Andy was polishing a glass when she saw the woman walk in the room. She did not move, although she experienced a vaguely out-of-body sensation as her mouth dropped open.
Looking back, Andy couldn’t blame herself. The woman was… more than beautiful. She had silver hair, a lock of which curled with a natural elegance over one eye. Porcelain skin. Bearing like a queen. And she was wearing the goddamned sexiest pinstripe suit Andy had ever seen on anyone, ever.
Before she could convince her legs to transport herself to stand in front of said goddess, her archenemy Chad was there, with his stupid grin and blond hair and nice ass. He poured on every bit of charm he could, leaning on the bar as he offered Andy’s instant crush a glass of whatever she fancied. But what was really weird was that the woman lifted her eyes, focused on Chad, and found him wanting. She actually said, with absolutely no hesitation whatsoever, “Go away.”
Chad laughed, like it was a joke. Andy widened her eyes.
When the woman’s eyebrow rose, Chad actually stepped back in what might be fear. “Uh, don’t you want something to drink? This is, you know, a bar.”
At that moment, Andy noticed the woman had eyes like the pale blue marble she’d kept on her nightstand when she was a girl. Andy used to stare at that marble and think of the ocean, of the earth spinning on its axis, of the sky above her on a clear summer day. This woman’s eyes made Andy feel a little light-headed, like if she tripped and stumbled she’d dissolve into a puddle when she hit the floor.
A second later, Chad stood in front of her, motioning with his head. “Huh?” Andy asked.
“That bitch wants to talk to you.”
Andy blinked. “What?”
“She said she wanted ‘the sommelier she’d heard about from Francine. The woman.’ Jesus, Andy, you’re standing right here, didn’t you hear a word she said?” Andy took a breath as Chad’s lip curled in a sneer. “You can have her. I don’t want to deal with some rich snob who’ll probably stiff me on the tip.” He bumped Andy’s shoulder as he headed for the kitchen.
The bar was mostly empty, since most of the action at this time of night was in the restaurant. Usually the busiest time for her was around five, as Wall Street emptied out after the closing bell. Following the dinner rush there was a lull, until the folks who couldn’t get a table decided to dine in the lounge. Andy was often peppered with unsurprising questions from most of the customers: “I’m looking for a good red, can you recommend one?” or “what’s your favorite rosé?” and “what’s the strongest IPA you’ve got?” etcetera. But looking at this woman, Andy hoped she could put her wine education to use. Her advanced certificate was years away, but she’d been a certified sommelier for more than 12 months now. When the restaurant’s main wine stewards were busy, she got to visit the overflow of tables to discuss options. That was not very often, so usually she just stood behind the bar and made whatever drinks the customers asked for. She yearned to work the front of the house where there was more of a likelihood that patrons wanted a sommelier. That was probably a year off, or more, but she could wait.
Andy slowly approached as the woman’s eyes appraised her, head to toe. Andy’s shirt was crisp and white beneath her black vest, and her trousers still had the sharp line from the dry cleaner, thank you very much. Finally, she got the guts up to speak. “How may I help?”
When the woman blinked, there was something in her expression that seemed surprised. “You are very young,” she stated.
Andy frowned. She didn’t have a stock response to the words. This was a first. “Sorry,” she finally replied, unsure why she should apologize over something unrelated to her job.
“Francine said you served her the best glass of wine she’s had in some time. I hope I’m not disappointed,” the woman said.
Andy narrowed her eyes, thinking back. She didn’t know a Francine, but last week, she’d had a customer who seemed like she fit this woman’s echelon; wealthy, sophisticated, and very fashionable. Andy had noticed her right away and they’d had a pleasant conversation. She also got a very nice tip for two glasses of wine; 10 bucks on a 28 dollar check. Andy always remembered the good tippers. She also remembered when she served someone her favorite glass of pinot from the year before; it was oaky and full-bodied with a healthy kick. “You like a good red?” Andy asked.
“As long as it’s dry.”
Andy nodded and pulled a decanter from the wine fridge; it had been cooling for about 15 minutes. She had never been so glad to have prepped this bottle in the off chance that someone might ask for a recommendation.
Now, she poured just enough for a sampling in case this one was a total fail. She set the glass down. Andy resisted the impulse to lean forward and smell this lovely woman’s perfume. Instead, she watched very, very closely as the woman lifted the glass with a delicate grip. Her hands were small, the nails manicured with clear polish and clipped short. The lack of color surprised Andy, whose own bright blue polish seemed garish in the face of such understated refinement.
The woman’s lips parted in anticipation. The world slowed down as Andy observed the first sip. A moment later, there was a second sip, and finally a third that was a proper mouthful. Andy found herself holding her breath.
