The afternoon sun shone dimly into the Mercedes as a misting of rain pattered against the windows. Andy heard Caroline and Cassidy breathing deeply from the backseat, having finally given in to their exhaustion from the day.
In the passenger seat, Miranda had been silent for so long Andy assumed that she, too, had fallen asleep. When she spoke again, Andy jumped in surprise.
“I’ll take my turn after our next rest stop,” came Miranda’s soft voice.
Andy raised her eyebrows, confused. “Your turn?” she asked, “Your turn for what?”
Is Miranda scheduling her next nap or something? she thought to herself, What the hell is she talking about?
“My turn to drive. You’ve driven for nearly five hours today, Andréa. I assumed you would appreciate a break.”
“Um. Okay. Sure. Next rest stop. Thanks.” Andy could feel Miranda’s eyes on her now, but it was more than her life was worth to admit that—
“You truly didn’t think I knew how to drive?” Miranda asked, her voice sounding full of something suspiciously close to amusement.
“I mean… it’s not like I’ve ever seen you do it. Or heard you talk about it,” Or considered the idea for even half a second, Andy quipped internally. “Can you really blame me?”
“Yes. Yes, I can. I’m 51 years old, Andréa. Honestly, what do you think I did before hiring a driver? Walk?” The words were accusatory, but her tone was light. Playful, even.
Andy blinked. Was Miranda teasing her? Had she somehow driven them into an alternate dimension? Sure, Miranda was more relaxed around her than ever these days… but this was different, somehow.
Flirtatious, she thought before she could stop herself.
“Well… yeah. Or take the subway. You know, like the rest of New York,” Imagining La Priestly on public transit was almost enough to make Andy laugh. “But on second thought, I’m not sure why I thought you would do anything like the rest of the world does. That would be too easy, and therefore very un-Miranda-like.”
Miranda laughed—a real, genuine laugh, not the fake one she used for business luncheons or dinner parties— and for a moment Andy thought that it might just be the most beautiful sound she’d ever heard.
Knowing better than to let herself go down that rabbit hole, Andy attempted to distract herself. “What’s so funny?” she asked.
“Oh,” Andy could hear the smile in her voice, “That sounded very much like something that my sister might have said, once.” Seeming to realize that she had just revealed something personal, Miranda stiffened in the seat next to her.
Andy considered briefly whether she should use Miranda’s admission as an opening for the conversation that she had been both eagerly awaiting and dreading. She knew that if they wanted even a prayer of passing whatever test their immigration officer, Eugene Yurman, had in store for them, she was eventually going to have to do the unthinkable: she was going to have to get Miranda to talk about her past.
It’s now or never, she thought, steeling herself.
“I didn’t know that you have a sister, Miranda,” Andy began carefully. Though she knew she was only doing what was necessary, asking Miranda questions about her life before Runway seemed about as good of an idea as cuddling a saber-toothed tiger.
Miranda sniffed, and all of her former playfulness went up in smoke. “Yes. Well. I’m sure there are a great many things you don’t know. I see no reason to make a fuss over this topic in particular.”
Ignoring the jibe, Andy tried a different tactic. “You realize we’ll have to discuss these things eventually, right?”
“We most certainly will not.”
“Yeah, actually, we will.” Andy asserted, “These are exactly the kinds of questions that the investigators are going to be asking. I found a list online. Several lists, actually.”
“Besides,” She continued, “It’s not like you’ll be the only one opening up. I know just about everything there is to know about you.” Feeling like she’d somehow admitted too much, Andy felt a blush creep up her neck. “You, on the other hand, know next to nothing about me.”
“Nonsense. I know that you’re from Ohio, and that you apparently enjoy breathing down my neck with inappropriate inquiries into my personal life,” Miranda bristled. “And you do not know everything there is to know about me, Andréa Sachs. Don’t flatter yourself.”
Andy snorted. “You’re kidding, right? You really think I’ve spent the last three and a half years working for you without picking up on a few things? Try me.”
Not giving Miranda a chance to respond, Andy started in. “Your favorite color is blue. Not just any old blue, though. Azure. And you hate just about every shade of orange there is.” She was on a roll, now. “Your birthday is September 27, 1958. Your favorite food other than steak is spaghetti and meatballs, but you pretend that it’s beef bourguignon because it sounds fancier and has fewer carbs.”
Years of seemingly useless information spilled forth of their own accord, and she scarcely stopped for breath as she continued: “Your middle name is Rose, but your Wikipedia page says that your name was Miriam Ethel Princhek until you were twenty. You’re allergic to cats, and you’re a dog person even though you tell people that you only bought Patricia for the girls.”
