Waking an Enigma
Miranda Priestly was an enigma. This is fact. She had to be the most complex, the most complicated, the most difficult walking, talking contradiction in the state of New York, if not the world.
She spent her entire adult life working and fighting to raise herself to the professional position that was, in the world of fashion, equal to the status of royalty. She was a queen. She had the talent, the resilience, and the stamina to hold off all usurpers and maintain her power in her regime for as long as she desired.
She was ruthless and aggressive in her professional decisions, her acidic tongue capable of carving an employee like a thanksgiving day turkey over the slightest infraction, and yet surprisingly forgiving to the one person who dealt her the most emotional pain in her life.
She was high maintenance, impossible, and unwilling to be controlled in her personal relationships, and yet she allowed her twin daughters to keep her on short puppet strings, changing her mind and actions on a whim or a dare.
She knew herself completely, and yet she found herself on a number of occasions confused at her actions and reactions when they were some way involved with the same betraying individual to whom she had, unequivocally granted total absolution.
It was a rare occasion that found Miranda pensive, doubtful, and uniquely puzzled, and it only took her five years to ferret out the existence and cure to her one troubling foible.
Paris fashion week, 2006 was an accumulation of perhaps the worst notable events of Miranda’s life. Within a single week, she suffered the embarrassing demise of her failing marriage, she was forced into a political battle over her professional position, she betrayed one of the few people she considered to be a true friend, and she lost the single most important person to have entered her life.
Returning to New York after that disaster of a week to nurse her wounds and regroup, she found she couldn’t care less that her husband was leaving or that she would now have to move mountains to repay the debt to her friend. She knew she could never be complacent on her throne, but she was thrown for a spin when a request appeared on her desk for a professional reference for one Andy Sachs, and, for some unknown reason she actually decided to write one herself, in person.
The words that emerged across plain white paper stock could not have been hers. Although they were indeed, written in her hand, they were too honest, too baring, too forgiving to be her own. Honestly, how could she pen a golden ticket for the slip of a girl who walked out on her, who left her to fend for herself for the last two days of the most important, hectic week of her work year?
Unable to ascertain an answer to that question was the first in what would be a string of recurring incidents of losing her sense of self.
Miranda had succeeded in her quest to find an acceptable position for Nigel Kipling. The man was a talented, loyal friend and she had to repay him for using him as a pawn during her battle in Paris. After a few months she found a new designer who, with the right guidance, would thrive and perhaps gain the status of the likes of D&G, Valentino, and Marc Jacobs.
Miranda decided Nigel was the one to direct this Savannah McGregor. As usual, Miranda’s decision was absolutely spot on. In two years the McG fashion house had become a power player capitalizing on the talents of Savannah, Nigel’s business sense, and the rise in popularity of all things Celtic, expanding and outshining all closest competitors.
Over the years after kicking Nigel out of her office for the very last time, Miranda and Nigel scheduled lunches together as often as they could. Of course, as often as possible usually meant once every five or six months. At one such lunch, two years after their professional divorce, Miranda had a thrilling, surprising and disturbing revelation.
Lunch was technically finished but Miranda and Nigel, unwilling to part so soon were continuing their conversation over coffees.
“Oh, so you’ll never believe who I ran into the other day.” Nigel spouted with a note of pure glee.
“Unless it was a unicorn or a pink elephant, I expect I wouldn’t doubt you.” Miranda drolly murmured, refusing to rise to Nigel’s teasing.
“I literally ran into Andy.”
“Who?” Miranda asked, honestly not comprehending who Nigel was speaking of.
“Andy. Andy Sachs. Surely you remember her. ‘The one who walked away’”
“Really?” Miranda’s heart jumped, picking up its pace. Her voice remained cool, refusing to expose her deeper emotions.
Nigel studied his friend, trying to ascertain the truth under the words. Not finding a clue to Miranda’s frame of mind, Nigel continued his tale.
“I was just stepping out of a Starbucks on 48th street and turned right into the girl. Saved my coffee but damn near fell on my ass.” He chuckled.
“Mmm. And how is our intrepid reporter these days?”
“She’s married.” Nigel announced with a bit of surprise behind the fact.
“Married?” Miranda’s voice had suddenly taken on a gravelly rasp. Clearing her throat, she questioned.
“When… who did she marry?”
“His name is Michael Duchane. He’s a real estate appraiser or some such thing. A very attractive man, if I do say so myself.”
“He said they were trying to start a family. Although I think it may be difficult since she’s taking a six month post in Eastern Europe. But, young love does prevail.”
