Two years later
“You know, a huge part of me never thought we’d get here.” Andrea mused quietly from my side.
“Hmm,” I acknowledged what this meant with a small nod. “Yet here we are.”
“Yep,” she smiled widely and kissed my cheek. “Here we are.”
Japan so far had proved to be utterly tranquil. Following two nights in Tokyo, we had spent almost a week in Hakone in a private apartment with a secluded onsen. Andrea, having never experienced a natural hot spring, was utterly charming on the first evening we arrived. She had disappeared to freshen up while I stripped and stepped into the gloriously warm water, and when she reappeared she was wearing a swimsuit.
“No, darling, that’s not how things are done here,” I indicated her bikini. “Even if we weren’t alone, nude is the only acceptable way to enter the onsen.”
“Are you serious?” She blushed at the thought. “Even with a load of other people?”
“Yes. Why do you think I chose somewhere so private?”
“Because you’re Miranda Priestly?”
“Touché,” I leaned back against the rocks and watched her intently. “It’s entirely too warm for you to be moving at such a glacial pace, Andrea. Hurry up.”
She had smiled widely at my attitude and whipped off her swimsuit, stepping in next to me.
I blushed slightly at the memory, berating myself for the inappropriate line of thought in front of the Hakone Shrine. We were leaving here tomorrow and heading to Kyoto and the surrounding areas, Osaka, and a few other stops before a final stop on the tiny island of Naoshima to celebrate my 50th birthday - and our third anniversary.
“Remember how you kept insisting you didn’t want a birthday or anniversary present?” She said quietly as we began a path back to the waiting car.
“Are you really, really sure about that?”
We climbed into the back seat, Andrea saying a bright hello to the driver we had become accustomed to since our arrival in the country. I raised the privacy screen after a moment.
“Why do you insist on asking, Andrea?” I sighed. “You’ll only do whatever you please anyway.”
She grinned wickedly and I didn’t bother to hold back my eye roll.
* * * * *
“Have you spoken to the girls?”
“Yes, this morning before you woke up,” I nodded, sipping my coffee. We were walking slowly around a quiet, tranquil garden in Kyoto. “They told me to tell you they miss you.”
“I miss them, too. As much as I love being with you alone, sometimes it’s too damn quiet in the morning.”
“Hence why you slept until well after 9 this morning,” I smirked and she huffed at me, grinning.
“The life of a successful freelancer,” she said theatrically. “I’m no longer bound to your 9-5. Then again, I never was when I worked for you, either.”
“Well, quite true. You certainly never would have slept that late while you were my assistant.”
“No. I hope Linda and Laura are enjoying their well-deserved peace.”
“Ah, the Olsen twins,” I rolled my eyes again. “How they exhaust me.”
“I think they feel the same about you, my love.” Andrea laughed, shaking her head at me.
* * * * *
“Happy birthday, Miranda,” she whispered into my ear, her hand running over my hip as I curled in towards her, tugging the thin duvet higher up to my chin.
“Hmm,” I grumbled, not yet ready to wake up. “Happy anniversary, darling.”
“That too,” she pressed featherlight kisses over my forehead and cheeks. “But the love of my life has turned 50 today. She’s reached a milestone.”
I groaned and tugged the duvet over my head, much to her amusement.
“Alright then, I suppose you’ll just have to wait for your gift.”
“My greatest gift in this room is the woman who is currently making me feel ancient,” I sighed as she shifted off the bed and into the adjoining room. “Andrea?” I called out.
She appeared a moment later with a beautifully wrapped gift in her hands.
“Well, I couldn’t very well give you me as a gift, could I?” I raised an eyebrow at her, having hoped she might do just that. “Later,” she smiled angelically. “Coffee?”
She vanished once more while I used the bathroom, brushing my teeth and washing my face. I tried not to examine myself too hard in the mirror. 50 was always going to be… well. Best not to think about.
“Are you done in there?” She called from outside, pulling me into an embrace the moment I opened the door. “Beautiful,” she kissed me softly before going inside the bathroom herself. “Don’t open that without me!”
“I make no promises,” I murmured, sitting on the edge of the bed and examining it carefully.
By the time she returned, I had the box in my hands.
“Go ahead,” she smiled gently and sat down next to me.
I tore the paper off to find a box, which opened to reveal - another box. I quirked an eyebrow at her, much to her amusement, before opening it. A ring sat inside it. Art Deco, made in the 1920s, if I wasn’t mistaken. An emerald-cut white diamond sat in the centre of a cluster of sapphires, the band platinum gold. It was stunning.
“Andrea,” I started quietly.
“It doesn’t have to mean anything you don’t want it to mean,” she breathed quickly. “But it’s the most… it’s the best I had to offer you. It means a lot to me.”
“It’s beautiful,” I replied, just as quiet.
