Miranda waited until she heard the final click of the door shutting to let out a deep, shuttering breath. She’d done it. She’d sent Andrea away and kept her ass on the couch the entire time. Unbelievable.
Leaning forward, Miranda rested her elbows on her knees and placed her head in her hands. A very uncharacteristic pose for Miranda Priestly but she was tired. Too tired to keep up the Queenly persona.
Taking deep breaths Miranda felt her shoulders relax and bow under the weight of both freedom and oppression. It was a funny thing, to be under the yoke of these two masters but nevertheless she was a slave to both. Always chasing freedom, always bending to her work, image and self-imposed responsibilities.
Feeling good about this small token of freedom was hard to do since her children would suffer. What she’d told Andrea about the press was true. They would eat this up and come back for seconds and thirds. More importantly, her children would spend a great deal of time hating her for this. It would likely take months for them to relent and see to reason. And it wasn’t because they had any great affection for Stephen; in fact the opposite was true. They hated him. So much so, that even at the tender age of seven they literally begged Miranda not to marry him. But…they were children. What did they know about love? Apparently more than she did.
It would come down to perception. This is why Miranda had wanted to be the one to make the move toward divorce. She wanted to control it, control how her children saw the end coming. As it stood they would no doubt see this entire matter as her fault. Just like everything else. As many times a day as Miranda was thoroughly disappointed in everything around her, ironically enough she was often times the biggest disappointment in the room…only very few people realized it.
Miranda was a disappointment to her parents, to her first husband Robert, to Stephen, to her children, to Andrea. Oh yes, here we go. Why did everything always come back to Andrea? That was happening more frequently and it was unsettling at best. Miranda sat up straight and smoothed out her robe. Caring about whether or not she was a disappointment to someone who had the potential to be the biggest disappointment Miranda had ever come in contact with was absolutely ridiculous.
But, tonight she was too tired to worry about it. She was a disappointment in Andrea’s eyes. So be it. Andrea was young and there would undoubtedly be many more disappointments in her life. Miranda would only be one of many.
Yet tomorrow it would just get worse. She wasn’t 100% percent sure what Irv would want but she knew it would be something that pushed the limits. It would be something beyond anything else she’d had to do or promise she’d had to make to him before. She just knew it. Once the rumors had been confirmed by her sources, Miranda thought of promising to slash her budget or some other non-sense but she knew that wouldn’t work. Not this time. This time Irv was out for blood. With her list of loyal subjects in hand, Miranda would face him and do whatever she had to do. Regardless of what it might mean. Nigel…if Nigel ended up being part of this bargain in some way…if it went as bad as Miranda feared it would then Andrea wouldn’t be able to handle it. She was too good, too faithful to her friends. Her loyalty and sense of right and wrong would render her unable to process the necessity of the act and her disappointment in Miranda would turn into hate.
There were times when Miranda wondered if Andrea had been swept up in Miranda’s illusions of perfection like all the others. Was there some part of Andrea that still regarded Miranda with rose-colored glasses? With the same adoration and awe so many others did? The likelihood of that was disquieting for Miranda. Andrea caused her to want to be seen for what she was…even if it hurt…even if it hurt them both Miranda would rather be a disappointment in Andrea’s eyes than a doctored up version of the truth. If Andrea still held this view then tomorrows actions would be a double blow. Realizations of horrible facts in the midst of horrible actions were always harder to take. Which only meant one thing – Andrea would leave and in less than twenty-four hours, Miranda would have lost not one but two people. The first, Stephen, did not concern her in the least but he still deserved to be counted in the equation.
With this new possibility on the horizon Miranda could think of nothing else. Thoughts of rose colored glasses, adoration and awe consumed her. Yes, she was sure of it now. She had not yet even begun to be a disappointment to Andrea.
Miranda pushed herself up from the couch and retreated to the bathroom to repair the damage all that idiotic crying had done to her face. She needed to go for a walk…maybe even a long taxi ride.
After making it three blocks, she knew no one would recognize her. Over the years Miranda had become the master of disguise yet it still amazed her that it took so little to make it work. A simple black trench coat and matching scarf to hide her iconic hair style made her blend into the night just as good as any invisibility cloak ever could. She just hoped all this walking actually got her somewhere. Her grandmother had always said “Keep walking ‘til your problem is so far behind you that all you can see is the solution” and tonight Miranda intended to do just that. Exactly which problem out of the many she had would get solved tonight was yet to be determined; but at least she was moving.
In an hour she was as far as the Place de la Concord. So much for walking her problem away because that barely took fifteen minutes of her time. Getting coffee and stopping to look at some window displays took up the other forty-five.
Miranda claimed a bench and sipped on the scaling hot coffee she’d purchased along the way. This was so much better than Starbucks. Then again coffee made via a French press always was. No frills, no milk, no sugar; just scalding hot coffee. Perfect.
A litany of unspoken curse words flew through Miranda’s mind. It seems sitting down with her perfect coffee was the number one worst thing she could have ever done. Miranda looked up finally when ignoring the questioning voice was no longer feasible. Oh and look. Problem number one: Christian Thompson…and problem number two: Andrea Sachs. What an unlikely pair.
“Good evening, Christian…Andrea.” Miranda surveyed them coolly, hoping they would tuck tail and run quickly.
“I see you’re enjoying the evening…it’s a bit chilly though.” Christian flashed a grin that most would consider quite charming but frankly, Miranda found it to be quite nauseating.
“Perhaps not chilly enough.” Indeed. Miranda found it strange that Andrea hadn’t spoken yet. Possibly, unlike Christian, she knew they needed to keep quiet and be on their way?
“I expect it will be colder tomorrow…maybe even more snow.” He would say something like that knowing what tomorrow would be all about. His downfall…or her downfall; at least that’s what he was thinking. Little did he know, Miranda would not fail. He on the other hand would find himself in the worst way…blacklisted. “You know Miranda I’m surprised to see you out here like this…in public.” At this Andrea pulled at his arm; probably in an attempt to get him to shut his mouth. He ignored her. “I hope no one notices you.”
“As do I Christian…Andrea, I do hope you are enjoying yourself.” Miranda regarded her with a piercing gaze. Andrea could do so much better than Christian.
“Yes…Well Christian we need to get going. Good evening, Miranda.” Andrea nodded her goodbye and pulled Christian along.
“I, uh…yes good evening, Miranda.” He replied as they made they retreat.
Miranda tried to find interest in something else…anything else but couldn’t help but watch them walk away. Never in a thousand years would he be worthy of Andrea Sachs.
She would give them a ten minute head start then head back to the hotel herself. Nothing was being accomplished out here. Timing the ten minutes by her watch, Miranda rose from her bench as the last seconds passed by but was halted by a voice; a voice she preferred over any other.
“No, please sit back down…seriously.” Andrea walked up and sat down. Miranda shrugged and followed her request without asking for an explanation; simply satisfied that at least the girl had come to senses and was no longer in the company of Christian Thompson.
“Sorry about that…” Andrea weakly motioned toward the direction of her earlier retreat. “He is…argh.”
“Well you seemed to be having a good enough time.” Hopefully not too good a time.
“Not really. Why do you think I got away from him? The alcohol wore off.” Andrea folded her arms in front of her to keep in what warmth she had left. “You know every time I’ve been around that guy I think I’ve had alcohol in my system or something…I’d have to have because otherwise…oh my God.”
“Here try this…it’s still hot.” Miranda offered her the coffee and she took it gladly.
“Thanks. Hm, this is great. French press?”
“Much better than Starbucks. Here…” Andrea passed it back. “So is everything okay?”
“Besides the fact that I’m starting to freeze to death, yes, everything is fine. Why wouldn’t it be?” Oh, this is perfect Miranda. Be an ass just like earlier so she leaves you alone.
“Never mind.” And now Miranda was given the silent treatment but it didn’t last long as it wasn’t in Andrea’s nature to remain quiet for too long. “Something’s going on with him, Miranda.” Her voice was quiet against the darkness and the sound of the water from the fountain. Obviously she was talking about Christian. What did she know?
“Yeah…I don’t know what exactly…but something’s up.” Andrea reached out and took Miranda’s coffee again. It now appeared to be community property.
“What makes you say that?” Miranda turned and watched Andrea’s profile as she stared straight ahead.
“Just a vibe…”
Andrea’s powers of deduction were better than Miranda gave her credit for. She saw far more than most. “Whatever it is…I’m sure he’ll reveal it in time.” Indeed.
“I guess. Oh…by the way I called Leslie to give her a heads up. She said to tell you that she’s on it and she’ll get us…you…as far ahead of the press coverage as possible.”
“Thank-you.” Miranda held her breath for a moment as Andrea’s lips curved up into a smile. “Leslie has her work cut out for her. I hope she delivers as well as she has in the past.”
“She will…here.” Andrea placed the coffee cup back in Miranda’s hand and had the gall to actually encircle Miranda’s wrist with her slender fingers. It made Miranda want to scream. For several reasons. “She’ll handle it. Try not to worry too much. And look at it this way…if something gets out of hand you can just sue someone...blackmail someone…whatever.” Then she let her head fall back in laughter. Miranda joined in. It was true. If worst came to worst she could just start making everyone’s life pure hell by drowning them in lawsuits.
“Ah, it feels good to laugh…” Yet, she quickly calmed herself in spite of this revelation.
“You should do it more often. Then again that wouldn’t be good for the image of The Dragon…wow…sorry! Big mouth…I shouldn’t say things like that.” Andrea’s face turned red and she swallowed hard. “It’s the coffee. This is probably my tenth cup today…makes me…high…crazy. Far worse than alcohol.”
“Tonight…whether you should or shouldn’t is irrelevant. What’s important is that you’re right. Laughter is not something I can afford.” Neither was giving in to whatever these feelings were she had for Andrea. There wasn’t a clear name for it in Miranda’s vocabulary but whatever they were, they were strong.
“Which sucks.” Andrea interrupted her thoughts.
“Hm…I would certainly choose a better word for it but yes…it sucks.”
“I can’t believe we’re still sitting out here. Let’s go. The coffee is frozen and you’ve ruined me for cold coffee.” Andrea stood and offered Miranda her hand. Andrea touching her wrist nearly put her into hysterics, so actually holding the girls hand would probably produce the same result. Tonight there seemed to be no help for whatever was happening between them. Miranda took her hand. She was right. Near hysterics…which only got worse when Andrea did not let go. Or was it Miranda that didn’t let go? Before it went any further Miranda did in fact let go and her hand instantly went cold.
Andrea began to lead the way forward but not in the direction of the hotel. “Where are you going?”
“Well…I said ‘let’s go’. I didn’t say ‘let’s go back to the hotel’. Come with me? I want more coffee and there’s a café about a block from here.”
Without any argument they soon found themselves sitting in said café with two scalding hot cups of coffee. At this rate neither of them would ever get any sleep with all the caffeine they were ingesting. That was fine since Miranda really had no aspirations of sleep to begin with.
“You know, I think it’s safe enough…you could take the scarf off if you wanted.” Andrea said as she sipped her coveted drink.
She was probably right. Miranda looked around once then pulled the scarf off and stuffed it in her bag. Even if someone did…it didn’t matter. She had a right to have a cup of coffee like everyone else in this city…paparazzi or not. Besides, as Andrea had already so graciously pointed out, Miranda could always sue someone for any trouble it might cause.
