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One Step at a Time

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The Elias-Clarke Annual Fourth of July Shindig is, without contest, Miranda Priestly’s least favorite function of the year. It is the only event open to every employee of the media conglomerate, from the lowest janitor to Miranda herself. It is a party so gauche that Nigel guffawed the first time he attended and has returned every subsequent year out of pure schadenfreude. Worst of all, for everyone ranked Editor-in-Chief and above, it is mandatory.

God damn Irv Ravitz, anyway. “Important demonstration of this company’s commitment to patriotism”, her ass.

Miranda sweeps onto the forty-fifth floor of the Elias-Clarke building like a particularly malevolent hurricane, making no effort to hide her displeasure. The mass of poorly-dressed plebeians part before her like the Red Sea. Miranda is dressed impeccably, of course, because even Irv can’t get her to look less than her best. Her Manolos alone no doubt cost more than most of these people’s monthly salaries.

“Emily,” Miranda says, in a calm, cool tone easily heard over the hush that’s fallen over the party. “Find me something tolerable to imbibe.”

Her first assistant squares her jaw like a samurai whose only option is seppuku and vanishes into the crowd. Apparently taking this as permission, the crowd resumes its low buzz of conversation, though Miranda can still feel dozens of eyes on her. She’s sure that if she listened hard enough she would hear her own name being spoken by more than a few people, but she does not care enough to make the effort.

Miranda turns to her other hanger-on and, impossibly, feels her mood darken further. “Nigel.”

The fashion director hums, an unholy light of amusement in his eyes as he takes in the garish red-white-and-blue bunting that is simply everywhere. "Yes, Miranda?"

“Stop enjoying this so much,” she barks.

He snorts. “As you command.” Then, in complete disregard of her order, he saunters away to pick up a popper from a distant table and give it a yank, sending a shower of confetti everywhere. Over the noise of the crowd, Miranda can barely hear his awe-struck, “Incredible. Simply incredible.”

Left to her own devices—Miranda’s instruction for Emily to find a tolerable drink at this party is rather like sending someone to locate an attractive pair of Uggs—Miranda picks her way across the crowded floor to the window, barely noticing the underlings who scatter in her wake like so many bowling pins. Glaring out the million-dollar view, she crosses her arms over her chest, taps her toe impatiently, and mutters, once again, “God damn Irv Ravitz.”

“Hi, Ms. Priestly.”

Miranda goes very, very still. Then she swivels her head, ever so slowly, to stare incredulously at this person, whoever it is, who has the unmitigated gall to walk up and say those three appalling words.

It takes a moment, but she recognizes the girl. Broad, goofy grin as if she has no idea of the faux pas she’s just made. Size six figure, long, poorly-groomed hair, knock-off Dolce and Gabbana purse, ugly sneakers, ill-fitting jeans, and a cerulean sweater that can only generously be described as frumpy. Miranda has had nightmares about being forced at gunpoint into this exact outfit.

Surprisingly, the girl’s grin doesn’t falter under Miranda's disdainful perusal. “Beautiful night, huh?” she says instead, blithely, coming a little closer to gaze out the window. “Sorry to interrupt your, uh, solitude, but I saw you over here and just wanted to say hi.”

“Anyone at this train wreck masquerading as a party could have told you to stifle that instinct,” Miranda says, practically twitching at the girl’s proximity but refusing to be the one to step away. Show weakness in front of this Gap reject? Absolutely not. “Now, go away, whoever you are, and be glad I don’t know your name.”

“Oh, it’s Andy Sachs,” the girl says, completely disregarding the lifeline Miranda so uncharacteristically tossed her. Her grin turns rueful. “Maybe you don’t remember me. I interviewed to be your second assistant a couple of months ago. You know—” her voice takes on a strange, high pitch “—‘I may not know too much about fashion, but I’m smart and resourceful and I will work very hard.’” She lets out a little self-deprecating chuckle, as if realizing precisely how ridiculous she sounds.

“Yes,” Miranda says in an icy tone that would cause Emily to find the nearest balcony to jump off of. “The smart, fat girl. I remember.”

The girl winces. “Ouch. You really don’t pull your punches. They warned me—well, never mind. Like I said, I just wanted to say hi. You looked kind of lonely. Hey, it won’t bother you if I stay here until the fireworks, will it? I’ve never seen them before, and I want to get a good—”

“What are you doing at an Elias-Clarke function?” Miranda demands. It has suddenly occurred to her to wonder at the girl’s place here. Is it possible she’s snuck in? Is she stalking Miranda?

“What—? Oh!” Not a total idiot, then. She’s clearly caught Miranda’s train of thought. “Nothing nefarious, don’t worry. I work at Auto Universe.”

Miranda surreptitiously checks the girl’s fingernails for any sign of engine grease. They look clean, at least. “Of course you do.”

“As a copy editor,” she adds.

“What a fascinating story. No, please, do go on.”

“You’re a really good conversationalist, you know that?”

“I’m devastated by your disappointment.”

“Who said anything about disappointment?” The girl shifts a little closer, until the sleeve of her cerulean nightmare almost brushes against Miranda’s Donna Karan blouse. Miranda twitches away. “You know, speaking of disappointment, I think about you sometimes. How my life would be different if I’d gotten that job at Runway.”

“There was never any possibility of you getting that job,” Miranda says, wondering when the derision in her voice will finally get through this girl’s thick head. Thank God she didn’t develop temporary insanity and hire her. “I’ve seen better fashion sense from a three-year-old who eats his own snot.”

The girl shrugs. “I don’t need to be passionate about the topic to do good work. I care even less about cars than I do about fashion, but Mr. Styles seems to like what I do.”

Miranda shudders, repulsed. Where is Emily? It’s just like her idiot assistant to be absent when Miranda needs her to frog march someone away.

Something about her new expression makes the girl look at her more keenly. “What?”

“What, ‘what’?” Miranda snaps.

“You look like I just said I torture puppies or something.”

“You disgust me.”

“Yeah, I figured that out. What did I say?”

Miranda's voice, normally so calm, drops to a low hiss. “You are the worst kind of scum. You claim to have aspirations of being a writer—yes, I remember your interview—yet dare to stand in front of me saying passion is not a requirement?” She leans into the girl's personal space, plucking at the sleeve of her sweater. “Without passion, how could you ever write an article of any quality that delves into the history of the color cerulean or deconstructs the allure of a simple black belt? How could you bring a reader to care, about anything at all?” She shakes her head, and leans back, finally done with this abhorrent conversation. “Get out of my sight.”

“Hmm,” the girl says, and though she’s gone a little pale she isn’t nearly as devastated as she should be. In fact, she looks almost thoughtful. “No, I don’t think I will.” She squares her shoulders to face the window full on and shoves her hands in her pockets. She glances at Miranda sidelong. “You’re free to leave if my being here bothers you.”

Miranda sniffs to show just how much she does not care about some nobody’s presence and turns, as well, to gaze out at the view.

They stay that way until the fireworks start; until they finish.

Two weeks later, Miranda is in the midst of a truly devastating verbal assault on Jocelyn—what was the woman thinking, putting that shade of red against that shade of green when it isn’t even Christmas?—when Emily comes in with the afternoon mail. Normally, this would not be reason enough to stop a good rant, but something unusual about the small stack catches her eye and she dismisses a pale, trembling Jocelyn with a distracted, “That’s all."

She throws away several invitations to events hosted by minor celebrities in the fashion industry before honing in on the large manila envelope which bears the stamp “INTEROFFICE DELIVERY”. Miranda can’t recall the last time she received such a thing. She has assistants to fetch and carry for her, and everyone at Elias-Clarke important enough to send something directly to her has assistants of their own.

Dozens of names have been scrawled and scratched out on the much-abused envelope. On the bottom of the “TO” column it says Miranda’s name and Runway, as if even the lowest imbecile in the mail room would not have known where Miranda worked. On the bottom of the “FROM” column it says:

Andrea Sachs
Auto Universe

It takes her a moment to realize who the envelope is from. She hasn’t thought about that wretched party since she stormed out five seconds after the fireworks concluded.

At least Andrea is a respectable name. Much better than the provincial "Andy". She eyes the envelope for a long moment, tapping her lip with her finger, debating whether to open it or send it to join the rest of the mail in the trash. She thinks about the way the girl—Andrea—had watched the fireworks with wide eyes, her joy almost childlike. She shudders at the memory of the awful sweater. She remembers that she’d almost enjoyed their conversation, until something Andrea said had truly bothered her.

She opens the envelope.

Inside is a neatly-stapled printout, perhaps ten pages long. At the top it says:

A Study in Cerulean
By Andy Sachs

Miranda scoffs at the girl’s shamelessness. She drops the article into the trash and goes back to reviewing this month’s Michael Kors spread.

She lasts all of five minutes before curiosity overwhelms her and she finds herself pulling the article out of the trash. She intends to skim the first paragraph. She reads the entire thing.

Fifteen minutes later, she marches down to Nigel’s office and thrusts the document in his face. “Read this,” she orders, and glares at him until he understands that she means for him to do it now, while she watches.

Eyebrows raised, he adjusts his glasses and holds it to the light.

About halfway down the first page his lips twitch. Miranda nods to herself; that would have been in response to Andrea’s humorous jab at Runway’s clear preference for certain colors over others. At the bottom of the second page, he chuckles. That would be the part where Andrea makes a witty but preposterous claim about Anne Boleyn wearing cerulean to her execution. (Miranda doesn’t know if the claim is true. She makes a mental note to have Emily fact-check it.) Nigel turns more serious as he gets deeper into the article, where Andrea’s history of cerulean turns into an incisive analysis of how the fashion industry has evolved over the years and changed the way women see themselves.

“In an era where zero is the new two, two is the new four, and six is the new twelve,” Andrea writes, “is it any wonder that Runway is the new Bible for so many women?”

Nigel finishes reading and removes his glasses. “Huh."

Miranda waits for his assessment with what she considers to be immense patience.

“We can’t publish it, of course,” he says.

She rolls her eyes. “Of course not.”

“Jim at Rolling Stone would love it, though. It might even have a shot at The New Yorker, if this Andy Sachs has the right connections.” Nigel frowns. “It’s odd someone so intelligent would send an article like this to your attention. He must have known this wasn’t a Runway-style piece.”

“You think it’s good, then?” Miranda probes.

He looks at her in surprise. “Very good. I didn’t realize that was in question.”

“Hmm.” Miranda takes the article from his fingers. “That’s all.”

She leaves Nigel to his work and stalks back to her office. She places the article on her desk and stares at it, but the article does not obediently burst into flames. She’s already wasted far too much of her day on this nonsense. She should throw it out and be done with it.

She goes back to the Michael Kors spread. This time she only lasts two minutes.

“Emily!” she barks. “Get me Andrea Sachs.”

“Yes, Miranda.” Emily’s volume lowers to a barely perceptible mutter. “Andrea Sachs? Andrea Sachs. Who the hell is Andrea Sachs?”

Entertaining as it might be to let her drive herself crazy trying to figure out who Miranda means, Miranda doesn’t have the patience right now. “Andrea Sachs of Auto Universe, obviously.”

There is a long, long beat of silence.

Auto Universe? Ah, of course, Miranda.”

Miranda studies her nails as she waits. There is the sound of frantic typing. A low murmur of voices. A moment later:

“I have Andrea.”

Miranda plucks the phone from its holder. “Andrea,” she purrs.

“Hi, Miranda.” Just from her voice, it’s clear that she’s smiling, that goofy, wide smile that has no business being within a six block radius of Miranda, let alone the same building. “I take it you got my article?"

“I won’t publish it,” Miranda says bluntly.

Andrea laughs. “I didn’t think you would.”

“And I won’t pass it along to anyone else in the industry, if that’s what you were hoping for.”

“What? Miranda, the thought honestly never crossed my mind.”

She sounds so baffled that Miranda believes her. “Then why are you wasting my time with this?”

Andrea is silent for five slow beats of Miranda’s heart. “I didn’t mean to waste your time,” she says, her voice small. “I didn’t have expectations or anything like that. You’re the one who challenged me to write something. I really enjoyed working on it, and I hoped you’d tell me your thoughts. That’s all.”

Does the girl know she’s just stolen Miranda’s signature phrase? Unlikely. “The article is…acceptable,” she says stiffly.

Andrea waits, as if expecting more. She has gumption, Miranda will give her that. “Thanks,” she says when it becomes apparent no additional praise will be forthcoming. She chuckles. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure you’d even read it.”

“I did.”

“Can I take you out for coffee?” Andrea offers. “To say thank you?”

Miranda scoffs. “No.” She hangs up, thrusts the article into a little-used drawer, and resolves to never think of Andrea Sachs again.

Another week, another interoffice envelope. This article is shorter, but no less well-written. The topic: the allure of a simple black belt. Despite the simplicity of the concept, Andrea has clearly done her research. She writes knowledgeably about belts of all kinds, from Chanel to Costco. The tone is compelling; the occasional humor dry.

Miranda shoves this article in a drawer with the other. She goes back to work. Later in the afternoon, she takes the article back out and says, “Emily, get me Andrea.”

Emily mutters something under her breath.

“What was that?” Miranda calls out.

“Nothing, Miranda,” Emily says. “I have Andrea.”

Miranda jerks the phone out of its cradle, lifts it to her ear, and demands, “What is this?”

“Hi Miranda, I’m great, thanks, how are you?”

“I told you not to send me any more of your writing.”

Andrea hums thoughtfully. “No, I’m pretty sure you didn’t say anything like that.”

Who is this young woman, who thinks she can speak to Miranda Priestly this way?

“I won’t publish it,” Miranda declares.

“I didn’t ask you to.” She sounds amused.

It’s the same answer she gave last week, and it leaves Miranda just as baffled. “Well. Fine.”

“Did you like it, though?”

“It was not the most appalling thing I’ve ever read,” Miranda admits grudgingly.

“In that case, I definitely owe you a coffee.” Andrea’s voice is beaming. “Are you free this afternoon?”

Miranda doesn’t know; that’s what Emily is for. “No,” she says, and immediately wonders at her own response. Why didn’t she shoot the woman down completely, make it very clear that she would never be “free” for coffee with her?

“Okay,” Andrea says amiably. “Then when are you available?”

“You say you owe me, then expect me to do all the work?” Miranda demands. “Really, Andrea.” She hangs up.

The next morning, Emily’s rapid fire recitation of Miranda’s schedule for the day contains a surprise.

“—viewing with James Holt at two, fifteen minutes for coffee with Andrea Sachs at 3:30 at Starbucks, then you have a 3:45 with Irv—”

“Coffee with Andrea Sachs?” Miranda interrupts, her eyes narrowing. "Andrea Sachs of Auto Nation?"

Emily goes even paler than usual. “I’m sorry, Miranda,” she stammers. “I thought—she made it sound as if—I’ll cancel immediately.”

Miranda frowns. “No. Why should Andrea suffer for your mistake? If you told her I would meet her, I suppose I’ll have to do so. That's all.”

Emily sways. She really is looking too thin these days. Miranda makes a mental note to have Nigel remind the girl that there is a fine line between attractive and anorexic. (Later, when she makes the comment to Nigel, he gives her an odd look and says, “You realize you just quoted that article by Andy Sachs.” Her scowling reply: “Nigel, shut up.”)

It doesn’t occur to her to wonder which of the five nearby Starbuckses Andrea has in mind until she is standing in the Elias-Clarke lobby at 3:15—fifteen minutes early, as always. She could call the young woman to ask, but she doesn’t have her number, and anyway this is something Andrea should have anticipated. Well, she's hardly going to wait around like just another fashionista come to worship at Runway’s hallowed doors. Abandoning the whole idea, Miranda stalks back to the elevator bank and jabs the button.

The doors open and there is Andrea, her rather striking face tense. “I’m so sorry I’m late,” she says quickly, leaping out of the elevator, looking relieved to see Miranda. It is 3:16. “Emily told me about Miranda time, but I messed up and put the appointment on my calendar at 3:30 instead of 3:15 and I’m so glad you’re still here. Come on!” She takes Miranda by the elbow, apparently failing to notice the way she stiffens in shock, and leads her in the direction of the doors.

It isn’t until they step out into the stifling July heat that Miranda has the presence of mind to jerk out of Andrea’s grip. Andrea is too busy babbling to notice.

“I know we only have fifteen minutes, but I figured we could go to the Starbucks that’s three blocks away instead of any of the closer ones. That way you don’t have to worry about any of your coworkers seeing you with a low-life like me.”

That’s…surprisingly thoughtful. Though it’s Andrea’s apparel, rather than her station, which makes her a truly unsuitable companion.

Miranda speaks not a word in the time it takes them to reach the coffee shop. She casts her eyes around until she finds a table that looks slightly less grubby than the rest. The fact that it is occupied matters not in the slightest, as the well-dressed girl who is sitting there flees upon Miranda’s approach.

Without waiting for instruction, Andrea heads for the line. This is the first chance Miranda has had to really look at the other woman today. Hair—just as bad as last time. Same knockoff purse as at the party. Ugly flats. (Just how much of Andrea's wardrobe was acquired off the streets in Chinatown, Miranda wonders.) Black slacks—tolerable but cheap. At least the white button-down shirt is significantly better than that sweater had been.

This time, Miranda notices other things about Andrea, as well. Such as the rather unusual sparkle in her eye, and the disconcerting openness of her grin.

There’s something rather charming about her, Miranda realizes, horrified by her own train of thought.

Andrea arrives three minutes later, bearing a steaming cup in one hand and some sort of sugary nightmare in the other. “Center of the sun hot,” Andrea says cheerfully, holding out Miranda’s coffee.

Miranda doesn’t take it. “What is that.”

Andrea frowns before catching the direction of her gaze. She brightens. “It’s a Frappuccino. Oh—did you want one of these instead? You can have mine. Emily told me you always get the same coffee order, but maybe—”

“You will not drink that monstrosity in front of me.” It takes every ounce of strength Miranda has not to bat the obscene beverage out of Andrea’s hand. Or worse—take it for herself.

Andrea’s eyes go wide. “Okay,” she says, drawing out the “o”. “I’ll just, um…” She drops the offending item in the trash, though she looks rather mournful about it.

Miranda seizes her coffee and takes a long gulp. The intense heat does little to quench her sudden, overwhelming desire for something sweet. “I have not had sugar since 1998,” she says through clenched teeth.

Andrea winces. “I didn’t think. I’m sorry.”

“Oh, stop apologizing,” Miranda snaps. “You’re a size six. I should have known you would be intolerable to be around.”

Andrea’s eyes flash. “Hey, now. I’ve never felt self-conscious about my weight before, and you’re not going to make me start. If that’s your plan, I’ll leave you in peace and I won’t bother you again.”

Miranda should say, “Good, go away.” Instead, the words that emerge from her lips are: “Don’t be ridiculous. Size six is only an insult for models and Runway employees, and when last I checked you were neither of those things.”

Andrea’s very stiff spine relaxes as she lets go of her indignation. “No, I’m not,” she says. “Thank God for that.”

Miranda raises an eyebrow, takes another sip of her coffee, and waits for the woman to cut to the chase.

“Anyway, now that I’ve bought you a coffee, you owe me,” Andrea says.

Miranda’s stomach twists in something suspiciously like disappointment. So. Of course Andrea has an agenda. Of course she is not as naïve as she appears, prancing around New York like some kind of demented cross between a unicorn and a 1980s fashion reject. Miranda sets down the coffee, resisting the desire to hurl it in the woman’s face, stands, and leaves.

Though she walks quickly, Andrea catches up almost immediately, her flats far more forgiving than Miranda’s four-inch stilettos.

“Miranda, wait—” She takes Miranda’s arm again.

This time, Miranda does not tolerate it. She jerks sharply out of the other woman’s grasp and hisses, “I owe nothing to anyone in this world, you conniving strumpet, and you least of all.”

Andrea mouths the words “conniving strumpet”, seeming at once taken aback, offended, and impressed by Miranda’s choice of insult. Miranda, furious with herself for remaining still long enough to witness the wretch’s reactions, resumes her rapid departure.

“It was a joke,” Andrea calls after her. Miranda stops, but does not turn. “Well, not a joke. A—a tease, I guess. I was going to ask you for something I didn’t think you’d mind giving. My mistake. I’m sorry.”

Miranda whirls around. Andrea looks lost and a little helpless, like a kitten set adrift on the city streets. “I can imagine what you were going to ask for. A recommendation? Perhaps an introduction to the editor of the New York Times? Or maybe just an interview with the Editor-in-Chief of Runway that you can sell to the highest bidder.”

Andrea seems shocked. “Nothing like that. Just another idea to write about. I swear, that’s it.”

The woman is either the best liar in the world, or she really means it. The former seems more likely. “As if I can believe that.”

Andrea takes a tiny step closer. “If you don’t believe me, then have me fired. We both know you can.” She spreads her palms. “Think about it. You have all the power here, Miranda. I couldn’t force you into something if I tried.”

Her words make Miranda pause, make her rethink every interaction she has had with this infuriating woman. She’s right, isn’t she? Miranda does have all of the power here, as she does in almost every relationship in her life. Yet, when it comes to Andrea, despite the dramatic disparity in their stations, wealth, age, experience, fashion sense, and reputation, Miranda does not feel that she holds the upper hand.

She blames Andrea’s fearlessness.

“In exchange for that coffee,” Miranda says slowly, testing each word, “you wished to ask me for another topic to write about. As if I have somehow become your journalism teacher.”

Andrea inches a little closer. They are now standing on the same concrete square on the sidewalk. “My copy editing job pays okay, the hours are great, and it’s good for my resume,” she says. “But it doesn’t challenge me. These past couple of months, I’ve been coasting. Then you came along and threw down the gauntlet. Working on those articles made me remember what I want to do with my life, and why.” She smiles crookedly. “I can push myself, when I have something to work towards. That kick in the ass you gave me helped. I hoped you wouldn’t mind doing it again.”

It should be easy to dismiss the other woman. It is not. She knows this feeling Andrea speaks of, the fear of a slow, lingering death as one is sucked into a sinkhole of ennui.

“My daughters wish me to obtain a sports car,” Miranda says abruptly. “Something new and trendy. My top concern is safety.” She looks Andrea in the eye and likes what she sees. “Sell me on something.”