“Yes, I suppose it does.” Miranda checked her cup and, finding it blessedly empty, pushed back from the table. “Lovely as always, Nigel. I do hope you can excuse me. I need to get back for a meeting.”
“Of course.” Nigel stood, accepting a farewell kiss. “Until we meet again.”
“Thank you for lunch.”
Miranda strode out of the restaurant, cell phone to her ear before she made it to the door.
Nigel watched her leave, impressed that not a single step faltered. Shrugging to himself, he signed his credit receipt and followed Miranda’s path.
Two days later Miranda was still angry. She was frustrated, confused, and angry. She was attending yet another black tie gala for yet another charity and she was fuming. How did she not know Andy Sachs was married? And why did she not know that the infuriating woman was going to Europe? And why was it her assistant could not find any information on this Michael Duchane? And why the hell was she concerning herself with all of this in the first place? Andy Sachs was an aberration from her past, a momentary mistake in her usual unerring judgment. There was no reason for her to be squandering her time with senseless thoughts over an ex-employee.
Despite her own admonitions, Miranda continued to stew. She was mostly disturbed over her lack of knowledge. Miranda prided herself for her encyclopedic mind. Information was power, and Miranda was an undeniably powerful person. Though loath to admit it, she even knew the names of the entire Elias-Clarke janitorial staff. So how had she missed the engagement announcement, the wedding announcement, and the promotion of her one time protégé?
Miranda’s anger had been simmering over the past few days and was morphing into something raw and physical. She needed an outlet for her frustration. She had already dismissed her assistant for the evening so had no one easily available to lash out at.
Scanning the guests still in attendance her eyes fell on Gregory Pryne, CEO of the “Share A Dream” philanthropy group. He was a handsome man. Rugged, clean, chiseled features, graying over the temples, athletic build, and, as far as Miranda knew, single. Not particularly interested in whether or not he had a date for the evening, Miranda headed across the floor in a direct line of interception. A simple, casual offer of a night cap after some friendly conversation was accepted and Miranda led her quarry across the ballroom floor towards the back elevators that would carry them to her suite for the night.
Three years. It had been three years since Nigel had dropped that little bomb in Miranda’s lap. The consequences of her actions were, thankfully not lingering. Gregory Pryne proved to be an adequate scratch for her occasional overwhelming itch and was perfectly happy to accommodate Miranda on an as need basis over the years. He was fine with being Miranda’s go to guy whenever she needed an escort for an evening event, or a tumble in the sheets. No strings attached, no promises made. Miranda was thankful for the friend with benefits on a number of occasions.
This night, she was however, flying solo since she was not in the mood to entertain a date for the evening. She was in attendance of a Runway hosted bash. It was, in fact, her night. It was a celebration in honor of her twenty-five years at the helm of Runway, the premier fashion magazine of all time.
Miranda Priestly was the center of attention and she was making a clear statement that she did not need anyone to help her achieve what she had. She did not need a man to support her as she rose to the top, nor to maintain her hallowed position. This night was for her and she was not about to share it with anyone. She earned it.
Miranda’s entrance was the epitome of grand. She swept down the palatial staircase without attendance. All eyes widened at the awe-inspiring entity that was Miranda Priestly. Draped in indigo silk that flowed over her skin like water and revealed enough skin to make a eunuch’s mouth water, she moved through the throng of sycophants, blessing her followers with a wry smile.
She was grace, power and sex. Everyone either wanted her or wanted to be her. She was glorious in her element, and her energy snapped through the room, calling everyone to heel.
The reception line had dwindled and Miranda was circling among the guests when her attention was captured by a familiar presence at the entry. She interrupted her own conversation as she turned towards the latest arrival. Her body stilled and her focus centered into pinpoint accuracy on the one person she never expected to see. Andy Sachs wove her way through the revelers, leading a tall, dark man by the hand towards her ultimate destination. On approach, Andy could easily read Miranda’s body language; calm, unperturbed and open. Andy figured she had a good chance of surviving this meeting unscathed.
“Miranda, it is so good to see you again.” Andy’s voice was barely controlled ardor.
“And you, Andréa. It has been a while.” Miranda allowed Andy to approach and offered her usual cheek to cheek greeting.
Miranda’s voice and the way she rolled the name over her tongue caused Andy to gulp, swallowing down a half decade worth of suppressed emotion.
Masterfully controlling the opposing urges of running or engulfing Miranda in a bear hug, Andy evenly stated, “Yes, it has been. I just want to say congratulations on an amazing career. I’m eager to see what you do with the next twenty-five years.”
“Still a cheeky girl, I see.” Miranda smiled gently against the rush of heat that suddenly coursed through her.