Later on they headed back toward Place de la Concord with you guessed it—even more coffee. The shared conversation in the café had been light and inconsequential…comfortable. Andrea was serious when she said coffee affected her. She was definitely under the influence and it showed. Three was the number of times Andrea had encircled Miranda’s wrist again as she talked, and four was the number times Andrea touched her arm across the table to draw emphasis to a point she was trying to make. And number five…
Andrea laid a hand on Miranda’s arm and steered her back toward that same bench right across from that same ridiculous fountain. “Come on let’s sit just for a minute. This coffee tastes better outside…”
“You think so?” Miranda rolled her eyes and let herself be led along.
“I sure do. This is the best.” Andrea gestured wildly with her to-go cup.
“Yes, well…I should probably put my scarf back on…” Miranda looked around them and no one seemed to be paying much attention as they walked past.
“No, don’t.” Andrea looked over her shoulder and nodded in disagreement. “It’s fine, really. Nobody cares…at least not tonight.” Andrea immediately saw the look on Miranda’s face and back peddled. “I mean…I didn’t mean it like that…it’s just. Well. You’re just a woman sitting on a bench having coffee…no big deal. So just…just relax. It’s okay. Nobody wants a piece of you tonight…there are no cameras. Just drink your coffee.” And again Andrea slid her hand around Miranda’s wrist and held it tightly for just a moment before leaving her skin to burn from the withdrawal.
“Don’t be silly Andrea, everyone wants a piece of this…Miranda Priestly; the Fashion Icon. Why do you think that is by the way? Why do you think everyone falls at my feet?” That’s right. There was no way Miranda could just keep her mouth shut and let this opportunity pass her by. There was no way. Andrea had opened herself up to this speech and it was just what Miranda needed to say. It was time that Andrea leaned the truth about the real Miranda.
Miranda wasn’t sure what sort of a reaction or answer she had expected to receive but it certainly wasn’t this. Andrea straightened her relaxed posture and sighed with something akin to disgust as she turned to Miranda and said, “Whatever answer I’d come up with will probably be wrong in your eyes so…tell me. I’m listening.” She nodded for Miranda to continue and sipped at her coffee.
And with that Miranda took off. “Because they see what I want them to see. They see the greatness, the prestige and become blind to what I really am. Look at Emily. She will not blame me for bringing you to Paris. She will blame you.” This time Miranda put her hand on Andrea’s arm to emphasize her point but did not disengage before she continued. “Nowhere in Emily’s psyche will she be capable of rationalizing that I am the one that brought this about. She is blinded by her…adoration for me. You Andrea…you are blinded too. I see it. You bend to unimaginable proportions to do everything I demand of you. Why do you think I ask so much of you? Because I know I’ll get what I want...the first time; and since that is such a rare thing for me to experience; I readily admit that I take full advantage of it. But as I was saying…you are blinded by The Icon just like everyone else. You have no idea how much of a disappointment I truly am…and will be in the future.”
Andrea folded her arms across her chest and raised an eyebrow. “That was some speech Miranda…but you have it wrong. I mean I know the last thing you want to hear from me is some argument but you don’t know me or what I see.”
“Don’t I? I see a great deal of myself in you Andrea…a great deal.”
“Maybe you do but you still don’t know me like you think you do.”
“Then we’ll agree to disagree on that point. However…Andrea, against my better judgment, I find myself unable to leave this topic unfinished. It is critical to me that you understand something.”
“Let’s talk and walk then…” Andrea started to stand but Miranda stopped her.
“Just give me one moment. This won’t take long and then you can walk yourself into a new pair of heels if you like.” Andrea sat back down and stared at Miranda as she kept on with her speech. “I need you to understand that I do make mistakes; that everything really is an illusion much of the time. You need to know that.” Miranda paused for a moment and took a deep breath. She couldn’t believe she was actually doing this, saying this…but she was. Perhaps Andrea wasn’t the only one affected by this coffee. “I want you above anyone else to know that the any adoration or high regard you might have for me is based just on that…the illusion. And…I need you to remember that. I am not perfect and I am indeed one disappointment after another…and…”
Miranda paused again, looking down at her hands. Suddenly the craziest yet best idea came to her and she pulled off her now unnecessary wedding band. “I was a disappointment to him.” She held up the ring, “I am a disappointment to my children…and tomorrow you won’t be able to help but feel the same.” Miranda picked up Andrea’s right hand and turned it, placing the ring in her palm and closing it into a fist. “I’m giving you this so you’ll remember all the things I don’t want you to forget. Even if tomorrow doesn’t have the effect that I think it will…if we go back to New York and you retain this lofty idea of me in your head…I want you to have this ring so you’ll remember this conversation. It’s all just an illusion. Every bit of it.” Yes, this was a crazy, crazy, crazy idea…
“Miranda…” Andrea opened her hand and traced the ring with her left index finger. “I’m a disappointment too ya know…a big one.” As she continued to talk Andrea made a surprising move and slid the ring onto her right ring finger. Miranda had not anticipated that all. Andrea smiled at it and the whole thing was totally surreal. “I didn’t go to law school like my parents wanted me to…I never read Runway…didn’t know who you were when we met and I still don’t have what you would consider an appropriate appreciation for fashion…and guess what? I am a disappointment to my friends and my boyfriend too…fiancé actually.”
“I did not know you are engaged.” Miranda didn’t need a mirror to know all color had just drained right out of her face.
“I never wore the engagement ring. At least not in a long time.” Andrea reached in her bag and opened an inside pocket. Once she found the ring she held it up for Miranda to look at. “See? It’s pretty nice isn’t it?” It was. The Iron Chef ,as Miranda had heard him called by Emily on numerous occasions, likely saved up for a good long time to buy it…yet it wasn’t as grand as what Andrea was worth. “I stopped wearing it when I figured out that I’d made a mistake. I just didn’t have the heart to break up with him then. I made up some stupid excuse that it needed resizing. I’m a colossal failure in his eyes.”
Miranda started to speak in her defense but Andrea held up a hand. “No, let me finish. In his eyes I abandoned him for my job…a job that he couldn’t stand. And so? He left me. Just before we came to Paris he left. Miranda, you think I can do anything. You think I can basically perform miracles on a daily basis but I can’t. I couldn’t make a miracle happen for him…or my parents…or my friends. Here…” Andrea took Miranda’s hand and placed her engagement ring in her palm and closed it to make a fist. “Keep that. When you start to…obsess…over what a disappointment you think you are and that no one knows the real you…let that remind you that I know. I know you Miranda and you don’t disappointment me. You annoy the shit out of me sometimes…but you never disappoint.” Andrea fell silent and let go of Miranda’s hand.
“Well then you’re the first…” Miranda looked down and admired the ring, getting a closer look. The diamond was set low and the whole affair wasn’t something that would draw an excessive amount of attention. She had to admit that even if she felt Andrea was worth more, it was still a very beautiful ring. Without thinking on it any further, Miranda slipped the ring onto her right hand. It was a perfect fit. She had no idea what they were really doing with all this ring business but they could always blame it on the coffee buzz in the morning.
“I might be the first, but check this out,” Andrea turned enough so that they were directly facing one another. “First of all, you might be a disappointment to your girls but that’s pretty much every parent’s plight and you know it. Second of all…and you can disagree with this all you freakin’ want to but it’s the truth; the reason your marriages failed wasn’t because you were a disappointment or that you were a failure.”
“Oh?” This was certainly news to Miranda.
“Yeah, oh. They didn’t work because you weren’t in love. In fact I’d bet all the money in the world that if you had been…things would have turned out drastically different for you.”
“You don’t-“ Miranda’s mouth was shut by the tips of Andrea’s fingers…they were warm and soft.
“Shh. I do know. You weren’t in love with either of them and I really wasn’t in love with Nate.” Miranda had to stop herself from kissing Andrea’s fingers as they remained on her lips ever so gently. Everything was turning into an undeniable mess right now. Her feelings for Andrea had been changing over time but until this night Miranda was unaware of just how changed they were. And here she was barely five hours free of her marriage and already thinking of kissing this young woman. “But…I think if you find the right person…fall in love… you won’t have to worry about that anymore.”
Finally Andrea released her hold on Miranda’s lips so that she could speak. “I suppose the same is true for you then?”
“That all sounds wonderful Andrea but please remember what I told you.”
“I won’t forget. I don’t think either of us will be forgetting any of this considering we just exchanged rings on the subject. Weird but helpful, hm?” She smiled a crooked smile and it warmed Miranda’s heart. Speaking of warmth.
“You might be right. Come…let’s go. You’re freezing.”
“Okay I-“ Andrea was cut off by her ringing phone. She sighed and retrieved the phone from her purse. “It could be Nigel with schedule changes…” she muttered. “Andy here.” She answered the phone briskly. Her tone was totally different than it had been all evening and it reminded Miranda of the harsh fact that she was Andrea’s boss. Any further musing on that subject was stamped out by the sight of her ring on Andrea’s finger.
Miranda’s wedding band was made of simple white gold yet it had a few tiny diamonds embedded in it that sparkled in the light. It looked good on Andrea and oddly enough Miranda’s coffee infused mind didn’t even associate the ring with Stephen any more. Suddenly, Miranda snapped back to Andrea’s voice.
Oh fabulous. The one person Miranda didn’t want to hear any more about tonight. “You want what?” Andrea held the phone out in front of her as if she was unsure of what she had just heard then put the phone back to her ear. “Oh, I’m sorry…seriously?” Andrea listened for another moment and took several long sips of coffee…all the sudden she stood up. Miranda started to follow suit but Andrea had other plans. “No, sit.” She motioned for Miranda to remain seated so she did.
Andrea paced a few steps in front of their bench then…”Oh, really? Sounds great…who was I talking to? Why do you want to know?” Her eyebrows raised and again she looked at the phone. “You know what, Nate?...Wait…I seriously…” Miranda wasn’t sure what she said next because Andrea walked out of hearing range toward the fountain…and then? Then she shut the phone and tossed it into the water.
Miranda slapped a hand to her mouth, unsure of whether to be angry that Andrea had done such a childish thing or to burst into uncontrolled laughter. After all, how many times had Miranda wanted to do that very thing? At least Andrea had the courage to do it. Finally Andrea turned around and headed toward her. Miranda straightened and took a sip of coffee to disguise her amusement.
“Well…” She said as she plopped back down right beside Miranda. “I guess I need a new cell phone.”
“Hm, yes I suppose you do.” Miranda smirked.
“He wanted his ring back.”
Of course he did. Miranda felt a dull ache in her chest as she started to pull the ring off but found her hand covered by the younger woman’s. “No. That hasn’t been his for a very long time and it’s mine to do with as I please. And…I’ve done exactly what I wanted to do with it. You on the other hand can do anything with it but give it back to me. I don’t want it. It’s yours now and as far as I’m concerned it has nothing to do with him anymore. Please don’t make me re-hash everything we just said to each other just because of his dumb-ass phone call.”
“No re-hashing is necessary. You can use my cell phone until we can get you a temporary one from the French offices tomorrow.”