There was a tiny nod. Andy tried to hide her sense of accomplishment. Carefully she poured, measuring with her eye but adding an extra ounce for luck. She replaced the decanter and stepped back, averting her gaze and allowing this woman to enjoy her wine in silence.
A few minutes later she took an order from a table for some apps and a couple of whisky sours. She nipped into the kitchen and called out her order, asking for an extra dish that was off menu but would suit her purposes. She’d be out ten bucks from her own pocket, but it would be worth it.
A few minutes later, Andy was thrilled that the woman was still there, possibly looking a hair more relaxed than she had been upon arrival. Andy moved close and slipped a plate in front of her. Those ice blue eyes rose to meet Andy’s. Her mouth opened to undoubtedly say she hadn’t ordered anything, but Andy just said, “It goes well with the pinot. You don’t have to if you’re not hungry. Just thought you might like it. No charge.” Andy grinned and moved away, since the woman was staring at her.
Andy went back to work since the tables were starting to fill. She kept her eye on the woman, pleased when she nibbled at the plate of strawberries and warm brie stacked on thinly sliced focaccia. A drizzle of balsamic drew the flavors together. A few minutes later, the level in the wine glass had dropped, so Andy nearly sprinted behind the bar. She didn’t speak, since the woman didn’t look at her, but the plate was almost empty. Andy couldn’t tell if she was happy or miserable; she sighed, seeming lost in thought.
Chad jostled Andy, disturbing the woman’s reverie, and Andy’s perusal too. He reached past her for the Tito’s and a copper mug, huffing in irritation. Andy rolled her eyes and caught the woman’s eye then; she smirked in response. Andy pressed her lips together, and for a single moment, she felt a startling connection. She ignored Chad and stepped forward.
The woman shook her head. Andy turned around and moved to the computer, ringing up a single glass of wine and printing out the bill. She folded it in half and dropped it into a glass, but by the time she turned around, the woman was holding out a black card. Andy nodded and ran the card, catching a quick glimpse of the name: M PRIESTLY.
Andy shivered just the tiniest bit. That name suited her. She wondered what the M stood for.
She handed the card and the receipt back to M PRIESTLY, and smiled. “Hope to see you again,” Andy said, then frowned at her forwardness. Stop talking before you make a bigger ass of yourself. “I mean, have a good night.” She cringed and shook her head before a guy across the room raised a hand in search of some service. M PRIESTLY was signing, so Andy slipped away and raced across the floor.
A few minutes later, Andy returned to the bar and grabbed the receipt. Inside, there was an indecipherable signature, and perfectly fine tip--20%--but nothing else. Andy told herself she wasn’t disappointed, because she hadn’t served the woman for a tip. She supposed anything less than finding a business card with a phone number and the words “TEXT ME LET’S HANG” would have disappointed her.
It was easy enough to allow herself to be distracted as she went back to work.
Three nights later, the hum from the restaurant was gentler than usual. It was snowing, and for a Thursday, the bar was dead. The theatre crowd had been pretty subdued, with most of the locals probably heading home after curtain and the tourists returning to their hotels to stay out of the freezing weather. Andy cleaned her glasses anyway, holding each one to the light to make sure there were no fingerprints or dust or fibers left behind. When she reached the last one, she realized there was someone sitting to her right.
M PRIESTLY was back. It was almost 11:30 p.m. Weirdly, there was a giant binder in front of her at the bar, open to a bunch of pictures that looked like they were out of a fashion magazine. Andy smiled, but she felt her brows draw together in curiosity. “Hi.”
The woman looked over at her, eyeballing Andy’s ensemble as she had the last time. Andy found herself standing a bit straighter, as though she’d been pulled taut by a puppeteer. Her white shirt was typically pristine, vest buttoned, trousers pressed within an inch of their lives. They’d barely wrinkled, since even with the slow night, she hadn’t sat down very much.
“Well?” the woman asked.
Andy chuckled. “What can I get you?”
The woman raised her hands as if she were shooing away flies. “Surprise me.”
Andy’s eyes became very wide. Shit. All Andy knew about her taste was that she was incredibly hot, liked pinot, strawberries and brie, and was into fashion. Shit.
She turned to the fridge and narrowed her eyes. Stick with a dry red, good for a cold night. Hmm. Andy snatched her favorite Barolo and presented it with a glass. She poured enough for a taste, and when she met those blue eyes, there was a challenge in them. So Andy bit her lip to hide her smile and poured a full glass.
She stepped back. M PRIESTLY sipped those same three sips as she had the other evening, and looked satisfied. Andy wanted to cheer. Instead, she returned the bottle to the fridge and disappeared into the kitchen.
A few minutes later, she dropped a wooden cutting board next to the giant binder without a word. A little charcuterie, a handful of Marcona almonds, and a few olives were a nice enough snack without being too pretentious. She did not stop to watch the reaction.
