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Mahogany and Old Lace

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Andy looked up to see Caroline and Cassidy trudging towards her across the field with Linda following behind.  They look a little down.  I wonder where Miranda is? "Good morning, ladies!  You're a little early — excited for the game?"

"I guess," answered Caroline with a frown.  Cassidy just sighed.

"Something wrong, Caroline?  Where's your mom?"

The two girls exchanged glances.  "She's not here," said Caroline.  "She's always missing things she said she would be at," continued Cassidy.  "She had to go to London suddenly last week and she said she would be back in time, but she's not."

Andy thought back over the last month and smiled at the memories.  Miranda had attended all of the games and all but one of the practices so far, and she and the twins had also attended all of the team get-togethers afterwards.  Miranda even showed up at Venchi's after the practice that she missed. It had quickly become something of a tradition — the team would order and sit down, Andy would make the rounds of the kids and parents, and then sit down with Miranda to chat.  Several times they had talked on, long after the rest of the team had left.  The girls had joined them and quickly had Andy in stitches with tales of middle school drama and the pranks they like to play.

Andy returned to the present as both girls wiped away tears.  Uh-oh.  Looks like I need to do some damage control.  She knelt and pulled the girls into a hug. 

"Girls, I'm just getting to know your mom, but I do know this.  She loves you very, very much and would never break a promise if she could help it."

"But she does, Andy.  All the time!" retorted Caroline. 

Andy paused to consider her words.  She cupped Caroline’s cheek in her hand and looked her in the eye.  "I know it might seem that way, munchkin.  But being an adult is complicated sometimes — your mom has a really important and hard job.  And sometimes she really can't help it.  If she said she would be here, I bet there's a really good reason she isn't, ok?"

Caroline and Cassidy looked at each other, and then nodded.  "Ok, Coach A," they chorused in stereo.

Andy grinned.  "Off with you then, you scamps!  Go stretch and get ready to play!"

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Andy's team started the game slowly.  The other team scored twice early and threatened to do so again until Cassidy intercepted the ball and passed it off to Caroline.  Caroline wound up and faked a long kick, then dribbled around a defender until she could send the ball back to Cassidy.  Cassidy bumped the ball over the fullback with her knee, stepped around her, and kicked the ball into the net past a diving goalie.  

The game stayed 2-1 until late in the second half.  Andy signaled Cassidy to take charge, and she and Caroline headed up the field.  They passed the ball back and forth, avoiding the defenders easily, until Caroline was able to take a shot.  She faked a hard kick and tapped the ball home into the corner of the net.  

With the score tied at 2 and less than two minutes left, Andy's goalie blocked a kick and cleared the ball into the other end of the field.  Caroline raced downfield and took the ball deeper, then, before anyone could react, kicked the ball towards the opposite corner.  Andy gasped until she saw Cassidy sneaking in behind the final defenders.  She step-faked the goalie out of position and sent the ball curling past her into the net.  The referee signaled the goal just before the final whistle blew.  Andy and the team burst into cheers and ran onto the field to celebrate.  

A few minutes later, the team ran off the field and the twins were astonished to see Miranda waiting for them.  "Mom!  You made it!" Cassidy shouted.  Andy grinned at their excitement.  

Miranda knelt and opened her arms to hug the girls.  "I did, Bobbseys.  I'm so sorry I was late, but my plane had to divert to Newark and the traffic was horrible.  Roy did his best, but we didn't get here until close to the end of the game."

"Did you see my goal, Mom?" asked Cassidy.

"I did!  I saw you both score.  You and Caroline were wonderful charging up the field."  She looked up at Andy.  "I think your coach did a great job putting you in the right spots."  Her eyes twinkled as Andy's smile lit the field.  

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The twins chose to sit with Miranda while they ate their ice cream after the game.  Andy made her rounds of the players and parents, and then returned to sit with the rest of the team.  When the twins finally excused themselves to talk to their friends, Miranda caught Andy's eye and raised an eyebrow.  She was treated to another blinding smile and a nod. 

A few minutes later, Andy slid into the booth with two cups.  "One center-of-the-sun latte, as ordered.  I still don’t know how you drink it that hot."  She grinned as she nodded at the cup.

"Don’t you know they call me the Dragon Lady?”  Andy rolled her eyes as Miranda smiled.  She continued softly.  “Thank you, Andréa.  Not just for the coffee — my girls told me what you said to them before the game today.  Thank you for caring for them, and for not throwing me under the bus."

Andy looked at her quizzically.  "How and why would I throw you under the bus, Miranda?  I don't get it."

"As you reminded me several months ago, you don't live in my world."  Miranda paused.  "There are many people, including my ex-husbands, who would delight in making me look bad in front of my girls and in letting them know what a bad parent I am."

