pointed a trembling finger at her foaming hair. “What the hell am I supposed to do about this?”

“Would that be my shampoo?” Miranda inquired politely. “I’d recommend rinsing at least twice.”

“Gah! You—You-- Couldn’t you just for once, just for a second, think of someone else but yourself?”

Andy turned on her heel and stomped to the far end of the terrace. That obnoxious, selfish, egotistical-- Andy stared balefully at the black lake water. She should just jump in and swim away. Leave Miranda to fend for herself.

Except, she tried that once already, and look where it got her.

Andy sighed, resigned. The water looked as uninviting as water could get without having icebergs and shark fins floating on surface. Still, there was a stainless steel ladder attached to the edge of the platform, plunging deep into the water. Someone must have done some swimming here once or twice.  She gave Miranda another accusatory look over her shoulder. The woman was not even pretending to read the Book. She was staring at Andy with unabridged interest.

Fine, let’s give her something to look at. She dropped the towel, and stood at the edge for a long moment displaying all of her backside. Theoretically, she was kind of mooning Miranda, so there was that, at least.

Of course after such a brazen move, turning around and stepping down the ladder was completely out of question. Thus, she did the only other thing left to do. She dove in.

Straight down, into the icy waters below.

It was cold.

Oh, Lord, was it cold.

So cold, that Andy squeaked underwater. She broke the surface gasping and held to the ladder, cursing through her chattering teeth. If the proverbial witch’s tits felt as frozen as her own, she truly pitied the sorry wench.

Miserably, she clung to the ladder, trying to catch elusive sun rays, and shivered some more.

It was horrible, it was terrible, it was—

Well. The sun was actually quite strong at this particular spot and the water felt almost pleasant closer to the surface. Experimentally, Andy let go of the ladder and tried a few strokes.

She was sorry to admit, it felt good.

She splashed around a bit and then, tiring, turned on her back and floated mindlessly, absorbing the heat. Boob tanning, Lily would call it. Andy gazed at the fluffy clouds, losing a sense of time, feeling almost like one of them.

From the corner of one eye, she noticed a movement, a silhouette at the edge of the dock.  Miranda? Realizing she was giving her quite a show – Andy was obviously turning into a raving exhibitionist – she flipped around ungraciously and almost drowned. When she finally managed to blink the water out of her eyes, the dock was deserted once again.

Swimming lost its appeal after that. Holding to the ladder, she attended to her hair. With wrinkled fingertips, she dutifully rinsed her hair twice -- and then spent ten guilty minutes waving the bubbly rainbow stain away. Miranda’s shampoo was probably as environmentally friendly as a stick of dynamite. She could just imagine ghastly white fish bellies popping out all over the lake by tomorrow morning.

When she finally climbed back up and peaked over the ledge, Miranda’s chair was deserted, and the woman herself was out of sight. Andy reached for her discarded towel, and noticed a pile of neatly folded clothes. She poked at it experimentally: a pair of light Capri pants, a loose, gauzy black shirt, and, peaking underneath the hair-brush, a pair of tiny, lacy La Perla panties.

Miranda’s panties.

Oh, boy. Now she felt like showering again.

***

Andy sat in the deck chair – the one unclaimed by Miranda - and toweled her scalp furiously. While she did like her hair most of the time, there were occasions, like this one, when she’d happily chop it all off. It was a menace to manage: unless she tamed it now while still wet, it would look like a pterodactyl’s nest by morning.

She sighed, grabbed the brush and started combing diligently.

“You shall clean both the brush and the deck once you are finished, of course.”

She turned to see Miranda stepping on the terrace, a tray with two bowls and crackers in her hands. The smell of hot soup reached Andy’s nose and her stomach roared in happy anticipation.

“Oh, God,” Andy moaned, and promptly discarded the brush. “I’ll be your slave forever for a bowl of that.”

“I don’t think so. We’ve tried that already,” Miranda gracefully lowered herself into the deckchair, and passed the tray. “You ran away, remember?” 

Andy winced. Trust Miranda to pull Paris out when she least expected it. Like now, barely balancing the tray in her hands.

Fine. If she wants to finally talk about it...  Andy looked forlornly into her soup bowl, wondering where to start. The damned letter said it all so much better than all her incoherent mumblings ever could. She was pretty incoherent in the car; she doubted she’d be better poised now. All it would take was one vicious barb about responsibilities, loyalty and trust and she’d fall apart. True, Miranda’s voice was mild, almost teasing, but that’s how the worst Runway storms often began – with a light breeze.