She tried to busy herself without being invasive or annoying, hovering at the other end of the bar. Killing time at the end of a quiet night was somewhat dull. She’d already bussed the handful of four-tops to save Kevin the work. He had enough to do out in the restaurant; he didn’t need to pick up after her tonight.
Andy couldn’t help allowing herself to glance at M PRIESTLY once every few minutes. And if it was more often than that, she wouldn’t tell anyone. Unfortunately, the woman was very observant, so much so that she appeared to have preternaturally perfect peripheral vision. “Just come over here, for pity’s sake.” Andy felt a thrill and didn’t hear the rest of the murmured words.
“Is there something else you need?” Andy asked, eager to please as ever.
The woman watched her as she finished the last of the almonds. “Are you trying to get into runway?”
Andy blinked. That sounded like a sentence consisting of words that she understood, in general, but they didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Was there some sort of weird fad about runways going on that she wasn’t aware of? “Pardon me?”
An elegant eyebrow arched, and again Andy felt the gaze down her body as though it were a physical touch. Her head tilted, M PRIESTLY’s eyes narrowed as they found her face. “You don’t seem the type.”
Andy’s nose crinkled. “What type?”
Finally, Andy caved. “What runway are you talking about?”
“I know you were staring at the book. Of course I can’t guess your fashion sense; you’re always wearing the same drab ensemble. Not your fault, but they could at least tailor the vest to suit your shape. You have to wear a size too large to accommodate your bust, yes?”
Andy felt exposed; it was true, which means that M PRIESTLY had looked at her chest. This was so weird. “I’m really sorry, but what?”
With that, the woman shut the big binder and turned it toward Andy. “Don’t act like you didn’t know,” she said sharply.
The front of the binder looked like a magazine cover, which read RUNWAY. Oh. She ran over the one-sided conversation she’d just had, and when she understood exactly what this woman had asked, she laughed. Then she laughed a little harder. “Sorry, sorry. I’m just--you wanted to know if I wanted to get into a fashion magazine?” She laughed again, in the face of M PRIESTLY’s stony gaze. “No. I am -- I mean, obviously! I’m so not pretty enough, or skinny -- I mean, wow. That’s I guess -- nice? Or something. But I’m--” she swallowed back her mirth, sensing that her response was somehow insulting. “I know wine. And food. I’m interested in those things. And I wasn’t staring at the book, by the way. Whatever the book is.”
The woman watched her steadily. She was still, as if frozen in place.
Could Andy say the words? Yes, she could. “I was staring at you.”
The beautiful face did not move a single muscle. Not even a twitch. “You know who I am, then?”
Andy nodded. “M PRIESTLY. I remember, from your card.”
The woman blinked. “Wha--my card?”
“Yeah, your credit card, the other night. That’s what it said. That’s your name, right?”
Her head bobbed once. She seemed pole-axed.
“What’s the M stand for?”
There was a very long pause. The woman swallowed and said, softly, “Miranda.”
Andy melted a little. “Miranda,” she said, tasting it. “That’s a wonderful name. It suits you.”
The blue eyes that had haunted Andy’s thoughts for the past three days warmed. “Thank you.”
Miranda. Miranda Priestly, Andy thought to herself. She felt her cheeks heat up.
“I don’t want to bother you more than I already have--can I get you another glass?”
Miranda looked at what was left of the Barolo, then glanced at her watch. She shook her head. “I have to go back to the office.”
“Geez. It’s nearly midnight. Sorry to hear it.”
“No more than I am to say it. I’ll just take the bill.”
Andy turned to the computer, ringing up the Barolo. Miranda handed the black card over again and Andy charged it. She returned the receipt in a brown leather folder and sighed. “Come back soon, okay?”
“Mm,” Miranda replied. Andy left her alone with the bill.
She went to the kitchen, just so she wouldn’t be busted for staring again. When she returned, she found the signed receipt with the expected 20% tip, but there was a twenty dollar bill tucked behind it.
But there was no business card. Andy rested her chin in her hand, wondering how Miranda Priestly was able to walk around out in the snow wearing four inch heels.
After that, Andy saw Miranda Priestly at least three times a week, sometimes early, sometimes late in the evening. Often Miranda just sat at the bar and stared at the wall as if in meditation. Other times, she brought “the book” and wrote all over the inside of it, her scrawl spiky and blood red. Occasionally, she asked Andy questions about the B.A. she’d earned in sociology from Northwestern, or why she’d ultimately veered away from the field in favor of wine and food. She was particularly curious about Andy’s certifications from the International Culinary Center, as well as her desire to move on to the advanced level.
On quieter nights, Miranda talked about her two daughters, both outrageously talented (naturally) in everything from sports, to music, to dance. Their extracurricular activities kept them so busy that Andy eventually realized when Miranda appeared early in the evenings, it was because her girls were out themselves.
