Chapter 1: A Strange Metaphysical Elegance of Death
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?’
Chapter 2: No Sleep Till Brooklyn
‘I hope you brought some of that fancy ass furniture with you,’ Lily said as she opened the door and pulled her into a hug.
Andy fell into it, dropping her single suitcase on the floor and wrapping both arms around her friend tightly. ‘It’ll be here in a couple of weeks,’ Andy mumbled into the mass of her best friend’s hair.
‘Good, because I’m in desperate need of a new sofa.’ Lily pulled back and gave her a once over before shuffling her inside. ‘I can’t believe you all used to give me shit about living in Brooklyn. I could sublet this place and buy a house next week at the way rent prices are going.’
Andy laughed as she pulled off her coat and threw it over a chair. Lily lived in a large open plan apartment. There were paintings from various artists mounted on the brickwork and more leaning haphazardly against one wall, waiting to be hung.
‘Gifts,’ she said, catching Andy’s line of sight. ‘Those over there are going up in a space just down the street next week. Local artists.’
Lily built a successful career and had worked in a number of prominent galleries since they all first moved to New York. These days she was focusing more on putting together shows for artists she believed in. Prominent galleries didn’t tend to feature too many artists of colour. They were particularly averse to work deemed too political, and hence unsellable, to New York’s predominantly white 1%.
‘That’s a lot of gifts,’ Andy said, eyeing the collection around the apartment.
‘It’s my retirement fund,’ Lily laughed as she grabbed Andy’s suitcase and dragged it towards a door near the kitchen. ‘It’s not much,’ she said as she pushed it open with her foot, ‘but the bed is comfortable and the window gets good light.’
Andy grabbed her suitcase away from Lily and stepped in to look around. There was a bookcase, a desk, and a double bed. One wall was exposed brick, while the others were painted a plain white. A wooden closet stood against one wall.
‘I stripped everything back for you. You can do what you want with it. There’re drawers under that bed you can use for storage to save on space. I work out at the dining room table. You’re welcome to join me there, but I left the desk in case you need it.’
Andy felt tears welling in her eyes. It was like starting all over again. She was terrified, but for the first time in a long time she felt like she had retaken control of her life. It felt good. ‘It’s perfect,’ she said, beaming tearfully at Lily.
‘Get in here,’ Lily said, pulling her into another hug. ‘It’s going to be okay. You’re good at this, and this isn’t even a new city for you this time, it’s an old one.’
‘Thank you, Lil,’ she said earnestly.
‘Don’t mention it. I told you before: you’re welcome here anytime. I was worried about you out there, alone. Always working and no friends to speak of. It wasn’t a life, Andy. You made the right choice.’
Andy wiped a stray tear from under her eye. ‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure I did.’
Lily gave her a reaffirming grip on the shoulder. ‘Now, I think it’s time we had a drink, don’t you? But you have got to change,’ she said, eyeing Andy’s business attire with disdain. ‘Go and have a shower while I find you something to wear,’ she said as she pushed Andy in the direction of the bathroom.
By the time Lily was finished with her, she was in a pair of skin tight jeans and a button down, paired with white Converse which had seen better days. These were clothes she wore around the house; not clothes she wore out drinking.
‘Welcome to Brooklyn,’ Lily said with a shrug, ‘we’ll take you shopping tomorrow because my God your suitcase looks like you’re doing nothing but attending job interviews for the next month.’
‘Well, that was part of my plan,’ Andy said, a hint of defensiveness in her voice.
‘That was your only plan for most of your twenties. I thought you wanted to rediscover your creative roots? You’re not going to achieve that looking like an Alicia Florrick wannabe. I swore I saw an actual Elie Tahari pantsuit in there.'
Andy’s faced flamed.
‘Well, we’ve found your retirement fund,’ Lily said with a laugh. ‘Maybe you should go back and ask Miranda Priestly for a job, she might give it to you based on your wardrobe alone.’
Andy laughed at that, but her mind couldn’t help straying to Elias-Clark’s enormous publishing department. She had no interest in moving to magazines, but they ran a number of imprints which had diversified a lot in recent years. She had a lot of experience, and the novels she had edited had steady sales, even if they weren’t quite New York Times bestsellers.
‘Oh my God, you’re actually considering it!’ Lily said, tugging her out into the hall.
‘Considering what? Working for Miranda? I haven’t completely lost my mind,’ Andy said. ‘But Elias-Clark does ha—‘
Lily clamped her hand over her mouth. ‘Less thinking, more drinking,’ she ordered before turning to triple lock the door and march her down the stairs.
They hit the street outside Lily’s apartment and walked down a couple of blocks to a corner bar. It was a Thursday night and packed to the brim.
They pushed their way inside and Lily ordered them two Jack and cokes. Whisky didn’t feature anywhere on Andy’s usual list of drinks, but the usual was what she was here to escape so she didn’t argue.
As they picked up their drinks and moved deeper into the bar to mingle, a folk band fired up in the corner.
‘Is that guy playing a Guiro?’ Andy called out over the noise.
‘Yeah, these guys play most Thursdays. Most of them have small businesses in the area. The guy with the tattoos on the banjo owns a studio down the road from us.’
‘I feel old,’ Andy said.
‘You’re not. We’re not. You just need to loosen up. You’ve spent too much time in corporate Chicago. Drink up, it’ll help the process.’
‘It was hardly corporate,’ Andy grumbled as she thought back to her small company and downed her drink.
Lily ordered another round, and soon Andy found the taste of whisky to her liking. So much so that she found herself stomping her Converse on the floor in front of the band and wishing she had worn a pair of firmly heeled boots as a guy with an impressive beard went to town on an Irish fiddle.
She hadn’t felt this free for a while, and the reality that she had no one to answer to the next day was finally hitting home.
She had no job, no husband, no responsibilities. Her only responsibility was to herself. She could do what she wanted. She could eat, drink, and fuck whoever she damn well liked and no one was there to stop her.
The guy on the fiddle caught her eye and she smiled freely as he upped the tempo. She started stomping and clapping in time.
A few tunes later Lily appeared at her shoulder and grabbed her by the elbow. ‘Alright Michael Flatley, that might be enough for tonight,’ she said with a grin, dragging her away towards the quieter end of the bar.
‘You know,’ Andy began, a slight slur behind her words, ‘I never realised how much I liked folk music before.’
Lily steered her towards the towards the door and out into the fresh air. ‘You also never realised how much you liked five Jack and cokes in a row before, either. I don’t suppose you ate on the plane?’
Andy shook her head.
‘I hope you like kebabs,’ Lily said as they began to make their way home.
The next morning certainly wasn’t the best of her life, but having a hangover to focus on seemed to push a lot of unhelpful thoughts out of her mind and simplify her thinking.
Since the divorce, she had spent all of her energy focusing on her regrets. She had gone over her entire life with a fine tooth comb trying to work out exactly where it all went wrong, what she could have done differently.
The reality of it all was that she just needed to start thinking about what to do today. And then tomorrow. And then the next day.
She wanted to write, but wasn’t in a position to support herself on it. She worked in publishing, she knew the reality for writers out there. Freelancers were paid pittance unless writing for big publications, and returning to the novel she had left behind six years ago was going to be a process.
She needed a job.
But today, she needed to write.
She just wasn’t sure where to start.
When she wandered out into the apartment, Lily was on the phone, pacing back and forth and arguing with someone about the delivery of a collection. ‘It could be all the way in Australia for all I care. It needs to be here by tomorrow morning, otherwise you’re going to be liable for the lost revenue,’ she snapped before abruptly ending the call. She took a breath and then moved to the kitchen. ‘Coffee?’
‘Yeah, please,’ Andy said, moving gingerly to sit down.
‘How’s the head?’
‘It’s definitely been better.’
Lily laughed. ‘You were on fire, I felt bad dragging you away but I figured a one night stand with Vic the local bike mechanic wasn’t exactly what you needed. Although you certainly made an impression.’
Andy groaned as she sunk her head into her hands. ‘The dancing?’
‘Was magnificent. My Instagram followers certainly enjoyed it.’
Andy’s head shot up. ‘You didn’t!’
Lily laughed harder. ‘My God, your face. Of course not. Although I can’t say the same for the fifty other patrons who were enjoying your take on Irish dancing with their phones out.’
‘I hate the 21st century.’
‘Yeah, but at least it has good coffee,’ Lily said as she placed a mug down in front of Andy. ‘Look, I have to go into Manhattan this morning. The collection that was supposed to have arrived for an opening tomorrow night hasn’t shown up. The artist is local, so he’s bringing some other pieces in so we can at least start getting them up on the walls. I took the liberty of emailing you a bunch of links for local groups on Meetups. There’s a book club, some language learning groups, a couple of creative writing courses, meditation, you name it. Get out of the house, go do something fresh and I’ll be home tonight if you feel like taking another swing at Vic. He won’t have his fiddle but I’m sure he’s still interested,’ she finished with a wink.
‘Oh, I know,’ Lily smirked. ‘Right, I really need to go,’ she said as she moved to drop a kiss on Andy’s forehead. ‘It’s day one of the rest of your life, go and enjoy it.’
After finishing her coffee, Andy did just that. None of the groups were meeting during the day, so she packed up her laptop and made her way to Prospect Park. She found herself a space near the water, spread out a blanket and opened up a document she hadn’t touched in six years, save for transferring it from device to device.
As she scrolled through page after page she realised that the time to write that particular book had passed. It no longer felt relevant.
She opened a fresh document and decided to start somewhere small. Unfortunately, somewhere small wasn’t small enough. She didn’t know where to start. There was a time when writing had been second nature to her. She would walk through the world, observing and narrating and plotting out stories for everyone and everything that she saw. She saw articles she could write while reading the newspaper, things that could be expanded on and investigated further. Now, it was as if the door to that skill had been nailed shut.
She closed the lid of her laptop and sighed.
Perhaps she could find inspiration from someone who knew what they were doing. She exchanged her laptop for the book in her bag, laying back on the blanket and enjoying the feeling of being outdoors in the middle of the day. It was a simple pleasure; one she hadn’t enjoyed alone, perhaps since college.
It was an odd feeling having nowhere to go on a weekday. She hadn’t been unemployed since after her time at the Mirror, and even then, the period had been so short as she had thrown herself into the first internship she could land in the hopes that she could salvage something of a career before it was too late. She had been in such a hurry in her early twenties. Impatient. A costly credit card bill for a flight back from Paris was one of many examples of her hasty decision making.
Not much had changed, really. Coming to New York had been a snap decision, although she had done her company the courtesy of a two-month handover to her Junior Editor, who was long overdue a promotion anyway. She had grown, a little.
New York wasn’t a city she could tackle penniless or she would be out on her ass in less than six months. The move had sucked up a good portion of her savings. Lily had given her a place to land, but she needed to find a way to fund her lifestyle here if she was going to get anywhere.
She had a skill that could be utilized while she was trying to recapture an old one, as long as she didn’t allow herself to settle.
Later that evening when Lily got home, Andy was camped out at the dining room table, her pixie cut sticking out at all angles as she typed furiously on her laptop, her glasses perched down her nose.
‘I didn’t know you wore glasses,’ Lily said as she dropped her bag and went straight to the fridge, pulling out a bottle of wine.
‘Too much time in front of screens.’ She pushed her laptop away and pulled her glasses off, dropping them on the table. ‘Long day?’
‘You could say that, but the shipment arrived. We have enough time to finish the set up tomorrow.’ Lily poured two glasses and bought one over to her.
‘You need some help tomorrow?’ Andy offered.
‘Wouldn’t mind it now that you mention it. You don’t have other stuff to do?’
‘No, I’ve just updated my LinkedIn and social media, and I’ve been on the phone with recruiters all afternoon. They’re setting me up with some interviews for next week.’
‘You’re going back to publishing, already?’ Lily said, a twinge of disappointment in her tone. ‘I thought you might take a bit more time. Maybe apply for some writing positions, like old times.’
Andy shook her head. ‘I need money, Lil. I’m not throwing in the towel yet, I just need an income. Plus, I have you here to pull me back if I start working a 60 hour week again.’
‘That you do.’ Lily took a deep sip from her glass and sighed contentedly. ‘It’s nice to have someone to come home to. I don’t think I realised I had been a bit lonely myself.’
‘It feels like old times,’ Andy smiled. ‘Although, with a few more wrinkles between us.’
‘Yeah, and much better wine,’ Lily said as titled her glass towards Andy, her face lost in thought.
‘There’s something I’ve been meaning to say for a while,’ Lily said after a moment, ‘and now is probably as good a time as any.’
Andy had an idea of where this was going. There were certain things they had never discussed, things which had put dents in their friendship over the years.
‘I was too hard on you, back then,’ Lily said. ‘Nate was always around, and you were nowhere to be seen. We saw how much it hurt him, but I took his side without asking you how you were doing. I thought you were trading us all in for your fancy new job, and all those fancy new people. I lashed out. You were my best friend, and I should have had your back, not his. I wasn’t there for you, and looking back, you needed someone in your corner. You were alone. I didn't see it until later. Much later, and by then? Well...you were gone.’
Andy shook her head. It was a long time ago, but that year had remained clear in her mind, like it had happened yesterday. ‘It was a long time ago, Lil. I didn’t ask for help, either. I lashed out, and then acted out. I put you in a terrible position with Christian. You’re here for me now, and that’s all that really matters.’
‘You couldn’t pay me to be twenty-three again.’
Andy laughed and screwed up her nose. ‘God, no.’
‘Do you think we’re doing much better now?’
‘You are,’ Andy said. ‘Give me a year and I’ll get back to you.’
Lily looked at her. ‘I think it might be sooner than you think.’
Andy smiled warmly at the vote of confidence. 'I missed this,' she said.
'Me too. It feels like you've come home.'
Andy glanced around the apartment. She listened to the noises of people yelling merrily in the street as they made their way home and felt something settle deep inside herself. 'Yeah, it does.'
Chapter 3: Back to the Beginning
It had been inevitable, Andy supposed, as she climbed the stairs towards a familiar building, fiddling with the belt on her Phillip Lim pleated crop pants.
She looked good, she knew it. However, she had been experiencing an unusual level of anxiety since she had woken up this morning.
Everything was feeling a little too full circle. It was like going back to the beginning, tracing over her very first footsteps in New York. Perhaps they would lead her in a different direction this time, or perhaps not.
She had met with the Executive Editor of a HarperCollins imprint on Monday and hadn’t felt this agitated.
The call about an opening at Elias-Clark came yesterday afternoon, and Lily told her she had bought it on herself that very first night back in New York by even letting the thought cross her mind.
She had hesitated when her recruiter had sent her the details, wondering if pursuing positions at Elias-Clark and other big name houses was the right choice for her right now. However, not much else was available, and attempting to survive in New York on minimum wage wasn’t something she was prepared to do. She had invested a good chunk of her life in publishing, she might as well reap the benefits.
As she walked through the front doors, her sense of déjà vu began to dissipate. The interior of the lobby had had a makeover in the last decade, and she couldn’t see a single familiar face as she approached the security desk to pick up a pass.
She took the elevator and allowed a small smile to play across her face as she remembered the scrambling she and Emily used to do to try and reach the twenty-fifth floor before Miranda when they were forbidden to share an elevator with her.
Things were certainly simpler then. She wasn’t required to use her brain, just follow orders.
The offices of Inception, a relatively new Elias-Clark imprint, were located on the twelfth floor and had all the markings of a modern office space, designed for millennial workers. As she walked in, she wondered if she should have taken Lily up on her offer to go shopping. People were flitting about in casual wear, piercings and tattoos unapologetically on display. She managed to locate the receptionist and was directed towards an office on the other side of a co-work space where two women were sitting with coffees and laptops, pouring over a sizeable manuscript.
She knocked on the open door, and a short young blonde popped up from behind the desk.
‘Sorry, just having an issue with the old network Finance insists on using. So many fucking cables. Come in and make yourself comfortable. It’s Andy, right?’
‘That’s me,’ Andy said, unsure as to whether she was supposed to close the door or not. She decided on the half-way approach, and moved into the room.
The woman, Catlin Greer, was back under her desk for another couple of minutes before she resurfaced and plopped into her chair.
‘Phew, sorry about that. Pull up a chair and we’ll get started,’ Catlin fired off quickly, turning her attention to her laptop as Andy located a chair and moved it to the front of the desk.
‘Okay,’ Catlin continued, looking at her screen. ‘I’ll cut straight to the chase. We’re looking for someone experienced in the field who can come on as an Editor, with seniority. I have some Junior’s who need more guidance, and your name was the first to cross my desk that I recognized. Your LinkedIn also had a bit of colour. Two years at the New York Mirror?’
Andy nodded back at the woman whom, she guessed, was at least two years her junior. ‘I graduated from Stanford with a degree in journalism, bu—
‘Expectations vs. reality?’ Catlin interrupted, the words flowing quickly from her mouth.
Andy shrugged. ‘That more or less sums it up. It was the pre-Trump era. I wanted to go into investigative reporting and there just wasn’t a lot of money being funnelled that way then.’
‘So, publishing? Why did you leave New York? Looking at this you were searching for something low key. We’re definitely not that.’
‘I’ve done my time in smaller houses, I’m looki—
‘Your career trajectory doesn’t make sense,’ Catlin said, speaking over her again, waving at her laptop in apparent frustration at Andy’s life choices. ‘You had an internship with Penguin Random House in Boston! Why would you leave a house that big for a relative unknown in Washington of all places? I’ve had assurances you’re good from literally everyone I’ve spoken to and I read that latest novel from Laia Lopez, so I know they weren’t lying. You could have been running your own imprint by now. I’m clearly missing something.’ Catlin pinned her with a look that said she wasn’t going to accept a pre-packaged answer.
‘My ex-husband got a promotion. Well, multiple promotions,’ Andy said honestly.
Catlin’s eyes moved down to her empty left hand and she nodded in understanding, giving Andy a look that was filled with far too much sympathy for her liking. ‘So you’re back, single, and ready for another crack?’
Catlin’s presumptuousness was beginning to grate. ‘I suppose you could put it like that,’ Andy gritted out.
‘Okay,’ Catlin said with a nod and a note of finality.
Andy was taken aback. ‘Okay?’
‘The job is yours, if you want it,’ Catlin said.
‘Inception is an imprint for millennials, as you’ve probably read,’ Catlin explained, ‘but our entire budget for the next six months, not to mention our reputation, is resting on a coffee table book about labradoodles than just happened to go viral. We need more credibility or we’re going to sink fast. You’ve edited some amazing releases, some of which deserved more recognition than they got. I want you to bring your eye for good stories here, and I want it now,’ Catlin said as she typed something out on her laptop with impressive speed. ‘I just emailed the offer I had prepared,’ she said as she closed the lid, ‘and I need an answer by end of day tomorrow.’
‘You haven’t bought anyone else in for this?’ Andy all but spluttered.
Catlin looked at her. ‘No, you were my first choice,’ she said bluntly, ‘and I usually get what I want,’ she finished with a shrug.
Andy looked Catlin up and down and didn’t doubt it. She was wearing a tight steel blue dress which hugged every curve, designer unknown. Her hair and makeup were impeccable and—when she wasn’t focused on one of a million other things—her look was piercing and screamed ‘don’t fuck with me.’ She was direct, bluntly so, and now that the outcome of all of the personal questions was a positive one, Andy realised it was somewhat refreshing.
As she made her way back down to the lobby afterwards, everything felt surreal. She had been in there for less than twenty minutes.
When the elevator doors pinged open, she headed across the marble floors, her mind already beginning to plan out the rest of her day.
Her head was elsewhere, so much so that she didn’t notice the woman walking briskly towards her until she ploughed straight into her.
‘Would you watch where you’re going!?’ she snapped at Andy, before looking in relief at the still intact Starbucks cup in her hand. She pushed past Andy with a huff, breaking into a run to catch the elevator doors which were about to close. She was impressively quick in heels.
Andy was certain she knew to which floor she was headed and chuckled to herself.
She turned back from the scene, shaking her head and walking back towards the entrance, dropping her security pass off on her way out.
As she stepped outside, she pulled out her phone and started scanning the offer Catlin had sent through. It was attractive. Less than HarperCollins, admittedly, but her interest was piqued and there was always room for negotiation. It would be something completely different. A millennial imprint would bring in fresh talent. Maybe it would help kick her out of her rut.
She nodded to herself, and looked up just in time to spot Miranda Priestly making her way up the stairs towards the doors she was standing idiotically in front of.
Miranda was rapidly dictating to an assistant who was furiously typing notes on her phone.
Andy felt a phantom pain in her wrist at the memory of similar mornings prior to the invention of the iPhone.
She looked about but there wasn’t anywhere to hide unless she made a run for it. She had no interest in drawing attention to herself, so she moved off to the side and began to make her way down the stairs.
It had been more than a decade. She figured it was a safe assumption that Miranda wouldn’t recognize her, let alone remember who she was.
However, something must have drawn the older woman’s attention away from her assistant and Andy saw, no, felt the glance in her direction.
Miranda paused, her mouth parting slightly.
It was fleeting. If Andy hadn’t spent eight months in the trenches with her all those years ago, she probably wouldn’t have noticed it. However, it was clear that Miranda knew exactly who she was and certainly hadn’t expected to see her here, of all places.
Of course, mild shock wasn’t enough to faze Miranda and the Editor-in-Chief’s focus was back on the task at hand in an instant. She continued her dictation as if nothing had occurred and walked straight past Andy without acknowledgment, her assistant attempting to take notes while simultaneously leaping ahead to open the door for her.
And then just like that, she was gone.
Andy let out a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding. She had thought the likelihood of seeing Miranda here would have been minimal at best. It was a huge building, and Miranda had never been one to linger anywhere.
She was thankful that the whole thing had passed by without incident. Having a conversation with Miranda Priestly wasn’t something that was on her list for that morning, or any other morning for that matter.
However, there was little doubt that she had been spotted and she could only hope that Miranda’s curiosity in regards to her was minimal.
‘Shit,’ Andy groaned.
‘What do you mean she didn’t say anything?’ Lily asked, confused, as Andy recounted her morning to her later that evening. They were both sitting on Lily’s old sofa, Chinese takeaway between them.
‘Exactly that,’ Andy said, reaching for another pot sticker, ‘she didn’t say anything, but I know she recognized me.’
Lily rolled her eyes as she fell back with a groan, ‘Ugh, I forgot how much you could eat,’ she complained, hands across her stomach as closed her eyes and dropped her head onto the armrest. ‘And,’ she continued, eyes closed, ‘I think you’re being paranoid. It’s been, what? Eleven years? Fuck, I can’t even remember the assistant I had two years ago.’
‘I know it sounds insane, but I know her. She knew it was me.’
‘Maybe Elias-Clark wasn’t a good idea. You’re starting to lose your mind already and you’ve only just taken the job.’
Andy tossed a cushion her way, hitting her square in the face. Lily shot up and launched it back at her.
‘You’re probably right, you know,’ Andy said, as she caught the cushion mid-air.
‘Of course I am. Look, I know that time was a pretty defining one in your life, but Miranda probably couldn’t care less. I wouldn’t worry about it. Even if she did recognize you, what’s she going to do? Chase you down for a chat? Stalk you at your office? I highly doubt it.’
Andy fell back into the softness that was Lily’s sofa. ‘You’re right. Of course you’re right. I must be losing my mind,’ Andy groaned. ‘It’s something about being back here, and back at Elias-Clark. It’s stirring up old memories and messing with my head.’
‘Well, get your shit together Sachs, you start in five days. And until then, you’ve got five days to start something of your own. Do something. Anything. Write about Miranda-fucking-Priestly for all I care, just pump out something. I’ve seen this time and time again with artists. You just need to start again, and then it’ll start flowing.’
‘Maybe I should write about how she’s immortal,’ Andy said. ‘She looked exactly the same. How is that even possible?’
‘Drinking the blood of innocents?’
Andy snorted. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised. Her assistants looked as harried as ever. One of them almost took me out in the foyer.’
Lily shook her head in disbelief. ‘I don’t know how you did it.’
‘It’s Miranda,’ Andy said, not sure if she could convey her meaning. ‘There simply isn’t an alternative. She’s terrifying, sure, but there’s just something that makes you want to please her. She’s like your favourite teacher and your worst critic wrapped in the same person. You don’t just do it because you have to, eventually you do it because you want to.’
‘You make Runway sound like a cult, and Miranda it’s leader. You get that, right?’
Andy laughed. There was little doubt about that. To it’s followers, Runway was the only religion they followed. Andy had taken away an appreciation for fashion, certainly, but she wasn’t one to blindly follow any longer. The industry had a lot to answer for on a global scale, regardless of how she had come to appreciate the art. There was a reason her clothes were expensive, and it was to ensure they hadn’t been produced in a sweat shop. Well...mostly.
‘You’re not planning on drinking the Kool-Aid again, are you?’ Lily asked.
‘Don’t worry, I’m not so easily overwhelmed these days.’
‘We’ve been talking about Miranda Priestly for the better part of the last half an hour,' Lily said, her tone all-knowing while she eyed her closely. 'Don’t be so damned sure.’
Chapter 4: Every Breath You Take
It had been almost two months, and Andy was settling into Inception better than she had expected. She hadn’t quite adjusted to the loose scheduling and work patterns of her Junior Editors, but she was beginning to embrace them.
Everyone had a side-gig these days. It wasn’t something that had caught on amongst her team members in Chicago, but she had one Influencer, a DJ and a fellow writer on her staff here.
Life did not begin and end at the office, and the freedom had given Andy space to ensure she dedicated at least two hours a day to writing. Not having to answer to anyone else, or work around their schedule helped immensely, and she felt a newfound appreciation for her single lifestyle.
She had fallen quickly back into article writing. It was something that came naturally, and without the restrictions of reporting, she could bring her own style into it. Her team directed her to different websites that accepted submissions, and Nina, an intern who had been published in Slate a couple of months back was only too happy to show her the best approaches.
She had been stagnating in Chicago, that much was obvious. Opportunities had been available if she hadn’t been so closed off to them. There wasn’t any money in it, that was for certain, but the life she felt coming back into her veins at doing what she loved again was something that couldn’t be bought and paid for.
‘Multipotentialites,’ Catlin said over coffee one morning.
‘That’s the buzzword. Jack-of-all-trades’, dipping their toes into everything. I haven’t found any benefit to side-gigs, just a healthy dose of exhaustion, but it seems to keep them all alive.’
‘That’s because you’re an Editor-in-Chief,’ Andy said, sipping her lukewarm, milky coffee, ‘you’ve found your calling.’
‘And you’re an Editor, a brilliant one at that. Barely two months and the kids are already beginning to look like real editors, not to mention bringing Laia with you. I didn’t think you were the poaching type initially.’
‘I didn’t poach,’ Andy corrected, ‘Laia simply preferred to work with me. They’ll get one more book out of her before she moves. I think Tim hopes he can persuade her otherwise before then.’
‘Whatever you say, Andy. I still think you’re a shark wrapped up in some fucking pricey clothing.’
Andy shrugged. ‘I’m good at what I do, but I don’t think I enjoy it the same way you do.’
‘Oh no,’ Catlin groaned, eyeing her with mild disgust. ‘It all makes sense now. The Mirror, journalism…not another writer. God help me. You never really gave up the dream, did you?’
Andy felt the hint of a blush creep into her cheeks.
Catlin rolled her eyes, but there was a smile there. ‘Look, I tell you what. You produce a manuscript worth publishing, and I’ll publish it for you. Then you can get it out of your system and stay here with me so we can take over the publishing world. I have three other imprints I plan on crushing this year, and we’ve only just begun.’
Andy grinned at the predatory look in Catlin’s eyes. It was clear how Catlin had risen to the top so fast. She was a brilliant editor but also a competitive business woman. Her job was her life.
Andy wondered if it was her destiny to work beneath women born of the same ilk.
They were busy discussing the marketing for their latest release when Zainab, their receptionist, popped her head around the corner. ‘Hey, Andy?’
‘Yeah, Z? Shoot.’
‘Do you know anyone up at Runway? Someone there wants to speak with you. They didn’t leave a name, just an extension to call back, ‘when you’re ready.’ Their words, not mine. It was weird.’
Andy felt her stomach drop.
‘Runway?’ Catlin asked, staring at Andy. ‘That would be good marketing if we can get one of our titles featured. Have you been doing some extra networking behind the scenes that I don’t know about?’
‘Not exactly,’ Andy said weakly. She had been stupid. Miranda had let her get comfortable before she dropped the guillotine.
Elias-Clark was her domain, and Andy should have known better than to think she could enter without paying her dues.
‘Andy, are you okay?’ Catlin asked, ‘you look a bit pale.’
Zainab was staring at her as well.
The imprint was a small team of twelve, and oversharing, Andy had realised shortly after she started, was the team motto. The guise of professionalism was reserved for outside of their cosy office space with it’s bean bags, pool table and extremely expensive coffee machine.
‘I may have left something off my resume…’ Andy began.
‘No way,’ Catlin breathed.
Zainab stared at her disbelief.
‘I can’t believe it,’ Catlin continued. ‘It’s not possible. You? Well, that explains the clothes, but holy mother of fuck I can’t actually believe it.’
‘I Googled you,’ Zainab said. ‘Nothing came up for Runway.’
‘I wasn’t editing then; it was when I first came to New York,’ Andy explained. ‘I needed a job, and one came up. As an assistant.’
‘To whom?’ Catlin demanded.
‘To Miranda Priestly,’ she admitted, her head sinking into her hands.
Zainab gave a low whistle of surprise.
‘You don’t actually think that was Miranda Priestly on the phone, do you?’ Catlin said, aghast.
Andy shook her head. ‘Probably an assistant,’ she spoke into her hands, not ready to face this reality just yet. ‘But there was only one other person I knew from Runway aside from Miranda who would leave me a message like that, and he works at Alexander McQueen, London now.’
Catlin groaned. ‘I can’t afford to lose you, Sachs. How the hell did you manage to get on the wrong side of the most terrifying woman in New York? I have bigger balls than you and I do my best to stay as far away from Miranda and her sycophants as possible.’
Zainab pulled up a chair and sat down, her face still coloured with disbelief as she stared at Andy. ‘I’m struggling to imagine you as one of those bitchy women from Runway.’
‘I wasn’t one of those bitchy women, that was part of the reason I got hired I think. Although, I’m not sure if Miranda made the same mistake twice.’
‘What did you do?’ Zainab asked.
‘It’s a very long story, and one that ends with me somehow ending up right where I started, just in a different office space.’
‘Well that was frustratingly vague,’ Catlin said with an eye roll. ‘I’m going to want better than that, but for now, what are you going to do?’
‘The only thing I can do. Call her back.’
Twenty minutes later and Andy was still staring at the post-it note that was stuck to her desk. It wasn’t really necessary seeing as the number and the extension was for Miranda’s direct line, which apparently hadn’t changed in over a decade.
Miranda may have liked to be unpredictable towards those around her, but she had always held a certain dislike for change.
It was late-afternoon and things were winding up for the day in their office. She figured now was as good a time as any to make the call. Putting it off any longer was simply going make her more anxious.
She popped her neck and picked up her desk phone to dial the number, reminding herself in the process that she was an adult woman, not a bumbling twenty-something any longer. She was a successful professional and had every right to be here.
‘Andrea,’ a familiar voice said down the line, in lieu of a greeting.
Andy groaned internally when she realised she had called from her office line. Miranda had known it was her before she had even picked up the phone. ‘Hi, Miranda,’ she replied as neutrally as possible.
‘Ah, so it is you,’ Miranda said. It was a faux exclamation, laden with sarcasm, and Andy could tell Miranda was just warming up.
She wasn’t disappointed.
‘Now, imagine my surprise,’ Miranda began, ‘when, scarcely a few weeks ago, I was walking into my building and I thought I saw Andrea Sachs, intrepid reporter, hanging around outside. I thought to myself, ‘what on Earth would Andrea Sachs be doing at Elias-Clark? I must be mistaken.’
A very unpleasant feeling began in the pit of Andy’s stomach and began moving through her. It wasn’t unfamiliar. In fact, it was the exact feeling Miranda had given her almost every day she had been in her employ: a healthy mixture of terror and anxiety which mixed around in the pit of the stomach and made her feel like she was going to puke at any moment. She had learned to live in a state of constant alertness, body fuelled by adrenalin when she had been at Runway, but she wasn’t accustomed to it any longer. She tried to swallow against the tide, but felt her palms beginning to sweat.
‘Then, just last week,’ Miranda continued, oblivious to Andy’s impending meltdown, ‘I was having a pleasant conversation with the head of the Digital Imprints division and he simply couldn’t help but rave at the turn around Inception had had since their new Editor, Andy, had come on board. Now, that seemed like far too much of a coincidence. However, I was still certain I must have heard him wrong, for you see, the Andrea Sachs I knew had no interest in being a book editor, and especially not at an Elias-Clark subsidiary. In fact, the last time she was employed by Elias-Clark, she thought walking out of her job during an overseas event was acceptable. So, I thought, just to satisfy my own curiosity, I would call and confirm that the new Senior Editor of Inception wasn’t the Andrea Sachs I knew, because that would mean Andrea Sachs thought she could blithely walk back into this building without me finding out about it, and surely she would know me much better than that.’