“And here I was hoping for cell-phone freedom. Can I at least get a new number? I don’t want to hear his voice again if I can help it.” She laughed and hauled herself up from the bench, tugging Miranda up with her. “I’m cold. We better go before I demand more coffee.”
“Yes, we can change your phone number,” Miranda would personally see that task performed. “And no, no more coffee. You’re high. I never thought I’d see anyone get high off of caffeine but I suppose it is possible.”
They walked on in silence as Andrea finished off her coffee and what little was left of Miranda’s too. Someone was getting a French press for Christmas…if she stayed around that long. Thoughts of tomorrow made Miranda clench her hands into fist.
“Ouch...what’s wrong?” Andrea pulled them up short and Miranda remembered she was holding onto Andrea’s arm as they walked along and was now squeezing it.
“I apologize. Nothing is wrong, I just… Let’s continue.” Miranda started forward but was not allowed.
“No, wait” she said softly. I didn’t say you had to move your hand. That was all good; just tell me what’s wrong. You like…I don’t know, you tensed up.” Andrea picked up Miranda’s hand and placed back on her arm and they began walking again.
“Just remember what I told Andrea, about tomorrow. Any perfection you’ve seen thus far is an illusion. Look at the ring and remember.”
And again Andrea pulled them up short. Would they ever make it back to the hotel? “Miranda…God, we’re never going to make it back to the hotel at this rate. Anyway…Miranda, you keep going on about these illusions of what people see, but all I’ve been trying to tell you is that I know you better than that. I know you’re not perfect and neither am I. And….” Andrea took Miranda’s right hand and held up in front of her face, “I think I did a pretty good job at letting you know that, right? I mean I gave you a diamond ring for God’s sake to show you that I know you’re not perfect and I don’t give a shit, right?”
The only thing Miranda could do was nod in confirmation. Yes, this whole ring business felt totally backwards. Backwards?
“Besides, if you were perfect? If you never made any mistakes? That would be totally boring and I wouldn’t like you half as much as I do if you were boring.” Andrea let Miranda’s hand rest back down at her side but did not let it go. “What about you? Would you like it if I was perfect? If I made no mistakes?” Before Miranda could reply, Andrea’s fingertips were on her lips again. “And just so you know…I’m talking in a non-work sort of way because you’d be lying if you said you wouldn’t want me to be perfect at work. So let me clarify…” Andrea released Miranda’s lips and took up her hand again. “In a non-work sort of way…how would you like it if I was completely and totally perfect and never made any mistakes or never did anything shitty?”
Miranda took a deep breath in through her nose and let it out slowly, marveling in the visible vapor it produced, and then looked up into Andrea’s eyes. “Frankly, I would hate it. As you said…it would be boring.”
“Good. So for future reference, when I look at this ring I’m not gonna think about all that crap you told me to think about. I’m going to think about how I accept you for who you are and I’m going to think about how much better I know you than everyone else. Okay? Now seriously, let’s go before I make you buy me another cup of coffee and we both know that is something I do not need…for like the rest of the week.”
Miranda reached out with her toe and turned the tap off. She was up to her chin in hot water. Once she was in the safety of her own room again, she realized that everything in her was freezing except her heart. Thinking on this, Miranda turned her head toward the bathroom door and tried to imagine the room beyond…and then the hallway outside her suite.
In the hallway, after they finally made it back to the hotel, each of them said their good nights and everything turned awkward. It was clear the professional line between them was no longer visible and quite honestly…with or without the bazaar ring exchange…Miranda wasn’t sure how that happened.
“How did this night even happen?” Miranda whispered unknowingly as she opened her door.
“Simple.” Andrea replied behind her as she was busy opening her own door and Miranda realized her mistake in speaking aloud. She was about to turn around but slender arms encircled her waist from behind. In that instant a match was struck and there wasn’t enough water in the world to keep it from burning. Miranda’s heart caught fire.
Two seconds went by but to her it seemed like decades. Finally Miranda turned in Andrea’s embrace; resting her hands on her shoulders, ready to hear what Andrea had to say. There was no point in pretending that Miranda had not opened her mouth and asked the very question that began this conversation. “You decided to go for a walk and I decided to drink twenty cups of coffee…simple.”
“Is it?” Miranda’s questioning gaze was met by Andrea’s dark eyes that mirrored every single emotion coursing through Miranda’s soul. Her eyes grounded Miranda in the moment, creating a fire break that protected her from being completely burnt up in the prospects of the disappointment tomorrow might bring.
“Yes, it is. Sometimes. Do you…” Andrea bit her bottom lip, “Miranda do you…do you want to come in? A drink…something non-coffee.” Her cheeks flushed and Miranda knew what she was really asking…it was plainly obvious and Miranda decided right then that Andrea Sachs was by far the bravest women she’d ever met in her life. She wanted to say yes. God, did she ever want to say yes. It almost felt like a sin to say no but Miranda knew what the answer had to be. If anything happened tonight…as if enough hadn’t happened already…it would make tomorrow five-hundred times worse. Miranda would have to bank the fire in her heart for the time being.
Taking a deep breath in through her nose, Miranda began her reply, “Andrea…”
“No. No wait…”
Miranda put her fingertips over Andrea’s lips, shutting off her never-ending need to speak. “No, you wait. Just a moment. Now…if I release you, can you remain quiet?” Andrea nodded and Miranda removed her hand. “As I was about to say…I can’t have another drink with you tonight, Andrea. Coffee or otherwise…tonight I simply cannot. Please understand it is not from a lack of desire to do so…”
Miranda lowered her head down into the water as the vision of what happened next came into her view. The unavoidable end to the evening: a kiss.
Coming up out of the water, she touched her lips as the water lingered on her fingers. Miranda kept the fire in her heart dampened just enough and it wasn’t a long kiss by any means, but it was soft. Very soft, and as much as Miranda had ruined Andrea for cold coffee, Miranda was officially ruined for anyone else’s lips ever again. She wanted to tell Andrea so but here again…she had to wait. Instead, they pried themselves apart and sought out the safety of their respective rooms without another word passing between the two. It left everything wide open for utter devastation later but it was for the best. Whatever happened now was out of Miranda’s control.
Hours later Miranda’s eyes were drawn open by the sound of the door to her suite opening. Or so she thought. She wasn’t really sure. A deep sleep had claimed her almost as soon as her head hit the pillow and the majority of her senses were still in a state of hibernation.
Miranda stretched and dared a glance at her fate. It was just settling on six o’clock and she needn’t be up until eight at the very earliest if she wished. Her meeting with Irv was the first thing on the schedule today and it wasn’t to happen until nine.
Just as she was about to get up and make certain that she was just hearing things, Miranda was surprised by her bedroom door being thrown open. All her of senses went on high alert and ‘shocked’ was not the word for it. Light from the living area flooded in and her vision cleared…and there she was. Andrea.
“Andrea! What in God’s name is wrong you?” One second later Miranda realized that she was completely naked under a foot of blankets and sheets. Why had she gone to bed naked?
“No time to worry about what’s wrong with me…wake up. Are you awake?” Andrea placed a familiar to-go cup on her night stand.
“How could I not be!” Miranda brushed her hair out of her face and gathered the sheet around her then turned on the bedside lamp. Thank God nothing had been revealed and Andrea seemed quite content to look at anything but Miranda as she sat down on the edge of the bed without hesitation. “Now for God’s sake, what is the meaning of you bursting in here? I was perfectly asleep I’ll have you know, and after all the coffee you poured down me last night, that in and of itself is a feat. Do I even want to know why you are awake?”
“I couldn’t sleep. I wanted coffee. So…I went out for coffee.”
“And at this hour you simply could not order from downstairs? You just had to go out in the dark…alone?” Miranda wasn’t sure when she’d become concerned with Andrea’s personal safety but right now it seemed like one of the most important things on this Earth.
“Well if I had called downstairs for coffee I wouldn’t be in here now about to tell you this!” Andrea jumped up and started pacing in front of the bed. Miranda rolled her eyes, eager for an opportunity to dress for this auspicious occasion but that opportunity did not seem to be coming to fruition. “I figured it out, Miranda. I figured out what he’s doing. No…no…no actually he told me! How lucky, right?”
Okay, this was unexpected. “What? Andrea…sit. Sit down; you’re likely to create holes in the carpet. Sit.” Miranda patted the bed instead of pointing to a chair that was mere feet away.
Andrea sat but then stood again. “Wow…I’m sorry.” She started to turn a deep shade of red. “You’re not…you don’t have…”
“Right, I have nothing on but unless you’ve acquired x-ray vision I think we’re fine. Now sit and tell me what you’re talking about!” Miranda snapped back at her. She was losing her patience but her body couldn’t help but respond to the fact that Andrea now knew she had nothing on underneath this bedding. The word ‘erotic’ slipped into Miranda’s thoughts and took hold, causing her even more discomfort…pleasure…it was indescribable.
“Okay...okay.” Andrea sat back down on the bed and began again. “So I woke up…couldn’t sleep. I wanted to get some coffee…take a walk. Well.” She swallowed hard and grabbed her coffee from the side table and took a long drink then handed the cup to Miranda. Apparently no one here was ever going to have their own cup of coffee again. Miranda raised an eyebrow to urge her on and took a sip of coffee as well. It was just as good as it had been six hours ago. “Well, when I came back Christian was getting off the elevator with some...woman…and of course he couldn’t just keep walking.” Miranda almost stopped her but decided to let her just carry on. Andrea wouldn’t be able to contain herself otherwise. “He was carrying this thing…this stupid little mock-up of a Runway cover. Jacqueline…he’s… Miranda, they’re going after you. ”
Miranda had no idea what to say. How far should she get into this? Andrea had discovered the plot. Not only had she discovered it but she’d come straight here and was absolutely terrified for Miranda. It was written all over her face. Miranda leaned back against the head board and looked up at the ceiling, trying to formulate the words needed but Andrea grew tired of waiting. “You already know, don’t you?”
“You have to do something. Please tell me you’re doing something.”
“I know and I am. Why do you think I told you you would be disappointed in me today?” Miranda ended in a whisper. This is not how she intended for the morning to go before having to face Irv and make a deal that would seal her fate one way or another.
“What? You mean there’s some other way you could piss me off besides not doing something? Whatever. He’s a creep and she’s probably just as bad or worse! How could I ever be upset about them getting squished like a bug!”
“I’m not prepared to say. This afternoon it will all be out in the open. I have a plan and he will indeed meet his end. Now…” Miranda tried to smile and remember the many hours of conversations the two of them had shared last night...and that kiss. She tried to let that permeate the air, to let that make everything still around them. She could not let the morning end this way. “Drink your coffee…”
“You’re not telling me everything because you’re afraid of my reaction.”
Miranda could tell that wasn’t a question so she didn’t bother articulating an answer. “Please, drink your coffee.”
Andrea did as asked but only for a moment. “I should go…I know you could use some more sleep.”
“And you?” No, she couldn’t go yet. Not yet.
“I’ll be back across the hall sleeping, reading...whatever.” She put her coffee back down on the side table and tucked her hair behind her ears. It was messy, hardly brushed.
Her clothes were in a similar state: jeans and a black sweater that were slightly wrinkled. Miranda briefly wondered where her camera was. Capturing this beauty, that was Andrea, in this soft light was a magazine cover in the making and it would have never gone any further than Miranda’s wall. Right where it belonged. “I am almost certain that sleep is not something I’m likely to find again this morning. Would you stay?”
