“I have to ask, are you doing this for some nefarious purpose?” Leslee asks, tossing this morning’s Page Six onto my desk. “Is there a PR strategy behind this that you’re handling on your own? Because, I’ve gotta be honest. It’s not a good look, Miranda.”
I looked over the paper then handed it back to my publicist. “It’s appalling that these rags have nothing better to do than detail the who, when, and where of my personal life.” I looked up and glared at her. “And the PR strategy is your job.”
“Are you serious? You’re going through a very public divorce, and you’re ‘dating’ a dozen different men. You shamelessly follow them to whatever hotel is near the restaurant and walk out the main doors in the same clothes the next morning. It’s like you’re—”
“What? Asking for it?” I stood and rounded my desk, boiling with rage. “You would never say this to me if I were a man. Get out of my office.”
Leslee picked up her bag and coat from the chair. “Could you at least consider going back to your place or his instead of something as obvious as a hotel?”
“So you can spin the narrative and say it was a business meeting instead of sexual intercourse? No.” I walked back towards my desk and turned around. “And, you’re fired.”
After she left, my assistant quickly closed my office doors, rightly assuming I would not want to be bothered. I would never admit it, but Leslee wasn’t exactly wrong about my personal life at the moment.
Several months ago, the divorce papers came as a surprise to me. We hadn’t been sleeping together for months, let alone doing anything more intimate than a peck on the cheek at formal events. I knew the marriage wasn’t what we thought it would be, but I figured he was content with that. With being each other’s obligatory plus one for the various events we had to attend between the magazine and his firm. And even when I returned from France and we sat down to talk, I thought there was a chance I could convince him to stay. Although, looking back, the only thing I offered him was convenience. That’s when he told me he’d been seeing other women and was currently dating a twenty-three-year-old model whose career, unbeknownst to either of them, would be over before it started.
What bothered me about the situation was the way he disclosed this, as if to say, I’m just doing this thing that all men do—certainly I can’t be held accountable for my actions. And the first divorce attorney I met with shared a similar attitude. By that time, the story had broken and photos and speculation and headlines with no basis in fact were sweeping through the media. I quickly found a female attorney, a shark if I do say so myself, who understood the impossible double standard. I let her handle that, while I channeled my righteous indignation into work. That month, we put out one of the best issues I’ve ever done.
But I wasn’t fulfilled.
My daughters moved to their father’s house for the rest of the school year and summer until the press calmed down. It was better for them and absolutely the right decision, though the prospect of going home to an empty house night after night triggered what came next.
While Stephen was parading around town on the arms of beautiful women, he was cast in the papers as an eligible bachelor and I was the frigid, emotionless bitch he’d escaped. But that wasn’t me at all. It’s what my failed marriages to mediocre men turned me into—someone who would rather spend sixteen hours in the office than come home in time to have sex with her husband. I’d always enjoyed sex and considered myself quite good at it. I loved using my femininity to my advantage in business dealings. Men were putty in my hands whenever I’d start flirting and speaking in my seductive, whisper-like voice. And now to be cast as a frigid workaholic when it was so far from the truth? Absolutely not. Without the girls at home, I had the freedom to let loose a little.
So, I ventured into the world of online dating. Match and eHarmony were too serious. Everyone there was looking for love and commitment. I just wanted dinner and drinks followed by a romp. OkCupid was a much better website for that. I setup a profile and selected several flattering photos, none of which showed my entire face, though one was from a masquerade ball and could be easily identified if someone tried. I put my desired partner settings to men between 30 and 40 years old in Manhattan with significant income. My inbox was flooded with messages the next morning, and I selected several to respond back to. Before I knew it, I had dates lined up for any night of the week I wanted.
It’d been so long since I dated like this. I saw several of the men multiple times, though it was more about convenience and sexual compatibility than anything else. But I enjoyed feeling desirable, feeling wanted. None of these men could conceive of calling me frigid; on the contrary, I was a very active and responsive sexual partner.
Except, it wasn’t doing anything for me. These gorgeous younger men practically worshipped my body, and yet, more often than not I was faking my own orgasm or frigging myself. It wasn’t menopause, either, because I could orgasm just fine when they would go down on me—the few dears who were secure enough to do so, anyway.