Andy sunk down in her chair and gulped. She was so screwed. She had highly overestimated her ability to handle Miranda. She might as well have been twenty-three again as she felt herself beginning to fall apart under the veiled threats delivered precisely in that soft, yet threatening tone.
‘What exactly was your plan, Andrea?’ Miranda pressed. ‘Pray you would remain insignificant enough that you would never be brought to my attention?’
Andy wiped the back of a shaky hand along her brow before answering. ‘To be honest Miranda, I thought it unlikely we would ever cross paths. It’s a large building,’ she said, working hard to keep her voice steady as she imagined the various ways Miranda could get her fired.
‘You are aware that HR maintains a copy of all previous employee files, and that when you were entered back into the system they contacted me, as there was no letter of resignation on file and no reason for termination listed.’
She really hadn’t thought this out at all. Although she wondered why they hadn’t contacted Catlin. To be fair, they may have, but Catlin had a tendency to avoid HR as their calls usually involved mandatory staff training she didn’t want to attend.
‘You used to be smarter than this, if I recall correctly,’ Miranda said, and Andy swore she heard a hint of amusement in her tone. Miranda was enjoying this.
Andy straightened up in her chair, internally admonishing herself for getting so worked up. Miranda wasn’t her boss. Miranda had no power to fire her. If she had, she would have been gone by now. No, Miranda was simply fucking with her. Why, she had no idea, but the woman had always taken a sick kind of pleasure in watching people panic around her.
Well, not today, Satan.
‘I was simply under the assumption you wouldn’t care, Miranda,’ Andy replied, voice steady. ‘I was only an assistant after all. Barely worth mentioning, or so I was led to believe.’
That gained her a moments pause.
What followed was a light, breathy chuckle down the line. ‘So indignant, Andrea. I was merely making an observation.’
Andy spluttered. Observation my ass, she thought.
‘My four thirty has just arrived,’ Miranda said before Andy could recover herself enough to respond. ‘Have your assistant call mine and set up a meeting within the next two weeks. I have something I wish to discuss with you.’
‘I don’t have an assis—
The line went dead.
Andy pulled the phone away from her ear and gaped at it.
She was severely out of practice when it came to dealing with the whirlwind that was life around Miranda. She felt strung out. In the space of five minutes she had gone from being terrified for her job at Elias-Clark to terrified about staying.
Miranda wanted a meeting.
It made no sense whatsoever. Unless she simply wanted to make Andy suffer in the unknown for the next couple of weeks while she found a way to get her removed from her post. It wasn’t beyond the realm possibility. Miranda could be unbelievably petty when she chose to be.
Andy put the phone down and took a deep breath.
She had survived the first round. She could do this. She needed to treat Miranda like all other overzealous Senior managers on a power trip and stand her ground.
She picked up the phone again and dialled Runway. ‘Hi, this is Andy Sachs from Inception on the twelfth floor. I need you to get me on the books with Miranda in the next two weeks, she is expecting this meeting.’
Chapter 5: Feels Like the First Time
Andy pushed through the doors of Runway determinably. She had spent the entire morning reminding herself that she would, under no circumstances, allow Miranda to run rings around her again.
While flicking through her closet that morning, she had decided on Ted Baker. The body-con dress clung to every curve, the top a solid black with three quarter sleeves, the rest featuring one of the more subdued floral patterns from last year’s collection. It was cinched together with a black belt and was more impressive than anything she had been wearing to the office lately. Brooklyn and Inception had been wearing off on her on clothing choices, but today she needed every weapon in her arsenal and to speak a language that Miranda knew all too well.
The meeting was at Runway, which hadn't surprised her. Miranda clearly wanted to have the upper hand in whatever game she was playing. However, Andy was determined not to be thrown off by her surroundings. Her five and a half inch heels made her look like an Amazon. Catlin had watched her with a smirk on her face all morning, asking her whether she was going to a meeting or to war. It felt a lot like the latter.
As she approached reception, she noted that the woman was intimidated enough that the bored look on her face dropped away immediately.
It was precisely the effect she was going for.
‘Andy Sachs,’ she said. ‘I have a one o’clock with Miranda.’
The receptionist scrambled to pull open Miranda’s calendar. ‘Conference room two. I’ll just call one of her assistants and have them take you.’
‘No need, please tell Miranda I’m here,’ Andy said, turning to her left and making her way through familiar halls before the receptionist had time to protest.
The interior design of Runway had changed little; white walls, cleans lines and glass continued to feature heavily. It meant she could peer into offices and spaces as she followed a familiar path to the conference room just down the hall from Miranda’s office. It was one of only two closed conference rooms on the floor. Whatever this meeting was about, Miranda wanted it to be kept away from prying eyes.
Runway still hummed with a constant, underlying sense of urgency, but it was something new to experience it from the outside. It no longer related to her. Someone ran past her with a rack of clothes and she watched them with a kind of detached amusement.
When she reached the conference room she let herself in. The door was unlocked, and the room looked otherwise untouched. She moved towards the twelve seat conference table and leaned against it, arms crossed as she faced the door and waited for Miranda to arrive.
She didn’t have to wait long.
At precisely 12:50 p.m. Miranda entered the conference room, a hint of approval gracing her features when she found Andy already waiting, and apparently adequately dressed.
‘I’m glad to see you haven’t forgotten everything Nigel and I taught you,’ Miranda said as she moved to take a seat at the head of the conference table and waved Andy into the one to her left.
‘I may have had a therapist help me forget your Starbucks order, but I think everything else remained in tact.’
Miranda raised her brow slightly at the retort. 'Witty,' she said, her tone just shy of scathing.
Andy decided to segue quickly before Miranda changed her mind about this meeting and denied her the opportunity to satisfy her curiosity. ‘How is Nigel?'
‘Flourishing, of course,’ Miranda said. ‘McQueen was a much better fit for him than James Holt International,’ she continued, piercing Andy with a knowing stare.
Andy didn’t rise to the bait. She didn’t have any interest in going over the past with Miranda. She had been young and naïve, that much had been made perfectly clear to her over the last few years.
‘That’s good to hear. Emily?’
‘British Runway, as she always dreamed,’ Miranda said, her expression showing she was getting bored of the small talk. ‘And what about you, hmm? What on Earth possessed you to leave New York? You haven’t progressed anywhere near as far as I had expected. You’re what, Andrea? Thirty-one?’
‘Thirty-four,’ Andy corrected, feeling a hint of insecurity arising. She didn’t want to discuss this. Especially not with Miranda, of all people. She had enough regrets of her own to dwell on without someone pointing out her innumerable failures.
Miranda eyed her carefully. ‘I warned you,’ she said, her tone all-knowing before she moved on. ‘What’s done is done, I suppose,’ she sighed, uncrossing and recrossing her legs. ‘Now, I want to hear about your editorial experience, and keep it brief.’
Andy felt like she was suddenly in a job interview. She gave Miranda a quick run down of her experience, and the names of her most successful titles before pausing. ‘Miranda, what am I doing here?’
‘I need an Editor,’ Miranda said simply.
Andy was floored momentarily, before she burst out laughing. ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’
Miranda didn’t look amused.
‘No offence Miranda, but there’s no way I’m leaving Inception for Runway.’
‘You would never be allowed to step foot back into this office, Andrea. I haven’t forgotten your little temper tantrum in Paris. You know I don’t forgive easily. There are no second chances at Runway.’
Andy looked confused. ‘Then why am I here?’
‘Runway doesn’t require an Editor, I do.’
Andy felt like the world had titled on it’s axis and she was suddenly standing in Bizarro World. It certainly felt like everything had flipped. ‘Excuse me?’
Miranda glared at her, her hatred for repeating herself clearly still well entrenched.
‘Sorry,’ Andy said, holding up her hands in surrender and giving herself a moment to process. She sorted through what she knew. Despite how good she looked, Miranda was late in her career, she had requested a closed door meeting, no assistant in sight to take notes. There had been that rumour of a heart attack last year, but Andy had thought it was merely tabloid fodder as it hadn’t shown up in any later reports. Maybe there was more truth to that than she thought. Suddenly it clicked. ‘You’re writing your memoirs,’ Andy said with a slight hint of awe.
Miranda looked at her like you would a dog who had just achieved a basic trick.
Andy had to ask. ‘Why me?’
‘I’ve been through 6 different Editors already and they’ve all proven to be completely incompetent.'
‘That doesn’t answer my question,’ Andy fired back. ‘There are better editors out there than me. You said it yourself, I’m thirty-four and behind in the game. My Editor-in-Chief is at least two years younger than me and brilliant, just to give you an example. Why me?'
‘That,’ Miranda said, waving her finger in the direction of her mouth.
‘Huh?’ Andy said dumbly.
‘That mouth of yours. I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. Always speaking your mind, regardless of how much trouble it gets you into.’
Andy winced. ‘It’s a family trait.’
‘Yes, and unfortunately for me it has meant that you, of all people, stand amongst a very short list of people who are prepared to be honest with me, to their own detriment. I need someone who isn’t afraid to speak their mind around me for this.’
‘Well, I wouldn’t go that far,’ Andy said.
Miranda raised an eyebrow. ‘Still playing the sweet and innocent game are we, Andrea? Trying to please everyone? I had hoped you would have shed that skin a long time ago. Perhaps that explains the delay in your development.’
Andy felt her face harden in anger at the accusation. It hit a little too close to home.
‘Much better,’ Miranda smirked.
Andy bristled, she was getting tired of the mind games. ‘What are you proposing?’
‘Simple really, I want you to work with me throughout the editing process. I’ll pay you your worth, of course. I don’t have a significant amount of time to invest in it right now. A couple of evenings per month at the leisure of my schedule, and your own, at most.’
‘With you?’ Andy repeated.
Miranda looked at her like she was an idiot. ‘That’s how the book editing process works, does it not?’
‘Not always, and frankly I didn’t expect you to want a collaborative process. I’ll need a chance to read the manuscript before we have the first meeting.’
‘Once you sign a non-disclosure, I’ll give you access.’
That stung more than it should have. No one had ever accused her of being untrustworthy.
Miranda rolled her eyes. ‘It’s standard protocol, Andrea, not a personal slight against your character.’
Andy shrugged it off, knowing she was probably reading into it more than she should simply because of who she was speaking to. ‘Do you have a publisher yet?’
‘No, I’m still considering my options.’
‘I want it,’ Andy said, recovering quickly.
‘When it’s complete, no matter when that may be, I want you to allow me to publish it.'
‘You want me to kick-start your flailing career?’ Miranda said, with a hint of surprise at, what Andy assumed, was her apparent gall.
‘My career isn’t flailing or I wouldn’t be here. You must have some faith in my editing abilities. I simply want you to give me the opportunity to take the book to an imprint of my choosing.’
‘Inception?’ Miranda asked, brow raised.
Miranda’s lips pursed. ‘It’s a millennial imprint.’
‘And you control the clothing choices of every millennial in the world. You’re ageless, Miranda, and the book will sell regardless of who’s name is on it. This is an opportunity to help fund and support new talent, something you’ve always strived to do at Runway.’
‘How do you know the head of the Publishing Division won’t take it away from you and give it to a more established imprint?’
‘They won’t, if you threaten to take the book outside of Elias-Clark.’
Miranda looked her dead in the eye. ‘And what makes you think I would do that?’ she said, voice low in warning.
Andy chuckled. ‘Because you hate to be controlled. Irv Ravitz was ousted as CEO less than eighteen months after he attempted to de-seat you from Runway. I doubt that was a coincidence.’
Miranda pondered her for a full thirty seconds. ‘You should have never left New York,’ she said bluntly.
Andy shrugged. ‘What’s done is done. But, perhaps, some things can be undone, in a roundabout kind of way.’
‘Hmm,’ Miranda said, continuing to look at her with those piercing blue eyes. ‘I’ll have the paperwork drawn up and sent to your office. I suggest you have a lawyer look everything over.’
Andy nodded and began to get to her feet. ‘As soon as everything’s signed, I want access to the manuscript and a full two weeks to go over it before we meet.’
‘Fine,’ Miranda agreed, mirroring her action as she pushed her chair out from the table and stood.
‘Okay,’ Andy said, holding out her hand to seal the deal.
Miranda eyed it before reaching over and gripping it firmly.
‘I can see myself out,’ Andy said, before turning and striding from the room.
It wasn’t until she was in the elevator and half way back to her office that she realised neither of them had questioned whether or not they would be working together on this.
The meeting had flowed swiftly and efficiently, much like their exchanges had in the latter part of Andy’s tenure at Runway.
She had walked straight back into the lion’s den, willingly, and for the life of her she couldn’t understand why.
‘How was your day?’ Lily asked from the sofa when she got home that evening.
‘It was...’ Andy paused, ‘good. It was good.’
‘You don’t sound entirely sure about that one,’ Lily said, her head titling in question.
‘Yeah, it was just a bit strange,’ Andy chuckled, thinking back. The meeting with Miranda was on the tip of her tongue, but she bit it back. She had yet to tell Lily that Miranda had been in contact with her. Lily had her opinions when it came to Miranda, and Andy wasn't sure she could explain what had happened in that conference room this afternoon in a way that she would understand. Lily would assume she was pushed into it, that Miranda had threatened her livelihood, which was something Andy herself had expected.
But that wasn't it, was it? No, she had fought for that book today. She had fought Miranda. She had pushed her into agreeing to a deal from which Andy benefitted considerably in the long run, perhaps not financially but certainly reputation wise. Today she felt like a woman who worked in publishing, and for the first time in a long time, she had truly enjoyed it. She only wished she could have shared it with Catlin. Unfortunately, this project was going to be under lock and key until Miranda deemed otherwise.
'Hey,' Lily called out. 'Earth to Andy,' she said, clicking her fingers.
Andy shook her head to clear her thoughts. 'Sorry, I'm a million miles away tonight. I think I’m going to try get some writing done – late dinner okay with you?’
Lily picked up her wine glass and waved her book. ‘I’ve got all the time in the world.’
Andy smiled at her and then headed to her room. She dropped her bags on the floor and headed to her desk, opening her personal laptop.
She felt different, more settled in her bones. Confident. That's what it was. Today had made her feel more confident.
She pulled up a blank document and felt a smile crawl onto her face as for the first time in a long time she felt true inspiration strike.
Chapter 6: We Can Work It Out
It was after eight in the evening on a Tuesday, about three weeks later, when Andy found herself standing outside Miranda’s office with a hulking manuscript under her arm.
They had spoken briefly on the phone once or twice in the interim, but otherwise Andy had been focused on Inception, working on her own project and then looking over Miranda’s drafts, usually from the comfort of her bed.
‘You’re late,’ Miranda said, not bothering to look up as she stepped through the door.
‘I left a message with your assistant,’ Andy said. ‘Do you have a space we can work?’
Miranda looked up from the Book, closing it as she did so. ‘Here will be fine. Close the door,’ she said as she cleared a space in the middle of her desk.
Andy did as she was told and sat down across from Miranda, placing her copy of the drafts between them.
‘Well?’ Miranda demanded.
‘Do you want me to just…’ Andy waved vaguely in the direction of the manuscript.
‘Do your job? Yes, and some time this century, preferably,’ Miranda said, her eyes drifting to the Book and her mind to other things she could be doing with her time, apparently.
Andy resisted the urge to roll her eyes and she reached over and opened the manuscript to the first chapter before pushing it towards Miranda, pulling her focus back to the task at hand.
She crossed her legs and leaned back, attempting to look relaxed before she opened with some things she knew Miranda wasn’t going to like. She was dressed down today, non-threatening in a pair of jeans and a simple white linen button-down. She took a breath. ‘It’s a good overall picture of your career to date,’ she said. ‘But that’s about it.’
Miranda attention snapped to her at that, but her face was unreadable.
‘Look,’ Andy continued. ‘I don’t know what the others you bought in told you, but it’s a memoir Miranda, not your Wikipedia page. The earlier chapters are good, they have some heart, but later you sound like you’re simply rattling off key moments in your career. The stories in there are okay, but I’m sure you have better. Not to mention the complete absence of anything prior to your arrival in New York. There’s no context.’
‘This is not some trashy tell-all,’ Miranda snapped, ‘I’m not Carrie Fisher.’
‘I’m not saying you have to rattle off a list of your sordid affairs, but when people buy an autobiography they want to read it with your voice in their head, they want to hear what led you to fashion, what drove you to become as successful as you are. When I read this, I don’t feel like you’re in it. You’re too controlled. You’re going to have to let little bit of yourself bleed into this.’
‘You want me to look soft,’ Miranda said, the disdain clear in her tone as she leaned forward in her chair to glare at Andy. ‘Who do you think you’re working with, Andrea? I don’t know what’s gotten into your silly little head while you’ve been flitting all over the country wasting your time doing God only knows what with your life, but I am not that woman. Maybe you should try revisiting your memories a little more closely.’
Andy had prepared herself for a vicious reaction, but she had forgotten how merciless Miranda could be. She sat up and met her gaze, letting the words roll off her. ‘I don’t think you’re some redemption story for successful women, I wouldn’t be so stupid as to make that mistake,’ Andy said directly, ‘however, I don’t think you’re entirely heartless either and I have the receipts to back me up. Whatever heart you have, you need to show some of it. People climb all over each other just to get the opportunity to work with you, and I think there’s more to that than your celebrity and your status.’
‘I think you overestimate humanity,’ Miranda said. ‘Everyone always wants something, Andrea. Even you.’
Andy sighed. ‘Hey, I’m not going to deny that I negotiated a good deal out of this. But you hired me. I highly doubt you’d respect this working relationship if I had simply acquiesced to your requests. I’m not twenty-three anymore Miranda.’
‘If only,’ Miranda said, ‘I think I preferred you then.’
Andy resisted the urge to roll her eyes. ‘Look, think of it like this. You could have this published posthumously if you don’t want to be around for the fall out, but at least leave behind a story that people find inspiring – that your daughters find inspiring. Rupert Murdoch has spent years painting a very specific picture of you. This is your opportunity to change the narrative.’
‘What if I don’t want to change it. What if I want to solidify it?’
‘Then do that, but this current draft does neither,’ Andy said bluntly. ‘It’s boring. Something you are most certainly not.’
Miranda titled her head slightly towards the heavens. ‘I asked for this,’ she said to no one in particular.
‘Yes, you did,’ Andy confirmed. ‘So let’s just start at the beginning and see where we can bring a little light in.’
Miranda rolled her eyes, but reached for a pen and paper to take notes as Andy directed her attention to the opening page.
It was pushing eleven p.m. when Andy’s back had finally had enough of leaning across Miranda’s desk to point things out to her. Not to mention she was starving.
She reached into her bag for a cereal bar, her stomach grumbling at the thought of it.
‘Do you have any idea how much sugar is in that?’ Miranda said in disgust.
‘Yes, but not all of us have the ability to go hours without eating,’ Andy said a little sullenly as she popped her back out with a grimace.
Miranda leant back in her seat, her face showing little sign of being tired. ‘I suppose they have you on one of those new-age, flexible work schedules,’ Miranda said, her distaste quite clear, ‘along with that completely unprofessional dress code,’ she said, waving at Andy’s clothing.
‘That must be some kind of record,’ Andy chuckled. ‘It’s taken you over three hours to tear apart my outfit.’
‘Well, I didn’t need you sulking about it for the entire evening. I recall your ability to look like a kicked puppy for hours on end.’
‘I never did!’
Miranda raised her brow to challenge that statement, and Andy sunk down further into her chair. ‘Maybe once or twice,’ she grudgingly admitted.
Miranda shook her head, a barely discernable smile hinting around the edges of her mouth.
Andy grinned at her before taking another bite of her cereal bar.
Miranda removed her glasses and brushed a hand through her hair. ‘I think that will be enough for tonight,’ she said, her voice quiet even in the empty office.
Andy nodded, crumpling up the wrapper in her hand and launching it at the trashcan next to Miranda’s desk. ‘Let me know when you’ve made the changes we discussed tonight, and then I’ll give the first two chapters a thorough going over and send the changes to you for approval. If you’re happy with having a working document for the two of us, as I mentioned, it’ll make it easier for the initial revisions.’
‘If you insist.’
‘I won’t jump in and out, but when you want me to go over something or check something, just let me know. This is your book, you have control over this, I’m just here to help guide and mould,’ Andy said as she reached into her bag and pulled out a business card, flipping it over and jotting down her personal number before passing it to Miranda. ‘If you need to chat outside of office hours,’ Andy said by way of explanation, before reaching for her coat and pulling it on.
Miranda packed up her notes, closed her own copy of her manuscript and pushed it to the side before reaching for her glasses and the Book once more.
Andy watched her in disbelief, but thought better of mentioning anything. She leaned down and picked her bag up off the floor. ‘Well, I’ll see you soon then?’
Miranda simply nodded as she flipped the Book open.
Andy shook her head a little before turning on her heel and walking towards the door.
Miranda peered up from the Book and watched as Andrea departed, the younger woman shaking her head a little as she headed towards the elevator.
When she passed around the corner, Miranda closed the Book once more knowing she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on it anyway.
She picked up Andrea’s business card and spun it absently in her hands. Andrea Sachs, Senior Editor, Inception. She had grown into her own, there was little doubt about that. The woman was born for publishing. Miranda had seen it when she had worked as her assistant.
Oh not publishing per se, but something better. She hadn’t given Andrea a reference for the Mirror in the hope she would become a journalist at some sub-par newspaper for the rest of her days. In fact, she had done it so she would do the exact opposite. She had had a feeling that the realities of real-world journalism would come crashing down for Andrea, and that hopefully it would lead her in an alternate direction.
She hadn’t expected her to leave New York over it. That had been unfortunate.
However, the fire was still there. The intellect, the drive, the ambition. It had remained intact in spite of whatever had happened in her life since she had stormed out in Paris.
Miranda stopped spinning the card and looked at the personal number that was so readily provided to her. She had needed to know. Ever since that day she had seen her on the steps of the building, she needed to know what had become of Andrea Sachs. That girl had been the closest she had ever come to mentoring one of her assistants, and it still grated on her that she had dropped the ball somehow. She had miscalculated, certain that Andrea was more cutthroat than she appeared.
She hadn’t expected to bring her onto this project of all things, but as soon as she had trawled through her LinkedIn profile she couldn’t seem to get the idea out of her head. She had interviewed four new editors in that space of time and none of them seemed to fit. She didn’t trust them, although why on Earth she should feel a sense of trust towards Andrea Sachs was beyond her. Perhaps it was the unwavering loyalty she had once displayed. Perhaps she hoped she would see that again.
And there was certainly hope; tonight had been a revelation.
They still worked together just as well as they had back then, but the additional years seemed to put them in better stead. Andrea would push her where she needed to be pushed, and there was a surprising level of comfort in that.
Miranda looked at her manuscript and resisted the urge to throw it in the bin and start from scratch. She despised mediocrity, and having it pointed out to her was unpleasant. She had pulled Runway from obscurity and turned it into the world’s leading fashion publication and yet somehow she was incapable of writing something of worth about a subject in which she was the only expert.
She rubbed her chest absently, the memory of why she had decided to start this project still far too fresh. It hadn’t been major, but it had been enough to scare her and remind her of her own mortality. She took good care of herself, quit smoking in the eighties before everyone else did, and somehow she was the one having a myocardial infarction. Stress was the best explanation they could give her, and an excess of red meat. It was true that she had been working more since the girls moved out for college. There simply wasn’t any reason for her to be at home. She had never slept well, and so her hours at the office had steadily increased.
Miranda pulled the manuscript towards her and opened it to the first page.
There, written in Andrea’s untidy scrawl was ‘Childhood??’
Miranda slammed the book closed on that and started packing up her things. It was time to go home.
Chapter 7: Round Round
Over the next couple of months Andy found herself up in Miranda’s office only a handful of times. Finding time allowances within Miranda’s schedule had proven as challenging as expected. Yet, during that time, Miranda had been updating her draft chapters and taking Andy’s advice on a few points, if not all.
Baby steps, Andy had thought one evening, rolling her eyes at her laptop as she found that Miranda had summarily ignored all of her suggestions on the manuscript from the previous evening.
The time stamps on Miranda’s edits were erratic, and Andy had no idea how the woman functioned from day to day. She appeared to be up working at all hours of the night.
Thankfully, things did seem to be taking shape. There was more colour than before and it was like New York of the seventies and eighties was finally leaping off the page in the initial chapters. Miranda had an eye for detail Andy wished she possessed. She could describe an office, a street, a dress in a way that made certain you could see it in your mind exactly as it had been in that one moment in history.
Her description of meeting her first husband Samuel in a rundown bar in the lower eastside when she had been working as an assistant at Vogue had drawn Andy in, and a picture of Miranda when she was younger was finally beginning to emerge. Focused, yes, but willing to let her hair down, drink cheap beer and be wooed by a dashing law student from Columbia.
However, there was still one glaring absence in the memoir: Miranda’s childhood. There was no mention of where she was born, where she grew up or who raised her. In fact, there wasn’t a single mention of a Priestly family member outside of her daughters and her ex-husbands in the entire manuscript.
It was as though Miranda Priestly hadn’t existed before 1975.
Andy didn’t need to bring it up to know it was clearly a topic Miranda didn’t wish to discuss. However, she knew she couldn’t avoid it forever. At some point they were going to have to broach the subject. Despite allowing Andy to read over her drafts, Miranda hadn’t exactly ‘opened up’ in their first meeting, or the meetings that had followed. They had settled into working comfortably together, and yet most of their discussions seemed to be Andy poking at Miranda, trying to get her to expand on details which were clearly absent from her narrative. It was like trying to draw blood from a stone, and Andy knew things needed to change if they were going to move forward and make any real progress.
She needed to get inside her head.
While there was little doubt she knew Miranda in a professional sense, she had very little insight into the woman behind the façade of Runway’s editor-in-chief.
Andy mulled that problem over as she rode the elevator up to Runway. It was a Monday, of all days. Not exactly the best time of week for advanced problem solving.
As she entered the offices she was surprised to note that one of Miranda’s assistants was still waiting at her desk. Miranda keeping her assistants late wasn’t surprising, but the twin minions who usually flanked her office door had been absent on every previous occasion. The woman looked bored out of her mind, and Andy wondered whether she had looked just as young when she had occupied that same seat.
‘Do you have an appointment?’ the assistant demanded as she approached, sitting immediately at attention.
Andy recognized her as the same assistant who had almost knocked her over in the foyer of Elias-Clark. ‘Miranda’s expecting me. Andrea Sachs.’
‘You’re not in her calendar,’ she replied, her eyes drawing up and down Andy and apparently finding her wanting.
Andy rolled her eyes and locked her gaze on the woman sitting behind her desk a few feet away, watching the entire exchange with a hint of amusement.
‘Could you call off your guard dog, please?’ Andy called out.
‘Cecily,’ Miranda said, barely raising her voice, ‘next time, I suggest you find out who you’re speaking to before opening that idiot mouth of yours. Let Andrea through, and get out of here before I begin to reconsider your position here,’ she said, her tone clear with the implied threat.
Andy watched as Cecily’s face paled. ‘Yes, Miranda,’ she squeaked.
Andy knew what she had to live through but she couldn’t bring herself to feel sorry for her.
As Cecily scuttled away, Andy made her way into Miranda’s office. ‘Did you keep her here an extra two hours just so she could terrorize me on the way in?’
‘Yes, actually,’ Miranda said, getting to her feet and waving Andy towards the left hand side of her office where a spacious coffee table already held her laptop and a hardcopy of her manuscript. Andy sighed gently in relief as she took in the cosy space, penned in by a couple of luxury brand sofas.
It was entirely dependent on the day where Miranda decided she wanted to work. Days she was sharp or pissed off, she opted for her desk. Days she was more relaxed, or weary, they ended up here. Andy preferred it. They seemed to get more done on these days, Miranda more receptive to her prodding.
‘I kept her here,’ Miranda continued as she took a seat and Andy joined her, ‘because two comments reached my ears about her attitude this morning alone. She’s let the position go to her head, but that problem is now solved.’
‘You always were creative.’
‘The lessons I impart are rarely forgotten, wouldn’t you agree?’
‘Yes, the terror with which they’re instilled tend to ensure there is little chance of ever forgetting them. I think the entire history of cerulean is still crystal clear in my memory.’
Miranda titled her head in thought for a moment before something clicked and she looked back with amusement. ‘Whatever happened to that hideous sweater?’
‘I donated it to a homeless person my way home from work that day.’
‘I’m surprised they didn’t give it back,’ Miranda said mockingly, her face relaxed as she leaned back into the sofa, the day seeming to bleed away.
It threw Andy off a little, as it always did. However, each time it happened she was sure they were making some kind of progress, that Miranda was beginning to trust her more, if only a little. She grinned in response. ‘Where do you feel like starting this evening?’
‘On the digital version if you don’t mind,’ Miranda said, leaning over to open her laptop and pull the coffee table closer.
As evening drifted along peacefully, they reworked bits and pieces of the early chapters. Andy had left the narrative open in a way that would allow for one or two additional chapters, or a prologue of sorts, with minimal work. Miranda had either failed to notice or had decided to ignore it. She suspected the latter.
After a couple of hours her back began to protest, so she slid to the floor to stretch her legs underneath the coffee table and more readily point things out to Miranda.
‘You need to see a chiropractor,’ Miranda said absently as she retyped a sentence.
‘Not much they can do, it’s an old horse riding injury. I just don’t do well in the same position for long.’
‘Buy a standing desk.’
Andy stared at her, horrified.
‘You’re such a child,’ Miranda said, turning her attention away from the screen. ‘Would you like to work up at the desk?’
Andy shook her head. ‘No, this is more relaxed. Plus, those chairs in front of your desk are too low, I just end up leaning more.’
Miranda looked as though she was about to agree with Andy, and then suddenly caught herself. Andy watched as her face changed, like she had just realised that an employee was sprawled out on her office floor, chatting amiably with her. ‘I think you’re beginning to get a little too relaxed in my presence,’ Miranda said, her tone more closed off than it had been moments ago.
Andy sighed internally. At this rate she would be waiting until hell froze over for Miranda to drop those walls she had so firmly in place. Every time she thought they were getting somewhere, they somehow ended up right back where they started. ‘This is book editing Miranda; the result is the same whether I do it from the floor or a desk. If you’re unhappy with our progress, I’m happy to point out exactly what’s slowing us down.’
Miranda’s eyes flashed dangerously. Andy had chosen a stupid position from which to start a fight with one of the most dangerous women in New York publishing, her ass on the floor, but she was getting tired of skirting the issue.
‘Do go on,’ Miranda said, in a tone which suggested the best course of action would be to do otherwise.
‘We’re trying to complete a manuscript about your life, Miranda,’ Andy said, allowing the exasperation to seep into her tone, ‘however, you seem completely unwilling to talk about yourself, on paper or here in person.’
‘What did you think this would be, Andrea? That we would sit here, braid each others hair and I would tell you all my deepest, darkest secrets? We’re not friends. You’re here to do a job, nothing more.’
‘And I can’t do that job if you don’t trust me.’
‘If I didn’t trust you, you wouldn’t be here.’
‘Fine, then tell me, is there any particular reason you haven’t mentioned a single thing about your childhood so far?’
Miranda’s back stiffened, her face shuttering closed so fast that Andy felt like she had whiplash.
She may have miscalculated.
‘I recommend you focus on the content of the manuscript rather than digging into things which are none of your business,’ Miranda said sharply.
She was angry. How angry, Andy wasn’t entirely sure, but the look on her face right now wasn’t one that she had seen before and she wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to backpedal out of this situation.
‘In fact,’ Miranda continued, getting to her feet. ‘Get out.’
Andy scrambled up to a standing position. ‘Mira—
‘I said, get out.’
Miranda had hired her because she would push her, would stand her ground, but the tremble of fury in Miranda’s voice was enough to tell Andy that she should have listened to the warning signs about this issue and stayed the hell away from it.
Their eyes were locked on each other as they both stood their ground in front of the sofa they had been sitting on all evening.
‘Are you going to let me speak?’ Andy asked quietly against her better judgement to simply walk out.
‘I think you’ve done more than enough of that this evening,’ Miranda said, refusing to give an inch.
‘Look, I apologize. I overstepped.’
‘It’s what you do, isn’t it? Overstep. Always involved where you shouldn’t be. You should never have worked here, yet you did. You should never have stepped in with Stephen at the gala, but you did. Always taking liberties, always far too involved in other peoples’ business. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? To get the story, to know all the things that made you curious, that made you stick so close while you were here.’ Miranda threw the accusations, viciously.
‘You hired me, if you’ll recall,’ Andy bit back.
‘Yes, and that was a mistake. What on earth was I thinking? Hiring a woman who couldn’t manage to see a position through to completion when it was in her best interests, who threw it all away for a man.’
Andy drew in a sharp breath. She hadn’t discussed this with Miranda. Had never brought it up. That information had come from elsewhere.
Yet, regardless of where it came from, she felt it. It dug into every insecurity she had had over the past year. But that was what Miranda did, wasn’t it? She collected weaknesses like cards to play against everyone, and she had ensured she had one left to play against her.
Andy took a step back.
Miranda looked triumphant, knowing she had hit a nerve.
