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The Thirteenth Floor

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Andrea Sachs, Andy to almost everyone, hurried past the loading dock and into the freight elevator. Jabbing the button with her elbow, she adjusted the messenger bag slung over her shoulder, and tightened her grip on the Starbucks cup destined for her boss.

Exhausted, Andy sighed as she leaned against the elevator walls thinking of her boss. Normally, Miranda Priestly, Editor In Chief of Runway magazine, kept two assistants at a mad rush fulfilling her commands. Unfortunately, Miranda fired the last second assistant three days ago and left Andy at a dead run ever since.

In an attempt to gain a little breathing room, Andy tried drafting various clackers for picking up Miranda’s coffee. Invariably, the order was wrong or the coffee was cold by the time it reached Miranda’s hand. She finally gave up and decided to just do it herself. It wasn’t worth the havoc to the rest of Runway as the clackers’ jobs came under peril. Even as she took the job back, Andy mourned the loss of her small entertainment. It had been fun to watch the clackers scurry back to their departments to escape Miranda’s ire.

While the elevator ascended, Andy dug around in her bag for her cell phone. Since no other Runway employee was capable of answering phones to Miranda’s satisfaction, Andy forwarded the office phones to her cell. She wanted to double check that there were no missed calls and that her battery was good. Still looking at the phone screen when the elevator halted, Andy slipped through the doors before they were fully opened. She was half way down the hall when she finally glanced up and realized this was an unfamiliar corridor.

Andy started to spin around to head back to the freight elevator when six women exited one of the offices and started down the hall. The last woman in line glanced over her shoulder giving Andy a look of distain. “Huh,” she muttered as she slipped back into the elevator. “Auto Universe must be doing a classic car shoot.” The women were dressed in fashions popular during the 1950s. Before punching the button for the seventeenth floor, she paused. The light for the thirteenth floor was lit. Not, as she expected, the fourteenth where Auto Universe was located.

She was still confused about what she had seen when the elevator arrived at Runway’s floor. Andy sped out the elevator and down the back hallway towards Miranda’s office. She set the cup down on the desk just as Miranda swept in.

“I don’t understand how the other E-C magazines continue to function. Is it too much to ask to be prepared to discuss your budget in an intelligent manner?” Disgusted, Miranda tossed the folder she carried to the desktop. Without pausing her tirade, Miranda rounded the desk and pulled out her chair. “We have these meetings every quarter and still the same players are not prepared.” As she sat, Miranda looked Andrea up and down. She thought the girl looked exceptionally tired for a Monday and felt a brief stab of regret. Shaking it off, she seized the coffee needing something positive to block out the absurdity that was the last two hours. Miranda froze at the taste of the first sip.

“Andrea, this coffee is cold.” Miranda glared at her first assistant and carefully placed the cup back on the desk.

“What?! Miranda, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what happened.” Horrified Andy could only stand there and wring her hands. She had always gotten the coffee order right, even from the beginning. “I’m so sorry. I’ll go get another.” She was sure the next words out of Miranda’s mouth would be you’re fired. Instead she watched in shock as Miranda leaned back and rubbed her forehead.

“Andrea, breathe.” Miranda acknowledged her own advice and took a deep breath. “Obviously, handling the duties of two people is too much for you.” Sitting up straight, Miranda picked up her glasses and glared.

Andy blanched. ‘This is it,’ she thought.

Miranda waved at the offending cup. “Heat this up in the microwave. Then call HR and have them send a list of qualified candidates for a new second assistant. If they are incapable of performing their job, their function can be outsourced. That’s all.” Miranda spun around in her chair and stared out at the skyline.

She stayed that way until she heard Andrea set the re-heated coffee on her desk and retreat from her office. Miranda slipped on her glasses as she turned back around and picked up the coffee. Sighing, she took the first sip. When had she gone soft? When did she start making allowances for incompetence? Rolling her eyes at herself, Miranda acknowledged that Andrea was not incompetent. If anything the shadows under the young woman’s eyes indicated over work.

Regret once again crept in and this time Miranda was hard pressed to ignore it. The previous second assistant had been slow but it was possible she could have improved with a little time. It was also possible that she over reacted when the prior second assistants failed to live up to Andrea’s exceptional behavior.

For Andrea’s sake, Miranda decided to give the next second assistant a little longer to learn the job. Andrea was the best first assistant she had ever had. It would be self-defeating if she worked the young woman into the ground. Miranda stopped short of considering what would happen when Andrea was promoted. There was no use in borrowing trouble. Besides, Andrea wouldn’t move on until there was an adequate replacement for her position.

Andy sat slumped at her computer answering e-mails and updating Miranda’s schedule. She still hadn’t shaken off the feeling of failure. Since Paris Andy strived to exceed Miranda’s expectations as a way to make up for nearly failing spectacularly. She had come so close to walking away it still make her stomach lurch to think of it.

Her computer pinged to remind her that Miranda had an overseas teleconference in ten minutes. Grabbing her notebook she hurried around her desk to just inside the editor’s office. “Miranda?” Andy called softly. Her boss glanced up before returning to the document on her laptop. “The conference call starts in ten.” Andy chewed her lip as she waited.

Miranda sighed and closed the laptop lid. “Very well. Did you contact HR?”

“Yes,” Andy nodded. “Cheri promised to have at least three applicants in the office tomorrow for interviews.”

“Fine.” Miranda straightened some papers stacked in the middle of her desk. “While I’m busy with this call get the latest accessory proofs from Emily and take your lunch break. Close the door on your way out.”

“Yes, Miranda.” Andy backed out of the office pulling the door closed as she left.

Once Miranda was involved with the teleconference, Andy hurried down the hall. Emily was hunched over her desk intently studying proof sheets and making notes. Andy knocked softly on the doorframe so as not to startle her. “Hey, Em.”

Emily glared at Andy acting incredibly put out at the interruption. “What do you want?”

