The new Emily threaded her way through the chairs that had been hastily set up in Miranda Priestly’s office. She waited next to her boss’ chair to be acknowledged, letting her gaze wander over the nine stressed people sitting in a half circle around Miranda’s desk.
When the perfectly coiffed head cocked in her direction, Emily, also known as Payton, bent close and said, “It is your wife on line one.”
Miranda tightened her lips. She hated when her staff called her Andrea her wife. “I told you to hold my calls.”
“She says it’s urgent.”
“We’re in a meeting. I don’t have time for this.”
“Do you really want me to tell her that?”
Stabbing the button on the phone, Miranda growled, “What is it, Andrea? I am very busy today.”
“Look, whatever it is, I’m sure it can wait until I get home. We’ll talk then, all right?” Without waiting for an answer, Miranda slammed down the receiver and glared around the room. “No more interruptions. Cell phones off and let’s hear some workable solutions to this mess.”
Andy looked down at the phone to confirm that she had really been hung up on. She sighed and looked at the paramedic. “I guess that answers that.”
“You ready to go?”
“What about the car?”
“Tell the cops where to tow it or have your insurance company get it from their impound lot.”
“They can take it to the dealer. I just need my backpack from the trunk.”
“Have you looked at it?” The paramedic shook his head and stuffed the blood pressure cuff back in his bag. “There is no trunk. No back seat either. You’re damn lucky that the drivers seat is intact.”
Andy looked at the eighteen-wheeler that was resting on the back half of her compact car. “Yeah, I guess.” She shivered as a snowflake melted and the icy water trickled down her neck. She fought back a moan as the movement caused the bones in her collarbone to grate together.
“Just hang on. You will be at the hospital in no time.”
“Thanks, guys. I guess I’m ready.” Andy fought to keep from crying out as she was moved from the pavement to the gurney and then lifted into the back of the ambulance.
Tears leaked from her eyes and into her ears, muffling the sound of the siren. The ambulance hit a pothole and she murmured, “This is definitely the worst Thursday ever.”
“Knock on wood,” the paramedic replied. “It isn’t even 10 AM yet and one thing I learned is that things can always get worse.”
Miranda stepped into the entryway, dropped her keys in the alabaster bowl and kicked off her shoes. She had spent all day sitting in meetings yet her feet were killing her. A soft cough came from behind her and she whirled. “Consuela! You startled me.”
“Sorry, ma’am. I just wanted to let you know I was leaving.”
“Leaving now?” Miranda glanced at the grandfather clock to confirm that was really 11:30 at night. “Why are you here so late?”
“I was waiting for you or Miss Andy to come home.”
“Andrea isn’t here?”
“Did she call?”
“She did not call the house phone. She may have called the girls.”
“Surely, they would have told you.”
“Sorry about that. I wish I would have known.” Miranda knew she could not have done anything with all the changes before the deadline but forewarned was forearmed. “Thank you so much for staying.”
“It is no problem. Diego is working overnight this week, so I am not missed.”
“Even so, I really appreciate it.”
“Good night.” Miranda locked the door behind the nanny. Picking up her purse, she dug through it for her phone. It was still off from this morning’s meeting but she only had one message.
It was Andrea and her message was very short: “Do I really bother you at work so often that you needed to hang up on me?”
Miranda deleted it and hit the speed dial for her partner. She hated when people in her life became drama queens. Even after all this time, it hurt that her partner refused to understand the stress that she was under when issues were nearing publication.
The call went immediately to voicemail and then Miranda heard the message that the mailbox was full. Now, that was odd. Wandering into the study, Miranda poured herself a couple fingers of scotch and flipped through the mail. She figured she would wait another thirty minutes before giving up on talking to her partner tonight.
Andy turned her phone back on and tried to focus on the screen. The lights in the emergency room were too bright and her head was pounding. Her double vision was really making her regret only having a touch screen.
Finally, she managed to pull up her contact list and scroll down to the number of her best buddy. “Hey, Lily. I know its late but can I call in a favor?”
“What’s up Andy?”
“I need someone to pick me up from the hospital. They don’t want to let me out on my own for some liability bullshit.”
“She’s probably busy.”
“She’s still at work at this hour? Can’t she send a driver for you?”
“I don’t want to fight you on this. Will you come down to Memorial Hospital or do I have to call someone else.”
“Oh, I’ll come.”
“Thanks. I’m in the emergency room.”
“Sure. I’ll be there in thirty minutes or so.”