“Well, I don’t want to monopolize your time…” Andy took a step back, about to turn away.
Miranda stopped her from leaving by asking, “Who is your handsome escort, Andréa?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Miranda, may I introduce Douglas Warner. Doug, Miranda Priestly.”
“Douglas Warner?” Miranda’s voice revealed her surprise.
“Truly an honor to meet you.” Doug gushed. “I am quite the fan.”
Andy could feel the sudden tension roll off Miranda’s body. The emerging crocodile smile and the syrupy voice caused an autonomic wince from Andy.
“Ouch.” Andy breathed out. Believing that Miranda’s ire was directed at her personally, Andy formed her escape. “I, um, apologize for the intrusion, Miranda. I guess I was feeling nostalgic with the invitation. I thought it would be nice to see you again.” She leaned in close, the venue allowing the bravery needed to steal a kiss. Lips brushing against a blushing cheek, Andy paused long enough to whisper, “I was right. It really is good to see you.”
Andy glanced at Doug and moved away through the crowd.
Doug offered a final handshake and a quick “Wonderful to meet you.” before he trotted off after Andy, leaving Miranda to stare after them wondering exactly what had just happened.
“Hey, Andy, where are you going? You promised me an evening of high society drinking. It is an open bar, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Doug. It is an open bar. You really want to stay?”
“Hell yeah. They’ve got the good stuff.”
“Fine. Let’s find the bar.”
Andy was more than ready to run for the hills. Her attempt to reconnect with Miranda seemed to be failing miserably. But, Miranda never frequented the bar at these events, so Andy figured she was safe hanging out with Doug for a few drinks.
After a few hours Andy found herself sitting alone as Doug had wandered off to find a restroom. A tall glass of a clear liquid with a lemon wedge suddenly appeared before Andy. She glanced to her right to find Miranda sitting on the bar stool next to her. Reaching out, Andy carefully brought the drink to her lips, sniffing before taking a curious sip.
“Water?” she asked, surprised.
“It seemed a wise choice this late in the evening.” Miranda offered unapologetically.
“Thank you. Although I am far from drunk.” Andy spoke, her voice strong with self-defense.
“Mmmm.” Miranda sipped at her own drink. “I thought we might have a chat.”
“Really? This should be interesting.”
Miranda completely threw Andy off course when she began with her stated enquiry, “I thought your husband’s name was Michael Duchane.”
Recovering quickly Andy quipped, “That’s true.”
“So, Douglas Webster is…?”
“A very good friend.” Andy offered lightly, watching Miranda’s eyes intently as the woman tried to figure the situation out. With a shoulder shrug, Andy granted some more information, “Doug is the kind of friend that is willing to let me haul him out of the closet like an old coat, to use when I need an escort. He is more than happy to follow along on evenings like this so that he can dress up, drink excellent alcohol, eat scrumptious food, dance, mingle, and make contacts.”
“And what of your husband? Doesn’t he mind?”
“I don’t think so.” Leaning closer to Miranda, Andy added in a conspiratorial whisper, “I think your information is a bit outdated.”
The scowl that clouded Miranda’s face forced a smile across Andy’s. She added, to relieve Miranda’s frustration, “Nigel’s information was good. He was right. I was married. You don’t need to question his loyalty, just the frequency of his information updates.”
Miranda’s mind whirred as she tried to get a hold of everything. Andy knew it was Nigel who informed her of the marriage. But apparently the marriage was dissolved, or on the rocks. Before Miranda could decide where she wanted to direct their conversation, Andy was standing and reaching for her clutch. The younger woman’s eyes had focused on something or someone over Miranda’s shoulder.
“Miranda, I would love to get together with you and update my dossier, but right now I need to be leaving.” She smiled easily at Miranda, the same smile she had offered so long ago after obtaining the elusive Harry Potter manuscript. “Thank you for the drink. It really was lovely to see you again.”
Before Miranda could respond, Andy leaned in and kissed her on both cheeks. She spared a moment to gauge the older woman’s reaction then turned and walked away, falling into step alongside Doug as they headed for the door.
As Andy stepped out of sight Miranda felt tightness in her chest, causing her to gasp and press a hand to her heart. Anger flared, only to be replaced by an unknown longing.
Miranda’s personal cell phone chimed to announce an incoming call. Without looking, Miranda distractedly picked it up off her desk and answered with a tense, demanding, “Hello”
“I’m sorry I had to walk out on you the other night, but my date had to leave.” Andy’s voice, strong and sure drifted through the line.
“Why would you think that I’d care?”
“I don’t think, I hope.”