“The proofs for Miranda?” Andy grinned as Emily started frantically grabbing sheets scattered across her desk. She never took her friend’s attitude personally. Emily was a dragon in training and doing her best to emulate her idol.

Andy leaned her hip against the desk as Emily sorted and arranged the stack. “Em, what offices are on the thirteenth floor?”

Emily paused as she glanced up at Andy. “Auto Universe of course. You Americans and your silly superstitions – misnumbering floors to skip the unlucky thirteenth.” Emily handed the stack of photos to Andy.

“No I meant …” Andy took the photos and tried to explain.

“Andy, I’m really busy. If you don’t mind, some of us have work to do.” Emily considered adding a ‘that’s all’ but restrained herself.

Andy rolled her eyes as she left. She was a little surprised that Emily hadn’t thrown a ‘that’s all’ at her. After some consideration, Andy figured that would probably be pushing the imitation a little too much.

After Andy left, Emily stared at the doorway. Pursing her lips, she was disappointed in herself. She really should have been nicer. Andy had always been a good friend and didn’t deserve the brush off. Emily vowed to make amends after she got caught up.

Andy verified that Miranda was still involved with the teleconference and left the proofs on the corner of her desk. She decided to get a salad in the cafeteria rather than leave the building. Andy headed for the main elevators since they were closer. She studied the elevator control panel after she pushed the button for the cafeteria’s floor. There was no button for the thirteenth floor. However, there was a space were one could be situated.

As she crunched through her salad, Andy considered what she had seen. She finally decided that the only way she was going to get any answers was to go back to the thirteenth floor. Her best opportunity would be this evening after everyone left and before the book was ready.

***

That evening Andy was ready for her mission to the mysterious thirteenth floor. She handled all of the e-mails and wrapped up the revisions to Miranda’s schedule. Her boss had gone home early and only a few stragglers were left working in Runway’s offices. There was nothing left to do but wait for the book. A quick call to the art department let her know it would be at least another hour. Taking a last look around her desk, Andy grabbed her phone and headed for the freight elevator.

This time, when the elevator doors slid open, Andy peered down the hallway before edging out. The bravado she felt sitting at her desk evaporated. Before taking two steps, she ducked back in the car and hit the door lock. The elevator would be waiting in case she needed to leave in a hurry.

Andy chewed her lip as she crept along the dimly lit hall. ‘At least the emergency lights are working,’ she thought. She looked over her shoulder often, making sure that the elevator doors were still open. When the hallway came to a T, Andy peeked around the corner to see which way to go. Both directions were clear. “Right. I’ll go right,” she whispered. She glanced back at the elevator one more time before creeping around the corner.

The quiet was unnerving. The further she moved from the elevator the more nervous she became. By the time the hallway ended in a large open area Andy’s nerves were wound tight. She still hadn’t seen or heard anything. The offices on either side of the hallway had their doors standing open and were empty.

Andy was ready to scurry back to the elevator when she noticed a doorway with light spilling out. Swallowing hard, she eased closer and peered inside. The office was light and airy and beautifully furnished. A petite woman with gunmetal gray hair was standing behind a glass topped desk. She looked up from the magazine she was studying. With her hand on her hip, she tilted her head waiting for Andy to say something.

“Umm, hi.” Andy took a nervous step into the office. She paused when she caught a whiff of Chanel No. 5 perfume. “I’m Andy Sachs. Who are you and what office is this?”

The woman closed the magazine and stepped around her desk. “My name is Vivian Martine, Editor in Chief of Runway magazine, and this is my office.” Vivian smirked at Andy’s look of shock.

“But, but,” Andy’s mouth went dry and she couldn’t speak.

“If you’d like to stay, I have a run through scheduled.” Vivian waved to someone behind Andy.

Andy turned as several people and a rack full of clothes flowed into the room and moved through a doorway on the other side of the office. Her eyes bugged out and she felt faint when she realized the people were transparent. Andy stepped back and glanced at Vivian.

“Oh, by the way, the models don’t appreciate hot coffee.” The woman gave her an evil grin and vanished.

Andy whirled around and sprinted out of the office. She didn’t stop running until she slammed into the back wall of the elevator. When she bounced back, she slapped the controls to unlock the doors and punched the button for the seventeenth floor. The whole time repeating ‘oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.’

Luckily, the book was waiting when Andy stumbled back to her desk. She grabbed it and her bag before rushing out.

On the ride to the townhouse, Roy kept casting worried looks into the rearview mirror. He’d never seen Andy so pale. The shivering concerned him more. Miranda would go into dragon mode for sure if Andy had to take any sick time. When they arrived at the townhouse Roy held Andy’s door and helped her gather the dry cleaning. “I’ll wait for you, Andy.”

“You don’t need to Roy.” Andy almost fainted with relief but she didn’t want to take advantage of the driver. “I can take the subway.”  

“No. The wife is visiting her sister, so I’m in no rush,” he assured her. He’d seen her eyes dart up and down the street. He didn’t know if she was sick or scared but he would make sure she got home safely. His wife would understand when he explained why he was late tonight.

Andy nodded her thanks and trudged up the townhouse steps. Just inside the door, she slipped off her shoes. Padding across the foyer, Andy placed the book on the table and moved back to the closet to hang up the dry cleaning.

Andy carefully hung the plastic covered garments and stepped out of the closet. Her mind spun with thoughts of Vivian as she closed the door and turned to leave. “Ahhhh,” Andy screamed.

Miranda stepped back, startled at her assistant’s reaction. Concerned, she watched her assistant clutch at her chest and slump against the closet door. “Andrea, what is your problem?” 

“I’m sorry, Miranda,” Andy gasped at the harsh tone. “I wasn’t expecting to see you there.”

“It is my home,” Miranda sniffed. She pursed her lips as she took in Andrea’s ashen appearance. Shaking her head, Miranda made a unilateral decision. The young woman was over wrought from carrying the weight of the first and second assistant duties. “Andrea, you will hire one of the applicants tomorrow. I don’t care which one, as long as that person has two functioning brain cells.”