“Yeah…yes I’ll stay. Are you okay? I mean last night was…are you okay?” She blushed and looked away briefly but found her bravery again and turned back, looking Miranda in the eye.
“I’m quite well in spite of being awaken in such a drastic manner. Wait for me in the living area…order some breakfast for us…please.”
Andrea removed herself from the bed and went across the room to retrieve Miranda’s robe. “Here…I’m really sorry about waking you.”
“Don’t be. The technique could be significantly improved but your reason was in the best interest of Runway, therefore, you’re forgiven.” Miranda reached out for the robe and noticed the look on Andrea’s face. Perhaps Miranda’s choice of words needed a bit of a make-over? “It was in my best interest…I know that. Now go.” She shooed Andrea off toward the door and ran her hands through her hair several times, frustrated at the sight walking in the opposite direction from her bed. What a morning.
By the time Miranda was ready to make her appearance in the living area she wasn’t quite sure that the fire in her chest could be contained as well as she had hoped. Between what would transpire today and what was sitting in the next room, Miranda was about to burst into flames from fear and lust all at the same time. In order to avoid the first and ensure the second she was willing to do just about anything now. Her meeting with Irv couldn’t come soon enough.
Eager to be back in Andrea’s presence she brushed her hair, teeth and washed her face. It would have to do. After all last night Andrea had seen her looking much worse. At least she remembered to put on clothes. A light weight, dark blue cashmere sweater that hung off her shoulder and a pair of slacks she considered far too casual for outdoor use even though most would consider them absolutely fabulous…here again this would just have to do.
Sweeping out of the room practically muttering a prayer under her breath, Miranda was greeted by the sight of Andrea putting a fresh cup of coffee down on a small side table that was next to a large, overstuffed chair in the corner. It was piled with Miranda’s laptop and various types of paperwork. Of course. Work. Duh, Miranda. It couldn’t go ignored all morning and obviously Andrea realized this far better than Miranda.
“Good morning.” Andrea looked up as she put the coffee down and smiled.
“Yes, good morning.” Suddenly the woman who always knew what to say was completely tongue tied. She covered it by immediately sitting in the chair and regrettably getting down to business. “How are we on the schedule? Remind Nigel of seating changes for the luncheon and when it’s late enough call the French offices about your cell phone. Hopefully, someone there will be competent enough to handle what you need.”
“The schedule’s on schedule and I just emailed Nigel about the seating change. In a few hours I’ll take care of the cell phone. I’ve got some fruit, toast…light things for breakfast on the bar if you want something.”
“Yes, thank you.”
Andrea walked over to the bar, making them each a plate. Miranda dug her nails into the arm of her chair when Andrea leaned down a little as she used one hand to clear a spot on Miranda’s small table to set it down. Thank God she turned around quickly and went to curl up in the corner of the couch because Miranda was ready to launch straight out of her chair.
She wasn’t sure if Andrea’s was merely trying to project a picture of calm or if she really was. She appeared to be fine, but Miranda couldn’t be sure. Instead of stressing over it, Miranda picked at the fruit and toast on her plate as she reviewed yesterday’s notes and furiously typed away on her laptop firing off one e-mail after another. Every now and then she dared to look in Andrea’s direction and the girl seemed to be in deep concentration but every now and then Miranda would catch her glancing up as well. They were playing a game.
The glances soon turned into complete stare down sessions and Miranda shut down her email and opened her web browser. Searching EBay for needless items required little brain power. Just as she was starting to relax again, looking for a new BOSE speaker system for her study, a noise came from Andrea’s direction. Miranda looked up over her glasses as Andrea’s laptop was ungracefully dropped onto the coffee table…what was she doing?
Andrea brushed her hair back off her forehead and looked at Miranda. “I can’t do this.” Miranda’s mind raced and her throat closed. Can’t do what? Getting a chance to ask never materialized. Andrea rose from the couch and instead of walking out of the room like Miranda envisioned, Andrea came over to her. She took the computer out of Miranda’s hands and tossed it onto the couch apparently not caring for its survivability rating. Right now Miranda didn’t care if it shattered into a million pieces.
“Come here.” Miranda grabbed her arm and pulled. Andrea was already half way to straddling Miranda’s thighs as it was so she didn’t need much encouragement.
“I just have to…” Andrea whispered before putting her desires into actions with a deep kiss that showed no sign of ever ending. Miranda slid her arms around the woman and wasted no time slipping her hands into her shirt and touching the soft, hot skin that seemed to have just been waiting for Miranda all this time.
A little voice in Miranda’s head told her to stop, told her to wait, told her that they shouldn’t; but Miranda promptly told that little voice to shut the hell up. Delicate fingers buried themselves in Miranda’s hair as her hands found their way up Andrea’s sides and over her breasts. A deep moan from some unknown place was released from inside Miranda when Andrea rocked forward and whatever small hesitations were left…were now officially gone.
While her hands continued to get acquainted with Andrea’s breasts, Miranda kissed up the side of Andrea’s jaw and teased her ear lobe with her tongue. Her body jumped in surprise as the tips of Andrea’s fingers teased her sides underneath her sweater. Miranda wasn’t going to be able to take much more of this without dragging Andrea to the floor and eating her alive in more than one way.
But as luck would have it, Miranda lost all ability to move when Andrea began biting and sucking softly at her neck and down the exposed shoulder and collar bone. Miranda was buying ten more of these sweaters at the first opportunity.
All she could do was surrender to it while Andrea continued her assault. She never knew that surrendering to anything could feel so good. It had always been Miranda’s experience that surrendering, under any circumstances, was only for the weak. Never had she imagined having the desire to willingly surrender to someone like this...in this way. But, have it she did and she wasn’t in any hurry to push it away.
Miranda placed one hand at the back of Andrea’s neck and pulled her up. “I need to kiss you again, Andrea…and again.”
“Yes…that’s…yes.” Andrea’s body weight pushed Miranda’s back into the chair harder and their hips rocked against each other. For a moment Andrea broke away and rested her forehead on Miranda’s.
They rocked against each other again and Miranda placed both her hands on Andrea’s hips. Her curves really were ridiculous in a very good sort of way. Everything about the woman screamed sensuality twenty-four hours a day and Miranda had to have it in her possession. Now. “I want to touch you…”
Andrea’s answer was to place both hands on the back of the chair and kiss Miranda until she could hear only the sound of her heart beating. She took a leaping guess that this was Andrea’s version of ‘permission granted’ and quickly moved her hands to the waistband of Andrea’s jeans.
The button released with ease and Miranda was working the zipper down when Andrea stilled her hand and pulled up sharply, gasping. “What is it?” Miranda was hardly able to speak.
Then she heard it. Someone was knocking at the door…”Hello?” The voice was Nigel’s.
“Fuck.” Andrea whispered and practically jumped off Miranda, putting her jeans back in order.
“No…no just wait a moment and he’ll go away.” She hissed. There was no damn way they were calling it quits just because someone was at the door.
“He has a key card, remember!” Andrea hissed back at her as she pulled Miranda to her feet. She almost fell back into the chair since she had little feeling in her legs. “Whoa.” Andrea caught her as the knock came again. “Hang on!” She called out. “Be right there Nigel!...Miranda, get in the bedroom. Now.” Andrea let go of her and started straightening her sweater and hair. “Go now Miranda…go!” Finally, since it appeared Miranda could not speak or move, Andrea kissed her firmly then turned her and pushed her toward the bedroom. “I’ll tell him you’re in the shower…you need to get ready anyway and so do I…now go!”
Miranda blindly followed her instructions as Andrea checked herself over in the mirror by the door. Only one thing would keep Miranda from blowing the whole thing and coming back into the living room not caring if she looked like she’d just been two seconds from having Andrea stripped bare, right there on her lap. Slamming the bedroom door shut, Miranda walked into the bathroom and straight into the shower fully clothed. Reaching out with shaking hands she turned the cold water knob to the left so hard it almost broke off in her hand. Icy water hit Miranda in the face like needles and she nearly screamed.
Again Miranda found herself waiting to hear the final click of the door shutting before letting out a deep, shuttering breath. She’d done it. She’d made the deal…and oh, what a deal it was. If anyone ever had one ounce of doubt that she was the devil incarnate; this would certainly wipe all doubt right off the map. Andrea would not be able to handle this. Hell, Miranda could barely handle it. But, she was doing it anyway. Nigel would just have to learn to live with the disappointment. God, knows Miranda had had to do that hundreds of times before. Just not to this degree…nor would she ever. She would always, always make sure of that. Wouldn’t she?
The moment she agreed, Miranda tried to tell herself it was the right thing to do; and really when faced with the other option, it was the right thing to do. It was the only thing to do. Giving up Runway, being taken down, beaten? Well that was just unacceptable and that’s all. Period. Especially when these sorts of tactics were being used. Never in her wildest dreams would she have ever thought the likes of Christian Thompson and Jacqueline Follett would be the pawns in this chess game.
Yet, the weird thing, and weird was a very loose term for it, was what really bothered her, really got under her skin, was that this bothered her at all. In the past Miranda Priestly would have just made the deal and not thought twice about it, but somewhere along the way…things had changed. Drastically.
For ten minutes Miranda sat on the couch going through a cycle of sighing, rolling her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose and rubbing her temples; trying not to have a panic attack. None of it helped. Right about now a drink sounded fabulous. But there wasn’t time and frankly it was too early for that. Tonight, she would wait until tonight to drown her sorrows alone in this room. Andrea would be gone by then, back to New York on the first plane leaving Paris. Miranda was sure of it.
Little did she know that if she played her cards right and managed to keep her mouth shut when it mattered most; Miranda just might be able to keep her future from completely imploding. But this was Miranda Priestly after all, and Rome wasn’t built in a day.
There were two shows to attend before the luncheon from hell, as Miranda titled it. It really was a shame she couldn’t buy a huge banner and put it above the door of the place as a warning. During the first and also the second show, Miranda fought the urge to vomit as she sat right there next to Nigel each time pretending that everything was perfectly fine. She wanted to tell him. She wanted to just go ahead and tell him now instead of having to see his face while she stood up at the podium and shot him in the back….or in the chest if you wanted to get picky about direction. Either way, she was shooting him at point blank range, taking away his dream. Hopefully he had other dreams and aspirations that would go a long way in filling the bullet hole.
Then here was Andrea, sitting behind her dutifully taking notes and none the wiser. She had not seen the woman again until they were on the way to the first show of the day. Andrea told her, with a huge grin on her face that promptly turned into a smirk, that Nigel’s only concern over seeing Andrea there at such an early of an hour was ‘what in God’s name are you wearing, Six’. Typical.
Miranda blindly watched the models go by and rubbed her chest intermittently as the thought repeatedly crossed her mind that twice today Andrea had been there for her. Once to warn her, once to keep her from appearing in front of Nigel in a manner that definitely would have made him question just what in hell he was witnessing.
On the way to the luncheon Miranda couldn’t help but reach across the seat and take Andrea’s hand in her own as she sat there staring out the window, not daring to look her in the eye. Andrea sensed something was wrong; of course she did, and knew that speaking right now was not in her best interest. She always could read Miranda’s moods better than anyone. Even her husbands. Miranda’s heart clinched again and she rubbed her chest. Perhaps they could just skip right over the wine and hors d’oeuvres and get straight to the point.