Andy paused for a moment, thoughtful. “I’m also pretty sure that you have a tattoo.”
The silence coming from the passenger seat was deafening. Miranda was apparently at a loss for words. Well, there’s a first for everything, Andy supposed.
Her voice gentled. “See? I don’t need much. I know most of what I need to. All I’m asking for is some basic family history, here. I don’t need an autobiography or anything.”
When Andy was greeted with still more silence, she began to wonder if perhaps she’d said too much. After all, Miranda had told her exactly none of this information— all her knowledge came from a healthy mix of late-night internet searches, paying close attention, and caring entirely too much for her own damn good.
Just as she was beginning to consider apologizing for overstepping, however, Miranda spoke.
“Her name was Margaret.” Her voice was so quiet that it was almost a whisper, and Andy resisted the urge to lean closer to hear more clearly.
Miranda paused for a few moments, staring at her hands in her lap as she continued. “She was three years older than me, and we were always quite close. Much closer than I ever was to our younger brother, Jeremiah.”
She stopped, and Andy waited, not wanting to interrupt. But when more information didn’t seem to be forthcoming, she risked asking another question.
“…What about your parents?”
Andy glanced over to see the other woman smoothing down invisible wrinkles in her dress, a distant look upon her face. There was another long pause before she answered the question.
“My father, Jeremiah Sr, was a rabbi.” She sighed deeply.
“My mother’s name was Ethel. She was a stay at home parent.” Miranda turned to look out the window as she continued to speak softly, “She ran a small business from home, doing alterations and repairs for other neighborhood families.”
Miranda hesitated, and Andy stayed quiet, barely daring breathe. Maybe, just maybe, if Miranda could forget that Andy was there, then she would keep talking.
Finally, Miranda continued. “That was how I learned to sew,” she said. “She taught Maggie, so that she could help with business. And when I was young…” Miranda quieted for a moment, tapping her lip in thought, “…perhaps 10, my sister taught me so that I could help, as well.”
Andy couldn’t believe her luck. Miranda Priestly was sitting next to her, telling Andy about her childhood. About her history. How many people could say they’d experienced the same?
Miranda didn’t seem to have anything else to say, but Andy was bursting with questions now. She knew that she should just be grateful for what she was given, but she was filled with a sense of greed for knowledge of the woman sitting next to her. Now that she’d had a taste, she only wanted more.
Andy decided to push her bit of good fortune and ask the question that had been burning in her mind for days now.
“You mentioned, at the Office of Immigration… about your family. You said that you were…” Andy wasn’t sure how to put it.
“Estranged?” the edge returned to her voice.
“Um. Yeah. I mean—yes.” Andy stumbled over her words. Shit, she thought, maybe the saber-toothed tiger would’ve been the better choice, after all.
“I left home at sixteen,” came Miranda’s response. The words came out slowly, as if she measured the weight of each syllable before it passed her lips. “I haven’t spoken to my parents since that day, nor my brother.”
Andy waited for a mention of her sister, but none came.
Is she really gonna make me ask? Andy thought, frustrated. Judging by the silence filling the vehicle, the answer would be yes.
Of course. Leave it to Miranda to make this process as difficult as physically possible.
“And your—what about Maggie? Your sister, I mean. Do you still talk to her?”
“Margaret died when I was fifteen.”
Andy’s eyes widened with shock. “Oh, I’m so—”
“That’s all I wish to say about it,” Miranda said, and there was no arguing with the finality of her tone.
Andy could’ve smacked herself. Of course Miranda didn’t want to hear how sorry Andy was about her dead sister. What good did saying sorry ever do for anyone, in situations like these?
She glanced quickly at Miranda, only to see that she now sat as far away from Andy as was physically possible without jumping out the window. She stared out at the surrounding hills, shoulders stiff.
Well, I guess story time is over, Andy thought, resigned.
Andy clenched the steering wheel tightly, devoting more concentration than was probably necessary on the road ahead in her attempt to avoid looking at the other woman anymore. She didn’t want Miranda to look at her face and see the pity that was surely written there. She knew it would not be welcome.
Andy had been dying to know more about Miranda for ages. Now that she knew, though, she was torn between wanting to know everything, and wishing she knew nothing at all.
She felt that same clench of sympathy in her chest as she had earlier that week, when Miranda let slip to Yurman that the two little girls currently dozing in the backseat made up her entire family. They were some of the very same feelings that ran through Andy so long ago, on that fateful night in Paris. The night she found Miranda crying on a couch in her hotel room, and for the first time was able to see a glimpse of the woman beneath the glamorous, steely mask.