"That's bullshit, Miranda," Andy growled.  "Everything I've seen says you are a great mom to those girls.  They really missed you, and I understand that.  When Daddy had to travel, I remember how glad Angela and I were to see him when he got back..."  Andy's voice trailed off as she finished.  She looked away as tears filled her eyes.  Her hands were clenched into fists on the table.

Miranda laid her hands over Andy's fists and squeezed gently.  "Still no word from your family?" I think I need to get Alex on that second task after all.

Andy blinked away tears.  "I send an email and a letter once a month.  Still nothing," she whispered.  She shook her head again.  "Enough of that.  How was London?  I've always wanted to go."

Miranda paused before responding.  "It was business, the usual incompetence that plagues me.  I had to fly over to secure locations for a couple of photoshoots, something that should have been done months ago but apparently 'fell through the cracks.’”

Andy winced.  "How many people did you fire?"

"Just one incompetent.  He seemed to be the epicenter of the entire problem.  Once removed, everything went smoothly and I was pleased with the results of the shoots."  She smiled until her phone buzzed.  Looking down, she stiffened and her face went blank.  As she read the email, color crept up her neck to her face and Andy could see the muscles in her jaw clenching.

Andy held her breath.  I've never seen her look that way before.  You can practically feel the anger radiating off her like heat from a fire — no wonder they compare her to a dragon.  I wonder who that's from, and what they said?  "Miranda?"

Miranda looked up and her mouth opened to speak, then snapped shut.  Closing her eyes, she breathed out slowly.  "Andréa.  I almost took out my anger on you for something you didn't deserve."

"What's up?"

"It seems that Irving Ravitz — the Elias-Clarke CEO — overheard me at our last board meeting talking about what a lovely job you did on my table and chairs.  That apparently makes me an expert on furniture now, so he wants me to order new furniture for the boardroom."  She rolled her eyes.  "He's quite a thorn in my side, trying to interfere with Runway.  I've outmaneuvered him several times, so he tries to be a little more subtle, but this is probably the beginning of another attempt to get rid of me."

"Why would he do that?"

"I won't kowtow to his whims, and he thinks anyone can do my job, and do it cheaper."  She ground her teeth.  "He's wrong, and I won't let him drive Runway into the ground."

"Sounds like a typical MBA — prioritizing lower cost over higher quality.  That's why we have so much crap furniture that falls apart in a few years.  I want mine to be around a lot longer than that."  Andy paused and shook her head.  "So what kind of furniture does he want?  It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult for you."

"It normally wouldn't be, but he has some rather contradictory requirements.  He wants it small enough so that a group of eight can sit close together without excessive space between them, but can also fit the whole board — up to sixteen people — without crowding.  He doesn't want multiple tables or parts that have to be stored.  I really don't know what he's thinking!"  Miranda closed her eyes and rubbed her temples.

"What's your budget?" Andy asked.

Miranda's eyes snapped open.  Andy was looking at her with her trademark blinding smile and shining brown eyes.  "What?  Do you know of something?"

"You could say that.  Seriously, what's your budget?"

Miranda raised an eyebrow.  "Irving didn't say, but considering what he spent on his office renovation, I think I'll assume I have carte blanche.  Why do you ask?"

"I'd rather show you than tell you.  Do you have some time to spare this afternoon?"

Miranda nodded.  "I had planned to spend the afternoon with Cassidy and Caroline, but I can give you an hour."

Andy pulled out her phone and hit her speed dial.  "Doug?  Meet me at my shop in thirty minutes."  She paused to listen.  "I know it's your first day off in two weeks, but I think I might have our first customer.”  She winked at Miranda and grinned evilly.  “Oh, and Doug? Wear a suit.  It's Miranda Priestly."  She winced and pulled the phone away from her ear.   

Hearing the high-pitched sound coming from the speaker, Miranda raised her eyebrows at the noise.  "I think Caroline and Cassidy call that a 'squee.'  Is this Douglas a middle-school girl, by chance?" 

Andy laughed heartily and grinned at Miranda, then spoke into the phone.  "Are you done?  Now get cleaned up and meet us at my shop!"

"How do you know Douglas?" Miranda asked as they were packing up.  Her tone was casual — almost too casual.

"I met him on a job site a couple of years ago — he was a junior engineer on a project.  We teamed up to keep the general contractor and lead engineer from making a big mistake that would have resulted in a seriously unsafe building, and became friends. Truth be told, he's the one of the only friends I have. He's been great." She snorted. "Except for the fact that he introduced me to that blonde that keeps hanging around. We started working on this table in our spare time last year, and, well, you'll have to see for yourself what we've come up with."