Andy recognized that look, her mind flooding with images of every nasty thing she had witnessed years ago. She reached down to pick up her bag silently.
‘Ah, and there she goes,’ Miranda said, tone all-knowing as though Andy had affirmed something she had all but expected. ‘Running away, again.’
Andy didn’t bother to deign it with a response as she walked out.
Miranda sat down heavily as Andrea disappeared around a corner.
That had escalated much too quickly.
Her past had been sitting like a spectre behind her during this entire process. Things she had locked away many years ago had been begging for attention. One prod in the right direction and all of her fears had come lashing out with vicious accuracy.
It lacked control. Yet another unfortunate side effect of her little episode last year.
She stared at Andrea’s copy of her manuscript sitting abandoned on the table.
The message in that was clear.
She leaned over and picked it up, flicking through the pages absently, skimming over the notes that Andrea liked to leave down the sides in various coloured pens.
Ask Miranda about how she juggled motherhood and work. Emotionally. Fears?
Feelings after the divorce – free? Lonely?
Where did the passion come from? Vogue? Before? Runway? NB: Nigel
Pages and pages of questions.
Pages and pages of interest in her life.
Her assistants knew better than to ask her questions. In fact, everybody knew better than to ask questions. But, Andrea? No, she just kept poking. If she answered one question, Andrea would be poised at the ready with another one. Two years in the bullpen of a newspaper had served her well.
She kept flicking through, noting that the manuscript was clearly well read.
Somewhere in the last half a post-it marked a particular page. Miranda scanned the text briefly, recognizing it well. She had been in a particularly melancholy mood the evening she had written it. The girls had recently left after Thanksgiving and Christmas to go back to college and she had tried desperately to describe the devastation which came with them leaving, with having them so far away. She had intended to remove it, but hadn’t gotten around to writing anything to replace it.
At the bottom of the page, Andrea’s scrawl was clear and it made her pause.
This is Miranda.
Rather than go home after her disastrous meeting with Miranda, Andy had wandered the streets of Manhattan pondering why she had thought coming back here was going to fix anything.
By the time she got home, Lily was long in bed which allowed her the peace and quiet to sink deeper and deeper into maudlin thoughts about her life.
She had been doing well the last few months, but as she lay in bed and stared at the ceiling she realised that progress had been fragile at best.
Running away, again.
The words played on repeat in her head.
Is that what she had been doing?
She thought back over everything that had happened and concluded that perhaps Miranda had been right. When things hadn’t worked out at Runway, she had taken off in spectacular fashion. When journalism had proven itself to be far from what she had expected, she had run to Boston, to Nate. And when that had eventually failed, she had come running back to New York.
When she made this move she had genuinely thought it would be a fresh start, that it would help her find answers. However, maybe it was just another in a long line of similar decisions where rather than face her failure, she ran away from it, the result being this life that she had neither expected nor particularly wanted.
Sleep was slow in coming, and when it did, it was restless. By the time her alarm woke her at seven a.m. she felt like she had only just closed her eyes. She considered rolling over and going back to sleep, but knew today would only be that much harder if she was left alone with her thoughts for any longer.
‘Where were you last night?’ Lily asked as Andy stumbled into the kitchen in search of coffee.
‘Editorial meeting,’ Andy said, her voice hoarse. ‘It took me an hour and half to get home from Manhattan.’
‘Hey, you wanted to work in the city with the big shots, don’t blame Brooklyn for your weaknesses.’
Andy simply nodded as she grabbed the pot and poured herself a huge mug before dumping half a gallon of milk in it.
‘That’s not coffee, you get that right? That’s a milkshake.’
‘I know,’ Andy said, not bothering to disagree as she moved towards the table and slumped into a chair.
‘Who are you editing that’s keeping you up so late? Must be someone big to have you working outside of office hours.’
Andy’s brain took a moment to catch up and she looked up to find Lily staring at her. ‘Yeah, someone pretty big,’ she said, trying to sound casual.
Lily peered at her closely, and after years of friendship Andy knew she had been caught. It was too early in the morning for her to effectively employ cloak and dagger techniques and hide the feelings that were probably written all over her face.
‘What the hell is going on? That was the vaguest response I’ve ever heard, not to mention you look like absolute shit. Have you even slept?’
Andy leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling for a moment, her mug still gripped between her hands as she took a breath and faced the music, knowing Lily would only hound her for weeks on end otherwise. ‘I’m bound by a non-disclosure, so let’s just say you’re not going to like who it is. Well, after last night, was.’
Lily was quiet for a moment, before the inevitable ‘No,’ slipped emphatically from her mouth.
‘Yes,’ Andy replied, ‘and that’s all I can say.’
‘She knew it was you that day, didn’t she?’ Lily said in disbelief.
Andy chuckled darkly, ‘Of course she did. Like I said, nothing gets past her.’
‘How long has this been going on?’
‘Three months or so.’
That gave Lily pause. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ she asked quietly.
Andy sighed. ‘You know why, Lil. I knew you wouldn’t be happy.’
Andy saw the hurt in her friends eyes and immediately realised how stupid she had been.
She couldn't get anything right, it seemed.
‘I should have said something,’ Andy said, ‘I’m sorry. It just...it wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. A couple of evenings here and there to help with editing a personal project, that’s all. I didn’t know how to explain it to you. I didn't know how to explain it to myself, to be honest. I had a meeting with her and suddenly contracts were signed and off we were again, like some strange repeat of the past. Maybe I thought it was an opportunity to make up for my mistakes? I don't know.’
‘What on Earth would you need to make up for?’
‘Running out in Paris definitely wasn’t one of my best moments. I was so young, and so stupid. I guess this was an opportunity to prove something to myself, and maybe to Miranda as well.’
‘So what happened last night? Punishment? Payback?’
Andy set her mug down on the table and turned it anti-clockwise, the base rubbing against the old wood. ‘No, I honestly don’t think it was. I pushed her on an issue and it didn’t end well. Things got a little personal.’
‘You mean she attacked you,' Lily said, and when Andy didn't deny it her face hardened, 'who does she think she is?’ she continued, voice rising, signalling she was about to spiral into a rage.
‘The same person she’s always been,’ Andy admitted. ‘I should have known better.’
Lily’s rage cooled down to a simmer at that. ‘Are you okay?’ she asked as she looked at her closely. She must look like shit.
‘Yeah, I’ll be fine. I just…do you think I run away from my problems?’ Andy asked, eyes dropping to her mug.
‘You stuck it out in a marriage which took you all over the country. You supported a husband who didn’t necessarily support you all that well, for years. No, Andy, I don’t think you run away from your problems. I think you dig in, and in the case of Miranda, apparently, you face them head on.’
Andy looked up at that and could see the fierceness in Lily’s eyes. She could feel tears beginning to well up. ‘Fuck,’ she choked out as Lily got to her feet and moved around to the back of her chair, hugging her tightly.
‘Christ, Andy. Is that honestly what you think of yourself? You’ve rocked it through three different professions, in multiple cities and you have a job in one of the biggest new millennial imprints in New York. I know I’ve been pushing you to write, and I still think you should, but hell girl you’ve been floating on cloud nine with this new job. You’ve been alive working for that crazy blonde bitch. This wasn’t running. This was coming home.’
Andy burst into tears at that. She was tired and emotional but the words Lily had just given her were exactly what she needed.
‘Do not let her get into your head,’ Lily ordered. ‘You know how she plays. There’s nothing fucking wrong with you.’
‘Thanks, Lil,’ Andy said wetly as she reached blindly for a tissue.
Lily reached for her and pressed a handful into her hands before kissing her on the head. ‘I love you, idiot. You know that, right?’
Andy blew her nose. ‘Yeah, I know.’
‘Christ, Han Solo in the house. You going to leave me hanging like Princess Leia?’
Andy laughed wetly at that. ‘I love you too, Lil.’
‘Good, now what are you going to do? Keep sitting around crying, or you going to get dressed and show that bitch just who runs shit in NYC?’
Andy sniffed and shook it off, she was already beginning to feel like herself again. ‘God, why the hell am I crying?’
Lily laughed heartily at that. ‘Exactly. Now, come on star publisher. It’s time to go and kick some ass.’
And Andy did just that.
She went to work with a new fire in her belly. She put Miranda out of her mind and threw herself into her work. She had come back to New York to carve a new path for herself, something new and exciting. Yet, here she was, in the middle of brand new imprint and rather than embracing that, she was wasting her time going back over old ground. It was time to put her time at Runway, and with Miranda to bed. Some things just weren't meant to be, and the two of them together only seemed to spell absolute disaster.
She worked non-stop all morning and through lunch. It wasn't until Catlin stormed into her office sometime in the afternoon that she took a moment to breathe.
‘What the hell is going on with you today?’ Catlin demanded.
Andy looked up from the manuscript she had been pouring over. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘You. You’re all guns blazing and working like an insane person. You’re making me look bad, so fucking stop it!’
Andy pushed her glasses up onto her head and leaned back in her seat. ‘A big project I was hoping to bring in fell through last night,’ she said, skirting around the real issue as much as possible. ‘That means I need to find something to fill its shoes. Plus, I realised maybe I haven’t been focusing enough of my energy here.’
‘Oh trust me, you’re doing more than enough. So, chill out before I start to think you’re gunning for my job. The Head of Publishing already has a hard-on for you, he wouldn’t take much convincing.’
‘Trust me, I’m perfectly happy where I am right now.’
Catlin eyed her carefully before accepting her statement at face value. ‘Anyway, you said you lost me a money maker? You talking about that big secret project with Miranda Priestly?’ Catlin said matter-of-factly as she dropped into a chair in front of Andy’s desk.
Andy’s mouth fell open. ‘How did yo—
Catlin stared at her like she was an idiot. ‘Seriously? This is New York publishing. Nothing stays secret for long. I met with someone from Random House a couple of weeks ago and she said Priestly has been interviewing editors for months and word was there is something big in the works,’ Catlin shrugged, ‘plus, I saw you take the elevator up to Runway last week,’ she added with a smirk.
‘You mean you stalked me?’
‘I was just curious; I knew you were hiding something. You are kind of a terrible liar. It didn’t take much to put two and two together after that phone call you got at the office and that day you came in wearing Tory Burch and a pair of fuck me heels for some mysterious meeting.’
‘Well why didn’t you say anything!?’
‘You seemed to be enjoying this undercover editor thing you had going on; I didn’t want to ruin it.’
‘Catlin,’ Andy growled.
‘So what happened?’ Catlin said, leaning forward in her seat and planting her chin in her open palm and her elbow on the desk so she could eyeball Andy.
Andy chuckled sardonically. ‘We had a…difference of opinion, and apparently I had forgotten exactly who I was dealing with.’
Catlin winced. ‘That bad?’
‘Oh yes, Miranda doesn’t hold back when she has something to say.’
‘I hope you gave as good as you got,’ Catlin said, sitting up with a frown.
‘I got a few shots in, but I was outmatched by the end of it.’
‘Jeez, Sachs. That’s rough,’ Catlin said sympathetically.
Andy shrugged it off. ‘I should have known what I was getting into. Miranda is Miranda, and nothing is ever going to change that. At least I managed to survive longer than the others,’ she laughed.
‘That book is never going to see the light of day,’ Catlin said. ‘It’s a shame though. I don’t suppose you could tell me what it was about?’
‘It wouldn’t be worth my pitiful savings account. That NDA was iron clad.’
‘Well, I’ll have to live in hope that some poor bastard decides to take it on in your stead. Do you think she’d give me a crack at it?’ Catlin said wistfully.
‘Hey, I won’t stand in your way,’ Andy smirked.
‘Yeah, on second thoughts,’ Catlin said as she eyed Andy’s tired eyes.
‘Hey, I do not look that bad!’
‘Check in the mirror sister, you look like you went on a bender last night.’
‘Ugh,’ Andy groaned, reaching to open her desk drawer for her compact mirror.
Catlin eyed her pitifully. 'Jesus, just go home,' she said, getting to her feet. 'You've done enough work for an entire week today, and you seriously look like you need a good eight hours. But, the caveat is you have to sacrifice your evening tomorrow to drink with me. There's a story here, and I want to hear the rest of it. Andy Sachs,' Catlin said, holding up her hands and gesturing like her name was up in lights, 'Runway assistant.'
Andy rolled her eyes. 'Fine, fine. Deal.'
'Good,' Catlin said, giving her a genuinely warm smile which didn't quite belay the hint of worry that Andy could see directed towards her.
Andy found herself grinning idiotically at that.
‘What?’ Catlin said, screwing up her face as she took in Andy’s expression.
‘You’re just a big emotional marshmallow really, aren’t you?’ Andy teased.
‘Christ, go home Sachs. You’ve officially jumped the shark,’ Catlin said, storming out the way she came.
‘I won’t tell anyone,’ Andy called out after her retreating form.
A middle finger over her boss’s shoulder was the only response she received.
It was well after midnight when Andy’s phone roused her from sleep. She reached around blindly for it, eventually finding it underneath a pillow she had tossed aside at some point in the night.
She stared at the screen and couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
No, actually, that was a lie. She absolutely could.
She hit ‘accept’ and put the phone to her ear. ‘It’s after midnight, Miranda. This had better be good.’
She was met with a few beats of silence before Miranda spoke down the line. ‘I’m a very private person, Andrea.'
Andy dropped her head back onto her pillow and pinched her brow against the wave of frustration she felt building instantaneously. It was too damn late for this conversation. ‘Wow, I never would have guessed. Christ, Miranda, are you being serious with this right now?’ she said, not bothering to censor herself.
‘Perhaps this was a mistake,’ Miranda said, her tone hardening as if on cue.
‘Oh, really? What gave it away? The fact that it’s,’ she pulled her phone away from her ear to check the time, ‘12:52 a.m. on a Tuesday?’ she finished sarcastically. ‘I don’t work for you anymore, if you’ll recall.’
‘You signed a contract,’ Miranda reminded her, ‘or have you forgotten that little detail?’
‘So sue me then,' Andy said tiredly. She couldn't care less in that moment, and somehow she doubted that even Miranda, in all of her pettiness, would waste her time trying pin her for breach of contract. 'I’m going back to sleep.’
Miranda sighed. ‘Andrea, wait,’ she asked, her tone suddenly as tired as Andy's.
‘For what?' Andy snapped, the bitterness slipping into her tone. 'I think you covered everything you needed to last night.’
Miranda didn’t have a response for that one.
Andy sighed, unsurprised. ‘Just say what you called to say, Miranda.’
‘Fine, I apologize,’ Miranda said frankly, ‘for what I said. My reaction was out of proportion to the situation.’
Andy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. In the entire time she had worked for Miranda, both this time and the last, she hadn’t heard her apologize to a single person. She was floored. So much so that she was sure she was gaping at the ceiling.
‘You can take your jaw off the floor now, Andrea,’ Miranda said knowingly.
‘I’m sorry, but out of all of the scenarios I could have imagined right now, that definitely wasn’t one of them. Could you repeat that? I’m beginning to think this is a very warped dream.’
‘I can assure you it’s not. I called because what happened yesterday was unacceptable. You tried to apologize for prying and I didn’t allow you to. I should have made it clear to you from the beginning that that particular topic was off limits,’ Miranda continued, apparently emboldened by her ability to apologize without the bringing on the apocalypse.
‘Okay,’ Andy said.
‘Okay?’ Miranda asked, puzzled.
‘Apology accepted,’ Andy replied.
‘That’s all it took? A simple apology?’ Miranda said.
‘That tends to be how apologies work when you mean them, Miranda,' Andy said, shaking her head. 'Now, I’m going back to sleep, I have work in the morning and not all of us can survive on five hours sleep. Call my office tomorrow if you want to discuss my contractual obligations. Night,’ Andy finished before hitting the end button and flinging her phone across the bed.
Copyright for 'emotional marshmallow' belongs to the legendary Vixanator - it was just so Andy, cerca 2006 :p
Chapter 9: Back In Black
This one was tougher to get out than I expected! I’ve been over it 101 times, and figured I might as well put it out there. Let me know your thoughts.
Three days after Miranda’s midnight apology, Andy was making her way back up to Runway. There was no fear, if anything she felt emboldened.
For her, Miranda’s apology had shifted the balance of power. Miranda needed her. Why, she wasn’t entirely sure, but the ground beneath her feet had solidified, and the holes in her self-esteem were beginning to close over in a way they hadn’t for a very long time. Respect from Miranda wasn’t something that was granted to many and Andy was all too aware of how rare a gift she had been given.
She shed the last remaining remnants of Andy the Assistant as she walked into Miranda’s office that evening, her head held high.
Miranda looked up from whatever she was doing and their eyes met across the short distance.
‘Andrea,’ Miranda said in acknowledgment, putting her pen down.
‘Miranda,’ Andy nodded in response. ‘Ready?’
‘Just give me one moment,’ Miranda said, ‘but make yourself comfortable.’
Andy walked over the sofa and put her things down, taking a seat and watching Miranda from where she sat. It was a Friday evening, and for once it looked like the week had taken a bit of a toll on Runway’s Editor-in-Cheif. Her hair looked like she had run a hand through it one too many times over the course of the day, and the eyes that had met hers across the office had looked a little drawn.
Miranda eventually stopped whatever she was doing to reach into a desk drawer and pull out what Andy recognized as her own copy of Miranda’s manuscript, the one she had left behind in her haste to exit earlier in the week.
Miranda got to her feet and made her way over with nothing but the manuscript, flicking through the pages until she found what she was looking for and dropped it down on the coffee table unceremoniously. ‘Explain.’
Andy pulled her glasses down from the top of her head and leaned over to look, recognizing the page immediately. ‘Simple,’ Andy began, ‘when I first read the manuscript this was the only section that told me anything about you. The rest of it felt manufactured, disingenuous. This was real.’
Miranda sighed, ‘If this is the outcome you want, I think you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I don’t want the public to have this much of an insight into my private life,’ she said frankly as she moved to sit down on the other end of the sofa, pulling her glasses off as she sat.
Andy sat back, mildly stunned that Miranda had made the decision to cut through the bullshit this evening. She had no intention of wasting the moment. ‘Okay, let me get a scope of this. Anything before 1975 is a no-go?’
‘I thought I made myself clear on that,’ Miranda said, a hint of irritation in her tone as she gripped the arm of her glasses.
Andy lifted her eyes heavenward, ‘Just roll with me for a second, please. You want coverage of the girls to be minimal, at best, correct?’
Andy reached towards the manuscript, ‘May I?’ she said, hand hovering above the loosely bound copy.
‘I think we’ve established that you’re a very private person,’ Andy said, tongue firmly in cheek as Miranda’s brow rose, ‘which means attempting to write an autobiography in it’s entirety is going to be pointless,’ she continued as she reached to grip the pages written about the girls and ripped them straight out.
Miranda stared at her as if she’d gone insane as she dumped the pages on the table.
‘So,’ Andy continued, ‘let’s focus on the one thing you love that you’ve always been willing to share with the public: Runway, or more importantly, fashion in it’s entirety. What people want are your insights, your opinions. Your career has spanned decades, I mean, look at this for example,’ Andy flicked back towards the beginning, ‘here you talk about the AIDS crisis as though it was on the peripheral of the fashion industry, when I know for a fact that can’t be the case.’
‘It’s not a time I like to revisit,’ Miranda said, her tone clipped.
‘Yes, but the message you’re sending is that it wasn’t important, that you don’t care. Miranda, I know you know this. You’ve been an editor for longer than I have. It’s in these moments which affected the industry where you need to put the heart. Draw the focus away from yourself, fine, but be willing to talk about these things in a way they deserve.’
Miranda leant over and placed her glasses down on the coffee table before leaning back and turning to face Andy. She was quiet for a long time, and Andy found herself closing the manuscript and putting it aside as she waited for her to speak.
‘We lost a lot of people,’ Miranda said after a while. Her voice was distant, like she was having to reach through years of memories to recall that time. ‘Designers, photographers, the boy from the mailroom who had bright red hair, just like the girls. It was like a purge. I had seen humanity in many forms by that time, but that was something else. It ravaged unchecked through the community, the media hailing it like it was a cleansing sent from God,’ she said, anger scraping at the edges of her voice. ‘I don’t know if I have the words to truly describe that time. The horror was unimaginable,’ Miranda finished, her voice trailing off.
It became clear that she had no intention of expanding any further, but it was a start.
‘That,’ Andy said gently after a while, ‘is you.’
Miranda looked up at her, ‘You presume to know who I am, Andrea.’
‘No, I think you misunderstand me. I don’t know you Miranda. I know how you like your coffee, that you love your daughters and that you’re an absolute nightmare to work for. But I don’t know you. That was simply real, and real is all we need. You don’t need to wax lyrical about all of your personal moments to write a memoir based on the industry to which you’ve devoted your entire life. Just some of them,’ Andy finished wryly with a hint of a smirk.
Miranda watched her, the expression on her face unreadable. ‘And exactly how much of myself am I going to have to give for them to be happy?’
‘The public,’ Miranda said.
‘You need to think about who you’re writing for,’ Andy said. ‘You can’t write for the entire public. You’re never going to be able to focus yourself if you’re trying to keep everyone happy. You need to focus your audience.’
‘On whom? The gay men who worship Runway? The white upper class conservative women who still have the money to purchase the couture we market? The board who makes the decisions about our budget? Who, Andrea? Who am I supposed to write for?’
Andy reached over and picked up the pages she had torn from the manuscript. ‘Who did you write this for?’ she asked.
Miranda paused. She stared at the pages for a long time before answering. ‘I wrote it for myself,’ she said.
‘And we’ve established you’re not willing to share that, so who do you want to write this book for? Why did you decide to write it now?’
Miranda’s handed reached to her chest instinctively, and Andy felt her heart sink a little as she realised the rumours may not have been rumours after all.
Miranda must have caught something on her face, because her arm stiffened before moving back to her lap. ‘That information is privileged and doesn’t leave this room,’ Miranda said.
‘Everything you say in this room is privileged, Miranda. The sooner you realise that, the easier this will be.’
Miranda looked at her sharply. ‘Why are you here?’ she demanded suddenly.
‘Because you hired me,’ Andy replied, confused.
‘That doesn’t answer my question, Andrea. You didn’t have to take this job. You made your feelings about me, and the way I conduct business quite clear when you stormed out in Paris. Why come back?’
‘I’ve been asking myself the same question since we began,’ Andy said. ‘I honestly don’t know.’
‘You say you know nothing about me, and yet I know absolutely nothing about you. The aspiring journalist who sat outside my office is gone, and in her place is someone I don’t know. Still intelligent, still foolhardy, still ambitious, but certainly much more cynical than I recall.’
‘You seemed to know an awful lot about my life the other day,’ Andy said defensively.
‘A passing comment from Emily in the wake of your departure many years ago and a calculated guess. Nothing more,’ Miranda said.
‘Fine, then what do you want to know?’
‘Why did you leave New York?’ she asked, not missing a beat.
Andy ran a hand through her cropped hair. ‘That’s a very long story.’
‘Does it look like I have somewhere to be this evening?’ Miranda said, indicating towards the empty office and the fact that only the two of them were sat there.
‘You want to hear about my life?’ Andy said in disbelief.
‘Well, you’re already privy to mine in much more detail than I feel comfortable with.’
Andy took a deep breath and released it. She hadn’t spoken to anyone about what had happened, not really. As she looked at Miranda, she realised her unwillingness to speak was because she was ashamed. She cared what Miranda thought. She may not have been Andy the Assistant any longer, but she recognized Miranda for what she was: a successful business woman who had never let anything stand in her way.
She had left in Paris because she had thought Miranda’s approach to life and career was wrong. She had thought she had all the answers, that she could have everything in perfect synchronicity without sacrificing the people around her as she had seen Miranda do. She had later realised how wrong she was, that you had to fight for yourself first. Nate had done it, and she had allowed him to, at the expense of herself.
Miranda hadn’t moved. She was watching Andy closely with those crystal clear blue eyes as she spoke. ‘Not so easy, is it?’ she said knowingly, a satisfied smirk on her face.
Andy realised what had happened a second too late. Miranda had weaved the perfect trap. The very thing she had been demanding of Miranda for weeks, and she herself was incapable of doing it. Miranda was right the other night, they weren’t friends. But perhaps they were a little more alike than Andy realised, and that thought alone made her suddenly uncomfortable.
‘You made your point,’ Andy sighed.
‘Perhaps. But you still haven’t answered my question. Why did you leave?’
‘Journalism wasn’t what I expected,’ Andy admitted. ‘I…got lost somewhere along the way. I lost my drive. Relationships with my friends and family were still strained after working for you, and things just spiralled out of control. When Greg, my editor, was fired, I quit. I couldn’t find it in myself to continue doing something I didn’t believe in under someone who had a very different view on journalistic integrity than I did.’
‘I’m sensing a pattern,’ Miranda said idly.
Andy shook her head in response. ‘It was different than when I left Runway,’ she explained. ‘When I left here I left with a purpose. After the Mirror, I had none. What I thought I wanted to do with my life was suddenly gone.’
‘And someone showed up to lead the way I take it?’
Andy leaned back into the sofa, letting one heel fall off as she tucked one leg underneath her on the cream sofa.
Miranda raised her brow as she took in the position.
‘Sorry,’ Andy said quickly, moving to return to her previous position.
Miranda held up a hand, halting her in her tracks. ‘Continue.’
‘Where was I?’
‘A knight in shining armour,’ Miranda said with no amount of amusement in her voice.
‘Right. Well, knight wouldn’t be the right word. Eight months of working for you and the two years of long distance which followed while I was here and he was in Boston had put a pretty significant dent in our relationship. When I quit, he told me to move, for us. It was an ultimatum more or less. I knew if I didn’t go, we were finished. I think we were both trying to get back something that was already lost, but I didn’t have anything holding me back from trying.’
‘Someone should have been there to tell you otherwise. If you hadn’t made the move after two years, you were never going to make it for the right reasons.’
‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing.’
‘That it is,’ Miranda agreed. ‘Satisfy my curiosity, if you would. How did you manage to get into Random House? I never received a request for a reference.’
‘I wasn’t willing to try my luck a second time,’ Andy chuckled. ‘And it was pure nepotism that got me in the door for an interview. A customer of Nate’s with deep pockets and a lot of connections.’
‘I see those idealistic morals didn’t last half as long as you expected them to.’
‘You taught me the importance of networking. I think I began to fall back on a lot of what I learned here at that time, funnily enough.’
‘Good. I’m glad that some of what I taught you has come to use. Publishing, it seems, has served you well enough.’
Andy shrugged. ‘It turned out to be a good fit for me. But, I think I had been so focused on the idea of being a journalist that I never owned it the way I should have, not until much later, maybe not even until now. When Nate got an offer in Washington, I gave up my position at Random House to work for a lesser known house.’
Miranda shook her head at that. ‘Silly girl,’ she admonished. ‘I take it similar circumstances led you to Chicago?’
Andy nodded. ‘I felt like I owed him something. I don’t know why, but once I set the precedent in our relationship that his career was more important than mine it seemed impossible to change it. He came to expect that I would place little value on my job. It wasn’t my dream career, so what right did I have putting it before his own?’
‘You had the right to expect that he would support you,’ Miranda said, ‘however, you needed to value yourself first and foremost, something you clearly weren’t doing.’
‘I know,’ Andy said quietly.
‘What’s done is done, Andrea. There’s no use dwelling on it.’
‘It’s hard not to sometimes.’
‘I won’t disagree,’ Miranda said.
They slipped into a comfortable silence at that and Andy found herself feeling strangely calm. It was an odd sensation to have around Miranda, who generally preferred her employees to be on the edge of a breakdown at all times.
‘I suppose we should work on something,’ Andy said wryly, reaching for the manuscript she had cast aside.
‘Yes, I suppose we should,’ Miranda said, reaching for her glasses.
A couple of hours later they had culled a good portion of the book, outlined the new chapter structure, and put together a working plan for Miranda.
Although they had taken a big step backwards in completed content, for the first time Andy felt like they had made some truly significant progress. She was beaming.
Miranda looked at her and shook her head. ‘You’re too easily pleased,’ she chastised. ‘We have more work now than we had when we started.’
‘It might seem that way, but I think we’re on the same page now, more or less. Things might run a little smoother from here on out.’
‘Perhaps I overestimated your newfound cynicism.’
‘Or maybe it’s just newfound optimism.’
‘Whatever it is, it’s irritating. Get your things,’ Miranda ordered as she got to her feet and went to her desk to pick up her bag and the Book.
Andy hadn’t used anything beyond a notepad tonight, so she swooped up her bag and slung it over her shoulder as Miranda turned out the lights and led the way out of the office.
Usually, Andy was summarily dismissed before Miranda left for the evening. As they approached the elevator Andy remembered why it was easier to walk out on her own rather than wait for Miranda. She stood next to her, feeling strange in a space that wasn’t the office.
When the elevator arrived and Miranda stepped in, Andy found herself pausing.
Miranda turned back to see her standing there dumbly, clearly caught at an impasse. She rolled her eyes. ‘Get in.’
Andy scrambled inside before reaching to hit the button for the first floor.
‘Do you have a driver waiting?’ Andy asked.
‘Yes. How are you getting home?’
Miranda turned on her heel at that. ‘You can afford a $400 Tory Burch and you’re using the Subway?’ she said, brow raised in mild disapproval.
‘It’s a city, Miranda. How else do you think people get around? I live in Brooklyn, not the Upper East Side.’
‘Brooklyn?’ Miranda said, not bothering to hide the disgust in her voice.
‘Hey, Brooklyn has a lot of good points,’ Andy said, defending her new neighbourhood as the elevator car came to a halt at the first floor, the doors opening.
‘It’s an overpriced hovel,’ Miranda corrected as they walked across the foyer.
‘It’s New York, Miranda. Everything is overpriced.’
‘You’re a thirty-four-year-old Senior Editor, you should be able to afford an apartment on this side of the bridge. What on Earth were you doing while you were in Chicago?’
‘Getting a divorce,’ Andy said as they pushed open the doors in sync and walked out into the brisk night air.
Miranda stopped and turned to look at her. ‘Next time, get a better attorney,’ she said frankly before turning and walking towards her car.
Andy stood at the top of the stairs and watched her go, shaking her head. ‘Goodnight Miranda,’ she muttered as she turned and walked in the direction of the nearest station.
Chapter 10: Gold Dust Woman
There was an odd thing that happened in the coming weeks and months that Andy found equal parts comforting and disconcerting.
Her and Miranda were getting along.
Fortunately, she was distracted from looking at that fact too closely as her work at Inception moved at a furious pace. She and Catlin had set their sights on establishing the imprint as a go to for young, upcoming novelists across a variety of genres. Their team was working like a well oiled machine and gaining attention across Elias-Clark, something Miranda enjoyed harassing her about every time she heard her name or Catlin’s mentioned on the executive floors.
As for Miranda’s book, their little blow out over content seemed to have done the trick, and the book was coming together better than Andy could have imagined.
Talking about the fashion industry was something Miranda did much better than talking about herself. Her personality bled onto the pages without her outright permission, something Andy refrained from pointing out too often, lest Miranda become aware of the fact she was giving a lot of herself away.
For Andy, the most difficult thing to fathom was that she looked forward to her editorial meetings with Miranda, and not in a professional sense but a personal one. Miranda was sharp, witty and a good conversationalist, particularly in the later hours of the evening when she finally began to wind off. They had always worked well together, but being on more equal footing had brought about a change in their dynamics.
‘Does this seem weird to you?’ Andy asked one night as they both sat behind Miranda’s desk, side by side. Andy had appropriated the chair from the second assistant’s desk as she had begun doing whenever Miranda wanted to work at her desk, and not for the first time, Andy had migrated around to the other side.
‘Hmm?’ Miranda hummed in question as she mulled over one of Andy’s suggestions and reread the paragraph in question.
‘This,’ Andy said, waving her hand in between them.
Miranda peered down at the minimal amount of space between them before looking back up at Andy. ‘I don’t suppose I’d noticed. Does it make you uncomfortable, Andrea?’ she asked with a wry smile, tone slightly mocking.
‘No,’ Andy said, shaking her head, and matching Miranda’s expression, ‘I just can’t say I envisioned the two of us managing to get along in a way that was this productive.’
Miranda rolled her eyes at that and turned her head back to the screen. ‘The only thing that has changed, Andrea,’ she began as she deleted a section and began typing, ‘is that you’ve stopped trying to prove to me that you’re a grown-up and are actually acting like one.’
Andy snorted. ‘That’s rich coming from the woman who called my office and left a vague message with the sole intention of scaring the shit out of me.’
‘Five and a half inch Miu Miu peep-toes,’ Miranda shot back.
‘Was it that obvious?'
‘You never favoured five and halves when you worked for me. I know how to spot a power play when I see one.’
‘They looked good though, didn’t they?’ Andy grinned.
Miranda smiled lightly at the screen. ‘Yes, they did,’ she said without turning her head.
‘A compliment from Miranda Priestly, as I live and breathe.’
‘Don’t get used to it. I haven’t seen a single outfit worthy of one since that first meeting. Just because you’re working with millennials doesn’t mean you have to dress like one.’
‘Just be thankful I don’t have a sleeve of tattoos.’
‘Don’t mention tattoos in my presence,’ Miranda growled, hitting a key especially hard.