“Yes, Miranda.” Andy stood up straight, taking a deep breath. As she relaxed her heart rate dropped to a reasonable level.

“You are not taking the subway home tonight. You will call a cab. I'm not convinced that you could navigate public transportation in your current state."

Andy smiled at her boss’ concern. “It’s okay Miranda. Roy offered to take me home. He’s waiting.” Andy moved to the front door and slipped on her shoes.

“Good. I will see you tomorrow.” Miranda stared at the door for several minutes after Andrea left. She finally picked up the book and headed for her study.

By the time Roy dropped Andy off at her building, she felt as if she had been flattened by a giant wave. After she locked her apartment door, Andy headed for the bedroom, peeling off and dropping articles of clothing as she went. Her trail was also marked by the lights she flipped on as she passed. She collapsed onto the bed falling asleep almost immediately.

***

The next morning Andy was at her desk early. She felt restored after last night’s sleep. The sun filled morning evaporated any lingering fears of ghosts and haunted office floors. She reveled in the stress free morning when she remembered that Miranda had a facial appointment and wouldn’t be in until 10:00. Since there were only a few e-mails requiring a response, Andy spent most of the morning researching Vivian Martine.

Runway’s website contained a listing of all the prior Editors In Chief along with a short biography. Andy clicked on a link and stared at the picture on her screen. That was the woman, or ghost, she saw last night. Vivian Martine, Editor in Chief, from 1947 until 1963. During her tenure Runway increased circulation and was hailed as visionary in spotting and endorsing fashion trends. Ms. Martine personally interviewed Coco Chanel in 1954 when she re-opened her Paris fashion salon.

Andy was impressed by what she learned about the late editor. She was struck by the similarities Vivian Martine shared with Miranda Priestly. The only difference Andy noticed was that Vivian never married and had no children. The woman dedicated her whole life to the magazine. She was relentless in her pursuit of perfection.

Several commentators stated that Vivian’s only failure was not grooming a successor. Vivian was a hard woman to work for and ultimately drove many of her best and brightest away. When she died unexpectedly, no one was capable of stepping in and carrying on her vision. Runway suffered through two mediocre editors until Miranda Priestly’s reign began.

Andy closed her internet browser and sat staring into space. Even though the woman/ghost scared the crap out of her last night, Andy felt sorry for Vivian.

Shaking her head, Andy put further thoughts of Vivian Martine aside. She needed to get ready to interview the applicants for second assistant. She really hoped at least one would be acceptable.

***

Forehead on her desk, Andy groaned. She wondered what she had done to make HR hate her. She muttered a silent prayer of thanks that the interviews were done. The third and final candidate was currently down in HR filling out paperwork. Why didn’t Cheri send her up first? Andy decided it was revenge for the outsourcing comment. That would teach her to pass on Miranda’s snide remarks.

The first young woman Cheri sent up proved her ability to chew gum and walk at the same time. As far as Andy could tell, that was the extent of her talents. She was dismissed after a perfunctory interview. Andy knew Miranda would murder her with her Jimmy Choos if the new second assistant sauntered into her office smacking her gum.

The second applicant showed promise until she started listing what she required from the position. Her demands for regular hours, weekends off, and no travel outside of the city doomed her prospects. Once Andy explained the long hours, phone calls in the middle of the night, and trips around the world for fashion weeks and photo shoots the girl picked up her purse and walked out.

The third time really was the charm today. Clarice dressed well, was articulate, eager to learn, and knew how to spell Gabbana. As far as Andy was concerned, she was golden. Hopefully, Miranda would agree.

Andy glanced at the time. Miranda’s appointment should be wrapping up. If Andy left now she could make a Starbucks run and get back just as Miranda was due.

The silver Mercedes pulled up to the curb just as Andy walked up to the building doors. She pulled the door open and waited for Miranda to breeze past. Andy followed Miranda to the elevators and hesitated briefly before Miranda glared at her from inside the elevator. Once inside the car, Andy traded the Starbucks cup for the book.

Miranda savored the hot coffee and discretely observed her assistant. Andrea seemed to be back to her confident, competent self. “Is there a new Emily in the office?” Miranda’s asked in a bored tone.

“Yes, Miranda. She’s completing the necessary paperwork now.” Andy crossed her fingers under the book and hoped Miranda meant what she said last night.

“Did she meet my requirements?” Miranda said as she strode down the hall.

Requirements? Andy scurried to keep up and replay last night’s conversation. “Oh, yes. Yes, Miranda, I believe she has at least two functioning brain cells.”

“Well, then. All is right with the world.” Miranda threw her purse on the new girl’s desk and disappeared into her office.

“We can only hope,” Andy muttered.

The rest of the day, Andy continually fed Clarice information. Lists of phone numbers were printed out. E-mail contacts were copied from Andy’s Runway e-mail to Clarice’s. Before leaving Clarice had almost filled a notebook with an eclectic assortment of data bites. When Clarice finally staggered out that evening, Andy almost felt sorry for the young woman’s shell-shocked face. But then she reminded herself that this was for Miranda. Everything she did was so that Miranda’s life ran smoothly. If Miranda was happy, then Runway was happy.

While she waited for the book, Andy thought about making another trip to the thirteenth floor. But she decided she needed more information. Not that she was scared. Ghosts couldn’t hurt the living. Besides, Vivian hadn’t seemed hostile. Maybe further research was a good idea.

Two hours later the book was ready and Andy was jumping at the slightest sound. When the air conditioning cycled, Andy about had a heart attack. Her research into ghostly behavior scared the crap out of her.

She still looked spooked when Roy picked her up and once again he offered to wait for her at Miranda’s townhouse. Andy didn’t have to worry about her boss popping out of thin air since she was attending a dinner with Runway advertisers. That night Andy crawled into bed deliberately leaving every light in the apartment blazing

Andy asked Clarice to come in early the next morning. She took the new second assistant to Starbucks and introduced her to the baristas.