“Thank you, Lily. You’re a lifesaver.”
Andy saw the message icon on her smart phone screen and sighed. Feeling queasy and afraid to close her eyes less she make the nausea worse, she went ahead and accessed the voice mail system. She deleted the messages from her boss and coworkers who had heard the news of her wreck on the police scanner. She sighed again when she got the end of the seventeenth message without hearing her partner’s voice.
She called the main line of the paper and was quickly transferred to one of the reporters on desk duty. “Hey, Gary. Bill called about the accident.”
“Yeah, we heard your little Japanese tin can got squashed. You okay?”
“That car saved my life. I’m not sure I would have walked away from having a tractor trailer landing on top of any other kind of car. Thank God for airbags.”
“Walked away scot free?”
“No, I’ve got a concussion and broken collarbone. Hurts like nobodies business.”
“They being stingy with the good drugs?”
“I’m resisting taking any more until I get home.”
“You still at the hospital? I would have thought you’d be home with your fancy pants fashion goddess girlfriend by now.”
“Seems my injuries weren’t the only traumas coming through the door today. Lots of accident from the icy roads and it took a long time to get seen. I will be heading home soon.”
“Okay, I’ve got your details. It probably won’t be more than a blotter story.”
“I hope so. I want to be in the paper because of my articles not because of crazy New York drivers.”
“Maybe that can be your next exposé. I’m sure the readers of this fine paper would like to hear a Midwesterner’s opinions about traffic conditions in the big city.”
“At least I know how to drive in the snow,” Andy defended herself. “Anyway, I’m not going to be able to come in tomorrow.”
“I’ll let Bill know to put you on sick leave. Call him tomorrow and let him know about your assignments.”
“Will do. Thanks, Gary.”
“No problem. I’m glad you weren’t hurt too bad.”
“Me, too, you old softie.”
“Get well soon,” he replied, slamming down the phone.
Andrea smiled to herself and then composed an email to her parents letting them know she was hurt but okay and that she would call them the next day. She had just hit send when Lily stepped through the curtain.
“Hey, girlfriend. Your carriage awaits.”
“A not so smelly taxi.”
“Great. Could you tell the nurse that I’m ready for discharge?”
After collecting the antibiotics and pain medication and hearing the doctor’s lecture on treatment of head injuries, Andy and Lily headed for the door.
They were bombarded by the paparazzi. Light bulbs flashing, the reporters pelted her with questions—“Had she been driving drunk?” “Did Miranda beat her?”
Once in the taxi, Andy looked through the windows at the mob of reporters. “What the hell was that?”
“An easy two hundred bucks.”
Andy swung back around so fast she got another case of whiplash. “What?”
“Look at it this way—when she sees Page Six tomorrow, she’ll think twice about being too busy to pick up her girlfriend from the hospital.”
“You did this? You called those…those sewer rats and gave them the scoop?”
“Yes, I did.” Lily patted Andy’s leg. “You need to make her wake up to reality that you are important. You just let her dismiss you and your needs too easily.”
“No I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. She canceled you guy’s anniversary party, had her assistant send you flowers on Valentines, and cut your last vacation short when some emergency brought her back to the city. You’ve told me about how late it is when she gets home so you and her kids end up eating dinner by yourselves.” Lily snorted, “You’re just a babysitter and a sex toy.”
Andy glanced up to see the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror. “Lower your voice.”
“I’m only telling you the truth.”
“No, you are being mean and hurtful.” Andy pushed Lily’s hand off her thigh. “I may have complained about a few things but I love her and I know she loves me.”
“Its not love, Andy. She is just taking advantage of you.”
“No she isn’t. I can see how this looks to you but you still had no right to invade our privacy by inviting in the paparazzi. Whatever you think about either of us, this was way out of bounds.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way but I stand by it. In fact, I’ll think you’ll thank me someday.”
“That will be a cold day in hell.” Andy pulled out her wallet and tossed a twenty at the driver. “Just drop me off and keep the change.”
“Hey, I’m supposed to monitor you.”
“Not on your life. I don’t know when or if I will ever forgive you for splashing my private life across the front page but until I do, I don’t want anything more to do with you. I don’t care how close we are, you don’t have the right to fuck up my life.” Andy slammed the car door and stumbled across the sidewalk to the entrance of her apartment building.
The tears she had kept at bay all afternoon and evening while getting her collarbone x-rayed and set streamed down her face. She felt like she had lost her best friend and would be lucky if she ever spoke to her lover again.