However, there was no skipping of anything and Miranda suffered through it by avoiding the food all together. And the wine. In fact she hadn’t had a thing to eat since a few bites of toast and fruit. At least she’d had a few cups of coffee, all of which appeared without her asking. Miranda hardly ever had to ask for coffee these days so long as Andrea was within a five mile radius.
The meaningless smiles, half hugs, air kisses, and limp handshakes seemed to be never ending. Usually, Andrea would be behind her, slightly to the right, ready to give her the name and all important status of the next person she was coming in contact with but not this time. This time Miranda sent her away to enjoy herself, which had never happened in the whole time of her employment. Andrea gave her a questioning look then turned and went to do as ordered.
Miranda kept an eye on her though. She tried not to but couldn’t help it. Across the room, Andrea’s blatant snobbery towards Christian did not go unnoticed. It was a very good thing for Christian that he did not try to touch her because Miranda would have lost it right in front of everybody and not given a damn. Even if her time with Andrea was about to be over, Miranda still had a claim staked. Andrea’s quick departure from Irv and Jacqueline after he tried to make introductions did not go unnoticed either. The woman was faithful to the core and that was a blessing, a breath of fresh air, something Miranda never had the pleasure of experiencing in someone…and a curse.
When it came time to get down to business Miranda fought the urge to vomit again. She wondered if her face was giving off any clues of her internal struggle. She was well practiced at hiding her emotions and expressions so probably not…save for Andrea. But maybe she didn’t. Maybe this time Miranda really was just that good. Her musing on the subject of vomiting and facial expressions was cut short when Nigel rose from his seat and made his way to the podium. For ten straight minutes he driveled on about what a great woman she was and how she was God’s own personal gift to the world of fashion. Miranda finally had to give in and take a few sips of water. She immediately wished she hadn’t. All Miranda could do now was look down at the ring she’d been given by the woman she probably loved but probably never had a chance in hell to be with in the first place.
All in all, she was probably only up there five minutes but it seemed like hours. A little time was wasted in the beginning by her inability to speak and eyes unable to focus on her speech. They were glued to the dark brown ones that were staring right back at her. Miranda wished she could say they grounded her in the moment…or that it was a good thing, that it made her feel safe. Miranda didn’t feel grounded; she didn’t feel safe, in fact she was trying very hard to feel nothing at all.
After her initial ‘thank-you Nigel for making me sound so awesome’, she took a deep breath and dove straight into hell. “I have the privilege of announcing that my comrade,” here she stopped and started again with a cough “Jacqueline Follet, Editor-in-Chief of the French edition of Runway, will, as of next month, be—“
She almost didn’t get it out, almost lost it all right there on stage. Her stomach was in her throat and her heart was sitting across the room with a devastated look spread across her beautiful face. Andrea had figured it out…she knew what Miranda was about to say. Her powers of deduction were better than Miranda gave her credit for…
Clearing her throat, Miranda started again. “—as of next month, Jacqueline Follet with be partnering with James Holt in the new expansion of his business. The brilliant Massimo has chosen her as the new co-president of JH International.”
Miranda made sure to get all that out in one single breath and didn’t dare look up from her paper or her hand. When she realized she’d been holding her speech in her right hand, she dropped it on the podium. That was wrong. It was like pouring black paint on an original Van-Gogh. It was a sin. She picked the paper back up with her left hand and hoped too much time hadn’t gone by…
“I know Jacqueline will be every bit the comrade to James she has been to me. Let’s all wish her the best.”
The applause was generous and lengthy as Miranda had expected. Jacqueline had a lot of fans. Miranda tried not to pay attention to the sparkle of the ring as she forced her hands to follow everyone else’s example. Again she felt like she was sinning.
This time it wasn’t a door closing she waited to hear, but the end of the applause to take that deep, shuttering breath. Or maybe it was a door closing? Did it matter now? Maybe right now they were they were one and the same.
After taking that breath and introducing James, Miranda returned to her seat and thanked God she wasn’t sitting next to Nigel. Her place was up front…next to Jacqueline. While James talked on and on, about what Miranda did not know, she watched Nigel now instead of Andrea. His usual animated and flamboyant spirit was gone. She could feel his anger from across the room. He was betrayed. He’d been shot in the back. Why couldn’t Miranda be loyal to him like she knew Andrea would have been? Andrea probably would have just told Irv to go to hell and walked away from it all. Maybe being foolish really is the right way to be sometimes.
At no time during the rest of the luncheon did Miranda look at Andrea. It would have been too much, the last straw. Or was Miranda beyond that elusive last straw already? She shook her head and took a sip of water. Enough questions. They were getting her nowhere. It simply wasn’t worth it to ask questions anymore. That time had passed.
Listening to Jacqueline’s mouth open and close with words Miranda barely heard was numbing. At least it helped it drown out the screaming in her head. She looked at her watch…it was time to leave. Miranda bid Jacqueline all the luck in the world but did not kiss her cheek or shake her hand. It would have only been another sin to add to the list. The one bad thing about leaving Jacqueline behind was that it meant facing Andrea. Miranda knew facing Nigel would come later. He would not speak to her right now, that much she knew for sure.
Andrea of course had sensed it was time to go and was already standing by the door with their coats. Finally looking up into her eyes Miranda saw pain and anger…and maybe even a little compassion. The compassion was meant for Nigel, that was something else Miranda was sure of.
“The car is waiting.” Andrea said as she slipped on her coat. Her words came out flat.
Miranda didn’t say a word. She just put on her coat too and led the way out the door. She did not want to lead. She wanted to follow. She wanted to turn around and proclaim a ‘re-do’ as Cassidy called it when she’d lost to Caroline in a round of golf on the Wii. Re-do, indeed. For the first time in Miranda’s life she knew that if given the chance, she would proclaim a ‘re-do’ on a whole host of things.
They got in the car and it sped away to carry them to the next show, the next thing on the schedule that Miranda didn’t care about. She tried to make a guess at how long it would take for Andrea to pack up and leave. Probably not much time at all. The woman was born organized…or at least she was now.
“So…are you going to speak to me or what?”
Miranda closed her eyes and swallowed. Here we go, she thought. “What is there to discuss?” Oh, great. That was just outright ridiculous and Miranda knew it even before the words came out of her mouth.
“You can’t be serious. In fact I know you’re not serious. You know there is plenty to say. Plenty. So don’t do that, okay?”
Miranda turned to look at her but Andrea was staring out the car window watching the streets pass by in much the same way Miranda was famous for. “Say what you have to say Andrea. I think I’ve said plenty for the time being.” Now she bit her lip. Why was she doing this? Getting this defensive attitude? Getting that tone…building that wall when she knew that she was the guilty one? The truth would have been so much better.
“Okay, if that’s the way you want it then fine.”
The silence was deafening. Miranda couldn’t take the quiet anymore even though that was exactly what she thought she wanted. “I know that you are angry.”
That did it. Andrea finally turned her head, “Yes I’m angry!” It was a good thing the privacy screen was up. “The smart, fat girl is totally pissed off!” Miranda flinched and looked down at her ring. Smart, fat girl…she’d always regretted that.
“Well there is nothing I can do about that now.” That was true. It was too late to take it back.
“Tell me…did you know what you were going to do this morning?”
Miranda knew what she meant. This morning…when Andrea had come to her…when they’d had breakfast…when they almost… “No. No, I did not know.” Miranda looked out the window. She couldn’t look into Andrea’s eyes anymore.
“But you knew when we went to the shows this morning, didn’t you?”
“Yes.” To be someone who never explained, never gave answers; Miranda was sure willing to do it now even if it wouldn’t improve anything. She owed Andrea that much at least.
For a long moment Andrea was silent. Miranda looked at her and she was looking down at her ring. Would she remember?
“You really suck sometimes you know. I mean this really sucks for him.”
“I will make it up to him.” And she would. She already knew that.
Eyes black with laser focus drilled into Miranda. “Will you? Or are you just saying that because you think it’s what I want to hear? Because you think that sounds better?”
“I will.” The car was slowing now and Miranda needed this to be done with before the day continued. She couldn’t sit on pins and needles all day long. “Andrea, what’s done is done. I’m not exactly thrilled…I assure you. But…it’s done.” The car came to a stop and Miranda felt it move as the driver exited to open her door. It was time. “When I return to New York I will send you a recommendation for whatever jobs you apply to…I’m sure you will have no trouble finding something. Call Emily and have her arrange a flight for you…” Miranda pulled the door handle but a hand came down on her knee and nearly crushed it to the point of pain.
“I swear to God Miranda if you so much as step one heel out of this car, I’ll get out too but I won’t be walking in the same direction. If you get out of this car - I will leave.” Just as she finished her sentence the driver opened the door. “Well? What’s it gonna be, Miranda? Are you staying or are you going?” Miranda couldn’t speak. It was as if everything inside her just stopped functioning. Andrea obviously realized this and leaned across her to speak to the driver. “Get back in the car. We’re going for a ride.” The driver obeyed and soon they were moving again. Andrea instructed him to just ‘go wherever the hell you want, just don’t stop this car’ and that sounded like a fine idea to Miranda.
True confusion set in when she found herself being pulled into Andrea’s arms. This was not supposed to be happening, was it? Suddenly her face and lips were being peppered with tender kisses. Now this really wasn’t supposed to be happening. Miranda could feel tears on Andrea’s cheeks and she pulled back to brush them away. Andrea didn’t seem to care about her tears or her make-up or anything else; she just wrapped her arms back around Miranda in a tight embrace. It was as if she didn’t want to let go. “What are you doing Andrea?” That wasn’t meant to be a literal question…more like a ‘are you telling me everything is okay’ kind of question.
“I’m hanging onto you so you don’t jump out of the car, you idiot.”
Miranda nuzzled her cheek, “I’m not going to jump out of the car.”
Andrea pulled away and looked her in the eye. “Are you sure? Because you were about to! You were about to run away from me…and all because you thought I was leaving? I can’t believe you. I mean what the hell did we do this for,” she pointed to both their rings, “if you’re willing to just get out of the car and walk away from me?” She slapped Miranda lightly on the shoulder and slumped back into the seat.
Miranda took a deep breath and relaxed. This could be fixed. This could be repaired. It wouldn’t be easy but it could be done and knowing that made all the difference. She would fix things with Nigel, she would fix things with Andrea, and she would fix things with her children. She would do it because it mattered…because it was right and it would never require a ‘re-do’ again.
“I wasn’t going to leave. I was going to tell you that even though it pisses me off it doesn’t change how I feel about you…because I know you. You’re probably always going to do whatever it takes for that…goddam magazine and that’s okay so long as you remember that I’m here.” Andrea paused and moved close again. Miranda opened an arm and Andrea moved into her embrace without hesitation. Perhaps that left over anger was slowly dissipating? “And you know what?” Andrea kissed her cheek and down her neck. Miranda felt the flame inside her heart burn hotter than it had all day.
“This morning when we were together Runway didn’t matter…you weren’t with anything or anyone but me. And that’s enough. That’s all I ask.”