Andy winced. Cassidy had decided to go all out with a geometric pattern on the inside of her forearm a couple of weeks ago. Miranda had been livid, especially given that she found out about it via a blow by blow account of the process on her Instagram story.
The rant Andy had been subjected to that evening was legendary. Apparently tattoos in general were a sore subject. Andy had heard, in great detail, about how it was impossible to find a model without tattoos, and how much additional time had to be invested and wasted in make-up before a shoot to have tattoos covered up.
‘Is she still in hiding?’ Andy asked, not particularly willing to revisit the subject.
‘If by hiding you mean avoiding all of my calls, then yes.’
Andy’s stomach chose the perfect moment to intervene as it rumbled in protest. She looked down at her watch and realised she hadn’t eaten since a late lunch at four p.m. and it was now well after nine.
She pushed back from the desk and got up to find her bag.
‘What are you doing?’ Miranda asked, looking up from her laptop.
‘Looking for emergency supplies,’ Andy said, pulling out a cereal bar in triumph.
Miranda stared at it. ‘Put that down,’ she ordered.
‘I’m starving,’ Andy protested.
‘Well order something and have it delivered. You are capable of using a phone still, are you not?’
Andy suddenly felt a bit stupid.
‘Have you eaten?’ she asked Miranda, not feeling entirely comfortable at the thought of eating in Miranda’s office if Miranda herself wasn’t eating.
Miranda glanced at the clock on the wall. ‘No, I suppose I haven’t.’
‘Well, if you want, I can get something for both of us.’
Miranda looked at her, considering the proposal. ‘Nothing heavy, and no spice,’ she said after a beat before turning her attention back to the laptop.
Andy picked up her phone and started scrolling through the options, eventually settling on a couple of simple dishes from a local organic restaurant.
When the food arrived, Miranda looked on with approval. ‘I was expecting Chinese,’ she said drolly.
Andy rolled her eyes. ‘I did remember who I was ordering for,’ she said as she tipped the delivery guy and carried the food towards the sofas.
Miranda got up and joined her.
As Andy dished everything out onto real plates from the office, she could feel Miranda’s eyes on her.
If she thought about it too hard, she supposed the idea of eating with Miranda was a little weird. However, everything about this situation had been weird from the beginning and as Andy handed Miranda a plate with grilled fresh tuna, asparagus and cherry tomatoes, Miranda decided to make it weirder.
‘Well, my cardiologist will be happy,’ she noted.
Andy paused, her hand midway towards her own plate which was waiting on the table.
Miranda hadn’t spoken about what happened last year, but Andy knew better than ignore an opening from her. Miranda didn’t like to approach personal topics directly, instead she preferred to segue into them and expected Andy to pick up the slack.
‘So the rumours were true?’
Miranda carefully sliced a piece of tuna and speared it with her fork. ‘Hardly, although they had some basis in fact.’
‘Minor,’ Miranda confirmed. ‘Thankfully it occurred at home and not the office, it would have been impossible to keep the incident quiet otherwise.’
‘As you can see, I’m perfectly fine. Aside from the dietary restrictions and the constant pestering from my doctors about reducing stress.’
Andy snorted, her mouth full of roasted chicken.
Miranda looked at her and rolled her eyes. ‘Yes, it’s all very funny.’
Andy swallowed quickly. ‘I’m sorry, but I’m just trying to imagine someone telling you to cut back your working hours,’ she laughed again.
‘I do try,’ Andy sassed, before cutting another piece of chicken away from the bone. ‘How did the girls handle everything?’
Miranda fell silent, and Andy looked up to see an odd look on her face. It took her a few moments to put things together, but when she did, it was with a dawning realisation. ‘They don’t know, do they?’ she said in disbelief.
Miranda shook her head.
‘You were alone,’ Andy said, the horror in her voice unescapable.
‘You always were perceptive,’ Miranda said quietly, confirming her worst nightmare.
‘Fuck,’ Andy said shakily, running a hand through her hair.
‘So you decided to write the book?’ Andy asked.
‘Yes, more or less.’
Andy let out a breath. ‘That answers a couple of questions I had lingering.’
‘I’m sure you’ll find plenty more to replace them, knowing you.’
‘Why didn’t you tell them?’ Andy pressed. She was a daughter. If her mother had done that to her she would be furious.
‘They’re in their early twenties, Andrea. Caroline is in California, finally away from my shadow, as is Cassidy in London. Imagine if they had come running back here in the middle of the semester. Those ambulance chasers would have sniffed something out, not to mention it would disrupt their lives. I spent years keeping them out of the limelight, and by some small miracle they haven’t been on the media’s radar. They don’t thank me for it, but I gave up the remainder of my forties and the better part of my fifties to ensure my personal life wasn’t something that page 6 could use against my family ever again,’ she said bitterly.
Andy winced, distinctly remembering the fallout from Miranda’s third divorce. It was vicious. It appeared the media had gotten worse in the years between Miranda’s second and third separation, or perhaps Andy was just much more aware of it having worked for her. You couldn’t escape it. Her face was everywhere, details of the settlement splashed across every tabloid newspaper, horror stories of how impossible she was to please, that she was an absent mother, rumours about her sex life, you name it – they printed it. It seemed like Rupert Murdoch had a personal vendetta against Miranda, which wasn’t altogether unlikely. It went on for months. She couldn’t imagine the impact it had on her daughters, who would have been barely twelve at the time.
‘They’re finally coming into their own,’ Miranda continued, ‘it wasn’t the time to disrupt that.’
‘They’re still your daughters,’ Andy said. ‘What if it had been worse?'
‘I was in the hospital and diagnosed within an hour,’ Miranda said, ‘I was conscious the entire time. Had it been worse, I wouldn’t have had a choice. Caroline is my next of kin.’
‘Do you have anyone here?’ Andy demanded.
‘I’m sorry?’ Miranda said.
‘In New York? Caroline is a plane ride away. Who do you have here?’
Miranda looked mildly uncomfortable at that, and Andy was beginning to get a picture of Miranda that she hadn’t had before. Miranda had always been surrounded by people, but as Andy thought back, none of them were friends. Miranda barely had time for her marriage, let alone maintaining friendships outside of the industry. After Stephen, she hadn’t remarried, and had stood proudly alone at the Met Gala year after year. Nigel and her had been kind of close, but he was long gone and she had no idea who served in his place now.
Andy found that she didn’t like the thought of Miranda alone.
In fact, she hated it.
‘Next time, if there’s no one else, call me,’ Andy said. ‘I’m not family, but I can hold the fort until family arrives.’
‘I’m sincerely hoping there won’t be a next time,’ Miranda said. ‘And I appreciate the offer, Andrea, but it’s entirely unnecessary.’
Andy watched as Miranda turned her attention back to her plate. ‘Regardless of whether it’s necessary or not, the offer stands if you find yourself ever in need of it.’
Miranda paused and glanced up. ‘Thank you, Andrea,’ she said gently.
They ate in silence for some time after that and eventually returned to work.
As they travelled down in the elevator later that evening, Miranda turned to her. ‘As pleasant as this evening was, I’m not fond of eating at the office.’
‘I’ll remember that for the future,’ Andy said apologetically.
‘I wasn’t implying that you should starve,’ Miranda said. ‘Simply that, given the time of our meetings, we could look at moving our location to the town house. Today’s conversation has reminded me that I’m supposed to be spending less time at the office as opposed to more.’
Andy gaped at Miranda before regaining control of her features. ‘Sure, it makes very little difference to me.’
‘Good,’ Miranda nodded as the elevator doors opened and they walked out together.
As they reached the cool night air, Andy turned to Miranda. Tonight had been full of surprises, and she was feeling a little unsure of herself in Miranda’s presence. Heart attack confessions and an invitation to the town house was a lot to process in a single evening. It was as though Miranda had made some kind of decision about her that she wasn’t privy to, although it looked an awful lot like trust.
‘Well, goodnight,’ she said, for a lack of anything better to say.
Miranda stepped forward, leaning in to brush Andy’s cheek with a light air kiss before moving away. ‘Goodnight, Andrea,’ she said gently before turning and walking towards the town car.
Andy stood there, feeling a little dumbstruck as Miranda disappeared into the black Mercedes without looking back.
As Miranda sunk into the backseat of the town car, she caught herself in a feeling she hadn’t experienced for some time.
She couldn’t remember the last time someone had put themselves in her corner so readily as Andrea had this evening. Her offer was ludicrous, of course, but the way in which she had offered it, so passionately, had had something of an impact on Miranda.
Too much of one, she thought.
Moving their meetings to the town house had been a rash decision. Sharing meals in her office had already pushed Andrea outside of her usually strict employer-employee relationship boundaries and into the unknown.
Things had gotten away on her this evening, much like every other evening.
She sighed and stared out the window as the car pulled out into the late evening traffic. She was content, but feeling mildly put out as though this contentedness was being forced upon her against her will.
Andrea had, unfortunately, always been different. Even a decade ago she caused her to do things that were out of character, and now it was worse. The woman made her blurt out things she would never usually say, to anyone.
As they pulled up to the town house with it’s lights out, the cold darkness which filled the windows staring back at her, it wasn’t hard for her to see why she had latched onto the natural warmth offered by the other woman.
She was lonely.
Her peers in the industry were scattered across the globe. The team she had built and worked closely with in the early days had moved on to bigger and better things. She had friends, but they also had schedules which contended with hers.
She enjoyed having her own space, however, the house was designed for a family. When she married the first time, she imagined having a partner in taking over New York, the second time she imagined someone to have and raise children with, and the last time she simply hoped to have someone to come home to at the end of the day and perhaps grow old with.
Out of all of them, Stephen had been the greatest disappointment. She had thought she had learned by then, but he had turned on her faster than the rest. The last divorce had left its mark. She actively chose to be alone after that, and everything had been fine until the girls moved out and left for college.
As her driver opened the door and she stepped out, she realised the idea of a semi-frequent visitor was not entirely horrible.
Andrea may have a lot to gain from this book going to print, but Miranda struggled to convince herself that every conversation they had had since they begun was an act designed for personal gain.
Perhaps age was making her sentimental.
Perhaps she would live to regret it.
She chose not to dwell on it too much as she walked up the stairs and opened the door.
Chapter 11: Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
Andy stood outside Miranda’s formidable town house and felt the phantom absence of an armload of dry cleaning and the Book.
It was odd to be approaching the house with nothing more than her bag slung over her shoulder.
It was almost nine in the evening and she was struck by how strangely calm everything was.
Money could buy you many things, including the illusion of peace in an otherwise hectic city.
Andy pondered the house for another moment before squaring her shoulders and making her way up the stairs and pressing the buzzer. She waited awkwardly on the steps until Miranda herself appeared and pulled open the door.
She was still in full work regalia and looked like she had barely stepped in the door herself.
‘Did you get it?’ Miranda asked in lieu of a greeting as she stepped back by way of invitation.
Andy appreciated Miranda’s ability to cut through any awkwardness by simply bypassing polite greetings altogether.
‘We did, but it was above what I wanted to pay for it. We got caught in a bidding war which was the last thing we needed this quarter,’ Andy grumbled as she stepped inside. She had been dragged to an early working dinner with Catlin tonight to land an author whose agent was out to make one hell of a profit out of his untested protégé.
‘I hope he’s worth it,’ Miranda said as she led Andy inside.
‘You’re not the only one. I’m not a huge fan of taking risks this big.’
The foyer had been redecorated sine she was last here. The colours were deeper and richer than she remembered. The art work had changed along with it, but the tables filled with fresh flowers were still dotted all over the place.
‘I’m assuming you’ve eaten?’ Miranda asked as she led her past the staircase and in the direction of the library.
‘You would assume right,’ Andy said as they entered the familiar space. Absolutely nothing had changed, except for a portrait of the twins on the wall which Andy assumed was recent.
Miranda took a seat, noting Andy’s interest. ‘They’ve grown since you were last here.’
‘They’re women,’ Andy said, shaking her head in disbelief. ‘I suddenly feel old.’
Miranda rolled her eyes. ‘Yes, Andrea. You’re so very very old.’
Andy laughed as she moved to sit down, letting her bag slip from her shoulder. ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, hasn’t it? I don’t think it struck me until just now.’
‘I suppose it has.’
‘It’s nice to be back,’ Andy said honestly as she leaned back into her chair. It felt exactly the same. She could recall quiet evenings spent here with Miranda, going over details for the next day. They were always the most peaceful moments of her job as an assistant in the later months of her time with Miranda. They were the moments which stood between the hectic day behind her and the unhappy household ahead of her. Nate, by that time, was nothing more than a collection of sullen silences or an exhausting argument to come home to.
This library had been her bubble.
Which, upon reflection, was quite remarkable. She looked across and realised that back then, she probably wasn’t the only one seeking a little peace.
Miranda caught her eye and a look of understanding passed between them. Andy was caught off guard by a sudden bout of shame at the way she had left Miranda alone in Paris to deal with the fall out from her divorce.
You can do your job.
The words that had frustrated her so much at the time made significantly more sense now.
‘I’m sorry,’ Andy said, turning more fully in her chair. ‘I don’t think I’ve once apologized for how I left back then.’
Miranda crossed her legs and leaned back into her chair. ‘You had your reasons, I’m sure.’
‘I did, but my timing could have been a lot better.’
‘As could everyone’s at one time or another,’ Miranda shrugged. ‘Life moves on. Or not so much in this case,’ she said as she gestured to their positions.
Andy grinned at that before glancing around once more. ‘I loved it here,’ she admitted as she took in the mahogany fixtures. ‘It was peaceful,' she said, looking out the window before turning back to Miranda. 'And still is.’
Miranda looked around and took in the room before getting to her feet. ‘Follow me.’
Andy did as she was told and followed Miranda’s lead, grabbing her things as she went.
Miranda climbed the stairs to the first floor and Andy could distinctly recall the one and only time she had dared to step foot on this staircase.
This time, by invitation, she was led into a spacious living room. 'I prefer it in here,' Miranda said quietly as they entered. The room was softly lit by a series of well placed lamps and the three large arched French doors which overlooked the street took up the entire front wall of the interior, although they were currently obscured by a set of ivory curtains. The right wall in it’s entirety had been converted into a series of bookcases, while the left served as a gallery. Above the fireplace was a picture of Miranda with the girls, the three of them a few years younger and looking very relaxed.
‘If his career in fashion had never taken off, Demarchelier would have made an exceptional family photographer,’ Miranda said, noting her interest.
‘Patrick took this?’ Andy asked, moving closer to inspect it. ‘It’s beautiful.’
Miranda came and stood next to her, close enough that their arms brushed.
‘We’ve had quite a few taken since, but this remains my favourite,’ Miranda said, her voice quiet and contemplative.
‘I can see why. You all look so…’ Andy paused, looking for the right word. It came to her after a moment. ‘Free.’
Miranda tilted her head at that, but didn’t comment further, eventually moving away from Andy to take a seat.
The space she occupied was clearly well used. A blanket hung slightly askew over the back of the chair and a novel rested on a small table next to it.
Andy decided to take up residence on the sofa to the right.
‘I rarely use the downstairs library anymore,’ Miranda said by way of explanation once Andy had joined her.
‘I can see why,’ Andy said, turning to look up at the wall of books behind her, ‘although I’m struggling to understand why the downstairs is called the library.’
‘Original floor plans. It also used to be one of the only rooms in the house without a television. However, I rectified that after my last divorce.’
Miranda had tossed out the televisions. For Andy it had been that goddamn Nespresso machine Nate never used but insisted on having on the countertop.
‘It gets easier, after the first one,’ Miranda noted, her eyes pinning Andy in place with a look that was far too meaningful.
‘Does it really? Because right now I’m pretty convinced that I’m a one and done kind of girl. I don’t know how you managed to do it again. Twice.’
‘You will move on. Eventually.’
‘If my mother had her way, it would be now. She’s terrified I’ll never have children.’
‘Do you want children?’
Andy glanced up at the picture above the fireplace. ‘Maybe? I don’t know. With the right person, yes, if the timing is right for both of us.’
‘The cook wasn’t that person?’
‘No, and it took me far too long to realise it. I worry that I destroyed both of our chances. My family is still pissed as hell about the divorce. My mother can’t understand why I left. My reasons were too vague for her. Apparently I should have just shut up and had the kids he wanted,’ Andy blurted. ‘I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.’
‘He will survive and you’re still young. I had the girls at thirty-seven. And in regards to your family I would advise you not to listen.’
‘You don’t know my mother,’ Andy groaned.
‘No, but I had one once.’
That gave Andy pause. She looked at Miranda intently.
Miranda caught her eye and gave a minute shake of her head. ‘Not tonight,’ she said quietly.
Andy gave her a single nod before her eyes drifted to take in the entire picture of the woman before her. Miranda sat with her legs crossed in a tight charcoal skirt and blazer ensemble which, by the cut, Andy guessed was Armani. The outfit told her that Miranda had likely had board meetings today. She had a tendency to lean towards conservative when she was required upstairs.
Despite the severity of the suit, the white blouse underneath was showing signs of a long day and was open at the third button. Andy could picture Miranda walking into the house and reaching up with a single hand to slide that last button loose and allow herself to breathe.
The urge to keep talking with Miranda this evening was overwhelming. She wasn’t sure whether it was the setting or the woman herself, but she wanted to sink into the sofa and simply have a conversation. Being around her made her feel grounded, like there was someone out there who had been to the other side and come back unscathed. Well, perhaps not unscathed, but still standing.
‘Something on your mind?’ Miranda asked.
‘Just thinking about how easy this is, with you.’
‘Would you like it to be difficult?’
Andy shook her head. ‘It’s nice,’ she said simply, ‘to have someone that understands.’
Miranda considered her response for a moment.
‘It is,’ she replied gently.
It was well after eleven when Miranda closed the front after Andrea.
She paused for a moment with her hand on the wood, shaking her head in bemusement before making her way through the house and turning off the lights.
They had done next to nothing this evening. That in and of itself was some form of warning sign that she knew she should pay heed to.
Things between them had become friendly. There was no doubting that. Not only had she invited Andrea into the town house, but she had invited her upstairs into her home. It was a space she shared with very few people, and never employees.
She had even felt a sliver of disappointment when she had realised the time, although it had been entertaining to watch Andrea scramble in embarrassment when she’d realised how little work they had done.
Andrea was, after all, meant to keep her on track. Instead, she had been sitting there watching her intently all evening, as if trying to puzzle something out while their conversation flowed from one topic to the next.
The situation was strange, she supposed.
Andrea Sachs, with her pixie cut and round tortoiseshell glasses seemed quite content to slip off her electric blue Jimmy Choo’s and tuck her legs up underneath herself on Miranda’s fifteen-thousand-dollar sofa. She had been sitting there wearing a pair of tailored black dress pants which were clearly A.L.C. and an off the rack black ribbed turtleneck t-shirt, looking for all the world as though she spent every other day in Miranda’s home.
What was worse is Miranda didn’t wish to disturb this apparent natural state of being for the woman. She liked her being comfortable here. Which was a problem in and of itself.
There were so many things that were wrong with this situation. However, what worried her the most was her overall lack of concern about the break neck pace at which Andrea had butted into her life like she belonged there.
As she continued the climb to her bedroom she realised that the last person to manage such a thing had been her first husband, Samuel.
She faltered on the steps.
Samuel had been a whirlwind. No, a hurricane. Their relationship had been passionate, intense and extremely volatile. It had left her strung out and exhausted by the time it was over.
After that, her choices had become decidedly more calculated.
Mitchell had been a strong and stable father figure. He represented someone much better than her own father to have children with. He was a good man, but he had been too calm and too kind for her. Her personality overwhelmed and exhausted him eventually. She had had to let him go. She wasn’t good for him.
Andrea reminded her of all of them. Pushy like Samuel and prone to bouts of tempestuousness. Willing to butt heads with her over absolutely everything. Blunt and honest, but at times so sickeningly nice. Too open, with those expressive brown eyes telling everyone within a quarter mile what she was thinking. Too caring. Too worried about everyone else and their opinions. Yet, still a business woman, like Stephen. For all his faults, he had a brilliant mind.
It didn’t take much to put two and two together and she admonished herself when she realised what she had been doing.
Andrea presented the perfect companion for her, without the complication of romance and marriage.
She considered that for a moment, drumming her fingertips on the railing.
No, she thought, as she continued the climb and made her way to her bedroom, Andrea was Andrea. She was unique, not a facsimile of her ex-husbands. A…friend of sorts at a time in her life when she needed someone around she could trust.
The fact that she needed anyone was irritating and she sighed as she removed her blazer and tossed it on the end of the bed.
The heart attack had done quite the number on her. It had all but triggered some kind of horrendous mid-life crisis. It was utterly appalling, but there was no denying that perhaps it had given her Andrea, and no matter how she looked at it, she wasn't ready to give that up.
Chapter 12: All My Friends
The months continued to pass and Autumn came upon New York with a ferocity that reminded Andy of Ohio. She jumped out of bed and wrapped herself up in as many layers as she could manage before joining Lily in the living room. It was just after seven and she was feeling the effects of her lack of sleep.
‘No point in asking where you were last night I suppose,’ Lily said with an eye roll.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Andy rasped, sleep still clinging to her voice.
‘That you’ve spent the last God only knows how many Wednesdays with Miranda.’
‘I have not,’ Andy frowned.
‘Check your calendar, but I can assure you, you have.’
‘Yeah, huh. I got home after one and you weren’t back yet.’
‘Oh, we just got caught up in politics and the next thing you know it was one-thirty in the morning,’ Andy said as she moved to grab some cereal out of the cupboard. ‘It’s fine anyway,’ she said over her shoulder, ‘Miranda got her driver to take me home.’
‘I wish you could hear yourself right now,’ Lily said, shaking her head. ‘What’s going on with you two?’
Andy turned at that. ‘What do you mean?’
‘It’s the twenty-first century Andy, if you want to bone your ex-boss the world won’t care, but as your best friend, I want the details.’
Andy’s jaw dropped. ‘You can’t be serious.’
‘Dead serious. Don’t tell me it hasn’t even crossed your mind? Christ, she’s the EIC of one of the most successful fashion magazines in the world and she took time out of her hectic schedule to cook dinner for you last week. Does that not strike you as even the slightest bit odd?'
‘I…’ Andy faltered. ‘We work in the evenings; we have to eat.’
‘In her home?'
‘Well, we work there.’
‘In the home of a woman who nearly fired you for taking a few steps up and out of the designated area for employees way back when?’
‘She had family at home then, it’s different.’
‘Do you see anyone else there?’
‘No, but I’m not there all the time!’
‘There’s a river in Egypt with your name on it, Sachs.’
Andy opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of milk. ‘Okay, so maybe we’re friends. We’re writing about her life. Things get a little personal, it’s unavoidable.’
‘Oh, you mean like that author that Catlin fell into bed with last month?’
‘It’s nothing like that,’ Andy said as she poured, making sure there was enough milk that the chunks of granola floated and bobbed around. She was still pissed as hell with Catlin over the entire situation. They had paid huge money for that manuscript, and she didn’t want personal drama interfering with getting the result they needed to recoup what they had sunk into it.
Catlin had called her an old fossil.
She hadn’t appreciated it.
‘But seriously, you’ve been spending a lot of time with Miranda,’ Lily noted.
Andy took a mouthful and moved to join her on the sofa. ‘We’re editing a book if you’ll recall,’ she mumbled around the food in her mouth.
‘I get that,’ Lily said as she shuffled over and held up the blanket she was sitting under for Andy to slip underneath, ‘but you edit books every day and you never spend this much time personal time with any of your authors.’
Andy swallowed, ‘It’s only once a week, it’s not that much.’
‘It was once a month, then twice a month and now every week. This has been going on for most of the year Andy. I thought it was supposed to be casual?’
Andy stopped to think about the time that had crept up on her. Lily wasn't entirely wrong, she and Miranda saw each other very regularly, and it had been going on for quite some time.
‘Look, things were tough in the beginning and then we found a good balance. Plus, I don’t know, I like spending time with her,’ Andy admitted.
‘Okay, but isn’t it a little weird that she’s paying you to do so?’
‘I have the publishing rights,’ Andy said, ‘it’s not like she’s stuffing singles in my underwear.’
‘But you’d like her to?’
Andy groaned. ‘Seriously, there is nothing going on between Miranda and I.’
‘Fine,’ Lily said as she held up her hands in surrender. ‘But if anything changes, I want to be the first to know.’
‘Yeah, absolutely Lil,’ Andy said with an eye roll before reaching for the remote and turning the volume up on the TV to watch the news.
As she chomped away on her cereal she thought back to the previous night.
Miranda hadn’t just cooked for her last week. She had cooked for her on multiple occasions when time had allowed.
For some reason it hadn’t struck Andy as being particularly odd. They had shared numerous dinners at the town house. One night she had arrived and Miranda had simply greeted her at the door in an apron, drying her hands on a dish towel. It had been jarring in it’s domesticity, sure, but Andy had learned quickly not to get thrown off by learning something new about Miranda. Not to mention the woman was one hell of a cook.
She mulled over Lily’s accusations. Yes, they had been spending regular time together. And yes, she looked forward to their evenings together. But there was absolutely nothing untoward happening. Miranda was straight, as far as she was aware. Not to mention she hadn’t made a pass at Andy in anyway that could be considered sexual.
She leaned back into the sofa and thought about it before shaking it off. Lily thought everyone was fair game, and Andy had bumped into a stream of men and women in various states of undress since she had lived here. What her and Miranda had was a kind of friendship entwined with a working relationship that would no doubt end when the manuscript was complete.
Andy paused with her spoon partway to her mouth.
She hadn’t considered that fact before.
Lily had been partially correct. This was a working relationship which was limited to as long as they had work to do, and they were three quarters of the way there.
She hadn’t been treating it like a working relationship, not really. The last few weeks in particular their work at the town house had been less about work and more about eating, drinking and conversing for most of the night. Miranda understood her in a way not many people did, and that made her exceptionally easy to talk to. Andy felt the guilt start to creep in as she thought about how much work they were really getting done considering the hours they were putting in. By her standards, and likely by Miranda's own, it wasn't much. Lily was right about one thing, Miranda was the editor-in-chief of Runway. Her time was extremely limited and Andy had been poaching large chunks of it week after week. If they had put the time in they could have been finished by now.
Andy leant forward and put her granola down on the table, suddenly not all that hungry. Had she been intentionally slowing the process down to keep Miranda around? Had she always been aware that as soon as Miranda's memoir was complete, she would have no excuse to be in Miranda's presence; that they would likely never spend time in the same room together again?
‘Do you want some coffee?’ she said as she slipped out from underneath the blanket and got to her feet, suddenly needing some space.
‘Yeah, that would be perfect,’ Lily replied, now glued to her phone.
As Andy moved to the kitchen, she wondered why on earth she had allowed herself to get emotionally invested in Miranda Priestly. Miranda was and always had been untouchable, her social life bound by schedules and her personal time restricted to people she considered…personal. Andy wasn’t self-centred enough to believe that Miranda considered her anything other than a convenient sounding board, someone whom she had just enough trust in to run riot with her memoirs. Someone who could assist her in summarising her life into chapters.
She had let the ease of their working relationship distract her from what they were doing: working. Nothing more.
Over the next week Andy spent a significant amount of time chiding herself for not keeping her eye on the ball, and the rest of it throwing extra energy into writing which had been falling by the wayside.
By the time Wednesday rolled around, Andy found herself approaching Miranda’s house with an air of professionalism that had been conspicuously absent since they had relocated to the townhouse. She had rescheduled their appointment for later in the evening to avoid dinner and ensure they were focusing primarily on work.
Miranda, to her credit, took it in stride. However, she spent much of the evening watching Andy closely and after a couple of hours had apparently had enough.
‘What on Earth is wrong with you this evening?’ Miranda snapped.
Andy looked up from the page they were working on and gave Miranda a puzzled look. ‘What do mean?’
‘Is there a problem with my work?’
‘No, there’s not a problem with your work. The problem is you. Have I said something to offend you this week?’
‘What? No, of course not.’
‘Then explain to me why I’m on the receiving end of whatever this,’ she waved her hand at Andy, ‘is?’
Andy sighed and pulled off her glasses. ‘I thought perhaps I had overstepped the bounds of professionalism.’
‘Do you think I would hesitate to inform you if you had?’
‘I don’t know,’ Andy said, ‘I mean the dinners, and the working here…’
Miranda fell silent. ‘Ah,’ she said quietly after a moment, closing her manuscript in the process. ‘We can return to the office from next week.’
‘No, Miranda, that’s not what I meant,’ Andy said, scrambling.
‘I think what you meant was quite clear. Being here makes you uncomfortable,’ Miranda replied, her back now ramrod straight in her chair.
‘No, Miranda, it doesn’t,’ Andy protested. ‘I just…what happens after this?’
‘After what?’ Miranda demanded, beginning to sound exasperated.
‘After the book is published. We're not really that far off.’
Miranda stared at her. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘I’m talking about us,’ Andy explained.
‘Us?’ Miranda asked, the disbelief evident on her face.
‘No, no, I don’t mean—fuck—wow, none of this is coming out right,’ Andy groaned, putting her face in her hands.
‘Are we friends?’ Andy asked, and wanted to sink through the floor as soon as the words left her mouth. They sounded so juvenile sitting here in front of Miranda.
Miranda rolled her eyes. ‘Yes, I suppose we are. Although why you must ascribe such an asinine word to it I have no idea.’
‘We are?’ Andy asked weakly.
‘Don’t tell me this is what this entire evening has been about?’ Miranda said, her voice full of incredulity.
‘Maybe?’ Andy squeaked.
‘Just when I think you’ve advanced beyond your years; you do something to remind me otherwise.’
‘Stop making me feel worse.’
‘Oh, I think you’ll do a perfectly good job of that all on your own after you leave here tonight.’
‘I don’t doubt that,’ Andy groaned again.
Miranda put her manuscript aside. ‘Andrea, if at any stage you have a problem with this arrangement, you simply need to say so. I’m not a mind reader. As far as I was aware, you were perfectly happy with how things were progressing and the space in which they were progressing. Personally, I would prefer things to continue how they have been, however, this was, I suppose, a business arrangement first and foremost. If mixing business and pleasure concerns you, I suggest you make that known now.’
Andy nearly balked at the word pleasure and her eyes flew up to Miranda’s face. She could find absolutely nothing salacious there, but she felt her face grow hot nonetheless.
God damn it, why had she listened to Lily?
‘I—no nothing concerns me,’ Andy said, shaking it off.
‘Am I to expect another one of these episodes if I offer you a glass of wine? And perhaps another one in the future, after the book is complete?’
‘No, Christ I’m sorry. I’m such an idiot.’
‘Yes, you are,’ Miranda confirmed, getting to her feet. Her off the shoulder white cashmere sweater slipped further down her arm and Andy found her eyes drawn to the newly exposed skin.
Her eyes snapped to Miranda’s face, only to find the older woman staring back at her with an odd look on her face which she couldn’t quite place.
‘You can put your things away,’ Miranda said after a beat.
‘You don’t want to push through the last section?’
‘No, I don’t,’ Miranda said simply as she walked towards the stairs.
‘Can we pretend that this conversation never happened?’ Andy called out, knowing Miranda was about to raid her exceptional wine cellar.
A tinkle of laughter was all she received in return.
As they conversed over wine, Miranda found herself contemplating Andrea closely.
Something had spooked her, but Miranda wasn’t entirely sure what. Regardless, it seemed Andrea wanted to be her…friend.
In all of her years, she didn’t think she could recall a single moment outside of her childhood where someone had used that word in it’s simplest sense to refer to her; not unless they were trying to cling to her coattails and climb the corporate or social ladder.
It was endearing, and Miranda couldn’t help but indulge her.
As Andrea discussed her work she became animated. Her hands gestured wildly, the wine in her glass precariously close to splashing over the sofa or the hand knotted rug in front of it she was quite fond of. Yet, Miranda said nothing. She sat back with an amused look on her face knowing that at any moment Andrea would catch herself, apologize half-heartedly and then continue along much the same way a few minutes down the track.
No one else would dare, and that was what Miranda enjoyed the most.
It was thrilling to have someone around again who refused to be intimidated by her station, who didn’t bother to stand on ceremony in her presence.
She had no interest in losing that.
If Andrea wanted to be her friend, so be it.
‘Are you going home for Thanksgiving?’ Miranda interjected.
Andrea paused at the segue for a beat. ‘No, not this year. I’m quite happy wallowing in my own life failures without having my mother and my sister point them out to me in excruciating detail.’
‘Good, Caroline will be home for four days and I’d like you to have dinner with us one evening.’
Miranda watched as Andrea’s face moved through numerous expressions, the most prominent being shock.
‘Ah, yeah, sure,’ Andrea replied after she regained control of her face, ‘I mean, yes. That would be great actually.’
‘Good, we can discuss the details closer to the time.’
‘Cassidy?’ Andrea enquired.
Miranda shook her head. ‘She can’t afford to miss classes, but she’ll be back for Christmas.’
‘Well, hopefully I’ll have the chance to see her then.’
A small smile fought its way onto Miranda’s lips at that. ‘I think that could be arranged.’
Chapter 13: A Family Affair
‘So then, Mom pins the guy with one of those glares,’ Caroline says with a laugh, ‘and I swear he almost shat himself right then and there.’