Maybe that’s part of the problem, Andy thought.
More than once, now, Miranda had been forced to let down her carefully cultivated guard around Andy. Maybe, if Andy offered up a bit of herself in return, Miranda would feel less exposed?
Feeling the tension rolling off the woman next to her in waves, Andy figured it was worth a shot. What have I got to lose? she thought, Besides everything, that is.
She cleared her throat, trying to ignore the nervousness bubbling in her belly. “Green,” she said. “My favorite color is green. Like sunlight shining through the leaves on a bright morning. I don’t know the official name for it. I’m sure you would, though.”
As she had expected, she received no response. She carried on, “My birthday is March 2, 1981, and my full name is Andrea Elizabeth Sachs. Veggie pizza is my favorite food. Deep dish used to be my go-to, but I’ve been converted since moving to New York.”
Another quick glance to her right told her that Miranda was still facing away from her, but she at least looked less like she was contemplating ducking and rolling out the door.
“I’m the youngest of three. My brother Ben—the oldest—he’s a middle school teacher. He’s always been a massive goofball, so it’s fitting. I think the girls are gonna get along with him really well.
“Rachel’s in the middle. She can be pretty no-nonsense, but Ben and I have a knack for bringing out her fun side. She and Cameron have two kids: Madison and Jacob. They’re four and one, and the sweetest things ever. You’ll see, though,” she assured Miranda. “No one’s immune to Maddie’s charms.”
She wasn’t sure what else to say. Before she could overthink it, she was relieved to hear Miranda finally speak up next to her.
“And your parents?” she asked, “What of them?” She was looking at Andy intently, now.
Andy shifted in her seat uncomfortably.
“Oh. Right. Well, my dad is Mark. He’s easy-going most of the time. He seems to get along with everyone he meets.” She furrowed her brow, not particularly wanting to talk about her mom.
I’m sure Miranda didn’t want to talk about her mom, either, Andy reasoned. It’s only fair. Besides, it was probably better to prepare her faux-fiancée for the worst.
“My mom is Pam. Pamela, really, but everyone calls her Pam. She’s, uh…” still sore about their conversation from the night before, Andy searched for a way to describe her mother that wasn’t insulting. Overbearing? Controlling? Difficult?
“…not quite so easy-going,” she finished lamely.
“I see,” Miranda said, still watching Andy with rapt attention. Andy squirmed slightly under her gaze. “And what do they have to say about our situation?”
“Our engagement, Andréa.” Miranda said impatiently, “What did they say when you told them?”
Andy froze. She had been putting off having that particular conversation with her parents, seeing as merely mentioning that she and Miranda were ‘together’ had gone so poorly. It didn’t occur to her that Miranda would expect them to already know that they were apparently engaged, as well.
“Yeah… about that—” Andy started.
“Andréa.” Miranda cut her off, soft voice suddenly aghast, “I’m sure you are not about to tell me that we are currently barreling towards the home of two people who have no idea that myself or my children are coming. I’m sure you’re not going to say this, because that would be absolutely the most reckless, idiotic thing I’ve ever heard, and I’ve never taken you for an id—”
“No, no, I didn’t say that!” Andy said quickly. She could feel her voice getting shrill with nerves, and took a steadying breath before continuing.
“They know that you’re coming. They even know that we’re… together.” God, I have to figure out how to stop blushing every time I say that, she thought, embarrassed. “They just don’t know that we’re engaged.”
Miranda, seeming somewhat pacified by the knowledge that she was not about the be the worst Thanksgiving surprise in Sachs family history, pinched the bridge of her nose.
“And when were you planning to tell them, Andréa? At the wedding?”
“I haven’t really decided yet,” she said honestly. “They weren’t exactly thrilled when I told them we were together, and I just sort of chickened out after that.”
Both women froze as they heard movement from the backseat. Having been previously distracted by their discussion, Andy suddenly realized that she hadn’t heard the deep, even breathing of sleep for quite some time. Staring back at her when she checked the rearview mirror were two identical pairs of small, piercing blue eyes.
Miranda turned in her seat to face her now wide-awake children. “I would scold you for eavesdropping, but I suppose we didn’t give you much of a choice.” She grimaced slightly. “I’m sorry we woke you.”
She received no response, both girls staring at her with looks of concern upon their faces.
“Well?” she raised her eyebrows, “You must have questions. Out with them, Bobbseys.”
The twins looked at each other before turning their gazes back toward the front.
“Why aren’t your parents happy, Andy?” Cassidy’s voice sounded considerably smaller than usual. “Do they not like us?”
Andy felt her heart clench in her chest. She hadn’t even considered how her words would sound to eleven-year-old ears.