After a while, I began to suspect why those interactions were so much more arousing, although, looking back, it probably should have been obvious. I often found myself imagining painted nails scratching at my thighs or deep chestnut brown hair splayed across the white sheets of the hotel bed. I imagined long, slender, smooth legs tangling with my own as firm breasts filled my palms. My imagination conjured up none other than Andrea Sachs, my greatest disappointment.
She emailed me once, right after she quit, asking for a meeting to apologize, but I refused to even acknowledge the message. And I didn’t hear from her again. That is, until today. Looking down at my phone, I saw a missed call from the publicist I just fired and a text message from the girl who quit three months ago.
Andrea wrote, “Hi Miranda, it’s Andy Sachs. Can we meet? I owe you a formal apology.”
I considered it for a moment. It was straight to the point, but why was she so intent on apologizing in person? Assistants are usually no more than a blip on my radar, although if we were being honest, her departure hurt me more than my husband’s. But hadn’t my non-response to her email been clear enough? I was about to delete the message, but then I thought of her long brown hair splayed against sheets that smelled like sex and decided to reply. Maybe seeing her again could snap me out of this fixation.
I replied, “Come to the townhouse tomorrow at noon.”
The rest of the afternoon dragged on. I was supposed to see Michael tonight, but between the rather explosive argument with Leslee and the communication with Andrea, I canceled and didn’t feel even the slightest twinge of guilt. Instead, I brought my daughters to dinner with me at Momofuku and we had a wonderful evening.
On Saturday, I put on a linen Tommy Hilfiger sun dress from several seasons ago that was too comfortable to ever replace. I rarely wore it in public anymore—too old to be in style, too new to be vintage—but I knew none of that would matter to Andrea, whom I was apparently dressing for again. I spent most of the morning working upstairs in my office, but around eleven, I went down to the kitchen and put a bottle of rosé in the wine chiller. I took out a corkscrew and two glasses, then added two more glasses so my plans wouldn’t be so obvious if she came into the kitchen. Andrea was always a lightweight when it came to alcohol. Perhaps after a few glasses of wine she’d entertain me with her incessant babble I’ve found myself relieved to be missing every now and then. While it was likely that the girl would simply speak her rehearsed apology and leave, part of me hoped she would stay and grovel.
At exactly noon, the doorbell chimed. I slipped my heeled sandals on, and walked over, opening the door and stepping back to allow her to enter. It was jarring to see her again, a few feet away from me, close enough to touch. She was wearing a white Chanel crochet cotton dress from last summer, and it suddenly occurred to me that she must have kept some of the clothes from Paris, though I knew that most went to Emily. When I shut the door, she jumped and turned around to face me.
“M-Miranda, hi.” She nervously looked around.
“Andrea,” I replied. As much as I wanted to see her squirm and make her stand right there in the foyer and tell me whatever it was she had to say, something made me invite her to the upstairs sitting room. I tried to tell myself it had nothing to do with making her relive her humiliation from that first night she brought the Book. I walked upstairs, jerking my head for her to follow me.
“Please, sit.” I casually reclined in the corner of the sofa.
Andrea boldly chose to sit at the opposite end of the sofa and turned to me. “Thank you for responding and agreeing to meet. I know you didn’t have to do that.”
“Don’t make me regret it. What was so important you had to tell me in person?” I absentmindedly rolled the fringe on the throw pillow between my fingertips.
She took a deep breath. “I am sorry about the way I left in Paris. It was unprofessional and immature, and I very much regret the way I handled things. There was so much happening at once. I should have at least waited until we returned and given notice.”
“You regret ‘the way you handled things’ but not leaving?” I asked. She looked flustered by the question, and that told me I’d interrupted the speech she had prepared. I pursed my lips to keep from smiling.
“Sometimes I miss Runway. But I don’t regret leaving the job. I regret leaving you.”
The words tumbled out in a whisper and I couldn’t be certain I heard them correctly. Judging by the way she looked down at her hands, then glanced up at me before averting her gaze again, I knew I must have.