This time, when she turns to go, Andrea doesn’t stop her. Miranda is running late for her meeting with Irv. Oh, well. The unusual spring in her step, she decides, is attributable entirely to her lovely pair of Manolo Blahniks, and has nothing to do with Andrea Sachs at all.

Chapter Text

It is October before Miranda and Andrea run into someone Miranda knows on the streets of New York.

Nigel, scarf artfully draped around his neck, sees them before they see him. By the time Miranda notices him, he has watched them stroll the entire block from 49th to 50th street, matching coffee cups in hand and deep in conversation regarding the dangers of deforestation in South America. His mouth hangs slightly open; his eyebrows have risen to his nonexistent hairline. His eyes flit from Miranda, in her usual impeccable attire, to Andrea, in her usual peccable attire, and back.

She shoots him a quelling look, warning him to keep his distance. Naturally, he disregards it completely.

“Miranda!” he cries as soon as they are within earshot. “How lovely to see you!”

Andrea glances at Miranda sidelong, perhaps suspecting, correctly, that there is a joke and it is on her.

Miranda grits her teeth. “Nigel, I saw you two hours ago.”

He ignores her completely in favor of holding his hand out to Andrea. “Nigel Kipling,” he says, his eyes crinkling with amusement. “Runway’s artistic director.”

“Andy Sachs,” Andrea says with her usual wide grin.

“An-dy Sachs,” Nigel repeats with absurd emphasis on each syllable. “What a pleasure.”

Andrea blinks at him in confusion.

Miranda scowls. “Andrea, why don’t you go ahead without me. My employee and I have some things to discuss.”

Nigel’s face shows a great deal less fear than she would like. His long tenure as her right hand man has had the unfortunate effect, it seems, of giving him a spine.

Andrea reaches out to squeeze Miranda’s arm, which she often does to say goodbye and which Miranda has paid little heed to until this very moment, under Nigel’s keen gaze. “Talk to you later, Miranda,” she says. “Nice to meet you, Nigel.”

Nigel moves to stand beside Miranda as they watch Andrea walk away. Those terrible knockoff flats clash horribly with Andrea’s brown skirt and maroon sweater. Her lustrous but unkempt dark hair swings side to side with each step.

Miranda, who has somewhere along the way become almost fond of Andrea, imagines seeing the younger woman through Nigel’s eyes. She knows exactly what the next words out of his mouth will be.

“Miranda,” Nigel says, staring at her in complete befuddlement. “What.”

Over the months since their first coffee meeting, Miranda has found herself constantly astonished by one simple fact: Andrea Sachs does not go away.

She did not go away when Miranda read her article on the merits of hybrid vehicles and then went and bought the most environmentally unfriendly sports car she could find. She did not go away when Miranda instructed her to write an article about “young people in New York who think they’re more important, talented, and interesting than they really are”. And she did not go away when Miranda, on a bad day, dragged all of her articles out of their drawer, slashed them to pieces with a red pen, and had Emily deliver their mangled, bloody corpses to Andrea’s cubicle eight floors below Runway.

Miranda is not used to people who don’t go away. The only people she’s ever kept in her life are the ones she pays (Nigel, for example) or the ones who have no choice in the matter (her daughters). But Andrea does not seem to want anything from Miranda besides her weekly prompts and her company, and short of the potential to enact a Machiavellian scheme to get her fired, Miranda has no power over Andrea's day-to-day life.

Andrea’s persistence is admirable, Miranda supposes. Her willingness to endure Miranda’s scorn is baffling. Her insistence that they continue their weekly coffee outings (and Miranda still isn’t sure whether she herself agreed to those meetings or whether she’d been hijacked), on the other hand, is...something else.

After that unfortunate encounter with Nigel, Miranda knows that something has to change. Nigel is her creature, and knows better than to gossip about her. If anyone else, however, had seen Miranda socializing with someone like Andrea, it could have been disastrous. This could be just the sort of ammunition Irv Ravitz has been sniffing around for.

No, either she needs to cease this...association...with Andrea Sachs, which she is unwilling to do, or she needs to take certain steps to remedy the situation.

“I am not free for coffee tomorrow,” Miranda announces over the phone in lieu of a greeting the week after running into Nigel.

“Oh, okay,” Andrea says, with what Miranda has come to recognize as genuine disappointment.

“However, my lunch date just cancelled on me, if you are available at noon today. I hate to waste a reservation at La Bernardin."

There’s a long, long pause. Miranda imagines the younger woman gaping at her phone, wondering whether Miranda has been replaced with a pod person.

“If you prefer not to—” she says stiffly when the pause seems destined to continue interminably.

“No!” Andrea says, her voice strangled. “No, I’d love to!”

“Well. Good.” Miranda hangs up. She taps her pointer finger against her lip, pleased and thoughtful. Then, realizing she’s left herself little time, she calls for Emily II, barely waiting for the subpar second assistant to scurry into the room before saying, “Get me all of the 2004 black Dolce and Gabbana clutches from the Closet. That’s all.”

Andrea, as usual, is waiting for Miranda in the lobby when Miranda steps out of the elevator. The younger woman wears her typical disaster of an outfit. Still, her beaming grin, so unlike any expression that graces Runway’s halls, upgrades her appearance from abysmal to merely unacceptable.

“Miranda, hey!” Andrea says, falling into step beside her. “Thanks for the invite.”

Miranda rubs her thumb against the smooth leather of her large Prada purse. “It’s a short walk,” she says.

“Hey, I’m not the one wearing stilettos. I don’t know how you walk in those things.”

“You’ll learn,” Miranda says, amused when her ominous tone makes Andrea pale.

At the restaurant, they are quickly seated in a booth with a moderate amount of privacy.

“How are things at the magazine?” Andrea asks, fiddling with the cloth napkin before spreading it across her lap.

Miranda raises her eyebrow at the small talk. They usually don’t have time for such things in the five minute walk to Starbucks, the three minutes Andrea waits in line, the two minutes spent drinking their beverages, and the five minute walk back to Elias-Clarke. That time is typically spent discussing Andrea’s most recent article and Miranda’s suggestion for the next one.

“Disappointing, as always,” Miranda says, perusing the wine list for a moment before cocking her head at the waitress and ordering a bottle that costs significantly more than Andrea’s weekly earnings. “I’m confident, however, that the final product will be excellent.”

Andrea grins and tilts her water glass at Miranda in a silent toast. “I’d expect nothing less from you.”

It’s an odd comment from someone who has never read a single issue of Runway. Miranda would find Andrea’s complete disregard for her life’s work offensive if the younger woman’s refreshing honesty were not so disarming.

Their wine comes, and Miranda gestures for the sommelier to pour the sample for Andrea rather than herself.

Andrea gives her a look. “You know the wine I drink at home comes in a box, right?”

Miranda shudders. “Andrea, you are old enough to begin learning about the finer things in life.”

Andrea snorts. “It’s not about age so much as budget. Nate and I definitely can’t afford whatever this is.” She takes a sip of the wine, shrugs, and nods at the sommelier, who does a poor job of masking his horror at their conversation as he pours them each a full glass and leaves the bottle.

“Nate?” Miranda inquires. They have never discussed their personal lives.

“My boyfriend.”

The waitress comes back, notepad in hand. Miranda goes first, ordering both appetizer and entree, well aware that Andrea is taking her cue as to what is appropriate from her. The younger woman follows suit, and as soon as they are alone, Miranda says, “Tell me more about him.”

So Andrea babbles for a while about a young man with culinary aspirations who works as a sous chef at a restaurant in the Village. He supports her dream of being a journalist but seems perfectly happy with her position at Auto Universe, since the easy, regular hours give them plenty of time together. The picture she paints is blissful, perfect, until the end:

“Actually, the only thing he ever complains about is how much time I spend on my articles for you.”

It’s the first time Miranda has ever heard annoyance in Andrea’s voice. Intriguing. “Oh?”

The corner of Andrea’s mouth quirks. “I mean, it’s important to me to do good work on those articles, and they take time, you know? Like, I didn’t know anything about African pygmies until you mentioned them to me, so if I was going to write something good it was going to take a lot of research. Nate doesn’t understand why I keep writing stuff that isn’t for publication. He thinks it’s a waste of time.”

“Do not say ‘stuff’, Andrea. Copy editors at Auto Universe say ‘stuff’. Aspiring journalists do not.”

“Yes, Miranda,” Andrea says obediently, then immediately returns to her previous topic. “What’s your home life like?"

Has she truly never researched Miranda’s life? So much of her past is public knowledge, splashed across Page Six and other tabloids for decades.

“I have two wonderful daughters.” As always, it is a pleasure to speak of Cassidy and Caroline, even if “wonderful” is not an adjective most would use to describe the girls. However, Miranda is well aware that geniuses are rarely appreciated in their own time. “Twins, Caroline and Cassidy.”

“Twins? I bet they’re a handful.”

“I’m told they can be. My husband is a great help with them.” The lie trips off her tongue before she can catch it, so familiar and rote she doesn’t even think before speaking. She blinks, takes a sip of wine, and corrects herself. “That’s not true. Actually, Stephen is no help at all. They spend more time with their nanny than they do with either of us. I try, but Runway is a demanding mistress.”

Andrea takes another sip of wine. Miranda refills her glass, though the other woman hasn’t drunk much yet.

“Women struggling to balance work and life,” Andrea sighs. “It’s the age-old conundrum, isn’t it?”

“Write me an article about that,” Miranda says. “Something optimistic.”

Andrea bobs her head, no doubt filing the prompt away for later. “Tell me more about your girls.”

Miranda is happy to oblige.

Wine and water flow freely over the course of their meal. Miranda is unsurprised to find that conversation with this guileless young woman is freer and more enjoyable than any of her regular lunch dates. Miranda always has to watch her words with Donatella and the others in their industry, fearful that a misstep will lead to calamity. She has no such reservations with Andrea.

After they finish their appetizers and entrees, she can feel Andrea’s surprise when she asks for the dessert menu.

“I’m not ready to head back to work just yet,” Miranda says, which is true but conceals her real purpose in drawing the lunch out as long as necessary.

Andrea looks skeptical, but the sumptuous dessert offerings drive a greedy expression across her face. “I’ll take the sugar free cheesecake."

Clearly, she’s holding back to avoid taunting Miranda with sugar. Miranda finds herself touched by the gesture. “The cheese plate,” she orders.

They finish the bottle of wine as they wait. Due to Miranda’s careful pouring, Andrea has imbibed more than half of the bottle. The younger woman's cheeks are noticeably flushed. She hopes she won’t encounter any trouble returning from lunch late and tipsy.

“Excuse me a moment,” Andrea says, giving in to the need to go to the restroom. She picks up her clutch as she rises.

“Leave that,” Miranda says. “Or do you really think I’m going to snoop through it while you’re gone?” Her glare dares Andrea to answer in the affirmative.

Andrea blinks and lets go.

The moment she is out of sight, Miranda slips around the table, grabs the clutch (cringing at the feel of the fake leather), and dumps its contents on the table. Nothing particularly interesting there, save the journalist notepad covered in Andrea’s neat scrawl. She reaches into her own purse and extracts an identical clutch, this one made of real leather—the model for the knockoff. She quickly scrapes Andrea’s belongings into the clutch, arranges it back on Andrea’s seat, and returns to her own side of the booth.

She waves over their waitress, a young woman with a pleasant demeanor.

“How may I help you?” the waitress asks.

“Do you have a female friend of whom you are not especially fond?”

The girl frowns. “Um…”

“A friend of your boyfriend’s, perhaps? Yes, I can see that you do. Give this to her for her next birthday.” She hands over the fake clutch.

“I’m not sure that’s—”

Andrea rounds the corner, on her way back. “Go,” Miranda hisses.

The waitress goes.

Andrea slides into her seat, her eyes narrowing. “What was that about?”

Miranda plucks at her napkin. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Twenty minutes later, when they leave the restaurant (after Andrea makes a valiant, if futile, effort to force her own credit card into the check despite her wince when she sees the bill), Andrea picks up the clutch and frowns at it, but follows Miranda without question.

“This was really fun,” she says outside, touching Miranda lightly on the arm.

“I enjoyed it as well. Same time next week?”

Andrea blinks, a million questions pinwheeling inside her keen eyes. But all she says is: “Yes.”

Miranda misses her daughters’ recital due to a freak weekend hurricane in Florida. She supposes it was too much to hope that her twit of a second assistant could pull off a miracle.

She considers asking Andrea to attend the recital and videotape it for her—she would do it happily, she thinks, out of some notion that they are friends—but remembers just before she finishes dialing that Andrea's father is visiting this weekend. She puts her phone away and rages at the raging winds.

Their next lunch requires a certain amount of extra planning to accomplish. Miranda is well familiar with Andrea’s one and only purse. However, the younger woman cycles through three or four atrocious pairs of shoes and there does not appear to be any method to her madness.

Consequently, the day of the lunch Miranda orders Emily to stake out the lobby and photograph Andrea’s feet as she comes in. This leads to a phone call from Andrea directly to Miranda's cell phone just after 9 a.m.

“Miranda, why did Emily take a picture of my shoes this morning?” Andrea says suspiciously.

Miranda sighs. “Andrea, not everything is about you. I am considering doing a spread on the variety of footwear worn by the average professional in New York. Emily is photographing everyone’s shoes today.”

There’s a pause before Andrea laughs. “Sounds like being your assistant would never be boring, at least.”

“Hmm.” Miranda takes a moment to imagine Andrea in that second assistant role she’d interviewed for over half a year ago. She doubts bold, fearless Andrea would have lasted long, too self-righteous and uninterested in fashion to put up with Miranda’s mercurial whims.

“We’re still on for lunch, right?” Andrea says.

“Of course.”

After hanging up, Miranda summons Emily into her office. Unprompted, if clearly confused, Emily hands over a photograph of Andrea’s knockoff Chanel pumps, perhaps the least objectionable of her shoes.

“Find me the closest match we have in the Closet—size 8 ½,” Miranda instructs. “Then go down to the lobby and spend the rest of the day photographing the shoes of every woman who enters the building. That’s all.”

Emily goggles a little, but clearly remembers Rule Number 2—never ask Miranda anything—and bites her tongue.

This week, they take Miranda’s car uptown to eat at a high class Japanese restaurant that requires its customers to remove their shoes and kneel on mats to eat. Truthfully, this is not Miranda’s preferred form of dining, but it serves her purposes well.

Andrea turns out to be a master chopstick user. Miranda suspects the young woman is incapable of doing anything without excelling.

“I mean, it doesn’t sound like it was your assistant’s fault she couldn’t get you a flight during a hurricane,” Andrea says, expertly plucking a sushi roll from her plate and slathering it with wasabi.

Miranda glares at her. “Andrea, in case I have not been clear about this, you are never to take the side of my idiot assistants against me.”

Andrea snorts. “We both know this friendship is predicated on the understanding that I’m not afraid of you, Miranda. I’ll take whatever side I think is right.”

It’s so easy for the younger woman to toss around words like “friendship”. Even in her own mind, Miranda has barely progressed to describing this unusual relationship as a “not entirely objectionable acquaintanceship with a poorly-dressed young woman who does not work for me”.

“Anyway, enough about your crazy expectations for your assistants,” Andrea says. “Tell me more about this coup you think Irv Ravitz is trying to pull.”

She’ll make a good journalist someday. She’s easy to talk to, even for Miranda, who’s so used to keeping her cards close to her chest. So Miranda tells her a little—not too much, because it still seems impossible that Andrea doesn’t have some sort of angle—about Irv’s machinations, and her suspicions regarding Jacqueline Follet.

“What are you going to do about them?” Andrea asks, a little furrow in her brow that might, just maybe, be concern for Miranda.

Miranda smiles a smile with teeth. “Whatever I must. Someday, Andrea, you’ll know this feeling—the need to defend what’s yours at all costs. You’re a woman, which means the world will try to take and take and take from you. Don’t let it.”

Andrea bites her lip. “I don’t know if I have that in me.”

Miranda reaches into her purse and pulls out Andrea’s latest article, the one about work/life balance for women. Miranda had asked Andrea to write something optimistic. What she’d received had been something honest, personal, and incisive. She'd sent it back to Andrea, marked up, two days ago, and received the finished draft yesterday.

“Let’s find out,” Miranda says. “Submit this for publication. Use your full name, not ‘Andy’. You are not a man, Andrea. There is no reason to lead your readers to believe you are.”

“Publication?” Andrea’s eyes widen. “What—no. That was just practice. I’m nowhere near ready...”

“Do you truly believe I would encourage you to submit something that wasn’t more than adequate? You are an excellent writer, Andrea. It’s time to step outside of your copy editing office—”


“—and take a risk.”

Andrea sits back on her heels, stunned, perhaps because this is the most praise Miranda has ever offered her. Perhaps because she truly has such a poor grasp of her own abilities.

Miranda waits for the request. It won’t be said greedily; it will be shy, endearingly nervous. Not, Miranda, I can put your name as a reference, right? but Would you mindI mean, would it be okayIt’s just, I think it would have a much better chance if I could maybe put your name in there somewhere. If you don't mind.

“Miranda,” Andrea breathes. “Thank you. For everything.”

Miranda huffs, strangely uncomfortable with the gratitude. “Whatever are you talking about?”

She ducks her head, embarrassed. “Until I met you, I was sleepwalking my way through New York. Sometimes it feels like I’m only awake when I’m with you, or writing something you’ve given me.”

Miranda feels a rush of affection, a surge she hasn’t felt for anyone other than her daughters in a very, very long time. “I won’t accept your thanks, Andrea.” She holds up a hand to forestall whatever the younger woman is about to say. “Rest assured that whatever you get out of this arrangement, I receive something of equal or greater value. I’m a businesswoman, after all.”

Leaving Andrea to parse those cryptic words, she holds up her hand for the check and this time slips her credit card in without allowing Andrea to get her poorly-manicured hands anywhere near it.

The waitress returns with their shoes. Miranda slips her feet into her stilettos with nary a wince, watching as Andrea looks from the waitress to the shoes that are being offered to her and back again. Then Andrea slants a suspicious glance at her clutch. Miranda holds her breath, heart beating fast with anticipation. Instead of saying a word, though, Andrea just sighs and goes with it.

The day Idiot Soon-to-Be-Former Second Assistant climbs the stairs and catches Miranda and Stephen mid-argument is a disaster from start to finish.

First, a disastrous shoot forces Miranda to cancel her next lunch date with Andrea, which has somehow become the highlight of her week. Then the semi-annual Elias-Clarke budgetary meeting, also known as the April/October Irv Ravitz Shit Show, stretches almost two hours past its scheduled conclusion. For once, this is not Irv’s fault. Miranda blames the fools at Auto Universe, whose ridiculous misuse of their budget has led to massive suggested layoffs. Miranda, ever the philanthropist, takes it upon herself to educate Henry Styles, Editor-in-Chief of Auto Universe, as well as the captive heads of Elias-Clarke’s other publications, in the appropriate allocation of funds. By the end of the meeting, none of Auto Universe’s editorial staff are at risk, a famous, buxom A-level actress will no longer be appearing on next month’s cover, and all of Elias-Clarke's top employees have been reminded that Miranda's wrath is a frightening thing.

The overlong meeting forces a reshuffling of Miranda’s entire schedule for the day, a day that winds up being interminable, and both the first and last thing on her mind is the dinner she is supposed to attend with Stephen, which he goes to alone.

This is far from the first time they’ve argued. She and Stephen fight constantly, over her availability and his temper and her temper and his distance from the children and her distance from him. This time, though, after they send Idiot Soon-to-Be-Former Second Assistant hurtling out of the house in terrified tears, Stephen levels a new accusation, one that takes Miranda completely by surprise:

“Who the hell is Andy Sachs?”

The unexpected blow sends Miranda reeling. She stumbles back against the railing on the staircase, so surprised to hear Andrea’s name spoken here, in this house, in this context. (Do you even want to be married to me? Why the hell are we in a relationship if you can’t find five minutes for me every other day? God, Miranda, do you know how embarrassing it is for a man to spend his life waiting for Miranda Priestly?)

“W-why do you ask?”

Stephen rolls his eyes contemptuously. “I’ve seen your calendar, Miranda. Your assistant blocks out two hour lunches for you with this guy when I can't even get you on the phone, and don’t try to tell me he’s in the industry. I did my research. He’s not.”

It’s laughable, it should be laughable, that Stephen has so completely misconstrued the situation as to think she is having an affair with Andrea. It would be laughable if not for the fact that Miranda does not cheat, has never cheated, and would never cheat. Unlike her husband.

“So who is he?” Stephen demands, using his words like bludgeons, so certain he is in the right.

She should correct his misunderstanding. She should. She knows that. One mention of Andrea’s full name and he will be caught flat-footed, stumbling, perhaps even apologetic.

Instead she gives him her coldest look, a look that belongs at work, not at home, and says, “Just a friend.” Book in hand, she brushes past him, to her office, and firmly shuts the door.

Despite Emily’s best efforts, the twins do not obtain early copies of the next Harry Potter book. At least she succeeds in locating yet another warm body to fill the empty Second Assistant desk.

Miranda reschedules lunch for Friday, cancelling on James Holt with little warning and no explanation. He wants to discuss a new venture with her, get her thoughts on a new opportunity, and truly, she thinks his genius was used up over a year ago. This new possibility of his is merely the last gasp of a man who doesn’t realize he’s already bled out. There are better uses for her limited time.

She is riding the elevator down when its doors open on an intermediary floor and there is Andrea, waiting with a pensive frown that transforms instantly into a shining grin the moment she catches sight of Miranda. There is no hesitation regarding whether to join her in the elevator; Andrea leaps inside and says an excited, “Hey!”

“Hello, Andrea,” Miranda says mildly, adjusting her grip on her purse.

“Thanks for taking the time to reschedule,” Andrea goes on cheerfully, not appearing to notice as the door opens and Miranda glares at the waiting men in suits, who blanch and step away from the elevator bank as if it’s on fire. “It’s really good to see you.”

Miranda smiles faintly. “I found myself with some extra time on my hands and thought of you.”