“Of course they like you, sweetie. They just…” Andy was at a loss for words. They just what? she thought desperately, They’re just convinced that your mom is a bitch, and that I’ve suddenly taken up gold digging as a hobby?
“Are they homophobic?” Caroline asked.
Miranda turned to look at Andy before giving a delicate shrug. “It’s a fair question.”
She sighed. “No, they aren’t homophobic.” That would be too simple, she thought bitterly. “It’s just…” she struggled to find the right words.
“They aren’t especially fond of me,” Miranda said what Andy couldn’t bring herself to. “You know I have a talent for rubbing others the wrong way.” She smiled at her daughters wryly.
“It’s not just that, though.” Andy insisted. She saw no reason to deny the truth, but she was feeling very suddenly defensive of Miranda. “It’s that, for another week, your mom’s still technically my boss. And that she has a lot more money than I do—”
“That’s stupid,” interrupted Caroline. “Lots of people have more money than you do. Are you only supposed to date poor people?”
“Enough,” Miranda warned.
“I’m just saying,” she whined. “That’s a stupid reason not to like us. We can’t help how much money we have.”
Andy tried not to laugh as Miranda held her face in her hands, shoulders slumped. “We are getting off topic,” she said miserably, voice muffled.
“So, they think you’re marrying mom because she’s rich?” Cassidy asked.
“Well, they don’t know I’m marrying her yet.” Andy reminded her, “But… yeah. They might think it’s because of money.”
“That’s not it, though, right?” her voice was tight with anxiety. “You’re not marrying mom because of her money?”
“No,” Andy said firmly. “I’m marrying your mom because…” she bit her lip, not sure how to put it.
“…I’m marrying her because I care about her,” Andy said carefully. “And because I care about you two. Money has nothing to do with it.”
There, she thought. That’s true without being humiliating.
Both twins nodded, seemingly satisfied with her response as they began digging out various forms of technology from their respective travel bags.
She glanced at Miranda and found she was studying her. “That could’ve gone worse,” Andy murmured.
“Worse than hearing you explain to my children that your parents think me some sort of—of…” she struggled to find the right word.
“Sugar mama?” Andy offered, biting back a grin.
Miranda groaned, “Never say those words to me again,” and there was no holding back Andy’s cackle this time.
Apparently following her daughters’ lead, Miranda pulled out her MacBook and portable hotspot, probably to catch up on the small mountain of work that she would be missing in the days to come. Printing was in three days and, as always, staff was scrambling to get every minute detail perfect by the deadline. Andy knew she should probably feel guilty for pulling Miranda away during what was always the busiest week of the month… but she couldn’t quite bring herself to.
Andy smiled as she glanced at the little dragon that she had placed on the dashboard in front of her. It was a small, cheap little thing—probably not even worth the five dollars that Miranda spent on it. That didn’t matter, though. Because that little bundle of sequins and polyester was now one of Andy’s most prized possessions, worthless or not.
She had initially been mortified that Miranda had somehow caught wind of Andy’s embarrassing office nickname. (She still wanted to kill Dani for making it up). But once she realized that, not only did Miranda not mind, but that she liked it? It took all Andy had not to swoon on the spot.
All this time, Andy had been trying desperately not to get her hopes up. After all, this was Miranda-fucking-Priestley, here. Queen of fashion, empress of publishing, goddess extraordinaire. Andy knew she was hardly the first assistant to have a crush on her, and almost certainly not the last.
Miranda doesn’t fall for her twenty-eight-year-old assistants, she continuously reminded herself, Questionable sexuality or no. It had gotten especially difficult this last week, with the blossoming of their fake relationship, but still she kept on.
Now, though… she could feel the beginnings of hope taking root in her chest, blossoming and filling her every crevice with its blooms. Maybe, just maybe, she wasn’t alone in her feelings. Maybe the two of them could make something work. Maybe there was at least a chance.
The hope was a tiny sliver, but for now, it was enough.
Andy glanced over to see Miranda holding her glasses in hand as she stared at the screen, tapping one of its legs against her lower lip. Her eyes were glazed over—and if Andy didn’t know any better, she would think that perhaps Miranda was just as distracted as she was herself.
Andy grinned, turning her eyes back to the road ahead. No, she definitely didn’t feel guilty.
It didn’t take long for Miranda to regret her earlier offer to drive.
The light sprinkling from earlier had quickly turned into great thick sheets of rain smacking against the windshield, making it even harder to see than it would have been already on such a black evening. To make matters worse, they had managed to get caught in standstill traffic near some insignificant town outside of Columbus. Miranda had sat clutching the wheel, shoulders remaining un-hunched only through sheer force of will.
