On first impression Miranda just takes, takes, takes. She takes designer’s ideas and makes them her own, she takes the health and sanity from the models she berates daily, strips them of flesh and meat and self-worth, and she takes as much from you as she can. She takes your relationship, your friendships, takes the scalding latte out of your hand before you can even offer it to her. She takes your time and your energy and probably your sanity too, and she does all of that while keeping you loyal, keeping you all at your best. You’ve always worked well under pressure, and maybe that’s why this works, because it’s more pressure than you’ve ever experienced. Yet somehow, one glimpse behind her perfect made-up ice queen visage and you’re metaphorically falling to your knees in front of her, begging to do something, anything to help her. One look and it’s enough to send you careening into the arms of someone that you knew was a terrible idea. Who knew that all she’d have to do to have all of you would be to cry in a bathrobe in Paris, of all places, to tell you how she worried for her children, and you think that you maybe should be worrying for yourself.
So you leave. You push her turning on the steps to check that you’re there out of your mind, but that look of betrayal and hurt is something that haunts the nights that follow. And she sends you off with a reference. A reference that has made it possible for you to be stood on these steps at this benefit five years later, that has made it possible for you to stand here with Nigel, now Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Runway, and Emily, who has been steadily moving up the ranks since she found someone to fill the gap that you left in that office. They both look incredible, and both of them are tired and stressed and happier than you’ve ever seen them, and so are you. But Miranda’s going to sweep her way into the venue in approximately fifteen minutes, the woman that you haven’t seen since that dorky wave outside Elias-Clarke, the woman that you’ve barely stopped thinking about in all of that time.
You try to remind yourself that you are not there for Miranda, that you’re there for Serious Journalism, that there should be a press badge around your neck, but you take a flute of champagne and console yourself with the knowledge that this is Nigel’s treat, that he did you a favour, that no is going to want to talk about the oil crisis at this event anyway. He tells you to slap a smile on your face, to prepare for the big event, and when Christian Thompson approaches Emily practically hisses at him, and you’re so grateful for her support. You’re grateful for both of them, and not just for the updates on the lack of a love life Miranda is presently experiencing.
“Andy we should move into the hall, the Emilys are getting jittery,” the original Emily murmurs, and the three of you make your way inside, position yourselves near the stairs, the place that Emily and Nigel always stand now, the one that gives them the optimal view of Miranda’s dramatic entrance.
And it is dramatic. Your first thought is that the gown is similar to the one she wore to your first benefit six years ago. The dress is strapless and a very dark blue, and it spreads behind her as she walks down the stairs, tiny glistening threads of silver sparkling on the bodice and the train. It’s obviously a Valentino creation, and as though her hair didn’t already draw the eye her dress is catching the light from all angles, making it impossible to look elsewhere. Her skin is still flawless porcelain, her jewellery understated to draw the eye to the silver on the dress, and you swear that she can’t have looked this incredible while you worked for her, because if she did then how did you ever get any work done. Nigel and Emily instantly join her at the bottom of the stairs, and you hang back to take a moment, your eyes still attempting to drink her in. Nigel whispers something to her, and her eyes find you, piercing blue, regardless of the space between the two of you, and she actually beckons with a small toss of her head.
“Miranda, hi.” You say politely with a smile, and she almost smiles in return. Her eyes do the customary flick up and down of your outfit (you’d forgotten how your stomach flutters when she does that) and you actually get an almost imperceptible nod.
“Andrea Sachs,” she says, head titled to the side, and you’ve missed how it feels when you’re the centre of her attention, when she actually focuses on you for a few moments. You feel as though you could take over the world, just from the rush of adrenaline from that look. “I’ve been following your byline, ever since you became the “one who got away”.” You can hear the quotation marks in her voice, and you almost roll your eyes. “I’m sure you’re here to continue your series on the oil crisis?”
“I - well - yes - I actually wanted to ask you -” You’re disarmed for a moment, but you manage to pull it together, to get several viable quotes out of her that could make up the body of your next article, something to do with the implications on the fashion industry, or maybe the affects on the people who work within the fashion industry itself. She can see you building the article in your mind’s eye, and she draws over the people that you would need supplementary quotes from, introduces you to a lot of people that hand you their cards, that all seem willing to help, big names that you never would have guessed had read any of your articles. You don’t even realise that you’ve entirely monopolised her time until one of the Emilys tells her that Roy’s waiting outside, and you start preparing yourself for this to be goodbye for another five years, for you to not see her, but then she tilts her head, murmurs “walk with me”, her voice still soft like how you remember it. The cameras are waiting for you as you both emerge outside, as you sweep down the steps next to her (you know you’re going to be on page six tomorrow with “mysterious brunette” as your title), and she signals for you to slide into the car first, exchanging a nod and a smile with Roy on the way, who looks pleased to see you.
It’s quiet as he pulls away, and you meet his eyes in the rearview mirror, surprisingly glad to see him. He had been a good ally during your years at Runway. “So Andy, where to?” he asks with a smile.
You give him your address, tell him it’s good to see him, that you’d like to catch up and find out how his wife and kids are some time, and he nods and then draws up the privacy screen, like he can just tell by the way that Miranda sits in the backseat that she doesn’t want an audience.
“Miranda, thank you so much, you’ve practically written my article for me.”
She smiles slightly, waves her hand like it doesn’t matter. “And I got to introduce you to all of those people that will now consider you to be another one of my finds.” Her voice is still almost excruciatingly soft, somehow still loud enough to be heard over the sound of the engine, but it’s not hostile, not like you had somehow been expecting. She was just stating a fact.
“Everybody wants something,” you reply, but you’re still smiling, you’re still just glad and so damn surprised that you’re here in this car, being engulfed by perfume that you will always, always recognise, will always associate with her.
“It wasn’t all selfish,” she allowed, finally. “I do enjoy a real smile emerging from the scores of people who are simply making nice.”
You don’t know what to say, just look down at your hands twisting in your lap, peek out of the corner of your eye as she looks out of the window as though nothing’s happening, although you note the lack of a frown.
“Thank you,” you manage. “I would ask how Cassidy and Caroline are, but I know how you deplore small talk.”
“They’re both well, Cassidy wants to be a journalist, if you can believe it,” she turns to you and her face softens, on the cusp of a smile. “I’m sure she wouldn’t mind a text from someone within the profession.”
“I would love to help her,” you grin. “Even after they pranked me.”
“Of course they did,” she murmurs with a wry smile, slightly exasperated. She reaches into her purse, withdraws a card that you’ve never seen before, that you later realise has her personal mobile number on it, one you were never privy to in the days of Runway. Her hand is soft as it brushes yours, and you belatedly realise that the car has stopped outside your apartment building. She tucks the card into your interlocked hands, and kisses you softly on the cheek, too real and too long to count as one of the air kisses that she exchanges with everyone else.
“It was good to see you, Andrea,” she says softly, face still close to yours, then Roy’s opening your door and you’re making your way into your building, up to your apartment, her card still clutched within your hand.