With every passing second, the dragon lady’s wrath grew twofold. With every minute ticking up on the clock, her jaw got tenser and her fingers tapped impatiently on the seat. And with every breath, Roy was sweating more profusely.
“Roy,” Miranda bit out finally, when she’d finished counting the passing students, “Are my girls always so abhorrently late?”
Roy sat up straighter in his seat, making eye contact with her in the mirror. He had to clear his throat twice before he was able to speak.
It was a perfect answer. Clean, precise, and obedient. But the way he broke the eye contact a little too soon dampened the satisfaction; there was something her driver was hiding. She detested secrets.
“I don’t pay you to withhold information from me, do I?” Miranda asked him sharply.
“No, you don’t, Miranda.”
“Then don’t. If you have information, you need to share it with me. I detest repeating myself.”
“My answer wasn’t untrue, Miranda. Caroline and Cassidy are very punctual most days. The only time they are tardy is on Tuesdays and Thursdays after theatre.”
“Do you believe the fault lies with their instructor?” She asked.
“I’m not sure. That would be a question for Caroline and Cassidy.” Roy responded.
The way he carefully constructed his statement told her all she needed to know. It was obviously their instructor, if they were never late any other time. While she applauded Roy’s careful consideration for the theatre director, she didn’t have time for it. She was not going to accept any tardiness from her Bobbseys.
“Unacceptable. Wait here.” Miranda said.
Miranda threw open the door with poise, but also obvious annoyance. Her lips pursed out of habit and she stalked quickly past anyone who was in her way. A few parents looked as if they wanted to say something, though they quickly thought against it when seeing her. None were brave enough to interrupt her journey.
She had been in the theatre several times before, so there was no need to stop a passerby for directions. Caroline and Cassidy had been in a number of performances at Dalton that led them to the stage. Though this was the first year they’d officially been a part of the theatre group. With adverse effects, it seemed , Miranda thought snidely.
The auditorium was dark, save for the lights illuminating the stage. A few students were sat on the edge, legs swinging, as you stood before them speaking. Your voice was muffled and incoherent as you faced away from the doors, but your hands were moving wildly and the children were nodding along to whatever you were saying.
Caroline was the first to notice her mother strutting into the room, the lights shining on more and more of her. It took far less time for her to understand her mother’s expression. She nudged Cassidy, who nodded.
“Excuse us for a moment, Miss Y/N.” Cassidy said hastily, interrupting your speech as she dragged Caroline with her.
They intercepted Miranda within moments of her reaching you, effectively pushing her back quite a ways. Miranda was too stunned at their reaction to her to stop them from moving her.
“Mom, what are you doing here?” Caroline demanded in a hushed tone.
“I’ve come to see why you and your sister are wasting time,” Miranda answered, narrowing her eyes, “You were supposed to be outside fifteen minutes ago.”
“Miss Y/N was filling us in on extra instruction. Can’t you wait?”
“Watch your tone, Cassidy Anne.”
“Sorry, Mom, but we really wanted to hear about the extra classes. We didn’t think it would matter if we were a little late, that’s all.”
“That doesn’t excuse tardiness, girls. Gather your things.” Miranda said.
Caroline and Cassidy could clearly see how cross their mother was, but just this once, they decided to test it. Her moods were dreadful when she’d made up her mind. Luckily, they had inherited all of their stubbornness from her. A fact their father detested.
“Miss Y/N is almost done. We’ll meet you in the car.” Caroline said in a no-nonsense tone, clearly summoning all of the traits she associated with her mother.
It felt as if the world stood still for just a moment. Miranda’s gaze, which was normally so warm towards her daughters, was now hardened. Both girls wanted nothing more than to freeze up completely. This wasn’t really their mom anymore, this was partly the Dragon Lady.
“Uhh,” Caroline said slowly, feeling her mistake keenly, “I just meant that-”
“Is there a problem, girls?”
Without any of them realizing, you had allowed everyone to leave, thoroughly filling everyone in. After the theatre was completely empty, you’d come up to check that everything was okay. They’d moved from the group rather quickly.