Andy did not ask Miranda many questions, though. She sensed somehow that they would not be well received. That said, Andy looked Miranda up on the internet almost as soon as she learned her name and her position at “Runway.” She felt like the biggest idiot in the universe to have not realized who she was. Andy had learned that she’d been editor-in-chief of the magazine for 14 years, that she’d been divorced twice, and that newspapers called her awful names. She also learned that Miranda was considered a total bitch in the workplace, which really irritated Andy. She could tell right away that Miranda was a hard-working, dedicated, passionate professional who strived for excellence. Just because she wanted everyone around her to be the best didn’t make her a bitch. No man would be held to the same standard as a woman in her position.
Mostly Andy was happy to enjoy a small respite of calm on the nights Miranda visited the bar. She served Miranda magnificent wines from all over the world, sometimes preparing a flight and pairings in anticipation. Those were her favorite evenings. Then as she cleared up after Miranda’s departure, she decided she really needed to get herself a girlfriend. Serving someone food and drink (even if Andy paid for it now and then) as part of her job was not romance.
But still, at the end of the night, when Andy went home to her empty apartment, it felt like she’d been on a date. In the mirror, her eyes were bright and her skin glowed with pleasure. She felt special, even to have shared a few minutes with someone as exceptional as Miranda Priestly.
After a couple of months, the winter weather finally faded into spring. Along with warmer evenings came visits from Miranda wearing lighter colors, more skirts than trousers. Her perfume smelled like tropical flowers. Andy actually gasped the time Miranda breezed into the bar wearing a filmy white buttoned blouse with a clearly meant-to-be-seen dark lacy bra beneath it. Andy turned away and shut her mouth, determined to not make a bigger ass of herself than she already had. That night she served Miranda an incredibly delicious Pinot Gris alongside an escarole, white bean, and gruyere salad. Miranda ate every bite with her eyes closed, as if in prayer. If Miranda noticed she was being observed, Andy couldn’t tell.
One Friday afternoon when Andy arrived for work, her boss handed her a white box tied with a pale blue ribbon. “Aw, Jack, I didn’t know you cared!”
“Ha ha. Some girl dropped it off today. She was in a hurry. I didn’t get her name.” He paused and stared at the box. “It’s not a bomb, is it?”
Andy grinned. “I hope not.”
When she turned to leave, Jack called out. “You’re not gonna open it?”
“Yeah, I’m gonna open it. But not in front of you,” she said with a cheeky grin.
“Then if it’s a bomb, you’re going down alone,” he added.
“Guess it’s your lucky day.” She disappeared behind the break room door and opened her small locker, placing her keys and purse inside it. Since the room was empty, she sat on the bench and frowned at the box. Carefully she untied the ribbon and lifted the top. In it was a black vest, pressed white shirt, and black trousers. It looked like her regular uniform, which was...odd, to say the least. But when she lifted the vest, she realized it was beautifully made, cut differently than the one she wore. The same went for the white blouse and the trousers. Quickly she locked the door and stripped, only to realize that the entire ensemble fit like a glove. Every piece had been tailored to her exact measurements.
Andy smiled, gazing at herself in the cloudy full length mirror on the far wall. She looked good. Really good. The vest clung to her waist, curving up around her breasts as if it had been made for her. Which it had been, of course. She went back to the box and rifled through the tissue paper left behind. Miranda hadn’t included a card, but that didn’t matter.
Maybe it turned out that Andy was dating someone after all.
That night, Andy waited a long time for Miranda to arrive, but by midnight, she was pretty bummed. Miranda had never arrived later than 11:30; even though the bar shut at two a.m., Andy was pretty sure it wasn’t going to happen. She wished she’d kept the new things for another day, since she’d have to have them all cleaned before she could wear them again.
But right around one, with the bar nearly full and Andy being run ragged, Miranda appeared. Her silver-white hair immediately drew Andy’s attention, and her heart leapt in her chest. Andy could tell right away that Miranda was irritated by the crowd, but she was here, so Andy was happy. She went to her, ignoring the man who tried to catch Andy’s eye for a refill.
“Hi,” Andy said. “I’ve got a tiny table in the corner if you want it. But this isn’t really your scene--” At that moment, Andy noticed Miranda’s eyes traveling down her body, taking in the new clothes. She looked down at herself. “Oh. Yeah. Pretty good, huh? The vest is perfect.” She smiled, feeling very warm. “Thank you so much. It was a wonderful surprise.”
Miranda nodded once to herself, pressing the side of one finger to her lips. “Mm.” She tilted her head. “A tie would suit you, but I don’t find them very comfortable.”