“How do you know…how do you know this will work? How do you know I’m…what you need after today?” She wasn’t what Andrea needed. Not at all. Andrea wasn’t the sort of person that should want to be with the likes of Miranda Priestly. Miranda was too good at destroying things.
“You’re so crazy Miranda. I don’t know…I don’t know anything…I just believe. Okay?” Andre turned Miranda’s head with the tip of her finger and they really kissed for the first time since that morning. To feel that sweet softness again, after she thought she never would again was the best medicine for Miranda’s soul. She put everything into it and slowly started believing too. “I think we’re going to make a great team, Miranda.” She whispered against Miranda’s lips.
“Oh?” Miranda buried her face in Andrea’s hair and took a deep breath, holding her tight.
“Yeah, it’s simple really. You concentrate on Runway and I’ll concentrate on not killing you. And in between all that? We’ll concentrate on each other. Simple.”
Miranda could feel Andrea laughing in her arms and it was much deserved. So just like last night, she laughed too. “And what are you going to do when I start royally screwing up?” Because Miranda was really good at that.
“I already have that figured out. Withholding Starbucks is one of the many tricks I will be pulling out of my hat.”
“That might be dangerous for you.”
“Naw. I’m a fast runner.” Andrea moved back against the seat but kept hold of Miranda’s hand. “Can you eat something? You didn’t eat anything at the luncheon.”
“You noticed?” Of course she did.
“I hardly took my eyes off you.”
“Hm…Well we’ve already missed the Chanel viewing…but honestly I don’t think I can yet.” Definitely not. Her system needed a bit more time to get over the day before she could eat.
“You still have time to see most of it if we go back now…anyway you’re Miranda Priestly, you can show up late. It’s okay.”
“You think so?”
“I sure do. Speaking of Chanel. There’s that party tonight you know…I think you should go.”
“No. I refuse to go to any sort of party tonight. Irv might be there and I can’t take that…besides I’ve already declined.” Miranda closed her eyes and rolled her neck once…twice…when they got back to New York she was getting a two hour massage first thing.
“Don’t not go because of Irv,” Andrea said quietly, “Go for Nigel. He will be there.”
“Andrea,” Miranda sighed and squeezed her hand. “He will not want to speak to me tonight.”
“You don’t know that.”
“You already spoke to him about it didn’t you? You know he will be there?”
“He’ll be there. I know you want to talk to him. Miranda, there’s three things that saved you today. One: this ring; two: how much I want you; and three: your face at the luncheon. You were on the verge of vomiting like ten times and I adored you for it…just go talk to him. I know you want to.”
So…Andrea wanted her…adored her? Not unlike her fierce loyalty, this ‘wanting’ was a new thing for Miranda. She had never been wanted before, not to mention ‘adored’. Not just for herself…everyone always wanted the other Miranda. Then something occurred to her…
“You need me to do this too?”
“Yes…yes I do. You did a crappy thing today for reasons that I can’t deny were necessary and the outcome would have probably been the same either way; but it was still crappy…or no Starbucks.”
Miranda smirked, “There’s always that little café…”
Andrea nudged her ribs with her elbow. “Like hell there is. Please…go to the party.”
“Fine, fine…tell the driver I’m ready to return…and now we really are too late for the Chanel show.”
There were more shows, a couple of meetings and after a while Miranda was finally able to pay attention and actually think about work. It helped to have Andrea beside her, always keeping her on point. Somehow Andrea had twisted enough arms to get someone bumped a row to clear a chair for herself…right between Miranda and Nigel. It made sense actually. Nigel was giving Miranda the silent treatment so at least this way they could each speak through her and yes, it was all rather juvenile but it got the job done and that’s all that mattered.
The hardest part, besides getting the silent treatment from Nigel, was having to keep herself in check; which she pretty much failed at right away. It should not be this hard to remain professional toward your assistant, but it was. Miranda wasn’t doing it on purpose and of course she knew better but it seemed to be an unconscious sort of thing. Everything between them was out on the table now and it was quite simply hard not to indulge after wanting these things for so long.
Miranda kept her hand on Andrea’s forearm for almost an entire show as she leaned in to tell Andrea what to write down. Things like that were happening all over the place today yet Andrea never said a word or gave her a look in warning. Perhaps she was waiting until later to lay the law down since that certainly couldn’t go on too many times before someone noticed. Maybe someone already had because Nigel was giving her a fair amount of strange looks…but maybe that was just because of everything else. Who knows? Miranda was just ready to get all this over with so they could go to the party and then…move on.
“Let me take you to dinner.” Andrea said to her as they held hands in the back of car. It was nice to be able to do this. Reading over a mountain of paper work while holding someone’s hand could be something worth getting used to.
Miranda glanced up from her work, “Take me to dinner? I thought you wanted to go to that ridiculous party so I can make up with Nigel?”
“I do and we are, but there’s plenty of time to eat first.”
“I’ll want to change.” Miranda chewed on the end of her pen and tried not to think about how easy it was to be agreeable.
Andrea’s only reply was to tell the driver to take them back to the hotel. It looked like Miranda had a date…giving it a name like that turned Miranda inside out for a second. A date? “You’re taking me out on a date aren’t you?”
Andrea looked at her like ‘yes, duh Miranda’, but had the grace to reduce her reaction to a simple “Yes.”
Miranda put her paper work back in her bag. She had other things to think about. Like what to wear…what to say…how to act?
“That is unless you don’t want to.”
Ah, right. Leaving conversations open ended would need to come to an end. Unfinished thoughts made Andrea assume something was wrong or that the conversation was over, in a bad way. That was all the woman was used to from Miranda. “No, no. That sounds…nice.” Now she blushed and turned to look out the window. Nice? Actually yes it sounded very nice and Miranda didn’t care where they went, she was not hiding. Not today. It wasn’t worth it anymore.
Back at the hotel Miranda was stopped by reporters and she gave them their due while Andrea disappeared to her room. Fifteen minutes later Miranda was standing in front of the massive closet in her suite still wondering what to wear. This should not be this hard…
She tried several things but wasn’t happy with any of it. A dress was more suitable for the party afterwards but frankly Miranda was tired of wearing a dress today, tired of being so dressed up period. That’s something no one knew about her. She might own the world of fashion but the longer the day lasted the more she was ready to be out of it all and into something much more comfortable…not to mention out of her shoes.
Still standing in front of the closet, biting her lip, Miranda finally gave up and picked out a pair of slacks and a blouse that did a lot in the way of showing off certain assets. Might as well have a little fun tonight right? There was a jacket that wasn’t necessarily made to go with it but it tied everything together. She was done. This would have to be good enough for everybody; she already knew it would be good enough for Andrea.
Make-up re-applied: check; hair: check; shoes… Miranda never was good at keeping up with her shoes and the pair she wanted wasn’t in the closet where it should be which left the whole suite wide open for hiding places. Sighing she exited the bedroom and started her search.
“Oh…I’m almost ready…shoes.” Here she was blushing again like a school girl. And here Andrea was in a simple little black dress that left little to the imagination. It showed Miranda everything she couldn’t have just yet.
Andrea came closer, “Which ones? I’ll help you.”
“Uh…yes…the black ones…yesterday.” Miranda cleared her throat and turned in the opposite direction to search by the desk. She had to get away. What would it say about her if she couldn’t even make it through their first date without ripping that dress off? And besides…Andrea needed her to do this thing with Nigel tonight or there would be no coffee ever again and likely nothing else. So? Shoes needed to be found and quickly.
“Okay, found um!” Andrea called out from the little closet that was by the suite door. Of course. Why hadn’t Miranda thought of that before?
Miranda went over and put her shoes on. Checking herself in the mirror one more time she determined herself ready for the evening. “Alright…”
Andrea just stood there by the door looking at her and Miranda quickly turned a deep shade of self-conscience. Andrea stepped up and took both her hands. “This is different. You’re nervous and I’ve never seen you look nervous…it’s beautiful.” Then she slipped her arms around Miranda and kissed her. So far this date was turning out to be nerve-wrecking but fantastic. As soon as she felt Andrea deepen the kiss she pressed her against the door. All of the sudden a date seemed highly over rated but Andrea seemed to think other-wise.
“Miranda…oh, God.” Andrea tried to push her back but wasn’t successful. Miranda already had her hands up Andrea’s dress and was making her way up slowly. This was glorious in every way; but much to Miranda’s disappointment, Andrea was indeed finally successful at getting Miranda’s attention. She grabbed Miranda’s arms and pushed them up and away. “Later…please…” She was breathless.
At first Miranda was slightly horrified for having not ‘listened’ the first time when Andrea was pushing her back. Aggressiveness was usually not Miranda’s modus operandi having never really felt the need…but now she definitely felt the need. But then again there were Andrea’s feelings to consider so basically Miranda had nearly made an ass of herself. Great.
“I apologize.” Miranda straightened the dress and smoothed out Andrea’s hair, not looking her in the eye.
“Shh. There is nothing to apologize for…believe me. We just need to get through this first. I am determined to take you to dinner damn-it.” She grinned and kissed Miranda’s cheek. Apparently she hadn’t made too much of an ass of herself after all. Thank God.
“Lead the way.”
Andrea held her hand as they went down the hall toward the elevator but dropped it when she heard someone coming. It was some random Runway employee and Miranda smirked when he gave Andrea a double take. At least he had good taste.
They took a cab which was different. Miranda couldn’t remember the last time she’d stepped foot inside a cab. It wasn’t too horrible but certainly not something she wanted to make a habit of…unless asked, then maybe. The restaurant was coincidently right across the street from the café they’d been to the night before. Coffee was in Miranda’s future along with quite a few other things. As soon as they walked in Miranda’s stomach growled.
“I told you you should have eaten something earlier.” Andrea rolled her eyes and ordered wine.
“I couldn’t eat, I told you that.” Miranda rolled her eyes right back and picked out what she wanted off the menu without two seconds. It was an easy choice. Steak of course.
“You’re getting the steak?”
“Of course…what else is there? You…you look beautiful by the way.” Right, because Miranda still hadn’t said a word about the dress and that was not exactly the way to start off on your first date. “That dress is…it’s nice.” Again with the ‘nice’? At least she hadn’t said ‘acceptable’ or ‘not horrible’.
The blush that spread from Andrea’s chest, to her neck then all the way up to her face told Miranda that ‘nice’ worked just fine. “Thank-you. I brought it for you.”
“What?” Miranda wasn’t sure she’d just heard that correctly. This was planned?
“I brought it for you.” Andrea bit her lip and tapped her nails against her wine glass as she stared off into space before looking Miranda in the eye. “It’s fun to torture you sometimes.”
Oh, really? Was that what it was all about? All those times that suddenly Andrea would break from her stylish yet safe outfits and show up to work in something that distracted Miranda to no end? There were so many questions that could be asked over this piece of news but Miranda decided to narrow it down to just one: “So you were aware of my…feelings?”
“I might have been…although I spent an awful lot of time thinking I might be wrong.”
“But you were with Nate, yet you…no, no, I’m sorry.” Miranda shook her head at her stupidity and waved her hand to indicate that she wasn’t going there. That was so stupid.
“Would you like me to feel guilty?” Andrea’s voice was cool and her expression blank.
“There isn’t any need to discuss it. I was decidedly in the same position.”