“Clarice, you have to get Miranda’s coffee order right.” Andy and Clarice were walking back to Runway sipping their drinks. “HR has a spreadsheet summarizing the reason someone was fired. For Miranda’s assistants the number one reason is screwing up the coffee order.” Andy bit her lip as she thought of her own recent foul up. She figured the only reason Miranda didn’t fire her was because there was no second assistant to fall back on.

“I’ll do my best, Andy.” With one hand Clarice gripped her cup tight. With the other she held on to the post-it note where Andy had written out Miranda’s coffee order. It would become the single most important piece of paper in her possession.

Half an hour later, Roy sent Andy a text that he was on his way with Miranda. Andy nodded at Clarice and she was up and out of the office like a shot. Andy double-checked that everything was laid out properly on Miranda’s desk before she grabbed her notebook and pen and headed for the elevators. Clarice popped out of one elevator and hurried down the hall. Miranda marched out of the next elevator. Andy took the book and started writing as Miranda rattled off her demands for the day. 

Miranda flung her purse on the second assistant’s desk and without pause continued into her office. She narrowed her eyes at the waiting Starbucks cup as she stalked around the desk to her chair.

Andy chewed her lip and waited for Miranda’s first sip. She let out the breath she didn’t realize she was holding when Miranda continued on with her instructions.

For the first time in months, Andy didn’t feel like she was ten steps behind. As soon as Miranda called ‘Emily’, Clarice was up and around her desk. Clarice ran all of the errands, allowing Andy to attend meetings with Miranda, manage Miranda’s schedule, and handle any special Miranda projects.

Andy was still responsible for delivering the book and a few nights later she decided another visit to the thirteenth floor was in order. It had been a week of research and sleeping with the lights on. It was time for answers. After determining it would be another hour before the book was ready, Andy grabbed her phone and started for the freight elevator.

When the elevator doors opened on to the dimly lit hallway, Andy took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. She stepped out of the elevator car and slowly retraced her earlier path. Andy glanced over her shoulder before turning the corner. The freight elevator doors were locked open. She was feeling a little more confident, but she wasn’t stupid. Soon she was standing outside of a brightly lit office. Vivian was seated behind her desk reading a magazine.

“Come in, Andy.” Vivian continued reading and turned a page.

Andy gripped her phone and edged into the office. She studied the woman, ghost, as she waited. The biography she read stated that Vivian was 56 when she died. Andy thought Vivian was beautiful and looked much younger. She wondered if ghosts could change their appearance or if this was really how Vivian looked when she passed. The woman looked quite elegant in her navy dress and pearls. Was this a favorite outfit when she was alive? Or was this how she was dressed when she was buried?

Vivian closed the magazine and looked up. She gestured to one of the chairs in front of her desk and Andy hesitantly sat on the edge of the chair. The faint scent of Chanel No. 5 tickled Andy’s nose.

“I’m surprised to see you.” Vivian leaned back in her chair. “I didn’t think you would ever come back.”

Andy swallowed and sat up straighter. “Me neither,” she muttered. “I’ve never met someone like you before. At least not that I know of. I, umm, read your biography.”

Vivian smiled. “Did you now? Well, you have me at a disadvantage.” Vivian rested her elbows on the arms of the chair and steepled her fingers under her chin. “Tell me about yourself.”

“Oh, well, I work at Runway. I graduated from Northwestern. Born and raised in Ohio.” Andy shrugged. “There’s not a lot to tell.”

“Oh, please,” Vivian smirked. “You are the first assistant to Miranda Priestly. Are you not?”

Andy’s eyes widened. “How did you know?”

“I have my ways when it comes to things Runway.” Vivian looked Andy in the eye. “Tell me about Miranda. I know a bit about the editor. What kind of person is she?”

“Miranda is an amazing woman.” Andy smiled as she considered her boss. “She’s brilliant, a creative genius, and an amazingly tough business woman. She pushes everyone to achieve perfection every day.” Andy shook her head and looked down at her hands. “She pushes herself just as hard or harder.”

Vivian heard more than just respect in Andy’s description. “What about her personal life? Or is she totally dedicated to Runway?”

Andy’s expression softened. “She has twin eleven year old girls. Miranda is a loving mother, very involved with her girls. I’ve juggled her schedule quite a few times so that she could attend their recitals or parent teacher conferences.”

Just then Andy’s phone pinged. “I have to go,” she said with regret. “The book is ready.”

Vivian dipped her head. “Very well. Maybe you can come again. I’ve enjoyed our chat.”

“I’d like that.” Andy started out of the office but paused at the doorway to look back at Vivian. The woman, the ghost, sat there watching. Her wistful expression hinted at loneliness. “Good night, Vivian.”

Andy had the book securely wrapped in her arms when she stepped off the elevator in the building’s lobby. She was surprised to be met by John Carson, Security Night Manager.

“Hey, John.” It had been a while since she had seen the big man and he looked serious. Andy wondered what the problem was.

“Hey, Andy.” John glanced around to make sure none of the other security guards were around. “I notice you were on the thirteenth floor this evening. You were also there last week.”

“Yeah, is that a problem?” Andy wondered why John was concerned.

“We don’t have security cameras on that floor. Management didn’t want to spend the money on a floor with no tenants. There are cameras on the freight elevator and the stairwells. But that’s it, Andy. I’m not sure how safe it is for you to be on that floor by yourself late at night. Why were you there?” John asked. 

Andy felt her face flush. There was no way John would believe that she was visiting with the ghost of a former editor. Andy thought fast. “Can you keep a secret?” Andy relaxed at John’s nod. “The Closet is running out of room. I thought we could move it to the thirteenth floor. I’ve been wandering around, making some notes, and taking measurements. I don’t want to say anything to Miranda until I have a plan.”

John rubbed his chin as he considered Andy’s explanation. “Okay. So you’re going to be checking it out from time to time?” When Andy nodded, he continued. “Give us a call before you go and keep your phone with you. Can you do that?”