They walk together to Smith and Wollensky, Andrea blathering on about the various publications to which she has submitted her article and her excitement about the latest topic Miranda has assigned her, which has to do with Nelson Mandela. Miranda nods and hums in all the right places, yet the moment they are seated Andrea pins her with a surprisingly intent look and says, “Okay, what’s going on?”

Miranda raises an eyebrow. “Pardon?”

“Something’s different about you today. Are you okay?”

For the barest of moments, the question takes her breath away. She can’t remember the last time someone asked her such a thing, inquired about her well-being without the question being accompanied by a honeyed smile or an insincere air kiss.

The moment passes and Miranda glares at her. “What a question,” she says with irritation she does not feel. “Of course I am.”

Andrea licks her lips, anxious. “You don’t have to say that, if you aren’t. You can talk to me, Miranda. If you need to talk.”

“I’m sure your offer is well-intentioned, but that is what I pay my therapist obscene amounts of money for,” Miranda says. She looks down at the menu, as if she does not always order the same thing here. The words slip out of their own accord: “A disagreement with my husband, that’s all.”

Andrea makes a soft, sympathetic noise at the back of her throat. “He must be a pretty special guy for you to have fallen in love with him.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Miranda says, a knee-jerk reaction.

Andrea looks startled, as she probably has a right to be. Which idea is Miranda disagreeing with, after all? That Stephen is special, or that she loves him?

“Stephen is...fine,” Miranda says, grimacing a little at herself, at him. “I married him because I expected him to be a good father figure for my children.”

For the first time in their acquaintance, Andrea flinches.

Miranda rubs her forehead, feeling tired. “When you reach a certain stage in your life, Andrea, you’ll find that love is less important than other factors, such as dependability.”

“Bullshit.” Andrea spits the word out forcefully, almost angrily. “What stage in life would that be, Miranda? The one where you’re a legend? The one where you’ve proven yourself to be one of the smartest, strongest people in the country, if not the world?” She shakes her head, long hair streaming behind her like the tail of a kite. “Didn’t you read my article? Maybe we can’t have it all, the job and the respect and the perfect home life—but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve it. It doesn’t mean we don’t keep striving for it.”

Andrea speaks with such passion, such conviction, and yes, this is what Miranda has wanted from her ever since that first meeting on the Fourth of July. She was right, even back then: hearing Andrea Sachs' words on a topic she cares about is captivating, indeed.

Miranda is also reminded, in this moment, of how very young Andrea is. She can’t be more than 25, and still fresh with the naive bloom of youth. Will she be so sure, so determined to believe in the fairness of the universe, when she is Miranda’s age?

Miranda hopes so. In fact, she thinks, she would give rather a lot to make that happen.

“You love him, then,” Miranda says, voice cool in sharp contrast to Andrea’s heat. “Your chef, I mean.”

“Yes, of course,” Andrea says, automatically. She tilts her head. “I mean, I do. Love him. Yes. Of course I do.”

“You don’t sound too sure about that.”

Andrea's eyebrows draw together. “I was sure about it, before we moved to New York. Now…” She hesitates, looking for the correct words, and Miranda watches, wondering if she wears this same expression when she writes. “Nate and I still love each other,” she says at last. “I just don’t know if we’re still in love with each other. I don’t even know whether we still like each other.”

Miranda bites back the comment that leaps to her tongue, which is that anyone who doesn’t like Andrea is an imbecile.

They set aside the topic to order, and afterwards neither seems inclined to return to their original subject. Instead, they talk about Andrea’s Nelson Mandela article and the disastrous photo shoot that caused Miranda grief a few days ago.

They fight over the check—“Miranda, it just doesn’t feel right letting you pay every time. I’m a working adult; I can carry my own weight.”—and Andrea loses, of course. She settles back into her chair, an ungracious loser, glaring like a toddler denied a toy, and that is when Miranda reaches for her full wineglass and knocks it directly on top of the other woman.

They both freeze as the crimson liquids seeps into Andrea’s sweater, button down shirt, and slacks, and settles there, staining the cheap polyester blends forever. Andrea’s mouth works in silent shock, words deserting her for once. She is too stunned to even mop up the excess with her napkin, instead allowing it to spread like puddles in a rainstorm.

Finally, she gasps, “You did that on purpose!”

“What an absurd allegation,” Miranda replies, eyes gleaming.

Then they are mobbed by waiters and busboys, cleaning up the mess and kowtowing as if any of this is their fault, and by the time everything has been cleared and Miranda’s credit card has been run Andrea looks rather a lot like a murder victim.

For once, Andrea leads the way out the door, her steps rough and jerky. At first, Miranda thinks she is merely in shock from what has just happened. She expects Andrea to laugh it off once they reach the street, perhaps level a playful accusation. She does not expect Andrea to hunch her shoulders and begin speed walking in the opposite direction from Elias-Clarke.

“Where are you going?” she calls after her.

Andrea stops walking but doesn’t turn. “I need to go home and change. I can’t go back to work like this.”

“Nonsense,” Miranda says briskly, approaching, already thinking ahead to the outfit Nigel will pick out for Andrea. “I’m sure we can find you something suitable at Runway—”

No, Miranda,” she says, her voice thick with something unpleasant, and now she does turn.

Miranda has never seen this expression on Andrea’s face, not even the day of that awful job interview. Humiliation and rage appear to be vying for dominance. Miranda begins to think she may have miscalculated, terribly.

“I think it’s best we stop spending time together,” Andrea says, her voice stiff, formal. “Thank you again for all you’ve done.”

“Unacceptable,” Miranda snaps. She sounds angry but isn’t. Her breath is coming too fast and there’s a roaring in her ears like the tide of a great ocean waiting to sweep her away.

Her tone just makes Andrea’s face harden further. “I know you read my article, Miranda, but I guess you didn’t really pay attention. I made myself very clear. I strongly feel women should look for the people who inspire them, who make them want to be the best possible version of themselves. I also strongly feel that we should steer clear of the people who think we need to change ourselves into someone we're not.”

Miranda has a thousand rebuttals prepared before Andrea finishes speaking; a thousand reasonable explanations for this one-sided little game she’s been playing. Somehow, in this moment, she can’t enunciate a single one of them.

Andrea nods, once. “Goodbye, Miranda Priestly. I wish you all the best.”

Then she turns and goes away.

Chapter Text

Miranda Priestly does not apologize.

This is something Miranda reminds herself of every morning as she painstakingly applies her makeup, covering the dark circles that come from sleeping alone now that Stephen has absconded to the guest bedroom. She reminds herself in the car, on the way to work, as she gazes out the window, distantly watching the Upper East Side transition into Midtown East.

Miranda Priestly does not apologize.

She reminds herself as she strides across the Elias-Clarke foyer, heels clacking against the marble floors like the punch of a typewriter. She reminds herself as she rattles off instructions to Emily and whoever Emily happened to hire the day before to fill the second assistant chair. She reminds herself over lunch in her office, or at a restaurant with Diane or Donatella or Donna.

Miranda Priestly does not apologize.

She reminds herself during frustrating meetings with her ostensibly talented editors. She reminds herself at tedious and too-expensive photo shoots. She reminds herself when she happens upon Irv Ravitz and Jacqueline Follet exiting a town car together, thick as thieves.

Miranda Priestly does not apologize.

She reminds herself during dinner with Stephen, with the girls, by herself. She reminds herself during the obligatory fifteen minutes she spends at dreary cocktail parties several evenings a week. She reminds herself when she peruses the Book every night, her pen strokes a tad more forceful than they used to be. She reminds herself as she removes her makeup and wearily dons her pajamas.

As she lies in bed at night, trying desperately to sleep, the reminders become her mantra:

Miranda Priestly does not apologize.

Two days after the Met Gala, three weeks after she and Andrea parted ways, an unexpected message from Andrea sneaks its way into the long litany of calls Miranda received while out to lunch.

“She wasn’t sure whether you’d be interested in hearing from her and made me promise not to pass along the message if you weren’t,” Emily blathers, her manner nervous. They are both keenly aware that there is a forbidden question tucked away somewhere in that statement.

Andrea is reaching out. Miranda stifles the hope that threatens to swell in her breast. “Tell me.”

Emily releases a pent up breath, relieved, and glances at her notepad. “Her article is going to be published in the Cincinnati Monthly and she wanted to express her thanks one more time for your help in making it possible.”

Miranda’s entire body goes hot and then cold. “The Cincinnati Monthly,” she repeats flatly.

Emily gulps. “That’s what she said, yes.”

Miranda glares into her assistant’s wide eyes for a charged moment, a predator deliberating on what to do with her prey, before stalking into her office. “Get me Andrea Sachs,” she tosses over her shoulder. “Now.”

She hears tapping, muttering, a loud, desperate, “Please!

Emily creeps in, looking like a pro bono attorney come to tell a death row inmate his last appeal has been denied. “Andrea is unavailable,” she whispers, hands trembling.

Miranda’s nails press against the sleek surface of her desk. “I see. That’s all.”

She spins her chair to glower out the window, incensed. Andrea is being ridiculous, blowing things wildly out of proportion. As if it weren’t already evident, her childish unwillingness to have a conversation with Miranda is undeniable proof of her unsuitability as a friend.

The Cincinnati Monthly.

Miranda storms out of her office, casts her most disdainful glance at Emily II, and says, “Clear the next hour in my schedule.”

She jabs the down button for the elevator, tapping her toe impatiently for the ten seconds it takes for the doors to open. She enters, pushes the button for a floor she has never before graced with her presence, and thinks again, incredulously, The Cincinnati Monthly.

The doors open on the Auto Universe offices and Miranda emerges like a storm cloud: slow, deliberate, and all the more menacing for taking her time. The receptionist, a sallow young woman wearing an unflattering Ann Taylor blouse, stares like a slack-jawed yokel.

“Andrea Sachs,” Miranda says crisply.

Brief puzzlement; then, “Oh, you mean Andy! Take a left and then all the way to the back, Ms. Priestly.”

Miranda sniffs and sweeps past the hapless girl, navigating among depressing cubicles and small offices. The Auto Universe employees, to a man—and they are all men—stop what they are doing to gape as she glides by.

Andrea’s cubicle is located in the darkest, dreariest corner, underneath a flickering fluorescent light that would not be out of place in a horror movie. The cubicle itself is smaller than Miranda’s car. Andrea, unlike her compatriots, does not see Miranda coming. Nor does she hear Miranda, whose heels make no noise as they dig into the clean but well-worn carpet. The younger woman’s head is bowed to her work, the red pen in her hand moving steadily over the top page of a thick sheaf of paper.

Miranda stops a few feet from the cubicle, tilting her head to watch. This is an Andrea she’s never seen before, the diligent, professional one who spends her days catching misplaced commas and split infinitives in articles about chrome and horsepower and leather interiors.

Eventually, finally, Andrea must feel eyes on her. She looks up, sees Miranda, blinks, frowns, holds up a finger in the universal gesture for wait, and spends a good forty-five seconds finishing the page she’s on. Miranda should be annoyed by the presumption, and maybe she is, a little, but mostly what she feels is a warm little ball in the center of her chest which she chooses not to contemplate too deeply.

Andrea shuffles the sheet she’s been working on to the bottom of the stack, caps her pen, and gives Miranda her blandest smile. “How can I help you, Ms. Priestly? I think you’re on the wrong floor.”

For a moment, Miranda is breathless with anger. Then, her patience long past gone, she seizes the other woman by the arm and hauls her out of her chair, uncaring of the many eyes that are watching.

“There must be a conference room in this godforsaken pit,” Miranda snaps. “Where?”

Andrea scowls at her; when that has no effect, she sighs. “This way.”

She jerks out of Miranda’s grip, then stiffly leads Miranda through the warren of cubicles and offices to a surprisingly pleasant room overlooking Fifth Avenue. After ascertaining that it is empty, she gestures for Miranda to precede her and shuts the door behind them.

Miranda paces the length of the window and back, building up a vicious tirade in her mind, full of accusations like childish and weak and I should have you fired and how dare you insinuate yourself into my life and then abandon me.

What finally claws its way out of her throat, though, is: “The Cincinnati Monthly, Andrea? Really?”

Andrea crosses her arms over her chest, eyes flinty. “I think what you mean to say is, ‘Congratulations on having your article accepted. You must be thrilled.’ And then I’ll reply, ‘Why yes, I’m over the moon, thanks for not raining on my parade.’”

“You will turn down their offer of publication,” Miranda commands. “That article is too good for them. It should be in Harper’s, at least, or The New Yorker.”

“I won’t,” Andrea says calmly. “Harper’s and The New Yorker both rejected it. A couple of places were interested, and of those, I like the Cincinnati Monthly the best.”

“If you’d had the common sense to mention my name in your submissions—”

Andrea, fearless, interrupts: “That was never going to happen.”

They glare at each other: Miranda, exasperated; Andrea, defiant.

“If that’s all,” Andrea says, moving as if to walk out, and three weeks’ worth of reminders fly out of Miranda’s head.

“I apologize.” Miranda’s nostrils flare; she is stunned by her own words and the desperation behind them.

Andrea, perhaps not realizing how momentous this all is, doesn’t swoon at the apology; nor does she hurry to assure Miranda that no apologies are necessary and, in fact, their falling out is all Andrea’s fault. (Miranda had secretly regarded the latter as the ideal outcome of this conversation.)

Instead, all Andrea says is, “For what, specifically?”

Miranda’s nails dig into her palms as she asks herself the same question. She already wants to take the apology back, but she knows she would be a lesser woman if she did. The truth is, she is sorry. She is not sorry for trying to upgrade Andrea’s wardrobe. She is not sorry for wanting Andrea’s outward appearance to match her inner strength. She is not sorry for worrying about her own image. But she is sorry.

“I apologize,” she says slowly, looking Andrea in the eye, “for making you think I do not respect you.”

Because, truly, isn’t that why Andrea had been so upset? And, truly, hadn’t she had the right to be? Miranda had known that Andrea was nothing like the girls who worked for her, the girls who would expire from joy if Miranda ever deigned to improve their wardrobes, and yet she hadn’t taken the younger woman’s unusual nature, the deep self-respect that was one of her most appealing features, into account.

Andrea’s lips curve in a twisted parody of her usual open smile. “I don’t know what you want me to say, Miranda. You were embarrassed to be seen with me when we ran into your fashion director—that’s what started all of this. And I get that, I really do. You have an image to maintain. That’s why I picked that Starbucks all the way over on Park Avenue for our coffee meetings. I was fine with you not wanting to be seen walking with someone like me. What I wasn’t fine with was you trying to change me into something I’m not.”

“The kind of person who dresses like an adult human being?” Miranda demands, because her humility only stretches so far.

“The kind of rail-thin girl who struts around New York thinking she’s better than everyone else because her clothes cost enough to feed a small country,” Andrea counters. “I don’t care about how I look, Miranda. I won’t let you turn me into the sort of person who thinks that’s the only thing that matters.” She looks away, but not before Miranda sees the shine of tears in her eyes.

Is that how Miranda’s actions looked to Andrea? Truly?

Because she understands, now, in this moment, that she has hurt Andrea, deeply, she takes a long moment to consider her next strategy in this campaign to capture Andrea’s forgiveness.

“Are you aware that Henry Styles doesn’t even know who you are?” she asks, referring to Auto Universe’s Editor-in-Chief.

Andrea frowns. “Of course he does. He signs off on all of my edits.”

“He may know the name Andy Sachs,” Miranda acknowledges, “but he has no idea that you are a woman, or that you are exceptional. He would not be able to pick you out of a lineup.”

Andrea combs her hand through her long, thick hair. “Where are you going with this?”

“You are correct that things changed after we encountered Nigel. Not because of the reasons you’re thinking—at least, mostly not for those reasons—but because I realized I was doing you a disservice by allowing you to continue sabotaging yourself.”

“Sabotaging myself?” Andrea repeats, incredulous. “What are you talking about?”

Miranda casts her eyes up and down Andrea’s body. “Like it or not, the decision not to care about your image is one that reflects poorly on you. It creates negative first impressions. It conveys the erroneous message that you take no pride in yourself. It holds you back, and what kind of friend would I be if I allowed that to continue when I am uniquely qualified to change it?”

She holds up a hand to forestall Andrea’s retort. “If I gave the impression that I wanted you to become an air-headed fashionista, then I am truly sorry. But, Andrea. There has to be a happy medium between caring too much about clothes and being so determined not to care that you dress like a mannequin in a serial killer’s basement. If you can’t see that, I’m afraid you’ll never reach your full potential.”

At first, there is suspicion in the furrow of Andrea’s brow, the lines around her mouth, as she considers Miranda’s words. Eventually, some of the tension leaks out of the younger woman’s posture. “I guess, if you’d really been trying to change me, you’d have stuck me in stilettos,” she says grudgingly.

Miranda exhales with relief. “Don’t be absurd. I would have gone with thigh-high Chanel boots.”

Andrea’s face contorts in comical horror. Then she sighs. “I probably should have let you explain all of this three weeks ago, huh?”

And there’s the Andrea Miranda knows and tolerates, the kind one who asks after Miranda’s day and truly cares about the answer. It would be so easy to let her assume some of the blame.

“No,” Miranda says, though the admission pains her. “Three weeks ago, I couldn’t have brought myself to offer a real explanation. It’s taken me this long to come to terms with the fact that I value your friendship.”

“Really?” Andrea says, eyes crinkling in humor. “That was clear to me when you agreed to go for a second coffee with me after I ordered that Frappuccino the first time.” She glances at her watch. “I have to get back to work, unfortunately. Can we…would you like to meet for coffee tomorrow?”

Coffee would be a step back. Miranda only believes in advancement. “No; lunch.” Miranda hopes her next words will not erase all of the goodwill she’s just built. “If we continue to spend time together, I’m not going to stop pushing you to improve your image,” she warns.

Andrea grins, finally. It brightens the entire room. “If we keep hanging out, Miranda, I’ll probably let you.”

Miranda claps her hands together briskly. “Excellent. Now, this afternoon, you will call the Cincinnati Monthly and withdraw your submission. Tomorrow at lunch we can put together a new submission letter that mentions my name.”

“Not on your life, Priestly,” Andrea says, and jauntily departs before Miranda can get a last word in.

Lunch the next day is a pleasure. There are no behind-the-scenes clothing shenanigans. Andrea appears to have decided to let the past be in the past. They do not discuss the Cincinnati Monthly. They have a great deal of catching up to do.

“Paris Fashion Week is my most important week of the year,” Miranda says over delectable Chilean sea bass. “Endless fashion shows, constant parties—it’s a logistical nightmare. The Runway offices are always a disaster in the month leading up to it, and this year is no exception.”

Andrea snickers. “I have a hard time imagining you being frazzled.”

“Not I,” Miranda sniffs. “I leave that for my assistants. You know Emily, of course.”

“Oh yes. She made an impression during my interview. Although she’s been a lot more pleasant since then. You know, I don’t think she’s figured out that the Andy Sachs you keep meeting up with is the same one she thought was a practical joke by HR.”

Miranda is certain Emily hasn’t made the connection. “Hm. Anyway, her job is to ensure that everything in Paris goes smoothly. That might be too much to ask of someone of her intellect, but I live on hope.”

Andrea looks a little bothered by Miranda’s casual disregard for her assistant. “Maybe she’ll surprise you.”

“Andrea, you are the first person to have surprised me in a very, very long time.”

Andrea blushes.

They eat for a while in silence, savoring their seafood, before Andrea says, “I missed you, you know. Nate gave me a hard time for moping the past few weeks.”

Miranda stomps down the fierce, inappropriate joy that threatens to bubble up inside her. “The chef doesn’t deserve you,” she says calmly.

Andrea bites her lip, which does nothing to suppress her shy smile. “What about you? Any new developments the past few weeks?”

Miranda casually ticks the new developments off on her fingers one by one. “My marriage is on its way to its natural conclusion, Irv and Jacqueline are going to attempt to usurp my position in Paris, and Nigel may be leaving me.” She sips her wine.

Andrea’s fork clatters onto her plate. “Wait, what? You let me go on about my boyfriend when you’ve got so much crap going on? God, Miranda, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you deal with all that. I’ve been a shitty friend.” She reaches across the table and takes Miranda’s hand in a firm, comforting grip.

Miranda does not pull away.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” she says. “I have contingencies in place—not for Stephen, but for the rest.”

“Can I ask what drove you and Stephen apart?”

He thinks we’re having an affair, Miranda does not say. Now that she has resigned herself to Stephen’s impending departure from her life, the misunderstanding has become a source of private amusement for her. She’s drawn it out, in fact, making sure to mention “Andy Sachs” in casual conversation on the regular. The name never fails to turn Stephen an unflattering shade of purple.

“He feels that I neglect him, and I do,” Miranda replies. “There are aspects of my life that are important enough for me to make time for. I’ve come to realize he isn’t one of them. I suppose that admission paints me in a bad light, but it’s true.”

Andrea studies her with keen eyes. Miranda would give a great deal to know what she is thinking. Perhaps she is calculating the number of hours she and Miranda have spent together over the past five months.

“Write me an article about the end of a relationship,” Miranda says, patting the hand that still holds hers. “How to decide when to put the poor, abused thing to sleep.”

Miranda sends Andrea a bouquet of lovely but understated blouses along with a card that says, “To celebrate the Cincinnati Monthly’s outrageous good fortune.”

Andrea replies with a thank you note and an inquiry regarding whether Miranda knows any good, cheap hair stylists in the city.

Stupid, stupid Emily gets herself hit by a car four days before Fashion Week.

“I can still go to Paris,” she wails over the phone from the ambulance. “The crutches won’t slow me down, I swear!”

“Do be serious,” Miranda says. She refrains from mentioning how ridiculous Emily would look, stumbling around Fashion Week in a full leg cast. There’s little point in being cruel now, when the girl has already destroyed her own greatest hope.

“Well, you can’t take Jessica!”

That must be the second assistant who started the day after Andrea and Miranda resumed their friendship. She seems sharp enough, but she’s far too green for Paris.

“Do what the doctors tell you to do, and for God’s sake, eat something,” Miranda says. “That’s all.”

She hangs up. She considers. She has Emily II get Andrea on the line.

Andrea answers with her usual chipper, “This is Andy.”

“Are you free for coffee now?” Miranda demands.