“So, yes,” Andy placed the bowl on the table. She didn’t feel that hungry after all. “About the, uh, Spartacus move I pulled--”

“Are you certain you wish to draw that particular parallel?” Miranda sniffed. “We both know how his little misadventure ended.”

“Right, right,” Andy swallowed. Perhaps she should begin by apologizing for minor transgressions first and then, slowly, ease into general sniveling.

She took a deep breath. ”Um, talking about unruly minions, I wanted to apologize for my outburst earlier. It was--,“Andy tried to find the right adjectives.

She needn’t have struggled.

“Rude, offensive and absolutely uncalled for,” Miranda promptly supplied.

“Hey!“ It sounded much worse when Miranda said it.

“Fortunately for you, I am much too considerate to even mention it.”

“But you just—,“ Almost too late Andy noticed Miranda’s lips twitching. She managed, somehow, to hide her surprise and quickly reiterated. “Absolutely, Miranda. I have always admired your graciousness.”

She kept her face perfectly straight throughout Miranda’s regal nod. But, when she noticed Miranda trying to hide a smirk behind the bowl, she could not hold her mirth back and laughed.

She reached for the soup again. Perhaps they could leave Paris for later.

***

“You know, you are awfully relaxed for someone who’s supposed to be kidnapped and lost.”

They were enjoying the last rays of sun and sipping the quite acceptable red wine out of horrid coffee mugs (but it was either that or straight from the bottle, so Miranda finally relented). They have been sitting quietly for a while now, and Andy was surprised how tranquil she felt. Desperate to use the final moments of light, nature turned hectic around them.  She was not part of this particular rush hour though, so she happily sat back and observed. The dragonflies were nervously skimming the lake surface, some unknown bird was trying to out-sing the frog cacophony, and even a coyote yodeled his heart out a few minutes ago.  A Disney production come to life.

What particular cartoon would they be in? Lazily, Andy considered her options. Beauty and the beast? Little Mermaid?

Eyes closed, Miranda was lounging in the deck chair, obviously enjoying the tempered warmth of late afternoon sun.  The soft, dark blouse slid negligently off her shoulders, perfectly showcasing Miranda’s décolletage. A hand holding a cup of wine was resting lightly on her thigh.

Andy swallowed. Oh, it was Little Mermaid production alright. Ursula’s body talk, to be precise. And the idea of having a conversation with that particular body made her cheeks burn.

She shook her head. She needed to take her mind of that pointless track. And anyway, it was time to address the elephant in the room. It really was silly to keep pretending.

She cleared her throat, “We both know that when I fell asleep in the car you could have driven to the first gas station”

Silence.

 “You could have yelled bloody murder. Why didn’t you?” Andy pressed on.

Miranda murmured, without opening her eyes, “I don’t remember you being this nosy.”

“Well, I am a reporter, you know.”

“I wouldn’t brag about it.”

“Har har.”

Miranda just quirked her lips. Obviously, there wouldn’t be a truthful answer to her question. Andy tried to tackle the subject from a different angle. “Is anyone going to miss you?”

Miranda’s eyes popped wide open. “If what? You bury a hatchet in my head and dump me in the lake?”

Andy laughed, “No, I mean, was anyone expecting you? Wherever you were going…”

Miranda’s smirked, “And where exactly did you think I was going?”

“It’s not something I’ve ever speculated about,“ Andy lied, testily.

“Oh, really,” Miranda gazed at her evenly. “Pray tell, what was your bet in the longest running Runway ballot: a weekend spa in virginal blood or the annual goat-slaughtering ritual?”

Andy choked on her wine, tried to deny ever imagining anything of the kind, noticed the raised eyebrow and took yet a different route, “Um, actually I meant, are Cassidy and Caroline expecting you?”

“You should’ve thought of that earlier, before getting us los—“

“Miranda, please.”

Miranda must’ve read a real concern in Andy’s eyes because she relented, “Cassidy and Caroline are at their grandmother’s. I promised them a call Sunday evening.”