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Miranda was impressed.  Doug and Andy explained that the table she was about to see was a result of nearly a year's work, with many false starts.  Andy pushed for simplicity while Doug translated the ideas they had into actual plans.  The final product was a working model that could be scaled up to any size from four to eight feet. 

When Andy pulled the cover off the model, Miranda's eyebrow rose.  "It doesn't look like much..." she began.  She trailed off and her jaw dropped as Andy expanded the top in a few seconds from two feet in diameter to almost four feet.  "That... that is amazing!" she exclaimed.  "I would have never guessed that the top wasn't a single piece."

"It requires some pretty careful setup and precise engineering of the pieces to fit them perfectly together," said Andy.  "The model uses high-quality laminated wood for strength and stability.  The final products will be the same, but include a veneer layer so you can have any wood species you want on it."

"Very well.  I think this table will do nicely.  How much?" asked Miranda.

Andy and Doug exchanged glances.  Doug swallowed nervously.  "The price we've set for an eight foot table that expands to sixteen feet is $75,000."  He paused.  "Because this is the first one, we also need an additional $50,000 to set up the dies and tooling for the mechanism."  He winced as Miranda's face went still.  

After a moment, she nodded.  "A total of $125,000?  Acceptable."

Andy and Doug looked at each other.  "Are you sure, Miranda?" Andy asked.  "I know that's a lot for a single piece of furniture, and a brand new design at that."

"Andréa, you should know I never say things I do not mean.  If Irving objects, I will pay the difference out of my own pocket between what you need and what he is willing to pay.  I believe the effort you have already put into this and your skill will make this an absolutely remarkable piece. Can you bring your model to Elias-Clarke tomorrow for a demonstration?"  

Andy nodded, while Doug shook his head.  "I have to fly out to Atlanta tomorrow to meet with a client.  I won't be back until Friday.  Andy can handle the demo — it's mostly her baby anyway."

Andy smacked him good-naturedly on the shoulder.  "Sure, blame it on me.  I just kept you on track until you got it right!"

Miranda pulled her phone out of her pocket and spoke as it connected.  "Set up a meeting in the boardroom tomorrow with Irving and Elizabeth.  Make sure there is a visitor's pass for Andréa Sachs and that security knows to expect her at the freight elevator an hour before the meeting.  That's all."

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Andy straightened from polishing the table and looked around the Elias-Clarke boardroom.  I think we can get wood to match the paneling in here, although it might cost a bit more.  It looks like old Honduran mahogany.  She looked down at the table.  After the meeting with Miranda the day before, she had spent time sprucing up the model table.  A coat of colored paste wax and some buffing had turned the relatively unremarkable pine into a passable tabletop.  As she polished a few last spots, she began to feel like someone was watching her.  

Turning, she saw a short, unattractive man watching her from the doorway.  His eyes traveled up her body, pausing at her chest, and then met her eyes.  Andy pulled the fabric cover back over the table.  "Can I help you?" she asked.  

"Oh, I think you probably can, young lady," the man leered.  "I'm sure there's all kinds of things you can do for me.  But right now, get me a cup of coffee before the meeting starts."

Andy raised an eyebrow.  "Excuse me?"

"You heard me, girl.  Get me a cup of coffee, and be quick about it.  You wouldn't want your boss to lose a sale because you were rude, would you?"

Her jaw dropped.  "My boss?  What do you mean?"  

The man moved further into the room.  "You obviously work for this Sachs fellow, the one who built this table.  Now run along for my coffee before I tell him how rude you are."  He waved her toward the door.

Who the hell does this guy think he is?  Is he really that much of a Neanderthal to think I couldn't build this table?  What a jackass.  The muscles in her jaw clenched as she ground her teeth.  Don't blow it, Andy.  Keep your temper and just wait.

"Well?" he asked.

"Well what, Irving?" Miranda's voice came from the doorway.  She entered the room, resplendent in a charcoal Alexander McQueen suit with a white silk blouse and cerulean Hermès scarf, accompanied by another woman in a dark Armani suit. 

"I was just asking this young lady to get me some coffee while we waited for you and her boss, Miranda, but she seems reluctant to comply.  Where is he, anyway?  I'm busy and don't have time to wait on—" he waved his hand dismissively "—a carpenter."

Miranda's thin smile didn't reach her eyes. "I see that introductions are in order.  Irving, Elizabeth, allow me to introduce you to Andréa Sachs, master woodworker, owner of Sachs Fine Furniture, and one half of the team that designed and created the table you are going to see today.  Andréa, this is Irving Ravitz, our CEO, and Elizabeth St. James, the chair of the Elias-Clarke board of directors."

