Whatever moronic impulse caused her to do it, Andy Sachs refused to dwell.
To dwell would mean getting introspective, and she was NOT in the mood to be introspective. Not about this. Not about Runway or Miranda Priestly or any combination of the two. That was a deal she had made with herself a long time ago, because if she tried to bring logic to her secret Achilles Heels (or as she liked to think of it, the cancer that festered inside of her that she could not cut out), she would drive herself crazy.
And really, it wasn't THAT crazy or inappropriate.
She had insisted a long time ago to her ex-boyfriend Nate that Runway Magazine wasn't just about pimping fashion; there were damned good articles between those pages, and respected writers, and as a writer who was looking to get respected, it only made sense to submit an article via her literary agent under a pseudonym.
"Seriously," she insisted, when Lily blinked at her over her cappuccino. "It makes complete sense."
Her friend placed down the coffee cup. "How does it make sense?" she replied frankly (because it was Lily and Lily was always frank and to the point). "You wrote that article under a pseudonym."
"Because Miranda Priestly wouldn't have printed that article if it were under my name." Just saying the name of her former boss created an irrational blush, and Andy glanced down heatedly, suddenly fascinated with created swirls through the condensation of the glass of her iced coffee. "I'm making a point."
"That Miranda Priestly hates you?" Lily arched a droll brow. "I think everyone knew that, considering you walked out on her in the middle of fashion week a year and a half ago."
"That I'm good enough." Feeling annoyingly hot, Andy nearly knocked over her glass with her fidgeting. "If I can get printed at Runway I can get printed anywhere."
"Mhmm." Taking a moment to take another mocha flavored sip, her friend tapped the glossy magazine between them with a manicured fingernail. "You mean 'Patricia Potter' can get printed anywhere. 'Andy Sachs' is still a junior reporter for the-little-newspaper-that-could."
That was irrelevant. Inhaling deeply, Andy thoughtfully glanced at the vibrant magazine, carefully pushing her cup away from the fragile pages and opening it to the correct page number, where she knew her printed article would be.
Although the author was 'Patricia Potter', Andy couldn't ignore the thrill that blipped inside her, tugging her mouth into a soft smile that stalled as soon as Lily saw it. "They want me to do another article," she said immediately.
"They?" Lily left her coffee on the table to mime the word with airquotes. 'Whose 'they'? You mean 'she', don't you?"
At times like this, the best thing to do to avoid a fight with her too-insightful-for-her-own-good friend was to simply ignore her. She flipped the book closed.
"When I've written a few, I'll come out." The phrasing was unfortunate, and another flush of color tinged her cheeks as Lily's brow once again disappeared beneath her curly bangs.
"I thought you did already."
If Lily was trying to be cute, she was not succeeding; as it was, her friend was still having way too much fun at Andy's expense over a recent ill-fated fling with another reporter, who happened to be female.
"Oh shut up," she said hastily, "You know what I mean."
"Mmhmm," Lily said again, now openly amused, a smile gracing the other woman's lips. "Congratulations, on both counts."
Sometimes Lily really annoyed her.
It wasn't that 'Patricia Potter' was particularly clever. Honestly, Andy knew it was downright silly. So silly, in fact, that no one, least of all an imposing Editor-in-Chief, would ever think someone could make that up.
Because who would name themselves after a Saint Bernard, anyway?
And that really didn't matter anyway, because Andy Sachs was setting out to prove a point, and the point was not how silly her name was or how perceptive Miranda Priestly wasn't, it was that she was genuinely good at this.
She needed to believe that.
She needed to believe that a magazine like Runway could recognize that.
And if anyone thought the name was silly or suspicious, it wasn't her problem.
Not after the fourth article was published. Not after Patricia Potter was nominated for an award.
Not even after Miranda Priestly asked to meet her.
"She wants you for a running gig." Stuart McMorton, her literary agent (who also had a name that one wouldn't make up), sounded harried and frazzled, odd considering the usually smooth agent had a voice like honey. "Or rather, insists that 'Patricia Potter' come in immediately. Like now. Can you do now?"
On the corner of a busy intersection, Andrea Sachs held her finger to her ear and squinted her eyes; a misguided attempt to focus on what her agent was bleating at her, because it couldn't possibly be right. "Wait. Like, now now?"
"Well, you used to work for her, what does 'now' mean to you?" He was crabby and anxious, and Andy found herself morbidly thinking that was usually the appropriate emotion after a run-in with the Dragon Lady.
"It means two days ago." Her admission didn't do anything to help the tell-tale thumpity-thump that her heart was so fervently making inside her ribcage.