Andy suspected it, of course. She doubted Miranda would be so relaxed if her daughters were involved in her weekend plans. Still, it was good to know for sure. The shroud of guilt she was sporting because she might be stopping Miranda from spending time with her kids slid down her shoulders. Of course, she didn’t have a problem stopping Miranda from spending time with other people. Particularly--

Andy chewed her lip. She knew she shouldn’t ask. She wouldn’t. It was not her business.

“And that doctor friend of yours?” She grimaced with distaste. “Jackson, Jefferson, whateverson?”

Miranda stared. Andy blushed again. She hoped it wasn’t that noticeable in the dying light.

“You know perfectly well what his name is, don’t you, Andrea?”

Andy shrugged, admitting to nothing.

“Not that it is your business, but Jameson and I are not seeing each other anymore.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, “Andy said blithely.

“Of course you are.”

But Miranda’s tone did not sound particularly poisonous and Andy couldn’t hide the smirk.

The darkness crawled upon them sneakily, unnoticed until it had already dipped into the lake, and Andy had to rummage blindly in the kitchen for matches and candles. She used the opportunity to grab some blankets as well. Miranda’s tiny thankful nod warmed her as much as the blanket over her feet.

It was still early and were they in the city, they’d both probably still be working. But here, in the wild, everything was quieting down:  the scuttle around them was over, birds fell silent and even the frogs seemed to turn introspective. The flickering candle light cast shadows over Miranda’s face, accentuating her cheekbones, thickening her eyelashes. Andy sighed: she really was a beautiful, beautiful woman.

Suddenly, Miranda’s eyes were boring into hers.

Caught staring, Andy blushed furiously but refused to look away. Miranda’s eyes were dark, half-hidden behind the lids, that killer eyebrow raised inquisitively, her lips slightly opened. Then she licked her lips and Andy hastily averted her eyes to the darkness that surrounded them.

The stars were out and even though the moon was still young, she could make out the glittering waters, the cabin lig--

Cabin lights?

“Oh, my god! Look! The lights! Over the lake, see?” Andy jumped up, and squinted mightily. Were those tiny silhouettes moving around over there?

“Indeed,” Miranda did not sound particularly enthused.

“I can take the dinghy!” Andy turned to her, excitedly. “I could row there! I could go first thing in the morning!”

“You could.” Miranda kept perfectly still.

Her lack of enthusiasm finally computed with Andy. “I… shouldn’t I?”

“Oh, for God’s sake.” Miranda rose suddenly. “I’m going to bed.”

She picked up the candle and glared at Andy. “There is a T-shirt for you in the bathroom. Good night.”

“What the hell?” Stunned, Andy stared after her, once again left in the dark.

**

When Andy came in, Miranda was already in the bed, very resolutely facing the wall.  Andy sighed; any further discussion would have to wait for the morning.  Carefully, she squeezed in, trying not to jar the mattress too much. With a mighty blow, she extinguished the candle Miranda had left on the nightstand. Then, she aligned herself as close to the edge as humanly possible. She stared into the blackness, too agitated by Miranda’s sudden mood change to fall asleep. It was driving her mad, the woman’s ability to string her along like that.

Apparently, she’d spoken out of turn. Also obviously, Miranda did not feel particular pressure to leave. As flattering as it was, Andy wished she could feel that cavalier about their little adventure. Perhaps it wasn’t entirely her fault, but Andy felt responsible for stranding them here. And it was apparently up to her to get them out. Naturally, Miranda would not perceive the situation as dire: typically, an Emily would solve these inconsequential details. Well, Andy used to be one doing the solving, and she could envision the zillion problems they’d be facing when trying to leave.

And then there was Paris. It weighted heavily on Andy’s mind. Not that she approved of Miranda’s modus operandi, not when business turned personal and friends were getting hurt. But Andy expected more of herself. She prided herself on her professionalism, loyalty and strength. And what did she do? Ran away from Miranda and cheated on her boyfriend (and, yes, in that exact order of both priority and regret). Facing herself after that was… a harsh awakening, to say the least.

She looked anxiously in Miranda’s direction. She wished she could see her face. In the total darkness, Miranda breathing was her only anchor to reality. Would she turn in her sleep? Move towards Andy accidentally? Andy squirmed a bit closer to the middle.

Her foot touched Miranda’s and she froze. Miranda’s breath hitched.

“Miranda?” she whispered, tentatively. “Are you asleep?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

“What is it?” Miranda huffed, and Andy could feel her turning.