Andy was instantly distracted by the thought of Miranda in a tie. “Yeah,” she said, “I mean, no, they’re not, but I could try it. They’re not required but it would be okay.”
“Very well.” Miranda glanced around. “I--I wanted to be here earlier. I had a very... busy day.” When Miranda’s speech slowed, she was watching Andy’s throat, not meeting her eyes. Her brow furrowed in a way that Andy had not seen before.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Do you want to sit, or-- maybe get a space at the bar so we could talk?” She wanted to reach out, but that would be a bad idea, wouldn’t it?
Miranda sighed. “This seems--” She blinked, shaking her head. “I--no. I’ve got to go.” Miranda turned and walked away then. She did not look back.
Andy watched her go. “Hey, can I get another Moscow Mule?” the guy from before said. He’d gotten up from his table to get her attention.
“Yeah,” Andy replied, and stared at the empty doorway before returning behind the bar.
Weeks passed, then a month. Miranda did not come to visit.
Andy understood then that she’d created a relationship out of absolutely nothing. She’d been fixated on Miranda Priestly for the past four months, looking forward to being at work instead of home. She’d fantasized about meeting Miranda’s kids and the unruly St. Bernard called Patricia. She wanted to join them on endless walks around the city, talking about their days and nights and everything in between. Even the chance of seeing Miranda made the long hours at work exciting, and when Andy realized that she would no longer reap the rewards, she deflated.
Jack noticed. “Are your classes really tough?” he’d asked one afternoon that she seemed particularly downtrodden.
“My what?” It took her a few seconds to know what he was referring to. “Oh, the course. It’s difficult, but I’m doing okay. Thanks for asking.”
“Sure. You just seem kind of down since you started the new program.”
That made sense. She’d taken on a course in spirits at ICC only a week after Miranda stopped coming around. At least she could dedicate more of her head space to her studies instead of mooning around over an unattainable straight woman. “I’m fine. Just trying to keep my focus, you know?”
“The work will pay off, I know it. Keep me posted.”
After about six weeks, Andy decided to take out the suit Miranda had given her, wearing it for only the second time. It was really flattering, and she hated the idea that it was just going to hang in the closet for the rest of her career. Defiantly she dressed in it, fastening the buttons of the shirt, noting how this was the only one she owned that didn’t gape across her breasts. She wondered then how Miranda could get her measurements so exactly. Then again, she was the best in her field, so it wasn’t that hard to believe.
As soon as she arrived, Jack called her over to the kitchen. “Rosario’s in the hospital. She fell off a curb this afternoon and broke her collarbone.”
“Oh my gosh, that’s horrible!” Andy winced, imagining the pain. “Does she have anyone there? Does she need anything?”
“Yes, she needs you to cover out here tonight. Darrell’s in France this week so she was the steward on deck. Are you ready?”
Andy grinned. “Totally.” It was a Saturday, so it was going to be busy. Andy couldn’t wait.
The place was packed by seven and Andy was in her element. It was incredibly different to being in the bar; here her skills were highly valued. In the back she often felt like an over-educated bartender, but at least she was good at figuring out what people wanted with a few succinct questions. In the front of the house, she did the same, but the clientele was often more sophisticated in palate and open to new flavor combinations. Her recommendations called upon all the knowledge she had gained during years of training. It was a great deal of fun; she hoped Jack would recognize that and let her keep subbing when the opportunities arose.
At 9:30, she headed to the kitchen for a quick snack and a few minutes to rest her feet. Unfortunately, she didn’t get a chance to sit very long before one of the servers called upon her at a customer’s request. Andy rolled her eyes and glanced ruefully at the rest of the perfect grilled cheese on her plate. “No problem,” she said as she washed her hands at the sink.
“Hurry up. This lady is like, the least patient person on the planet.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming…” Andy dried off and straightened her vest. “Okay, ready.”
She smiled as she approached the table, assuming she would soon catch the eye of the none-so-patient lady in question. That gave her exactly two seconds to school her features when she realized that Miranda Priestly was holding court right in the center of the restaurant. She and her cabal couldn’t have arrived more than five minutes before, otherwise Andy would have spotted her. She swallowed reflexively and tried not to let her smile slip.
Miranda wore no expression other than the implacable aloofness that often greeted Andy in the back. She didn’t smile, but when her eyes caught Andy’s vest, there was a familiar tilt at the corner of her mouth that was just as satisfying. “Finally, the expert has arrived. Andrea, will you please advise these heathens what to order?”
“Of course,” she said, surprised that Miranda had called Andy by name instead of pretending they didn’t know one another. “Shall I start with you?” She moved to Miranda’s side and gazed down upon the menu, trying desperately not to blush.
“Mm, yes. I’m thinking of the tuna carpaccio to begin, followed by the kobe as the main.”