I was genuinely curious about her reasons now. Of course I had just royally screwed Nigel to save myself, but it always felt like there was more to her departure. I had to think carefully about how to phrase this next question. A simple “why” would most certainly leave me dissatisfied with her answer.
“Then why walk out on me on one of the most difficult days of my entire life?” I glared at her, channeling every ounce of ice in my veins towards the young woman cowering next to me.
She looked up at me with tears in her eyes. “That is what I regret most. I am so sorry about that, Miranda. Please, forgive me.”
I rolled my eyes. “You didn’t answer my question.”
Andrea took a deep breath. “I might never get another chance to say this, so please let me finish,” she said. I presumed she would tell me some story about her moral dilemma because of the way I handled the Holt position, and if it made her feel better to tell me, so be it.
“Well, are you going to say it?” I asked impatiently.
She closed her eyes. “I was in love with you, and I wasn’t prepared for how much it hurts to be in love with Miranda Priestly.”
To say I was floored would be an understatement. I’ve had assistants profess their love for me before, but none of their faces came to mind during foreplay. So, Andrea Sachs was in love with me. This was certainly an interesting development. I thought her departure was more in response to my saying ‘us’ instead of ‘me’ that day in the car. I thought she abhorred the thought of being anything like me so much that she simply could not take it anymore. She couldn’t stand to be compared to the cold, uncaring, emotionless woman everyone else saw in me.
I quickly realized she was waiting for my reaction. “That’s it? That’s why you left?”
“That, and, I saw what you were doing to yourself, how you were closing yourself off from your feelings, and how you had been doing that for such a long time. They were threatening to spill over. For a second, that one evening, they did, and I thought you were going to open up to me. I thought maybe you could even feel something for me—appreciation, anger, anything. But then it became clear that Miranda Priestly wouldn’t ever let herself feel anything for an assistant.” She quickly stood and smoothed out her dress. “I should really go. Again, I’m sorry.”
By the time I realized what was happening, I practically had to run down the stairs. She was standing on the porch, her hand on the doorknob. “So, that’s it? You’re leaving me—again?” I stood there with my hands on my hips in disbelief. She kept her eyes fixed on the ground and didn’t move.
Again, I rolled my eyes. “As my daughters say, whatever.” I turned on my heel and marched back into the house, heading straight for the kitchen and the bottle of wine I left chilling. If I let myself think about it, I would realize that I wanted her to stay. There was so much she said that I wanted to ask her about, but admitting that would put us on something like equal footing and I wasn’t about to give in. I opened the bottle and poured a glass for myself, then I heard the front door latch, and Andrea cautiously walked into the kitchen.
“Help yourself—and bring the bottle,” I said, breezing past her and heading back upstairs to the sofa. I couldn’t help but think that I made a mistake that night in Paris and how different my life might be right now if I’d accepted her comfort and shown some appreciation. I was angry about so many things that night, and she got stuck in the crosshairs.
She finally joined me upstairs, refilling my glass and setting the bottle on the table. We stared at each other for a while, probably close to ten minutes. There was something about her boldness that I admired, her willingness to come here and admit her mistakes—and to not make them again. She looked as though she understood what I was thinking. That brazen attitude was alluring, particularly in someone like her. She had always been less passive and subservient than my other assistants, but she shined brightest when she was bold. Her eyes bore into mine, challenging me—to what, I wasn’t quite sure. I felt the slightest twinge between my legs and knew this would be the beginning of an interesting afternoon. My arousal was slowly building as I just sat there, staring at her.
I cleared my throat. “Tell me, why does it hurt to be in love with Miranda Priestly?”
She didn’t answer right away, instead reaching for the bottle and pouring herself another glass of wine. There was no rush. I had nowhere to be until Monday morning and was very much enjoying this time with her. My fingertips stroked my empty wine glass, but my eyes did not move from her. As I traced the curvature of the delicate crystal stem, I imagined what it would be like to trace my fingers along the column of her neck or up her spine. I wondered which parts of her body were erogenous and felt a little shiver as I imagined her finding mine. I stilled my hand and set my glass on the table.
