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The Importance of Self-Worth

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Miranda entered the restaurant and shrugging her coat off, passed it to the maître d' before waving him away. She moved sedately through the busy room, ignoring the fact people stopped mid-conversation to watch her.

Arriving at the usual table her name produced, she swept her sunglasses from her face and folded the arms before putting them safely in the hard case that protected them from being damaged before seating herself gracefully opposite the last person she ever expected to be having dinner with.

Andréa Sachs.

The younger woman's smile was still as bright as it ever was, with the flashing of her pearly white teeth and yet it didn't quite reach her eyes in the same way it once had. Gone was the wide-eyed naivety. Instead, there was a hint of wariness and a wisdom that belied her age. It spoke of the passage of time that lay between them.

Why had she agreed to this audience now, she couldn't quite say.

It had been four years, seven months and twenty-two days, not that she had been counting, since she had allowed herself to be in such proximity to the brunette and although they often, especially of late, attended the same publishing events, they did not greet one another. It was safe to say they barely even acknowledged one another's presence.

She remembered that final day, sat side-by-side as they traversed the City of Light together, her words about the choices one made to get ahead. They were words she had cursed herself for over the years, after all, they ensured the woman opposite was lost to her.

"Thank you for meeting me." Andréa's voice was soft and melodious and shook her from thoughts of Paris.

"You were exceptionally tenacious." Miranda found herself smirking. "A call each day, for three weeks." She rolled her eyes. "Followed by accosting me on the sidewalk outside Elias Clarke." She blew out a breath and glaring at the approaching server, felt a modicum of pleasure when he spun on his heel and rushed away rather than approaching the table. "What do you want from me, Andréa?" She observed the other woman intently as she shuddered as she spoke her name. "I am aware you are widely regarded as a profile writer these days and I know you have the uncanny ability to capture the essence of your subject matter. Do you wish to profile me?" She smirked knowingly.

"Uh" —Andréa sipped from a glass of water— "yes. Yes, I would." She exhaled shakily. "I am doing a range of interviews on women in business and I hoped—"

"No, no." Miranda's refusal shut off the woman's words entirely. She pursed her lips. "If I agree to this, it will not be my business success that you will focus on. Those are already widely known." She licked her lips. "But who I am as a woman, a tell-all or a focal point for a worthy subject perhaps, that I shall grant you."

"You're joking, right?" Andréa's eyes expressed their disbelief.

Miranda found herself smiling, teeth bared in a way that alarmed most who saw it. "Do I seem like I'm joking?" She asked idly. "Am I one for stating such things in jest?" She felt her left eyebrow rise as she waited for a response.

"Nu-oh." Andréa stuttered.

The emphasis on the word had Miranda offering a genuine smile. "But first, dinner." She gestured to the server and without looking at the menu ordered for them. "We'll both have the Filet Mignon and a bottle of Chianti."

xxx

There was just something about Miranda Priestly that reverted her into her twenty-five-year-old self and there was a part of Andy that hated it. It sometimes honestly felt as if she'd only just been hired at Runway and had never actually seen out nine months before quitting.

She had, even if she said so herself, come a long way since Runway and her ability to read people had her, as Miranda had acknowledged, becoming highly sought after as a profile writer. Yet, Miranda was like no-one she had ever interviewed before and their shared history sat between them, unspoken, and it often made her nervous.

Meeting for dinner had become an almost weekly thing, depending on their schedules, and while they ate, Andy found herself struggling to reconcile the woman sat opposite, asking pointed questions about her career, her recent interviews and also responding to her questions honestly, with the woman she had known as her boss.

Miranda seemed relaxed on these evenings together. She was a warm and engaging dinner companion and despite Andy's apprehension, her dry wit often found them laughing together as they enjoyed their meals and drank wine together. Miranda was an extraordinarily intelligent woman, and her opinions about current events were insightful and refreshingly astringent.

Andy found enjoyment in this new side of the usually taciturn editor.

Yet she realised quickly, even after all the time that had passed, her heart still ached with longing when she studied Miranda and she found herself awed in her beauty once again. She now knew the four years, eight months and nineteen days had done little to destroy her feelings for the editor.

Not that she'd been counting the time between Paris and now, that would just be absurd.

During a brief lull in their conversation, Andy asked the older woman the question that had been rolling through her mind after being told of the editor's attempts at dating and the disasters that unfolded from each one. "What kind of man are you really looking for?"

Miranda sat back for a moment, turning quiet. She caught Andy's eyes. "Do you really want to know?"

Grudgingly, Andy agreed, hoping she had not crossed some invisible line and was about to face Miranda's wrath. "Yes, of course."

Miranda smirked and sat her knife and fork together in the plate in front of her. "Such a bold question, Andréa." She sat back and picked up her glass of wine, draining the contents before filling her glass again. "As you know, I am in a position to ask someone what they can do for me that I can't do for myself. I pay my own bills. I take care of my household and children without the help of any man—" She trailed off, her finger brushing over her lips. "—or woman for that matter."

"Andy sat back, stunned by the editor's candour. "Woman?"

"Mm, yes. I have found I am rather open-minded about such things. I have found that the fear I once held over such things has loosened its grip upon me over the years." Miranda smiled softly yet rather warmly at her. "But I digress. As I was saying, I am in the position to ask what they bring to the table. Most of the time these people assume I am referring to money and do not seem to understand I need something more." Her eyes blazed. "I need a person in my life who strives for excellence in every aspect of their life, Andréa. They must be my equal mentally, simply because I require conversation and mental stimulation. I don't need to be surrounded by simple-mindedness but in the same spirit, I do not want to be surrounded by pretentiousness or insincerity either." She told her.

Andy sighed and leaned her elbow on the table, her cheek resting on her hand as she listened, enraptured by the words. "What else?" She queried.