“Oh my God. Yes. Alright? Yes, I was in the same position. But what could I do? I wasn’t going to cheat on him…or at least as long as I could stand not to.”
Andrea’s eyebrow rose to the ceiling. “You’d thought about it?”
“Yes.” She never flinched nor took her eyes off Miranda.
“Then I don’t really know what else to say on the subject except that your ‘torture’ certainly did not go unnoticed.” Definitely not.
Miranda didn’t answer; she just smirked and proceeded to order when the waiter came to the table. Andrea was eating steak whether that’s what she actually wanted or not.
Andrea chuckled after Miranda was done “You know when a girl asks you out, you should probably let her do the ordering…or at least ask her what she wants to eat.”
Without hesitation Miranda smiled ruthlessly and said, “Well I’ve never been asked out by a girl so this might take a while to become accustomed too.”
“Neither have I but I’m sure the learning curve will be steep.”
For some reason the look in Andrea’s eyes as she said this lit that flame in Miranda’s chest again. It was going to be a long night…
By the time they got to the party it was already an hour old. Since the week was ending the parties were getting less pretentious and more about dancing, drinking and making a fool out of yourself. Not Miranda’s cup of tea that’s for certain.
As soon as they went through the door and checked their coats Miranda motioned for Andrea to come stand beside her.
“Are you okay? Do you need something?”
Miranda couldn’t help but look her up and down again. She’d done that about ten times so far and it was just getting worse. One thing was very clear to Miranda: Andrea was never wearing that dress to work. “Yes, I am fine. I just don’t want you trailing after me all night.”
“Um, that’s kinda my job.” Andrea whispered in her ear as they walked toward one of the many bars set up around the room. People were moving out of their way left and right so it didn’t take long.
“Not tonight it isn’t. If it makes you uncomfortable then don’t. What would you like to drink?”
“Coffee from the café.” She giggled. They’d already had one of those tonight.
Miranda rolled her eyes and leaned in closer than she should have, “Try again.”
“Just some wine, thank you…I don’t care what kind and no it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. Are you sure it’s a good idea though?”
Miranda ordered two glasses of red wine and turned back to her while they waited, “Andrea, it’s not like we’re going to have sex right here in front of the entire world. As for what they think of you standing beside me rather than behind me? Well that’s ridiculous to even contemplate.” Miranda handed her a glass of wine and took a drink, trying not to think about the word sex.
“Oh, so we’re going to have sex?”
Miranda choked on the wine and Andrea patted her on the back as she steered them through the crowd.
Miranda wanted to say something witty in return but couldn’t think of anything. She always used to be full of witty come-backs. Where did they go? “Would you just…shut-up, please.”
Andrea snorted and gestured toward a round booth that was off to the side but centrally located enough that everyone would get their chance to say ‘hello’ to the Queen. Miranda wanted to object but she knew it was necessary. This was just par for the course, what she always had to do.
They sat down and after a minute Andrea came up with the most brilliant thing to say. “Just remember…please…that as far as all these people know,” she pointed around the room, “you’re still a happily married woman.”
Miranda turned on her in an instant with a lethal glare. “What did you just say to me?”
“You heard me and you know it’s true. Miranda…” Andrea touched her knee under the table, “You know I’m right. Believe me, I’m actually thrilled…shocked really, that you want to be with me here...like this…close. But you know as well as I do that you need time to get through some things.”
Why did she have to be right? Why? “And in the mean time?”
“In the mean time we just have to be careful. I mean that is if you…I mean...we don’t…uh…”
And here was the bumbling, fumbling Andrea that Miranda knew so well. It was time for reassurance before the woman had a full blown melt down right here at the table. Miranda took a deep breath and got ready to do her job. “Andrea, calm down. I certainly won’t speak for you but as for me, this…thing…between us has been going on for quite some time. I think you know that.”
“I do but that still doesn’t change the fact that you might not want…oh, hell. I don’t even know what I’m saying.” Andrea slumped back against the booth and downed the rest of her wine. Miranda motioned for a waiter to bring some more and ended up having to make small talk for five minutes to some designers she’d barely heard of. Irritating. Didn’t these people know she was trying to calm her…girlfriend down? Girlfriend? This was turning into pure hilarity. If someone had told Miranda a week ago that she was going to find herself with husband (technically) and a girlfriend all at the same time; she would have had them blacklisted…maybe even killed.
Once everyone was gone Miranda started again this time with her hand on Andrea’s knee. “Andrea, you are just trying to protect me and I appreciate that. The only person that has ever looked out for me has been me for so long…and I think I’d like the chance to get used to that if I can.” The best way to make Andrea smile again just popped into Miranda’s mind. It was so good it even made Miranda laugh. “And besides…” Miranda motioned to the crowd around them, “I’m like the popular high-school quarterback here…and you? You’re the head cheerleader and we’re destined to rule the school, as it were; so it’s too late to back out now, darling.”
All the tension and uncertainty rolled off of Andrea like water and the grin and laughter replaced all doubt. It was easy to see and easy to love. “Oh, my God!...I cannot believe you just said that!” She continued to laugh and finally leaned over against Miranda’s shoulder apparently forgetting all about how ‘careful’ she insisted they be. But just as Miranda was enjoying the feeling, Andrea snapped out of it and sat up straight. “You know…that is true though because I am your cheerleader…biggest fan and always will be.” Suddenly she stared out into the crowd at something Miranda could not see. Her face went to stone and the laughter died. “I’ll be right back.” She slid out of the booth and walked out into the crowd without so much as a backward glance in Miranda’s direction.
Miranda slid over to where Andrea had been sitting to see what in hell this crazy girl was about to do. She had half a mind to go follow her but something told her that whatever this was about, Andrea would not want her involved. Finally someone moved just to the right and Miranda saw it. Andrea was walking straight up to Christian-fucking-Thompson…yes, Miranda was allowing herself to curse all she wanted tonight.
Once Andrea reached him it was like something out of a movie. She promptly dismissed whomever Christian was trying to smooth-talk like they were a piece of common trash and from the looks of it he thought this all for him. And it was…just not for the reasons he envisioned because when he tried to touch her, Andrea grabbed his arm and started to drag him away. Now Miranda really wanted to go see what was going on…but from where she sat she was still in a good enough place.
She thought perhaps Andrea was dragging him off to a quieter corner to chew him out but no…she was…throwing him out of the party? Yes, yes she was. Miranda covered her mouth to keep her laughter from being heard. There was no point in shocking any more people than was necessary with seeing Miranda Priestly cracking up. And Andrea wasn’t just throwing him out…she was pushing him out. As soon as Miranda saw security step up to the door she started sliding out of the booth. There was no way in hell she was letting anyone throw Andrea out of this party because of her tossing out that bastard. Fuck that.
But, then there was no need. Andrea was speaking calmly to the six foot, three hundred pound security officer and pointing toward the door. She spoke for a few more minutes, shook his hand then started making her way back to their booth. Miranda was happy to see that on her way back, the woman was smiling and her skin tight dress hugged her body so perfectly…and again several people, men and women, gave her a lingering once over. It would have made Miranda jealous if she hadn’t been doing the same exact thing for months on end. She’d let everybody have a free pass tonight so long as no one laid even the tip of their finger on her cheerleader. That wasn’t an option for anyone in this room.
Much to Miranda’s displeasure, on several levels, just as Andrea was within ten feet of their booth, Nigel showed up. Talk about horrible timing. He sipped his drink as he finished watching Andrea approach and said in a low voice, “Did she or did she not just kick Christian Thompson out of this party?”
Miranda looked up at him and they made eye contact. He didn’t look pissed off but he certainly didn’t look happy either. “She did.”
Nigel chuckled behind his glass. “Six, darling, I just saw you turn into a bouncer…How charming.” Miranda totally agreed.
“Hey, Nig.” She gave him a long hug and looked at Miranda over his shoulder, receiving an eye roll in return. It was time to get this over with. The hug finally ended and “Hey, I think I see Anne Hathaway…I’m gonna slip over and see if I can meet my twin. Why don’t you stay and talk.” She patted his arm and motioned toward Miranda with her head. Twin? Well honestly Miranda had never thought of it before but actually…yes…and that was a little scary. Anyway…
“Yes, tell her I’d like to speak with her soon about a cover opportunity.” Miranda waved her hand dismissively like she’d had that idea for years and it was simply an afterthought now.
Andrea’s face lit up. She knew better because the words ‘Anne Hathaway’ had never once come out of Miranda’s mouth in her presence before. “Uh, cool, okay.” And with that she was off like an arrow headed toward what appeared to be a secret infatuation. Wonderful.
“Well, I guess we should talk.” Nigel said as he slid into the booth.
“Yes, I suppose.”
“What other option did you have?” He stared her down with no hesitation and got right to the point.
“None. I had none. It was either this or give it all up.” Miranda looked across the room toward where her wayward cheerleader had run off to and sure enough she was chatting it up with Anne…
“You can’t be serious. You had nothing…any other way?”
Finally she looked at him, “Yes, Nigel I am very serious and no, there was no other option. If I had had one I would have taken it. Believe me.”
“Can I? Can I believe you? I’m not sure any more Miranda.”
Miranda let a little time go by as she thought of her next words. To satisfy Andrea, Miranda was going to have to be brutally honest here…not to mention to make Nigel feel better…and if she was honest, herself as well.
“Nigel, I’m not going to lie to you. This was the only option I was given and I’m lucky enough as it is that I even found out about Irv’s plans to begin with. If I hadn’t…well then I’d be done for. And you know…Nigel, you know me. You know I couldn’t survive that. This is my life. The only way I’ll likely ever give it up is when I can’t see anymore…or I find a very good reason to retire.”
Nigel took a deep breath and a deep drink of his wine. Miranda wondered how many of those he’d had tonight. Probably not enough to suit him. “I know.” His voice was barely audible.
“Yes, Miranda. I know you can’t give this up and frankly…frankly, it would kill me to see it taken away from you like that. It would have killed me. “
Well thank God. That right there took a little of the pressure off Miranda’s shoulders. “I will make this up to you Nigel. We’ll figure something out together. I was already thinking of letting you take some things over for me.”
He looked at her in surprise, “You were?”
“Yes, Stephen has asked for a divorce and I have a feeling I’ll need a bit more freedom to be at home…I want that. My children need to see me more so they don’t forget what I look like.” She tried to chuckle at her little joke but it was too close to the truth for her to find any humor in it.
“Miranda, while I’m not exactly thrilled with you right now, I know we’ll work this out. As far as you needing a little more freedom to be home…I think there might be another reason you need that.”
Oh, shit. Miranda cleared her throat as the words almost came right out of her mouth. She tried to put on her best fake smile and said, “Whatever do you mean?” Yes, like that was going to do any good.
“That’s a nice ring Andy’s got on today. I asked her about it and she said she’d had it forever…something like “oh, this old thing”. He threw that out there with a nice, sweet, mimicking voice. Miranda finished off her wine in one gulp.
“Again…what are you talking about?”
“I’ve seen this coming. I’m glad you’re getting a divorce because I would have hated to see you take up with my Six while you were still happily married. At least this way you’re not cheating. That isn’t your style and I doubt it’s hers either. It’s about time you two got on with it. By the way I see you’ve got on a nice new ring too.”