“Shouldn’t we… um…talk about Paris?”

“Why?” Miranda sighed, “What’s there to talk about?”

“Everything!” Andy surged up in bed. “I need to tell you why I left! And that I’m sorry! I tried to, in the car, but I fell asleep, I think. There’s so much to…  It’s…I… damn. If you’d just read that damn letter—“

“Andrea,” Miranda quietly interrupted. “I read your letter a year ago.”

“Oh.” Andy tried to wrap her mind about that, “But why—“

“Go to sleep, Andrea.”

***

Date: Saturday, August 8

Location: Anywhere! North.

 

It was one of those mythical Saturday awakenings that rarely ever happened these days.

The consciousness came to her gently, with sun rays teasing her eyelids, and a bird chirping an enthusiastic solo. Her eyes still closed, she sensed she was alone in the bed, and she stretched languidly, feeling rested for the first time in a long while. Her muscles pulled a bit after yesterday’s exercise. Still, after a sleep like this she felt strong enough to row around the lake twice, if need be. Inhaling the unsullied northern air, she moaned with a pleasure: a smell of freshly made coffee was wafting to her nostr--

Whoa! Andy surged up in bed. She blinked dazedly.

A smell of coffee?

She sniffed once more, unbelieving. Yes, there it was, a sharp, energizing scent that made her jaw hurt in happy anticipation. She stumbled out of bed, and following her nose, bounded directly to the terrace.

What the fuck? She leaned weakly on the doorjamb and stared, mouth half-open.

There was food on the table. A lot of it.

There was a basket of bagels, and a pan of scrambled eggs, and a bowl of cherry tomatoes, and a steaming pile of pancakes and two kinds of jam and a jar of freshly squeezed orange juice.

There was Miranda, as well, lounging comfortably in that dark, loosely fitting robe, delicately sipping her coffee.

Reading the NY Times.

After a few ineffectual tries, Andy finally managed to squeak. “Wha-- How--?”

“Andrea. As eloquent as ever,” Miranda said without raising her eyes from the stock market report.

“Where—where did this come from?”

“I am quite intrigued as well,” Miranda said without a trace of curiosity in her voice, “Apparently, it comes with the house.”

 “What? It just... appeared?” Andy stared dazedly at Miranda’s cup, “From thin air?”

“Good help is never seen or heard,” Miranda sniffed. “You should take notes.”

“I see,” Andy shook her head, trying to dislodge the haze. “And I suppose the paper was also delivered by the invisible butler.”

“How should I know?” Miranda finally looked up. She sounded scandalized. “Really, Andrea, your sudden fascination with the intricacies of the service business is rather ridiculous.”

“Of course. Right. Silly me.” Andy slowly moved back inside, expecting to step back through the mirror anytime now. “I’ll just go… wash up a bit.”

As she stumbled back to the bathroom, she thought she heard Miranda’s snorting with amusement.

***

Andy glared across the table, getting more annoyed by minute. God, what an idiot I am. Of course, she had figured it all out the moment she splashed some water to her face. To cut a long story short: Miranda had managed to make a fool out of her again. Every sip of that perfect espresso felt like a slap on her face. God, she must have been laughing her ass off yesterday while Andy was playing Robinson Crusoe. Today, obviously, she tired of the game and summoned the minions.

Once again, everything was perfect in Miranda’s world.

Andy, on the other hand, wanted to dump eggs on her head.

Finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore, “You have another phone, don’t you?”

“Of course,” Miranda sniffed and turned the page to Arts section, “I also have my laptop and my iPad.  Andrea, your Midwestern roots are showing once again. Did you really think we would have to row to the closest phone booth?”

That manipulative-- Andy could feel the edge of the knife handle biting in her palm.

The receding worry had left a lot of empty places for anger to fill. And they were filling rapidly. That vein in her left temple began thumping again. Andy couldn’t be sure if the embarrassment or the fury were pumping blood to her face.

“I can’t believe you’d --,” Andy bit off her angry retort, staring at Miranda. Well, that was unexpected.

Miranda’s cheeks were turning red.

She was perfectly still, seemingly immersed in whatever article she was reading, but her porcelain cheekbones were sporting two pinkish blotches. Andy blinked. What the hell?   

“Miranda?” The crimson intensified but except for the tightening of the lips, there was no answer.