Andy breathed a sigh of relief and patted John’s arm. “Sure. I appreciate you looking out for me.”

“No problem, Andy. You have a good night.” John gave her a brief wave before returning to the security office.

Andy settled into the back of the town car and gazed out the window. It bothered her that she could lie so easily. She also wondered why she felt so comfortable in the company of a ghost.  

***

Andy visited Vivian each night while waiting for the book. The only nights she missed were weekends. Lately things had been running smoothly at Runway and no crisis required working Saturday and Sunday. Andy enjoyed listening to Vivian reminisce about her time as Editor. She regretted the text message notifying her that the book was ready.

During their conversations, Andy avoided commenting on Vivian’s state. For some reason it felt disrespectful to refer to her as a ghost. She thought Vivian was a vibrant, intelligent woman and that it was a damn shame the woman died in what must have been her prime.

Vivian also enjoyed her time with Andy. Friendships had been casualties of her obsession with work when she was alive. After so many years as a ghost, she appreciated the younger woman taking the time to make a connection with her. She thought it was the height of irony that she had to die to make friends.

Vivian had to hide her smiles whenever their conversations turned to Miranda Priestly, which they did frequently. Andy was nothing less than effusive with her praise and admiration for her boss.

One night during a lull in the discussion Andy took her time gazing at the office furnishings. “Is this how it was when you were … editor?” Andy hoped the slight pause wasn’t noticeable. She almost said when you were alive.

“For the most part yes.” Vivian had her legs crossed as she relaxed in her high back chair. “I would change some of the paintings.” She gestured towards the far wall. “That mirror was relatively new when …” Vivian sighed. Her time with Andy allowed her to forget for just a little while.

“It’s all very beautiful,” Andy said softly. “You have wonderful taste.”

Vivian looked around her office. “It’s all a memory.”

Andy tilted her head in confusion.

“I make it like this so that I am comfortable.” Vivian stood up and waved her right hand. The beautifully furnished bright office disappeared. In its place was a space dimly lit by the emergency lights. Where Vivian’s glass-topped desk stood was an old wooden table covered in dust. Centered on the table was a current issue of Runway.

Andy looked down. The Louis XV chair she had been sitting on was now a metal folding chair. The dove gray carpet was gone. The floor was bare, dirty concrete.

Before Andy could say anything, her phone pinged. “Vivian?” The ghost gave her a sad smile. “I still think you have wonderful taste. I’ll see you tomorrow. Okay?”

“Of course.” Vivian bowed her head. “I look forward to it.”

The next night Vivian thought Andy appeared distracted. “Is everything okay, Andy?” She wondered how much longer she would be able to enjoy the companionship of her living friend.

“Hmm,” Andy glanced up from her phone. “Oh, everything is fine. Clarice is shaping up to be a great assistant.” She had told Vivian about the trials of training second assistants. Vivian had offered helpful advice and gave Andy the opportunity to vent when things had not gone as smoothly as she hoped.

“Vivian, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” Andy bit her lip, wanting to know more about her friend but not wanting to hurt her feelings or make her uncomfortable.

Vivian smiled as she leaned back in her chair. “Of course. We’ve covered many topics these last few weeks. If I don’t want to answer, I won’t.” Vivian moved a lock of hair behind her ear.

Andy leaned forward in her chair. “Why are you still here?”

Vivian shrugged. “I’m afraid it is the same old story. Heaven doesn’t want me and hell still has that restraining order.”

Andy rolled her eyes and sat back. “Seriously? I thought when a person passed, they went to an afterlife of some kind.”

Vivian laughed at her friend’s frustration. “Runway was my life. I lived and died in this office.” She looked around the space remembering. “I was so angry when I died.” Vivian stood up and moved towards the windows. “I felt betrayed by my body and the universe. I had so many plans. We were expanding the Runway offices and moving to the seventeenth floor. Circulation was way up.” She looked out of the darkened windows. “I was working late as usual. There was a pain and then nothing.”

Andy wiped a tear from her cheek. “I read it was a massive heart attack,” she whispered.

“It was a catastrophe.” Vivian’s shoulders slumped as she placed her hand against the glass. “There may have been a light. I don’t remember. All I knew was that I wanted to stay at Runway. So I did.” Vivian turned around and leaned against the windowsill.

“You never got to see the new offices?” Andy asked, stricken by the injustice.

“Oh, I’ve been up there a few times,” Vivian crossed her arms, giving a sly half smile. At Andy’s puzzled expression she laughed. “On Halloween night, when the veil is stretched thin, I can travel anywhere I wish.” Vivian paused and gazed at a spot over Andy’s head. “In fact on Halloween I am capable of quite a few things,” she mused. Vivian continued to stare while deep in thought.

“Vivian?” Andy called softly.

“Halloween is in a few days.” Vivian seemed to be thinking out loud, her expression serious.

“Vivian?” Andy waved her hand to get the woman/ghost’s attention.

“I know what I have to do.” Vivian turned her attention back to Andy. “You’re the first friend I’ve had in years. Our nightly chats reminded me how much I have missed.” She smiled brightly and stepped away from the windows. “I need a companion.”

Andy frowned as she studied Vivian. “What? A companion?” Something about the change in Vivian’s attitude started ringing alarm bells in Andy’s head.

“Yes. Miranda Priestly will be perfect.” Vivian rubbed her hands together in delight.

Andy shot to her feet. “Miranda? Vivian, what are you talking about?”

Vivian started pacing in front of the windows. “It will be perfect,” she continued thinking out loud. “On Halloween night, I’ll cross her over. We’ll be able to talk about fashion and Runway. We can watch the latest trends unfold.” Vivian stopped behind her desk and gave Andy a wide smile.

“Vivian, no! You can’t take Miranda.” Andy hurried around the desk and tried to grab Vivian’s arm. She remembered whom she was dealing with when her hand swiped through the ghostly form.

“I have plans to set in motion, Andy. I’ll talk to you later.” Vivian waved and vanished. The office reverted to its dimly lit, dusty reality.

