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Let's Give 'em Something to Talk About

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Let’s Give ‘em Something To Talk About

 

 

 

                    The week had been long and tiresome. It was time previously scheduled for research, but Andy Sachs was finding it extremely difficult to concentrate when the weather was so gorgeous. The battle of will power was lost when the sound of her cell phone rang through the apartment. She stumbled and fell over the arm of the couch as she dove for the phone before it cut to voice mail.

            “Hello,” she half shouted “Andy Sachs”

            “Six”

            The flat sound of her dear friend’s voice was a clue to the trouble she was in.

            “Nigel”, Andy grinned, her day already improving. “What’s up? You’re not canceling drinks Friday night, are you?”

            “Of course not. When have I ever backed out from a date with you?” Nigel asked with affected hurt.

            “Well, I’m just confirming, not accusing. I know you’ve been real busy this issue.”

            “Never too busy for you, darling.” Nigel had accepted the offered position of leading the new Runway for Men before the ink was dry on the contract. Since then he had been running nonstop. But, once a month, he and Andy would make a date for drinks and neither ever backed out. It was an unspoken promise since Andy left Runway to maintain a friendship. They hadn’t failed in six years.

            “So, then, to what do I owe the honor of hearing your charming voice on Tuesday?”

            “Actually Six, I’m wondering if there’s something you need to tell me?”

            “Umm… no. Nothing I can think of.”

            “Really.” he deadpanned. “And do you, by chance, have a copy of this morning’s Post?”

            “Yeah, sure. Hang on a sec.” She headed to the kitchen for the paper. Finding it, she placed it on the table and asked, “What am I looking at?”

            “Page six, of course.” As if there would be any other reason to have this paper.

            “Of course” she muttered good-naturedly as she turned to the page in question. Andy found herself sinking with week knees into a chair as her eyes focused on the newsprint. “What the hell is this?”

            “Ah. Honest surprise. I guess I needn’t have worried.”

            “Nigel, seriously, what the hell?”

            Andy’s surprised shock and Nigel’s’ concern were the result of a photograph. Specifically, a photograph captured by some paparazzi depicting a smiling Miranda Priestly with a laughing Andréa Sachs standing right next to her. The caption read: “Is it true? Has La Priestly’s romance drought finally ended? Is the once lost, but obviously not forgotten personal assistant Andréa Sachs assisting her with something personal? Don’t worry my dears. Page Six is on the case.”

            “So,” Nigel’s voice sounded almost gleeful. “Care to explain?”

            “Not that I need to…”

            “Of course not.”

            “But, Doug and I went to brunch at the Grand Hotel Sunday. Miranda happened to be there with the girls. We ran into each other on the way out. That’s all there is to tell.”

            “Of course it is”

            “Nigel” Andy huffed in an exasperated warning.

            “So why all the smiles?” Nigel dug in. He really could not stop himself from teasing Andy.

            “Caroline had just told us a funny story about school.”

            “Ahh. Right then. Wish it was a juicier tale.” he almost pouted.

            “I’m sure you do, you drama queen.”

            “At least she didn’t char broil you with her dragon fire.”

            “I know,” Andy laughed again. “She was actually amazingly cordial. We might even become friends.”

            “HA. Listen to you. Oh well, I must return to the yoke of leadership. See you Friday at Brigham’s.”

            “Later, Nigel.”

 

            Andy was able to easily live down the initial teasing from her friends. Now in her second year working as a freelance writer after a four year stint in newspapers, she did not have to deal with the water cooler conversations. Doug was supportive and backed up her explanation of events with every challenge. Gossip changes quickly with the tides, so the “story” did not last more than a week before some other celebrity was caught with their fingers in the cookie jar.

            Three weeks after the “outing”, Andy had just opened the Post to page six for some lazy Sunday entertainment, when she screamed and spilled her coffee. Staring up at her from a grainy, half focused, nighttime photo was her own image as she made her way to the front door of her apartment building. Between her image and the photographer was a familiar silver Mercedes, idling at the curb. This time the caption read: “Out late on a school night? Is that the Miranda Priestly dropping her girlfriend off after a night on the town? Just what have these two been up to?”

            The phone rang before she could refresh her coffee. Hitting accept she sighed into the mouthpiece, “Hi Nigel.”

            “Twice Six? I’m beginning to wonder…”

            “In my defense, they can’t prove it’s Miranda’s car. You can’t see her in the photo.”

            “Flimsy argument, Andy.”

            “I can say, considering my outfit, this was caught on Thursday night. I can also say that I never saw Miranda that day. Or any day since I left Runway. Well, once in a while I saw her outside Elias Clarke, but that’s not ‘seeing’ her. God Nigel, this is ridiculous. Miranda must be seething.”

            “Eh, don’t worry about it. Your girlfriend has survived much worse. This is baby stuff. No one believes any of it.”

            “This is crazy. They practically said I slept with her. I have a mind to sue for libel.”

            “Don’t waste your money, dear. You’ll lose, and they’ll have bragging rights. Just duck and cover ‘til it all blows over.”

            “You’re right. I just have to ignore it. Just like all bullies. Ignore ‘em and they go away.”

            “Uh… ok. I just called to say I’m still in your corner. If you need to vent, give a shout.”

            “Thanks Nigel. I just might.”

            They rang off and Andy started to clean her coffee spill when her phone rang again. Checking the caller ID first, she sighed. “Hi mom.”

            “Andy, what on earth are you up to?”

            “What do you mean, mom?”

            “We saw that picture in the paper. What have you been doing with Miranda Priestly?”

            “Nothing, mom.” Andy was near hysterical. “There is nothing going on. I don’t even think that’s Miranda’s car. I mean, why would she be in my neighborhood, at all?”

            “Apparently to drop you off.”

            “Mom! Really? You’re going to believe the gossip page over your own daughter? My god, you’re as bad as the rest of them.”

            “Honey, I don’t believe them, I just think… Oh, I don’t know what to think.”

            “This is… not even worth talking about. I’m going. Thanks for calling and offering your support.”

            “Oh, honey, don’t be like that.”