Maybe Andrea hears the unusual edge to her voice, because there isn’t even an instant of startled hesitation. “Yes, of course. I’ll meet you downstairs.”

Two minutes later they are striding down the sidewalk, Andrea shooting her concerned glances. Even in her distraction, Miranda is pleased to note that the other woman is wearing one of the blouses she gave her, along with the clutch and shoes Miranda snuck into her possession. Her absurdly thick mane of hair has been tamed into something tolerable (and cheap, Miranda reminds herself sourly).


“Not yet,” Miranda bites out. “I need coffee.”

They go to their usual Starbucks, but for once Miranda waits in line with Andrea, seething at inept baristas who take far too long to take down simple coffee orders. Miranda seizes her drink when it’s handed to her and takes a deep gulp, not caring as it burns the roof of her mouth.

“Emily was hit by a car,” she says.

Andrea’s hand slips, sloshing coffee over the lip of her cup. She reaches for a napkin “Oh my God. Is she okay? Shouldn’t you be at the hospital?”

“She isn’t one of my children, Andrea, and I have far too much to do.”

Andrea makes a show of looking around the coffee shop as if to say, Important things like taking coffee breaks with me?

Miranda sniffs. “She was in the ambulance when she called, but my understanding is that her only major injury is a broken leg. I don’t know what you think I could do to help with that. I assure you there’s no secret medical degree hidden away in my sordid past.”

Andrea ignores her snark in favor of murmuring, “Poor Emily. I hope she’s on her feet in time for your flight.”

“Emily won’t be going to Paris, Andrea,” Miranda says impatiently. “I told you how important this week is to me. I need someone able-bodied and focused to stave off disasters. Even on a good day, Emily can barely meet those requirements. It’s out of the question now.”

Poor Emily,” Andrea says again, even more fervently.

Miranda supposes Andrea’s empathetic nature is a credit to her. At this moment, it’s irritating. “I want you to come to Paris with me.”

Andrea blinks. She blinks again. She says, “What?”

“I need someone I can rely on by my side. I can’t bring my second assistant; I don’t even know her name.”

“It’s Jessica,” Andrea says, apropos of nothing.

“The point is, I want you there. I’ll clear it with Henry Styles, and—”

“Miranda, no.” Andrea’s voice is firm, uncompromising.

Miranda closes her mouth. She opens it. She closes it again. “What do you mean, no?”

Andrea eyes her sympathetically. “I mean, no, I can’t go to Fashion Week with you.”

“Of course you can. I told you, it won’t interfere with your job—”

Miranda. No.”

Miranda slams her cup onto the table, furious. “So all of your talk of friendship and gratitude was a lie, was it? It’s fine if I’m buying you lunches and furthering your career, but the moment I need something, all you can say is ‘no’.”

“I’m saying no because I’m your friend,” Andrea says, her voice steady though her eye twitches at Miranda’s jabs. “You don’t need a friend at Fashion Week, Miranda, you need an assistant, and I can’t be that for you. I can never work for you, don’t you see that?”

“All I see is someone I mistakenly thought I could rely on,” Miranda says coldly. “Thank you for correcting that misconception.” She grabs her coffee and stalks out, humiliated and deeply, deeply disappointed.

“Miranda, your four thirty is here,” Emily II says from the open doorway.

Miranda frowns, tiredly running through the schedule Emily had rattled off that morning before the unfortunate car incident. She doesn’t recall an appointment at this time, but she also isn’t at her best just now. “Send them in,” she says, leaning back in her chair and crossing her legs at the knee.

A young man enters, his posture painstakingly correct, a well-chosen off-the-rack suit draping his frame nicely, a nervous smile on his unremarkable face. Miranda has never seen him before. Whoever this is, he does not belong on her busy, overbooked schedule.

“Who are you?” she demands, steepling her fingers under her chin and watching as sweat breaks out at his hairline.

“My name is Doug?” he squeaks. He coughs and then says, more confidently, “Um, my name is Doug. Sommer?”

“Why are you here, wasting my immensely valuable time, Douglas Sommer?”

He closes his eyes for a moment, lips moving as he runs through what is clearly a rehearsed speech. When he opens his eyes again, he stands a little straighter and says, “I’m smart, dependable, and hard-working. I have a job on Wall Street in financial services, where I manage accounts for over twenty high-profile clients, which means I’m an expert at juggling while keeping track of all of the balls that are in the air. I’m a passionate reader of Runway and can recognize most major designers on sight. I speak college-level French. And I’m really, really excited to be meeting you right now, Ms. Priestly. Um, Miranda. I hope I can help you out.”

Miranda studies the anxious young man, turning his verbal resume over in her mind. He clearly has not been sent by HR. But then, who—

“Andrea,” she realizes. “Andrea sent you.”

He bobs his head. “She’s my best friend. She said you’d been left in the lurch at the last minute, and she knows I’m reliable and love you—I mean fashion—and she thought it would be a good fit.”

She flutters her fingers at him. “And you’re able to jet off to Paris at the drop of a hat, are you, Douglas?”

“I’m good at my job and I don’t take much vacation. My boss will give me next week off.” Douglas lifts his chin bravely. Miranda can see why Andrea likes him. “If you fly me out there and let me go to the events with you, I’ll do all the assistant work for free.”

Miranda regards him long enough for his shoulders to droop. She glances out into the hallway, where Nigel, fortuitously, has just arrived for a meeting. She calls his name.

He pokes his head in, wearing an expression of polite inquiry. There’s a gleam in his eye, though, which first appeared when she mentioned the possibility of a position for him in James Holt’s new venture and hasn’t faded since. It will be a real pity when that gleam is snuffed out.

“This young man will be accompanying us to Paris as my assistant,” Miranda says, waving vaguely in Douglas’ direction. “See that he is dressed appropriately.”

Nigel looks Douglas up and down and licks his lips once. “Well, well,” he purrs. “Right this way, puppy.”

Douglas gulps, shoots a last glance at Miranda, and follows him out.

“Emily, get me Andrea Sachs,” Miranda says, and waits.

“I have Andrea!”

Miranda picks up the phone, and without waiting for Andrea’s customary greeting—perhaps a little worried, after the way their coffee date ended, that Andrea won’t offer it—says, “It’s generally considered bad form to offer one’s friends up as sacrificial lambs for the Devil.”

Andrea laughs. “Trust me, Doug was dying to be offered up.” A pause. “You’re going to take him, then?”

“He appears to be my least objectionable alternative, since my top choice declined,” Miranda says. “Nigel is most likely ravaging him in the Closet as we speak.”

“Poor Doug,” Andrea says, wide grin evident in her voice. “Or should I say, lucky Doug?”

Miranda’s cell phone flashes, the caller ID showing Stephen’s name. She turns the phone on its face. “Andrea, about what I said earlier. I may have been overly hasty when I accused you of being unreliable. I said some things I would not have said if Emily hadn’t been so careless crossing the street.”

“Is that an apology?” Andrea asks, sounding amused rather than angry.

Yes. “Consider it a retraction.”

“Don’t get me wrong, Miranda—I was flattered you asked me to go with you to Paris. But do you understand why I had to refuse?”

Andrea had said something preposterous about how she could never work for Miranda, hadn’t she? Admittedly, Miranda had been too incensed to pay much attention to why Andrea was rejecting her in her time of need.

“No, I don’t understand, but I suppose you must have a good reason,” Miranda says. “Write me an article explaining it. I’ll look forward to reading it after Fashion Week.”

“Will do. I’ve got to get back to work. Hey, Miranda?”


“Be nice to Doug over there, okay?”

“Really, Andrea,” Miranda drawls. “Sometimes, it’s as if you don’t know me at all.”

Chapter Text

Douglas cleans up nicely. Unlike Andrea, he has no qualms about subjecting himself to an image upgrade, from stylish haircut to $2,000 Salvatore Ferragamo crocodile loafers. If those are what he chooses to wear on the plane, Miranda will admit to some curiosity as to what he and Nigel will have put together for the rest of Fashion Week.

“You will sit with me,” she instructs as they board, gesturing for him to trade tickets with Jocelyn, who sags with relief. Miranda doesn’t miss her better you than me smirk as she trades her first class ticket for Douglas’s seat in the last row of coach.

Miranda settles into the second row window seat, her oversized handbag taking the empty spot beside her. Douglas fumbles a little as he buckles himself into the aisle seat.

“Do I frighten you, Douglas?” Miranda asks as she accepts a glass of champagne from the flight attendant.

He swallows, but once again shows that hint of spine that makes him a suitable friend for someone as extraordinary as Andrea Sachs. “‘Frighten’ isn’t exactly the right word. It’s more that I’ve never gotten to spend time with one of my heroes before.”

She raises an eyebrow. “I am one of your heroes? Surely Andrea has told you enough to knock me off any pedestal.”

He hesitates. “To be honest, I didn’t know Andy knew you until she asked if I wanted to fill in as your assistant. She doesn’t talk about you.” He shrugs with one shoulder, uncomfortable. “Our friend Lily even thought Andy might be having an affair, what with how closed-lipped she’s been the past few months.”

At least Miranda isn’t the only one wrongly suspected of cheating. But what does it mean that Andrea does not speak of her to her other friends? Is she embarrassed by their relationship? Unlikely.

“Walk me through the schedule for the week,” she says, changing the subject completely. This will be her first test of Douglas’ competence. She hopes Andrea hasn’t let her down.

He nods, takes a moment to gather his thoughts, and then recites from memory: “You have the Vera Wang show tomorrow morning, followed by lunch at the Ritz. The afternoon show is Donna Karan, with fifteen minutes scheduled for the after party. Dinner is with Donatella at Chez Georges, followed by a soiree at Marc Jacobs’ loft.”

Well. Not a disappointment yet, it appears. “Careful, Douglas,” she warns. “If you continue such competent work, I might just keep you.”

He blushes.

She waves for him to entertain himself, then pulls a folder from her handbag and takes out Andrea’s latest piece, which the younger woman handed to her just before she left for the airport. She adjusts her seat to a semi-reclined position and begins to read.

Immediately, she knows that this will be Andrea’s second article to be published. And not with the Cincinnati Monthly this time, either. Not if Miranda has any say in the matter. Not if Miranda has to scrawl her own name in permanent marker across the header.

She’d asked Andrea for a piece about how to tell when to terminate a relationship. Naturally, Andrea took that simple prompt and turned it into something far more interesting.

The article is nothing like an advice column. Andrea does not pretend to have it all figured out. She does not make blanket statements regarding relationships and how to gauge their success or failure. Instead, writing in an almost clinical manner, she provides case studies of three very different pairings.

The first is a wealthy couple. The unnamed wife is an executive at a media company; the unnamed husband is a lawyer. The quotes Andrea extracted from them are astonishingly frank:

“I wouldn’t say it was a marriage of convenience, exactly,” the husband says. “More a marriage of companionship. Even though we see each other rarely, it makes both of our lives better just knowing the other is there.”

“We like each other and we trust each other,” the wife says, smiling. “When you have those things, love is irrelevant.”

The second case study is a same-sex couple who were married in Massachusetts last year and are currently undergoing marriage counseling in an effort to save their relationship.

“We were so in love,” Wife A says. “It didn’t seem to matter at first that we had totally different plans for our lives. I mean, the chemistry was just there, you know? I didn’t think the bloom could go off the rose so quickly.”

“I still care about her,” Wife B says, teary-eyed. “I want to say that she and I will make each other happy for the rest of our lives. But, honestly, I think we’re on our way to mutual homicide.”

The final case study, shockingly, is Andrea’s own relationship. She does not come out and say as much, but at this point Miranda knows the young woman well. She knows how to read between the lines.

“We spend so much of our time trying to ‘make it work’,” Person A is on record as saying. “At some point, though, ‘making it work’ becomes the same as keeping it on life support. And at some point it’s time to pull the plug.”

“Relationships are about priorities, aren’t they?” Person B says. “If the relationship is high on one person’s list and low on the other’s...I don’t know, isn’t that a sign it isn’t meant to be?”

Miranda is impressed once again by how skillfully Andrea can get people to open up to her. Even more impressive is the intelligent, thoughtful way Andrea pieces together the quotes and the backstories for each relationship, painting them as multi-dimensional, vivid examples of human history.

“Scientific studies,” Andrea writes, “have found that long-term happiness is surprisingly difficult to influence. Winning the lottery doesn’t do it; nor does becoming disabled. In fact, the two events that have been found to consistently affect long-term happiness are a) getting fired and b) getting divorced. Terminating a marriage is still viewed by most as a monumental failure, a demonstration that a person is less than they hoped to be.

“Isn’t it true, however, that divorce can also be a demonstration of strength? That to gracefully—or even not so gracefully—bow out of a relationship when the time is right is a victory rather than a failure? Let there be no stigma attached to doing what is right; if it is time for you to let go, then do so without self-recrimination. And if it is not time to let go, then hold on tight. Don’t just make it work. Make it thrive.”

Miranda taps the pad of her finger against her lips, thoughtful. “She really is something, isn’t she?” she murmurs, mostly to herself.

“I’ve always thought so,” Douglas agrees.

It’s easy and pleasant for Miranda to lose herself in the whirlwind that is Fashion Week. From the moment she rises to the moment she slides under the covers, her day is filled with dresses, shoes, blouses, pants, skirts, accessories, and an endless array of faces and bodies. She does not have time or inclination to miss Stephen. She misses the twins, but Douglas does a fine job of squeezing in ten minutes each day for a quick call home.

She would regret missing her weekly lunch with Andrea, except that she emails Miranda a great deal over the course of the week. Perhaps because Miranda has been emailing her back. And also possibly because Miranda is the one to begin the exchange.

Acceptable, she writes from her hotel room even before she begins to unpack. I trust you will allow me to assist with this submission? How did the chef feel about the contents of your article?

Glad you like it. I’d love your help putting together the submission list once the article is ready, Andrea replies almost immediately. But I’m not going to drop your name, if that’s what you mean. As for Nate, I think the article was actually good for our relationship. It brought to light some things we’ve both been suppressing. Hopefully we’ll be the better for it, in the long run.

Anyone who fails to recognize your worth does not deserve you, Miranda says. Speaking of worth, Douglas is working out nicely.

Much better than I would have, Andrea writes. He sent me a picture from the DKNY after party. You looked amazing!

And so it goes.

The divorce papers come by fax two days before the end of Fashion Week. They sit on an end table in her room, innocuous, when she arrives home after a rather stunning show by Versace. She goes about her business without noticing them, removing her necklace and earrings, scrubbing the makeup from her face, and changing into a bathrobe in anticipation of a long, relaxing shower.

She recognizes the papers as soon as she catches sight of them. She’s seen documents like this before. She had, in fact, been planning to have documents of this sort prepared by her lawyer when she returned to New York. It seems her husband has saved her the trouble.

She skims the papers, oddly numb, noting the words “irreconcilable differences” and the lack of mention of infidelity. Stephen has been smart enough, at least, to avoid mentioning her supposed affair with Andy Sachs. (The last time they made love, Miranda, feeling cruel, waited until her moment of orgasm to cry out, “Andy!” The experiment turned out to be as disorienting for her as it was distressing for Stephen.)

Absentmindedly, she sets the papers on the coffee table. Where is Douglas when she needs him? If Stephen isn’t coming, she must rearrange the seating chart for tomorrow. There’s room at her table now for Snoop Dogg, and...

And her fingers are navigating through her phone’s contacts and hitting “send”.

Andrea does not answer with her usual perky greeting. Instead, she picks up with a worried, “Miranda? What’s wrong?”

Of course she is concerned. Miranda never calls from her personal line.

“Stephen is divorcing me.” Miranda’s voice comes out as a croak, which is ridiculous because she refuses to be upset about this. When your neck has been trapped in a guillotine for an eternity, isn’t it a relief when the blade finally falls?

There’s a quiet curse from the other end, the sound of papers shuffling, and then the clatter of a keyboard. “I can be there in eight hours,” Andrea says.

This is the same woman who refused to come to Paris on Miranda’s dime, whom Miranda had accused, before, of deserting her in her hour of need. Miranda pictures Andrea’s face, her determined, almost angry, expression, and, though she has spent the week surrounded by the best models in the world, thinks: She is the most beautiful woman I have ever known.


She wants to accept Andrea’s offer. Somehow she’s certain the sting of Stephen being the one to call it quits would be soothed by Andrea’s presence, by the simple comfort of her company. But then she remembers what’s to come tomorrow—her battle with Irv, the defeat of Jacqueline Follet, the destruction of Nigel’s dreams—and she knows that Andrea was right, though not for the reasons she thinks. She cannot be in Paris with Miranda, not now. She cannot witness firsthand the lengths to which Miranda will go to protect herself. She cannot be allowed to see Miranda as she truly is, because if she does, then this lovely, wonderful woman will turn her back and walk away.

“Miranda, I’m buying the ticket.”

“No, don’t,” Miranda says, plucking at the sleeve of her robe. “There’s no need.” She laughs lightly. “It isn’t as if this was a surprise. I don’t know why I called you. I’m sure you’re busy with work.”

“Never too busy for you,” Andrea says, fiercely. “I think you need someone there with you, Miranda. Let me be that person.”

Miranda scoffs. “I am surrounded by people here, Andrea. I can hardly get a moment to myself. No, it makes no sense for you to come here simply to turn around and fly back home the next day. I will see you soon enough.”


“Go back to work, Andrea. Those run-on sentences aren’t going to catch themselves.” Then, so softly she can barely hear herself: “Thank you.”

She calls Douglas to inform him that he will not be attending tomorrow’s event. She ignores the rather breathless way he answers the phone and the quiet murmur of Nigel’s voice in the background.

“There’s a mistake in the seating chart,” she informs him. “We won’t have room for you. I suppose you’ll have to find another way to entertain yourself. Send me the bill.”

“Are you sure you won’t need help tomorrow?” Douglas asks, apparently having missed the ask-Miranda-no-questions part of Emily’s emergency two-day assistant prep course. “Only, I thought this was your biggest event of the week and I promised Andy I’d never leave you in the lurch.”

“I’m quite certain,” Miranda says. In fact, she has not hosted an event without an assistant present in the past twelve years and is not certain she knows how to do so. What she is certain of, however, is that she does not want Douglas relaying to Andrea the blow-by-blow of what happens tomorrow morning. “Have fun tomorrow, Douglas. God knows somebody should.”

With that, she hangs up and tosses her cell phone onto a side table. She curls up on the couch, bare feet tucked under her, stares, unseeing, at the divorce papers, and wishes very much that Andrea were here.

Miranda wins. Nigel loses.

She should feel triumphant as she slides into the back seat of her car, her position once again secure and her worst enemy safely shunted into a role that won’t last the year. If Emily were here, she would give her a gloating lecture on victory at all costs, though she suspects her assistant was born with that knowledge. If Douglas were here, she would try to explain a bit, perhaps, to soften her actions and paint herself in the best possible light. If Andrea were here…

If Andrea were here, Miranda would not know what to say. Andrea makes Miranda want to be a better person. It seems as if every day the world reminds Miranda that this is as good as she gets.

Nigel refuses to speak to Miranda for the rest of the trip. Oh, he is still professional. He sits beside her at the few remaining shows, he dutifully takes notes, and he even nods and obeys when she gives him instructions. But he does not speak to her, and she knows that he will never trust her again.

“Are you judging me as well, Douglas?” Miranda asks the young man as they take their seats for the return flight. In the past day, though he has continued to perform his work admirably, he has seemed at times disturbed, saddened, worried, and almost afraid. The hero worship he felt for her is long gone; what remains is yet to be seen.

He is silent too long for the answer to be anything other than yes. She remembers, then, that he is no longer her stand-in assistant. Paris Fashion Week is over. She is no longer speaking to a minion; she is now speaking to the dear friend of someone who is dear to her.

The transition is jarring. She begins to understand Andrea’s initial refusal to come to France.

“I like Nigel, and this gutted him,” Douglas replies at last. “That said, I’ve only known Nigel for a few days. Andy’s known you for months and she describes you as one of the most important people in her life. I know she seems like an Ohio bumpkin at times, what with that big grin of hers, but she doesn’t let people in easy. Her circle of friends is small.” He looks her in the eye, and his stare is challenging. Demanding. “She chose to care about you, Miranda, so I choose to believe she sees something in you that’s not obvious to the rest of us. Prove her right.”

Suddenly it is all too much. It’s Miranda who looks away, Miranda who squeezes her eyes shut and thinks about who she is and who she wants to be. She wonders what Andrea will say when she learns, inevitably, what happened in Paris.

After they land, after an interminable wait at Customs, Miranda irritably orders Douglas to go his own way. “Our business is done,” she reminds him. “If you ever want a secretarial job, contact my current second assistant and tell her she’s fired.”

His lips quirk. “Tempting, but I think the world of fashion is a bit too cutthroat for me. I’ll stick to finance.” He reaches out, quickly, to touch Miranda’s arm. “Andy’s birthday is in a few weeks. There’s going to be a little party at Nate’s restaurant. I know she’d love for you to come.”

Before she can refuse automatically, he holds up a hand. “Just think about it.” He flashes her a scoundrel’s wink and then cheerfully waltzes ahead to where Nigel is waiting for him.

Miranda drags her own carry-on through the terminal, glaring at anyone who comes near enough to jostle her. Roy should be waiting for her at baggage claim; the girls are no doubt already in bed. It will be a long, lonely car ride home from Newark.

She passes through the point of no return and scowls at the sight of dozens of people waiting to welcome arriving travelers. Families, lovers, friends, they wait with a matching shine in their eyes, a gleam that says, You’ve been missed. Foolishness, she thinks, and inefficient. A waste of everyone’s time, not to mention the pointless cost of dragging people needlessly to the airp—


“Mom! Over here, Mom!”

She turns her head and there they are: Caroline and Cassidy, waving ecstatically; their nanny, Cara, watching over them with a protective, indulgent smile; and, the sure instigator of this ridiculous scenario, holding a white board with “Miranda Priestly” written in a crude child’s hand with hearts in lieu of dots over the Is, a lovely, beaming Andrea.