‘Language,’ Miranda barked as Andy burst into another round of laughter with Caroline.
‘Oh God, that look. She could slay armies with that thing,’ Andy roared.
'I know. Do you have any idea what it was like trying to date as a teenager? Now I just pick guys from California who have no idea about the New York elite or fashion. The last guy I bought home bear hugged her and lifted her half a foot off the floor. You should have seen her face. I wish I’d had my phone out.’
Andy couldn’t stop laughing. There were tears running down her face as she clutched her sides.
Miranda was glaring at them from across the table which seemed to only add to the entertainment.
Caroline was nothing like Miranda. Same eyes, same face, but she was mischievous and relaxed with a wicked sense of humour who enjoyed torturing her mother far too much.
‘You both sound like hyenas,’ Miranda noted as she speared a caramelised carrot with her fork.
‘Sorry, sorry,’ Andy coughed, still unable to hide the grin on her face.
Caroline was wiping tears away from her eyes. ‘Oh, come on Mom. I still have a few more.’
‘If you could refrain until after dinner I would appreciate it. I would prefer Andrea didn’t choke and die at my kitchen table. She barely chews as it is.’
‘Hey!’ Andy cried out.
Caroline broke out in laughter again as Miranda smirked triumphantly across the table at her.
Andy rolled her eyes in response. Okay, so maybe Caroline was more like Miranda than she thought.
Over the course of the evening a warm feeling had been growing in the pit of her stomach at being included in this part of Miranda’s life. A part she knew Miranda kept extremely private. Not to mention the dinner had been going nothing like she had expected. It was rowdy, wine soaked, and full of banter.
Caroline blew a flyaway strand of red hair out of her face. Her hair was long and pulled up into loose, messy bun on the top of her head.
‘I wish you would do something about that hair,’ Miranda said. ‘I can see the damage on the ends from here.’
‘It doesn’t make any difference. I get it cut and the sea water thrashes it again anyway. It’s a waste of money.’
‘Caroline, we’ve been over this.’
‘You’re paying for school and rent, Mom. Let me do the rest, please.’
Andy focused her attention on her plate, not wanting to get pulled into this particular conversation. Whereas Cassidy had been more than happy live off an allowance from her Mother in London, Caroline had decided to take up waitressing and bartending to make ends meet instead. After she had moved to California, Caroline had actively chosen to distance herself from her Dalton friends and kept a low profile at California’s Institute of the Arts. Her group of friends were not from affluent backgrounds, most were on scholarships, and as far as Miranda had told her, this sudden rebellion against financial assistance all came from some deep-seated sense of embarrassment about her family wealth.
‘We can discuss it later,’ Miranda said, garnering a groan from Caroline in response.
‘How’s school going, Caroline?’ Andy jumped in.
Caroline threw her a look of appreciation at that. ‘It’s good. Although it’s hard not to worry about what comes next.’
Andy flicked a glance to Miranda, who was watching her daughter closely.
‘What’s your main concern? Right now?’ Andy asked.
‘Finishing. I mean, where do I go from there? It’s an Art degree, Andy. Everyone around me tells me it’s a waste of money, that nothing will come of it. So what do I do – keep studying and get my Masters, or go and get my MBA at Stanford like everyone else? I hate business.’
‘What about digital?’
‘I’ve incorporated a lot of digital into my degree so far.’
‘Do you enjoy it?’
‘I like it. Sculpture is where my heart is, but I’ve always known work would be tough in that field.’
‘My friend has a gallery and also curates a lot of shows here in New York, some with up and coming artists. I’d be happy to show her some of your work, anonymously, if you would like?’
‘Really?’ Caroline asked excitedly.
‘Perhaps my final project,’ Caroline said. ‘It’s in it’s early stages now, but like, towards the end of the academic year maybe?’
‘This is an anytime kind of offer Caroline.’
‘Wow. Thanks Andy. But, I don’t want any favours, you know?’ Caroline responded, scratching the back of her head self-consciously.
‘This isn’t a favour. Lily has a great eye, but she’s also a brutal critic. She won’t take anything she doesn’t believe is worthy of a space in a gallery,’ Andy replied.
‘Okay, cool,’ Caroline said with a nod, her hand moving towards her wine glass.
‘In regards to the future, try not to worry so much. It'll come to you. Not all of us can be as lucky as your Mother and in land in our destined field from day one,’ Andy said, casting a smile in Miranda’s direction.
‘Ugh, don’t tell me about it,’ Caroline said. ‘I swear she was born with a copy of Runway clutched in her fist.’
Andy laughed at that.
‘What about you, Andrea,’ Miranda interjected suddenly, watching her from across the table. ‘What was your destined field?’
‘Me?’ Andy said with a chuckle. ‘I was supposed to be a writer.’
‘Mom said you work in publishing. Are you writing now?’ Caroline asked, intrigued.
‘When I have the time, yes,’ Andy said. ‘I gave it up for many years, when things didn’t turn out quite the way I had planned. However, I realised it was something that I needed. Whether or not anything comes of it doesn’t really matter now, it’s the joy I get from it that makes it worthwhile.’
Miranda looked at her with a hint of surprise, and also sadness. ‘I hope you will allow me to read something of yours in the future,’ she said quietly after a moment.
Andy tilted her head gave her a small smile. ‘Of course.’
Caroline cleared her throat and they broke their gaze, turning their attention back to her.
‘Wow, is it just me or is it warm in here?’ Caroline said, pulling at the neck of her t-shirt dramatically.
‘The heating is set to 75,’ Miranda said, completely ignoring the innuendo. ‘Make yourself useful and bring dessert to the table.’
‘I’ll clear these plates away,’ Andy said, getting to her feet quickly, feeling the sudden urge to put a bit of distance between herself and Miranda.
‘She must like you,’ Caroline muttered to her as they both moved away from the table. ‘I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw dessert on that table.’
Andy looked across at Caroline sharply, only to see her grinning like a banshee.
‘You’re blushing,’ Caroline noted quietly with tinkle of laughter as she put the plates she was carrying in the sink.
Andy felt the heat rush to her face and cursed her body. ‘Caroline,’ she growled under her breath.
‘What are you two giggling about now?’ Miranda called from the table.
‘Nothing,’ Caroline called back, giving Andy a cheerful couple of slaps on the back.
‘So, Andy eh?’ Caroline said as they put the last of the dishes in the dishwasher and she pushed the draw closed with her hip.
‘Andrea has become a good friend over the past few months,’ Miranda said. ‘I thought it might be useful for you to speak to someone who has actually been to college in the last twenty years.’
‘Oh, so you invited her here for me. Not for yourself,’ Caroline said as she reached for a dishtowel to dry her hands.
Miranda recognized the look on her daughter’s face and it only ever spelled trouble. ‘Don’t think I missed your witty little comment at dinner,’ she said with a growl, ‘Andrea looked like she was about to run for the door.’
‘And yet, she didn’t,’ Caroline replied all too knowingly. ‘In fact, she stayed for another two hours and let you drone on and on about how you were better than Anna Wintour because you hadn’t worked with Terry Richardson in years.’
‘I did no such thing!’
‘Yeah, you did,’ Caroline said. ‘And what’s worse, she listened. My God, she must be a saint to put up with you.’
‘Mom,’ Caroline said as they moved back to the table, ‘seriously. What the hell is going on?’
Miranda poured the remainder of the bottle of wine into their glasses as they both sat down.
Caroline had always favoured the kitchen. It was the place they had socialised the most when it had only been the three of them at home. Having the girls help her with dinner kept them occupied and away from their devices for at least an hour on the evenings she was free. Now when they came home they tended to gravitate towards this room.
She had missed this.
Although perhaps not Caroline’s prying.
‘I told you, Andrea is a colleague, and a friend.’
‘I’ve never had a single sit down dinner with one of your ‘friends’ that wasn’t an overly extravagant dinner party, and they certainly never take place here,’ Caroline said, indicating to the kitchen. ‘You like her.’
‘Would I invite her into this house if the opposite was the case?’
‘That’s not what I meant,’ Caroline said, rolling her eyes. ‘You like her,’ she said, wriggling her eyebrows suggestively.
‘That’s preposterous,’ Miranda said.
‘Oh, absolutely. How many times has she been here alone with you?’
‘I don’t see how that’s relevant.’
‘Oh, of course not. You’ve just decided to turn over a lifetime worth of rules regarding your employees because Andy is, what? The most sought after editor on the East Coast? Come on, Mom.’
‘Contrary to popular belief, Caroline, I am capable of having friends.’
‘Who are twenty years younger than you and used to be your assistant? You despise your assistants.’
‘I do not.’
‘You called the latest one a vapid attention seeker with barely enough brain cells to function. Yesterday.’
‘I was simply stating facts.’
‘Ugh, you’re impossible,’ Caroline groaned.
‘And you’re looking for things which simply aren’t there, Caroline. I know you’re concerned about me living alone, however, Andrea is recently divorced, not to mention straight. She is not the answer to your unfounded worries.’
‘They’re not unfounded.’
‘I am fine.’
‘Your new best friend is your ex-assistant,’ Caroline pointed out with a grin.
‘She’s not m—why am I having this conversation with you?’
‘Because I’m family and you can’t avoid me.’
‘Perhaps I’ll spend Christmas in the Bahamas this year. Alone.’
‘Oh don’t be like that,’ Caroline pouted. ‘And anyway, you hate the sun.’
‘But you clearly don’t,’ Miranda said, looking critically at her daughter’s skin. ‘We’ve spoken time and time again about the importance of high SPF products for your complexion.’
Caroline rolled her eyes and lifted her wine glass up to her lips. ‘She would be good for you, you know. She’s smart, funny, and has no problem putting up with you, apparently. I like her. Cassidy would too.’
Caroline had always been the one to stir the pot, something she had never grown out of.
‘And what, pray tell, have I done in the last 22 years of your life that would give you any indication that I was gay?’
‘Well, it’s taken you this long to bring up that particular argument. I thought you might have started there to be honest,’ Caroline smirked triumphantly. ‘You’ve thought about it, haven’t you?’
‘I’ve done nothing of the sort.’
‘She likes you too you know.’
‘That’s irrelevant. Neither of us have any interest in pursuing a romantic relationship at this time, nor ever. Things are perfectly fine just as they are. I would advise you to leave it be,’ Miranda said in a warning tone.
Caroline finally decided she had pushed enough for the evening and their conversation strayed to other topics.
However, as Miranda bid her daughter goodnight and made her way to her room the conversation plagued her more than she would dare to admit.
Andrea had become something of a permanent fixture in her life of late. When she had felt the other woman shutting down the other evening it had bothered her.
She had felt something she hadn’t felt in some time: genuine fear. Fear that whatever this was, was going to go away.
She didn’t want to lose it. However, simply wanting to have Andrea around did in no way mean she had a romantic interest in the woman. Or women.
Andrea was over twenty years her junior, they were financially at odds, not to mention she wanted children; which after tonight Miranda was quite sure was an experience she had no interest in repeating.
It was no wonder Caroline found the whole situation odd. On paper, their friendship made absolutely no sense.
Miranda sighed as she entered her en suite and began removing her make-up. She stared in the mirror at the lines which had started to truly take hold the last couple of years.
Who was this person she had become? She wasn’t sure she entirely recognized herself anymore.
Caroline may have a wild imagination but her theories didn’t spawn out of thin air.
Had she been clinging too tightly to this friendship with Andrea? What exactly was it that she was looking for?
She washed her face and turned off the faucet, reaching for the towel that was always there, had always been there for as long as she had lived in this house.
She was a creature of routine, of balance. Yet, Andrea existed outside of that routine. She was an anomaly. She brought with her late nights, too much alcohol, laughter and deep conversation. She brought with her connection, something Miranda hadn’t realised she had been missing.
As she dried her face she considered the idea of a relationship with Andrea for a moment. Another woman in the house. A woman in her bed.
She paused to look at herself in the mirror and consider it; Miranda Priestly, a gay woman.
She rolled her eyes at herself and chuckled. ‘Ridiculous,’ she muttered to the empty room.
Apparently no one was immune to the threat of a mid-life crisis.
Not even her.
Chapter 14: Things Were Oh So Quiet Before
Sorry guys, real life caught up. This chapter is a bit rough, but that's the joy of WIPs I suppose! Let me know your thoughts.
‘She met her daughter!’ Lily said to Catlin, swaying slightly in her seat, cackling.
Andy glared at the back of Lily’s head as she uncorked another bottle of wine and moved back to the table to join them.
Catlin was slapping her leg uncouthly as she howled with laughter.
‘You’re both so hilarious,’ Andy said, putting the bottle down with more force than she intended. Neither of her companions seemed to notice as they continued to cackle away, gasping for breath.
‘Tell us again how there’s nothing going on,’ Catlin rasped, her voice hoarse from all her guffawing. She reached for the bottle and filled her glass, sloshing wine all over the table. ‘Whoops, sorry.’
‘Give me that,’ Andy snapped as she grabbed the bottle back and began refilling their wine glasses.
‘We’re just teasing,’ Lily said, a hint of contriteness in her tone. ‘Sorry, Cat’s a bad influence.’
‘Hey!’ Catlin protested unconvincingly as she grinned Andy’s way.
‘I don’t know why I invited you here,’ Andy grumbled.
‘Because I had a shit day, and you promised to cheer me up.’ She raised her glass unsteadily and saluted Andy with it. ‘You’re doing an excellent job by the way. Your love life is better than any manuscript I’ve read this week.’
‘I don’t have a love life,’ Andy growled, pulling her wine towards her.
‘But you could. Come on, Miranda doesn’t need friends; she needs to get laid. I’ve never seen anyone with a stick that far up their ass.’
Andy knew she shouldn’t take the bait, but she couldn’t help it. ‘She’s not that uptight, she just has high standards in the workplace.’
Lily sent a triumphant smirk her way. ‘Hook, line and sinker, Sachs!’
Catlin reached over to clink glasses with Lily and they both broke into another round of rambunctious laughter.
Andy shook her head and sighed. There was no winning. She wished she had never told Lily about her dinner with Miranda and Caroline. Her best friend was now convinced she had been right.
As the two of them wheezed their way towards calm, the Imperial March sounded from the tower of phones in the middle of the table. They had all agreed to a device free dinner, predominantly to get Catlin to unplug from work. She had been burning the candle at both ends thanks to her clandestine romance with one particularly overpaid author.
It had recently become apparent that he was more interested in Catlin’s out-of-hours input into his manuscript than he was in Catlin. She had broken it off, but was feeling the sting, even if she wasn’t prepared to admit it.
Andy had bitten back the ‘I told you so’ that was on the tip of her tongue. Her working relationship with Miranda had become too blurred for her maintain the moral high ground, and she knew Catlin would be nothing but a consummate professional with the douchebag come morning.
‘You want to answer it, you’ll have to do the dishes,’ Andy said smugly towards Catlin.
‘It’s not mine,’ Catlin said with an indifferent shrug.
Andy looked towards Lily and could see her friend sitting there, her face lit up like Christmas had come early. It didn’t take a genius to work out what she had done. Andy reminded herself to change her pin code in the morning.
‘You should probably answer that,’ Lily said sweetly over the sound of the infamous villain’s theme.
She looked from Lily to the pile of phones. Answering that call was the absolute last thing she should do in present company. It didn’t matter that every bone in her body wanted to.
Andy clasped her hands together as the ringtone began to repeat, before stopping abruptly.
She continued to stare at the tower of phones as realization sunk in.
Harsh words spat in her direction so many years ago suddenly sprung to mind and she couldn’t shake them.
The person whose calls you always take? That’s the relationship you’re in.
Nate’s tone had now taken on a certain level of smugness in her memory.
There hadn’t been a single time that Miranda had called in the last few months where she hadn’t picked up, regardless of what she was doing. She wanted to answer. She had always wanted to answer. It wasn’t about work; it wasn’t about fear for her livelihood. She wanted to speak to her, to ask her about her day, to bitch about Catlin’s poor decision making and to hear about what the girls had been doing and find out whether the Christmas decorations at the townhouse were finally complete following a disaster with an overzealous decorator and an experimental colour scheme.
She felt like a deer caught in the headlights as she looked up at Lily helplessly.
‘And there’s the light bulb moment,’ Catlin added from the sidelines as she drained her glass and got unsteadily to her feet to give Andy a clap on the back. ‘Don’t worry about it, Sachs. We both saw it coming.’
‘What am I going to do?’ Andy said shakily. She wasn’t prepared to deal with this. It was too soon. She was just putting herself back together. She didn’t want this. Not now, and especially not with Miranda. It would ruin everything they had built. She wished she could take back the last ten minutes and forget what she had learned about herself.
‘Grow some balls and go wrangle yourself a dragon,’ Catlin said.
‘Or just relax, drink some more wine and worry about it tomorrow,’ Lily suggested, watching her carefully, spotting a meltdown in the making.
‘It’s Miranda. This can’t happen. I can’t have a thing for Miranda,’ Andy said.
‘Why not?’ Catlin demanded. ‘She may be the devil reincarnate but there’s no denying she’s hot as hell.’
Andy’s mind strayed to a particularly piercing look she had received the other night and felt her skin heat up.
‘Oh wow, Sachs you’ve got it so bad,’ Catlin laughed. ‘Let’s table this for tonight and talk about the guest list for our launch at Lily’s gallery before you melt into a puddle.’
‘Please,’ Andy begged.
‘Are you going to invite Miranda?’ Lily asked with a grin.
Andy dropped her head into her hands and groaned.
Andy stood outside the townhouse in the cold, fidgeting.
She was trapped between an overwhelming urge to run and a deep-seated need to spend time in Miranda’s presence.
It was an unpleasant dichotomy that had her stomach in knots.
She didn’t have a chance to make a decision as the door in front of her opened.
‘What on Earth are you doing?’ Miranda demanded.
‘Enjoying the weather?’ Andy said.
‘Get inside,’ Miranda ordered.
‘Sorry, I was just thinking through something,’ Andy said as she removed her scarf and coat and handed them to a waiting Miranda before she began removing her gloves.
Miranda’s house was practically tropical compared to outside, and Andy felt the heat seep into her bones.
‘Well next time do your thinking in here,’ Miranda snapped and she finished hanging up Andy’s things and closed the closet door. ‘Honestly, sometimes I wonder what is going on in that head of yours, Andrea.’
‘You’re not the only one,’ Andy muttered to herself as she followed Miranda’s lead through to the kitchen.
A glass of wine was waiting for her on the counter.
Her presence here was always expected and welcomed.
As a friend, she reminded herself.
Andy tried to shake off her anxiety and moved to pick the glass up. She knew how to do this. She had done it every single week for the better part of a year. This was something they did, and her sudden misguided crush was nothing more than a transference of feelings to something completely and utterly unattainable in a bid to protect herself from another relationship.
Yes, that. Exactly.
She watched as Miranda moved expertly around the kitchen. She was still wearing heels, and Andy felt her eyes trail up a pair of form fitting tailored black pants. Her blazer had been cast aside, and a deep maroon blouse was covered with an apron, the sleeves rolled up.
Catlin was right, Miranda was beautiful and effortlessly elegant at all times. Andy failed to see how she hadn’t noticed it before.
But she had, hadn’t she?
She had studied Miranda. Had watched her across a desk, glanced at her as she sat next to her on a sofa in the Runway offices, stared as she sat in her own home, content and peaceful in a way she never was at the office. Andy had always stayed close, unwillingly to be too far. Right now she should be setting up for an evening of work, instead she was sitting here observing Miranda closely.
The object of her observation must have felt eyes on her and she glanced over her shoulder and caught Andy's gaze, holding it for a beat or two before turning back to the stove, her expression curious, but otherwise unreadable.
'Something on your mind?' Miranda asked, back still to Andy.
That jolted Andy back. 'No, no, nothing. Work, I suppose,' she said hastily.
Miranda didn't reply. She was waiting for her to elaborate she supposed. Andy kicked herself before moving to set the table. Keeping busy was always a safe option, and one that would hopefully get her through the evening without incident until this ridiculous notion passed.
Unfortunately, her subconscious wouldn't let it go. The entire evening passed by, marked by an uncountable number of small moments which Andy began to perceive in a new light.
The way Miranda placed salt on the table, only for her. The way she teased and mocked herself and her heart attack while doing so. How she placed a hand gently on Andy's lower back when they were tidying up, and the way they moved through the kitchen in complete synchronicity as though they had been doing it for years.
Andy couldn't believe she had never noticed before and it wasn't long before she felt herself calculating her every action and monitoring every one of Miranda's own. She became stilted and unsure, and she was positive Miranda had noticed, although she said nothing.
When they were upstairs working, she began to relax. Work was the foundation of their relationship, something unambiguous and without danger. However, as Miranda became frustrated over a particular section, Andy felt her hand move of it’s own volition to Miranda’s knee in an attempt to calm her. She instantly wondered how many times she had done that, when she had become so free with touches around a woman who for all intents and purposes didn't like to be touched, and when Miranda glanced down at her hand, she moved to pull it back quickly.
‘I don’t want to overstep,’ Andy said, clarifying her action as Miranda gave her an odd look.
Miranda paused for a moment before speaking. 'I'll tell you when you do,' she said quietly, continuing to watch her with an unreadable expression before returning her attention to the laptop set on the low table before them.
Andy’s heart stuttered back to life after a couple of moments but her head was whirling. Was that permission? But permission for what?
She began to feel more and more lost in the place that had been her safe haven and try as she might she couldn't seem to shake off her thoughts. It wasn't going to be long before Miranda realised something was wrong. She was many things but unobservant was not one of them and Andy had no interest in her prying into her thoughts right now, asking any number of pointed questions. God only knew what would spill out of her mouth under that kind of pressure tonight.
She needed to get out of this house.
‘This paragraph feels unnecessary,’ Miranda noted, cutting through Andy's thoughts as she pushed her glasses up her nose and pointed out the offending section.
Andy forced herself to concentrate and scanned the text before her. 'You're not wrong,' she admitted before leaning over to delete the entire section. 'Problem solved.'
‘So efficient, Andrea,' Miranda observed.
‘That’s what you always liked about me,’ Andy blurted before wishing she could stuff the words back into her mouth.
Miranda, to her credit, didn't miss a beat. 'Hm, not the only thing,’ she said, eyes still on her laptop as she adjusted the opening sentence of the following paragraph.
It was an offhand comment, one said entirely in jest, but Andy felt her cheeks warm nonetheless. She was mortified.
Miranda glanced at her out the corner of her eye before turning her attention back to the laptop and finishing her adjustments in silence, a pensive look having taken over her face. When she finished, she closed the laptop and pulled off her glasses before looking pointedly at her watch. 'I think that's enough for this evening. I have an early start in the morning,' she said, getting to her feet.
'You're not alone,' Andy said, not bothering to mention it was nearly two hours earlier than their regular finishing time. Something about Miranda's tone told her she had picked up on Andy's behaviour this evening, and leaving now was probably better for everyone involved.
As she moved to pack up her things in haste, she could feel Miranda's eyes on her and as she slung her bag over her shoulder and turned to face Miranda, she noted her expression. It wasn't sad, but certainly more subdued than Andy was used to.
'I don't have a free evening for the remainder of the month,' Miranda said, an odd note of finality to her tone. 'I think we should put this on hold, until the New Year perhaps.'
Andy was taken aback. Miranda hadn't mentioned a thing prior to now to indicate she was busier than usual. 'Of course,’ she answered for lack of anything else to say, ‘You'll be in touch?'
Miranda simply nodded before moving towards the door to lead her out.
They made their way down the stairs to the foyer silently, Andy struggling to think of something coherent to say and as they reached the front door, she hesitated on the threshold. ‘Well, goodnight,’ she said awkwardly.
Miranda watched her closely for a moment before speaking. ‘Goodnight, Andrea,’ she replied before reaching around and opening the door.
Andy wanted to say something else, but nothing came to mind. She cursed her scattered thoughts as she inclined her head before stepping out into the darkened evening.
Miranda’s town car waited on the street, and Andy turned back. ‘You don’t have to, you know,’ she said.
‘I want to,’ Miranda responded simply before closing the door.
Miranda waited until she heard the door of the town car close and the vehicle pull away from the curb.
Shaking her head, she made her way back to the living room and began packing up her notes.
Andrea had been off when she arrived and overly contemplative for the majority of the evening. Their easy back and forth was now met with flustered, over considered responses on Andrea’s behalf, and Miranda had spent the entire evening having a mirror held up to every action and comment she made. She was forced to realise that perhaps Caroline hadn’t been wrong in her estimation; that their relationship had moved outside of particular boundaries.
Romantic was a step too far.
Inappropriate was perhaps more accurate.
Certain actions could be misconstrued.
She had felt the other woman’s discomfort in the end and had ended their evening prematurely.
She admonished herself as she closed the hardcopy of her manuscript, covered in Andrea’s scribbles. Her lack of self-control in Andrea’s presence had been consistent since the very beginning. She had known she was playing with fire, and had thrust her hand in anyway.
This, unfortunately, changed things.
The cooling off period was a last minute decision, but perhaps necessary under the circumstances.
She sighed as she lowered herself down into her chair.
This wasn't how she had expected the evening to end. Usually nights with Andrea left her feeling tranquil, the stress of her day disappearing amongst shared work and words.
Not tonight, however.
She reached across for the novel that had remained untouched for weeks and pulled a blanket around her shoulders to ward off the sudden chill.
As she opened the book she forced herself to focus on the page and ignore the ghosts of the evening still haunting her home.
Chapter 15: Unexpected Calls
Merry Christmas guys. This will probably be the last update until the New Year. I hope you all have a great holiday period and I promise to answer all of your amazing comments in due time!
It was the middle of the afternoon in mid-December and Andy watched the snow falling from her office window.
The weather had turned bitterly cold earlier than usual, and Andy was pensive as she watched the flakes slowly drift past. A part of her hoped it would hold until Christmas.
Her phone rang and she reached to pick it up. ‘Andy Sachs.’
‘Hey stranger,’ the voice down the line said, the tone friendly.
Andy paused for a moment. ‘Hey,’ she replied, a little thrown.
‘It’s been a while,’ Nate said, stating the obvious.
‘It has,’ she replied, her tone neutral. ‘How are you?’
‘I’m good actually. Just in town for an interview.’
She sat up at that. ‘Where?’
‘Manhattan. A new Jean-Georges venture.’
Interview was an understatement. This would be career defining if he got it. ‘Congratulations,’ Andy said, and she meant it.
‘Thanks. It was out of the blue, I’m nervous as hell.’
Andy relaxed back into her chair and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. ‘You’ll be fine.’
‘Here’s hoping,’ Nate said, pausing for a beat. ‘I was wondering if you’d be available for dinner while I’m here? I’ve been doing some thinking the last couple of months, and seeing as we’re in the same city I thought it might be a good time to clear the air.’
Andy reached up to rub a hand across the back of her neck, feeling the sudden tension arising. Things hadn’t been good when she left Chicago, her return to New York had been viewed by Nate as a slap in the face – that she had never wanted to leave in the first place. They hadn’t spoken since she had told him she was leaving.
‘Sorry, yeah, of course. When were you thinking?’ she asked as she pulled up her calendar.
‘I’ll be in the kitchen for a week at one of the other venues, so how about next week? The twenty third? I’m flying out Christmas Eve morning.’
Andy’s calendar was more or less free aside from one or two Christmas parties that week. Miranda hadn’t been in touch aside from sending her one or two pages to check here and there. After their last meeting she wasn’t sure where they stood. She was handling it with equal parts relief and mortification. The whole evening had been a disaster from start to finish, and she had no idea how much her face had given away that night. Enough that something had shifted in their relationship, that was certain, and not for the better.
She had been over and over the evening in her mind, and aside from some ambiguous comments from Miranda which could be construed as innuendo on Miranda’s behalf, or insanity on her own, she had come no closer to finding any answers, aside from the fact she hadn’t been fired, yet.
‘The 23rd looks good,’ Andy confirmed.
‘Want me to pick the place?’
‘Please,’ Andy said.
‘I’ll send you the details later today.’
‘Okay,’ Nate agreed. ‘Well, talk soon?’
‘Yeah,’ Andy replied, ‘talk soon,’ she finished before ending the call.
As she put her phone back down on her desk she sighed and rubbed her hands over her face.
She knew it was the right thing to do, but she had no interest in rehashing things with Nate for the umpteenth time. It had been bad enough listening to her mother badger her about her failures; in stability, marriage, in producing grandchildren, and then finally her failure to visit her family for the holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas combined.
She had come to New York to escape it all, but her life choices seemed to dog her heels at every turn.
Miranda had had a way of putting everything in perspective. But apparently she had failed at that particular relationship, friendship, whatever, too.
Andy took a deep breath and looked back out the window. It seemed like she was destined to spend her life hundreds of feet above the ground, shrouded in fluorescent lights, staring out a window as the ground continued to move beneath her with no hope of stopping.
Miranda sat in her office tapping her pen against her glass desk.
Her lunch sat uneaten to the side, past cold and the last email she had received from Andrea sitting open on her screen. She scanned the text again, noting the distance of the language.
She glanced at the message from Caroline which had arrived before lunch, enquiring as to whether Andrea would be joining them for an evening when Cassidy was in town.
On that note she was unsure. They appeared to have reached an impasse. Andrea hadn’t disappeared, but it was clear she had pulled back in some regard. Her motivation for doing so remained unclear.
Her own motivation for having Andrea in her life also remained open to question, and whether she was willing to open that door and see what eventuated was a matter on which she was still undecided.
Andrea had expressed a desire for friendship all those weeks ago. She had admitted later that she had been unsure of where the future would take them, had been hesitant to invest in something she might lose.
She herself had no desire to lose Andrea, her companionship something she enjoyed and currently, admittedly, missed. Her home had been too quiet, and she found herself frustrated on Wednesday evenings as her assistant continued to keep her evenings clear, acting on instructions from months prior.
However, she had made a decision, and until she had a clearer idea of the entire mess it was in her best interest to simply follow through.
Miranda glanced at the email once more before closing the lid of her laptop.
The restaurant was packed when Andy arrived, but she met Nate out front and they were waved past the queue of people waiting outside towards a table in the back.
Nate moved behind her to remove her coat and she felt a bristle of annoyance at the act, as though she was incapable of doing it herself.
She knew the reaction was irrational and tamped it down as she unwound her scarf from her neck and hung it over the back of the chair.
‘Whaddya think?’ Nate said, gesturing around at the venue. It had recently been mentioned in a foodie blog and the small venue went from catering to locals to having a line out front almost every single evening for it’s traditional Colombian cuisine.
‘It’s rustic,’ Andy said, noting the décor with a smile. ‘And I’m glad I’m not a vegetarian.’
Nate chuckled. ‘This would have been a bad choice if you were. I hope you’re ready to eat.’
‘I’m always ready to eat,’ Andy said with a smirk.
As Nate waved down the waiter, Andy studied his profile closely. His hair was shorter but his beard had gone well past the scruffy five o’clock shadow she had tolerated to full blown hipster. Facial hair drove her insane, and it appeared that Nate had claimed his freedom in that regard since the divorce.
He turned back and caught her line of sight. He reached up and rubbed the beard. ‘You like it?’ he asked, tilting his head with a cheeky grin.
‘You look like you should be running a stall at a farmers’ market selling organic produce,’ Andy said bluntly.
Nate held his hand up to heart dramatically. ‘Ouch.’
Andy rolled her eyes and shook her head slightly as the waiter arrived and took their drink order.
As he walked away, they turned their attention to the menu and Andy was at a loss as to what to say. She tapped her fingers against the edge of the laminated card before putting it down.
‘What did you want to talk about?’ she said, not bothering to mince words.
‘Can we enjoy a couple of drinks and dinner first before we get into the heavy stuff?’ Nate asked, his boyish charm on full display.
It rankled Andy, but she kept her face neutral. ‘Fine,’ she replied, returning her attention to the menu.’
‘See anything you like?’ Nate asked as the waiter returned with their drinks.
‘What are the Chef’s recommendations?’ Andy asked the waiter.
‘For the most traditional dish on the menu the Bandeja Paisa is a true taste of traditional Colombian cuisine. However, my recommendation this evening would be the Lechona for which we’re most famous. The pig is slow roasted for twelve hours in our brick oven which was specially installed to ensure an authentic Colombian Lechona experience. The Chef is adamant that you try some Mrs Cooper.’
‘Sachs,’ she corrected instantly.
‘Ms Sachs, my apologies,’ the waiter replied with a wince.
‘Come on, Andy. It was a slip. Don’t give the guy a heart attack,’ Nate said, turning back to the waiter. ‘Tell Mateo I’ll have whatever he thinks I should try. Andy?’
‘The Lechona,’ she said as she passed the menu up to the waiter and reached for her wine.
As the water walked away, Nate’s looked up to meet her eyes.
‘What?’ Andy said as she took a small sip from her glass.
‘Was it really that bad for you that you can’t even stomach my name?’ Nate asked quietly.
It had never fit. In fact, she had hated it from the day they got married. It had been another concession and the first one she rectified after they separated.
‘I shouldn’t have changed it in the first place,’ Andy replied, carefully. ‘I was just doing what was expected of me – what would make you happy.’