"I need someone who is spiritually compatible. I am not particularly religious and after my first marriage I came to know first hand that when one part of a coupling holds different spiritual or religious beliefs, it can be a disaster." She sighed. "I need someone who is aiming for financial security, not someone who will become a financial burden. I need someone sensitive enough to understand what I go through as a woman, but strong enough to keep me grounded. I need someone who has integrity in a relationship. I will not put up with lies or game-playing, Andréa. The most important thing, as far as I am concerned, the person I allow into my life must be family-oriented. As you are aware, my daughters are my world."

Andy found herself smiling at the words and the clear adoration in Miranda's voice as she mentioned her twins. "That's some list, Miranda."

"I am not remotely finished," Miranda chided the interruption lightly. "I need someone I can respect. To defer to someone, there must be respect. I sincerely believe I would have no problem being submissive, within the right relationship, but the person has to be worthy of that level of trust."

"Do you ever think you'll find that person?" Andy asked, a little breathlessly.

"Honestly, I am not actively looking," Miranda admitted. "But I believe they will find me, in time. They will recognise themself in me and there will be a connection, which is inexplicable, but he or she will always be drawn to me and I will be equally drawn to them."

Andy thought of all she had been told and all it had made her feel. All the old, buried emotions from her time before leaving Runway tore free and she tried hard to push them down before she bared her soul and made a fool of herself. "Don't you think you're asking a lot?" She asked, sitting back and staring at the woman opposite.

Miranda chuckled. "I'm worth a lot, Andréa."

xxx

As she turned the page of the Times, she gasped as she saw Andréa's byline under a large heading and realised, in part, she was about to read something that could change the world's perception of her.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF WORTH

By Andréa Sachs

Once upon a time, as a green, fresh-out-of-college wannabe Journalist, I moved to New York and got a job working for one of the most amazing women I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

During the time I worked for her, I was taught so many necessary lessons about life and the choices we make to succeed. Admittedly, at the time, I could not see the merit of these lessons and I walked away from my job, and the life as a fashionable assistant to the one and only, the incomparable, Miranda Priestly.

As a fashion and media icon, a veritable powerhouse in the publishing world, Miranda has been driving fashion choices for more than 25 years. The Runway Editor-in-Chief has the uncanny ability to nurture talent when she finds it while making multi-billion dollar decisions and evolving fashion in a thought-provoking way. She is a creative visionary like no other.

Like many, I know of Miranda's early career, the things listed on Wikipedia about her early years, her influences and the things that have shaped her leadership style - then there's the rumours she likes to place the fear of God, or the Devil, into her subordinates to make them succeed - and yet, despite her actually being a very private person, I have been granted the privilege of gaining unprecedented access to her thoughts on love and life. *see page 22

And as we talked I was taught yet another necessary lesson, this time about self-worth.

If someone asked me if I knew my value, most of the time I would say no and although it is easy to identify when we don't feel valued, respected, or appreciated, actually knowing your value is vastly different.

Knowing your value is an emotional subject for many, myself included. Sometimes we simply lack the confidence and awareness of the crucial role we play in the world we live in, but all it can take is some well-timed words, to show us.

When I posed the following question to Miranda; "Don't you think you're asking a lot?" She chuckled and responded with; "I'm worth a lot, Andréa."

Is knowing your value simply a matter of having positive self-esteem?

Is it knowing your worth and being able to identify all of your positive qualities?

I'm not sure.

However, Miranda Priestly knows, and she wasn't afraid to show that side of herself to me. She revealed the innate confidence she has in her own worth and abilities, as a mom, as Editor-In-Chief of the world's premier fashion magazine and as a woman. She knows her value and it shows she is comfortable with who she is, in everything that makes and represents her. She is confident in her professionalism and the work she delivers. She has faith in her knowledge, skills, and experience and the difference she makes to the world.

Miranda once told me, "I see a great deal of myself in you." At the time I didn't see it and the idea frightened me more than I care to admit, but those words held the truth as she saw it. And now, I can honestly admit that I can see it for the compliment it was. What I did recognise all those years ago, as I walked away, is that self-worth is vital to happiness. Because frankly if you don't feel good about yourself, how can you feel good about anything else?

If valuing yourself means finally waking up to the fact you mean nothing to someone who means so much more to you and in turn you walk away from a situation that threatens your peace of mind, you have to love yourself enough to stand by your choice. Because you need to realise that if someone doesn't see your worth, it is not your job to convince them of it. If they can't or won't appreciate you, that is a reflection of who they are, not on you. Their opinion does not decrease your worth.

That is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow.

But above all else, you have to find the strength to respect yourself and your boundaries and remember what you want from life and love. Once you have done this, your emotional piggy-bank should overflow and you will begin to attract people who actually see your merit and hopefully, your life will be far richer for it.

Miranda re-read the words multiple times. She saw the apology in the words and the explanation she acknowledged the brunette wanted to give but that she'd brushed away on the afternoon they finally collided outside Elias Clarke and she agreed to meet for dinner.

She easily recognised her words to Andréa from that afternoon in Paris but was confused over the words about waking up to the fact she meant nothing to someone who meant so much to her.

Surely, even when the younger woman worked for her, she knew how much she was appreciated?

She remembered the piece of advice she had offered Andréa at their last dinner, after a call to the younger woman's cell had briefly interrupted their conversation and she'd watched Andréa glance at the screen, bite her lip as her brows knitted together in a frown and then quickly reject the incoming call.

"Sorry, that was my friend Shay." The slight emphasis on the word friend told her that this Shay was more than a friend and she was curious. They had talked about many things, yet Andréa hadn't mentioned a significant other on these evenings they spent together. In fact, she realised she barely knew anything about Andréa outside of her work.

"You should have taken it," Miranda advised softly.