“Vivian!” Andy stamped her foot. “Damn it. Get back here!” She was getting ready to yell again when her phone signaled that the book was ready. “Damn it!” Andy felt like slamming the phone against the closest wall. Instead she started cursing as she hurried to the elevator.

The next morning Andy came in early since she hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. As soon as she closed her eyes she saw Vivian rubbing her hands, saying she was going to take Miranda. Andy knew this was her own damn fault. Stupid crush. She shook her head. It wasn’t a crush. She was in love with her boss and she didn’t have a snowball’s chance with the woman. Why didn’t she keep her mouth shut when Vivian asked about Miranda? Every word she uttered convinced Vivian that Miranda was a truly exceptional woman. Who wouldn’t want to spend a lifetime getting to know Miranda Priestly?

Andy had to talk to Vivian. She had to convince her to leave Miranda alone. After dropping her bag and coat on her desk, she made a quick visit to the thirteenth floor. The ghost models were milling about but paid her no attention. Vivian was nowhere in sight and her office was just as dim and dusty as last evening. Andy paused in the doorway. Something about the office bothered her but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She finally decided her worry for Miranda was making her crazy.

When Miranda glided out of the elevator, the first thing she noticed was that Andrea looked frazzled and out of sorts. Her usual bright doe-like eyes were blood shot and dull. Although fashionably dressed, she wasn’t carrying herself with her typical assurance. Miranda frowned when she noticed Andrea chewing her bottom lip while jotting down the daily instructions. She flung her coat and bag at Clarice’s desk and dismissed Andrea at the office door with ‘that’s all.’

Miranda stalked around her desk to stand in front of the windows. The office had been running smoothly, Miranda hadn’t felt the need to fire anyone lately, and the magazine was crisis free. What was wrong with Andrea? Miranda gasped and clutched the windowsill. Was it personal? Was a new significant other in the picture? Miranda had exceptional hearing and was able to overhear everything Andrea told Clarice, personal and professional. Not once in the sharing of personal information did Andrea mention a love interest. Surely that would be something the young woman would mention in passing to a co-worker.

“Andrea.” Miranda called as she turned and pulled out her chair. As she sat she expected to see her first assistant. Instead Clarice stood just inside the doorway holding a pen and notebook.

“Yes, Miranda.” Clarice shivered at Miranda’s fierce glare.

“I believe I called for Andrea,” Miranda growled. “Did my words magically transform?”

The young woman’s eyes went wide and she shook her head. “Nnno, Miranda. Andy said she would be right back. She had to take care of something.” Clarice’s hands trembled slightly and her voice wavered.

Miranda pursed her lips and stared at the anxious woman. With a flick of her hand she was dismissed.

Andy sprinted down the back hallway. When she left Miranda’s office she gambled that she could make a quick trip to check on Vivian and get back before her boss noticed. Just in case her gamble did not pay off, Andy made two more stops on her return. As soon as she cleared the office door Clarice started gesturing wildly and pointed to the inner office. Before Andy could slip into her seat she heard Miranda call.

“Yes, Miranda.” Andy tried to slow her heavy breathing.

Miranda pulled her glasses off and glared at her assistant. “Where have you been? I expect you to be at your desk not out running a marathon.”

Andy stepped forward. “I’m sorry Miranda,” she apologized as she placed two folders on the desk. “I picked up Serena’s report on the latest beauty products and the color swatches from Nigel.”

Miranda pursed her lips. Andrea had anticipated her once again. Serena told her yesterday the report would be ready soon. Nigel had also promised the swatches today. However, neither item was crucial. Andrea was taking her attention to detail to a new level. A dangerous level in Miranda’s opinion. Andrea looked like she could fall over any second. It was time for a change. “Andrea, have Clarice deliver the book tonight. Tell everyone the run through is in half an hour.” She shot one last glare at her assistant before leafing through Serena’s report.

“Yes, Miranda.” Andy stumbled out of the office. This was it. Clarice had proven she was a capable assistant. Miranda would be in good hands when Clarice became first assistant.

Andy pulled open her top drawer and took out the townhouse key. She hid her fear with a bright smile and walked over to Clarice. “You must guard this with your life.” Andy did her best to impress the seriousness of this duty on Clarice. She explained exactly which table with the flowers received the book and which set of closet doors to open and hang the dry cleaning. As far as the twins were concerned, Andy warned her that the girls were pranksters. She was never to go upstairs.

Clarice was awestruck by the confidence Miranda and Andy had in her. She promised to do everything just as Andy instructed. Before she could bask in her expanded duties, Miranda sent her out to gather skirts from Calvin Klein.

Except for taking notes during the run through, Andy was stuck at her desk answering phones and sending e-mails. After working with Miranda for eighteen months, she could sense when Miranda was watching. There was no way she could slip out to confront Vivian. She thought lunch would be her best chance, until Miranda decreed a working lunch. Between bites of steak Miranda discussed plans for an upcoming shoot. Andy scribbled notes and nibbled on a Caesar salad.  

When Miranda had another conference call, Andy knew this was her best chance. She would have to be quick because Clarice was out on another errand. As soon as Miranda picked up the transferred call, Andy was out of the office and on the way to the freight elevator. Vivian’s office was still dark. Andy called and cursed but it made no difference. She made it back to the office just as Miranda finished her call.

Andy checked Miranda’s schedule. Miranda would be in the office for the rest of the afternoon. How was she going to sneak away to see Vivian? She had to convince Vivian to leave Miranda alone. Miranda was too important – to her girls and to Runway. There was no way Andy was going to let Vivian have Miranda.

Later that afternoon, the schedule angels smiled and Miranda got involved in another conference call. Andy told Clarice she would be back soon. She slipped out of the office before Clarice had a chance to say anything.

Ten minutes later, Clarice heard the handset slam into the cradle.

“Andrea.”

Clarice cringed. She had no idea where Andy was or how long she would be gone.

“Where is she?” Miranda stood in the doorway glaring at her second assistant.