‘You being happy would have made me happy,’ Nate sighed as he reached for the pint of craft beer sitting in front of him and took a deep drink from it.
The foam attached itself to his beard and he looked almost childlike. Andy chuckled lightly.
Nate rolled his eyes and rubbed his beard with his palm. ‘Okay, so there are one or two negatives that come with the beard,’ he admitted.
‘But you’re determined?’
‘Damn straight I am.’
Andy shook her head with a small smile as she handed him a napkin.
‘Thanks,’ he said with a grin and she felt herself relaxing slightly as she realised that this evening perhaps wasn’t going to explode into yet another argument.
‘Tell me what you’ve been doing,’ Nate said, taking another sip from his drink and relaxing back into his chair.
‘I’ve been writing again. I have a rough draft of a novel more or less complete. There’s still a lot of work to do on it, obviously, but it’s been good to write again.’
‘Andy, that’s great. I haven’t seen you write in, well, years,’ Nate said, brow crinkling as he tried to recall old memories.
‘Not since Boston,’ Andy supplied.
‘Ah,’ Nate said, his expression sad.
Andy didn’t want to go there. Not right now. ‘And I’m back in publishing – Senior Editor for a small imprint.’
‘Congratulations,’ Nate said. ‘What house?’
She had set her own trap and walked straight into it. ‘Inception, by Elias-Clark.’
‘It’s not a fashion imprint is it?’ Nate joked, but his laughter was tense.
Andy knew why. She had all but implied that he had forced her hand on Boston. He had responded by accusing her of never getting over what happened while she was at Runway. They both had culpability for what happened during that time, but neither of them had really forgiven the other. Andy knew that time was crazy, that she could have managed it better, told Miranda where to go more often, but it was only supposed to be for one year – her golden ticket; and he couldn’t put up and shut up even for that. Given what she had done during their marriage, it still made her angry.
Would she have stuck it out if she had had his support?
Probably not. She had too much pride and too many ideals back then. Miranda had ripped off her rose-coloured glasses on that final day, and she hadn’t been prepared to accept it.
She pushed Miranda to the back of her mind. She was the last person that needed to be present during this conversation.
‘No, it’s a millennial imprint,’ Andy answered after a beat. ‘Young authors and an attempt at equal representation across a variety of factors: gender, sexuality, and race for example.’
‘That sounds great. Did she give you a reference?’
Andy burst into laughter at that. ‘No, no she didn’t,’ she said, recalling Miranda’s shock at seeing her on the stairs of Elias-Clark. As she regained her breath she realised it was time to guide this conversation as far away from Miranda as possible. ‘What about this new venture?’
‘French fusion with locally sourced and organic produce,’ Nate said, wincing slightly as he finished.
‘Oh, they must be so happy with the beard,’ Andy said with a smirk.
‘Oh, shut up,’ he grumbled, tossing his crumpled napkin at her.
‘When do you find out?’
‘Actually,’ Nate said, pausing slightly, ‘we’re here to celebrate,’ he said, holding up his glass. ‘I got the offer this afternoon.’
Andy felt the bottom of her stomach drop out from beneath her. Her hand was shaking slightly as she reached for her glass. ‘Congratulations,’ she said, forcing a smile onto her face which she hoped was genuine.
As she glanced around the restaurant she could feel the walls beginning to close in around her. She had come to New York to put some distance between herself and her old life; between her and Nate. Now, he was coming here?
Her phone began vibrating on the table and she flipped it over, pausing when she saw the name on the display. She bit back the urge to laugh hysterically at the absurdity of her timing. ‘I need to take this, it’s work,’ she choked out, getting to her feet.
She needed fresh air. Actually, any air that wasn’t being shared by Nate.
She weaved her way through the restaurant and pushed through the doors, answering the call as the chill hit her exposed arms.
‘Why haven’t you called?’ Andy demanded, suddenly upset.
‘I—I wasn’t entirely sure you wanted me to,’ Miranda replied, taken off guard.
‘Well, I want you to. Wanted you to,’ Andy said, beginning to shiver.
‘Andrea, what’s wrong?’
‘Nate’s moving back to New York. After everything, he’s coming back here.’
‘New York is a very large city.’
‘I know, but he’s not supposed to be here. I came here to get away.’
‘You can’t run forever, Andrea. You know that,’ Miranda chided. ‘Take a deep breath.’
Andy did as she was ordered, the world slowly regaining its clarity around her. ‘It’s freezing,’ she said dumbly.
‘Where are you?’
‘Standing on a side-walk in Carolina Herrera, about to eat Colombian pork with my ex-husband.’
‘I can send a car,’ Miranda offered.
Andy took another breath and released it slowly. ‘No. Thank you, but I should go back in.’
Miranda was quiet down the line for a moment before she spoke. ‘Call me in the morning,’ she said, the request slipping out like a demand.
‘Okay,’ Andy breathed after a moment, the tension she had been holding suddenly disappearing as she ended the call and walked back inside.
Miranda paced the length of her study, her phone gripped in her hand.
The ex-husband was back.
The young, virile ex-husband whom, had he hated his ex-wife, would have avoided New York at all costs.
Miranda didn’t need an evening of introspection to come to the conclusion that she was concerned by this development, and jealous.
She knew better than anyone that avoiding a problem simply made it worse. Had she called Andrea earlier in the week, they could be having a pleasant evening dining with both of her girls this evening. She should have pushed her to talk the last time she was at the house, instead she had allowed uncertainty to dictate her actions and had walked away. If she had acted, she could have kept Andrea occupied and well away from the clutches of Nate Cooper.
Naval gazing had achieved nothing. She was no closer to an answer about her relationship with Andrea Sachs than she had been three weeks ago. Miranda tossed her phone down on her desk in frustration.
She took a deep breath and tried to calm her thoughts. Anger would get her nowhere, and dwelling on the past wouldn't either. She was simply going have to push forward and see where it led.
Miranda left her study and joined her daughters in the kitchen.
‘Everything okay?’ Cassidy asked, eyeing her closely.
‘Everything is fine,’ Miranda said as she moved towards the stove to check on the progress of dinner.
'She's busy?' Caroline asked knowingly.
She caught the glance that passed between her daughters but let it go. She knew that neither of them believed a word that came out of her mouth, but they would respect her wish not to talk about it. For now, anyway.
She was simply going to have to wait to see what tomorrow would bring.
Chapter 16: Go On, I Dare You
Someone used my own words against me! You know who you are!
Also, shout out to everyone who has left a comment from Chapter 13 onwards that I haven't replied to. I love you all. You're the best darn readers a girl could ask for. Sorry I left you all hanging. Big love! And a chapter.
Andy sat in her robe and tapped her phone against her palm.
Miranda’s contact was sitting there, open and waiting, but she couldn’t bring herself to call.
‘Hi, sorry for dumping my life on you last night,’ she said aloud in an overly chipper tone. Well, that would be a bit of a shallow apology given that she had poured her soul out to Miranda on numerous occasions without duress.
They hadn’t spoken properly in almost a month and her nerves were getting the better of her in broad daylight.
It was stupid. She knew it was stupid.
She had allowed her overactive imagination to get the better of her, creating a situation between the two of them which was now fraught with…something. If she’d only had the capacity to act normal when she needed to she wouldn’t be in this mess.
She looked at the contact on her phone again. Miranda had asked her to call. Things would be much worse if she ignored the request – not only personally, but professionally.
With that in mind, she pushed her glasses up onto her head and bit the bullet.
The phone rang.
And eventually rang out to voicemail.
Andy sighed. That was sufficiently anti-climatic, she thought as she ended the call.
The phone springing to life moments later and proceeding to clatter across the floor was, however, not.
‘Fuck,’ Andy cursed as she dived for it and answered. ‘H-hey.’
‘Andrea,’ Miranda said, in lieu of an actual hello.
‘I—you said to call, so, I called,’ she replied dumbly.
‘That much is obvious,’ Miranda said, a hint of amusement in her tone.
Andy resisted the urge to swear. ‘I mean, I wanted to call,’ she corrected.
‘Of course I did. It’s just, you said you were busy and I didn’t want to disturb you.’
‘And that’s stopped you in the past?’ Miranda replied, a hint of a challenge in her tone.
Andy paused. ‘No, I don’t suppose it has,’ she answered eventually.
‘Hmm,’ was all Miranda offered up in response.
‘You’re not making this easy,’ she protested.
‘I wasn’t aware it was my job to make this friendship easy for you. Especially seeing as I wasn’t the one fleeing for the door the last time we were together.’
‘Fleeing!?’ Andy sputtered. ‘I was not fleeing.’
‘I’ve seen Olympic sprinters run slower. I assumed you needed some space.’
‘Why would I need space?’ Andy chuckled nervously. Christ, this conversation was not going in her favour. Miranda was in a mood to push, and she just kept backing her into corner after corner.
‘You tell me.’
‘You make me nervous!’ Andy blurted.
‘Since when?’ Miranda demanded.
‘Since…recently,’ Andy stuttered out, revealing far more than she had intended.
‘And what exactly have I done recently to make you so skittish?’
‘Nothing,’ Andy replied quickly. Far too quickly.
‘Well clearly it’s something,’ Miranda said. ‘And whatever it is, I suggest you deal with it before next Wednesday.’
‘What’s happening next Wednesday?’
‘The same thing that happens every Wednesday, unless you would like something to change?’
Andy almost choked at that, but collected herself before answering. ‘No, next Wednesday will be fine.’
‘I’ll see you then,’ Miranda said before promptly ending the call.
Andy groaned as she sunk back into the sofa, pondering her life choices yet again.
The holiday period, thankfully, passed by uneventfully. Andy knew from the outside it probably seemed a little sad to be spending Christmas alone in your pyjamas, watching old Christmas movies; but having an apartment to herself was a bliss she hadn’t realised she had missed.
Perhaps it was cynical, but she didn’t consider herself stupid enough to believe that a family Christmas in Ohio would have ended any other way than with slamming doors and an expensive change of flight to get out of there sooner. Christmas movies were the only place that the magic of Christmas existed, and frankly, she was okay with that.
By the time their scheduled Wednesday rolled around, she was well rested and feeling more centred than she had in a while. At the end of the day, Miranda was Miranda. She had pushed her buttons over and over again without any tragic consequences over the past few months. What was a little more pushing? Miranda had been doing the same to her. She had been openly fucking with her on the phone during their last call.
It was like a game of cat and mouse; boundary testing. To what end, God only knew, but tonight Andy was going to put it to purpose.
She squared her shoulders and strode confidently up the stairs to the townhouse.
She pressed the bell and waited.
She leaned to the side and tried to peer in the side windows. The lights were on in the foyer, which would at least indicate that someone was home.
She reached to try the bell again when the door opened to Miranda, phone held up to her ear with one hand, and an index finger held up to silence Andy with the other.
The look on her face could have melted glass, and it was arrestingly familiar.
Someone had fucked up.
‘Tell her to get back to the office and fix it,’ Miranda said to whomever was on the other end. ‘I don’t care if she’s there until tomorrow morning. If she plans on being employed in the New Year she’ll have it done before I step foot back in the building,’ she finished as she promptly ended the call.
Miranda took a breath before acknowledging Andy’s presence with a simple, ‘Andrea.’
‘Hey,’ Andy replied, the chill of the evening air brushing around her bare ankles.
Miranda made no effort to respond, opting to stand in the doorway and eye Andy from head to foot at a measured pace. When her gaze returned to Andy’s eyes her expression was thoughtful as she stepped out of the way and waved her inside.
Andy felt like she had just been put through a full body scanner at the airport, but she shook it off as she dropped her bags and removed her coat.
Miranda reached for it as it slipped from her shoulders and promptly moved to the closet.
Andy stood in place and watched as practiced hands whipped her coat over a hanger and placed it next to what Andy had always assumed were forgotten coats, but were apparently extras that had accumulated from Miranda’s walk-in and had been relegated there for guests who found themselves in need.
‘Upstairs,’ Miranda said simply as she turned back.
‘Okay,’ Andy said with a shrug as she grabbed her bags and trailed behind her.
Habit seemed to dictate their actions as they found themselves arranged as they usually would be, but as Andy began unpacking her things, Miranda stopped her. ‘It’s been a long day,’ she said by way of explanation, before waving towards the bottle of red that already sat airing on the coffee table before them.
Andy reached for it. ‘That is has,’ she said as she poured them each a glass before setting the bottle gently down on the table and passing one to Miranda. ‘But, it’s nice to be back,’ she said with conviction.
Miranda watched her as she picked up her own glass. ‘You certainly seem more relaxed than when we spoke last,’ she noted.
Straight into the fray then, Andy thought. ‘It’s been an odd few weeks.’
Miranda watched her closely. ‘And how is Nate?’ she asked bluntly.
‘Excited about his new job.’
‘He seemed very eager to share that with you.’
‘I think he wanted to clear the air. Chicago was messy,’ Andy explained.
‘And New York was everything you ever wanted. Somehow everything comes around full circle, doesn’t it? And with such impeccable timing.’
Miranda’s tone suggested that she thought it was far from a coincidence that Nate had found himself in New York again.
It gave Andy pause.
‘When will he be moving back?’ Miranda followed up in apparent nonchalance, before taking a sip of her wine.
Andy’s mind was struggling to unpack what was going on. ‘Uh, sometime in the New Year? I guess?’ she replied, confused.
‘You don’t know?’ Miranda said, her brows lifted ever so slightly in surprise.
‘I wasn’t begging my ex-husband for details about his life while I was having a meltdown on the sidewalk, no,’ Andy said with a hint of incredulity.
The corner of Miranda’s mouth lifted at that and she relaxed back into her chair.
Andy, on the other hand, was beginning to feel as though she and Miranda were on either side of two very different conversations. She was clearly out of practice. She reached for her glass and gulped down a mouthful.
‘You don’t seem nervous,’ Miranda noted after a while as Andy allowed herself to relax into the warmth of the 2009 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir. Miranda didn’t often stray far from European vintages, so it was a rarity to see a bottle of Californian red out on one of their evenings.
‘Apparently whatever was impairing your ability to act normally in my presence has passed.’
Andy’s glass paused on it’s journey towards her mouth. ‘I suppose it has,’ she said carefully, suddenly very aware of how much she didn’t want to have this conversation. She simply wanted everything to go back to the way it had been before their last disastrous evening right here in this very spot.
She was good at denial.
‘I don’t suppose you would care to enlighten me as to the cause?’ Miranda pressed.
Andy chuckled nervously at the direct question. ‘Not really, no. It was nothing.’
‘And yet every piece of evidence would point to the contrary.’
Andy recognized the tone in Miranda’s voice. It was one that said this conversation would continue until Miranda had a satisfactory answer.
‘I want to know why, Andrea,’ Miranda continued.
‘Can’t we just let it go?’
‘When have you ever known me to let anything go?’
Andy chuckled at the challenge and brought her eyes up to meet Miranda’s. The other woman was watching her closely, looking mildly amused.
She was being baited.
Well, two could play at that game.
Andy drummed her fingers on the edge of the glass before downing the contents in one go and setting the glass down. ‘You don’t mind it when I touch you, do you?’ she said, her voice steadier than she expected it to be.
Miranda cocked her head in question. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘I’ve been thinking this past week, and I’ve been very free with my hands when you’re around and you’ve said nothing. Does it bother you?’
‘I do believe we’ve been over this.’
‘So it doesn’t bother you.’
‘No, Andrea. It doesn’t bother me.’
Andy reached for the bottle and topped up her own glass. ‘You cook dinner for me, you introduce me to your daughters – well one of them anyway; you allow me to drink red wine on this sofa which I’m quite certain is worth close to half of my yearly salary, with the knowledge that I’m quite clumsy.’
‘I’m going to assume there is a point somewhere in this diatribe,’ Miranda interjected.
‘I have friends. This,’ Andy paused, waving her hands between them, ‘doesn’t feel like friendship.’
‘Tell me what it feels like then,’ Miranda pressed. She was watching her closely, her face betraying nothing.
Andy felt her hands begin to tremble as she took a deep breath and put her glass back down on the table.
This hadn’t been the plan when she arrived tonight, but something in Miranda’s face was propelling her onwards.
Andy wished her professional prowess would extend to her personal life, but her ability to keep her face in check seemed to be forever limited to the office.
‘It feels an awful lot li—‘
The door downstairs slammed shut and they both jumped in their chairs. Laughter reached them from the foyer.
Miranda glanced in the direction of the staircase before pinning Andy with a look. ‘This conversation isn’t over,’ she said, voice low as the twins began their ascent up the stairs.
Andy couldn’t tear her eyes away.
Miranda watched her town car pull away from the curb before she closed the door gently.
As she turned, two young women stood with their arms crossed and matching smirks on their faces.
‘Wow, you weren’t joking,’ Cassidy said to Caroline, before bursting into laughter.
It was, in that moment, that Miranda realised her days of longing to have the girls back home were over, and had been for some time.
And it was glaringly apparent why.
Chapter 17: Reality Bites
So, SOOOOOO late with this.
Andy was staring intently at her screen, brows knitted together in concentration when her desk phone rang. She reached for it blindly as she continued to stare at the phrase in front of her, willing it to make sense to she could restructure it into something resembling proper usage of the English language.
‘Andy Sachs,’ she answered distractedly.
‘You need an assistant,’ Miranda responded, causing Andy to jump and fumble the phone.
‘Jesus,’ she swore.
‘Is that how you greet all of your clients?’
‘Only the ones who are incapable of opening a conversation with a simple hello,’ Andy said with an almost growl. ‘Why are calling my office line anyway? You have my cell.’
‘You’re in your office, are you not?’
‘I-you know what? Never mind,’ Andy said, shaking her head as she pulled her glasses off and tossed them down on the desk.
‘I was calling to check your availability for Saturday evening.’
Andy pulled up her calendar. ‘I don’t have anything I can’t divest myself of. Was there something in particular you had in mind?’ Andy fished. Miranda was nothing if not predictable. She despised unfinished business, and last night had been the very definition.
‘I was wondering if you would care to join me for dinner?’ Miranda said, following a slight hesitation.
Andy leaned back in her chair and spun to face the window. Somehow she had Miranda Priestly on the ropes and by God was she going to enjoy it. ‘Sure,’ she began. ‘I can bring the wine this time. As much as I enjoyed the Californian, I do miss those punchy Spanish blends you introduced me to.’
She was met with an exasperated sigh. ‘No, Andrea. Not a working dinner. And not at the townhouse. If you’ll recall, we have a conversation to finish, and I would prefer it continued uninterrupted. I have a reservation for nine. A car will pick you up at eight fifteen, if that would suit?’
Andy’s jaw dropped.
‘My eleven o’clock is here,’ Miranda said, her tone impatient as she awaited confirmation.
‘Uh, eight fifteen should be fine. Dress code?
‘Surprise me,’ Miranda said before she abruptly hung up.
Andy threw another dress onto her bed in frustration.
‘Come on, I liked that one!’ Lily cried out in faux-protest, lounging on Andy’s bed with a teasing grin on her face.
‘You’re not helping!’ Andy snapped as she flicked through hangers in her closet and groaned. ‘She’s already seen everything I own.’
Catlin spun around on Andy’s desk chair, taking a sip through the straw in her mouth. ‘I highly doubt that. I mean Christ, you bought a second closet,’ she said, getting up and strolling over to join her. ‘How about this one?’ she said, pulling out something red.
‘Too slutty,’ Andy said.
‘And what’s wrong with slutty?’ Catlin grinned salaciously.
‘Having the eye of every WASP glued to my ass and tutting for our entire evening,’ Andy replied, screwing her nose up at the thought.
‘You don’t think Miranda’s going to take you somewhere stuffy do you?’ Lily said, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed and making her way over to join them.
‘I don’t know where Miranda’s going to take me. That’s the problem!’ Andy said before throwing herself down on the bed. ‘I can’t do this,’ she said, her words muffled by the duvet.
‘Oh, sure you can,’ Lily said, pulling out another dress.
‘I don’t know how to do this,’ Andy said, turning her head to face them both. ‘The last person I dated was Nate, and by dating I mean getting wasted at a kegger and then fucking in his dorm room.’
‘You mean you haven’t been laid since Nate!?’ Catlin cried.
Andy rolled her eyes. ‘Don’t be an idiot. I said date, Cat.’
‘Oh, thank God.’
‘Look, why don’t you just go shopping? Let someone do the choosing for you.’
‘Miranda has likely seen every piece released this season. She’ll know.’
‘So what?’ Lily said with a shrug. ‘She might appreciate the effort.’
‘What if this isn’t a date? What if I’m reading this all completely wrong?’ Andy cried hysterically. ‘I’ll be out of the publishing business permanently. There’ll be nowhere to hide.’
Lily laughed. ‘Honey, if she hasn’t thrown you out on your ass already, then I think you’re safe. That woman wants something, and it certainly isn’t your editing skills.’
‘Stop, please just stop,’ Andy groaned.
Catlin pulled out another dress. ‘Look, when in doubt, always opt for black.’
Andy eyed it up and down. ‘You don’t think it’s a little safe?’
‘Well, given that you have no idea where you’re going, safe might be the best option.’
‘You have a point,’ Andy said, picking herself up off the bed and taking a deep breath. ‘I can do this,’ she muttered, ‘Everything is going to be fine.’
‘If you say so,’ Lily said with a laugh.
Andy smacked her on the arm and glowered. The two of them were enjoying this far too much.
Saturday evening rolled around faster than Andy would have liked. Time waited for nobody, and especially not her when she was at her most anxious. She was on the back foot entirely here. New location, new rules, and unknown consequences. The last year or so had been one of change, and Andy was beginning to wonder if it was too much change.
Far too much change.
The buzzer for the apartment rang at exactly eight fifteen and she felt her heart pick up an extra beat. She took a deep breath before flinging on her coat and marching out the door. The least she could do was act as though she wasn’t having a complete internal meltdown.
Miranda’s town car was idling next the curb and the driver opened the rear door for her as she approached. She climbed in gracefully.
Miranda sat perched in her seat, posture perfect as always. However, the neckline of what Andy suspected was an as-yet unreleased Zuhair Murad plunged much deeper than Andy was accustomed to seeing.
Andy forced her eyes upwards to catch Miranda watching her with a small smile.
‘I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me where we’re going?’ Andy said, brushing her hands over the knee length skirt of her McQueen as the car pulled away from her apartment. It was navy and black, baroque spine lace and she knew her body looked fantastic in it. However, it was conservative in the face of Miranda’s stark black and white number. Andy couldn’t help admiring the black embroidery across the padded shoulders even as she worked hard to keep her eyes averted from the only patch of skin the piece was all but designed to draw attention to.
‘And ruin a perfectly good surprise? I think not,’ Miranda said as she plucked at the white sleeve of her outfit which was cinched around her wrist like a second skin.
‘Is that Murad?’ Andy said, curiosity getting the better of her.
Miranda nodded. ‘Pre-fall 2018. We completed the shoots last week. If this is any indication of the runway forthcoming at the end of next month, well,’ she finished as she readjusted the solid black skirt.
‘It’s beautiful,’ Andy said. ‘You look…’
Miranda glanced up from the skirt and caught Andy with those piercing blue eyes, her hair perfectly coiffed and her makeup applied in a barely-there fashion. She glowed. She had always glowed. Andy had just never noticed it quite the same way as she did now. It used to overwhelm her, terrify her. Now, it…well, it still overwhelmed her and terrified her. ‘…beautiful, Miranda.’
Miranda said nothing in response, the smallest hint of pink rising along her neck.
The car made its way across the Brooklyn Bridge and Andy glanced out to watch the lights as they passed beneath them.
‘I thought you might have worn jeans simply to spite me,’ Miranda said after a while.
‘The thought did cross my mind.’
Miranda chuckled lightly. ‘However, as always, you have risen to the occasion.’
‘Not quite as high as you,’ Andy noted, glancing back to eye the Murad once more.
‘No one is ever supposed to rise as high as me, Andrea.’
‘What ever would we strive for if we did?’ Andy replied theatrically, hand clutched to her chest as Miranda shook her head.
The car pulled into Manhattan and made its way toward the Upper East Side, eventually coming to a stop outside of Daniel, a Michelin starred French restaurant Andy had heard of but had never stepped foot in. As she realised where they were she felt her palms begin to sweat. An average bill with wine for two would be lucky to slide in under five-hundred dollars. The place was notoriously expensive. However, there was little she could do as the town car door was opened for her.
The maître d' was quick to greet them at the door. ‘Miranda, welcome back,’ he said in the polite but detached manner of someone over-accustomed to dealing with celebrity. ‘The table you requested is ready for you both.’
‘Thank you, Gabriel,’ she responded as an attendant took their coats and Gabriel led them inside.
Their table was located in a more secluded corner of the dining room, but Andy could feel curious eyes on them as they moved past other diners. Andy recognized a number of faces of New York’s higher society scattered about and could feel the itch of insecurity. She pressed it down as they approached their table and took their seats.
She took a moment to absorb the neo-classical architecture, classic white offset by brilliant green floral arrangements. It was beautiful, and strangely quiet as the guests enjoyed their meals, the tables distanced sufficiently to ensure the privacy of each party.
‘It reminds me of Paris,’ Miranda said when they were both settled. She was watching her closely, and Andy hoped she was managing to keep control of her face.
‘I can see why,’ Andy said, taking a moment to glance around again. ‘The chandeliers?’ she queried as she eyed them with interest.
‘Custom Bernadaud,’ Miranda replied, a hint of approval in her tone.
‘They’re stunning,’ Andy said before dropping her eyes. She caught a woman watching her with amusement two tables away and felt her spine stiffen.
She was suddenly achingly aware of every other person in the room, of how publicly they were seated. She felt herself straightening in her chair, her face tightening into something more controlled. She couldn’t believe she had gaped at the ceiling like a child.
‘I took the liberty of having a seven course prepared for us with wine pairings. However, if there is anything else you would like,’ Miranda said, indicating towards the menu.
At first glance Andy knew any further ordering would be pure guess work on her behalf, so she shook her head as the waiter approached with a bottle and poured them each a glass of wine. She watched as Miranda confirmed their meal for the evening. The woman before her was every bit the public face of Runway. She was charming, articulate, and completely and utterly untouchable. There was a line around her that no one dared to cross. It was the public face that she had become unaccustomed to seeing and it was jarring to be sitting across from this figure.
Miranda seemed completely unaware of this change in their circumstances as she reached for her glass and held it up towards Andy. ‘À ta santé.’
‘À la tienne,’ Andy responded, touching her glass lightly to Miranda’s.
‘High school French?’
‘A trip to Paris.’
‘I’m glad it was useful for something.’
‘Indeed,’ Andy said. It came out formal, stilted in a way she hadn’t intended.
Miranda watched her carefully across the table. ‘Are you alright?’
‘Yes, of course,’ she replied, forcing a smile on to her face.
Miranda continued to watch her as she reached for her wine and took another sip.
Andy’s hand itched to dump the entire contents of her glass down her throat in a bid to relax, but seven courses meant seven wine pairings and she had no interest in being carried out, the scornful eyes of New York High Society trailing after her.
She took a breath and tried to relax the tension in her shoulders as their first course arrived.
The food was amazing, as expected.
Miranda took the time to explain each dish in detail, and as Andy sat across from her she was reminded of nights spent in restaurants with Nate. Food ordered on her behalf and described in excruciating detail, followed by a quiz of what she thought, and the inevitable disappointment when she struggled to find the correct vocabulary to describe her experience.
She tried to shake off the feeling, but it sat in the back of her mind, hovering over the entire meal.
As the evening progressed, Miranda’s face became more controlled and her body language more precise. Andy recognised the woman sitting across from her well, and there seemed to be nothing she could to stop the rigid small talk that kept falling out of her mouth. She felt like they were sitting in a business meeting and there seemed to be no escape.
‘Perhaps seven courses were a mistake,’ Miranda said coolly as the waiter cleared the plates from their fifth.
There was no denying that they were on a slow moving train wreck tonight. ‘Perhaps you’re right,’ she sighed.
‘What is wrong with you?’ Miranda replied waspishly under her breath.
Andy felt her hackles rise at the insinuation. ‘Me?’ she said, keeping her tone low. ‘You’re the one acting as though the Queen is going to arrive at any moment.’
‘Excuse me?’ Miranda said.
Andy rolled her eyes. ‘If I wanted to have dinner with La Priestly, I would have called and made an appointment.
‘We should leave,’ Miranda said, her face serene but her tone as dangerous as Andy had ever heard it. ‘And keep your voice down.’
Andy resented the comment. Resented being treated as though she were a tantrum throwing child. She could play the game just as well as Miranda.
Miranda settled the bill as Andy drummed her fingers on her knee under the table, a detached smile on her face.
The walked at a measured pace out of the restaurant, but when the doors to the town car finally closed, Miranda rounded on her.
‘I do believe you were saying something?’
‘Yes, I thought you wanted to have a conversation this evening?’ Andy said.
‘I did, and you seemed intent on having anything but. You’re well aware that I detest small talk.’
‘You chose a restaurant full of people to have a conversation that for all intents and purposes was supposed to be private!’
‘I chose a restaurant that I love, and that I thought you might enjoy. It’s the only place in New York that isn’t swimming with every new fad in food. If you have an issue being seen with me, then you should have made that known before agreeing to this evening.’
‘I—‘ Andy stalled in her tracks. ‘I wasn’t out with you. I was out with the editor-in-chief of Runway.
‘Who is also me. Don’t be naïve Andrea. I am that woman, whether you like it or not. And are we simply going to ignore your own airs and graces?’
‘Airs and graces?’ Andy said, aghast.
‘So confident, so detached, so polite. The smiling assassin. That’s what they call you. Snatching authors out from under the nose of every other house in town, all with that ‘aw shucks’ Ohioan smile. A shark, through and through.’
Andy took a deep breath and bit back the urge to snap in response. ‘This isn’t getting us anywhere,’ she said after a moment.
Miranda brushed her hands along the skirt of her gown. ‘No, I suppose it’s not,’ she said following a pause.
‘I’m sorry, Miranda.’
Miranda sighed. ‘As am I,’ she said quietly as the car moved through traffic.
They rode the rest of the way in silence, Andy glancing at Miranda every so often to find her staring pensively out the window. What a fucking disaster.
As the car pulled up to the town house, Andy knew she was running out of time to salvage the evening. ‘Miranda?’ she said as the car came to a stop.
Miranda glanced down at her watch. ‘It’s late, Andrea.’ It wasn’t, not for them. ‘Perhaps we should pick up this conversation next week.’
She sounded worn down by the evening and Andy couldn’t bring herself to push the issue further. Perhaps things would be clearer tomorrow. ‘Okay. Next week.’
Miranda reached across and placed her palm gently on Andy’s knee. ‘Goodnight,’ she said simply before the door was opened and she was gone.
As the car came back to life Andy watched Miranda slip inside the town house.
She didn’t look back.
‘Fuck,’ she swore to no one as the car pulled back out into the night.
The front door closed heavily behind her and Miranda allowed her purse to fall from her hand, unceremoniously onto the floor.
Nothing had gone according to plan this evening. Her grand idea to show Andrea a place in the city she adored had completely backfired.
She sighed and rubbed a hand over her face. She wasn’t accustomed to being on the other side of the table, so to speak.
Tonight was supposed to bring clarity. Instead it had thrown everything into uncertainty.
Miranda knelt down to retrieve her purse and resisted the urge to groan as she made her way back to standing. There was no use sulking in the foyer. She would simply have to devise a new approach.
Chapter 18: Step into the Ring
You have been heard!
Miranda called to schedule their regular Wednesday.
And then cancelled on said day with an ‘I’ll be in touch when I can.’
If Andy were a paranoid person, which she wasn’t, she might think the timing to be a tad too coincidental. One disastrous evening and suddenly Miranda was unavailable? It was either exceptionally bad luck or Miranda was flat out avoiding her.
Whatever the reason, it had put her in a foul mood all morning and when a text popped up before lunch she welcomed the distraction.
‘Free for lunch?’
It was Nate.
Of all the people she wanted to hear from today, he wasn’t at the top of the list. He had been back in town since before the New Year and, as Miranda predicted, easy enough to avoid on the whole. Well, until today it would seem. A big part of her wanted to lie and say she was in a meeting. Things had been civil enough last time they had been in the same room but that didn’t mean she had any interest in establishing regular contact.
However, there was another part of her that felt petty and spiteful this morning. As she rubbed her right knee absently and recalled Miranda’s emphatic ‘goodnight’ she found herself unable to resist. She picked up her phone and typed out a reply. ‘I’ve got thirty minutes.’
‘That’s plenty. Meet me at the food truck on the corner of 48th and 6th.’
‘Be there in 15,’ she sent as she got up from her desk and snatched up her coat and bag.
As she passed by the reception desk, she didn’t bother to stop. ‘Take a message if it’s important, anything else, tell them to call back tomorrow,’ she ordered Zainab as she stalked out towards the lifts.
Outside, the sky was clear, which she found frustratingly contradictory to her mood. She clipped down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk, weaving her way through a group of smokers clinging desperately to their coffees.
When she arrived, she found Nate leaning against the food truck chatting amiably with the owner and operator. He was wearing a white-wool lined denim jacket which just seemed to solidify the over-all hipster lumberjack look he had been aiming for. He looked good. Happy even; and when he saw her, he pushed away from the truck and came to greet her with a smile.