            “Like what, mom? Offended? Angry? Hurt? Sorry, but we’ve gone through them all in fifteen seconds. Thanks for playing. I’ll talk to you another time mom. I gotta go.” Andy disconnected before her mother could say anything else.

 

            The third strike was probably the most damning. It definitely was the shot that got the Dragon out of her lair. Andy had been out on interviews the week after the car incident. At one point, she found herself strolling down east 73rd street looking for the address of a retired orchestral musician. She had stopped on the edge of the sidewalk to check her mobile phone when she heard a familiar voice calling her name. Looking up, she spotted Cassidy Priestly trotting across the street towards her.

            “Hey Andy. What brings you to our neck of the woods?”

            “Hi Cass.” Andy greeted with a face splitting smile. “How are you?”

            “I’m well, thanks. What are you doing here?”

            “Oh, I’m looking for the address for Arthur Compton. He was a violinist in the metropolitan orchestra for like sixty years. I’m supposed to be meeting him for an interview.”

             Cassidy laughed as she offered directions. “Mr. Compton is really funny, Andy. Don’t let him show you his violin collection or you’ll be there ‘til midnight.”

            “Is that code for something untoward?” Andy asked, feigning horror.

            “Nah, He really does have a huge violin collection. And a story for every single one.”

            “Ok, thanks for the tip.”

            “No problem. See ya around.” She waved as she started to jog off on her own mission.

           

            The phone rang at 8am on Sunday. Andy groaned and then growled as she pulled herself out of bed. “Andy Sachs and this better be good”

            “Oh, sweetie. It is the best.”

            “Oh no. What is it this time Nigel? Do they have a shot of her on bended knee proposing to me?”

            “No! Did she?!”

            “Oh shut up. What’s the problem?”

            “All I’m saying is three times is the beginning of a habit. And, Andy, habits do so easily become reputations. Have fun, you silly love birds.”

            Andy dragged herself to the corner market and bought her paper. Then returned, stopping along the way for a no foam half skim grande latte. Once again in the privacy of her own home, she tore the paper open, read her death sentence and laughed. There on page six, for all of Manhattan to see, was Andy Sachs with Cassidy Priestly, sharing a laugh on 73rd street. The comment was priceless.  “Looks like it’s a new family for Andréa Sachs. It appears she is competing for stepmom of the year. If the Priestly twins have a say, she’ll be a shoe-in. Congratulations on moving up in the fashion world, Andy”

            Before she could turn her phone off, it rang. “Crap” Seeing it was her mother again, she decided to deal first and run away later. “Hi, mom. What’s up?”

            “You’re living with her now?”

            “Yes, mom. We decided to pool our interests and move in together. It’s so much easier to be a family this way. Long-distance relationships are just a bother.”

            “Do not toy with me, Andréa. I want an answer.”

            “And I’ll give you an answer when you ask a serious question. Or at least one that I can take seriously. In the meantime, try reading the real news instead of the gossip rags. Enquiring minds are really beginning to piss me off.” End call.

            Andy was about to pull the battery from the phone in frustration when it rang again. This time it was a number she recognized, but would never have expected to see come up. With a deep, cleansing breath, she answered. “Hello, Andy Sachs”

            “Hey, Andy, or should I say mom.”

            “Hey Cassidy, what are you doing calling me?”

            “Mom wanted to find out if you had some deranged stalker after you taking pictures.”

            “I’m beginning to think I do.”

            “Yeah. Figured. Well, I just wanted to say I’m cool with the pic. It doesn’t bother me any. I actually thought it was kinda sweet.”

            “And your mom?”

            “She’s pissed” Andy could hear a muffled voice in the background, then Cassidy’s voice turned away from the phone “Sorry”. Back to the phone; “So, Caroline wants to know when you’ll be around so she can get her picture taken with you too.”

            “Don’t think that’s happening any time soon. I think I may move to Jersey to get more distance from the Priestly curse.”

            The laughter she heard helped relieve most of the tension she was feeling.

            “Oh, by the way,” Cassidy continued. “Mom is threatening to sue because they involved one of us in their game. You know how she gets.”

            “Yeah, I know.” Andy smiled fondly at her memories.

            “Just in case she really does, you need to be aware these guys usually get more obnoxious when there’s a lawsuit in the game. It sells a lot more papers.”

            “I’ll try to remember to keep my head down. If I could, I’d stay inside for a year.”

            “No use hibernating. Your lack of visibility stirs the pot just as much. Just keep on.”

            “Ok. Thanks for the advice.”

            “Sure, no prob. Well, I gotta go. Mom is glaring at me to get off the phone. Bye, Andy.”

            “Bye Cass.”

            Andy was alone in her apartment again. This time, she wasn’t angry, or frustrated. She was actually feeling quite at ease. Somehow, knowing Miranda was out there about to go to battle, even though it was not technically for her, she felt safe. Safe enough to go to the store for some needed groceries. Safe enough to finish her research on the Metropolitan Orchestra. Safe enough to attend Nigel’s latest party out at a public restaurant.

            The call came that same Sunday evening. Andy finally turned her phone back on to get some work done and it had miraculously remained silent until seven that night. Nigel started with an apology, “I’m so sorry, Andy. I completely forgot to invite you for Saturday.”

            “What’s happening Saturday?”

            “The publication party for the summer issue, of course.”

            “That sounds like big doin’s. How fancy dress is it?”

            “Not too bad, actually. You could even get by readily in your work style.”

            “Yeah, uh no. I am not going to come in my everyday wear. I’ll at least get a cocktail dress. What are the particulars, sir?”

            “Saturday, 9pm at Toulouse.”

            “Seriously? French? Since when is that happenin’?”

            “Since Miranda dubbed it so last winter. God, you really need to keep up with the world.”

            “I’m fine in my world, Nige. It’s your fantasy life that I can’t catch up with.”

            “Well, maybe Saturday will change that for you. Lots of important peeps, my dear. So, bring you’re A game.”

            “Right-o. I will be there with bells on.”

 

            Toulouse was packed by the time Andy arrived. She considered herself fashionably late Miranda style when she stepped through the front door at 10:15. The alcohol had been flowing freely, so Andy had no misgivings about approaching people. Most everyone was more than happy to chat with her. Whether they remembered their chat the next day remained to be seen.