“It hurts to be in love with Miranda Priestly,” she said after some time, “because I know she will never reciprocate my feelings.” Andrea leaned forward and set her empty glass on the table next to mine, never breaking eye contact.
I felt the muscles between my legs clench as a flame of desire burned through me. If she only knew the inappropriate ways I’d been imagining her. I uncrossed my legs and stood, walking over to the window. If I kept looking at her, I knew I couldn’t hide the passion burning within me.
After several minutes, she stood and joined me, and we stood, shoulder to shoulder, staring straight ahead but neither of us really looking. She turned to me first, and I reluctantly met her gaze, my eyes widening at what I saw. “I’m flattered, but I’m straight,” I told her, casually shaking my head. Anything to distract myself.
She reached her hand up and I nearly thought she was going to slap me, but all of a sudden her hand was in my hair and her lips were against mine, softer than I’d ever imagined. My eyes fluttered shut as her fingers pulled me closer by the hair at the nape of my neck. I could have moved. I could have squirmed out of reach or nudged her away, but I didn’t. As she deepened the kiss, her tongue made its way between my lips, and I jerked back and held her shoulders an arm’s length away. “Andrea, I’m straight, remember?”
She rolled her eyes. “Right. And I’m king of the world,” she said under her breath. “I’m sorry. I should go.”
I just stood there, stunned as she walked downstairs.
From the doorway, she called up to me, “This is not me leaving you.”
My fingertips shot up to my lips, feeling the ghost of her touch, and then the front door slammed shut. She did what she came here to do, I supposed. After all, I imagined she would apologize and leave, just as she did. But that kiss, that was unexpected—and not unpleasant. So much for ridding me of that fixation, I thought.
Hoping to regain my balance, I called Michael and arranged to see him that evening, then went up to my home office to take my mind off the events of the afternoon. My Saturday evening date with Michael was not satisfying. Nor was Sunday with Todd or Tuesday with René or Wednesday with Maurice or Friday with Jackson. The image of Andrea’s hair on my sheets and her hands on my body was indelible. No matter how many extremely attractive men worshipped my body, I still imagined that they looked like her.
Saturday morning, I had my annual physical with my general physician. I expected to be advised to cut back on red meat and watch my cholesterol and blood pressure, as I’d been told year after year based on my family history. What I didn’t expect was for my doctor to order a test for sexually-transmitted diseases. I’d gotten tested right after Stephen confessed his cheating, and I was clean. And that was only three months ago. But my physician explained that people who have multiple sexual partners should be tested more frequently. So, I did the test.
On the way home, traffic was a nightmare. I was scrolling through my phone when I got an email from the nurse saying my test results all came back negative. Though my physician offered no judgment, it was clear she was aware of what was happening in my personal life and was concerned—at least from a medical perspective. And sure, it had been fun for a while. But I decided that maybe enough was enough. They helped me feel sexy and desirable again, something I thought I’d lost during the end of my last marriage. But none of it felt fulfilling to me. It was all just… a waste of time. And Miranda Priestly did not waste time. I canceled my upcoming dates and deleted my profile on the website. Maybe I could meet someone the old-fashioned way. And if not, well, I still had my daughters, I still had Runway.
When the car stopped in front of my home, I was surprised to see Andrea sitting on my front steps in another sundress, though this one was strapless and off the rack. Looking down, I immediately felt a wave of embarrassment because I was wearing the same Hilfiger dress I wore last Saturday. I felt the need to tell her that it had at least been dry cleaned, even though it hadn’t. I considered asking my driver to circle the block, but then thought better of it. Best to deal with her and get on with my day.
I stepped out of the car and marched across the sidewalk. “Did you make a standing reservation on my porch that I didn’t know about when you left last week?” I sneered.
“Nope,” she said, still sitting on the step, blocking the path to my door. “Just wondering how your heterosexuality’s been treating you. Five in one week? That’s impressive.”
Her words rankled me. “Get off my steps or I’m calling the police.”
“Fine,” she said, standing up and walking down the steps until we were standing shoulder to shoulder.