Miranda was pretty sure her eyes were akin to tennis balls right now and that they were also probably popping out and rolling around the table. How. In. The. Hell. Did he know…guess…figure it out? How?
“It’s, okay Miranda. You can breathe.” He smiled at her and she did indeed take a small breath. Okay, so he didn’t look pissed off anymore and he didn’t look like he was about to run off to the nearest reporter…
“Nigel, I…how did you…I don’t know what to say.”
“Hm, well that’s certainly a rare thing isn’t it? How do I know? Because I have eyes. Watching the way you look at each other all day long is like looking at two high-school kids in a production of Romeo and Juliet. And let’s not forget…she’s wearing your wedding ring…which is so weird.” He laughed and motioned to the waiter for more wine and Miranda was glad of it.
“I’m not sure I like the Romeo and Juliet reference…that did not end very well for them.” Amen to that. It was definitely not what Miranda wanted to compare this to…at least not the ending. Again…here we go with the hilarity of the evening. She wondered which title Andrea would like better: head cheerleader or Juliet? Hopefully she’d like to remain the head cheerleader because Miranda was in no hurry to have them both commit suicide for God’s sake.
“You know it’s so fucked up it actually makes perfect sense.”
“Oh, well that’s so encouraging.” She snapped at him.
“Can I ask when did this officially start?”
No, but it might help her later on to have someone to talk to and Nigel had always been the only one she talked to about her relationships. This would be no different and she had a feeling she’d need an ear when things started to go south now and again. He would probably be good at keeping her from royally fucking up one too many times.
“Honestly…just since last night.”
Nigel clapped a hand over his mouth to keep from wasting his wine. While he tried to gather himself together Miranda stole another glance in Andrea’s direction. Oh, this was priceless. Now her wayward cheerleader and Anne were linking arms and laughing like old friends. Anne might not be getting a cover after all.
“So, you mean to tell me you both confessed your unrequited love for one another and exchanged rings - last night? You’ve kidding me. And let’s not forget that it’s your wedding band…I mean that is…”
“I’m not kidding you…don’t ask me how that happened because it’s too hard to explain. You wouldn’t even believe me if I told you that the ring bit happened before everything else came out.”
“This is bizarre…is she going to keep working at Runway?”
Good question. “I’ll let her decide that. We’ve not discussed it and frankly I’m not up for her leaving before Emily is recovered at the very least. But as I said…I’ll let her bring it up and I’ll also be letting her decide. Unless it becomes too difficult to negotiate; it’s strictly up to her.”
Nigel laid a hand on her arm and spoke with more tenderness in his voice than Miranda had heard in a long time. “When’s the last time you let someone else decide something that directly affected you?”
Miranda smiled as she took in the sight of Andrea laughing and talking with a group of people Anne was introducing her too. Everyone was no doubt taken aback by how much they really did look alike. She was having a good time and just knowing that made Miranda happy. Then she remembered Nigel had just asked her a question. “I can’t remember. I probably never have…”
“She really can do anything can’t she?”
“Yes…yes she can…and she’s headed this way. Without Anne Hathaway, thank God.”
Nigel laughed, “Jealous much?”
“Perhaps.” She cut him a glare and he shut up.
“You’re back.” Miranda took this as yet another opportunity to look her up and down.
Andrea grinned and scooted into the booth on Miranda’s right side. “Yep, I’m back. She is so awesome. I told her you wanted to talk to her later about a cover. She’s thrilled and I’m absolutely full of joy!”
“Yes, I can tell and it’s annoying.”
“Sorry. I’ll be shutting up now. Is there anything you need?” She asked sweetly in a mocking way.
“Oh, my God you’re both too cute together.” Nigel toasted them with his wine glass and Andrea looked like she was going to pass out. It seemed that Miranda needed to rush in and save the night again with a dose of reassurance.
“It’s fine, it’s fine.” She took Andrea’s hand; it was conveniently already under the table resting on Miranda’s knee, “he figured it out on his own. Apparently we stare at each other a lot. I was totally unaware.”
Andrea smiled and nudged Miranda’s shoulder. “Like hell you were ‘unaware’.”
“Don’t worry ladies…your secret is safe with me.” Nigel toasted them once more and Miranda figured that by now he was fairly toasted as well.
Andrea rolled her eyes. “That is so comforting.”
“Indeed. Darling, let’s go mingle for a few minutes and then I’d like to leave if that’s alright with you?”
“Oh, you are soooooo weird now Miranda! You want to mingle…you asked her if it was okay to leave…I must be drunker than I thought.”
“Yes, I think that’s quite enough from you, Nigel. Do feel free to keep your mouth closed from here on out this evening. I’ve heard quite enough.”
“Let’s go mingle.” Andrea giggled and slid out of the booth. “I’ll introduce you to my new best friend.”
“Oh, my God. I have met her before! I hardly see the need to do it again.” Miranda followed and they left Nigel sitting there with his wine glass. He hardly noticed.
“Yeah, but when you met her back then she wasn’t my best friend. You need to be re-introduced.”
“I know but I’m also the head cheerleader, remember?”
“Yes…yes I remember.” Miranda rolled her eyes and put a hand on the small of Andrea’s back as they headed off. She might be suffering from a tad bit of unnecessary jealousy but it was exciting. Miranda was never jealous of anything or anyone or had even felt possessive before…so, yes…this was quite enjoyable. “By the way, I cannot believe you threw Christian out.”
Miranda felt that flame burn hotter in her chest when Andrea leaned into her as they walked and whisper in her ear, “I wasn’t about to allow that asshole within ten feet of you. Not tonight. You can do what you want with him later on but tonight I don’t want to see his face.”
“Yes, I believe you made that quite well known. I admit it had a certain amount of…sexiness to it.” A huge amount of sexiness. No one had ever done that for Miranda.
Their conversation was cut off as they were now standing in front of Andrea’s new ‘BFF’. Wonderful. Miranda could already tell that ten minutes wasn’t going to cut it tonight, but she wasn’t going to protest. As much as she wanted nothing more than to take Andrea back to the hotel and literally rip that dress right off of her, she knew they needed this…or at least this minus Anne Hathaway.
After all the mess, the heartache; it felt good to relax and it was quite an experience to watch Andrea in this setting. There had rarely ever been a time when she genuinely wanted to stay or much less attend a party but…tonight, tonight there were plenty of reasons to be here and all of those reasons were standing right beside her.
Miranda opened one eye, stretched and dared a glance at her fate. It was just settling on six o’clock…again. At least this time she wasn’t being awakened by the sound of a door opening. It was the soft sound of breathing and the weight of a soft, warm body that woke her. And that was more than acceptable.
In fact everything about last night and the early hours of this day were far more than acceptable. Well…she could certainly go without the huge headache she was sporting right now but it was well worth it. Last night had been more fun than she’d had in ages and there was no doubt in her mind that this morning paper’s had pictures to prove it. Chatting with Anne for ten minutes turned into three hours of more partying than Miranda had ever done. Drinks flowed as good as the conversations with people she did not even know. Andrea had been on a mission to keep Miranda away from people she knew. This party was all about celebrities anyway really so celebrities and a handful of unknown designers were all Miranda was allowed to come in contact with. It was all done in the name of ‘you’re not at work’ and Miranda went along with it…and it had been so easy. Apparently when you’ve got someone standing beside you that has your back and wants nothing from you but you…it’s a lot easier to just relax and not build a fortress to keep people out. Yet again…something Miranda had never experienced before.
Feeling around in the dark to make some sense of their bedding she discovered that most of it must be on the floor. The edges of another blanket were found within reach and she pulled it over them. Andrea stirred only a little. Miranda’s right arm was asleep but she was inclined to lie here just a little bit longer…but then Miranda’s cell phone rang and Andrea came to life. While she tried to keep Andrea from getting up, Miranda reached over and grabbed it, shutting it off without answering. Screw that. It was probably just Nigel.
“Who was it?” Andrea stretched and finally let Miranda have her arm back by pulling Miranda into her own arms. Nice trade off.
“I have no idea and don’t really care.” Miranda kissed her neck and buried her face in Andrea’s hair.
“Probably just Nigel…”
“That’s exactly what I’m thinking. Hm…that’s nice.” Miranda felt her back muscles instantly melt as Andrea’s hand moved over her in slow, smooth circles. “My back hurts.” Then she groaned for having admitted it. Things like that did not help her feel any younger compared to who she was in bed with.
Andrea moved her hand down to Miranda lower back and increased the pressure. Miranda quit caring about her age or admitting anything since that felt so good. “Yes.”
“And other things?”
Like the hours of mind blowing sex? “Yes.” It was suddenly hot underneath all these covers and Miranda threw one of the blankets off.
“Hm…well don’t forget,” Andrea giggled, “you have to buy me a new dress.”
“Darling, you’re coming away from here with an entire new wardrobe. I hardly need to buy you a new dress.” Actually she had promised. That promise was the only reason she was allowed the privilege to rip the other one to shreds three seconds after the door closed behind them last night. And God how thrilling was that? Miranda would buy her a thousand dresses if that’s what it took to get to do it again.
“You promised!” She said as she stopped rubbing Miranda’s back.
“No don’t stop.” For the first time in decades Miranda whined about something.
“Buy me a dress?”
“Fine.” Miranda rose up just enough and the first proper kiss of the morning was given. “I’ll buy you a new dress. Do you have something in mind? Here?” While she waited for an answer Miranda sank back into Andrea’s arms and her back rub resumed.
“No. You can’t take me shopping here. I think we’ve done enough work for the press this week. Don’t you?”
“Why are you always right? Oh, God…lower.” When Andrea’s hand finally hit the right spot Miranda decided she was firing her masseuse. There was officially no need for him anymore.
“I’m right because I’m smart. You’ve like…I don’t know…turned into someone that suddenly doesn’t care about that sort of thing and like I told you last night…I am thrilled with that but for now I’ve decided to care about it for you until you’re in a better position to do whatever the hell you want.”
“Ah…” Miranda chuckled “A better position, you say? I think we tried quite a few of those last night.”
“Oh shut up! You know what I’m talking about.” Andrea pulled Miranda on top of her but continued the back rub…yes…the masseuse was officially fired.
“Okay, I know…you’re right. And by the way you just cost Robert his job.”
“My masseuse…” she paused for a kiss, “I just fired him.”
“Oh…well, “ Andrea open her legs more and wrapped them loosely around Miranda, pulling her hips down, causing their bodies to meld together. “Lucky me…besides I’m not crazy about anyone else touching you.”
“I have absolutely no problem with that, darling.” So true because this was it. Miranda knew that if this didn’t work out for some crazy reason (and Miranda was going to do everything in her power to make sure that it did) then she wouldn’t be able to find this again with anyone else. That fact needed no debate.
“Good. Now do we have any reason to get out of this bed for say…the next two hours?”
Miranda was already kissing her way down Andrea’s shoulders and the center of her chest. Before she started to pay very close attention to the voluptuous breasts that continually teased her, even now, she stopped long enough to reply. “No…nowhere…I’m very busy already…very busy.”
Busy indeed. In fact Nigel would get his chance to ‘handle more’ that very morning because Miranda didn’t find the time to get out of bed until just before noon. There was just too much to do right here in this room.