Chapter Text

It’s strange, and maybe a little sad, that the house feels no emptier now that Stephen is gone. In fact, the air seems a little lighter, as if a storm cloud has recently passed or Miranda has been holding her breath for eons and now, finally, can breathe again.

Andrea did not accompany them to the townhouse from the airport, though Miranda insisted on dropping her at home rather than leaving her prey to whatever unsavory characters frequent the subway at such an ungodly hour of the night. The girls enjoyed the trip immensely, having never before ventured west of Broadway.

“Andy’s awesome,” Cassidy said the moment the limousine door clicked shut. “Why didn’t you tell us you had a cool friend, Mom?”

“She loves the Harry Potter books,” Caroline chimed in. “And did you know she played rugby in college?”

Miranda blinked under the onslaught of questions, entirely unprepared to deal with her daughters’ good mood. She had expected tearful accusations about how she’d driven away yet another father figure from their lives. She hadn’t expected hero worship. She hadn’t expected Andrea.

(No, she hadn’t known that Andrea played rugby, nor that she lived in the most derelict part of Hell’s Kitchen. And it was possible, despite everything, that she still hadn’t quite realized until this week that she had such a “cool friend” in Andrea Sachs.)

“Mom?” Caroline yawns now as Miranda tucks her into bed.

“Yes, Bobbsey?” Miranda feels love heavy in her breast as she brushes a strand of fiery hair from her daughter’s face.

“We’re glad Stephen’s gone. He made you sad.”

For a moment, she hates herself. Hates that her daughters were so unhappy, apparently, with her husband, and that she hadn’t seen it. She pushes that hatred aside to smile tenderly. “You know what?” she whispers. “I’m glad, too.”

This time, Caroline’s yawn is wide enough for Miranda to see her back teeth. “I like Andy,” she mumbles. “You should keep her.”

Miranda presses a kiss to her daughter’s forehead. “I fully intend to,” she confides to the sleeping child.

With Fashion Week over and her soon-to-be-ex-husband very much gone, Miranda finds herself in the almost unprecedented position of having free time.

On Monday morning, sunglasses firmly in place to conceal the lingering effects of jetlag, she emerges from the elevator, accepts her steaming coffee from a crutch-bound Emily, and strides with purpose towards her office, ready to begin handling the many disasters sure to have sprung up in her absence.

Emily follows at her heels, crutches squeaking obnoxiously against the tile, her recitation of Miranda’s daily line-up punctuated by the occasional gasp of discomfort. She finishes with: “—and then you need to get out of the building by 5:30 or Irv is going to hijack you for that event with the male advertisers at that gentleman’s club you hate.”

Miranda waits for the next item; she frowns when nothing comes. “Surely there’s more.”

Emily fumbles to look at her notepad without toppling off of her crutches. Miranda’s steps falter as she considers pausing out of consideration for the girl’s handicap. Scoffing at herself, she quickens her pace instead. A few seconds later, Emily catches up, panting.

“The only other events planned for tonight are ones you declined weeks ago. You can show up to any of them, of course. There’s that party at—”

“No,” Miranda says. “That’s all.” She strides into her office, inhaling the familiar aroma of hard work and good taste with satisfaction. She glances at the pile of papers that have accumulated on her desk as she sinks into her chair. After a moment’s thought, she calls Emily’s name. “One more thing,” she says. “Get me the number for a reputable florist.”

Emily frowns. “Do you need—that is, I can order anything you want, Miranda.”

Miranda’s stare is frosty. “Did I ask you to order me something?”

Emily squeaks. “I’ll get you that number.”

Two minutes later, Miranda is on the line with a happy, chipper voice, the likes of which normally gives her a migraine.

“Two dozen roses,” she says for the third time. The florist has the memory of a goldfish. “Delivered to Andrea Sachs at Auto Universe in the Elias-Clarke building. Repeat that back to me.”

Finally, mercifully, the girl does so successfully.

“I expect your best roses,” Miranda adds sharply. “Beautiful specimens. Roses fit for the cover of a magazine.”

“Don’t worry, ma’am, all of our flowers are really nice!”

Miranda grits her teeth. “Fit. For. A. Magazine. Cover.”

“You betcha. What do you want the note to say?”

Miranda considers. “‘Thank you. Dinner tonight?’”

There’s a pause on the other end. “Is that all? How about, ‘You’re the most amazing person. Thank you for everything. Let me take you out tonight.’?”

Miranda pulls the phone away from her ear to stare at it incredulously, wondering whether Emily has grown a sufficient spine to begin playing practical jokes.

“Hello?” the girl says.

Miranda takes a deep breath and reminds herself that this is for Andrea. For Andrea, she can be patient. “No. Write what I told you to write. No more, no less.”

The girl sighs, exasperated. “Fine. How do you want to sign it?”

“No signature. She’ll know who it’s from.”

“We’ll get it over to her later this morning. I’ll take your credit card information whenever you’re ready.”

Miranda jabs the button to transfer the call to Emily. “Handle the payment for this, Emily,” she calls out. “Use my personal funds.”

“Yes, Miranda.”

Leaning back in her chair, Miranda smiles. Then she glimpses the bizarre expression worn by a model on one of the spreads on her desk and, scowling, prepares to rip someone’s head off.

“Thank you for the flowers,” Andrea says the moment Miranda picks up the phone. It is 11:15 a.m., and the sound of her voice washes away Miranda’s headache so effectively she wishes she could bottle it for future use. “They’re beautiful.”

Not as beautiful as their recipient, Miranda thinks. Then she realizes what she just thought and frowns.

“Everyone down here thinks Nate must be trying to pull himself out of the dog house,” Andrea adds with a chuckle.

Beautiful, Miranda thinks again, and remembers Andrea’s face in the limousine on Friday night: the kindness in her eyes, the strength in her jaw.

“Miranda? Are you there?”

“Dinner tonight,” Miranda says, repeating the invitation from the card. “Are you free?” She takes a long sip of Perrier to cool the warmth that’s flickered to life inside her.

“I wish I could, but I have plans with Nate. I can do tomorrow, if that works for you.”

Nate, Nate, Nate. Miranda is so sick of hearing that name. It was bad enough when Andrea refused to go to Paris because she didn’t want to confuse their friendship by working for Miranda. Andrea turning down Miranda’s offer to spend time with that fry cook suddenly seems ten times worse.

Her stomach hurts. It feels as if her insides have been twisted into knots. She realizes, in horror, that she is jealous.

“I’m busy tomorrow,” she snaps. “I have to go.” She hangs up before Andrea can object.

She clutches the arms of her chair, staring at nothing, and considers what she knows:

  1. Andrea is her friend. She values that friendship more highly than any other in her life. The thought of doing to Andrea what she did to Nigel makes her vaguely ill.
  1. She envies a nobody, a wannabe Emeril, for having a stronger claim to Andrea’s time.
  1. Apparently, she is attracted to Andrea. Physically. A lifetime spent surrounded by models, and now, for the first time, Miranda finds herself desperate to know what it feels like to hold another woman close.

Taken together, and considered as dispassionately as Miranda can manage, these facts point to one inescapable conclusion: Miranda has feelings for Andrea Sachs. Romantic feelings.

There are other things, however, which she also knows to be true:

  1. Andrea is trying to work it out with her boyfriend, the man she lives with, a man she has been committed to for quite some time.
  1. Andrea is roughly half Miranda’s age. (Less than half, her conscience supplies helpfully.)
  1. Andrea is a brilliant, driven writer with limitless potential. Though she thinks she relies on Miranda for inspiration, the truth is that she will soar, eventually, with no help at all. Just ask The Cincinnati Monthly’s no doubt ecstatic editor-in-chief.
  1. Miranda has two children, is a woman, and has barely begun what will be a lengthy and uncomfortable second divorce. She would be a catch for a wealthy man who needed a feather in his cap, or a magnate seeking a partner with whom to impress and overpower elite society. She is not a catch for a young, ambitious woman who still believes it’s possible to have it all.

It simply couldn’t work, Miranda thinks regretfully. There is no version of this story where she and Andrea end up happy together, walking through clouds of flower petals in Central Park as an officiant waits to conduct some sort of ceremony.

She has Andrea’s friendship and genuine affection. To hope for more would be avarice.

She takes these newfound romantic feelings and places them in a box. She nails the box shut. She wraps a thick towel around it. She drapes it in chains, which she then padlocks. She paddles it out to sea and, without hesitation, drops it into the deepest part of the ocean.

There. Done. What a silly notion, to think she could be in love with Andrea Sachs.

Still, when Andrea calls a few minutes later, no doubt intending to continue their aborted conversation, Miranda does not answer. She stares at the phone and listens as it rings and rings and rings.

On Wednesday, Andrea Sachs makes her first appearance in the Runway offices since that terribly attired interview all those months ago.

Miranda is in a relatively pleasant mood as she rides the elevator, remembering how delighted her daughters had been to go to Peter Luger for steak the night before. That good mood gives way to blank surprise when the doors part to reveal Emily and Andrea arguing with their backs to her, each holding a steaming Starbucks cup.

“—out of here, immediately, or I shall have Security force you out,” Emily is saying, trembling with impatience, or perhaps rage.

“It’s really not what you think,” Andrea says. There’s a hint of laughter in her voice which shows that she, at least, is not taking this confrontation seriously.

Emily is so incensed that she hasn’t noticed Miranda’s arrival. “Look here, you, Miranda rejected you once already. Most people take the hint after the first time. Don’t be stupid enough to make her do it again. Miranda Priestly has been known to make seasoned Marines cry.” Emily sounds almost proud about that last bit.

Andrea twists her head slightly to quirk an eyebrow at Miranda, who absolutely does not experience any butterflies in her stomach at the smile that plays along the other woman’s lips. “Is that so?” Andrea says in a tone of polite inquiry.

“She’ll make you regret being born,” Emily goes on, really picking up steam now, gesturing with the coffee cup for emphasis. “She’ll see to it you never find a job in New York again. Look, I don’t blame you for wanting the job a million girls would kill for, but you’re simply not good enough. Now, leave.”

She gives Andrea a little shove, and that’s when she catches sight of Miranda watching them with absolutely no expression.

“Miranda! Don’t worry, I was just getting rid of—”

“Andrea Sachs?” Miranda says, nodding her thanks as she accepts the coffee Andrea proffers.

Emily trips over thin air, barely catching herself on a crutch. She gapes at Andrea. “You—you’re—you are—Andrea—”

“Sachs,” Andrea finishes for her agreeably, eyes gleaming with mischief.

“Oh,” Emily says faintly. “Of course. Andy Sachs." She glances at Miranda. "I feel rather foolish now.”

Andrea pats her on the arm. “Don’t. Miranda didn’t remember my name either.”

Not liking this turn of the conversation, Miranda reclaims control. “Was there something you needed, Andrea?”

The younger woman’s smile falters. “Yes, actually. Do you have a minute?”

Emily opens her mouth, no doubt to rattle off the seventy-five items that desperately need Miranda’s attention first thing this morning.

“Of course,” Miranda says.

Emily’s mouth snaps shut. Her stare turns frankly incredulous.

Miranda tilts her head in the direction of her office. “Come. Emily, we’re not to be disturbed.”

“Yes, Miranda.”

Miranda wonders whether Andrea can feel Emily’s glare on her back as they walk away. Perhaps she does; she waits until they are safely ensconced in Miranda’s office with the door shut before chuckling. “You’ve got a real guard dog there. For a minute, I thought she was going to toss me out the window with her bare hands.”

“Emily is fiercely loyal,” Miranda concedes, sipping her scorching coffee. Perfection. “It makes up for the many other areas in which she falls tragically short.” She regards Andrea over the rim of her cup. The younger woman is wearing a black pencil shirt. Classic. It pairs nicely with a maroon blouse, which Miranda takes a moment to study. It isn't one of the pieces she picked out, yet it looks familiar. Ah, yes—it was featured in Paris at a show for a new designer. Douglas must have brought it back. It suits Andrea very well.

“Tell me, what could possibly merit a visit from Andrea Sachs to my humble office?”

Andrea snorts in acknowledgement of the jest, but there is little amusement in her expression. “You’ve been avoiding me.”

Miranda inhales sharply. “That’s absurd.”

“Miranda, you haven’t taken any of my calls for two days straight.”

“I’m a very busy woman,” she says with a touch of scorn. “Much as I might wish I could drop everything for a chat whenever you feel like talking, I can't.”

“Bullshit.” Andrea pronounces the word so firmly, with such precision, that its meaning takes a second to penetrate.

Miranda scowls. “Excuse me?”

“Don’t use one of your Stephen excuses on me, Miranda Priestly,” Andrea says, stalking forward to lean into Miranda’s personal space. “Tell me you don’t want to talk to me—fine. Tell me you’re annoyed by something I’ve done—great, hopefully I can fix it. But don’t freeze me out. Don’t blame work, not when we both know that you are more the master of your own destiny than anyone else in this building—maybe this entire city.”

Miranda brushes the pads of two fingers across her left cheek, wondering whether her flush is visible. As usual, Andrea has seen right through her.

The woman is dangerous, she remembers. She should continue to put distance between them. She should push Andrea away.

“I regret that I couldn’t do dinner last night,” she says instead. “Are you free tonight?”

She wishes she could touch the smile that blooms on that lovely face in reply.

It isn’t until that afternoon that Miranda remembers she promised her children that they would attempt a home cooked meal tonight. It’s something their therapist recommends, in light of the pending divorce. “Quality time,” the man calls it, and if she didn’t know better she would think he got his license from a fortune cookie.

When she calls Andrea to reschedule dinner and, furious with herself, explains why, the other woman laughs. “You in an apron? Now, that’s something I’d like to see.”

“Then come over,” Miranda says, and wonders from whence this new impulsiveness has sprung. “I can’t promise the lasagna will be edible, but your presence might be enough to distract my daughters while I place a discreet call to Luigi’s."

Andrea laughs again, a wonderful sound. “You’re on. Though I highly doubt any clandestine calls will be required.”

“If you don’t mind waiting until 6:30, I’ll give you a ride to the townhouse.”

“That’s perfect. I can use the extra time to work on the submission letter for my article. I’m really glad you liked it, by the way, if I didn’t say so already.”

“Well. Good. 6:30. I’ll see you then.”

Although she and Andrea have ridden together in the backs of cars on multiple occasions—last time with Caroline, Cassidy, and Cara piled on top of them—this time feels different. Have her knees always bumped against Andrea’s when Roy takes a slightly too-sharp turn? Has Andrea’s hair always carried that enticing aroma of vanilla and lavender? Has there always been that light dusting of freckles across her cheekbone?

“—they doing with everything?” Andrea asks.

Miranda pauses. She hasn’t been listening. “Hm?”

“The twins. How are they handling everything?”

“They're extremely resilient,” Miranda says, proud of them, always. Her lips quirk as she adds, “They’ll be over the moon to see you tonight. Apparently, you are ‘cool’.”

Sure enough, when Miranda opens the door to the townhouse, she's greeted by the usual stampede of girls and very large dog, Cara trailing behind wearing an expression of polite welcome. The girls greet Miranda happily enough, but when they catch sight of Andrea they let out a squeal that makes Miranda’s eyes water and hurl themselves at their visitor. Even Patricia seems more interested in investigating the intruder than greeting her master. Miranda searches her feelings and finds not a shred of envy; not with the girls so happy and Andrea grinning with effortless kindness.

They drag Andrea into the kitchen, one girl clinging to either hand, and plunk her down on a stool at the massive marble island.

“Want something to drink, Andy?” Caroline says eagerly. “Water, or juice, or—”

“I will handle Andrea’s beverage,” Miranda says, shooting Andrea a wink as she retrieves the corkscrew from a drawer. She can’t remember the last time she winked at someone. This might have been a first.

She and Stephen were saving a bottle of Chateau D’Yquem for their anniversary. She expertly uncorks it and pours two glasses. “Salut.”

“Cheers,” Andrea says, clinking her glass against Miranda’s.

“Us too,” Cassidy insists, so they repeat the toast with the girls' juice glasses and drink.

“Girls, why don’t you and Andrea get better acquainted while I cook,” Miranda suggests. She leaves Andrea to their tender mercies and goes to rummage through the pantry to unearth her apron. Finding it tucked away in a corner, she pulls it on over her DKNY blouse and swiftly ties the strings behind her back. When she emerges, the twins are in the midst of bragging about their third-place science fair project. They neglect to mention that Emily and Emily II did most of the work.

Andrea is nodding along, doing a good impression of finding their chatter interesting—or, wonder of wonders, perhaps genuinely interested—and then she sees Miranda and lets out the loudest guffaw Miranda has ever heard.

Miranda smirks, striking a pose to show off her apparel to its best effect. Never let it be said that she failed to dress for an occasion.

“What were you expecting?” she asks dryly. “Valentino?”

“Anything but that,” Andrea says, tears leaking from her eyes with the force of her laughter.

Caroline bounces up and down in her seat. “Isn’t it great? We made it at school last year. Mom’s never worn it before.”

The apron is bright orange, aside from the green stitching across the front that says, “World’s Most Fashunable Mom”.

“It’s perfect,” Andrea gasps, slinging a careless arm around Cassidy’s shoulders. “Your mom really loves you, you know.”

A tiny glint in Cassidy’s eye makes Miranda wonder, for the first time, whether the spelling error was intentional.

“Yeah,” Cassidy says smugly. “We know.”

Though Miranda meticulously follows the instructions in Julia Child’s lasagna recipe, she must concede defeat when the smoke detector goes off for the third time.

“Get the girls to show you their rooms,” Miranda mutters to Andrea as Caroline and Cassidy wrestle the stepladder back into the closet. “I’ll call in an order.”

Andrea smirks and bumps her companionably with her elbow. “No need. I live with a chef, remember?”

In fact, for the past forty-five minutes, Miranda has blissfully forgotten that fact. “You know how to make lasagna?” She's no longer surprised by anything Andrea is capable of.

“No. I know how to make something way better.” She raises her voice. “Girls! Give me a hand in here.”

She squeezes Miranda’s arm and steps away as the girls barrel back into the kitchen. The most important recipe for any culinary expert, she confides to all three spellbound Priestlys, is a grilled cheese sandwich. “Not the kind you’re picturing, Cassidy,” she says, rooting around in Miranda’s fridge. “This sandwich requires love. It requires a delicate touch. It requires—ah ha!—” she emerges holding three blocks of cheese “—the kind of ridiculous, overpriced cheese people like your mother buy to keep Whole Foods in business.”

She proceeds to expertly whip up four sandwiches. “Close your eyes, Miranda,” she warns repeatedly; each time, as soon as Miranda obeys, the hiss of too much butter on the pan assails her ears. Andrea plates each sandwich, then lets herself into the pantry, spends a very long time scouring it from top to bottom, and finally unearths a nearly expired bag of Low Sodium Baked Zucchini Chips. She shoots Miranda a mournful, betrayed look, but proceeds to pour a generous helping of chips onto each plate.

“Bon appetit!” she proclaims, and announces that they should eat at the kitchen counter instead of the formal dining table. “This is comfort food, kiddos,” she tells them. “It tastes best in the kitchen, eaten with the people you care about.”

The reverence on the twins’ faces after they take one bite of their sandwiches tells Miranda they have fallen in love with one Andrea Sachs. She knows the feeling.

For dessert—because Andrea insists on dessert—Andrea and the girls split a bag of Skittles from Andrea’s purse. Then Andrea insists on washing the dishes herself, over Miranda’s protestations that this is why they have a housekeeper.

The younger woman shushes her, gives a sly wink of her own, and says, loudly, “It’d be a lot easier if I had someone to dry for me, though.”

“Me!” Caroline says.

“No, me!” Cassidy’s hand flies into the air.

“I think I can make room for both of you,” Andrea says generously, ushering them towards the sink.

And Miranda watches in pure amazement as her daughters leap to perform a chore for the first time in their lives.

Later, when the twins are yawning and the wine is long gone, Andrea reluctantly begins making noises about needing to go home. Miranda calls a car for her—over Andrea’s protestations, this time—and when Roy pulls up a short while later the twins each give her a tackle-hug before heading up to bed.

“I had a really great time,” Andrea tells Miranda, smiling with steady sincerity.

Miranda wonders how Andrea would react if she were to kiss her, right now. Surely it would mean the end of this precious friendship.

“As did I,” she says instead. “I think it’s safe to say you’ve managed to charm all of the Priestlys—a feat previously believed to be impossible.”

Patricia, as if in agreement, sniffs Andrea’s shoes and licks her exposed ankle.

Andrea chews her lip for a moment, debating something. Apparently coming to some sort of decision, she says, “It’s my birthday next week.”

Thanks to Douglas, this is not news to Miranda, who has already arranged a small present for the other woman. Her heart beating a little faster, she waits to see where Andrea is going with this.

Andrea shifts her weight from one foot to the other, nervous. “My friends—my other friends—are throwing a little get together. Nothing big. Just after hours drinks and food at Nate’s restaurant. If you want...if you’re would be nice if you could come.”

After meeting Douglas and learning that he had not known about Andrea’s friendship with her, Miranda has wondered, occasionally, whether Andrea regards her as somewhat of a dirty secret. “You want me to meet your other friends?” she asks. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve fit in with a crowd of twenty-somethings.”

“It’s just going to be Doug, Nate, Lily, and me. Not exactly a crowd." Andrea rubs her chin. "I didn’t invite you before because I figured you wouldn’t want to come, but after today I feel kind of guilty for selfishly keeping you to myself.”

“Oh?” Miranda isn’t sure how else to word her question. You’re not embarrassed by our friendship? You want me to be a larger part of your life?

Andrea reddens. “Nate is my boyfriend, and Lily and Doug are our friends—our shared friends. I guess I’ve liked having you all to myself. You’re very important to me, Miranda.” Without breaking eye contact, Andrea absently reaches down to scratch Patricia’s head. “Will you come?”

“Call Emily tomorrow and have her put it on my calendar,” Miranda says. She wants to touch Andrea’s hand; she clenches her fist at her side. “I wouldn’t miss it.”

Beaming, Andrea darts forward and presses a quick, friendly kiss to Miranda’s cheek. Her lips are soft and dry. The contact is sweet, but too fleeting. Blushing even harder, Andrea whispers, “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Miranda murmurs, and watches until Andrea is in the car; until it disappears from view.