Unfortunately for you, however, the interruption allowed Miranda to turn her wrath on you. Miranda Priestly was famous for three things around Dalton; her devotion to supporting her children, countless donations, and her anger. It wasn’t like some of the parents, where they’d get loud and cause a scene. Miranda was cold and quiet, eviscerating you without drawing the slightest bit of attention.
“I believe there is,” Miranda said, voice cold, “It seems your lack of punctuality is rubbing off on my daughters.”
“I beg your pardon?” You asked, eyebrows raising to your hairline. Of all points for her to be angry with you, that was the last one you expected.
“I’m not fond of repeating myself, but as your hearing has failed you, I must. Your inability to end instruction on time is interfering with my girls’ schedules. Such an atrocious habit is not one I’ll allow them to inherit.”
There was a small amount of fear in your gut, of course. You weren’t stupid enough to believe yourself above a fearful respect for the woman. But above all of that lied indignation. It wasn’t uncommon for parents to berate you without all of the details, but you’d expected more from Miranda Priestly. Hoped for more.
“Caroline and Cassidy know very well that if they have other commitments, they have the option to leave quietly. Their choice to remain is not one I make for them. Contrary to popular belief, I do not rule over my students like a tyrant.” You said, crossing your arms over your chest.
Both girls winced slightly. They were embarrassed at their mother’s eagerness to scold their teacher, but hoped they would remain bystanders to it. Evidently not.
Miranda had the grace to look contrite, before turning to her daughters. They offered sheepish smiles in return. And though Miranda would do anything for her girls, they couldn’t worm their way out of this situation and the following consequences.
“Girls, offer Miss Y/N your apologies and join me in the car.” Miranda said abruptly, surprising you with the quick change.
You wondered if she truly understood her mistake in confronting you without the proper information, or if she had grown bored of the conversation you were having. Internally, you hoped it was the first. Caroline and Cassidy were eager to apologize and you felt bad for them. You remembered being a kid, wanting to make your own decisions, despite the consequences.
When they left, you stood in the empty theatre for a few moments. You hoped that you hadn’t made an enemy of Miranda before you’d properly met. Part of you regretted being so harsh towards her, but another part stated that she deserved it. You let out a heaving sigh.
You guessed that this would not be your last encounter with the illustrious Miranda Priestly. Nor, you found yourself realizing, did you want it to be.
It could never be said that Miranda Priestly didn’t make good to those she wronged; that when she’d made a mistake, she found some way of making it up to them. It’s not easy in her position, being someone so important and well-known for her icy reputation. But every once in a while, she could defer from that expectation to right those mistakes.
So when an exceptionally expensive piece of stationary landed on your desk, it didn’t completely surprise you. The invitation inside did. There was no apology, no buzzwords like ‘amends’ or ‘resolution’ in the elegant script. Just an invitation to dinner at the townhouse.
A public place would have made you less nervous. As you walked up the steps to the townhouse, you realized how sweaty your palms were. You reminded yourself that Miranda Priestly was just a woman, just the mother of your two favored students. A very powerful woman, but a woman nonetheless.
You summoned all of your courage to press the doorbell. The nervousness crept its way up your throat as a pair of heels approached the door. When it opened, and Miranda stood there in all of her glory, you felt you’d underestimated your anxiousness.
“Miss Y/N,” Miranda said with a pleasant softness, “Do come in.”
“Thank you for your invitation. Though it did come as a surprise.” You said, offering a sheepish smile.
“I can imagine. We got off on the wrong foot this week and it would be in everyone's best interest to rectify that, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Absolutely. Our being at odds doesn’t do anyone good.”
“Precisely my thoughts. Now, do you prefer white or red?”
Miranda motioned to two bottles of wine on the polished countertops. Your eyes widened as you took in the labels, though you tried to hide your reaction quickly. It seemed Miranda would spare no expense for good things.
“White, please.” You said eventually.
She gave you a single, short nod when you met her eyes. You decided to take that as a good sign and let yourself relax. Soon enough, the two of you were getting along swimmingly.
“You can’t be serious.” You laughed, looking at the photo in your hands.
To keep the conversation flowing and pleasant, you both focused on shared topics. You stayed far from fashion and Miranda stayed far from teaching, eventually settling on Caroline and Cassidy. Miranda glowed when she spoke on them and it was intoxicating to see.
