Chapter 1: Use Somebody
I've been roaming around
Always looking down at all I see
Painted faces, fill the places I can't reach
You know that I could use somebody...
They were going to get caught, Miranda thought as she panted her orgasm through her clenched teeth, back pressed hard against the door of her ground floor office. They were going to get caught and it would be a disaster. The Devil in Prada, the Dragon Lady, the Demon of the Garment District and the Editor in Chief of Runway was going to get caught with her tongue down her second assistant’s throat, with skilled fingers three knuckles deep in her vagina and that maddening thumb rubbing circles over her clit.
Her divorce was bad. It was public and humiliating and she felt like a failure because despite everything, she had once loved that good for nothing scoundrel Greg, who threw her over for a younger model. But with a well written column here, a strategically placed photograph there, and, of course, the continuous rapturous success of Runway, the world moved on and she was once again standing tall.
The protracted custody battle was worse. It was even more public than the divorce. Fuming and hurt over losing that battle and having to pay exorbitant alimony, Greg was speaking to the press at every turn. He was going to have his way and hurt Miranda where it mattered to her most. He was going to take her children and further embarrass her in the court of public opinion. And so, the monikers, the horrible little stories of her tantrums and irascibility, her demanding nature and her disregard for labor laws or any laws when it came to her precious magazine started trickling down in the media. Page Six was having a blast with assigning her a new nickname every other day: The Devil, the Demon, The Ice Queen. You name it, she was called it. She stood tall throughout this storm as well. With her toddlers by her side, she appeared dignified and stoic, if aloof and indeed cold in all photos. Greg’s vindictiveness and dirty tactics ended up biting him though. The court disregarded all his innuendo and gossip and gave Miranda physical custody of her babies, with Greg getting the twins every other weekend and having to pay a formidable amount of child support.
Getting caught having a sordid little affair with a girl 25 years her junior and her direct subordinate was going to be the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to her. It was going to destroy her.
Irv would fire her posthaste since a “moral clause” was written into her otherwise ironclad contract. Greg would challenge the current custody decision arguing that someone who was fired for sexual harassment at the workplace simply could not have physical custody of impressionable 9-year olds. The press would go berserk and paint her as a middle-aged woman seducing a naive ingenue under her supervision. Either way, she would be finished in the world of fashion and publishing, despite the fashion world being tremendously liberal and the publishing industry tending to protect its own. That said, Miranda wasn’t blind to her reputation, her history or who her enemies were. She knew well enough that both worlds would pounce on her, declaring that “the Devil Queen was dead! Long live another Queen!” Anna Wintour would be licking her lips at such a prospect. What a horrible visual that.
Somehow Stephen divorcing her as a result of the revelation of her affair with her second assistant did not make the list of “terrible things that will absolutely happen very soon, because they would definitely get caught fucking”. Theirs was never a true romance, but more of a business merger. God knew, there were few worse things in business mergers than embarrassing alliances on the side made horribly public. She knew Stephen wasn’t faithful to her. His dalliances were acceptable since he kept them in high society and very quiet. Miranda’s large network of discreet informants apprised her of the news of Stephen’s affair with a widowed baroness Von Something-or-Other about a month ago. He was being discreet and rather posh, all things considered. But Miranda’s affair with an underling would rock their carefully staged business arrangement like an earthquake. He would divorce her in an instant and she would get stuck with the humiliating payments of alimony this time around, sponsoring his love for atrocious habits like cigars, golf and horrible rum. Who in their right mind thinks drinking rum is acceptable anywhere but on a tropical island? So gauche.
Miranda knew she had to end this. This… whatever the hell this was that had her pouncing on Andrea the moment she delivered the Book. Whatever the hell this was that had her locking them in the small office on the ground floor and fucking Andrea deaf and blind, three fingers pumping furiously till she clutched and bit her lips to muffle her moan. Whatever the hell this was that had Miranda swiftly kneeling at Andrea’s feet to taste her essence off her still quivering thighs and lips and clit and make Andrea come again, simply because Miranda could. Simply because for some utterly maddening reason, nothing in the world felt like having this girl come for her, around her fingers, in her mouth, fall apart with her name on her plump reddened lips, pouty from all the kissing, biting and sucking Miranda has bestowed on them.
In the past four months, Miranda bestowed a lot and often and so damn hungrily, because she simply could not get enough. She was half crazy with this reckless need. She played it fast and loose and selfishly risked them both for a few moments of dazzling heat of Andrea taking her against the door of the editor’s private bathroom or ticking her hand under Miranda’s skirt in the back of the Mercedes. Her days and her nights were filled with memories of Andrea’s skin, with the sounds she made, with the shy smiles she gave her as she was trying to pick up her panties up off the floor only to discover them ruined, soaked and ripped, because Miranda couldn’t wait. She never could anyway. Not for coffee, not for steak and not for Patrick. So why should she wait to suck on Andrea’s clit when she could smell her arousal the moment their lips touched as she pushed her against the office door. Her own arousal was spiking even higher since Andrea’s wetness meant she was thinking about Miranda on her way to the townhouse, no doubt imagining all the things Miranda would do to her and she would do to Miranda. And my God, did Andrea ever do to Miranda. In fact, she did to Miranda better than anyone, better than Greg and certainly better than Stephen with his clammy hands and sloppy kisses. Miranda always tried to dodge those messy aberrations, pretending to throw her head back in the throes of passion. “Throes of passion”... Turns out she had no idea what that syntagm even meant until Andrea took her at her desk, kneeling before her chair and spreading her legs, pulling her thong to the side and silently proceeding to turn her brain to mush, her body to fire and her world into bedlam. And if that wasn’t passionate enough, Andrea continued by taking her forcefully, from behind, on her knees, in her office after hours.
The Ice Queen, who preferred to be an observer of life and who looked down at the painted faces and bizarre carnal pursuits of the jesters in her court, was finally melting. What seemed repulsive before, was becoming indispensable. What seemed trivial and unnecessary in her relationships with her husbands - an aptly named marital duty - was suddenly an appetite she couldn’t sate. An appetite that would drive her into the abyss. And she was selfishly using her faithful second assistant to quench that appetite, dooming the girl to perdition in the process.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Miranda,” Andrea’s smile was open and her eyes shone with the quiet gleem of the afterglow. Miranda nodded, unable to speak, certain that if she opened her mouth now, she would just blurt out everything that was weighing so heavily on her mind. Andrea raised her hand and for a second Miranda thought that she had actually read her treacherous thoughts and was reaching out to strike her for her selfishness. Instead the long graceful fingers lingered on her lower lip, wiping the residual moisture before being drawn into Andrea’s kiss swollen mouth. With a sultry look from beneath her lowered lashes and still sucking on her finger, Andrea quietly exited the room.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Miranda’s whispered reply came, barely audible even in the complete stillness of the townhouse. She wasn’t sure if she said it or wished it. She wished so much to see Andrea tomorrow and for everything to be as it was tonight. But fear was pulsing strong and heavy in her chest and she knew that tonight was the night when something had to give. Give in, give out or give up, though, she wasn’t entirely certain.
She heard the front door close and exhaled slowly, unaware she was holding her breath. Another clandestine encounter she came out of unscathed. Walking quietly through the dark townhouse she couldn’t calm her racing thoughts. Why tonight of all nights was this fear of discovery plaguing her so fiercely? In the end, Stephen slept through it all, fueled by Ambien and rum. The twins were in bed even earlier. The grip of fear didn’t leave her as she settled into the chair in her office and opened the Book. With her mind in upheaval and her heart rate spiking, Miranda clutched the Book tightly in her hands, the precious object, a tangible representation of everything she stood to lose if their little interludes were to be discovered. If she was still throbbing between her thighs, Miranda chose to ignore that feeling. Tonight, more than on any other night, she felt untethered and reckless, too careless in her actions and it scared her. The lengths she went to be with this girl. The lengths she went to be taken by this girl. It was too much and it was time to stop.
She was selfish in allowing this affair to begin and she was selfish to end it simply because her own fear was choking her, but the consequences of using Andrea for pleasure and being discovered by the world were too dire and the price for their indiscretions was too steep. Miranda sighed and unbidden images of bright brown eyes invaded her mind. Guilt flooded right on the heels of all that brightness. She was selfishly using the girl, just to feel alive among the dead and decayed silk and velvet and glossy photographs of starving models. They all left her cold, encased in ice. Andrea made her feel alive. Andrea warmed her with her smile and scalded her with her passion and Miranda used every second of it to feel unfettered joy, perhaps for the very first time. But feeling alive be damned when she was hyperventilating in her own office at midnight from the choking fear. After four months of living and breathing said sheer unfettered joy, Miranda was ending it.
Decision made, she exited her office, turning off the light.
Miranda supposed it was a fitting comparison, her turning off the light in the office still permeated with the mingled scents of sex, and her turning off the light on her affair with Andrea while walking eerily through the darkness of the townhouse. She knew that what she had to do next would hurt her to some extent, but it would hurt the girl more and both would be plunged into darkness for a while. But it had to be done.
Ironically, she wasn’t thinking about how she would break it to Andrea. The “how” was irrelevant after all, since the result would be equally devastating. While Miranda could chalk her own attraction to the girl up to a latent midlife crisis or to pure indulgence and selfishness, she was old enough and experienced enough to know that there was love in Andrea’s eye when she looked at her, true love and all-consuming trust and adoration. Andrea loved her and Miranda, continuing the pattern of being selfish and self-indulgent, was about to destroy that love and break Andrea’s trust.
They were going to get caught. It would be an unacceptable ending to an otherwise most satisfactory little arrangement. So Miranda braced herself to do what must be done. If her heart ached just a little in the process, she would write it off as penance for acting so out of character.
And now, fear, fear in itself
Will use you up and break you down
Like you were never enough...
A sleepless night meant that by the time Miranda briskly strolled into the Runway offices, she had a well-defined plan of action with only one objective. She had to end her affair with Andrea and she had to end it on such terms that this little weakness Miranda had for her would never again have the opportunity to be indulged. She had to remove Andrea from her life in order to keep her life. If Andrea hated her just a little when all was said and done, it was a price Miranda was willing to pay. This whole thing was down to boredom and self-indulgence after all. She’d handle it.
“Emily, coffee,” her modulated tones obviously disturbed the atmosphere in the office since two heads shot up from behind computer monitors. Normally Andrea as her second assistant oversaw supplying Miranda with liquid gold. Miranda shaking up the normal, caused Andrea to stare at her and Emily to squeak and stutter.
“But… but… Andrea just… on your desk…” Oh, if you only knew, Emily, what Andrea has done on that desk! Shaking her head to indicate displeasure with Emily for daring to question her and to clear it of the lascivious thoughts, Miranda only raised an eyebrow and Emily scurried away.
“Andrea, please arrange for an hour of free time today for lunch. My husband will be joining me.” Even as she said it, Miranda was aware that Andrea’s eyes went from bright with excitement at being alone with her for a bit to startled and hurt. “I think Le Bernardin would suit just fine. Eric and Stephen are good friends. We love going there.” She deliberately used plural pronouns and affected an air of genteel excitement. It was important not to overplay her hand, to not dive too deep too soon. Despite her youth, which vexed Miranda daily, Andrea’s intelligence impressed Miranda just as often. She’d never believe a rushed subterfuge.
“Miranda…,” Andrea was obviously going to question Miranda’s sudden excitement for spending any amount of time with her husband outside official functions. They didn’t spend much time discussing personal matters or, in fact, matters of any kind, because fucking really consumed all their time. But Andrea being as intelligent and as observant as she was, had to have figured that Miranda and Stephen had a relationship that while professionally beneficial to both, was mostly window dressing.
Thankfully Emily’s arrival with her hotter than the center of the sun latte ended the line of inquiry and the morning passed in a flurry of meetings and incompetence.
Sitting across the table from Stephen, after being greeted and air kissed by Eric Ripert himself, Miranda started having second thoughts about her plan. Not so much about ending it with Andrea. That had to be done if only to spare herself the persistent panic attacks and visions of being drawn and quartered in the court of public opinion after being dragged naked through the Upper East Side. This indulgence of her wild side had gone on for far too long. She was jumping at her own shadow. Every meeting with Irv was agony trying to decipher his usual pontificating monologues and wondering whether he knew and when would the hammer fall.
She wanted her life back and it was past time to send Andrea along to acquire herself one as well. If only the girl wasn’t so damn appealing. Like the proverbial flame she shone, turning Miranda into a crazed moth who could do nothing but pursue her.
Miranda’s sudden apprehensiveness had nothing to do with her decision to end things with Andrea. She was sitting in the middle of a beautiful restaurant, prominently enough that there would be Page Six pictures of them by the end of the hour. She was doing so while eating delicious food and drinking a lovely Zinfandel. But all of those things were being squashed into sheer absurd boredom by having to share them with Stephen. He was boring and sniveling. What in the world did she ever see in him? He had no chin to speak of and his voice droned on and on, choosing the most mundane and insipid subjects.
Miranda was rather taken aback at how four months of affecting extreme professional preoccupation with getting her second assistant out of her various designer attires could open one’s eyes to the total lacking in one’s own husband. What was she thinking two years ago when she chose him? Was it really his fault though that Miranda found Andrea so utterly delightful, in or out of said attires? That even an hour with Stephen felt wasted? And yet, for her plan of self-reclamation to succeed she would have to be convincing enough in her attempts to have a quasi-normal marriage with him.
Andrea, her bright and insightful Andrea, would never believe that Miranda was suddenly in love with him. She knew too well that Miranda did not love her husband. But Andrea also knew that some things were just too precious for Miranda to lose. Her girls, her magazine and her public image always came first. And so, all Miranda had to “sell” Andrea on was honest efforts to preserve either or all three of her treasures.
As their lunch ended, Miranda made it a point to kiss Stephen squarely on the lips in front of the paparazzi who were always stationed at the door of this celebrity frequented establishment. Stephen’s distinct surprise at an unexpected display of affection as well as his not at all subtle lascivious glance down her Marc Jacobs blouse spelled that she would likely have to endure a bout of that god-awful marital duty sometime soon. It mattered not. She had one purpose today: making a statement. One could always count on there being photographers in front of Le Bernardin, just as one could count on the picture of the kiss to make its way online before Roy delivered her to the office.
If Miranda was curious whether her plan of feeding the lens carrying sharks had worked, all she had to see was the thunderous face of her second assistant to confirm her success.
“Andrea, I want you at the closing at Chloe, there’ll be proofs from tonight's late shoot. I’ll want them first thing tomorrow morning. Emily, bring the Book tonight. That’s all.” Thus, forestalling any attempt by her second assistant to get some much needed answers from her, Miranda glided into her office and demanded Patrick.
With this little misdirection, Miranda ensured that Andrea was both too busy to unload on her the number of questions Miranda’s little production was generating, but also ensured Andrea’s absence from her townhouse. Her quiet, dark townhouse that kept all her dirty secrets of temptation and satiation. She didn’t want to answer questions, but she also didn’t trust herself to be alone with the girl.
With both of them in the past four months focusing more on other types of pursuits and letting some of the more mundane professional responsibilities slide by, Miranda had enough things to assign to Andrea to keep her occupied for a couple of weeks at least. While Andrea was thus occupied and quietly stewing at Miranda for evading her and brushing her off, Miranda herself was reminiscing of those pursuits that she was now missing. Such pursuits as sneaking into the editor’s bathroom for a quick afternoon fuck, with Andrea bending her over the sink and taking her from behind, her skirt hastily pulled up and her ass cheek stinging with a red imprint from several slaps delivered by a sure hand, while long fingers stroked her into a quick hard climax. Memories of those pursuits made her wet, memories of those pursuits made her forget why she was sending Andrea to Meizel in Brooklyn tomorrow and again making Emily bring the Book.
With two weeks of subterfuge gone, Miranda was getting closer to the edge. After tossing and turning in bed for what seemed like forever, she finally relented and climbed down to the study to curl up with Patricia on the couch. She loved this room. Every single surface here held memories of her and Andrea.
One particular memory came unbidden. It was a night just like this, nearly four months ago, a week after Andrea knelt in front of her for their very first time. They were still shy with one another, still tentative. If their office trysts and post Book delivery quickies were fast and furious, this one evening was tender and filled with some tentative emotion that Miranda was afraid to analyze in depth. Stephen was on some trip and Miranda was pacing the ground floor ready to ravish Andrea on sight, burning up with hunger and desire. However the storm outside had Andrea arriving late and soaked to the bone. So when Andrea’s cold trembling lips touched hers, Miranda quieted her ardor and unconsciously set to warm Andrea up instead of setting her on fire as appeared to be their normal.
The memory was so vivid, perhaps enhanced by the same sounds of rain coming down and the same darkness of the room. Miranda could almost taste the droplets on Andrea’s skin as she uncovered her body, slowly tracing the translucent skin with her lips and fingertips, every so often returning to that generous mouth that welcomed her with warming lips and an agile tongue that seemed to understand the need to soothe instead of inflame. She couldn’t get enough of those gentle kisses, the slide of supple lips over hers, the sweet taste of Andrea permeating her conscience, burrowing into her very soul. She couldn’t taste enough, yet her mouth was gentle, savoring every second and every touch and every shared breath. Those full lips with their Cupids’ Bow that she traced with the tip of her tongue causing Andrea to shiver, sigh contently and try to catch Miranda’s tongue with her own. Miranda playfully withdrew her mouth just out of reach and Andrea smiled at the surprising mischievousness. That smile was so bright, so genuine in it’s utter happiness and tenderness that Miranda was momentarily struck speechless. It was too much. There was too much emotion on Andrea’s beautiful face, too much sincerity and guilelessness and so Miranda had to kiss that smile, feeling it grow even more under her mouth.
That night she undressed Andrea for the very first time. The sight of all that flawless pale skin, the curving lines of full breasts, her sculpted waist and the flare of her hips had Miranda’s hands trembling. They stood so close, their mouths seemingly unable to part for more than mere seconds to draw breath, Andrea naked and Miranda fully clothed. Miranda thought she had never experienced anything more erotic in her life than this girl. Her fingers moved of their own accord, tracing lines and curves until finding wetness and heat. They both moaned loudly at the touch, and even though they’d been doing this for a week, Miranda felt like she was touching Andrea for the very first time. Perhaps she was. And so her fingers were feather soft, teasing, light and tender, playing in the wet folds, making Andrea tremble with want, making her plead quietly for what she perhaps knew not herself. Just when she had Andrea on the very edge, Miranda slipped two long graceful fingers inside, gently bringing her to a shuddering orgasm.
On that rainy night, with the sound of the storm outside cocooning them in this room and separating them from the world outside and from their lives, Miranda was gentle and unhurried. Maybe for the first and only time since their affair commenced, she was also unafraid. Unafraid of the emotion behind the touch of her fingertips and of the feeling behind the caress of her lips. She never again allowed herself to be this unafraid, the enormity of all she had to lose firming her hands and rushing her mouth. Miranda never allowed herself to think of that night, yet now that it was all ending, the taste of Andrea as Miranda licked her off her fingers in the afterglow, was returning to her just like the memory, its vividness transcendent.
Lying on the couch with Patricia cuddled up close to her, Miranda was feeling decidedly out of sorts. With the memories haunting her at every corner, she was disoriented and yearning.
She was also utterly disgusted with herself for acting in a way that would have her younger self appalled. Younger self? Her current self was appalled as well. Appalled at her cowardness, at her indecisiveness, at her weakness when it came to this girl.
The Queen who ran an Empire with an iron fist was playing childish games to rid herself of a problem of her own making. Heavens, Andrea wasn’t a problem. She was a beautiful girl who had the misfortune of falling for her. But she also was the temptress who consumed Miranda’s days and nights and drove her out of her mind with fear. Fear for her and, if Miranda was entirely honest with herself, fear of her. Andrea scared her, scared her breathless.
The power she unknowingly wielded over Miranda was unprecedented. Andrea could equally elate and destroy her with one word, and Miranda never felt more alive than when she was under that power. It was intoxicating, it was terrifying, and it had Miranda behaving like a scheming high-schooler, playing games and making stratagems to drive her away.
She should just tell her, should just confess that she hadn’t slept normally in weeks, that her mind was tearing itself apart with panic and desire, and that this situation was utterly unsustainable. But confessing her fear to Andrea was even more ludicrous to her than playing these silly games. No, Miranda couldn’t confess a weakness to anyone, after all the Devil had no weaknesses. Still, the games had to stop, because as much as panic was choking her, Miranda had her dignity and this whole situation had devolved into something unbecoming of her. The games will stop tomorrow, she decided quietly stroking Patricia's fur and listening to her faithful dog breath loudly in the quiet of the night.
I can be found on Twitter at @mckayundercover and my super-beta is @dianakanebooks, who has written the awesome-est lesfic novels, check her out.
Chapter 3: Bad Liar
WARNING (I'm rather a bit of an idiot and can't figure tags out) - THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS A BRIEF PARAGRAPH OF MIRANDA AND STEPHEN HAVING SEX. It's not long and it's not overly descriptive, but it is there at the beginning of the chapter (3rd para). Please be warned and I apologize in advance.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
I wish I could escape,
I don't wanna fake it
Wish I could erase it
Make your heart believe...
With so many of her recent actions being out of character, Miranda thought ruefully that she might as well do one last thing that was uncharacteristic of the Devil in Prada. If it really took the cake in her cockamamie plan to end her affair with Andrea, all the better. She never did things by half measure anyway.
So here she was in all her splendor, wearing an off the shoulder black Valentino gown and dancing with a slightly tipsy Stephen who had nearly caused a scene with Irv. Only Andrea’s timely astute intervention stopped a ridiculous spectacle. And how was Miranda going to repay her ever faithful assistant who had been devouring her all evening, her eyes leaving scorching paths on her skin every time they raked across her naked shoulder and neck? Miranda was about to allow Stephen to fuck her in the bathroom in the middle of the Gala. As ghastly as that sounded and as little appeal it held for her, she was also about to add even more humiliation to her already rather painful evening and make Andrea stand guard by the bathroom door.
Predictably, upon being issued an order of “mind the door” from Miranda, Andrea’s eye widened in comprehension and then the look of shock was surpassed by the expression of hurt so pronounced that Miranda almost reconsidered. It was beyond cruel how much she was hurting the girl. To make her listen to Stephen grunt and growl as he rammed his rather mediocre manhood into her. To make her live through the sounds of the woman Andrea loved being taken just behind the closed door, not even two feet away.
The irony was that Miranda was being hurt just as badly. She was dry as a bone so Stephen’s exertions were causing her quite a lot of physical pain, but it was pain the of hurting Andrea, of pushing her to the brink just to drive her away that was making Miranda writhe in agony.
It was over predictably quickly, with a low growl and a bite on her naked shoulder that was sure to mark. Fucking Stephen and his fucking incompetence. How could a man Stephen’s age still be this incompetent at such a basic function, one all men fantasized about most of their lives? One would think that if one dedicated that much time to something, that thing would have been perfected to a higher standard by the time one hit 50. Yet Stephen, for all his imagining himself as the stud, was quite mediocre in the sack. As for endurance? Miranda counted her blessings.
The brevity of the encounter was her only saving grace. Looking in the mirror, trying to assess the damage to her appearance, Miranda reasoned that the physical pain was penance and just part of the price she would be paying very soon.
Unable to stomach the satisfied expression on Stephen’s smug face, Miranda swept out of the bathroom leaving him to take care of his clothing. One glance at Andrea and the seething rage on her face was enough to know the shot Miranda had taken had more than hit its mark.
“Andrea, bring me my wrap and call for Roy.” Even as she spoke, she knew it was not going to be a successful forestalling tactic. Andrea’s face was undergoing a number of transformations as emotions ran rampant through her. Hurt, anger, rage and then at the mention of the wrap, her eyes finally landing on the red and bruised shoulder, probably showing the teeth imprints by now, Andrea’s face just shut down. It was as if something broke down inside her and she just stopped responding.
For all the strength of the emotion, Andrea seemed to recover quickly, and her fingers flew on, taping on her phone, no doubt letting Roy know he was needed immediately. She gently deposited the silk wrap on Miranda’s shoulder, careful both of the crowded room and prying eyes, as well as of the swelling bruise. Miranda could tell how much it bothered her, a slight catching of breath betraying her distaste for the mark as she gently covered the alabaster shoulder with the silk.
While something definitely broke in Andrea at the sounds, sight and at the sheer cruelty of the editor's behavior, Miranda knew she would not escape unscathed from this situation and a conversation was forthcoming. Andrea would want to be heard, to spew all the venom that Miranda had been building in her the past week. She just hoped it wasn’t tonight, when she was so battered, sore and emotionally drained from this humiliating little spectacle she was enacting.
In making her escape from the ogling crowd, but mostly from Andrea, Miranda ducked into the car, without a backward glance. Karma was paying her for all her sins tonight though and just as Roy was about to close the door, Andrea slipped in right behind her, eyes sparkling with unshed tears.
“To the office, Roy, please.”
Even as her eyebrow rose in question, Miranda took the time to be amazed at the girl’s courage. So she would be confronted in her own office, in the place where it all started, where Andrea felt in control enough to have taken the first step and initiated this ridiculous charade between them. Perhaps it was for the best, the whole affair coming full circle. Resigned, Miranda just nodded and kept her silence until they entered the darkened building.
“What do you think you’re trying to accomplish?” Andrea whirled on her the moment the door to the elevator closed. “This isn’t a bad romance trope that you’re reenacting here, is it? The total failure to communicate that leads to the main characters’ painful separation? It’s considered gauche and outdated, Miranda. Nobody wants to read that anymore!”
Even under the ghastly circumstances, Miranda appreciated Andrea’s sarcasm and her perceptiveness. God, she was going to miss this girl, her intelligence, her wit. The show must go on though, she had to finish her role to gain her main prize of peace of mind.
“It would have to be a romance first for this to be a romance trope, bad or otherwise.” Her tone was deceptively cool, even though Andrea’s capability to see right through her with ease had rattled her considerably. Sure, it was a bad trope, just like a boss having an affair with an employee was a trope and a middle-aged lonely woman having an affair with a girl half her age was the trope to top off all the others. Miranda was close to becoming one massive walking cliché. In her field of work that spelled death. Nobody could do this to her, she would never allow it.
Her cool words seemed to hit Andrea like a slap across the cheek. The younger woman started and seemed to not know how to follow her very astute opening salvo.
Miranda swept out of the elevator and, without looking back, entered her office. Runway was empty and the darkness outside the windows contrasted sharply with the glaring lights in the hallways. Her empire didn’t look as impressive as it did during the day when the bustle and activity of the hundreds of worker bees drowned out the loneliness of their queen.
“You’re forgetting yourself, Andrea. I will not allow this presumptuous behavior.” Trying to regain the upper hand, Miranda chose attack as the best defense. “Commandeering Roy, getting on the elevator with me, speaking to me this way… Romance? I think not.”
Andrea’s eyes were no longer tear filled. They brimmed with hurt and resolution.
“I see what you’re doing Miranda. Romance trope be damned! You’re breaking up with me in the most despicable fashion you could think off. Funny how you pride yourself on all that courage and all that groundbreaking bravery in this world of glitter and velvet, yet you have to screw your husband in the Ritz’s bathroom to try and get your second assistant to break up with you!”
“You’re being delusional. Breaking up? We’d have had to have been together in some grotesque fashion for such a thing to even occur. We had a small fling. You must be out of your mind to believe it to have been anything other than that. I have my family and my marriage. I’ve been neglecting both. I’m not about to explain myself to my second assistant.”
“I see.” Andrea moved closer to her and it took all of Miranda’s experience and her vaunted courage not to take a step back. “You’ve had enough of us and you’re moving on. Would it have dented your crown to climb down off your throne of lies and talk to me? Just fucking talk to me. Not around me, not over me, but talk to me. Something changed and you’re done with me, but surely you could’ve just told me?”
Andrea’s voice rose slightly with the mocking inflection at the end of the sentence. Miranda desperately wanted to get out of this conversation, out of this office, and out of this mess of her own creation. But she knew that she had to keep pushing, had to keep hurting Andrea in order for Andrea to leave and never come back. Because for all her resolute actions and cruel words, Miranda knew deep inside that her own legendary willpower was no match for the havoc this girl was causing inside her.
Miranda knew that Andrea had to be far out of her reach because she herself would never be able to truly stay away. That was the crux of it all and the reason for her cruelty and the spectacle. Miranda would not be able to stay away and so Andrea had to be made to hate her. And so, Miranda pressed on.
“I’m surprised by you, Andrea. I thought you had enough maturity, enough sophistication to understand that this little arrangement was for our physical satisfaction. I guess it’s too much to expect someone from one of those flyover states to have such a thing as sophistication. What did you think was happening here, Andrea? What did you think we were doing? We were fucking! I’ll admit it was satisfactory, but I’m surprised that someone who a year ago was pontificating to me about the strength of her ambition would settle for being a cheap version of the other woman.”
If anyone knew when her own words would deliver a fatal blow, it was Miranda. She had perfected and honed that sense of accuracy to cut to the quick during her tenure as the Devil in Prada. It was part of her charm. Nobody cut people at the knees or the heart, as accurately as Miranda. She could tell that she had just delivered that killer blow. While Andrea had been trying to get speed and power to her arguments and was certainly delivering some painful truths of her own, Miranda ended the battle before it even had a chance to fully begin. Andrea flinched and turned away from her, obviously hiding her tears. Miranda felt like she was tearing off pieces of herself. It was like cutting your own leg off while trying to escape a bear trap. You were gaining freedom while losing a limb, the pain and the cost excruciating.
“God, Miranda. Why are you doing this? This… all this? It’s so unnecessary. One word from you and I would have surrendered my life, my future for you. I thought… “
“You thought what? You thought it was love, girl? Don’t be an idiot! I thought I could count on your maturity to understand these things. Others did, so I just assumed…“ Miranda trailed off strategically not giving Andrea any respite, delivering blow after blow. If this conversation was opening her eyes to anything it was how young and naive Andrea still was. Perhaps it was even fortifying and justifying her actions a bit. Maybe not the way she was going about it, her cruelty was still rather over the top, but she could see that Andrea’s naivete and her feelings had taken a rather strong hold of her brilliant mind. Surrender her life? God, what had she gotten herself into?
“Others?” Somehow it was possible for Andrea to have turned even paler, her tear brimmed brown eyes huge and the only splash of color on her bloodless face. Her pale lips were moving without a sound passing them.
Miranda chose not to deign that with an explanation. After all, she was good, but some lies were better left unexplained to avoid getting lost in the details.
“We seem to have a situation here, Andrea. I cannot continue to work with you if you’re operating under some misplaced impression that what has been happening in the past couple of months means anything at all…”
“Four months! It was four months! Stop pretending you don’t remember!” Andrea clasped her shoulder and turned her around violently pushing her against the floor-to-ceiling window. “Do you want me to make you remember?”
Miranda was too experienced not to see the kiss coming from a mile away. Perhaps she was even hoping it would come, baiting Andrea the way she was. Still, when it came it was brutal and sweet at the same time.
Andrea’s mouth was bruising, and her hands were gripping just a touch harder than they needed to. Miranda knew her forearms would be sporting the evidence of this farewell. She took more of the penance she accepted would be coming her way earlier and she took it with equanimity, refusing to struggle against the crushing embrace. She welcomed the pain, knowing too well that once it was all over, she would miss even this. She knew that this pain would feel insignificant with the emptiness that awaited her. She even allowed herself the small selfish weakness of tentatively answering the kiss, licking into Andrea’s mouth, savoring the taste one last time. Andrea tasted of pain and tears underneath the sweetness that always brought longing and want in Miranda. The taste of solace, of remembrance of all the nights they helped each other drive the darkness from the door. Miranda indulged for just a moment before going completely still, knowing that despite her anger, Andrea would never hurt her. It struck her that despite the despicable way she was treating the girl, Andrea loved her and would never cross that line with her.
As expected, Miranda’s stillness penetrated Andrea’s anger and when she raised her face from Miranda’s mouth, it was etched with shame.
“Save it, Andrea. It was fun while it lasted. While I’m not averse to some rough play, I’m just not in the mood tonight” Her tone was mocking, knowing it would only amplify Andrea’s shame but also smooth out the rough edge of guilt the girl was feeling for bruising Miranda. She really didn’t want Andrea’s guilt on her conscience as well. Her heart, her feelings, her hurt - it seemed inevitable that all of those were landing squarely in her court, but she did not want Andrea to flog herself for something Miranda provoked in her search for escape.
“So, it all meant nothing to you then?” The voice was quiet and now the tears were falling unbidden as if Andrea wasn’t feeling them and hence wasn’t trying to wipe them away. Miranda’s own heart was breaking under the onslaught of tenderness for the girl.
“I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed you. However, I was unaware you were operating under some foolish pretense that this was more than it is. I thought I saw more of myself in you, that you knew that certain things are what they are, nothing more.”