"No, seriously, it can wait," Andréa stated quickly. "She knows I'm busy tonight."

She sensed there was more, that Andréa wasn't saying and she could see the hint of sadness and something unfathomable in her expressive eyes.

Loneliness and doubt.

"You know, one thing I have realised is that looking for a relationship when you're lonely is like grocery shopping when you're hungry. It's tempting to bring home unfulfilling, unhealthy junk." She grinned. "That was Stephen for me."

"He was a dick," Andréa told her, leaning forward and placing a warm hand on top of hers. "You deserved better." Glancing up from their joined hands, she caught a peek of the young woman she had first met.

That had been the first time Andréa had initiated any physical contact and she'd found herself surprised when her heart started pounding. For her, it was an important moment and she found comfort in the kindness of the words and the affection held in her eyes. It was a comfort that had been lacking from her life since Andréa had left.

Sighing, she closed the newspaper, deciding she'd read the profile written about her at a later time. Placing it to one side and bent her head to the half-finished Editor's Letter.

Her monthly letter was a chore she often disliked, struggling to find the words required to reach her devoted readers, but now she knew what topic she wanted to raise. Letting her words flow onto paper, she worked methodically through her thoughts and once finished, grabbed her pen and started editing herself.

Finally, somewhat satisfied, Miranda typed up her Editor's letter and quickly sent it to Emily to be added into the Book before she could change her mind. She could easily imagine the muttered mantra of 'I love my job' as the uptight redhead read her words, as she knew Emily often did and found herself smiling.

xxx

Andy's article on self-worth had been met with a few raised eyebrows, no more so than from her best friend, and one-time fairy godfather, Nigel Kipling.

Nigel had left Runway almost a year after she had, to help create a new men's lifestyle magazine for Elias Clarke. It was no Men's Runway since its focus wasn't simply fashion, but he enjoyed his new role very much.

Slapping the most recent Runway down on the table in front of Andy, he brushed a kiss on her cheek before sitting down. "Hot off the press." Nigel grinned.

Andy was surprised. "Why on Earth would you think I'd be interested—"

Nigel held his hand up, halting the rest of her words. "I know you get a copy every month, without fail. I simply thought I'd save you the effort." Leaning forward, he flipped to the editor's letter and tapped it. "She mentions you." He sat back and grinned smugly at her. "Not by name, but those of us who knew you, recognised you in the words she's penned. Emily was stunned, as you can imagine."

Andy sighed and ran her fingers through her bangs. "I don't think I want to read it." She admitted hoarsely. She bit her lip and grabbing her beer, brought it to her mouth and took a large swallow of the amber liquid. "We've become friends." She offered. "That's all." She let her mind return to the conversation she and Miranda had about regret.

"Do you ever regret the way your life has turned out, Andréa?" Miranda asked softly, her features softened by the wine they had drank and low lights of the restaurant.

"There are certain things, sure. A few years ago, I found a few people had issues with the person I was becoming, so they spread some things around about me, which finally reached my parents and we had a difference of opinion. We haven't spoken much since. Just—" Andy sighed. "—I get the usual Christmas and birthday wishes, but they aren't interested in my life now." Her head dropped against her chest.

"Things like that are hardly ever personal, Andréa. They seek to destroy your character because there's something about you they fear or envy. But do not let that make you wary, and never be anything but true to who you are." Miranda leaned forward and reaching out, placed two fingers under her chin and lifted her face so their eyes met. She found compassion and encouragement in the depths of blue. "These trials will simply make you stronger, Andréa. As long as you maintain your integrity and do not let these people take away what makes you so uniquely you, they can let their fear, envy and hate consume them, even as you continue to shine brightly." Miranda smiled softly, releasing her face. "Remember that."

Andy pulled herself from her thoughts. "What could it ever possibly change?" She entreated.

Sighing, Nigel shook his head sorrowfully. "Everything." He breathed. "It could change everything. It could remove every little doubt you've ever had regarding your time at Runway and your feelings for her, which are still evident, even now, every time her name is spoken. Seriously, just read it, Andy."

She knew he was serious, simply for the fact he hadn't used his usual nickname for her. Finishing her beer, she pulled the magazine closer, ignoring the fact that Nigel had stood and moved away towards the bar, and started to read.

My youngest daughter, Cassidy, recently took up baking and this morning, as she brought me a fresh danish pastry and a large mug of searing hot coffee in bed, I was so appreciative of this little act of kindness all I could do was pull her into my arms and hold her tight against me, despite her varied loud protestations.

I find these little kindnesses affect me more now, as I grow older. Perhaps it is simply the realisation my children are growing up and are almost ready to conquer the world, or perhaps I am simply mellowing with age.

As I think of my beautiful daughter's kindness, I remember clearly a wonderfully sensitive and genuine young woman, who, many years ago, entered my professional life like a whirlwind and left it just as quickly. She left my side and with a quick flick of her wrist, her cell phone landed in a fountain in the middle of Paris.

I was left wondering if I would ever encounter anyone like her again and I can easily say I haven't, personally or professionally. She was and continues to be, one of a kind.

Over the years, there have been many who have claimed I am not, and I quote, "capable of human kindness" but despite those words, I can and do appreciate the people who are authentically kind , generous, considerate and who display concern and empathy for others, without expecting praise or reward.

Those are the people who have left an indelible mark upon my soul and I am thankful to them every day even as I struggle to voice it.

In my professional circle, I am not well-known for being effusive with my praise or for acts of kindness. Those that work for me keep their jobs if they work hard and show initiative, often moving beyond my realm. Those that fail, move on and I find myself vastly disappointed by their inability to meet my expectations, as exacting as they may sometimes be.

Nevertheless, I firmly believe kindness makes someone beautiful. Because when you are sincerely kind it shows your true character. It reflects a person's heart and soul. Being kind to someone, regardless of whether it is words or actions, can ultimately uplift a soul that is going through difficult times.

