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In Re Veritas

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Milan, Two Years Later

They meet again at the 120th anniversary gala of Runway International. For Andy, it is like déjà vu—the clackers, the glamour, the unmitigated decadence of Europe’s design houses, and of course…Miranda. Always, there is Miranda, in the middle of it all, holding court amongst her enraptured courtiers.

Her hair glows silver under the ballroom lights, and Andy, the prodigal vassal, cannot help but be drawn in by the allure of her queen.  When their eyes lock, the electricity that has always arced between them burns through the atmosphere of the ballroom and Andy finds it suddenly hard to breathe.

She is broken from her trance when Miranda says her name. The sound flows across Andy's skin and tickles down her spine like fresh November rain—startling.

“Andrea.” Miranda inclines her head regally in acknowledgment and Andy resists the impulse to curtsey. Because really, curtseying in her Valentino would be such a bad idea, and Andy hardly thinks Miranda would appreciate her ex-second assistant splitting her dress and mooning the other movers and shakers of the publishing world. Instead, she gives Miranda a crooked grin and replies with equal brevity.

“Miranda.”

They stare at each other for what seems like an eternity. Time stops and Andy counts the seconds between breaths and heartbeats as storm-colored eyes gaze into her own, dissecting her with the precision of a neurosurgeon. The sensation is incredibly disconcerting and Andy feels naked as every part of her being is examined with an attention normally reserved for the season’s finest offerings. She swallows, fighting off familiar waves of panic under the unrelenting scrutiny –appalled at how much Miranda’s approval means to her still. Appalled, but not surprised. She is, after all, here in search of absolution.

Miranda’s expression is inscrutable when she nods once and says, “Come,” before turning away and walking toward a distinguished looking man lingering near the buffet.

Andy has to scramble quickly in order keep up, and for a moment, it is like she never left. It is different though, because for once, Andy is not the one lingering by Miranda’s side, feeding her information on the latest guest. Instead, she is a guest. Still trying to wrap her mind around that bit of knowledge, Andy barely catches the tail end of Miranda’s introduction. “Henry is looking for an assistant editor right now. I’ve mentioned that you may be interested.”

Andy smiles at this new person and says hello. Henry, as it turns out, is the features editor for the New York Times. The three of them make small talk until Miranda excuses herself to mingle elsewhere. Miranda exchanges air kisses with Henry before turning to Andrea. As she leans in, Miranda murmurs into Andy’s ear. “We will speak Andrea. Later.”

Andy watches her progress as she cuts through the crowd. Her attention is drawn back when she realizes that Henry has asked her a question. “Of course I believe in global warming, it’s…”

***

Somehow, Andy winds up leaning against a Corinthian pillar on the nearly deserted veranda, taking in the crisp mountain air and the view of cliff-side gardens one floor below. The party has just reached its zenith, but Andy can no longer stand the stifling atmosphere of the ballroom: too many people with big egos in one room. It’s no wonder Miranda never wanted to stay later than necessary. The click of heels below catches her attention, and Andy smiles softly at the sight before her.

Speak of the Devil.

Miranda is poised at the very edge of the garden, tucked away in an alcove created by overhanging tree branches. She looks regal in her black dress, a white queen draped in the deepest night. Moonlight gleams, iridescent as waterfalls along her alabaster skin, and Andy feels a momentary compulsion to run her fingers gently across the expanse of unblemished flesh. The editor’s beauty is almost unreal, yet Andy cannot forget the crumpled woman she had met two year's ago in Miranda's hotel room. For a split second the flawless queen and the weary mortal superimpose themselves on one another--the images burning themselves into Andy's soul. Their singular portrait is why she will never truly see Miranda as an immutable icon.

It is what prompts her to make a toast—to show her support, perhaps to bid for redemption. “To your enduring empire,” she says, raising her champagne glass and smiling without a hint of irony.

Below her, Miranda turns in the direction of Andy's voice. Her movements are measured and she does not seem surprised at Andy’s presence. “Really Andrea, it is hardly my empire.” Miranda’s voice is droll but her lips twitch and there is a pleased look in her eyes. Everyone knows Miranda is the Caesar to Runway’s Rome. 

Andy takes the few steps down to join Miranda near the gardens. She knows she will fidget if she stands, and chooses instead to eliminate the problem by sitting down on a stone bench next to the fashion maven. “So…it’s  later.”

“So it is,” Miranda says, taking a sip of her champagne. “Have you anything to add to that delightfully perceptive observation?”

“You said you wanted to speak to me ‘later’,” Andy replies, trying to be assertive, articulate, and obliging all at the same time. “It’s later. So um…speak?” She thinks she’s probably failing.

Miranda turns her gaze toward the view of the city lights and runs her fingers absently across the stone banister serving as a border. “Yes, I did say that didn’t I?”  She pauses, seemingly lost in contemplation. For the moment Miranda seems content for the silence to stand, and Andy lets her. She is in no hurry to obtain answers tonight.

“Do you know why you left Andrea?” Miranda asks, still gazing out toward the city. 

Andy takes a deep breath and begins her long rehearsed apology. “I really want to apologize for that Miranda. I never should have left the way I did. You have no idea—”

“No, no, that wasn’t a question Andrea. You will listen.”

Andy closes her mouth, puzzled but more than prepared to shut up.

“You left, because I let you go. I…compelled you to go.”

Andy sat, stunned, “You…”

“Did you really think I would have made that rather unfortunate speech to you otherwise?” Andy opens her mouth then closes it when she realizes she has nothing to say. Miranda plows on. “I have been the solitary voice of fashion for two decades Andrea. You do not achieve my position by being ignorant of what others fear and desire. You, Andrea, see yourself as a champion, a crusader, an…advocate for all that is good and kind.”

Now Miranda turns and smiles wistfully at her former second assistant. “I saw that. I was that. It is why you had to leave. You were becoming terribly wretched. So you see,” Miranda says, pushing off the banister wall, and walking back up the steps, “there is really very little to forgive.”

“Wait,” Andy says, whirling to catch up with Miranda once again. “Wait.” Andy doesn’t know what else to say, but she knows she doesn’t want Miranda to leave. Surprisingly, Miranda elects to pause, gracing Andy with an arched eyebrow. The unspoken command is obvious. What?

“You were the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” Andy blurts out as she reaches Miranda. “You’re also the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I learned…everything from you. Thank you.”

Miranda nods. There is nothing left to say, but Andy still doesn’t want Miranda to go. So skipping the meaningless chatter Miranda abhors so much, Andy extends an awkward invitation. “Look, I know you hate small talk and I know you hate crowds. I also know Irv’s making you stay through most of this one. Would you like, I mean, would it be so bad if we just sat here for a while? I kinda wouldn’t mind your company.”

Miranda’s eyes sparkle with wry amusement, and there is a tiny quirk of her lips when she speaks.  “You… kind of…would not mind my company?”

“Um…yeah?”

“Well then.” Miranda allows Andy to stew for a few moments before affecting an elegant shrug. “I suppose your presence is less abhorrent than those uncouth barbarians back in the ballroom. Yes, I do believe I shall join you.”

Andy lets out a silent sigh of relief. She’s not sure why she wants to spend time with Miranda so badly. After all, she has already gotten what she came for: absolution. She can leave and never deal with Miranda Priestly ever again. The thought is oddly repugnant though, and Andy chooses not to dwell on it. Instead, she gallantly helps Miranda seat herself before joining her on the stone bench.

Neither woman feels the need to speak as they share the night and momentary peace like love and fine wine.