“You enjoyed me. You saw yourself in me.” It seemed to be a statement, so Miranda remained silent.
Andrea looked at her for a moment, the brown eyes drying under Miranda’s scrutiny and then her shoulders straightened, and she seemed to regain her composure.
“Consider this my resignation, Miranda. Thanks for everything.” Miranda watched Andrea as she turned on her 4-inch heel and as exited the office. Just before disappearing from her line of sight, the girl pulled the phone from her pocket, throwing it casually into the large aquarium in the reception area. She didn’t turn around to watch it sink. Miranda stared silently as Andrea briskly walked out of the reception area, out of Runway and out of her life.
Thousands of apologies for an angsty chapter on Valentine's Day. It gets better, I promise. It's really mostly onward and upward from here on. Maybe.
Immense thanks to my brilliant beta, @dianakanebooks on Twitter. I can also be found there at @mckayundercover
11 blocks from your door to this party
I caught myself counting on the way.
I stepped outside to grab a smoke,
You know how I get when I'm alone...
The next morning, Miranda made Emily fish the phone out of the aquarium and did not think about Andrea. She fired the first three assistants Emily brought in without an explanation and smirked all the way to lunch with Donatella, because Emily just might walk into traffic from panic and exasperation. She did not think about Andrea. She worked in silence with Nigel on the new Armani spread and ignored his sideways glances and quiet sighs. After the fourth sigh she threw him out of her office and followed it up with tossing the printed copy of the spread in the trash. Giorgio would just have to settle for something in the next issue. What was he thinking hiring all these buxom brunette models anyway? She did not think about Andrea.
When the inquiry from the Mirror arrived two months later about one Andy Sachs applying for a position of junior reporter, Miranda typed out the reply so quickly, she really didn’t have time to think about Andrea. If she subscribed to the Mirror a couple of weeks afterwards, it was simply because she continued to not think about Andrea.
It was becoming obvious to her though that she needed help in her earnestness to not think about Andrea, who was becoming a very good reporter and was on rare occasions starting to get her own bylines on political issues, instead of mundane reporting or obituaries.
And so, in her eagerness to get help in not thinking about Andrea, she called Elinor Moncrief. They went way back. Elinor had always been very bright, so Miranda didn’t have to say very much: a junior reporter at the Mirror was doing some satisfactory reporting on political issues, perhaps the New York Times International might take a look at that reporting. If said reporting might lead to said junior reporter being recruited to any of their European offices, that might be satisfactory as well. Yes, Elinor had always been exceptionally bright, so when the Editor-in-Chief of New York Times International did not ask many questions and did not offer any unwelcome solace, Miranda was not surprised. The thought of Elinor’s intelligence and unerring tact in obviously knowing what exactly Miranda was asking for, made her think of Elinor’s bright eager brown eyes looking up at her from her knees. They went way back indeed. Miranda had thought that part of her life over and done with, a mindless indulgence, a reckless abandon. Reckless… Indulgence… No, of course none of that made her think of Andrea. At all.
Miranda needed distance if she was to continue to not think of Andrea. Perhaps an ocean between them would prove to be distance enough. Distance, that’s all there was to it.
Andrea was like a drug and Miranda was beginning to understand that time would not cure her of this addiction. She hurt the girl, she pushed her away as hard and as cruelly as she knew how, making damn sure Andrea would never come back. She ended the ridiculous affair and yet here she was six months later wandering through her quiet townhouse in the middle of the night, dragging her fingertips over the surfaces that still held memories of them together. She was pathetic and she felt utterly disgusted with such displays of maudlin behavior from herself. She felt untethered and lost and in desperate need of a distraction while waiting for Elinor to help with putting the necessary distance between her and her drug of choice.
The distraction materialized unexpectedly one morning as she walked into the reception area of Runway. She was aware that normally her appearance in the offices was announced well before the elevator doors opened on the 13th floor, security alerting either of her assistants to her immediate arrival, resulting in both assistants scrambling to attention or to imitate a flurry of useless activity. On that particular day neither of her assistants were jumping to attention nor were they greeting her. In fact, as she strode closer she saw Emily, Nigel and the new girl, whose name she still did not deign to learn, huddled around Emily’s computer.
“Bullocks to this!” Emily’s predictable exclamation sounded both exasperated and impressed at the same time. “A hundred thousand subscribers? In 6 months? And what the bloody hell are they even subscribing to? It looks like a bunch of ragtag stories about your neighborhood lesbians! A hundred thousand subscribers! How did the stupid cow land on her feet like this?”
The appellation of “stupid cow” could only be referring to one person, since Miranda had heard it or rather pretended not to hear it many times during Andrea’s tenure at Runway. Her attention immediately piqued, she slowed her stride, stopping just out of sight of her wayward employees.
“Emily, from all these gushing comments, it looks like she has not only landed on her feet, but also in a lot of laps! And word on the street is it’s not just the comments that were gushing either!” Nigel’s snicker was positively obscene.
“Don’t be disgusting, Nigel! It’s more than enough that these fans of hers are as gross as they can be. Fawning over her like… like…groupies! It’s positively indecent how they throw themselves at her in these comments! Oh Andy, step on my neck! Oh, I’d give anything for her to choke me! It’s filthy!” Emily, by the sound of it, was making gagging noises.
“I don’t know, Emily...” The voice of her second assistant was shy and unsure, but there was a slight breathless quality to it that for some reason bothered Miranda. “I saw her last Friday night at the Infinity club opening. I mean, she’s like a celebrity now, you know. My friend and I spent an hour in line waiting to be admitted and the guard on the door just flung the velvet rope for her like she was Anne Hathaway or something. The whole gay scene knows her. That blog of hers is so popular and she’s just so uhm, beautiful and approachable, so yeah, all the women there were all over her. It wasn’t indecent or anything, she was just so nice and uhm… hot and well…,” the voice trailed off as her second assistant swallowed and blushed. Miranda got an unpleasant foreboding. “I introduced myself and she was really sweet. I mean we danced and she’s a bit klutzy but so cute about it and uhm, well, one thing led to another…”
At this point Miranda understood exactly why the breathlessness in the voice bothered her. The worthless wench was lusting after her Andrea! It was preposterous! The ringing in her ears was so loud, the desire to just walk in and wring this girl’s neck so strong. How dare she put her hands on something that was Miranda’s? The power of her rage astounded her but also sobered her, like a summer thunderstorm sweeping through. She needed to calm down if she was to find out more about her Andrea. So she reached deep for her control and took a cleansing breath, trying to steady herself as she listened for more.
“What do you mean - one thing led to another? You fiend! You slept with Andy? Our Andy?” Emily’s outrage and proprietary inflection would’ve been amusing under other circumstances, but Miranda just closed her eyes and held her breath, desperately trying to catch the answer to the question.
“Miranda! Good morning!” Miranda was jerked from eavesdropping on her gossiping employees by Jocelyn, who was rounding the corner in the obvious direction of the reception area. Belatedly she remembered that Jocelyn was her nine o’clock meeting and it was precisely a quarter to nine. As naturally as possible, as if she did not just spend five minutes desperately trying to hear if her former second assistant fucked her current second assistant, Miranda favored Jocelyn with a glare and a nod of greeting before striding into the reception area and throwing her trench coat and bag on Emily’s desk.
It would’ve been highly entertaining the way the three of her employees scattered like roaches at the light, except she still did not get her answer and by the look of sheer panic on all their faces, it was unlikely she ever would. Was she above asking? She really wasn’t, but Nigel’s long speculative look told her that he was assessing her for more than just whether she overheard the latest gossip. Nigel, damn his hide, was always too perceptive for his own good and knew her way too well.
So, she couldn’t ask, because Nigel would know right away exactly why she was asking. It left jealousy burning like acid in her stomach. Intellectually she had understood that by pushing Andrea away she was also setting her free, to live a new life, to pursue other things. Opening her laptop, she found out relatively quickly that apparently Andrea has pursued many things. Many unsuitable things by the looks of it. So many unseemly, unsuited, totally unacceptable things with long legs and big breasts and why was Miranda torturing herself this way?
Her mind already captivated by the flood of information Google was providing about her former second assistant’s completely inappropriate pursuits, Miranda canceled Jocelyn’s meeting. She ended up canceling her whole morning, Shiseido execs could go hang for all she cared. How could she focus on whatever the Japanese wanted her to be sold on when it turned out Andy Sachs was an internet sensation? Andy Sachs - the living lesbian legend, if she judged by the rave reviews and drooling comments from all corners of the internet.
Vanity Fair had a short blurb about the Mirror junior reporter who was setting the blogosphere alight with funny insightful stories, pictures and little articles about being gay and single in Manhattan. There was nothing remotely little about it. Andrea has put her Runway contacts to good use, was a welcome guest at every party or night club and was using her access and connections to write about the scene and the people around her. Every post and every picture told a story, a captivating snapshot of a life, interspersed with humor, warmth and compassion. Even in writing about her burgeoning love life, Andrea managed to find humility and humanity in essentially one-night stands that did not degrade or disrespect her partners. Her many many many partners. Reading about each encounter tore pieces off Miranda’s heart.
The blog read like a book full of adventures, captivating and titillating, witty and salacious, showing off a writer’s gift that Miranda, the editor of one of the most prominent publishing behemoths, rarely encountered. Andrea was talented, even if her subject was perhaps puerile, definitely obscene and occasionally profane, she managed to maintain a strong focus on humanity and humor. Her nascent voice was strong and genuine, her style fresh and distinct, her subjects authentic in their unabashed honesty of their pursuits ranging from sexual gratification to happily ever after. Miranda was charmed, despite feelings of possessiveness and jealousy eating her alive.
The pictures on the blog stood out just as much as the writing voice, some random, some mundane, some breathtaking in their simplicity and clean lines. Capturing everyday life, Andrea was giving it a unique perspective.
Among many photographs of Manhattan and its many women, were professional quality pictures of Andrea. Miranda’s critical eye could detect flaws in the photographer's technique but not in the model, smiling blindingly at the camera holding a Starbucks go cup or looking pensively at the rose-tinted dawn sky.
Andrea was perfection in every shot, the long waves of mahogany silk falling over her shoulders, the big wondrous brown eyes dominating a flawless face, the high chiseled cheekbones, denoting a recent loss of weight and the jutting collarbones telling a similar story and tugging at Miranda’s already tender and abused heartstrings. Even more heart-rending, bringing a stinging to Miranda’s eyes, were the funny, touching selfies of Andrea looking rumpled and sleep creased, adorably hamming it up for the camera, all tangled hair and bright eyes.
“Well, you wanted her to have a life. Beware what you wish for, for you might just have it all.” Except it didn’t feel like she had it all. It felt like she’d lost everything.
“I’m sorry, Miranda, I didn’t catch that.” Miranda flinched, not realizing she had spoken out loud until Nigel appeared in front of her with a concerned look on his face.
“Why are you here, Nigel?” For the life of her she couldn’t remember them having a meeting of any kind and his expression wasn’t boding well at all. He was slightly subdued, a bit apprehensive, which meant that he wanted to talk to her about the one thing she really did not want to talk to him about.
Miranda had a very vague suspicion that while she and Andrea had fooled many people, they weren’t successful in fooling those closest to them. While she kept Emily too overworked and too enraptured by the Miranda Priestly public persona and couture to see much else around her, Nigel was not easily swayed by the disguises she threw on her recent affair. If he suspected she overheard them gossiping this morning and thus had an inkling of how she spent her morning instead of attending meeting after excruciating meeting filled with incompetence, then he was here to offer sympathy, or worse, advice. Miranda wanted none of that. Her resulting glare seemed to scorch him, and he faltered in his response.
“Ah… I guess I can always come by later, if you’re busy. “ He was giving her both a way out and way into the conversation, but Miranda was having none of that.
“Immensely busy. Emily, get me Elinor Moncrief.” Belatedly she realized that her avoidance tactic backfired massively, Nigel’s face turning from sympathy to downright pity as he turned and left her office. Of course, Nigel knew who Elinor was now and he must’ve had some idea who Elinor was twenty years ago. He was her right hand man even then, as she plucked him from the obscurity of working for a second rate tailor in the Garment district and dragged him along for the ride of both their lifetimes when she was hired for Runway first as Trends Editor and then appointed as the youngest Editor in Chief of an American magazine. As her eyes and ears, Nigel naturally saw not just what was around her, but also what was next to her. Or who was next to her, in the case of Elinor, or damn it, Andrea.
It mattered little though. At the end of the day, Nigel would keep his counsel. What mattered most right now was Miranda not getting any distance from her drug of choice, which she continued to consume remotely through the Mirror bylines that were getting better and longer every day, through the office gossip that still occasionally spilled over details about the former second assistance and now through the accursed blog, that would surely keep her up at night, because she would insist on inhaling every word and gaze at every picture.
She still needed her distance though, because that way lay her only salvation and so she was supremely displeased that it has been three months since she called Elinor to cash in on the favor and no such favor had materialized.
“Miranda, even I know better than to require a reminder from you!” Elinor’s businesslike voice and attacking approach did little to put a hitch in Miranda’s stride.
“If no reminder is required, Elinor, then why haven’t things progressed?” Miranda clutched the phone, her white knuckles standing in sharp relief of the blue veins running the length of the narrow, long fingered hand.
As ridiculous as she felt, as humiliating as it felt asking her former paramour to help out in dealing with her current obsession, she felt even worse knowing that she was very close to surrendering to her utmost desire. It wasn’t a matter of whether she would, but when she would not be able to stop herself from making the trip to the Lower East Side and knock on Andrea’s door. Distance was sorely required.
“Things have not progressed, dearest, because your girl is very good at negotiating.” There was no salaciousness or innuendo in Elinor’s tone, neither in the endearment which Elinor used to call her twenty years ago and had maintained the use of ever since in less than public settings, nor in the assumption that Andrea was hers. Because whether the girl lived a rich and busy life as the hippest political reporter and “celesbian” about town in Manhattan, Miranda knew that her own heart would never accept to call her anything other than “her Andrea”.
“She is negotiating everything, from her position, to her portfolio, to her legal rights to that fantastic blog of hers, since you know Times is normally very circumspect in what our political reporters blog about and how they do it. So, there’s a lot of conditions on both sides. In the meantime, she remains in New York. However, I’m quite pleased to tell you that I like her immensely and if all goes well, I’ll be even more pleased to welcome her here in my offices. By the way, dearest, how’s her French?”
And there was finally both mocking salaciousness and innuendo in Elinor’s voice, both rather warranted since Miranda completely failed to control her blush at the memory of Andrea’s French.
An early update because I felt horrible after the angsty ending of Chapter 3.
Chapter 5 will be on schedule, sometime next weekend. Thank you for continuing to stick with me. Comments, kudos, good vibes are hugely appreciated.
Hugs to my beta @dianakanebooks (check her books out, she's pretty awesome) and I too can be found on Twitter - @mckayundercover
I never thought I needed saving, I was right where I should be
Good God, I know it's dangerous, but it's you that I need
I'm in love this time
I'm in love this time
What have I done?
Paris Fashion Week began as an unmitigated disaster. From Jean Paul to Galliano to Donna. Not even the airy Givenchy showing could save this calamity. Miranda was starting to have serious doubts she would have anything of note to feature in the respective Runway issue. It was worrying her because she left a quarter of the issue in question empty, planning in advance to fill it with new collections from the Paris catwalks, but at this rate, she would have nothing to print.
Nigel’s grim face and periodic tsk tsking indisposed her further, because it was a sign that her torpor was not simply due to her persistent dark mood. Miranda’s irascibility of the last year was easily explained and had nothing to do with fashion, but Nigel’s gloom was certainly due to the quality of the collections that were paraded in front of them during the first two days of Fashion Week. It was a bad omen, since Nigel usually reserved judgement until at least day three.
As was becoming their little tradition on these European jaunts, most nights after attending various after-parties, they shared a nightcap in the form of a bottle of red wine at the bar of whichever hotel they were residing at. In Paris it was the lounge bar at Four Seasons where the Runway contingent was staying. The luxurious surroundings, all caramel leathers and soft carpets did nothing to sooth the mood. After two glasses and more discussion about tentatively replacing most of the empty Runway pages with some content they had set aside for emergencies, Nigel excused himself rather hurriedly, claiming exhaustion and jet lag.
Miranda had no desire to go up to her suite. As sumptuous and comfortable as the rooms were, they also held a set of papers that had been waiting for her when she checked in on Sunday night. Stephen had followed through and filed for divorce, his attorney sending the paperwork to Paris to avoid any further delays and proceed with the dissolution of the marriage. Even though Miranda was the one who broached the subject of separation to Stephen, it grated on her that he proceeded with the course of action quite this efficiently. Two months ago, as New York Times International Edition published its first article under Andy Sachs’ byline, Miranda drank herself nearly into a stupor and told Stephen, who found her slumped on the couch in the ground floor study, that their arrangement was no longer working for her.
“I guess it hasn’t been working for either of us, Miranda. And for some time now.” Stephen’s hands were sure and gentle as he helped her up.
“I hope you don’t think I will apologize…” Her head was spinning and she wished he had just left her in the study, the room still bringing her solace, when nothing much could.
“I’d accept it if you would. I’d even apologize right back. I wish I could say we had a good run, but…,” Stephen trailed off as he navigated the stairs to the second floor.
“Except we had no run to speak off.” Miranda slumped against the doorway to her bedroom. She was apprehensive to go inside, the bedroom holding no memories and no solace, since Andrea never crossed its threshold.
“Not much of a run, no. Do you want me to draw the paperwork?” Stephen was looking at her with something close to pity and Miranda wanted to slap him across his chinless face.
“Do what you wish, Stephen.”
Looking back now, sitting on a high leather stool ensconced in the corner of Le Bar in Four Seasons, Miranda thought that he actually could be efficient on occasion. Too bad said efficiency was occurring at the end of their relationship. Perhaps things could’ve gone differently between them if he showed such diligence and zeal before.
She shook her head at the thought and laughed mirthlessly at the sheer absurdity of her thoughts. If Stephen was Mr. Efficiency himself, there was no chance in heaven or hell he could’ve stopped Hurricane Andrea from the sheer destruction she unleashed on Miranda’s life. Continued to unleash, Miranda corrected herself.
A year after Andrea threw her phone in the Runway aquarium, she still consumed Miranda’s thoughts. It wasn’t as acute as six months ago, when the emotions cut her to ribbons every night and she drowned herself in whiskey and self pity, but Miranda still longed for Andrea more than she cared to admit.
Andrea was no longer just a cab ride away, but with regular intervals she still prompted reminders of herself and Miranda was utterly powerless to avoid them. She still read Andrea’s blog about the exploits of a young journalist trying to find her place under the sun. The months following her move to France were a fascinating series of stories about French cuisine, French driving, French kissing and the unadulterated joy that apparently were the French women. Oh so many beautiful, available and chic French women.
When she arrived in Paris, Andrea sheepishly admitted early on that she moved to France with some deeply ingrained cliches about French women and had set out to either prove or disprove them all, one blog post at a time. Six months later, she was on cliche number eight, after covering French kissing and the perpetual impression of all foreigners that French women are particularly sexually liberated. The last article’s cliche pertained to French women and their preferences for shaving or waxing their body hair. The 3,000 words post was funny and interspersed with anecdotes about the grooming practices of French women and Miranda could easily draw her conclusion that Andrea has sampled quite a few in her “research” endeavors for the article.
Peripherally Miranda was aware that Andrea was becoming as much of the staple of the night life in Paris as she had been in New York after their breakup. Her connections from Runway augmented by her own “star power” and current employment at Times International were opening a lot of doors for her. Occasionally at a photo shoot, either the models, the makeup people or even some of the photographers themselves would mention her in passing to either Nigel or Serena thinking Miranda was out of earshot. The words were always complimentary, either about her kindness or sweetness or about her professionalism. Miranda always pretended not to hear, Nigel always knew otherwise and Serena was blessedly unaware of the undercurrents.
In the passing months, Miranda also became aware that Elinor decided to use Andrea quite differently than her Mirror editor, moving her away from politics and into more human stories, covering migration and trafficking in persons across Europe.
“She is utterly wasted reporting on those stuffy assholes anyway, dearest. With her empathy, her heart and open mind for a true story, she’s perfect covering the most heart wrenching beats there are. She really brings out the best and the worst in both her subjects and the stories. Such a talent for the tearjerker she has, Miranda. Not to sound crass, but really she’s done some amazing things with stories nobody at my Editorials nor Features wanted to touch for months!” the Times editor all but gushed during their short lunch a month ago when she was visiting New York for some conference or other. If Elinor’s eyes were glinting just a touch too bright when she spoke of Andrea, Miranda struggled not to dwell on it.
Occasionally Miranda saw Andrea’s photographs accompanying her reporting and the work would reflect such empathy and poignancy, it would take her breath away. “She’s really diving deep with her photography, these days, dearest. If I didn’t know her and her thirst for storytelling and writing, I might be afraid that I could lose her to some fashion magazine down the road!” Elinor smiled and there was just a touch of rebuke in that smile that did not quite reach the eyes.
If there was one thing that Miranda did not regret about their estrangement, it was the obvious growth that Andrea had undergone since then. Elinor was right, the girl was growing by leaps and bounds, her work getting better and better, her writing and her photography getting a distinctive quality and style that was unmistakable for anyone else. Her voice was standing out, whether she was writing about the plight of the Sudanese migrants or about alternative uses of scarves she’d been taking off the French women in trying to prove another preconceived notion of hers that all French women wore scarves. Miranda loved that voice.
It suddenly dawned on Miranda that she loved more than that voice, that through all the fear, all the terror and pain, she loved Andrea. What had she done? She had gone and fallen in love amidst panic attacks and tears with a girl who haunted her dreams. And she had realized the depth of her feelings under the dim light of a bar in Paris, with her world slowly falling apart around her. Surely it was a completely wrong time to recognize how hopelessly, senselessly she was in love with a girl she pushed away in a fit of cruelty and a series of anxiety attacks.
She shook her head at herself. Miranda Priestly was known for perfect timing, yet here she was in the midst of an impending divorce that was about to go very public, having earth shattering revelations about love. She was certain her heart was incapable of such gauche banality as love. Wasn’t she supposed to be above such a lack of sophistication? The irony wasn’t entirely lost on her, since it had been one of the many targeted accusations she had thrown Andrea’s way. Such foolishness. Yet no doubt about it, her heart beating double time, on the verge of hyperventilating. Oh what had she done?
The rhythmic clicking of high heels on marble broke through her reverie and the effect of the interruption stopped her impending anxiety attack dead in its tracks. She had to wonder about the deity that was ironically turning the tables on her. Here she was confessing to herself that she had feelings for the girl she had treated horribly to save her own hide, and here was said deity laughing giddily and sending that one girl to the one bar in the heart of Paris in which Miranda was currently having an epiphany about said girl and said feelings.
She would have recognized that gait anywhere, God knows she’d waited for Andrea to walk into a room often enough to know the cadence of her steps. Despite her training and her attempts at grace, the girl was innately just a tiny bit clumsy. It was so endearing how her stride would occasionally falter. It did not falter this time though and by the time the heels were muffled by the lush carpet that surrounded the bar, Miranda knew her time to collect herself and her wayward feelings was up. The girl was standing right behind her.
In her mind it was like one of the classic Hollywood movies, she was almost tempted to turn around with a retort of “of all the gin joints in all the world” but Miranda was never trite or given to cliches. It was time to face the music. The scene unfolded in slow motion as Miranda turned slowly and her eyes met Andrea’s. The sight hit her square in the chest with the power of a defibrillator. No girl. Not anymore. A tall slim woman was standing in front of her. The luscious brunette locks were gone, replaced by a short, boyish pixie cut with longer bangs falling teasingly over her eyes. So very French.
She must’ve said it out loud, because the inscrutable features softened and a mirthless smile blossomed on the pouty lips.
“When in France. Good evening, Miranda.'' The generous mouth moved and distantly Miranda registered the words, but her mind was busy, engaged in cataloging all the changes in the face and body that she at times thought she had known as well as her own.
The short hair revealed a narrow face, the remnants of the youthful fullness that it still held last year gone. The change in turn unveiled stunning sharp cheekbones that were offset by full lips and eyes that seemed to dominate the beloved face. The cut also uncovered the long expanse of her graceful neck, all alabaster skin and translucent veins. A pulse was beating somewhat erratically just beneath the delectable angle of the jaw and to Miranda’s surprise she understood that her slow perusal of the changes in Andrea were unnerving the woman and making her uncomfortable, perhaps even angry. As their eyes met, the anger became apparent. Anger and something else, something hiding deeper in those big brown eyes. Something that looked remarkably like desire.
Words were escaping Miranda. How could she be expected to speak when her chest was constricted by a terrible, unfathomable and unknown to her till now longing? If she thought that she had been missing Andrea while not seeing her for a year, well, she was certainly dying for her now that she was standing right in front of her, glaring at her like at one’s mortal enemy. But even that forceful glare was doing things to Miranda’s insides for which she knew she’d need a change of underwear. The strength of that gaze was making her wet, was making her crave, was making her want to beg to be bent over this very bar stool, rich patrons of Four Seasons be damned. A whole year had passed and Miranda still wanted Andrea, wanted her with the heat of a supernova. But the fear was still choking her. Nothing had changed.
“I see little has changed, Miranda.“ Andrea’s words startled her out of her reverie. God, was she this transparent? “I see you still do not deign to offer me common courtesy of human communication and answer a greeting.”
Ah, the brash boldness was new too, but Andrea was still blessedly not a mind-reader. Miranda grappled for that famous dismissive tone of voice.
“You’ve grown daring in your exile in France.” Andrea sputtered at the words and it was gratifying to see that despite the newly acquired otherworldly quality to her husky tone and mature posture, Miranda still had the power to easily provoke this woman. Not bothering to hide her wry smile at the realization, Miranda waved her hand carelessly. “No, no, that wasn’t a question. I assume you’re disturbing my evening for a reason?”
“I need to speak to you.”
“Well, you’ve spoken to me. Clearly your objective has been accomplished, now run along.” She made a production of dismissing Andrea with a tilt of her head and returned her attention to her fourth glass of wine. It tasted bitter on her tongue.
“Don’t be rude, Miranda. Invite me up to your room.” Andrea’s assertiveness was always so very attractive, so very tantalizing, but Miranda refused to give in, even when fighting this feeling hurt like tearing off her own fingernails.
“I think not, Andrea. I’m not sure what you’ve wanted to achieve by showing up here, but old times’ sake or not, I’m not in the mood.”
To her surprise Andrea laughed and just like Pavlov’s dog, ingrained habitual emotions were unleashed in Miranda again. Andrea’s laughter always brought elation, trepidation, and arousal. As if Miranda needed any more of that. The scent of Andrea, Chanel and that unique fragrance that was all woman, had been sending tendrils of desire running along her nerve endings since the young woman stepped close enough for Miranda to sense it.
“God, what the fuck am I even doing here?” Andrea rolled her eyes, but did not move away. “Invite me up to your room, Miranda. You’ll want to hear me out. I don’t think you will want me to spill the details of your boss trying to replace you with a French bimbo right here in the middle of one of the most popular lounges during Fashion week. God knows who’s even now wondering what the hell it is you’re doing talking to the Runway pariah.”
The short monologue stopped Miranda’s glass halfway to her mouth and made her take a furtive look around. Seeing some vaguely familiar faces in the shadows of the lounge, Miranda signaled the bartender to charge her room for the drinks consumed this evening, stood up and wordlessly exited the lounge, Andrea’s heels clicking an almost uniform rhythm behind her.
The elevator ride took forever and served nothing to quell her desire or her memories of being ravished in similar elevators in other hotels, only without the state of the art cameras that were now recording their every move.
Her hand however was steady as she keyed open the suite. Andrea’s low whistle made Miranda bristle.
“Why are you here, Andrea? Are you so desperate that you have to make up some story about Irv to get into my room?” Fear and irritation at herself for being afraid were making her angry and she was desperately trying to summon her vaunted control. She mostly succeeded judging by Andrea’s own irritation at not being able to visibly discomfit Miranda.
“Jaqueline Follet will be named the new Runway editor-in-chief on Saturday at the Runway Fashion Week wrap-up lunch. The contract is signed and she has already recruited the majority of her editorial staff. Christian Thompson has hopped on board as Associate Editor. Several people from Jaqueline’s tenure at Dior have signed on as Content Editors. The Elias Clark board will be forced to accept the transition as a fait accompli, since it will be embarrassing for the brand to reverse a very public announcement. Jaqueline, for all her messy entanglements with various underwear models, is still entirely too respected both in Paris and New York.”
Rocked to the core, Miranda turned around to the massive windows overlooking the Eiffel Tower. She felt adrenaline flood her veins and the renowned survival instinct kicked in. Oh yes, she could totally see Irv maneuvering the Board this way.
“Irv always did prefer to ask for forgiveness than for permission. Is there anything else, Andrea?”
“Wow, so much for that then. You’re welcome, Miranda. I guess I should’ve known better than to expect a thanks from you.” Andrea took a couple of steps deeper into the suite and her eyes landed on the divorce papers spread on the coffee table. Unbidden, she sat down on the couch and slowly perused the paperwork. Miranda wanted to be outraged at the presumption, but her mind was already in overdrive. “Well, would you look at that. All those attempts to save that pathetic marriage of yours and he still dumped you… well, well, well.”
Oh, but Andrea had developed a cruel streak along with that brashness. Unlike the latter, the former did not suit her. Miranda did not recoil, but it was a close call.
“What do you want, Andrea? A thank you? I’m appropriately grateful for your efforts to warn me. Is that enough to mollify your nascent ego? Tell me, is it satisfying to finally develop a spine? To finally grow up?” Spiteful words were falling from her mouth and she knew she was powerless to stop them. She was in fight or flight mode and Miranda Priestly never ran away from anything.
“I learned from the best, Miranda. No bigger bitch out there than you.” Andrea was now lounging comfortably on the couch having thrown the divorce papers back on the coffee table. “Irreconcilable differences, huh? Did he mean - my wife prefers eating her assistant out on her desk? Because those are rather difficult differences to reconcile.” The laughter was brittle and did nothing to smooth the jagged edge of the memory of spreading Andrea’s alabaster thighs and leaning in to greedily lick all that delicious wetness that always awaited her there.
“Or are we talking about the irreconcilable differences of taking four fingers from said assistant and being fucked blind against the front door of the house you share with your husband, coming so many times you could barely walk up two flights of stairs? Or maybe these are the differences of having your ass spanked in the executive bathroom till it was red and tender and you could barely sit in your chair through meetings, squirming through your dinner with him, knowing that your assistant would arrive in a couple of hours and you would beg her to kiss it all better and then to eat you out on the carpet in the study? Oh I loved it when you begged, Miranda. I sincerely doubt he's ever heard you beg though, and I think therein lie those irreconcilable differences, don’t they?”
The effort it took to fight the blush and not tremble at the deliciously provocative words Andrea was hurling at her was gigantic indeed. Miranda thought she managed to maintain her equanimity, but it was a close call. The things Andrea did to her. She was wet and throbbing.
“Your point, Andrea?” She marveled at the coolness of her own voice.
Sighing, Andrea lithely uncoiled from the couch and walked up to her. Easily crossing the room in three long strides, she invaded her personal space, gently placing her palm on Miranda’s cheek, bringing their faces just inches apart. Miranda could feel the hot breath on her temple.
“No point, Miranda. I said what I came here to say.” The generous mouth was moving just a breath away from hers, so close Miranda could almost taste it. She wanted to scream from impotence, unable to escape from the spell Andrea had her under.
“I guess I was also wondering if we could reenact some of the scenes that caused those irreconcilable differences between you and your soon to be ex-husband, you know, for old times’ sake. Now that you’re a free woman and all.” Andrea’s lips burned a trail from Miranda’s temple to the corner of her mouth, stopping at the very last moment. That moment was enough though for Miranda to marshal the last of her defenses. She wanted to submit, to surrender, but not like this. God help her, not like this.
“That’s all, Andrea.” She took a step back, out of Andrea’s space and the cool hand cradling her cheek fell away. She felt the loss in her very core.
“Coward,” Andrea spat before turning for the door. As parting shots went, Miranda thought it was a worthy endeavor.
Thanks to my wonderful beta @dianakanebooks for nagging at me to be a more responsible editor. Additional major thank you to all who have left a kudo or a comment, I'm highly motivated by praise of any and all kind.
You can find on me on Twitter too @mckayundercover
Chapter 6: Get Hurt
This chapter certainly corresponds to the Explicit rating, so be warned.
Also, this story has a definite happy ending, so fear not. It will take a while, but we will get there.
As always, my beta @dianakanebooks rocks! So do her super hot books.