Soon enough, she’d broken out the photo albums. You’d explained that they were wonderful students, their playful streak adding to their performances and the energy of the crew. Miranda assured you that you didn’t know the half of it.
“I never lie. Caroline was so furious that she dropped the cake in Cassidy’s hair and I spent three days washing the icing out.” Miranda assured you, a smirk pulling at her mouth.
“Only three?” You teased, “I’d expect nothing less than five from your girls. They do nothing by halves.”
She hummed and took a sip of her wine. It struck you how similar the girls seemed to be to their mother. They were always dedicated, sometimes to a fault. You couldn’t count the number of times you told either Caroline or Cassidy to take a break after working too hard.
From what you understood of their parents, you understood that their father was the same way. But Miranda was entirely more dedicated from your point of view. For every show or recital, Miranda would be there in the front row, holding a gift for each girl. You had never once seen their father.
“There’s a reason I asked you here, besides regaling you with stories of my girls.” Miranda said after a few moments, “My daughters urged me to… make amends for my behavior last week. I was out of turn to instruct you in your own profession.”
You were waiting for an ‘I’m sorry’ but it never arrived. You guessed this was the closest you would get to a real apology.
“You were doing what you believed was right at the time,” You reasoned, taking a long sip of your wine as you thought over what you wanted to say, “I like to think we’ll understand one another better in the future because of it.”
“Is that something that pleases you?”
Her question caught you off guard. For a few, long moments you stared at her, her gaze never moving from yours.
“What do you mean?”
Miranda sighed, but this time you didn’t look away. You gathered that the frown forming on her face wasn’t a good sign and felt your confidence wane.
“Understanding one another better, does that please you?” She said, slowly, as if trying to ensure that you’d understand it.
You were more affected by the question than you cared to admit. It hadn’t hit you until just now that yes, the idea did please you; learning and laughing with Miranda all night had pleased you immensely. It was dangerous territory you were slipping into with her being the mother of your students, but some part of you didn’t care.
“Yes, I’d say it does.” You answered in a soft voice, following the statement up with a long swig of your wine.
The liquid provided more courage than you imagined it could. Upon arriving at the townhouse, you’d been scared out of your mind of what could happen. Now, you sat locked in a gaze with Miranda Priestly, trying to ignore the way your gut churned with butterflies.
No shortage of rumors about Miranda plagued Dalton’s hallways; that she was irritable, unyielding, and a pain. And though you wanted to completely dispute all of those—whether to yourself or to everyone else, you couldn’t tell—it wouldn’t be authentic to do so. Miranda was all of those things, but she was also caring, intuitive, and quick-minded. And to you, the good far outweighed the bad.
After the question, the conversation ran down until you took your leave of the townhouse. And as you walked away, you hoped that you did well enough to hide the grin on your face.
You couldn’t help the overwhelming smile on your lips, illuminating your face more than any light could. The calendar marked two days until opening night of the spring play and rehearsal, shockingly, had gone extremely well.
Now, your students were looking up at you with admiration and curiosity. You were unaware that a certain fashion editor was wearing a similarly curious look, hidden in the back row of the theatre where your vision could not reach.
“You all know that I’m never one to be caught without something to say,” You said, drawing some laughs from your students, “but you were all amazing. I truly have no critiques. Keep the same energy for opening night and you’ll be golden. Now, off you go!”
There were a few cheers from the students, before they moved to pack up their bags. You couldn’t help the unshakable smile on your face as you heard them yell their goodbyes behind them. Shaking your head, you picked up some discarded stand-in props, when a throat cleared behind you.
Caroline and Cassidy stood in front of you wearing genuine smiles, holding out a small bag to you. Your eyebrows furrowed. Though you were extremely interested, this wasn’t expected.
“What’s this?” You asked, taking the bag carefully.
“A gift, of course. We knew everyone else would wait until opening night, so we wanted to be the first.” Cassidy explained, “Open it.”
Unbeknownst to any of you, Miranda had shifted forward in her seat with interest. The gift wasn’t something she knew about. She certainly hadn’t the time to help, though she was truly curious as to what the item was.