If you want to increase your beauty, increase it in the kind words and kind acts you do for others. The rewards will be spectacular, I'm certain.

We, each of us, have significance in what we offer the world and although there are times we may question it, we must simply find it in ourselves and use it to make our lives a better and happier place to be, whether that be personally or professionally.

Rather recently, I have been moved to thinking about the future, with a renewed sense of hope. I'm imagining opportunities for a second chance to be better, of learning more about who I am and who I want to be.

After all, I have hope, I live on it.

She was surprised by the words and as Nigel returned, placing another bottle of beer in front of her, he grinned. "So?" He queried.

"Fuck!" Andy exhaled swiftly. "I think she likes me, Nige."

Her words had him laughing so hard he had to pull his handkerchief free and stem his tears. Still chuckling, he leaned forward and clasped her hand, giving it a light squeeze. Finally turning serious, he spoke gently. "She more than likes you, Six." He smiled at her, the affection he felt for her clear in his glistening hazel eyes.

"I don't understand—" Andy frowned in confusion.

"My beautiful one, dare I even say it?" Nigel asked.

"What?" Andy demanded. "Just spill it, Nigel."

"I believe she may love you, Andy Sachs," Nigel told her. "You've done the impossible once again. So my question is, what now?"

"Nothing." Andy closed her eyes. "Shay proposed last night." She admitted.

"Did you say yes?" Nigel asked in disbelief.

"No." Andy pulled her hand free and keeping her eyes averted, picked at the label on her beer bottle. "I asked for time to think about it."

"Well, my question still stands, Six. What will you do now?" Nigel urged her for an answer.

"I haven't got a fucking clue," Andy admitted. "This has changed everything. I can't marry Shay though, not if" —she swallowed nervously— "if there is a chance to" —she shrugged hopelessly— "I dunno."

"Well, you have that job in Europe coming up. After that, I think it will time for us to make a plan." Nigel smiled gleefully. "Perhaps it's also time for me to dust off my fairy-godfather wings once again." He raised his hands and flicked them over his shoulders.

xxx

The air crackled around her and Miranda spun on her heel, her mouth falling open at the sight of Andréa Sachs moving through the room.

She was certainly a sight for sore eyes. After almost a month in Europe, the younger woman had a light tan and most surprisingly, her hair had been cut, complementing the oval shape of her beautiful face. It now sat against her jaw in a bob, but parted at the side, with her bangs swept to one side just above her expressive eyes, the loose waves created the impression of being left unstyled.

"Magnificent." Miranda breathed.

She finally took in what Andréa was wearing, the black, knee-length Céline shirtdress was a surprise, leaving an expanse leg on show, but most surprisingly of all was the four-inch metallic Jimmy Choo 'Lance' sandals, adding even more height to the leggy brunette.

Miranda wanted to push everyone aside simply to make her way to the captivating woman, and yet, she had to work the room. There were still so many people to greet.

Just as she was about to turn away, Andréa turned and met her gaze. The smile that greeted her was almost blinding and had her offering a small one of her own before she nodded her head towards her in acknowledgement. Schooling her features, she turned her attention back to the circle of people around her and tried to tune back into the conversation but she could still feel Andréa's eyes burning into her back, where her halter-neck gown dipped, almost to her backside.

As much as she focussed on the people in the room, Miranda found she was also hyper-aware of Andréa's location within the room, so much so that after twenty minutes of mind-numbing conversation with the rather dull editor of some small crocheting magazine, she saw the brunette's wrist being grasped by a short-haired blonde woman in an Armani suit, that was at least three season's old, and tugged unwillingly towards a corner of the room.

The manhandling of the brunette displeased her and turning to her companion, she made her excuses. "Excuse me." Miranda nodded to the other editor and moved away, making her way towards Andréa and her unexpected guest.

As if knowing she was going into battle people in the room parted for her, and she sensed Nigel stepping up behind her, his cologne was familiar after so many years as her right-hand man.

"—Andy, please." The blonde woman pleaded.

Andréa tried to pull her arm free without success. "Shay, I'm here to network. This isn't the place for—"

"—for what?" Shay demanded. "Answers? You've been dodging my calls, you're never home, you took off to Europe for a month. What the hell do you expect me to—"

"I expect you to give me the time and space I asked for, Shay. I expect you to respect me enough to give me that." Andréa was blushing furiously, knowing this situation was causing a scene.

"Oh, oh what, so what, we spend two years together, I ask you to marry me and instead of answering, you offer up some weak excuses about needing time and space." Shay spat furiously. "If you wanted fucking space, you should have joined N.A.S.A."

Andréa's frown deepened and blushed furiously. "You're being ridiculous, Shay. If—"

"And despite my asking you not to, you continue to go to dinner with her? You are more invested in her then you are in us." Shay shouted, her hand gesturing in the direction Miranda had been stood in previously.

Miranda bristled at the implication she had come between the women. If she had, it had been unintentional. She had only found out about this woman a few weeks before and her queries about the woman had been met with a wall of silence. Seemingly she had materialised out of thin air in New York City and no one knew where she'd come from or where she'd been before.

Spotting the tears as they sprang into Andréa's eyes and she saw the young woman's grip on her wrist had tightened. Turning her head, she glanced at Nigel and with a flick of her eyes in the direction of the door, he knew to get security and to have Roy waiting. Turning away with his cell already to his ear, he moved quickly as Miranda stepped closer to the two women. As if taking a cue from Nigel, everyone turned back to their own conversations.

Miranda took a deep breath. "Excuse me," She stated coldly pressing forward to move slightly between the two women. "Andréa, how good to see you. Are you quite alright?" She asked evenly. She turned her head and glared at the hand upon her wrist and the young blonde twitched uncomfortably before reluctantly letting go.