            Andy picked up a dozen business cards during her initial circuit of the room. If half of the contacts panned out for her, she would be very busy for the next year, at least. Considering her work done, she stashed her collection and headed for the bar where she found Nigel.

            “Oh, hey, here she is.” He announced to no one in particular. “What goes on, Andy?”

            “Hey, Nige. I think you might be a little toasted around the edges.”

            “Girlfriend, you don’t know the half of it. But come along; let’s get you a drink so you can start to catch up.”

            Andy gratefully accepted a glass of wine before returning her attention to the crowd. As she settled against the bar a movement at the door caught her attention. Then the room went cold, or hot, or still. Andy’s eyes grew wide as she stared. Like being caught in the gorgon’s lair, she could not move. Making her way across the room towards Nigel and Andy was Miranda, the iconic fashion queen, herself. Andy gulped, and then gulped again. She knew this was not going to be good.

            Miranda greeted Nigel first. A kiss to each cheek and a guarded smile; “Lovely to see you, Nigel.”

            “You too, Miranda. Thank you for coming.”

            “Oh, I would not have missed this. A moment of glory for you. I will enjoy basking in your glow.”

            Then she was turning towards Andy.

            “Oh, shit,” Andy thought. “This is it.”

            “Andréa, darling”, a kiss to both cheeks. A slightly lingering kiss to both cheeks. “How are you?”

            “Hi, Miranda. I’m great. How are you doing?” She tried for cheery but it somehow sounded monotonous.

            “I am perfectly fine, now.” Miranda ended with heavy meaning on the ‘now’ and leveled a smoldering look at Andy. Andy gulped again. “Perhaps we should have a little chat, hmmm?”

            Andy silently nodded her head in agreement.

            Miranda took her by the elbow, excused them both from Nigel’s presence and led Andy off to a quiet corner table.

            Andy pulled a chair out for Miranda to sit, then, almost casually, rested a hand on her shoulder as she moved past her to another seat.

            “Careful with the PDA Andréa, we wouldn’t want people talking out of turn. Lord knows there are paparazzi everywhere these days. I‘m sure I‘m not even safe in my own bathroom.” Miranda actually grinned at her own comment.

            “Seriously, I don’t think my reputation can withstand any more attacks.”

            A slight frown appeared on Miranda’s brow. “Is it really so bad?”

            “I’m sorry? What was that?” Andy asked, a little confused.

            “The stories linking you with me. Is it really so terrible to be seen as my paramour?”

            Andy could tell that Miranda was not joking about this. She was no longer teasing. Andy scrambled quickly to divert any potential miscommunication, although she was at a loss as to what Miranda would want to hear for an answer.

            “Um… no. No, it isn’t ‘so bad’”, Andy answered truthfully.

            “Well, I’m sure we could both do much worse.”

            “Are you kidding?” Andy choked on her drink. “I can’t possibly tell you into what depths I have succumbed.”

            “Oh, now you will have to tell me. In every detail.” Miranda turned her shark smile on Andy, hungry for information.

            “Maybe another time. I just don’t get why so many people are interested in both of us. I mean, really, can we get any more boring?”

            “Speak for yourself.” Miranda was again teasing, ready to play. “I am anything but boring.”

            “Yes, of course. It is beyond thrilling to see you going in and out of work, or in and out of your house, or in and out of Dalton with the girls. Thrill…ing”.

            Miranda smacked Andy on the arm causing them both to laugh. Then Miranda stopped laughing and stared at Andy with an evil glint in her eye. It was the look she would get when she was about to foil Irv.

            Andy took a large sip of her wine and swallowed hard. She just knew something was about to happen.

            “How would you like to play a game?” Miranda practically purred.

            “Umm…what kind of a game?”

            “I was thinking of playing the buffoons like the witless fools they are.”

            “Ok, I’m listening.”

            “What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?”

            Andy paused, again lost adrift in the scheming mind of Miranda Priestly. “I believe I’m free. Why?”

            “How would you like to join me at MOMA? I was thinking of attending the latest exhibit. Would you care to go?”

            “Wait”, the pieces began to fall into place. “Do you mean as a ‘date’?”

            “Yes. I think it would be rather enjoyable for our first date.”

            “Our first…?”

            “Yes, of course, Andréa. We need to have a ‘first date’ if we are going to be dating.” Miranda said in a way too smug manner.

            “Ok, I think I may be hallucinating now. Did you just say dating? As in you and me? Together?”

            “It’s what the masses want, Andréa. And who are we to deprive the masses?”

            “I think you have finally fallen off your rocker.”

            Miranda joyfully laughed at Andy’s shock. The sound was pure music. “Come along now, Andréa, play with me. It has been too long since I’ve had the opportunity to pull one over on so many people. As you said yourself, my life is boring. Help me stir it up a bit. Let‘s give them something to talk about.”

            Andy could not resist the temptation. The smile, the shining eyes, the pure mischief of the moment were all wearing her down. She knew she would regret it. Somehow, someway, she would regret it. But, standing here, in the presence of Miranda Priestly in all her prankish glory she just could not say no. “Fine. What time will you pick me up?”

            And the gauntlet was thrown.

 

            Their first date was everything Andy expected, and more. Miranda picked her up early in her personal car. She took Andy out for brunch, again at the Grand to restart the game on their own terms. Miranda was completely in the role of the coquette.

            Andy was so caught up in Miranda’s charm, she began to think Miranda was seriously flirting with her.

            They headed to the art museum for an early afternoon tour of the exhibit. There were snacks and refreshments available and Miranda, at one point, snagged some brie cheese and offered it to Andy, holding it out for Andy’s mouth. Andy knew, without a doubt, they were taking over the tabloids.

            Miranda decided she was enjoying herself so much, she asked Andy to join her for dinner as well.

            Andy had no other plans or demands on her time, so she readily agreed.

            Miranda spoiled her by taking her to Pastis.