“I am extremely busy…”
“Always. Will you have lunch with me?”
Miranda pulled her phone away and stared at it, wondering at the daring confidence of this woman. Returning the phone to her ear she surprised herself with the words that left her own mouth. “I am free on Thursday, if that would be agreeable.”
“That would be wonderful. 12:30 ok?”
“Yes. Where shall I meet you?”
“Very well. Until Thursday”
A slow smile spread across Miranda’s lips as she pondered the call. What was she thinking? This game could easily lead do disaster, but she could not make herself care about consequences.
The Artisanal Bistro was full of business suits when Miranda arrived. She, however, was directly shown to her table without pause. A flash of appreciation lit her eyes when the host stepped aside to reveal Andy Sachs seated and waiting.
Andy answered the questioning eyebrow with a smile, “I’ve been here since noon.”
They began their meeting with the usual chatter about the restaurant and menu. Once selections were made and they were afforded a modicum of privacy, Miranda grabbed the bull by the horns. “So, about your marriage…”
“And why is that?”
Andy could not fathom why Miranda would possible be interested, but since she was the one who offered the invitation, she figured she ought to be forthcoming.
“Do you want the novel or the Reader’s Digest condensed version?”
“I don’t appreciate heavy editing.”
Andy had to grin at that comment. Taking a moment to appraise Miranda’s mood, she nodded and jumped in.
“I married Michael almost a year after leaving you, well, Runway. Going into it, we both seemed to be on the same page. However, after only three or four months he started talking children. I’m not against having kids. I may still decide I want to be a mom. But, right now, I’m focusing on my career. I thought Michael understood that. Apparently, I was wrong. It got to the point that it became a daily argument. And god forbid he find my birth control pills. I realized when I put in for an extension for the Eastern Europe posting that the married life probably wasn’t for me. At least not the life with Michael. We divorced and within six months he was remarried. And, yes, she’s pregnant with their second.”
Miranda’s eyes never wavered from Andy. Through the tale, she read what was not being said. After taking a thoughtful sip from her wine she commented, “You are not a failure, Andréa.”
Watery eyes glanced up, connecting with Miranda’s steel blue gaze. “That’s not the general consensus.”
“Whoever believes the dissolution of your marriage was all on you is a fool. Two to tango, and all of that. It was obviously not a union based on honesty. Live and learn, then move on.”
“That cannot be your self-guiding philosophy.”
“Of course it is. I’ve already tried multiple times. And, although I do accept my share of the responsibility, it was not only me. My marriages broke up due to mutual fault. My husbands gave up as I did. But I can tell you, I always entered a relationship with complete honesty. I never tried to hide who I was, who I am. I’ve learned more about myself, and I moved on. I haven’t made the same mistake twice. It just so happens, there are infinite mistakes to be made.”
“And now? I’ve noticed the press has been pairing you frequently with Gregory Pryne. Is he your next Mr. Right?” Noticing a slight wince Andy amended, “or is he Mr Right Now?”
“Don’t be so cheeky.” Miranda warned. After a fortifying swallow she admitted, “Since the debacle of Stephen, I just did not see the need to seek out a mate. After spending my entire adult life attached to a man, I finally understood I did not need a man to make me whole. I was fine to be on my own. I have my girls and my work to keep me more than busy. I don’t have need or time for a man. That being said, Gregory is a good friend.”
An evil grin appeared on Andy’s face as she realized what Miranda was not saying. Through barely controlled laughter she accused, “Oh my god. He’s a booty call.”
“I beg your pardon?” Miranda’s ire was turned on fully.
“You two are friends with benefits. I never would have believed it, Miranda, but I am impressed.”
“Oh shut up, Andréa.” Miranda spluttered.
“I’m sorry, Miranda. Really I am.” Andy’s hand shot across the table to grab Miranda’s wrist, stopping her from grabbing her bag and running away. Bravely locking eyes with the angry editor, Andy continued, “I’m not laughing at you. Honestly, I’m not. I was just surprised. There’s no reason to be embarrassed. You’re both consenting adults.”
“Oh, and you suppose no one would pass judgment on me? You think page six would just overlook this little morsel?”
“Miranda, I would never tell anyone, ever. You know me. You know I would never hang you out to those bastards.”
“Do I, Andréa? Do I really?”
“Yes, you do.”
The power behind Andy’s words at that moment spoke volumes to anyone really listening.
Miranda seemed to relax back into her seat. Reaching for her glass, she conceded, “I suppose no one ever could accuse you of lacking integrity. Your past actions have always stood on that very foundation.”
Andy cringed at the implication in those words. She knew, despite five years and an initial awesome reference, Miranda Priestly was still mad at her for walking away.