The elevator was out and Andy felt like vomiting from the pain by the time she made it up the stairs to her fourth floor apartment. Taking off the borrowed coat, she dropped it on the floor by the door.
It had been a couple weeks since she had been in her apartment and there was a layer of dust on everything. Scrubbing at the tears, she walked the final six steps to her couch, she lowered herself down and, still crying, fell asleep.
Miranda was on her second drink when the doorbell rang. Thinking that it was about time that her girlfriend showed up, she wrenched the door open only to see one of Andrea’s friends on the stoop. “What do you want?”
“I don’t think you want to do this in the street.”
“Do what exactly?” Miranda asked as she moved enough for Lily to step inside.
“Look, I don’t like you…”
“I echo the sentiment but was it really necessary to come to my house at this hour to tell me that?”
Lily held out a white paper sack. “I don’t like you and I don’t like the way you treat Andy but no matter how mad I am, I don’t like the idea of her hurting.”
Opening the bag, Miranda saw three prescription bottles. “What are these?”
“Do you even know what happened to her today?”
“I don’t like your tone.”
“I don’t give a fuck. She may never forgive me for what I did but I at least had good intentions. Too bad the same can’t be said for you.”
“As much as you seem to enjoy abusing me, is there a point to this?”
“Yeah. The point is that I made her mad and so she left these in the cab. She won’t take my calls or answer the buzzer.”
“What are these?”
“An antibiotic since the bone pierced the skin, a muscle relaxant and some pain pills.”
Miranda looked from the bottles to the angry blonde. She was speechless. “Bone... what?”
“What do you mean what? She was in a car accident today.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“You would if you took her calls. I am sorry for what I did and I hope you’ll tell her so.” Lily left, slamming the door closed behind her.
Left alone, Miranda shook her head. Nothing was making sense. If something had been really wrong, why had Andrea not said anything? What in the world had Lily done that could have made Andrea so mad? Putting the bag on the counter, she tried to call Andrea again. This time when the call went to voicemail, she hung up without leaving a message.
Confused and frustrated, Miranda climbed the stairs. She checked in on her daughters and got into her own bed, disturbed at how cold and empty it felt without the presence of her lover there. They might only see each other sleeping as she usually arrived home late and Andrea regularly left early but they both took comfort from each other as they slept. Whenever Miranda woke up during the night, she was typically curled up in Andrea’s embrace.
The next morning, both of her daughters were grumpy and once they learned Andrea had not come home, they just got worse and blamed her. Miranda was in a filthy mood when she ushered them out the door and into a firestorm of cameras.
Her driver held up the door and all three of them got inside as quickly as possible. The girls’ eyes were wide from the shouted questions.
“What’s up with that?” Cassidy wondered.
Caroline was more direct. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything,” Miranda replied, pulling on a pair of sunglasses. “I have no idea what that was about.”
“Why do they think you and Andrea broke up?”
“I have no clue.” Turning her head, Miranda stared out the window and frowned at her reflection. She had no idea why the reporters were convinced she had. Surely, Andrea had not been upset enough to blab publically about their private disagreements.
When the car pulled up at the school, she called out, “Remember not to talk to strangers.”
Both girls rolled their eyes before running through the gate.
Settling back into the seat, she called the office and ordered Payton to get her new public relations firm busy handling this firestorm. She spent the rest of the drive to Ellis-Clark trying to focus on prioritizing the corrections from the Book.
Grabbing the mail and faxes out of Payton’s hand, Miranda tossed aside her purse. Quickly sorting through the various letters and cards, she was stopped abruptly by the fax from the Honda dealer. “What is this?”
“I don’t know. They just called for the fax number. They said they could either wait until the insurance adjuster examines it or go ahead and get started.”
“This is Andrea’s car.” Miranda shook her head. “Get her on the phone,” she demanded before heading to her own desk.
She had just gone through most of her email when she saw Payton hovering in the doorway, twisting the early edition of the paper. “You know I hate it when you lurk.”
“Um, she doesn’t answer and her boss says she’s on a medical leave.”
“Get my driver back here and push back my schedule.”
“For how long?”
“However long this takes.”
Miranda went home and was pleased to see that the gauntlet of reporters was gone. Grinding her teeth, she grabbed the bag of medicine off the credenza and returned to the car. “You do know Andrea’s address, do you not? Get me there,” she ordered the driver.