Despite how she made it sound to Andréa, the assumption that Miranda couldn’t drive was a perfectly sound one. She hadn’t even attempted since before the girls were born, and while she hadn’t forgotten how… the knowledge wasn’t exactly fresh.
But she wanted to allow Andréa a chance to rest, and Miranda would be damned if she admitted to the uneasiness she felt behind the wheel. Andréa had seen her vulnerable enough already on this little drive without Miranda waxing poetic about her ineptitudes.
She was still slightly stunned at the direction their earlier conversation had taken, and Miranda did not stun easily. She hadn’t meant to make mention of her sister—she hadn’t spoken of her family to anyone since moving to the United States, save a therapist or two.
Oh, she had given her daughters’ the basics, of course. Their curiosity had always been insatiable, and she generally managed to sate them with as few details as possible. They hardly knew any more than Andréa now did. For that was a part of her life that she preferred to keep very firmly in the past, a part she guarded fiercely, and yet with Andréa… the words fell out almost as if by accident.
While Cassidy had been content to sit and read quietly during the final hours of their drive, Caroline had quickly begun to grow restless. After her fourth time of asking, with increasing whininess, “How far away are we now?” Andréa had opted to switch seats with Cassidy, pulling out a pack of Uno cards that she had apparently been hiding for just a moment such as this. A hush fell over the vehicle as the two played determinedly against one another, only to be broken by the occasional groan of defeat (and subsequent triumphant laughter).
One by one, her fellow passengers gave in to the drowsiness of the day as they slowly escaped the traffic and Miranda drove on through the night.
And so, upon entering the Sachs’ neighborhood at nearly 11:00 pm, Miranda was the only wakeful party. Cassidy was curled up around her book, head laid down on the armrest between them as she snored softly. Miranda ran her fingers through her daughter’s hair as she looked into the rearview mirror to see Caroline sleeping upon the shoulder of Andréa, who rested with her head pressed up against the window.
Miranda did her best to take a mental snapshot of the scene before her. At that moment, everything felt so peaceful and so right. She had a feeling that she would need to hold on to this memory in the madness of the days to come.
Finally, the GPS chirped in confirmation of their arrival. Catching her first glimpse of the home she’d be trapped in for the latter part of the next week, Miranda was surprised at what she saw. While she hadn’t expected Andréa’s family to be poor, exactly… she certainly hadn’t been expecting this.
At three stories tall, the house wasn’t quite as large as her own. However, it was easily the biggest in the neighborhood—which was certainly saying something, in their case. With lights strewn up all around, the Sachs’ home glowed warmly, lighting the way as Miranda pulled into the drive.
Peering once again in the rearview she saw Andréa had been jostled awake by the bumping of their entrance. Sleep-heavy eyes twinkled in the light as her face broke into a grin upon the sight of her childhood home. Charmed by the sight, Miranda returned the smile automatically, hoping that it didn’t resemble a grimace. While their arrival no doubt filled Andréa with nostalgia, it filled Miranda with only apprehensiveness.
There’s no going back now, she thought. As if there ever was in the first place.
She listened as Andréa attempted to gently wake Caroline, and took up the considerably simpler task of rousing her other daughter in the meantime.
“Wake up, darling.” She rubbed gentle circles on Cassidy’s back, “We’ve finally arrived.”
Blonde eyelashes fluttered, and Cassidy eyed her blearily. “Oh. You’re sure?”
Miranda nodded. “Quite.”
“C’mon, Caroline,” came Andréa’s voice, sharper than before. “You know I’m not strong enough to carry you.”
“I’ve got it,” Cassidy sighed, turning around and stretching towards her sister before shoving her shoulder roughly. “Get up,” she shouted, “We’re here.”
“Huh?” came Caroline’s sleepy response.
In lieu of a reply, Cassidy continued to shake Caroline until finally she raised her head from Andréa’s shoulder.
“Ugh, stop it,” she groaned. “Okay, I’m up. Jesus.”
“Language,” Miranda scolded her, but there was little force behind it. She was rather tired, herself.
Collecting their few belongings—for the majority of their luggage would stay in the car for camping the following day—the four of them trudged toward the front door with Andréa leading the way. Before Miranda even had time to contemplate whether it was appropriate to knock, the door swung open to reveal a man with short gray hair, glasses, and a smile that Miranda recognized immediately from a certain leggy brunette.
“Dandy!” he exclaimed before wrapping Andréa in his embrace. Andréa rested her head on her father’s chest, eyes closed as he squeezed her tight. “We’ve missed you so much.”