“Very good. For the tuna, I’d normally say a Riesling, but that’s not to your taste. Instead, I suggest a glass of the Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. Or, if you want to share a bottle, I have a New Zealand pinot that may be a better choice.”
Miranda looked up. Her eyes sparkled, and she seemed pleased. “Yes, I’d like that.”
Andy felt her whole body flush. “And for the kobe, I have a Napa Cabernet that’s a perfect fit. I--you’ve had it once, some time ago. I believe it was a success.”
When Miranda licked her lips, Andy wondered where the hell this woman had been for the past month and a half. She looked as though she’d be very happy to have Andy for dinner, right here in the middle of the table. “If you served it to me, it undoubtedly was.”
Andy was off balance, but she soldiered on. She consulted each diner and worked with Claude, the server, to make sure the details were correct. All the faces were a blur when she was finished and she returned to the kitchen in a daze. Jack was there, schooling the sous-chef about his preferred design of pesto drizzle. She ignored them both.
Well past 11, Andy wilted, her adrenaline running dry. She found herself standing sentinel in the back of the restaurant, unable to keep her eyes from Miranda’s table. She was disappointed not to have any further contact, but that was no surprise. Miranda was clearly working, and Andy had noted at least four people from surrounding tables stopping over to greet her. Andy was horribly jealous. When she could take no more, she returned to her regular haunt at the bar, since it was unlikely that her services would be required for more than another group or two for the rest of the evening. Here, at least it was quiet. She leaned on the bar and put her head in her hands.
Some time later, Claude appeared in front of her. “Holy shit, Andy, what the hell did you serve Miranda Priestly’s table?”
“Um, wine? A lot of wine. Expensive wine.”
“Yeah, I can tell. She left me a huge tip. It’s more than I made from every other table put together.” He waved a small piece of white cardstock around in the air. “And she left something else.”
“Okay?” Andy said, a bit curious, but not overly interested.
“Her business card, with a cell number on it.”
Andy’s ears went hot with rage. “She what?” Her voice was much sharper than it should have been toward a co-worker, but really? Miranda left her phone number for Claude?
Claude took pity on her. “She left it for you.” He grinned and handed it over.
One side of the card read Miranda’s business details. The other side featured a messily scrawled (in red) phone number, with the words, “andrea, ready to talk, hope you are too. X”
Instead of screaming in excitement, or high-fiving everyone in her vicinity, Andy simply pocketed the card. “Cool. Thanks,” she said, heading directly for the ladies’ room. Aside from the break room, which would not be empty at this time of night, the bathroom was the only spot where she could be by herself. She slipped inside and closed herself off in a stall, quickly pulling her phone from her pocket and adding Miranda’s number to her contacts. As she stared at the number, she understood she had two choices: text now and get whatever was going to happen started, or make Miranda wait.
She lasted about ten seconds before typing a quick message.
Hi, glad to see you tonight. This is my number. Andy.
The phone rang in her hand and Andy picked it up, shivering with anticipation.
An hour later, Andy stared up at the door of an undoubtedly multimillion dollar, five-story townhouse. It suddenly seemed like an awful, awful idea to ring the doorbell of this place at one in the morning on what was now a Sunday. But when Miranda Priestly had asked her to come over for a drink, Andy washed her face, put on some skin cream and mascara, and got the hell into a cab. She added tinted lip gloss last as she was getting out of the car.
Now, she felt frozen. Somehow she got her feet to bring her up the handful of steps, shivering despite the warm breeze that rustled through the trees. To her great relief, the door swung open.
Andy felt that same breathlessness that she had upon first seeing this woman at the bar, but now, the very faint smile that greeted her made her cheeks flush as well. She didn’t say anything, although Andy had assumed she’d meet her with some sort of scathing remark. Miranda was known for her impatience, or at least that was the rumor, but tonight she seemed comfortable waiting for Andy to make her way inside. She wiped her feet on the mat outside and asked, “Should I take off my shoes?”
The smile changed infinitesimally, warming just so, and Miranda replied, “Not yet. I want to take you somewhere and you’ll want to wear them.”
“No. But I asked you here for a drink, so I’d like you to choose it.”
Andy took a breath and nodded. “Sure. Lead on.”
Miranda locked the door behind Andy before moving into the house, her heels curiously silent on the wood floors. They went through a door, then down some stairs to a place where the air was cooler and there were no windows.
“Uh, where are we going?”
Miranda chuckled and lit a second set of lights at the foot of the steps. “Don’t worry, it’s not a sex dungeon.”
Andy hadn’t thought of that, but now she mumbled, “Too bad.”
Her voice was a little louder than she’d thought, since Miranda turned briefly with a scorching side eye. Andy bit her lip and grinned.