Chapter Text

Attending Andrea’s birthday party requires Miranda to retract her RSVP for a soiree at Donna Karan’s magnificent brownstone. Miranda had been anticipating with some eagerness the opportunity to mock Anna Wintour relentlessly for the most recent, lackluster edition of Vogue. Emily, who knows Miranda almost too well in some respects and not at all in others, does everything in her meager power to persuade Miranda to skip Andrea’s party or, at the very least, to show up a fashionable two hours late.

Miranda sees Andrea twice before the party: once for lunch at a small Italian restaurant of Andrea’s choosing, where Andrea orders an entire lasagna to go and sends it to Miranda’s home via Roy; and the second time for an emergency coffee break (“If I don’t get out of here for five minutes, I’m going to shove a stapler down my coworker’s throat, Miranda, I swear to God.”).

Other than that, she keeps busy in the usual ways: fielding calls from her attorney about the divorce; relying on Nigel’s competence, which stands out like a raft amidst a sea of ineptitude; getting the cold shoulder from Nigel; firing two Emily IIs in the course of four days; reading and editing Andrea’s latest article; and spending as much time with her daughters as she can. Her relationship with Caroline and Cassidy has never been better. The girls have blossomed under the increased attention. Their energy seems to have expanded to fill the hole Stephen’s departure revealed, as if his presence has only served to stifle them all this time.

“You have terrible taste in men,” Caroline tells her frankly, one night, when she inquires about the change.

Miranda purses her lips. “Thank you, dear.”

“There’s a reason you surround yourself with women and gay men, Mom. Straight guys are scum.”

Miranda wonders when her daughter became so wise. She suspects cable television has been a bad influence.

She shows up to Andrea’s birthday party late, because of course that is the day an obscenely expensive shoot in New Orleans goes wrong. Heads roll, a makeup artist is blacklisted, and by the time Miranda hauls herself into the town car she feels as if she has gone three rounds against Mike Tyson.

She touches up her makeup in the car, erasing the tiny lines age and stress have carved around her eyes and the corners of her mouth. She meant to go home and change for the occasion—to don a more youthful, rather daring outfit—but at this point that would mean missing it altogether.

Roy pulls into the No Parking zone in front of a small but trendy restaurant. Most of the lights are off, only the faint glow of some dangling Edison bulbs illuminating a table in the back. A sign on the window boasts an “A” grade from the Department of Health, which makes Miranda scoff. What, are they expecting a gold star and a pat on the head for not having mice in the pantry?

From the sidewalk, it seems Andrea and her friends are having a good time. Andrea sits with her back to Miranda, her long, slender neck exposed beneath an elegant up do. A man’s hand rests comfortably against her lower back, which makes Miranda’s jaw clench for reasons she refuses to examine. That hand is attached to an arm, which is otherwise concealed behind a poorly placed poster of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Across from Andrea sits Douglas, looking merry as he smirks at something the chef has just said. The woman beside him is almost totally obscured, except for her mint condition, three seasons old Marc Jacobs handbag.

I should go, Miranda thinks, imagining the humiliation that might result from pretending to belong in such a group. Andrea will understand. She even takes out her phone to begin drafting a text—“Stuck at work, building would fall down around my ears if I didn’t stay to hold it up, so sorry”; it’s hardly even a lie—but then Douglas glances up and sees her.

He stares with a rather unflattering amount of surprise before leaning forward to say something to Andrea. Once Andrea twists in her chair, face glowing with pleasure, there’s no escape. Miranda puts her phone away.

Andrea leaps to her feet and hurries to unlock the door. “You made it!”

“I apologize for being late,” Miranda says stiffly as Andrea takes her by the elbow and leads her inside. “There was a problem with a shoot—”

“I wouldn’t have cared if you’d shown up at 4 a.m.,” Andrea interrupts, her excited, overly loud voice the only hint that she’s already several drinks in. “I’m just glad you came.”

As they approach, Douglas rises to greet her—a holdover from Assistant Boot Camp, she suspects—but the other two remain seated, one gaping in total astonishment, the other eyeing her with a great deal of interest.

“Guys, this is Miranda,” Andrea says, apparently unaware that her fingers are still latched onto Miranda’s coat. “Miranda, you know Doug, and this is Lily and Nate.”

Miranda smirks at Douglas before nodding at the astonished Lily, who sputters, “You’re—you—you’re—Miranda Priestly.” The girl's eyes flit over Miranda’s attire, drinking in every elegant, expensive stitch, and how, Miranda thinks, did someone with so evident a yen for fashion so completely fail to pass that interest on to her close friend?

“Andy,” Lily says, still staring, “why is Miranda Priestly at your birthday party?”

“She’s Andy’s mentor,” Nate says, and for the first time Miranda permits herself to take a closer look at him.

Andrea’s chef is about Andrea’s age—a quarter of a century today—with full, curly hair and a physique that will surely develop a paunch sometime in the next decade. He examines Miranda as thoroughly as she examines him, and though there is no obvious hostility in his gaze, there is a definite hint of caution.

Miranda smiles like a shark. “Mentor? That’s not how I would describe our relationship, Andrea.”

“That’s not how I’ve ever described you.” Andrea shoots Nate a glare. “Miranda is my friend, Lily. She gives me writing advice sometimes, but that’s not why I like her.”

It isn’t? Miranda supposes she already knew that, but it’s nice to hear it spoken so firmly.

Lily blinks rapidly, apparently struggling to process this information, before plastering a bland smile on her face and holding out her hand. “Any friend of Andy’s is a friend of mine. Nice to meet you, Miranda.”

Miranda shakes the girl’s hand, quickly but not impolitely. “Likewise, I’m sure.”

They shuffle the seats so Douglas can add another chair to the head of the table, between himself and Andrea.

“What are you drinking, Miranda?” Nate asks. “We’ve got an open bar tonight, not that that impresses you, I’m sure.” There’s a little bite to his tone, an edge of resentment.

Miranda has heard that edge many times, from many people. She herself has used it on occasions too numerous to count. She has never it from Andrea, though. It’s one of the things she likes most about her. Clearly, Nate is cut from a very different cloth than his girlfriend.

Seized by sudden impulse, Miranda lifts Andrea’s glass from the table and takes a long, slow sip. The whiskey sour slides down her throat with a sweet burn, a stark contrast to the wine she usually partakes of at social events. When she’s finished, a perfect red outline of her lips remains on the glass, courtesy of her recently applied lipstick.

“I’ll have what she’s having,” Miranda murmurs, handing the glass back to a grinning Andrea. She casts her eyes over the many hors d’oeuvres strewn across the table, among them stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, honey glazed brussels sprouts, and deep fried balls of something sinful. Maybe Nate isn’t entirely useless, after all. Sheer force of will is all that keeps her stomach from growling. “I do hope someone will offer me a plate this millennium. The asparagus looks divine.”

A moment later, she has a drink in one hand, a fork in the other, and Andrea’s knee a comforting warmth against hers under the table. Miranda imagines Anna Wintour, stuck at Donna’s soiree, and takes immense pleasure in the knowledge that she is having a far, far better evening.

Most of Miranda’s interactions with Andrea in the past have been one-on-one (dinner and that car ride with the twins being notable exceptions). Tonight, watching her interact with others is enlightening.

For instance, though Andrea has long since lost any formality in her conversations with Miranda (if, indeed, there was ever any formality to begin with—she suspects not), there is an element of playfulness in the way she speaks to her friends that is not evident when she speaks to Miranda. Her lips curve more easily; she laughs harder. Vague and incomplete references to shared past experiences make her throw back her head, shoulders shaking in mirth.

For another thing, Miranda has serious doubts about the continued survival of Andrea’s relationship with Nate. Although they are clearly comfortable with each other, it is also clear that Nate is much more enraptured with Andrea than she is with him. Miranda expected it to be the other way around. But Nate’s eyes linger on Andrea whenever she turns away from him, and his hands flex whenever he isn’t touching her. It’s Andrea who seems taken aback whenever she glances to her right and sees Nate there, as if she thought to find the spot empty.

To her surprise, Miranda feels sorry for the boy. It’s not his fault, after all. To fall in love with Andrea Sachs is an inevitability. Which doesn’t keep her from scowling every time he places one of his swarthy paws somewhere on Andrea’s person.

The most disconcerting moment in the evening comes when Miranda asks Andrea about her mother’s recent illness, something she mentioned during one of their many conversations, and the other three frown in blank incomprehension.

“Your mom’s sick, Andy?” Nate says, face creasing in concern.

Andrea gives Miranda an unreadable look, then takes a deep breath and puts on a smile as she turns to the others. “They don’t think it’s anything serious. It wasn’t worth mentioning.”

Her words ring false to Miranda, who recalls Andrea’s tight, anxious expression when she told Miranda that tests were to be run. She says nothing now, ashamed—her underlings would be surprised to learn she is capable of such an emotion—that she has shared information Andrea confided in her alone, though she does not understand why Andrea has concealed this information from her closest friends.

“Presents!” Douglas says in a too-loud, falsely cheerful tone, which nevertheless manages to cut the awkward tension that sprang into existence in the wake of Miranda’s question. He reaches under the table for a neatly wrapped box.

Andrea seizes it eagerly, tearing the wrapping to shreds and opening the box to reveal several more blouses like the one she wore to dinner at Miranda’s house. She gives him a mock glare. “You tryin’ to say something about my wardrobe, Dougie?”

“Only that it’s been getting a lot better lately and I figured you could use a couple more pieces.” He smirks. “You’re the reason I went to Paris, Andy. The least I could do was bring some things back for you.”

Andrea sighs and shoots Miranda a look that clearly states, This is all your fault. “Thank you, Doug,” she says grudgingly, and accepts the package Lily pushes her way.

Lily’s present turns out to be a small but acceptable painting from one of her recent gallery exhibits. “I know you had your eye on this one,” she says. “It reminds you of Uncle Fred, doesn’t it?”

Whoever “Uncle Fred” is, or was, the mention of him brings a faint sheen of tears to Andrea’s eyes. Lily is Andrea’s oldest friend, Miranda recalls, fighting back a ridiculous burst of jealousy. They grew up together.

Next, they all look at Miranda, who pulls a long, slender jewelry box from her purse. The locket is simple, not something Miranda herself would wear, but it is also sophisticated, and from Cartier, and should pair well with Douglas’ blouses. Miranda purchased it intending to give it to Andrea privately over lunch or dinner. After agreeing to attend the party, it had not occurred to her that the gift might not be appropriate in this venue, with Andrea’s boyfriend two seats away.

Andrea gasps when she opens the box, touching the tip of one finger to the gleaming emerald at the heart of the locket. “Miranda,” she breathes, “it’s beautiful.” She holds it out. “Would you?”

Under Nate’s resentful glare, Miranda expertly drapes the chain around Andrea’s neck and fastens the clasp with fingers that only tremble a little. Andrea turns her head to smile at Miranda, a radiant smile.

Lily clears her throat, eyes darting from Andrea to Miranda to Nate and back again. “What a lovely gift, Miranda. Nate, what do you have for our Andy?”

From this angle, twisted in her seat towards Andrea, Miranda is the only one who can see Nate’s hand hover over the pocket of his trousers, where an item approximately the same shape and size as a ring box presses against the cheap material. After a moment, his hand clenches and moves away. He forces a smile. “How does a visit for two to Spa Castle sound?”

“Sounds perfect,” says Andrea, who sees so much, and who in this one instance has missed everything.

Two days after the party, Andrea calls Miranda near the end of the work day, the unusual tremor in her voice alerting Miranda that something is wrong.

“What’s happened?” she demands, her voice harsher than she intends. Her first thought is that Nate has pulled a Stephen; her second thought is that Nate will never be the one to leave Andrea.

“I need to see you.”


Andrea hesitates. “Can I come to your office?”

So it’s something she doesn’t feel comfortable discussing in public. The sleeping dragon that occupies the core of Miranda’s being begins to stir. Someone has hurt Andrea. Someone has caused pain to someone Miranda cares very much about.

“Of course,” she says, gently.

When Andrea arrives, she is wearing one of the blouses Douglas gave her, as well as Miranda’s necklace. Miranda was right: they pair well together to highlight Andrea’s exquisite features. Today, however, her face is tense and pale. She breezes past Emily without acknowledging the girl’s aggrieved sputters and closes the office door behind her.

Miranda rises from her seat and crosses the floor without thinking to clasp Andrea’s arms and lead her to the little-used couch against the window. They sit very close together.

“Andrea. What’s wrong?”

“Mr. Styles offered me a promotion.”

Clearly not the source of Andrea’s distress. Miranda waits for more.

Andrea’s shoulders hunch. “You remember, back when we had that fight, you said Mr. Styles didn’t know who I was? And then you sent me all those new clothes and I started wearing them?”

Miranda is unlikely to ever forget. “Yes.”

“Well, after that, he did know who I was. I mean, he started making small talk with me—little things, you know.”

The dragon’s eyes narrow. Smoke begins to puff from its nostrils.

“What did he do, Andrea?” Miranda asks in a deceptively calm voice.

“He’s been very friendly the past couple of months. Asking about my personal life, encouraging me in my work. I told him about The Cincinnati Monthly. He seemed really happy for me. And then, today, when he told me about the promotion...he kissed me. And tried to touch my…” Her hands wave awkwardly at her own chest.

The dragon roars fire. “I will end him.”

Andrea blinks, a wave of alarm washing away the dead look in her eyes. “Miranda—”

“Don’t try to protect him. Are you going to claim you were asking for it by dressing well?” Miranda hisses. “Or do you blame me, perhaps, for pushing you to improve your image?”

Andrea appears shocked. “Of course not! It’s just—”

A terrible thought strikes her. “Or are you telling me this because you’re considering entering into some sort of sordid affair with him? Because if so, Andrea—”

“Oh my God, stop talking!”

Andrea’s irritated words cut through Miranda’s rant. She purses her lips. She waits. When Andrea does nothing but stare at her, she demands, “Well?”

Andrea stares a while longer, then huffs a laugh. “You’re more upset about this than I am. I didn’t expect that.” Before Miranda can speak, she goes on: “Of course I’m not going to have an affair with my boss. I’m going to forgive you for asking on the assumption that you just lost your mind for a few minutes. And of course I don’t blame you. And I know it’s not my fault, even if there’s a little voice at the back of my head that says I shouldn’t have started caring about my appearance if I didn’t want people to react."

She falls silent. Miranda takes this as permission to speak. “There is nothing you could have done, Andrea—nothing, do you hear me—that would entitle him to take such liberties with your person.” She has never understood men who chase after their underlings. What is the attraction of someone you can never be sure actually wants you? She imagines pursuing some kind of scenario with Emily—since she is, apparently, bisexual now—and suppresses a shudder of disgust.

Andrea gives her a long, thoughtful look. “You sound like you’re speaking from personal experience.”

Miranda laughs mirthlessly. “I became Editor-in-Chief of Runway in 1995, Andrea. I began working in the fashion industry almost fifteen years before that. Women did not climb any sort of ladders back in those days without fending off male advances. I had my share of lecherous bosses. And I saw plenty of examples of what can happen, when a man in power wants something a woman beneath him is unwilling to give.”

An idea: offer Andrea a position at Runway. Claim that clever mind for herself. Nurture it. Mold it. Cherish it.

But, I can never work for you, Andrea said once, and anyway, such a course of action would make Miranda no better than Henry Styles, seeing Andrea every day, wanting her every day, and every day wondering whether, if only for the sake of her job, she might say yes to a certain proposition.

She finds that she is holding Andrea’s hand, and if someone held a gun to her head she would not be able to say who initiated it.

“I don’t want you to go after Mr. Styles,” Andrea says, familiar determination settling into the contours of her face.

“Yes, you do. Why else would you have come to me with this?” Miranda gives in to temptation, rubbing her thumb along the smooth skin on the back of Andrea’s hand. “It will be easy,” she says soothingly. “I won’t have to call in more than a favor or two.”

Andrea shakes her head. “I know you can do it, Miranda, but I don’t want you to. Let me handle it myself.”

“Filing a complaint with Human Resources will be about as effective as trying to stop a tsunami with an umbrella.”

“I’ve got this,” Andrea says resolutely, a familiar fire sparking in her eyes and reminding Miranda that this woman has never needed her help, not really. “Don’t worry.” She squeezes Miranda’s hand. “And I didn’t come here so you’d fix things for me.”

Miranda raises an eyebrow. “No?”

“No. I came here because when something happens in my life, something big, you’re the person I want to talk to.” She smiles crookedly. “Is that stupid?”

“No.” Miranda’s throat goes dry. She forces herself to let go of Andrea’s hand. “Not stupid at all.”

“I have to break up with Nate,” Andrea says, gazing out the window. “Soon. If I can find the nerve.”

Miranda considers going against Andrea’s wishes and demolishing Henry Styles. It’s a fleeting thought, a passing fancy. A daydream that brings a faint smile to her lips until she imagines Andrea’s reaction, the pain of losing Andrea’s trust. Nothing is worth that.

That doesn’t mean she can’t talk to Styles, of course. They work in the same building, each leading their own publication. It would be strange if they didn’t bump into each other on occasion.

The next time she encounters him happens to be in an elevator car, and Emily happens to have alerted her as to the time and which car he would be in, and it happens to be only two days after what he did to Andrea. The elevator doors open on the third floor—which functions primarily as storage for Elias-Clarke’s janitorial supplies and very old issues of its least successful magazines—and Auto Universe’s Editor-in-Chief gapes as Miranda smoothly steps on board and presses the emergency stop button.

She turns to face him, and waits.

Henry Styles is a tall, classically handsome man whose hair has recently begun to silver. He normally towers over Miranda, but today she has worn platform shoes with heels so high even she risks a broken ankle, which puts her head only a little below his.

“Miranda,” he says, cordially enough, after a long, confused pause. “How can I help you?”

She cocks her head like a bird of prey. “How are things at home, Henry?”

She’s met his wife on a couple of occasions at Elias-Clarke functions. Frances has always struck her as the sort of no-nonsense, practical woman who keeps her husband well at heel.

No idiot, he squints in suspicion. “They’re fine. Why?”

A lie; she can tell from the tension in his shoulders, the way he unconsciously spins the band on his finger.

“I heard a rumor about an incident with one of your copy editors,” she says. “It made me concerned for you and Frances.”

She expects rage, or perhaps defensiveness. She does not expect his shoulders to sag, his hand to rub tiredly at his eyes.

“You heard about what happened with Andy?” he says, defeated. “Does everyone know?”

“Not yet.” The hard look she gives him would be more effective if he could meet her eyes.

“God. Frances and I split up three months ago. We’re keeping the divorce proceedings quiet.” He runs a hand through his hair. “That thing with Andy—I misread things. I thought she was receptive.”

Because if a woman smiles at you, of course she wants to sleep with you, Miranda thinks acerbically.

“Why her?” she demands. “Why some low-level copy editor?” Did he target Andrea specifically, or would he have chased any woman at the bottom of the totem pole?

He glares at her. “Andy isn’t just some low-level copy editor. She’s brilliant and kind, beautiful and…If you knew her, you’d understand.” He shakes his head. “Like I said, I misread things. But she’s a wonderful girl. You can’t blame me for wishful thinking.”

“You’ll find I can do many things,” Miranda says softly. Nothing he says excuses his behavior. Nothing he can say would excuse kissing a woman against her will. But a part of her pities him. A part of her wonders how she herself might have been tempted, if she had given Andrea that job all those months ago.

He sighs. Their conversation has aged him fifteen years. “She earned that promotion, I’ll have you know. It wasn’t favoritism. I hope...well, I don’t think I caused any irreparable damage, except maybe to my pride. You won’t tell anyone, will you?”

She hits the stop button, sending the elevator lurching back into motion, and does not reply.

Miranda does not mention the Henry Styles situation to Andrea again. Much as she itches to pursue the matter beyond that single, unsatisfying conversation, she respects Andrea’s request. She waits.

Over their next few lunches, she also does not press Andrea to follow through on her decision to leave Nate. She does not ask about Nate. She does not, in fact, mention Nate at all.

She reflects that in light of this uncharacteristically restrained behavior, she might, for the first time, be “turning over a new leaf” as her tenth grade English teacher once tried to persuade her to do.

She reads Andrea’s submission letter and suggests minor adjustments. She adds her own name; Andrea takes it out. She approves Andrea’s submission list and advises her to wait to submit until the day before her edition of The Cincinnati Monthly is published.

Miranda receives her copy of said publication on a Friday morning, delivered by Emily, whose vaguely nauseated expression makes it clear that she has seen the magazine’s title and read Andrea’s name on the front cover.

Miranda takes the magazine and leaves the other mail in Emily’s outstretched hand. “Ten minutes with no interruptions.”

“Yes, Miranda.”

Miranda closes the office door. She lays the magazine on her otherwise pristine desk and spends a moment admiring the cover.

The aesthetics are awful, of course. Clashing colors, a bland picture of a bland actress with a terribly bland headline. But whereas Andrea’s name would have been in tiny print on the cover of The New Yorker—if indeed she would have been listed on the cover at all—here, it is displayed prominently, in large font: “Andrea Sachs”. Unmissable.

She flips through the glossy pages to find the article and reads it as if for the first time. She devours the words hungrily, using them to temporarily satisfy her craving for their author, getting to know her anew through her writing. Although she edited the article, she sees little of her own influence in its pages. It is all Andrea.

Once she finishes, she opens the office door and says, “Get me a frame from that store I like on Madison.”

“What size?” Emily II whispers to Emily.

“Eight-and-a-half by eleven, of course,” Emily hisses back.

“Oh, and get me Andrea Sachs,” Miranda calls out.

“I haven’t had a chance to see it yet!” is how Andrea answers the phone. “Nate accidentally turned off my alarm, and then I got stuck on the subway forever, and—”

Miranda laughs. “Breathe, dear.” She left the door open, so she spins in her chair to face the window lest her smile give the Emilies an aneurysm. “It’s marvelous. A triumph.”

Andrea’s grin is audible. “I couldn’t have done it without you, Miranda.”

“Nonsense.” Despite her denial, Miranda feels warm in the pit of her stomach.

“Let me take you out for dinner tonight. On me, for once. Bring the girls. What do you say?”