You pulled out a small, square item wrapped in tissue paper. With intense care and patience, you peeled back the layers of paper, looking down at a framed picture. It was a candid photo of you, Caroline, and Cassidy running through lines. You recognized the photo from when the school photographer had first shown you. The picture was one of your favorites, as you could clearly see the differences between the girls demeanors in the still item.
“This… This is very thoughtful, girls. Thank you.” You said softly, trying not to betray just how emotional the gesture had made you.
Gifts were as common as rehearsals to you, but it was rare that they were ever so thoughtful. Dalton parents were rich and you’d end up with anything from gourmet chocolates to small luxury items. It wasn’t that you didn’t appreciate said gifts, they didn’t hold the same sentiment. You knew this picture was going to sit on your desk for some time.
“We’re really glad you like it, Miss Y/N.” Cassidy said.
“We were going to get you something else, but we thought you might like this better.” Caroline added.
“I don’t think I could like any gift as much as this.” You whispered, giving them a wink.
You tried to maintain a neutral style with all of your students, but you couldn’t deny that you held some students closer to your heart than others. The Priestly twins were no exception to that. The name ‘Priestly’ came with certain expectations around the city. Hell, around the world.
Your expectation was that the twins would fit the stereotype you heard constantly. Twins terrors, devil spawn, etc. But when you met them for the first time, surprise filled you at their quiet, respectful demeanor. They spoke only when called on, allowing everyone an opportunity to speak before they did.
Though your first run in with their mother hadn't been sunshine and rainbows, you knew their respectful air wasn’t only theirs. Manners like that were learned early on. You gathered that you had Miranda to thank for that. Beneath the cold facade of the Dragon Lady, you could see an honest, intelligent woman. A woman who knows what is worthy of her time; who is worthy of her time.
Two sets of arms closed around your waist, jolting you from your thoughts. You instinctively wrapped your arms around them in return.
When they left, you tried to ignore the bereft feeling in your heart. Like you were missing some vital part of you that you’d never realized had been missing before. The twins had wormed their way onto the list in your heart. You also tried not to ignore the desire to add a certain editor to that list, too.
“No. Absolutely not.”
“What do you mean ‘no?’ Be reasonable.”
You turned, glaring heavily at the woman behind you. Her snow white hair was illuminated by the stage lights, almost forming a halo around her head. The thought made you want to laugh bitterly.
“Exactly as I said Miranda, no. ” You growled.
“You know how much this means to Caroline. It’s cruel not to give her a role she’s worked so hard for.”
“It would be far more cruel to give her a role that doesn’t fit her.”
“How much will it take for you to make my daughter happy?”
You’d been hastily snatching up the temporary props when the question left her mouth. The speed at which you turned back to her made your head spin, or maybe it was the anger you felt. Too much was happening for you to decide.
“I beg your pardon?” You asked.
“Have you suddenly lost your hearing? How much money do you need?” Miranda asked in a low tone, rolling her eyes as she glared at you.
Reasonably in the back of your mind, you knew that there were two options; take the bribe and appease Miranda or refuse it and royally piss her off, potentially risking your job in the process. The choice alone felt like a punch in the gut. You believed that you and Miranda had an understanding of these things, but it seemed you had been mistaken. Her offer had seriously wounded your pride.
“Now you listen to me and you listen clearly,” You said finally, advancing into her personal space and ignoring the way her eyes widened ever-so-slightly, “Caroline was given the role that best suits her. I’m sorry that she is unhappy with it, I truly am, but if I gave her the lead I’d set her up for failure. So you can accept the circumstances or she doesn’t have to be part of the show, but as far as I’m concerned this conversation is over.”
The lack of polite pandering she was used to shocked her into silence. She stood in this silence, watching you walk away from her. You were one of the few who’d ever stood up to Miranda Priestly. And unbeknownst to you, you were the only one who’d get away with it.
A few days passed and another invitation landed on your desk. The stationary felt too thick, too heavy. With anger still bubbling inside, you swiped the invitation off the desk and into the trash can.
The next time it wasn’t an envelope, but a small box with a bow on top. Underneath the bow was a small letter with your name on it. You were tempted to read it, to see if she’d actually apologized. You knew she hadn’t.