‘You got here in ten,’ he said in surprise. ‘I thought it’d be harder to drag you away.’
‘I needed to get out of the office for a bit,’ she said with a stiff shrug.
‘Well, you have to come meet Mariana. She does the meanest burrito in Manhattan,’ he said, grabbing her hand and tugging her towards the truck.
It turned out Mariana and her husband Carlos ran one of the most successful food trucks in Manhattan and their El Jefe Burrito had had a write up in the Times. There was little doubt the burrito deserved all the praise heaped on it. Andy couldn’t hold back a moan as she bit into it.
‘Right?’ Nate said with a grin.
‘I wish you hadn’t shown me this. My waistline can’t afford a daily burrito.’
‘Your waistline will survive,’ Nate said, shaking his head slightly as they moved away from the truck to stand in the sunlight.
They ate in silence for a beat before her curiosity got the better of her. ‘I’m assuming this isn’t about the burrito?’
Nate shook his head, wiped his hand on his jeans and pulled an envelope out of his pocket. ‘Our opening is on Friday.’
‘This Friday?’ Andy said incredulously.
‘I know, right? But we’re ready, so there’s no point in avoiding the trial run. You don’t have to come, but you were there through everything. It just…wouldn’t feel right without you,’ he said, reaching up to rub the back of his head self-consciously.
She stood there on the sidewalk, burrito in hand, unsure how to respond.
‘Just say yes,’ Nate said, waving the envelope at her. ‘It’s free booze and food. Lil will get a kick out of it.’
‘Okay, fine,’ Andy said, reaching forward to snatch the envelope out of his hand. ‘But only because there’s free booze.’
Nate broke into a grin. ‘Glad to see you’re still easily bought.’
‘Hey!’ Andy said, smacking him on the arm.
‘Woah,’ Nate said, holding his lunch above his head. ‘Precious cargo.’
Andy laughed easily. Something about this felt good. Easy in a way it hadn’t been for a long time. The resentment she had felt towards Nate had been weighing heavily on her and this felt like acknowledgement of sorts, of her contribution towards getting him here.
The day was chill and Andy pulled her coat around her as they strolled amiably back towards her building. Nate walked her up the steps, grabbing the sauce covered aluminium foil from her hand and passing her a napkin. ‘I’ll see you Friday?’
‘Yeah,’ Andy said with a smile as she wiped her hands. ‘You will.’
There were days during which Miranda grudgingly accepted that her job had a negative impact on her personal life and today was one of those days.
Regardless of her position, there were certain people that she wasn’t entitled to say no to. Unfortunately, those people had decided that a working dinner on a Wednesday evening at short notice was essential to their very existence; a Wednesday evening she had set aside in an already busy week to rectify the situation with Andrea.
She had had to cancel.
Between Andrea, work and the girls leaving at the end of the week she had reached capacity and was truly beginning to resent her lack of time.
This morning alone had felt like a marathon, and as she sat in the back of the town car on her way back to the office she wondered if she’d even have time for lunch today.
She sighed as she pulled out a compact and checked her make-up as they pulled up in front of the building. She fixed her sunglasses firmly on her nose before the door opened and she exited, coat whipping behind her.
Her driver bid her farewell and she nodded in acknowledgement before making her way up towards the building.
Half way up she felt her heart stall in her chest. It was the second time she had seen someone unexpected on the stairs of Elias-Clarke in the last eighteen months and this time was significantly more unpleasant than the first.
Miranda had an exceptional eye for detail, and not even a beard could obscure the boyish face she knew from pictures. Seeing Andrea laughing amiably with Nate Cooper in front of the main entrance caused a twisting sensation in her stomach that was altogether unpleasant.
She watched carefully as Andrea handed something to him, that ever present smile fixed firmly to her face. They were speaking, both looking more relaxed than she liked. Eventually Andrea turned and entered the building to return to her office no doubt.
Nate’s eyes lingered on her disappearing figure far longer than Miranda appreciated. It was confirmation that Nate Cooper’s sudden appearance in New York was motivated by more than just a flashy new job, as she had suspected.
As he turned and walked directly into her path, their eyes locked. There was a flash of recognition on his face before she watched his features stiffen.
So, he did know who she was.
And he didn’t like her.
Well, the feeling was mutual.
Miranda could have ignored him. She chose not to.
‘I don’t believe you work here, Mr Cooper,’ she said on approach, not missing a beat.
He stopped in his tracks, surprise colouring his face. He may have known who she was, but he certainly hadn’t expected her to know him; which meant he likely wasn’t aware of her current association with Andrea. Although Miranda was reluctant to admit it, the fact Andrea was keeping her hidden, stung. However, she kept her face neutral and watched him struggle to come up with an appropriate response.
‘You’d be right about that,’ he replied eventually, his face unsure.
‘Don’t tell me you’re here chasing after Andrea’s coattails once again,’ Miranda said, letting the disdain slip into her voice.
His expression hardened at that. ‘What business is it of yours?’ he demanded.
‘I think you’ll find that Andrea is very much my business,’ Miranda said, taking a small step forward, her face remaining passive in the winter sunlight.
Nate snorted. ‘She doesn’t work for you anymore, Miranda.’
Miranda allowed a light chuckle to pass her lips. ‘Is that so?’
Nate looked floored.
‘You really know nothing about her, do you?’ she said in amusement. ‘I suggest you find another building to loiter around, because you’re not required near this one.’
‘Was that a threat?’ Nate asked with a growl.
‘Of course not. A threat would be reminding you that Jean is a close acquaintance of mine, and Runway responsible for a significant portion of his business here and abroad,’ Miranda said, her tone carefully controlled.
Nate took a step back at that. Miranda knew what he valued most. He had put his career before Andrea time and time again. She had little doubt that he would do the same once again.
‘You’re exactly what I expected,’ Nate said, shaking his head. ‘If she’s back in your clutches, then she’s made a huge mistake. Andy’s not like you, Miranda.’
‘Perhaps not, but one of us has her best interests at heart, and I don’t believe that’s you,’ she finished. ‘Now, if you’ll excuse me,’ she said as she brushed past him and continued up the stairs.
Andy’s phone buzzed in her hand as she strolled back into the office, tapping Nate’s invitation against her leg.
‘Nightcap this evening?’ The message from Miranda read.
Andy looked at it in surprise before typing out a reply. ‘Finishing earlier than expected?’
‘No. But I would like to see you this evening,’ came the immediate response.
Andy stalled in her tracks. Miranda was characteristically blunt at times, but that was unexpected. Today had been a strange day, and apparently it was only about to get stranger. ‘What time?’
‘A car will be waiting for you when you finish at the office.’
‘Okay. I have some things I can catch up on here. 8:30?’ she typed, wondering if even that would be too early.
‘That will be fine,' Miranda replied. 'See you this evening.’
Andy shook her head, unable to help to the small smile that snuck onto her face.
‘Hot date, Sachs?’ Cat said with a chuckle as she passed by on her way out the door.
Andy flipped her middle finger in the Cat’s direction as she continued in the direction of her desk, the Publisher’s laughter tinkering behind her.
The rest of the day passed by quickly, her mind a little less burdened than it had been before. She was the last to leave the office that evening and she weaved through, flicking off the lights as she went.
The car, as promised, was waiting by the curb. However, it wasn’t until she got inside that she realised Miranda wasn’t going to be joining her for the ride.
‘Where are we headed?’ she asked the driver.
‘The town house, Miss Sachs,’ he replied as he pulled out and began driving down 42nd.
Andy assumed Miranda had been held up or was perhaps meeting her at the house. However, when they arrived the lights were all out, save for the one outside which she knew was on a timer. It was clear Miranda wasn’t home and Andy was beginning to wonder what the hell was going on.
She didn’t have to wait long to find out.
‘You’ll be needing this,’ the driver said over his shoulder as he passed a key back to her.
Andy stared at it. ‘You can’t be serious?’
‘I don’t ask questions,’ he said with a shrug.
‘Nothing is ever simple with her, is it?’ Andy muttered, opening the door and letting herself out.
She slung her bag over her shoulder and made her way up the stairs. She hesitated at the door, key in hand, realisation dawning over her at what she had just been handed. She had never set foot inside this house without Miranda present. She wasn't entirely sure what Miranda was trying to say with this act, but it appeared that whatever had been going on between the two of them over the last few weeks hadn't been anywhere near as bad as she had thought.
With that, she unlocked the door and let herself in.
The townhouse was perfectly temperate as always. Andy put her bags down on the floor and removed her coat, hanging it where she hung it every time she was here.
As she stepped back and glanced around the foyer she couldn't deny that being in the house without Miranda was strange. She felt like an intruder and could feel the weight of three stories of empty rooms above her. She shook off the feeling and decided to head directly to where they spent most of their time. It seemed like the safest course of action.
Plucking up her bags, she climbed the stairs and made herself comfortable on the sofa as always. She pulled out a hardcopy manuscript she was halfway through and curled into the corner, light from the small lamp casting a soft glow over the room.
She lost track of time as her pen worked over page after page until she heard a key turn in the lock downstairs and the click of heels on the hardwood. It was late. When she glanced at her watch she realised she'd been waiting here for almost two hours. She tamped down her frustration, assuming there had to be a good explanation. However, when Miranda finally appeared in the doorway, her face wasn't apologetic. In fact, it was far from it.
The entire scenario was beginning to make and less and less sense.
‘Hey,’ Andy said, ignoring Miranda's expression. She closed the manuscript and stretched out her back. ‘Everything go okay?’
‘Yes, everything was fine,’ Miranda replied, her tone sharp. Far too sharp for a woman who had left her waiting around for an entire evening.
Andy raised her eyebrows in disbelief, her anger flaring but before she could get a response out, Miranda beat her to the punch. ‘Nate Cooper,’ Miranda said suddenly. She hadn’t moved from the doorway. ‘He has no idea you’re here right now, does he?’
Andy looked at Miranda like she’d grown a second head. Of all the things she had been expecting, that had not been one of them. ‘No, why would he?’ she asked, baffled.
‘Well, you both seemed very chummy today. I thought you would have told him, seeing as you’re so close.’
Everything rapidly clicked into place and Andy felt her face stiffen. Of all the stupid, ridiculous—
She threw the manuscript in her lap off to the side. ‘Can we cut through the bullshit to the point where you just tell me what’s going on?’ she snapped, getting to her feet and pushing her glasses roughly up onto the top of her head.
‘He has no idea that we’re associated again,’ Miranda said, folding her arms across her chest.
Andy looked at her incredulously. ‘No, firstly because he has no right to know my business and secondly because I signed an iron clad NDA prepared by your terrifying team of lawyers,’ she said, counting off on her fingers, ‘And that still doesn’t answer my question.’
‘He wants you back,’ Miranda said, bluntly.
Andy scoffed. ‘I highly doubt that. He stopped by to drop off an invite to Jean-George’s opening on Friday. Closure would be a better word.’
That stopped Miranda in her tracks, a little. ‘Miranda, what on Earth is going on?’ Andy demanded. ‘You cancel on me, then invite me for a nightcap, send a driver with a key your empty house, leave me waiting here for two hours and all for what? To talk about my ex-husband?’
‘He’s not good for you,’ Miranda said stubbornly, still not moving from the doorway.
Andy held her ground by the sofa, wondering if Miranda was listening to a single word that was coming out of her mouth. ‘I’m well aware of that,’ she said through clenched teeth, ‘I was the one who asked for the divorce if you’ll recall!’
‘I’m aware,’ Miranda replied, arms still crossed firmly.
‘Well then tell me what the hell my ex-husband has to do with this conversation, because right now the only thing I’m seeing is a woman standing in front of me who is still refusing to give me a clear explanation as to why she's given me the run around for an entire day, only to come home and give me attitude for no apparent reason,’ Andy snapped, jaw clenching in the type of frustration only Miranda seemed to draw out her.
‘No, I won’t. Let’s have this out, right here, right now. What is happening here?’ Andy demanded, waving her hands between them.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Miranda said defensively.
‘Oh, come on Miranda. Don’t play the idiot.’
‘I’m doing no such thing.’
Andy’s brow lifted at that as she scoffed and shook her head in disbelief. ‘I’m leaving,’ she said as she leaned down to pick her phone up off the table. ‘This conversation clearly isn’t getting us anywhere tonight.’
Miranda uncrossed her arms. ‘Wait,’ she said, holding up a hand and taking a step into the room. Her hand moved to the pendant around her neck and she began fiddling uncharacteristically. She caught herself after a moment and let out a frustrated breath, her hands dropping to her sides. This clearly wasn’t going how she had expected. She let out a tired sigh, closing her eyes as she reached up to pinch the bridge of nose. She stayed like that for a moment before her hand dropped, her expression resigned. Resigned to what, Andy could only guess.
‘I,’ Miranda began again, the fight gone from her voice, ‘I gave you a key because I wanted you here tonight. Not somewhere else, and certainly not before I had the opportunity to say what I needed to say.’
It was the slight tremble in Miranda’s voice as she finished her sentence that stopped Andy in her tracks. She could feel the thready beats against her chest as her heart rate picked up, could feel her hands shaking as she bent down to place her phone back on the table. ‘Which is?’ she asked, her voice coming out steadier than she expected.
Miranda looked up at her. Her makeup had long faded and her face was worn by the day. She looked almost unbearably human, and as her eyes reached Andy’s with a new, unfamiliar intensity, she took her breath away before she could even say a word.
‘I believe,’ Miranda began carefully, ‘that I'm developing...feelings for you, Andrea.’
Andy was rendered speechless. She stood stock still, staring at the woman across from her. Miranda Priestly didn’t do this. Not for her.
Silence engulfed the room, the only sound the tick of the clock reaching them from the hallway, a noise Miranda complained endlessly about but couldn’t seem to rid herself of, the clock itself a museum piece. ‘Time is so fleeting,’ she had mused once to Andy while watching her thoughtfully.
‘My daughters moved away,’ Miranda continued as she stepped purposefully into the room, ‘And I had a heart attack. Hospitals give a person far too much time to think. I had a fleeting thought of you in the aftermath of realising I would live to see my daughters again. I recalled that unwavering optimism and the fire that started in your eyes when challenged. So much potential. I wondered what had become of you,' she admitted. ‘Then suddenly, there you were. Standing on the steps just as you had once before. A spectre from the past; one that left me far too sentimental. I couldn’t stay away,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘And the result has been this,’ she continued, waving her hands between them. ‘I still can’t seem to stay away.’
‘Did you ever wonder that perhaps I didn’t want you to?’ Andy said, emotion creeping into her voice.
‘You certainly made yourself at home enough in my life to indicate there was a possibility. However, I’m from different time, Andrea. A time more resistant to…change.’
’And now?’ Andy asked.
‘I don’t think I can play ignorant any longer,’ Miranda admitted.
‘I knew you had seen me,’ Andy said, her voice trembling as looked at Miranda standing there, soul bared for all to see, 'that day, on the stairs.'
‘You are, and always have been, very difficult to miss Andrea,’ Miranda confessed with a wry chuckle.
‘I don’t think I’m alone in that,’ Andy admitted.
They watched each other for a moment, both hesitant. This was a conversation much deeper than they were accustomed to. One that they had been hurtling towards for some time, now that she thought about. That didn't make it any easier. This was a step into the unknown, into something that neither of them were any good at if their pasts were an indication.
'What now?' Andy asked after a while, at a loss.
'You tell me,' Miranda said, approaching slowly to stand before her. 'What do you want, Andrea?'
Andy lifted a shaky hand to brush Miranda's stray forelock from her brow. It was slow, intimate, everything they hadn't been before. She hoped it was enough.
Miranda let out a shuddering breath at the touch.
Andy wanted, more than anything, to do it again.
‘This is a terrible idea, you know that, don’t you?’ Miranda said, her voice barely above a whisper.
'It probably is,' Andy agreed, just as quiet as she stepped steadily into Miranda's space. She couldn't think of a single reason to stop in that moment.
‘I can think of at least ten reasons why we shouldn’t,’ Miranda continued.
Andy ignored her and leant forward slowly, her lips a hairsbreadth away from Miranda’s own. ‘You can tell me all about them later,’ she whispered before Miranda pressed forward and captured her lips in a searing kiss.
Andy expected dominance, or perhaps a competing urge for control. What she got was equilibrium. They knew each other well. Miranda’s hands slid purposefully down and pulled her closer. She could feel the heat radiating between them as she leant further in, hands trailing up Miranda’s back to grasp at her neck and deepen the kiss.
Their hands wandered as the kiss continued, and Andy felt a desperate need that seemed impossible to sate. Miranda was feminine but strong, her lips soft but the plains of her back hard with well defined musculature that came from pure dedication, something Andy had never been skilled at. She wanted to be closer. Her hands slid under Miranda's blouse and began to venture up until the sound of Andy’s glasses hitting the floor caused them to break apart.
Andy laughed breathlessly, her face still mere inches from Miranda’s own.
Miranda bit her lower lip in response before smiling, a look of satisfaction on her face.
‘This isn’t exactly how I thought this evening would go,’ Andy said, mild amusement in her voice. 'I was simply hoping we could clear a few things up.'
'Are things a little clearer for you now?' Miranda asked, her hand trailing down Andy's spine, a look of unquestionable longing on her face.
'Much,' Andy said as she reached between them to unbutton the third button of her shirt.
Miranda's eyes followed the movement closely, her eyes burning across Andy’s exposed skin.
'I do have one question,' Andy said, eyes glancing towards the door. 'Are we likely to be interrupted?'
Miranda shook her head. 'No, not tonight.'
'Good,' Andy replied as she pulled Miranda back to her, prepared to drown.
Chapter 19: Light of Day
Picking back up where we left off.
Andy awoke on a cloud, or at least the mattress equivalent of one. The sheets beneath her were warm and soft as she rolled onto her back and glanced left to be met with the sight of an empty bed. She sat up gingerly, muscles twinging as her body reminded her how out of shape she was while she cast a glance around the room. Clothing that was strewn about the night before in haste was folded neatly or hanging visibly. Miranda had been up for a while, clearly.
She threw back the covers and swung her feet out, rubbing a hand absently through her hair. It had been a while since she had woken up in an unfamiliar bed. She looked around to find her glasses perched on the bedside table next to her and let a small smile dance across her lips.
As she put them on she scanned the room for a clock and swore. ‘Fuck,’ she said as she flew off the bed.
She was bent over, back to the door when Miranda’s voice sounded behind her. ‘Fleeing the scene of the crime?’
Andy’s head snapped up and she shot a mild glare in Miranda’s direction as she finished pulling her underwear on. ‘You could have woken me up. It’s after seven!’
Miranda stood in the doorway, a look of mild amusement on her face. A silk robe, cut off at mid-thigh, was draped casually around her figure as she held two cups of coffee in her hand. ‘You’re not due in until nine.’
‘Brooklyn, Miranda,’ Andy reminded her as she clipped her bra in place.
‘You’re not going across town now,’ Miranda said in exasperation.
Andy grabbed her oversize shirt off it’s hanger and threw it around her shoulders. ‘Yes I am. If I leave now, I’ll make it on time. Or at least close to it,’ she said, as she located her jeans and moved to pull them on.
‘Andrea, sit down,’ Miranda ordered.
‘I don’t have ti—‘
‘I’ve left some things in the guest bath down the hall,’ Miranda said, walking forward to force a scorching hot cup of coffee into her hand, ‘there’s no need to run across town unnecessarily,’ she finished as she extracted the jeans from her grip and placed them down on the bed. ‘Now, sit.’
Andy sighed and dropped down onto on the end of the bed. ‘If I walk into the office in brand new couture it would be like wearing billboard that said I got laid last night. By you.’
‘That would be quite the leap from simply, say, shopping for it,’ Miranda said as she moved to join her on the bed.
‘Catlin is an expert at leaps,’ Andy groaned, rubbing a hand over her face.
‘Catlin Greer needs to mind her own business,’ Miranda said bluntly as she lifted her mug to her mouth and took a sip.
‘Try telling her that. Not to mention I forgot to message Lily last night. She’s probably sending out a search party.’
Miranda paused at that. ‘She knew you were coming here?’
‘We live together, and you and I are a little too consistent in our scheduling,’ Andy said knowingly before letting out a groan. ‘If she called Catlin looking for me then I’m sure they’ve both put two and two together.’
‘I see the NDA was effective,’ Miranda said, pursing her lips slightly. ‘Exactly how much do your friends know about our working relationship?’
Andy turned her head and raised her brow as she glanced pointedly at Miranda’s exposed cleavage. ‘Working relationship?’
Miranda coughed slightly and readjusted her robe, ‘Fine, point taken. Our friendship.’
‘Really?’ Andy said, brow raising higher as she locked eyes with Miranda.
‘Must we do this now?’ Miranda said, exasperated.
‘No, but I don’t think this is a conversation we can avoid for long. I work for you, and regardless of how it might look at this very instant,’ Andy said as she waved a hand down at her bare legs, ‘this isn’t generally how I conduct my business relationships.’
‘I think we both know this hasn’t been a business relationship for some time,’ Miranda said knowingly, turning to face her.
‘No,’ Andy said, ‘it hasn’t. But this is definitely a step or twenty further than friendship, dinner and a few glasses of wine Miranda. We had deniability. That ship has long sailed now.’
Miranda allowed her eyes to drift down Andy’s form. ‘Indeed,’ she said in agreement. ‘However, we’re both adults. I see no reason to complicate matters,’ she said nonchalantly as she took a sip of her coffee.
‘It’s not that simple and you know it. We can’t work together like this,’ she said, waving her hands between them. ‘It’ll be impossible!’
‘However, it does provide the perfect excuse for you to be seen with me, given that my little project is apparently common knowledge.’ A smug, mildly predatory smirk crossed Miranda’s face before she patted Andy’s thigh in mock consolation. ‘Regardless, as I said, now isn’t the time to have this conversation.’ She rose graciously to her feet. ‘You know where the guest bath is,’ she said as she walked in the direction of her en-suite, placing her mug down as she went, ‘the car will be here at eight-forty.’ And with that she slipped out of sight, closing the door behind her.
Andy rubbed a frustrated hand through her hair trying to still her thoughts. The morning sun was climbing slowly higher, casting a warm glow through the large windows of the master bedroom. She was sure on any other day it would give off a soothing, tranquil atmosphere, but right now it was doing little to stop the thoughts running through her head a mile a minute. She wasn’t prepared for this. And on a weekday no less. She didn’t even have a toothbrush.
Perhaps she should call in sick? Beg off work for one day.
But Catlin would have questions. And then follow up questions. Not to mention that one meeting she couldn’t afford to miss as it had already been rescheduled twice.
Andy groaned. She should have thought about this before diving head first into the shark tank last night, no matter how good said tank was.
She heard the water begin to run in Miranda’s bathroom.
Rather than be distracted by that particular thought she downed her coffee in one and made her way down the hall to the third door on the right.
Miranda, it seemed, had products for every occasion and Andy managed to pull herself together in good time. The outfit was work appropriate, but it wasn’t subtle. The long sleeved Céline dress Miranda had left her was spacious but head to toe boa print; the boots knee high black leather, and in her size no less. That left her with more questions. She checked her makeup one last time, grabbed her empty mug from the vanity and made her way to the living room to pick up her stuff.
The group chat Catlin had set up for her, Lily and herself had fifty-eight notifications which meant Lily had already discovered her absence at the apartment. She didn’t need much imagination to guess where the conversation had turned, so she locked her phone and threw it into her bag before making her way down to the first floor.
She found Miranda at the kitchen table already, going over the Book. She glanced up and peered at Andy over her glasses, giving her a nod of approval.
Andy stood there dumbly, bag over her shoulder, empty mug in hand, suddenly very awake and very aware of the one thing she had yet to really process: that she had slept with the woman across from her last night. She had slept with Miranda.
The sun was now high enough in the sky that there was no denying that she was standing in the Priestly kitchen in the morning, a time she was unaccustomed to, and one that felt jarring and wrong on a number of levels.
‘Just leave it in the sink, the housekeeper will be by later,’ Miranda said, watching her closely. ‘The car will be here in ten minutes. If you want more coffee there’s still some left in the pot,’ she said before turning her attention back to the Book.
Andy took a breath and steadied herself. She put her bag down and moved to the fridge to get the milk. As she opened the door she realised she knew exactly where it was. She wasn’t in the house of a stranger, it was just Miranda.
As she closed the door she turned back to see Miranda observing her from the table.
‘I’m sorry,’ Andy said. ‘It’s just…it’s you. You’ve become my closest confidant; you’ve helped me piece my life back together. I didn’t come back to New York for this. I came back to get my life, my career back on track. What now?’
‘Now, you drink your coffee. The rest will wait. We’re not on borrowed time, unless you have another dramatic exit in mind?’
Andy hated Miranda’s ability to be so damn calm. All of her apparent anger and anxiety from the night before had simply evaporated, and she was sitting there as though everything was exactly as it should be. It was infuriating, and reassuring all at the same time.
‘It’s barely been two years since my divorce. I don’t know if this is a go—‘
Miranda held up her hand. ‘The rest will wait, Andrea,’ she said in a tone that brokered no argument.
Andy felt the wind drop out of her sails. She moved to the coffee machine and refilled her mug, finishing the last of the milk in the container. ‘We’re out of milk,’ she said without thinking.
As she turned, Miranda’s eyes were still focused on the Book, but a small smile played around the edge of her mouth as her pen moved across the page.
Miranda’s day passed by in a detached blur. Her mind was elsewhere. It was ridiculous. She felt giddy. It had been years since someone had stirred her to act so rashly, but Andrea was…well, Andrea.
She crossed her legs and winced slightly at the twinge, a stark reminder that they had held nothing back. It had been good, like ice cold water after weeks in the desert.
Well, years, if she was being entirely honest.
A part of her had suspected that this area of her life was over, but it seemed that a change in…team was all that was required.
Miranda touched the tip of her glasses to her lips and allowed a small smile to herself. She wanted to do that again, and soon, preferably.
However, there were things to consider.
Looking back, she knew she should have been more circumspect before acting out. Her and Andrea had spoken at length about her regrets in regards to her marriage, and it had been clear from those conversations that her confidence had been rattled.
In her haste, Miranda had thrown everything that had been confided in her out the window and rested on the assumption that Andrea would go running back to her ex-husband, contrary to all she had been told. It had been an idiotic fear on her part, one confirmed thoroughly with Andrea’s sheer disbelief that Nate was even a factor to be considered.
She would have to tread more carefully from now on. However, she hadn’t lied this morning. They had all the time in the world, and knowing Andrea held her in such regard had cleared up much uncertainty.
It was like any good decisive manoeuvre. It made the path forward all that much clearer.
Her work with Andrea would continue. The book was almost finished, and she had no interest in changing editors now. However, Catlin Greer concerned Miranda. The woman was a climber, and this kind of information could be wielded very effectively in the right hands.
Her mind drifted to the twelfth floor.
Her only option was to trust Andrea to handle it, for now.
As for Nate Cooper, she thought as she leaned back in her chair triumphantly, she had already won.
'Cecily,' she called out.
'Have a bouquet sent to Jean to congratulate him on his new venture. And have him pass my regards on to his new head chef.'
'Of course, Miranda.'
Chapter 20: Blown Wide Open
We’re on the home stretch. As an apology for the two month delay I am posting this chapter today in addition to yesterday’s. There will also be one tomorrow and the epilogue will be posted on Friday hopefully, leaving it at a tidy 22 chapters in total. Thank you all for your continued support. You’re amazing readers, and I appreciate your patience. As always, comments are more than welcome.
‘I don’t understand why you’re here,’ Lily said as they got out of their Uber.
Andy thanked the driver as she stepped out of the vehicle. ‘I told Nate I’d be here.’
‘It’s Friday night, I could have covered for you if you wanted to rendezvous with your new older, distinguished lover,’ Lily grinned.
Andy resisted the urge to roll her eyes. ‘I left her house yesterday morning. Her daughters were flying out this afternoon to go back to college. We’ve been in touch, and she was well aware I had the launch tonight,’ she said with certainty, recalling exactly why she had had to furnish Miranda with that information, and what came after. ‘We’re adults with lives,’ she said, pushing the thought of Miranda’s skirt dropping purposefully to the floor out of her mind.
Lily adjusted her necklace and smirked in her direction. ‘Look at you both, playing it cool.’
Andy rolled her eyes. ‘We’re not playing at anything. Now can you drop it?’
‘Fine, fine,’ Lily said, holding her hands up in surrender before leading the way to the front entrance.
The launch was set to be a low key, cosy affair. There would be one sitting, and Jean had made the decision to give each member of staff one table, with the remainder going to loyal customers and the requisite number of critics and bloggers.
They were greeted at the door, their coats taken for them.
‘Fancy,’ Lily muttered in her ear as they were led to their table.
When all the guests were seated, Jean himself stood up in full chef’s whites to open the evening with a toast to his staff, currently working their asses off in the kitchen. He kept it short, and the wine was soon flowing as wait staff flitted efficiently between tables.
They didn’t see Nate until the final course was cleared away, the room brimming with cheerful conversation and positive exclamations about the food. Jean bought the team out to introduce them, before handing the floor over to Nate, his new Chef de Cuisine.
Andy felt herself swelling with pride and Nate addressed the room. He was confident in this element, his goofy side well hidden by an air of strict professionalism.
He had done it. All he had set out to do the day they first stepped foot into New York had been achieved. He could go anywhere from here.
After a moment, she realised she was genuinely happy for him. She could spend years blaming him and blaming herself for all that had transpired, but the reality was that she was happy. Happy with her life. She had a job she loved, she had time to do the things she loved, and she had Miranda, whatever that may mean.
She felt tears brimming in her eyes as Nate finished his brief speech and thanks to the guests. She clapped hard as he gave his team leave to join their family and friends before carrying a chair over to them and plopping down into it. His sous chef gave him a clap on the back and a wide grin as he passed by.
‘That was possibly the most terrifying night of my life,’ he admitted to them both, taking a sip from his toast glass before letting out a shaky breath.
‘But you did it,’ Lily said, chinking her glass with his. ‘Congratulations Natey, tonight was damn impressive.'
‘Thanks, Lil,’ he said before turning his attention to Andy. ‘Thoughts?’
‘Everything was perfect,’ Andy said warmly.
Nate grinned. ‘I would call for shots like old times, but it might be a little early for that yet. Top up?’ he asked, waving at their glasses.
‘Did you really need to ask?’ Lily said with an eye roll that garnered a chuckle.
They settled into an old rhythm, one that felt familiar, but ultimately temporary. A lot had passed between them all. There would be no going back to the carefree years of their early twenties, but it was nice to wallow in nostalgia for a time and forget.
‘He seems happy,’ Lily noted while Nate was across the room chatting amiably with Pete Wells from the New York Times.
‘He should be. It’s everything he ever wanted,’ Andy said, taking a sip from her glass as she relaxed back into her chair.
Lily looked pensive. ‘Not everything,’ she said as Nate glanced back and caught Andy’s eye, giving her a smile.
‘We’ve made our peace, that’s all it is,’ Andy said, breaking the eye contact to look at Lily. ‘He knows that.’
‘I’m not so sure,’ Lily said under her breath as Nate made his way back towards them.
Andy looked at her sharply before Nate sat back down. ‘We’re going to start packing down the kitchen and winding this up. Do you want to stick around? We can grab a drink afterwards.’
‘Yeah, sure,’ Andy said smoothly, ignoring the nudge of warning she received under the table.
Lily looked briefly in Andy's direction with a hint of rebuke, before shaking her head in resignation of the things she clearly couldn't control. ‘Does that mean more of this?’ she asked she picked up the empty bottle on their table and waved it in Nate's direction.
‘Your wish is my command,’ Nate said, getting to his feet with a flourish.
'Do you think this is a good idea?' Lily muttered under her breath as he left in the direction of the bar.
'Whatever you think you're seeing, you're not,' Andy replied stubbornly.
'Alright, alright,' Lily said, surrendering before nabbing Andy's glass and taking a large swig.
By the time everyone was gone, it was pushing twelve, and they stepped out onto the street and hailed a cab back to one of their old haunts.
The bar was more upmarket than it had once been, and it was a stark reminder that nothing ever stayed the same.
It wasn’t til after their second round of tequila and another round of drinks in their hands that Nate began to look like he was chewing on something. Andy recognized the look well. ‘What is it?’ she asked pointedly when she realised he wasn’t going to say anything unless pressed.
‘Huh?’ he said, surprised. ‘Oh, no, nothing.’
It was Andy’s turn to roll her eyes. ‘We were married. I know that face. Come on, out with it.’
Nate sighed and put his glass down. ‘Miranda Priestly,’ he said before glancing up and catching what Andy suspected was a look of complete shock on her face.
Lily was coughing next to them, having apparently choked on her wine.
‘What about her?’ Andy asked, her voice rising an octave higher that normal. She cleared her throat.
Nate looked at her, puzzled. ‘Are you working for her again?’
Andy let out her breath in whoosh and chuckled awkwardly. ‘Yes, well…no, not exactly. I have a private contract with her,’ she began as Lily barked out a laugh. Nate’s eyes flew to Lily, confusion colouring his features. ‘I can’t really talk about it as it’s confidential, but yes, I am doing some work for her.’