            Andy had never been but always wondered about it since Miranda tended to favor the place. After dining, Andy realized why. The food was phenomenal, the service was excellent, and the atmosphere was divine. Andy decided French really was happenin’.

            Miranda returned Andy to her home and walked her to the door. Not wanting to be too forward on their first date, Miranda opted for an air kiss at the front door. The kiss to Andy’s cheek stalled for a couple of heartbeats, more than enough time to get all the pens scratching stories for first editions. Although they could not actually see any reporters or photographers, they knew they were being watched.

            “Good night Andréa. I had a lovely time.”

            “I did too, Miranda,” Andy replied in a voice thick with disbelief. “Thank you. I really enjoyed myself.”

            “It was my pleasure. May I call you again?”

            “Umm…yeah… yes, sure… I mean, of course.”

            Miranda’s laugh tinkled like a Christmas tree bell.

            Andy’s grin was blinding in reply.

            They stood gazing at each other for a long moment before Miranda reached up and patted Andy’s cheek. “Good night,” she whispered again, and then turned and walked back to the car.

            Andy took a deep, shuddering breath as she watched Miranda drive off. Then she headed to her apartment to get away from prying eyes.

 

            “Jesus Christ, Andy. What are you doing?”

            “Hi, Doug. Come on in. I guess you saw the morning paper?”

            “Girl, are you for real? Are you really dating La Priestly?”

            “Oh sweetie, you sound so cute when you talk like Lily.” Andy laughed over her shoulder as she headed to the kitchen to put the coffee on.

            “Andy, come on. Seriously. What goes on here?”

            “Yes, Doug. Seriously. Miranda and I are dating.”

            “Like for real romance and stuff?”

            Andy couldn’t keep him stringing along. The poor bastard was about to go apoplectic. “Ok, Doug. You have got to promise to keep an absolute, total secret.”

            “Oh, honey, you know I will.”

            “Miranda and I are pretending to date to run the paparazzi all over themselves for the story. We’re just doing this for fun.”

            “Weird plan. But hey, pics of you and La Hotly are going for big bucks. Maybe I should follow you around. At least someone you know would be getting the benefit.”

            “Yeah, there is that.”

            “Did you see the pictures, Andy?” Doug asked incredulously as he opened the paper to the right page. “I mean, you two… holy god, you are smoking’ hot. You sure you’re just acting?”

            “Yes Doug. We are just acting. I can’t help it if Miranda is an amazing actor, just like she is everything else.”

            “Well, you should get a copy of this one and frame it for posterity. Really, you don’t want to forget this.”

            Andy looked at the shot he was referring to. It had been captured at the museum. Andy was studiously observing a painting while Miranda observed her. Andy couldn’t remember the moment but the expression on Miranda’s face blew her away. She looked amused, enthralled, and if Andy was honest, enamored. Andy couldn’t remember ever seeing Miranda more beautiful. ‘Oh crap. What’s that about?’ she wondered.

            Doug only left after he cajoled Andy into signing her autograph across the gossip page. He zipped out the door after confessing his plan to sell it on e-bay. Andy could only wish him luck in his money-making endeavor.

            Andy grabbed her coffee and decided to spend the morning camped out on the sofa. She was well ahead of any deadlines for articles and had the time to waste if she wanted. She decided to consider what she was getting into. Not really knowing Miranda’s end game, Andy discovered she had no idea what her role was to be, how far Miranda would take the charade, or how they would end things. She already swore Doug to secrecy and she wondered if it would be acceptable to let Nigel in on the scheme. Her life could easily be made a living hell if Nigel believed they were a couple. Her mother already believed the gossips, so she wasn’t going to waste her time correcting that misconception. She hoped Miranda told the girls the truth. Andy did not want the pressure of them thinking she was involved with their mother. Her head was beginning to hurt. Then the phone rang.

            “Hello, Andy Sachs”

            “Andréa, must you be so pedestrian when you answer the phone?”

            “I’m not walking anywhere.” Andy countered with an easy play on words.

            “It’s all about semantics. How are you this morning?”

            “I’m fine, Miranda. How are you doing?”

            “I… am… indecisive.”

            “Wow. Really?”

            “It happens on rare occasions. I find I am not sure if we should pursue our project.”

            “I’m still up for it if you decide to continue.” Andy offered, perhaps a touch too eagerly.

            “Well. I am relieved to hear that.” Andy could actually hear the relief in Miranda’s voice. “Are you available for dinner Friday evening?”

            “Um, I’m pretty sure I can be. Where do you want to take me?”

            “I was thinking of dining in.”

            “Oh. Ok. Can I bring anything?”

            “I’m certain you could. Shall you?”

            “You tell me.”

            “I think you shan’t. I will expect you for seven.”

            “All right then. I’ll see you Friday. Until then.”

            “Yes. Until then”

 

            “How many times must I tell you to pay attention to the weather reports if you won’t carry an umbrella?” Miranda met Andy at the front door, dragging her in from the torrential downpour that had begun just as Andy had climbed from the subway.

            Andy was dripping on the foyer floor, looking like a drowned cat. She offered a sheepish smile as Caroline arrived with a towel.

            “Hey Andy. This might help a bit, but I think you might get a little cold. You are seriously soaked.”

            “Thanks, Caroline. Maybe I should go for a tumble in the clothes dryer.”

            “Don’t be silly, Andréa,” Miranda cut in. “I’m sure we can find you something to change into.”

            “I can’t imagine you would have anything my size, Miranda. But, thank you anyway.”

            “Caroline, please bring Andréa to the guest room. I believe she may find something there she might be able to get herself into.”

            Andy followed Caroline like a grounded child.

            Caroline showed her to the guest room and opened the closet door. There were a few different outfits of varying sizes.

            Andy did actually find a pair of linen slacks and a white button-up shirt that fit well enough. She remained barefoot as she returned to the living room where she found the twins.

            Cassidy looked up at her entrance to greet her. “Hey, Andy. How’s it going?”

            “Swimmingly, today. How’s it with you, Cass?”

            “Busy. I can’t believe how much reading I have to do over summer vacation. I swear I wish I was in the PS system. At least they get their summers off.”

            “Yeah, well, pay now to play later. You have a much greater shot at a good college.”