Andréa brought her wrist up against her chest and rubbed it lightly, wincing slightly. Unable to resist, Miranda placed a warm hand on the one holding it, rubbing her thumb over it soothingly. "I–I'm fine, thank you."

Nodding, Miranda removed her hand and heard Andréa's soft, breathy exhalation. She turned cold eyes on the blonde and watched as she swallowed audibly. "And you are?" She demanded.

"Shay Fletcher," Shay muttered nervously. "I'm—"

"Oh, I know who you are." Miranda interrupted abruptly. "Author of Dreams of Thunder. If my memory serves correctly, it is a narrative about finding the strength to leave an abusive relationship?" Shay nodded. 'It's due to be published soon, yes?" She asked, her eyes flicked once again to the brunette's wrist. as the blonde nodded once again. She could see the redness appearing against the sunkissed skin and her lips pursed. "I shall have to get an advanced copy and give it a read. I'm positive it will be rather insightful if tonight's display is anything to go by." Miranda's lip curled disdainfully as she tore her eyes away from Andréa to glare at the woman. "That's all." She turned away from the woman dismissively and as her eyes turned towards Andréa she let them soften and her face relaxed. "Shall we?"

She held out her hand, hoping the brunette would take it as the gesture it was meant as. One of succour. She wanted desperately to offer comfort and for Andréa to find strength in it. Strength enough to leave a situation that was clearly leaving her out of her comfort zone.

"Miranda, I—" Andréa's eyes were filling with tears. "—I'm not wor—"

"Yes, you are." Miranda insisted. "You are deserving of far more than this." She swallowed deeply. "Please." She whispered. "Let me show you. Take my hand, darling." She urged gently. "I promise, I won't hurt you."

Inhaling sharply when fingers curled around her palm, Miranda felt awash with relief and held the hand gently in hers, unwilling to let it go and lose the tenuous connection.

xxx

As if waking from a dream, Andy shook herself and caught the reassurances offered in Miranda's softly spoken words. Spotting the outstretched hand offered willingly, she reached out and curled her fingers around it without further thought.

Miranda's hand was soft and pliant beneath her own. She felt the editor relax even as her grip tightened momentarily offering a squeeze of comfort and providing strength.

That strength had her head rising and her eyes met those of the woman she had tried to love, but who had, due to her self-doubts, left her feeling trapped. The words tripped off her tongue easily. "My answer is no, Shay. I mean, I do care about you, but not in the way you need. I" —she took a deep breath— "don't love you and I can't even imagine what—" Andy licked her lips nervously. "—what marriage to you would be like and honestly, I don't want to find out." She let out a shuddering breath. "I'm sure that I would eventually make you miserable and I know you can't make me truly happy."

"Andy, I lo—" Shay started.

"No, Shay. You don't. If you did, tonight would never have happened." Andy interrupted. "You would have respected my request for time instead of embarrassing us both."

"But Andy, I—" Shay tried again

"No more." Andy caught sight of Nigel sidling up to Miranda and leaning in to whisper in her ear before retreating. Focussing her attention back on the blonde, she shook her head sadly. "I'm done." She glanced at Miranda. "I would really like to go home now."

Nodding once, Miranda let go of her hand but her arm encircled her waist instead. "Of course, Andréa. Roy is waiting to take us wherever you wish to go." With just a slight flex of her arm, keeping Andy encircled in her arms, she was urged forward, past the open-mouthed Shay and towards the door, where Nigel stood waiting.

As they came abreast, Miranda stopped and her arm dropped from Andy's waist momentarily as Nigel swept her into a bear hug, the stubble from his 5 o'clock shadow ticking as he brushed a kiss against her cheek. "I love you, Six," Nigel told her.

"What have I done, Nige?" Andy questioned anxiously. "Shay—"

"You did the right thing." Nigel interrupted. "Did you know, your eyes haven't held the same spark of happiness since she appeared on the scene?" He asked. "But for a moment tonight, they did, and it wasn't when you were looking at her." He smiled over her shoulder at Miranda before his head tilted to the side and his eyes scanned the room beyond them. His eyes flashed with satisfaction and he smiled at the two women. "Drinks soon?" He asked her.

"Sunday afternoon?" Andy questioned. "Usual place?"

"You're on." Nigel pressed another kiss against her cheek before stepping away, pressing Miranda's hand as he passed her. "Take good care of her." He muttered as she passed her.

"I shall," Miranda murmured her agreement as her hand found its spot, placed securely on Andy's lower back.

When she was guided forward once more, Andy turned her head and saw Shay being escorted out of another exit, her head bowed.

The cool night air brought relief and Andy inhaled the scents of the city as they moved to the idling Towncar where Roy was stood, his hand poised on the door handle. When they reached the car, Roy stood aside, opening the door smoothly and bowed his head to her. "Ms Sachs, after you." His face held a wide smile.

Glancing at Miranda, Andy saw her small smirk of pleasure and allowed Roy to hand her into the back seat. "Thank you, Roy. It's good to see you." Scooting across the backseat, she closed her eyes and inhaled the scent of leather and Miranda's usual intoxicating perfume. She relaxed into the seat further but her eyes opened when Miranda settled in her usual spot.

Before the door closed she caught Roy's happy words. "You're a sight for sore eyes, Andy Sachs, that's for sure." He settled behind the wheel quickly and glanced into the rearview, asking a silent question.

"Andréa's apartment, Roy," Miranda stated.

"No, please." Andy felt a small whirl of panic. "What if she—"

"Ssh, it's okay." Miranda soothed, scooting closer and clasping Andy's hand in hers. "Home, Roy."

