Andy Sachs stared out of her office window as the rain hammered down across the city. She longed to open a window and breathe in the smell of wet pavement. Fourteen stories up that was an impossibility and, not for the first time recently, she found herself feeling the confines of her office.
A light tap at her door drew her away from grim thoughts and she turned her attention towards the woman quietly opening the door. She had worked with Radha for going on two years now, and there was something in her face that told her she wasn’t going to enjoy whatever was about to come out of her mouth.
‘You free for a sec?’ Radha asked, entering the room.
Andy glanced at the manuscript on her screen which had been left untouched for the better part of an hour. ‘That depends entirely on who’s asking,’ she replied, closing her laptop.
Radha approached her desk and sat down. ‘Me, actually.’ The accompanying wince confirmed Andy’s worst suspicions.
‘I had a feeling,’ Andy sighed, pushing her glasses up onto her head and leaning back in her chair. ‘So, who’s stealing you away from me?’
Radha looked surprised, and then resigned. Andy had been expecting it for a while. The particularly successful marketing campaign Radha had run for one of their new authors had been bound to catch the attention of someone. And by the look on Radha’s face it was someone big, with an offer that would be impossible to match.
‘Elias-Clark,’ Radha said after a moment. ‘They approached me last week. I turned them down but they came back, and it’s a lot, Andy.’
Andy couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped at that. She knew the depths of Elias-Clark’s pockets all too well. ‘Well, I suppose it’s about time you dipped your toes into the shark pool. New York?’
Radha nodded. ‘I told them I would need to work out my notice here, obviously. But with my loans, I just don’t think I can turn it down. I’m so sorr—
Andy held up a hand. ‘Don’t apologize. You have to take care of yourself. If we had a budget the size of Elias-Clark’s then we’d pay you what you’re worth too.’
Radha relaxed back into her chair a little, the tension leaving her face in a whoosh. Andy didn’t think she was a particularly intimidating member of the senior staff, but perhaps she had been a bit off lately. Nothing felt like it fit anymore. Not her clothes, her apartment, her job or even this city.
‘Do you have someone who can be ready to step in?’ Andy asked, opening her laptop and pulling up personnel details for the marketing team. There were so many of them now. Digital marketing alone was a twenty-four-hour job, and losing their head of department was going to sting.
‘Yeah, Kimani. She’s been shadowing me for the better part of the last six months.’
Andy pulled up her file and blanched when she read the date of birth. Twenty-six and up for management.
Radha must have caught her look. ‘I know she’s young, but she has the leadership qualities and is a good decision maker. Give her a shot. You can always put her in as interim manager of digital for the time being, but she deserves a raise regardless.’
Andy raised her brow at that and Radha gave her a wry smile in return. ‘Hey, I have to look after my girls, right?’
Andy let a smile creep onto her face and shook her head. Radha’s entire team didn’t have a single competitive streak between them. They worked like a well oiled unit, lifting each other up, supporting each other, and covering each others asses. Sometimes Andy wished she had been born ten years later. Or when money was tight, twenty-five years earlier.
‘Interim manager. I can probably negotiate to get her a slight raise to reflect her increased responsibilities. After six months, if she’s proven herself, she’ll get the title and the salary to match. Happy?’
Radha beamed. ‘Thanks, Andy,’ she said as she got to her feet.
‘It’s not a free ride. She’s going to have to work. And I’ll need your official letter of resignation by the morning so I can pass it on to Tim.’
‘I’ll get it done,’ she said as she began moving towards the door.
‘Oh, and Radha?’ Andy said, stopping the woman in her tracks. ‘Make the most of this opportunity. Elias-Clark can open doors for you that you can’t even imagine.’
A strange look passed over Radha’s face like she was trying to solve a puzzle and had just been given another piece. ‘I will Andy, and thanks again for understanding.’ She walked out and closed the door behind her.
Alone again, Andy reached over and closed the laptop on Kimani’s beaming young face.
It had been a long time since Andy herself had been that happy. The end of her marriage had left her withdrawn and pensive. Her thoughts too often strayed to the past, to things she had given up in the name of love. She had compromised. Too often, on reflection.
Her short time in the gilded halls of Runway Magazine had been the catalyst for a lot of what came after. She had been so arrogant back then. She had thought her future was guaranteed, that she was destined for greatness and was somehow owed it. She thought she was better, that she could forge a new path where she could keep everything in balance, be better than those who had come before. Miranda Priestly had somehow reinforced those ideas in her mind when she had allowed her to walk free without punishment and straight into a job at the Mirror.
She had worked her ass off at that paper, but the pay off was minimal. Journalism just wasn’t the field it used to be. Headlines were produced for shock value and to entice social media users to click. Bias was rife throughout most publications, and she didn’t have enough of a reputation to step out on her own as a freelancer. After a couple of years in the trenches, she was ground down. Her age had seen her pushed into digital content, but the stories, always short, lacked in substance and were forgotten almost as soon as they were read.
She couldn’t see any purpose in what she was doing. She was a good writer, but so were many others, most of whom were willing to sell their soul for the maximum number of page views. She was viewed as an old-fashioned thinker, and when her editor was eventually ousted for refusing to compromise on standards, she couldn’t bring herself to stay.
Feeling lost and adrift, Nate had convinced her that a change of scenery might be good. So she sold her stuff, packed a bag and moved to Boston, then Washington, and finally Chicago as he chased promotion after promotion. She never went back to journalism. She kept writing, for herself mainly, and then somewhere along the line she simply stopped.
They had gotten married because it had seemed like the logical thing to do.
It wasn’t until much later that she realised she might have made a mistake.
They were in Washington then. She had been working as a Junior Editor for a medium-sized publishing house when Nate decided he wanted kids.
She remembered the day clearly. They had been celebrating. The apartment was finally packed up and they were ready to move on again. Nate had landed a promotion he wanted in Chicago and a small publishing house there was willing to give her a shot with a guarantee at moving up from Junior Editor within eighteen months. Although she was taking a pay cut, it at least gave her something to look forward to. Chicago hadn't really appealed to her. She liked Washington. But Nate had found another dream job, and with somewhere to land herself there wasn’t much point in fighting the move.
They had had a lot to drink when he suggested the idea to her, but something in his eyes had told her he was serious. His brother’s wife had just had her second baby and Andy wasn’t getting any younger. They needed to start thinking about it, he said.
Even then, four glasses of wine down, something held her back from saying yes. She laughed it off, and in the coming months, put it off. She had plenty of excuses: the move, the new job, the sudden departure of the Editor-in-Chief which fast tracked her promotion.
It took Nate two and a half years to finally confront her and she was forced to admit to him, and to herself that she didn’t want kids; couldn’t imagine them, not with him.
She still couldn't say what it was that day, but something inside of her knew that to have acquiesced in that moment would have been the final nail in the coffin of her life, and something inside her had finally awoken to protect what little she had left.
Things fell apart quickly after that. She should have felt worse about it, but all she seemed to be able to do was dwell on the past decade and every non-decision she had made. She had a good job, but it didn’t feel right.
She was good at it, but it wasn’t what she wanted and she only had herself to blame.
She turned and looked out of her window which faced directly into another dreary Chicago highrise.
This city didn’t feel right because she had never liked it in the first place. She turned back and looked at the door Radha had just left through.
It had been a catalyst for many things. She had allowed herself to be drawn away. Perhaps if she had stayed and fought, things would be different.
She reached for her phone on an impulse and pulled up a familiar contact. ‘Lil, it’s me. Remember that offer you made me after Nate and I split? I was wondering if it was still on the table?’