I’m @mckayundercover and you can direct all your feelings about this chapter my way.
And I came here to get hurt,
Might as well do your worst to me,
Have you come here to get hurt?
Have you come to take it away from me,
Might as well do your worst to me.
Her suite was a flurry of activity. Nigel in his fluffy robe and slippers that were decidedly not hotel issue, was talking animatedly and gesturing wildly while Emily, with hastily applied makeup over her sleep creased face, was on her laptop dictating names and phone numbers to a perfectly attired Serena.
It only took one call to Nigel’s room to get this show on the road. With Andrea’s perfume still hanging in the air, Miranda was shoving her savior out of her mind and getting to work. Irv thought that he could discard her, just throw her out the back door, sneakily, in the middle of the night and assume the board would have to swallow it, because nobody would want the embarrassment of firing the newly hired Jaqueline, bringing back Miranda, moving tens of new staffers back and forth. The stock alone would take a considerable beating. Not to mention the Elias Clarke reputation would be in tatters, a complete and utter laughingstock. And if one thing was unbearable both in fashion and business it was that you never made a public embarrassment of yourself. Your reputation was all you had and once gone, it was gone forever. Some things were never forgotten, no matter how many news cycles passed.
So she had to prevent Irv from replacing her, otherwise there was no way back from this. With everything she had lost in her life, one thing was a constant. Runway was her rock when she got divorced from Greg, when he almost took her children away from her, when she was all alone, when she recklessly dove into the deep waters of her love affair with Andrea and when she almost drowned in those waters. Runway was always with her. She could not lose Runway. She would not lose Runway.
The plan came together quite simply. Thirty minutes ago, Nigel stormed into her suite, made himself comfortable on the couch, arranged his robe demurely, took one look at her face, surreptitiously sniffed the air, raised his eyebrow and pointed to the papers on the coffee table.
“I guess I don’t have to ask how you found out about this whole mess. Put away those divorce papers before Emily hurts herself trying to contort her body into a pretzel of happiness and sexual exuberance that her idol is newly single.”
“If I can’t make a joke at the expense of your newly acquired future double divorcee status, I’ll want a lot of coffee. And yes, I realize it’s ironic that you’re going to order me coffee.”
“Nigel…” Miranda’s voice was no longer affronted, her exhaustion bleeding into it. She really had no time for his jokes.
“Miranda, I’m trying to cope in my own way here. Unfunny jokes and silly humor at your expense is all that’s sustaining me. We both know there’s only one way out of this mess - you have to buy Jaqueline off. Offer her something else, something more enticing to her than the intrigue and fatigue of Runway. She’s been at Runway France for two years. We’ve both heard rumors that she’s not a fan, but her reputation demands that hers be a dignified exit out of there. Irv offering her Runway is a stop gap measure for her. She never was that into magazine editing. Too much work, too much juggling. She was happiest at Dior. So get her a fashion house top dog position by Saturday morning and she will stab Irv in the back quicker than you can say couture!”
“Nigel, there’s only one fashion house I can offer her.” Even as she spoke, she could tell Nigel knew what was coming. In fact, all his buffoonery was his way of shrugging it off, of trying to tell her that he knew and accepted what was coming.
“Yes, you can only swing Holt International for her. At least in the next three days. Perhaps if you’d have some time, you’d convince some other house to take her on, but we only have until Saturday.” She started speaking but he raised his hand effectively stopping her. “You’ll pay me back. I have faith. You’ll pay me back for Holt. And you’ll pay me back for the girl who was once a six and is currently barely a four stopping by tonight, leaving an unmistakable Chanel trace in her wake. Also, Emily was right, she does have an unnatural affinity to Chanel. She should take more risks.”
“I guess I see why you got so sleepy earlier tonight, scampering out of the lounge in such a hurry. Tell me, do the two of you have secret signs or something?” Having some of her suspicions about her friend being involved in the events that transpired earlier, Miranda was surprised to feel lighter, freer. A weight had lifted.
She had no problem with secrecy. She lived her life surrounded by a relative shroud of mystery. After all, that was her allure, but Nigel’s breezy attitude towards her entanglement with Andrea and his unflinching support in the Jacqueline affair were giving her strength, propping her up in a way she was unaccustomed to.
“No secret signs, but I might get t-shirts made? Maybe...if only cotton wasn’t so ghastly!”
“Last time you wore a t-shirt you had a head full of hair and were living with that boy from Pierre Cardin.” She stopped abruptly and shook her head at her own lack of tact. To her horror, Nigel’s eyes welled up.
“Yes, he was a beautiful boy. He’s been gone for 20 years now and…” He waved his hands at her trying to collect himself. “No, no, it has been 20 years after all. And I did have a wonderful head of hair.” He turned away from her to unobtrusively wipe his eyes.
“Emily will be here any moment and if she sees me in tears and you with that totally uncharacteristic apologetic expression on your face, she might think we are, God forbid, human. Let’s stop this maudlin nonsense and get to work. You will need more than a place for Jaqueline, you will need some form of insurance against Irv as well.”
Feeling that the fraught moment had ended, it was time to take charge. Miranda straightened her shoulders and hardened her voice, shaking her hair out of her eyes and the melancholy out of her mind.
“I’m Miranda Priestly, Nigel. I’ve made half the people in this industry household names, and those who were not made by my hand still owe me their mere existence among the glossy pages of this empire. I won’t cower behind anyone. Attack has always been my prefered defense. I don’t need insurance, I need a weapon.”
She heard the door open and turned around to see Emily and Serena standing in the doorway with varied degrees of awe on their faces. Nigel laughed and nodded at Miranda with an “I told you” smirk before ushering both women into the room.
“Emily, wipe the drool off your mouth. Let’s gird more than our loins and get to work here, people! The fate of the fashion world as we know it rests on our shoulders.” Emily actually shuddered and Miranda wanted to laugh.
They drank coffee and strategized and drank whiskey and made plans and then Miranda would make a call and Nigel would add another name to the ever growing list. It seemed not to matter that they were waking the likes of Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and Donatella Versace in the middle of the night. When Miranda Priestly called, everyone picked up the phone.
By the time morning peeked through the forgotten drapes, the list was very long and Karl Lagerfeld had been talked down from marching on Elias Clarke to “smite the imbeciles who were about to destroy the world of fashion!”. Smite! He really did think himself to be God.
The names on the list and the voices on the phone all calmed Miranda down, reinforced her faith in herself, her belief in her own professional immortality and immovability. At least when it came to her world. Tom, Marc, Giorgio, Donnatella, Stella and tens of others showed their unflinching, unwavering support to her, despite the trials and tribulations they’d been through. She hadn’t been kind to all of them at all times. She certainly hadn’t “made” all of them, but she had been instrumental to their continuous success, in their prosperity.
She knew that loyalty was a commodity, and that theirs would likely only last for so long, but she also understood that despite her unbending nature and her sometimes unreasonable demands on them, they respected her professionalism, her perfectionist nature and her relentless strive for beauty.
They knew her and that was perhaps the key, she was a known quantity. Her ideals and ideas often matched their own. When dealing with the most unpredictable of industries it was easier navigating the fickle waters with a captain that would steady the ship instead of capsize it for the sake of money and personal glory. They all knew Miranda would guide them, as she had done through many crises, market crashes, financial cuts and budget constraints. She would find new avenues of investment, China or Singapore or God himself, and they looked to her for leadership in moments of hardship. Hence they were standing by her now, when her own crisis was ravaging her life and threatening her livelihood.
After that night, the rest of the week passed in a blur of front seats at fashion shows and very public lunches, dinners, outings and parties with the major names. Karl, Giorgio and Ralph made grandiose productions of hosting her and naming things after her, be it their upcoming collections, their showrooms, or their new perfumes.
All this attention was draining her. She never shied away from it, you really couldn’t when running a frontline fashion magazine, but she was very careful to never make the spectacle surrounding her be actually about her. Miranda Priestly made stories, she was never the story. Now that she was in the eye of the hurricane and it was wringing her dry. She’d wake up, put her armor on, perform for the crowds and for the sycophants of her court and at night she’d sequester herself in her suite with a bottle of Lagavulin and a bucket of ice to silence her thoughts and fears in glass after glass of amber.
Amidst the very tumultuous week, her conversation with Jaqueline had been the least eventful. A quiet lunch in her suite, set up just as quietly by Emily through Jaqueline’s people at Dior, since they were certain that Irv had the Runway France staff in his pocket. Jaqueline, while an airhead and generally unaware of the undercurrents around her, unless they were about Adonis-like male underwear models, was surprisingly aware of the movements currently stealthily shaking and shaping the fashion world.
“Karl took me aside last night and Valentino made a point wagging his over bronzed finger at me. I suppose they believe your throne is too high for me to climb on.”
“It is.” Miranda’s face gave away nothing, even if she silently cursed both designers for their misplaced proactivity.
“I don’t think so, but neither am I particularly keen on going to war with the biggest houses. Irv believes he can smooth the path for me, throw money and column inches and spread pages at them, but when I signed the contract with him, I wasn’t signing on to be a field general in a guerilla campaign. Make your offer, Miranda. Make a good one and Irv can go to hell for all I care!”
And so by Saturday morning all her ducks were arranged into straight and narrow rows. Irv was hoodwinked at his own game with Miranda announcing Jaqueline at the Runway luncheon and Nigel playing the desolate jilted candidate for the Creative Director of Holt International. James had been very amenable about the whole thing, as long as his four subsequent collections were prominently featured in Runway. Even Anna Wintour raised her water glass in Miranda’s direction, the witch obviously in the know about everything that was happening and of the danger Miranda just gracefully sidestepped in such a public manner.
The conversation with Irv following the luncheon was fraught and unpleasant. Miranda did not raise her voice, but she had come damn close. In the end she threw the list in his face and walked out of the room with her head held high, leaving him fuming and raging at his impotence. She thought it only fitting since rumor had it he had amped up his Viagra consumption again.
He’d come for her again, she reasoned. He was a worthless, soulless weasel who hated being made a fool off. Especially in such a masterful and public manner. So she’d have to take preventive measures, and soon.
With the events of the week unfolding in this semi-public manner, Elias Clarke Board members were slowly becoming aware of what had been thwarted, at least those Board members who still had their wits about them and were on the right side of 90.
Meredith Romain, one of those board members, and one to never miss the Paris Fashion Week applauded Jaqueline’s appointment at Holt with particular vigor and if the flowers she sent to Miranda’s suite later on Saturday were a gauge of her opinion of Irv’s manipulations, Miranda thought she was way ahead of the curve of securing some of the board members for her side. At the end of the day, they didn’t care about Irv’s bruised ego, or his desire for absolute power. They cared about the bottom line and Miranda had been making it rain at Runway since the day she took over 20 years ago. As golden geese went, she knew she was an absolute blockbuster.
She also knew that she was very tired. Drained to the point of complete apathy. She had just claimed one of the biggest victories of her life, saved herself and her empire from a sure demise, yet she had no desire to celebrate. Donatella was throwing her a sumptuous party at George V, but all she wanted to do was stay in her suite and drink some more Lagavulin. People were exhausting her and she’d had more than her usual share of people this week.
Still, needs must and so she donned her Saint Laurent suit, designed for her years ago by the master himself. Looking at her image in the floor to ceiling mirror, Miranda thought that everything old was new again. She was just renewed after all, so the symbolism of wearing the design of someone who was eternal of sorts, immortalized by his creativity that mainstreamed pantsuits for women, wasn’t lost on her. It also sent a message that she was wearing the trousers in the current power balance at Runway. It was bold with just a touch mean, kicking Irv while he was down.
Miranda doubted he would understand such symbolism, but Meredith Romain would and so would countless other devotees of fashion. If it also served her to not offend any of the designers who all had a hand in her maneuvering, it was a boon. After all, wearing a design of someone who was living a reclusive life away from the glitter of fashion, guaranteed that none of the great men and women with very fragile egos would be offended by her singling any one of them out. And Yves had always been and continued to be the King of Paris anyway, even at his lowest. That was also a symbolism of sorts. Miranda was never beaten and even at her lowest, she still reigned.
Champagne was plentiful, compliments were flowing and Miranda was on the verge of being done with all these people. Yes, she was grateful. Yes, she obliged many of them now by being seen with them and being heard talking in some relatively evasive yet potentially positive tones about their collections. Still, it was fatigue and not elation that consumed her and the bubbly disposition and bubbly drinks were doing nothing to wash away the feeling of loneliness. She wondered why it had suddenly taken ahold of her.
Tiredness was understandable, she really was on her last legs, but loneliness? She had spoken earlier in the day with her girls and they were eagerly waiting for her to come home. She had plans to cancel her Tuesday to spend the day with them. Plus, she was always alone anyway. True power after all was wielded by a single pair of hands.
A hand on her shoulder startled her out of her reverie, a frisson of discomfort running along her skin at being caught not paying attention to her surroundings. Karl had monopolized the conversation and tactfully steered it away from her, giving her a chance to collect herself. Yet the hand belonged to none other than Elinor Moncrief and Miranda felt a frisson of decidedly different quality. These days Elinor brought an association with Andrea and she felt her cheeks pink a little.
“Long live the Queen.” She smiled and Karl laughed loudly and started a chant, with a hundred glasses raising in her direction.
Miranda tilted her head and air kissed Karl’s cheeks. It was time to make an exit and that might've just been her cue. Damn Elinor and her sadistic sense of humor.
“Leaving so soon, Miranda? I thought we’d have a chance to catch up, but I see you are perhaps too wiped out for that. Understandable. The stunt you pulled this week must’ve take a lot out of you, old girl”
Miranda chose to ignore the playful needling. If anyone could get away with that kind of teasing it was Elinor.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Elinor. This was an utterly boring week, even by Paris standards. Quiet. Quaint.”
“Right. He’ll want revenge, dearest. Be careful. Watch that exquisite six of yours.” Elinor’s eyes were shining with concern and amusement.
“I’d say you’re wrong, but then you’d be wrong about that last remark too and I can’t dispute that.”
Elinor’s laughter was just as attractive as it always was and Miranda took a moment to appreciate the woman in front of her. She had been careless with her as well. All those years ago they had been careless with each other, but some things endured and this friendship of theirs certainly did.
“I’d offer you a ride to the Four Seasons, but you’re wanted elsewhere.'' Elinor's expression of amusement did not leave her face, but there was something lurking in the depths of the brown eyes. Before Miranda had a chance to contradict her and tell her that the only place she really needed to be was her suite, watching the city while drinking her whiskey, Elinor produced a folded piece of paper.
A gentle kiss on her lips and she was gone, leaving Miranda to stare at the paper in her hand. There, in neat, clear writing was an address.
Rue Lamarck. Montmartre. The address told her nothing really, but somehow her heart stuttered and Elinor’s words echoed in her mind “You’re wanted elsewhere.” Amongst throngs of fans and sycophants clamoring for her attention, for pieces of her, there was truly only one person in Paris who wanted her. As crudely as Andrea had put it when she made her desire known on Tuesday, for old times sake, that desire was genuine. For she had wanted Miranda even when all the masks of power and influence were off. Perhaps especially then. She wanted Miranda with pure unadulterated desire, even if that desire was tainted with anger and hurt these days.
Paris never truly slept, but this bohemian part of the city was a perpetual hive of activity and with Fashion Week, it was positively bursting at the seams with parties and people drinking and dancing the night away in vanguard little clubs strewn along the winding narrow streets of the 18th Arrondissement.
There was a time when young Miranda, a starving seamstress, knew these streets like the back of her hand, Montmartre and Montparnasse serving as her stomping grounds. Thankfully her so-called stage in Paris did not last very long and she moved to bigger and better things in New York. Even so, those years served her well, because she landed in New York brimming with hands-on knowledge, not only of material, of thread, of proper cut and precise tailoring, but also of sleepless nights caused by an empty stomach. She had known hunger, real palpable hunger and it set her aside from the crowds of fashion wannabees. Running amok in the narrow Paris streets she promised herself to never go hungry again, that she’d do anything, be everything it took to succeed. She was grateful to these streets, even if her official biography contained no mention of them or of those years.
So yes, these streets served her well. Like fire and water, they tempered the steel in her. She came to Paris all those years ago to get hurt but also to grow stronger. Was she back amidst these streets now to get hurt again, in a different, deeper manner?
The town car stopped smoothly at the beginning of Rue Lamarck, allowing her the gorgeous view of the northern central Paris skyline from Montmartre Hill. The little street was quiet, the view breathtaking and Miranda inhaled the cool spring air, breathing fully perhaps for the first time in a week.
As a couple exited, the door to the building opened and she caught it easily, her muscles singing in anticipation. She felt limber, her fatigue gone without a trace. Anticipation was singing in her veins. She had foregone the dingy little elevator and practically vaulted the stairs to the last floor. She wasn’t even winded by the time she knocked on the door of a rooftop loft. She was alive.
She felt time slow as the door opened and a sense of wonderful deja vu filled her. How many times had Andrea opened a door to her? Five? Ten? Twenty? Every one of those times she felt just as alive. Was it a wonder she was in love with this woman, who made her feel like life was saturting her every pore, feelings and emotions boiling over, spilling over everything that was Miranda Priestly? This woman who made her climb seven floors in four inch heels and not feel a thing, except anticipation and elation. This woman who was looking at her first with astonishment and then with not a little schadenfreude.
“Did you come to thank me properly? I heard about the successful defense of the throne you pulled. Bravo. Masterfully done, though I’ll eat my hat if he doesn’t try to enact some kind of revenge scheme in the near future.” Andrea stepped aside and let her into a room that could be generously called an attic. Miranda supposed that even with Andrea’s successful career, the location of the loft was quite expensive and hence she had to sacrifice the space inside the apartment itself. Still, what she could see from the little balcony cut in the sloped roof, the view was very much worth the cramped space in the shoebox Andrea inhabited.
“We’ve established that I’m not particularly good at effusive gratitude, Andrea. But you made a not so artfully worded offer back at the Four Seasons. I was wondering if it still stands?”
“An offer, Miranda?” Andrea’s smile turned sharp, feral. Miranda’s insides quivered.
“One more time, for old times sake?” Not waiting for an answer, she chose her favorite defense and forged ahead, consequences be damned, shrugging out of the suit jacket and slowly undoing the top button of her blouse. Her hands were trembling just a little bit, but she wasn’t afraid to show her trepidation. Here, with Andrea in this little attic on top of Paris, she felt free and unafraid again, perhaps for the first time in a very long time, even before she and Andrea got tangled up in all these feelings and all this want.
Andrea’s eyes followed Miranda’s hands, scorching her skin, the stare palpable in its suggestiveness, in its carnality.
The second button gave under her fingertips as Andrea took a step forward. Time slowed even further. Andrea’s hands covered her own and stopped the trembling. Their eyes locked. Andrea undid the buttons of the shirt, one by one, never once breaking eye contact. As she pushed the blouse down Miranda’s shoulders, she raised a hand and Miranda closed her eyes, trying to savor the moment, prolonging the anticipation of not knowing where she would feel the touch of that long fingered hand. As if in a dream, the hand cupped her cheek and then the second one joined in and her face was being held in those sure, skilled hands, thumbs tracing her cheekbones.
“Don’t close your eyes, Miranda. I want you to look at me as I’m fucking you. Look at me.”
Andrea’s voice was hoarse, betraying the resentment and the need in her. Miranda opened her eyes to face that resentment, that anger, and her insides clenched at the sight, feeling the danger in those eyes in her very core. She was so wet, throbbing, wanting. This woman, right now. Do your worst to me.
It was a blur after that. She knew she was naked in seconds with Andrea pushing her against the wall and taking her hard and fast, first two fingers, then three, knuckle deep, with the first orgasm hitting her like a slap in what felt like seconds. She did not close her eyes.
She tried to recover, to reach for Andrea’s shirt, but she was still too astounded by the sheer force of the climax to even move properly and Andrea was already taking her hand and ushering her into the alcove off the living room and onto an unmade bed only to proceed to devour her still pulsating flesh. She barely had enough presence of mind to hold on, to grab at the sheets, to claw at still shirt-clad shoulders in trying to anchor herself to reality, because she felt Andrea spread her lips and suck on her clit and it was like coming apart at the seams. As she came the third time she tugged weakly at Andrea’s hair trying to stop this assault on her senses that consumed her, overwhelmed her, and rendered her cries soundless.
Andrea raised her face, covered in Miranda’s essence, licked her lips and gave her a smile that did not touch the eyes that still burned with unsatisfied emotion. Slowly she began a leisurely trail up Miranda’s body, licking and nipping, leaving smears of Miranda’s juices behind.
She stopped for a longer moment on Miranda’s breasts, knowing how sensitive they were. There had been times when Andrea had made her come just from playing with her breasts, especially if Miranda had been waiting for Andrea’s hands and mouth for a bit of time, even more if Andrea had been teasing her mercilessly throughout the day with subtle lip bites and breathy sighs. It seems Andrea's mind went exactly to the same memories, because Miranda could feel a smile blossoming against her nipple, just before sharp teeth closed around the puckered nub, bringing her unexpectedly and swiftly to the very edge again. Such a simple gesture, just one bite and she was dying for it again, feeling like she’d burst any second if she didn’t come now.
Seeking purchase again, Miranda ran her hands against the short scratchy hairs on the back of the head currently tormenting her breasts. This was new, the short strands pleasantly rough under her fingertips. She had loved the feel of Andrea’s long luxurious hair spread all over her skin, caressing her with as much purpose as the hands or the mouth did. Still, Andrea looked wonderful like this, the short, edgy cut making her look mature, wordly.
These thoughts somehow cleared her mind of the urgency and the haze that came with it and she again tugged Andrea’s head up. It occurred to her that they had not kissed since that night in the office when she had broken it off between them. It was time to stop missing the gorgeous red lips, swollen now with the exertion of bringing Miranda to three astounding orgasms.
It took them both a second to acknowledge the gravitas of the moment and then their lips met, blossoming gently in dissonance with their earlier rough exertions. Miranda tasted herself on that feather soft mouth that was so familiar, so treasured, so tender with her now after taking her so forcefully just minutes earlier, that she thought she could cry. Andrea always could strip away all her defenses and uncover her most real, deepest desires.
The kiss seemed to go on forever. They drank each other unhurriedly, at first until Andrea seemed to remember that she still had something to prove. Her tongue invaded Miranda’s mouth, the tone of the kiss changing, the storm brewing in the depths of those gorgeous brown eyes hitting landfall again. It was all tongues and teeth and sharp little slices of pain that she knew would leave her bruised tomorrow. There was significance in those bites, she knew Andrea was marking her, claiming her even if only for this one night, using her as she had never done all those months ago, simply because they never had the freedom to mark and bruise before. Tonight that freedom was driving both of them crazy and Miranda lost herself in the hedonism of it.
She was yanked out of her trance by strong hands flipping her on her stomach and before she knew what was happening she felt the edge of the strap-on, drawing up and down from clit to slit, like a brush painting her with her own wetness. She heard the sound of the bottle of lube opening and closing, but she was sure that was an unnecessary precaution, she was dripping. They had never indulged before in this type of sex. Miranda really hadn’t been averse, they simply never had enough time to really let loose with each other, always wary of getting caught, rarely even taking all their clothes off.
“Tell me to stop, Miranda!'' Short of breath from anticipation, Andrea rasped in her ear. “Tell me you don't want this.” She stroked her clit with the tip of the strap-on and Miranda quivered.
No, there was no way in heaven or hell Miranda was going to deny Andrea this. Even if she indeed didn’t want it, she would’ve still allowed Andrea to exorcise whatever demons were eating at and troubling the wondrous brown eyes.
“You made me listen, Miranda. You made me listen to him fucking you in that bathroom. Did you know I heard every grunt, every moan he made? I heard everything. I wanted to kill him, for touching you, for taking what was mine. Because you were mine, Miranda. I know the sounds you make when you come. Every moan, every cry, every sigh. I know the cadence of your breathing when you get so close your thighs tremble and your walls start to clench. I know what you sound like and I didn’t hear you that evening. I’m going to make you scream now, Miranda. So tell me to stop!”
“Don’t stop…” She didn’t finish her sentence. She couldn’t. Andrea was pushing into her, inch by agonizing inch, so careful even in her anger, in her staking claim on Miranda.
Miranda wanted to tell her that there was no need, that she was hers, all hers, even back in that bathroom, with Stephen pumping inside her, Miranda had never been more Andrea’s. The shaft was fully inside her and still she felt Andrea holding back, breathing hard, her anger palpable in the harsh exhallations, in the gritting of her teeth. Miranda knew she needed to erase what ailed her, her own comfort be damned.
“Fuck me like you mean it then, damn you!” she grounded through gritted teeth.
She could swear she heard Andrea howl and then she could hear nothing but her own moans and the ringing in her ears that the fourth climax building inside her was causing. In the midst of it all she could feel Andrea’s own orgasm hit, the girl slumping on top of her, shirt drenched in sweat, breathing loudly, lips moving soundlessly at first before Miranda could decipher the one word Andrea was repeating over and over - mine, mine, mine! Yes, dear heart, I am, she wanted to say just before the wave swept her up and the world went grey at the edges of her vision.
She opened her eyes just before dawn, the twilight playing with shapes and shadows on the wall opposite the disarrayed bed. Andrea was still inside her and she realized she was decidedly uncomfortable. As gently as she could, she tried disengaging from the slumbering shape laying half on top of her. Surprisingly she was successful, as Andrea did not stir. Their encounter must’ve taken quite a lot out of her lover, physically and emotionally, to have her sleeping so soundly.
Miranda stretched not unlike a cat after a nap in the sun and took stock. On one hand she felt amazing, the end of an unwanted year of abstinence bringing much needed relief. On the other hand, she was sore, not entirely pleasantly so, and as she made her ablutions in the small bathroom, she washed away small traces of blood off herself. She smiled mirthlessly. She would of course live, but at least now she felt like she had atoned somewhat for her cruelty to Andrea, having paid for that sin in blood. Perhaps the debt was finally settled.
Andrea surely looked peaceful and content now that she had exorcised this demon that had been clearly eating at her for a year. It was worth a little pain in the end. After all, Miranda would have given much more to erase the memory of that bathroom encounter with Stephen from Andrea’s mind. So if she hurt now just as she hurt back then with Stephen, it was par for the course for her. One had to pay for everything.
She dressed quietly, though she probably didn’t need to since the girl was sleeping deeply and peacefully, her breathing even and quiet.
Gathering her purse, Miranda noticed a phone discarded carelessly on the floor by the door, guessing Andrea must’ve dropped it when they went at each other earlier in the night. As she bent to pick it up to place it near the bed for Andrea’s convenience, the phone vibrated, a message lighting up the screen: “I missed you last night, babe. Too bad you weren’t here to fuck me blind. xoxo Freja.”
Well, Miranda mused sardonically, as she quietly closed the door behind her, she did come here to get hurt. And hurt she got in more ways than one.
Once upon a different life
We rode our bikes into the sky.
But now we call against the tide,
Those distant days are flashing by.
Among the multitude of emails and messages awaiting Miranda upon her return to New York, one stood out, and not just because it was written in all capitals.
“HOW DARE YOU NOT TELL ME I WAS HURTING YOU, MIRANDA?”
Miranda rolled her eyes and deleted the email without reading the rest. So Andrea had either found the washcloth she’d used to clean herself up after their night together or there were some other clues to Miranda’s not entirely pleasant morning. She really didn’t understand why the young woman was making such a big deal out of something so inconsequential as a droplet of blood. At the time, with Andrea taking her roughly from behind, she didn’t really feel much aside from the clawing need to come. If the orgasm came with a side of atonement, then so be it.
However, knowing Andrea, the young woman must be swimming in guilt and self-flagellation by now. Her personal cell phone was still switched off after spending a perfectly nice day at the zoo with the twins and she was in no hurry to turn it on. Andrea would no doubt be demanding an opportunity to needlessly apologize. Miranda wasn’t ready to talk to her. She wanted to, craved to hear that voice on the other end of the line, to imagine what Andrea was doing or what she was wearing. She wanted perhaps a bit too much. It was the “a bit too much” that was giving her pause, for it was just that tiny bit that was spinning out of her control.
Her famed self preservation was kicking in, steering her away from calming the storms in Andrea as she had done many times before. It was time to save herself first. Now that she had fully realized that her feelings for Andrea were indeed something as ghastly as actual love, Miranda needed to find some measure of defense against the strength of it. She couldn’t go on being an exposed nerve around Andrea. It was bound to end terribly for them both.
Miranda, however, had other pressing matters to attend to. Irv was undoubtedly plotting his revenge even as she sat sipping her scorching latte. His money and his influence were considerable. Miranda knew that unlike any other time, she had to watch her back or she’d lose it all. Sure, Andrea was no longer an employee, so the moral clauses in her contract would not apply, but Miranda wasn’t in a position to come out as a bisexual. The thought alone made her want to vomit. She’d be eviscerated, trampled by the press and the court of public opinion. No, coming out wasn’t an option.
Plus, from the message she had the misfortune to read that Sunday morning, Andrea was also otherwise occupied. Not that Miranda hadn’t suspected as much. The damn blog was rife with “adventure” and “French women''.
The name on the message however wasn’t French at all. In fact Miranda knew only one Freja, hell, the whole world knew of only one Freja even if there were undoubtedly many other women with that name up on that Scandinavian peninsula. Like Madonna, Freja went just by her first name as it was distinctive enough to set her aside, though there were plenty of other attributes of hers that set her apart. Freja was a worthy successor to the fame of the generation of supermodels that came before her. An amalgam of Claudia Schiffer with the long flowing blonde locks and Cindy Crawford with the generous breasts, hips and pouty lips adorned with a small mole at the very corner.
Freja also had the fortune of perfect timing. The era of the supermodels was over, Claudia, Cindy, Christie and the rest of the sisterhood were being phased out by skinny, no name faces of younger girls. And here came Freja, a Valkyrie in the era of twigs and indistinctive bodies with no personalities. She was true to her namesake goddess legacy - larger than life, wild to the point of provocative and at times downright ribald. She was also more popular than either Schiffer or Crawford or Turlington at their peak due to her numerous scandals and affairs. Her mouth had zero filter yet was accompanied by a sharp and calculated mind. Freja always ended up saying the most outlandish things that would get any other person in a lot of hot water, except she always came out on top, with a brand new endorsement and a huge sack of money after it was all said and done.
Normally Miranda was quick to jump on any new trendy thing, especially if she hadn’t had a hand in setting that trend, because if she hated one thing it was playing catch-up. Anna Wintour was bosom buddies with the model, after all. Still, something about Freja left Miranda a bit unsettled and Runway hadn’t yet given her a cover, despite both Vogue and Elle already featuring her as their cover girl.
Was it intuition, Miranda wondered, that stayed her hand several times from calling Freja and setting up a shoot? They had run into each other several times in New York during various benefits and shows, with the girl being reasonably polite if not exaggeratingly showy and frivolous with her entourage. It was borderline vulgar, her behaviour, but then Miranda mused that while she personally abhorred anything vulgar, it had never stopped her from profiting off it. Plus, so far Freja hadn’t crossed any lines with Miranda herself, since they only exchanged the most shallow of greetings between them.
God knew she had plenty of vulgar women on her covers during the years. If they moved her project forward and were good business, like a seasoned chess player that she was, Miranda would use any pawn to further her quest. Besides, it was up to her to tell millions of people what was considered vulgar anyway.
Sitting in her cool quiet office, reminiscing about the events of last week, Miranda found it interesting that she had not run into Freja in Paris. As the brand ambassador, Freja was the star of the Gucci and D&G shows, yet it seems she had not attended any of the parties that were thrown for Miranda. Looking back now, Miranda wondered if it was deliberate. Had Andrea shared with her details of their affair and the supermodel had chosen to stay away from her girlfriend’s former lover? Miranda did not want to even contemplate such an idea, horrified that someone would have access to a surefire weapon to destroy her career and perhaps her life.
Right on cue her heart lurched in her chest and the telltale signs of an impending anxiety attack let themselves be felt. She tried breathing deeply, tried to put Freja away from her mind and tried the technique her therapist suggested of visualizing her happy safe place. Normally she visualized her girls, her townhouse, the sanctity of her office, and the attacks would lessen. Today her frazzled mind darted to the smell of Chanel and the long fingers that played with the hair on her nape while full lips did wonderful things to her neck. Involuntarily her hand touched the still lingering marks that Andrea left on her skin Saturday night, the ones Miranda had to cover up these past three days. They gave her a thrill of a curious kind, having never particularly cared for possessiveness, she discovered she quite liked being possessed.
Emily’s voice invoking the bullocks from the reception area startled her and she realized that her anxiety attack had gone, not really having had any chance to take ahold of her mind. And how could anxiety win when her memories alone were leaving her panting and feeling like she needed a change of underwear, since she belatedly realized how wet she was after reminiscing about Andrea leaving marks of possession on her skin or murmuring “mine” with every deep hard thrust?