I could feel my pulse quicken from the sheer proximity to her body. There was a slight sheen to her skin, no doubt a byproduct of sitting in the warm sun. My body ached for hers, but I knew if I moved a single muscle, I wouldn’t be able to resist. To resist touching her, kissing her, taking her inside and…
She leaned over to whisper in my ear, “I’ve always seen how you look at me. You don’t hide it well. And last week, I felt it. I felt your desperation… your lust.”
The combination of those words and her warm breath sent a shiver down my spine and I let out an audible gasp at my body’s reaction. She was probably grinning, but she was right. She was right about all of it: the looks I gave her, the desperation in that kiss, how much it hurt to love me. But love was furthest from my mind at the moment. I was still on the basic human needs, and it was true, I needed her like I needed air.
In a flurry of movement, I turned and crushed my lips against hers. It was anything but gentle, but I didn’t care. My hands were in her hair, on her neck, and around her waist as I pawed at her right there on the sidewalk.
“Inside,” she muttered against my mouth and we stumbled up the stairs, almost losing our balance twice. She took the key from my trembling hand and opened the door as my mouth attacked the area where her neck meets her shoulders.
Once inside, we didn’t make it past the foyer when I pinned her against the closet door, kissing her and touching her and making her wail. I could feel her heat pulsating against my knee as I reached for her, pushing the ruched bodice of her dress down around her waist. She wasn’t wearing a bra, and I quickly cupped those breasts I’d been imagining for so long.
She took advantage of my distraction and pushed us away from the wall, back towards the staircase. Her lips were pressed against mine and she had her hands on my waist and in my hair. We stumbled halfway up the stairs until she pushed be backwards against the concave wall with more force than I’d expected. I gasped and my eyes shot open, surprised at the accompanying pleasure. She smirked and attached her lips to my neck, kissing and sucking and licking—and driving me absolutely mad—while her hands found the zipper on the back of my dress.
I squirmed out of her grasp and climbed the few remaining steps to the second floor. She followed, her hands reaching for my neck and sliding the sleeves of the dress off my arms, exposing my white lace bra. I pulled her close, kissing her fiercely as I explored her mouth with my tongue and enjoyed the feel of her naked breasts against mine. We stumbled back towards the stairs. “Bedroom,” I whispered against her neck while I was sucking and leaving a mark that had nothing to do with lipstick.
Halfway up the stairs, my legs turned to jelly when she scraped her teeth along my bottom lip. She parted my knees and ripped off the delicate white lace panties I’d been wearing. My head flew back as I felt the air hit, followed quickly by her fingers. It felt as though I no longer had control of my body as her ministrations caused me to arch up and cry out in ways I’d only ever faked. My hips rocked against her hand and I held the baluster with a death-grip to keep from sliding down the staircase. When she leaned forward and took my lace-clad nipple between her teeth, I couldn’t hold on any longer.
My orgasm roiled through me right there on the plush indigo stairs with my dress around my waist and one hand firmly in her hair. She trailed her lips up my chest until she reached my mouth, kissing me softly as the aftershocks pulsed through my body and against her open palm. She removed her hand, wiped it on her dress, then held it out to me.
I took it, pulling myself up, then yanking her up the stairs to the third floor where we stumbled into my bedroom. I stepped out of my dress and heels and slid hers down to the floor along with her underwear before pushing her back to the mattress and climbing on top of her. My hands grasped and squeezed at her embonpoint while my lips focused on her mouth. She was as arousing and delicious as I’d imagined. “Oh fuck, Miranda, please,” she cried, but I just grinned. I planned to savor this.
Several hours later, I stared up at my bedroom ceiling. I was partially covered by a sheet, partially by the brunette who had fallen asleep in exhaustion against my chest. A single tear escaped my eye as I thought back on the last few months. I spent my whole life denying myself so many opportunities, just to fit into the mold of what society expected me to be—knowing, the entire time, that it wasn’t really me. And now, Andrea Sachs offered me the opportunity to be so unabashedly myself on a crystal platter. In many ways, my life was just beginning. There was so much to be discovered, so much of myself yet to be found.
But there was no rush, because for once in a very long while, I felt fulfilled.