Miranda pauses. “I had assumed…” She clears her throat delicately. “Won’t you be celebrating with your chef?”

“He offered,” Andrea says simply. “I turned him down. This once, I want to be selfish. I want to celebrate with the person who helped me and pushed me. The person who believed in me.” She hesitates. “Nate has an interview for a restaurant in Boston next week. I don’t want to break up with him until afterwards—I don’t want to mess with his head going into it.”

Then the breakup is truly on the horizon. Miranda tells her foolish heart to stop its fluttering; Andrea ending her relationship with Nate has nothing to do with her. It changes nothing. The fact that they will both be unattached at the same time means nothing.

“The girls would never forgive me if I turned down your invitation,” Miranda says dryly. “We would love to celebrate with you. Tell Emily the time and place. We’ll be there.”

“I can’t wait,” Andrea breathes, her voice like a caress.

Chapter Text

Miranda leaves work a little early to collect the girls for dinner with Andrea, distracted with thoughts of Nigel, still sulking, Irv, still plotting, and Andrea, still stunning. She’s completed this journey so many times that she could do it in her sleep—each stride confident, heel and toe striking the concrete in even rhythm, fifty-four steps from elevator to idling town car. No one ever bothers her on this walk. Huge sunglasses, pursed lips, and predatory stride all serve as effective warnings for lesser beings. Which is why she is so surprised when someone seizes her by the elbow halfway to the curb.

Miranda has lived in New York her entire adult life. She reacts on instinct: allowing herself to be turned, even as her free hand swoops into her purse, emerges with pepper spray, and shoots it directly into Nate Cooper’s wide eyes.

“You should not have grabbed me,” Miranda says sometime later, tilting her knees towards the door in a discreet effort to widen the space between herself and the miserable man hunched beside her.

Nate dabs his streaming eyes with the wad of tissues Roy gave him. “I realize that now,” he says.

The fact that he manages a wry tone despite his pain gives Miranda her first insight into why Andrea has poured so much time and energy into this relationship. Perhaps there is a brain hidden somewhere under that thick skull and unsightly scruff.

Miranda directs her thoughts away from the question of what sort of romantic partner, exactly, Andrea deserves. “I presume there’s a reason you chose to assault me?”

He lowers the tissues to his lap, sniffling. “It’s about Andy.”

“And here I was hoping we could discuss your favorite quiche recipe,” she says in her most withering tone. “Obviously you are here about Andrea. Get to the point.”

“I want to know your intentions for her.”

She scoffs. “Have we wandered into a Jane Austen novel? How quaint.”

He shakes his head, face set in a serious frown that might have impressed her in another man. “The fancy lunches. The ‘mentorship’. That necklace. And now, celebrating the most exciting day in her life. Whatever this is you’re doing with her, it isn’t innocent. You’re manipulating her somehow.” He winces. “Seducing her.”

Miranda swallows a laugh. Clearly this man-child doesn’t know Andrea at all if he thinks her so easily seduced. Nor does he have the slightest understanding of Miranda, if he thinks she would waste her valuable time or energy manipulating someone as naive as he evidently believes Andrea to be.

She smiles, the gentle smile of a lioness whose claws are poised to extend. “Andrea pursued me , Nathan. She attached herself to my life and would not be dissuaded. I assure you, my intentions at the time were quite innocent. Now?” The claws come out. Her smile turns sharp. “I admit, even the most innocent of intentions are not immune to Andrea Sachs.”

A mighty sneeze makes him convulse, and when it ends he is slumped against his seat, dejected as a whipped dog. “I love her,” he says helplessly.

Me too is the impossible, unacceptable thought that springs to mind in instinctive response. She presses her nails into her knee, the sharp pain forcing the thought away. She makes herself look at Nate, confronting her imprudent subconscious with the image of the kind of person to whom Andrea is attracted. His red, swollen eyes and miserable expression give her a burst of unwanted sympathy. Perhaps, after all, this is the kind of person to whom Andrea was once attracted, but no longer. Miranda imagines that the only thing worse than longing for Andrea Sachs and not being desired in return would be having her love only to lose it.

She clears her throat delicately. “If Andrea loves you back, you’ve no need for concern."

He smiles bleakly. “If,” he agrees.

She catches Roy’s eye in the mirror. A moment later, the car rolls to a stop at the curb.

“This has been delightful,” she tells Nate, “but I’m afraid I have another engagement. You understand.”

He opens the door, movements slow and ponderous as if gravity has increased tenfold.

“And Nathan?”

He looks at her.

Her lip curls. “Next time, it will be far worse than pepper spray.”

To his credit, he straightens his spine ever so slightly in response to the threat. “Don’t hurt her,” he says, and departs.

Miranda will not see him again, save for one encounter almost a decade later. On that day, she will take someone she cares very deeply for to a dinner at Marceaux, a new Michelin-starred restaurant with a divine tasting menu. When the chef comes out to introduce himself, he will be accompanied by a rather green Nate Cooper, sous chef, who will refuse to look Miranda or her companion in the eye.

Andrea leaves instructions with Emily for Miranda and the girls to be ready to go at 7 p.m. and to “dress down”. The latter instruction causes a great deal of consternation for Miranda—trust Andrea Sachs, of all people, to make her self-conscious about clothing—and a great deal of excitement for the girls. Roy picks them up with his usual punctuality and takes them to a tiny Thai restaurant on 9th Avenue between 51st and 52nd Street.

Andrea awaits them out front, “dressed down” in faded jeans and a v-neck t-shirt that proclaims her to be a “Muggleborn Ravenclaw” (“So cool,” Cassidy breathes) (Lovely, Miranda’s subconscious whispers). The girls scramble out of the town car, babbling a mile a minute. Miranda follows more gracefully.

“9th Avenue is awesome—is that a tattoo parlor?—”

“—Andy, we read your article, it was really good—”

“—where I can get a shirt like that, Mom doesn’t let us wear t-shirts—”

“—Thai food? Is it like Chinese?—”

“Whoa, whoa.” Andrea laughs, holding her hands up in surrender. “Slow down, kiddos. You’re giving me whiplash. I figured you guys might like to see how we mere mortals tend to”

Andrea’s voice trails off as Miranda glides into view. Her eyes drag their way up Miranda’s skintight True Religion jeans to her loose, deep-necked, wine-colored Bill Blass tunic. She blinks a couple of times; swallows visibly. Miranda rubs the tips of her fingers together, wondering how it would feel to draw them down that long, Hepburnish neck.

“Miranda. You, uh, look nice. Really nice.”

“Thank you, Andrea,” Miranda says, smug with her revenge for Andrea’s vague instructions.

“We’ve never seen Mom in jeans before,” Cassidy whispers loudly.

“She should wear them more often,” Andrea whispers back.

Miranda clears her throat, cheeks warm. “Shall we?”

Andrea is well-known at the restaurant; she is greeted by name and they are seated immediately despite the two parties ahead of them. They pass through the dimly-lit restaurant, whose decorations consist primarily of Buddhas and floral imagery, and take a cozy table near the back. Thinking fondly back to the birthday party, Miranda intends to sit beside Andrea and enjoy whatever incidental contact may result, but the twins have other ideas. Caroline takes the seat beside Andrea on the other side of the table and Cassidy wedges herself in next to Miranda.

Ordering turns out to be a great deal of fun—not a word Miranda has associated with her life in a very long time, if ever—mostly because the twins are convinced that “one of everything” is the only way to ensure their first encounter with Thai food is a success. Andrea, who intends to foot the bill, negotiates them down to two dishes apiece, with appetizers to share.

The twins have rudimentary chopstick skills, which improve drastically over the course of the meal under Miranda and Andrea’s tutelage. Caroline’s favorite dish turns out to be pad see ew; Cassidy’s is pad thai. (“So many carbs,” Caroline says, rapturously. Andrea hums her agreement.) Both girls scrunch their noses at the softshell crab curry, which Andrea and Miranda end up sharing. (The twins exchange wide-eyed looks, but none of the Priestlys explain to Andrea that Miranda never eats anything family style.)

“Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, Andy?” Cassidy asks.

Andrea nods. “Since I was a little girl. What do you two want to do when you grow up?”

This launches the twins into enthusiastic, lengthy discourse about their desired professions. Caroline wants to be an astronaut, or perhaps a painter, while Cassidy is committed to a future as a singer-songwriter. Miranda listens with a half-smile as Andrea draws both girls out with the same sincere interest she would show interviewing the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Miranda considers paying, mindful of Andrea’s low income and the possibility that she will soon be paying her rent single-handedly if she does indeed boot Nate out of her life, but Andrea gives her a stern look, as if she knows exactly what Miranda is thinking. Miranda remembers then that Andrea is also an extremely headstrong young woman determined to prove her independence.

Perhaps it’s the memory of that odd confrontation with Nate that makes her bold at the end of the delightful evening. As they are saying their farewells—outside Andrea’s apartment, because Miranda insisted on giving her a ride to her apartment two blocks away—she draws Andrea into an embrace. She can’t remember the last time she instigated such a thing with another adult.

Andrea is tense with surprise but melts like an icicle struck by the sun, her own slender arms coming up strong and sure against Miranda’s back. Miranda’s heels bring her almost to Andrea’s height; she presses her cheek to Andrea’s, barely resisting the urge to rub their skin together.

“Congratulations again,” Miranda murmurs. “You are astounding, Andrea. Truly.” She says it with all the baffled awe that has consumed her since this young woman forced herself into her day, and life, and heart.

Stephen wants little in the divorce, and yet it’s still too much.

“The Mercedes,” his lawyer drones. “Half the proceeds when you sell the townhouse someday. Joint custody of Patricia.”

Miranda clenches her hands together under the table, glaring at Stephen’s smug face. “ Unacceptable.” The bit about Patricia is a non-starter, of course—he can’t have been serious about wanting to share custody of Miranda’s Saint Bernard—but the rest, reasonable though it may seem on paper, is reprehensible to contemplate.

Her lawyer, Lucas Hastings, gives her a look, reminding her that she’d agreed to let him do the talking. She arches an imperious eyebrow back in return.

His lips twitch. “Unacceptable,” he tells Stephen’s attorney.

Stephen glowers at them both. His lawyer shuffles some papers. “Ms. Priestly has been the primary breadwinner since the commencement of the marriage. In order for my client to continue to live in the manner to which he’s become accustomed—”

“You used to be a rather good financier, or so you said when you were courting me,” Miranda interjects, ignoring Lucas’s frantic gestures for her to stop talking. “I’d think your own millions would be enough for you.”

Stephen’s face twists in the annoyed expression he wore as a default the last few months of their marriage. “It’s not about the money, and you damn well know it. It’s about what I deserve for putting up with—”

“Stephen,” his lawyer hisses.

“What about the girls?” Miranda interrupts at the same time. “You haven’t mentioned them in any of your demands.”

“What about them?” Stephen says coldly. “They aren’t mine.”

Her lip curls. “And that’s why you get nothing from me.” She cannot fathom why she ever thought it a good idea to bring this man into her home, her bed. He’s a user. A taker. Nothing like—

She halts that thought in its tracks.

Stephen narrows his eyes. “I didn’t want to have to do this. I hoped you wouldn’t make me use the word.”

In other circumstances, his predatory sneer might cause her some inkling of worry. She’s fairly certain of what he’s going to say, however, and so she crosses her legs at the knee, and says, “What word might that be?”


It falls from his lips like an anvil. Both lawyers inhale sharply.

“Infidelity?” she repeats blandly, as if she’s never heard the word before. “With whom?”

“Don’t play dumb,” he growls. “Andy Sachs. You’ve been seeing him on the sly since at least October. I have copies of your calendar from before I left.”

“Miranda, don’t reply,” Lucas instructs her, pushing to his feet and giving Stephen’s lawyer an angry look. “We’re done here.”

Miranda does not follow suit. She frowns as if in thought. “Andy Sachs. Andy Sachs. The name doesn’t...Oh!” She feigns realization. “You must be talking about Andrea Sachs, the young woman I’m mentoring.”

Stephen rolls his eyes. “Oh, come on—”

“You know, I think I have some of her work here with me.” With no rooting around at all, she pulls the Cincinnati Monthly from her briefcase and slides it across the table to her soon-to-be ex-husband. (This is a spare copy. She has others at home.)

He stares down at the cover and Andrea’s name in bold, face filled with the same slow dread with which one might regard a gangrenous limb. “Andrea,” he repeats.

Miranda steeples her fingers. “I’m not sleeping with her, Stephen. How nice of you to insinuate that I was.” Part of her wonders if Stephen is more insightful than she realized. If he saw something in the way she spoke of Andrea, in the way she behaved after meeting Andrea, that hinted at feelings Miranda herself hadn’t begun to suspect.

She wonders what sleeping with Andrea Sachs would be like, though she doesn’t allow herself to imagine it for long. She re-crosses her legs.

“Stephen,” his lawyer says tentatively, “if you have any proof…”

Shaking his head, Stephen sags in his chair, his sole trump card effortlessly defeated.

“Speaking of infidelity,” Miranda says, reaching into her briefcase once more, this time for her private investigator’s file on Stephen, and smiles as the color drains from his face.

“So that’s it? You’re divorced and he got nothing?” Andrea says at lunch the next day, over salads and overpriced champagne.

(A dangerous combination. The greens do little to soak up the alcohol, and Miranda already feels pleasantly light in a way that would concern her if she weren’t so pleased, and in such good company.)

Miranda draws her finger around the rim of her salad bowl. “We still have to wait the full year before the divorce is final. He signed the settlement agreement, however. It’s as done as it can be for now.”

“It feels strange to say congratulations about a divorce,” Andrea says, eyes warm. “Still…congratulations. I know how hard this has been on you.”

How hard it’s been? She wonders what’s given Andrea that impression. She feels freer than she has in a long time. Stephen’s absence is a relief. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Andrea, who must be a bit tipsy herself, leans across the table to touch the space between Miranda’s eyebrows. “You’ve had a little wrinkle right here ever since Paris,” she says. She sits back, taking her hand away. The spot where her finger rested tingles.

Miranda’s fingers itch to take out her small compact and examine the spot Andrea pointed out. She keeps meticulous track of her wrinkles, but this is a new one.

“Plus,” Andrea says, “I know you were worried about what the press would say, and even if it hasn’t been as bad as you expected, it can’t be easy going through something like this.”

Miranda gazes at the hollow of Andrea’s throat, where Miranda’s necklace resides. She hasn’t seen Andrea without it since she gave it to her, even on days when they’ve had nothing planned and have happened to run into each other on the elevator or one of them has needed an emergency coffee break.

She’s been silent too long. When she drags her gaze upwards, Andrea is eyeing her with cheeks rosy from the champagne.

“It’s been easier than you think,” Miranda says. She’s lonely, yes, but no more lonely than she was before Stephen left. Not nearly as lonely as she was before Andrea wandered into her life. “Not having the pressure to meet him at a certain time or place, no matter how busy I may be. Not having the nightly disagreements. And the girls are glad he’s gone.”

Something flashes across Andrea’s face too quickly for Miranda to identify it.

“What was that?”

Suddenly Andrea can’t meet her eyes. “What?”

“That look.”

“It’s nothing.”

Miranda mock glares at her. “Since when have you, of all people, been afraid to speak your mind to me?” It’s one of Andrea’s most charming and exasperating traits.

Andrea licks her lips, takes another gulp of champagne. They’ve nearly emptied the bottle. Miranda has, perhaps, been a bad influence when it comes to the day drinking.

“It’s just that—and don’t take this as criticism—you could have gone to more of those events with Stephen, if you’d tried.”

Miranda wonders whether there’s something off about this salad. Her stomach is roiling. She sets her fork down with too much force. “Excuse me?” she demands in a voice as cold as ice.

Andrea flinches. Miranda hasn’t spoken to her that sway since the second time they’d met, at that Fourth of July party all those months ago. Still, she’s no coward. She rallies.

“You make time for the things that matter to you,” she says. “The twins, whenever they have something going on at school—and lasagna night. And—and me, I guess. You make time for lunches and things with me.”

Miranda stares at Andrea, too astonished to be angry, seeing only a stranger where a moment before her dearest friend had sat. Who is this girl talking to her? This judgmental chit? Where’s the insightful woman who understands Miranda so well?

Maybe she never existed, Miranda thinks bitterly. Maybe she was just the figment of a lonely woman’s twisted imagination.

“Not any more,” Miranda says, pushing back her chair.

Dread creeps across Andrea’s face and settles there. “Miranda—”

Miranda fumbles blindly for her purse, trips over the leg of her chair, which pierces her stockings to leave a long, shallow scratch on her leg, and leaves. Leaves the restaurant, leaves the fantasy, leaves Andrea and the thousand-dollar check.

Miranda’s temper for the rest of the week is more vicious than it’s been any time in recent memory. If anyone in the office believed her to be softening, they now learn the error of their ways. She runs them ragged, day and night, demanding perfection and finding it elusive as a friend who won’t betray.

“Stephen,” she overhears Nigel saying knowingly one day, and grits her teeth.

“Andrea,” Emily whispers back, and Miranda shatters a glass.

“Your skin really is something amazing,” one of Runway ’s makeup artists tells her as she puts Miranda’s face on for a tedious event hosted by Chanel.

Thinking about skin—thinking about anything—makes her think of Andrea. “What about that wrinkle?” She hasn't searched for it in the mirror; hasn't wanted to see the visible flaw Andrea felt the need to point out before ruining the wonderful thing they had.

“What wr—oh. This one up here? You know, I could have sworn that wasn’t there a second ago.”

The scratch on her leg scabs over. It itches constantly. She reopens it whenever she idly reaches down to scratch it.

“What’s going on with you and Andy?” Caroline asks one night at dinner.

“What do you mean, Bobbsey?” she replies with an airy tone that fools them not at all.

The girls exchange a look. “You haven’t mentioned her in over a week,” says Cassidy, the more politic of the two. “Usually you talk about her a lot. Like, a lot.”

Miranda reminds herself that these are her daughters, not a pair of uppity employees, and she is legally incapable of firing them.

“You’re exaggerating,” she says through her teeth. “Andrea is a friend. I talk about her the same amount I talk about my other friends.”

“What other friends?” Caroline mutters.

Cassidy elbows her. “We want to know if something happened between you two.”

Part of her wants to tell the truth: to admit that Andrea has turned out to be as disappointing as every other adult in Miranda’s life. More disappointing. The larger part wishes to preserve their childhood optimism for as long as possible. And they adore Andrea, damn it.

“Adults sometimes grow apart,” she hedges. “We may not be seeing much of Andrea in the future, girls.”

You make time for the things that matter to you, Andrea had said, and had dared to include herself in that number.

“That’s crap,” Caroline says. “How come?”

Miranda, inexplicably, feels her eyes heat. She shakes her head. She touches her brow and feels the tiny wrinkle there.

She looks at her daughters, whom she loves more than oxygen, and hates herself for causing them to fret. “We’re going to be just fine, Bobbseys,” she says through a lump in her throat. “Just the three of us.”

This is not like those other times when one of them said the wrong thing and the other lost her temper. Andrea does not come, hat in hand, to beg forgiveness. Miranda is just as glad, for she has none to offer.

She does not care what the press says about her, so long as they refrain from mentioning her daughters. She does not care what her employees call her behind her back as they hurry about her hallways doing her bidding. She does not care what Stephen thinks about her, if he curses her for being frigid or distant or unreliable.

She does care what Andrea Sachs thinks of her, though—or did, until now. Because if Andrea thinks Miranda did not try, did not stretch herself in every possible direction, did not exhaust herself daily to make her marriage work, then she does not understand Miranda at all. If that is true, then Miranda has been a fool all this time, fundamentally overestimating Andrea, and she is done.

And if her days seem longer, her life a little colder, well, she was fine before Andrea Sachs came along. She’ll be fine again.

She glances at herself in the mirror one morning as she brushes her teeth. She stops mid-brush when she notices that the spot between her eyebrows is as smooth and unlined as it’s ever been. She leans in to take a closer look, but no, there’s nothing there.

So Andrea was lying about that, too. She supposes she shouldn’t be surprised, or feel that heavy weight of disappointment in the pit of her stomach.

At the thought of Andrea, a tiny crinkle forms, and she thinks, Oh. Of course.

Even if she never sees Andrea Sachs again—and she hopes to God she does not—the girl has left her indelible mark on Miranda’s very being.

Chapter Text

Life goes back to normal, or some approximation thereof. Nigel finally condescends to speak to Miranda again. Emily sheds her cast and hires a second assistant who is only mostly incompetent. Irv slinks around the office, pretending his days as CEO aren’t numbered. The girls are a little subdued for a while, but they are their mother’s daughters: they persevere.

The scratch on Miranda’s leg heals. She hasn’t seen Andrea in weeks, which is for the best. In fact, she hardly thinks of the girl at all any more.

(The near-permanent wrinkle on her brow would disagree.)

She meets a man named Peter McGinnis, who is handsome, rich, and flatteringly enamored with her. She agrees to a date; he takes her to Brasserie and spends the entire meal expounding on the stock market. When she permits him to kiss her cheek at the end of the evening, the brush of his stubble makes her skin crawl.

She makes it a habit to peruse most popular magazines as a matter of research. (Auto Universe is a longstanding exception; she has little interest in phallic compensation symbols and anyway she has concerns about their hiring standards.) Of the publications she regularly consumes, there are few she truly looks forward to. One is The Atlantic. Which is why she is perturbed to arrive at work on that magazine’s publication day and find it missing from her desk.


Emily II slinks in, her back tight to the wall like a zookeeper entering the den of a particularly carnivorous tiger.

“Something is missing from my desk,” Miranda says.

Emily II glances over her shoulder towards the assistant desks, but Emily isn’t there. Since regaining her mobility—and since Miranda’s mood took a dark turn for reasons that don’t bear thinking about—the first assistant has taken to spending as much time running out-of-office errands as possible.


The Atlantic?” Emily II asks querulously.

Miranda holds out an imperious hand. When the magazine does not materialize from thin air, she snaps her fingers impatiently.

The girl pales. “Emily threw it away,” she whispers.

Miranda’s lips purse. She stares. When Emily II proves too thick-headed to hear the implied question, she snaps, “Why?”