“We have,” came a woman’s voice from behind him, “It’s been too long.”
The speaker stepped into the light of the porch, and Miranda was able to see the person whom she had been looking forward to meeting least. Long brown hair framed a face that was handsome, if plain. Shawled in a hideous flannel robe, she stood tall with arms crossed, a tight smile upon her face as she watched the scene before her unfold.
Andréa extricated herself from her father’s arms to view the speaker, her usually radiant smile having dimmed considerably.
“Hey, mom.” Her voice could barely be heard above the wind blowing around them.
Andréa took a tentative step toward her mother, who quickly closed the space between them as she pulled her daughter into a hug. Shoulders stiff, Andréa gave her mother a small squeeze.
“Why don’t we talk more inside?” said Andréa’s father after the two of them pulled apart. “Come in, come in. It’s too cold to stand outside.” He rubbed his arms for effect.
Miranda chose not to comment on the fact that it would be just as cold tomorrow, when they would be spending two entire days in the elements. Instead she simply pursed her lips and followed him in.
Quiet bustling ensued as they entered the foyer, where jackets were hung, and shoes removed before the inevitable introductions began.
“Well I’m Mark, and this right here is Pam.” He put a hand on his wife’s shoulder before nodding in Miranda’s direction. “And you must be Miranda. We’re so happy to finally meet you.”
I very seriously doubt that, she mused.
There was a beat of discomfort as Mark obviously debated whether to hug her, going so far as to open his arms before Miranda took charge of the situation. Putting on her most convincing smile, she stepped forward to give him an air kiss to each cheek. “Delighted, I’m sure.”
She did the same to Pamela before turning towards the girls, indicating to each in turn. “These are my daughters, Caroline and Cassidy.”
Wide-eyed, Mark and Pamela smiled when two very sleepy ‘Nice to meet you’s were directed their way. Cassidy yawned hugely.
“I’d ask about the drive, but Andy told us about the traffic up north. Bad luck,” he tutted before yawning, himself. “We can give you the grand tour in the morning, but for now why don’t we worry about showing you where you’ll be sleeping while you’re here?”
Walking past a formal dining room and up the staircase, they were led to what could only be the family room. Filled with overstuffed furniture that went out of date more than a decade ago, a coffee table that had seen better days, and a big screen television massive enough to be somewhat overwhelming, it was apparent that the space had been designed with comfort in mind rather than style.
“Over this way will be your room,” Pamela said as she led them through the space and to the right. The door creaked open quietly, and she turned on the light to reveal a master bedroom whose décor choices were somehow even more offensive than the room they just exited.
Miranda wrinkled her nose. The theme of this room could only be grapes, with every available surface coated in various shades of deep purple. Photos of vineyards were strung up along the walls, each one tackier than the last.
“The girls will be two doors down, in Andy’s old room. We figured you two wouldn’t mind sharing with Maddie?” she looked at Caroline and Cassidy in question. The two nodded, eyes alight with excitement despite their drowsiness.
Arms crossed, Miranda rolled her tongue over her teeth, still appraising the new space. “Very well. And where will Andréa’s room be?”
“Oh, we’re not under any illusions that you two don’t sleep in the same bed back in New York.” Mark gave an awkward little laugh, hands shoved in his pockets as he bounced on the balls of his feet. “She’ll stay in here with you.”
Miranda felt her eyebrows raise before she could school her expression. This was most definitely not what she had planned for. She looked over to see Andréa suddenly fascinated by the plum patterns of the area rug beneath their feet, chewing on a thumbnail as color rose up her neck. At least Miranda wasn’t the only one caught off guard, then.
Realizing that a response was expected, finally she choked out a reply. “…ah. Yes. Of course.”
Pamela studied the two of them, eyes narrowed in suspicion. Any comments on their strange behavior were interrupted by Mark, however. “What do you say we go see your room now, girls?” he asked brightly, apparently either oblivious to the tension or choosing to ignore it entirely.
Miranda moved to follow them but was stopped short when Cassidy grabbed Andréa’s hand. “Andy can show us her old room. Right Andy?”
Andréa nodded quickly. “Yeah, I’d love to.”
“Very well. Good night, Bobbseys.” She gave each of her daughters a quick kiss to the forehead before watching them go.
And just like that, Miranda was alone for the first time since the early morning. With a bed that she was expected to share. With Andréa. She felt a pleasant warmth pool in her belly at the very idea.
Closing her eyes, Miranda shook her head at herself for so much as entertaining the thought.
Oh no, she thought darkly. This won’t do. Not at all.