“She had an errand to run?” Clarice grimaced at her pathetic explanation.

“I am the only one to assign errands. Where is she?” Miranda took a step closer and stared at Clarice.

“I don’t know, Miranda. She ran out of here about ten minutes ago. She said she would be right back.” Clarice sank back into her chair, trying to make a smaller target of herself.

“If she gets back before I do, chain her to her desk. This is ridiculous.” Miranda strode out of the office.

Clarice wiped her sweaty hands on her skirt. In spite of the stress, she liked her job. But she was in no hurry to move into the first assistant’s desk.

Emily and Nigel where hunched over Nigel’s desk reviewing proof sheets when Miranda stormed in interrupting their meeting. “Nigel, have you seen Andrea?” Miranda put her hands on her hips and scanned the office for her missing assistant.

Nigel gave Miranda a puzzled look. “Six? No, I haven’t seen her since this morning.” He ran a hand over his bald head as he thought. “Is she making a coffee run?”

“No,” Miranda huffed. “She’s been disappearing and re-appearing all day. I called her phone but she’s not answering.”

Emily shook her head. This was the first opportunity she had in days to meet with Nigel. How dare that cow screw this up for her. “Maybe she’s on the thirteenth floor,” Emily muttered softly as she gathered her notes.

Miranda’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline. “What did you say?” She turned her laser stare on her former assistant.

Emily cringed. “I’m sorry, Miranda. I didn’t mean anything.”

“Emily, what about the thirteenth floor?” Miranda took a step closer to Nigel’s desk.

“It’s just something Andy said a few weeks ago.” Emily shrugged, confused by Miranda’s interest. “I told her the floors were misnumbered and that Auto Universe was really on the thirteenth floor.”

Nigel’s shocked eyes locked with Miranda’s. “Go!”

Miranda whirled and bolted out of the office.

Emily’s mouth dropped. Her head swiveled from the doorway to Nigel and back again. “What was that all about?”

Nigel propped his elbows on the desk and dropped his head into his hands. “This building does have a thirteenth floor. E-C management hasn’t been able to rent it because people complain that it’s haunted. The only way to access it is from the freight elevator.”

Emily felt the blood drain from her face. “Andy uses the freight elevator for her coffee runs.”

Miranda strode out of the freight elevator and down the hall. She turned right at the T and hurried down the short corridor and across the open area to the brightly lit office. She heard voices and moved to the side of the doorway to listen.

“Vivian, you can’t take Miranda.” Andy paced in front of the glass-topped desk. “Her girls need her.” Andy threw her hands up. “Runway needs her. You love Runway. If you take Miranda the magazine will suffer.”

Vivian tilted her head in amusement and watched Andy’s frantic movement. “Miranda’s girls still have their father.” She held up her hand at Andy’s outraged squawk. “Runway will be fine. Nigel will be an able editor.” Vivian leaned back in her chair and smirked. She caught just a glimpse of white hair to the right of her office doorway. “Besides, why do you care? Even if I don’t take Miranda, you’re due to move on soon.”

Andy stopped pacing and dropped into one of the visitor chairs. “I just do. I know I have to leave one day. But I’ll know that Miranda is here, taking care of her girls and Runway. I don’t want to live in a world without Miranda Priestly.” Andy wiped her cheek. “Take me, Vivian,” she said softly. “I’ll stay with you.”

Miranda stepped into Vivian’s office. “Vivian is not taking anyone.”

“Miranda,” Andy leapt from her chair and jumped in front of her boss. “You can’t be …” She paused when she saw the look Miranda was giving Vivian. Her brain finally caught up with her boss’ words. “Wait. You know each other?” Andy glared at Vivian then Miranda and back again.

Miranda rolled her eyes. “You didn’t tell her?” Miranda crossed her arms and gave Vivian a pointed look.

Vivian rose from behind her desk and mimicked Miranda’s pose. “She didn’t ask. I didn’t tell.”

Andy stamped her foot and pointed her finger at Vivian. “You didn’t think to mention that you knew Miranda! Every night you asked me how my day went, how was Miranda. Then you scare the hell out of me by saying you’re going to take Miranda. You were playing with me? Was that it?” Andy whirled around and rushed towards the door, but she was stopped by Miranda’s hand on her wrist.

“Andrea, wait.” Miranda gently tugged the young woman back towards the desk. She maintained her hold on Andy’s hand. “I see Vivian at least once a month.”

Andy finally realized what had been bugging her and she slapped her forehead. “The magazine. I knew something didn’t add up. It was on the desk even when you weren’t here.”

Vivian rounded her desk to stand next to Andy. “I met Miranda and Nigel when they first came to the magazine. Miranda made sure I always had the latest issue of Runway.” Vivian ran her ghostly hand down Andy’s arm. “I wasn’t playing with you. If anything, I was guiding you. I wanted you to admit how you felt for Miranda.”

Miranda cleared her throat and squeezed Andy’s hand. “Vivian has been chiding me on my lifestyle for years. She was afraid I would end up like her.” Miranda paused and swallowed the lump in her throat. “Vivian was right to remind me of what I had to lose. Although I wasn’t able to manage a successful marriage, I did make time for my girls.”

Miranda glared at Vivian. “It seemed that lately when we spoke, your name continued to come up. Vivian knew I thought very highly of you and encouraged me to explore changing our relationship. I told her it could not happen while you were my assistant.”

Andy lowered her head and stared at her and Miranda’s hands. “You kept firing the second assistants,” she grumbled. “You knew I wouldn’t leave you without an adequate replacement.”

Miranda sighed and rubbed her forehead. “I may have allowed my subconscious to influence my decisions. I’m sorry for holding you back.”

Andy raised Miranda’s hand and kissed her knuckles. “I’m not.” Andy gave Miranda a brilliant smile. “I’m giving my two week notice. I’ll have something in writing tomorrow.”