“I don’t know.” The girl trembles, eyes half-closed like a pilot bracing to crash.

Curiouser and curiouser. “That’s all.”

She returns her attention to other tasks but keeps her hearing attuned to the comings and goings outside of her office. Finally, the elevator dings and there is a rapid flurry of whispers, none of which Miranda can quite decipher save for the final, much louder, “Bollocks.”

Emily enters, pale but resolute. “Miranda, I reviewed this month’s Atlantic and determined it to be unsuitable for consumption.”

Miranda’s eyebrows lift in astonishment. “Did you really?” Clearly there is something peculiar going on, if Emily is actually showing initiative about something. “Now I simply must read it. Fetch me a copy at once.”

When the assistant, incredibly, seems as if she will object, Miranda allows a hint of anger to settle across her features. “Now, Emily.”

The task takes longer than it should, or perhaps Miranda is just more impatient than she used to be. In any case, by the time Emily returns her fingers are twitching to get hold of the mysterious magazine.

At a glance, it’s unclear what all the fuss is about. She peruses the articles and stories with interest, making note of a few talented authors she may wish to reach out to in the future. It isn’t until three-quarters of the way through the magazine that she sees a name that makes her blood run cold:

Andrea Sachs

The glossy pages crumple in her hands. She glares down at the neat lines of text, the aesthetically pleasing headline, and waits for her blood pressure to return to normal.

“Close the door,” she snarls, paying no heed to which girl leaps to obey.

Alone with her thoughts and the offending display of words, she contemplates setting the whole thing on fire. If only this were the 90s, when she always had a lighter close at hand.

Of course, she’s fooling herself if she thinks there’s any chance she won’t read the article. She sends a brief, thankful thought—one she’ll never verbalize, naturally—towards Emily for trying to shield her from thoughts of Andrea. She declines to wonder how much Emily has deduced about her former relationship with Andrea, such as it was, and said relationship’s dissolution.

She runs her hands along the crumpled pages, smoothing them as best she can. It’s the happiness article, she sees. Astonishingly quick turnaround for such an esteemed magazine. It seems Andrea did not need to mention Miranda in her submission letter after all. Her exceptional writing speaks for itself.

She has reviewed the article many times in the past, but it feels new as she reads it now. Andrea’s examinations of three different couples contemplating when a relationship should come to an end feel especially poignant; after all, Miranda’s own marriage has dissolved since the first time she read this piece.

And a much more important relationship has shattered as well, though when she looks back she sees none of the signs she's so accustomed to from her other relationships. She and Andrea were not growing tired of each other. Quite the contrary, in fact. Miranda, at least, had enjoyed Andrea’s company more the more she’d experienced it, as if the girl were some sort of lethal narcotic. And although they are very different people, conflict rarely seized control of their interactions. Yes, they argued and disagreed as any intelligent people do—perhaps a bit more than most, since Miranda is, after all, Miranda, and Andrea is is, after all, Andrea—but always in a manner that bespoke deep underlying affection.

Or so Miranda had foolishly thought.

She expects the article to be roughly unchanged from the last time she read it— The Atlantic ’s editors won’t have found much in need of improvement—and so she almost skates past an extremely significant alteration. The article, as she remembers, contains three case studies. Previously, the third had examined two people committed to trying to keep a relationship alive despite challenges. Miranda had always been impressed by Andrea’s willingness to use herself as a subject of her own article.

That case study has changed profoundly. Oh, the backstory remains the same, as do the quotes used. Now, however, there is a conclusion to the tale; a melancholy epilogue that speaks volumes about the turn Andrea’s life has taken since Miranda last saw her.

It shouldn’t be easy to say goodbye. The only thing more difficult than sustaining a relationship is choosing to end it before toxicity sets in and corrupts something that was once healthy, like a gangrenous limb left un-amputated. The couple in Study 3 made that difficult decision shortly before the publication of this article. Will they be happier in the long run for having separated? Or will they look back on this decision with regret?

Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, Person A wishes Person B joy as he embarks on an exciting new stage in his career. For herself, she looks ahead to a wide, terrifying, exhilarating horizon and hopes for the best.

It would be churlish, despite everything, not to remark upon the article. Andrea may have turned out to be untrustworthy, imperceptive, and, above all, disappointing, but for an unknown to be published in The Atlantic is remarkable.

(And perhaps a tiny part of her wants to hear what Andrea will say. Perhaps she wants to know whether Andrea is sorry for what happened between them. Perhaps she hopes for an apology sincere enough to accept.)

She composes an email of appropriate coolness. It does not contain the words “congratulations” or “exceptional”, both of which she types and then immediately deletes, but read as a whole it should convey a message of vague acknowledgement. (Also typed and then deleted: “So, you finally threw the chef to the curb, did you?”) Satisfied, if not quite pleased, Miranda addresses it to Andrea’s work account and hits send.

There, she tells herself. Once again, she is finished with Andrea Sachs.

A minute later, the email bounces back.

Miranda meets Simone Daquin, a French fashionista with whom she bonds over shared glee at Jacqueline Follet’s floundering partnership with James Holt. Simone is perhaps ten years younger than Miranda, blonde, with a body that might have been custom designed for Prada. As their acquaintanceship deepens at various events over the course of the next few weeks, she laughs often at Miranda’s dry humor and touches her often with European familiarity.

It is at one such soirée that Miranda finally yields to the curiosity that has been niggling at the back of her brain for months now. Simone has been prattling on about the materials Donna Karan is focusing on this season for almost twenty minutes. Although this is a topic Miranda would normally find intriguing, tonight she is more interested in watching the other woman’s lips and wondering what it would feel like to touch them with her own.

Would she enjoy it as much as kissing a man? Is she even truly attracted to women, or was her strange affinity for Andrea merely the aberration of an unhappy wife?

Simone meets all of the physical requirements Miranda has taught the world to associate with beauty. She is slender but toned, her features symmetrical, her skin lovingly maintained, her choice of couture impeccable. And her personality is certainly unobjectionable; she is witty, charming, and eager to impress.

“—taffeta, though I don’t know how well that will go with the velvet she ordered last month—”

Miranda yields to temptation: she sets a hand on the back of Simone’s neck and stops her words with a kiss.

Her first thought is that this is much, much better than kissing a man. Simone’s lips are softer, fuller; they part with a sigh to welcome her tongue. Her second thought is that she is attracted to women. She is very attracted to women. It may be that she is not truly attracted to men at all, if this is what attraction is meant to feel like.

Simone lets out a sound halfway between a moan and a purr. She clutches Miranda’s hips, pulling her closer and sending a bolt of electricity down Miranda's spine. Miranda loses herself in sensation, head spinning, and deepens the kiss.

Andrea, she thinks wistfully, and wishes for long, dark hair to tangle her fingers in.

“Oh my God.”

She doesn’t startle. She chose to do this here, in the open, knowing she would be seen, because she will not hide who she is. Miranda Priestly does not feel shame in the face of society’s judgment; Miranda Priestly dictates society’s judgment.

She disengages from the kiss in her own time, pleased with Simone’s lust-filled expression and smudged lipstick. But when she turns her head to see who stumbled upon them, she is stunned to find that it is not some stranger gaping back at her.

“Douglas,” she says breathlessly.

Douglas Sommer, her erstwhile assistant and one of Andrea Sachs’ closest friends, is too shocked to speak. His mouth opens and closes. His eyes dart from Miranda to Simone and back again.

“Do you know this gentleman, Miranda?” Simone says, sliding an arm around her waist. It’s a more proprietary gesture than she typically exhibits, and perhaps that is why Miranda steps away from that questing hand.

It occurs to her to wonder at Douglas’ presence at this event. He’s dressed smartly, with a green cravat and a pair of loafers he couldn’t possibly have afforded on an accountant’s salary. In one hand he holds a glass of champagne; in the other, an Old Fashioned.

“A former employee,” she tells Simone, though the answer that springs to mind first is a friend of a friend. “Would you mind terribly if he and I had a word?”

Simone blinks at her, hurt and confusion passing across those aristocratic features before composure wins out. “Of course. I’m suddenly rather thirsty.”

She brushes a hand across Miranda’s lower back and disappears into the kitchen.

Miranda studies Douglas, who now appears deeply uncomfortable. He shifts from foot to foot, takes a sip of champagne, and examines the unremarkable carpet.

Having requested this conversation, Miranda now finds herself searching for a way to begin. What does she hope to get out of what will no doubt be an unpleasant exchange? Why had she not simply dismissed Douglas and continued with her far more enjoyable activity? Simone would clearly have been amenable to taking their explorations somewhere more private. Miranda thinks she would have quite enjoyed that education.

“How are you, Douglas?” she asks at last.

He digs his toe into the rug. “I’m doing pretty well. Great, even. You?”

Her patience for pleasantries has been exhausted. She shakes her head. “And her?”

“Who, Andy?”

As if she could be referring to anyone else. Her narrowed eyes must convey her irritation, because he hastily adds, “She’s hanging in there. I’ll tell her you asked after her.”

“Hanging in there”? Since when has audacious Andrea Sachs ever been content to simply “hang in there”?

“She must be pleased with herself,” Miranda says waspishly. “A publication in The Atlantic, and quitting her job to boot? I saw that she is no longer with Auto Universe.”

Douglas’ eyes go wide. “Quitting—?” He cuts himself off, shakes his head. “You two really don’t talk anymore, do you? A couple of months ago, you knew more about what was going on with her than I did.”

She frowns. His answer implies that there is more to know. “What—”

“Doug, did you get lost looking for the—Miranda.” Nigel rounds the corner, wearing a smile that vanishes as soon as he catches sight of her. He comes to stand beside Douglas with an ease that bespeaks long familiarity. He takes the Old Fashioned and swirls his glass, the large ice cube clinking.

“Nigel," she says flatly. "I did not realize you and Douglas had continued your association.”

His smile is very pleasant and very fake. It's the smile he gives Irv Ravitz. “We’ve been seeing each other since Paris."

As you would know if we were still friends is the unspoken accusation that hovers between them like an agitated swarm of bees.

“Miranda was just asking me about Andy,” Douglas says in a rather high-pitched voice.

“Ah, Andy.” There’s a malicious spark in Nigel’s eye that puts her on her guard. “Poor girl. She was having a rough time of it when we saw her last week, wasn’t she, Doug?”

Miranda goes very still. Nigel is in touch with Andrea? Her Andrea? “What rough time?” she demands.

He shrugs. The spark becomes a gleam. “Well, between her mother and her job—”

“Nigel,” Douglas interrupts sharply.

Nigel looks at the other man. That gleam goes out.

“Andy isn’t a weapon for you to use in your fight with Miranda,” Douglas says. “She doesn’t deserve that.” The undercurrent of anger in his voice reminds Miranda how much she likes him.

Nigel has the grace to look abashed. He rubs his thumb along the curve of his glass. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“Andy’s mom is really sick,” Douglas tells her. “Andy’s been spending a lot of time in Ohio with her. And then she got fired from Auto Universe a couple of weeks ago. Plus, you know, she ended things with Nate, which we still don’t really understand.” He paused. “Honestly, I don’t think she’d want me to be telling you all this, but I know you care about her, and she could use all the support she can get.”

“I’m tired,” Nigel announces, draining his glass. “Doug, I should make our excuses to our host. Miranda, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She gives him a tight nod. It chafes to be the target of his scorn, but she knows that if she were in his place she would be far less civil.

Left alone with Miranda again, Douglas no longer looks like a spooked deer. He sets his empty glass on a table.

“I don’t know what happened between the two of you," he says. "She won’t talk about it. I just know she’s hurting and you obviously still care about her. You should call her.”

Miranda swallows to moisten her throat. “I’m afraid that is impossible.”

“Funny. She said almost the same thing when I told her to call you.” He touches the unhappy smile that adorns his lips. “You and that woman...I didn’t know that about you.”

Her eyes narrow. “Does it matter?” Is he, a gay man, going to dare judge her for this?

“It might have,” he says cryptically. “I suppose it doesn’t anymore. I’d better go. Have a nice night, Miranda. It was good to see you.”

“Good night,” she murmurs.

As she watches him go, a slender arm links with her own. “Shall we find somewhere private to pick up where we left off?” Simone murmurs, lips brushing suggestively against Miranda’s ear. “I’ve been very patient, and I have a very large bed.”

That warm, pleasant feeling from before is long gone. She extricates herself from Simone’s grip, and though she attempts to do so as tactfully as possible, she suspects from the other woman’s expression that she has failed.

“Or maybe not,” Simone says, letting her hand fall.

“This was a mistake,” Miranda says.

A door closes in Simone’s eyes. “I see. So what they say about you is true.”

Miranda purses her lips. “And what might that be?”

“Distant. Untouchable. Careless when it comes to the well-being of anyone but yourself.”

It would hurt less if she spoke with venom, but Simone is ever poised. Each word is said with calm precision, like a scalpel in the hand of a skilled surgeon. And like a poorly sedated patient, Miranda feels each slice, though she gives no sign of it.

“Goodbye, Miranda.”

Simone departs with exceptional grace, and Miranda is left alone.

Sometime later that same evening, Miranda finds herself on the stoop of a building in Hell’s Kitchen, gazing up. The brick facade is crumbling and the faint stench of urine makes her nose wrinkle. The lock, however, is fully functional; Miranda knows, because she tried to gain entry to the building and was denied.

She studies the line of buzzers. According to a much faded label, A. Sachs (“N. Cooper” has been crossed out with a single neat line) occupies apartment 4E.

Miranda considers; she hesitates; she aches.

She presses the button.

She fumbles for what to say when Andrea responds. Instead, there is a harsh sound as the door unlocks.

The foyer is dusty but free of offensive odors. She gingerly sets first one Manolo Blahnik and then the other on the warped linoleum stairs. She climbs one flight; another. By the last flight, she is a little out of breath and her legs ache. No wonder Andrea is able to drink those cavity-inducing beverages if she makes this climb multiple times a day.

Apartment 4E is at the end of the hall. There is a worn but clean welcome mat to set it apart from the otherwise uniform set of doors. Before she can knock, a familiar voice calls: “Hang on! I’m just grabbing your tip.”

Bemused, Miranda waits. There’s a thump, a muffled curse, and then what sounds like an entire stack of cans falling over. A moment later, the door opens just wide enough to frame Andrea’s wan face.

At the sight of Miranda, Andrea’s fatigued smile vanishes. Miranda braces herself for a smart comment—You’re not the delivery guy—but the other woman simply stares. There are dark circles under her eyes. She’s lost weight, too, her cheekbones jutting out in a way Miranda would find appealing in a model and which suits Andrea not at all.

The silence stretches too long. Just as Miranda is about to resort to an inane ice breaker, Andrea says, “What are you doing here?” Her voice is flat. Unfriendly. Of all the night’s mistakes, this is the biggest.

Still, Miranda finds herself asking: “May I come in?”

Andrea glances over her shoulder into the apartment. Is someone else there? A new boyfriend, perhaps? Her face is inscrutable when she looks back at Miranda. “That isn’t a good idea. What do you want?”

Miranda wants the last few months undone. She wants to go back to that awful lunch and change the subject before Andrea can say what she said. She wants her friend back.

“I want to be able to forgive you,” she says.

Andrea closes the door in her face. Miranda glares at the offending slab of wood. It remains firmly shut.

A man wearing a bicycle helmet and backpack reaches the top of the stairs and makes for Andrea’s apartment. He looks at Miranda, raises his eyebrows, and reaches past her to knock.

“Go away, Miranda,” Andrea shouts.

Miranda extracts a hundred dollar bill from her Birkin bag and offers it to the delivery man. He takes it with wide eyes, handing her a plastic bag containing a heavy paper bag presumably laden with carbohydrates. He tips his helmet to her and hurries off as if afraid she’ll change her mind.

“I have your dinner,” Miranda calls.

“I’m not hungry.”

At some point, without quite realizing it, she’s decided she won’t be leaving this hallway until she and Andrea have had it out. Tonight, she has reached her tipping point. The status quo of the past few weeks cannot be borne any longer. She must have her say, and hear Andrea's in return.

She examines the wall, decides it isn’t overly filthy, and leans back against it. She opens the bag. Inside is a box of rice and a plastic container of Thai noodles. After a night of finger food and wine, the smell makes her ravenous.

She takes out the plastic fork and the noodles, sets the bag on the floor, and digs in. The food is instantly restorative, restoring her equilibrium. She closes her eyes as flavor bursts on her tongue.

The door eases partway open again. Andrea gapes at her through the narrow gap. It should be an unattractive expression, but on her it isn't. “You’re still here. Eating my dinner.”

Miranda quickly chews and swallows. “Yes. We must talk, Andrea. Tonight.” She dabs her mouth with the napkin.

Andrea shakes her head, in astonishment rather than denial. “It’s been months. What’s there to talk about?”

Mentioning their falling out had not turned out to be the right call. Miranda tries a different tactic. “I saw Douglas tonight. He told me about your mother. Is she very ill?”

Andrea slams the door.

Miranda breathes out through her nose. She takes another bite, tempted to finish the container. Only thinking of how her personal trainer will torture her tomorrow convinces her to set the rest aside.

She came here imagining that Andrea would be the one to extend an olive branch. That fantasy has proven futile. She knows what she must do.

“I sabotage myself,” she says to the door. Her voice is soft; she doesn’t know if Andrea can hear, but she has no intention of baring her soul to the occupants of apartments 4A through 4D. “All my life, I have ruined the things that make me happy.”

She pauses. When there is no immediate response, she contemplates the state of the floor and debates how long she will be able to remain standing in three-inch heels before she will need to abandon all dignity and sit on the plastic delivery bag like an urchin.

The door cracks open once more. Andrea looks at her with dark, perceptive eyes Miranda could easily lose herself in.

Hope rises like the sea at high tide. Faced with this unexpected opportunity, it is surprisingly easy to swallow her pride. “I want you in my life.”

Andrea’s lip curls. “How can that be true when you obviously don’t trust me? Looking back, I see how you were just waiting for me to screw up every time we talked. And the instant I made a mistake—that very instant, with no chance to explain or apologize—you were gone.” She scrubs a hand over her face. “Your mercurial moods are part of why you're such a fascinating person, Miranda. But I’m not interested in pursuing a friendship where I’m constantly on trial.”

Miranda bows her head. “I regret that I’ve given you that impression. Truly, I was never waiting for you to ‘screw up’, as you put it. I was waiting for myself to ruin everything. And I did, by not allowing you to defend yourself.”

Andrea leans her shoulder against the door frame. Has her expression softened a tad? “What would you have said? If you’d given me that chance?”

What had Andrea’s words been, exactly, on that awful day? You make time for the things that matter to you.

“I would have asked whether you truly believed my marriage did not matter to me,” Miranda says carefully, as if reading the lines of an unfamiliar script.

Andrea scoffs. “And I would have said that of course that wasn’t what I meant. I know how important it is to you for your girls to have a stable home. I also know, even if you’d never admit it, that you very much want a partner you can rely on." She blows out through her nose. "And then I’d have said, hopefully with some tact, that it was unfortunate that Stephen couldn’t be that person. Which, by the way, was a decision you made a long time before he got around to filing for divorce.” Her tone challenges Miranda to disagree or take umbrage.

She does neither. Everything Andrea says is true, of course, even if the words sting. This frank appraisal of her marriage would have been unacceptable coming from anyone else, but hasn’t Andrea earned the right to speak her mind? Hasn’t Miranda demanded that she do so?

“You could have chosen your words more carefully,” she mutters as the tension she’s been carrying for the past two months melts away. She doesn't know whether she forgives Andrea, or whether she has realized there is nothing to forgive. It's all the same.

Andrea’s jaw firms. She's magnificent, with her excellent bone structure and those eyes that see what people would rather keep hidden. “Sure. And you could have warned me I’d be paying for your celebratory champagne. I know some great fifteen dollar bottles we could have enjoyed.”

Oh. Right. She winces. Storming out had seemed like the thing to do at the time, but even in her dudgeon she had realized leaving a copy editor with such a hefty bill had been extreme. Not that she’d done anything to rectify the situation. Now, standing in Andrea’s doorway and feeling a glimmer of optimism for the first time since that fateful lunch, she wonders what the hell she’d been thinking.

“Emily will wire you a thousand dollars tomorrow,” she says.

“No, she won’t. You made a decision, and we’re both going to have to live with it. It’ll be a lesson for us both.”

Miranda scowls. “A lesson in stubborn pride.”

“A lesson in not taking things for granted.” Andrea smiles crookedly. “I’ve missed you. So much has happened in my life lately—good and bad—and my first reaction was still to want to talk to you about it, even when I was calling you nasty names in my head.”

“I’ve missed you as well. More than I would have thought possible.” She’s missed that smile. Her arms itch with the urge to wrap around the other woman and hold her close.

Andrea’s smile fades. “I’m willing to try,” she says somberly, “but only if you accept the fact that I’m going to make mistakes. I’m human. Can you believe me—can you trust me—when I say that I will never intentionally hurt you? That I’m on your side no matter what? Because if you can’t, I think we need a clean break. I can't go through this again.”

“I can,” Miranda says quickly, lest a pause be taken for hesitation. Andrea is asking much of her—trust is Miranda’s rarest and most precious commodity—but if anyone deserves it, it’s her. And Miranda is unwilling to go back to the way things have been since she tossed Andrea out of her life. She will promise whatever she must to keep the other woman close, and she will do whatever it takes to keep that promise.

Andrea nods. If there’s a flicker of doubt in her eyes, well, Miranda deserves it. “You’d better come inside, then. Bring my dinner, and mind your step.”

She finally opens the door all the way. For the first time, Miranda can see through to the interior, which looks as if it’s been hit by a tornado. Papers are strewn across the floor, the tiny table, and every other available surface. Coffee mugs tilt like drunkards on the kitchen counter. The aroma of instant noodles hovers in the air.

“Were you robbed?” Miranda demands, standing at the threshold of the chaos.

Andrea chuckles and heads to the coffee maker, which is warming an old, half-filled carafe. “I've got a lot to catch you up on. Close the door behind you.”

Heart joyful, mind braced to process and address whatever terrible events have recently transpired in Andrea’s life, she complies.