The anxiety was gone. And so were her thoughts of Freja and everything else that lie therein that destination. She’d use the famous line uttered by an otherwise insipid and boring character and “think about it tomorrow”. Allowing herself one last thought on the whole subject, Miranda found it ironic that after accusing Andrea of having no higher ambition than being the other woman, she herself inadvertently ended up being one.
She had to stay away from Andrea, to save both her heart and her magazine. And stay away she did, delving into work that accumulated during the week she was fighting her battles in Paris. The London Fashion Week was only 4 days away and while her assistants were falling over backwards to set up another logistically successful trip for the Runway delegation, Miranda had her hands full with the features and the shows that she had just seen and decisions to be made about how better to showcase them all in the special Runway issue dedicated to the four Spring Fashion Weeks: New York, Paris and the upcoming London and Milan. She skimmed through Nigel’s ideas, jotted down hastily in between shows, plotting and intrigue, and decided that a brainstorming session was in order to sort through all of them, while still fresh in their memory. Additionally, she had debts of honor to settle with the houses that stood by her last week and a few scores to settle with the very small few who did not. She couldn’t wait to get started.
“Emily, coffee! And get me Nigel, Jocelyn and Serena. Tell them to bring their Paris notes. Then get in here. Let’s get some work done. That’s all!”
The first day of the London Fashion Week was decidedly better than Paris. Dior came in full force and blew the walls off the place with a showing filled with enormous energy and fresh air, clearly taking to heart Miranda’s observations and fixing the issues that plagued them in France.
The feeling of accomplishment didn’t leave her until the following day when during the D&G show, she spied Andrea sitting right across from her, in the first row, staring daggers in her direction when not smiling angelically at the strutting Freja. Well, that was that. So much for staying away. Apparently deleting her emails, letting her calls go to voicemail and telling Emily that she had no idea who Andrea was when the assistant sheepishly told her that Andy was on the line for the seventh time, just wasn’t enough.
Her mind reeled with the dread of the confrontation that would surely follow some time soon while her heart trembled in anticipation. She had to have some kind of masochistic streak. This was so out of character for her. She was a survivor, she always found ways to walk away from whichever fire, hale and hearty, so why was she anticipating getting burned this much now?
She completely missed the D&G show and the scowl on her face must’ve been prominent enough because Nigel elbowed her gently before the already apprehensive Domenico and Stefano approached them. She gave them a tense smile and did not compliment the collection nor the obviously anticipated new additions that they added since Paris. She was just mean enough to revel in their panicked looks and tremulous farwells.
Annoyed and upset at her herself for being annoyed, Miranda thought that perhaps she really shouldn’t attend the Stella McCartney presentation in the mood she was in, since she actually held some respect for the woman. As they were getting in the car, she decided that she needed an outlet for her confused emotions. However before she could round on Nigel, he raised his hand and cut her off.
“I had no idea she would be there, Miranda. None, zero.”
“Like you would have told me anyway!” She hissed and felt foolish for doing so. This was too much. She was thinking too much, feeling too much and reacting so stupidly to the mere presence of a woman she herself pushed away! Miranda took a deep breath and tried to regain her composure.
Nigel, sensing that calm and cool heads needed to prevail, decided to change the subject.
“I saw Meredith Romain in the crowd again today. I don’t remember her ever attending both the Paris and London weeks.”
Come to think of it, neither did Miranda. It was interesting. Meredith was a divorced heiress from one of the offshoots of the Elias clan, numerous enough in itself that Miranda more often than not got confused in all the family connections. The Clarks were much fewer and not nearly as involved in any of the business dealings of the publishing giant. Out of all the enterprising Eliases, Meredith was one of the more savvy and diligent ones, a steady reasonable presence on the company board, who took her job seriously and exhibited decidedly good taste in fashion, if Miranda was to judge by her most recent outings. She also had a quietly adversarial relationship with Irv, who still nurtured preconceived notions that women had no place on any board. Miranda smiled and thought that perhaps it was time to make a friend. She’d instruct Emily to set up a meeting for them at Meredith’s earliest convenience, deciding that perhaps, away from New York and from Irv’s beady eyes and hairy ears, she could at least test the waters of a potential alliance.
The rest of the day passed in a flurry of tulle and silk, of Ralph Lauren and DKNY. Andrea’s absence from the afternoon smoothed over some of the rough edges of her mood from earlier and Miranda could at least be magnanimous to those who deserved her overt appreciation.
It turned out she didn’t need to order Emily to arrange a meeting with Meredith Romain. As was their tradition now, Nigel talked her into having a drink at the bar. The American was such an iconic place, the oldest surviving art deco cocktail bar in London, and Miranda allowed herself to be persuaded. The place was busy, which wasn’t unusual, but a table was cleared for them in a manner of seconds, which wasn’t that unusual either. Just as they were getting their drinks, Miranda could already taste her extra dry martini, a familiar face at the bar caught her eye. Sipping what looked like a very convoluted red cocktail, Meredith sat gracefully at the bar doing her best not to stare in the direction of their table. Odd.
“Nigel, make yourself scarce.” Miranda murmured without a twinge of sympathy. After all, business was business. With an understanding nod of his bald head Nigel slinked away the moment the waiter brought their drinks.
Miranda tasted her martini and wanted to moan in satisfaction. She would in fact be doing just that if Meredith wasn’t uncoiling gracefully from her bar stool and languidly moving in Miranda’s direction. Of medium height and a slim build, the woman had long straight black hair flowing over her shoulders offsetting an angular face, with sharp cheekbones and a cleft chin. Viridescent eyes were the bringing color to an alabaster face framed by thick black eyebrows.
In fact, the translucent green eyes were the only color currently worn by the woman, the fitted little Chanel black dress outlining toned, disciplined lines of a well trained body.
Meredith Romain carried herself with innate grace and an air of something distinctive, that could only be called nobility. Some people learned to walk and talk and act like blue blood ran through their veins. Miranda surely had, although it had taken her some time to unlearn her humble beginnings and learn the head tilts and voice inflections of the well born and bread. Other people were just born with this elusive quality of being set apart from the riff raff of the world.
“Miranda.” The voice wasn’t quite a purr, but there was just enough suggestiveness there to raise Miranda’s antennas.
With a graceful nod to the chair opposite her Miranda offered her own greeting. It was strange, they knew each other professionally, having been through countless board meetings where Miranda had been invited to speak about the issues of Runway or advise on other fashion publications, but they had never interacted socially. It was also just a bit strange that Meredith was in London at all. Paris was de rigueur for New York high society fashionistas, but London or the upcoming Milan were not as popular. Too much travel, as the Spring Fashion Weeks ran so close to each other, three in the space of six weeks from January to March.
As if reading her mind, Meredith smiled and gestured around them with her incandescent red cocktail. “Paris is great, but The American sure serves the best Love Potion this side of the ocean.”
“I’m sure the Saudi Royal family, as owners of this little shack, is grateful for your patronage and the lengths you take to indulge in your love of this cocktail.” She realized that her humor could occasionally be very dry and it wasn’t time to antagonize members of the Board of Elias-Clark, especially those with whom she shared a distinct distaste for one Irv Ravitz. Before she could soften her previous remark, Meredith laughed and Miranda couldn’t help but smile in return at the melodic, attractive sound.
“I knew I always liked you, Miranda Priestly. If for nothing else then for your perspicacious nature. Yes, yes, the Saudi Royal Family undoubtedly would’ve missed my patronage if I didn’t show up at Savoy from time to time. However my reason for being here this week has to do with more than Love Potion cocktails and the revamped Dior show. Though I have to say, you are a true master of the craft, since it’s clear to me that whatever you said to Galliano clearly took hold. I was pleasantly surprised to see the delightful improvements in the collection. I particularly adore the range of the maxi skirts.”
Well, they could certainly talk about Dior and skirts and the latest trends of maxi versus mini and what the plans were for featuring each trend. Miranda really could do this dog and pony show for a while. She was ready to do it too, feeling like she had to make up for coming close to committing the faux pas of offending Meredith, but just as she opened her mouth to get into the familiar role of fashion goddess extraordinaire, Meredith cut her off.
“I’m sorry, Miranda, please don’t feel like you have to answer that. I’m sure after two days of talking non stop about collections and couture and pret-a-porter with God knows how many people, you must be tired of it all. Plus, I’m rambling… Dammit.”
Meredith took a couple of steadying breaths and Miranda realized she was extremely nervous. She also realized that perhaps Meredith’s interest wasn’t entirely professional. The rambling, the uncharacteristic behavior, the blush now covering her cleavage and neck, the earlier suggestiveness in her voice. She decided to tread very carefully.
“Meredith, you seem discomfited somehow this evening. Are you alright?”
“I am. I guess I’m acting a little strange. I swear this is my first cocktail, so alcohol isn’t my excuse either.”
“Do you need an excuse?” Belatedly Miranda realized that her words could be misconstrued for a come on. She instantly regretted it, but it was too late. Meredith was reaching across the table and taking her hand.
“I realize that this is entirely inappropriate. You just overcame a pretty considerable foe and he’s waiting in the wings to continue his efforts to destroy you. I also realize that you will be looking for any and all friends right now. I wanted to say that I can be that friend.”
The hand holding hers was warm, perhaps a bit too warm as the tapered fingertips moved over her knuckles in a tentative caress. It was a nice hand, the manicure filed short and precise. In any other circumstance Miranda would find a way to use this opportunity to her advantage. Here was the heiress to the Elias throne, offering herself on a silver platter.
Miranda had her scruples, but the world was what it was and even though she personally had never had to work for her professional success on her back, she knew plenty of people, men and women, who did just that. She could care less as long as they were competent and talented and brought those qualities to the table. Life was a jungle after all, take or be taken.
No, ethical reasons were not the ones stopping her from turning her hand palm up and meeting Meredith’s caress. The news of her impending divorce hit the papers while she was still in Paris, which was advantageous for her because the news cycle managed to move on by the time she returned to New York. Page Six was in the throes of another Lindsay Lohan scandal and Miranda Priestly’s divorce was blessedly yesterday’s news. The reasons stopping her from asking an attractive woman up to her room to seal this potentially very satisfying professional and personal alliance were very mundane. Her heart wanted something else, someone else.
Meredith was everything she found attractive in a woman, mature, sophisticated, graceful and rich as a Croesus. She fit the bill of her previous lovers, male or female, to a T. She also possessed an appropriate degree of reverence for Miranda that would guarantee worship and appreciation in the bedroom. More importantly, this worship would translate into support on the Elias-Clark board. Yet, all Miranda could think of were the now faded marks Andrea left on her neck and breasts and how she’d like to have them back, have that sensuous mouth back sucking and biting her skin until she couldn’t take the sensual overload anymore and she’d beg Andrea to fuck her hard and deep. Damn Andrea and damn her own weakness. Love did make you weak. It was such an inconvenience.
Her face must’ve shown some of the apprehension, because Meredith withdrew her hand slowly. Wasn’t it just a shame that this woman, who wanted her, was also perceptive enough to be able to read her? Such a waste.
“I’m sorry if my offer came at an inopportune time. I see the gears moving in your head. Please do not for a moment think that refusing to see me socially will revoke my support of you with the board. I have my own battles to fight with Ravitz. I’m sure you and I can team up nicely and come to an agreement of how to proceed there, even if right now his cronies outnumber my allies two to one. I’m of the opinion that if you give an intelligent woman enough time and a fabulous pair of shoes, she can rule the world.”
Miranda was surprised into a burst of sincere laughter and her shoulders relaxed a bit.
“I must say though,” Meredith continued, “that your shoes are extra fabulous. As are your legs.” She took a sip of her cocktail, her tongue following a stray drop of rich red liquid on her lower lip. “Delicious.”
They smiled openly now, easy in each other’s company, having established where they stood.
“I will do everything to support your eventual coup against Irv, Meredith. Say the word and more will follow. I’m sure between us, we can rustle some of those sleeping fossils on the seventh floor. Elias-Clark needs a new direction and perhaps a new CEO?” Miranda half gestured with her second martini in Meredith’s direction.
“I wouldn’t say no to that position. But my priority remains Irv’s marginalization. I don’t even care if he stays on the board, I just want fresh eyes and competent ego-free hands steering this ship. When I look at how well Conde Nast is doing, what their numbers are, and how they use funds and investments to bring in innovation at every level of their product manufacturing, I want to weep. I’m not saying you’re not doing that at Runway. God knows you milk every cent dry and are always on the cutting edge of whichever new technology there is in publishing, but it shouldn’t be costing you cuts in other departments. Your ideas should be encouraged and financed properly and you should be allowed to reign free. The golden goose should be cherished, not accosted at every step.”
“This is very much music to my ears, Meredith.” Only Miranda knew the battles she waged with Irv over every blessed dollar that went into her magazine.
“And even though I would very much like to accost you myself”, Meredith’s smile turned just a bit dirty, “because how do you look this fresh and beautiful after a whole day of being drooled over by countless adoring fans? But then you always look beautiful, Miranda.”
The voice was wistful now and Miranda felt that she had to give Meredith something, perhaps by the way of explanation. She has made so many mistakes recently with people who perhaps deserved a little bit better from her.
“I’m flattered, Meredith. The compliments and the support with the board are very much appreciated. While you have me firmly in your corner on the latter, I’m just not ready to pursue anything in terms of the former.”
“No need to explain yourself, Miranda. Your husband filed for divorce not even a couple of weeks ago and here I am rather aggressively pursuing you. I understand. I don’t like it, but I understand and perhaps will try again some time in the not so distant future.”
“I’d have been very disappointed if you’d like it, Meredith.” With a suggestive tilt of her head, she bussed Meredith’s cheeks, actual touch of lips against skin, not half-hearted air kisses this time, acknowledging both their professional alliance and some future possibility to reconsider their personal situation. Just as soon as Miranda got her head examined and purged of the ridiculous notion that all she wanted was a brown eyed girl who fucked her so well that she passed out. A brown eyed girl who hated her just a little bit these days.
A brown eyed girl who was currently slumped against the wall near her penthouse suite, in ghastly Doc Martens and torn black skinny jeans. At least those were DKNY and thus passable. The equally black t-shirt did nothing to hide the jutting collarbones and the already hardening nipples.
Miranda swallowed the sudden urge to run and hide. She felt very tired, the emotional roller-coaster of the day taking its toll on her. For the past ten days all she wanted was to see Andrea again and even earlier today, knowing that she was attending the D&G show to support her girlfriend, Miranda still wanted to just sit there and look at her, drink in the lanky form, the slim arms and long legs. Now that the sullen figure glared daggers at her from the doorway of her own suite, she was reconsidering her earlier wishes.
As she opened the door, Andrea irreverently pushed off the wall and into the suite. Miranda wanted to protest, but found it utterly useless, the young woman heading straight to the generous mini bar and pouring herself a tumbler of vodka and downing it in one gulp.
Miranda could only cock an eyebrow at such a masterful display of drinking prowess. She didn’t have much time to do anything else because Andrea was on her in the next second. But the tone of her touch was so different from what she had been used to from the young woman. There was no roughness, no urgency. The embrace was strong, yet gentle, soothing rather than arousing and when those still pouting lips touched hers it was a supplication more than a demand.
Astonished and totally off balance in the newness of this interaction, Miranda raised her hands but instead of pushing Andrea away, she ended up cradling the beloved troubled face, further gentling the caress of lips and tongues. The kiss ended and Andrea rested her forehead against hers, still holding her close. Minutes passed as they stood framed in the dark window overlooking the Thames, their embrace silent as they breathed each other’s air.
“I’m so angry at you Miranda, all the time, and so tired of being angry and then you pull a stunt like you did in Paris.” Andrea gulped and Miranda was horrified to see such anguish in her eyes. Still so young, already so tortured. “You let me hurt you. I could swear I wanted you to hurt after everything you did to me a year ago, but not like that. Never like that!” The stormy eyes were earnest, beseeching now, looking into hers for absolution. Such a tender heart.
Miranda traced a cheekbone with her thumb and gently kissed the beloved forehead before letting go and stepping out of the embrace.
“I wasn’t that hurt and you did nothing wrong. What happened on Rue Lamarck was perfectly consensual and entirely appropriate for the name of the street. Did you know Lamarck was a zoologist? So we went at each other like animals. It’s fine, Andrea.”
Andrea seemed to be visibly and completely stymied by the answer, perhaps by the random piece of trivia that was somehow so easily at Miranda’s disposal. So while the younger woman was silently staring at her, Miranda went on and tried to further her attempt to calm those deep troubled waters of her lover’s heart.
“I know you abhor the phrasing, but I enjoyed that night. Let it go.”
She felt Andrea step behind her and wrap her arms around her waist, the movement of lips tickling her temple.
“I can’t let go. Of what happened that night or of you, Miranda. I tried very hard. Faceless, nameless people. You’ve said many times that I’m a trier, so I did what I do best and tried. It just doesn’t seem to work.”
“Not so faceless, for she does have quite a face, and not entirely nameless, although I understand the impulse to use only a first name, especially when she has such a distinctive one. Will Freja be missing you tonight as she missed you that night in Paris?”
Miranda wished she could school her tone to be mocking, instead it came out as tired and just a bit sad.
“Freja and I aren’t…well, we aren't yet. I wish I could say we’re friends, but she’d like us to be more. I guess you could say we hang out and like each other’s company? It was fun as a one-time thing, and I’m not really sure we can be anything else. I can’t really do much more than one-time things these days. It wouldn’t be fair to whomever it is I’d be with, when all I can think about is how you taste when you come in my mouth.”
Even though the tone was matter of fact, almost clinical in delivery, Miranda trembled at the words and felt Andrea’s smile blossom against the nape of her neck where a wicked mouth was slowly nibbling and licking her skin, sending more shivers down her spine. God, she was weak. How could she think that anyone else would do? That anyone else could possibly do this to her? Meredith who? She forgot the name and the woman when Andrea was slowly turning her into a wanton, needy mess. On cue, Andrea brought the name and the woman up, never stopping the exquisite torment of her neck.
“I saw you with Meredith Romain earlier, holding hands. You make a nice couple, though perhaps you’ve moved on from Stephen too early for the public eye just yet? I get it though, you need all the support with the board that you can get right now.”
She didn’t know what grated more, that Andrea thought that Miranda would sleep with Meredith to ensure her position, which granted, she had been contemplating just an hour ago and would’ve perhaps done under different circumstances, or that Andrea was so sanguine about the whole ordeal, just standing there, nibbling at her neck, the fingers of one hand playing lazily with an already hardened and wanting nipple. Irritating as it was though, Miranda had used Andrea’s jealousy before against her and only hurt herself more in the process. They weren’t going to do this anymore.
“As nice a couple as Meredith and I could make, we aren’t. Even if my position was so dire that I would contemplate whoring myself to keep it, Meredith doesn’t have the power to help me right now.” It was shocking really the things she would do for the girl, explaining herself like a common lovesick fool.
“That’s good,” Andrea murmured in that same infuriating matter of fact whisper as her other hand joined in. Now both Miranda’s nipples were being tugged and rolled and tortured just this side of pain. She pushed back into Andrea’s groin and the young woman laughed quietly.
“That is also very good. Mmmm, I love your ass.” Andrea did not let go of her breasts but her groin ground firmly against Miranda, making her whimper. Having experienced Andrea’s skill with the strap-on, she thought she might just die from the sheer carnality of the gesture and the subtle inference that it carried. “You know I used to watch you walk around the office all the time and fantasize about all the things I would do if I got my hands on your ass?”
Caught in the web the velvet voice was weaving around her, Miranda was startled when the hands playing with her nipples suddenly tore at her blouse, buttons flying everywhere. In the stillness of the room the sound was like a gunshot, loud and obscene. Andrea did not alter the tone of the encounter though, still languidly nibbling at her neck and playing with the now uncovered nipples, after she deftly undid the front clasp of the bra. Miranda thought she could come just like this, in front of the undraped window overlooking the Thames and the brightly lit London. Andrea removed her torn blouse and slowly unzipped and slid her skirt down her legs, kissing the skin just above the thigh highs before proceeding upward to gently lick and bite at the ass cheeks she had apparently lusted for while roaming the halls of Runway. Naked, supporting herself on her hands against the glass, Miranda shut down her brain and allowed Andrea to simply take her wherever the young woman wanted.
It was so different tonight, worshipful, caresses and kisses, pleasuring with every touch. Andrea gave her ass one last kiss before standing up and turning Miranda in her arms. There again was the disbalance of power between them. Andrea fully clothed and Miranda naked sans the thigh highs and four inch stilettos.
“I know you said you were okay with what happened that night, but I don’t think I am. I don’t care if it shows my lack of sophistication or naivete or whatever. You can say that I don’t have to make it up to you, but I want to. Let me?”
How on Earth was Miranda ever going to be able to resist this hopeful, guileless expression? Hell, she promised herself just last week that it was time to hold back this river of emotion, to shut it off and move the hell on. She was supposed to be protecting herself and her heart from exactly this situation. The “situation” that was currently spreading her on the king size bed and licking tenderly into her, gentle fingers joining in to massage her clit in slow circles. As Andrea’s tongue entered her, Miranda lost all power to further try and be objective about holding back, her river overflowing.
She woke up alone the next morning, Emily’s wake up call brisk and precise. As she stretched her well used muscles, she felt no pain, just an invigorating languidity of a satisfied body, pleasured beyond even her lofty expectations. If her heart ached just a bit at the thought of her own impotence to stop this continuous charade, she chose not to dwell on it.
The fic has a definitive number of chapters now, a nice number at that - 13. I’m committed to posting every Friday, bar any issues in my life.
As always, major major kudos to my super beta @dianakanebooks whose support and wisdom and overwhelming kindness are so important to me.
Additional thank you to the beautiful soul that is Em or @onewritergirl, who’s making covers for this fic and enduring my uncertainty and is just full of sweetness and advice for a dum dum like me.
I’m @mckayundercover and I thank you for sticking around. Special thank you goes to the readers who leave comments, those give me life.
I've been the archer,
I've been the prey.
Who could ever leave me, darling?
But who could stay?
They had fallen into a pattern of sorts after London. They didn’t talk much besides the necessary “harder”, “oh God”, “four fingers tonight, I think”, and “again”. Those were necessary syntagms because while they didn’t talk, they continued to see each other.
Milan, at the very end of February, was right on the heels of London. Andrea didn’t show her face at any of the shows, didn’t accompany Freja to any parties but one night just showed up at Miranda’s hotel door and they went at each other like they’d been starving. The emotionally fraught night in London was forgotten and so was the tenderness. Andrea brought her strap-on on this trip and Miranda screamed riding her, as Andrea fingered her clit in rhythm with the thrusts. Miranda thought she was getting somewhat attached to the damn thing, but then it lent them quite an outlet for their roughness. She also got four fingers into Andrea for the first time and couldn’t help a self-satisfied smirk as the younger woman came apart under her fingers and mouth, having assured her earlier that there was simply no way she could do it. By morning they’d been covered in marks and were as satisfied as four orgasms each could make them. They continued not to talk after that.
Berlinale was in early April that year and Miranda was forced to attend because Karl would be celebrated in some manner and all the major names were attending to show their respect and admiration for the old fox. She brought the twins with her on that trip, to give them more time together since the Berlinale schedule wasn’t strictly work related and hence less regimented. Miranda only attended the ceremony and the dinner party afterwards, and tried to avoid the red carpet and the obligatory pictures during the event and the dinner as much as possible.
The twins loved Berlin and the parts of the festival they were allowed to see, meeting Orlando Bloom and Reese Witherspoon and swooning over him and demanding little dresses like hers. Well, they did have some good taste, hopefully the one in men would improve.
Andrea conveniently had some follow-up on a story about German government and their social assistance network for migrants and even more conveniently had a room in Miranda’s hotel. Sneaking around was coming back to her like riding a bike and she exited the dinner party after 30 minutes and spent the next two hours with Andrea. It fell somewhere on the middle of their sex scale, between London tender and Milan crazy. Miranda couldn’t be covered in bruises in front of her daughters, but Andrea still managed to leave a couple of marks to remember her by on the insides of Miranda’s thighs. They stayed for several days, marring her skin and she got distinctively wet every time she crossed her legs and felt them there. She crossed her legs a lot the next few days. She and Andrea continued not talking.
She almost never attended the Cannes film festival, having deigned to accept the invitation maybe twice in 20 years, but they had quite an astonishing lineup this year and perhaps Runway should send a contingent, make a special issue of it? Nigel just shook his head and said nothing. She was as transparent to him as air. She took her girls with her again and they enjoyed the festival and the Mediterranean sea in the May sun. Miranda enjoyed Andrea spread out on the kitchen table in the rented apartment, located very conveniently not far from their hotel.
If Elinor had any qualms about her star reporter being dispatched to do puff pieces from the red carpets at Cannes instead of the war zone reporting where Andrea could really make a difference, the Times International editor-in-chief didn't say so during the lovely brunch they shared one of the mornings at the Riviera.
Her daughters were happy, her body was fucked within an inch of her endurance and Andrea was hobnobbing with the rich and famous talking to them about their movies and their inspiration. Miranda herself needed no inspiration as she went down on Andrea while they attended a very select dinner at the L’Alba, honoring some actress or other. She felt powerful and desired and just unstoppable as she sucked on Andrea’s clit, pumping two fingers inside her. She felt decidedly more powerful when all it took was less than a three minute effort, though her arrogance was marred by the fact that she actually did not want to stop licking Andrea, the taste of the younger woman addictive. Perhaps her favorite drug these days. And so she didn’t stop and Andrea needed both hands to cover her mouth to stop the scream when she came the second time in less than five minutes. Miranda just folded the young woman’s ivory silk thong in her purse, allowed her to clean her own juices off her lips with several long deep kisses, and swept out of the bathroom like nothing at all untoward happened.
She really enjoyed watching Andrea having to step and bend very carefully for the rest of the evening, afraid that her short Gucci dress would reveal that her panties now resided in Miranda’s purse and not on her body. When she happened to find herself in the same conversation circle with Andrea and some French and Hollywood stars and Miranda was asked about next year’s trends, she arched her eyebrow and said that she couldn’t get enough ivory. They continued not to talk much after that.
She hadn’t seen Andrea since May, but she knew that the journalist had been signing up for more and more assignments outside of France, at times catching her byline, reporting from some godforsaken places on some very boring subjects such as water scarcity and food shortages. The subjects themselves didn’t interest Miranda much, but she read every word and would dutifully sign a check to whichever organization the spunky reporter would write was doing a good job providing whatever was necessary for all those poor unfortunate people.
They still weren’t talking and in her mind it somehow didn’t compute at all that Andrea’s job was evolving into something very different than puff pieces from the riviera or social housing for migrants. And so she was completely blindsided when Nigel dragged her out of a meeting and to the closest TV that had CNN on and was transmitting live, breaking news from Iraq. It was late morning on August 21. Miranda would remember that moment till the day she died. A bloodied and disheveled Andrea was reporting live from some slum in Baghdad, while the world was falling apart around her and her cameraman.
The shooting that was so clearly going on outside of the camera angle was only interrupted by explosions and when those stopped the screams of the wounded and the mourners permeated the air. Andrea’s face was resolute and professional as she gave voice to the events that were happening around her. She made no accusations nor judgments. She stated the facts, what she observed and tried to stay out of the line of fire and out of the way of the first responders and volunteers who were trying to help the victims. That beloved resolute figure, slim shoulders hunched against the dust from the explosions that was beginning to settle, didn’t flinch as new shooting broke out nor was she running for cover right away but assessed the situation with a remarkable clear head and calmness even as the camera shook, probably because her cameraman's hands weren’t as steady.
Andrea ended her live feed by retreating to safety and promising that CNN crew would return with more information on the attack for the morning news. Miranda realized that it must be late afternoon in Baghdad. She stared at the screen, speechless as the news reports moved on to other events of the day. Andrea was not a TV reporter, what the hell was she doing there? Elinor wasn’t picking up the phone and Miranda felt like she would quite simply implode, until Emily quietly told her that Andrea had taken a one month assignment in Baghdad and had been detached from Times to CNN for the duration. “I read something about it on her blog,” Emily mumbled and Miranda realized that Nigel was not the only Runway employee who had figured out some things about the Devil in Prada. She waved her hand at Emily dismissively “That’s all!”.
All those months of not talking had backfired spectacularly. In their quest to not talk, to not break the spell of the simple physicality, of the sexual connection and to run away from the the conversations they could or should be having, it seemed they missed some very important things. Such as somehow Andrea was now a war zone reporter. A war zone reporter that just witnessed and masterfully reported on a massacre in the capital of Iraq that took over forty lives. Yes, her Andrea lived to tell the tale and certainly lived to make a name for herself in the process, yet in Miranda’s heart it was like the boom was lowered.
God knew she had known fear during the past two years since she had been caught in this emotional web of sexual haze and complicated feelings for Andrea. Fear of being caught, fear of being exposed, fear of being outed to the whole world, fear for ridicule and humiliation that the exposure would bring, fear for her job that was only reinforced by her ongoing battle with Irv Ravitz, fear of losing her girls, a fear additionally compounded by the beautiful relationship she started to develop with the twins after largely neglecting them while battling her anxiety. And on August 21, Miranda met another fear, one that was greater than her considerable capacity of overcoming. The fear of Andrea’s death was slowly choking the life out of her. And so, after dismissing Emily, canceling her afternoon and sending the girls to their father, Miranda did something she had not done in over three years.
Miranda went to New Jersey. New Bergen to be exact. She had only really visited this place twice before. The first time was ten years ago when she moved her mother from a rotten, cockroach infested shack in Toledo, Ohio to Hudson Hills Assisted Living and the second time when Stephen insisted on meeting his new mother in law. The meeting did not go particularly well, with the elderly Rivkah Princhek refusing to come down from her room to visit with her daughter and son in law. Miranda did not insist and they left, Stephen completely flabbergasted by the whole situation.
Well, Rivkah tended to have that effect on people. God knew she flabbergasted little Miriam. She would protect her young daughter from her abusive father, taking his beatings and sheltering the little girl, only to turn around and ground the child into dirt with cruelty of another kind. Nobody could humiliate and hurt Miriam quite like her mother. From cutting little remarks about the girl’s pronounced stutter to offhand assurances that she would never amount to anything, because all Princheks were useless people who were bound to always rummage among garbage on the streets of Toledo.
Ironically Miriam found out quite early that those predictions were wasted on her, since she wasn’t really a Princhek, no matter what her birth certificate said. Miriam also learned very early that her mother resented her for being the reason she was married off to Moishe Princhek, mostly against her will because she had gotten pregnant and the father of the baby abandoned her. Her parents, wealthy and with some social influence, found Moishe who for promises of money and dowry married Rivkah and pretended that Miriam was his daughter.
It fell apart sooner than anyone anticipated. Moishe was an abusive drunk, a philanderer and a gambler and Rivkah’s dowry and her parents' bribe money did not go very far, with the young family being cut off and left to fend for themselves. These circumstances often left Miriam to dumpster dive with Moishe while Rivkah picked up odd jobs and cleaned at the tailor shop.
It was at the tailor shop, at old man Isaac’s knee, that Miriam first discovered thread and material and buttons and scissors. In the quiet airy shop, amidst sewing machines and rolls and rolls of material, Miriam had sown little dresses to her one hairless doll that Moishe, in one of his rare sober moments, found in some garbage can and cleaned for her.
Isaac indulged the little girl, perhaps because he was a rather lonely person himself and it flattered him that Miriam hung on his every word like he was telling her fairy tales. He might as well have been. These were tales of Paris of his youth and the old masters who had clothed the kings and queens of Europe and who made miracles out of silk and tulle. These were also tales of the Paris of now, since Isaac visited his Parisian cousin regularly, and Miriam listened in rapt fascination about the new masters like Coco Chanel, who were changing the world of dresses and suits.
The few fashion magazines that Isaac would bring from Paris each time he visited, were like a breath of fresh air for little Miriam. The air that called to her. The air that whispered of freedom and of escape from the slums of Toledo. It also spoke of a purpose, of a mission, of a direction that the girl grabbed and hung on to with both hands despite derision and ridicule from her mother and slaps from her father.
It was that air that made her spend countless hours in front of the mirror at night, practicing her speech, and just as many hours during the day in the public library, reading hundreds and hundreds of books, on etiquette, on style, on history and literature. It was that air and that dream that had her sneak into the cinema after the movie had already started and watch over and over the same movies of Grace Kelly or Katherine Hepburn. After a while, due to her single minded focus and stubborn resolution, she no longer stuttered, she no longer slumped in a chair as she sat, her walk became measured and graceful, her spine ramrod straight, and she could tell a Chanel cut from any other.