The box joined the invitation at the bottom of your trash bin.
Both gifts turned into a lovely bouquet of flowers, popping with bright oranges and yellows. The small card tempted you.
The arrangement was beautiful, some of the flowers seeming so expensive that you couldn’t have afforded it yourself. But the thought of the price tag mocked you and reminded you of her initial offer. Her bribe.
Ripping the card into pieces, you gave the bouquet to one of your assistant directors. You could finally breathe again with it out of your sight.
A soft knock on your door caught your attention. The laser focus you had on the script in your hands was broken as you looked up, raising an eyebrow.
“Sorry to interrupt, Miss Y/N, but there’s a woman out here asking to speak with you.” One of your assistant directors said with a sheepish smile.
“That’s okay. You can send her in.” You said, offering a reassuring look of your own.
As she scuttled from the room, you let out a sigh. The bulky script and red pen in your hands were forgotten at the moment. Now, you listened to the muffled footsteps of someone approaching your office. The small bit of peace you’d been holding onto was effectively shattered when you saw the woman walking through the door.
Miranda’s signature coiff was unmistakable, even in swelling New York crowds. So as she stood in your office now you had to face that she was there. You couldn’t swipe her attempts at apologies into the trash or pawn them off on friends.
“You’ve been ignoring me.” Miranda stated without bothering to shut the door.
“Good afternoon to you as well, Miranda.” You scoffed, circling around her to shut said door. Definitely not because it offered a reprieve from her cold eyes.
“It would be, if you’d summon the energy to return my correspondence.”
You took a deep breath, counting to ten in your head. Some part of you knew that Miranda was well-meaning in some ways, but she hid it behind seven layers of Dragon-Lady. She wouldn’t have offended you if it wasn’t for the sake of her daughter. You could appreciate that, it didn’t mean you had to like it.
If you had kids and the money Miranda did, you thought you might pull the same thing. Seeing someone you loved so dearly happy was important. You couldn’t put a price on it unless you were sickeningly wealthy. She was using the resources available to her.
That doesn’t change the way she acted.
“If you have something to say to me, you can do so in person. Not in a note.” You said, raising an eyebrow.
Returning to the spot behind your desk, you put your hands down on top of it, leaning on them. Miranda didn’t waver from her position in front of you. Part of you hoped she’d sit down and put some distance between you both, but it was only a hope.
“Some of us have schedules to maintain.” She bit out.
“Then it isn’t as important as you say, is it? It’s been lovely talking to you, but if you’re too busy then don’t let me keep you.” You said, motioning to the door. She didn’t budge. “What are you doing here, Miranda?”
“I have come to make amends.”
“Well, you have the floor.”
A silence filled the room as you waited for those three words. You folded your arms over your chest patiently, not letting your gaze fall away from her’s.
“If you would accept the items I sent, you could have saved me the unnecessary trip.” Miranda growled.
“Mm. No. A pretty box or bouquet doesn’t equal an apology.”
“And what does?”
“I don’t know, maybe an actual apology? Those three elusive little words that you seem intent on never saying?”
The beat of silence that followed your words made you laugh bitterly. Every opportunity known to man was at her disposal and she wasted every single one. You shook your head, a mixture of anger building from the original hurt you’d been sitting on since your last conversation.
“You are the most unfortunate, brilliant woman I’ve ever met,” You said passionately, “I’ve seen mothers with less on their plate who miss every show, but not you. Every show you’re there. You’re dedicated and intelligent and yet I’m standing here instructing you on how to apologize. I expect more from you, but it seems I was mistaken to do so.”
During your tirade, you circled back around the desk and over to the door, pulling it open for her. She was still facing away from you by the end of it. When she turned, her face was less hostile than before. She could give a TED talk on perfecting a neutral expression.
As she approached the door, she stopped just before crossing the threshold. Your forehead creased, confusion taking up residence on your face.
“I’m sorry.” Miranda said.
Her tone was so quiet that you almost missed it. But the way she kept her eyes on yours told you, she had really said it. She was waiting for a reaction.
“I forgive you.” You said back.