“It was my grandmothers engagement ring. She left it to me when she died, ten years ago.” Andrea took a deep breath. “I wanted to give it to you because… it’s an antique, and…” she seemed to lose her nerve.
“Because I’m old, too?” I supplied.
“No!” She looked upset and I immediately wished I could take the comment back. It was hardly her fault I was 50 today, while she remained youthful.
“Andrea, are you…?” I left my question unasked.
“Not necessarily,” she bit her lip. “We’ve never discussed… that.”
“No, we haven’t.” I agreed, my heart pounding.
“I assumed, as you’d already done it, you might not want to - which is fine, by the way, that’s not really what this was meant to be…” she frowned. “Miranda, I wanted to give you this because it’s the most important thing I own. When Grams left it to me, she left it with a note that said it should be worn ‘only in true love’. And that’s you.” she finished, tears in her eyes.
“May I try it on?”
She nodded, wiping her eyes quickly and waiting.
“Well, let’s not wait for my next birthday, shall we?” I murmured, making her snort with laughter and take the box. She slipped the ring out carefully and I held out my left hand automatically. Her eyes snapped to mine.
“Are… I mean…” she gaped at me.
“It doesn’t have to be a proposal,” I said surely. “A commitment, perhaps. A promise.”
“I love you,” she slipped the ring onto my third finger, a tear escaping down her cheek. “If you ever do want it to mean… anything, then it can.” She whispered. It fitted perfectly.
“What would you like it to mean?”
“You know, this wasn’t quite how I wanted this to go,” she mused, admiring the ring on my hand. “I wanted to tell you that it was a commitment, a promise, like you said,” she looked up at me endearingly. “But when I saw you holding that box, I just had this image of us saying vows. You know how good you look in white.”
“The first three times, perhaps. I feel I might be too old for white nowadays,” I said gently. She seemed to understand the meaning. “Andrea, if it’s what you want, I will do it. Nothing would make me happier to vow to love you forever. Is it what you want?”
“I just want you, Miranda. My true love,” she smiled, touching the ring gently.
“Don’t think I don’t know what this means,” I looked at our entwined hands. “This is the most beautiful gift, Andrea - how ever could you part with this? Wouldn’t your grandmother have wanted you to wear this?”
“To be fair, she didn’t say I had to wear it. She just said it should be worn only in true love,” Andrea shrugged. “Besides, it doesn’t fit me. It fits your finger perfectly, like it’s meant to be there. The blue brings out your eyes, like I knew it would.” She beamed. “When I planned this… I wanted to tell you all of this when you opened the box.” She grimaced. “I had a whole speech.”
“By all means,” I gestured with my ring hand, noting once more how stunning it was.
“I can’t do it now,” she huffed, but grinned.
“Andrea. You know how I hate waiting.”
“Right, fine, fine…” she knelt on the floor in front of me. “Not one knee. Just so you know.”
“Alright. Well. Miranda,” she smiled up at me. “First, I was planning on explaining the significance of the note - but as I’ve already done that, I’ll skip the first few lines.” I raised my eyes to the heavens, making her laugh for a moment before becoming serious once more.
“I’m giving you this as a symbol of how much I love you. I promise to love you, to respect you and care for you and the girls, for as long as you want me. The past few years have been the happiest of my entire life, even that first year,” we both smiled at the memory of our secrecy. “In whatever capacity you choose, I am, and will be, yours.”
She pressed a kiss to the extravagant diamond as I wiped away a tear of my own.
“I haven’t done a single thing to deserve you in this life, Andrea. I love you.” Feeling quite emotional, I knelt on the floor next to her and wrapped my arms around her tightly.
We stayed there for a few minutes, until my knees began to protest.
“Time to move?” Andrea asked into my shoulder.
“Yes, darling.” We stood up together and she grinned.
“You didn’t have this problem the other night,” she said, looking me up and down.
“No, well. I had quite the distraction did I not? Any time I spend on my knees before you is time very well spent, darling.”
She blushed heavily when I winked and made my way to the bathroom, wondering what other surprises were in store for me as I began a new decade of life.
* * * * *
“I’ve had a wonderful day, Andrea,” I raised my glass to her. “Thank you.” She clinked her glass against mine and smiled widely before taking a sip. It never failed to please her immensely than when she felt she had effectively showered me in gifts and love on a special occasion.
“Thank you,” she replied, smiling wider when I looked perplexed. “Well, thanks for being born. And also for taking a chance with your assistant. You and the girls are the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“I feel quite the same way. Though I won’t deny feeling particularly anxious when the news broke about the two of us so quickly.”
Andrea, as she always did when the topic was brought up, began to laugh uproariously.