“Integrity alone can make a person do some pretty stupid things. I’m sorry, Miranda. I’m sorry I didn’t have the maturity back then.”
“Yes, well, admitting one’s sins goes a long way towards absolution.”
They were interrupted by the waiter arriving to take their order. When the young man left them alone there was an unspoken understanding at the table; no more talk of their personal lives.
The evening proceeded with their conversation spinning around the safer topics of work, work, and more work. Miranda had a plethora of tales to share from the last five years and Andy could easily keep up with her own. As they were enjoying their dessert coffees, Andy felt safe enough to chip at the defenses again and edged the conversation towards their mutual past.
“I have to say, I was amazed by what you did for Nigel.”
“What did I do?” Miranda was not going to proceed without a fight.
“Getting him the position with McG’s. It was a perfect fit.” She made a quick study of Miranda’s mood.
“And I know it was hard for you to let him go.”
“Oh, please. It was high time he moved on.”
“Bluster all you want, Miranda. I know it was hard to see him go. Probably equally hard when Emily moved on.”
“Andréa, just where are you going?”
“Whatever for? It is the past. It is all behind us.”
“I’m not convinced. I think there are some things we should talk about if we’re going to be friends.”
“Friends?” Miranda questioned, only curiosity fueling her words. “You want to be friends?”
“Is it so far out of the realm of possibilities? Can you not be friends with ex-employees? Is that a rule?”
Before Miranda could answer Andy threw in, “Oh, wait, I’m breaking a rule right now, aren’t I?”
To a raised eyebrow Andy explained, “I’m asking Miranda Priestly a question. No one is ever to question Miranda. I think its rule number three.”
Miranda tried to hide her smile behind her coffee cup. Taking a sip she composed herself enough to respond. “It is the employees’ job to know what is required of them at all times. If they are not prepared enough to know what I expect, what I demand, then they do not need to work for me. I never change at work. My focus is always on the magazine and the struggle to perfect it. Friends, however, are required to be more flexible, to change with the times yet remain faithful and loyal. Questions for clarity sake are welcome. I prefer not to lose my friends over some silly miscommunication.”
“But you didn’t really answer my question.” Andy pointed out.
Steady eyes stared into Andy’s nervous chocolate pools. “Yes, I can become friends with ex-employees. I am friends with Nigel, after all.”
“And will you be my friend?”
“I’m not sure you’ve earned the right.”
“What if I promise to do whatever it takes to make it up to you?”
The smile was suddenly gone from Miranda’s eyes. They were hard, unyielding. Andy swallowed the nervousness and fear as she waited for Miranda’s decision.
“You left me, Andréa. You left me during a very stressful, hectic, important time. I would say that would make you disloyal.” Andy opened her mouth to reply but was stopped by Miranda’s raised hand. “Although, I must concede, you acted out of loyalty to your friend at the time. I suppose in the world of personal relationships, friend trumps boss. But, tell me. How can I be sure you will not choose another over me as friends?”
“I can never make that promise.” Andy answered honestly. “I would hope we would never be in a situation where I would have to choose you over another. Although, I would expect if we were, we would have the maturity to discuss the situation and save our relationship despite me siding with another.”
“Mmm, very diplomatic.” Miranda thought over Andy’s argument. Finally, with a small nod, Miranda conceded, “Fine. But what are you going to do to make it up to me?”
“Whatever quest or challenge you decide.”
“Shall I prepare one single demanding task, or a series of bothersome errands?”
“What’ve ya got?”
“Will you rid me of Irv Ravitz?”
“If that’s what you most need…”
“I will not demand it of you, but should you be able to….”
Andy grinned. Miranda’s teasing smile was back. They would find a way.
Seven months had passed since that most important dinner. In that time, Miranda found it made her happy to talk with Andy at least every other day and to see the younger woman weekly. So many of her personal friendships were born from professional dynamics, she found it relaxing, pleasing, and calming to have a friend not connected to her directly through work. And yet, Andy’s profession gave her the knowledge to completely understand that aspect of Miranda. The fact Andy was also driven and focused on her own path to success gave them an even deeper bond.
It was a Friday evening and the twins were home for the weekend but out with friends. Andy slouched back into the love seat in Miranda’s study, tired from a long demanding day.
Miranda moved from the bar to her seat, passing behind the small couch and handing Andy’s wineglass to her over her shoulder. As Andy’s hand grasped the crystal, their fingers met. Miranda froze for a moment at the contact, shocked at the odd tingle that ran up her arm. Retreating to her seat across from Andy she put the occurrence behind her.