It was that air that took her on a terrifying plane journey to Paris the day she turned eighteen, with fifty dollars and a letter from Isaac to his cousin who worked in a tailor shop in Montmartre. She painstakingly saved for over two years and had successfully hidden the ticket money from Moesha and Rivkah. Old Isaac was more than generous with his young apprentice. He gave her more than money and a place to land on her feet in Paris. She would forever be grateful to him for giving her a dream.
Five years later, her talent, her hard work, her ambition and that single minded focus had transformed her from Miriam Princhek, a young scrawny looking girl, working in the small shop on Rue Cortot into Miranda Priestly, a ballsy American who had impressed at some of the most prominent houses in Paris. She came to New York as a victor who went on to continue to conquer. First the Garment District, then Runway, then the whole fashion world.
Isaac passed away while she was in Paris and Miranda genuinely mourned him. She had never returned to Toledo and never maintained any contact with her parents. She ignored the summons to her father’s funeral some ten years after she returned to the United States. Miranda had been very surprised that her mother had found out who she was now and how to contact her. When her assistant at the time told her one morning that a woman claiming to be her mother was on the line, Miranda dumped her coffee all over her table. The voice on the line was the same. Fifteen years and nothing had changed, her mother could still paralyze her with a single word. Except Rivkah was all business, simply stating that her father passed away, in case her daughter wanted to attend the funeral, it would be held in two days. Miranda declined and they had not spoken for another five years when a stranger called and informed her that her mother had suffered a heart attack and was in intensive care in the Toledo hospital. She was also told that Rivkah’s health was in such precarious state that she was no longer in condition to care for herself and her daughter would need to do something about that.
Miranda did something about that. It was the first time she had seen her mother in twenty years and the first time she visited New Bergen, NJ. Rivkah was silent and despondent as she was brought from Toledo in a hired car. Upon seeing Miranda she smiled bitterly and said: “I’ve always known you would do well for yourself, if motivated properly.” Miranda wanted to laugh, then she wanted to cry and perhaps slap her mother silly. So years of beatings, humiliation and cruelty were motivation. She’d either spoken out loud or her face said as much, because Rivkah sneered: “Well, it worked. You never succumbed to my fate of giving up every dream you’ve ever had. It fueled you and so you got out. You didn’t turn out lazy and rotten like him. It turned you into steel, so you had the strength to endure and to get out.” Rivkah was right, Miranda had turned on her heel and had not returned until the day Stephen wanted to play at being a son in law.
So what was she doing now, driving to New Jersey to visit her mother who believed her to be made of steel and who despite being dirt poor had too much pride to ever ask anything of her millionaire daughter and to never thank that daughter for anything either? She must be going out of her mind. All the fear and panic must be driving her mad. Instead of hiring a psychologist, she was going to see one of her abusers. She laughed bitterly and Roy gave her a startled glance in the rear view mirror. Yes, she was scaring herself as much as she was scaring her employees.
The lobby was cool and the faint smell of cleaning substances was doing it’s best to counteract the ever-present smell of old age and subtle decay. She thought that not even the luxury of tens of thousands of dollars that she was paying for her mother’s stay here could wipe away that smell.
She was escorted by a pleasant older nurse to the second floor. The woman asked no questions and volunteered just enough for Miranda to understand that Rivkah was a model patient, never had any issues, did not socialize much with the other people, kept to herself and preferred to be left alone in her room to her reading. The last part was said with a slight smile and Miranda wondered what was that about. After a brisk knock on a door at the end of the long beige hallway, the nurse departed. At a faint “yes” from behind the door, Miranda entered her mother’s room.
She didn’t really know what to expect. Certainly not the clean, sparsely furnished room without any knick-knacks and only one picture framed and standing on the electric fireplace mantle. A recent magazine quality picture of Miranda, from a Gala two years ago. Miranda recognized the white McQueen gown. She couldn’t say what was more shocking for her, the picture or the stack of Runway magazines on the coffee table.
Rivkah was reclining in a comfortable armchair in front of the fireplace that was burning brightly behind the protective glass, despite it being rather warm outside. She was holding last month’s Runway issue and her face was comically displaying embarrassment at being caught reading her daughter’s magazine.
“Busted.” Her mother husked and smiled and Miranda snorted and then the dam inside her cracked, broke down and the flood took her over. She started laughing and laughed until her laughter turned hysterical and suddenly she wasn’t laughing anymore, she was crying, sobbing uncontrollably and sinking to the small sofa, her mind ravaged by stress and fear and loneliness. In a while she felt a cool trembling hand on the nape of her neck and a Kleenex appeared in her line of vision. Her mother had some difficulty moving closer to her from the chair to the couch and was panting slightly.
Miranda gave her a concerned look only to be waved away with such a familiar gesture, it was like looking in the mirror. In fact Rivkah Princhek was Miranda’s perfect reflection, a magic one showing what the editor would look like in her old age. Of course all the poverty, hunger, neglect and disease that came with poverty, had left their mark on the older woman, who looked much older than her seventy years. Still, the rail thin body, the angular sharp featured face and the ice blue eyes might’ve been her own. The silver gray hair was long and tidily braided. Miranda remembered suddenly that her mother had turned gray at a very young age. At the time people said that it was because they were always going hungry and because she was so overworked. Since Miranda herself started going gray at 30 and by 37 sported her iconic hair color with aplomb, she guessed it was genetic after all.
“How are you feeling, mother?” As her sobs subsided Miranda found herself at a loss and was desperately trying to grasp for straws in this terribly uncomfortable silence that was broken just by her mother’s shallow noisy breathing.
“If you ask them, they will tell you. They’ll tell you that I am not that well. My heart, my lungs…” Rivkah started to get up, but Miranda stopped her with a hand on her arm. God, had it been 32 years since she touched her mother?
“I’m asking you, mother.”
“I’m fine, Miranda.”
The name hit her like an uppercut. One punch and she was down for the count. Her mother called her by her chosen name. Her mother had a picture of her in her rooms. Her mother read and collected Runway. It was impossible. It was horrible. It was something Miranda swore she would never ever see. She wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to see it now. It was breaking her heart.
“I’m dying. I won’t have a lung transplant. I told them not to call you or tell you anything, it’s my choice. You gave me some very good years in this place. I know you could put me on lists, and get me doctors and work whatever magic you’re capable off. I believe you are capable of much magic when you put your mind to it.” The smile that crossed her mother’s features was, dare Miranda think it, proud.
“I'm seventy years old and I’m ready. These seventy years were plenty long for me. I’ve seen what I wanted to see in my life. My child made it out and made it big. I’m not sorry, you hear me, Miranda?” Her mother's breaths were coming out in harsh noisy rasps now. Miranda grabbed the oxygen mask from the armrest of the chair and handed it to Rivkah who took several breaths before continuing.
“I’m not sorry for how it happened. He’d have destroyed you. If not with his fists than with his sloth and drinking and whoring. I’ve dreamt of many things in my life, Miranda. But once my dreams were all gone, I was left with only one wish and it came true. You got out and I’ve never wanted anything else in life. Look at what you have! An empire. You built it yourself. You’ve made something out of yourself, something neither your father nor I ever could. Nobody can take it away from you now. You’re strong, a giant. Look what you’ve done! You’ve built a world for women out there. Remember that. Remember who you are, Miranda. Nobody can take that away from you, unless you let them. So don’t let them.” Rivkah struggled for breath after that and put her mask on. They sat in silence for a long time with her mother’s breath the only sound in the room.
On her way back to Manhattan, Miranda thought that while she and her mother found no real resolution or real closure of the wounds that still seeped blood on their lives, at least Rivkah reminded her of the issue at the heart of her current predicament. She was Miranda Priestly and it was time she started acting like who she really was. Andrea, Irv, Greg, she let them control her life, her decisions for way too long. It was time to take back control over her life.
The next morning, Emily was instructed to set up a lunch with Meredith. It was time to deal with Irv Ravitz once and for all.
At their rather pleasant lunch, Meredith shared that she had been rather successful at recruiting allies among her own clan and even some Clarks shared the anti-Irv invective. It was time to get the show on the road and they devised a masterful plan of getting support from the union and the leaderships of the rest of Elias-Clark publications, with Miranda acting as their unofficial representative in front of the board. They had to line it all up in a rather quiet way and ambush Irv and his cronies with the data on neglect, mismanagement, and plain incompetence from the CEO that were driving the sales and the profits down, not allowing the publications to reach their full potential due to constant budget cuts and lack of technological advancements and innovation. Miranda felt the excitement of the upcoming battle run down her spine and smirked all the way back to the office.
With Irv taken care off, or soon to be, Miranda turned her full attention to Andrea. Or rather she didn’t. With her new determination to be true to herself and her own interests, Miranda continued to not talk to Andrea and had foregone the Venice Festival in September. Instead she sent a very small note. Remembering their conversation at the apartment on Rue Lamarck about Andrea letting go of their affair and trying to forget Miranda, she simply wrote: “Try harder. M.” Her cellphone got the brunt of the subsequent abuse that Andrea unleashed on it in the form of hundreds of messages and calls. Her calls went straight to voicemail. Miranda pretended not to notice that only seconds after her phone would quiet, it was Nigel’s phone that would vibrate and he would give her an already well-practiced exasperated look before excusing himself to take it. Miranda ignored him as well. After a while she received a message that just read: “So be it, I’m trying harder. A.”
She continued to ignore thoughts of Andrea until New York Fall Fashion week arrived and she couldn’t ignore her any longer for Andrea was virtually everywhere. The hero war zone reporter and a celebrity in her own right in New York, a city that was ever faithful to its own, Andrea attended every show, every afterparty and was seen with more glitteratti than ever before. Miranda avoided her like the plague.
Andrea’s right place, right time courageous report from the Baghdad massacre made her an unanimous candidate for the Pulitzer Prize for International reporting and Miranda wasn’t at all surprised. Her relationship with Freja, that had only been rumored before, was confirmed with widespread fanfare and dubbed the new celesbian Brangelina. The media branded them "Frendy". Miranda sniffed at the ridiculousness of the portmanteau.
They looked good together though. Both tall and slender, a brunette and a blonde. An acclaimed journalist and a world renowned supermodel bad girl, they were definitely an interesting and captivating couple. Andrea was growing her hair and it was starting to reach the middle of her long neck, giving her a slightly tousled appearance as if a lover had just run rough fingers through the mahogany silk, disheveling it. New York was gobbling it up with every paparazzi on their tail. All the yellow rags were brimming with stories of their romance, extravagant dates, wild escapades and grand gestures. Freja wouldn’t stop gushing about the relationship and her every public appearance was even more of a spectacle than before.
Miranda avoided seeing Andrea, talking to Andrea and even thinking about Andrea. She lied to herself that she was entirely successful at all three with a very small exception of the nights when the memory of blood on Andrea’s face and bombs going off right next to her would assault her conscience. Those twenty minutes of watching her lover speak in calm and measured tones from the heart of a terrorist attack were the longest, darkest minutes of her life. She simply couldn’t do this anymore and so she felt validated in her decision to let Andrea go, and in turn to enable the young woman to try and let go of Miranda as well.
Her reason was rather simple. She didn’t care that Irv could find out, that she would be outed by Page Six and would become a public spectacle thus enabling Irv to shove her out the backdoor, even with Meredith and Miranda still working diligently and quietly to oust him. She didn’t care that Greg would likely try again to get custody of the girls as she had reasonable faith that while it might be difficult and unpleasant, she would win that fight. All she cared about was that there was no amount of strength in her that would enable her to see something happen to Andrea and continue as if nothing happened.
The amount of damage that anything happening to Andrea would do to Miranda was inconceivable in all its enormousness. It would destroy her. Simple as that. And if her conversation with her mother served her for something it was for the reminder that she suffered and sacrificed too much to be destroyed by her own weakness. She couldn’t do this. She couldn’t live like an exposed nerve, so vulnerable, so defenseless to the world, with virtually all her life out of her control. And so Miranda didn’t regret her message to Andrea and the end that it put to their relationship. She did not regret that Andrea had moved on rather quickly with Freja, since Miranda knew the supermodel had been waiting in the wings for quite a while, showing quite the staying power for the flighty and frivolous reputation she had garnered.
She got herself a good therapist and pretended very hard that she was not thinking about Andrea. She focused on Runway, the business and the Fashion Weeks both benefiting greatly from her renewed focus and zeal.
When she felt strong enough, she dispatched Nigel to put feelers out to Freja’s people. It was time to stop wasting time and opportunities because of petty jealousy and give Runway readers what they were asking for. Freja would grace the cover of Runway just in time for the New York Spring Fashion Week and making Miranda a lot of money in the process. Let Andrea read into it whatever she wanted.
Freja’s people were amenable to the Runway proposal to feature the superstar on the cover and the planned shoot was coming along nicely, if Miranda said so herself. Nigel had been brilliant in creating a rich, sumptuous concept that would feature Freja as a true queen of the fashion world with everything at her feet. The set would brim with luxury and the golden accents would compliment the blonde nicely. This would be a cover that would really do Freja justice and without a doubt firmly establish her as the reigning queen of their realm.
Then suddenly the whole thing hit an almighty snag. The cover was supposed to be accompanied by an interview and Miranda’s team, headed by her Features Editor, Roberta Fantino, were hard at work to come up with a set of less than insipid questions that the model was asked in absolutely every other magazine feature. To the surprise of absolutely everyone involved, out of nowhere, Freja rejected the questions and Roberta as the interviewer. The Norwegian would only deign to grace the pages of Runway if Miranda Priestly herself interviewed her, otherwise the whole thing was off.
Editor-in-Chief conducted interviews were notorious in the fashion world. Anna Wintour undertook quite a number of them, but even she was extremely picky as to whom she bestowed with such a privilege. At Runway, Miranda made them even more infrequent, rare as precious gems and she only interviewed exceptional subjects. Her last Editor-In-Chief interview took place over five years ago and it was with The French Master himself. It was Yves Saint Laurent's last published interview before he retired and turned into a total recluse. Freja’s request was particularly strange in the light of having never actually exchanged more than a greeting with Miranda.
Nigel seemed just as surprised by Freja’s demands as Miranda, especially when the model’s management sent the list of questions that Freja insisted to be included in the interview and again demanded that she be interviewed by the Editor-in-Chief herself. The questions seemed innocuous at first glance and to a lesser observer did not hold anything in any way objectionable; Freja’s influences, her idols, her inspiration, the source of her happiness these days, her plans for the future, in both her personal and professional life, and her role as D&G brand ambassador. However Miranda wasn’t a lesser observer and she could spot a trap a mile away. Freja wanted to talk about Andrea. And she wanted to talk about Andrea with Miranda. Well, as unexpected as such a request was, it also solidified Miranda’s belief that Freja knew about her affair with the young journalist.
“I don’t want to presume that this is indicative that certain things have become known to certain people, Miranda, but even I can see that something’s rotten in this Dutch kingdom. Or Norwegian kingdom?” Nigel tugged at his tie and gave her a cautious look.
“You think, Nigel? And don’t mangle the Bard too much.” Miranda sipped her coffee slowly and Nigel visibly relaxed in his chair, relieved that she hadn’t taken his head off for broaching the subject of Andrea.
“Freja’s ego is rumored to be the size of Jupiter and she is notoriously provocative. Still, I don’t see why she would pick a fight with you.”
“Neither do I. But I think it’s time I found out. She stayed away from me in Paris, London and Milan. I don’t believe in coincidences of those proportions.”
“You noticed, huh? I thought it was very strange since every household name was falling over themselves to get your attention, particularly in London, after it became clear that you’d survived Irv to fight another day. Plus, she’s been on the cover of every major player in fashion publishing, except Runway and people have started to notice. I looked up one of her recent interviews on Fashion TV. She was asked specifically why she hasn’t appeared on the cover of Runway and if she had plans to do so. Freja said that all fashion magazines were near and dear to her heart, pointedly sidestepped Runway’s name and remained non-committal throughout the interview.”
“When was this?” Miranda was getting more and more intrigued by the situation. She was also realizing that she needed more information.
“About a month ago. You think she has something else on the hook?”
“I do. You do not refuse an opportunity to flaunt yourself on the Runway cover unless you have something else on the immediate line. Send Serena to see that friend of hers at Vogue. Let her do what she normally does when we need to discreetly find out what Wintour is playing at.”
“So you think she’s got Vogue and is laying all these roadblocks in front of us to delay or sabotage her Runway debut? The request for you to interview her is very outlandish. If she doesn’t know it herself, then surely her people must know that you will refuse outright.”
Miranda just tilted her head suggestively and Nigel smacked himself on the forehead.
“She’s actually hoping you will refuse! Hence the questions about her happiness and her newfound inspiration. She knows that even if you accept, you will surely not want to talk about Andy, and the whole thing will likely be canceled. She will tell everyone Miranda Priestly is an antiquated prude who refused to move on with the times and be graced by the Norwegian Goddess’ presence on the cover of her magazine. In the meantime she makes a huge splash with a Vogue cover, showing up Runway and letting the world know that it’s time to declare a new publication as the en vogue, pardon the double entendre, magazine of the fashion world. Anna would be forever indebted to her for aggrandizing Vogue to the detriment of Runway and embarrassing you in the process. Damn, Freja can’t lose.”
“Except she can.” Miranda gave him a look that had him swallowing the lump of fear and excitement suddenly forming in his throat. “We don’t know for certain if it’s Vogue, but I don’t see Freja settling for anything else. Elle is too small to throw Runway over for and no other magazine can do for her what either Runway or Vogue can. So it has to be Wintour’s rag. Send Serena on the reconnaissance mission, Nigel. And tell Emily to set up a lunch for me and Freja. Very public, very visible, but perhaps with bad acoustics. I want to be seen with her, I don’t want to be heard. Oh and be so kind and discreetly let Domenico and Stefano know that you think I disliked their new ideas and might not feature them in the spring season issues.”
Nigel’s face showed astonishment and then morphed into pure delighted schadenfreude.
“It seems that with my other preoccupations, people have forgotten what I’m capable of, Nigel. It’s time to remind them. That’s all.”
As Nigel scurried out to execute her orders, Miranda turned her chair around and looked outside at the world beneath her. Yes, some people definitely forgot their place in the world. They forgot that they were indeed beneath her and that the Devil still ruled the fires of hell if need be. She smiled, baring her teeth, and felt the adrenaline course through her veins at the anticipation of a hunt. Her mother was right, she was Miranda Priestly, she was nobody’s prey, and it was time to remind the industry of that.
The Archer is a chapter in two parts. It started straight forward and then morphed into a 15,000 words monster, so it's split in two, same title and same song as it tackles one issue in both chapters.
It was also supposed to be called something else, but then Em - @onewritergirl - walked into my life (read "talked to me on Twitter") and actually didn't even like this song, but Archer took hold anyway.
@dianakanebooks - none of this would even be possible without you, so I have no words to express how much I appreciate you and your bossing me around to edit the thing.
I'm your host, @mckayundercover over on Twitter, so if you have questions or complaints, you can voice those really loudly over there - I'm always there anyway :)
Chapter 9: The Archer Part II
Since we are all #StayTheFHome, @dianakanebooks and I whipped this one out sooner than we thought we would. Thanks, DK, for being my rock through all of this!
Dear readers, stay safe, stay healthy and #staythefhome!
Combat, I'm ready for combat
I say I don't want that, but what if I do?
'Cause cruelty wins in the movies
I've got a hundred thrown-out speeches I almost said to you
Seated at a white clothed table on the second level at Per Se, Miranda felt both on display and yet entirely secluded in the privacy of the balcony. Emily had outdone herself. Neither of her favorite restaurants, Marea, Batard or Le Bernardin would’ve suited her current purpose, to be seen but not heard while dining with the supermodel du jour. And so everything was perfectly arranged, her Perrier, her utensils and even her steak that would arrive in ten minutes. Except her dinner companion, who had yet to grace Miranda with her presence despite it being five minutes after the hour and in the editor's world twenty minutes late.
Miranda was absolutely sure Freja had scouted the place in advance and figured out that the game was to be visible and so she was making Miranda Priestly wait, in a very visible manner. After all, the whole industry knew of the Runway Editor-in-Chief’s idiosyncrasies and tardiness was akin to mortal sin.
Still, Freja was very much alive and visibly unrepentant as she entered the restaurant seven minutes later in a shower of oohs and ahhs from patrons, a cacophony of paparazzi and her entourage being diverted either outside or to the various still opened tables on the lower level of the restaurant. Well, Miranda mused, that was one way of making an entrance.
As the model strolled leisurely through the expanse of the restaurant and up the stairs to the upper level, the editor had some time to observe her query. Tall, blonde and fashionably rumpled, Freja exuded an air of indifference and superiority, as if she had just rolled out of bed after an afternoon quickie and had been bestowing some time on a mere mortal, whose company the supermodel simply tolerated. Definitely an afternoon romp, if Miranda was to judge by a very pronounced, very fresh looking hickey on Freja’s long graceful neck.
With anyone else Miranda would’ve been out of her chair and out of the restaurant before her companion reached the table. Hell, Miranda would’ve been out of the restaurant five minutes after arriving at fifteen to the hour, because she never waited for anyone. But she wanted to see this one through. A game was being played and even if she suspected exactly what it was and had told Nigel as much, there were clearly facets to this that still eluded her. Chiefly, Miranda wondered about the motivation behind such a blatant disrespect in the supermodel’s behavior. So Miranda stilled her fury at being kept waiting and her anger at being treated like a commoner beseeching an audience with a queen. She could lower herself to playing games. She would play this game Freja insisted on playing, if only to ensure that nobody ever dared to repeat the mistake of disrespecting her ever again.
Freja reached her in a cloud of perfume and derision.
“Miranda,” she offered by way of a greeting and plopped herself down in the chair opposite the editor with a lazy catlike move. She raised her hands to her face and then very deliberately caressed her neck in a blatant attempt to focus Miranda’s attention at the red mark on her skin.
Miranda just gave her a tight lipped smile and signaled for the waiter who appeared at her elbow.
After Freja ordered an octopus joking that one could never have too much pussy in one afternoon, the red faced waiter scurried away and Miranda finally understood what this whole charade was about. Freja was rubbing her nascent relationship with Andrea in her face. Very deliberately and very blatantly. Well, as staking claim went, it was a strong if vulgar attempt, but as a career defining moment - it was suicide. Miranda wondered if Freja’s manager and agent were so bad at their jobs as to sanction this behavior, or if Freja was independent enough of her handlers to overrule them. It seemed altogether unlikely that D&G, Gucci and a myriad of other brands who were associating their names with the supermodel would condone this type of behavior from their ambassador. Nobody humiliated Miranda Priestly and lived to tell the tale.
“It’s nice to finally meet you properly, Freja.” Miranda decided that it was time to get some answers, hence she plastered her fakest smile on and started the conversation while their drinks were being served.
“Oh, I’ve known all about you, Miranda. For a while now.” The leer sent Miranda’s way was downright obscene. “I want to say that I’m a big fan, but all things considered it would be quite hypocritical of me, ya know?” Freja reached for the celery sticks, devoting the vegetable her full attention.
“Be that as it may, we are here to discuss your appearance in Runway.” Miranda’s tone was bland, just a touch disinterested and Freja raised her head in surprise.
“We’re still doing it? I thought you were here to let me down gently.” She laughed and chewed on the celery stick, her expression alight with actual humor and something akin victorious despondency. “So you’re going to interview me then? And print what I tell you to print?”
It was a superhuman effort to not react in the way that Miranda wanted. Nobody told her what to print. Not Irv Ravitz. Not even the almighty board. Yet this girl fancied herself powerful enough to dare.
“Domenico tried to tell me to mind myself, but I told him that it wasn’t a secret that you don’t have the backing at Elias-Clark you once had and if not for the old fossils like Karl and Ralph rallying around you in Paris, you’d be out. I told him that’s why you’re so desperate to bag me for the cover. After all, Anna has already done two!”
Well, this was news, but it also confirmed Miranda’s suspicion that Freja had posed for Vogue recently and hence was hedging on doing a Runway cover at the same time.
With an exaggerated flourish, Freja pulled a glossy magazine out of her oversized Gucci bag, from the yet unreleased collection Gucci was planning on featuring widely in Runway, and threw it on the table with a resounding thunk. There, in beautiful pink hues were Andrea and Freja in an intimate embrace, their lithe limbs naked and intertwined, with silk cloth strategically covering parts of their torsos. In a rather gauche font, if Miranda was to judge, the cover proclaimed “Frendy ENGAGED”. If there was any doubt the massive square cut diamond on Andrea’s left hand confirmed as much.
Miranda chose not to react to the sharp pain that lanced her heart. She chose not to shrink away from the rending of said organ, a rending so loud, it surely could be heard by everyone in this restaurant. Distantly, she wondered how one's heart continued to function when it was literally being torn in half? One month. All it took Andrea was one month to move on from her. Well, the girl was a trier after all, and a known overachiever. She must’ve tried really hard.
“Congratulations.” She marveled at how the word simply didn’t stick in her throat, how it had flown so deliberately out of her mouth, her tone devoid of any inflection other than boredom. Somebody ought to erect a statue to the Priestly endurance. Maybe she’d instruct Emily to do so, just as soon as she got out of this torture chamber.
Freja had the look of a cat that ate the canary, self satisfied and languid in every move.
“Why thank you, Miranda. Honestly, I don’t know how you are so magnanimous about this whole thing. After all, Andy is magnificent.” She licked her lips and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively and Miranda thought she would vomit.
“Andrea was a wonderful assistant and my recommendation to her next employer after Runway said as much. However,” Miranda cut off what looked like a lewd joke Freja was about to launch into, with an all business look and proceeded, “since your manager has sent the questions you’d like to be asked during the interview, I think we have some logistics to iron out, don’t you agree?”
“My, my, Miranda, your position must be as desperate as they say it is if you’re so hard on to get me on the cover of your magazine. Fine, you can handle the logistics with my team. I will let Lars and Angela know that we will be doing the Runway cover. Can’t be next month though, since this baby right here is going to be front and center on the shelves.” Freja caressed the Vogue cover adoringly with a long fingered hand.
“We will see that it does not compete with Vogue. Since you have outlined the questions for the interview, I think it is only fair that you trust me and my team to develop the photo shoot concept for you?”
“Sure. One thing I can tell about you, you do have taste,” Freja laughed again, the sound like nails on a chalkboard to Miranda’s ears.
They didn’t linger over their food and Miranda swore to never dine at Per Se ever again. Despite the late hour, she instructed Roy to take her to Runway and was greeted in her office by Nigel and Serena with Emily hurrying in on her heels with four venti lattes.
“By the look on your face, I take it you were right about Vogue?” Nigel ventured. “Nothing puts thunder in your eyes quite like Anna.”
“Yes, it’s Vogue. But I don’t think Anna is fully aware of what’s in play here. What have you found out?” Miranda turned her head to Serena.
“Well, this cover is a major surprise to everyone over at Vogue. They had Salma lined up and ready for print when Freja’s people got in the mix and everything happened literally in a couple of hours before the print deadline. My friend…” Serena stumbled sheepishly over the word and Emily snickered, “she doesn’t know the content, since she’s in the art department, but said it’s a Tom Munroe cover.”
“I’ve seen the cover.” Miranda stated quietly. “All in all, it’s more a People magazine type of an ordeal, and is utterly beneath even Vogue, but it will make them a lot of money and will sell like hot bread.”
“Freja looks good on it then?” Nigel asked incredulously. For Miranda to be disparaging Vogue was par for course, but to give them their due in such an obvious way, was something else.
“She does, but it is the announcement of her engagement that will drive up the sales, for I’m sure the interview is full of salacious details. I swear that magazine was always a bit of a yellow rag, but now Anna is just reaching for the stars.” Miranda chose not to dwell on the continuous tearing of her heart. Since she laid eyes on the Vogue cover, she had a distinct feeling she was functioning on autopilot. It was fortunate that she had such a practiced vocal intonation and facial expression as they gave her some security of inscrutability. Because it would be the ultimate humiliation to show her employees how much she was being cut to pieces inside. There would be a time and place to fall apart - later when she was alone. Right now she had plans to make.
“Engagement? What bloody engagement? That Norwegian cow is dating our And…” Emily’s outburst died in her throat as she belatedly caught the murderous look on Miranda’s face.
Miranda’s outrage was palpable and the editor knew it was coming through loud and clear. Nigel was one thing, but for all of them to be acting with such familiarity was unacceptable. She watched Emily closing her mouth in fear and taking a large gulp of hot coffee, visibly burning her tongue. Serves her right, Miranda thought.
“What are we going to do about our cover?” Nigel, in a hurry to move past the tense moment, was all business.
“We will proceed as we normally would while scheduling a regular cover, Nigel. I will interview her, ask her the questions she wants me to ask her.”
“You will interview her?” Now it was Nigel’s turn to lose his cool.
“I will. She is hellbent to gloat. She also thinks I’m finished in this industry and it is only a matter of time before Irv replaces me.” Miranda actually smiled when she spoke.
All three of her employees had their jaws hanging open. After a second they seemed to have shaken their stupor, with Serena cautiously inquiring “And she walked on her own legs out of there?”
Miranda actually laughed. “They are gorgeous legs. It would’ve been a shame to break them right then and there when Runway is about to feature them on quite an unprecedented cover.” Yes, she smirked, it was good to have a plan.
“An unprecedented cover?” Nigel voiced their intrigue.
“A very special, once in a Runway history cover. For it will make quite a splash, believe me, and reverberations of this one cover will be felt far and wide in our kingdom, Nigel. Trust me, this nonsense Freja is spewing about me being propped by the old guard in the industry, one leg in my grave, it’s not insular. More people either already think so or will do once she gets her message across that Miranda Priestly needs Freja to keep Runway relevant.” Miranda’s smile turned feral.
“We have work to do now. Nigel, you and Serena work together to get me the estimates for your golden photoshoot for Freja. I want absolute luxury, a no expense too high type of estimate. Actually give me several estimates. Expensive, more expensive and insanely expensive. Every single idea you always wanted to incorporate in a photoshoot but could never afford, throw it in this one. Get me the estimate by tomorrow morning.” Nigel’s face was a mixture of apprehension and possibility.
“And Emily, get me on Irv’s calendar first thing in the morning. It’s time to beg our esteemed leader for the funding for a once in a lifetime cover.”
They filed out of her office one by one, until she was alone with Nigel.
“Miranda…” he clearly was going to broach the subject of Andrea and she knew she would shatter like glass if he continued, because even her discipline and strength could only take so much abuse.
“It will all work out, Nigel. Have some faith in me.” He nodded and left her office.
On her way down to Irv’s office at 9:15 the next morning, holding a neat folder with three various budget proposals for the golden goddess photoshoot, Miranda did not feel tired, even though she hadn’t slept a wink. She brooded and she drank and she plotted, but she steadfastly refused to focus on the pain inside her. A month ago she made a decision, one she knew would haunt her one way or another. If it happened to be much sooner than she hoped it would be, well, that was the price she’d have to pay for her actions. Married to Freja, Andrea was sure to be safe and sound and far far away from bombs and bullets. That was good enough for Miranda, even if she drank way too much Lagavulin to try and numb the pain and loss she was feeling.
Miranda had work to do. Work that was sending shivers of anticipation and, dare she say, excitement down her spine. When was the last time she was so excited to speak to Irv? Probably never, but this meeting was instrumental to her plan and she wanted to play her role to perfection.
In the end it proved to be even easier than Miranda anticipated. Irv took one look at the budget estimates and blanched, refusing her on the spot in a tone that brooked no argument. She was insane! She wanted Elias-Clark bankrupt! What was she thinking? He didn’t care if some model was the center of the universe, he was never going to pay such exorbitant amounts! To her argument that they were losing ground to Vogue, he sneered and told her that it was her job to keep up with the Conde Nast masthead, not his. If she felt she couldn’t do that job anymore, she knew where the door was. Miranda affected an air of disgruntlement and left with a parting grumble that she hoped his golf game would suffer today. “Not bloody likely,” Irv gloated. “After all it’s not every day I get to gloat that I’ve successfully overridden you, because you’re losing it, Priestly!”
Miranda kept her head down and expression stormy till she reached the elevator, making sure everyone on the executive level heard their shouting and witnessed her defeat. She only broke into a satisfied grin as she rode in solitude up to the Runway floor. Exiting the elevator and schooling her features once again to reflect her displeasure, Miranda stalked back to her office.
She summoned Nigel and once the door closed behind him, Miranda smiled enigmatically at him.
“So your beautiful expensive concept is not going to be funded, my friend. We shall have to make do with something very cheap. Too bad, so sad.”
“Wait,” Nigel gaped at her incredulously, “you’re actually happy about this? And happy? My God, you’re delighted! What’s happening here, Miranda?”