The privacy glass rose and she was pulled closer to Miranda so their thighs touched. She let her head fall against Miranda's pale shoulder and curled slightly into the warmth of the older woman. The silence thickened between them and Andy's anxiety increased. She thought of the technique she'd been taught to try and slow down, focus and let go of what was making her anxious. It was something that had stopped her from tugging her fingers, once upon a time, by tracing the index finger of one hand on the outside of the pinky finger on the other and continuing finger by finger until she'd traced the whole of her hand.

Since that wasn't an option, as she breathed in, her finger stroked up one of the slightly raised veins of Miranda's hand, and as she breathed out, her finger traced its way down along the same path. She continued the up and down movement as she breathed until she had covered the back of Miranda's small hand entirely and felt calmer.

Immediately, Andy noticed that Miranda was breathing heavily. Her head rose from its place and she snatched her hands away only for the woman to whimper at the loss and pull her hand back.

"Don't pull away now, Andréa." Miranda's voice held a slight plea that she couldn't ignore. She let her hand lace with Miranda's and gazed down at her, watching intently as she lifted their joint hands and turning them slightly, pressed a light kiss against the skin of her wrist. "I've allowed myself to hope" —her lips continued to press down between her words— "you finally recognised yourself in me and saw the inexplicable connection that has always drawn us to one another." She looked up. "I had hope once more, darling, that you could find something in me to lo–love."

The break on that final word fired something in Andy and unable to stop herself she pushed herself close causing Miranda to let go of her hand. Her lips caught Miranda's and moved insistently, begging for more.

xxx

They only kissed, talked and napped all through that first night together and the following day which had strengthened their emotional bond.

When Andréa started to open up about her relationship with Shay, Miranda soon learnt how everything changed between the two younger women over their time together.

Andréa explained how she had been lonely when they first met but they became fast friends, having an instant rapport on the usual music, movies, books, and just about everything else. Believing they were simpatico, they started to date.

There had been no yelling or violence but gradually Andréa started to feel like no matter what, she was in the wrong. She was too agreeable, she needed to harden up and stop letting people walk all over her. She was too forgiving and too soft which is why she was hurt so easily by others. Then the things she found important started being met with eye-rolling, headshaking and sighing. She was told her achievements were nothing or unimportant. Her successes were met with indifference.

Shay had actually had the audacity to patronise Andréa when she missed out on a promotion at the Mirror by saying; "Aw, sweetie, I know you tried, but this is just beyond you. You're not exactly leadership material."

After eventually leaving the Mirror, she had become rather isolated, save for her friendship with Nigel. Her appearance was questioned when she didn't make the effort to dress due to working from home. This apparently made her a slob and yet when they went out, and Andréa actually made an effort, they could be just leaving or even half-way through their date when it was abundantly aware she looked displeasing to Shay. Her makeup was too heavy and she looked like a clown, she should have worn her hair up or it should have been worn down, her shirt was too sheer or her skirt too short and she looked like a whore. Meanwhile, Shay kept accusing her of flirting or cheating with the people she interviewed and Andréa began to feel so ashamed, she allowed the other woman to choose the clothes she wore for her work engagements.

Miranda was stunned by what she was told. Yet, she understood that it was Andréa's time, just before and after leaving Runway, that left her vulnerable to such abuses after her so-called friends and family turned their back on her. She had simply ignored her own instincts, making sacrifices simply to please Shay or to keep the peace.

Andréa was also candid about the reasons her friends walked away, their inability to support her, and finally, their words, which had turned her parents away, that she was actually a lesbian because she was hopelessly in love with "that" woman she worked for at Runway.

Miranda found herself being equally as honest with Andréa. "It may surprise you to learn that I have been in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. At the time it was hard for me to process. I truly never thought something like this would happen to me." The admission had her being pulled into Andréa's warm embrace and they cried and comforted each other.

It was a healing moment for them both and the time alone together had been cathartic. Each admitted that the time they had spent apart was necessary but neither were willing to stay apart for any vast length of time now they had found their way back to one another.

Andréa had spoken to the super of her building, and after explaining about Shay, who had spent two hours furiously banging on her door, he offered to change the locks on her apartment. With her lease being up for renewal in less than three months, they talked through her options and she decided she would look for a suitable co-op with a doorman facility for added security. She knew it would cost more, but her work paid reasonably well.

Now, as they waited for the twins to return home, Andréa was growing nervous. It was obvious in the bouncing of her denim-clad leg and the way she stroked the index finger of her right hand up the fingers of her left. She was agitated, unsure of how the twins would react to her presence in their home. Unable to sit and watch her grow even more anxious, Miranda moved closer, wrapping her arms around the brunette. "Kiss me." She whispered.

Instead of the expected kiss on her lips, Miranda was surprised when Andréa took her hand and raised it to her lips to kiss her fingers. She then leaned down slightly and pressed her soft lips against her neck, near her ear, causing her to whimper softly.

As soon as Andréa heard the noise, she pressed mouth down on hers and Miranda closed her eyes as they brushed lightly against her. It was a closed mouth kiss at first but it soon became passionate when Andréa's tongue entered her mouth and she opened herself up to the soft, questing lips.

"Mm, your lips are the best thing I've ever tasted." Miranda moaned.

She was in heaven. Their tongues entwined in a swirling dance and small moans and whimpers tore from her throat as her hand moved over the exposed skin above Andréa's jeans to creep beneath the shirt she wore. Andréa gasped when her fingertips caressed her ribs and her kiss deepened as she took her face in her hands.

"Geez, get a room you two." A high, laughing voice interrupted the moment and.

Pulling back, they broke the kiss and Miranda gazed into Andréa's eyes, noticing how they almost sparkled with happiness. Running her thumb across her lips to remove a trace of her lipstick, she spotted how they curled up into a shy smile as she glanced over her shoulder. "Hi." Her smile widened and Miranda glanced over her shoulder to see her two daughters stood grinning at them.

xxx

After the awkwardness of their first dinner at the townhouse, the twice-weekly dinners with Miranda and the twins had turned out to be roaring successes with lots of chatter and laughter between the four women. Andy felt accepted by the Priestly's and she was comfortable in their home.