“So, Andréa, what is troubling you this evening.”
“Am I so obvious?”
“Your deplorable posture seems to be a dead giveaway.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be such poor company tonight.”
“Please,” Miranda flicked her hand through the air as if slapping away the comment. “As if I have always been the perfect companion.”
“I always thought so.” Andy mumbled.
“What was that?”
“Nothing.” Andy denied.
“So, what is it, then?” Miranda pushed.
“I’ve received a number of calls since my series on women’s comparative rights around the globe.”
“Friend or foe?”
“Really? What sort?”
“The sort I would be a fool to pass up.” Andy finally raised her eyes from her drink to gauge Miranda’s response.
“Enlighten me with the particulars, please.”
“A number of newspapers offering equal positions with slightly more pay. A couple who are offering editorial positions. And one or two magazines.”
“So, why the hollow eyes?”
“The best offer standing is the riskiest.”
Miranda and Andy always fell into this type of give and take conversation. It was a comfortable play between them. Both more than willing to give up every last bit of information to the other, but preferring to play the twenty questions to get there.
“The offer came from Elias-Clarke Publications.” She paused, waiting for some sort of reaction. When Miranda showed no sign of responding, she continued. “They’re starting up a new magazine to go up against the New Yorker. Essays, poetry, Op-Ed. They want it to be a little more ‘main stream’, whatever that means to them, I may never know. I think they want to capture the younger generations. I’m expecting there to be talk of blogging and facebook, and twitter.”
“And the problem lies where, exactly?”
“Well… Runway is Elias-Clarke…”
“And you are Runway.”
“What does that mean, Andréa?”
“It means I don’t want to get this position because of my friendship with you.”
“Don’t be absurd. Who would ever make that connection? And even if someone did, it is totally preposterous. I have nothing to do with this offer.” Miranda squinted her eyes in concentration. “What is the real problem?” Her voice was cold, direct, leaving no room to escape.
“I don’t think I can do it. And I wouldn’t want my failure to reflect on you.”
“Andréa, you have to stop being so protective of me. It is warping your ability to see reality. No one would make any connection between you, me, and this job offer. No professional accomplishment or failure on your part will ever have an impact on me, professionally. And if you think, after all you have learned, after all I have taught you, that you can’t do the job then it’s high time you quit. Go back to Cincinnati. New York has bigger fish to fry.”
They sat in silence. Andy stared into the red wine swirling in her glass.
Miranda sat back, sipping from her own glass while she watched Andy.
Andy sucked in a deep breath, held it a moment, then blew it out. Sitting up, she raised her eyes to meet Miranda’s again. Holding the gaze she smiled tentatively, “So, you think I should accept the offer?”
“I think you should do what you desire. But, do not take this job if you truly think you can’t do it. If nothing else, you have to be absolutely confident about yourself. Weakness will be your demise.”
“For being honest. And for slapping me upside the head.”
Miranda grinned, choking Andy with the sheer beauty of the act. “Always happy to. It is, after all, what friends are for.” Miranda raised her glass in a silent toast and they drank to each other. “Now, how about dinner?”
It was near midnight by the time they exhausted their conversation topics. The twins had already made an appearance and retired to bed. The book had been delivered to a dismissive frown from Miranda.
As Andy slipped into the coat Miranda held for her, Miranda whispered, “So? Have you decided?”
Andy turned to find herself much closer to Miranda than she expected. Eyes twinkling with mirth she answered, “Yes.”
“Wonderful.” Miranda wrapped her arms around Andy, offering a congratulatory hug.
Andy’s arms slipped around Miranda’s waist and they stilled in the shared embrace, standing together for much longer than social requirements allowed.
Miranda leaned back, her eyes scanning Andy’s face, eyes to lips and back again, searching for an answer. Her eyes seemed to mist over, getting cloudy as she leaned in to offer a friendly kiss to Andy’s cheek.
Nearing contact, Andy turned slightly, meeting Miranda with her own lips.
The kiss was light, chaste and all too brief. Miranda made to step away, surprised and a little shocked at what had occurred and her body’s response.
Andy, however, refused to let go. Before Miranda could say anything in protest, Andy’s mouth was on hers again, muffling the explosive breath of surprise. Andy’s hands pulled Miranda closer as her lips hungrily convinced Miranda of her need. Desire flared as lips opened to both offer and acceptance of a deeper union.
A seeking hand sliding up her side and inadvertently brushing against her breast caused Miranda to jump away, panting.
Andy maintained their connection by grasping Miranda’s wrists. They gaped at each other, unable to get brains or words to engage.