“What’s happening here will continue to happen until I am satisfied and my objectives are reached. I will direct the shoot myself. Tell Emily to call those worthless handlers of Freja’s and schedule the shoot on the same day as the interview. I don’t care if she is fully booked for that afternoon already. She did give me the freedom to do what I pleased with the photoshoot, and so I’m doing just that.”
“But what about the set, the photographer, the logistics of it all? What is your concept?”
“My concept, Nigel, is to do the cheapest crappiest photoshoot in the history of Runway. So get me that useless man whom I fired from the Zellweger shoot years ago. He certainly must be around and he will be very cheap. Also that pavilion on 5th Avenue that I said I would never use if my life depended on it, book it.”
As she continued to enumerate her requirements, each more ridiculous than the one preceding it, Nigel’s face was getting even more worried and aggrieved.
“Miranda, I understand that yesterday was a remarkably difficult day for you, with Andy getting engaged…” He did not get to finish his thought as Miranda whirled on him.
“Nigel, you are forgetting yourself. None of this has anything to do with Andrea! It’s about me. About my lifeblood, my magazine and the idea that people dared, for even a second, to believe that they can tell me what to publish. Or prohibit me from doing everything possible to deliver absolute quality and maximizing the profit and standing of this magazine! Nobody, you hear me, nobody tells me what goes on or doesn’t go on in my magazine!” She did not raise her voice, but she might as well have, because Nigel visibly flinched.
“People are assuming I’m finished because Irv dared to hire Jaqueline over my head and only a last ditch effort by my staunch supporters in the industry kept me alive. And this rumor is being currently perpetrated by one of the biggest names on the catwalks. Moreover her whole behavior towards me is speaking much louder than any words she could ever utter. It’s high time to prove her and everybody else wrong. And it’s time to show Irv his place too. He overstayed his welcome a long time ago and has been nothing but a thorn in my side for a while now. I helped him rise to the CEO position, but it seems he’s forgotten something very important. This is my world, Nigel, they are simply allowed to live in it, as long as they are useful to me.” As Nigel gaped at her, Miranda decided that she had revealed far more than she wanted to. Perhaps she was much angrier than even she knew.
“It’s fine, Nigel, let’s move past this. It will all pass one way or another. Now tell me, what did Domenico say to my so-called concerns about their spring ideas?”
As Nigel started to stutteringly share Domenico’s understandable panic at Miranda’s sudden disapproval of D&G, Miranda smirked.
“Let it be whispered, very quietly for now and without much corroboration from our people yet, that it isn’t D&G that I have an issue with, but a certain blond Norwegian model who is beginning to have ideas above her station. My understanding is Domenico had tried to warn Freja that she might be messing with the wrong person when she took me on, but she did not heed his very astute warning. So he at least understands that she is playing with fire. D&G should be better at choosing who represents their precious brand. Also let Gucci know their line of oversized bags will not be featured. We’ll be choosing Marc Jacobs instead. Work your magic, Nigel, and leave the rest to me.”
“So you're going after Freja?”
“Play stupid games, my friend, win stupid prizes. She’s in the big leagues now. That’s all.”
As he exited with a remarkably fearful expression on his face, Miranda mused that despite the total wreckage that was taking place in her heart, she still had her touch at scaring people. That was something at least.
“Emily, schedule lunches for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow with Amanda at Her Style and Gretchen at Woman. Do not disturb me in the next thirty minutes and get Roy to be ready when I need him.”
She dialed Meredith from her cellphone and was gratified when she was answered right away.
“How’s the alliance building going, Meredith?” As she listened to the other woman recount her successful recruitment expeditions among various Clark clan members, she could almost taste the sweet anticipation of victory. The stars were getting aligned and soon it would be her turn to step on the stage.
Her lunches with Amanda Cadeheart and Gretchen Lutz went as she predicted. Both ran their magazines on a shoestring with Irv tightening his fist more every year and the quality suffering with them losing ground to various competing Conde Nast publications. Miranda commiserated and chose to bring them in on some of her plans. Both editors were delighted and Miranda left the lunches in buoyant spirits. Her plan was coming together nicely.
Her interview with Freja went about as well as she had expected. The supermodel was full of all sorts of sordid details about her relationship with Andrea, decidedly rubbing it in Miranda’s face. The editor was still weary of Freja having direct corroboration and perhaps even details about her own affair with the journalist, so while she did feel extremely pressured to behave, she walked a thin line between insulting Freja and pulling her punches. Still, if anyone could walk that line it was Miranda Priestly.
The photoshoot was a total disaster, which they pulled off masterfully. Freja wasn’t interested much in the end result, still ecstatic at such an easy victory over the Runway empress.
Once the proofs of the shoot were done, Nigel brought them to her office with a visible tremble in his hands.
“Miranda, they are awful. From the composition, to the technique, to the poses. And the light, the scenes, the clothes… I don’t even know where to start!”
“Oh, yes, they are positively grotesque, aren’t they?” Her voice rose slightly with giddy mischievousness and Nigel again wondered what was happening around him. But Miranda kept her own council and requested that a mockup of the cover be delivered to her that evening. With the board meeting scheduled for tomorrow, she had work to do.
In the end, when the hammer fell on Irv Ravitz it fell loudly and from out of nowhere. At a routine board meeting that he didn’t even bother to review the agenda for, he was ambushed by a vote of no confidence spearheaded by Meredith Romain, with the publications backing her all the way, bringing their budgets and comparisons of falling sales in contrast to their Conde Nast counterparts. All the cuts were exposed, all the innovations that the competitors were introducing and Elias-Clark was refused, were brought to light.
The killer shot was delivered by none other than his greatest nemesis. Miranda Priestly produced the most grotesquely cheap cover of Runway that the Board had ever seen. Freja was looking decidedly ugly on this grey monstrosity. The board members were told in a calm, measured tone that the Runway Editor-in-Chief even deigned to interview the model herself in an attempt to drum up more interest and somehow save the issue. After all, her last interview was ten years ago, so it was quite a momentous endeavor on Ms. Priestly’s part, a last ditch effort to save Runway. She recounted her strained meeting with Mr. Ravitz and how she debased herself to beg him for funds for a completely different cover. She even presented the board with the proposal of the golden goddess shoot that would’ve made Freja look like an angel and would surely sell amazingly. Except despite all Ms. Priestly’s honest efforts, she was completely unsuccessful, met by a wall of derision and ridicule from the CEO. Miranda sighed theatrically. If she was overplaying her hand, she didn’t care anymore. She knew when an audience was lapping it out of her hands.
Suddenly some of the board members who were also Irv’s golf partners remembered how he bragged and gloated of overruling Ms. Priestly on an exorbitant budget for a shoot just weeks ago and how he told them that she was losing it and would be gone in a manner of months. They were all appalled that Irv’s shortsightedness was costing them a lot of money. What was a golf course joke, suddenly wasn’t funny anymore when the real damage was being exposed.
The pieces were falling one by one and in a matter of an hour Irv Ravitz was voted out and Meredith Romain was the new CEO of Elias-Clark. The press release was sent to the media before the meeting had fully concluded, with Irv slinking away in a cloud of shame.
By the time the champagne was finished and the new CEO was fully feted in her new capacity, Miranda was decidedly tired. The endorphin and adrenaline rush of the fight and then of the victory was wearing off. She went up to her office and found Nigel waiting for her there, the TV on the Fashion Channel which was running interviews with the major players, Meredith and some of the board members as well as the union leader and Gretchen Lutz all being remarkably gracious in their victory and thanking Mr. Ravitz for his years of service to Elias-Clark and the publishing industry.
“I guess I don’t have to wait to see if you gave an interview.” Nigel’s face was devoid of worry lines for the first time in months, perhaps even since that night at the Paris Four Seasons.
“I could never be that gracious or complimentary to the outgoing CEO. He was a son of a bitch and I’ve done all the tongue biting I could during that spectacle down on the seventh floor.”
“You know it took me a while to figure out what game you were playing all along. I have to tell you, as the results today have shown, it was pretty brilliant. To use your predicament with Freja against Irv like that? Stroke of genius. My only concern was that you’d go a bit too far and actually publish that ghastly cover.”
“I still might, Nigel, don’t tempt me. I’m done with Ravitz, but Freja still needs to be shown her place. He was the CEO of Elias Clark, so one might say, he was entitled to some leeway from me. She, on the other hand, does not have any such entitlement. Send her the mockup of the issue. I want her to see it. And see that Gucci drops her. I’m not particularly interested in how they manage that. Tell them that Giselle is ready to take them up if they make a comparable offer to what they’ve been paying Freja. Also tell them that I am making Giselle my next big thing. It’s been a long time since I had a pet project anyway. Serena will whip her into shape and she’ll do nicely.”
“Emily tells me that Stefano already called three times trying to get on your calendar. And that was before everyone found out that Meredith is the new CEO and your position is stronger than ever. So that is well on its way.” He gave her a cautious look before continuing. “Miranda, not to tell you what to do, but don’t you think that if Freja knows as much as she does about you and Six, she might expose you?”
She got up and walked away from her desk to the windows, looking down. She felt like crying and didn’t know why.
“With Irv gone, not much can touch me here at Runway. The role I played in bringing Irv down will be known very quickly. Gretchen and Amanda will make sure of it. So what can Freja do? Spew some gossip? I have full faith that Andrea will never go on the record and without Andrea’s corroboration it remains just that - gossip.”
She turned around to catch Nigel looking at her with such incredulity it was comical.
“Yes, Nigel, it’s rather unbelievable that Miranda Priestly has faith in something. I do though. Some things are just that - absolute. This is one of them. You are another.” She returned to her desk and pulled a folder out of a neat pile. “Chanel needs a new direction, my friend. And a new Creative Director. See if it catches your interest.” When he just stared at her, she stood up and left the folder next to him on the sofa. “They don’t need an answer for another couple of weeks. I thought you’d like to have an option. I did promise I’d pay you back.” With that she was gone and Nigel dumbfoundedly thought that this woman would never stop confounding him. Perhaps that was a good thing, the very best thing, he decided, when he opened the folder. He did so love Paris in spring.
And, Lord, I feel like every street holds a memory,
For every low, there was a high, high hope.
I know no matter where I go,
That we were born restless
And we were born runnin' wild...
It took a couple of days for the details about the operation behind the ousting of Irv Ravitz and the people responsible for the successful coup to make the rounds. Miranda’s calendar was busier than ever, with Emily fielding calls, emails and flower bouquets from all sides. The office looked like a hothouse with all the white orchids and baby pink roses.
The same couple of days also brought a decidedly subdued Stefano Gabbana to her office and the conversation that followed was mostly one-sided, with the designer begging and swearing and sweating. If Miranda wished, D&G would drop Freja, in a second, in a half a second, they had been telling her that she was playing with fire, they at no point endorsed the disrespect or the type of behavior she’d shown. Miranda should just say the word and it would all be done. As satisfying as seeing people grovel could be, Miranda had no taste for it now. No, she did not want Freja dropped, Gucci had already done so and after all, the Runway Editor-in-Chief was a magnanimous overlord. The girl was young and perhaps her minders needed a firmer hand. Stefano nodded like a puppet and sweated some more and Miranda just waved him away and told Emily to cancel her afternoon.
She was tired of all the attention, all the sycophants and all the grovelling. She spent the afternoon taking her children to the zoo and made all sorts of sacrifices to her personal taste by taking them to dinner at Chuck E. Cheese. Perhaps the envious and astonished looks thrown her way by less fashionable patrons might’ve been too much, but she didn’t care. In her four inch black red soled Loubotins and a fitted black Dior dress, her white coif stood in sharp relief, making her immediately the center of all attention, in any room she chose to grace with her presence. Her daughters had the time of their life and Miranda really could stand the gaudy monstrosity for one evening, every once in a while.
Getting home, she tucked her children in, kissing them goodnight and marveled at how the simple things in life were so satisfying and how much more she was able to enjoy them, now that at least part of her life was firmly settled.
As she retired to her ground floor office and poured herself a glass of whiskey, the very distinctive, and still well remembered from days past, knock on her front door reminded her that only part of her life was actually settled. Putting her glass down, Miranda considered not opening the door. She wasn’t a coward, but neither did she seek out danger or volunteer for drama, and for what was to follow there were no victims, only volunteers. Andrea however had surprised her plenty in recent times and she didn’t know anymore if her former assistant was above raising some ruckus and waking up her girls. Taking a large swallow, Miranda decided that it was time to be brave once again.
Andrea busted through the door the moment Miranda cracked it open. All anger and blazing eyes, the journalist stalked into the small office and crossed her arms as her chest visibly vibrated with rage. Miranda just sighed and followed her inside, closing the door quietly but firmly behind herself. She had a feeling this might get loud.
The moment the door closed, Andrea whirled on her with fury.
“You blacklisted Freja? How petty are you? You got Gucci to drop her and D&G just finished taking her apart limb for limb like she’s some high school kid! Nobody will tell me, but I know you did this! Freja is not complaining and is being entirely too noble about this whole thing, but I know you did this because of me!”
Alight with anger and trembling with rage, Andrea looked beyond beautiful. Miranda wished for a camera to capture the stunning effect heightened emotion was having on the beautiful face, on the gorgeous expressive eyes. She was fury in motion, a sight to see. Miranda couldn’t look away even if she tried. She guessed this was what a moth felt like flying into the flame, knowing it would doom her, yet not able to turn away.
Unaware of her effect on Miranda, Andrea continued her monologue, getting more animated by the minute, her gestures expressive. “You dumped me! You decided we had no future, yet you went after my girlfriend?”
All it took was one word spoken in a very calm, almost whispered cadence. And just like a pinprick to a balloon, with that one word Miranda seemed to deflate the rage behind Andrea’s eyes, leaving them with only hurt. Hands visibly trembling, Andrea picked up Miranda’s glass and finished the drink. Wordlessly, the editor filled two more glasses and sat in the chair behind her desk, gesturing for Andrea to take a seat in front of her. The stage was thus set for possibly a civil discussion, if not a particularly cordial one. She could really never quite do cordial with her exes. Perhaps she wasn’t all that perfect after all.
“I won’t explain myself, Andrea. I never do, in case you’ve forgotten. As for things people did or said, I might ask you to consider the beam in your eye before observing the speck in mine,” she suggested, her voice filled with disdain.
“What are you talking about, Miranda? Since when are you quoting the Bible anyway?”
The lack of understanding in Andrea’s eyes was genuine and Miranda toned her derision down a notch.
“Our arrangement might’ve ended and I do not regret my decision, Andrea. I had my reasons. You were always a smart girl, perhaps you’ve figured some of them out, or you should have. I will not apologize for anything. I don’t think you had any such expectations from me anyway. But I did have some expectations of privacy from you. I understand the need to find a shoulder, but to out me and to arm your fiance with ammunition against me? To have Freja throw our affair in my face and try to blackmail me to strengthen her own position? I honestly expected a bit more from you. I guess at the end of the day having expectations is simply inviting disappointments. And I am very disappointed.”
She thought she could’ve knocked Andrea over with a feather just then. The sheer shock on Andrea’s face was so believable, so honest, Miranda stopped in her tracks. Was she wrong? Freja clearly had some knowledge about the true nature of their relationship, but the look on the young woman’s face was so earnest, so heartrendingly surprised, she really didn’t know what to think anymore.
To her credit though, Andrea recovered quickly, shaking off the shock and the accusation, visibly reaching again for her anger.
“I have no idea what you are talking about but your usual deflection and manipulation will not work here. I never told a soul about us. Not my therapist, not my priest, and certainly not Freja. It’s really despicable that you’d try and shift the blame for you ruining Freja’s career onto her and me. Freja’s entirely innocent here, she knows nothing about us. And for you to accuse her like this? Victim blaming now? This is a new low, even for you, Miranda!”
“Well, it’s gratifying to see that at least some people in your life have your full loyalty, Andrea. I already told you, I will not explain myself. If you want to know what transpired and what are some of the reasons things happened as they did, I advise you to speak to your fiance.”
“Stop saying that word with that tone of yours. Just stop this!” Andrea hurled herself from the chair and started pacing the small room.
“Why does it bother you so much? I thought the ring was rather nice, no? Where is it by the way? Too large of a stone for you? I mean, it is on the flashy side, but I guess Freja needed it to be seen from the moon or at least on the cover of Vogue...”
Andrea gave her a mirthless smile and tugged on a chain around her neck and Miranda caught the glint of the ring dangling from a platinum chain.
“It needs resizing and I snag it on everything, the cut being square like it is. But the ring doesn’t bother me. None of it bothers me.” Andrea sounded petulant and those gorgeous full lips turned into a slight pout. Miranda thought tiredly that the girl was still so young, so painfully naive.
“It doesn’t and don’t tilt your head at me like that, I’m not a moron, I know what that gesture means with you. You’re forgetting I can still read everything about you, like nobody else can, Miranda.” The pout and the immaturity were gone from the beautiful face, leaving such a profound expression of longing, that it was Miranda’s turn to be completely surprised.
“Be that as may, Andrea. Perhaps it’s me then, who has lost all ability to read you.”
“You mean Freja, don’t you? The disgust in your voice every time you say fiance is obvious.” Miranda did not respond, using the same tilt of her head to get Andrea to continue.
“She wanted me, Miranda. Simple as that. She wanted me for a very long time, when nobody else wanted me. You yanked my chain for years, but you didn’t want me, not enough. Your job, your magazine were all more important than me and you gave me up easily enough. Freja never did, despite my heart never being really into it, she still wanted me and she was always there. So that’s that. If you think me pathetic, if you think me pitiful, I really don’t care. I care that you’re destroying Freja’s career. I’m asking you to stop that. I saw the cover mock up. It’s a mockery and we both know it. Freja is terrified you will publish it. I’m asking you not to.”
The pain and loneliness in Andrea’s eyes were palpable and Miranda’s still bruised and tender heart was breaking all over again. The things they did to each other, the amount of hurt and suffering and torture they still inflicted on one another was staggering. Was there really no end in sight to any of it?
Andrea’s strangled voice, full of unshed tears interrupted Miranda’s introspection. “I never asked you for anything before. Just this once, give me something. Please.”
The one word rocked Miranda to the core. Andrea never begged, in their escapades it was Miranda who usually ended up begging, being made to utter “please” over and over again until Andrea gave her everything she wanted and needed to be fulfilled. The journalist was not at any time in a position to beg, simply because Miranda usually satisfied her every need without as much as a whisper, as hungry and as greedy as Miranda was always for her. To hear Andrea beg now, and begging for Freja’s sake, tore a very painful strip off Miranda’s heart.
“I’m leaving the US tomorrow, following the 82nd Airborne on their deployment to Afghanistan. Elinor is bringing me back to my roots of newspaper reporting and writing features. It’ll also give me the opportunity to bring my Nikon along. It’s been a while, I guess. I hope this assignment will help me clear my head but will also remove me from the scene for long enough that you will recover some of the famous cool and calm and sanity will prevail. Don’t ruin Freja. It was never a competition and it’s way too late anyway. We’ve both made our decisions. So please, for me. Just this once.”
Miranda could’ve told her, all the things that Freja did, that she had willfully disrespected the editor, that she has used the information she somehow possessed to subtly blackmail and humiliate Miranda, that the model was absolutely not the person Andrea thought she was, and was ultimately utterly unworthy of a beautiful soul that was Andrea, but the speech the girl just gave her, about being wanted, being cared for, when nobody else was there for her, touched something in Miranda’s heart.
Andrea might be settling for the Norwegian, but there was enough devotion and loyalty and gratitude there to somehow at least partially redeem Freja. And Andrea was right, Miranda could give her this one little thing, after all the young woman indeed never asked for anything, even when Miranda might’ve perhaps wanted her to.
And really, was it selfish to wish for Andrea to have fought harder for her? It certainly was, especially since Miranda knew that nothing could’ve changed her decision, that her own conscience, her own mind were rebelling against her heart’s utmost desire and causing her to have anxiety attacks, one after another, until she gave Andrea up and the fear subsided.
So why was she wishing for Andrea to have perhaps shown more permanence in her feelings and not run to Freja mere minutes after Miranda set her free? She had no answer, she had no succor, and she knew she was being completely unreasonable about the whole thing. But a heart wanted what a heart wanted and despite all her fear, Miranda still wanted Andrea and her devotion. Too bad Andrea was giving it to Freja these days.
Foregoing more introspection for when she was alone with her Lagavulin, Miranda got up slowly, intent on walking Andrea out, but the young woman did not move in step behind her, continuing to stand in the middle of the small office. As she stepped closer to Andrea, to inquire if there was something else she wanted, her fingers were grasped in a soft hold. The touch was so familiar, Miranda almost whimpered. God, how was it even possible to still feel so much for someone who had clearly moved on? Especially when she herself has been so determined to move on as well?
Nobody had ever affected her like this. Not even when fully naked and caressed in the most intimate ways by other people, had she ever felt as much as when Andrea’s fingers were loosely, gently holding hers. Her sins in previous lives must have been awful indeed to be punished quite like this in this one. To have found the one person whom she loved above all others, whom she wanted more than she had wanted anyone else and to never be able to claim this person as her own. It was the ultimate punishment indeed.
The tender, unassuming touch was unhurried and Andrea did not seem to be taking it anywhere, simply looking down at their intertwined fingers, as her thumb gently caressed Miranda’s knuckles.
So it was Miranda who broke the spell by taking a step forward, by sliding her fingers into the still rather short tresses at Andrea’s neck and tugging the beloved face close to her own, demanding yet giving Andrea plenty of opportunity to break free from the embrace. When the journalist just met her gaze with a tormented one of her own, reflecting the storm and the longing right back at Miranda, all hell broke loose. Their mouths met with force, none of the gentleness of the previous caress present anymore. Tongues clashed, teeth scraped and nipped, it was more than a kiss, it was a battle of wills and Miranda almost felt like she was winning this war, soon to be proclaimed the conqueror, only to remember in the last second that this particular castle belonged to someone else. She was simply a trespasser, no matter how much she wanted to forever reside in this embrace, in this kiss, with this taste on her lips.
She wrenched herself away from Andrea and they both observed each other with weariness, with fatality, with finality, breathing heavily.
“Damn you, Miranda.” With those parting words, Andrea was gone and Miranda was left feeling guilty and ashamed and so dirty that no amount of whiskey was going to wash her soul clean.
Life went on. Runway prospered with the expanded budgets and various innovative tools and software capabilities at her disposal, Miranda was producing issue after issue of pure fashion masterpiece. She thrived in her professional security and in her wonderful relationship with her daughters, who were growing by leaps and bounds, becoming smart, funny and absolutely mischievous teenagers.
She missed none of Andy Sachs’ wonderfully crafted features from the front, beautiful and heartbreaking stories about soldiers and officers and local people struggling to survive and at times simply make it from one day to another. Andrea had found her voice again, clear and enticing. Her eye seemed to be back as well, with heart wrenching pictures of Afghan children and American soldiers alike, hit by the misery of war. Somebody should suggest a book. All the articles from the front would make a wonderful book accompanied by the poignant pictures. It was a story worth immortalizing in more than newspaper pages. She wanted to suggest to Elinor as much, but it was time to remove herself from this vicious cycle. She had no right to remind Andrea about herself and so she kept her council.
She did no more to disadvantage Freja’s career, who bounced back somewhat, however with Miranda’s new project, a Brazilian Amazon, Giselle, taking the industry by storm, Freja was largely left with the scraps. Still, a promise was a promise, even if Miranda did not actually make it, but Andrea asked and she relented.
Miranda still did not know what to believe about Andrea’s claims that she had never told Freja about their relationship and sometimes late at night Miranda pondered if Andrea was truly sincere in her assurances. At times she convinced herself that Andrea was lying to her, using her feelings to save Freja, but those times were rare and much more often all Miranda could think about was the sheer agonizing longing in Andrea’s eyes and the unabashed lust in their kiss. One could fake many things, but Miranda knew passion, especially when it was mirrored in herself. Despite being engaged, despite believing that Miranda was purposefully destroying her fiance and despite thinking that Miranda had several times abandoned her to her own fate and devices, Andrea had still wanted Miranda.
And despite all the love and all her lust, Miranda was still afraid. Was it internalized homophobia? Was it an ingrained childhood fear of being different, of being separate from the rest and thus ridiculed for it? She was slowly working with her therapist on this issue, but so far she did not believe she had made any progress.
Therapy itself made her feel like she was wasting her time and her money, since she knew she was holding back and her therapist knew she was holding back and so they circled each other for several hours a week and she always felt wretched afterwards. Miranda wasn’t stupid and understood that the success of therapy was entirely dependent on her opening up, yet she still couldn’t do so with this very educated and perfectly nice stranger.
She’d often remember the feeling of being looked at with derision and disgust as a child, for being poor, for being scrawny and for stuttering. For a host of other reasons that she had no control over, like a proud unpleasant mother and a drunk, prostitute patronizing father. The memories of being laughed at at school over her old dress or over her faltering speech still felt raw and so fresh, it was like being back in Toledo and trying not to gag as her father was dropping her into one of the big dumpsters, with garbage overflowing and rotting in the summer heat.
The smells, the sounds, the sensation of being worthless, less than human, different from her pressed and polished classmates never really left her. Were these memories responsible for her abject fear of being outed? An innate desire to not stand out anymore? Did she give up her one chance at happiness because her fear of being out and free and her fear of losing were too all-consuming and thus unconquerable even for Miranda Priestly? She had no answers and neither did Lagavulin. Her therapist had no answer because she had never shared any of her fears and thus they were at an impasse.
Miranda visited her mother again and spent the afternoon telling Rivkah about the preparations for the European Spring Fashion weeks. Her mother seemed weaker than she was in August. Rivkah was visibly pleased to see her daughter and very interested to listen to the anecdotes and all the stories Miranda shared, but her breathing was labored and she couldn’t participate much in the discussion. Despite everything that had ever transpired between them, despite her mother’s absolute faith that she has only acted in her daughter's best interest in the incessant bullying and abuse she put little Miriam through, Miranda’s treacherous heart was filled with concern for her mother.
As she was getting up to leave, Rivkah touched her hand and Miranda had the flashback to Andrea taking her by hand just a couple of months before. This was the second hand Miranda, a woman notorious for her dislike of being touched, a woman famous for her aversion to all forms of human contact, welcomed with sincerity. She grasped the old frail hand and held on as her mother struggled to either find the words or the breath necessary to say what she wanted to say.
“You come to me...when you are hurt...always done so...no matter what I did to you… Who hurt you...now?”
Miranda smiled mirthlessly at her mother’s astuteness and at the few good memories from her childhood of being cuddled when she desperately needed it.
“I’m not hurt, mother. I’m restless, I guess. And I worry about you.” She sat down by her mother’s chair.
“Don’t worry...about me... I've still got some time left in me...you have other things...I can see...you are troubled, Miranda.” It was still such a jolt to hear her mother use her chosen name.
As she struggled to come up with an answer, her mother haltingly went on.
“Don’t know who hurt you...but you are hurt...I see it...should ask for help. I regret not giving you that...taking that away from you...ask for help, Miranda...You came to me...twice now….means you need help…”
The visit to her mother opened her eyes to her own feeble attempts to seek help, in her own completely dysfunctional way. The realization that it was exactly what she was doing shook her out of her deep seated need for total privacy and she told her therapist about seeking Rivkah and about why she believed she was going to New Bergen, that perhaps despite her assurances that she was just trying to reach out to her dying mother, Miranda was actually seeking some form of help. Afterwards, the therapy sessions went more productively, with Miranda making small sustainable progress in sharing her childhood issues and working toward overcoming some of the fears that tormented her.
Still, when her worst nightmare came to life, she felt utterly unprepared and no therapist would’ve been able to help her. Usually when your cell phone rings at three in the morning, it is never good news. Her first thought was her mother and that she wasn’t quite ready to hear that she no longer had any time to sit next to Rivkah without really talking about what they really needed to talk about. And wasn’t that a shock that after thirty years of hating her mother, she really wasn’t ready to let Rivkah go. But the number displayed was French and she thought it was about Nigel, who had accepted the Chanel offer and had been quietly ecstatic in his effusive emails and phone calls with her just these past couple of weeks. Miranda’s heart squeezed painfully for her friend.
Yet the voice on the line was Elinor’s and her heart stopped beating entirely before the Times Editor finished her apologies for calling this late or early. Somehow Miranda knew what was to follow and she sank down to the floor with the phone at her ear, her mind refusing to process what Elinor was sobbingly trying to relate to her.
“Some ambush or something, Miranda. I don’t know, I don’t know anything. The Army Colonel who got in touch with me said they lost her twice already, just trying to stabilize her in Bagram before medevac’ing her to Ramstein military base. He said it was very bad.” The sobbing intensified and peripherally Miranda wondered how was it possible that her heart wasn’t beating at all, surely the laws of biology simply did not work that way.
“I can’t find her mother, he couldn’t either, some mix up with addresses or numbers or some such thing, dearest, I can’t go to Germany, I broke my leg a week ago, I’m still bedridden. I don’t know whom to call… Dearest, please, you need to go, you need to help Andy… I don’t know how, I have no information other than it’s very bad.”
Very few of Elinor’s words were registering, beyond “they’ve lost her twice” and “very bad”. How could Andrea be very bad when she just published a beautiful article about a local women’s program to safeguard them against domestic violence and economically empower them to at least endeavor to find some independence away from their abusers? The pictures and the stories were so poignant, so sad. Andrea’s words bleeding life and compassion from the page. How could Andrea be bleeding in Bagram right now? How could it be so very bad that the normally even tempered Elinor was beside herself?
None of it was happening and she tried to shake her head, maybe if she tried hard enough she would wake up? Yet nothing helped and she started slowly realizing that her personal hell wasn’t a dream after all. It was time to take charge then, because Miranda Priestly never bent for the world, she made the world bend for her. As if acknowledging the challenge, her heart pumped all the harder again. She did tend to rise to challenges, after all.
“Get me all the information you can, Ely, I’ll take the company jet to whatever godforsaken airport is close to that base and try getting to her mother. Andrea must’ve left some kind of record years ago with HR. If all else fails, at least I will be there.”
“God, dearest, you haven't called me that in twenty years…” More sobbing could be heard on the other end of the line and Miranda thought with some disdain that Elinor needed to get it together. “If she dies, Miranda, if she dies, I will never forgive myself! You hear me? Never. She begged me to give her that assignment. I thought she would want the transfer to New York, since she and Freja… Jesus, Freja, I have to call her. Miranda, she didn’t want to stay in New York, she didn’t want to return to Paris, she was so adamant that she needed to go away… Miranda, how was I to know she was on this idiot mission to kill herself? I will never forgive myself…”
“Hush now, Ely. I have to go now. I will let you know how things progress. Get me addresses and names now. You're the Times Editor, put your people to work for crying out loud, and stop the tears. This isn’t helping, dammit! I need everything you have and everything your famous information sniffing abilities can get me by the time I land in Germany. That’s all!”
She hung up on the still crying Elinor and took a deep breath. She had a million things to do, a plane to arrange, figure out if her girls would go to their father’s or if Cara would temporarily move into the townhouse, the myriad of details connected with the Spring Weeks… Her mind worked in overdrive trying to determine her course of action amidst her heart trying to tear itself out of her chest cavity.
Yet she stilled herself for a full minute and did something she had thought she would never do again. Miranda Priestly started reciting a prayer, in a language she told herself she had long forgotten. It had been thirty years since she last prayed. She wasn’t sure why she was doing it now. She never really believed in any deity, not even as a child, considering that if one existed, it would never allow so many injustices to befall those who worshiped said deity with such fervor. Still she prayed, the Tefillah falling from her lips in a familiar cadence, with a long forgotten intonation. Over and over, one after another, she recited the prayers, so familiar, so despised for a lifetime, yet she clung to them now, her shoulders shaking with suppressed sobs, held inside because her mind was so focused on the sacred words, she couldn’t contemplate stopping.
She did not have a sense of how long she lost herself in prayer. When she surfaced, her face was dry and her body was reinvigorated by the familiar words and ritual. Her call to Emily was short. Plane, car, Cara, cancel all meetings. Ramstein, Andrea badly wounded. When Emily squealed and then quietly asked if she should contact The Army European Command and Senator Schumer to demand answers and action on behalf of Miranda Priestly, the editor’s shock and awe at Emily’s resourcefulness, left her entirely speechless.
“I care about that stupid cow”, Miranda heard another set of squeaks and sobs on the line, “I told her to sod off the last time we spoke because the bloody nuisance was shagging that sodden Freja. So she can’t die, I still need to rip her a new one for being such a bloody idiot! So you tell her that, Miranda!”
Leaving everything in Emily’s capable hands, Miranda quickly packed a small travel bag. Just as she exited the twins' bedrooms after waking them up and telling them that mommy needed to leave urgently for Europe, Cara was on her doorstep and as she let her in, she saw Roy pulling up. Her phone was a non-stop vibration of text messages both from Emily about the logistics of the flight and from Elinor with specs of information about the situation and speculation and more decrying her recklessness of sending Andrea to that accursed place that would surely kill her.