If Andy knew what was good for her, she’d start running right now.  Seeing Miranda embarrassed - it never ended well for the witness. And she had the Harry Potter Incident to prove it.

If Andy knew what was good for her, she’d pretend she didn’t notice anything and quit prodding.  She’d cease and desist right fucking now.

Except...

All the unnecessary worrying, all the unresolved feelings, the guilt over Paris and over stranding them here, the whole ping pong of casual insults and underhanded kindness, the veiled seductions and the blatant dismissals, it was all coming to boil.

“Miranda?” Andy asked levelly although her heart was thumping, “what does it mean?”

Miranda’s lips thinned in annoyance “Bore someone else with--”

Andy slapped the table, rattling the plates, and making Miranda jump. “There is nobody else, damn it! Just us!”

She took a deep breath and continued more quietly, “So please stop playing games. And stop treating me like an idiot.”

“Then stop behaving like one!” Miranda said scathingly, her eyes boring into Andy’s, “Are you a child or just demented? Why do you think we are here?”

“I don’t know!” Andy yelled, her frustration getting the better of her, “Perhaps you are making me pay for Paris? Perhaps fucking with my head gives you a thrill? Perhaps making me miserable makes you feel good?”

Miranda blanched, and then raised her chin, “I see.”

“In that case there is nothing to talk about, is there?” Her voice turned flat, void of emotion. She took the phone out of the robe pocket and slid it carelessly over the table, “Here. Call for the car and stop wasting my time.”

Andy stared at the phone, her fingers itching. She really, really wanted to grab that fucking phone and hurl it in the water. It wouldn’t be the first. The thought startled her enough to calm down just a tiny bit. Enough to rewind back the whole weekend, to the fact that Miranda chose to be here, with her. She wanted it sufficiently to suffer the canned soup, the imperfect coiffure, the wine served in a mug.

 Andy gazed back at Miranda.

She picked up the phone and Miranda’s lips tightened. 

Then, she gently placed it on Miranda’s paper. “No.”

Miranda’s eyes widened. Surprised you, didn’t I? The obvious shock gave Andy a familiar thrill. She might as well admit it; whatever it was between them, Andy would not be the one to put a stop to it. But she wouldn’t be the one to start it either. She had put herself on line plenty of times. It was Miranda’s turn now.

Miranda flicked her eyes between the phone and Andy. Then, she pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose. “What do you want, Andrea?”

“At the moment, your laptop,” Andy said calmly.

Miranda’s eyebrow shot up.

Andy shrugged, “If we are to stay here, I need to file my article.”

Miranda looked at her intently, her eyes piercing Andy’s. Andy stared back unflinchingly.

Then Miranda turned back to the paper, as if nothing ever happened.  Offhandedly, she offered, “In the car. Front sit.”

But Andy did catch that barely noticeable lift of her lips.

***

Putting the memories of all her previous New York summers to good use, she managed to construct a passable piece on the joys of city parks and the ever-imaginative uses of fountains. She grimaced as she read through it. Well, barely passable.

Truth be told, she did not stand a chance. Her concentration had been shot straight to hell and it was not coming back any time soon. They had admitted… something... to each other. What exactly, remained to be seen. Obviously, even though it was mostly left unspoken, they both wished to spend some more time together. Together. Even that tiny admission was enough to raise the tension to unbearable heights.

So, how on Earth was she supposed to write about frolicking children while lounging five feet away from Miranda, who did not see fit to change out of that flimsy robe?

Now, erotica she could do.

She looked to her side and swallowed a gasp. Miranda had bent her knee, holding up the Book. Her beautiful inner thigh was peaking at Andy. And if she leaned forward just a bit, she could see the shadowy curve of her breast. 

She forced herself to return her attention back to the screen. It would simply have to do. She connected to the Net via phone and her sad little article was happily on its way to her editor’s desk.

There.

Resolutely she closed the laptop and forced herself to relax. She traced the cloud shapes for a while, but stopped when all she could think was voluptuous and boobies. She tried to enjoy the beautiful scenery but caught herself checking the taut line of Miranda’s thigh again.

All of a sudden, her throat felt awfully parched.

“I’m going for a swim,” Andy jumped out of the chair.

At Miranda’s startled look, she attempted to explain, “I’m hot.”  The words came out surprisingly rough and husky.