            “As she well knows.” Miranda’s voice came in from the hall.

             Andy turned to acknowledge her presence. “Hey. Thanks for the clothes.”

            “No trouble, I assure you.” Miranda cast her eyes over Andy’s form, appraising her choice. “Acceptable”, Miranda nodded in appreciation. “Well, shall we adjourn to the dining room? I believe our dinner is ready for the table.”

            The evening passed with animated conversation and shared laughter. After dessert, Cassidy decided to address the elephant in the room. “So, Andy, are you really dating mom now?”

            “Um… well, I….uh…” Andy’s eyes widened in panic. She really did not know how to answer this direct question. Had Miranda shared her plan with the girls? Did they know that it was a game? How would Miranda want her to answer? Her mind was spinning and she couldn’t stop it. She felt hot. She felt dizzy. She felt like she was going to faint.

            Thankfully, Miranda cut in to guide the conversation. “Yes, Cassidy, Andréa and I are dating. Do you have any concerns with this?”

            “Nah. I’m not concerned. You two are the ones catching all the heat. You just didn’t say anything to us,” she nodded towards her sister in inclusion, “so I just wanted to confirm if the rags were onto something.”

            “Your mom didn’t say anything to you?” Andy asked, surprised at the idea.

            “Why would I say anything, Andréa? It isn’t as if I need their permission to date.”

            “Well, no, of course…”

            “But even if she did,” Caroline piped in, “we would have given her our blessing.”

            “Really?” Andy squeaked.

            “Yeah. You’re probably the coolest date mom’s had in decades.”

            That earned Caroline a napkin tossed at her head. Grinning back at her mother she added, “You’d probably be the coolest step-parent, too.”

            “Hey, yeah,” Cassidy joined the lead, “would we call you mom? Or would you rather just be Andy?”

            Embracing the jovial turn of the conversation, Andy replied, “Oh, mom, definitely mom. And spoken with the utmost respect, I might add.”

            The laughter reverberated through the dining room. Miranda sat back, sipping from her wine glass, appreciating the feeling of happiness in her house. She always knew Andy was a source of joy, and she hoped to maintain the presence of such delight in her home for a long time.

            The conversation then followed a pattern similar to chutes and ladders. Serious discussions were suddenly interrupted by a sarcastic or witty remark that plunged the entire family into fits of laughter. After hours of discussing school, work, potential boyfriends, the upcoming dance, and Miranda’s Runway gala, the girls excused themselves to retire to their entertainment room. Left alone, Miranda offered another glass of wine.

            “No thanks,” Andy declined. “I’m going to need my wits about me to get home tonight. Speaking of which, I should probably head out. It’s getting late.”            

            Miranda stood more quickly than expected. “Andréa, please, allow me to take you home.”

            Andy smiled, “That’s ok, Miranda. I’ll be fine.”

            “I would feel better if you would at least let me call you a cab. I do not like the idea of you traveling the subway at this late hour.”

            “I suppose I can compromise.” Andy grinned at the obvious relief that crossed Miranda’s face.

 

            The rain storm had done a good job of keeping the paparazzi at bay. There were no pictures that weekend of the fated romance. Due to their schedules it was three weeks before they saw each other again. They met at a private showing of Pablo Sanchez’ photography at a hole in the wall gallery in SoHo.

            Miranda fairly lit up when Andy walked through the front door. She made a beeline through the guests to greet Andy with an obviously friendly double cheek kiss.

            Andy blushed at the intimacy implied from the gesture. The flashbulbs exploding lit up the entire room.

            Miranda leaned in to whisper in Andy’s ear, “I believe they have missed us, darling.”

            “Do you think their sales have dropped off the last few weeks?” Andy impishly asked.

            “I believe the term is plummeted.” Miranda laughed, and the flashbulbs went off again.

            They moved through the gathering, greeting people, with Miranda making introductions. Miranda steered Andy through the room lightly, never releasing her elbow. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Andy was here with Miranda.

            No comments were directed to either woman involving their relationship, but the whispering commenced like spreading wildfire as they passed by. By the end of the evening, Andy again had a pocket full of contacts, and Miranda was grinning like the cat that ate the canary, the trout, and had some whipped cream for dessert.

            As they settled into the back seat of Miranda’s car they released the laughs they had kept control of inside.

            Miranda wiped at her eyes after a few moments and gathered her composure. “Oh my, I never thought this would be so much fun. This is most definitely better than my last divorce.”

            “Miranda!” Andy gasped, “I can’t believe you said that.”

            “What? Don’t you think it’s so?”

            “Well, yeah, I guess it is more fun than a divorce, but really…”

            “Why don’t we just agree that this is better than the entirety of that last fiasco of a marriage.”

            “I’ll agree, but only to make you happy. I really don’t know anything about your marriage.”

            “There’s nothing to know. It was, at best, a mistake. We won’t even consider its worst.”

            A comfortable silence spread over them as the car continued on its journey. As they pulled up in front of Andy’s place Miranda reached over to pat Andy on the thigh. “I don’t think I will walk you to your door this evening if you don’t mind.” Miranda excused herself.

            “That’s fine.” Andy replied “Thank you for the evening and for introducing me around. I made a number of good contacts tonight.”

            “Mmm, I’m glad it worked out for you.”

            Andy could feel Miranda distancing herself. Before she drifted too far away, Andy reached out to take her hand. Impulsively, she raised Miranda’s hand and kissed her across her knuckles, never breaking eye contact. She smiled as a slight blush spread across Miranda’s cheeks. Leaning across the seat, Andy then left a soft kiss on Miranda’s tinted skin. “Goodnight Miranda,” she whispered. “I really had a lovely time tonight.” Then she slid back across the seat and slipped out the door. Closing it with a solid thump, she walked briskly across the walk to enter her building

            Page six had apparently been missing the Miranda - Andy outings. The day after their SoHo outing the paper had eight pictures of the couple. The event was again explained with innuendo: “Well here you go faithful readers. Rumors of a breakup were apparently a bit hasty. Obviously, this loving couple is as strong as ever. Maybe 4 is the magic number for La Priestly. That, and a new team. Play on, ladies”

            Andy ignored a number of phone calls that day. She ignored all seven calls from her mother, alone. Doug and Nigel were the only friends she was willing to listen to.