On the long plane journey across the Atlantic, Miranda’s mind did not allow her to settle. She couldn’t sit down so she spent a considerable amount of time pacing the spacious cabin, not giving a minute of peace to the crew, who while familiar with her demanding nature found it absolutely disconcerting that she hasn’t asked for even a glass of water yet did not sit down either. They checked on her periodically, but she would just wave them off every time.
The one thought running through her mind over and over was that all her pain, all her struggle had been in vain, had been totally wasted. She had denied herself happiness, denied herself love and passion and devotion out of fear of losing and yet here she was on the very verge of losing the one person whom she had ever truly loved, aside from her daughters. Not Elinor, not Greg, not Stephen or the scores of men and women in between.
She had never been so afraid of any of them, she had never lost herself in any of them and she had never pushed as hard to get free from the emotion and the fear as hard as she did with Andrea. And she had never lived as much pain as she had dispensed and consumed with Andrea. Neither did she experience as much elation, as much happiness as she did in the arms of the brown eyed young woman. Safe, loved, treasured, she was beloved in those lanky arms.
No amount of fear erased her love for Andrea. No amount of lies she told herself that sending Andrea away would stop Miranda from loving her and hence stop her fears and anxiety. None of it worked. She loved her, she loved her and her heart was telling her she might not survive if her beloved did not make it through.
No, Andrea wasn’t hers. She belonged to another and probably hated her more now than at any other time. None of it mattered. Miranda’s whole being was resolute. Running away didn’t work. Letting Andrea go didn’t work. The bloody girl went and got herself ambushed and shot and was probably dead because of Miranda. The editor was not deluding herself. Elinor’s words confirmed as much. Andrea ran away to Afghanistan, ran away from the constant torture that were her feelings for Miranda and Miranda’s fear and resoluteness to never be together.
Would it have been so terrible if she allowed herself to simply love, simply accept that she might be very powerful yet still helpless to stop her need for a girl half her age? Was it so bad to be exposed for being loved by someone as extraordinary as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist? By one of the most genuine and nice people in the history of American journalism? Was it so bad to make Page Six for being in love? What did she care? Why did she care? It was all hubris, all as stupid as she was for letting the love of her life get away, for pushing her away.
She wanted to hit her head on the cockpit door. She wanted to push the plane to fly faster. Her mind was spinning from worry, resignation and fear for Andrea’s life, for her own sanity if something were to happen.
God, let her live, let her live and be with whomever she wanted to be with, just let her live. The silent prayer never left her lips, but in her mind it was on repeat.
Elinor and Emily compiled the information about the place Andrea was being evacuated to by the time Miranda landed. Landstuhl hospital right next to the Ramstein military base. Four inch heels be damned, Miranda ran the long quiet corridors of the hospital, panic pushing her to run faster, to disregard all the incredulous looks thrown her way by medical personnel and patients alike. Distantly she thought that she had never ran as much as she did for Andrea and certainly not on high heels. The things the girl made her do.
The nurse on duty took one look at her and stuttered to a faltering explanation in broken English interspersed with German, that Ms. Sachs was indeed brought in earlier, but they were not allowed to release any information until next of kin was notified.
Shocked, rocked to her core, Miranda turned away from the older woman. This could not be happening. Andrea was alive not 30 minutes ago according to Elinor’s message and the information Emily was scaring from the Army Command. Yet, this woman was telling her that they were notifying the next of kin. It could only mean one thing. Her Andrea was dead. Her bag fell out of her limp hand and she leaned heavily against the wall, eyes closed, tears marring her cheeks in a constant stream. Her prayers were in vain. Just like in her childhood when she prayed for her father to not hit her again. Just like when she prayed for a miracle that her family turned into different people overnight. God never heard her prayers anyway. Why was she focusing on such idiotic thoughts when her mind was screaming with despair?
“If I didn’t already know that you loved her, this is when I’d have all the confirmation I needed,” Freja’s voice jolted her out of her reverie. As Miranda turned to her, Freja went on. “She’s alive, the nurse’s English is a bit confusing. They need to notify her mother, neither you nor I are her registered next of kin or power of attorney. She’ll require significant life saving procedures and she’s a registered donor. Even though she doesn’t have the DNR provision, they still need to bring her mother on board with everything. They’ve proceeded with the urgent measures anyway, both in Bagram and here, so last I heard, she is stable.”
“And how do you know any of this?” The relief was making Miranda lightheaded.
“Colonel Martin is a fan of mine. He’s not as discreet as the hospital staff here.” Freja smirked and turned to leave, Miranda’s hand on her forearm stopping her movements.
“What is being done? Tell me!” Miranda couldn’t keep the impatience from her voice. Now that she knew Andrea was alive, she needed details, needed more information.
“Now who’s forgetting herself?” Freja’s laughter was bitter. “Now you need me? You fucking ruined me and now you want answers from me?”
“You ruined yourself, Freja.” Her tone resolute, Miranda stood her ground.
“Yeah, I figured as much. I didn't quite understand the situation with the comings and goings at Elias-Clark and Anna was so sure you were toast, I guess I believed her a bit too much. Or wanted to, since I really wanted you out of all the pictures, personal and professional. That was my lesson. I hated you just a bit too much to really open my eyes and see what was happening.”
“Hated me? We’d barely spoken before that dinner at Per Se.” Miranda was mystified.
“Oh I hated you for a very long time. You had something I wanted above all. Andy loved you. I wanted all that love for myself. Don’t look at me like that. She didn’t need to tell me anything. I saw how she looked at you. How you looked at her. That week in London. I could’ve fallen on the catwalk and Andy wouldn’t have broken her gaze away from you. What confirmation did I need? You might be better at hiding your feelings, after all you did send Andy away, but I saw myself in you. I know that look, that emotion. I wanted her just as much as you did. I’m not stupid, I recognized it right away.”
As Miranda was still reeling from the verbal assault Freja was hurling her way, the Norwegian kept landing punches.
“You thought you were fooling people? You weren’t. You didn’t fool me for a second. You’re the fool here, Miranda! You let her go and she’s mine now. And I don’t want you here. As soon as her mother gets here, I’m telling her to throw you out. She has no warm feelings toward you anyway. So you better leave with some dignity intact.”
Wrenching her arm from Miranda’s grasp, Freja walked away, the editor watching the provocative gait of the long legs take her to a private room off the main corridor. Well, she now knew that Andrea had never betrayed her and that her judgement of Freja as a childish bimbo might’ve been slightly premature.
But none of it really mattered, because she also knew that Andrea was alive and while her condition was serious, she was holding her own. That was enough for now. Nobody told her what to do anyway. She sat down in front of the duty station and prepared to wait for Andrea’s mother. She wasn’t leaving this corridor, this hospital, this country until she saw Andrea for herself. Miranda Priestly was a formidable force on any given day, but when faced with the mortal danger to the love of her life, Miranda Priestly moved goddamn mountains. She was ready to beg Helena Sachs, she was ready to bribe the nurses and doctors and she was ready to get Chuck Schumer or George W. or God himself involved to ensure she had access to Andrea. And so she sat in the long empty hallway in the Landstuhl hospital in Germany and waited.
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She gave you love but it wasn't enough,
You had your mind set out on other things.
Can't sleep at night, now you're paying the price,
You let another come and take your place.
In the end it was Nigel who was the key to the resolution of Miranda’s conundrum. After sitting and waiting for hours in the Landstuhl’s hospital hallway with Freja baring her access and the hospital staff staying far away from the two feuding women, Nigel swept in, harried and distraught, with Andrea’s mother on his arm. Miranda had actually never met Helena Sachs, but the resemblance between mother and daughter was uncanny. So this was what Andrea would look like in 30 years? Same wide honest brown eyes, same generous lips and a slight graying at the temples that only added character to the flowing mahogany mane.
As Miranda sprung to her feet and Freja miraculously appeared in the hallway as if to ensure that Andrea’s mother served as an arbiter in this conflict of theirs, Helena just waved her hand at them.
“I want to see my daughter and I don’t want to hear from either of you. Nigel, somebody find a doctor or anyone who can tell me what has been done, what needs to be done and what will be done!” As the older Sachs stormed past them, both Miranda and Freja eyed each other with malice and stepped aside.
Some undetermined amount of time later, when Miranda’s phone battery died and she was simply reclining her head against the cold wall of the hallway, she felt a presence at her side. Thinking it must be Nigel, her lips unwittingly curled in a mirthless smile and the words left her mouth without her opening her tired eyes.
“God, Nigel, I hope you’re here to tell me I dreamt the whole thing. That it’s yesterday, that I’m in New York, you’re in Paris and the girl is safe on some godforsaken military base in Afghanistan, writing her beautiful pieces, trying to save the world. And then you need to tell me what I need to do to make sure she stays safe to write her pieces and I go and do it and bring her home. I don’t even care who she lives happily ever after with, as long as she lives. Tell me? Please?”
“She definitely lives. The doctors here are competent and have assured me of that much.” At a low female voice, Miranda’s eyes opened quickly only to be faced with Helena’s steady thoughtful gaze.
“As for what you can do? I want you to bring her back to the US. Now. They tell me that normally patients recover here till they can walk out and their rehab takes place in the States. She is not eligible for military medevac since she already has been evacuated from Afghanistan, or some such thing, which is at this point beyond my tired brain. Some legalese that I simply do not comprehend. The insurance, the costs, the transportation. I don’t understand any of it. I know Times must’ve set up a whole lot of measures for her safety and security before she left, but the red tape it’s all encompassed in at the moment is not in my competency to understand. I know who you are and I have some inkling of what you are capable of. So while Freja is throwing her territorial tantrums, I want you to bring her home. Can you do that?”
“Yes.” Miranda's voice was firm and her eyes held Helena’s gaze. “May I see her? Have they finished the surgical procedures? What has been done to her?”
Helena’s eyes flashed with something Miranda didn’t have the energy to decipher. If it was hatred, if it was disgust, she would bare it, her desire to see Andrea too great to give up now.
“You may see her, as long as you’re not wearing anything flammable because I think Freja’s eyes are shooting flames.” Helena smirked and then her face returned to the previous stony expression. “I always thought there was more to the initial vitriol Andy would spew about you. It was just too much and despite it being thoroughly unpleasant, it was still the only thing she wanted to talk about. You. Miranda this, Miranda that. Totally horrible things.” Miranda was no blushing girl and one thing she would never apologize for was her exigence for excellence. Still, faced with the open judgement in Helena’s eyes she averted her own.
“And then the horrible things turned into interesting things, and the transformation was complete when the horrible and interesting things Andy would tell became amazing and beautiful and educational, and she was such a transformed person, suddenly adult, learning, growing, as a woman, as a professional. I guess I should’ve seen it. She was still all about you, but the tone had changed.”
Miranda’s hands trembled and she regretted not having pockets to hide her reaction to Helena’s words. She knew what was coming and had no wish to hear it. Did she really need reminders about her own perfidy? About how callously she treated the girl, even when she was deeply in love with her? Selfish, selfish. Trying to save herself and only damaging both of them further.
“And then she stopped talking about you. Just stopped. So abruptly, as if you never existed and the grief in her eyes was so deep, so heartbreakingly plain for all to see. I had my suspicions then, but Andy waved me away and I let her go. To Paris and then wherever her writing took her. Then to Freja and to this nonsensical engagement after being together for a month. I did not like it. I still don’t. Freja has been nothing short of wonderful to Andy, and her love for my daughter is so apparent, and yet, Andy never talks about her. Not even when she accepted that idiotic engagement. She reads Runway and wears Chanel and then rebels against Chanel by wearing skinny black jeans and beanies only to go back to slim fitting skirts and thigh high boots.”
Miranda felt like she was a deer in headlights, being overwhelmed by the information, by the emotion in this older version of Andrea’s eyes.
“And then the first person I see in the hospital, sitting here guarding the door to my daughter's room is you. Sure, Freja’s there and so is Nigel. But their presence here is easily explained, her fiance, her friend. You? Why are you here? Why was it your assistant who found me? Why was it the indubitable formidable Emily, who got me into a limo and on a private plane from Ohio to Germany? And it’s been hours and hours, yet you’re still here, begging to see my Andy? The woman who owns a world of her own, sitting in a plastic chair, with dark circles under tired eyes. Eyes that dare me to hate you. I wish I could for I have a pretty good idea what my wayward misguided daughter kept running from. But why are you here?”
“Because I did this.” One had only so much strength and Miranda’s had run its course. She no longer could hold the steady gaze of the mother of the woman she loved and ruined. “I did this. She left Paris because we ended our association.” Her voice stumbled at the word, so foreign, so uncomfortable. Association? What they shared was so much more. It was everything, yet she couldn’t give it any other name.
“I sent her to Europe, to Elinor, to save myself from her. To end what neither of us had the strength to end, the madness, the insanity. I’m 25 years her senior, my closet is thicker than a castle’s wall. So I sent her away, but she didn’t stay away and so I made her leave again. And here we are. I did this. I am responsible.”
“A guilty conscience is keeping the Devil in Prada awake for probably 48 hours straight, in yesterday’s clothes, beseeching a stranger to see a former lover?” Helena’s voice was scornful.
And Miranda could dissemble no more. Her chickens were finally coming home to roost. Looking into the exact same shade of the adored brown eyes, Miranda Priestly, the Ice Queen, The Dragon Lady, Bitch on Heels, Devourer of the Garment District and the Devil herself simply laid her guard down and came clean.
“I love her.”
The older Sachs’ stare did not change or turn away in disgust. She tsk’ed and shook her head and then tsk’ed again and it was so thoroughly reminiscent of her daughter that Miranda’s heart broke all over this brightly lit corridor in the middle of nowhere Germany and tears stung her eyes.
“I don’t have the energy to deal with any of this right now. Honestly, how have two smart women made such a mess of something not too terribly complicated? Idiots. Both of you. Just…” Helena seemed to search for words, then simply gave up. “Just follow me.”
The first thing Miranda noticed in the wide white room were the complicated machines that beeped and breathed and did things that she did not understand, but knew were nonetheless essential for the life and well-being of the one person lying in the large hospital bed in the middle of all the cacophony. Freja had all but climbed in bed on the other side of Andrea, holding on to the white motionless arm and periodically kissing the still fingertips. Helena entered right on her heels and seemed to ignore her future daughter in law, simply pushing Miranda closer to the bed.
And then her vision narrowed, encompassing one thing only. The pale, battered and bruised body lying motionless in front of her. The rest of the room, the machines, Freja, Helena - all melted away and her legs somehow took her closer until she was standing directly above the beloved face, now covered in nicks and scrapes and bruises turning purple. The face was peaceful in its stillness and Miranda could see that the torso took the brunt of the injuries, the arms and legs appearing mostly unscathed, but for a bandaged shoulder on her side of the bed. Her hands reached out of their own volition and she traced the edges of the bandage carefully, not disturbing the cloth or touching the pale skin that looked so fragile, so vulnerable.
She had no idea for how long she stood, just her fingertips caressing the dressing, when she heard Freja’s disgruntled pointed cough and raised her eyes to meet the angry, possessive dark stare of the Norwegian. Right, well that told her. No matter what Andrea’s mother thought, approved or didn’t do any such thing, Andrea was engaged and it was time to return to that reality. Plus, Helena did ask for Miranda’s help and that needed her direct intervention anyway. She had to move, to leave this bedside that held the most precious gift, the most precious person, the love of her life.
She bent her head and damn Freja and everyone else who might have objections, but she gently touched her lips to the bandaged shoulder as if kissing it might have healed Andrea, yet the absolutely strange conviction did not let her leave without this silly gesture. Love did silly things to you.
Love also made you do quite amazing things, Miranda marveled as she marshaled all the forces of the New York State Health Commissioner’s Office and got through as far as the US Surgeon General, stretching even her considerable reach. Yet all her efforts were rewarded when a day later one civilian reporter of New York Times International was securely transported on a private plane to the New York Hospital for Special Surgery, where Andrea’s clavicle was again operated on by the best orthopedic surgeons the State of New York could provide. If the hospital was located on 70th Street on the Upper East Side, well, Miranda had to have some perks in this whole awful situation.
She walked the three blocks to the hospital every night after her babies were asleep and spent several hours reading to Andrea and just telling her about the incompetence that still plagued her at Runway, despite Meredith being so much easier to work with.
Still New York was New York and everyone in the Big Apple was fully aware of who Miranda Priestly was. Thus the nurses, doctors on call and other personnel never once bothered her, since it’d been three weeks and they had seen her nightly from after midnight to around dawn. Nobody ever approached her or prevented her from sitting in the darkened room holding the still bandaged but already healing hand of one Andrea Sachs, who’d received the New York Defense of Liberty Medal for her heroism under fire in Afghanistan. Miranda had no influence on Andrea receiving the medal, though she was sure the recovered but still somewhat hobbling Elinor might’ve raised some ruckus in Albany for the recognition to find the deserving reporter.
Miranda knew that Andrea woke up every morning and did her prerequisite PT and other necessary work on her damaged shoulder. So theoretically she could’ve come during the regular patient visiting hours, but she dared not come during the light. The guilt choked her. To know that the girl went to awful lengths to go to Afghanistan, of all the unsafe places in the world, only with one true purpose - to escape her yo-yo relationship with the editor. This thought was so distressing for Miranda, she couldn’t forgive herself. How many things would she not be able to forgive herself for when it came to Andrea? Sitting there in the dark, Beloved by Toni Morrison in her lap, fingers holding the page where she stopped her reading, Miranda couldn’t help but study the motionless adored profile and wonder about all the damage she did to this girl. How much hurt and pain and devastation had her poisonous, selfish desire inflicted on this beautiful human being, so pure, so innocent still despite all the depravity the world and Miranda had subjected her to?
Putting the book down, she traced her fingertips over the now somewhat longish and disarrayed locks. She still couldn’t decide if she liked the adored tresses longer or shorter. The sun in Afghanistan had bleached them somewhat and the tips were burnished gold now in contrast to the vivid mahogany. She couldn't help touching Andrea, she never really could. It was like a curse and a benediction at the same time, for she always found her salvation in this silken skin, her peace but also her anguish, one always coming on the heels of the other. She could never just touch Andrea. It always turned into more and they inevitably would end up entwined in each other, fingers and mouths fitting like pieces of a puzzle. Simply perfect.
Gently, as if the woman might break underneath the careful fingertip, Miranda traced her features, the most precious face, the damaged collarbone peeking from under some god awful hospital gown that was so oversized it looked like it just swallowed the still sickly thin and frail Andrea whole. Even as she shook her head over the ghastly attire, Miranda continued to tenderly move her fingertip down the long line of bicep, the slim bones of the forearm and the bony knuckles of the long fingered hand. In moments like this, her heart felt so full it physically hurt.
God, how could a heart hold this much love? This much emotion? Where did it all fit? She could literally feel her body overflowing with tenderness. The fact that her eyes were filled with tears seemed just a natural reaction to being overcome with this feeling.
She loved so much and she had no right at all to be here, to touch or to be crying over this one person in the world. Freja made sure that the ring that normally hung around the graceful neck was now adorning the left hand ring finger. Miranda had heard one of the nurses complain about it, but apparently the model made quite a fuss with the hospital staff and some string had been pulled. The Norwegian was possessive to a fault. Well, Miranda couldn’t fault her. If Andrea was hers, these days she’d probably take out a billboard on 5th Avenue to announce it.
My, my, how the tables had turned. All it took was Andrea going into clinical death a couple of times for Miranda to realize that her fear, her anxiety, her issues were nothing really in comparison with the all encompassing cataclysm of not having this woman simply exist somewhere in the world. So she was Freja’s? So she was getting married? If she lived then perhaps that would be enough.
Miranda wanted to kick herself all over Manhattan for allowing her own fear of being an outcast once again rule her life. She had let it ruin her childhood, always staying hidden from her peers either in the library or the tailor shop and now she allowed the same fear to drive away the love of her life.
Still, she allowed herself the guilty pleasures of these nights, of these clandestine visits to Andrea’s bedside where she indulged in watching the long lashes flutter in her medicated sleep and knowing that the girl wouldn’t wake up and catch her laying her head on the edge of the pillow simply to be able to inhale the familiar scent now slightly diluted by the inescapable hospital smells. Miranda knew that her visitations would soon come to an end, since Andrea was making good progress and they were only keeping her medicated at night due to her trouble sleeping. In a week or two she would be transferred to an outpatient facility and then she would move in with Freja, thus cutting the thread of connection with Miranda, a thread that Andrea was completely unaware of.
Nigel came to New York the day before and while they enjoyed a rather pleasant brunch he told her that when he visited Andrea earlier that morning, the young woman told him of a curious recurring dream that she kept having, due to the medication she was receiving, or so the girl believed. Nigel recounted as Andrea sheepishly told him how much she actually loved going to sleep at the hospital because she kept dreaming of Miranda reading books to her. She even had her mother get her some of Toni Morrison’s novels and Mary Oliver’s poems. As he finished his recount of Andrea’s story, Nigel gave Miranda a pointed look but did not pursue the conversation.
Miranda smiled serenely and pretended that her stomach didn’t tighten with both trepidation and some kind of perverse pleasure that Andrea sensed her, despite the sleeping aides, despite everything that continued to separate them, she could feel her. Wasn’t that the purpose of her late nights and early mornings? How was Miranda going to give this up, since Nigel also announced that Andrea was making progress by leaps and bounds, her chest wound healing nicely and her shoulder able to be treated out of the hospital for the foreseeable future until PT was no longer necessary?
And so, as Miranda made her now familiar trek down 70th Street and on the elevator to the 5th floor of the Special Surgery Hospital, she did not anticipate that one of her last nights of guilty pleasure of being in Andrea’s sleeping company would be cruelly yanked away from her. The room was not dark and through the slightly ajar door she could see that Andrea was awake and struggling valiantly not to fall asleep while Freja was talking a mile a minute detailing some kind of preparation.
“... and then I had to throw away those fugly flowers. Man, I have no idea what she was thinking! Baby, your mother is driving me crazy with the muted colors and the ivory and all that. I won’t be able to take much more of her the next three months until the wedding! Can’t she understand that I want fuchsia and purple! Oh, oh, oh and you have to see the dresses I’ve gotten Lhuillier to send us! Next week when you’re out of here, we can try them all. Eli Saab also sent some, but I don’t like the cut, it’s just too simple and I want to shine, like a princess at the ball... “
And just like that it was over. Not with a bang but with a whimper. Miranda took one step away from the door, then another and then another. She had no idea how she made it to the end of the corridor, some kind of autopilot setting in her must’ve activated. Just as she stopped by the elevator, observing in surprise her own hand convulsively pressing the button again and again, a nurse ran up to her.
“Ma’am, we tried to warn you, my colleagues asked me to keep watch for your arrival, but I had to take the emergency patient in room 503 and didn’t see you getting here. The fiance has been here all evening and we keep telling her that Ms. Andy needs her rest. She’s making some superhuman effort to keep awake at this point with all the meds, but that loudmouth just doesn't get it.” The Brooklyn accent that would normally make Miranda sneer, soothed her nerves and made her give the nurse a tight-lipped smile.
“Thank you, it’s quite all right. I remembered that I have somewhere else to be.” Trying to preserve her dignity at all cost, Miranda gave the nurse a nod and entered the waiting elevator, head held high. She did need to be somewhere else, anywhere as long as it meant she was away from Andrea. Away from all this pain that was rending her apart. It must’ve shown on her face, all the anguish she was desperate to hide and was so very unsuccessful, because the last thing she saw before the elevator doors closed was the look of utter pity on the nurse’s face. Great, nurses pitied her now. How pathetic was she?
Yes, she felt totally and completely pathetic as she exited the hospital into the ever noisy and never quite dark New York night and made her way along the still busy streets. This city of hers that never slept was watching over her now, keeping her company as she walked with no particular direction, having nowhere to be anymore. The townhouse with its abundance of quiet and whiskey and the darling sleeping twins and Cara, who she still hadn’t allowed to move back to her own home, did not appeal at all.
Not a bang but a whimper indeed. Three months. Andrea would be married in three months. Tears pricked at her eyes but Miranda willed them away. Was it not to be a joyous occasion? She should not cry. Andrea made her choice and was going to be happy. Was happy already, Miranda corrected herself. She was with the woman she loved and who loved her and more importantly chose her every day, despite Freja’s childish disposition and tantrums over ivory lace.
Suddenly Miranda remembered something Nigel had said to her the previous day during their brunch, something about choices they made and how they dictate the life they lived. Miranda had scolded him again for always mangling Shakespeare, but the line stayed with her. So did Nigel’s benevolent gaze, urging her to reconsider, to make a different choice. How was Miranda to tell him that her choices were all made and were all wrong? That she had thrown it all away and it was too late.
Miranda was in Andrea’s past, her destructive fear and selfishness could no longer touch that precious darling heart, the rhythm of whose beats Miranda could distinguish among any other. She knew how that heart beat when Andrea slept peacefully. She knew how it soared when Andrea was in the throes of a climax at Miranda’s hands, when Miranda’s fingers stroked her to a unique rhythm that never failed to bring the young woman to the very brink, while the thumb teasingly flicked the clit, alternating gentle flicks with firm pressure. Miranda’s lips would be fused to the pulse point on that long graceful neck, counting the thumps of the strong heart pounding its way to orgasm. She knew how that pulse stumbled just before the velvet walls would start to contract and clench around her thrusting fingers. She also knew the beating of that heart when Miranda would rest her own head between Andrea’s breasts as she made her way up from between long lithe legs, her mouth still wet and tasting of the young woman’s essence, her tongue pleasantly tingling from the effort and the pleasure of having Andrea come against it.
So, not a bang but a whimper and Miranda couldn’t help but whimper quietly herself. God, she did this to herself, she brought this onto herself. Why couldn’t she have quietly divorced Stephen, just as quietly as she deposed Irv and then loudly married Andrea? Let the whole world laugh at her midlife crisis, at her foolish infatuation with a girl half her age, at her risking everything for a young beautiful creature, who would be even more beautiful in ten years while Miranda would just be older. What did she care? What did she care when the girl loved her then, loved her so much she was willing to do anything, give up anything for Miranda, only to have the editor push her away so cruelly, so callously? God, what had she done?
Andrea was the one. Her one. Her only. And now Miranda had to live with the knowledge of someone else learning the beating of her dearest heart. Making that heart soar and quiet down. Jealousy and regret were tearing her apart and she growled aloud, scaring a homeless man who hastily retreated away from her path. She pulled a twenty from her purse and handed it to him with a somewhat apologetic expression.
“Shouldn’t walk around here at night, ma’am. Might be dangerous, but with that scowl guess ya ain’t afraid.”
She just gave him a bitter smile and raised her arm for a cab. She had no idea how she got to this part of Manhattan and she belatedly realized that she perhaps walked the whole length of the island, her feet certainly feeling the exertion of miles in four inch heels. It was time to go home. It was time for the rest of her life. Alone.
I hope you are all safe and sound and staying at home, darlings.
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Head over to @mckayundercover to yell at me for all the angst I've just served here.
I've seen enough now to know,
I've changed the pattern of the storm.
It was her wedding day. She was dressed in a startling white dress, no ivory for her and Freja, though that Eli Saab ivory strapless beauty had taken her breath away. Well, even though her breath was taken, Freja hated ivory, so that was that.
Nigel and her mother fussed with her hair and dress, despite the makeup artist leaving strict instructions for both of them not to touch anything. Andy took another look at herself and thought again that perhaps she should’ve stood a bit more firmly on a strapless dress, her shoulder scars be damned. They were fading away and who cares how they photographed?
The moment the thought crossed her mind, as if she possessed some magical power, Patrick Demarchelier banged the door to her suite open.
“Andy! Congratulations! Lovely to see you and on such an occasion! Sorry, it took me a bit longer than anticipated, Freja was being a diva. Which is to say your bride-to-be was being her usual charming supermodel self about how I photograph her!” His laughter boomed and Andy flinched and gaped in total lack of comprehension of what was happening.
She knew that Freja and her people had made the wedding into a publicity fest with professional photographers swarming the event. She also knew that they were going to then sell the pictures to the highest bidder and make a huge splash on the cover of something, probably Vogue. It was the same song and dance they performed with their cursed engagement shoot which nearly caused them to break up since Andy had no desire to parade her relationship around and Freja could do nothing but publicize their every move on social media with her assistant taking strategic pictures of the two of them at all times.
Andy had even become somewhat used to having a camera shoved in her face every day. She half expected Freja’s next move to be staging a sex tape leaking or some such thing. Distantly, she wondered why the very idea did not appall her as much as it should have. It should’ve been utterly disgusting to her. It should’ve been going against every moral fiber of her soul. Why didn't she care at all? Why was she so apathetic these days? At the beginning of their relationship she was very vocal about some things. These days she just silently smiled and gritted her teeth in order to maintain the peace. She ended up leaving on assignments anyway and Freja was left behind with her choices. Still, when it mattered Freja was there for her, so why did it matter if Andy had a total aversion to making a spectacle out of their intimacy? She could do this one thing for her girlfriend. Ahem, fiance. She kept confusing the two terms. And today was the day she wouldn’t need to use either anymore. Today Freja was going to be her wife.
The sound of the shutter pulled Andy out of her musings. Patrick, the ever efficient and competent photographer was doing his best work with Nigel, as her best man, and at times her mother being called into the shot to fuss with either her dress or her hair. Which all was very nice but it begged a question.
“Patrick, what on Earth are you doing here?” He was a Runway exclusive photographer. He never worked for Elle or Vogue or Cosmo or any of the other magazines Freja and her cronies might’ve sold the rights to the photographs to. So what was happening here?
“What do you mean, love? I’m shooting your wedding.” The duh in his tone was so obvious, so funny that she almost laughed at her own gaucheness. For some reason he thought she should’ve been aware of something, yet that something was still very much eluding her.
Nigel seemed to sense her rising discomfort and quietly stepped in, sending Patrick on his way with some elaborate arm waving, shushing and head shaking from both of them. It was like a silent pantomime theater and Andy might’ve enjoyed it, if she wasn’t as confused as she was. Finally Patrick emitted what Andy could only describe as a squeak, said loudly “Oh my God! No way!” and hurried out of the room, at which point Andy knew that the certain something that was still eluding her was absolutely not right at all.
“Nigel?” At this point even her mother was giving her a concerned look and Andy did a double take in the mirror at her white gown that was way too white for her pale skin. Still nothing seemed wrong with that other than its whiteness. Her makeup was still intact. What was she missing?
“Ugh, Andy. Did Freja talk to you about Patrick?” At her head shake Nigel gulped and seemed to be gathering himself for a long discussion. “Freja accepted Patrick’s services as a congratulatory and I imagine a conciliatory gift from Runway…”
It was like being hit over the head.
“Runway?” Something was rising inside her, bubbling up and Andy’s voice rose right with it. Her whole posture straightened. Her face was pale no more. Oh yes, she had been missing quite a lot of things. Wallowing in her own self pity and misery, running away to Afghanistan and getting injured and then lying in convalescence and wallowing some more like a total fool. It seemed she had missed quite a lot of things. Because nothing really happened at Runway without…
“Well, ahem, Miranda, obviously…” Nigel mumbled even as he shrinked a bit from her raised tone, but she was like a full-on hurricane now. The quiet misery in her had found an outlet and the storm in her was gaining speed and power. There was no stopping her now.
“Miranda? What the hell does Miranda have to do with my wedding, Nigel?”
“Well, Andy, really, there’s no need for such language, darling…” At her glare her mother stuttered and went silent.
“Listen Six, she felt like some conciliatory measures were needed so she and Freja agreed that perhaps Patrick could shoot the wedding. As a gift. Freja needs the publicity. Giselle has been out-amazoning her at every turn, you know.” Nigel giggled and tried to look like his explanation was totally fine and sufficient, but one look at Andy’s high color must’ve told him that she wasn’t done so he valiantly swallowed his giggle.
Andy honestly couldn’t tell why she was reacting the way she was, except seeing Patrick and knowing what he meant, what he represented, and hearing Miranda’s name so casually mentioned seemed to snap something in her. It was like she had been hanging on by a thread, keeping the lid on the pain and hurt and misery. And all due to being abandoned too many times by the one woman who still held her mind captive, whose name still made her blood pressure rise in terrible anger. Well, on this day, when she was about to give herself to another, this one name just blew the carefully kept lid off. And she was unstoppable in her rage and grief and anger.
“And nobody fucking deemed it important enough to tell me? That my girlfriend is buddying up to...to … to my…fuck this, Nigel! She left me, she dumped me, she fucking ruined my heart and now she is offering to resurrect Freja’s career after she ruined that too?”