For the briefest of moments, you could’ve sworn you saw her smile. Then you blinked and it was gone. In an uncharacteristic move, Miranda placed her hand on your arm and squeezed. The absence when she left made you feel more bereft than any time she’d slighted you.
There were moments after that where you would catch glimpses of Miranda and she’d catch glimpses of you. Nothing was exchanged beyond a nod, or an awkward wave on your part. But there was less tension.
Opening night of the new show rolled around and two redheads decided to ambush you backstage after. It felt more commonplace than it should have, but Miranda’s appearance with them caught you off guard. Held in her hands was a bouquet of beautiful flowers.
“What’s all this?” You asked, a curious smile covering your face.
The question had been clearly directed at Caroline and Cassidy, but your eyes rested on Miranda. Her eyes were warmer, open -- like that first night at the townhouse, when you’d both had a few glasses of wine. You did everything you could not to blush under her scrutiny.
“My girls and I wished to congratulate you properly on a successful opening night.” Miranda supplied when the girl’s wrapped themselves around your middle.
“Ooh, properly?” You couldn’t help but ask.
“Yeah! We wanted to get you flowers, like the directors and actors on Broadway get.” Caroline said with a big smile and twinkling eyes.
“We also wished to invite you to have dinner with us at the townhouse, if you’re amenable to the idea.” Miranda added.
There was a long moment where Caroline and Cassidy shared surprised looks. You guessed that the flowers had been planned, but the dinner invitation hadn’t. A smirk pulled at your lips. It must mean something interesting if Miranda was acting out of the ordinary.
“I believe I’d like that,” You said finally, “but I have to get things shut down here before I go.”
“That is not a problem. We’ll wait outside, won’t we girls?”
Her tone was pointed and the twins released their vice grip on your waist, shuffling from the room with an odd look at you and their mother. You couldn’t help the laugh that passed your lips. Miranda unexpectedly moved towards you and placed the bouquet in your hand. The touch of her hand on yours surprised you, but what surprised you more was the light kiss she placed on your cheek.
“We’ll be waiting.” Was all she offered, before turning from the room and leaving you stunned.
The smile that broke over your face was so large your cheeks hurt. It was the last thing you’d ever hoped for, but the way Miranda was acting had left you feeling giddy. You nearly fell over several times in your haste to meet them outside.
Dinner was infinitely better with the twins present. You adored Miranda’s company, of course, but she fully lit up when they were in the room. Her shoulders would relax and her mouth would curl into a smile far easier. You loved watching it.
The girls were as mischievous as ever and didn’t go a second without telling one of you awkward stories about the other. An interesting tactic, but a fitting one, you had to admit. By the end of it all, your sides were aching with laughter. You couldn’t remember the last time you felt so full of joy.
But the reality of a weeknight set in and the twins rushed up to bed, not before giving you a warm goodbye for the night. You watched them run up the stairs with a smile until they were out of sight. Then you turned back to Miranda, caught off guard by the softness still in her eyes.
“I suppose that’s my cue for the night. I’m afraid it’s past my bedtime.” You joked, earning a slightly upturn of Miranda’s lips.
“We certainly wouldn’t want you to be late for school tomorrow.” Miranda returned.
She led you to the door in a moment of quiet. The handle of the door was right within your grasp, but it didn’t feel right to reach for it. Something was missing. Something that hadn’t happened yet.
“I had a wonderful time this evening. Thank you for inviting me.” You said.
“The pleasure is all mine. You’ve been wonderful with my girls, they adore you.”
“And their mother?” You asked boldly.
You were rewarded with a small, but genuine smile from Miranda. The sight made you feel like jumping up and down or buying a lottery ticket. You had to be one in a billion people who’d ever received such an honor.
“I’d say she’s coming to share their sentiments.” Miranda said in a whisper.
Her eyes, which had been focused on yours, darted away to your lips. You couldn’t help but bite lightly at your bottom lip in anticipation. When she finally leant forward and kissed you, you swore you could fly. It was quick, nothing more than a brief press, but it was enough to intoxicate you.
As Miranda let you out the door, you couldn’t stop the smile on your face. And hidden behind the bannister a floor up, neither could two little redheads. The start of your relationship had been rocky, but from now on it’d only be smooth sailing.