Lily was barely containing herself. Andy had the urge to kick her under the table.
Nate turned back to look Andy. ‘That woman is a piece of work,’ he said seriously. ‘I didn’t want to say anything, I know your work is your business,’ he said. ‘But I worry about you working for her again. She practically threatened my job.’
Lily’s jaw dropped at that.
‘She what?’ Andy asked aghast.
‘Wednesday afternoon. After pointing out my inadequacies, she warned me off you, and then took the time to remind me today exactly how close she was to Jean by passing on her congratulations to me alongside a huge bunch of flowers intended for him. I don’t know what the fuck I did to piss her off so much.’
Andy was practically seething. She couldn’t believe Miranda’s gall.
‘Are you close?’ Nate asked suddenly, looking between her and Lily.
‘Come on, it’s Miranda Priestly,’ Lily said, interjecting quickly with a shrug. ‘She probably thought you were going to whisk Andy off to another exotic destination before she was finished with her. Like…Wisconsin.’
‘Wisconsin?’ Andy said in disbelief.
‘It was the first thing that came to mind,’ Lily said with a shrug, taking a large gulp of her drink.
‘She’s acting like a jealous…’ Nate trailed off, suddenly looking Andy dead in the eye.
‘What?’ Andy said defensively.
‘Jesus Christ,’ Nate said, pushing his chair back and getting to his feet. ‘You’re sleeping with her, aren’t you?’
‘Oh my god, I’m such an idiot,’ Nate said. ‘All this time, it was her, wasn’t it?’
‘Nate sit down,’ Andy hissed, ‘don’t be ridiculous.’
‘Don’t lie to me,’ Nate said, ‘I know you too damn well. How long?’ he demanded.
‘Nate, don’t make a scene,’ Lily urged.
‘Don’t tell me our entire marriage was a place holder for that woman. Don’t,’ he said, his voice shaky.
‘Nate, sit down. Please,’ Andy begged. ‘I can promise you, I haven’t had any contact with Miranda until a couple of months after I came back to New York.’
He was coming unravelled, fast. Andy could see the meltdown a mile away. She couldn’t afford to have this conversation in public. They were already drawing attention. She was going to kill Miranda.
Nate was taking deep, heavy breaths as Lily got to her feet and forced him back into his chair. ‘You need to listen,’ Lily ordered him, stepping between them in a way she never had before. ‘Listen to her before you go jumping to conclusions.’
Nate ran a shaky hand through his hair and took a breath.
‘From the beginning,’ Lily ordered Andy, before ordering them another round of drinks.
It was well after two when Andy stepped out of a cab in front of Miranda’s town house.
The alcohol she had consumed had done little to quell her fury. Miranda had been playing games behind her back. She had caused a shit storm which had forced Andy to explain herself, to her ex-husband no less, before she had any idea of what was going on between the two of them.
If anything was to happen between them in the future, she had wanted to be able to speak with Nate privately, not be outed in a bar in the middle of Manhattan.
She picked up her phone and dialled, waiting on the sidewalk until Miranda picked up.
‘I’m downstairs. Open the door. We need to talk. Now,’ she said in a clipped tone before abruptly ending the call.
The lights on the landing flicked on first, followed by the ones in the foyer before the front door opened to Miranda, wrapped in a bathrobe, her face the picture of confusion.
Andy stormed up the steps and inside, closing the door firmly behind her.
‘What are you doing here?’ Miranda asked, askance.
‘No, Miranda. The question is, what the hell were you thinking? You threatened his job?’
Understanding dawned on her features. ‘I hardly threatened him,’ she scoffed.
‘You had his boss pass on passive aggressive congratulations after you apparently had it out with him in front of Elias-Clark! Which you completely failed to mention, I might add.’
Miranda had the wherewithal to look chastised at that.
‘Jesus, Miranda. He was never a threat to you! Not to mention you had no right!’ Andy fumed, throwing her hands in the air.
‘I had every right,’ Miranda said suddenly. ‘I don’t care what you think. He came back here for one reason and one reason only, and that was to weasel his way back into your life, in whatever capacity he could.’ She was on the defensive.
‘Oh, and it was your place to what? Mark your territory? I’m not a possession for the two of you to fight over. I thought I knew you better than this! I thought you knew me better than this.’
‘Andrea,’ Miranda said, at a loss for words.
Andy wanted to tear strips off her.
‘I’m going home,’ Andy said, turning and making her way towards the door. ‘When you decide to realize that I’m capable of managing my own life, then call me,’ she said as she walked out the door, closing it firmly behind her.
The door closed with a solid bang right before her eyes.
Miranda stared at it, realisation dawning. She had stripped Andrea of her agency.
She had let her smugness at one-upping that simpering bearded Neanderthal lead her straight into doing the one thing she herself would never accept from another human being, especially not a partner.
What if she had doomed them before they had even begun?
She opened the door and slipped barefoot out into the night. She cast a glance both ways, but Andrea was no where in sight. She must have held the cab. Which meant she never had any intention of staying.
Miranda cursed herself as she walked back inside. She grabbed her phone and dialled, only to be directed straight to voicemail.
She felt panic begin to claw at her insides. Of all the things she could have done. What had she been thinking?
She hadn’t, and that was the problem. It was always the problem when it came to Andrea.
There was little point in trying to speak to her tonight. Nothing she said would make it any better. She should have just apologized. It would have been so easy, and yet the simple act of stepping down was always so difficult for her.
‘Damn it,’ she cursed as she flung her phone across the foyer. It clattered before coming to a stop at the bottom of the stairs.
There was nothing satisfactory in the act. She looked at it with distaste.
Three marriages and more than a decade of being alone and it was apparent she had learned absolutely nothing.
Chapter 21: Is It Too Late Now to Say Sorry
Ahh, if you read this when it was first posted, somehow I accidentally deleted the final scene of the chapter! So, that’s there now XD
Andy spent her Saturday with her phone switched off.
Lily had spent the morning apologizing. ‘We should have gone home after the launch, having more to drink was a bad idea. I knew it was a bad idea.’
‘It was my fault,’ Andy said. ‘You tried to warn me. You were off base, but you were right, we should have left.’
‘I don’t think I was, but I have to admit I never saw that one coming.’
‘You’re not the only one,’ Andy said with a sigh.
The conversation with Nate hadn’t been a pleasant one. He had accepted the version of events as they stood, but the haunted look in his eyes left Andy with the feeling no matter what she said, Miranda now stood as a spectre over their entire marriage for him. She knew she shouldn’t feel any guilt. It was her life after all. She owed him nothing. However, she wished it could have happened on any other night, and on her terms, not his and certainly not on Miranda’s.
‘Are you going to call her?’ Lily asked as they stared aimlessly at the TV.
‘No,’ Andy said bluntly.
‘Catlin’s messaging. She said to pick up your damn phone.’
‘Tell her I’ll call her tomorrow.’
‘She’s on her way over.’
‘Come on, it’ll take your mind off everything,’ Lily said. ‘Plus, she got trashed and slept with that hot book agent last night. He lives close. I don’t think she has the energy to get to her place.’
When Andy opened the door it was clear that Catlin was still in last night’s clothes. And still wearing half of last night’s makeup as well. Catlin immediately held up a finger to silence them both as she trudged in. ‘Not a word,’ she said, walking straight to the bathroom to shower. ‘Especially not from you, Andy Sachs, lest I remind you about that brand new Céline in your closet!’ she called out before closing the door with a bang.
Andy rolled her eyes as she made her way to her room to get Catlin a change of clothes.
The three of them progressed to spend the day nursing their wounds on the sofa.
‘You have to admit, it’s kind of hot though,’ Catlin said when Lily had finished availing her of last night’s events, Andy not having the energy to go over it again. ‘She threatened to get him fired. I mean, that’s next level jealousy. I would love to have someone do that for me.’
‘Steamrolling your ex on one of the biggest nights of their life isn’t as great as it sounds,’ Andy said.
‘If it was my ex, trust me, it would be,’ Catlin said with a cackle. ‘Come on Andy, give the woman a break. So, she wound him up a bit. I doubt she thought he’d come running to you. Just a little healthy competition between rivals. No harm, no foul.’
‘It wasn’t her place,’ Andy said. ‘I had it handled. Nate and I were in a good place. I wanted to leave it on good terms.’
‘For what? So you could be friends? Let’s get real Andy, whether he found out yesterday or six months from now the result was always going to be the same. Is it worth punishing Miranda simply because she decided to get a little dirty and fight for you?’
‘There was never a fight!’
Catlin laughed. ‘Of course there wasn’t. But how was she supposed to know that? One roll in the hay is not a confession of undying love.’
Andy paused at that.
‘If I was you,’ Catlin continued, ‘I’d be worrying less about Nate and more about the terrifying woman you decided to ream out last night, in her own home no less. I mean fuck Sachs, I knew you had balls, but that is truly next level.’
Lily snorted. ‘She’s not wrong Andy.’
‘I was angry,’ Andy said in her own defence. ‘I’m still angry.’
‘No, you’re not,’ Catlin said, leaning back into the sofa and propping her legs up on the table. ‘You’re just pissed that you couldn’t tie your life up in tidy little bow. Cut the past loose Sachs. This is your life now. Miranda Priestly and all.’
Everything inside her wanted to resist what Cat was saying, but Andy couldn’t ignore the truth of it. What if last night hadn’t blown up in their faces? What would Nate have wanted out of their relationship?
She had been carrying her divorce, and Nate by extension, around like a dead weight since she arrived. It was the last thing holding her back. Perhaps an immaculate sense of closure wasn’t what she needed. Maybe she just needed to let go, once and for all.
The buzzer rang, thankfully bringing an end to the conversation.
‘That’ll be the pizza,’ Lily said, getting up to buzz them in. ‘And on that note, who wants a drink?’
‘Me,’ Catlin said emphatically.
‘Andy?’ Lily called out.
‘Why not,’ she answered wryly.
Lily was popping the caps off their beers when a brisk knock sounded at the door.
Catlin took one look at Andy and rolled her eyes, getting to her feet to answer.
‘Thank god you’re here,’ Catlin began dramatically as she pulled open the door, ‘my lord and sav—Jesus Christ!’ she swore. Loudly.
‘Not quite,’ came the response in a tone Andy knew all too well, and before she knew it she was on her feet.
Catlin backed slowly away from the door, leaving Miranda standing clearly in the doorway.
There was nothing but the sofa standing between them.
‘Uhh, I think this is for you?’ Catlin said dumbly.
‘Can we talk?’ Miranda said, before glancing at both Lily and Catlin. ‘Privately.’
Andy nodded, grabbing a sweater off the sofa and throwing it on before ushering Miranda into the hall and closing the door behind them.
She chose to ignore the whoop from Catlin which reached them through the door.
‘What are you doing here?’ Andy demanded.
‘You didn’t answer my calls,’ Miranda said matter-of-factly.
‘I needed time to think,’ Andy said.
‘And consult?’ she asked, eyeing the door knowingly.
‘That too, but they weren’t much help to be honest. Everyone seems to think I should let you off the hook.’
‘Well that’s comforting, I suppose,’ Miranda said dubiously, clearly resisting the urge to ask her exactly how much information about their relationship was floating around outside of her control.
‘What do you want, Miranda?’
‘To explain,’ Miranda said.
‘Explain what? You went too far,’ Andy said bluntly. ‘You should have told me about Nate. You knew I was going to the launch last night. Did it ever cross your mind that perhaps it might come up in conversation?’
‘No, frankly I overestimated his pride.’
‘No, you underestimated his intelligence. He needed a few more pieces before he put the puzzle together. Thanks to you, I was blindsided and handed them straight to him. The message for Jean was overkill Miranda, even for you.’
Miranda winced. It was barely perceptible, but it was there nonetheless.
‘What were you thinking?’ Andy demanded. ‘I thought I already made this clear to you. This is between us. Not us and my ex-husband!’
‘And two of your friends, one of whom is your superior I might add,’ Miranda noted.
Andy rolled her eyes at Miranda’s complete and utter inability to be wrong, even when she was attempting to apologize. ‘Oh, don’t give me that. You’re my superior! Not to mention Caroline was riding my ass at Thanksgiving.’
‘That doesn’t mean I’ve gone out of my way to confirm it like you apparently have!’
‘Oh, and there’s something wrong with that?’ Andy said, flipping the conversation.
Miranda stumbled. ‘No, of course—Christ, I apologize Andrea!’ She shouted before reigning herself in. She paused to take a breath, pulling herself under control. ‘I’ll admit, it was petty. I despised the way he looked at you that day as you walked back into the building, so yes, I terrorised him. I threatened his livelihood, and dug the knife in for good measure. So sue me. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect you, and it certainly doesn’t mean I think you’re incapable of managing your own life. You’re the most capable person I know. If you weren’t, I wouldn’t—,’ Miranda stopped and cleared her throat, looking around as if she suddenly realised where they were. ‘Well, I wouldn’t be here.’
‘Oh, so I just take your explanation and pass it off as a bit of harmless jealously?’
Miranda let out a frustrated sigh. ‘Of course not. I came here to explain, and to apologize. What I did was unfair to you. Your relationship with Nate is—was none of my business. I had no right to interfere.’
‘No, you didn’t,’ Andy confirmed.
Miranda didn’t disagree. She stood silently for a moment before she looked up at Andy. ‘I don’t want this to be the irreparable thing that comes between us. Not now. Not yet,’ Miranda said seriously.
Andy held Miranda’s gaze and realised she didn’t either. She let out a slow breath, her anger going with it.
Catlin was right, it was time to cut the past loose. This was her life now, and Miranda Priestly was here, standing in the middle hallway in Brooklyn, right in the middle of it all, just as she had been for more than a year.
They had been circling each other for such a terribly long time.
Andy moved to take a step forward before the door opened behind them, causing them both to jump.
‘We’re just going to get some coffee,’ Lily said by way of explanation, Catlin trailing out behind her. ‘Hi,’ she said to Miranda, ‘Lily. Friend and roommate. Nice to meet you,’ she said, holding out a hand.
Miranda took it with a surprising level of grace given the circumstances. ‘You too,’ she said.
‘Miranda,’ Catlin said with a nod as she passed.
Miranda caught her eye, her face hardening ever so slightly. ‘You and I need to have a discussion,’ Miranda said, tone warning.
‘Hey, I’ll sign an NDA,’ Catlin said throwing up her hands in mock surrender. ‘Although, you might want to take this inside before you need to have one drawn up for each of the neighbours too.’
Miranda’s eyes narrowed at that, and Lily ushered Catlin towards the stairs before she could say anything else. ‘And don’t forget to let the pizza guy up!’ she chimed out.
Andy drew Miranda inside before turning to close the door slowly. She stood facing it for a moment, her hand on the handle before she let go and turned back to Miranda. ‘I’m sorry I came storming to your house in the middle of the night,’ she said, rubbing the back of her head in embarrassment. ‘Sometimes I stop thinking when it comes to you,’ she admitted.
Miranda chuckled wryly at that. ‘You’re not alone in that compulsion. Clearly.’
‘Did you mean what you said?’ Andy asked, ‘The other morning I mean. That the rest can wait? I’m not ready to put a label on this, to make commitments or promises that maybe I can’t keep. I came back to New York for me. I need to put myself first for a while. Maybe longer than a while.’
‘I meant what I said,’ Miranda reaffirmed.
‘Okay, good,’ Andy said, suddenly at a loss.
Miranda, on her part, looked relieved. She adjusted the glove on her hand before glancing up. ‘Dinner Wednesday?’ she asked.
It was a concession. A promise of a return to normality, of no pressure nor expectation.
Andy felt it in her chest. ‘How about tonight? The house must be awfully quiet with the girls gone,’ she said knowingly.
Miranda allowed a small smile to grace her lips. ‘Tonight then,’ she said warmly.
‘Do I need to dress up?’
‘The less you wear the better,’ Miranda replied, her face barely betraying her before she stepped forward and placed a gentle kiss on Andy’s lips. ‘I’ll see you tonight,’ she said, her voice just above a whisper before she pulled away and made her way to the entrance.
The buzzer rang as she opened the door. ‘That will be the pizza,’ she said over her shoulder as she walked out, closing the door behind her.
As Miranda stepped out onto the sidewalk she took a moment to appreciate the clear day before walking to her town car, the door opening itself as she approached.
She glanced up at the apartment building behind her and smiled.
Perhaps she was capable of this after all.
Andy strolled up to the town house that evening, calm. Certainly calmer that she had been yesterday.
She shifted the bag of groceries in her arms and rung the bell.
She heard Miranda moving quickly across the foyer and the door flung open to reveal a slightly harried looking editor-in-chief, her apron askew and fleck of flour on her cheek. ‘I decided to try a new recipe,’ she explained, her tone vexed, even as she leant forward and pecked Andy on the cheek in greeting. ‘Bring that through,’ she ordered as she whirled around and marched back to the kitchen.
‘You could have kept it simple!’ Andy called out as she followed behind to find Miranda pulling a lasagne straight from the oven, the countertop covered in flour and the remnants of home made pasta sheets which had decided break mid-creation littering the kitchen.
‘You made your own pasta?’ Andy said open-mouthed.
‘The girls bought me that contraption for Christmas,’ Miranda said, indicating with her head towards what looked like an expensive, stainless steel torture machine. She placed the dish down and stood back, pulling off oven mitts and breathing out a sigh of relief.
Andy put the groceries down and chuckled. ‘You look like you need a drink.’
‘Please,’ Miranda said appreciatively as she turned and looked at Andy before tossing the oven mitts aside. ‘I must look a state,’ she said, brushing a hand through her hair, her forelock falling stubbornly back across her forehead.
‘No worse than I’ve seen you before,’ Andy said with a grin, moving forward to brush the flour from Miranda’s cheekbone.
Miranda leant slightly into the touch. ‘I’ll take that as a compliment,’ she said.
‘As you should,’ Andy said, reaching forward to grab the front of Miranda’s apron and tug her forward slightly.
‘After dinner,’ Miranda warned.
‘After this,’ Andy said, leaning her head forward, ‘I promise,’ she whispered across Miranda’s lips before pressing her mouth against hers, its intent to wipe away the last seventy-two hours and bring them back to a moment before she had allowed her past and her fears to throw a wrench into everything.
‘Mm,’ Miranda hummed into the kiss, deepening it slightly before pulling back with a smile. ‘After,’ she ordered gently.
‘Yes, Miranda,’ Andy said with a smirk, receiving a small shove in return.
‘Set the table,’ Miranda said. ‘And did you remember the wine I asked for?’
‘Of course,’ Andy said with an eye roll, pulling it out of the bag and waving it in her direction.
Dinner passed by much as it always did, and Andy felt an overwhelming sense of contentment pass over her as she watched the woman across the table from her rest relaxedly in her chair, wine glass in hand, a slight flush in her cheeks from the alcohol.
She herself leaned backed in her chair, dropping her fork and groaning audibly. ‘I’ve put on five pounds since I starting eating here, I’ll have you know.’
Miranda chuckled. ‘It wouldn’t have anything at all to do with takeaway pizza?’
Andy looked up in mock outrage.
Miranda laughed as she placed her glass down on the table and began clearing the plates. ‘There is a place called a gym, Andrea. You should get acquainted with it. You’re not twenty anymore.’
‘Don’t I know it,’ she said as she yawned, rubbing her stomach. ‘I don’t know how you manage five days a week with a trainer.’
‘Self-discipline,’ Miranda said as she eyed her critically. ‘Something you clearly haven’t learned,’ she said as Andy slid down in her chair a little, barely managing to reach for her wine glass.
‘It was worth it,’ she sighed contently as she took a sip.
Miranda shook her head as she continued stacking up the plates and the cutlery.
‘Leave those,’ Andy said, ‘I’ll do them.’
‘Yes, if you could move, I’m sure,’ Miranda scoffed.
‘Oh, I can move. Trust me,’ Andy said. ‘In fact,’ she said, pushing her chair out and getting to her feet, ‘I can think of a better way to burn off a few calories.’
Miranda laughed heartily at that as she walked away, plates in hand, and a warm smile on her face.
Andy looked on at her future and felt the final wisps of her marriage and her divorce; of Boston, Washington and Chicago; of her old life, simply fade away.
There would be no more staring out of office windows wondering what could have been, for what was, and what had been for longer than she realised, was standing right in front of her.
Chapter 22: Epilogue
Well, this is it folks. Thank you all for coming along for the ride. I hope this story has been everything you hoped it would be. Feel free to leave your curses or comments at the end!
‘Where the hell is she?’ Catlin hissed under her breath, looking around frantically.
Guests were milling around, eating hors d’oeuvres and drinking champagne that frankly, was going to push them outside of their quarterly budget.
Andy rolled her eyes. ‘She enjoys making an entrance.’
‘At this rate we’ll need to use more bottles, and trust me when I say I’m going to take the cost directly from your salary. Can’t you get her under control?
Andy looked at Catlin with brow raised. ‘You know who you’re talking about, right?’
The budget for Miranda’s launch had definitely breached its limits. The indoor-outdoor loft space in Soho didn’t come cheap, but Andy had to agree with Miranda that the small exclusive setting was perfect for keeping numbers down and made the early afternoon launch picturesque as the sun beamed down on the guests, all milling around in light, bright spring colours.
Catlin threw up her hands. ‘Why did I agree to this?’ she demanded.
‘Because pre-sales alone have put as in good stead for the next…what was it? Two years?’
‘Trust me when I say I’m not sure it was worth the hassle. Our in-house designer looked ready to fling himself from the top floor of the building when she sent back the cover for the eighteenth time.’
Andy snorted. ‘It did them good to work under a little pressure.’
‘Pressure?’ Catlin said. ‘Torture would be a better word. I like my staff; I have no intention of losing them. Never again. If she decides to write another one after retirement, tell her no. She can have the big boys up stairs deal with it. Or you can publish it. I’m done.’
Andy laughed and patted Catlin on the back before leaning in and bumping her shoulder with her own. ‘We did it,’ she said with a grin as they kept their eye closely on the entrance.
Catlin looked around the room. It was filled to brim with some of the biggest names in fashion and publishing. Inception was the talk of the town, a small imprint given it’s blessing by the one and only Miranda Priestly. ‘Yeah,’ Catlin said smugly, ‘Yeah we did. Well, you did, because how the hell you managed to get this little side project of hers through the editing process I’ll never know.’
‘I have my ways,’ Andy said suggestively.
‘Ugh, thank you for that.’
‘I thought you might appreciate it,’ Andy chuckled.
‘Not particularly, no, but I do appreciate what you’ve done,’ Catlin said, seriously. ‘I couldn’t have done all this without your help. Having you here these past two years...’
Andy rolled her eyes. ‘Don’t tell me you’re getting soft on me now.’
Catlin sniffed. ‘Of course not. But thanks where thanks are due. I read your manuscript.’
Andy stalled at that. She had passed it along to Catlin to see if it was worthwhile pursuing any further. She hadn't expected her to get through it so fast.
‘Don’t look so terrified,’ Catlin said turning her head towards her. ‘I want to take it to print.’
‘Really?’ Andy said, staring at her in disbelief as an excited murmur swept through the crowd.
‘Yes, really,’ Catlin whispered with a grin, grabbing Andy by the shoulders quickly before straightening her dress and brushing a hand through her hair. ‘Well, here we go,’ she said, taking a breath and standing tall. She was wearing something from the new Gucci ready-to-wear collection, a passive aggressive gift directly from the closet, courtesy of Miranda. 'We'll talk later. I have lots of ideas for it, but a fall print run would be perfect I think.'
Andy couldn't move. A fall print run was less than six months away. ‘Good luck,’ she said dumbly, still in shock as Catlin walked off, sweeping up to the microphone to begin her introduction.
As the crowd fell into silence, Andy listened as Cat heaped on the praise for Miranda. That was enough to bring her back down to Earth, and she cast a glance around in search of Miranda. She was nowhere in sight yet, but as Catlin came to a close, and invited Miranda up, the room exploded with applause.
Miranda, as always, was impervious to it. She entered from the back of the room and moved gracefully through the crowd, giving everyone time to appreciate the one of kind pieces from Versace that had arrived in her office last week as congratulations from an old friend, and sincere thanks for the kind words for Gianni in her book. The dress, coming to stop at mid calve, employed some of the more subdued patterns pulled from the family archives printed on a silvery white satin that moved in the light in an almost ethereal manner. It was a simple design, but the black cropped jacket, clearly inspired by the Spring/Summer 2018 Tribute collection, personally customized by Donatella herself ensured Miranda stood out severely in the middle of a sea of spring colours.
As she stepped up to the microphone Andy caught her eye and gave her a subtle nod.
Miranda’s lip quirked imperceptibly in response before she broke eye contact and acknowledged the crowd with small a tilt of her head and began speaking.
As her dulcet tones carried across the venue, Andy smiled. She would never tire of watching Miranda work a room. It was an art form in and of itself.
‘You two are disgusting,’ a voice noted behind her, causing her to jump.
She spun around, jaw dropping in surprise. ‘Nigel?’ she whispered in astonishment. There he stood, the grin on his face identical to the one that had been thrown her way many many times in the past. His glasses were heavier in the frame, and he was sporting a salt-and-pepper goatee as opposed to a clean shave, but it was the same Nigel, mischievous glint in his eyes and all.
‘You didn’t think I’d miss this, did you?’ he whispered back before moving to stand next to her, grin widening.
He wasn’t referring to the book launch, that much was clear.
Andy threw him a glare which garnered her little more than a tut and a chuckle in response.
'Down tiger,' he mocked before turning his attention to Miranda. ‘She looks magnificent,’ he noted under his breath in admiration.
‘Yes, she does,’ Andy agreed quietly with a smile, eyes fixed on woman in question as she entranced her audience.
They watched quietly, standing close together as Miranda worked her way through the requisite thanks. When the crowd turned towards Andy, she smiled a practiced smile and raised her glass in acknowledgement before the attention turned back to the front of the room and towards Miranda's heartfelt acknowledgement of Caroline and Cassidy.
As Miranda closed to rapturous applause, Andy turned to Nigel and pulled him into a hug. 'It's good to see you,' she said genuinely.
'You too, Six,' he said, gripping her firmly before standing back to take a look at her. 'Twirl,' he ordered.
Andy rolled her eyes and turned slowly.
'Still a four, I see. And that ass,' he noted with glee. 'No wonder Miranda is—'
'Nigel,' Andy growled, cutting him off.
'What?' he said in faux-innocence, amusement twinkling in his eyes. 'Well, I must say, the pixie cut was a daring, but effective choice. Look at those cheekbones,' he said, grabbing her chin and tilting her head. 'Why darling, age has been kind to you,' he said before letting her go as Catlin's voice carried out over the microphone.
The room fell silent once more as the EIC of Inception called for a toast, raising her glass over her head. 'To Miranda,' Catlin said.
'To our tempestuous leader, long may she reign,' Nigel echoed.
'To Miranda,' Andy said as they raised their glasses towards Miranda herself, receiving one tilted in return, alongside a questioning and suspicious look. Fortunately for Nigel, Miranda had little time to dwell on the two of them as she thanked everyone before moving out into the gathering to receive praise from her enraptured audience. She would be occupied for a while.
'Congratulations on McQueen,' Andy said, dragging her eyes away and turning back to Nigel.
'I told you she would pay me back,' Nigel said. 'Eventually.'
'Three long, arduous years,' Nigel said, taking a sip from his glass. 'Then she set me up for life.'
'I decided to take the long way round, as you can see,' Andy said, waving her hand at the room.
'Well, given the circumstances it may have been better for all that you didn't stay. Could you imagine the scandal! Oh, if only Emily were here,' he lamented, 'she would be having a fit of apoplexy.'
'You're enjoying this far too much,' Andy hissed under her breath.
'Oh darling, you have no idea,' he said in glee as he moved off to greet Raf Simons from Calvin Klein as Andy was intercepted by Greg Cowles from the Times.
The afternoon continued on in much the same fashion. Nigel and Andy milled about the room, Andy on the receiving end of much praise and many a ‘we must chat soon’ and ‘I’ll have my office contact you.’ Miranda had ensured that everyone knew she was responsible for getting the book to print, apparently.
'You're hot property now, Sachs,' Nigel noted as he pulled her off to the side and handed her a drink. They were lingering in front of a book stand and Andy saw Nigels eyes light up like Christmas had come early as he put down his glass and picked up a copy, flicking through the front section until he found what he was looking for. 'Oh my, she wasn't joking,' Nigel said in awe. ‘Would you mind explaining this?’ he said, his finger landing squarely in the middle of an otherwise blank page.
This book is dedicated to the two independent young women who know me best.
And to the one who demanded I write this dedication in time for publishing.
‘What about it?’ Andy said, doing her best to feign nonchalance.
‘Oh, nothing, just that Miranda dedicated a book. To you.’
‘To her editor. And the twins,’ Andy noted, trying to hide her self-consciousness. She hadn't been privy to it before it went to print, Cat and Miranda having slipped the addition past her.
‘What have you done to La Priestly, Six? What have you done?’ Nigel demanded in faux-shock, his hand placed theatrically over his chest.
Andy was saved from answering that question by the woman in question. Miranda flowed past a group of well-wishers, her eyes locked on her old friend. ‘Nigel,’ Miranda said as she approached, moving in for an air kiss, ‘I thought you weren’t going to make it out before the shows?’ she said, voice laced with suspicion.
‘And miss this illustrious day? Why Miranda, you know I love you. And this book must be so important to you,’ he said, his eyes sliding to Andy. ‘I hear Andrea has done a wonderful job with the…’ he paused, ‘…editing,’ he finished with a smirk as he closed the book in his hand and placed it down on the table behind him as gently as possible. He was many things, but he wasn't stupid enough to mock Miranda about her acknowledgements.
Well, not yet anyway.
Miranda's eyes were narrowing as Caroline came up to them, handing a glass of wine to Miranda before slinging to her arm around Andy's shoulders.
‘Hey Stepmommy,’ she said with a grin, Cassidy barking out a laugh behind her as the colour rushed straight to Andy’s face. ‘She’s so easy,’ Caroline said to Nigel before letting Andy go and pulling him into a bear hug.
Nigel guffawed far too heartily at her expense, and Miranda’s eyes drifted heavenward as she sighed.
Andy moved to stand next to her, watching the twins mob Nigel. She leaned in, their elbows brushing lightly. ‘You look amazing,’ she said under her breath.
‘As do you,’ Miranda said, eyeing her appreciatively. Another gift from Donatella, more for Miranda’s benefit than her own she was sure.
‘Happy?’ Andy asked as she glanced around the room, another successful launch more or less complete.
‘Very,’ Miranda said emphatically, her arm sliding around Andy’s waist.
Andy glanced at her sharply, brow raised in question. They had always been careful in public. Not overly so, but enough to prevent confirmation, despite the rumours that had begun to surface, especially recently. Andy had a suspicion that the advanced copies of the book they had sent out to certain quarters may have had something to do with it.
‘The launch is done. You no longer work for me,’ Miranda noted under her breath.
‘Just like that?’ Andy said, surprised.
‘Yes Andrea, just like that,’ Miranda confirmed gently.
Andy turned to face her fully and smiled broadly.
‘Are they always like this?’ Nigel said to the twins, a faint look of disgust on his face.
‘Yes,’ the twins said in unison with a groan. ‘And the walls aren’t as thick as they seem to think, either,’ Cassidy noted as an entirely unnecessary afterthought.
Nigel grimaced at that. ‘There are some things I simply didn’t need to know,' he whined.
The girls laughed as Andy and Miranda shook their heads in exasperation.
Andy, thankfully, was saved from anymore jests at their expense as Catlin interrupted. ‘I need you,’ she said to Andy, eyeing the arm around her waist with interest.
'Go,' Miranda said warmly, reclaiming her arm.
Andy looked at her before leaning forward and placing a chaste kiss on her cheek. 'Be back soon,' she promised.
Catlin was watching them both closely. 'That would be good publicity,' she muttered under her breath to Andy.
Andy shot her a warning look before turning her attention to Nigel. 'I'll see you later?'
Nigel laughed at that. ‘Oh, somehow I get the feeling it won’t be another twelve years before we see each other again, Six.’ He looked towards Miranda, ‘I have a few things that would be perfect for the Runway party in two weeks.’
Andy groaned, knowing where this was headed.
‘Oh yes, little Andy’ Nigel said, wagging his finger. ‘You wanted this, so you get everything that goes with it.’
Andy looked at Miranda and caught the amusement in her eyes. ‘Not you too,’ she moaned.
‘I didn’t say a word,’ Miranda said, the smirk dancing around her lips saying otherwise.
Catlin rolled her eyes as she glanced between the two of them. ‘Come on,’ she said impatiently, giving her a tug.
As she allowed herself to be pulled away, Andy couldn’t resist the urge to glance back. She met Miranda’s eyes across the room, the other woman watching her retreat even as Nigel whispered something in her ear.
Yes, she wanted this.
And everything that went with it.
As she and Catlin stepped out onto the patio, Andy took a deep breath and stared out over the city.
Everything fit. Her clothes, her apartment, her job and yes, even New York, this time.
Fourteen stories up and she had never felt freer.