Miranda refused to give in to flights of fancy, no matter how tempting. This was a business deal—nothing more. There was no reason to make their situation more complicated than it already was by adding fantasies into the mix.
…more than there already were, anyway.
Immediately she went into action. She took the multitude of pillows off the mattress and arranged them neatly on the floor at the foot of the bed. Once the little nest was cushioned and adequately Andréa-sized, Miranda tossed the comforter on top before stepping back to examine her work. Good enough.
By the time she heard Andréa return, Miranda had already begun unpacking some essentials from her suitcase. At first Andréa said nothing, and Miranda thought that perhaps they would be able to avoid the uncomfortable conversation entirely.
“What’s this?” Andréa asked, voice playful. “Don’t tell me: you brought your Sferra pillows?”
No such luck, she thought.
Miranda didn’t look up as she answered flatly, “I assumed that you’d appreciate some sort of barrier between yourself and the floor.”
There was a beat of silence as her words sunk in. “Excuse me?”
Miranda rolled her eyes, turning to meet the other woman’s gaze. “You didn’t honestly think we were going to sleep together? I’m only willing to go so far for this little charade, Andréa.”
Andréa raised her eyebrows, and Miranda cursed her fair complexion as she felt herself begin to blush at her own apparent Freudian slip.
“Your little charade, you mean,” Andréa shot back. “In case you’ve forgotten, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you and your pretty little threats.”
“Is that so?” Miranda said, voice syrupy sweet, “I don’t seem to recall demanding we spend an entire week romping around the hellscape that is the Midwest, dear.”
Face screwed up in anger, Andréa stomped across the room and began digging through her own bag, throwing clothes on the floor in her haste to reach whatever it was she was seeking.
“No one’s forcing you to be here, Miranda,” she spat over her shoulder as she searched. “No one’s making you marry me. The only person who doesn’t have a choice here is me.” Finding what she was looking for, she took it in hand as she stormed to the ensuite.
“If you hate it so much here, then leave. But I’ll tell you one thing, sweetheart,” Andréa sneered at the term of endearment as she stood in the doorway, “I am not sleeping on the floor in my own damn house.” The bathroom door slammed shut with such force that one of the gaudier picture frames, filled with photos of decoratively arranged wine bottles, fell to the floor and shattered.
Miranda dropped down onto the bed, resisting the urge to groan in her frustration. What the hell was that? she thought miserably.
Hearing the shower turn on, Miranda decided it was safe to change clothes. Folding her dress before sliding into silk pajamas, Miranda couldn’t stop her mind from racing.
Perhaps she had overreacted. It would hardly be the first time, especially where Andréa was concerned. Something about the girl tended to cause Miranda to loosen her grip on her usually ironclad control.
Miranda carefully picked up the mess of broken glass off the floor before remaking the bed, being sure to turn down the comforter on Andréa’s side before sitting on the far edge of the mattress. She pulled out her laptop, hoping to begin wading through the mess that had become her email before bed.
The icon that read ‘Inbox (127)’ glared at her in silent judgment, and Miranda glared right back. It was a look so cutting that it might have sent even the bravest human adversary sprinting in fear—it had no such effect on her computer, however.
Miranda sighed as she put on her glasses. Sitting with legs criss-crossed in front of her, she rested her face in the palm of her hand and began scrolling. She had checked her email all of one time the entire day. If this was the result of less than twenty-four hours of negligence… she shuddered to imagine what would come of the next week.
She tapped her lip absentmindedly while skimming through the emails that seemed most pertinent. Before long, though, her mind began to wander. She could scarce finish a paragraph without thinking of her spat with Andréa, without replaying every word that was said. She sighed, pushing the laptop away in her frustration.
This was exactly the kind of distraction that she couldn’t afford—the kind of distraction she had been so scrupulously avoiding for some twenty years now. Something had to be done. She had let down entirely too many of her defenses. Brick by brick, Andréa slowly tore down Miranda’s walls without even realizing it. And Miranda let her.
The solution to her problem was simple. She’d done it dozens of times by now. She would keep her distance from Andréa. Reconstruct the wall between them, bigger and stronger than before. Only then would she be able to focus on the things that truly mattered: her girls and Runway.
Only then would she be safe.
For now, she took care of the most pressing problem first. Prioritizing was what she did best, after all. Pulling out her phone, she dialed her second assistant.
Danielle answered after only one ring. “Good evening, Miranda.”
“You’re to keep up with my email this week in my absence,” she said without preamble. “I expect updates on anything important.”