            “Hey, sweetie. So glad you haven’t become a resident of “splitsville”. So when are we to hear wedding bells?”

            “Dougie, I am only going to say this once,” Andy said in mock anger. “You are going to have to lose a few pounds to fit into the maid of honor gown.”

            “Ooh, I hope you go with lavender. It brings out my eyes.”

            “You are such a jerk. So, tell me what you really think…”

            “I think you make a very nice couple. And, what up with the proprietary hold on you? Is she always that possessive?”

            “I know. She’s never done that before. What do you think is up with that?”

            “I would not dare to make any assumptions about Miranda Priestly. But if it was anyone else, I’d say you are definitely spoken for.”

            “Yeah, and pigs do fly.”

            “Wishing is still legal, girlfriend. Oh, hey,” Doug interrupted himself, “Did I tell you I saw Lily the other day?”

            “Nope. Care to share?”

            “She couldn’t believe the new relationship, but she actually said if it fulfilled your emptiness, she was happy for you.”

            “Oh, wow. How am I supposed to respond to that?”

            “Carefully, and after much meditation. Uh-oh, gotta go. Work does not stop for us poor slaves. You are so lucky to be mostly self-employed. Catch you at a later date.”

            “Bye Dougie.”

            Ringing off from Doug’s call, Andy was puzzled over Lily’s comment. What did she mean by ‘my emptiness’? I’m not empty. Leaving it alone, she decided, was the best option. Returning to her own work, she got a good three hours done before Nigel interrupted the flow of words.

            “So, drinks Friday?”

            “Of course. Brigham’s?”

            “You are so predictable. I bet you're even going to say you and Miranda are just good acquaintances, aren’t you?”

            “You know it, stud muffin. It’s pretty obvious I’m into gay men.”

            “As well you should be. You are such a hag.”

            “So, Lily said I had an emptiness that she hopes Miranda will fill. Any clue?”

            “Honey, you carried a torch for the dragon for a few years. Maybe she’s referring to that?”

            “I did not.” She protested. “I had a power crush, is all. I did not carry a torch.”

            “Call it what you like. But I still think that could be the seed of her thought process. Anyway, I have to run. Just wanted to say I enjoyed seeing your lovely face gracing such a well respected journal as our own page six. One day, we might just get you onto the front page.”

            “Yeah, right. I think the only way that will happen is if Miranda literally proposes to me.”

            “Never know. Stranger things have happened. ‘Til Friday, then.”

            “Ciao.”

 

            Fashion week came barreling in with increased stress and hostility from Miranda. Andy thoughtfully gave her a lot of space, not that she ever made any demands. She considered herself a pinch-runner in this game of subterfuge. She would wait it out in the dugout until Miranda called her into the game. They had four months of fair play so far. Andy was treated to some of the best dates she had ever been on. Had she not had the insider information, she could have been convinced it was all real.

            Miranda was a very thoughtful and attentive girlfriend. But with fashion week around the corner, she was distant and unapproachable. Andy received a call the night before the Runway team was to fly out.

            “Andréa, I apologize for ignoring you lately. Will you forgive me?”

            “Miranda, I don’t think you have any reason to apologize. But if it makes you feel better, then yes, I accept your apology.” Andy had trouble keeping the teasing tone out of her voice. “Are you all ready for this week?” she asked with true concern.

            “Yes. I am. I cannot, however, say the same for my staff. Do you think there is any way I can get you and Emily to return to your positions? I would give you both raises, of course.”

            “Ahhh, Miranda Priestly, the comedienne makes a rare appearance, and we caught it here, live, on Andy t.v.”

            “Oh, aren’t you the funny girl?”

            “I have my moments. So to what do I owe the pleasure of your call?”

            Miranda paused, uncharacteristically.

            Andy’s face began to scrunch in confused worry when Miranda found her voice again.

            “I was just calling to ask if there was anything, in particular, you fancied from Paris?”

            “Uh… really?”

            “Andréa,…”

            “I know, I know,” Andy rushed in. “You don’t ever make offers you do not fully mean. I was just stunned. I can’t wrap my head around the ‘why’ behind the offer.”

            “Must there be a reason? May I not just offer something nice because I am able?”

            “Miranda, you can do anything you like.”

            “So, is there anything?”

            “I really don’t know. If you feel the need to get me something, just surprise me. It’s not like I would do justice with any fashion decision on my own. Yours would be a much better choice.”

            “Of course. Well, I best go. Please stay out of the tabloids while I’m gone.”

            “I’ll try.” Andy chuckled. “I’ll miss you too.”

            “Yes, well… Goodbye.”

            The phone went dead. Andy just shook her head at the expected action and returned to her frozen dinner.

 

            It would be difficult to prove, but Andy was pretty sure Miranda owned a magical crystal ball. Because, really, how else would she have been able to foresee events that would put Andy in the tabloids.

            The Thursday night Miranda was away, Andy went out with Doug and some friends to a karaoke bar. After one or two too many cosmopolitans, Andy found herself escorted to her apartment building by an acquaintance of Doug’s. For her part, it was completely innocent. For his part, it was a calculating gamble to get a kiss, and hopefully more. For the paparazzi, it was a meal ticket.

            The ring of her phone caused her brain to implode, the pain making her blind. She struggled from the tangle of sheets and stumbled through her apartment in search of the phone. She caught it just before it went to voice mail.

            “Hu-lo, Andy Sachs.”

            “Is he there with you now?” Miranda’s ‘I will strike you dead before you take a single step’ voice sliced through the airways, clearing the blindness but causing a deafness that rendered Andy stupid.

            “Wha…what?”

            “Is. He. There. With. You.” The enunciated demand did nothing to help with Andy’s loss of intelligence.

            “Is WHO here?” She tried to work this puzzle out, but there were no good clues. She decided the New York Times crossword was easier than understanding Miranda Priestly.