Miranda made her feel valuable and after too long believing she wasn't good enough and it was finally beginning to click that Miranda treasured her. She was being courted by the silver-haired editor, she was lavished with love and attention and in their alone time, she felt like one of the most important people in Miranda's life. Her work was respected and on a personal level, Andy knew she was valued. Miranda was not willing to give up on them, adamant their relationship would work.

As another Saturday night dinner ended and they were clearing up their dishes, it was Caroline who finally asked if she was staying the night. Glancing at Miranda, Andy saw her looking expectant and nodded. "Yeah, if that's okay with you and Cassidy."

Rolling her eyes, Cassidy smirked. "Fine, fine." She flicked her hand. She'd clearly picked up the gesture from Miranda. "I'll make Blueberry Cream Muffins in the morning. You like muffins, right?" She asked.

Andy grinned. "That sounds great. Seriously, who doesn't love muffins?"

"I prefer her banana one's," Caroline mumbled. "C'mon Cass, Cake Boss is about to start and there are re-runs of Hell's Kitchen on after that." They rushed out of the kitchen and up the stairs to their entertainment room.

Miranda stood at the sink, rinsing the dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. "I used to worry about their TV viewing, but lately the Food Network channel has taken over their lives." She admitted. "I find it much more suitable than some of these so-called teen dramas, although on occasion Gordon's language leaves a lot to be desired."

"I like the food network and Gordon Ramsay." Andy leaned against the counter, resting her elbows on the granite tops. "Are we joining them or do you have work to do?" Working quietly on their own projects had become one of their things while still spending time together before Roy was called and Andy ferried home safely.

Miranda turned to face her and their eyes locked. "You are so beautiful, Andréa. I mean that. You are so precious to me." Andy found her smile widening even as she blushed and Miranda raised her hand to caress her face with the backs of her fingers. "Work can wait. Come along, darling. We shall head to the entertainment room and spend the evening with the girls."

The hours passed with each of them relaxing and with Miranda occasionally pursing her lips at the English Chef's cussing while Andy and the twins laughed at her. When the twins started to yawn noisily, it was obvious to the two women they were simply doing so to give them an excuse to leave and leave them alone.

Rolling her eyes, Miranda tilted her head. "Come, kiss me goodnight." She demanded.

Giggling, they did so and then glancing at each other, in almost perfect sync, grabbed Andy in a hug and pressed a kiss on each of her cheeks before pulling away.

"I'm glad you're here." Caroline offered.

"Yeah, it's about time." Cassidy teased. "Now mom can stop mooning over you like Care moons over Josh Maguire at school"

Sniffing haughtily, Caroline spoke. "I do not moon over that boy. Honestly Cassi." The rising blush told another story and Andy laughed. "And I think it's sweet that mom waited 54 years for the love of her life."

After leaving the two women alone, they listened to the girls arguing as they moved up the stairs noisily.

Turning to Miranda, Andy grinned. "The love of your life, huh?"

"Mm," Miranda hummed.

"You did great with those two. They've turned into delightful young women, Miranda." Andy told her.

"Thank you." The blush covering Miranda's almost cheeks rivalled Caroline's from moments before, but she seemed pleased by the compliment.

"So what now?" Andy queried. "You wanna watch some more TV or talk—"

The words were cut off when Miranda's lips caught hers in a searing kiss and her hands rose to tangle in the loose waves at her jawline. "No more talking." Miranda breathed against her lips.

xxx

Miranda gently pushed Andréa to lie down on the bed and moving on top of her, she bent her face towards the brunette's and kissed her as gently as possible. Continuing to tease soft kisses over her waiting lips, Andréa responded immediately, pressing back and eventually deepening the pressure until they were french kissing and their tongues and lips explored, revealing the passion they felt for each other.

Miranda hummed slightly, taking delight from the moment where she was being held gently and kissed as if for the first time. it had taken time for them to reach this point, with neither of them wanting to rush into such intimacy.

But now it was particularly clear that their feelings and intentions were perfectly in sync. She wanted this and knew Andréa felt the same.

Breaking the kiss, she looked down into darkening eyes and saw then passion held in their depths. Trailing her lips down the side of Andréa's face and her throat, she deftly unhooked the buttons at the front of her shirt and groaned at the sight of the full, pale globes covered in pale pink bamboo fabric.

Seriously! Breathable, stretchy underwear was NOT what she expected to see.

It's one saving grace was the classic triangle shape, which hugged the shape of her chest and moulded against the skin to fit the bust and enhance her natural curves and admittedly, she'd noticed the wonderful V-shaped cleavage the younger woman had been sporting. Unable to resist, Miranda bent her head to suck upon each erect nipple through the material while Andréa's hands wound into her hear and she moaned.

Adjusting, she pulled the shirt and bra away and tossed it onto the carpet as she licked and nibbled at her breasts and nipples. The sensation of the skin between her lips, without the cloth barrier between them, was intoxicating.

In moments, she'd twisted out of her own blouse and bra and was feasting upon Andréa's skin once again. She moved back up and initiated another long kiss, her breasts rubbing upon Andréa's as she was kissed back hungrily.

"You are beautiful, captivating—" Miranda whispered, kissing down the side of her face, down her throat, to her breasts again, but this time she kept moving down until she was pulling at the button of her jeans and tugging them off from her legs so she was left with only the matching pink thong that belonged with the bra on the floor of her bedroom. "—delicious." Andréa was so wet already that the panties were totally soaked at the front, revealing the outline of her swollen outer lips where the bamboo fabric clung to her.