"Right well, whatever you're doing - stop it, and get over there."
Because it was just that easy.
"Umm… problem?" she squeaked, weaving around a lady with a stroller and a naked cowboy strumming on a guitar. "I'm not Patricia Potter. I'm Andy Sachs."
"Andy, I've had a British girl hyperventilating in my ear for the past hour, threatening not just my career, but my livelihood and my manhood, if I don't do my absolute best to get Patricia Potter in Miranda Priestly's office within ten minutes. Now I will never admit a woman has bigger balls than me, but I like my balls, and I want to keep them. Get your ass over there or I'm throwing your ass to the wolves." His voice had gone squeaky; not a good sign.
"But she hates me! I walked out on her in Paris!" She was reaching unnaturally high octaves she didn't even think she had in her. "She'll call security. She'll kill me! She'll hide the body and then I'll be dead and hidden! With my body!"
And now she was panicking. She remembered that emotion. It used to come on a daily basis in the presence of one Miranda Priestly, and god help her, like Pavlov's dog, it came back on cue.
"So not my problem, Potter. You get to those offices or so help me, I'll give her the gun."
He disconnected. The cowboy with his guitar strummed at her, and Andy Sachs, aka Patricia Potter, felt her mind implode.
"Well, what do you expect?" Lily chuckled lightly in her ear, and that was so not the proper response to this.
Quietly, she crept into the lobby, glancing fervently around her as if she were sneaking through trenches, watching as familiar guard glanced at her and frowned. "I… I don't know. Not this!"
"You've written four articles for the woman. Each has been eloquent, well-written, highly relevant to fashion and culture in general, and critically acclaimed. Stupid pseudonym aside, hell honey, you've even got me reading them. Of course she'd want to meet you."
"But I'm not Patricia Potter!" she snapped, louder than she intended, once again catching the glance of her old friend, security guard Jim. "Give me a sec," she hissed into the phone, and then with as wide a smile she could manage (without looking like a complete idiot), said as innocently as she could, "Hi, Patricia Potter to see Miranda Priestly?"
Jim's frown only got deeper, and he crossed his arms. Not a good sign. "What's going on, Andy?"
She flushed, shifting only her booted heels. "Hi, Jim," she began. "I'm being honest. It's seriously not Andy today. Today, I'm Patricia. I should be on the list."
"Andy?" Lily's static-ed voice was uncomfortably loud. "Are you still there?"
Jim's mouth now looked permanently dented. "I'm going to have to call somebody."
Hastily placing the phone to her ear, Andy resisted the very tempting urge to turn on her booted heels and walk away. "Lily, I'm going to have to call you back." She snapped the phone shut and drew in a breath. "It's a long story. You see, I wanted some respect, so I published an article, but I used a fake name, but now Miranda wants to meet me, I mean, Patricia Potter, so here I am. I mean she is. But I swear. I really am Patricia Potter."
"Andy Sachs?!" Her name, nearly shouted across the lobby, caused an uncomfortable chill to go down her spin. Head tilting, she got a good look at Nigel (and it WOULD be Nigel who spotted her), bearing down on her with a look that was both a mixture of surprise and horror. "Andy!"
Oh please God, she thought to herself fervently. "Stop saying my name."
"What are you doing here?" Nigel looked unchanged, from his shiny bald head to his horn rimmed glasses, and any other time, Andy would have been glad to see him. "You've got to get out of here Miranda is going to pitch a fit!"
"Ahem," she managed, a choked chortle. "Right. You see? She asked for me."
"Miranda Priestly asked for you." Nigel had every reason to be doubtful. As did Jim, who looked ready to bonk her on the head with his night stick.
"Well," she hemmed, nervously batting at her bangs. "Not exactly. She asked for Patricia Potter."
Nigel seemed to already see where this was going. His expression grew pained, and his arms crossed, glancing at Jim as if to say, 'Oh this is going to be good'.
"And… I'm Patricia Potter. As I was just explaining to my old friend Jim-"
"You wrote those articles under a pseudonym? To Runway? After you ran out on Miranda?" Nigel was always sharp. "Are you trying to commit career suicide? What on earth did you think you were doing?"
"I was proving a point!"
"That you're an idiot?"
"… No." She sighed unnaturally, and searched her blanking mind for her solid reasoning. "I can't seem to remember it at the moment but…" Her index finger came up. "I swear it was relevant and worth the ascertained risk."
"Oh, dear GOD and you named yourself after her Saint Bernard." A palm clapped to his cheek. "Did you lose ALL sense of self preservation?"