***

Epilogue – Six months later

Miranda led a contingent of current and former Runway employees down a short hall to a set of glass doors. Nigel slipped around his friend and boss to punch in his access code on the newly installed cipher lock. He then held the door open allowing Miranda and her guests access to the newly renovated space.

Miranda stood in the middle of the large open area and nodded in approval. Displays were strategically placed throughout highlighting Runway’s storied career. Historic Runway covers had been blown up and adorned the walls. In one corner near the windows was a recreation of Vivian Martine’s office. Her original glass-topped desk had been discovered in a basement storage room. A rack holding various pieces of 1950s fashion was placed near the desk as if ready for a run through.

Miranda, Nigel, and the rest wandered around the room looking at the displays and reading the attached notes. Andy slipped up beside Emily as she gazed in awe at Vivian’s desk. “Amazing, isn’t it, Em,” Andy bumped her friend’s shoulder.

“Yes,” Emily whispered. “This was your idea?” Emily turned and stared wide eyed at the fashion history scattered around the room. There were so many things to look at and study. She could envision spending hours here.

“I had some help,” Andy shrugged. Miranda was impressed when Andy explained her original deception of turning the thirteenth floor into the closet. It turned out the Closet was outgrowing its old location. Miranda and Nigel had been discussing various alternatives. One of which was to move out of the Elias Clarke building entirely. Taking over this unused floor meant that Runway’s main offices would stay put and the Closet would have room to grow.

The entrance to the new Closet was in the corner opposite Vivian’s desk. The glass doors were secured by another cipher lock. Access was also available via the main elevators. However, the panel sported an ornate C and a keyed lock instead of the normal button. Only staff assigned to the closet and an additional select few were entrusted with keys.

The new Closet boasted state of the art climate control to maintain the couture and accessories in optimum condition. Whole rooms were set aside for purses, shoes, dresses, coats, scarves, and even belts. Inventory control had also gone high tech when the staff was trained in the use of a new computer system to track every item brought into the Closet.

Once the plans for the new Closet were in place, Andy brought up the idea of a Runway museum. It would be accessible to Runway employees and their guests. There were plans for additional exhibits for future displays.

“I’m speechless, Andy. This is all so marvelous.” Emily shook her head hardly able to comprehend what her former co-worker had done.

“Thanks, Em. I like to think of it as my gift to Runway.” Andy actually considered it a thank you to Vivian. When Andy confessed how she felt, she never expected Miranda to reciprocate. Since that night they had slowly built a relationship.

“So, Em, you know Miranda and I are dating.” Andy gave Emily a nudge.

Emily covered her eyes and groaned. “Please don’t remind me. The shock almost made my head explode.”

Andy smirked and wrapped her arm around Emily’s shoulder. “Anyway, it’s your turn Em. It’s time to get a life.”

Shaking off Andy’s arm, Emily glared. “What are you prattling on about? I have a life.”

“Nope, you have a career.” Andy crossed her arms and studied the floor. “Do you know how Vivian Martine died?” She glanced up to see Emily’s slow shake of her head. “She died in the middle of the night. Here at Runway. At her desk.” Andy sighed and wiped a tear from her eye. “She died alone, Em.”

Andy gently grabbed her friend’s shoulders and looked her in the eyes. “I don’t want that to happen to you.” She gave Emily a soft shake when the woman tried to protest. “I know it drives you crazy, but I’m your friend. And as your friend, it is my job to make sure something like that never happens to you.”

Emily turned her head away from Andy’s intense gaze, blushing from embarrassment. “It doesn’t so much drive me crazy,” she whispered. “I don’t have a lot of experience with friends. Just you, Nigel, and Serena.”

Andy let go of Emily’s shoulders and grabbed her hands. “That is why tonight you are going to leave the office at 5:30. You have reservations at Daniel’s for 7:30.”

Emily’s mouth dropped open in shock. “What?”

“Yep, you have a date. It will be the perfect opportunity for you to wear that dress you were telling me about – the Westwood.” Andy squeezed Emily’s hands before letting them go.

“But, but,” Emily stuttered. “Who?”

“Serena,” Andy grinned.

“What?” Emily paled as she took a step back. She briefly considered running back to the elevator.

Andy grabbed her hand again, recognizing Emily’s flight response. “Serena has been asking you out for the last two months.” Andy got right up into Emily’s face. “Just do it.”

Emily opened and closed her mouth several times before regaining her composure. “Right.” She gave Andy a small nod. “I’ll, umm, I’ll go clear my desk so that I can leave at a reasonable time.” She squeezed Andy’s hand before hurrying back to the elevator.

“Nicely done.” A familiar low voice purred into Andy’s ear.

“I thought so.” Andy looked over her shoulder at Vivian. “Will all of this keep you interested?”

Vivian looked around and gave a blasé sniff. “I suppose it’s something.”

Andy smirked as she looked at everyone still marveling at the exhibits. “Try not to scare anyone, okay? They’ll hang around longer if they’re not frightened out of their wits.”

“Spoilsport.” Vivian vanished. All that was left was the smell of Chanel No. 5 perfume.

“Darling, are you ready?” Miranda glided up to Andy and kissed her cheek.

“Sure. Dinner at the townhouse?” Andy took her girlfriend’s hand as they left the Runway museum and walked down the hall to the freight elevator.

“Yes, the girls are waiting.” Miranda followed Andy into the car. “Emily seemed to be in a hurry. Did she agree to dinner with Serena?”

“Yes, she did. I thought she’d put up more of a fight.” Andy leaned against the elevator wall secretly pleased with herself.

“Well you can be very persuasive.” Miranda smiled as she gazed into her lover’s eyes. “Just as you persuaded Vivian to welcome the Closet and Museum into her domain.”

Andy shrugged as she stepped closer to Miranda. “She’ll enjoy all the hustle and excitement.”

Miranda wrapped her arms around Andy’s waist. “As soon as I get my bag we can get out of here and enjoy our own hustle and excitement.” She sealed the promise with a kiss.

Moving fully into the embrace, Andy buried her face in Miranda’s neck and whispered, “Yay.”