“Of course, Miranda. Is there anything else I can—”
Miranda ended the call, ready to pack her MacBook away when the bathroom door opened. Shrouded by steam, Andréa poked her head out the door. Wet hair hung loose about her shoulders, beads of water dripping down the creamy length of her neck.
“Um… hey.” Shoulders hunched, she looked almost painfully uncomfortable.
“Hello,” Miranda licked her lips. “Is something wrong?”
“No, it’s just…” her eyes searched the room, “I kind of forgot to grab a towel.”
“You forgot to…?” Miranda blinked as Andréa’s words set in. “Oh.” Without her permission, Miranda’s eyes traveled further down, only to see that everything below Andréa’s shoulders remained hidden behind the door. She ignored an unwelcome pang of disappointment.
“Could you—I mean—would you mind grabbing me one?” she nodded toward a wardrobe across the room. “They should be in the top drawer.”
Not trusting herself to speak, Miranda nodded jerkily before beginning her search. As quickly as she could, Miranda picked a towel out of what ended up being the very bottom drawer. She averted her eyes as she handed it to Andréa, who hastily snatched it from her hands before closing the door.
Miranda was halfway back to the bed when she heard creak of the bathroom door opening once more. She turned to see that Andréa had poked her head out. Miranda raised an eyebrow in question.
“…thanks,” she said, before shutting the door again.
Sitting on the bed, Miranda returned to her computer for no reason other than the appearance of busy-ness. There she sat, blind to the screen in front of her—instead, she mulled over what to say once Andréa returned.
Her efforts were wasted, however. For as soon as the other woman left the restroom—wet hair pulled back in a plait, wearing only a navy-blue camisole and men’s boxer shorts, Miranda’s mind went blank.
Andréa flopped onto the bed with a great heaving sigh. “I can’t keep doing this, Miranda.”
Miranda tore her eyes away, focusing instead on the horrific polyester blend of the comforter beneath them. “Can’t keep doing what, exactly?” she tried to make her tone sound lighter than she felt.
“This...” Andréa gestured between them. “…whatever this is. I can’t keep doing this hot and cold, Miranda. One minute we’re getting along—hell, you’re even sweet to me. And then the next… it’s like you make up for it by being as cruel as possible.”
Andréa paused, voice thick. “Hate me or don’t, but I can’t keep going back and forth this way. It’s giving me whiplash.”
Miranda opened her mouth, only to close it again. Her mind, so recently rendered blank, now flooded with thoughts. Overwhelmed, she said the one thing that seemed most important.
“I don’t hate you,” she breathed.
“Gee, thanks. I’ll be sure to put that on my resume. ‘Andy Sachs: A first assistant that Miranda Priestly didn’t hate’.” Her voice cracked, and Miranda turned to see her eyes sparkling with unshed tears.
Miranda’s felt her heart clench painfully. “Is that truly what you think? That you’re just another assistant?”
Andréa shrugged, refusing to meet her eyes.
“I care for you a great deal, Andréa.” So much for keeping a distance.
Andréa’s head turned slowly to face Miranda, blinking in surprise. She pawed at her eyes, wiping away the tears before they could fall. “You… care for me.” She nodded to herself, digesting the words.
“I apologize for not making it more apparent.”
“Wow. You care for me and you apologize. Okay.” Eyes still wet, the tears that Andréa hadn’t quite managed to remove still clung to her lashes. Miranda clasped her hands in her lap, the urge to wipe them away herself near overwhelming.
“Is it really so surprising?” she asked.
“Which part?” Andréa said with a forced lightness, “I guess it’s not a huge surprise that you care about me. But when’s the last time anyone could honestly say they’d gotten an apology from Miranda Priestly?” she gave a small, somewhat wobbly grin.
It seems I do a great many surprising things when I’m around you, Miranda thought.
“Don’t get used to it,” she retorted instead.
Andréa snorted, propping herself up on an elbow. Looking beyond Miranda, she winced at what she saw. Following her gaze, Miranda spotted the small trashcan now filled with the broken remnants of the shattered picture frame.
“Sorry about that,” she said, picking at the comforter. “You didn’t have to pick up after my temper tantrum.”
Miranda waved the apology away. It was quiet, then—and for the first time she could remember, the silence between them was awkward, made dense with words unsaid.
“I will attempt to be more… consistent,” Miranda said finally.
Andréa nodded seriously. “Thank you.”
Later, settling in as close to the edge of the queen-sized mattress as possible, Miranda marveled at how little remorse she felt for breaking a personal vow in such record-breaking time.
Still ruminating on their conversation—and also very aware of Andréa resting barely an arm’s length away—it took what felt like ages for Miranda to fall asleep. Once she did, though, she didn’t awaken even once until morning’s first light.