            “That simpering weasel who must have tripped and got his tongue caught in your throat last night. Because I KNOW you would not be caught out on the town cheating on me while I am engrossed in the busiest, most stressful week of my year.”

            “Um, Miranda? I’m sure you have a perfectly good reason to be so angry, but can you explain it to me in detail, because I really have no idea what you are talking about.”

            “No idea…? Are you serious? You are making me the laughing stock of New York… of the world, and you have no idea…”

            “Umm… no?”

            “Try reading your paper.” The call ended just as abruptly as it had begun. Andy was beyond confused, but the universe was not about to offer any sympathy. The phone rang again.

            “Oh you really do have a death wish. And I always found you to hold so much promise.”

            “Nigel, what is going on? Miranda just called…”

            “Oh no. Are you all right? Is she sending assassins?”

            “What is going on?”

            “You haven’t seen page six this morning, have you?”

            “I was just roused by a shrieking harpy, or at least Miranda’s version of one. Of course, I haven’t read the stupid paper. What is going on?”

            “Six, go get the paper, then call me back.”

            Before she could accomplish the task her phone signaled another round.

            “Sweetie, are you all right?”

            “Dougie, I feel a little like Alice right now. Do you have any idea how to get me out of wonderland?”

            “I think your answers will all be found on page six. Check it out and give me a call. No, better yet, I’m on my way. I’ll bring it with me.”

            Andy took the respite to start a large pot of coffee. By the time she was showered and almost presentable to the world, Doug was at the door. In the kitchen, he waited for her to finish half a cup before giving her the paper. She opened it to the obligatory page and cried out. “Oh SHIT! Miranda is going to kill me! Who the fuck is this?”

            The “this” she was referring to was the young man who gallantly escorted her home. He succeeded in getting his wished for kiss. Apparently, Andy was in a wish giving mood, because it was a very passionate kiss that was caught on film. Her sins exposed to the world, Andy had to beg for absolution from an extremely unforgiving god. She hoped desperately for a priest with a lot of pull to step in and pinch-hit for her. How many “Hail Mary”s she’d be saying was anybody‘s guess.

            “Fuck, Doug. What the hell happened?”

            “Oh. Sweetie. I think, maybe you had a bit too much to drink last night.”

            “You think?”

            “Well, you were feeling pretty good, and Jeff offered to get you home safely. I really had no idea he would try anything. This is really bad luck.”

            “Oh ‘really bad’ doesn’t begin to cover it, Doug. Christ, how could I be so stupid? What the hell am I gonna do?”

            Her phone rang. Without checking she answered, only to cringe from the voice on the other end.

            “Oh, honey, I am so glad you’ve come to your senses.”

            “Mom, this is really not a good time.”

            “But Andy, I want to hear about your young man. When did you finally get over this silly thing with that woman?”

            “MOM. Really NOT a good time. I’ll call you back.” Learning from all her time with Miranda, she canceled the call without hesitation. “Doug, this is not going to go well. I don’t know if I should try to call Miranda or give her time. Of course, time could wind her up more than cool her down. Shit, what do I do?”

            “Go to Paris?”

            “Oh yeah, right. Paris. I see that working out to everyone’s benefit.”

            “Or you could move to Canada.”

            “Now, that has some merit.”

            The phone rang again. This time, she checked first. “Nigel, what should I do?”

            “Don’t you think you should ask your knight in off the rack armor?”

            “Not funny. Not the time.”

            “Sorry, six. So, who was that dreg anyway?”

            “Some friend of Doug’s. Shit, Nigel, I was drunk. I don’t even remember the kiss. How the hell am I supposed to go to Miranda with that?”

            “On your knees and offering the sword for her to behead you, of course.”

            “NIGEL, Please.”

            “Go to Paris.”

            “WHAT?!”

            “I said, go to Paris. It’s the last thing she would expect. And go on your knees… seriously.”

            “That’s what Doug said”

            “What did I say?” Doug asked, his interest now piqued.

            “Six, I really think it will work. Flowers, fashion, and Chanel Number 5. And on… your… knees.”

            “Seriously?”

            “YES” from both Nigel and Doug.

            Doug left Andy to continue deciding her fate. He had a “friend” he needed to have a chat with. Andy thanked him for his belated, well-intended chivalry, and let him off the hook for the unintentional setup. He no sooner hit the elevator and her phone rang.

            “Hello, Andy Sachs”

            “Andy, mom is going to kill you.”

            “Good morning Caroline. Aren’t you in school.?”

            “Yeah, study period. That was some picture. And the comments? ‘Has Andy Sachs been saved by her knight in shining armor? Has this handsome prince slain the dragon? If this kiss was the prize, I’m surprised there wasn’t a run on tights and swords.’” Caroline laughed as she recited the caption from the paper. “What are you going to do?”

            “I think I’m going to Paris.”

            “What?! Seriously?”

            “Yeah, that’s exactly what I said.”
            “Huh?”

            “Nigel and Doug recommended the move. I’m just thinking it might work.”

            “Yeah, it might. Flowers, lots of flowers. And Chanel Number 5. And be ready to beg.”

            “What the hell. Is there some sort of Miranda Priestly rule book I don’t know about?”

            “What?” Caroline asked innocently.

            “Nigel said the same damn thing.”

            “Oh. Well, ‘great minds’ and all that.”

            “Yeah. Well, I guess I better look into flights.”

            “Go get ‘er tiger.”

            “Bye Caroline.”

            “Bye Andy.”

 

            The flight to Paris was not cheap. Neither was the bottle of perfume she purchased. The flowers would also be added to the list of things to pay off on credit. Thankfully, her credit cards had more funds available than her meager savings account. Evidently, Andy would be utilizing all the contacts Miranda made available to her in order to pay off her insanity. That would also be dependent on Miranda not blacklisting her in the publishing world. Law school was beginning to look like a viable option again.

            Andy arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon. She caught a 7pm flight out of JFK but with security delays and car traffic working against her she missed Miranda’s lunch break, so now she had to wait until evening to see her. This not only gave her time to think of a mature, reasonable argument for her defense, but it also gave her time to dwell on the reason she was in Paris in the first place. Why she flew halfway across the world to make a desperate attempt to save a pseudo-relationship. Why she was trying to placate a woman who was not really her girlfriend. Why she just got herself into over a thousand dollars in debt to save a fabricated relationship. She really had too much time.