Then Miranda opened one more door and led her to where the humidity was higher, the air much cooler. Andy gaped around, stunned by a gorgeous floor to ceiling wine cellar. The long hall was dimly lit and went on for about twenty feet. Dark wood floors were stained the same color as the diamond racks on both sides of the cellar. “Oh my God,” Andy exclaimed. “What the hell is this?”
Miranda leaned against the back wall as her eyes scanned the space. “I bought this townhouse with my first husband twenty years ago. When we separated three years later, he got to keep his manhood and his much younger mistress in exchange for this very old collection.” Andy held back the urgent desire to start pulling bottles out to drool over. “I knew I could live without him but I’d never get over the wine.” She laughed at the look on Andy’s face. “I’ve had a few bottles a year since then, but the rest of it has been sitting down here, aging at the appropriate temperature.”
Andy nodded. “Feels like a perfect 55,” she said, pressing her hand to one of the racks. There was barely any dust at all; it felt as if the place had been vacuum sealed.
“Very perceptive,” Miranda replied. “I’m sorry I haven’t been to see you over the last weeks.” She looked away then, touching a bottle, running her finger along the dark glass gently. I found myself thinking quite a lot about you, and that last night…”
“When you gave me these clothes,” Andy said, encouragingly.
“Yes. That night, the way you smiled at me, I realized--” Miranda met her eyes, and they watched each other. “You know, don’t you?”
“I hoped,” Andy admitted. “I wished.”
The words seemed to calm Miranda, whose shoulders dropped into a more relaxed position. Andy hadn’t even realized how tense she’d been. “I wasn’t completely unaware of my own feelings, but when I saw you that night, in clothes that I’d sewn myself, I simply--”
“You sewed these?” Andy said, putting a hand to her chest. She looked down at the material of her vest, touching the buttons.
“I altered them, to your measurements. In any case, there was something about the look on your face that,” Miranda swallowed carefully, “unnerved me. The world tilted a bit. So I left.”
It was easy for Andy to remember the sadness she’d felt every night for weeks without a visit. “Yeah. That was, um, kind of terrible.”
With a sigh, Miranda reached out and took Andy’s hand. “For me, as well. I apologize.”
The weight of it all fell away in an instant. Since she’d been small, Andy found it extremely easy to move forward when someone said, ‘I’m sorry.’ What more was there to say, when the words were honest and true? “You’re forgiven.”
Miranda chuckled in obvious surprise. “That was awfully quick.”
Andy raised an eyebrow. “Hey, I’m willing to get over it if you’re open to sharing some of this loot,” she said, hoping to lighten the mood, to get past those long, lonely, melancholy nights.
But Miranda didn’t smile. “I believe--” She stopped, squaring her shoulders as if convincing herself to continue. “I may have been waiting for someone who might appreciate this place as much as I do.”
Andy held her breath, tears inexplicably gathering in her eyes. “You know, Miranda, this could all go up in smoke tomorrow and the only thing I’d worry over getting out safely is you.”
Miranda nodded, and Andy thought there might be an answering sheen in her eyes. “I know. I just… needed a little time to convince myself.”
Moving closer, Andy held out one hand, taking Miranda’s carefully and twining their fingers together. “You can believe in me, Miranda Priestly. You can count on me. I’ll be whatever you want. Your friend, your--”
“I want you to be entirely yourself,” Miranda said, then Andy was in her arms, their lips cool and damp as they brushed together for the first time. The chill fled after a moment as their mouths opened to one another, and Andy shivered in the delicious embrace.
When they parted, Andy loved how Miranda’s cheeks were flushed, how her eyes were dark with desire. Andy felt like she’d won the lottery. “I’m all for a nightcap, but to be honest I think I’d like to skip it tonight. I’d rather go upstairs now.”
Miranda’s lips were sultry, curving in pleasure. As Andy chased Miranda up the steps, she wondered if she’d ever get a chance to have sex down here on the dark wood floor, surrounded by the liquid that was more than just her profession; she considered it a calling. She hoped the answer was yes.
In the morning, Andy lay alone in Miranda’s king-sized bed, glorying in the white sheets and cool temperature. She listened to the sounds of movement downstairs, licking her lips. The night had been long and luscious once they’d made it to the bedroom. They’d slept about three hours before Andy had been awakened by the light of a computer screen and quiet tapping of keys. Next to her, Miranda held a computer on her lap. There was a dark bite mark at her collarbone that accompanied a magnificently disheveled coif. Bedhead, Andy thought with a grin. And it was all her fault.
When she’d realized Andy was awake, Miranda had explained, “I’m doing this now so I don’t have to do it later. I work a fair number of Saturdays, but I plan on using this Sunday appropriately as a day of rest.” She’d glanced over at Andy, and let her eyes travel down the naked expanse of Andy’s back. “Or something.”