She used the drive to search her purse for the set of keys to Andrea’s apartment. Struggling with the unfamiliar locks, Miranda opened the door and sighed to see the clothes on the floor. At least at her house Andrea managed the effort to put her dirty clothes in the hamper. Walking further in, she saw a chenille throw on the rug by the couch. Folding it and putting it back on the arm, she continued her search.
Finally, she found her lover in the bathroom.
“What the hell.”
Andrea blinked several times. “Mira?”
“You know I don’t like nicknames,” Miranda bit out. “What on earth are you doing on the floor? Do you have any idea how filthy it is?”
Andrea sat up at the sharp tone and leaned against the tub. She remembered, through the pain, that she was angry. “Why are you here critiquing my housekeeping?”
“You never came home last night.”
“When did you find that out?”
“When I got home to find Consuela still there. You hadn’t even called home.”
“They aren’t my children and she isn’t my employee.” Andy shook her head and winced. She reached up and adjusted the strap of her shoulder sling. “I’m not talking about that, though. Why are you here?”
“Excuse me for getting worried when you won’t answer my calls and I get a three page damage estimate from the dealership. What happened?”
“I don’t believe that is any of your business.” Gritting her teeth, Andy used one hand to pull herself to her feet. She was dizzy and nauseous but that last bout of vomiting had emptied her stomach. With as much dignity as anyone who had just spent several hours on a bathroom floor could muster, she pushed her way past Miranda.
“Where are you going?”
“I want to lie down.”
“And I want some answers!” Miranda pulled at her hair. “What happened to you?” When Andrea ignored her, she sat down beside her on the bed. “Please talk to me.”
“Now you want to talk?” Andy brushed tears off her lashes when her good hand. “I needed to talk to you yesterday. I still can’t believe you hung up me.”
“I was stressed. You know how it is when we’re on a deadline.”
“I do.” Andy pushed herself up and leaned against the headboard. “Miranda, I may not understand the intricacies of what goes into all the work you do but I respect it and I respect you. I didn’t realize until yesterday that it doesn’t go both ways.” She held up her hand when her lover would have spoken. “Just let me say this, okay?”
“You’re older than me and I totally get that you’re more established in your career and have a hell of lot more responsibility than I do. That being said, I have never given you cause to be rude to me. I don’t call you excessively and I have never asked them to interrupt you before.” Andy rubbed the area around the bandage on her head. “I kept my phone on for as long as I could in the ER. You never called.”
“It went to voicemail.”
“I had to turn it off while getting treated. There wasn’t a message from you.”
“The voicemail was full. I tried to leave a message.”
“That isn’t the point.”
Andy sighed. “I want my key back.”
“I don’t just need to recover physically. I need to recover from you. From us.”
“What are you saying?”
“I think Lily may have been right.”
“You know she’s jealous.”
“She also is pretty perceptive. She said last night that you needed to wake up to a reality where I am a whole person and not just someone you pull out of the closet when you need a climax or someone to babysit your kids.”
“What we have is more than that!”
“Really? Forgive my cynicism but should it really have taken you 24 hours to check up on me if I meant more to you? You called Consuela twice the last time she had a head cold!”
“I took your call. You said nothing!”
“You didn’t give me a chance! I had just been in the worst experience of my life. My car was completely destroyed, I was in horrible pain and scared out of my wits. I physically couldn’t get a word out before you’d hung up me!”
“I said we’d talk when I got home!”
“Well, I am home and, frankly, I don’t really see the point of talking anymore.”
“You’re just going to give up?”
“I can’t be in this alone anymore.”
“Andrea, I think you’re over reacting.” Miranda held out the bag. “Why don’t you take a painkiller and we can discuss this later.”
“How did you get these?”
“Lily came by the house last night and dropped it off.”
Andy stared at her. “You knew what these were and yet you kept them all night? Knowing I was hurt?”
Flushing, Miranda dropped her eyes. “I was tired.”
“Tired? I spent half the night puking in the bathroom! I was in so much pain I wanted to die.” Andy shook her head. “That, more than anything else illustrates where we are in this relationship.”
“It illustrates nothing but a single misjudgment on my part but I’ve been under a lot of stress.”
“Yes, Runway.” Andrea shifted on the bed. “Your ready made excuse for missing out on the important events of everyone in your life.”
“That’s an absurd generalization.”
“Really?” Andrea snorted. “Perhaps you’ve forgotten our last anniversary? Or almost every soccer game, music recital and parent teacher conference since we got involved?”
“Leave my children out of this.”