Miranda took her glasses off and focused on Andy. She tilted her head in contemplation, her eyes half-shut.

“Perhaps I’ll join you,” Miranda said lazily, “In a bit.”

Andy shakily pointed behind herself, “I, uh, need to change.”

There was no way she’d repeat the au naturel look from yesterday. She pulled on that newly acquired sports bra and her own, far more sedate panties (in any case, it would have been a crime to ruin the La Perlas).  While passing by Miranda, she happily noticed her disappointment at Andy’s choice of swimwear.

***

The water was pleasantly warm, particularly once she drifted closer to the shoreline. She swam for a while, stretching her painful back muscles. Very resolutely, she refused to look in the direction of the house. The water was perfectly still and surprisingly clear in the early afternoon sun: she could distinguish each tiny pebble sprawled on the lake bed, each tiny fish zigzagging in the deep. Finally, she found a nice level spot near the shore where she gingerly straightened up.  The water reached up to her waist, and she enjoyed the sun warming her back while she observed the local nature from this new angle.

The rustling from the shore drew her attention. There was a family of ducks entering the water nearby.  She stood motionless, balancing occasionally with gentle arm strokes. Still, she couldn’t help but snort at the ducklings trying - quite ineffectively - to keep an orderly line behind their mother.

“They are quite endearing,” A soft voice murmured in her ear.

Andy gasped and turned quickly, “Miranda!”

There was an outburst of nervous quacks and hurried flutter of wings somewhere behind her, but it was just a background noise. Miranda was standing a few feet away from her.  And, Andy swallowed, that wet hair look from yesterday was back.

Greedily, Andy’s eyes dropped down. 

Oh. my. fucking. god.

Her knees simply folded.  Fumbling, she wind-milled desperately to keep afloat until she found her legs again.

It seemed Miranda had found something expendable to wear, as well. A plain white men’s shirt.

Andy whimpered. She’d have to inform Miranda that fashion design was an utterly useless endeavor, a complete waste of time. Because, there was nothing, absolutely nothing in the whole world, more enticing than that plain, white, men’s shirt.

Wet shirt. Plastered to Miranda’s front.

Andy’s throat worked as she tried to form a sentence, “Nice shirt.”

“It’s despicable,” Miranda scoffed. “Just look at those horrible plastic buttons.”

Andy looked. Oh, how she looked. A beautiful, dark nipple strained against the shirt, presenting itself in all its glory, unhindered by transparent fabric. Andy frowned at the other nipple, hiding behind the double layer of shirt pocket.

Her fingers tingled with need to touch.

 “Oh, my God,” Andy said to the buttons reverently and ducked underwater. When she finally emerged, Miranda was giving her a knowing look.

“Turn around,” Miranda finally ordered.

“Why?” Andy asked even though she was already turning, half grateful for respite. That nipple sighting just about killed her.

“Mhmm, as I thought,” Miranda hummed as she tapped her shoulder blade. “Be careful, you are starting to burn.”

“Oh,” Andy shivered violently. She closed her eyes, better to concentrate on Miranda’s strokes.

“What?” Miranda’s fingers traced a line from her neck to tip of her shoulder.

“Nothing,” Andy whimpered, and added trying to preserve at least some pride, “I think I overdid it yesterday.”

“Wielding that axe, you mean?” Miranda murmured, distracted, “Oh, it was worth the effort, I assure you.”  She passed her fingers lightly over Andy’s bicep, and continued as if talking to herself, “I had no idea.”

“Huh?” Andy was losing the thread of conversation, soaking in the gentle touch.

Miranda pressed her fingers in the juncture of her neck and shoulder. “Does this hurt?”

“No. Yeah.” Actually, the pain was only a tiny bit of the overall experience. “No.”

“This should help,” Miranda massaged her shoulders with gentle but sure strokes.

“Oh, God,” Andy moaned.

“Hmmm?”

“Feels good.”

“Oh, I bet it does,” Miranda’s voice tickled her ear. Next, Andy felt the wide straps of her bra sliding down her shoulders. Her breath hitched as the hands roamed newly exposed territory. There was a feathery touch on her neck, even softer than Miranda’s fingertips.  She felt it again, just a brush of lips that made Andy’s toes curl.