“Go right ahead, as long as you don’t mind me watching you.”
Miranda had blinked once, meeting Andy’s eyes. That same heat flashed between them, and Miranda bit her lip. After thinking about it for about three seconds, she’d clicked a few keys and shut the laptop. “I can already tell you’re going to be trouble,” she’d said, sliding beneath the sheets and pulling Andy into her arms.
Andy had laughed, lifting the silky camisole Miranda had put on during the night in some attempt at modesty. She’d put a hand between Miranda’s legs, finding her hot and wet and ready for another round. “Funny you should say that,” Andy had said. When she’d slipped her fingers inside, Miranda had arched her back and sighed in pleasure, spreading her legs. “Trouble’s my middle name.”
Now she stretched, reaching until her arms ran into the wood of the headboard. She was astronomically grateful that Miranda’s kids were away for a couple of weeks with their dad, traveling abroad. Her hamstrings were tight and she was sore as hell, but otherwise she felt light as air. She found her white tank and underwear near the foot of the bed and put them on. Intending to do a little exploration, she was interrupted when Miranda appeared at the entryway, bearing gifts. She carried a tray of fruit, toast, and coffee, along with a bottle of champagne and two flutes.
Andy eyed the spread with glee. “You know, I’ve taken a lot of classes with tastings before noon, but it’s been a while since I’ve had a mimosa at seven in the morning.”
“We’re not insulting this 40-year-old bottle of champagne with orange juice, thank you very much,” Miranda scoffed. But she seemed pleased enough when Andy took the tray and carried it over to the bed. “Wine did bring us together. I thought it would be nice, just this once.”
“Gosh. It did do that, huh,” Andy said. She took a bite of toast, warm and buttery, and groaned with happiness. “I never figured out why you kept coming back to my dingy little bar when it was obvious you were of a totally different class than most of the people in it.”
Miranda rolled her eyes. “We just spent the night together having a great deal of excellent sex. You can’t possibly be that obtuse.”
Andy stared at her. “You bought all that wine because you wanted to get in my pants?” She threw her arms up in the air. “I would have gone home with you that first night! What the hell!”
“Not all of us are ready and willing at the first suggestion of sexual attraction,” Miranda said, sipping delicately at her coffee. Andy waited, hoping there was more to this story. “It wasn’t simply sex that drew me back,” MIranda said, and her tone held a bit of hurt that Andy had not intended to inflict.
Andy was quick to allay her fears. “I’m just teasing, I promise. Although, that first night you walked into the bar, I swooned. And that asshole Chad made a move on you right away and I was so ridiculously jealous.”
“Yeah, the blond guy I work with. He was around most of the nights you came to visit.”
“I have no memory of him, whatsoever.”
Andy smirked. “I’ll be sure to tell him that next time I see him. Anyway, get back to the good stuff. Why did you keep coming back?” Andy gathered her courage and asked the question she’d wanted to know the answer to since the moment they’d kissed. “What’s so special about me?”
At that question, Miranda set her coffee cup down. She reached for Andy’s hand, but kept her eyes on the breakfast tray on the bed. “I found your presence very… calming. You never asked questions, but you seemed to always recognize when I was hungry. Usually after I came to see you I returned to work, and your food and wine and silent company seemed to fortify me.” She turned to Andy, eyes warm with affection. “I know you watched me.” She paused, lost in thought for a moment. “I spend most of my life observed by others who obsessively wait for my every expression; of approval, or disapproval, of irritation, or disappointment. But with you--I found myself… appreciated. You weren’t waiting for anything. You simply observed and found pleasure in the act.”
Warmth swam up in Andy, and she flushed. “That’s exactly what I felt. But there was curiosity, too. I wanted more. I wanted everything.”
“And you shall have it,” Miranda said, reaching for the bottle of champagne on the tray. “Assuming you’re still interested.”
Andy felt the breath leave her body for a moment. “Um, I think we could safely say that I am way more than interested.” Love was not something she was ready to speak of aloud, but it was already there, hovering between them. “And you know, there’s all that wine downstairs. Someone’s got to help you enjoy it.” She took the the bottle Miranda handed over, making quick work of the foil. The cork made a satisfying pop as the expected puff of vapor emerged and vanished into thin air.
Miranda held out a glass, then a second as Andy poured. Flute in hand, Andy felt nervous all of a sudden. What on Earth should she toast to?
But Miranda solved the problem for her. “To beginnings,” she said simply. Andy thought there might be a bit of uncertainty in her voice, and she was quick to answer it.
“To one of the happiest beginnings of my life,” she appended, and waited with hope in her heart.
Miranda’s eyes were warm, and the corner of her mouth tilted up in a perfect curve. “And mine.” Their glasses clinked together. The sound was crystal, clear and pure.
- the end
Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
- W.B. Yeats