Miranda offered her best with a soft “Oh.”
Andy nodded in agreement, “Yeah, oh.”
“Andréa…” Miranda began, refusing to cowardly break eye contact.
“No, please don’t.” Andy pleaded, her face tightening with the threat of tears in response to the rejection she knew was coming.
Miranda pulled a hand free from Andy’s grasp and raised it to brush against Andy’s face, coming to rest cradling her cheek and jaw. “How long?” she inquired of Andy.
Shaking her head in protest Andy allowed, “Forever?”
Miranda brushed her thumb across Andy’s lips and weakly smiled. “I suspected, although I wasn’t sure.”
“I’m not sorry.” Andy’s voice began to gain its strength again.
“I don’t think I want you to be.” Miranda admitted.
“What do…?, I mean…”
“I need to take some time. Go home. Get some rest. We’ll talk tomorrow.” Miranda offered softly.
Andy nodded in agreement, releasing Miranda’s wrist. Before she could turn away towards the door, Miranda moved in again, stopping Andy with the hand still against her face. This time lips met gently, offering a promise.
Neither knew how it would play out, but Miranda was promising not to leave. Not to quit.
Andy accepted the promise and gave her own back. This time they separated with a shared smile.
“Good night, Andréa.”
“Good night, Miranda.”
Miranda held the door open for Andy, watching as she carefully descended the steps to the waiting cab.
Andy’s phone rang at 4:30 in the afternoon, pulling her awake from the needed nap on her couch. She answered with a groan, “Hello?”
“Are you all right?”
“Cramp in my neck. I fell asleep on the couch.”
“I woke you?” Miranda’s voice was laced with disbelief.
“Yeah, well, I didn’t sleep very well last night.”
“I don’t know.”
‘Well, that’s a lot better than ‘no way in hell‘.”
“Yes, well… I have reservations.”
“I’m sure you do.” Andy almost couldn’t control the bubble of laughter that was trying to burst from her chest.
“Do you think I should just disregard my children?” Miranda accused.
“No! No, Miranda. I’m just…”
“Yes, as am I. I would like to see you. I do not think this is a conversation to have over the phone.”
“Ok. When and where.”
“Now. Your apartment.”
“Buzz me in, please.”
Andy jumped from the couch and ran to her window. Looking out, she saw Miranda’s Porsche parked at the curb. Running across the apartment she hit the entry release to allow Miranda entrance. A quick, panicked scan around the room settled her a bit. The space was fairly clean, with only her lap top and some papers on the coffee table showing any disarray.
Racing into the kitchen, Andy’s hip slammed into the counter, nearly bouncing her off her feet. She stumbled to the refrigerator and yanked it open. She spied a new bottle of Pinot Gris and a few bottles of San Pellegrino. Smiling in relief, she returned to the door, checking her reflection in the mirror hanging in the entry. Scrubbing her fingers through her sleep flattened hair, she winced at the barely acceptable result as a knock sounded on her door.
Andy exuberantly swung the door open, startling Miranda.
“Waiting patiently, were you?” Miranda mused.
“I think I have a good excuse.” Andy tossed back. “May I take your coat?” Andy asked, her throat tightening at the possibility Miranda would simply tell her off and storm out.
Miranda eyed Andy, taking her usual quick study of the woman’s appearance. With a single nod she turned away and shrugged out of her faux silver fox fur coat. Andy hung it reverently in the closet and then led Miranda into her home.
Eyes roaming, taking in every detail, Miranda accepted the offer of the arm chair and allowed, “A lovely home, Andréa.”
“Thank you. Can I get you anything?”
“What are you offering?”
“Wine, water, orange juice, pop corn…?”
Miranda couldn’t stop the smile crossing her face. “Wine would be acceptable.”
Andy spun and ran to fill the order. Returning with two glasses, she handed Miranda’s off and took a seat on the edge of the couch closest to the editor, waiting and watching.
Miranda took a tentative sip and smiled. “Very nice.”
Andy released the breath she did not realize she was holding and prodded, “So?”
Miranda glanced up, reading the tension, worry, and hope in the soulful eyes staring at her. Taking another swallow of wine she began, “I honestly don’t know what to say or do.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Maybe it would be easier if you answer that first. What do you want?”
“I won’t lie, Miranda. I want you.”
“Do you even know what that means? What it entails?”
“I think I’m up to speed.”
“This is not a joke, Andréa.”
“I know. I am not taking any of this lightly. I want you in my life, Miranda. If you decide all you can offer is the friendship I have already been blessed with, than I accept. But, you need to know that I want you in a much more significant manner.”