"Hey! I didn't ask to come in here!" she managed hotly. "She made my agent FORCE ME. And besides - it doesn’t matter if I'm Patricia Potter-" Nigel's eyes squinted and he barely shut out a groan. "Or Andy Sachs, I wrote those articles. And I'm damned good!" She blinked, cheeks flushed with feeling. "Actually I think that was my point."
"Andy, she's going to take one look at you, realize what happened, and eviscerate you." Nigel's look was calculating, before his shoulders suddenly slumped, and he waved a hand at Jim. "Let her up. I've got a morbid curiosity about the whole thing."
Swallowing hard, Andy watched as Jim reluctantly printed out a guess pass for 'Patricia Potter'. "Thanks, Nigel."
"Your funeral," he muttered, and stepped away from her, as if she now carried the stink of mortality. "I would have come in Kevlar. I can only imagine what Emily is going to say when she sees you."
As expected, Emily's reaction was much, much worse. Prone to over-dramatic outbursts, Miranda's long suffering first assistant, already pale, nearly went opaque upon sight of her.
"Oh, GOOD GOD," came the accented spat. Wild eyes moved from Andy to the imposing open doors of Miranda's office. "What are you doing here?" Already, the skinny girl was up, weaving around her desk, arms waving manically as if she could physically propel Andy away from the office. "She'll kill me! She'll kill you! She'll kill everyone!"
"Emily," she began, in as soothing a tone she could muster, palms open and carefully out in front of her, trying to neutralize neurotic Emily's cat claws. "It's okay."
"It's not okay! Are you insane?!"
"Back," Nigel ordered, saving her from getting her eyes clawed out by stepping in front of her. "She's Patricia Potter."
Emily, stumbling in her momentum, turned as red as her hair. "What?!"
"I can explain," Andy tried, feeling dizzy, and in pain from the fractured smile on her face.
"Not very well," Nigel snorted.
"No. Nonononononono!" Emily's eyes were round as saucers, and Andy found herself actually concerned on the other girls behalf.
"Emily, you need to breathe," she said automatically. "You're going to faint."
"Tha'd be heaven sent compared to what's going to happen when she finds out I let YOU in here!" Emily's fervent whisper was nearly a shriek in her emotion. "Absolutely not! You shall not pass."
It was a really bad time to laugh.
"You think this is funny?!" Emily demanded.
"Just the Lord of the Rings… nevermind-" Andy cleared her throat. "Emily, can you just tell Miranda that-"
"Emily for the love of God, will you stop your incessant squeaking and tell Andrea to come in."
The voice, firm and not at all raised, floated at them from the open door. All color drained from Emily's face. She was a ghost.
"Yes, Miranda," she dutifully squeaked, and then narrowed her eyes and glared at Andy, as if this whole thing was her fault.
Okay, it kinda was.
"Go on," she muttered, crossing her arms and jerking her head to the open door. "Go on then."
Oh, dear God.
Feeling the most absurd sense of déjà vu, Andy cast a brief glance at Nigel, who pressed his lips together in sympathy, and headed for the open door.
Her heart began to thump again, but it wasn't fear that drove her. Which was odd. She should have been scared. Even she knew that.
The first flash of silver hair, however, caused a flash that nearly crippled her, and Andy found herself stunned when she began to rapidly blink back tears.
What the hell?
Mutely, she entered the office, knowing full well Miranda Priestly wouldn't even bother to acknowledge her presence until she was at least a foot away from her desk.
When the sharp eyes lifted, and the glasses were systematically removed from her nose, Miranda betrayed habit to simply stare.
Flushing, nervous, not at all herself, Andy felt suddenly naked.
Twirling the edge of her glasses against the corner of her mouth, Miranda seemed content to simply study. That cutting, cruel mouth seemed to tilt up somehow, and behind Miranda's dark gaze, was something that Andy suddenly realized she missed.
This was Miranda Priestly, in her tyrannically glory, and Andrea Sachs had the distinct urge to smile.
She didn't dare, but… damn. What an odd response.
A loud rush of air pushed through Miranda's nostrils, breaking into Andy's self induced trance and forcing her back to earth, suddenly aware of her heels sinking into the carpet and the unnaturally hot flash that had her wishing she could tug at her collar.
Miranda settled back in her chair. "Patricia. Potter," she clucked simply, not saying her name, but simply repeating the words.
The way she said it, syllables enunciating each and every word, just made the whole thing seem more idiotic than she thought it could be.