“I see your damn kids more than you do.” Andrea picked at the gauze over her eyebrow. “Look, this is neither the time nor the place to get into a discussion of your mothering skills.”
“Then what time is it?”
“Time to call things off.”
“I see that you’re upset but there is no need to react on impulse. Why don’t you take a pain pill now?”
“Because there isn’t a painkiller on the planet that can touch this kind of pain.” Placing her hand on her chest, Andy said, “My heart hurts but I have to stand up for me. My needs matter and I don’t deserve to be treated as a mere convenience.”
“I’ve never done that.”
“Really? Can you honestly say that you think my time is as valuable as yours? Can you recall a single instance when you made a sacrifice for our relationship?”
“I’m here now. Damn it, Andrea, I have a magazine to put out and, instead of doing prep work, I’m in your shit hole of an apartment trying to understand why you’re so angry.”
“I’m angry because I needed support yesterday and I sure could have used those pills last night.”
“That’s it? You’re throwing away all we have because of one night? Just how hard did you hit your head?”
“What do we have? When was the last time we made love? Or had a meal together? Heck, when was the last time we saw each other when both of us were conscious?”
“I don’t know why you’re resenting my job all of sudden.”
“It isn’t sudden. It has been getting worse over the past year. You told me all along that the long hours and hectic pace would calm down after you got rid of Irv. Instead, you’ve been working harder and have been around even less.”
“My success pays for the lifestyle you enjoy.”
“And you don’t ever miss an opportunity to remind me.” Andrea awkwardly pulled a blanket around her using only one arm. “Yes, Miranda, I admit that it is good to have such nice things. But things are not why I got involved with you. You were kind and smart and funny.”
“I haven’t changed.”
“Maybe not but I don’t get to see that side of you any more. You are always working or going to parties to find more work or working from home on the work you didn’t finish at work.”
“That’s my job!”
“You are more than your job.”
Miranda stomped her foot. “You work long hours, too.”
“Yeah but I also turned down assignments so I could be home at a reasonable hour. Home with your kids.”
“Oh, now here we go. Start listing my failures as a mother.”
“You’re a wonderful mother but don’t you ever regret all the milestones you miss? There was a time that you even made it to every practice and would never have considered skipping a recital. Heck, my father still won’t talk to you because of the hurricane incident.”
“I have obligations outside of my family.”
“And I’m the first one to defend your right to be more than a wife and mother. But, if you’re going to try to have it all, can’t you carve out a little time for us?” Andrea reclined further on the bed. “Don’t answer that now. Think about what you can realistically give to this relationship and…” her voice trailed off.
“And if you willing to do what is required for us to work, please let me know. I love you and that’s why I’ve stayed as long as I have.” Curling up, Andrea said, “But I can’t keep feeling like I don’t matter.”
Miranda watched her for a few moments before going back into the bathroom to find the prescriptions. Returning to the bedroom, she held out them and a glass of water. “Take these and I’ll go.”
Wearily, Andy sat up to swallow the pills and then flopped back down. “Thank you.”
“I know I don’t say this often but I do love you, Andrea. I’ve done things for you that I haven’t done for another living being.” Miranda smoothed the bangs off of Andrea’s forehead. “I will think about what you said but, know this, I am not about to walk away from what we have.”
Andy smiled and closed her eyes. “I love that you’re a fighter, Miranda. It’s hot.”
“On that puerile note, you obviously need to get some rest.”
“Stay here while I fall asleep? I know you need to get back to work but...”
“I can do that. Close your eyes, Andrea.”
Laying back down, she whimpered, “It hurts.”
“Give the pills a chance to work.” Humming a tune from her childhood, she watched over her until Andrea’s face relaxed in sleep. Miranda reflected on how familiar this argument was.
She thought things with Andrea were going to be different--here was someone who had seen how much effort went into the monthly production of the world’s premier fashion magazine. Her demands for perfection and the time it took to achieve it should not have been a surprise to her former assistant.
Was there any truth to her accusation? Thinking back, she realized that she had been working longer hours, especially compared to those heady days when she and Andrea had first become intimate.
But honeymoons don’t last forever. No one could expect her to drop everything all the time. Miranda huffed to herself. She knew Andrea was not asking for her do that either. Was there a happy median?
Her position had never been more secure and she supposed that she could delegate more. Her staff was not comprised entirely of incompetents. It would be hard to give up control but if the alternative was to have a life without Andrea in it, she vowed to do better.
Bending down, she kissed a soft check and whispered, “Don’t give up on me. On us. I will find a way or make one.”