Miranda pressed closer, the shirt rough against her back, the buttons and nipples grazing her shoulder blades. She felt a soft, wet stroke under her ear and almost collapsed:  Miranda was licking the water drops away.

 Andy moaned. Hands were sneaking around her waist, nails lightly scratching at her skin.  Andy’s stomach contracted in want. She gasped for air. The touch climbed higher, skimming her ribs, pausing at the elastic edge of her sports bra.

Miranda pulled lightly at the fabric then whispered next to her ear, “Well?”

Hurriedly, Andy grabbed at the straps of the top and pushed the garment down to her waist. Miranda laughed lightly, her breath tickling Andy’s ear. Andy waited with baited breath.

Then, finally, oh, finally, Miranda’s palms cradled her breasts. They both moaned at the sensation.

“I watched those yesterday, while you were swimming,” Miranda whispered, unmoving.

She let them both adjust to the feeling then rubbed her palms over Andy’s nipples. Miranda started playing with them in earnest, pinching, flicking, rubbing until Andy could only lean helplessly back. She grasped Miranda’s hips, desperately trying to keep her balance.  She was truly grateful they were in water; she doubted Miranda would be able to hold her dead weight otherwise. She needed--, she wanted--

Miranda’s right hand slid lower and crawled down her stomach. Her fingertips dipped playfully in her navel, then moved even lower. When Miranda touched the edge of her panties, Andy almost hyperventilated.

Miranda snapped the elastic, laughing at Andy’s indignant squeak. Next, her fingers were playing in Andy’s curls. She pulled lightly and Andy hissed impatiently. Before Andy could complain, she dipped her fingers even lower.

“You are ready for me, aren’t you?” Suddenly, Miranda’s agile fingers were plunging in her wetness, teasing, thrusting, prodding but never staying in one place long enough, long enough for Andy to...

“Please,” Andy stretched up, only the tips of her toes touching the bottom, trying to make herself easier to reach. “Just... please!”

Miranda dove into her, once, twice and Andy convulsed, almost against her will, “Oh, God.”

“I can’t last-- I-- Miranda!” Andy keened, holding on to reality by mere threads.

“Let go, Andrea,” Miranda said and Andy did, trusting Miranda not to let her float away.

They stood like that for a while, breathing harshly in perfect unison.

Then Andy turned around, and lunged at Miranda’s lips.

She had often wondered what it would be like, kissing Miranda Priestly. She imagined the first kiss to be sweet but stilted, perhaps awkward, most likely hesitant and restrained. She certainly did not imagine it to be in the middle of some nameless lake, and sloppy and wet, and so urgent that Miranda was climbing her like a tree.

“Andrea,” Miranda pushed herself up on Andy’s shoulders, and wrapped her thighs tightly around her waist.

Andy almost drowned them both.

Miranda had no panties on.

She could feel the heat and coarse hair rubbing on her stomach. She grasped Miranda’s ass and pulled her even closer. At Miranda’s whimper, she kneaded her cheeks, following her desperate rhythm.

Miranda finally broke the kiss, pressing closer, stretching up, and gasping for air.  When Miranda reared up, those coveted nipples offered themselves to Andy.

Obediently, Andy suckled through the shirt, too far gone to try and remove it. Miranda was moaning constantly by now, so erotic in her ecstasy, Andy almost came again.

“I need more,” Miranda gasped. Andy bit the nipple in response. She pushed her right hand in between them and plunged in. Urgently, Miranda impaled herself on her fingers and, much sooner than Andy liked, she was gone.

They stayed like that for a long while, wrapped tightly together, enjoying the combined pleasure of hot sun and cool water.

“I’m wrinkling,” Andy finally complained.

“Mmm.”

“We should get out of water,” She tried again, more directly.

“Mmm.”

She pushed her tongue in Miranda’s ear, suggestively, “I want you spread out in that chair.”

“Why are we still in water? Stop dawdling, Andrea.”

***

The ladder unfortunately proved itself to be too much of a temptation and thus, their deck chair plans got postponed. By the time they finally got out of water, they were starving. Fortunately, the invisible butler who, Andy had found out, went by the name Elisabeth - had brought enough food to last two days.

They shared Miranda’s deck chair; Andy perched at the foot, a plate of cheese and fruits between them. When Miranda brought out the wine, Andy was supremely amused to find that Elisabeth had also procured one Swarovski wine glass. Nevertheless, after only a minute of Miranda sensually tracing the rim, she was more than willing to admit that wine tasted so much better if drank from proper vessels. Particularly if sipped directly from Miranda’s lips.