She was breathing heavily. She could almost see the thunder clouds above her head gathering and lightning shooting out of her hands. She was so angry and so hurt that Nigel and her mother were looking at her with such pity, such understanding, that it only broke her more.
“Andy, Freja asked and Miranda agreed. Miranda didn’t offer this. And Miranda didn’t ruin anybody’s career, either. It’s complicated. Look, Six… Miranda, she… damn, she’s been really good, after the whole hospital thing, she was staying away, I swear.”
The hits over her head just kept coming.
“Hospital thing?” And just like that Andy’s world seemed to narrow, tunnel vision taking over and this one little detail became the only thing that mattered. Nigel seemed to understand that he said too much, and with a glance at her mother who just sighed and nodded, sat down heavily.
“When you were injured, she was there. First in Germany, then at Special Surgery. She got you out of Landstuhl and into the hospital here in Manhattan. She called Chuck Shumer and the New York State Health Commissioner and I think maybe God himself to make sure you got the best care. Since you’re not military, the costs would’ve been prohibitive…” He looked helplessly at her mother and she took over.
“Baby, she, well Emily, found me and Runway paid for my trip to Landstuhl. Then I found out about the extent of your injuries, how long treatment and recovery would go and that you’d need rehab. I was so overwhelmed and she was just standing there in the hallway, because Freja wouldn’t let her in to see you, and I asked her. Well, I pretty much ordered her to bring you home. And she did, like magic, the next day you were on this amazing plane that took you to the best orthopedic hospital in the nation and here you are three months later with barely any lingering effects! You can't blame me for appealing to Miranda Priestly for help anymore than you can blame her for helping!”
“I can and I will blame you and especially her for any freaking thing I want!” Andy was losing her mind and she didn’t care a jot about why. The thunder in her mind was deafening, and her vision was blurry.
“She left me! Like I was worse than nothing, mom, like dirt! She threw me out of Runway and she didn’t care what happened to me…”
“Six, she really did no such thing. I was there. She called Elinor herself…” If Nigel had realized that his mouth got him in trouble before when he stumbled over the issue of Patrick and then the hospital, he was sheet white now because the magnitude of his revelation was so much bigger, so much more all-encompassing that Andy felt the room tilt. She grabbed for something and her mother’s hands steadied her.
“Andy, baby… Please…”
“No, I need to hear him finish this. Tell me, Nigel. Did she organize a career for me then? Why? To assuage her guilt? To ensure that I didn’t come back to blackmail her? Why, Nigel?”
“Oh Six, no, please, I’m sorry. It’s not like that..” He reached for her hand and she shrugged off his concerned tone and his arm.
“Tell me! Because up to this morning I might not have had much. My choices were suspect and my personal life was encompassed in a white dress that is much too white for my skin tone, but at least there was one thing I still had! My career and my accomplishments were my own!”
“They are! She never… God, Six, I don’t know how to explain and I’m not that deep on the details. She never does share, you know, but you are one of the best journalists I know, and I know many. You are your own woman. The Times is lucky to have you, the work you did in…”
“Spare me the plaudits. It seems I don’t deserve any of them! What about this whole “she didn’t ruin Freja’s career”? I know she did. I confronted her about it and she never denied doing so. I know Gucci dropped her because Miranda told them too and D&G marginalized Freja so much she might as well not work for them anymore!”
“Except Freja did that to herself! She insulted and blackmailed Miranda with knowledge of your relationship! What else would you expect Miranda to do? You know what she’s like when she’s cornered! She gave that girl every chance to get it right, extended her hand plenty only to have Freja bite that hand and spit in her latte! She disrespected her! In public! Nobody does that and survives! Six, c’mon!”
Nigel looked utterly scandalized and aggrieved, as if such occurrences of Miranda being slandered were an insult to his sensibilities. Except of course they were. To Andy’s sensibilities as well, because no matter what, she was Miranda Priestly and nobody touched a hair on her head without Andy getting ready to stomp them into the ground. Miranda inspired a brand of loyalty that was unrivaled. You wanted to protect her and care for her and for Andy, who also wanted to break a bed-frame fucking her, it was all doubled by the otherwise complicated feelings she held for the editor.
“Freja did all this?”
It seemed unbelievable yet entirely in character. For both women actually. Miranda never explained herself and always ruthlessly defended her position, and Freja could be shortsighted and emotional in her outbursts. Andy remembered the look on Miranda’s face during their last meeting at the townhouse. How proud she stood as Andy accused her, how she uttered not a word to protect herself from all the vitriol Andy threw her way.
“Andy, it’s time to go to City Hall. I understand you’re upset, but it’s your wedding day.”
Her mother, ever the efficient and competent accountant was always on top of what was important. Was it though? Her head was spinning from all the revelations coming her way. Miranda had set her up with Elinor, virtually kick starting her career. Miranda traveled to Germany and paid and bribed and probably threatened her way through bringing Andy home after her injuries. Miranda hadn’t ruined Freja’s career out of spite but was just lashing out and protecting herself. Miranda who was now trying to help Freja out, out of some misguided and misplaced sense of saying congratulations to the young couple.
Andy wanted to cry. Andy wanted to slap Freja for playing the victim and lying to her. Andy wanted to kill Miranda for ever walking into her life and then dumping her again and again and despite discarding her, still refusing to leave her alone and meddling in her life and her career.
If she didn’t focus on the business at hand she was going to do the unthinkable and abandon her own wedding to commit murder. So she needed to get her head back in the game.
“Yeah, let’s go. Freja will blow a gasket if we don’t arrive on time. I bet the paparazzi are all lined up.” Dammit, if she cried now from sheer impotence, from rage and from all the hurt, she would ruin her makeup and that would just cap the supremely crappy morning she was already having.
The drive to City Hall was smooth and quick. They were supposed to have their marriage “officiated'' by the mayor in a grand mock ceremony in Manhattan, in the presence of hundreds of guests and media, before they caught a flight to Massachusetts to have a justice of peace marry them in the state where it was legal. Freja deemed Massachusetts "too quaint" to host the mediatized wedding, hence the whole sham in Manhattan.
For once New York seemed to be conspiring against her and the famous Manhattan traffic did not give her more time to think. She felt overwhelmed, the sheer amount of information and emotion choking her. She needed more time yet the sight and the flashes of the paparazzi in front of City Hall told her she just ran out of it. Before the door opened however, her mother grabbed her arm and stopped her.
“Baby, if you're not sure… “
“Mom, it’s a bit too late to be unsure. Plus, weren't you the one reminding me just now that I need to be on time?” Andy tried to gather her large skirt.
“I was, yes. But it’s never too late. It’s a fake ceremony anyway. You’re not flying to Boston until late afternoon. I don’t even know why you’re doing it here in New York, since they don’t marry LGBT couples. Just to have a few pictures of you posing in front of all sorts of New York landmarks? It’s bullshit!”
Andy gaped. Her mother never cursed. Ever. In all her years and through all sorts of circumstances, Helena Sachs never used curse words to save her life.
“Yes, it is just that and I’m not sorry I said it. Not just this fake ceremony. Your whole engagement and this marriage too. I kept my counsel, but after seeing your reaction to what Nigel had to say earlier and watching how much you are agonizing about this now, I can’t not say this. I’m your mother. I’ve seen Miranda tear herself apart with guilt over you in Germany. And I’ve seen her read you books every night for weeks here at the Special Surgery Hospital. I gave her permission. The nurses said you slept so much better with her reading to you and talking to you, you had no nightmares, so I agreed.”
Wham! One more upside the heat, a direct hit again. They just kept on coming.
“Mom, I thought I was having a recurring dream! Dammit I thought I was going insane! She was with me for weeks? Every night?” Her already tilted world was growing more unsteady by the minute.
“She was, every night. I don’t regret allowing her to be there. She seemed desperate to help and you were clearly better for it. I’d have asked her to get the moon for you if it would’ve helped you get better sooner and frankly I’m certain she’d have gotten it for you.” Helena took a steadying breath and let go of Andy’s hands.
“I’m not telling you what to do, baby. I’m just trying to tell you that this sham is not your only option, even if Miranda isn’t an option either. You’re strong and competent and the best damn reporter I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. You don’t owe anyone anything. Except yourself. You owe it to yourself to be happy.”
“Yeah, except it looks like I owe my whole career to that woman, mom! I…I can’t. Please, not now. Let’s just go. I have to get through with whatever Freja wants us to do now and I will think about it all later, because if I think about it now, I might just explode!”
She exited the limo in a flurry of lace and tulle and flashes of cameras going off all around her. Cameras from all sorts of local TV channels as well as Fashion TV were rolling and she smiled a close lipped smile knowing that her fake marriage would be broadcasted live to the whole of New York. Well, that’s all then, Andy thought, to borrow a goddamned phrase.
However on the steps of City Hall she was met by a descending Freja who was breaking their rehearsed scenario with a whispered “Where have you been? Look alive for the cameras, babe!” as she grabbed her hand, kissed her with a lot of tongue for all the paparazzi to immortalize the moment, and proceeded to hurry her inside as quickly as their five inch heels allowed.
The lesbian wedding of the century was on. Except it was all fake and with Freja dragging her up the stairs to where she knew the justice of peace and more handpicked guests and photographers awaited, Andy felt like a mannequin, like a puppet on strings and suddenly it was imperative to cut those strings. If she was going through with this wedding, she needed some answers first. So she looked at the determined profile of her fiance and blurted out the first thing that was on her mind.
“You lied to me about Miranda going after you, didn’t you?”
“What?” Freja stopped mid stride and seemed to be totally astonished by the question. Except she wasn’t quite as good an actress as one Miranda Priestly seemed to be and Andy easily read her like an open book.
“Don’t lie to me now. How did you figure out she and I were a thing to be able to blackmail her? She’s a viper when cornered, I give you that, and she’d eat you alive to set an example as well. But how did you know?”
With great astonishment she watched Freja just roll her eyes as if Andy was a recalcitrant and not a particularly bright child.
“Because I knew! I looked at you and your lovesick expression every time you looked at her or someone talked about her or her sacred name was even mentioned and I saw myself! I loved you! I wanted you and all you wanted was her! I did everything and she kept fucking with your head and throwing you over and you still didn’t want me! I thought after our night together things would change but you came to London and only had eyes for her!”
“Don’t ‘dammit Freja’ me! And she wasn’t much better than you back then and certainly not now! You are mine and she still wants what’s mine! So I pressed some of her buttons to show her she can’t bully me! I let her know that I know that she keeps drooling after you! So fucking what?”
“So fucking what? Are you insane? Blackmailing Miranda fucking Priestly? No wonder she stomped all over you! You don't know what she's capable of!”
“Well, Anna said she was finished and Domenico was always a pussy and a coward so I did what I did. Yeah, maybe I got burned cause she’s like that cat who has nine freaking lives or something, because she bounced right back at Elias-Clark, but I don’t regret it. I did what I did. You’re mine and she can’t have you!”
Andy’s breath was coming out more as wheezes at this point. Her whole world was crashing over her and she was beyond overwhelmed. Yet among all the chaos that the emotional hurricane was stirring in her, one thought was crystal clear in the face of the storm. She had to see Miranda. She had to see Miranda because they had unfinished business and she couldn’t go through with this sham of a wedding because of said unfinished business with Miranda and Andy would most likely end up in prison for murder.
“No. Andy, don’t you dare! The whole world is watching! You can’t do this!” It seemed she was still very very bad at poker, because her face must’ve shown exactly what she was about to do.
“You’re concerned that the world is watching, or that I’m calling off the wedding?” Her voice was very calm, despite the raging fury inside her.
Freja stilled in her pacing and wringing of her hands and her face was a comical blend of exasperation and embarrassment.
She took a deep breath and smiled ruefully. “You know, Andy, I’m not really sure which.” And that, as they say, was that.
“Thank you for the truth then. I’m sure you can blame me for this whole thing and come out on top, spin this as you dumping me for being all wrong for you since I’m going to go back to Afghanistan to leave you as a military wife or some such thing… I know you can do it.”
Andy could see the wheels turning in Freja’s head and her vivid blue eyes narrow with all the possibilities. Oh yeah, Andy knew that by the time it was all over, Freja would be the innocent victim standing tall and proud and utterly beautiful in her heartbreak, getting even more publicity than she was going to get if the wedding were to go forward.
“I need to get out of here though, before the journalists and the guests cotton on to what is happening.”
“You are going to run to that woman, aren’t you?” Freja sniffed and her distaste was palpable.
“Well, I do have some unfinished business there. Plus, think about it this way - by the end of the day, I will probably be prosecuted for murder, because I will absolutely kill her the moment I can reach her neck and wring it!”
“If only you'd shown half the passion for me, as you’re showing in your anger for her!” Freja approached her and placed a tender kiss on her cheek. “Claim temporary insanity, maybe you can plead it down to manslaughter. I will always love you, even though you are such a fool for not loving me, Andy. “
They hugged and Andy felt her mind refocus, her task clear in front of her. Get to Elias-Clark and throttle one Miranda Priestly. For meddling, for ruining her, for leaving her and for never really leaving her at all.
She really didn’t want to face her mother or Nigel or the paparazzi or anyone for that matter, and so she found a side exit out of the Hall just as Freja exited through the main doors. Andy could hear all the cacophony of a live broadcast and the paparazzi. She knew Freja would be playing it up for ratings and for attention and that meant that for a few precious minutes, she had the privacy to escape. She was just about to raise her arm for a cab when she realized that she was wearing a freaking wedding dress and had absolutely nothing else on her, no money, no credit cards.
Well, I have all this energy to work off anyway, was her last thought before she shucked her heels and sprinted up Broadway and 5th Avenue, hurdling bushes in Bryant Park on her way to 6th Avenue and Elias-Clark. She was dimly aware of being photographed and filmed by the gawking onlookers and tourists. After all, how often do you see a literally running away bride? And one making good time at that.
Her rage, her pain, her emotional turmoil were driving her and she barely noticed the dirt and the debri she was running among, the occasional nicks and cuts to her feet never distracting from her purpose. Three miles later, dirty from a couple of falls she took on 5th Avenue and Bryant Park and bloody from the toil of the barefoot run on littered Manhattan streets, Andy was making her way through the guards and the people trying to stop her from getting to the Runway Editor-in-Chief.
She had luck on the ground floor, as she ran in with enough force and speed to simply jump the turnstile, catching only her dress on the metal gate and leaving a chunk of it behind. As she dived headfirst into the elevator she thought her luck might still hold, only for the doors to open on the 13th floor to more guards. It seemed building security was in full alert for a deranged lunatic in a wedding dress raving about murder. Still, she bullied her way forward and just as she was about to finally be apprehended, help from a surprising source arrived, like the cavalry over the hill. One Emily Charlton, cursing a blue steak and screaming about all the bloody Americans and all the bloody sodding bullocks was pushing towards her through the bodies of the guards and yanking her by her filthy arms towards a glass conference room where she could see all the attendees were already on their feet, alerted to the screaming and the noise in the hallway.
And right there, behind the clear glass wall, at the head of the table stood one Miranda Priestly. The bane of Andy’s existence, looking only at her, as if the tens of other people were not in her direct line of sight, as if her entire world was focused on one dirty bedraggled Andy Sachs being torn in two different directions, by Emily towards the conference room and the elevator by security.
Andy remembered that laser focus so well. Be it work or play, Miranda would always find this state and when it turned to Andy, she knew she was in for it, that she would end up in a sweaty, mumbling, exhausted heap on either a floor, a desk, a couch or a bed. Miranda did good work no matter the surface. Amazing work really, phenomenal. Miranda could run a meeting like a general running a deadly campaign and Miranda could fuck like life itself depended on it. Nobody ever did this to Andy, nobody ever could. Damn her, damn them both to hell.
In the time it took her thoughts to run amok straight into the gutter, Emily finally won her battle with the guards and managed to push her through the glass doors into the inner sanctum. The other people in the meeting all either jumped to their feet or gaped at her in surprise and disgust. No wonder, she ran for three miles through garbage and glass after an early morning drizzle. She looked the part in the torn and bloody dress.
Still, none of these people mattered, for the pale blue eyes of Miranda Priestly were on her and suddenly the room was empty, made so with one single decisive nod of a white haired head. They filed out like soldiers, obeying without a word. Andy would’ve been really happy if such display of raw power didn’t turn her on. But it did and her underwear was probably soaked with just the memories of Miranda’s fingers mapping the battle terrain of her pussy before taking it in one swift thrust and plunging deep over and over again, until Andy screamed.
And so they just stood looking at each other, taking each other’s appearance in. One perfect in every way and one in a state that was so far from perfection it was laughable. Andy numbly heard the doors of the conference room close behind her and then she was sinking into the still warm chair at the end of the table. The endorphins of the run and the adrenaline of the morning were beginning to wear off and she started to feel all the nicks and scrapes on her feet, knees and elbows. She looked down at her hands, wondering at their state, at how dirty they were. She must’ve taken more than one tumble and landed on her hands, she simply didn’t remember. She had been focused on other things, things involving the very woman that was standing not three feet away from her.
And then in a blink of an eye, the woman who consumed her thoughts, was kneeling before her, taking her hands and tending to them with a wet wipe, gently cleaning the blood and the gore. Andy had no words for such a tender, loving display. By the time Miranda had moved to her ankles and feet, diligently and carefully tending to them, Andy could feel tears simply spilling over her cheeks, like a faucet opening and knew she was powerless to stop it.
“Don’t, Miranda. Please, stop!” She tried to wrench her foot out of Miranda’s gentle hold and was unsuccessful, for Miranda held her gently but firmly.
“You’ve got a deep cut here. I don’t think stitches will be needed, but I should at least clean it, Andrea.”
The voice was so calm, so irritatingly familiar, Andy wanted to howl, her rage returning as she balled her fists and tried to will it all back.
“I see hurricane Andrea is gathering speed and power.” Miranda’s words were mocking but her tone was remarkably devoid of any malice, just a teasing lilt to it that made Andy smile despite her anger.
“Hurricane Andrea is about to hit landfall, so I’d be a bit more careful if I were you. I just told Freja that I couldn’t marry her because I will certainly end up in jail by evening on charges of the murder of one Miranda Priestly and she really didn’t need to be tied down to a murderer.”
If Miranda was surprised by the news of the broken wedding, her face did not show it. Instead a wide smile appeared and her teasing tone did not waver.
“You could plead some extenuating circumstance. Temporary insanity, perhaps? Though you really can’t call it temporary. You and I both know I always, always drove you crazy. So perhaps a crime of passion? We always had that anyway, dear heart.” The fingers on her ankle crept higher and stopped at her garter, taking her breath away.
“No, don’t take the wind out of my sails just yet, Miranda. I have things to say and it’s time I say them. I feel like I’m a character in a bad novel, where the main theme is a total lack of communication and with this being the last chapter, the readers deserve the leads to finally talk their shit out, don’t you think?”
Miranda just inclined her head, but the madding fingers continued gently tracing the garter.
“I ran here and all I could think about was how much you’ve hidden from me. The hospital, the nightly reading, the constant back and forth and yanking me around by my feelings and by my clit...no don’t you dare laugh!” She gripped Miranda’s chin and held it firmly looking her in the eyes, forcing the editor to face her fully.
“None of those things are important though. Because I have so much rage and so much lust and I swear I will either kill you or fuck you right here with all those people in the hallway pretending not to watch us right now.” At Miranda’s pronounced shiver, Andy smirked, yeah, two could play this game and she would use anything to get answers right here and right now.
“Is my career my own? And why the fuck did you do whatever it is that you did? And don’t flinch at the curse word, I don’t care how unladylike you find it when it’s not used as a verb related to my exact actions of fucking you deaf and blind. Tell me, Miranda!”
To say that Miranda was surprised by the question was an understatement, the chin in Andy’s hand dropped slightly and her eyes were wide and afraid. Caught. Andy’s shoulders drooped. So Miranda did meddle. Miranda did get her the job and the promotions and fucking hell, she hated this woman so much. She wrenched her hand from Miranda’s face and was about to stand up, unsure of what she was supposed to do now that her entire world crashed down on top of her. She was nothing, and nothing was hers.
“No! Andrea, no, dear heart, stop!” The sheer anguish in Miranda’s voice held Andy in place better than the force of Miranda’s hands cradling Andy’s face. “I swear, yes, I talked to Elinor, to make her see you, notice you, to take you away from New York because I was too close, I wanted you too much and I couldn’t stay away from you if you continued at Mirror, but nothing else. She didn’t hire you because I told her to, I swear, ask her! You were good. You were so good, she wanted you for your talent. Paying me back for whatever favor she owed me was inconsequential. It simply doesn't work that way. And certainly if you weren't good, you'd have never advanced. You are your own person, Andrea. You made yourself. Please, if nothing else, believe this. I beg of you.”
“Miranda Priestly doesn't beg.”
“She does if it means giving you this, Andrea. I want you to be happy and I want you to have peace, you’re much too troubled for someone so young and it’s all my fault.”
And just like that, the storm collided, the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, the classic paradox stymieing both of them. The hands on Andy’s cheeks gentled, no longer holding her immobile, but caressing her cheekbones and the look on Miranda’s face spoke of regret and pain.
How much more pain were they going to cause each other? Andy had no answer, but she felt that it was time to make some decisions and draw the line in the sand. After all, this was the last chapter before the epilogue, things had to be resolved here, one way or another. And Miranda always made the wrong decisions anyway, pushing her away and screwing with her brain and then martyring herself and sending Patrick to shoot her freaking wedding. Clearly Miranda could not be trusted to make the grown up decisions in this relationship anymore. So she took the hands that still caressed her face like this was the last time they ever would and held them firmly in her lap, anchoring both herself and Miranda to the certain realities that she was about to state.
“Look. You were a total bitch to me. Back when you made me listen to you fucking your husband, then when you were yanking my chain and jerking me around by my feelings and certainly by my pussy, and then when you martyred yourself for some stupid reason and didn’t tell me about Freja being a total asshole to you, and then when you kept coming to my hospital room like a total creep and reading me books. And don’t get me started on you meddling with my career. That stops now.”
Miranda managed to look guilty and contrite while also looking entirely edible and Andy’s priorities were starting to get confused, because her body always reacted to the beautiful body in front of her, they knew each other, the familiar scent causing all sorts of feelings and sensations to awaken in her. But she needed to say what had been plaguing her for months. They needed to finally talk to each other, because they were adult women yet they behaved like some bad romance novel heroines.
“And this” Andy motioned with their joined hands between them “This stops now as well.”
And just like that, five words caused Miranda’s whole face to crumple and the tears that she had been valiantly holding back since Andy started leveling her accusations fell from her lashes. She seemed unaware that her cheeks were wet as she simply stared at Andy with such longing and so much love that Andy felt overwhelmed, but also overjoyed.
“Not like that, Miranda. This silly game we’ve been playing for years now, this torture that we put each other through. Well, you put me through. Whatever I put you through was clearly in retaliation and self defense and thus clearly deserved.” Andy smirked and Miranda gave her a watery version of her own smile back.
“Clearly.” She looked so pitiful, so sad and yet suddenly also hopeful that for perhaps the first time in her life Andy thought that Miranda Priestly looked cute. Surely she must be wrong, for nobody, absolutely nobody ever thought that Miranda Priestly was cute. But she was. Kneeling here at Andy’s feet, eyes leaking and nose red from crying, clutching Andy’s hands like they were her only lifeline, Miranda Priestly was immeasurably cute and Andy loved her beyond words, beyond reason.
And so what else was she to do but kiss this woman who was her heart and her whole world and who was beautiful and selfish and spoiled rotten and could be the biggest bitch she had ever met, yet who would also drop everything for her and part the seas to bring her home? Miranda was real, with flaws, with impossibly high maintenance demands and crazy ass standards, yet Andy was just competitive enough to look forward to a lifetime of satisfying those demands and rising to those standards.
And so Andy kissed this sullen, demanding mouth with force and passion and just enough bite to punish for all the months and years and all the pain and the games. She licked and bit at the already swollen lips, hearing Miranda’s breath catch, feeling the slim, perfect body sag against hers, inhaling the familiar scent that was Miranda’s special perfume and all woman, all her woman. Their tongues met and here too Andy felt Miranda submit, allowing herself to be taken, to be cared for, to be devoured by Andy’s sheer raw need. She gave as good as she got, even in submission she was never passive, and Andy felt her own lips swell under the determined attention of the insolent mouth.
As their lips parted, the kiss tasting of tears and regret and maybe, just maybe finally of forgiveness, Andy said the one thing that was left for her to say to stop their idiotic cycle. Because only a really idiotic thing would do. Nothing else, really. They’d thought they were doing all the smart things to stay away from each other and had all the bright ideas to see other people and sacrifice themselves for each other. So obviously, it was time for more idiotic things. And Andy, always tackling problems head-on, simply said that one idiotic thing that was left for them.
It's almost the end of this journey! Thank you all for spending it with me. A short and sweet and naughty epilogue will follow next week.
A heartfelt gratitude for getting me to finally put words on the paper goes to @dianakanebooks This would not have been possible without your help, support and pushing ;)
I'm your host, @mckayundercover, come yell at me over on Twitter.
Oh don't you dare look back,
Just keep your eyes on me.
I said you're holding back,
She said shut up and dance with me!
“More… God, please… more… harder…”
“Mhmmm…I love it when you beg, Miranda. Don’t hold back now, say it. Say it again!”
She felt suspended in this state between her second and third orgasms, one so far away already, the other just within her reach if only Andrea would roll her hips just a touch faster and give her those blessed last inches. Instead the maddening woman was torturing her, playing with her, prolonging this beyond her capabilities of enduring. God, she wanted to come more than she wanted to breathe and she wanted Andrea to make her come now, right now, damn her. And if she had to beg for it, well, needs must.
“Andrea, please, now, please, I need it, fuck me!”
The thrust of Andrea’s hips did not alter even by an inch, the strap-on penetrating her only halfway and at the wrong angle, by far not even close to hitting her in that sweet spot, where she needed it most. Andrea’s fingers were playing between her nether lips as well, but that only complemented the utterly insufficient thrusts, as the fingertips circled around the clit, not touching it, not providing anything close to the relief she needed. Miranda was ready to sob, or scream from frustration.
“Hmmmm, I feel that wasn’t so much begging as it was ordering, was it Miranda? Do you still feel like you can just snap your fingers and you will get everything you want?”
And God, that voice was doing more things to her than the shaft in her vagina was. Low, husky and entirely too cocky, it was sending chills down her spine. Miranda knew what usually followed that husky tone. She was in for it. She was going to be totally annihilated any second now. And she was going to love every single second of this small death. Indeed, the maddening hips snapped once, twice and the silicone cock was all the way inside her, hitting her exactly where she needed it, stretching her, giving her everything she carved, making her see stars. The blessed voice didn’t stop either, whispering more filth into her ear as Andrea roughly bent her over the desk in their downstairs office.
“You do this on purpose, don’t you, Miranda? Try to order me around so I will inevitably have to punish you, by fucking you right into this desk... “
God, she loved this game they played with each other, where she’d push Andrea to the limit, tease her or test the limits of her control, until that control would snap and Miranda would lose count on the times she’d come and have trouble walking the next day. She also loved being taken just like that, with the absolute illusion that she had no control, and she loved this woman who gave her everything, every dirty filthy fantasy she ever craved.
She loved Andrea, she loved being fucked by her and she was so engrossed in her upcoming climax that it didn’t even occur to her that of all the things to worry about, getting caught should probably have been higher on her list.
And yet, here they were, Andrea bare below the waist with a leather harness around her hips and a red silicone cock that was currently hilt deep in Miranda’s clenching pussy. Miranda herself spread on the desk with the Book lying right beneath her and she might actually need to burn the damn thing since she surely smeared herself all over it. No doubt Andrea would be so damn smug about how wet she got her and how utterly impatient Miranda had become in her arousal that she couldn’t wait even a second to throw the Book on the floor, instead of coming all over it. She could just bet that every time an assistant would show up with the Book, Andrea would give her one of her panty-drenching looks. The power this woman had over her, it should be disturbing, yet since Miranda totally surrendered to it in her office, kneeling in front of a bleeding version of a runaway bride, she felt nothing but exhilaration, because that power usually meant great sex and greater intimacy.
What a picture they must’ve made when the door suddenly opened. Miranda just closed her eyes letting her forehead drop to the surface of the desk with a loud thump. How many times did she obsess about just this scenario? God, why weren’t they more careful? Why didn’t they lock the door?
“Patricia! Girl, not now, baby. I’m a bit too busy to be playing with you right now.” The laughter in Andrea’s voice was downright insulting. The dog snorted as if in indignation and left the room, her claws clacking on the wooden surface.
And then horror of horrors, Andrea dissolved in actual laughter, pulling out and sliding to the floor. The fit of giggles was unstoppable it seemed, and Miranda watched in utter disgust as it continued to escalate until Andrea was all but prostrated on the carpet, clutching her abdomen, the glistening dildo standing proudly at attention from her groin. Miranda wanted to groan. Or growl. Maybe Patricia would understand.
“Are you finished with the hilarity, Andrea?” Miranda couldn’t quite induce her own voice with sufficient strictness. The situation was utterly ridiculous. And somewhat funny. Okay, maybe more than somewhat. If not for the throbbing clit and a ruined orgasm, Miranda might’ve been laughing too.
She tried to straighten her skirt, but Andrea just pulled her down to the floor, still laughing, tears now streaming down her face and Miranda smiled while wiping the smooth cheeks. Sometimes it just hit her how much she loved this woman, how much emotion was evoked in her, simply watching Andrea do anything at all. Was it a blessing or curse to be this vulnerable to another? Miranda didn’t know and frankly didn’t care, and so she sat there, touching Andrea’s face while the younger woman recovered from the fit of hysteria.
“I’m sorry… sorry, love…but you have to admit, it’s funny. Of all the times we could’ve gotten caught? In your office? In the limo? At Nigel’s Spring Collection presentation behind the stage curtains? In your mother’s bathroom? Yet it’s Patty who finally caught us.”
Miranda just looked at the beloved features, so alive now in mirth and happiness, the bright eyes shining with love and tenderness, the wide glistening mouth, most certainly still tasting of Miranda herself, the long skilled fingers that loved her so well. How did she get so lucky? How did she deserve this after everything? She shook her head, dismissing that last thought. She might not have deserved this, but she signed on the dotted line, and so did Andrea - to have and to hold. And Miranda both had and held and she was never letting go. Andrea was hers and she would have what was hers, just as soon as she crated Patricia for the night in her preferred crate downstairs in the basement. With the girls with their father for the weekend and Andrea’s book finished, Miranda planned to have and hold for two days and she didn’t really care who knew about it. After Andrea’s much mediatized three mile dash to Elias-Clark followed by all the leaks from their reconciliation in her glass office, it was, after all, pretty late to close the barn door, since the horse had already bolted.
Even though their wedding was a completely intimate affair with just the twins, both their mothers and Nigel serving as best man for both of them, they still published the announcement in the Post and the Times, and to Miranda’s great surprise the sky didn’t fall down. Granted, by that time it wasn’t really a secret they were a couple and she had worked long and hard with her therapist on her fears and insecurities about coming out, which were greatly diminished anyway by Andrea’s brush with death. Still, New York moved on to the next juicy gossip and Mirandy became yesterday’s news, particularly because a year later they were still going strong and no salacious gossip was tied to either of their names. Runway prospered and Andrea wrote a book about her time in Afghanistan, focusing specifically on the impact of the war on American soldiers as well as the locals’ lives. She was also gearing up to write a sequel on the dysfunctionality of the VA and given her investigative skills and a nose for a story, Miranda was sure it would be a bestseller.
So they lived on 73rd Street and raised the twins who surprisingly were less than shocked and absolutely not upset by their mother’s lesbianism, probably because Andrea was surprisingly good at all sorts of video games and soccer and lacrosse and was one of the cool moms at their school, unlike Miranda herself who did not fit any of the bills above. Miranda counted her blessings.
And she knew that her blessings were about to multiply, just by observing Andrea’s speculative look at Miranda’s naked thighs generously marked by her wife’s earlier attention, with the bites slowly turning red. Andrea licked her lips and pushed Miranda to the carpet, possessively spreading her legs and taking a first long lick. Miranda’s breath caught on a startled moan. Oh yes, blessings indeed.
This is the end, my loves. Thank you for taking this lovely journey with me. Your comments and tweets and kudos have made this a really special adventure.
@onewritergirl - dear, thanks for the art, for the ear and for advice. Since you are still to read this story, I hope you like it and smile at these words. I really appreciate you.
@dianakanebooks - there really are no words to express my gratitude, the full and unreserved debt that I will forever be in, for everything you've done for me. For the inspiration, for the cajoling, for the nagging, for the smiles and for the overwhelming sense of achievement of finishing. This really is equal parts your story, cause I'd never have started writing if not for you.