"Yeah," she agreed, and felt like the world's biggest fool.
Miranda said nothing; simply let her stew in her own foolishness, because that was what Miranda did.
Andrea, older than the naïve assistant she once was, couldn't bring it in herself to feel upset. She had seen this coming. Crossing her arms, and managing as much of a smile as she could, she waited for it.
Miranda's hand lowered, the glasses set neatly on the impossibly kept desk.
"I had hoped," she began suddenly, "That for someone with your intellect - your ability, you would have picked something not quite so…" she hummed, letting the moment saturate with anticipation, "trite."
Again, Andy fought the urge to smile larger than what was necessary. "It seemed appropriate."
Miranda's eyes locked intensely with hers. "Are you attempting to toy with me, Andrea?"
"Not even close," she breathed, and discovered herself unnaturally hoarse. "I just meant… would you have published me any other way?"
Hands folded over each other, Miranda's mouth twitched. "We'll never know."
They drifted into silence. Andy, glancing down at her hands, was unable to keep that way for long. There were too many questions, because of COURSE Miranda would figure it out. Patricia Potter. It was idiotic.
"But you knew. You figured it out. And you published me anyway."
The gaze leveled at her was cold. "I published Patricia Potter. Andrea Sachs will never see a word of hers printed in my magazine."
And there it was. Miranda's ultimate punishment. Her rhyme behind the reason.
Miranda's ultimate torment for her - to be a part of Runway, and yet, not a part of it at all.
She really was the most brilliant kind of sadist.
God dammit, what WAS it with her and her ridiculous urge to smile? "I can live with that."
She surprised Miranda, and the knowledge gave her yet another thrill, one that fluttered from her stomach up into her chest, making it swell, as the older woman slid her glasses back on to peer at her.
"You can live with that," she repeated glibly, mocking the short sentence. "Pray tell, what can you live with?"
"You published Patricia Potter," Andrea answered, coming forward to place her palms on the desk, ignoring the flash in Miranda's eyes at the liberty taken. "I can be Patricia Potter. Stuart said you wanted regular contributions. Was that a lie?"
Her position, leaning over a still sitting Miranda, provided a refreshing shift of power, one she was sure Miranda noticed, when the sharp crystal eyes moved from the hands plastered against her desk up to the brown eyes taking her in.
"… No," Miranda said finally, and the way she said it… it was different than before, as if Andrea had just proved something to her, something that made her…
Andrea couldn't guess what it made her, but it was enough for her former boss to sink back in her chair, and look at her with an expression that seemed both pleased and affronted.
"So we're agreed," Andrea husked, determined not to sound breathless. "I write a column for you under that pseudonym, and you'll offer me a contract."
"At will," Miranda answered, determinedly distant. "If the caliber of your writing drifts for even a second-"
"Patricia Potter will be no more," Andrea agreed. "I'm not going to disappoint you."
As soon as she said it, she knew what she had left herself open for. "You already did," Miranda answered cuttingly, following the script to the letter.
Bowing her head in tacit agreement, Andrea couldn't stop the smirk that played on her lips, as Miranda once again drifted her gaze to the palms on the desk, and this time, Andrea finally straightened.
"Then I guess that makes us even," she said, and was rewarded with a minute widening of eyes that came from a slightly startled expression.
In that instant, Andrea realized just how she had lived for that exact face. And that she had missed it.
"That's all," she heard, and it made her smile, because things were different than they were, and she had walked away from what they were because as long as things were the way they were, they couldn't ever change.
Folding her arms across her body, she purposely waited, making her point when Miranda glanced up and arched a challenging eyebrow.
"I'll see you later," Andy said, because that wasn't all, because it wasn't enough.
A long look, an uncontrolled shiver and this time, as she turned, Andrea couldn't stop the idiotic smile that spread on her face.
"What are you sniggering at," Emily growled from her desk, and the so far mute second assistant only stared at her as if she were seeing an apparition.
Tossing a casual smile, Andy only shrugged. "See ya laters, Em."
She didn't wait for the inevitable eruption.
Seated at her large desk, Miranda Priestly found herself utterly confounded and irritable as a result, attempting to process what on earth such a pointless meeting had produced.
Her intention had been to humiliate. Put the girl in her place.
Instead she had a contributing columnist named Patricia Potter.
It was utterly ridiculous.
The image of a young woman, staring down at her, with a smile that made it seem as if a hanger was stuck in her mouth.
A woman who was so confusedly Andrea Sachs.
"Patricia. Potter," she repeated, unable to help herself.
God help her.