            It was seven-thirty by the time Miranda returned to her hotel room. Her schedule gave her an hour and a half to unwind before she was due at a celebration for D&G. It was not necessarily a party she was eager to attend, but she would go because of the politics. She had just finished scrubbing her face clean and was about to lie down for a rest when there was an insistent banging on her door.

            Livid was almost too soft a word to describe the boiling anger Miranda felt bubbling up her throat like bile. Yanking the door open, the vitriol she was about to spew at her intruder was choked back down like a glass of Turning Leaf chardonnay. Eyes popped wide open, mouth open in a gasp, and clutching at her chest in an attempt to stop the sudden palpitations, she was a Hollywood image of surprise. Her breath erupted from her aching chest in a verbal explosion, “You!”

            “Hi” Andy actually waved. “May I come in?” sounded way too chipper, even for Andy’s own ears.

            “What are you doing here?” Miranda demanded in a voice that was rapidly recovering from the shock and rolling easily into comfortable anger.

            “You know, funny you should ask that.” Andy seemed way too relaxed for one who was poking the bear. “I was kind of hoping you might be able to help me with that answer.”

            Miranda realized that Andy was angry. The two tigresses were eyeing each other up. This was going to be a fight to the bitter end. Winner takes all.

            “I am sure I have no idea what could possibly have caused you to do anything you have done in the last 48 hours.” Miranda haughtily replied.

            “Ok, Fair enough. Then maybe you can explain just what the hell was behind that unbelievably snarky phone call you made to me yesterday…. or the day before…” the first sign of weakness came through with Andy’s confusion due to exhaustion. “Whatever day. What was that all about, Miranda?” The anger bit back on the use of her name gave Andy her control back.

            “I’m sure I do not know what you are talking about, Andréa.”

            “Don’t you do that. Don’t you dare hide from this.”

            Andy had Miranda backed into the sitting room. Two more steps and she would have fallen back onto the couch.

            Andy began to jab her with an accusing finger. “You called me all jealous and worked up over some stupid picture in the freakin’ gossip page. The same page YOU have been manipulating for the last five months. The same page you claim never gets anywhere near the truth. And this baseless picture gets you to respond like the jealous lover in a love affair that doesn’t even exist”             Andy was near screaming by the end of her tirade. Taking a deep breath she continued, “So, you tell me, Miranda, why the hell am I here?”

            Miranda stared, the shock of Andy’s outburst rendering her speechless. Their standoff was interrupted by a knock at the door. Miranda brushed past Andy, almost desperate to get away. When she opened the door she was met by a huge bouquet of flowers. She admitted the delivery boy and, after giving a healthy tip, plucked the card from the center to scan for the sender. Glancing at the card she immediately recognized Andy’s own handwriting. She looked up, checking for any reaction from Andy, then turned her attention back to reading the note.

            ‘Miranda, my defense is weak. I can only claim alcohol-induced insanity. It looked like a good kiss if only I could remember it. Please forgive this impetuous fool and allow me the chance to heal the wound. I do not believe this was a fatal blow. Surely we can save this.  Andréa’

            Miranda’s mouth quirked in a slight smile. She looked to Andy again, expecting to see her usual goofy grin, but found instead a glower of anger. The corner of her mouth turned back down into a frown.

            “What is ‘this’ we have to save, Miranda?” Andy asked softly. The fight had flushed out of her when the flowers arrived, but there was a sadness in its place that was even more disconcerting. “Miranda, what are we doing?”

            Miranda moved past Andy and sat on the edge of the couch. Nodding her head, she requested Andy to join her.

            Andy sat on the couch but distant enough to be out of physical influence.

            Miranda tried to gather her thoughts, to figure out how to explain the truth to Andy. Finally, she sighed and began. “I feel I have been a bit remiss in sharing my true intentions. I have allowed you to continue under the guise of a farcical plot, but in all honesty, there was no joking on my side.”

            “What?”

            “I was not at any time involved with a prank in regards to my feelings for you.”

            “Are you trying to say this has been real?”

            “For me, yes. I understand how you may have misconstrued my initial proposition. I can see how my choice of words would lead you to believe this has all been a farce played to the paparazzi. However, my true design was to, in fact, develop a relationship with you.”

            “You mean you really wanted to date me?”

            “As hard as that is to imagine, yes, I really want to date you.”

            “But you… I mean you and I… how?… wow.”

            “You see, it is your steel-trap mind that captivated me from the very first. How could I resist such wit?”

            “Miranda, don’t ruin the mood.” 

            “Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.” Miranda contritely apologized. “So, you see, Andréa, the ‘this’ we need to save is ‘this’. It does exist, at least on my part. I have been under the belief that there have been certain feelings within you, that perhaps you might be willing to explore.”

            “So, to sum up… you called me all jealous and possessive because you really thought I was seeing this guy at the same time you considered me your actual girlfriend. And I didn’t fly to Paris to keep you from blacklisting me, but to save a romantic relationship that I was not even aware I was involved in? That about it?”

            “Yes, I think you have it.”

            “And your original invitation to ‘play with you’ was to actually play with you not play a prank on the gossip hounds?”

            “Yes.”

            “And all our dates were real dates, not just well-played fabrications?’

            “Yes.”

            “And the kisses, were all real with underlying romantic intent?”

            “Yes.”

            “And that look in your eyes at the end of our last date really was you trying to control your libido?”

            Miranda’s eyes suddenly got very smoky as she answered with a slight stammer, “y…yes”.

            Andy had been inching across the couch, shifting closer to Miranda with each question until she was barely a breath away. “So if I was to lean in to kiss you, you would kiss me back and there would be honest emotion and attraction behind it?”

            “Yes,” Miranda half whispered half squeaked her answer.

            “And are you willing to make an honest woman out of me?”

            “Yes,” Miranda sighed in defeat.

            “Then for the love of God, Miranda, take me to bed. You are way past the three date rule.”

 

 

Fini