That sight made her so desirous with the need for this woman, she thought she would pass out from that alone. Her heart was hammering so hard, she could hear it thundering in her ears. She slowly pulled the thong down and over her feet and tossed it down alongside everything else onto the carpet.

Closing her eyes and taking a few deep breaths, Miranda spread her legs and forcing her eyes back open, looked at her pussy in wonder. The soft curls of hair there soaking in her luscious juices for a moment before she bent her head and lapped at the skin hesitantly, moving the tip of her tongue over the inflamed flesh of her erect clit.

As she moved gently she could sense Andréa becoming more aroused, arching her back before begging her not to stop. "Ooohhh, " —she moaned— "oh, God. Miranda, that feels so good, don't stop. Please don't stop—"

The words had her digging for courage took all of her she could manage, into her mouth and penetrated deep inside of her with her tongue, then moved back up to gently and rhythmically circle her clit once more. She was not going to stop. She wanted Andréa to climax from her touch, she needed the younger woman to feel an immeasurable amount of pleasure, she wanted forever with the woman writhing below her. And then to her surprise, Andréa experienced her first orgasm under her hands, clearly ready for this moment.

It felt preordained. Like they were meant to meet and love one another.

Instead of stopping, she pressed her fingers against the soft, willing folds until two of them were inside her. Feeling around for Andréa's most sensitive areas, she observed what she liked from her response and let her fingers linger, gently pressing and massaging to get the strongest of reactions.

"Oh, God! You're incredible!" Andréa moaned. "Oh, God! Oh, yes! Right there!"

Sucking her clit into her mouth, Miranda hummed as her tongue softly rubbed against the throbbing centre. Andréa bucked under her touch and in only a few more minutes climaxed again. It was a longer, harder and more powerful orgasm than her first and Miranda delighted in the fact that she was panting and moaning for at least two minutes minute before she began to settle down from the pleasure.

Miranda pushed herself up, curling herself around the brunette and held her close. They held each other fast for several minutes until Andréa moved her head and with her eyes still closed, kissed her. She understood they hadn't finished making love yet and feeling her own arousal still, knew she was more than willing to experience the same pleasure at Andréa's hands.

"I need you," Miranda whispered. "I need you badly, darling."

Andréa responded immediately by propping herself up on her elbow, causing Miranda to fall back against the mattress. She moved to hover over her and began to kiss her enthusiastically, her lips lingering on the spots that had her moaning, gasping and flooding her black silk panties. Clumsily, her skirt was pushed up over her hips and her panties pulled down and off.

Andréa looked down at her and seeing her arousal coating her inner thighs, offered her a wide, satisfied smile. She began to explore the skin of her inner thighs with her fingers. "You're so beautiful, Miranda."

Miranda opened her legs wider and heard the seam at the slit of her skirt give. It was a satisfying noise and more importantly, allowed her to open up further to the teasing fingers. Miranda was in absolute bliss as the most sensitive parts of her body were lovingly caressed.

"What do you need, love?" Andréa asked.

"Oh, just keep doing what you think and—" Andréa kissed her and the absolute tenderness and her excitement at the touch had her coming hard and fast. Quicker than she could ever remember. Miranda shuddered in ecstasy at the light touch on her clitoris. "—oh, my darling."

They snuggled in for a long time but then Miranda finally got out of bed and slid her skirt down. She pulled out two pairs of fresh pyjamas from her dresser and they prepared for bed, removing their makeup and brushing their teeth side by side at the twin vanity before dressing and eventually lying down and wrapping themselves around each other.

Miranda let herself consider some of the words in the profile written about her, words that showed Andréa still truly saw her.

Sometimes people may find a woman's ambitious nature, combined with her tremendous sense of determination, intimidating. Some will fear a woman's hunger for success, and others will envy her ability to always figure out a way to get everything she wants from life.

As a woman who knows what she wants and has already worked towards achieving her goals, Miranda keeps her circle small. She knows who is worth the place in her life and although it may be a little lonely at times, she recognises the people who are there for the long haul, those who cherish the extraordinarily remarkable woman she is. And now, at the very pinnacle of her career, she seeks a connection far greater than anyone would ever expect, A collision of souls, someone who fits perfectly to her like a precise puzzle piece, someone that she is free to open up to about her vulnerabilities, her failures and her fears.

To have her trust me enough to lay her heart and soul out there, unfiltered, was an honour. One I shall never forget.

Andréa was one hell of a woman, that was for sure, and she knew how lucky she was. Before sleep could claim them entirely, Miranda spoke softly. "You know, you have to love and accept yourself first. Once you know your worth and prioritise yourself, you will be unstoppable." Miranda curled her fingers around Andréa's cheek. "And one day you may find yourself reluctant to talk about certain parts of your life, not from being ashamed, but simply because you will not wish to dwell on the pain. You must understand that it will be fine to have moved on and choose not to look back. Others may not understand, but I will and I'll support that, as will those that respect you."

"Why did you actually speak to me that day on the street?" Andréa asked. "And open up to me over our dinners."

"Because we have a soul connection, my darling," Miranda stated. "After first meeting you, I started to believe nothing would ever be the same again. There was an intensity between us that couldn't really be explained. You made me acutely aware of the things I disliked about myself, things I believed made me weak and yet we were often so in tune with each other, it felt like you knew what I was feeling. But then you left, and I found myself following your career. I would think about you randomly and wonder how you were and if you were happy."

"I'm happy now." Andréa snuggled in further to her.

"I'm glad." Pressing her lips against the brunette's smooth forehead, she finished speaking. "I couldn't forget you, Andréa. I've met so many people over the years, and they fade after a time, but you—" Miranda paused to consider her words. "—you are imprinted on my soul and this, having you in my life, has been worth the wait." She heard Andréa's breathing deepen in sleep and rolled her eyes, yet wore a small, soft smile on her face. "I love you."

xfinx