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Ravitz, Ms. St. James.  Please call me Andy."  She held out her hand.

Elizabeth immediately shook it.  "A pleasure to meet you, Andy.  Please call me Elizabeth."  She looked sideways at Irv, who was glaring at Andy with narrowed eyes.   

Andy continued to hold her hand out, looking straight into Irv’s eyes.  Neither her hand nor her gaze wavered.  He's obviously pissed.  I don't know if that's because I didn't tell him who I was, or because I didn't kiss up to him.  That was one of the reasons Miranda said he doesn’t like her, wasn't it? Irv eventually shook her hand, dropping it quickly.  Andy glanced at Miranda and caught her smirking, before she smoothed her expression into one of polite interest and nodded at Andy to start.

"I know you are all busy, so I won't waste time.  Miranda and I were talking this weekend, and I think I have the answer to your boardroom table problem.  What I'm going to show you is a scale model, and can be produced in any size from four up to eight feet—"

"Neither one of those is big enough," interrupted Irv.  "I thought you weren't going to waste our time?"

Andy grinned.  "Any size from four up to eight feet," she repeated, then continued smoothly. "But the table can roughly double in size in under sixty seconds.  Would you like to see?"  Elizabeth nodded, and Andy pulled the fabric off the model.

"This model has a top two feet in diameter, so it would be a one-quarter scale model of an eight foot table.  Now, if you will all humor me and close your eyes?"  Elizabeth and Miranda did so immediately, while Irv rolled his eyes until Andy glared at him.  The three heard a soft click and a long whisper of metal on metal, followed by another click.  "Ok, open your eyes."

Miranda knew what was coming and smiled in advance.  Elizabeth opened her eyes and gasped.  The tabletop had somehow doubled in size, and was now nearly four feet across.  Irv looked and scowled.

"So what?  You just added another top to the table.  I didn't want any extra pieces to keep up with!" he whined.

Andy shook her head.  "Nope.  No extra pieces, no separate tops."

"Then how?" asked Elizabeth.

"Close your eyes again and I'll show you."  They obeyed, and when they looked again, the top was back to two feet in diameter.  "Now watch," she said.

Andy pressed gently on the table apron and it rotated counterclockwise and down.  Then, grasping the table top, she rotated it clockwise.  Elizabeth gasped again as the top, which had appeared solid, split into eight segments which moved out and apart.  At the same time, additional pieces rose and moved to fill the gaps between them, expanding the top from two feet to four feet.  Finally, a star-shaped piece rose from inside the table base to fill the gap left in the center.  As Andy finished rotating the top, the pieces came together tightly with a soft click.  Elizabeth and Irv stood silently for a moment.  

"It's like a moving sculpture, a piece of art," breathed Elizabeth.  "How much?"

Andy swallowed and started to answer, but was cut off by Miranda.  "Andréa and I have agreed on the bargain price of $125,000," she stated.  

"What?" Irv exploded.  "That's insane!  We can get a boardroom table for a tenth of that price!"

"Of course we can, Irving.  But it wouldn't meet the requirements — the requirements you so very helpfully laid out to me." Miranda gave Irv her most insincere smile.

“Miranda…” Irv growled.

"I agree," Elizabeth interrupted.  "This will be an amazing addition to Elias-Clarke, even when more tables are produced.  We will always have the first one!  Besides, Irving, how much did you pay for the artwork in your office?  How much did it cost to redecorate your suite?"

Irv gritted his teeth and looked away.  "I can see your mind is made up, so I will get back to work.  Good day, ladies."  His eyes ran over Andy's form again as he turned to leave.

"Andy, I will leave you and Miranda to work out the details.  How soon do you think you can deliver?" Elizabeth asked.

"I think it will take about two months, but it could be a little longer if we run into any issues.  We have to get the tooling set up, and then manufacture the mechanism.  We can start on the wooden parts as soon as you choose what kind of wood you would like — I recommend Honduran mahogany.  It will be expensive but I think it will match the paneling in this room well.  I know a source where we can get some beautiful veneers from reclaimed lumber."

"That sounds good.  Miranda has told me how good a job you did on her dining room table.  I will look forward to seeing the finished product."  Elizabeth shook Andy's hand and left the room.

Andy collapsed into a chair and blew her bangs out of her face, grinning.  "Oh, my god.  They bought it.  Well, Elizabeth did. I can hardly believe it!  Oh, my god!"

Miranda smiled down at her.  "Was there ever any doubt, Andréa?  You are... your work is remarkable."

Andy returned the smile with a blinding one of her own.  You are pretty remarkable yourself, Miranda.