“I will never get over that. On this day three years ago, we finally got our shit together and started to make a real plan as to how we would tell the world about us - I believe we repeated ‘control the narrative’ so many times it lost all meaning,” she giggled again. “And the next morning, the press were camped outside my apartment building and every headline was wondering where on earth the Queen of Fashion had disappeared to just thirty minutes into her own birthday party. I still can’t believe we got away with that one.”
“Not for long,” I smiled, enjoying the recollection. “I might have avoided the press by escaping through the back door, but what happened a week later?”
“Oh, yeah. My favourite. I can honestly say there’s nothing that will prepare a person for being mobbed outside a taco truck.” She snorted.
“No. Perhaps that’s what you get for insisting on eating street food.”
“Actually, my love, I think it’s what I get for falling for someone quite so out of my league.”
I glared at her as I always did when she made this quip, but it hadn’t had the effect it had on so many others for years now. She simply smiled back at me angelically.
“Andrea, you took solace in a taco truck to avoid the gutter press mobbing you because you were rumoured to be dating me. You will forever be the one out of my league.”
“And yet, when I got back to your house, you told me I smelled like a grease fire and told me to shower and throw away my clothes before I went near you.”
“If you remember rightly, I helped throw the clothes away.” I smiled at her blushes.
“I remember,” she glanced around needlessly; the table was entirely private. “The day it was no longer rumours.”
“Ah, yes. Leslie really outdid herself that day.”
Two Years Earlier
“Miranda. If you want to control this narrative, now is the time. An interview isn’t really you , I wouldn’t advise you to step so far out of your usual zone. I would, however, suggest that you make a statement.”
“A written statement?” Andrea frowned, taking a bite of her chocolate cake.
“Possibly. You could certainly write a freelance piece for the New Yorker or Vanity Fair. But that wasn’t quite what I was referring to.” Leslie hesitated for possibly the first time in our entire working relationship. “Miranda, I know you don’t have anything to do with social media.”
“Not quite true, Leslie, Runway has branched out into social media in the past decade.”
“I meant personal accounts.”
I narrowed my eyes. “No.”
“Hear me out,” she began.
“Miranda,” Andrea placed a hand over my own. “Listen to her before you say no.”
I breathed out heavily and gestured a slightly shell-shocked Leslie to continue.
“Andrea can create a social account that would be used only for things we want to go public. Or, she can use the Instagram she’s been using for work - which, I must say, I would advise. The following is already there, and the content tone matches what I have in mind.”
“What do you have in mind?” Andrea asked before I could.
“Nothing extravagant. One photo, a simple caption that leaves no doubt that you’re together and in love.”
“Why do I feel like we’re missing something here?” Andrea said.
“I was about to say the very same thing.” I murmured.
“Because it has to coincide with press photos to work. A happy stroll through the park on a sunny day of a new couple, holding hands and delighted to be in each other’s presence? That will sell. But,” she jabbed her finger into the table. “Pair it with the social post? Suddenly you’ve got fans. People who get invested in the relationship. The spin becomes more positive, and then you can fade into the background. Don’t get me wrong - you’ll never be part of the furniture, but as long as you save any arguments for behind closed doors I think we can manage.”
* * * * *
“I loved that photo we shared. I still do,” she smiled, reaching for her phone to find it.
“Yes, so do I.”
“By that point, there was only your parents to convince.” I smirked slightly.
“Don’t start,” she said warningly, but she smiled a little too.
“No, no,” I took a sip. “I wouldn’t dream of it. Besides, they’re coming around.”
“If you say so,” she groaned. “If it wasn’t for the girls, they wouldn’t even speak to me.”
“I’m sure they would, you’re their daughter. I imagine we would never have spent Christmas together without the girls, however.” I conceded.
“It was still…”
“An unmitigated disaster.” I finished for her.
The evening had ended with Mr & Mrs Sachs leaving for the hotel room they had reserved, despite the arrangements being that they would stay in the best guest room I had to offer. The less said about their final ‘comments’ on our relationship, the better. Andrea seemed to think they were thawing slightly, though I did have to wonder what they would think if they knew I was wearing her paternal grandmother’s ring.
“I told them I was giving you the ring,” she said softly, noticing my glance at my left hand.
“Mom didn’t say a word. Dad… he seemed a little unsure at first, but then he asked if I was fulfilling his mother’s request. When I said I was, he just nodded and changed the topic.”
“A FaceTime call, I assume?”
“Yeah. Could’ve been way worse, right?” She shrugged and sipped her wine.
For a moment, I wanted to tell her that she deserved someone whom her parents adored. Someone they approved of and would support her in every decision she made in her relationship. But then I remembered what Andrea had told me the first time I had voiced such concerns. I chose you, Miranda. I will always choose you.
“Yes, darling, it certainly could have been worse.” I admired the ring once more. “I must remember to thank your father.”
She smiled again, that beatific smile that lit the entire world up.
“Thank you for choosing me, Andrea.” I said softly.
“Every time, Miranda.”