“And you think, if all I can give you is my friendship, you can live with that? You won’t begin to despise me?”
“I’ve had every chance allowed to despise you. I’ve experienced you being your meanest, and never hated you. Even in Paris, I didn’t hate you. I don’t really want this to be the moment or the way I tell you, but, I am in love with you, Miranda Priestly. And I cannot imagine my life without you in it. I would be aggrieved and heartbroken, but I would continue to love you and want you here, in whatever fashion you so deem acceptable.”
“I would not want the responsibility of you throwing your love life away. I would want you to find someone.”
“In time, that may happen. Will it help if I promise to not hide myself away?”
“It would help if I didn’t have my own feelings invested.” Miranda admitted.
“Is that your decision, then? Are we not to pursue this?”
“I did not say that.”
“I am torn, Andréa. I gave up on the idea of a romantic relationship. Initially, I held off looking because I did not want to put the girls through the circus of my life anymore. I spent the last five years rebuilding and strengthening the relationship with my daughters. I had my friends for companionship. Any sexual needs were dealt with as they arose. Now, you’re asking me to engage in an affair that has the potential to destroy all I have accomplished.”
“No. I’m asking you to give me the opportunity to love you.”
“And that is what could kill me.”
“No, you don’t understand. You sit there with your puppy eyes so full of love and you have no idea what I feel for you. You have no idea that if you convince me to enter into this with you that it would be my very soul on the line. If you were to leave me again, I would not recover. I don’t know if I am strong enough to give you that power. I don’t know if I dare to take that chance. I don’t know if my girls could handle another go round. They appear strong, but they have been so unfairly injured by my actions. I can’t do that to them again.”
“Miranda, I am so confused right now. Can you please just say yes or no?”
“Then what are we supposed to do?”
“I don’t know.”
Andy was stunned by the complete dejection that engulfed Miranda. She never witnessed this side of the woman. She had seen Miranda in so many battles, but she never witnessed such emotional loss. Andy slipped from her perch on the couch and moved to kneel at Miranda’s feet. Taking Miranda’s hands in her own, Andy waited until Miranda raised her eyes.
“Miranda, I’m asking for a chance. You don’t have to try to convince me of the potential disaster. I’ve dwelt on that for the past five years. Can’t you see the possibility of success? Can you, in any of your imaginings, picture us together?”
“You are much further along then I. I have only begun considering the possibility of an ‘us’ since last night. You are, as you say, five years ahead of me. Can you give me more time?”
“Can you allow me to kiss you?”
The joy that illuminated Miranda’s eyes stole Andy’s breath. As an answer to Andy’s question, Miranda tugged at Andy's hands, drawing her near. Her hands climbed Andy’s arms to her shoulders where Miranda sank fingers into flesh, pulling her even closer.
Their kiss was an affirmation of desire, want, and need. Before she knew she was moving, Andy found herself in the chair, straddling Miranda’s lap. The sounds emitting from Miranda’s throat were sending electric shocks to Andy’s belly, filling her with warmth.
Hands moved, brushing carefully against skin, fingers tangling in strands of hair. The kisses became deeper, forcing emotion to the forefront.
Andy felt hands resting on her hips, holding her firmly in place. The kisses began to slow, the fervor calming. Ending with a final chaste peck, Andy slid away, landing again on the floor. She dragged her hands down Miranda’s arms, ending with hands grasping lightly.
“Are you ok?” Andy worried.
“Marvelous.” Miranda answered without self-editing. Checking her watch she frowned. “I have to get going. The girls will be expecting me.”
“Oh, ok.” Andy stood and assisted Miranda from the chair. At the door, as Miranda drew her coat closed, Andy had to ask, “When can I see you again?”
Miranda gazed at the woman who she now knew held her heart and, brushing a few loose strands of hair behind Andy’s ear, smiled with her answer, “I am going to talk with the girls tonight. I will call you afterwards. And we will discuss a meeting at that time.”
“Are you sure?”
“No. But, I don’t believe I have a choice any longer. I fear without you, I would be lost.” She offered a blinding smile before she leaned in to steal a last kiss.
Andy saw her out to the curb, standing on the street until the Porsche disappeared around the corner.
Andy’s phone rang again at nine o’clock. She answered with restrained excitement. “How did it go?”
“You will be able to make it to dinner tomorrow?”
“Um, yes? I think so.”
“You are accepting the offer from Elias-Clarke?”
“Wear something a bit conservative for dinner. I do not want you overwhelming my girls.”
“If you leave me Andréa, I will hunt you down and kill you.”
“I love you too, Miranda.”
“Yes, well. I will see you tomorrow.”