After another heated wine testing lesson, Miranda traced Andy’s eyebrow and frowned.

“I should work for a while,” she said apologetically, “I need to use the light, while it’s there.”

“Of course, um, can I help?”

Miranda gave her a contemplative look,”There is an article in the laptop, on history of American sweatshops. You could take a look at that, if you wish.”

“You mean to... edit it?” Andy laughed shakily, “Me? I’m not sure I can-”

“Of course you can,” Miranda huffed, “I do not understand why you’d waste your considerable talent on that little paper.”

“Miranda!” Andy exclaimed, with delight, “And how would you know of my considerable talent? Are you reading the Mirror now?”

“I would never read that rag.”

“Oh.”

“Elisabeth scans the articles of interest.”

They worked in companionable silence for a while. Andy was amazed how different it felt compared to the tense, uncertain silence of the morning. She had also found she had quite a lot to say about the quality of writing of the sweatshop article.

They worked diligently, their hands occasionally meeting (and then happily greeting) over the wine glass.

Next time Andy raised her head, she realized the light was rapidly receding. She turned the laptop off and stood.

“Miranda.”

“Hm?”

She pulled the Book out Miranda’s hands, and placed it on the table, “The light is bad, you’ll ruin your eyes.”

“Andrea,” it was endearing how Miranda was trying to curb the annoyance in her voice. And failing, of course, “I do not appreciate-”

Her complaint died down as Andy dropped to her knees.

“I told you how I wanted you,” Andy said, and lightly pushed against Miranda’s thighs, “spread out on this chair.”

“Oh.”

Before the evening was out, the deckchair was replaced by the doorjamb, which then turned into the kitchen floor and finally morphed into the bed.

***

Date: Sunday, August 9

Location: Just… north

 

Sunday morning started with fingers lightly scratching on Andy’s shoulders.

Like a giant cat, Andy blissfully flexed her back muscles and Miranda hummed in pleasure.

“You have such a gorgeous back,” she murmured, peppering tiny kisses down Andy’s spine.   “Such lovely, defined muscle tone...”

“Really,” Andy drawled, and squirmed closer.

“Mhm, you are very callipygous, as well,” Miranda bit her left buttock.

Andy giggled in delight, “Ooh, wordiness turns me on.”

“I can tell,” Miranda fingertips grazed at Andy’s inner thigh and then burrowed further up.

***

“Whose house is this, anyway?” Andy traced light circles on Miranda’s stomach.

“Friends,” Miranda sighed, “But Daniel failed to stress that the accommodations were lacking.” She turned her head to glare at Andy, ”This is entirely your fault. Springing yourself on me like that. Really, Andrea! I hope this will not become a habit.“

Andy kissed her leisurely and murmured saucily against her lips, “Do you now?”

“Oh. “ Miranda licked her upper lip, “Well.”

Andy laughed merrily, and returned back to her side, “It’s a beautiful house, though. It’s going to look great once it’s furnished.”

“Possibly. I would be interested to see what he does with it. Perhaps we should--,” Miranda halted, her eyes widening.

“Yeah,” Andy smiled, and put her fingertips on Miranda’s lips, “Perhaps we should.”

It was far too early to make plans and commitments, but it was good to know they were both on the same page.

“Hey,” Andy said, trying to put some levity in the charged moment, “What’s the name of this place, anyway?”

Miranda’s lips twitched, “Mooselookmeguntic Lake.”

Andy stared at Miranda, her eyes huge.

“Are you telling me that the place we first made love in is called Mooseleektoctic?”

“Mooselookmeguntic Lake,” Miranda repeated perfectly composed.

Andy flopped back with peals of laughter. Through the eyes filled with tears, she could see Miranda smiling happily at her.

“And you better learn to pronounce it properly.”

 

THE END

 

 

EPILOGUE I

“Erm. Perhaps you should let me drive?“

“Why on Earth would I do that?”

“Oh, just so you could talk to the twins in peace, you know.”

“Really.”

But she did throw Andy the keys.

 

 

EPILOGUE II

“So, did Elisabeth fill up the tank?”

“Whatever for? It’s half full.”

“What?”

“Besides, the gas station is just around the corner.”